Tim Peoples reflects on McLaren.
But as much as I support the efforts of Mosaic and Ecclesia to bridge the gap between Protestantism and the older traditions of Catholicism and Orthodoxy, I’m not sure I agree with McLaren’s take on it. I think the main problem is that he doesn’t appreciate the importance of difference–because even Mosaic asserts its strong Baptist roots. This leads him to conclude that evangelism in non-Christian areas of the world should seek make the people “followers of Jesus” while retaining their identities as Hindus or Muslims or whatever. As if you could be both–but it sort of makes sense because the subtitle to A Generous Orthodoxy* states that he believes himself to be nearly every type of Christian at once.
The problem is, of course, that you can’t be every kind of Christian at once, as hard as you try. Mosaic may incorporate Benedictine and Franciscan spirituality into its idea of orthodoxy and orthopraxy, but it has not ceased to be Baptist. To try to escape the fragmentation of Christianity is an illusion. We can try to get around it, but we can’t deny it. If these separations are so profound, how can we expect or hope for people of other religions to be both one of us and one of them at the same time? McLaren dreams big, but this point is the greatest flaw in his argument.
But then again, it really isn’t an argument, is it? It’s more of a meditation with internal arguments about what Christianity is and should be. McLaren is not a rule-setting postmodern, the type that demands that everything be changed because Derrida said so. He’s not a hippie grown up to pastor a church where they sit around and talk about helping the poor without actually doing anything. He’s a passionate, reasonable Christian and that perspective shines through every page of A Generous Orthodoxy, even those that I take exception to.