ABUSE & VIOLENCE IN THE CHURCH, C.J. Mahaney, Calvinism, Christian Marriage, Divorce, Leaving the Church, Marriage, Marriages Damaged-Destroyed by Sp. Ab., Sovereign Grace Ministries, Sovereign Grace Ministries Lawsuit

My Thoughts on Josh Harris as a “Fallen Christian”

from Josh Harris’ Instagram acct

Josh Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and former senior pastor at Covenant Life Church, has issued a new statement on his Instagram account. He is being very honest. Not only does he confirm that he is going through a divorce, not just a separation, but he has also abandoned his faith. I’ve copied the text below in case it doesn’t show up large enough in the Instagram post.

View this post on Instagram

My heart is full of gratitude. I wish you could see all the messages people sent me after the announcement of my divorce. They are expressions of love though they are saddened or even strongly disapprove of the decision.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I am learning that no group has the market cornered on grace. This week I’ve received grace from Christians, atheists, evangelicals, exvangelicals, straight people, LGBTQ people, and everyone in-between. Of course there have also been strong words of rebuke from religious people. While not always pleasant, I know they are seeking to love me. (There have also been spiteful, hateful comments that angered and hurt me.)⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ 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.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ 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.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ To my Christians friends, I am grateful for your prayers. Don’t take it personally if I don’t immediately return calls. I can’t join in your mourning. I don’t view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful. I believe with my sister Julian that, “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

A post shared by Joshua Harris (@harrisjosh) on

My heart is full of gratitude. I wish you could see all the messages people sent me after the announcement of my divorce. They are expressions of love though they are saddened or even strongly disapprove of the decision.⁣⁣

I am learning that no group has the market cornered on grace. This week I’ve received grace from Christians, atheists, evangelicals, exvangelicals, straight people, LGBTQ people, and everyone in-between. Of course there have also been strong words of rebuke from religious people. While not always pleasant, I know they are seeking to love me. (There have also been spiteful, hateful comments that angered and hurt me.)⁣⁣

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.⁣⁣

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.⁣⁣

To my Christians friends, I am grateful for your prayers. Don’t take it personally if I don’t immediately return calls. I can’t join in your mourning. I don’t view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful. I believe with my sister Julian that, “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”


My Thoughts

I have nothing but heart-felt support for Josh. Yes, I know some of you are upset because of how the SGM sex abuse scandal was handled and you believe Josh did not tell the truth. Yes, I know some of you don’t believe that he was sincere enough in his apology about his book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Also, some of you feel like he didn’t represent you well in the documentary. I get it. I really do. And your concerns are valid and appropriate. I don’t want to dismiss your reality at all. It’s important to acknowledge the truth – from all sides.

In my earlier post about Josh, I shared my thoughts that I believe he was a victim of the culture in which he was raised. I mentioned his father, Gregg Harris, was a superstar in the Christian Homeschool Movement. This culture was destructive. It has left families in shambles, some completely torn apart.

And then he moved on to be mentored by C.J. Mahaney and take his place as senior pastor. We all know about C.J.’s character and why so many pastors removed their churches from the mother ship, Covenant Life and Sovereign Grace Ministries.

So then, after Josh left CLC and moved to Vancouver with his family, he sought out – asked for – people to send him stories about how his book affected them. I have read many, many comments and articles on the internet of people sharing how Josh’s book harmed them, their marriage, contributed negatively to their lives. Try to imagine yourself as Josh reading all of those notes – knowing your book affected lives so deeply. That’s pretty heavy.

Not many people are willing to do that. I give Josh credit for taking the difficult road and trying to understand what people went through.

Somewhere along this process, evidently Josh has also been questioning his faith and foundation. This is understandable. He’s in his 40s and doesn’t it make sense that he would want to re-evaluate his core beliefs after the mess he inherited and left at CLC?

Josh says he is no longer a Christian. He had to say that because in his old Calvinist camp, of course they would say that. They probably say that he never was a Christian because that’s what Calvinist’s believe: once God calls you, you can never leave. If you leave, then you never were. At least that’s what I’ve been told numerous times by numerous Calvinists.

