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. I also feel sad about what has happened to Joshua Harris and his family. I wonder if this is what occurs when a lifestyle (i.e purity culture) is glorified over a relationship in which God is obeyed out of a deep love for Him, vs. adhering to a packaged form of theology. It doesn’t mean we as Christians don’t obey God because we don’t feel like it;’ but we obey out of a deep sense of love, reverence and gratitude for what He has done for us. It’s just my thoughts. I was out of the country serving as a missionary when purity culture appeared on the scene, and I found it odd when I came home and started hearing about purity rings, balls, etc. I thought churches should teach that any kind of sex outside of marriage wasn’t God’s perfect will, and accept it as a “normal” part of Christian living-nothing to ever need to apologize for.

  2. 1 John 2:19 English Standard Version (ESV)

    19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

    1. Serving Kids in Japan

      Low blow, friend. That’s a horrible thing to say.

      I imagine that countless believers have been clobbered with that verse after extricating themselves from controlling, suffocating religious groups. And that’s exactly where Josh Harris grew up. I’m betting that Mahaney and other Calvinistas are hammering him with it right now, and they have absolutely no credibility with me.

      1. Serving truth to cultural christians

        Your name ‘Serving Kids in Japan’ belies your desire for admiration for ‘your’ efforts.
        Shouldn’t you be “Serving Christ in Japan??????…..or are you working in a’ Chuckie Chesse’ serving kids. .

        1. Serving Kids in Japan

          I’m teaching English as a second language, friend. Not a missionary.

          But what does my handle, or my job, have to do with anything I wrote? Or with the subject of Julie’s post?

        1. Serving Kids in Japan

          The implication is horrible. To suggest that Josh Harris has never ever been an honest Christian in his life, is heartless. If I were going through a crisis of faith, for whatever reason, that kind of implied insult might push me away from church for good.

          I would hate to have that done to me. So I’m not keen to see it done to Harris.

      2. True. Some folks just can’t handle the fact that people reject their religious beliefs for many complex reasons. So they throw convenient Bible verses at the defector as if to shield themselves or others from whatever reasons why the person left.

        I applaud Mr. Harris for having the courage to admit his errors and the willingness to change course as needed. No doubt many “fine” Christians will heap verbal abuse on him and his family. But in reading Mr. Harris’ statement, I believe he will handle it with grace.

  3. This just makes feel so sad. I can’t imagine coming to a point of losing faith in Christ. This is such a reminder that “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” I think Josh Harris was thrust into the spotlight at too young of an age. I remember when he came to Moody promoting his book. I thought there was something off with him. It’s reminder everyday that we all need encouragement to stay in the faith.

    1. “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” 1 Tim 3:6

      This verse is all too true very sadly. (Not a surprise since it is included in the Word of Truth!)
      Church leaders/Pastors need to take this verse very seriously but I believe that it is not.

    1. As someone whose parents split up as we entered our teenage years, it kills me to see statements like his. They are usually people who didn’t grew up in divorce. They mean well and truly believe it’s best but they have no idea what a broken family is, and the ripple effect it has on kids. When they find out, it’s far too late. Saddened. Not clobbering him. Just sad.

  4. Denounces purity culture.  Announces divorce.  Goes pro-LGBTQX. Says he’s not a Christian.

    This dude has been busy.  But I give him props for admitting he’s not a believer.  If only more “Christian” Leftists were as honest!

    1. Susan Van Eaton

      There is a “bite” to Christianity that isn’t found with Christ. If He “bit”you, it was meant to heal you , not harm you. As a Christian, I know I’ve made God into someone who thinks like me, at times , until I look at His life, His mission, and His Cross. Then, I’m humbled, and I just want to be with Him, and be like Him, and show the world who He is,that they may fall in love with Him too!

      Knowing Christ, “feeding”on Christ, living for Christ, this is the ” bite” from a Christian that heals.

      There is a LOT in Christianity, today, that has nothing to do with Christ. I hope and I pray that Joshua Harris sifts through the rubble and can embrace Christ again. ” Even if we are faithless, He is faithful” Amen!

      1. Serving Kids in Japan

        Why, “those poor kids”? Even assuming that Josh is gay (which hasn’t been established yet), why would it be so much worse to have an openly gay dad, as opposed to a closeted dad?

  5. So much confusion over identity these days. We can only find out who we are when we see ourselves mirrored in the loving, compassionate eyes of Jesus. I try not to follow any human, even if he or she seems a sincere believer. I’m a follower of Jesus. Jesus always loves people, but never compromises truth (i.e. Reality).

