Book review: Digging deep with Josh Harris

Theology and learning seem to have fallen on hard times, especially among the younger and mainstream evangelical crowds. This isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon, but it is very prevalent. Mantras like Don’t go to church-be the church, Doctrine isn’t for me-I just want Jesus, and the like dominate. But these slogans prove to be vain repetitions without merit once we ask What is the church? and Who was Jesus? Joshua Harris, in his book Dug Down Deep seeks to reestablish the importance of biblical doctrine and thinking in the hearts and minds of his readers, pleading for the foundation of theology as the source and wellspring of our actions and thoughts. Written in an accessible style for a younger audience, Dug Down Deep has been touted as an introductory systematic theology, though it is more of an informal introduction to some of the main aspects of the Christian faith.

Harris writes about his experience in his Christian walk, starting from his immature beginnings to his developing love of theology as a young pastor. He frequently intersperses personal anecdotes and illustrations relating to each subject. This biographical flavor makes the subject matter that much more accessible and engaging. Harris moves through some of the major foundational aspects the Christian faith, writing chapters on the Triune God, scripture, Jesus, justification, redemption, sanctification, the Holy Spirit, and the church. In his treatments of these crucial subjects, Harris is intentionally not exhaustive, desiring instead to show that theology matters. He does this by arguing that theology matters “not because we want a good grade on a test but because what we know about God shapes the way we think and live” (p. 10).

Clocking in at a quick 230 pages and including a helpful discussion guide (for this new paperback edition), Dug Down Deep is appropriate for youth group/high school Sunday school study or for quick personal study. It’s intentionally not a deep systematic theology, but it is a good beginner’s guide to doctrine, and should hopefully stimulate a lifelong pursuit of God and His Word in younger crowds. After all, as Harris writes, in heaven, “no one will say ‘I wish I’d believed less. I wish I’d cared less about the gospel” (p. 230). The somewhat minor Baptist and charismatic references aside, I enjoyed this book and was driven to think more deeply about my own convictions, and to glorify God for giving us the great gift of our minds and hearts. I’ll close with an “amen” to some of Harris’ closing words:

“What will we do with the knowledge of God that 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 pride?

“…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.” (p. 218, 231)

Note: I received a free copy of this book from Multnomah via LibraryThing in exchange for an objective and not necessarily positive review.

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