A week after announcing that he is separating from his wife, author and pastor Joshua Harris said that he is also leaving the faith. At the same time, he apologized to women and LGBTQ for the theology he previously taught:
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.
I remember Harris’ books being handed out like candy at the PCA churches I’ve been a part of. He took over when C. J. Mahaney left the church in Maryland.
What an incredible lapse of discernment on the part of so, so many.
Well, I never cared much for his first book, but I’m hesitant to assume that just because he has apostatized today that he must have been terrible yesterday and everybody should have been able to see it.
Absent obvious evidence of his unfitness or false faith, I’m more inclined to say “what an incredible fall.”
Hindsight is 20/20, and it’s easy for those who weren’t in the middle of it to judge, but I think it’s worthwhile for those who knew him well to ask what the warning signs were 10 or 20 years ago. Even those who only knew him a bit should be asking.
Honestly, I think this is the major benefit we can get from the grayer beards in the church: they’ve seen a few of these before and can spot warning signs that the rest of us don’t see.
“Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.”
1 Timothy 5:22 NASB
[Elders who rule and teach] must be not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. (1Tim 3:6) This means that a person teaching doctrine must be of proven character. And if he was tested, Josh Harris’ “conversion” would have come into question long before he was thrust into the public eye.
How much was he abetted in his debacle by scores of mindless sycophants. Besides having a front row seat to all the kookiness of the CJ Mahaney SGM stuff, think of what this man has seen. He has seen multitudes hang on his very word when he knew it was all just another “term paper project” to him. An abstract matter of study for him, just another subject matter. He has seen them all swoon as he prayed in the pulpit, to a God that was just a proposition to him, as he had never really “tasted and seen that the Lord is good”. So how can he now or ever, respect the words of well meaning people who are now trying to counsel him unto repentance, or into genuine conversion? Unless the Holy Spirit weighs in no man can come to God and doubly so for someone who has been hardened by these things.
But I must applaud his honesty. If I were given the chance to witness to him, I would use the text from 1John 5:10-12
“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself, he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”
I would stress that it is God from heaven that bears witness to the record of Christ, his death, resurrection, ascension and to what it all means for us. It is not based upon our presentation, our reasoning, evidences or whatever. The converting gospel is a proclamation by the preacher on earth while at the same time it is confirmed by the Spirit to the soul. It is God Himself proclaiming from heaven concerning Christ the mediator. It is “through the foolishness of preaching that men are saved”. And it will always be this way because God has designed it so “our faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God”.
It’s certainly sad to be sure. Reminds me of similar situation with Derek Webb a few years ago. He wore that great album on marriage and the church. Then he had an affair, divorced his wife and very publicly left the church saying it was the best decision he’s ever made.
I didn’t read Harris’s first, most famous book. But I thought Boy Meets Girl was helpful. I think it was a rehash if the same. I think the concept of saving romance and not giving your heart away too easily is a good message for young Americans. Seek marriage, not hook-ups. And seek Christ first.
Any way, to paraphrase Chip McGregory, “Oh, sad day!”
Joshua Harris is the son of Gregg Harris, who back in the day was one of the bigger names in the homeschooling community.
At 21, Joshua wrote IKDG to promote courtship, without having at that stage been in a courtship (remember when many of us discounted Bill Gothard’s teaching in this respect - why should he coach when he never got to play?) The book was a rousing success, and it made Joshua into the Golden Boy of the homeschooling community, in particular. But it also encouraged something which is all too prevalent in Fundamentalism - the mindset that external conformity to the Law is both enough, and will guarantee ‘success’. Gothard was the prize example of this teaching, but hardly the only one.
It does not seem to have dawned on anyone that someone as good-looking and tall as Joshua would not have had any trouble in finding someone to marry. So, when he did get married, it was hardly a surprise that someone as ‘successful’ as he would end up in ministry. No wonder John Wimber once said, “Never trust a leader without a limp!” And he (Joshua) does not seem to have any formal training before going into full-time ministry either.
