Mr. Kortus is a member of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, MI, and a second-year student at the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
Humble Orthodoxy, Joshua Harris. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2013. Pp. 83. [Reviewed by Matt Kortus.]
In the apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he urges Timothy to “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (1:13). By these words, Paul encourages the young pastor to orthodoxy. In the same letter, Paul exhorts Timothy to instruct in meekness those who are in opposition (2:25). By these words, Paul encourages the young pastor to humility. In his most recent book, Joshua Harris, author of several books including I Kissed Dating Goodbye, draws from these verses and the rest of the Bible to affirm that both orthodoxy and humility matter.
Harris begins by establishing orthodoxy as right thinking about God. He rightly affirms that the truths of faith that constitute orthodoxy are those clearly taught in Scripture and the historic creeds of the Christian faith. Harris continues by asserting that as Christians we must be committed to maintaining sound doctrine.
Having established the need for orthodoxy,1 Harris continues by explaining the need for humble orthodoxy. As he writes, “We must care deeply about truth, and we must also defend and share this truth with compassion and humility” (5). The author draws from II Timothy to explain that while holding to sound doctrine is essential for the Christian, we must do so with humility. In other words, your attitude matters.
The basis for this humility comes from the message of Christian orthodoxy itself. “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. And if we truly know the gospel of grace, it will create in us a heart of humility and grace toward others” (30).
When we understand the doctrine of grace in the gospel, we are filled with thanksgiving that God chose us. The doctrine of grace produces humility, not pride.
Harris continues by demonstrating that a desire to worship the holy God better must drive our pursuit of biblical orthodoxy, rather than a desire to prove that we are better than someone else. Furthermore, to have right doctrine is not enough. Instead, we must concern ourselves with applying the doctrines and truths that we believe to our own lives. To evaluate this, Harris recommends that we ask ourselves whether or not we are expending more energy to applying God’s Word to our own hearts and lives than we are to criticizing others who detract from it.
Harris draws from II Timothy 2:15, where Paul exhorts Timothy to present himself to God for approval. As Christians, we know we are supposed to live for God’s approval, but often we are guilty of seeking the approval of our place in history, our culture, and our Christian peers. However, only God’s approval matters. This means that humble orthodoxy matters “because God’s truth matters and because the reality of God’s character must shape our lives” (60). In addition, Harris rightly reminds the reader that the message of the gospel is and always will be offensive to sinners.
Harris concludes with a description of heaven. Once we arrive in heaven, we will discover how wrong we were about so many different things. In addition, only in heaven will we realize just how precious the truths of the gospel really are.
Humble Orthodoxy demonstrates the need for both orthodoxy and humility—we cannot have one without the other. The author writes in a very concise manner, leaving out any filler that would detract from the main points of the book. The end result of this: a book only 61 pages in length, making it very accessible to all readers. Nearly every page contains content worth highlighting.
Negatively, due to the short length, a few points were not fully developed. For example, Harris rightly points out that showing love for God and our neighbor demands that we oppose false teachings. In fact, it would be unloving on our part to remain silent about lies that would lead to another person’s eternal ruin. However, Harris does not elaborate on practical methods for challenging unorthodox teaching while maintaining a spirit of humility.
Overall, I strongly recommend this book to all who hold dear the doctrines of sovereign saving grace. Grace that is irresistible, effectual, and particular. Grace that leaves no room for works, merit, or conditions. Grace that should only ever produce humility in the heart of a sinner who has experienced it. It is a gross irony if we, who champion sovereign grace, become lifted in pride because of our orthodoxy. Sadly though, our sinful natures are characterized by such a pride. Humble Orthodoxy reminds us of our calling: “to be ready always to give an answer…with meekness and fear” ().
1 Humble Orthodoxy represents the author’s work to expand on the last chapter of a previous book entitled Dug Down Deep: Building Your Life On Truths That Last, in which the author focuses on the need for sound doctrine and orthodoxy.