Dug Down Deep: Building Your Life on Truths That Last

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Overview

What are you going to build your life on?

Dug Down Deep is systematic theology like you’ve never seen it before. Readable. Relevant. Powerful. As best-selling author Joshua Harris shares his own journey from apathetic church-kid to student with a burning passion to truly know God, you’ll be challenged to dig deep into the truths of God’s word.
 
With humor, conviction ...

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Overview

What are you going to build your life on?

Dug Down Deep is systematic theology like you’ve never seen it before. Readable. Relevant. Powerful. As best-selling author Joshua Harris shares his own journey from apathetic church-kid to student with a burning passion to truly know God, you’ll be challenged to dig deep into the truths of God’s word.
 
With humor, conviction and compelling insight Dug Down Deep covers the basics of faith—God, scripture, Jesus, the cross, salvation, sanctification, the Holy Spirit and the church. Don’t settle for superficial faith, dig deep. 
  
"If you're looking for ‘that one book’ that will push you farther down the road to faith than you've ever journeyed before, Dug Down Deep is it. I highly recommend it!" —Joni Eareckson Tada

“…a humble, helpful, courageous testimony to biblical truth." - John Piper

"I can probably count on one hand, the number of books of which I've read every word from cover to cover in one sitting. Dug Down Deep is one of them.” – Adam Young (Owl City)
 
"Dug Down Deep is an incredible book! It's a tangible and incarnate look at theology. I would give it to any young Christian who wants to understand their faith." – Lecrae, hip-hop artist

“A humbling, compelling, invigorating read." - J. I. Packer

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for Dug Down Deep

"More than forty years of quadriplegia has underscored to me the matchless value of knowing—really knowing—the doctrines of the Christian faith. Dug Down Deep reveals how biblical doctrine provides a pathway to understanding the heart and mind of God. If you're looking for 'that one book' that will push you farther down the road to faith than you've ever journeyed before, Dug Down Deep is it. I highly recommend it!"
—Joni Eareckson Tada, author; founder and CEO, International Disability Center, Agoura Hills, CA

"In Dug Down Deep my longtime friend Joshua Harris explains the basics of Christian theology in a way all of us can understand. He is a humble man and teaches humbly. If you are tired of hyped promises and want essential truth, this book is for you. As religious fads come and go, the truths in this book will last."
—Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz

"When the apostle Peter says, "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God…casting all your anxiety on Him," he implies that humble people are fearless. They have the courage to stand up for truth humbly. I love the term "humble orthodoxy." And I love Josh Harris. When they come together (Josh and humble orthodoxy), as they do in this book, you get a humble, helpful, courageous testimony to biblical truth. Thank you, Josh, for following through so well on the conversation in Al Mohler's study."
—John Piper, author of Desiring God; Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis

"Via vivid autobiography, Pastor Harris takes readers on a personal journey into the biblical theology that, belatedly, he found he could not manage without. A humbling, compelling, invigorating read."
—J. I. Packer, author of Knowing God

"Josh says that this book is his 'reveling in theology in my own simple way.' Having read it, I can say that it is also a popular defense of the importance of theology and, at the same time, an introduction to it. I enjoyed reading it. And my mind immediately began to go to how I could use this book. Josh has given me a new tool! It is interesting, well written, and excellently illustrated. Josh has succeeded again in giving us a book that is clear, engaging, direct, solid, easy to read, sound, God centered, balanced, humorous—and it even has pictures!"
—Mark Dever, author; Senior Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington DC

"Dug Down Deep is an incredible book! It's a tangible and incarnate look at theology. I would give it to any young Christian who wants to understand their faith."
—Lecrae, hip-hop artist

"As two young guys who have been deeply blessed and influenced by Josh's books and example, we couldn't be more excited about Dug Down Deep and how God is going to use it to transform a generation. It's a gripping and honest read. In it we learned things about our older brother that we had never, in twenty-one years, been told before! But more importantly, we learned things about our Savior that caused us to fall more deeply in love with him and his Word. Get this book. Read it. And join us on a journey to rediscover what has always been true."
—Alex and Brett Harris, authors of Do Hard Things

"At Boundless, we've enjoyed watching young adults cultivate a fresh desire to go 'further up and further in' as followers of Christ. Few writers fuel that desire quite like Joshua Harris. With humility, humor, and honesty, Dug Down Deep shows the difference that a foundation can make—how vulnerable you can be when it's weak and how transformed you can be when you're willing to go deep."
—Ted Slater, editor, Boundless.org; Focus on the Family

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781601423719
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/17/2011
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 485,787
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Joshua Harris is senior pastor of Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which belongs to the Sovereign Grace network of local churches. He is the author of Why Church Matters and several books on relationships, including the run-away bestseller, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. He and his wife, Shannon, have three children. Find out more at www.joshharris.com.

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Read an Excerpt

1
MY RUMSPRINGA
"We're all theologians. The question is
whether what we know about God is true."
 
IT'S STRANGE TO SEE an Amish girl drunk. The pairing of a bonnet and a can of beer is awkward. If she were stumbling along with a jug of moonshine, it would at least match her long, dowdy dress. But right now she can't worry about that. She is flat-out wasted.
 
Welcome to rumspringa.
 
The Amish, people who belong to a Christian religious sect with roots in Europe, practice a radical form of separation from the modern world. They live and dress with simplicity. Amish women wear bonnets and long, old-fashioned dresses and never touch makeup. The men wear wide-rimmed straw hats, sport bowl cuts, and grow chin curtains—full beards with the mustaches shaved off.
 
My wife, Shannon, sometimes says she wants to be Amish, but I know this isn't true. Shannon entertains her Amish fantasy when life feels too complicated or when she's tired of doing laundry. She thinks life would be easier if she had only two dresses to choose from and both looked the same. I tell her that if she ever tried to be Amish, she would buy a pair of jeans and ditch her head covering about ten minutes into the experiment. Besides, she would never let me grow a beard like that.
 
Once Shannon and her girlfriend Shelley drove to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for a weekend of furniture and quilt shopping in Amish country. They stayed at a bed-and-breakfast located next door to an Amish farm. One morning Shannon struck up a conversation with the inn's owner, who had lived among the Amish his entire life. She asked him questions, hoping for romantic details about the simple, buggy-driven life. But instead he complained about having to pick up beer cans every weekend.
 
Beer cans?
 
"Yes," he said, "the Amish kids leave them everywhere." That's when he told her about rumspringa. The Amish believe that before a young person chooses to commit to the Amish church as an adult, he or she should have the chance to freely explore the forbidden delights of the outside world. So at age sixteen everything changes for Amish teenagers. They go from milking cows and singing hymns to living like debauched rock stars.
 
In the Pennsylvania Dutch language, rumspringa literally means "running around." It's a season of doing anything and everything you want with zero rules. During this time—which can last from a few months to several years—all the restrictions of the Amish church are lifted. Teens are free to shop at malls, have sex, wear makeup, play video games, do drugs, use cell phones, dress however they want, and buy and drive cars. But what they seem to enjoy most during rumspringa is gathering at someone's barn, blasting music, and then drinking themselves into the ground. Every weekend, the man told Shannon, he had to clean up beer cans littered around his property following the raucous, all-night Amish parties.
 
When Shannon came home from her Lancaster weekend, her Amish aspirations had diminished considerably. The picture of cute little Amish girls binge drinking took the sheen off her idealistic vision of Amish life. We completed her disillusionment when we rented a documentary about the rite of rumspringa called Devil's Playground. Filmmaker Lucy Walker spent three years befriending, interviewing, and filming Amish teens as they explored the outside world. That's where we saw the drunk Amish girl tripping along at a barn party. We learned that most girls continue to dress Amish even as they party—as though their clothes are a lifeline back to safety while they explore life on the wild side.
 
In the documentary Faron, an outgoing, skinny eighteen-year-old sells and is addicted to the drug crystal meth. After Faron is busted by the cops, he turns in rival drug dealers. When his life is threatened, Faron moves back to his parents' home and tries to start over. The Amish faith is a good religion, he says. He wants to be Amish, but his old habits keep tugging on him.
 
A girl named Velda struggles with depression. During rumspringa she finds the partying empty, but after joining the church she can't imagine living the rest of her life as an Amish woman. "God talks to me in one ear, Satan in the other," Velda says. "Part of me wants to be my like my parents, but the other part wants the jeans, the haircut, to do what I want to do."1 When she fails to convince her Amish fiancé to leave the church with her, she breaks off her engagement a month before the wedding and leaves the Amish faith for good. As a result Velda is shunned by her family and the entire community. Alone but determined, she begins to attend college.
 
