A bulk of the book is dedicated to “performing” theological triage—particularly in the chapters dedicated to second-and-third-rank issues. Drawing on his journey through various theological positions, Ortlund models what it means to define the faith from a posture of humility.
Gavin Ortlund wants to make you a better boxer—or at least help you pick better fights.
He opens his book with an observation about fighting: “It is easy to lose your balance when you’re standing on one foot. The strongest posture is one of balance between both feet: one of poise. That’s why boxers put so much care into their footwork.”
Perhaps no other phrase embodies the task of Ortlund’s Finding the Right Hills to Die On than that of “theological poise,” and because of this, I think this little book needs to be bumped up to the top of your reading list. If it hasn’t come for your church yet, it’s likely on the way: doctrinal division lurks around the corner, and you’d be well-served to equip yourself with theological poise. Ortlund helps us do so.
A Tale of Two Impulses: Sectarianism and Minimalism
Finding the Right Hills to Die On begins with a section discussing the dangers of what Ortlund calls “sectarianism” and “minimalism.” Don’t get caught up in the vocabulary. What is suggested here is simple: doctrine is something we should divide over when appropriate; however, the church’s foundational call is to unity and peace with one another, secured by the blood of Christ. We should avoid both unnecessary division and unnecessary indifference.
Though a wide survey of healthy churches may find strong disagreements, “our love of theology should never exceed our love of real people, and therefore we must learn to love people amid our theological disagreements.” Even in instances where healthy disagreement occurs, we must remember that our primary interlocutors are not flesh and blood but the cosmic powers over this present darkness, as Paul writes in Ephesians 6.
Again, it’s about poise. Avoiding sectarianism and minimalism is not about avoiding disagreements altogether—it’s about understanding when and how we ought to disagree.
But if only some hills are worth dying on, how can we know we’ve chosen the right ones?