A Generous Orthodoxy – Intro and Chapter 0

Just in case you thought I wasn’t reading…

I’m of two minds in some ways about Orthodoxy. In one way, I’m captivated by McLaren’s idea that orthodoxy – which is translated “right belief,” but has actually come to mean a list of doctrines that defines a group – should not be a “least common denominator.” This is a stingy orthodoxy, keeping to itself and keeping out those who don’t believe correctly. A generous orthodoxy, however, seeks understanding and inclusion – the admission that none of us has the answer, and that we rely on the Spirit speaking to us through each other in order to gain a larger picture of God.


On the other hand, I’m inclined to throw out orthodoxy all together. It has been the cause of arguments, disagreements, persecution and killing… all because someone doesn’t “believe right.” And it leads me more and more to think that we’ve made a god out of doctrine so that we can ignore “right practice,” (which some had called Orthopraxis). How else can we explain the fact that we Christians argue ceaselessly about things like biblical inerrancy and homosexuality (which are only referenced in Scripture a handful of times), while completely ignoring the needs of the poor in our own towns, the alien in our lands, the oppressed around the world (which are mentioned ceaselessly and directly in the Bible)?


These, as McLaren points out, have become “weapons of mass distraction” used to divert our attentions from the things that – according to the Prophets, anyway – God REALLY cares about. At some point, we decided that Christianity was about “believing” just the right things, and that believing and acting were somehow in different realms.


Of course, if we threw out doctrine all together, we’d end up in a completely different place – one that would be just as difficult and off-balanced. But how can we find balance between these two things? To me, it’s in the definition of the word we call “faith.” Faith alone is what saves us. Faith is God’s gift to us. Faith is a mysterious thing repeatedly mentioned in the Bible.


Faith is not just believing in God and in Jesus as his Son. Faith is not just some theoretical transaction of receiving a gift that God offers us. Faith is “belief in action” – it is both the things we believe, AND the extent to which we let those things transform us and live through us. Can we honestly say we “believe” Jesus is God’s Son if we refuse to follow his teachings?


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