Popular Christian author renounces faith

Joshua Harris, who wrote the highly influential Evangelical Christian dating book “I kissed dating goodbye” in the mid 90s announced last week that he and his wife were separating. Today, Harris announced that he has also kissed Christianity goodbye.

On his Instagram, Harris elaborated further on last week’s announcement saying:

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.⁣⁣

Harris said “by all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”

This is tragic.

Harris is an influential writer. My heart goes out to those who were influenced by his writings. Harris was a pastor. My heart goes out to those who sat under his teaching. But most importantly, I’m sad for his own soul.

Harris went on to say: “I don’t view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful.” 

The theology which Harris espoused was legalistic and based around rules. But here’s the thing: you can follow the rules and still be miserable, still have struggles in your marriage, your work, your personal life. Christianity is not about following rules, it’s about following Jesus and living the life he leads us into. Life will still be hard, we still suffer, people still hurt us. If we take a formulaic approach to rules and thinking God will give certain results, it’s setting us up for a crisis of faith.

The Bible addresses situations of people falling away. It shouldn’t be a shock to Christians when this happens. But it should also be sobering. The Apostle Paul told Christians to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says:

“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.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?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

-Matthew 7:21-23

Talking a big game about faith isn’t what matters. Participating in religious activities isn’t what saves. Knowing a lot about the Bible doesn’t mean someone knows God (in the gospels, Jesus constantly rails against the experts in the law for their cold hearts towards the Lord). It’s about trusting in Jesus and a life that bears the fruit of the gospel.

For Joshua Harris, I do sincerely hope that that he finds faith.

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Josh Benner has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.