We don’t know the spiritual and emotional battles he has faced these past years as he has been reflecting. We don’t know what has been in his thoughts or his heart. But for some reason, he has been willing to share part of his journey publicly with us. He didn’t have to share anything, but by doing so, he is showing his humanity, his vulnerability, and transparency.

But do you know how difficult it is to challenge everything that you’ve ever known? Do you know how difficult it is to take what you’ve learned from your parents and sift through it? Do you know the emotions that go along with that – the feelings of anger, betrayal, and sadness when you discover that you can no longer hold onto those teachings?

“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.⁣⁣”

Josh is not alone in this journey. There is a grieving process during this sifting work. It takes time, along with emotional and physical energy. This is hard work. But Josh is currently walking the path that many of us who have harmed by church have taken. This is good stuff. We should be grateful that he is doing this necessary and challenging work.

We do not know where Josh will be spiritually in 10 years. I am very grateful that he is taking the time to reflect and figure out where he is emotionally and spiritually. I hope and pray that he is able to weed through the crap, and when he gets to the end of the end of this process, that he finds Jesus, who was waiting for him the whole time. The sad reality in many of these personal stories is that he may not find Jesus, and I understand why he may not, but that is my sincere hope and prayer. Let’s give him the time and space he needs to do that.

127 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Josh Harris as a “Fallen Christian””

  1. The word filter for the blog stuck my last comment in moderation.

    I asked if it’s possible if the “M” poster above is one of two guys who were previously given the boot on this blog.

    (One of them returned under one or two other screen names at a later date.)

    Like

  2. M, the typical accusation in Evangelical circles is that people “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” The corollary is that when someone leaves the faith, they are doing so because they really want to sin and want to be unburdened from the guilt inherent in Christian morality.

    I know people whom those charges were leveled against. I was told that, in veiled terms, if I “wanted to work on my sin” that I should stay in the church. So, in their minds, I was leaving the church not because of any fault of theirs (despite the fact I pointed out specific issues), but because I wanted to sin without faithful people to point that out.

    Like

  3. “You said people who want to help practice false accusations.” While that is at lease a little misleading and false regarding what I said, is it not true that SOME who want to help do, in fact, practice false accusations? This, of course is true, but you single that out and flag this as problematic?

    On one hand, I am at a loss. It seems like stating something that is self-evident, that is also attempting truly trying to help everyone, is somehow bad or controversial. Yikes!

    On the other hand, this at least kind of, if not fully proves my points.

    Am I saying something that is not in line with some unknown (at least to me) criteria. What is that criteria, exactly? Am I now going to get kicked out of here? (proving my point) And, no, I have not been kicked out of here before, and, for what it is worth, that insinuation does bother me (assuming and lumping me in, as with some generalized associating me with someone who deserves to get kick out for some wrongdoing).

    It is these rushes to judgments and difficulty with challenges to the status quo which prove what I am saying. And while I can surely take such a small thing, it does, again, point to and affirm what I am trying to say (albeit not so clearly, apparently).

    So, what, exactly, am I doing wrong? What specific standard has been violated? Please point to something I said that was inaccurate.

    To be clear, I am trying to point out that, while we are all hurt, and most seek help, some “helpers” don’t help, and they actually hurt. True? Of course. And there are many reasons for this. And false accusations (among others) are one key way people are hurt, or how others are prevented from helping those who are hurt. Yet, proving the point again, when this is brought up, well…this is what I get. Okay, I get it.

    I wish you gave this much thought and effort, and took this much time to question the actual false narratives, and the accusations that are flagrantly false, and the more nuanced false accusations that do occur, as you did here. I will gladly bow out. Blessings to you.

    Like

  4. M, “Neither Luther or Calvin truly and fully broke away from their Catholic influences.”

    Completely agree. The difference is that today, there are Calvinists who speak against authoritarianism, and there are Calvinists who double down on authoritarianism. I think the authoritarianism is what makes Evangelicalism so destructive, not Calvinism.

    We saw how Michael Farris used the doctrine “Perseverance of the Saints”, not to comfort Christians who were struggling through times of darkness and depression or even struggling with deep sin, but as a sledge hammer to further cause fear and pain in the life of Harris.

