Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Orthodoxy and orthopraxis: ‘both/and’
I remember hearing Brian Mclaren talk a few years ago about an interview he'd given at a conference. I believe it was with Dallas Willard and they were discussing why a trip to your average bookshop would reveal a great upsurge of interest in Buddhism and New Age, but a sharp disinterest* with Christianity.

Willard's response was simple and - it seems to me - spot on: "Christianity is a set of doctrines, whilst Buddhism offers a way of life."

At the time, I would have called myself a Christian and I was gutted. I couldn't deny the truth in McLaren's words. I knew the riches of Christian spirituality and the writings of
[Roman] Catholic mystics and Orthodox theologians, but these didn't function as the mainstream of Christianity and seemed to be presented as something of an exceptional and optional extra.
And that’s what’s wrong with mainstream Western churches today (not to be confused with the historic Catholic mainstream with its rhythms of the liturgy including the liturgical year, devotional cycles and sacramentals punctuating parts of the day) including Novus Ordo RC ones. Of course the set of doctrines matters but if the religion inside the building is really modern Methodism or Unitarian Universalism it doesn’t matter that the catechism tells the truth or the sign outside has the C word on it. (And I think on some level people including kids twig that disconnect/hypocrisy besides the usual ‘people at church can be so rotten’. Some people I know who grew up RC in the 1970s say they saw it between the devotions of the old religion and the liturgy of the new but knowing nothing else they just took that as a given.) You get a religion with all the warmth of Wee Free Presbyterianism or Scientology.

The Orthodox despite all their problems understand this. And if you’re honest you’ll see that they’re viewed by the West, when viewed at all, as ‘something of an exceptional and optional extra’. (It’s seen as somehow OK if they say outrageously Catholic things because they’re exotic and a minority and therefore harmless, just another flavour of spirituality to sample and alter at will.)

Apparently Lee of Verbum ipsum, who happens to be a Lutheran, understands this too.

Holistic. Kata + holos, grasping the whole. Catholic.

I keep reading good things about McLaren.

*‘Disinterest’ is a good thing. It means ‘impartiality, fairness’! The speaker means ‘lack of interest’.

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