Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Humble Orthodoxy: Holding the True High Without Putting People Down, by Joshua Harris


Why are all the truly orthodox Christians--the doctrinally minded, theologically sound ones--complete jerks? Why are nice, loving Christians typically wishy-washier than Charlie Brown? Is there a way to love your neighbor and love truth, to uphold good teaching without being an arrogant ass? According to Joshua Harris, the two qualities--humility and orthodoxy--not only can be combined, but should be.

Clocking in at just over 50 pages (not counting the study guide and other extra material), Humble Orthodoxy is an expansion of a chapter from Joshua Harris's recent (and much longer) book, Dug Down Deep. Apparently lots of folks (including John Piper) told him that this topic needed its own book. Who am I to disagree?

It's a short book, to be sure, but Harris packs a lot in. As a more doctrinally-minded individual, I was convicted by his exhortation to apply the theology I value so highly, to live out the things I believe. And I was encouraged to love well the brother in Christ who believes the same Gospel I do, without looking down my nose at him for his incomplete grasp of the Five Points of Calvinism. I assume those on the 'other side'--that is, those who are tempted to undervalue (and underprotect) sound teaching for the sake of kindness and love --would be similarly convicted, though I confess I don't actually know of anyone from that camp who's read the book, or how they've responded. Most of the folks I know tend to be pretty protective of their theological beliefs. Harris is writing to correct both errors, and I hope folks on both sides respond, well, humbly to the orthodox teaching he presents here.

One nitpick: Every other page or so, there's a sort of pop-up box--a sentence from the text, highlighted and enlarged. As I've mentioned before, this is something of a pet peeve of mine. It makes sense in, say, a magazine, where there are columns and columns of small text. But here, where the pages are already small (approximately 4"x6") and the font is not, this kind of summary/attention getter is completely unnecessary--especially since the pop-up sentences often appear immediately before or after the same sentence in the regular text. Really, no sentence needs to appear twice in a tiny two-page spread. If the editors wanted to draw attention to those sentences, they should have only had them appear in the pop-up, and position the pop-up accordingly. Of course, I question the need for such pop-ups in what is essentially a 50-page booklet, but then, I am not a professional editor.

Otherwise, the book is excellent--an easy read, well-written, clear, and largely unobjectionable. Not that some folks won't object. I'm sure there are self-identified Christians who would challenge the need for orthodoxy or humility. But most Christians will, I think, be moved by Harris's call to meekness and humility in espousing the revealed truth about God from Scripture. I've been fortunate to know many folks who embody this principle well--who gently and kindly, yet firmly, defend the Gospel against all would be detractors. I hope that Harris's book will challenge more Christians to strive for that ideal.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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