    That is clear evidence of the harm of authoritarianism. Farris is claiming his “authority” to act as the Holy Spirit in proclaiming “Gawd’s Trooth!” to Harris – that he was never a Christian. That is an abuse of what Calvin taught and an abuse of any sort of calling he may have.

    Harris is not a wolf. Wolves act like sheep to do harm. Harris is openly saying that he is probably not a Christian. So, why is Farris treating him like a wolf when he should be treating him like Jesus treated true questioners – with open arms. Literally! Farris is protecting his empire – the purity culture, homeschooling legalists, which is why he’s going to distance himself from anything Harris says. He’s poisoning the well.

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  5. @Ray Jeske

    Oh, no. Not the “not all homeschoolers” argument. Generally speaking, people who use the “not all (fill in the blank)” argument are possibly the very ones being described.

    There are plenty of homeschoolers who do an excellent job. But some of the horror stories from this “great movement” you speak of can’t be ignored. Do you have a link recounting the “millions” who “have thrived?”

    Like

  6. M said in one post:

    To be clear, I am trying to point out that, while we are all hurt, and most seek help, some “helpers” don’t help, and they actually hurt. True? Of course.

    And there are many reasons for this.
    And false accusations (among others) are one key way people are hurt, or how others are prevented from helping those who are hurt. Yet, proving the point again, when this is brought up, well…this is what I get. Okay, I get it.

    I wish you gave this much thought and effort, and took this much time to question the actual false narratives, and the accusations that are flagrantly false, and the more nuanced false accusations that do occur, as you did here.
    — end quote —

    M said in a previous post on this thread:

    But, in this, and many similar tragedies, a major factor are bitter former Christians, bitter blogs, and bitter quasi-Christian/quasi-new-spirituality peeps who snipe at Christians and Christianity, all in the name of love, grace, etc.
    They may not know exactly what they believe about God (at least they won’t tell you), all they do know is they are zealously against Christianity, or Christians who have a high view of Scripture.

    The bottom line is that these Echo Chambers are death–death to truth, objectivity, and, apparently, to the faith of many poor souls. Did you notice how these same people were literally rejoicing over this?
    — end quote–

    I have no idea what any of that has to do with Josh Harris,
    or with the broader issue of how Christians treat people who de-convert or are going through a deconstruction process.

    Is M arguing that Harris de-converted because he went to some ex-Christian blogs and sites whose participants are “bitter”?

    Is M arguing that people are making false accusations against Harris, or that Harris has made false accusations against someone?

    Is M arguing that people who have been hurt by Christians or Christianity should not be hurt or angry about it, and should not comment about it on blogs, because doing so will supposedly cause someone else to leave the faith? If that was the point, I can say I don’t think that’s how it works.

    I am a lot like Josh Harris myself (ie, spiritual crisis),
    but the reason I’m sort of quasi-agnostic lately has nothing to do with reading so-called “bitter” ex-Christians on blogs and forums.

    (I do fully agree that some liberal Christians and ex-Christians are very bitter people, yes. And very snarky. I know the liberal Christians on Ex-Evangelical sites probably are giggling and thrilled over Harris leaving the faith but not all. Some are irate because Harris is not “woke” enough in his public comments, especially about LGBT issues)

    I’ve seen liberals, conservatives, and some Christians and some Non-Christians cackle in glee over Harris’s announcement.

    Lea said above,
    I hate when these things get turned into calvinism because that’s so simplistic. None of this IKDG or homeschooling or oppression of women came generically from calvinism.
    — end quote–

    I’m not sure how the whole thing got side tracked from Harris and deconversion to Calvinism.

    Like

  7. Been There said,
    “Doctrine Over Person” is also one of Robert Lifton’s criteria for Thought Reform. Just sayin’.
    —end quote–

    Interestingly, Jesus spoke against that very thing. He corrected the Pharisees several times for putting doctrine above people.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Lea to M said,
    You said people who want to help practice false accusations.
    —end quote—

    Did M mean to say people in the comments on this blog do t his, if so, which people? Me? You? Who?
    Or, was M saying this about this blog generally, or the blog itself?

    I’m having a difficult time following M’s points or how they apply to Josh Harris. Or do they apply? Maybe they don’t.

    Like

  9. @ M

    Do you think Ayaan Hirsi Ali is bitter?

