Joshua Harris. Dug Down Deep: Unearthing What I Believe and Why It Matters. Multnomah Books, 2010. 256 pages.
Dug Down Deep is the spiritual journey of how Joshua Harris, Senior Pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD, realized the path to loving Jesus authentically and passionately. Harris winsomely weaves the story of how the seemingly irrelevant trifecta of theology, doctrine and orthodoxy became the means by which his “awe-filled experience of truly knowing the living Jesus Christ” came about. The very things he thought would do him no good were the things that led him to the beauty and glory of the Triune God. Harris’ title comes from the parable of the wise and foolish builders in Luke 6. He recalls the morning when he finally understood that “the wise builder is the one who comes to Jesus, listens to his words, and then puts them into practice … digging down and building on the rock isn’t a picture of being nominally religious or knowing Jesus from a distance. Being a Christian means being a person who labors to establish his beliefs, his dreams his choices, his very view of the world on the truth of who Jesus is and what he has accomplished” (19). Dug Down Deep is Harris’ call for Christians to do the hard work of digging for rock.
Unfortunately, as many pastors and church leaders intimately know, Christians do not always enjoy hard work. In an age when banal news travels the globe in seconds, the glorious truths of our glorious Father can hardly keep our attention. Harris hopes that by splashing around in the refreshing pool of theology, doctrine and orthodoxy, you will want to dive in as well. Each chapter deals with an essential truth of the orthodox Christian faith. Beginning with theology proper, Harris guides his reader through the truths of the Scripture, incarnation, atonement, salvation, sanctification (with cartoon sketches!), the Holy Spirit, and the Church. Each chapter walks the reader through the main points of each doctrine. This is his pursuit of a written “humble orthodoxy.” Personal narrative and illustrations abound as Harris hopes you will gain an insatiable taste for truth and inspire you “to dig into the richness of theology.”
The strength of Dug Down Deep comes from its captivating way of bringing theology alive. Harris writes on a popular level that I found exciting, helpful and appealing. I want to revel along with him in the glory of the atonement and the beauty of Christ’s righteousness. It demonstrates how to talk about theology clearly and humbly and in a way that invites others along rather than humiliates, infuriates or causes apathy. Harris’ love for God is evident as joyfully writes about the path of knowing the One we all long to know.
Personally, I wish Dug Down Deep was a little deeper. Harris was not writing a theological tome, but an exploration, a glimpse. However, there are times when a little more depth could help his reader’s heart come alive. One such instance comes about in chapter 5, which takes up the incarnation. In the chapter exploring the doctrine of the Bible, Harris writes that the Bible is not just “bunch of disconnected stories sprinkled with wise advice and capped off with the inspirational life of Jesus” and that it is extremely important to understand “the story line of the Bible from start to finish” (58). He does not help the reader do this when taking up the person and work of Christ. His dealing with the incarnation never takes up the aspect of Jesus as the last Adam. Using the biblical story line, Harris easily could have made narrative connections to the person and work of Jesus, yet he writes more systematically and propositionally than narratively. He has an opportunity to do the theology he presents in chapter 3, but does not take advantage.
However, I am not sure “weakness” is a fair word because Harris is upfront about the nature of his book: “I write in the hope that you’ll catch a glimpse of how good and beautiful the old paths of orthodoxy are, how firm and trustworthy the solid rock of sound doctrine can be for your life…. Even though these are deep truths, I don’t pretend to be swimming in the deep end of the pool. I’m splashing in the shallow end. But if my splashing can inspire you to dive in, I will have succeeded” (33-34). Perhaps my longing for more depth is testimony to the success of his project.
I pray that God will be pleased to bring glory to Himself by using the delicious appetizers of biblical truth in Dug Down Deep to allure the readers to the feast that awaits them in Scripture.