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Book Review – Humble Orthodoxy by Joshua Harris

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Title:  Humble Orthodoxy
Author: Joshua Harris
Rating: I liked it . .  plus an extra half star for good measure
9781601424754What I Liked

Humble Orthodoxy by Joshua Harris is a small but impactful book on the need for Christians to hold fast to orthodox doctrines while maintaining an air of humility. It was written in the simple but clear style which characterizes Harris’s other writings. This book would be a wonderful addition to the reading library for Christians ages 10 and above. Especially those who are prone to have a critical spirit of others.

Harris is careful to maintain the necessity of orthodox doctrine. Yet he zeroes in on the propensity of critical thinkers to also be critical of others. This imbalance is simply foreign to scripture. In fact, quite the opposite is true. God’s children are called to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15) and those who are critical thinkers love this verse as they should. However, what is often neglected is the verse which introduces this imperative! Right before Paul urges us to rightly divide the word of truth he warns us to not quarrel about words because doing so does no good and only serves to ruin the hearers! Harris does a good job pointing out the balance needed to “rightly divide”.

What I Did Not Like

I found very little to disagree with in the book. However, there is one part which I am not sure that I can not bring up. In the chapter entitled “Living for God’s Approval” and under the division “Whose Approval?”, Harris makes a statement which I think should be addressed. In the spirit of the book, I am compelled to not be silent (as Harris has urged us to not be silent) but at the same time, to do so without suspicion or accusation.

After doing a wonderful job rightly dividing 2 Timothy 2:15, Harris goes on to say,”we should do our best to present ourselves for approval . . . to God”. I get what Harris is saying here. The main point of what he is saying is that we should not care about the approval of anyone except God. However, the fact of the matter is that we cannot present ourselves FOR approval to God because we have already been approved by God in Christ! We cannot add to that approval and we cannot by any means merit that approval.

This is supported by the grammar of the text as the Greek noun ‘workman’ and pronoun ‘yourself’ (and as a result the adjective ‘approved’) are in the accusative case. This means that the noun (workman) and pronoun (yourself) are not DOING the verb and adjective (present yourself approved)… which would be the nominative case… but rather, are having them DONE TO them. The only nominative noun (the noun which is “doing”) here is God. So the better translation, which some Bible translations get right, is: present yourself (our responsibility) as one who HAS BEEN APPROVED (what God has already done in Christ).

Has Harris ventured into heresy in this chapter? No- absolutely not! I have heard enough from Harris to know for a fact that he is not teaching that we can merit approval by God by following a prescription given in 2 Timothy 2:15. He is usually a very careful thinker and my honest opinion is that he did not mean to communicate that we need to do our best to present ourselves for approval. He was simply urging us to seek God’s approval (which we have in Christ) and not man’s. So why even bring it up? Because his book compelled me to do so! I think Harris would want an honest critique done in such a way that is not hostile, but rather seeks truth for the mutual benefit of all believers. That is the very point of the book- to debate rigorously and yet at the end of the day, embrace one another in love as co-laborers.

As a concluding comment on the “cons” section . . . this minor disagreement with the book did not influence my overall rating because Harris has demonstrated in the rest of the book that he is one who knows how to handle scripture very well.

Conclusion:

I like what Harris is getting at here and my only complaint is that such an important topic deserves a deeper evaluation. The book is worthy of four stars but the simplistic nature and broad approach are not my preferred style. For others, a broad overview would be just what they like; and for them, this book is worthy of 4+ stars. However, since this review is supposed to express my own personal opinion based on my own personal preferences, I give it 3 1/2 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Blogging for Books® book review bloggers program. 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.”