August 5, 2019

Joshua Harris Denounces Christianity, Doesn’t Distort It

It used to be that we would hear tell of a Christian who had “fallen away” from the faith through personal channels. Sadness and prayers for that individual’s renewed faith would quietly follow. Nowadays, announcing a departure from the faith makes for a trendy Instagram post and attracts public interest. Or such is the case of Joshua Harris, a well-known Evangelical pastor and the author of the uber-popular book I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

In an Instagram post published on July 26, Harris captioned a photo of himself declaring he has made a “massive shift” and “fallen away” from the Christian faith. Harris wrote, “By all the measurements I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”

Harris writes that he has spent the past several years repenting for his teachings’ “fear-based approach to life,” views on women in the church, and parenting. But what I find most striking is Harris’ apology specifically addressed to members of the LGBTQ community. Harris shared:

[T]o the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry. I hope you can forgive me.

Joshua Harris attends pride parade in Vancouver. Photo credit: The Christian Post

Then on August 4, Harris posted photographs of himself marching in a pride parade in Vancouver. The Christian Post reported that Harris posted several photos such as the one here with the caption “An American in Canada marching with the British Consulate in the Pride Parade.” (The photos of Harris at the Pride parade appear to have been removed from Instagram as of this morning. Or I am unable to access them.)

A significant pause to affirm progressive sexual ethics amidst a denunciation of Christianity seems odd. Such a clean cut from Christianity is especially surprising when there is a push by progressives for Christians to expand historic traditional teachings on sexuality and marriage. If there is any bright spot to be seen in this sad post, it is that Harris doesn’t compromise or alter the faith’s teachings to fit a popular narrative, as is the tendency of so many influencers under the Institute on Religion & Democracy’s (IRD) monitor.

IRD President Mark Tooley was the first to make this observation. “Evangelical author Josh Harris’ self-proclaimed exit from Christianity seems to have integrity,” explained Tooley. “Unlike many others, he’s not demanding it bend to his purposes or denying its identity. He’s just leaving because he no longer believes.”

Tooley is right that there is a refreshing honesty to Harris’ rejection. I find myself thinking of so many other news stories and events that I’ve monitored sharing the same sad conclusion. A popular Christian figure as influential as Harris compromises on a particularly hot button issue. Their theological alterations trigger reactions from across the ideological spectrum and often breeds confusion and ultimately causes harm to Christian public witnesses. Harris spares all that.

Harris’ denouncement of the faith came just a week after another, equally saddening Instagram post sharing news of his separation from his wife–a shocking admission from the man who literally wrote the evangelical guidebook for courtship with intention towards the sacredness of marriage.

Harris has since rejected the courtship model popularized in I Kissed Dating Goodbye, but the book’s influence on an entire generation of young Evangelicals is undeniable. (IRD guest writer Abri Nelson reflects on her own encounter with I Kissed Dating Goodbye and the hazards of Harris’ courtship model here.)

By now, there are oodles of articles and blog posts publically reflecting on Harris, his books, purity culture, homeschooling, exvangelicals, and the like. One of the most valuable comments I’ve read is published over on The Gospel Coalition. A piece penned by Harris’ former friends including Collin Hansen, Kevin DeYoung, Justin Taylor, and Greg Gilbert, issue caution to those who want to figure out what went wrong.

They write, in part:

While some basic ruminations can be justified, we ought to be wary of making sweeping judgments either corporately or personally.

And:

Our hope is that we may once again boast in the cross with our old friend. At the very least, we hope he will travel this new path with a bit more caution himself. Divorce and deconstruction are confusing. They are painful. They are destabilizing. It seems, therefore, better that they would be largely out of the public eye. Instagram seems a poor vehicle for honest self-assessment. Transparency, overrated in our day as it is, is certainly less sanguine when we aren’t sure who we are or what we will become.

Caution to avoid speculation and broad characterization is good advice. The entire Gospel Coalition article is worth the brief read.

It is never easy to report on any individual’s “massive shift” in regards to faith in Jesus Christ. Whatever the reasoning behind Harris’ denouncement of Christianity, I join others in prayer for Joshua Harris and his family. May his faith be renewed someday soon.

But perhaps it is better for Harris to publically denounce the faith altogether (and hopefully only temporarily) than to alter it and mislead another generation of young Evangelicals.

 


32 Responses to Joshua Harris Denounces Christianity, Doesn’t Distort It

  1. JR says:

    “May his faith be renewed someday soon.”

