Josh Harris Kisses His Faith Goodbye

By Julie Roys
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In a stunning Instagram post today, Joshua Harris, the author who became famous for his 1997 book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, announced that he is no longer a Christian. “I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus,” Harris wrote. “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.” Harris added that he is open to “a different way to practice faith,” but is “not there now.”

Harris also apologized in his post for “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.” These he has apologized for before, but today, he announced he had another regret.

“I specifically want to add to this list now: to the LBGTQ+ 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.”

Just last week, Harris announced that he and his wife of 21 years are separating. (Today he said he’s getting divorced.) “In recent years, some significant changes have taken place in both of us,” Harris wrote in an Instagram post last Friday. “It is with sincere love for one another and understanding of our unique story as a couple that we are moving forward with this decision. We hope to create a generous and supportive future for each other and for our three amazing children in the years ahead.” 

In today’s post, Harris said that his “heart is full of gratitude” for the many messages people sent him after announcing his divorce. “This week I’ve received grace from Christians, atheists, evangelicals, exvangelicals, straight people, LGBTQ people, and everyone in-between,” he said. But he added that there “have also been strong words of rebuke from religious people. While not always pleasant, I know they are seeking to love me.”

In addition to writing a best-selling book, Harris also served as senior pastor at Covenant Life Church, a megachurch in Gaithersburg, Maryland, that was rocked by an alleged conspiracy to cover-up child sex abuse. 

My heart breaks over this—for Harris, for his wife and kids, for his former church, and the many Christians who looked up to him. It’s just so very sad. 

Below is Harris’ Instagram post:

 

 

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90 thoughts on “Josh Harris Kisses His Faith Goodbye”

  1. Perhaps he should return all the money he made to the people he duped while pretending to be a Christian. And we wonder why people don’t go to church. What a waste of time and how he played his “congregation” for fools. It’s all so sad.

    1. You are assuming he was pretending to be a Christian. You may be disgusted with his decision to reject his faith, but that doesn’t automatically mean he was playing his “congregation.” People change for their beliefs for many complex reasons and I see no reason to assume this decision wasn’t carefully decided.

      I don’t go to church for many reasons, but a minister changing his mind about his faith isn’t be of them. I wish Mr. Harris all the best.

      1. He has denied the Lord, apologized to a group of people who are living in open rebellion to God’s plan (and in doing so has implied that what he said from the pulpit was in fact not true, thus casting disputation on the Bible), and is in process of a divorce separating what God has brought together, and you wish him well? I say this respectfully but your loyalties are misplaced.

        1. Josh Harris finally ‘matured’ at 44–and the REAL Josh is apparently Anti-Christ–and wanted to nail each and every faithful Christian to The Cross of Christ–he couldn’t be more sincere in the GREATEST TASK OF HIS LIFE! He’s a Judas! Son of Perdition. I don’t know anyone who ever prayed for Judas like these silly doves who ‘love’ him. These same ‘sweet’ Christians who are praying for Josh are stunned–that they were deceived. They just can’t accept he is a Judas. It’s to their own shame that they find themselves stabbed in the back…Not one wants to kick himself for not seeing this man’s religion was worthless to him — for he gladly discredited every ‘pure’ thought –and everyone Christ died for–Josh couldn’t have been a better witness for Satan. And that ought to shock you! “Used by the DEVIL”–his last confession–. He actually for eternity HATES God and His servants. Given up! Maybe we’ll see thousands more ‘come out of the closet for Satan.” I wouldn’t be surprised. The End of Times Apostasy/

        2. I also say this respectfully, you are an ignorant bigot who wouldn’t know a Christian if he slapped your face. You claim to be Christian yet you wouldnt wish this ex pastor well? A true Christian would wish him well. And would send him love, and pray for him and ask the lord to help him find his way back to christ. Would hope for him to find peace, and courage, strength and love. And show him the grace of God by letting Gods grace freely flow through their self and encompass this person who is feeling lost and questioning with the love and understanding and compassion of the lord.
          I say this respectfully but your loyalties are misplaced. As is your views of what a Christian is. A Christian is Christ like. And you sir or madam are not.

