In an interview by Next Wave, Brian McLaren defines the purpose of his book, A Generous Orthodoxy (which I am enjoying and have been responding to over the last few days):
In a sentence, A Generous Orthodoxy is an attempt to remarry two things that never should have been divorced — truth and love….
This reminds me of an old “Father Knows Best” episode in which the teenage daughter is trying to change her boyfriend’s character, and Robert Young says,”why don’t you try something easy, like moving the Rocky Mountains.”
Truth and beauty, even, would be a lot easier, as they do not require us to bend our minds to embrace what repulses us.
For all my adult life I have pursued Truth with a capital T. Sometime in my late 20s I started adding Love to that quest. This dual pursuit became for me the impossible dream, because Truth took me beyond the boundaries of my Christian upbringing, and began to make my concept of Love grow broader than was normal in my denomination. Truth and Love were at war, and the more I was able to reconcile them in my own mind and philosophy of Christian fellowship, the less my longtime brothers and sisters could handle it.
Initially, love seems to take the lead, arguing in defense of those who seem nice but don’t fit our “truth” definitions. For example, as a young man I learned this Joaquin Miller verse and kept it with me as a tolerance builder:
“In men whom men condemn as ill
I find so much of goodness still.
In men whom men pronounce divine
I find so much of sin and blot.
I do not dare to draw a line
Between the two, where God has not.”
It has only been in recent years that I have begun to discover how the Bible resolves its own seeming flip-flops in preference between Truth and Love..
It is indeed a murky area, where the ability to embrace paradoxes and to have a healthy degree of self-doubt seem to be pre-requisites for making progress.
Tomorrow I will explore the story of the Prophet from Judah who was killed by a lion for not obeying every detail of God’s word to him. Within that story, I believe, are some important clues as to why love and truth must learn to coexist within the emergent, unfinished, presently-divided Christian community.