On page 256 of A Generous Orthodoxy, McLaren develops 8 (9 really) “emerging obligations of a generous orthodoxy…in regard to other religions in God’s world. He admits to building on the work of David Bosch, a missionary in Africa.
1. We must willingly accept the coexistence of different faiths in our world willingly, no begrudgingly.
McLaren uses the analogy of a parent loving a child being different from approving of what they do. This seems like a simple task in theory, but in practice we know that it is not. The whole ‘love the sinner, but hate the sin’ really falls apart in conversations like this, because the sin is the identfier of who the sinner is. The two become inseparable. So we are to love the whole package with the mature understanding that love is not equivalent to approval. I think this has even further implications if we want to talk about the western church culture that gives love if they approve (of your dress, habits, culture, skin color, political views, etc.). There is a sick under-culture that surrounds Christiamericanity that witholds love from those who are unapproved, making me a judge of who God loves and who He doesn’t. This may be sin in its ugliest form.
2. Having acknowledged and accepted the coexistence of other faiths, Christians should actually talk with people of other faiths, engaging in gentle and respectful dialogue.
In a modern context, dialogue and debate are engaged in with the intent to conquer and colonialize. You argue in order to defeat (humiliate) the other person, and turn people over into your particular viewpoint (can you see why I don’t like talking to most advocates of calvinism?). This viewpoint rolled over into evangelistic methods, which created a divide-and-conquer method which sold very well.
In a postmodern context, dialogue and debate is engaged in for mutual benefit. If I engage in discussion with more poeple who disagree with me, I can understand them better and, perhaps more importantly, I understand my own positions better, irregardless of their conversion. This does not mean that I do not want others to convert. It does mean that I am not interested in humiliating people into the kingdom of heaven. Rather, I am interested in people knowing me for my love of them, their position, even their identifying sin and then wanting to know where that love comes from – the saving love of Jesus.
3. We must assume that God is an unseen partner in our dialogues who has something to teach all participants, including us.
Many Christians think we own God – like He is a good and service that we are peddling to the world. These people are wrong. That’s as blunt as I need to be.
4. We must learn humility in order to engage in respectful dialogue.
We do need humility but, like McLaren, this humility can quickly look like arrogance. I have heard comments from people who sat under Pagitt’s and Jones’ teachings and thought their apologies were a bit patronistic. I am pretty sure that this would not have been their intent, but people will not always take it the way it was intended. When we are talking about a new kind of Christianity, we must be aware that we are changing something that is very close to many hearts and will cause passionate reactions and discussions.
5. We must realize that each religion is its own world, requiring very different responses from Christians.
It is interesting that the assumption is that all people prescribe to a religion. This is more and more true in our more and more postmodern world. Especially here in the pacific northwest, where their are more and more who choose “none” as their religious affiliation. People here are not institutionalized Christians, but they are spiritual and many love Jesus.
6. Only at this point are we ready to reassert that conversation does not exclude evangelism but makes it possible.
Once again, in a postmodern context, listening earns trust. There is no substitute for showing value in another person than giving them our most precious commodity, time. We must earnestly hope for the salvation of all people – knowing that listening to them and learning their story is more than a good method of saving people. Know this: listening = knowing = loving.
7. We must continually be aware that the “old, old story” may not be the “true, true story.”
This one hurts the most. Many times we are not aware of the misconceptions that other religions have on Christianity. Some believe that God had intercourse with Mary to produce Jesus. To those of us old in the faith, this sounds silly, but for many it is what they have been taught since an early age. We must be aware that re-education may be an early step in evangelism.
Also, we need to be aware that we may have misconceptions about other religons that actually hinder our evangelistic efforts. Our old stories about them may not be true either.
8. We must live with paradox.
There will be people in the world who are more in tune with the song of God than us. Some who live more lovingly than me. Some who show more mercy than me. Yet, when I speak of my faith, it is a loving, merciful faith. How do I put this together? One would naturally assume the answer is to work harder, creating a works based faith. Or, perhaps, we would speak of the forgiveness of God, yet we must be sure not to cheapen our Savior’s sacrifice on the cross. Many times, our best response is going to have to be humbly living in paradox. This goes to the point of Dwight Freisen coining the term, “paradoxy”, meaning paradox and orthodox at the same time.
9. If members of other religions are under threat, we must seek to protect them.
Were the wise men Jews? Were they following God’s leading or astrology? What are we going to do with the apparent fact that God draws all men unto Himself? As a nation full of Christians, known as a Christian nation, what are we doing to help Arabs come to the Lord?