“We’re all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true.”
So begins the first book from Joshua Harris to hit the shelves in almost five years. Those familiar with his previous books and magazines will recognize his winsome and engaging writing style, but the content is very new for him. “Dug Down Deep” tackles some weighty theological issues in a simple, accessible way… something not easily accomplished!
Rather than approach theology from an academic perspective, Harris draws the reader into his own story of learning to dig deep into the Scriptures, the same way the man in Luke 6:48 dug deep to lay the foundation of his home on solid rock. This is a very conversational, pastoral approach to theology, and one which works very well. As we are drawn into his personal story, we encounter theological terms like “propitiation” and “penal substitution” in a way that doesn’t simply define the terms, but shows us — through parables, analogies, and personal reflections — what they mean in a real and practical way.
See, the premise of this book is that theology is for everyone, not just scholars. Furthermore, everyone has a theology of some sort; we all have knowledge and ideas about God (even that He may not exist). What matters more than anything is that what we know about God is actually true. So Harris brings these lofty terms down to ground level so those who’ve never been introduced to them can get to know them, and those who have studied them at length can encounter these Truths in a fresh new way.
Harris does all of this without compromising on sound, orthodox theology. While there may be minor points of doctrine where some would disagree with him (for instance, with regard to spiritual gifts), he does a masterful job of navigating some controversial topics in a way that promotes unity among the Body of Christ where we so often have division. In particular, I appreciated his care in explaining God’s sovereignty in our salvation and sanctification, and also the chapter on the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
The reason Harris is able to make these tricky subjects so accessible is that he truly exemplifies what he calls “Humble Orthodoxy”, which is the title and subject of the final chapter. Though it is the shortest chapter, it is easily the best, and worth the price of the book all by itself. Harris addresses the way orthodoxy should make us humble, but often seems to make us (read: me) arrogant and contentious. Let me share just a few great quotes from this chapter that, while not new, are things I desperately need to hear over and over again in my life:
- “Love for God and love for neighbor require opposing falsehood. There is nothing more unloving than to be silent in the face of lies that will ruin another person.”
- “Many Christians, especially young ones, are running from orthodoxy, not so much because of doctrine, but because of the arrogance and divisiveness they associate with those who promote it.”
- “The solution to arrogant orthodoxy is not less orthodoxy; it’s more. If we truly know and embrace orthodoxy, it should humble us.”
- “Do you want to keep your orthodoxy humble? Try to live it. Don’t spend all your time theorizing about it, debating about it, or blogging about it. Spend more energy living the truth you know than worrying about what the next guy does or doesn’t know. Don’t measure yourself by what you know. Measure yourself by your practice of what you know.”
- “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.”
Amen and amen! May we all undertake a lifelong pursuit of humble orthodoxy… starting with me.
This book may not be destined to be read multiple times by any one person, but it has just been bumped to the top of my list of books to recommend or loan to those who are just beginning their study of theology. Buy it here.
P.S. – Here is a really cool promotional video for this book that will help give you a sense of Joshua Harris’ heart for teaching theology.