Since watching the book trailer a few years ago (a relatively new phenomenon within the publishing community), “Dug Down Deep” has been in the top ten ‘books I want to read’ list, but I hadn’t gotten around to it until recently. The topic of orthodoxy and having a deep faith is very close to my heart and vision. So close, in fact, that my preferences for how to approach the issue massively affected how I read this book. With that said, I have wrestled for a couple of weeks on how I would review and recommend this book. So please, take this with a grain of salt and understand the I have a great deal of respect for Harris and his attempt here.
Like most movies which have really tempting trailers, what you see initially is not always what you get. The trailer for this book is spot on, creative, and empowering. Just watching the video makes me want to poor into theology and understand God more. The book, on the other hand, doesn’t quite hit a home run for me. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time and consideration.
Joshua Harris is a well known author, pastor, and conference speaker who has written several books on the topic of dating and purity. Even his book on the church first boasted a title humorously playing off this theme (“Stop Dating the Church”, now “Why Church Matters”). Harris started writing when he was 21 and one thing is clearly evident, he has grown up a great deal since then. “Dug Down Deep” is a narrative of sorts which catalogs his development into a mature scholar of theology. Harris writes primarily from personal experience and sometimes his stories cast a long shadow over the message he is trying to teach. As I’ve found with most of his books, I feel the gnawing desire to rewrite most of his chapters. But personal preferences aside, the message of this book is vitally important in out society today.
“Dug Down Deep – Building You Life On Truths That Last” is built on the analogy of Jesus’ Parable about the two men who built separate houses. One built his house on the sand and when the wind and waters came, the house fell down. The other, wiser builder dug down to the rock and built his house on a firm foundation. When the wind and waters came, his house withstood the storm. With this metaphor, Harris builds his argument that our faith needs to be built on theology, with deep and firm foundations.
The first two chapters, making up the introduction to the book, center around why it is so important that our faith becomes personal. While compelling in many ways, I feel that the argument is under-developed and could use further Scriptural support. This is what I mean by my personal preferences getting in the way and wanting to re-write the book. In many ways, his arguments fall flat and the illustrations he uses confuse rather than clarify. There are so many biblical passages that explain better what Harris is attempting to say (Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8-10 come to mind), but as I stated before, he relies heavily on his personal experiences.
Furthermore, Harris makes some unfounded theological statements that I found difficult to overlook in light of the fact that he is writing about right opinion. Harris states flippantly that babies automatically go to heaven (a doctrine I know many people hold to, but one that cannot be proven through critical exegesis). His opinion on the matter only heeds in confusing people on the process of a proper hermeneutic and was an unnecessary comment I would have left out altogether. Surely Harris knows his view is not generally accepted without opposition.
While his chapters on theology are a hit and miss, his chapter on the Holy Spirit greatly concerned me. As a charismatic, Harris spends the bulk of his time defending his position from critics on the right while overlooking the blatantly obvious way the Spirit is abused by those to his left. I don’t mean that he doesn’t state where they are wrong, but he quickly gets past it to defend his position from attacks from non-charismatics. I found his argument lacking support and consistency. Changing the definition of prophecy to ‘not foretelling events’ and accepting healings as a possibility just so that he can affirm his views on tongues is not a compelling argument for their validity. Personally, I think the gifts are a minor issue to really understanding the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Sticking to what we know about the third Person of the Trinity and avoiding the controversy would have been a better approach. There is a lot that Harris overlooks for the sake of focusing so closely on the issue of gifts. Still, Harris is a charismatic that I could fellowship with closely. It’s just that his views don’t reflect well on a book that is centered on theological accuracy.
My final issue with the book is that while Harris is talking about going deeper into God’s Word and discovering who He is, he does not describe how that process can be accomplished. In the end, he lays out his thoughts and develops a desire to know God better, but he fails to provide the tools in which we can go deeper in our faith. Proper exegesis does not come naturally. It must be taught. But “Dug Down Deep” does not lay the necessary ground work for practically going deeper in theology. Each chapter is a rough overview of select doctrines. They are not conclusive, and not altogether sound in establishing a firm foundation. A fear I have about this book is that people will draw the conclusion that they have gone deep enough, thus preventing them from doing any of their own digging.
This is a tough balance for authors, pastors, and teachers, so I don’t mean to cast a blanket disregarding critique of the book without examining it’s valuable takeaways. The message of this book is critically important. Young Christians have not been challenged enough in their faith, and in light of our generations emphasis on tolerance, orthodoxy has become a negative word associated with radical and fundamentalism. Because we live in the information age, truth is relegated to knowledge and not discernment, therefore wisdom is rarely achieved. Harris’s book is fresh, current, and right where it needs to be on our time and culture. Harris notes through personal experience how settling with theological knowledge is not enough. We cannot simply accept the teachings of those who have gone before us. We must get our own shovels out and dig our own foundation.
This book was not written for a scholar like myself to pick apart, but instead for the new Christian, the immature believer, and the shallow liberal who is wrestling with their faith’s significance in the real world. In this way, “Dug Down Deep” is the best medicine currently out there.
With that said, I’m still waiting for that book which is solid and sound, enough theology but not too much to replace self discovery, and clearly concise that is yet to be written. Until then, I will recommend this book, with warning, to anyone who is at a place where they are ready to take on their own salvation and go deeper with their faith. As a starting point, I don’t know of any better book.