  2. My own thoughts

    As a guy: here are my own thoughts. I realize the Media has been beating up Josh Harris and lambasting the “Purity Culture” for his allegedly, “Repressive view of Sex”, etc…etc……. those are the Media talking points. But personally….as a guy…….I read Josh’s book many many years ago, and I personally benefited from it. In hindsight, I have had countless number of females make comments to me that they ” feel safe around me.” At the time, I thought that particular comment was “odd”. In my 20s, I never “connected the Dots and put 2 and 2 together” and I never realized what these same females were really saying……I just thought it was “odd” when women would make that comment. Now, years later, I have heard the tragic real-life stories of women being preyed upon and being violated and assaulted in various forms and different degrees. I have heard the real-life experiences of women being assaulted by PEOPLE they actually know and thought they were friends with….. My point is: I do feel that Josh’s book provided healthy boundaries for me as a male. I feel there are boundaries and clear direction given to me in that book as a male. For example: I feel that the “no face-to-face” hugging rule was a good thing, and Not a bad thing. It was a good thing NOT because it taught or Implied that “Women are the devil”, rather it was a good thing because it reminded me of the need for Boundaries in my personal conduct. As a male, I benefited from that book because it reminded me as a male of my own inner selfish, sinful tendencies. I never got the impression from reading the book that if I followed the so-called, Media name of “Purity Culture” then God would give and award me a shopping list of “X, Y, and then Z.” Rather, I got the impression from reading the book that it was just a human attempt by a human author trying to encourage Biblical norms regarding dating and sexuality. Just my .02……..

    1. What a wonderful comment. I read the book in my early 20s and found it so helpful. Exactly as you say- a human trying to help others follow God’s plan for sexuality.

  3. My own thoughts

    I am sad to hear of Josh Harris’ de-conversation. I do NOT wish him or his wife pain. I just want them to know that they BOTH were blessings to me in their own way.

  4. This is very sad news, but it is not as surprising as I wish I could say. Joshua Harris’s career as a prominent Christian minister was I believe predicated on half-truth and a half-lie. I do believe he began as a committed believer in Christ hoping to offer a counter-inspiration to the revolting libertine raunch culture being poured on teenagers like gasoline in the 1990s. The lie was that he was in any way qualified to be talking authoritatively about what his audience took for authoritative advice.

    I read Harris’s two books, as a teenager myself. From the religious point of view, both books, while filled with Scriptural citations, are theologically lightweight. Harris might have been onto something insofar as the culture of mass fornication might have dangerous implications for our matrimonial futures, but he went too far with cause and effect. He clearly had no developed knowledge of the classical Christian understanding of chastity or of the distinction between its implications for us in temporal Kingdom of Man in which Christ’s grace may partially transfigure our human cultures and taboos to our salutary effect (but in which such transfiguration is neither complete nor guaranteed at all) and its implications for us in the eternal Kingdom of God, where we are duly rewarded for persistence in the face of suffering.

    From the worldly point of view, it is quite simple. A 23-year-old virgin is certainly not able to offer a formulaic treatise based largely on his own very half-baked life story (which those books were) for navigating the trials and boundaries of matrimony and sexuality. But speaking as a one-time 23-year-old virgin male myself, I would go one further and say neither does he have a clear, retrospective vantage point with which to look at and scrutinize his own life to offer an understanding even anecdotally.

    The obvious problem was that Harris was too psychologically immature and too uninstructed on the basic subject matter to have any authority, and yet his book was immediately embraced and devoured and he himself looked to as an authority on these matters by a large part of a generation of Christian believers. Worse still, he was encouraged by elders and moved to the fast track to become leader of a major and influential congregation.

    In a nutshell, Harris became a leader at a time when he should have been a follower. Perhaps in other circumstances he might eventually have made a worthy leader; perhaps not. In the real timeline of things he definitely did not. Thrust into superstardom and virtual worldly omnipotence, a young fool had no one to look up to or to keep him on the straight path. So if I had to guess, I would say that left him vulnerable to being so easily taken in to the whims of the corrosive postmodern mayhem eating away at the sensibilities X- and millennial generations of American Christians like caustic soda at meat.

    Let us take heed and learn our Faith in and out before trying to defend it. The blind cannot lead the blind.

  5. Patty Gregersen

    So sad that “grace” from mere people is more valuable to him than the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. If Mr. Harris believes in eternity, it seems that the temporal should hold no weight next to He who is eternal. I’ll be praying for Mr. Harris and his family.

