Joshua Harris became an internationally prominent Christian when he published his first book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, at the age of twenty-three. The 1997 guide to dating focused on maintaining sexual purity before marriage by guarding against the kinds of physical contact and situations that could lead young people to give in to their lust and sin.
I didn’t read the book when it was released. But, as someone who graduated high school in 2004, I remember how the principles he espoused seemed to impact so many around me.
Harris went on to author several more books and pastor Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, from 2004 until resigning in 2015 to pursue a graduate degree at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Around the time he left his position as pastor, he publicly apologized for what he’d come to see as errors in his writings. He still maintained that there were certain aspects of those works with which he agreed. He even expressed gratefulness for the positive impact his words had had on some.
However, he came to see the work as a whole as being too restrictive and fostering a fear-based understanding of relationships.
But Harris is in the news again today for a different reason.
‘I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN.’
After recently announcing his divorce from his wife of twenty years, Harris stated this week that he has left his faith as well. As part of a long post on Instagram detailing the decision, Harris explained, “By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”
He went on to describe the many regrets he’s had from his time as a Christian leader before speaking specifically to the LGBTQ+ community, stating, “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.”
The Instagram post concluded with a note thanking his Christian friends for their prayers but warning that “I can’t join in your mourning. I don’t view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful.”
THE WEIGHT OF PUBLIC FAITH
We do not have the space today to discuss the extent to which a person can truly leave the faith (for more on that topic, please see Dr. Denison’s article, “Is it possible for me to lose my salvation?”) However, Harris’ example brings up another important issue with which many believers struggle today.
Joshua Harris is by no means the first well-known Christian to fall away from the faith that helped make him famous. If the Lord tarries, he likely won’t be the last.
At the end of the day, famous Christians are still simply people who face the same temptations and doubts as the rest of us. They just have to wrestle with them under the added pressure of living in the public eye.
What makes their fall so damaging for the kingdom, however, is that it impacts people in ways that extend far beyond themselves. Because Harris helped define the way so many young Christians saw not only their relationships with others but also their relationship with God by extension, his decision to leave the faith has caused many others to question their own.
And, if we’re being frank, that he has such power is a much larger problem, and one for which he does not bear the primary responsibility.
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Source: Christian Headlines