And then, the craziness of SGM and CJ Mahaney. Joshua had to contend with facing up to why Mahaney was forced to leave the ministry, and when he then left it to study at Regent, the chickens came home to roost. Had he been living a lie?
As for courtship, that teaching badly needs a reboot. I could go on for several pages as to where I think it got things wrong. Joshua, to his credit, published a mea culpa a couple of years ago, in which he admitted that he had got things quite wrong here. We should have been more critical, and earlier.
Dear Mr. Dugas,
Can you clarify what you’re referring to? Every sermon or message from C.J. I’ve listened to has been helpful to lift up the authority of God’s Word and urge us to faithfulness to it. I’ve always been encouraged by his zeal.
I read once that the important thing to remember, before you bemoan McCarthyism, is that there was a big, scary thing called Communism. In other words, it’s easy for moderns to be horrified at the communist witch hunts of the 1950s. And they were horrible, they were stupid, they ruined lives, etc. But you have to put them in perspective, and realize they didn’t happen in a vacuum. They happened in response to a big, scary thing called Communism. A thing that killed millions of people and threatened the Western world.
I grew up with Josh Harris. His book was ubiquitous, and lamestream, and obnoxious. I despised Josh Harris before it was cool to despise Josh Harris. Before Josh Harris despised Josh Harris.
But the point that Joseph makes is an important one. It’s easy for Hindsight Snobs to sneer at that book, twenty years down the road. But just as Joe McCarthy didn’t happen in a vacuum, that book didn’t happen in a vacuum. It happened in a society at the turn of the twenty-first century, when transgressive sexuality and post-modern liberalism (and libertinism) were fast encroaching on traditional Christianity. Christian parents like mine had lived through the sexual revolution, and thirty years down the road from it, they were beginning to see its true cost–how much ground we had lost. They saw their kids (like me) tempted to sexual promiscuity of a kind that felt new and scary (whether it was actually new or scary is another question, but it felt like new and scary).
OF COURSE people turned to Josh Harris. OF COURSE they turned to all kinds of conservative Christian gurus with easy formulas for restoring health to our social mores. Fighting an enemy such as twentieth century sexual debauchery requires faith. And having faith is hard. People will always be tempted to replace faith with a formula (“if I just do courtship instead of this dating, it will definitely go well for me and my children”).
That’s not to say that formulas are never helpful. As it happens, Josh Harris’s formula for courtship helped lots of people avoid the dangers of traditional dating. But then we had to scramble to come up with a formula to avoid what is dangerous about Josh Harris-style courtship.
Formulas have their place, when not taken overly seriously, or imposed on one Christian’s conscience by another. But apart from true faith, and the difficult work of sanctification–taking up our individual crosses–they are worse than useless. They are the man-made rules of the Pharisees.
In summation, Harris happened at a time when it was easy for lots of people to turn to a man such as Harris. We should have sympathy for them. I daresay we should have a little sympathy for him. He was a legalist who discovered how empty his doctrine of works truly was. That’s a sad story.
And if you want to predict who the modern Harris is, the guru who Hindsight Snobs in twenty years will be mocking you and me for believing in … you have to think about where we most feel the tension. And who offers to alleviate it with a formula that makes it seem simple to avoid the tension.
I promise I’m not thinking of anyone in particular. But I wonder if the Josh Harris of today, the Josh Harris for the people on this forum, the guy who everyone will be making fun of all of us for believing in twenty years, might not be a guy with a scraggly beard. A guy with a formula for making a return to manhood and womanhood simple. For giving us dignified husbands and hardworking sons and submissive wives and feminine daughters. All of which you can do NOT by having the faith to wade into the complexity of these things, but by simply doing … X.
I’ll tell ya one thing. If we can all agree on who is the modern Josh Harris, he isn’t the modern Josh Harris. The true modern Josh Harris is someone in whom many people in this forum, not excluding yours truly, would be tempted to believe.
