Dug Down Deeper

06 Dec

I’ve been reading Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris. dug down deep

I fondly remember attending seminars by his father, Gregg Harris back in the 80’s – and I remember him frequently telling stories about Josh and showing slides of a mop-haired young boy. So it’s a bit weird to be reading this book – something like running into the adult versions of little kids you knew decades ago. Has so much time really passed?


If the definition of a good book is one that makes you think and process, then Dug Down Deep is a very good book for me right now. Love Josh’s heart, his stories, his humor. And some of his points that I would have given the simple nod to years ago I now find myself doing a double take on.

For instance:

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 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. 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.

Orthodoxy is the irreducible truths about God and his work in the world.


So here’s my double take. Which historic Christianity? Catholic? Greek Orthodox? Syriac? Coptic? Protestant? Which historic form? Which branch of the tree?

It depends on which Christian you’re talking to, doesn’t it?

Proponents of each historic form of Christianity would adamantly argue that theirs is a (or the) legitimate, authentic, and yes, orthodox, form of Christianity – each containing what for them are the “irreducible truths” of Christianity.

When I saw those words, “irreducible truths,” the thought that immediately came to mind – in fact I wrote them in the margin, and I don’t usually write in the margin of most books – “irreducible by whom”?

It takes a certain brand of nearsighted hubris (available on just about all religious shelves; I know – I’ve bought and sold it for years) to define as “irreducible” truths the set of creedal propositions coming out of, for instance, Alexander Campbell and company in 19th century America and the consequently dubbed the “Restoration Movement.” Or the set of propositions coming out of Calvin’s Institutes and subsequently dubbed “Reformed Theology” (which is essentially where Harris is coming from, I’m gathering). Or even the Vineyard Statement of Faith coming out of John Wimber’s movement, for that matter. Catholics can, at least, claim the primacy of being on the scene sooner – though they would have to take that up with their Eastern Orthodox neighbors, along with historic Syriac and Coptic forms of Christianity.

Who has the right irreducible set of truths?

And is finding that correct irreducible set of truths that Harris defines as “sound doctrine” really what it is all about? Is this the final litmus test through which we must pass to achieve heaven and eternal salvation? Is this the shibboleth we must correctly pronounce to pass over the bridge of death safely to the other side?

Harris has indeed “dug down deep,” but do we in fact need to “dug down deeper”?


Posted by on December 6, 2012 in Church, Doctrine & Heresies, musings, Religion


Tags: , , , , , ,

8 responses to “Dug Down Deeper

  1. Birgit

    December 6, 2012 at 4:38 am

    Well, since some Catholic ‘irreducible truths’ (dogmas – infallible truths binding to all believers as defined by the magesterium (( stubborn disbelieve in which makes you guilty of the mortal sin of heresy) ))haven’t achieved that status until about 60 – 200 years ago (before which said “infallible truth now binding to all” were quite debatable) I don’t think they should get props for getting in on the early process of developing dogma, since by now the list of divine truth all believers are required to believe is so darn incredibly looooooooong!

  2. Stephen Parker

    December 6, 2012 at 5:20 am

    A wise person recently helped me truly believe, deep down inside, that it is not as important to be right (about orthodoxy, or anything else, for that matter) as it is to be loving. So yes, we need to dig deeper to get at the heart of Christianity. With that said, the academic part of me cannot help but wonder…is there anything upon which EVERY Christian “branch” agrees? If so, what? Is it possible to list things that are actually so basic that they really do meet his definition of “Orthodoxy”? I am curious to know what you think.

  3. Jon T

    December 6, 2012 at 5:26 am

    There you go again, making God all “complicated” and hard to pin down. How am I supposed to be an apologist for anti-supralapsarianism when you’re going around saying things like this? 🙂

  4. wordhaver

    December 6, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I would say that’s a fair assessment, Birgit! And it is incredibly loooooooong indeed! 🙂

  5. wordhaver

    December 6, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Actually, I so enjoyed our recital of the apostles creed on Sunday. What a beautiful, poetic, simple statement! The story captured is, IMHO, the DNA in every branch of Christianity – if we can resist the temptation to expand it to several volumes through our commentary and elaborations… Though Paul captured it even more beautifully, I would venture, in his six stanza song of 1 Timothy 3:16-17. He even gives it a better title: “Behold, how great is the mystery!” This sounds like a nice follow-up post soon. Thanks for your comment, Stephen! I appreciate you! 🙂

  6. wordhaver

    December 6, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Sorry Jon! 🙂

  7. birgitph

    December 7, 2012 at 6:29 am

    I loved that too – both the creed and the doxology!

  8. wordhaver

    December 7, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Both of those always strike deep, spiritual watersheds within me…


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