    Uh, whut? Because this:

    “Evangelical author Josh Harris’ self-proclaimed exit from Christianity seems to have integrity,” explained Tooley. “Unlike many others, he’s not demanding it bend to his purposes or denying its identity. He’s just leaving because he no longer believes.”

    And this:

    “A significant pause to affirm progressive sexual ethics amidst a denunciation of Christianity seems odd. Such a clean cut from Christianity is especially surprising when there is a push by progressives for Christians to expand historic traditional teachings on sexuality and marriage. If there is any bright spot to be seen in this sad post, it is that Harris doesn’t compromise or alter the faith’s teachings to fit a popular narrative…”

    So I’m confused here. There’s certainly an implication based on the article that Josh has found himself in conflict with the traditional sexual ethics of Christianity. I’m not judging him for that in any way.

    But how can you hope that his faith is renewed if that’s the case? Are you hoping that he ‘prays the gay away’?

    I guess I shouldn’t jump to any conclusions. I’ll leave that to the IRD.

  2. Steve says:

    Wouldn’t surprise me if Joshua Harris were gay, but he hasn’t made that announcement, so maybe you shouldn’t be suggesting he is.

    • David says:

      The same thought crossed my mind as to what prompted such an apparently sudden change.

      • MikeS says:

        1. Did not like normal dating as a young man.
        2. Divorced wife.
        3. Attends Pride (sic) event and strains to be their ally.
        4. Looks like a young Andrew Sullivan.

        So yes, I would actually bet a few hundred dollars that another big reveal is on the way.

        • Matt says:

          Why are Christians so obsessed with gay sex?
          It’s really a peculiar thing to spend so much time thinking about.
          Gay people don’t spend their life thinking about straight sex and how people that convert to heterosexuality are no longer welcome.
          Did you ever think, maybe Joshua isn’t rejecting your religion… maybe he’s rejecting people like you!? People that act nothing like Christ.
          I haven’t seen Christians this upset since the monkey trial.
          Why are you so threatened by anything that contradicts your religious doctrine, which already contradicts itself and has little basis in fact?

          • JR says:

            You saw the monkey trial?

            You’re old, dude. 🙂

          • Bonnie Wheeler says:

            Because of same-sex, God destroyed a nation – He called it sin and even named the sin and gave the nation its name

          • wm brown says:

            “…..Gay people don’t spend their life thinking about straight sex …”
            No, gay people are obsessed by sex and it by their sexual behavior that they define themselves. And, BTW, God does have a lot to say about that.

        • Steve says:

          Since we all can’t resist consulting our crystal ball, predicting he’ll be revealing his return to Christianity as a non-traditionalist after a decent interval (a year or two).

        • Jim says:

          Divorced his children- reneged on his marriage commitment before God. The fall will be great

          • Steve says:

            Wouldn’t be the first: there’s Gene Robinson and all the others he’s enabled. They all seem to be doing more than ok. All the people they supposedly loved that were hurt aren’t mentioned.

    • LarryC says:

      Have to agree. Many people reject Christianity when it no longer confirms to the lifestyle they want to live. He announced the OUT of Christianity; OUT of his church; OUT of his marriage. I predict – ward on his participation in Vancouver PRIDE – that his next move is OUT of the closet.

  3. VCH says:

    As an ordained elder in the UMC who spent more than a dozen years doing ministry as a spiritual director (with separate graduate certificate in Christian Spiritual Formation), it seems to me that Mr. Harris is going through a fairly normal phase of spiritual development. Mr. Harris was encouraged to enter ministry at quite a young age, with little education or training to provide balance to his own thoughts.

    I am not surprised that he is being quite public at this point, however unwise that may be. It is normal for someone at this stage (which he identifies as deconstruction) to be very public and apologetic for their perceived errors. I would imagine that separating from his wife is also causing great pain.

    I am sure that God will continue to move in Mr. Harris’ soul and mind, and I will keep him in my prayers. I won’t be surprised if Mr. Harris finds his faith again in the future – different, but authentic for who he will be at that time.

  4. Susan Roxby says:

    Maybe , that this man is saying that he did not love those we are called to love we believe are not living according to Bible and Gods word. Could it be ? Jesus himself walked among sinners and the least of these who were outcast by Jewish law in those days, as with the prostitute the people were going to stone, Jesus said he who is without sin let him cast the first stone, all dropped their stones and Jesus told the woman, neither do I comdem thee go and sin no more. We are commanded to love those we do not agree with reguardess of their chosen lifestyles, or preferences, but to call to attention the need of a savior and a much better way to live than to lose their soul, Every one has a personal choice to accept Christ as Lord and Savior, it is a decision one has to make for themselves. Search out scripture for the truth. Jesus also said Ye shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.