  6. My Own Thoughts

    Also, I noticed that Josh Harris misinterpreted and misapplied Martin Luther’s “entire life of believers should be repentance……but I want to specifically add to this …..LGBTQ+ community…I regret standing against Marriage Equality”…..etc…etc Question: why did Josh exclude and forgot about “loving adult couples” who wish to engage in plural unions? Since the LGBTQ+ community and Culture has re-defined marriage to be approval between “consenting adults”, ….then why did Josh exclude those who choose to participate in adult Plural Marriage unions? What about “Marriage Equality” for adults who wish to practice Polygamy? Yes, it is true that Polygamy is currently ILLEGAL in USA, but don’t worry. As long as polygamous unions originate with “consenting adults”, then who is to say that is immoral? As long as polygamous unions originate with “consenting adults”, then who is to say that should remain illegal? Surely, you would Not want to be called “intolerant” and labelled by the media as “intolerant”, now would you? The media is the sole determiner of Truth !! ( or so they seem to think !! sadly ). The cultural slide and full-throttle Media embrace of Moral Relativism does indeed pay rich dividends to those who are wishing that polygamy and plural adult unions should be legalized !!
    If “Marriage Equality” means that Josh Harris reaches out with Positive shout-out to LGBTQ+ community, then he and others should Not forget those who are waiting for polygamy to be legalized !!

    1. Peter Hinchliffe

      Marriage is a civic contract, you can have whatever cerymoney you like between as many people as you want and call it marriage, that’s entirely up to you. But until you have signed the legal forms you are only married within your own institution, not in law.
      This is where equality matters, it’s not about introducing different forms of marriage it’s about removing the legal obstruction that existed to all couples.
      You could indeed argue for polygamous marriages, but it is not an equality issue unless the civil society has polygamous marriage but restricts it to discriminate against groups based on sexuality, religion etc etc.

  7. 2 Cor. 5:17 – “If any man is in Christ he is a new creation, the old is passed away behold ALL things have become new.”
    So sad that’s not a reality in his life. Divorce? Suck it up buttercup. Husbands are to lay down their lives for their wives. Not getting your personal needs met? Neither did Jesus. Wah wah.
    If this is the new definition of manhood, then call me ole fashioned.

  8. Julie,

    I’ve been a long time reader (and listener–Up For Debate was the best show on Moody and helped me wrestle with a lot of issues), but I’ve never felt like commenting…until now.

    I wanted to ask you and your readers advice on how they deal with Christian leaders “falling away” and the use of their teachings/books.

    Josh Harris’ book “Not Even a Hint” made a very positive impact in my life. As a woman dealing with a traditionally “male” problem, I found the raw and honest conversations about sex, masturbation, and lust to be very refreshing. His practical tips and scriptural teachings helped set me on a godly path at a time in my life that I was close to falling away.

    Though I never fully embraced “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”, I did read it as a teenager and found many of the principles in the book to be biblically grounded and helped me stay focused on Christ throughout my single life.

    But now that Harris has abandoned so many of the ideas he used to teach…can we use/recommend his books? Knowing that the person who wrote these books ended up divorcing his wife, can we even trust his dating advice?

    I guess I want to know if I need to throw out all of Harris’s books, as if somehow him falling away implies that he was wrong in what he wrote. Even though his books helped me, I don’t think I can tell a friend who is struggling with lust or who is interested in alternatives to dating that they should read his books…

    It’s a similar feeling to when Jen Hatmaker started veering away from biblical Christianity…I thought her books were funny, refreshingly honest, and convicting. Now I don’t know if I can read them…I mean, her advice/scriptural interpretation/perspective has taken her down a path that I don’t think is biblical.

    How do we deal with the old (biblical) teachings of Christian leaders who later denounced their faith?

    1. That’s a very good question……
      I think tho that even if they denounce their faith later, the sincerity with which they wrote when they were Christians is undeniable… Thoughts?

    2. What a great heartfelt question. Many years ago, I found myself among those trying to mediate between one group that wanted a ministry leader ousted and another group that wanted him to remain. The night prior to a big meeting, I read something that I believe was from, “No Little People” by Francis Schaeffer. He said something like this: “If we expect all or nothing from a leader, we will always get the nothing.” It was just the right message for the two factions. I’d encourage you not to think of Mr. Harris as a “nothing” but rather as a person who God used in a way to positively speak to many lives, including yours. Anyway, my thoughts. Best to you!

    3. Acts 17:11 & 1 Thess. 5:21 speak most directly to your question. Any teaching that would purport to be biblical teaching should be examined against the Bible itself. While the reputation of the author may lend some assurance to the biblical fidelity of their ideas, ultimately all that matters is how those ideas are in agreement with the Bible.

    4. This is something I’ve wrestled with more than once, as sin came to light in the life of a teacher or author I once loved. I can no longer read or listen to those people. There may be nothing wrong with what they said at the time I fed on it and it encouraged me, but I had to leave all that in the past and move on because the sin (it was divorce and remarriage in these cases) loomed large in my mind and distracted me, making me question my discernment of everything. Better to draw from the ministries of those whose lives are scripturally qualified to be leaders.