Daniel, I am not talking about Mahaney’s message. I am referring to his mismanagement, actually a departure from adhering to the scriptures, regarding the child molestation scandals [plural] that happened during his watch. Also his heavy hand in pressuring the parents of victims not to go to the police, his covering up for the perpetrators and manipulative actions to force an outcome. Do your own googling and you will learn quite a bit. Added to this is the departure from the scriptures I quoted regarding placing young and unproven men, like Josh Harris, in teaching positions. The whole thing was a big mess and brought disrepute upon the Name of Christ and it did so because there was a willful turning away from the course of action prescribed in the scriptures. Read and learn about the history and lives that were damaged because “the show must go on” and we can’t have these victims bringing unneeded attention to the cover up of key people who molested kids. It’s all very very sad.
Josh Harris wasn’t really a thing in the Christian circles I grew up in. I didn’t know of anyone who read his books. Not that big among the reformed Dutch I guess.
However, when I met my now wife(grew up SBC, where Harris was popular), she had walked away from the faith for a time. Now that she was a fully committed Christian, she had been reading a lot on what this meant in her everyday life, especially in the area of relationships. She had recently read Harris’s 2nd book, When Boy Meets Girl. I asked to borrow it, and read it, and I have to say, I was pretty impressed by it at the time.
One of the big takeaways that I got from it was that you couldn’t boil relationships down to a formula because every circumstance will be different. For example, pretty hard to involve Christian girl’s father in a courtship if he isn’t a believer and thinks the whole thing is ridiculous. As I recall, he emphasized Biblical wisdom in people’s circumstances, with an emphasis on strategies to avoid becoming overly invested emotionally and physically in each other before you were sure you wanted to get married.
When I heard about his “apology documentary” he did while attending Regent College, I thought, “boy, everybody needs to apologize for everything these days. I thought his second book covered most of what seemed to be people’s problems with the first. Why do you need to apologize so in so spectacular a fashion for some of the errors? A retraction of some things and a new printing should take care of it.”
All this to say, yeah, there may have been warning signs for Josh Harris’s apostasy, but there was a reason he was popular too. There was wisdom in some of what he had to say, and moving away from that wisdom is what lead to his apostasy. It didn’t bring him closer to a biblical track.
The fact that true holiness, holiness for the purpose of glorifying God, will be dragged through mud in all this is what saddens me most.
I’ve remained quiet (up till now) on Joshua Harris, mostly because I pretty much bypassed him and the work for which he was famous (Kissing Dating Goodbye). By the time that book and its attendant hoohaw among my confreres bubbled up to the top of evangelical consciousness, I was 17 years into my first (and only) marriage, and my quiver contained four daughters.
Dating, obviously, was on my radar only insofar as it might apply to my lovely lassies, and while they were wee ones (pre-kindergarten!), my wife and I had already decided (1) what our family policy about “dating” was going to be, (2) what our family policy about the marriage of our daughters was going to be, and (3) most importantly, what we were going to incorporate into the rearing of our daughters from their very tender years onward concerning their future relationships with prospective husbands.
So, when Harris’ book appeared, we didn’t need it. And, we had other fish to fry, and mostly ignored it.
But, reading all the comments thus far, I suddenly had this question: What right now is Harris’ “posture” toward his earlier published books - Kissing Dating and the collateral publications depending on it? Is he, for example, going to cash the next royalty check he gets from the sale of any of those publications?
A trip to Amazon showed me that you can still order these materials. And, so, I’m supposing he will receive contracted-for royalties from these. I noted on his author’s page at Amazon, however, a reference (though hot a hot link) to a statement on his personal website, in which he announces that his publisher (Multnomah) “will not reprint the books after the current copies in their inventory are sold.” I haven’t taken the time to learn if the various foreign-language translations of this book are covered by this agreement or not.
I suppose this displays a modicum of authorial integrity.
Was there anything good in his works? It’s sort of beside the point now. What Christian would wish to cite his testimony to something otherwise defensible from Scripture by quoting his published work? Indeed, his repudiation of his own work - including, of course, a virtual repudiation of anything wise or Scripturally correct his work contains - is part of the wreckage he leaves in his own wake. Blech.