  5. Diane Peske says:

    I agree with you Chelsen that Mr. Harris is honestly rejecting Christianity. But I also think the faith he thinks he knows isn’t really the faith he believed. I posted this on a Catholic women’s site as they grieved over this announcement:

    I became Catholic (from Anglican) after our 5 left the nest. We lived in the Southern Calif. very devout Evangelical culture. Our kids’ friends went to the most conservative churches and this man was their hero – their idol in regards to sexual/marriage/dating issues. I read his book back then and knew instinctively he was dead wrong. It is not possible to be so rigid – so ‘fundamentist’ with human emotions/relationships. I understood that he was making young people buy into a “transactional relationship’ with God. Teaching them if they do “X” they will be guaranteed “y” from God. I got into shouting arguments with some of them (by now in college so I felt I could press the case) about the danger of this mindset. We discussed this with our kids and helped them navigate their dating relationships with a bit more reality. The truly truly heartbreaking thing is that several of my kid’s best friends from then – who bought into Mr. Harris’ worldview with the utmost sincerity (and with parents enthusiastically supporting it all) have endured divorce, pain, and loss of faith. I am still in touch with many of these precious adults – now in their 30’s….some having been divorced more than once. I tell them I am not the least bit surprised they lost their faith. “Everything you think you know about Jesus is ass-backwards” I have said to them more than once. Now don’t hear me as saying this with pride, or judgement. I say this to their faces with love, care, and the encouragement that they were 100% correct to reject the American form of Christianity that they learned. And maybe, just maybe they can begin again with an adult-open-mind to explore the claims of historical Christianity — which is nothing like the religion they thought it was. This is what we must continue to pray for all of them so wounded – especially Mr. Harris

    • Jim says:

      Diane you elude to some ridiculous conclusions about the marriages of best friends and the current state of marriage relationships within your family. With many relatives practicing the Catholic religion I have witnessed the demise of several marriages. To suggest that an evangelical worldview might be the root of sinful choices and decisions is frankly disingenuous at best or intentionally insulting. Having once been a Roman Catholic I can confidently declare that Rome is the last place I would recommend someone to seek truth.

      • David Gingrich says:

        Jim, I am 100% with you on Rome. But Diane sounds like a wonderful, loving Christian. I am very sorry she and her family got mixed up in Harris’s nonsense.

  6. Jeffrey Crawford says:

    Frankly, the Gospel and political correctness hold fairly contradictory positions. I Cor. 1:18 & Gal. 5:11 speak of the cross, our salvation, as being “foolishness” and being “an offense”. At its’ very heart, the Gospel is counter-culture and unsafe. It calls for a decision and for acceptance of many things that may not be considered “popular”.
    However, the message of Christ is the ultimate in love. We live in a time where our culture tries to conflate love with “happiness” and “acceptance”. Love doesn’t always work that way. True love speaks truth, even when it is painful for hearer. The writer of Hebrews speaks about the love of God being discipline (12:11). He says that discipline isn’t pleasant and even more, it is painful but in the end, it is for our best. What about that sounds safe, “correct” and inoffensive?
    If we are constantly trying to make the Gospel acquiesce to popular culture, we will find ourselves right where Mr. Harris has self-admittedly found himself. I’ve found myself there and it’s a fairly empty place to be. Only the conviction of the Holy Spirit and repentance can bring one out of that position.
    I pray that Mr. Harris and all of us, myself included, will eschew the temporary and shifting definition of love that we find in current culture for the eternal and solid foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are called to love everyone, absolutely, but we are first called to proclaim the Gospel. That is true love.

  7. Just think, had the constitutional framers (like their early 1600 predecessors) established government and society upon the Bible’s immutable triune and integral moral law (including Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13) this would never occur because no sodomite, lesbian, or “transgender” would dare risk exposing themselves (pun intended) to petition government for their “rights” or parade their wares (pun intended) in parades, schools, or libraries.

