Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Generous Orthodoxy 5-6 A Missional Evangelical

I doubt anyone's been pining for it, but here are very brief thoughts on two more chapters of Brian McLaren's Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a missional + evangelical + post/protestant + liberal/conservative + mystical/poetic + biblical + charismatic/contemplative + fundamentalist/calvinist + anabaptist/anglican + methodist + catholic + green + incarnational + depressed-yet-hopeful + emergent + unfinished CHRISTIAN."

Previous reviews include:

0. John Franke's Foreward, McLaren's Introduction, and his Chapter 0: For Mature Audiences Only.

1-4. chapters 1-4, "Why I Am a Christian"

Now briefly,

Chapter 4: "Why I Am Missional"
McLaren isn't a missional guru, but he gives a fair taste of the missional thrust. The mission of the church, he says, is "To be and make disciples of Jesus Christ in authentic community for the good of the world" (117). The last phrase is what is missional.

Being missional, for McLaren is about living for the good of the world rather than for personal salvation or an inward looking focus.

One questionable part of the chapter is where he says the question of whether everyone is saved, few are saved, or more are saved than have explicitly confessed Christ is the wrong question. On the one hand, I appreciate a sense that we are to be going for the good of the world regardless. That I agree with.

But it might very well make a very big difference. If I believe the world is headed for massive judgment and have a narrow view of who will be saved... further if I believe my bringing the good news can make the difference between salvation and condemnation... if these things are true then it matters a great deal that I redouble my missionary efforts.

What I am saying is that this is only an unimportant question if everyone is saved or is saved regardless of my bringing the gospel.

A final interesting quote in the chapter is from one of McLaren's mentors, "in a pluralistic world, a religion is valued based on the benefits it brings to its nonadherants" (121). We shouldn't live because we want the rest of the world to like us, but I understand what the statement is saying. The world will be more attracted to us if we are bringing value to it.

Chapter 6: "Why I Am an Evangelical"
McLaren seems happy to wear the title "evangelical," especially if it is defined the way Robert Webber does in his excellent book we have reviewed here, The Younger Evangelicals. He admits he no longer really understands the big E Evangelicalism of his youth, but he doesn't want to give up on the little e evangelical.

The positive definition he likes is an evangelical as 1) someone who highly respects the Bible and 2) emphasizes personal conversion, 3) emphasizes intimacy, a "personal relationship" with God, 4) wants to share their faith with others. (Let me reiterate if I haven't before, this McLaren knows some stuff, despite his attempts to pass himself off as a slacker)

What he likes the most about evangelicals is their passion, a passion that leads them to cross oceans and even lose their lives for what they believe.


John said...

I have not read 'Generous Orthodoxy' but issues which you raise in your partial review caught my attention.

You challenge McLaren's dismissal of the question of who is and how many are saved. If we accept the proposition that our commission is to go and make disciples, then it does not matter who or how many are saved or who or how many will ever be saved.

The commission operates regardless of anticipated success rate of our efforts. Information regarding our personal success at the mission, the ultimate success of the mission is simply not important. It may feed our vanity to think we are having an impact, it may encourage us to know that the mission will succeed or that our efforts will matter, but in truth the commission stands even if we will never successfully disciple a single individual.

More to the point, we are called to make disciples, not effectuate or even contribute to anyone's salvation. Salvation for one or for all, is ultimately in God's hands, to be granted as a matter of grace to whomsoever God sees fit to grant such grace.

The object of our effort at disciple-making is not to "save" souls for Christ, but to contribute to the building of the Kingdom on earth, and that we can do even if we don't know the box score of the Salvation game.

By the way, if we are about earthly Kingdom building, then how we as representatives of the Kingdom are viewed, appreciated and valued by those whom we seek to bring into the Kingdom is perhaps our most important asset.


Ken Schenck said...

I agree with you John in the same way that I agree that a person's belief on eternal security doesn't matter if we are all living the way God wants us to live.

John said...

I should probably note here my own untrained understanding of the term Salvation is: ultimate reconciliation and communion with God. Reading your earlier review of McLaren's Chapter 4 thoughts on "saving" and "salvation" I find little to help me connect McLaren's thinking on salvation with the coming of the Kingdom.

I am not surprised as I find that the technical meaning of the term is generally fuzzy, and that most people, even and especially the theologically well-trained, in arriving at their own theological understandings tend to re-fit the term to their own personal circumstances. I am sure that I have done this as well.

Perhaps "Salvation" IS a personal term, something which is worked out uniquely and idiosyncratically between God and each of God's creatures; my Salvation may not be recognizable to another, nor their's to me. That certainly seems to be the case here on earth as we each seek to sort out the concept in anticipation of what we know not.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Why is it that people get so caught up with making a BIG differences? If I decide to go home and take care of an ailing parent, is that "missional' enought? Or is that something less than giving up all for Christ?

It is usually when we take our eyes off the small stuff that the big stuff gets messed up...for without introspection, we are doomed to become dangerous to others and ourselves....