  6. I drank the IKDG koolaid and it thoroughly wrecked me. I almost lost my faith. First several years of my marriage were awful in large part bc of this koolaid he sold. Awful legacy this man has.

      1. Josh Harris grew up in a homeschooling family. His dad was a pretty famous speaker and author in the homeschooling world and he and his family spoke at conventions, etc. He started a magazine, then did some conferences, then wrote a book, called I Kissed Dating Goodbye (IKDG). He went on to write a little more on courtship, then branched off into Theology books. He was mentored by CJ Mahaney and became the head pastor at Covenant Life Church (CLC) in Maryland. Sovereign Grace Ministries, of which CLC was a part had some difficult times and there were many true and false allegations made against the ministry and its leaders. Josh left there a few years ago and moved to Canada to pursue a degree at Regent. He has pretty much been out of the public eye while in Canada until these recent announcements on Instagram.

        1. When people say they drank the koolaid, they are saying that they bought into the purity culture advocated in his books. Some have found it to have been damaging to their future relationships and their understanding of the Gospel and grace in general.

          1. This broke my heart. Anything and anyone touched by CJ Mahaney and SGM are drenched in a spirit of control and misogyny. Add JH to the list of damaged and wounded families in Mahaney’s wake. It’s no wonder he is running the opposite direction after years in that circle. I have firsthand experience there. Prayers that he finds the real Christ at some point, and prayers for protection over his children.

  7. I am saddened by Christians and they’re lack of identity in Christ. Learning who we are in Him is my focus. If I were to focus on my thoughts or the world in who I should be, I too would walk away.

    Being a follower of Jesus Christ is not an easy one and I sin daily. Yet that’s where my faith and belief come in and know that I am washed, forgiven and loved. To go back to the world would be an excuse for me to get away with what “I” want to do and that’s to freely keep sinning.

    I am lost without Him in my life. Nothing and no one has ever fulfilled me, nor ever will as Christ does. There are many Christians wanting and trying to walk in faith yet it’s mental and not an intimate relationship. To walk away so freely is evident…very sad?

  8. Very sad tale. My quick take: It’s so easy for kids growing up in ANY religious environment, even one with sound doctrine, to think that salvation from sin is found in the performance of that religion’s practices rather than faith in Christ, and thus they are never saved. A second quick take: Sexual sensuality is a razor sharp edge that can reveal false professions of faith; perhaps a person battles their own sexual sin and gets sick of doing it, thus finally abandons the facade of doctrine they formerly professed; or, they finally get sick of battling the cultural pressure that insists on sexual libertinism, and so they go with the flow and ditch their former doctrine. Harris says he was molested as a child (he’s never said who did it) and we know he was implicated in a cover-up of church molestation.

    Against this, I know of many solid believers who are now past middle age who had every one of the above reasons to walk away from their faith, but are actually growing stronger even amid increasing stress. These are intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive people. But they don’t walk away. They just keep walking the walk and talking the talk, and truly understand and embrace God’s good grace.

    Now we’ll see if Harris becomes the next Frank Schaeffer or Rob Bell.

  9. To JOHN SENEY: Is there anything specific you recall that made him seem off? Hoping the signs are not subtle as I leave HBC and go to a new church. Hoping I can spot a wolf.

    It’s incredibly sad and terrifying. I googled “unsaved pastors” and was deeply dismayed to find blogs and posts talking about unsaved men pastoring flocks.

    1. SHEEP1584 There are entire denominations “pastored” by unsaved “pastors”. Most Episcopalian churches never preach salvation or the Gospel. Such churches teach on topics relating to social issues instead. Having attended many such fallen churches, they are more like good-deeds clubs such as the Kiwanis.
      After considerable time praying and investigating other churches and denominations, I have chosen to continue attending Harvest’s RM campus. No other church or denomination comes close to Harvest’s worship time every week and Harvest’s campus and guest pastors continue to teach the Truth of the Gospel and the entire Word of God through Scripture each week.
      Although our former pastor sinned against his congregation, but after listening to almost 50 of his sermons on Youtube, it is obvious that while JMac was a sinner, he was also used mightily by God to bring the Truth of the Gospel and the truth of God’s Word in the entire Bible to us.

  10. First thing I thought about was where my focus needs to be: on Jesus and not on any one human being!
    Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

  11. William Robinson

    There are lessons to be learned here. Lesson #1 is the Church must teach our youth to see, follow, and know the Christ of the Bible not personalities no matter how intelligent, charismatic, or prolific.