    In other words, today’s homosexual agenda is but one of hundreds of thousands of consequences of the whirlwind today’s America is reaping thanks to the wind sown by the constitutional framers when they replaced the Ten Commandments and their respective statutes and judgments with their own capricious man-made Enlightenment and Masonic traditions (aka the biblically seditious Constitution):

    “[B]ecause they have … trespassed against my law … they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind….” (Hosea 8:1, 7)

    Today’s America is reaping the inevitable ever-intensifying whirlwind (including today’s LGBTQ movement) resulting from the wind sown by the 18th-century founding fathers and fanned by today’s hoodwinked Christians and patriots who have been bamboozled into thinking they can dissipate the whirlwind by appealing to the wind responsible for creating the whirlwind.

    For more, Google online Chapter 3 “The Preamble: We the People vs. Yahweh” of “Bible Law vs, the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective.”

  8. Rebecca says:

    What is he eating in the photo? A picture is worth a thousand words.

  9. He turned his back on Christianity because he wanted to commit sin and Christianity opposes it, most likely –

  10. Mike says:

    I think he’s rejecting two things at the same time: one, legalism and two, the struggle for righteousness. It isn’t easy being a Christian. You have to let go of pride and you have to follow the invisible God’s standard of righteousness nobody really embraces. We all hate God because he is good and we are not. We all want to sin. The Christian is called to reject this “chocolate.” That’s hard for anyone, including Paul.

  11. David Gingrich says:

    The phrase “conformed to this world” comes to mind.

  12. Stanislas says:

    C’est une erreur que d’abandonner et renier sa foi.Que le Seigneur Jésus ait pitié de Harris et de tous ceux-là qui pensent comme lui. Le christianisme est une religion de libre choix et qui demande au croyant d’être sincère avec lui-même et sa conscience !

  13. Amy says:

    Divorce does horrible things to good people… it is the most painful process to endure. It is an immediate deadening of each and every future dream and hope you had for yourself- and that includes blessed, eternal hope as well. It is like having your soul ripped into two pieces. While I read his book, dated differently, and still ended up divorced…. I think it’s important to remember that we all fall short… and for those of us who believe with true faith, we are immortal beings.
    Newly divorced people say and do stupid things, very stupid things. Hurt people hurt people. Love for this man, his wife, and his family should include the lovingkindness and grace we are commanded by our Lord and Savior to extend to our neighbor. He is our neighbor, and so are each one of us reading this. It is certainly appropriate to pray for Joshua and that He will return to truth, faith, and light that is only found in Christ Jesus.

  14. Lance says:

    See Rosaria Butterfield, Christopher Yuan and now Becket Cook interviews by Eric Metaxas. Very good.

  15. Steve says:

    I wonder if he will donate all the money he made/makes on the book sales to some charity, since he no longer believes what he wrote?

  16. Jno.Schuh says:

    The most striking departure by Jesus from, Jewish law was his repudiation of divorce. The breech in the physical and spiritual unity between man and wife is worse than any other in human relations except murder, which is why the Law so strongly condemned adultery. Our Lord moved the matter to a higher plane by elevating marriage from a contract to a covenant, a relationship like that between Him and the Church, in particular between Him and the people He loved enough to die for. For a man and woman to repudiate the vows they make, however lightly, between them is like the betrayals by Peter and Judas, and when there is no turning back, indeed like Judas.

  17. (Mrs.) Jerilyn Hicks says:

    Shalom RAV! What he needs to say is not that he is denouncing “Christianity” which is nothing but essentially the Messianic Community of Yeshua or the BODY of MESSIAH, he needs to say that he is denouncing his FAITH In the Belief in Yeshua as Messiah. Many go wayward but refuse to denounce. If they are truly GOD’S, He will let Satan sieve them as He allowed Peter to be sifted. And worse. Shaul gave command to a church to oust a guy who was having sex with his step-mother and refused to quit and repent. YET, Shaul said if that one returns, and repents and returns to the Ways of Yeshua, then he is to be brought back as a brother and loved in the Body of Messiah. So time will tell it all. But he has to say he refuses to believe in Yeshua as Messiah. I’d want that public confession from him first. Then he’s released. But not? Well, GOD is not surprised by anything. There is a true falling away in over 50 percent of believers. The world through Satan’s systems have caught them and led them piece by piece elsewhere. Still, we’re not to have anything to do with those except to tell them that Yeshua loves them and they can repent and return to Yeshua’s Ways and He forgives as we will, too. These are the end of days days Read the WORD OF GOD , BELIEVE IT, and be alert to false teachings and deceptive teachings. Anything that makes you turn to the world and its materialistic and pagan other ways, is false.

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