I opened Joshua Harris's new book, Dug Down Deep, with great enthusiasm. The title and subtitle ("Unearthing What I Believe and Why It Matters") filled me with anticipation. That is a topic I am very enthusiastic about.
The first few chapters, "My Rumspringa" and "In Which I Learn to Dig," fed my enthusiasm. He wrote with honesty, transparency, and humility in setting up the successive chapters of the book, in which he took key doctrinal truths and explained them in clear, concise--and very readable--terms.
The following chapters answer such questions as, What is God like and how does he speak to me? What difference does it make that Jesus was both human and divine? How does Jesus's death on the cross pay for my sins? Who is the Holy Spirit and how does he work in my life? Harris is right in that our answers to--and understanding of--these matters actually and truly matter in our lives.
But the more I read, the more disappointed I got. First, because Harris's fitting tributes and attributions of his ideas to his mentor, C. J. Mahaney (who is also Harris's predecessor as senior pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland), made me wonder why I was reading THIS book instead of a book by Mahaney.
But the greater disappointment was that the book seemed to me to fulfill only half the promise of the subtitle. It masterfully--and very readably--detailed what Harris believes, which is nothing less than the fundamental teachings of the Bible and the central tenets of the Christian faith. All good. But after a few early and broad attempts at explaining "Why It Matters," the author seemed to forget that part of the book's promise.
Of course, the problem may have been with my expectations. I had hoped that Harris's answer to "Why It Matters" would go farther than the book jacket quote that "Theology matters...not because we want to impress people, but because what we know about God shapes the way we think and live. Theology matters because if we get it wrong then our whole life will be wrong." It may be that I was wrong to expect further elucidation of that point in the book's chapters; that may be all the explanation that is necessary.
Interestingly, I'm not sure what Dug Down Deep adds to the work already done by the two fine writers whose quotes appear on the book jacket: Donald Miller and J. I. Packer. Packer's Concise Theology (which Harris cites in three of his eleven chapters) does a fine job of treating the fundamentals of Christian theology. And Miller's Blue Like Jazz frames some of those doctrines in a new way for many readers.
All in all, Dug Down Deep is a book worth reading for someone who is relatively new to the central doctrines of the Christian faith, and for anyone who is interested in what an evangelical Christian believes--as long as one doesn't hope (like me) for more than the broadest of emphases on "Why It Matters."
Learn more about or purchase this book here.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.