Mention the words humility and orthodoxy in the same sentence and you are likely to have some people scratching their heads and perhaps even looking at you funny. Some Christians think orthodoxy involves knowing the right answers to biblical questions and while this is partly true, it is far more than just knowledge. Sound doctrine should impact the way we live out our lives. In his new book Humble Orthodoxy: Holding the Truth High Without Putting People Down, Joshua Harris writes to address one of the biggest issues in Christian living, namely the intersection between what we believe and how we behave noting “orthodoxy truths are the plumb line that shows us how to think in a crooked world” (3).
The book only has four chapters and totals around sixty pages but is chalk full of insight to help Christians think through not just what they believe but how what they believe impacts their lives. I have stated before and will again that discipleship problems are ultimately doctrinal problems. Pastor Harris agrees with this statement aptly commenting “Truth matters, but so does our attitude. This is what I mean by humble orthodoxy: we must care deeply about truth, and we must also defend and share this truth with compassion and humility (5). He further explains, “We need to care about orthodoxy and right thinking about who God is and how he saves through Jesus Christ. Orthodoxy matters” (5).
Knowing the right answers is a serious threat to the Gospel but not because of being able to articulate biblical truth. Conversely, the threat to knowing the right answers is articulating them in the wrong way. It took me a long time to learn that truth but once I did, I came face-to-face with a side of me that I did not like — Mr. know it all Bible thumper. I have since learned that it is often best to let others talk and for me to listen for the sake of my soul. At Bible study or in some meetings, I will often be quiet in order to let others talk. It isn’t that I don’t have any thoughts or no desire to contribute to the conversation but I know myself and my tendencies. I know I can easily dominate the conversation with what I think about a given topic leading the conversation in another direction entirely. Pastor Harris notes, “Genuine orthodoxy—the heart of which is the death of God’s Son for undeserving sinners is the most humbling human-pride smashing message in the world” (29). The more you grab hold of that truth the more you will be humbled and amazed by all God has done for you. As Pastor Dever notes, “Humble theology is theology which submits itself to the truth of God’s Word” (29). This is the kind of knowing we need most, namely humble orthodoxy submitted to the Word of God that proclaims the glorious and amazing grace of God.
How do we keep our orthodoxy humble? Harris believes we must “Try to live it. Don’t spend all your time theorizing about it, debating it, or blogging about it. Spend more energy living the truth you know that worrying about what the next person does or doesn’t know. Don’t measure yourself by what you know. Measure yourself by your practice of what you know” (37). This really is the same truth James talks about when he tells his readers to not be just hearers but doers of the Word. The message to be doers and not just hearers of the Word is just as radical as it was in the first century. We are accustomed to just “knowing” the right answers but knowing in the biblical sense of the Word leads to that truth impacting one’s life. Harris once again rightly states, “It’s not enough to get our doctrine straight. Life and doctrine can’t be separated. Our lives either put the beauty of God’s truth on display, or they obscure it. We can’t afford to grow casual toward our own propensity to sin. Even the great leader Moses let his guard down and earned God’s displeasure by allowing the disobedience of others to lead him into his own disobedience” (39).
The great point the author wants his readers to get is “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).
Whether you are a new or mature Christian, a laymen or church member, Humble Orthodoxy has something for you. This book helps us to understand what we are contending for in the Gospel. Furthermore, this book will assist Christians to better understand the importance of knowing right doctrine in submission to God’s Word to include the connection between doctrine and our daily lives. It is this last point especially where evangelicals need the correction of Pastor Harris and is the reason why I believe this book will encourage many to love and articulate the truth with the same tears of compassion Jesus shed over the city of Jerusalem.
Publisher: Josh Harris (2013)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Multnomah Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising