Mailbox Review: Humble Orthodoxy (3.5/5)

I received a copy of Joshua Harris’  Humble Orthodoxy gratis from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. Here are my thoughts on the book.

Joshua Harris holding the truth high without putting people down mutlnomah waterbrookThere is presently a palpable feeling among many in the Church that we must choose between humility and orthodoxy. On the one hand, doctrinal knowledge does tend to puff up, especially within the more theologically rigorous traditions of Christianity; the more right we believe ourselves to be, the more unbearable we can become—especially in an age of online discourse where a degree of anonymity makes arrogance even easier. On the other hand, we live in an age of serious cultural sin in which many liberal voices (even some within the Church) defend unrighteous lifestyles by couching them in language of justice and “equality,” and we are rightly aware of our biblical duty to stand up and speak up for the Lord’s truth. Josh Harris reminds us that we don’t have to choose, and offers some helpful and incredibly timely encouragement toward a “humble orthodoxy.”

In an expansion of the popular final chapter of a previous book, Dug Down Deep, Harris deals with the pastoral problem of ungracious theology, correctly identifying roots both in sinful self-aggrandizing tendencies as well as righteous zeal for God’s law. At the heart of the gospel, he argues, the two are easily reconciled. We can be humble in the manner in which we defend and present orthodox dogma without sacrificing the integrity of God’s word. As Harris aptly observes, “Instead of looking down on the unorthodox, how can we NOT want to humbly lead them toward the same life-giving truth that has changed our lives?”

This little book not only preaches humility but also practices it, being just 81 pages long (9 of which are study guide and probably not Harris’ own work), and smaller than a piece of toast. In fact, that is my greatest complaint about the book: it shouldn’t have been a book at all. As Harris says, Humble Orthodoxy ($9.99 srp) is a slightly expanded treatment of a single chapter from his older book, Dug Down Deep ($14.99 srp). A great deal of space on the pages, too, is dedicated to stylized re-quotations of notable lines from the body of the text, again reducing the amount of material you’re getting for your dollars. I can think of several publishing ministries that would simply give away a powerful but exceedingly short little pamphlet like this one; I wish Harris had considered doing the same instead of going the route of expensive publication and retail markup. All the same, the book (read: booklet) is a worthy read if you can get ahold of it for cheap or free. I give it a 3.5/5, though it’d be higher if the price were lower.

As a no-charge alternative, I would suggest John Newton’s letter “On Controversy,” which treats the same issue thoroughly and pastorally.

You can read the first chapter of Harris’ book for free, here.

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