Velda's story is the exception. Eighty to 90 percent of Amish teens decide to return to the Amish church after rumspringa.2 At one point in the film, Faron insightfully comments that rumspringa is like a vaccination for Amish teens. They binge on all the worst aspects of the modern world long enough to make themselves sick of it. Then, weary and disgusted, they turn back to the comforting, familiar, and safe world of Amish life.
 
But as I watched, I wondered, What are they really going back to? Are they choosing God or just a safe and simple way of life?
-
I know what it means to wrestle with questions of faith. I know what it's like for faith to be so mixed up with family tradition that it's hard to distinguish between a genuine knowledge of God and comfort in a familiar way of life.
 
I grew up in an evangelical Christian family. One that was on the more conservative end of the spectrum. I'm the oldest of seven children. Our parents homeschooled us, raised us without television, and believed that oldfashioned courtship was better than modern dating. Friends in our neighborhood probably thought our family was Amish, but that's only because they didn't know some of the really conservative Christian homeschool families. The truth was that our family was more culturally liberal than many homeschoolers. We watched movies, could listen to rock music (as long as it was Christian or the Beatles), and were allowed to have Star Wars and Transformers toys.
 
But even so, during high school I bucked my parents' restrictions. That's not to say my spiritual waywardness was very shocking. I doubt Amish kids would be impressed by my teenage dabbling in worldly pleasure. I never did drugs. Never got drunk. The worst things I ever did were to steal porn magazines, sneak out of the house at night with a kid from church, and date various girls behind my parents' backs. Although my rebellion was tame in comparison, it was never virtue that held me back from sin. It was lack of opportunity. I shudder to think what I would have done with a parent-sanctioned season of rumspringa.
 
The bottom line is that my parents' faith wasn't really my faith. I knew how to work the system, I knew the Christian lingo, but my heart wasn't in it. My heart was set on enjoying the moment.
 
Recently a friend of mine met someone who knew me in early high school. "What did she remember about me?" I asked.
 
"She said you were girl crazy, full of yourself, and immature," my friend told me.
 
Yeah, she knew me, I thought. It wasn't nice to hear, but I couldn't argue. I didn't know or fear God. I didn't have any driving desire to know him.
 
For me, the Christian faith was more about a set of moral standards than belief and trust in Jesus Christ.
-
During my early twenties I went through a phase of blaming the church I had attended in high school for all my spiritual deficiencies. Evangelical megachurches make good punching bags.
 
My reasoning went something like this: I was spiritually shallow because the pastors' teaching had been shallow. I wasn't fully engaged because they hadn't done enough to grab my attention. I was a hypocrite because everyone else had been a hypocrite. I didn't know God because they hadn't provided enough programs. Or they hadn't provided the right programs. Or maybe they'd had too many programs.
 
All I knew was that it was someone else's fault.
 
Blaming the church for our problems is second only to the popular and easy course of blaming our parents for everything that's wrong with us. But the older I get, the less I do of both. I hope that's partly due to the wisdom that comes with age. But I'm sure it's also because I am now both a parent and a pastor. Suddenly I have a lot more sympathy for my dad and mom and the pastors at my old church. Funny how that works, isn't it?
 
At the church where I now pastor (which I love), some young adults remind me of myself when I was in high school. They are church kids who know so much about Christian religion and yet so little about God. Some are passive, completely ambivalent toward spiritual things. Others are actively straying from their faith—ticked off about their parents' authority, bitter over a rule or guideline, and counting the minutes until they turn eighteen and can disappear. Others aren't going anywhere, but they stay just to go through the motions. For them, church is a social group.
 
It's strange being on the other side now. When I pray for specific young men and women who are wandering from God, when I stand to preach and feel powerless to change a single heart, when I sit and counsel people and it seems nothing I can say will draw them away from sin, I remember the pastors from my teenage years. I realize they must have felt like this too. They must have prayed and cried over me. They must have labored over sermons with students like me in mind. I see now that they were doing the best they knew how. But a lot of the time, I wasn't listening.
-
During high school I spent most Sunday sermons doodling, passing notes, checking out girls, and wishing I were two years older and five inches taller so a redhead named Jenny would stop thinking of me as her "little brother." That never happened.
 
I mostly floated through grown-up church. Like a lot of teenagers in evangelical churches, I found my sense of identity and community in the parallel universe of the youth ministry. Our youth group was geared to being loud, fast paced, and fun. It was modeled on the massive and influential, seeker-sensitive Willow Creek Community Church located outside Chicago. The goal was simple: put on a show, get kids in the building, and let them see that Christians are cool, thus Jesus is cool. We had to prove that being a Christian is, contrary to popular opinion and even a few annoying passages of the Bible, loads of fun. Admittedly it's not as much fun as partying and having sex but pretty fun nonetheless.
 
Every Wednesday night our group of four-hundred-plus students divided into teams. We competed against each other in games and won points by bringing guests. As a homeschooler, of course I was completely worthless in the "bring friends from school" category. So I tried to make up for that by working on the drama and video team. My buddy Matt and I wrote, performed, and directed skits to complement our youth pastor's messages. Unfortunately, our idea of complementing was to deliver skits that were not even remotely connected to the message. The fact that Matt was a Brad Pitt look-alike assured that our skits were well received (at least by the girls).
 
The high point of my youth-group performing career came when the pastor found out I could dance and asked me to do a Michael Jackson impersonation. The album Bad had just come out. I bought it, learned all the dance moves, and then when I performed—how do I say this humbly?—I blew everyone away. I was bad (and I mean that in the good sense of the word bad ). The crowd went absolutely nuts. The music pulsed, and girls were screaming and grabbing at me in mock adulation as I moonwalked and lip-synced my way through one of the most inane pop songs ever written. I loved every minute of it.
 
Looking back, I'm not real proud of that performance. I would feel better about my bad moment if the sermon that night had been about the depravity of man or something else that was even slightly related. But there was no connection. It had nothing to do with anything.
 
For me, dancing like Michael Jackson that night has come to embody my experience in a big, evangelical, seeker-oriented youth group. It was fun, it was entertaining, it was culturally savvy (at the time), and it had very little to do with God. Sad to say, I spent more time studying Michael's dance moves for that drama assignment than I was ever asked to invest in studying about God.
 
Of course, this was primarily my own fault. I was doing what I wanted to do. There were other kids in the youth group who were more mature and who grew more spiritually during their youth-group stint. And I don't doubt the good intentions of my youth pastor. He was trying to strike the balance between getting kids to attend and teaching them.
Maybe I wouldn't have been interested in youth group if it hadn't been packaged in fun and games and a good band. But I still wish someone had expected more of me—of all of us. Would I have listened? I can't know. But I do know that a clear vision of God and the power of his Word and the purpose of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection were lost on me in the midst of all the flash and fun.
-
There's a story in the Bible of a young king named Josiah, who lived about 640 years before Christ. I think Josiah could have related to me—being religious but ignorant of God. Josiah's generation had lost God's Word. And I don't mean that figuratively. They literally lost God's Word. It sounds ridiculous, but they essentially misplaced the Bible.
 
If you think about it, this was a pretty big deal. We're not talking about a pair of sunglasses or a set of keys. The Creator of the universe had communicated with mankind through the prophet Moses. He gave his law. He revealed what he was like and what he wanted. He told his people what it meant for them to be his people and how they were to live. All this was dutifully recorded on a scroll. Then this scroll, which was precious beyond measure, was stored in the holy temple. But later it was misplaced. No one knows how. Maybe a clumsy priest dropped it and it rolled into a dark corner.
 
But here's the really sad thing: nobody noticed it was missing. No search was made. Nobody checked under the couch. It was gone and no one cared. For decades those who wore the label "God's people" actually had no communication with him. They wore their priestly robes, they carried on their traditions in their beautiful temple, and they taught their messages that were so wise, so insightful, so inspirational. But it was all a bunch of hot air—nothing but their own opinions. Empty ritual. Their robes were costumes, and their temple was an empty shell.
 
This story scares me because it shows that it's possible for a whole generation to go happily about the business of religion, all the while having lost a true knowledge of God.
-
When we talk about knowledge of God, we're talking about theology. Simply put, theology is the study of the nature of God—who he is and how he thinks and acts. But theology isn't high on many people's list of daily concerns.
 