    Do you think she should blame Islam?

    Do you think she should sit down and shut up?

    Like

  10. M, when you say “false accusations”, how do you know they are false unless you are presuming guilt? If you are allowed to presume guilt, then how can you shake your finger at us for doing the same?

    If a victim coming forward is automatically a “false accuser”, then is it not surprising that someone like, say, Bill Cosby, can rape 50+ women without a single one coming forward?

    Like

  11. I although I’m glad Josh Harris is turning away from the misguided doctrines he was raised by and taught in his books, I’m also sad about his divorce that he feels he has to turn away from his Christian faith altogether. The problem is he bought into the very restrictive legalistic rules on what a “true Christian” is and like many, he became disillusioned by it all including his faith in the church, Christianity etc. I hope one day he will eventually turn back to his faith in God and Jesus Christ with better understanding on a true believer in Christ. God Bless.

    Like

  12. M said, ” It is not all that uncommon for people to lose their faith after going to a Christian college or seminary. There is a reason why seminaries are often referred to as “cemeteries”!”

    I always heard that people lost their faith in secular college, Christian colleges and seminaries is a new one on me. The message was that we need to stay in our little group and hide away from the world or it will steal our faith away from us. This is a fear based belief that is common to cults. And, I recently read that there is actually no statistical evidence of it! It’s just one of those pieces of misinformation that get passed around with no one actually checking into it. Obviously, there are many educated people who have faith! (Probably their faith tends to be less superstitious, but I see that as a positive.) I personally think that if you have to protect your faith like a hot house flower, it probably not much of a faith to begin with.

    Plus, wasn’t his decision to go to seminary because he was already trying to sort out his beliefs? I think he did the right thing, seeking out more information, learning about it, and thinking it all over. Now he is in a process of discovering his own beliefs. That is a good thing.

    Like

  13. Daisy, I read your blog post and it really resonated with me. I agree with you on every point you made. I am in a similar place as you are in regards to my faith.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. While our psychological makeup is seldom talked about in Christian circles it affects more of what we do, how we respond in life, and the choices that we make. Most of it is done sub conscience and so we don’t really see what makes us tick. It’s usually around 40 that we are settled in life to be able to unravel our path. It doesn’t matter what it is, fundamental religion or secular life it all needs reckoning with. I have family who haven’t spent any time in church and while I’ve spent my entire adult life in church we all are reckoning with choices. It’s part of normal human development. I hope Josh and Shannon every blessing as they navigate this complicated world and that they find their place in Christ in an authentic real way. Only there can any of us see the truth and the life and the way. God knows it’s complicated and that we will make mistakes we regret. The bottom line is for us to KNOW by experience His presence and changes us for eternity.

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  15. While that is at lease a little misleading and false regarding what I said

    M, considering I quoted you directly I think it’s quite likely that your view of what is ‘false’ anything is askew.

    Like

  16. M:It seems like stating something that is self-evident, that is also attempting truly trying to help everyone, is somehow bad or controversial. Yikes! On the other hand, this at least kind of, if not fully proves my points.

    Nothing has proved your ‘points’ which primarily consist of asserting vague things you haven’t proved. Are you trying to win an imaginary debate while talking in circles? Because that is so tiresome.

    Like

  17. It’s usually around 40 that we are settled in life to be able to unravel our path.

    How interesting Brenna! I think this tracks with my own life, I am around that age and feel more sure and settled in who I am and what I want than ever. But I’m also really thinking through my life as a whole. Hmmm.

    Like

  18. To Brenna and Lea: I’m turning 60 this fall and I’m still unraveling my life path. I would also say that I’m a much different person today than I was 20 years ago, in part due to my own healing journey. It’s also another reason while I believe there’s still hope for Joshua Harris.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. R, thanks for the post – don’t really know how to take that article. I think the second half is spot on – that Harris was used for his gifts, and won’t get any real support from the movement. The first half is more “I told you so” – like R. Scott Clark – trying to make Harris look like the typical fall from grace.

    But, Trueman lumps Harris in with “Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald, Tullian Tchividjian, C. J. Mahaney” I just don’t get it. Those guys didn’t thoughtfully step away. They went down in flames!

    Like

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