      However, I often remember that three books of the Bible were written by one of the greatest backsliders who ever lived–Solomon. So although I wouldn’t go out of my way to use books by those I knew were later discredited, if you feel the message is solid, grounded in Scripture, there’s no reason not to use it, especially if you don’t have a better resource. After all, even if you found a book today that was written by someone with a clear, strong testimony, nothing prevents that person from falling away tomorrow. These things are quite personal and you must use your own discernment, given by the Holy Spirit for your unique situation.

      I actually continue to recommend a book, Fascinating Womanhood, which seemed to be well-grounded in Scripture but which I learned years later was written by a Mormon! I could discern nothing about that in the book, and I still find it helpful. It was sold for many years in our Christian bookstore and I’m sure they had no idea, either.

      Now I’m thinking of a book that I would still recommend, by one of those authors I first mentioned. I can’t bear to read most of her books, but this one was written before she fell into sin and I believe I can tell the difference. So again, I feel it’s all highly individual. I have even read authors whose beliefs changed after they wrote a particular book, who hoped their readers would go on to later books where they corrected their own errors. We have to remember that a book is written at one point in an author’s life and may only be true for them at that time!

  9. Too bad Josh is apologizing for his “self-righteousness” while leaving his wife and abandoning his children. Sounds like the self-righteousness has gone to self-indulgence. So sad.

    1. Serving Kids in Japan

      He’s not unilaterally “leaving” his wife — according to a previous Instagram post, they agreed to separate. You can’t say conclusively that he’s “abandoning” his kids — we have no idea what their custody arrangement is. You’re making a lot of assumptions here, and I see very little warrant for them.

  10. The Christian life is very hard and doubly so for someone thrust into the limelight like Josh was so many years ago. The biggest thing I can do for him is to humbly pray for him. I do not agree with his conclusions but we are called to love. Colossians 3:1 (Keep seeking the things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.). Perhaps those of us seeking Jesus can benefit from this by seeking Jesus even more wholeheartedly knowing that it is only he that can keep any of us from stumbling (Jude 24).

  11. I suspect He and His Wife are both Gay. Every religious girl with a father who kept a hard line on his daughter
    to only date guys who mom and he felt comfortable with daughter dating has married a Gay Fellow who was in denial and had the power to wait until marriage to have sex. It is impossible to not have sex until your mid twenties and be normal.

    Most normal men do not seek power through a church. The ones who can not make good money in the business world can make 250K plus acting as the flocks leader while basically acting in a daytime soap opera with a decent looking wobbly headed wife in the background acting the humble pie part of the doting wife while the kids are hating both of them for their fakeness.

    1. According to his book, his wife did not come from a family like that and was not a virgin when they married.

      I would argue that it IS possible to not have sex until one’s mid-twenties and be normal, but I guess it depends on what one’s definition of “normal” is. Healthy? Well-adjusted? Committed? My husband and I abstained until marriage and have had a mutually satisfying sex life for the last decade. We have a good number of friends who have made similar lifestyle choices. The decision may not be “common” but it doesn’t make one abnormal.

    2. Serving Kids in Japan

      So……, according to you, every person who has remained a virgin until his or her mid-twenties is abnormal? Why, exactly? Do you have any studies to back this up?

  12. I understand the hurt. Yet there is not one good reason for not going to/participate the church. It’s not biblical. Read what the Lord had commanded to His disciples!

  13. A good reason to have working/volunteer staff of churches sign and affirm the basic/essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Also, a willing adherence to church policy.

    Short of that, it’s a prescription for chaos.

  14. To walk away as he did means he never had it. He had “religion” not a relationship. I venture to say he got caught up in the ways of the world; especially with the bank he made on his book. And to embrace the lbgqt mess etc he is a sell-out. I really never heard of him. Oh well unless he accepts Jesus as his saviour he will have eternity to think about his decision.

  15. Peter and Bridget Chambers

    I would just like to add that even though Josh has given up that God has not given up on him. 2 Timothy 2:13 says “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself”. I believe that we should only pray for him and not denigrate or put him down. That is not the way of Christ.

  16. Maybe he should speak to Mike Zedai who spoke with Jesus for 45 minutes about many things while his spirit was outside of his body while a dental procedure took on a mishap. Or Colton Burpo who died for a short time and spent time with Jesus. See Movie…Heaven is for Real. Or maybe all the Muslims who are coming to Jesus who had visions or dreams of him…really amazing some did not even know who Jesus was. Lot is going on know if you keep an open mind and spirit.

  17. O.K.. so which one of them is gay, Josh or his wife? This is the next nugget we’ll hear. I know, I know, I’m a monster…

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