aGO 0.1: a Generous Refund

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When this book first came out, Jen Lemen graciously sent me a free copy so I could participate in a group blog, aGenerousOrthodoxy.com. The excitement generated by the reception of the book can be felt here (back in 2004). Brian McLaren has been a welcome conversation partner and friend in my own Christ-following journey and feeble attempts to be a reflective practitioner/pastor (my 32year old birthday thoughts can’t hide this). I must admit that when we were supposed to be contributing to the group blog I had difficulty organising my thoughts and working through my fears (and lack of confidence). This irrational fear was probably intensified because of the controversy revolving around the book, the emergent conversation (and the wider emerging church discussion specifically in the USA), as well as Brian personally and as a small fry young pastor in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – I didn’t want to get pulled into a whirlpool and thus spending unnecessary energy engaged in debates that may or may not concern me (which is often the case IMHO for Christianity in Asia). I confess I may have been a coward or plain over-cautious. My involvement was limited to personal email exchanges, some blog posts and face to face conversations with those directly connected to the emergent conversation in USA & UK. Of course, even being associated with Brian McLaren and the what-does-this-mean term “emergent” or “emerging church” has brought both blessings and frowns.

Anyway, I saw a paperback version of the book today with a new epilogue and discussion guide at Borders Berjaya times Square (they are offering 15% for all books). The discussion questions looked helpful to get me thinking and articulating again. Furthermore, I owe Jen Lemen this (many thanks for the book again! BTW, it’s amazing that Holly & Ryan Sharp who were on the creative team for the book actually came to Malaysia and we had some good times – they signed on the book *grin*) This will be my fresh attempt to move beyond random thoughts and posts to a series, I’ll skip typing the questions and go straight to my response using the numbers (Ok! I’m lazy to type the questions *smile* – or you can guess the questions yourself).

allow me to jump into the questions and fear later …

1. I was drawn to read (or re-read) this book because of (a) the reasons mentioned above. (b) it’s 2006, 2 years after some “heat” generated by the book and I hope this season I can reflect on it in a “cooler” environment. (c) reading Brian’s new epilogue inspired me where he shared,

A Generous Orthodox felt more pastoral and personal. I think I was working on chapter 20 (“Why I Am Unfinished”), the last chapter, when the word confession came to mind — confession not in the sense of a deep, dirty, sinful secret, but in the sence os Augustine’s famous Confession (the margins of whose pages I am not worthy to mark), which would perhaps be better translated testimony. A confession is a personal testimony: here’s what I believe, here’s my story, here’s my heart — exposed with vulnerability and honesty

This is important because when I first read it that was exactly how I felt and understood the book – not as a systematic treatise (with all the arguments ironed out) that I would swallow uncritically , or a kind of manifesto that I need to sign, or a formula that would solve all our problems in Christianity – I read it as a conversation with someone who’s willing to open and “confess” his journey and hopefully through this interaction think about my own. Sorry for the 2 year delay, my mind has been processing all of this. Only now, I’m disciplining the fingers to key the thoughts down (at least for myself).

2. I would be under the catergory of “a Christian leader who has heard terms like postmodern and missional. This goes way back to 2000 when I was exposed to discussions revolving around these two terms though sparks from Bob Brow, conversations with Todd Hunter, early articles from Next Wave, The Len Swet classic Soul Tsunami, The Gospel and our Culture Network series – starting with Missional Church, and all things Lesslie Newbigin. As an audience for the book, probably I’d best be described simply as a Christians who’s part of a sidelined mainline denomination refocusing what is frontline ministry in this time and age. 🙂 who has not left the “”institutional” church and consciouly chooses to remain in my present context (prayerfully to be a blessed catalyst for good).

3. When Brian tries “to be provocative, mischievous, and unclear.” in this book, the playful and the creative side me thoroughly enjoys it. The part in me that needs challenging, rethinking and not taking formulaic answers or thinking processes shouts, “Great!”. The more cautious side of me would be on the edge of my seat and more then once I’ve heard myself saying, “He might get into trouble for saying this.”, or “I’m not as daring as he is to use that way of communicating his ideas”, then there’s the “This is very helpful to spur thinking, I hope some wouldn’t take him out of context for their own personal agendas”. After reading someone like Rober Farrar Capon I can take Brian’s style but many wouldn’t.

4. My initial reaction to the definition of orthodoxy as “What God knows, some of which we believe a little, some of which they believe a little, and about which we all have a whole lot to learn” is … “This is honest! And it’s true isn’t it? Who (as in humans) can claim to have very bit of knowledge especially with regards to God all sorted out?” I don’t think it’s a classic definition where I’d expect some talk on Christ, the canonical scriptures, the creeds, the ongoing contextual engagement of the Gospel in and through the church with culture (often shown through the wider church tradition). But it’s a “creative” directional definition where on personal confessional level it takes a lot of pressure of me and frees me to learn. It’s kind of an “ethos” or an “attitude” where beyond a personal level multiplied communally would help us as Christians first to live together and then further work together. Not just tolerating but genuinely respecting each other – it’s hard – but I think the body of Christ right starting from the local congregation needs hold this “creative confessional directional 🙂 definition” to take the unnecessary pressure off us to have “space” to grow at a variety of paces while still connected to one another, and for some minus defensive postures adding on learning postures which must lead to “orthopraxy of love of God and all God’s creations” Whether its classic (faithful to where we’re come from), creative (not just in an artsy sense, but in a constructive sense), confessional (which springs from personal ownership and authenticity) – the content of this kind of “orthodoxy” is indeed rich and enriching!

I can only manage until 4 today. So aGO 0.2 tomorrow. Non-virtual important stuff awaiting my attention.

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