A Generous Orthodoxy is probably the best explanation (if you want to call it that) of the emerging church. The subtitle says it all: “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.” In other words, one who embraces a generous orthodoxy has an “orthodoxy” that is big enough to be generous, even accepting, of all branches of theology and Christian expression.
McLaren declared from the outset that he planned to be unclear (p. 23) and, in that, he succeeded. He purposely opens doors he does not go through, raises issues he does not adequately address, and asks questions he does not answer. His ploy seems to be that we need to “dialogue” about these things a bit more; we shouldn’t be in such a rush to find answers, resolve issues and embrace truth; the church, along with truth, is emerging so let’s settle in for the ride which will, in fact, be a long one. In all of this McLaren plays the wise, kindly father who knows where he is headed but has chosen to train his children one step at a time so they might better learn their lessons.
I personally think this is all a ruse. McLaren has no better idea where he and the emerging are headed than we do. He is lost on this journey and he wants us to join him in his wanderings. To be sure McLaren will be “generous” (understanding, merciful, kind) with others for he hopes for the same treatment from us. If he is lost, he takes comfort in the thought that we are all lost together. Just why he has appointed himself to be our tour guide is the question.
While certainly a disturbing book, A Generous Orthodoxy will outline the agenda of the emerging church so that surveyors or Christian trends will have some idea of what their leaders are trying to say. A quote taken from the final chapter sums things up well,
Consider for a minute what it would mean to get the glory of God finally and fully right in your thinking or to get a fully formed opinion of God’s goodness or holiness. Then I think you’ll feel the irony: all these years of pursuing orthodoxy ended up like this—in front of all this glory understanding nothing (emphasis his) (p. 294).
The emerging church is a movement in search of an experience, not the truth.