Joshua Harris - Sincere Guy Who Never Thought Through His Faith?

Recently Joshua Harris announced that he left Christianity. I read a few articles about it and decided to actually read the interview myself. As I read, it sounded so much like a young person who goes off to college and gets confused because they start hearing all of these new ideas. And what is more - Harris seems to be open to hearing the stories of different people. He is not lashing back out against Christianity, which is refreshing. And rather than trying to make Scripture fit his new beliefs, I think it was pretty honest to just admit Scripture does not align with what he now believes. I respect that decision.

I do think that the Church leadership made a mistake putting a young guy up on stage before he had time to truly think through his faith. I think that was a failure not on Harris’ part, but on the part of the denomination or organization that he was in. He embraced all their beliefs and had a platform, but he had never really thought through why he believed (as far as I can tell).

What are your thoughts in response to this event? Does this perspective help you process it? May Christ grant us wisdom to pray for Harris and to be gracious with those who find themselves once again trying to figure out what they believe.

I think that I probably need to engage with some of those people — like I have people send me their e-books showing why premarital sex is fine, and I just don’t have the energy right now. Like, I do not want to read your book. I do not want to. I do not want to engage in a massive, you know, theological expedition to think about all these things. So it just sounds really exhausting to me, honestly.

What I think was hard for me as I was re-evaluating my book is I was starting to get all this criticism for purity culture, and I was kind of like, well, what’s the alternative? Like I really didn’t know

I think that one of the mistakes of people like me who have come out a very conservative, legalistic environment is [they can] just adopt a new legalism in a completely different way, and be very dismissive and critical of people who are still in that way of thinking. And I just I really have this desire to honor different stories. …

it actually feels more intellectually honest for me to say I don’t know that I agree with the Bible in general than it is to get it to say these things. And maybe that’s just because I spent so much time in a very conservative environment judging all these more progressive people that I’m now tempted to go past that [and] be like, forget it all.

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Sean,

The first thought to pop into my head is “satisfice” - to give up an optimal solution for the first acceptable one/gathering enough information to make a decision one believes is an informed decision without exhaustively gathering information to ensure one makes the best or right decision.

He may have lived in transferred family knowledge initially based on information but without a personal relationship with God - he may have known about God and God’s teachings but not actually known God, which is categorically different. A knowledge foundation for Christianity can be very fragile as no Christian can know everything about the faith - there is always a weak spot in knowledge. But, a believer who knows the person of Jesus and has experienced communion with Him will not doubt that He is the Way, Truth and Life, even when he is confronted with questions or circumstances or desires that eclipse his knowledge-based framework to address. I think this may be an area that older believers benefit relative to younger believers - they have known Him through ups and downs, through health and sickness, through clarity and confusion, through richer and poorer, through their childrens’ and parents’ and siblings’ births and lives and deaths. And, they have found Him faithful through it all. It can lead them not to doubt Him when things don’t seem to add up but to instead seek Him to find how to reconcile what they’ve come across with Him and what He says.

Another thought is that the knowledge of God implanted in his life when he was younger can be a catalyst to quicken a personal relationship with Jesus in the future. The world’s ways and knowledge seem wise to the lost but are foolishness to God and are proven to be so over time. Lord willing, Joshua will realize that the world has no true answers for him.

Thanks for all you do, Sean!

Kevin

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@kumquat Yes Kevin, so true that when we walk with Jesus in true communion and fellowship it is impossible to honestly deny His faithfulness and abiding presence. Like an oak tree, our roots go deep into Christ as we abide in and walk with Him over the years and when the storm comes we stand firm because of what the Spirit has done inside of us.

There is so much of Harris’ story I simply do not and probably will not know, but along with you I do pray that he could come to see the eternal glory and beauty of Jesus and that the knowledge he had in his youth would become living knowledge :slight_smile:

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I’ve never read much by Joshua Harris aside from Sex is Not the Problem (Lust Is), and I don’t think I even finished reading that. I did start rereading it after hearing about this development, and it’s interesting to see how sure of himself he was in light of more recent events.

From what I’ve gleaned about him, I’m inclined to agree with you. My overall impression is that he lived a fairly sheltered upbringing as an early student of the homeschooling movement, married young, and was catapulted to fame at a young age through I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a book which took off not because its ideas were tried and true, but because people in the Purity Movement were eager to embrace an alternative system that appeared to be biblically-supported and had clearly defined methodology. The result, I think, is that Harris never had an appropriate time in his life to examine and test his beliefs, since he was under a lot of pressure to continue holding to the untested beliefs of his childhood at a time when many people have greater freedom to explore and adapt.

In many ways, I can empathize with Joshua Harris. I was homeschooled for much of my education, and between the ideas my parents exposed me to and (mostly) my love of clearly-defined rules and tendency toward black-and-white thinking, I was quite sure of myself by the time I reached college. When I started out in community college, I was too used to seeing the secular world as wrong and irrelevant, and between being an evangelical Christian, a homeschooler, and a Young Earth Creationist, I felt great pressure to be a tribute to the groups I represented. It was, ironically, not until I attended a Christian college that I began to seriously question my beliefs and the voices that had shaped them (I daresay that says something about the quality of the college I attended). Although it’s been difficult for me, I’ve begun to see the benefit of having never been in a romantic relationship: It would have put me under further pressure to leave my beliefs unchallenged rather than risk straining the relationship.