My friend Curtis says that most people today think only of themselves. He calls this "me-ology." I guess that's true. I know it was true of me and still can be. It's a lot easier to be an expert on what I think and feel and want than to give myself to knowing an invisible, universe-creating God.
 
Others view theology as something only scholars or pastors should worry about. I used to think that way. I viewed theology as an excuse for all the intellectual types in the world to add homework to Christianity.
 
But I've learned that this isn't the case. Theology isn't for a certain group of people. In fact, it's impossible for anyone to escape theology. It's everywhere. All of us are constantly "doing" theology. In other words, all of us have some idea or opinion about what God is like. Oprah does theology. The person who says, "I can't believe in a God who sends people to hell" is doing theology.
 
We all have some level of knowledge. This knowledge can be much or little, informed or uninformed, true or false, but we all have some concept of God (even if it's that he doesn't exist). And we all base our lives on what we think God is like.
 
So when I was spinning around like Michael Jackson at youth group, I was a theologian. Even though I wasn't paying attention in church. Even though I wasn't very concerned with Jesus or pleasing him. Even though I was more preoccupied with my girlfriend and with being popular. Granted I was a really bad theologian—my thoughts about God were unclear and often ignorant. But I had a concept of God that directed how I lived.
 
I've come to learn that theology matters. And it 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. What you believe about God's nature—what he is like, what he wants from you, and whether or not you will answer to him—affects every part of your life.
 
Theology matters, because if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong.
-
I know the idea of "studying" God often rubs people the wrong way. It sounds cold and theoretical, as if God were a frog carcass to dissect in a lab or a set of ideas that we memorize like math proofs.
 
But studying God doesn't have to be like that. You can study him the way you study a sunset that leaves you speechless. You can study him the way a man studies the wife he passionately loves. Does anyone fault him for noting her every like and dislike? Is it clinical for him to desire to know the thoughts and longings of her heart? Or to want to hear her speak?
 
Knowledge doesn't have to be dry and lifeless. And when you think about it, exactly what is our alternative? Ignorance? Falsehood?
 
We're either building our lives on the reality of what God is truly like and what he's about, or we're basing our lives on our own imagination and misconceptions.
 
We're all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true.
-
In the days of King Josiah, theology was completely messed up. This isn't really surprising. People had lost God's words and then quickly forgot what the true God was like.
 
King Josiah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah. People call Jeremiah the weeping prophet, and there was a lot to weep about in those days. "A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land," Jeremiah said. "The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way" (Jeremiah 5:30–31, NIV).
 
As people learned to love their lies about God, they lost their ability to recognize his voice. "To whom can I speak and giving warning?" God asked. "Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it" (Jeremiah 6:10, NIV).
 
People forgot God. They lost their taste for his words. They forgot what he had done for them, what he commanded of them, and what he threatened if they disobeyed. So they started inventing gods for themselves. They started borrowing ideas about God from the pagan cults. Their made-up gods let them live however they wanted. It was "me-ology" masquerading as theology.
 
The results were not pretty.
 
Messed-up theology leads to messed-up living. The nation of Judah resembled one of those skanky reality television shows where a houseful of barely dressed singles sleep around, stab each other in the back, and try to win cash. Immorality and injustice were everywhere. The rich trampled the poor. People replaced the worship of God with the worship of pagan deities that demanded religious orgies and child sacrifice. Every level of society, from marriage and the legal system to religion and politics, was corrupt.
 
The surprising part of Josiah's story is that in the midst of all the distortion and corruption, he chose to seek and obey God. And he did this as a young man (probably no older than his late teens or early twenties). Scripture gives this description of Josiah: "He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left" (2 Kings 22:2, NIV).
 
The prophet Jeremiah called people to the same straight path of true theology and humble obedience:
 
Thus says the LORD:
"Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls." (Jeremiah 6:16)
 
In Jeremiah's words you see a description of King Josiah's life. His generation was rushing past him, flooding down the easy paths of man-made religion, injustice, and immorality.
 
They didn't stop to look for a different path.
 
They didn't pause to consider where the easy path ended.
 
They didn't ask if there was a better way.
 
But Josiah stopped. He stood at a crossroads, and he looked. And then he asked for something that an entire generation had neglected, even completely forgotten. He asked for the ancient paths.
-
What are the ancient paths? When the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah used the phrase, he was describing obedience to the Law of Moses. But today the ancient paths have been transformed by the coming of Jesus Christ. Now we see that those ancient paths ultimately led to Jesus. We have not only truth to obey but a person to trust in—a person who perfectly obeyed the Law and who died on the cross in our place.
 
But just as in the days of Jeremiah, the ancient paths still represent life based on a true knowledge of God—a God who is holy, a God who is just, a God who is full of mercy toward sinners. Walking in the ancient paths still means relating to God on his terms. It still means receiving and obeying his self-revelation with humility and awe.
 
Just as he did with Josiah and Jeremiah and every generation after them, God calls us to the ancient paths. He beckons us to return to theology that is true. He calls us, as Jeremiah called God's people, to recommit ourselves to orthodoxy.
 
The word orthodoxy literally means "right opinion." In the context of Christian faith, orthodoxy is shorthand for getting your opinion or thoughts about God right. It is teaching and beliefs based on the established, proven, cherished truths of the faith. These are the truths that don't budge. They're clearly taught in Scripture and affirmed in the historic creeds of the Christian faith:
 
There is one God who created all things.
God is triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Bible is God's inerrant word to humanity.
Jesus is the virgin-born, eternal Son of God.
Jesus died as a substitute for sinners so they could be forgiven.
Jesus rose from the dead.
Jesus will one day return to judge the world.
 
Orthodox beliefs are ones that genuine followers of Jesus have acknowledged from the beginning and then handed down through the ages. Take one of them away, and you're left with something less than historic Christian belief.
-
When I watched the documentary about the Amish rite of rumspringa, what stood out to me was the way the Amish teenagers processed the decision of whether or not to join the Amish church. With few exceptions the decision seemed to have very little to do with God. They weren't searching Scripture to see if what their church taught about the world, the human heart, and salvation was true. They weren't wrestling with theology. I'm not implying that the Amish don't have a genuine faith and trust in Jesus. But for the teens in the documentary, the decision was mostly a matter of choosing a culture and a lifestyle. It gave them a sense of belonging. In some cases it gave them a steady job or allowed them to marry the person they wanted.
 
I wonder how many evangelical church kids are like the Amish in this regard. Many of us are not theologically informed. Truth about God doesn't define us and shape us. We have grown up in our own religious culture. And often this culture, with its own rituals and music and moral values, comes to represent Christianity far more than specific beliefs about God do.
 
Every new generation of Christians has to ask the question, what are we actually choosing when we choose to be Christians? Watching the stories of the Amish teenagers helped me realize that a return to orthodoxy has to be more than a return to a way of life or to cherished traditions. Of course the Christian faith leads to living in specific ways. And it does join us to a specific community. And it does involve tradition. All this is good. It's important. But it has to be more than tradition. It has to be about a person—the historical and living person of Jesus Christ.
 
Orthodoxy matters because the Christian faith is not just a cultural tradition or moral code. Orthodoxy is the irreducible truths about God and his work in the world. Our faith is not just a state of mind, a mystical experience, or concepts on a page. Theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy matter because God is real, and he has acted in our world, and his actions have meaning today and for all eternity.
-
For many people, words like theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy are almost completely meaningless. Maybe they're unappealing, even repellent.
 
Theology sounds stuffy.
 
Doctrine is something unkind people fight over.
 
And orthodoxy? Many Christians would have trouble saying what it is other than it calls to mind images of musty churches guarded by old men with comb-overs who hush and scold.
 
I can relate to that perspective. I've been there. But I've also discovered that my prejudice, my "theology allergy," was unfounded.
 
This book is the story of how I first glimpsed the beauty of Christian theology. These pages hold the journal entries of my own spiritual journey—a journey that led to the realization that sound doctrine is at the center of loving Jesus with passion and authenticity. I want to share how I learned that orthodoxy isn't just for old men but is for anyone who longs to behold a God who is bigger and more real and glorious than the human mind can imagine.
 
