Bernie Diaz, July 30, 2019
There are days and weeks in which bloggers struggle to find the single best question, controversy or theme to address in a given post, particularly for those of us bloggers who post about worldview and theological issues.
Sometimes there is a scarcity of material relevant enough to grab the attention of a good number of our readers and other times there may be too many options to choose from. This week does not fit into either of those two scenarios but is one in which I was led overwhelmingly to opine and chime in on, in the wake of the news report that a prominent author, speaker and former pastor has apparently renounced his faith in Jesus Christ.
Joshua Harris, the author of the best-selling book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, essentially and publicly announced in an Instagram post last week that he is ‘kissing Jesus Christ goodbye,’ saying he is no longer a Christian.
The shocking admission comes just a week after Harris publicly announced that he and his wife, Shannon, were separating after 20 years of marriage but would remain “friends,” as they continue to raise their three children together.
In the Instagram post, Harris commented on the responses he received about his pending divorce and dropped the other shocking bomb shell by revealing that he is “falling away” from the faith and no longer identifies as a Christian.
How and why does a pastor, preacher or any Christian for that matter, become an “ex-Christian?” Is it even possible for that to happen, to become a Christian, be born-again and yet die again to the faith once professed and depart from it?
The scriptures which address this topic are many and is a two-millennia plus old issue in the church, which even the author and finisher of our faith and the divinely inspired authors of God’s word dealt with from the birth or inception of Christianity, definitely answering “no” to the possibility of ‘ex-Christians.’
In one of the most thought-provoking if not terrifying passages in all of the Bible, Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, in drawing the distinction between mere professing and true, Spirit-possessing believers, said:
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt. 7:21-23, ESV).
The implication of Jesus was made clear in those words. There were, always have been and will be people who profess saving faith in Christ, even evidence some good works in his name; today they could be regular and giving church goers and doers, serving in the ministry even to the extent they could be serving as pastors and preachers and yet ultimately will bear the fruit that they were never regenerate or born-again as disciples to begin with (“And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’”).
Christians are reminded here to refrain from judging others in the sense of condemnation and should hesitate before making a final judgment on someone’s heart and spiritual condition, knowing that there is such a thing as a “backslidden” or prodigal son of God, who is in sin and may even stray from the faith for a time, but will eventually return as a regenerate or born-again Christian.
The apostle Peter and his triple denial of Christ on the eve of the crucifixion of his Lord and master is one such example.
However, we can also hold that truth in tension, in contrast to those that will not repent, proving they were never real believers to begin with such as Judas Iscariot, one of the original twelve, and as was the case of some antichrists or false teachers dividing churches in the first century, who under persecution also defected from the faith.
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us (1 Jo. 2:19).
The apostle John makes plain above, that true Christians persevere in the faith until the end as the final prerequisite for seeing glory as sanctified believers. It is that fortitude or endurance, the grace to finish the race that will finally distinguish the lost from the found, or the justified from those that were merely “enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away..” (Heb. 6:4-6a).
There is of course a big difference between tasting and actually digesting the gospel of God.
What would lead a professing Christian to ‘fall away’ or apostatize from the faith? Unconfessed and impenitent sin will always be the core issue of course, which may include false or heretical doctrine which seems at least in part, to be at the root of Harris’ farewell to Christ, as evidenced by his own social media posts, when he wrote as a follow-up to the first describing his marital problems:
The information that was left out of our announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is “deconstruction,” the biblical phrase is “falling away.” By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.
What event or turning point could have led to that announcement? Harris added, “Martin Luther said that the entire life of believers should be repentance. There’s beauty in that sentiment regardless of your view of God. I have lived in repentance for the past several years — repenting of my self-righteousness, my fear-based approach to life, the teaching of my books, my views of women in the church, and my approach to parenting to name a few.
But I specifically want to add to this list now: to 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.”
What Harris makes abundantly clear in his ‘confession’ of apostasy is that he long ago, at least slowly if not surely, turned to a relatively new and different doctrine, or a non-biblical understanding of human sexuality and the church, and the LGBTQ+ community specifically, apologizing for past, biblically orthodox sermons and teaching.
Tragically, Harris may now be counted as yet another casualty of the sexual revolution, as we may come to find in the days ahead that there may be linkage found from Harris’ personal life and his renunciation of his 1997 best-seller, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, written when he was just 20 years old before he had ever been in a dating relationship before, to his departure.
Three years ago, Harris wrote in a statement posted on his website, “I no longer agree with its central idea that dating should be avoided. I now think dating can be a healthy part of a person developing relationally and learning the qualities that matter most in a partner.”
Then, in announcing last year that the publication of that book would be discontinued, Harris added, “In light of the flaws I now see in I Kissed Dating Goodbye, I think it’s best to discontinue its publication, as well other supplemental resources tied to it (this includes the two books I wrote after it whose content is similar).”
Unfortunately, Harris seemingly rejected his own words affirming the biblical admonition to Christians to live sexually pure lives (1 Thess. 4:3-5) sometime before his recent public declarations.
Michael Farris, a long-time friend of Harris, a notable and national Homeschooling advocate and contributing online columnist for The Christian Post, painfully posted, “My heart aches for you in so many ways. It seems that you thought that Christianity was a series of formulas. Formulas for marriage. Formulas for systematic theology. Fear of choosing the wrong formula. Fear of failing to live up to your formula.”
Farris pointed out in his op-ed piece the view that Joshua Harris’ coming out of Christianity, reflected a heart that likely was never in the faith to begin with, stating, “I would never reach this conclusion about you on my own but what you have said yourself can be fairly summarized as this: you thought your faith and your marriage were based on formulas. They never went deeper than that.
Jesus says about people like you that in the last judgment, He will say, ‘Depart from me, I never knew you.’ You know that this means you never actually knew Him. As immersed as you were in Christian culture and a career as a pastor, you never actually knew Jesus.
It gives me only heart ache to say these things to you. And Jesus will take no pleasure in pronouncing those words in judgment of you or anyone. You haven’t walked away from a relationship with Jesus. You have walked away from the culture you were raised in.”
The best we can do in response to this sad story of apostasy as we have seen in other and similar occasions is to join Mr. Farris in praying for the heart and soul of Joshua Harris and those we know and love like him who need the gospel more than they had ever imagined before, as Farris concluded:
Jesus still loves you at this moment. And so do I and countless others. And I will love you no matter what in the days ahead. But my love is tinged in deep sadness. Josh, you and your story are not the measure of the validity of Christianity.
Jesus is real. He doesn’t want you to return to your prior formulas. He wants you to come to Him for the first time and learn to love. Amen.
In pt. 2 of this post, “Kissing Christ Goodbye,” we’ll look at the issue of Joshua Harris’ initial and influential teaching from, I Kissed Dating Goodbye.