I have a generous orthodoxy. I tried many years ago to read Brian McLaren’s book by the same title, but got board and never finished it. So this post is not based on anything McLaren wrote there except the title, which I appreciate.
I’ve come to the conclusion from stepping back and looking at the broadness of Christianity that the historic faith is much more diverse then any one tradition usually gives due notice of. The stream of “right beliefs” is broad indeed. There is a term, adiaphora, which we use to acknowledge permissible beliefs variously held and disputed within the Christian faith. Heresy, for me, is best defined as a belief which has been rejected by the Church universal.
For the earliest believers, right belief – we might call them creedal statements – were wrapped up in a person, not a system. The earliest followers of Jesus were, in the purest Jewish sense, disciples. The term “Way” which best characterized the budding movement later became known as “Christian”. Both terms communicate a way of life, not a system of belief. But for the earliest believers – and it should be the same today – a way of life implies deep convictions, beliefs held to the core of a persons being whether they can articulate them or not.
Scholars have identified a few such creedal statements in the New Testament which preceded the New Testament texts themselves: 1 Corinthians 8:6; Philippians 2:5-11 and Colossians 1:15-20. I think these texts represent the center of orthodoxy.