The irony of my story—and I suppose it often works this way—is that the very things I needed, even longed for in my relationship with God, were wrapped up in the very things I was so sure could do me no good. I didn't understand that such seemingly worn-out words as theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy were the pathway to the mysterious, awe-filled experience of truly knowing the living Jesus Christ.
 
They told the story of the Person I longed to know.
 

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

Introduction xi

1 My Rumspringa 1

"We're all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true."

2 In which I Learn to Dig 17

"Underneath was a deeper question: what would I build my life on?"

3 Near But Not in My Pocket 37

"God is utterly different from me. And that is utterly wonderful."

4 Ripping, Burning, Eating 53

"When we read the Bible, it opens us up. It reads us."

5 God With a Bellybutton 73

"Jesus is unique. And he came to accomplish something that no one else could."

6 A Way to Be Good Again 95

"For too long the news that Jesus died for my sins had no real meaning."

7 How Jesus Saved Gregg Eugene Harris 117

"How does redemption accomplished outside Jerusalem give life to a young man on a California beach?"

8 Changed, Changing, to Be Changed 145

"Sanctification is work. But it's good work-the privilege of the redeemed."

9 I Believe in the Holy Spirit 175

"I longed to know that God was present, that I was doing more than singing songs to the ceiling."

10 The Invisible Made Visible 195

"God's plan has always been a group plan-he reveals himself through his people."

11 Humble Orthodoxy 217

"Here's what deflates my arrogance faster than anything else: trying to live the truth I have."

Reflection and Discussion Guide 233

Acknowledgments 259

Notes 261

Recommended Reading 269

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First Chapter

Dug Down Deep

Unearthing What to Believe and Why It Matters
By Joshua Harris

Multnomah Books

Copyright © 2011 Joshua Harris
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781601423719

1
MY RUMSPRINGA
"We're all theologians. The question is
whether what we know about God is true."
 
IT'S STRANGE TO SEE an Amish girl drunk. The pairing of a bonnet and a can of beer is awkward. If she were stumbling along with a jug of moonshine, it would at least match her long, dowdy dress. But right now she can't worry about that. She is flat-out wasted.
 
Welcome to rumspringa.
 
The Amish, people who belong to a Christian religious sect with roots in Europe, practice a radical form of separation from the modern world. They live and dress with simplicity. Amish women wear bonnets and long, old-fashioned dresses and never touch makeup. The men wear wide-rimmed straw hats, sport bowl cuts, and grow chin curtains—full beards with the mustaches shaved off.
 
My wife, Shannon, sometimes says she wants to be Amish, but I know this isn't true. Shannon entertains her Amish fantasy when life feels too complicated or when she's tired of doing laundry. She thinks life would be easier if she had only two dresses to choose from and both looked the same. I tell her that if she ever tried to be Amish, she would buy a pair of jeans and ditch her head covering about ten minutes into the experiment. Besides, she would never let me grow a beard like that.
 
Once Shannon and her girlfriend Shelley drove to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for a weekend of furniture and quilt shopping in Amish country. They stayed at a bed-and-breakfast located next door to an Amish farm. One morning Shannon struck up a conversation with the inn's owner, who had lived among the Amish his entire life. She asked him questions, hoping for romantic details about the simple, buggy-driven life. But instead he complained about having to pick up beer cans every weekend.
 
Beer cans?
 
"Yes," he said, "the Amish kids leave them everywhere." That's when he told her about rumspringa. The Amish believe that before a young person chooses to commit to the Amish church as an adult, he or she should have the chance to freely explore the forbidden delights of the outside world. So at age sixteen everything changes for Amish teenagers. They go from milking cows and singing hymns to living like debauched rock stars.
 
In the Pennsylvania Dutch language, rumspringa literally means "running around." It's a season of doing anything and everything you want with zero rules. During this time—which can last from a few months to several years—all the restrictions of the Amish church are lifted. Teens are free to shop at malls, have sex, wear makeup, play video games, do drugs, use cell phones, dress however they want, and buy and drive cars. But what they seem to enjoy most during rumspringa is gathering at someone's barn, blasting music, and then drinking themselves into the ground. Every weekend, the man told Shannon, he had to clean up beer cans littered around his property following the raucous, all-night Amish parties.
 
When Shannon came home from her Lancaster weekend, her Amish aspirations had diminished considerably. The picture of cute little Amish girls binge drinking took the sheen off her idealistic vision of Amish life. We completed her disillusionment when we rented a documentary about the rite of rumspringa called Devil's Playground. Filmmaker Lucy Walker spent three years befriending, interviewing, and filming Amish teens as they explored the outside world. That's where we saw the drunk Amish girl tripping along at a barn party. We learned that most girls continue to dress Amish even as they party—as though their clothes are a lifeline back to safety while they explore life on the wild side.
 
In the documentary Faron, an outgoing, skinny eighteen-year-old sells and is addicted to the drug crystal meth. After Faron is busted by the cops, he turns in rival drug dealers. When his life is threatened, Faron moves back to his parents' home and tries to start over. The Amish faith is a good religion, he says. He wants to be Amish, but his old habits keep tugging on him.
 
A girl named Velda struggles with depression. During rumspringa she finds the partying empty, but after joining the church she can't imagine living the rest of her life as an Amish woman. "God talks to me in one ear, Satan in the other," Velda says. "Part of me wants to be my like my parents, but the other part wants the jeans, the haircut, to do what I want to do."1 When she fails to convince her Amish fiancé to leave the church with her, she breaks off her engagement a month before the wedding and leaves the Amish faith for good. As a result Velda is shunned by her family and the entire community. Alone but determined, she begins to attend college.
 
Velda's story is the exception. Eighty to 90 percent of Amish teens decide to return to the Amish church after rumspringa.2 At one point in the film, Faron insightfully comments that rumspringa is like a vaccination for Amish teens. They binge on all the worst aspects of the modern world long enough to make themselves sick of it. Then, weary and disgusted, they turn back to the comforting, familiar, and safe world of Amish life.
 
But as I watched, I wondered, What are they really going back to? Are they choosing God or just a safe and simple way of life?
-
I know what it means to wrestle with questions of faith. I know what it's like for faith to be so mixed up with family tradition that it's hard to distinguish between a genuine knowledge of God and comfort in a familiar way of life.
 
I grew up in an evangelical Christian family. One that was on the more conservative end of the spectrum. I'm the oldest of seven children. Our parents homeschooled us, raised us without television, and believed that oldfashioned courtship was better than modern dating. Friends in our neighborhood probably thought our family was Amish, but that's only because they didn't know some of the really conservative Christian homeschool families. The truth was that our family was more culturally liberal than many homeschoolers. We watched movies, could listen to rock music (as long as it was Christian or the Beatles), and were allowed to have Star Wars and Transformers toys.
 
But even so, during high school I bucked my parents' restrictions. That's not to say my spiritual waywardness was very shocking. I doubt Amish kids would be impressed by my teenage dabbling in worldly pleasure. I never did drugs. Never got drunk. The worst things I ever did were to steal porn magazines, sneak out of the house at night with a kid from church, and date various girls behind my parents' backs. Although my rebellion was tame in comparison, it was never virtue that held me back from sin. It was lack of opportunity. I shudder to think what I would have done with a parent-sanctioned
season of rumspringa.
 
The bottom line is that my parents' faith wasn't really my faith. I knew how to work the system, I knew the Christian lingo, but my heart wasn't in it. My heart was set on enjoying the moment.
 
Recently a friend of mine met someone who knew me in early high school. "What did she remember about me?" I asked.
 
"She said you were girl crazy, full of yourself, and immature," my friend told me.
 
Yeah, she knew me, I thought. It wasn't nice to hear, but I couldn't argue. I didn't know or fear God. I didn't have any driving desire to know him.
 
For me, the Christian faith was more about a set of moral standards than belief and trust in Jesus Christ.
-
During my early twenties I went through a phase of blaming the church I had attended in high school for all my spiritual deficiencies. Evangelical megachurches make good punching bags.
 
My reasoning went something like this: I was spiritually shallow because the pastors' teaching had been shallow. I wasn't fully engaged because they hadn't done enough to grab my attention. I was a hypocrite because everyone else had been a hypocrite. I didn't know God because they hadn't provided enough programs. Or they hadn't provided the right programs. Or maybe they'd had too many programs.
 
All I knew was that it was someone else's fault.
 
