As Long As You Are Being Humble, You Might As Well Be Right: a book review

Joshua Harris has a new, short book which argues that caring about doctrine doesn’t mean you have to be a big fat jerk face.  Humble Orthodoxy: Holding the Truth High Without Putting People Down takes aim at heresy hunters on the one side, and anything-goes-spirituality on the other.  Too often those who challenge the orthodoxy of another’s  Christian witness, do not do so in the spirit of love. With a spirituality which is more shaped by Crossfire than the cross, they delight in pointing out the sloppy thinking and inconsistencies of their opponents. On the other side of the equation, the happy heretic loves everybody and keeps repeating the mantra, “You have your truth, I have mine.”

Thankfully there is another way. Harris suggests that it is possible to be loving AND care about truth. In fact, he argues that right doctrine is formative. It should help us to be more loving and gracious with others because we know God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ. To walk in the truth means more than spouting off right doctrine. It means that we put on the character of Christ and keep love our motivation. While other books discuss the virtue of intellectual humility (the idea that our best theology is provisional) the emphasis of this book is different (though compatible). Harris wants you to be firm in your convictions about God and His world, but this should not make us proud, arrogant and mean.  If Christians believe what we say we believe then humility and a transformed life should characterize our life and public witness.

Harris is best known to the Christian community for kissing dating goodbye (that did wonders for his love life, he is now happily married with children). In the years since his strong words for Christian singles, Harris has become a pastor, published several books on the church and Christian doctrine and sits on the council for the Gospel Coalition.

I think this book’s message is a good one. We need to be reminded that right doctrine is not a hammer to hit people over the head but the truth about our world, our lives and our God that holds out hope for humanity. So I appreciate where this book challenges us on how we talk about ‘right doctrine.’ I also appreciate that this book is written by a spokesperson from the Gospel Coalition. While I agree with many of the doctrines that TGC has expressed, I  have points of disagreement on some “non-essential matters.” I like that Harris holds out humble orthodoxy, because I haven’t always found TGC to be that humble or gracious in their public discourse. If this small book signals a sea-change then I am all for it.

This is a short book which could be read in under an hour.  I think it is good for a short book and give it 3.5 stars. However for a better book with a more thoughtful treatment of this theme, I suggest Humble Apologetics by John Stackhouse (my ‘humility’ role model). But the smallness of this book is perfect if you know someone who cares a lot about doctrine but is kind of a jerk because you can easily slip in with their stuff with the hopes they will read it when they see ‘orthodoxy’ in the title.

Thank you to Waterbrook Multnomah for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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I am a pastor, husband, father, instigator, pray-er, hoper, writer, trouble-maker, peacemaker, and friend. Who are you?

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