Humble Orthodoxy: Holding The Truth High Without Putting People Down, by Joshua Harris
[Note: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.]
Given the events of the past few days, this long-awaited book by Joshua Harris (perhaps most famous for writing two books on Christian courtship, I Kissed Dating Goodbye and my favorite, Boy Meets Girl) comes at a rather ironic time. I would like, at the outset, to give such quibbles as I have about this book before discussing what is more important about it for the reader and also what is more praiseworthy about it. This book is very short–80 very small pages that are smaller than some of the entries on my blog. In addition, I have some major quibbles with what the author considers to be orthodoxy, mostly because the “historical” definition of orthodoxy does not jive with the doctrines of the Bible itself, making the author’s list neither biblically accurate nor complete. Frequently, when discussing these doctrines, there are mistaken assumptions being made about the afterlife, and speculations about heaven and hell and what will happen there.
Ultimately speaking, though, this is not a book that seeks to give a rigorous definition of orthodoxy or a scriptural defense of those doctrines it considers orthodoxy. Rather, the author takes orthodoxy as an assumption and then writes passionately and eloquently about our need to apply the truths we know to our conduct. This is an essential and worthwhile point that makes this book a worthy read (it is not a long one, and about a quarter of it is study questions designed for the reader to apply what the book discusses in their own lives. This is a vital matter, and one that I tend to struggle with personally. As someone who has spent a lot of time and effort acquiring intellectual knowledge (something I am pretty good at), I have often found the application of that knowledge to be more challenging. As the author correctly notes, we are humbled when we take our knowledge of God’s ways and try to live it, because we realize when we fall short, and how merciful and gracious God is to us (despite the fact that we do not deserve it), and then seek to become more like God and Jesus Christ and show His love and mercy and grace to other people who don’t deserve it either, no matter what they may do or say to us.
This book is both gracious and very realistic in its approach. It focuses on the need for us to both be firm and strong on truth as well as loving and kindhearted and understanding towards people, sacrificing neither love nor sincerity and honesty, holding to that difficult balance between the two. This is a balance I struggle for personally, and I am sure I am not alone in that either. Likewise, Harris discusses very openly that sometimes the truth is offensive to other people, no matter how politely it is phrased or how much love we have for others. Sometimes people reject the truth because they do not want to handle it, but that does not justify us from being harsh or unloving, rather it means that we must correct and occasionally rebuke (something which is not pleasant to give or receive) with a tear in our eye rather than with a gleam of self-righteous and smug superiority.
It is all too easily to be like the Pharisees when we think we have privileged knowledge, while forgetting that those who have accurate knowledge of themselves will understand their own flaws and shortcomings very deeply, and be correspondingly more merciful to others in light of the mercy that they know they have received from God through Jesus Christ. Though this is not a perfect little book, its main points are so sincerely and powerfully written, and its point so necessary for our times both in its defense of biblical truth as well as godly love for our neighbor (that is, everyone) that this book deserves reading and reflection despite its flaws, in the hopes that we may learn from the strengths of this book while being charitable to its weaknesses, in the hopes that we may receive charity for our own. For by the standard we judge, we will also be judged, and justice is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.