Blaming the church for our problems is second only to the popular and easy course of blaming our parents for everything that's wrong with us. But the older I get, the less I do of both. I hope that's partly due to the wisdom that comes with age. But I'm sure it's also because I am now both a parent and a pastor. Suddenly I have a lot more sympathy for my dad and mom and the pastors at my old church. Funny how that works, isn't it?
 
At the church where I now pastor (which I love), some young adults remind me of myself when I was in high school. They are church kids who know so much about Christian religion and yet so little about God. Some are passive, completely ambivalent toward spiritual things. Others are actively straying from their faith—ticked off about their parents' authority, bitter over a rule or guideline, and counting the minutes until they turn eighteen and can disappear. Others aren't going anywhere, but they stay just to go
through the motions. For them, church is a social group.
 
It's strange being on the other side now. When I pray for specific young men and women who are wandering from God, when I stand to preach and feel powerless to change a single heart, when I sit and counsel people and it seems nothing I can say will draw them away from sin, I remember the pastors from my teenage years. I realize they must have felt like this too. They must have prayed and cried over me. They must have labored over sermons with students like me in mind. I see now that they were doing the best they knew how. But a lot of the time, I wasn't listening.
-
During high school I spent most Sunday sermons doodling, passing notes, checking out girls, and wishing I were two years older and five inches taller so a redhead named Jenny would stop thinking of me as her "little brother." That never happened.
 
I mostly floated through grown-up church. Like a lot of teenagers in evangelical churches, I found my sense of identity and community in the parallel universe of the youth ministry. Our youth group was geared to being loud, fast paced, and fun. It was modeled on the massive and influential, seeker-sensitive Willow Creek Community Church located outside Chicago. The goal was simple: put on a show, get kids in the building, and let them see that Christians are cool, thus Jesus is cool. We had to prove that being a Christian is, contrary to popular opinion and even a few annoying passages
of the Bible, loads of fun. Admittedly it's not as much fun as partying and having sex but pretty fun nonetheless.
 
Every Wednesday night our group of four-hundred-plus students divided into teams. We competed against each other in games and won points by bringing guests. As a homeschooler, of course I was completely worthless in the "bring friends from school" category. So I tried to make up for that by working on the drama and video team. My buddy Matt and I wrote, performed, and directed skits to complement our youth pastor's messages. Unfortunately, our idea of complementing was to deliver skits that were not
even remotely connected to the message. The fact that Matt was a Brad Pitt look-alike assured that our skits were well received (at least by the girls).
 
The high point of my youth-group performing career came when the pastor found out I could dance and asked me to do a Michael Jackson impersonation. The album Bad had just come out. I bought it, learned all the dance moves, and then when I performed—how do I say this humbly?—I blew everyone away. I was bad (and I mean that in the good sense of the word bad ). The crowd went absolutely nuts. The music pulsed, and girls
were screaming and grabbing at me in mock adulation as I moonwalked and lip-synced my way through one of the most inane pop songs ever written. I loved every minute of it.
 
Looking back, I'm not real proud of that performance. I would feel better about my bad moment if the sermon that night had been about the depravity of man or something else that was even slightly related. But there was no connection. It had nothing to do with anything.
 
For me, dancing like Michael Jackson that night has come to embody my experience in a big, evangelical, seeker-oriented youth group. It was fun, it was entertaining, it was culturally savvy (at the time), and it had very little to do with God. Sad to say, I spent more time studying Michael's dance moves for that drama assignment than I was ever asked to invest in studying about God.
 
Of course, this was primarily my own fault. I was doing what I wanted to do. There were other kids in the youth group who were more mature and who grew more spiritually during their youth-group stint. And I don't doubt the good intentions of my youth pastor. He was trying to strike the balance between getting kids to attend and teaching them.
Maybe I wouldn't have been interested in youth group if it hadn't been packaged in fun and games and a good band. But I still wish someone had expected more of me—of all of us. Would I have listened? I can't know. But I do know that a clear vision of God and the power of his Word and the purpose of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection were lost on me in the midst of all the flash and fun.
-
There's a story in the Bible of a young king named Josiah, who lived about 640 years before Christ. I think Josiah could have related to me—being religious but ignorant of God. Josiah's generation had lost God's Word. And I don't mean that figuratively. They literally lost God's Word. It sounds ridiculous, but they essentially misplaced the Bible.
 
If you think about it, this was a pretty big deal. We're not talking about a pair of sunglasses or a set of keys. The Creator of the universe had communicated with mankind through the prophet Moses. He gave his law. He revealed what he was like and what he wanted. He told his people what it meant for them to be his people and how they were to live. All this was dutifully recorded on a scroll. Then this scroll, which was precious beyond measure, was stored in the holy temple. But later it was misplaced. No one
knows how. Maybe a clumsy priest dropped it and it rolled into a dark corner.
 
But here's the really sad thing: nobody noticed it was missing. No search was made. Nobody checked under the couch. It was gone and no one cared. For decades those who wore the label "God's people" actually had no communication with him. They wore their priestly robes, they carried on their traditions in their beautiful temple, and they taught their messages that were so wise, so insightful, so inspirational. But it was all a bunch of hot air—nothing but their own opinions. Empty ritual. Their robes were costumes, and their temple was an empty shell.
 
This story scares me because it shows that it's possible for a whole generation to go happily about the business of religion, all the while having lost a true knowledge of God.
-
When we talk about knowledge of God, we're talking about theology. Simply put, theology is the study of the nature of God—who he is and how he thinks and acts. But theology isn't high on many people's list of daily concerns.
 
My friend Curtis says that most people today think only of themselves. He calls this "me-ology." I guess that's true. I know it was true of me and still can be. It's a lot easier to be an expert on what I think and feel and want than to give myself to knowing an invisible, universe-creating God.
 
Others view theology as something only scholars or pastors should worry about. I used to think that way. I viewed theology as an excuse for all the intellectual types in the world to add homework to Christianity.
 
But I've learned that this isn't the case. Theology isn't for a certain group of people. In fact, it's impossible for anyone to escape theology. It's everywhere. All of us are constantly "doing" theology. In other words, all of us have some idea or opinion about what God is like. Oprah does theology. The person who says, "I can't believe in a God who sends people to hell" is doing theology.
 
We all have some level of knowledge. This knowledge can be much or little, informed or uninformed, true or false, but we all have some concept of God (even if it's that he doesn't exist). And we all base our lives on what we think God is like.
 
So when I was spinning around like Michael Jackson at youth group, I was a theologian. Even though I wasn't paying attention in church. Even though I wasn't very concerned with Jesus or pleasing him. Even though I was more preoccupied with my girlfriend and with being popular. Granted I was a really bad theologian—my thoughts about God were unclear and often ignorant. But I had a concept of God that directed how I lived.
 
I've come to learn that theology matters. And it 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. What you believe about God's nature—what he is like, what he wants from you, and whether or not you will answer to him—affects every part of your life.
 
Theology matters, because if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong.
-
I know the idea of "studying" God often rubs people the wrong way. It sounds cold and theoretical, as if God were a frog carcass to dissect in a lab or a set of ideas that we memorize like math proofs.
 
But studying God doesn't have to be like that. You can study him the way you study a sunset that leaves you speechless. You can study him the way a man studies the wife he passionately loves. Does anyone fault him for noting her every like and dislike? Is it clinical for him to desire to know the thoughts and longings of her heart? Or to want to hear her speak?
 
Knowledge doesn't have to be dry and lifeless. And when you think about it, exactly what is our alternative? Ignorance? Falsehood?
 
We're either building our lives on the reality of what God is truly like and what he's about, or we're basing our lives on our own imagination and misconceptions.
 
We're all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true.
-
In the days of King Josiah, theology was completely messed up. This isn't really surprising. People had lost God's words and then quickly forgot what the true God was like.
 
King Josiah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah. People call Jeremiah the weeping prophet, and there was a lot to weep about in those days. "A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land," Jeremiah said. "The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way" (Jeremiah 5:30–31, NIV).
 
As people learned to love their lies about God, they lost their ability to recognize his voice. "To whom can I speak and giving warning?" God asked. "Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it" (Jeremiah 6:10, NIV).
 
People forgot God. They lost their taste for his words. They forgot what he had done for them, what he commanded of them, and what he threatened if they disobeyed. So they started inventing gods for themselves. They started borrowing ideas about God from the pagan cults. Their made-up gods let them live however they wanted. It was "me-ology" masquerading as theology.
 
The results were not pretty.
 
