Joshua Harris, famous for writing “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” on the courtship model, announced via Instagram that he is no longer a Christian. In it, he explains his “deconstruction” of a biblical worldview and further expresses remorse for many of his previous beliefs. Inevitably, what this portrays of Joshua Harris is that he went down a road seeking to “repent of his wrongs” in advocating for what can only be construed as biblical conservatism, yet came out on the opposite side of that journey as an unbeliever.
For Joshua Harris, this journey didn’t lead to an embrace of Progressive “Christianity”–not yet at least. In the end, it looks much the same, sans the false notion one can deny the text and remain a Christian. For that, I earnestly think he is more forthright than many of his predecessors who have left the Evangelical world. His embrace of the sexual anarchy that is homosexuality, departure from men’s roles in ministry, etc., is but the cherry on top of his apostasy. Surely, if one departs wholly from “all the measurements [they] have for defining a Christian,” it is little wonder they would likewise depart from the biblical sexual ethic, or any biblical ethic.
Nevertheless, it is an incredibly sad thing to witness. Here you find a man married for twenty plus years announce his divorce amicably, as if the separation of what God joined together is as low-key as returning an unwanted grocery item to the store. Just a few days later we then find the stoic picture by a serene lake and scenic mountains, announcing his departure from the faith. Truly, it is a breathtaking view of the handiwork of our Creator and one who stands before it as if to say, “It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
I look upon it, read, and grieve for how casually he has thrown away the preciousness of the gospel. Here we have the opposite of Matt. 13:44-46, where a man experiences the blessings and benefits of living amongst the wealthy sojourners who sold all they had in order to gain riches eternal, all the while not tasting the goodness of Christ. He may have chewed upon it; his mouth may have even salivated–yet he spit it out, all the while never tasting of it. He labored, toiled even, for years–yet never for the sake of the gospel or out of a love for Christ.
This is where it gets particularly difficult for those who remain as they reconcile with the fact that the worst part about being deceived is that the deceived are never truly aware they are deceived. They acted like a Christian. They looked like a Christian. They did and said Christian things; and yet the apostle John just simply says of them, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19, NASB). Surely, they might, “…feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful,” yet they are dead, sleepers, and without any hope at all.
If you’ve never witnessed someone apostatize firsthand, this episode involving Joshua Harris is but a minor twinge of sadness. Surely, we can grieve from afar–but none will grieve as much as those close to him who will continue on in Christ. We can lament the fact that he dangles over the pit of hell by the slenderest of threads, held only by the stablest of hands in the Sovereign One. We can contemplate the significance in the difference a single breath can make, as it is but one breath to the next that holds the distinction between salvation and damnation. But we will never contemplate those truths with as much gravitas as the young man who looked up to Joshua Harris as his pastor, or the blossoming young couple he led through pre-marital counseling, or the elderly widow he took the time to speak to on Sunday mornings prior to service.
There is a vast difference between knowing of the apostate and knowing the apostate–and these are those whom should be the focus of our prayers. If you didn’t know, these are the same people who dealt with the fallout of sexual abuse amongst their midst, under the leadership of CJ Mahaney. Mahaney caught the most media attention for these scandals, but as many have come to reveal years afterward, former leadership is likewise culpable for mishandling abuse victims (and criminals). Pray for these people. They have surely endured the crucible in many ways and this simply piles on top of an already burdened people. Nonetheless, we still need to be in prayer for others under his influence, that they do not follow in his example of making a shipwreck of their faith.
We need to be reminded of the fact that men are fickle, fickle creatures. While some might be tempted to blame this on New-Calvinism, the reality is that sin wreaks havoc in every tradition, whether strictly confessional or not. This is not to say creeds and confessions are worthless barometers of orthodoxy and orthopraxy, but that they shall never prove one’s genuineness. They shall never measure the state of their heart before their Creator and reveal their love for Christ. Indeed, there have been many, are many, and will be many who hold to the most lovely and elevated concepts of God and articulate rich, historic doctrines with theological acumen, who have no love of Christ. This is a particularly frightening thing for all who love theology.
The volume of celebrity pastors, leaders, musicians, etc., departing from the faith or even falling away in incredibly devastating ways is an indication of the whole; think of how many unknown, small-town pastors are doing the exact same thing. How many men who have no genuine love for Christ are preaching each Sunday, only because they have no viable source of income that will stream in from the book deals, interviews, and so forth, when they depart from the faith? How many unknowns are doing much the same? Worship leaders, bible study leaders, community group leaders, etc. How many are serving–not the church, nor Christ, but their true father, Satan?
The difficulty with Joshua Harris Instagraming his way out of his marriage and subsequently, the faith, is that it is so apropos a metaphor for our generation. We are a trite people, who think trite thoughts, and display our triteness for the world to consume in equal measure–all the while fancying it is something of intrinsic worth when our lives are but a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow. For that reason, social media is the perfect representation of mankind in all its grandeur. It gives a soundbite generation the ability to showcase their cleverness, tolerance, inclusion, love, and whatever else they desire to highlight as virtuous before the eyes of men. What shall be laid bare though before the Sovereign is the heart, revealed precisely for what it is through the very Word of God, which is able to pierce to the innermost part of man and judge its thoughts and intentions.