short book, well worth the read
This is a small book, but it really is one that is quite good. Probably about 4/5 of it, I have no problems with, and even the parts were I may express concern or disagreement are not areas of strong disagreement. I can agree quite well with his premise that we need to be concerned with both being orthodox in our beliefs and humble in our attitudes. There are things that we may need to stand strong for, such as the divinity of Christ, but also things that are not worth dividing over, such as some theories about the end times. There have been times in the past, and today, when disagreements over secondary matters have become too heated.
I'm not completely without some concerns, though.
Harris begins the book by telling a bit about a friend of his, a fellow author whose book apparently had some questionable things in it. People responded to this other author, and some apparently in a strong way. "He said the harshest ones (e-mails) were from people who presented themselves as "caring about doctrine". Their e-mails were vitriolic, pointing out the theological errors and inconsistencies of what he had written". p 1.
Harris doesn't identify his friend, nor his friend's book, so I can't comment about it that way or this. I don't know if his friend showed him the e-mails he thought were vitriolic and harsh. My main concern is this--it's quite common today for people to take any criticism of themselves or their work, and see it in the worst of lights. How are we to know that this other author may not simply have read those e-mails in a worse way than the writers had intended? Perhaps those readers were responding with real concern to serious errors that they saw that this other author was teaching, and were not trying to be unduly harsh?
This is such a common thing, I see it often. For example, a Christian rapper recently put out a song, calling certain popular authors and pastors and teachers in the church "Fal$e Teacher$". Some claim that he is being divisive, they would probably use words like "harsh" and "vitriolic" to describe him and his song. My opinion is that he's simply calling a spade a spade, the people he identifies as false teachers are really false teachers, and of the worst sort. To my mind, if anything the church has been far too accepting of such false teachers, letting them practically define Christianity in the minds of those in the church and in the world.
Finally, we have examples in Scripture were Jesus and the Apostles were none too gentle in their words regarding those who were leading people astray with their unscriptural teachings. In Matthew 23, Jesus is unsparing in this words against the scribes and Pharisees. In Galatians 1, Paul says that anyone who preaches another Gospel is accursed, and in chapter 5 of the same book he wishes that those who wanted to put the believers under by law of circumcision would emasculate themselves. In the book of Jude, the author compares false teachers to unreasoning animals, and that's just at the start of his descriptions of them, none of which are complimentary. II John tells the church being written to, and by extension us, to not even welcome false teachers into our homes or churches, or even greet them.
I know that we must weight these things against the command to love our enemies, and if I've understood him corrently in this book, I think Harris agrees that sound doctrine is important, and we must warn against false teachers.
Anyway, I highly recommend this book. It's short, but weighty, and you'll be given some things to ponder on.