Messed-up theology leads to messed-up living. The nation of Judah resembled one of those skanky reality television shows where a houseful of barely dressed singles sleep around, stab each other in the back, and try to win cash. Immorality and injustice were everywhere. The rich trampled the poor. People replaced the worship of God with the worship of pagan deities that demanded religious orgies and child sacrifice. Every level of society, from marriage and the legal system to religion and politics, was corrupt.
 
The surprising part of Josiah's story is that in the midst of all the distortion and corruption, he chose to seek and obey God. And he did this as a young man (probably no older than his late teens or early twenties). Scripture gives this description of Josiah: "He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left" (2 Kings 22:2, NIV).
 
The prophet Jeremiah called people to the same straight path of true theology and humble obedience:
 
Thus says the LORD:
"Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls." (Jeremiah 6:16)
 
In Jeremiah's words you see a description of King Josiah's life. His generation was rushing past him, flooding down the easy paths of man-made religion, injustice, and immorality.
 
They didn't stop to look for a different path.
 
They didn't pause to consider where the easy path ended.
 
They didn't ask if there was a better way.
 
But Josiah stopped. He stood at a crossroads, and he looked. And then he asked for something that an entire generation had neglected, even completely forgotten. He asked for the ancient paths.
-
What are the ancient paths? When the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah used the phrase, he was describing obedience to the Law of Moses. But today the ancient paths have been transformed by the coming of Jesus Christ. Now we see that those ancient paths ultimately led to Jesus. We have not only truth to obey but a person to trust in—a person who perfectly obeyed the Law and who died on the cross in our place.
 
But just as in the days of Jeremiah, the ancient paths still represent life based on a true knowledge of God—a God who is holy, a God who is just, a God who is full of mercy toward sinners. Walking in the ancient paths still means relating to God on his terms. It still means receiving and obeying his self-revelation with humility and awe.
 
Just as he did with Josiah and Jeremiah and every generation after them, God calls us to the ancient paths. He beckons us to return to theology that is true. He calls us, as Jeremiah called God's people, to recommit ourselves to orthodoxy.
 
The word orthodoxy literally means "right opinion." In the context of Christian faith, orthodoxy is shorthand for getting your opinion or thoughts about God right. It is teaching and beliefs based on the established, proven, cherished truths of the faith. These are the truths that don't budge. They're clearly taught in Scripture and affirmed in the historic creeds of the Christian faith:
 
There is one God who created all things.
God is triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Bible is God's inerrant word to humanity.
Jesus is the virgin-born, eternal Son of God.
Jesus died as a substitute for sinners so they could be forgiven.
Jesus rose from the dead.
Jesus will one day return to judge the world.
 
Orthodox beliefs are ones that genuine followers of Jesus have acknowledged from the beginning and then handed down through the ages. Take one of them away, and you're left with something less than historic Christian belief.
-
When I watched the documentary about the Amish rite of rumspringa, what stood out to me was the way the Amish teenagers processed the decision of whether or not to join the Amish church. With few exceptions the decision seemed to have very little to do with God. They weren't searching Scripture to see if what their church taught about the world, the human heart, and salvation was true. They weren't wrestling with theology. I'm not implying that the Amish don't have a genuine faith and trust in Jesus. But for the teens in
the documentary, the decision was mostly a matter of choosing a culture and a lifestyle. It gave them a sense of belonging. In some cases it gave them a steady job or allowed them to marry the person they wanted.
 
I wonder how many evangelical church kids are like the Amish in this regard. Many of us are not theologically informed. Truth about God doesn't define us and shape us. We have grown up in our own religious culture. And often this culture, with its own rituals and music and moral values, comes to represent Christianity far more than specific beliefs about God do.
 
Every new generation of Christians has to ask the question, what are we actually choosing when we choose to be Christians? Watching the stories of the Amish teenagers helped me realize that a return to orthodoxy has to be more than a return to a way of life or to cherished traditions. Of course the Christian faith leads to living in specific ways. And it does join us to a specific community. And it does involve tradition. All this is good. It's important. But it has to be more than tradition. It has to be about a person—the
historical and living person of Jesus Christ.
 
Orthodoxy matters because the Christian faith is not just a cultural tradition or moral code. Orthodoxy is the irreducible truths about God and his work in the world. Our faith is not just a state of mind, a mystical experience, or concepts on a page. Theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy matter because God is real, and he has acted in our world, and his actions have meaning today and for all eternity.
-
For many people, words like theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy are almost completely
meaningless. Maybe they're unappealing, even repellent.
 
Theology sounds stuffy.
 
Doctrine is something unkind people fight over.
 
And orthodoxy? Many Christians would have trouble saying what it is other than it calls to mind images of musty churches guarded by old men with comb-overs who hush and scold.
 
I can relate to that perspective. I've been there. But I've also discovered that my prejudice, my "theology allergy," was unfounded.
 
This book is the story of how I first glimpsed the beauty of Christian theology. These pages hold the journal entries of my own spiritual journey—a journey that led to the realization that sound doctrine is at the center of loving Jesus with passion and authenticity. I want to share how I learned that orthodoxy isn't just for old men but is for anyone who longs to behold a God who is bigger and more real and glorious than the human mind can imagine.
 
The irony of my story—and I suppose it often works this way—is that the very things I needed, even longed for in my relationship with God, were wrapped up in the very things I was so sure could do me no good. I didn't understand that such seemingly worn-out words as theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy were the pathway to the mysterious, awe-filled experience of truly knowing the living Jesus Christ.
 
They told the story of the Person I longed to know.
 


From the Hardcover edition.

Continues...

Excerpted from Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris Copyright © 2011 by Joshua Harris. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 21, 2012

    Great intro to Christian doctrine

    For many Christians the idea of discussing church doctrine or biblical theology is the equivalent of taking an extra dose of NyQuil after a long day at work–it puts them right to sleep. Theology is hard, they say. Doctrine is for priests and seminarians. This is simply not true. As Christians, our understanding of what the Bible teaches helps shape our worldview and strengthens our convictions. Besides, everyone has thoughts about God, who He is, how He relates to people, what He has done in history and in Christ. When you think on these things and form opinions, you are doing theology. The question is whether or not you are doing good theology.

    If you can identify with the type of person described above, then please pick up a copy of Joshua Harris’ book Dug Down Deep. In this book Harris provides a simple, non-academic introduction to the great biblical doctrines. He covers topics such as the incarnation of Christ, the atonement, sanctification, the Holy Spirit, and the theology of the church in a reader friendly, practical way.

    Don’t leave theology up to the priests and seminarians. If you desire to know better what the Bible teaches concerning the foundational confessions of the Christian faith, then there is no better place to begin than with this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 3, 2014

    It is far too easy to go through the routine of life without giv

    It is far too easy to go through the routine of life without giving any inspection of the foundation upon which we are building.  All of us have a story.  For those who follow Christ, it is a story of grace and discovery.  Joshua Harris provides a clear summary of his book, Dug  Down Deep.  “This book is the story of how I’ve been learning what it means to come to Jesus, to hear his words, and to put those words into practice.” (p. XI)

    With this use of powerful story and personal illustration, Harris provides the reader with much to consider.  I found Dug Down Deep personally challenging as I continue to re-think what it means to follow Jesus in our culture.  This is an excellent read for anyone who desires to grow in their faith.

    This was a relatively easy book to read but to apply it is a different story.  The use of illustration and authentic nature of the author’s style I found refreshing.  There is a host of discussion questions for personal or group study in the appendix as well as an excellent resource of recommended reading.

    I give Dug Down Deep four out of five stars.  I recommend it for anyone who is taking series the call of Jesus to “Follow me.”
     
     _________________
    I received this book free from the publisher through Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Blogging for Books review program. I was not required to write a positive review.

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  • Posted March 19, 2013

    Dug Down Deep : Building Your Life on Truths That Last Joshua

    Dug Down Deep : Building Your Life on Truths That Last


    Joshua Harris

    From the Publisher: What are you going to build your life on? Dug Down Deep is systematic theology like you've never seen it before. Readable. Relevant. Powerful. As best-selling author Joshua Harris shares his own journey from apathetic church-kid to student with a burning passion to truly know God, you'll be challenged to dig deep into the truths of God's word. With humor, conviction and compelling insight Dug Down Deep covers the basics of faith--God, scripture, Jesus, the cross, salvation, sanctification, the Holy Spirit and the church. Don't settle for superficial faith, dig deep.