  12. Let’s not jump to conclusions too quickly, I take the “security’ of the believer very seriously. Just “saying” you’re not a Christian does not make it so. We only see the outward, God sees the heart, am I right.

    1. Saved believers can fall away sadly. It happens when we stop reading our Bibles, going to church, praying…
      When we do these things, our perceptions and truths become what the world believes them to be. We will start thinking that there is nothing wrong with LGBTQ+ because the world says it is ok, and so on. But if we know our Bibles and live by what God says in our hearts and actions, we will know the truth and live by it- by the Holy Spirit’s power.
      But like someone said above, if we are truly His, God is faithful, even when we are not faithful to Him, for He cannot deny Himself. (2 Tim 2:13) There will come a time when Christ will go look for that lost sheep. This is one of the greatest and happiest truths of all! (And 1 John 1:9)

  13. Children are innocent and believe and follow their parents blindly. Josh was a child that loved his father and wanted his father’s approval and love. He followed his dad as his savior rather then the Christ of Scripture. He was taught that.
    He was innocent!

    Josh isn’t giving up his faith in Christ but rather his faith in his earthly father’s teaching. As a child, he never really got to learn the truth of scriptures. He is innocent.
    Now , he if he so chooses, he can find the Christ of scripture.
    However, it will be a huge challenge for his cognitive abilities to see scripture as God intended us to see him in them. But , I believe the Holy Spirit will give him wisdom, comfort and courage. He is in the fight of his life for truth
    It will take his total
    life to undo the brainwashing he experienced as a child as regards to what life on earth is all about.
    Let’s support him because , there but for the Grace of God we all are.

    Josh, thank you for your honesty. I pray you find peace as you embark on finding truth.

    1. Sorry, ma’m, but I’m afraid you do not understand the sad, solemn, and tragic yet thoroughly biblical doctrine of apostasy.

    2. I pray he finds the Truth and his identity in Christ again. I get the sense he’s strived in his Christianity vs allowing himself to be held and formed by the Father.

      I did read the book and I questioned it but the main thing I recall is a story of a dream he had where there was a filing cabinet with every detail of his life marked on cards, including all the songs he’d ever listened to. It was not a dream about judgement, but rather how well Christ knew him. Pray he has intimacy with Abba restored. Amen.

  14. In reading the range of comments about Joshua Harris, not just here but other places in social media, I have concluded the following:

    1. Our opinions mean nothing in comparison to what the Word of God says. His Word stands outside of time and will not change for any person in human history.

    2. Joshua had great unbringing. I knew, and still know his father. His mother, for everything I know about her was a very devout believer in Jesus. I really do not know much of their family life but one could easily make lots of assumptions that they were a normal family with potential for greatness and room for disfunction. All families have their “stuff” they deal with.

    3. Being the firstborn, Joshua had a lot to live up to. Since his dad was a national celebrity in the Christian home school movement, Joshua went a lot of places with his dad and got to know the circuit and what people wanted.

    4. When he came into his own, Joshua picked up on things he knew people wanted to hear so he wrote books and chose someone to make his writings work with, his wife Shannon.

    5. He was groomed for pastoral life through his dad and others they related to and followed that path with wife and children in tow.

    6. The scandal in the church he pastored likely rocked his world and that may have been when the plunge started downward. He may not have come to grips with it and resigned. His mother passed away recently and I believe everything at once became the perfect storm to put him where he is today. Disillusioned and outside of his faith.

    7. Here we all are with a very public person, family life a mess and just wanting to walk away from everything he knew. It is my sense, and hope, that Joshua will come to regret these decisions and will one day wish to reconcile everything he messed up. The blame can be laid squarely on his shoulders. He is a grown man. He must some day account for decisions in his life, just like all the rest of us. But not everything gets fixed in this life and he may find that out. I hope he comes back to Jesus and I hope Shannon does too.

    1. You apparently didn’t know Gregg Harris too well. His background is not so clean. Talk to the people who were part of his church. Ask them why he is no longer at HOFCC, the family-integrated churches he established. Ask about the lawsuit with Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff. Talk to Raymond Moore, pioneer homeschool leader. Ask about what Josh did with his business. Ask about the unreported sexual abuse case at on of his churches in WA state.

    1. Heather Wellington

      Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Have you never faltered in your faith? There is grace and time for repentance yet for all.

    2. Wow Jonathan! What incredible judgement! When a believer turns from his faith the Holy Spirit grieves. You should be grieving too;. and praying for him.

  15. Seems there is much more here than said. That he questioned what he taught and believed apparently he then thought it best to completely walk away? That plus sign at the end of those he is sorry to, I guess he understands that includes those who are attracted sexually to children and animals?

