A little background
Joshua Harris first really came on my radar about four years ago (around the same time I discovered a love for sound doctrine). The first thing I ever heard was his talk, “A Humble Orthodoxy” on the Resurgence podcast, and I was blown away. I’d heard of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, but only because people I knew made fun of it (they thought at the time that not dating was just ridiculous).
What impressed me about him as a communicator and pastor was his obvious passion for the gospel, Scripture, sound doctrine and people. So when I heard about Dug Down Deep, it immediately went on my “to read list.” A couple months ago, I wrote some impressions of the first chapter, and now have had the pleasure of reading the whole thing.
Personal & Practical
Dug Down Deep is a book about theology. “We’re all theologians,” writes Harris. “The question is whether we will be good theologians or bad theologians, whether what we know about God is true or false” (p. 11). In this book, encourages us all to be good theologians, because “if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong” (p. 10).
Harris wisely frames a fairly deep doctrinal discussion in the story of his discovering a love for theology. He isn’t trying to come off as a hyper-intellectual academic. Rather, he comes across as someone having a conversation with the reader over coffee and isn’t afraid to be transparent. Early on, he tells the story of how he discovered just how shallow his faith was in an embarrassing moment at a youth camp when he was 17. But that embarrassment led him to dig into Scripture. He began to devour tapes of Ravi Zacharias’s lectures, who showed him how to love God with his mind. “And he did it all with a really cool accent,” quips Harris (p.22).
J.I. Packer’s Knowing God showed him that it’s not enough to know about God, but that “I needed to truly know God himself—his character and attributes.” He learned from Packer’s work that theology isn’t impractical or irrelevant, but “vitally important to the living of everyday life” (p. 23). And learning at the feet of godly men like C.J. Mahaney taught him more than a book ever could. He saw the impact of theology on the heart of a man.
He saw theology applied, and that is the refrain running through the book.
Humility: Theology Applied
There’s a great deal in this book that is extremely helpful to all readers. Reading the story of how Jesus saved Gregg Harris (the author’s dad) was a powerful way to illustrate the doctrines of justification (being declared innocent in the eyes of God) and adoption (being brought into the family of God). “Changed, Changing, to Be Changed,” dealing with sanctification (our progressive growth in holiness) was a much needed kick in the pants and offered me a great deal of encouragement.
Perhaps most impactful the last chapter of the book, “A Humble Orthodoxy.” Truthfully, this could have been a book by itself. Harris airs a grievance in this chapter: “I don’t know any other way to say this, but sometimes it seems like a lot of the people who care about orthodoxy are jerks” (p. 206). I definitely share this frustration… mostly because I land on the side of “jerk” a little too often. But, as Harris explains, when it comes to this issue, it’s not a question of whether our theological knowledge is great or small. The question always is, “What will we do with the knowledge we have?”
Will it lead us to an ever growing desire to know and love the Lord? Will it practically affect the way we think and live? Will we have the courage to hold on to the truth even when it isn’t popular? And how will we express our beliefs? With humility—or with pride? (p. 206)
Orthodox theology and sound doctrine properly applied should lead to humility, not haughtiness. God is so much bigger and greater than we can imagine yet we don’t act like it. When someone is off doctrinally we don’t respond with loving correction but with an arrogant theological hammer. The problem, in essence, is you can have the right knowledge, but if it’s not applied, you can still be a giant tool. Because God has been gracious with us, we must be gracious with others, including our opponents. We must pursue deeper orthodoxy, not abandon it. It’s remembering that at the end of the day, there’s only one person who is completely right. It’s not me. It’s not you.
The message of Christian orthodoxy isn’t that I’m right and someone else is wrong. It’s that I am wrong and yet God is filled with grace. I am wrong, and yet God has made a way for me to be forgiven and accepted and loved for eternity. I am wrong, and yet God gave his Son Jesus to die in my place and receive my punishment. I am wrong, but through faith in Jesus, I can be made right before a holy God (p. 219).
“This is the gospel,” writes Harris. “This is the truth that all Christian doctrine celebrates…that every follower of Jesus Christ is called to cherish and preserve. Even die for. It is the only truth on which we can build our lives and rest our eternal hope.”
Dug Down Deep is Joshua Harris’s attempt to share a passion for theology, doctrine and orthodoxy with a generation that is seemingly allergic. Theology applied—true orthodoxy—doesn’t lead to a life devoid of passion and purpose. Orthodoxy fuels it.
It kills our pride. It shows us the majesty of God. And it shows us the only way to truly live.
This is a message I cannot hear enough. I can only hope that I will apply it.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.