Paradoxy: Paradigm Pathways

I met Ken Howard at a party at my house last month – a Big Tent Christianity kegger wherein we raised funds to put a Raleigh homeless couple into a home. There were like 100 people here (at least it felt that way!) but we hit it off despite the din. Ken’s a priest in Maryland; he wrote a book that I’d already begun to hear good things about. He asked me to participate in a blog tour & I said “sure!” I haven’t been disappointed.

Ken Howard’s Paradoxy: Creating Christian Community Beyond Us and Them opens up with a premise strikingly similar to Jim Belcher’s Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional (see? Even the titles sound similar): The Church is being torn apart by dissonant voices; we need to move forward in a creative ‘third way’ direction that honors our deepest values while laying aside our addiction to our niche. Beyond this starting point, however, the two books diverge pretty significantly. While Belcher (to some people’s acclaim, and others’ disdain) desired to create a ‘mere Christianity’ essentialist orthodoxy that nods toward emergence while drawing out the best of his PCA Presbyterian tradition, Howard attempts to craft three ideologically-neutral terms to re-frame old verities and serve as self-identifiers of where you are as an individual and congregation:

  • The conservative way we will call Doctrinal-Propositional Orthodoxy or Orthoproxy
  • The liberal way we will call Ethical-Practical Orthodoxy or Orthopraxy
  • The emerging middle way we will call Incarnational-Relational Orthodoxy or Paradoxy

In chapter 8, my stop along the tour, we’re looking at where particular faith commuities fall along this spectrum. It’s here that Ken offers a 14-question congregational self-inventory. Here are two samples:

Which statement best describes your church’s view of religion?

a. Ultimate truth is found in one religion (Christianity is the only way).
b. Deepest truth is shared by all religions (Christianity is the only way for me).
c. Religion is irrelevant for following Christ (Christ is the way, the truth, and the life).

Which statement best describes your church’s understanding of the process of including newcomers?

a. First conversion, then fellowship.
b. First full fellowship, then fellowship catalyzes transformation.
c. Community offered with few conditions, then the inner faith experience leads to the person’s change of heart.

Curious how your responses to these questions place you along the Orthoproxy-Orthopraxy-Paradoxy continuum? I was – and the answers surprised me. Paradoxy is a book that conservatives and progressives can read together with mind and heart, grappling with issues of pluralism and inclusion on the one hand and the integrity of our faith and conviction on the other hand. It’s an excellent meditation on our quest for a generous orthodoxy that is, indeed, both generous and orthodox. I recommend it.

Check out the rest of this tour:

Foreword and Introduction: May You Live in Interesting Times
Brian McLaren on
Ken Howard on Beyond Us and Them

Chapter 1: The End of the World As We Know It: Collapsing Paradigms
Bosco Peters on Worship Blog

Chapter 2: Constantine’s Ghost: Christendom
Amy Moffit on Without A Map

Chapter 3: Reality Ain’t What it Used to Be: Foundationalism
Jana Reiss on FlunkingSainthood

Chapter 4:  Hanging by a Thread:  Christianity as Religion
Tom Brackett on Church Planting Central

Chapter 5:  O God, Our Help in Ages Past: Christianities That Might Have Been
Sarah Dylan Breuer on

Chapter 6: The Shape of Things to Come: Promising Principles for a New Way of Church
Joel Borofsky on Christian Watershed

Chapter 7: A New Middle Way? Characteristics of an Incarnational Orthodoxy — a.k.a. Paradoxy
Andy MacBeth on Faithfully Reading

2 Responses to Paradoxy: Paradigm Pathways

  1. brian October 8, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this book, Mike. I’ve been thinking about a lot of these questions and your review of this book gives me hope that others are thinking along the same lines.

    I especially appreciate that this author has noticed that the major divide is along belief vs. practice, something I (and others) have been having a conversation with here:


  2. Ethan October 26, 2010 at 4:34 am #

    I have a question: in the above two example questions about paradoxy, is answer (c) always the one pointing toward paradoxy? If so, what are the implications of

    “Religion is irrelevant for following Christ (Christ is the way, the truth, and the life).” ?

    I completely agree with this, except for the practical fact that religion is very relevant (or at minimum thought to be) by MANY people. This isn’t putting down religion itself necessarily, but perhaps saying that Jesus transcends religion – there is something universal about it? – and so people of any religion or no religion can be a follower of Christ? This is different than saying without qualification that all religions are equally valid paths to God.

    Brian and I and others have been having a similar discussion on his blog. Perhaps you would like to chime in?

    I really think so many Christians are beating around the bush by trying to re-shape Christianity without looking at the fundamental question that part (c) entails:

    “Religion is irrelevant for following Christ (Christ is the way, the truth, and the life).” This is something that people of no religion or any religion can potentially agree on. As for all the doctrines and dogmas, those will continue to divide both Christians and non-Christians for centuries to come.

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