Book Review: Humble Orthodoxy

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While it makes for an atypical review, I want to begin by sharing a bit of my testimony:

My time in graduate school was frustrating. As I’d soon learn, however, I was the source of my own frustration.

My degree focused on the “practical” aspects of ministry (mentoring, biblical counseling, educational models, etc…), and I often found myself frustrated by the apparent lack of theological depth in many of the current models. Said another way, I was a new Calvinist, and—in my mind—these models didn’t rely on or teach theology nearly enough.

Because I so treasured the joy I had found in the theological depth of the gospel, I wanted to make sure everyone else did too. Unfortunately, with a lack of experience and a lack of grace, my original desire to share the importance of theology devolved into a need to be right.

My arrogance and frustration grew until my fiancée (now wife) reminded me that the doctrines of grace were named thus for a reason. While encouraging me to cling to the truths of Scripture, Kate encouraged me to grow first and foremost in my understanding of grace. She knew winsomeness would follow. While we didn’t use the term at the time, she was effectively praying that I would get to a place of Humble Orthodoxy.

This brings me to why I loved this short book by Joshua Harris. In Humble Orthodoxy, Harris shows believers the same truths my wife showed me. Harris calls believers to hold fast to the text of scripture, while simultaneously living it out in the world. Unfortunately, Satan has made this a hard tension to live in, but when rightly understood, there’s no tension at all—truth leads to humility.

Let me share—in my opinion—the best truths of Harris’s book:

“I don’t know any other way to say this: it seems like a lot of the people who care about orthodoxy are jerks. But why? Does good doctrine necessarily lead to being argumentative, annoying, and arrogant?” (3)

“Whether our theological knowledge is great or small, we all need to ask a vital question: What will we do with the knowledge of God that we have?” (4)

“Love for God and love for neighbor require us to oppose falsehood. There is nothing more unloving than to be silent in the face of lies that will ruin another person.” (11)

“You and I need to contend for the truth. But there’s a fine line between contending for truth and being contentious.” (12)

“Even when [Paul] fiercely opposed them, he didn’t just want to beat them in an argument; he wanted to win the to the truth.” (14)

“Christians are humble because their understanding of truth is not based on their own intelligence, their own research, their own acumen. Rather, it is 100% dependent on the grace of God. Christian knowledge is a dependent knowledge. And that leads to humility (1 Cor 1:31).” (16)

“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?” (19)

“If being right becomes more important to us than worshipping God, then our theology is not really about God anymore. It’s about us . . . If we stand before the awesome knowledge of God’s character and our first thought isn’t I am small, and I am unworthy to know the Creator of the universe, then we should be concerned. Too many of us catch a glimpse of him and think, Look at me, taking all this in. Think of all the poor fools who have never seen this. God, you’re certainly lucky to have me beholding you.” (26–27)

“Just because we can’t know God exhaustively doesn’t mean we can’t know him truly (Psalm 19:7–10; John 17:17).” (29)

“Shouldn’t we be known for consistent confession of all the ways our own lives fall short of the truth we espouse?” (36)

“I won’t pretend that I’ve arrived at humble orthodoxy. When I gain a bit of theological knowledge, I all too frequently get puffed up with pride. But I’ll tell you what deflates my arrogance and self-righteousness fast than anything else: trying to live whatever truth I have.” (37)

“Life and doctrine can’t be separated. Our lives either put the beauty of God’s truth on display, or they obscure it.” (39)

“Friend, the truth is not about us. It’s not self-determined. It’s not an accessory. It is about God. And we believe it and we hold to it, not because we want to make a statement about ourselves, but because we want true statements to be made about him. We want his glory.” (47)

“In eternity we’ll see the silliness of self-righteousness and quarreling over the nonessentials. But we’ll also see with piercing clarity just how essential the essentials really are.” (57)

“As we lose the esteem of our culture, as we see false teachers gaining ground, what will we do? Will we grow bitter, angry, and vengeful? Or, like Jesus and Paul, will we continue to love our enemies even as we suffer? Will we keep praying? Will we keep hoping for God to open others’ eyes?

We don’t have to be jerks with the truth. We can remember how Jesus showed us mercy when we were his enemies. We can demonstrate a humble orthodoxy, holding on to our identity in the gospel. We are not those who are right; we are those who have been redeemed.” (61)

Harris, in Humble Orthodoxy, winsomely points the church—as my wife pointed me—to the gospel. For, in Christ’s death and resurrection, we see the beautiful intersection of truth and humility. While I’m not claiming to have arrived, through my wife’s encouragement and prayers (and later through Humble Orthodoxy)  I saw that a right understanding of truth humbles the heart. I was reminded that theology is about God’s work, not mine.

I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah for the purpose of this review.

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