    Review: This was a good, easily read systematic theology book. I found the author’s journey to be very interesting and blended well with his theology. He is able to explain his understanding of theology to be transparent and well developed. I agree with much of his theology and am encouraged that younger people are holding to a Biblical theology by using the whole Bible and not parts of it. He has a fantastic story of mentorship and friendship with CJ Mahaney which is encouraging. Too often today people are coming up with Theology that is ‘new’ and this man has embraced the historical doctrine from the Bible.
    I would like to thank Above the Trees and Multnomah for allowing me to read and review this book in return for a free copy and I was never asked to write a favorable review by anyone.

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  • Posted November 13, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Outstanding Book!

    What a great primer on Systematic Theology!

    I finally finished Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris. Pastor Harris is the author who is probably best known in evangelical circles as the guy who wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye. But Josh is so much more than just that first book. He has written on courtship and marriage, purity issues and the importance of a vibrant connection to a local church as well.

    Dug Down Deep was one of those books that once I finally read it, I regretted having let it sit on my shelves for almost two years. It is an excellent resource and one I would especially recommend to those who have never read any systematic theology like Wayne Grudem's Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Josh intersperses stories and illustrations throughout this book to help bring out both the importance of knowing God through the systematic study of doctrine as well as the application of these truths to every day life.

    I especially enjoyed the last chapter where Harris asks and answers the question, 'What should studying truth do to us?" This section alone should be read by every young man entering Bible college or seminary as it addresses the struggle between being passionate about the new truths you are learning and being compassionate with others that may disagree or be a bit behind you on their journey.

    I found myself laughing at times, wanting to cry sometimes but mostly wanting to shout these things from the rooftop as I read through this book. I will definitely be giving a copy to our youth pastor and recommending he consider using it to teach the young adults in our church. Pick up a copy of this book and make your way through it. You will not be disappointed.

    *I was provided a free copy of this book by LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program in exchange for an unbiased free review. Provided by LibraryThing's Early Reviewers Program.

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  • Posted August 22, 2012

    Keeping it Fresh

    Josh Harris tries to keep it fresh in his book Dug Down Deep. It goes to show you that even if you are successful in the Evangelical World and not really know the Living Christ. He states that he knew some tradition and some morality but knowing the one who saves is the key. As Tim Challies says I would recommend this to any Christian.

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  • Posted March 20, 2012

    How would you like to read a book on systematic theology that y

    How would you like to read a book on systematic theology that you could enjoy, learn from, and constantly forget that you were reading a book on theology? In this volume that is exactly what you will get. There's real depth here but it's sprung on you subtly. The cumulative amount of doctrine taken in will surprise you by book's end. In our day when Christians would rather face an IRS audit than read a book on systematic theology, this book has great potential. In fact, I don't think large theology books are read by anyone outside the categories of pastor or scholar, and probably few pastors have read such a work in years. This book will allow you to think of the great subjects again.

    Mr. Harris can write. There's no question about that. When he uses the example of rumspringa from the Amish world in chapter one to lure us in, I was caught a third of the way in. We realize the gap between what we say we believe and what we do is often helplessly far apart. This could be because we have never really grasped what the Bible is saying to us as we have imagined we have. Another hint: Jesus Christ is part of the answer no matter what the question is.

    I loved how he used his story and the earlier story of his father to tell this story. That's how he pulls it off. The story is captivating and doctrine woven through it. When you finish the story, you think, wow, that was interesting. Then as you think about it, you find yourself wrestling with the greatest doctrines.

    He begins with the doctrine of the Bible as a foundation to decide our beliefs. He reads well and is never superficial. From there he makes us face the doctrine of Christ. Next he carefully draws a realistic picture of the depths of the tragedy of sin in us. How our age needs this discussion! We forget how badly we need Jesus because we haven't fully comprehended the mess we are in.

    In chapter 7 the chapter is as good as its catchy title: "How Jesus Saved Gregg Eugene Harris". I think you will find it quite similar to the story of how Jesus saved you. There's no overt Calvinism in the chapter though you suspect he believes that regeneration precedes your putting faith in Christ. Still, the chapter was thought-provoking. In his chapter on the Holy Spirit I was absolutely shocked that he, to some degree, looked favorably on speaking in tongues. Had the few sentences that spoke of that been deleted, you would find an exceptionally balanced presentation of the doctrine of the Spirit.

    The book works on every level. He even addresses common misunderstanding that are driving the Christian world and how they don't quite mesh with God's Word. As a pastor, I found the book personally rewarding. It was review, it was more perspective, and it seemed to suggest dozens of sermon ideas. Beyond that, I recommend Christians every where read this book and mine its treasures.

    I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 .

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  • Posted January 23, 2012

    A great primer to the foundations of Christian Faith

    Dug Down Deep: Building Your Life on Truths That Last by Joshua Harris

    Having read Harris’s other books growing up I was familiar with his style. Over the years he has progressed and really produced a well written book about the foundations of our faith. Having completed a Master of Art in Religion I found that Harris provided an easy to read explanation of the foundations that are essential to the Christian faith and explained the necessity for understanding them and holding to them in your life. He used real life examples and explanations to make the book come alive to the reader and help them realize that they too can understand the “deeper” issues of Christian faith.



    The book also has a discussion guide provided which is an added bonus as often that is an extra cost.

    I found that I was constantly highlighting and agreeing with the points and explanations that were made by Harris. This book is now an added resource to my library to help me understand how to explain to others the Christian faith in ways that I may not have thought of before.

    Disclosure:

    I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review

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  • Posted November 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    my soul was encouraged...

    Reviewed by Donna M for Readers Favorite

    "Dug Down Deep" is a memoir about a man's journey with God. "Dug Down Deep" gives great insight into how we grow and develop individually as Christians. The author is funny, and knowledgeable about God's Word. He gives wonderful examples to illustrate our growth process as Christians. He also shows the great potential we have to experience the love of God and he manages to be frank about our vulnerabilities and the challenges we face as growing Christians. I especially like how he took us into the world of the Amish. I learned many things I never knew.

    I must admit that when I first started reading this book, I felt a little hurt. I made the mistake of comparing my life with Harris¿s life. And to make things worse, I did this with my natural eyes and not my spiritual eyes. Big mistake! I had somehow come to the erroneous conclusion that much of Harris's blessings were because he was a white man in America, who is afforded the opportunities that many of us may not have access to. But of course we all know that all blessings come from God whether we like who or what God blesses or not. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that somebody could actually have the opportunity to run a magazine at 21 years of age. So obviously Harris has a life experience that is totally different than mine. So, in my humanness I felt a little hurt. I desired some of the same opportunities as Harris. I have been praying for a husband since I could breathe. OK, I admit it, I was kind of jealous. Opps! If I would have let my mind and heart linger on these points then I could have missed Harris's point completely, which is to dig down deep into the Word of the Lord and let it rule your life.

    Therefore, my soul was encouraged by "Dig Down Deeper". As I read, l realized that even though Joshua and I come from two different worlds there was in fact a great equalizer. And that equalizer was the Word of God. It did not matter if we lived in the castles of America or in the devastation of the inner cities. Following the narrow pathway is hard for everybody no matter our race, creed, or social standing. Rich or poor, we all still have to somehow find our way through the eye of the needle. Americans can erroneously believe that to be rich is to have it all. And I'm not saying that Harris is rich. Richness, like reality, can sometimes be relevant. Certainly, money gives us more options and maybe we feel kind of powerful because we can do whatever we want if we have money. Perhaps when we have money and success it¿s easier to get caught up in self pride and come to falsely believe that we accomplished our goals through our own merits.

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  • Posted October 31, 2011

    Great Read

    Orthodoxy.

    Theology.

    Doctrine.

    Those simple words are enough to make many people afraid, uncomfortable and wanting to look for the nearest exit. Though the words are common in churches and Christian circles, there is often something overwhelming and almost mystical about them. We've heard them a million times, but the majority of us couldn't truly explain them even if we were offered a large sum of money.

    In his book, Dug Down Deep, Pastor Joshua Harris tries to put these terms and their application into language we can all understand and relate to. After growing up in the church and going through the motions of being a "good" Christian, Harris realized that it's so much more than that; it's all about following God's word and standing firm in them. Dug Down Deep is a mixture of his journaling about this revelation and some teaching about doctrine, theology and orthodoxy.

