Friday, July 12, 2013

In defense of arrogant orthodoxy: A review of "Humble Orthodoxy" by Joshua Harris

Joshua Harris wonders why so many of us with immaculate theology are such stupendous jerks. Really, I don't know why he had to write a book exploring this when he could have just asked--it's not like we're going to keep the answer a secret. We are such jerks because we are right. And when you are right, you have a moral and ethical obligation to proclaim that rightness to the world and in the face of anyone and everyone who would stand in your way. Don't like it? Well maybe you should have thought about that before you decided to be wrong...

In all seriousness, this is an excellent enough little book. (And it is little--weighing in at 83 index-card sized pages, of which 20 are "study guide" material.) If you struggle with arrogance--or if you're like me and don't really "struggle" with it at all--Humble Orthodoxy is an excellent reminder that we ought to be loving, kind, and gentle in our theological dealings. Whenever we're not, we're forgetting that we are sinners in need of repentance just as much as those towards whom we are being arrogant, and so giving lie to the very truth we are speaking even as we are speaking it. Really, I need someone to follow me around whispering in one ear that I ought to be practicing humble orthodoxy (and in the other "remember, Caesar, thou art mortal!"). Harris's book isn't quite that effective, but it's certainly a step in the right direction.

With that said, I have one minor quibble--and a quibble which probably couldn't be easily dealt with in a book this short in any case. Yet it remains a quibble and I'm a book reviewer, so I get to share it. Basically, Harris suggests that the following are our options as Christians:

Humble Orthodoxy
Humble Heterodoxy
Arrogant Orthodoxy
Arrogant Heterodoxy

I think we should be a tiny bit cautious here, because in reality once we've crossed from "orthodoxy" into "heterodoxy", the conversations should change. "Humble" and "arrogant" are no longer the most important part of that description given that one may have crossed from "Christian" into "non-Christian", depending on the nature of the Heterodoxy in question. In a sense, it's infinitely better to be arrogantly orthodox than humbly heterodox, since the difference may very well be between heaven and hell. Again, I think that requires a longer discussion than could really be held in 60 pages of exposition, but it's worth pointing out. (At least in my arrogance I think it's worth pointing out, were I humbler I might not think so.)

Even accounting for that minor quibble, this is an excellent little text and worthy of your attention.

I received this book for free from the publisher on the condition that I review it. I was not required to write a positive review.


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