Sometimes it is necessary to be rebuked in order to see our faults. This correction can help us move toward change that results in us being more like Christ. As I reflect on Humble Orthodoxy by Joshua Harris, that is the concept that comes to my mind.
It is an extremely short book. The font size is large, the pages are small, it only has 4 sections, and If you exclude the study guide at the end, it is only 61 pages in length. But despite its small size, it can make an impressive impact on the reader. In some ways it did for me.
Throughout the book, Josh speaks of people who have a strong, high regard for the teachings of Jesus Christ, and yet treat people like jerks. This is sad to read, but I think that it is often true.
Some of the things the author discusses include:
At the start, Joshua conveys the idea holding to the orthodox perspective on a doctrine, and also being humble in sharing it with others. He compares the difference between orthodox and heterodox teachings, and also the humble and arrogant perspectives of both. From this chapter we also learn that much of what the author conveys comes from reading Paul’s second letter to Timothy (pgs. 8-16). He discusses many verses from 2 Timothy where it speaks of the necessity of both humility and orthodoxy.
In section 2, Josh shares a revised parable that we can to relate to in today’s world (pgs. 17-19). One is a doctrinally sound individual who looks down on others and is arrogant. The other person watches Christian TV and thinks that it is deep. He attends a megachurch and everything about him screams squishy theology. At the end of the day, he is quick to recognize that he is a sinner and needs forgiveness. The man who knows all the sorts of biblical doctrine doesn’t do any of that. He is glad that he has the right teaching from the Bible, and that he is not like the one who goes to the megachurch.
In the third section, Mr. Harris describes a friend of his who has a popular blog (pgs. 31-33). This individual seeks to act in humility, and when he receives nasty comments, strives to respond with patience and meekness. Near the end of the chapter he describes the rebellion of not only the people of Israel, but also that of Moses himself (pgs. 39-42). The story he shares is when Moses is told to speak to the rock so that water would gush out of it, but instead strikes it in his anger (Numbers 20).
In the last section, Joshua describes the importance of rightly handling the word of God (pgs. 51-54). He contrasts dropping a basketball, which does no harm, versus handling the word of God in such a way that it could explode and harm others (pg. 52). Mishandling the word of God destroys people’s lives. The author is totally right in saying this. Later he talks about the fact that none of us will be bragging in heaven, and instead we will be rejoicing that all of it was true. We will also be ashamed of all the times we split over silly things like organ music and the arguments that we made about baptism (pgs. 54-57). We will be so grateful for the grace and mercy God gave us in His Son, Jesus Christ.
In many ways, I think Mr. Harris’ main ideas are good and valid. The point in which he speaks of mishandling the word of God and how it destroys people’s lives was impressive. I remember pausing for a moment when he described Moses’ sin with the rock, and how the transgressions of others does not give us the license to sin. I also benefited from the concept of properly following orthodox teachings leads us to being humble. At least they should. That is one of my key takeaways from the book.
Having shared all that, I think that this book is sometimes impressive, but I cannot recommend it completely. Earlier in this review I stressed the shortness of the book. That is both a benefit, and also a drawback. It can be read in an afternoon, but I always felt like I was only hearing one side of Mr. Harris’ main idea. I don’t recall any instance where the apostles’ strong rebukes against others are ever mentioned. The specific examples I am thinking of include Peter and Ananias and Sapphira, and also Paul and Elymas the sorcerer. They are in chapters 5 and 13 of Acts if you want to read what I am talking about. Jesus turning over tables and rebuking the pharisees are another couple of events that come to mind.
Some may think that the above examples do not apply to us today. After all, Peter and Paul were apostles, and Jesus was (and is) the Son of God. We are merely people who are imperfectly trying to be disciples of Christ. We sin everyday. Despite this, there are passages outside of 2 Timothy that speak to correcting people in their error. Sometimes this is done in a way that doesn’t seem humble. In Titus 1:10-14 the apostle Paul describes those of the circumcision who need to be rebuked sharply. In those verses, Paul quotes a prophet who describes the Cretians as liars, evil beasts, and slow bellies (Tts. 1:12). In another place, Paul writes to the Corinthians and reflects on his correction of them (2 Cor. 7:8-12). He recognizes that he made them sorry by his letter but was glad that they were made sorry after a godly manner, and that this sorrow worked repentance to salvation (2 Cor. 7:9-10).
Beyond this sense of only one side of the story being given, there is something else that concerns me a bit more. In the summary above I wrote of Churches splitting over organ music and how the Baptists and Presbyterians argued over baptism. One of them would have to admit that the other was correct and so on (pg. 56). It is almost like the author is saying that certain matters are not important enough to defend vigorously while we are here on earth. That may not be what the author intended, but I came away with that impression. It is like we should hold the truth high, but we shouldn’t actually get into strong disagreements about certain teachings in the Bible. Is the point just to make it so that nobody in the world thinks we are being a jerk? I hope not. Who is to say what truths need to be defended vigorously, and what others can be handled more casually? I don’t feel like this distinction is made very well in the book. I guess we are supposed to ascertain what truths of the Christian faith are critically important to defend, and which ones are not. As if some truths aren’t “important enough” to do so.
Although I consider these to be the two main reasons why I cannot recommend this book completely, I still found it to be beneficial. I thought the main concept that Joshua was trying to convey was great, and something we should apply in our lives as appropriate. Unfortunately, I expect that sometimes when the truth is proclaimed, the person doing so will still be considered a jerk simply because he or she is holding to biblical orthodoxy. We should not shy away from such experiences just because a person of the world hates what is being said.
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
An Image of the Last Supper by 4222320 from Pixabay.