    It would seem his struggle is much greater. His heart is full of gratitude but now has no source that gratitude would come from to be known and understood. Expressions of love, however well intended, are at most personal preferences.

    No faith? Every person has faith in some way and some manner. Our very existence requires it to be in this world. This cannot be avoided. Even to say I have no faith is a statement of faith in the statement “no faith.”

  16. Well when he came to talk I think he was 17 or 18 and I thought what authority does he have to speak to us? I was a very immature twenty something college student just trying to get a date. Here was this guy who the girls seemed to be swooning over saying he gave up dating, it kind of seemed like a millionaire telling poor people he didn’t need money. But I think the main thing surprised me was the celebrity status he had. I think the main issue is American Christians giving celebrity status to pastors or others. Maybe we should try and stop raising up these men and women giving them such a high status and then wondering what happened when they fail.

    1. “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 3:11

      Until Christians believe that Jesus and the Bible are complete, lacking in nothing, you will continue to see Christian celebrities and gimmicks.

      I’ve never heard of Josh Harris or read any of his books. However, I do wonder why the Bible and Jesus isn’t enough for so many Christians. Why do we need so many “teachers” and so much instruction beyond what we’ve perfectly been given int the Bible?

    2. That is the key – he was young, with no real authority, but was told by so many that he was “all that”. At that age, you don’t have that much life experience to tell others how to live their lives.

      For me, “I kissed American celebrity pastors goodbye”. All of them: Hybels, MacDonald, Harris, all of them. This has become a cottage industry with books, conferences, workshops, etc.

      I don’t trust any pastor who gets up there and thinks he has all the answers. I left that world, and glad it’s behind me.

      1. “he was young, with no real authority, but was told by so many that he was ‘all that’.”

        Indeed, I think you have hit the nail right on the head. A 23-year-old virgin presumes to offer a formulaic plan for living a chaste, Godly life (with little theological substance I might add), but it wasn’t just the young people who leapt. He was fast-tracked by elders to preside over a major congregation. I do believe C. J. Mahaney shares a bit of the responsibility in not looking out for the intellectual and spiritual path Harris was treading (although of course Harris will obviously have to answer for his own faith and actions before God).

  17. If anything, he lost faith in his own perversion of the Gospel. I’m glad he won’t be misleading others with it anymore.

  18. I’m not surprised that a 19 year old kid did not have the whole marriage and relationships mystery all figured out. I am surprised that people thought a 19 year old kid did have the whole marriage and relationships mystery all figured out.

    1. Some folks are wiser at nineteen than others will ever be at fifty…and I believe that Paul encouraged Timothy to,”let no man despise your youth” Are we too sophisticated and proud to believe a 20 year old could have anything to say to adults about dating and marriage?For my part, I found his teaching to be solid . I read the book at age 30,, twice, having already been married for 12 years. I wish I could have had such a book when I was a teen. My husband and I came from backgrounds of parents marrying and divorcing multiple times,and our own past sin and pain in our failed dating relationships when we mariied at 18 and 19…all we had to go on was God’s word and grace, and He has seen us to our 30th wedding anniversary last September. We used the book with our older children when and were so encouraged that such a young man was leading the charge to live for Jesus in EVERY area of life, something we had not done as teenagers, and that our kids could have a hero to look up to and be encouraged by, I dont know what has happened to bring them to this point,, but he and his family need lifting up in prayer …God is , really is, capable of ANYTHING..

  19. This kind of behavior should NOT surprise any of us. Jesus already warned us in Matthew 24:12-13…And because lawlessness will be increased, THE LOVE of many will GROW COLD. But the one who endures to the end will be saved……..The concept of once saved always saved is simply a fallacy. This guy is the classic example of it. Only when we can stand firm with our faith till the end will we really have a chance to stand. Jesus also said that if you don’t acknowledge HIM in front of this world how will Jesus advocate for him in the end. This guy now has until his last breath to seek forgiveness, otherwise he is lost as all others whom he has preached about. It is time we call out SIN, what SIN is. Let’s stop sugar coating the gospel.

  20. On the one hand, I’m tired of dudes who embrace a very strict (sometimes naive) religiosity doing a 180 later in life, and seeing it as something courageous and necessary. It’s not courageous or necessary. On the other hand, I hope the best for him and his family, and hope that this is something he will be able to look back on later as one more step toward Jesus. To everyone else, I hope your faith doesn’t suffer because one more person says they don’t believe anymore. Your faith was never in them.

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