Thursday, August 6, 2020

Book Review: Finding The Right Hills To Die On (Gavin Ortlund)

Finding The Right Hills To Die On
(by Gavin Ortlund)

"Is that a salvational issue?", "Can't we all just get along?" These are questions I'm all to familiar with and used to use myself in the cause of unity. Because, on the other hand, I had seen people dividing over the silliest things. But over the last few years I've finding this framework somewhat inadequate. That's where Gavin Ortlund's "Finding the Right Hills to Die on" comes in.

Ortlund confirmed my suspicions that my previous framework was inadequate. He proposes a four-stage model instead: 1) matters of orthodoxy 2) matters of local church unity 3) important matters that shouldn't be divided over 4) unimportant matters. He devotes a chapter each to the first three of these covering: guidelines for determining whether an issue fits into the category, a few examples of issues he would place in the category, and advice on how to handle these types of issues with love, courage, wisdom, and humility.

Overall the book is definitely a product of Ortlund's personal experience. In fact, he spends most of the third chapter telling his own story in regard to theology and division. I also noticed his personal perspective come out in the issues he chose as examples and the way he approaches them (especially in the chapter on tertiary issues where a lot of his arguments for unity are aimed at those on the opposite side of his personal stance). 

That being said, he approaches the entire topic with enough nuance and humility that the more subjective nature of his work adds to rather than detracts from the book. In fact, it is this nuance and humility that I am especially grateful for. He reminds readers that context matters--what might be considered a second-rank doctrine for someone in leadership or for regularly attending a church might be third rank for attending a retreat. He challenges readers to think about not just the issue itself, but how it is approached. And in all things he calls for humility.

The book does not so much give answers as it does direction for the questions. His framework is not a simple decision-tree, but rather a set of questions to think about as we approach theological triage (how related is this to the Gospel, how clear is it in the Bible, how has the church handled it in the past, what are the practical implications, etc.). Gavin's framework is definitely one that I will try to integrate into my own thought process as I continue my journey in theology, using the analogy of triage to decide which hills are really worth dying on in my context for the sake of the Gospel.

Recommended for anyone who engages in theology and Christians in general.

If you get a chance to read this book, be sure to share your thoughts below. I always love a good conversation about a good book =)

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