    At times the book went a little over my head but that might be attributed to the fact that I was usually reading it late at night when I should have been sleeping! ? Despite that fact, I found the book to be very conversational, not preachy or textbook-ish. I really enjoyed the stories and illustrations, both in words and in pictures, Harris shared throughout the book. I think this could definitely be a book that I'll re-read at a later point in life; there are so many truths hidden in it that I'm sure to find more with each additional reading.

    Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for this review. All thoughts are my own and I was not required to provide a positive review.

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  • Posted October 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Starts Out Good, Gets Boring

    I've been tempted to read books by Josh Harris ever since I went to high school with a guy by the same name. I had high expectations, and in many ways Harris' book "Dug Down Deep" both lived up to and failed to live up to those expectation.

    In "Dug Down Deep," Harris admonishes readers to make theology a higher priority in their lives. "What we know about God shapes the way we think and live," Harris writes. "What you believe about God's nature - what he is like, what he wants from you, and whether or not you will answer to him - affects every part of your life. Theology matters, because if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong."

    With several references to Wayne Grudem's "Systematic Theology" (bringing back many memories for those of us who had to read it over and over again in college), Harris' book becomes a mini "Systematic Theology" written for Christians not normally interested in extensive research. Consequently, Harris uses more stories and less Scripture.

    For many, Harris' words will be sweet reminders of truths they already know. Others will be bored with the theology presented because they also already know the basic. And hopefully, many Christian young in their faith will learn many new truths. No matter how readers view the theology presented, Harris' words should spur them on to a greater desire to know theology, to know the reason for their faith. Harris' compelling argument for the need to have a solid knowledge of doctrine and theology makes his book work on so many levels.

    While not a textbook by Grudem, "Dug Down Deep" navigates the foundations of the Christian faith, among them being sin, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Church.

    Harris' discussion of the Holy Spirit may raise the hairs on the backs of some readers. Harris makes it clear that, while he does not adhere to some of the manipulative and false teaches of some Charismatic churches, he does believe in and practice the speaking of tongues. His belief may discredit him to some or at least disappoint certain fans. To his credit, though, Harris emphasizes the common denominator of both sides of the argument: opening your life to the Holy Spirit so that He can change you, use you, and bless you. Harris even references another writer who does not believe in the modern existence of tongues.

    My feelings also clashed with the book when I got to Harris' chapter on the church. I would have been encouraged by more on why its important to attend church and become a part of a community, but, instead, Harris focuses on the Great Commission and the missions side of church, which made me feel inadequate about the gifts that God has given me that glorify Him but don't necessarily involve missions. There were a few other things I wasn't sure what to think about, but I won't mention them here.

    Bottom line for me, personally: I got a lot out of the first few chapters encouraging the seeking out of solid theology, but the rest of the book was old news - been there, done that. But I'm sure there are plenty of others out there that need this book. As for me, Harris just made me want to skip his book to go read Grudem.

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  • Posted October 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    deeply a good book

    Joshua Harris is the senior pastor of Covenant Life Church in Portland Oregon, and was a student of C.J. Mahaney who had helped to found that same church. Josh is also the author of several books including I kissed Dating Goodbye and Stop Dating the church.

    His latest book is actually a reprint that now comes with a study guide and a fancy cover. I got this book as a "freebie" to review, but I am so glad I picked this one up.

    Joshua's book is sort of a beginner's guide to doctrine. Through each chapter, Josh takes the reader alongside his own personal journey all the while expressing deep theological truths. Dug Down Deep covers the nature of the trinity, the Holy Spirit, atonement, sin, the sovereignty of God, propitiation and regeneration. That to say, it's not some thin drop in the bucket either - this is a real book - it has weight and substance (and hand drawn monster pictures).

    While I was reading it, I was thinking, "I am going to buy this book for everyone who becomes a believer at my church." I think this would make a great 'guide' for people new to the faith, because it covers all the bases and would get new Christians off on solid footing.

    Josh writes, "The doctrine of Scripture teaches us about the authority of God's Word. Scripture must be the final rule of faith and practice for our lives. Not our feelings or emotions. Not signs or prophetic words or hunches."

    The book reads easy as much of it are stories from Josh's life, but at the same time the author gives a very orthodox outline of the basic Christian faith. I loved this book - highly recommended.

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  • Posted September 23, 2011

    Theology Matters

    Recently, I was talking with a man in my congregation. He told me that a Pastor had once told him to study hard but don't mess around with theology, you will never understand it. Not only do I disagree with that statement, I think Dug Down Deep proves my point.

    Joshua Harris takes a subject (systematic theology) and makes its accessible to everyone. Not only that, he also tells us why it is important to all of us. The strength of his book lies in his approach. He explores how he grew deeper with God in his own way.

    Harris is transparent, smart, and has a passion for people to truly dig deeper into their faith. The foundation that remains after taking this journey with him, will help any Christian grow in their relationship with God and understand who they rely on and why. I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. All opinions are my own.

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  • Posted September 12, 2011

    Dug Down Deep

    Joshua Harris, in his new book, "Dug Down Deep; Building Your Life on Truths That Last" tells a personal growth story through the lens of a familiar parable told by Jesus Christ. He uses the story of two builders. One builder built his house upon the sand. The storm come against it and it fell. The other builder built his house upon a rock. The storm come against it and it stood. Dug Down Deep is a call for every believer to dig down and understand what God wants them to know that will lead them into a deeper and richer relationship with Him. Harris maintains hat superficial understanding of the Bible will not hold when tried and tested by the storms of life. The opening statement of the book sets the stage for the rest. Harris writes, " We're all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true." Harris writes that doctrine, the proper understanding of God and what He is like, coupled with orthodoxy, the proper practice of what we know to be true about God, will make or break a believers walk with Christ. Harris deals with doctrinal matters in a way that takes them out of the classroom and places them into real-life practice. In each of his chapters, he deals with a different doctrinal discipline and makes it easy to understand. A few of those doctrines are: God, Jesus Christ, Salvation, the Bible, Sanctification, the Holy Spirit, and the Church. I appreciate the path in which Harris took in writing this book. He has built the case for every believer becoming a student of God's Word and not being afraid of digging deep. This book is well written, it is deep, but not overly academic. His personal story woven throughout the book is what makes the book believable. The study guide that is included in the book is a great tool for small group study. I highly recommend this book. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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  • Posted May 22, 2011

    Fantastic book:must read

    As Christians, we nearly all have sang the song "The Wise Man Built His House Upon The Rock." as children, and as we grew older, we already had presumed that we were the wise man. Is this always true? In this theologically brilliant book, Joshua Harris reveals that not all Christians have a solid foundation. He then proceeds to show some important doctrines that every Christian should agree with, such as "Jesus is the Son of God." and others of this simplicity. He uses both humorous examples and his own true stories to prove his point, all the while showing the truth within the message.


    I can not agree with Josh Harris more. Every Christian should cement their foundational beliefs and doctrines, lest they be washed away by a storm. Even if they don't completely agree with all of the beliefs written in the book, this book still is a great reminder to be prepared with our doctrines fully ready for any storm the devil throw our way, so we can come out of our house after the storm without even a dent of damage. Overall, I thought it was a great book. I am still a huge fan of Joshua Harris's, and Alex and Brett Harris for that matter. I have loved all of their books that I have read. Josh has done it yet again with this wonderfully sound theological manuscript.

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  • Posted May 20, 2011

    Great for New Believers

    Joshua Harris, author of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" has written a new book entitled "Dug Down Deep." In his new book Josh sets out to explain about theology and doctrine and how it is vital to the Christian faith. This book is written in a very clear format, step by step about what theology and doctrine and in a clear explanation of why it is important.

    However, I found this book to be a bit boring. I believe this book is great for new Christians and offers a lot of good information, but it didn't really hold my attention. This book is a great starting place for many new Christians and offers real life experience from Josh as he seeks a deeper knowledge and understanding of doctrine while explaining to readers difficult concepts. In addition, this book includes an in-depth study guide, which makes it even more understandable for new believers.

    In one part of the book Josh states, " I know from experience that it's possible to be a Christian but live life on the surface .The surface can be an empty tradition. It can even be doctrine without application." These quotes challenged me to go to a deeper level, but again, I believe this book covers many basics of the faith. It was a great refresher, but not a book that I truly enjoyed.


    Thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah publishing company for providing me this complimentary book to review. These opinions are my own, they did not pay me for this review.

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