I get the impression that Joshua Harris never really had the opportunity I had, and two decades-worth of witnessing church scandal and the backfirings of the movement he fueled have taken their toll on an under-tested faith. May God work in the midst of tragedy to rescue him from the pluralistic thinking that claims so many fallen Christians and bring him about to a more deeply rooted faith.

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@MicahB Thank you for sharing part of your journey :slight_smile: I think you expressed well my general impression that Harris simply never had the opportunity to examine his faith, or his ideas, critically and was therefore unprepared for the criticism that came his way. C. S. Lewis once said that an atheist cannot be too careful what they read - let us pray that Harris does decide to study again and comes across the right books / ideas to lead him to the truth.

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Thanks for sharing this article, @SeanO. Even though I was coming of age when Harris’ book came out, I never did read it. However, reflecting on the ‘Purity Culture’ over the last couple of years has put a lot of my (Christian) young adult years into perspective. Ha!

I have nothing but respect for Harris. It takes a lot of courage to (publicly) face up to the damage one may have caused. He’s been a public figure for some time, and he didn’t shirk from publicly listening and learning. I think he’s being admirably honest.

Praying that God will meet him where he is and show him Himself! (…which is what we’re all in need of. :slight_smile: )

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I can see now that the same thing happened to Marty Sampson the singer/songwriter from Hillsong Church.
The thing that is not clear for me is why they insist on specifically saying that they are " alive " " awake " hopefull " “happy” or “at peace” , why is that the case now when it should have been the case before, when they were professing christians ? How can you be all that apart from God ?

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@ciprian.boldi I can imagine Harris was relieved to be done with the ordeal of living in confusion. A person can be fairly happy no matter their worldview if their circumstances are comprehensible within their way of thinking. What is most difficult is to find yourself in a circumstance that makes no sense within your worldview or for which your worldview does not give you the tools to cope.

The difference with Jesus is that He offers peace that is based in the truth. Without Jesus, we all face death and we are powerless to right the wrongs of this world. Jesus offers us justice and peace and glory and joy eternal - not simply based on our circumstances and not based in falsehoods.

Below threads discuss reaching the happy thinking pagan:

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@KMac I agree that the way Harris has handled the situation - at least what I have seen - was respectable. And I sincerely hope he comes to see that ideas that are most modern are not necessarily most accurate and that sometimes it is modernity that is rooted in myths and the ancient truths that are rooted in reality.

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@SeanO I guess a part of his mismatch with christianity comes from not having answers to quote: " the contradictions in the Bible… and the fact the science keeps piercing the truth of every religion " and " no one talks about it " . Could this also be a failure of the church because it doesn’t tackle the really difficult questions ?

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@ciprian.boldi I am not sure if it is failure on the part of the Church or a choice by this individual to accept reductionist answers to complex questions. As we know, science is not in opposition to the idea of a God who created the material world - the two explanations work together. And as a whole the Bible is cohesive if you are willing to study and think deeply rather than dismiss every apparent discrepancy without additional study. But it does take effort and a willingness to learn in order to understand those truths. May the Lord open this individual’s mind / heart to think deeply about these issues.

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@SeanO Amen , I pray that too!
I agree with what you said , most of the times it’s all about the effort that we are willing to put into researching that which is that confuses us and not simply skimming over the surface of a profound truth.
God bless you !

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@ciprian.boldi You as well :slight_smile:

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Yeah, whatever happens to Joshua and Marty, I’m just glad and more convinced than not about the work we are doing here, the community we are building, and that all of us are chipping in to do what most churches have difficulty doing or not too well-equipped to address.

I hope these events awaken every Christian to the need for apologetics. To facilitate hard questions and not shy from them, dismissing and pretending it is not a problem. “They just need to have more faith” or “just believe, no need for questions” is like sweeping dirt under the rugs and papering over the cracks that will soon accumulate and surface one day.

Thank you everyone for being a part in building this community for so many Christians with potentially faith-leaving questions. Remember always that 1 soul lost is too many.

This reminds me of Jesus dealing with John the Baptist’s question before his beheading, whether He is the messiah in Luke 7:18-23. Jesus actually rewarded John’s question with a very theological answer, backed up with signs based on the Scriptures. And Jesus gently added at the end of the answer, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me

You can have question, seek it from the right place for answers (John sent his disciples to seek Jesus), and don’t fall away or leave the faith. The sin lies not in having questions, but in having questions and not seeking answer (at least not from the right source) and then leaving the faith.

In regards to Josh and Marty, I believe beyond the questions, they are also dealing with a lot of personal pressures that we don’t see, which contributes more to their falling away than simply questions. But that’s not up to us to judge. It may be God’s way to free them from those shackles to help them find their way back to Him unhindered. Let’s wait and pray for them, the story is not over yet.

Blessings, stay strong.
Roy

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@RoySujanto I echo your sentiments that Connect is a unique community and pray the Lord will use it to encourage and provide guidance for many who are seeking truth. And may God’s Spirit fill them with the joy and peace of Christ when they face challenging circumstances.

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