What Joshua Harris Denouncing His Faith, Getting Divorced, and Refuting His Book Should Teach Us

Joshua Harris announced this week that he and his wife of 22 years are getting a divorce. 

He’s the author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, former pastor of megachurch Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, and creator of the documentary I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye

Days after he and his wife posted on Instagram about their decision, Joshua said:

“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 of 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”. 

What does this teach us? We can’t make other Christians our Bible. We can’t make Christian leaders and Pastors our Jesus. 

Joshua Harris wrote a book that kicked off what was called the purity culture. 

Many churches and parents got behind the book and had their teenagers read it. 

I read it. 

It changed the course of my life in a positive way. 

I lead purity retreats for years. 

But, for many, they didn’t have a positive experience. In fact, they had a truly damaging experience that they say led to terrible marriages, painful sex, or a life of singleness.

Why was it positive for some and damaging for others? 

Many parts of his book parrot the view of church teachings and the culture. 

Virginity = Purity

God calls us to a life of purity, and that doesn’t end when you get married.

Teaching that virginity is the same as purity leads to all sorts of crisis even if you wait till your wedding day for sex.

A lot of people feel sex is dirty because their virginity has been equated with purity. 

Without Sex, You Won’t Feel Fulfilled

One thing the purity culture did that was necessary, was it got the church to positively talk about sex.

Prior to that, you would’ve never heard a sermon or message in youth group about how great sex is within marriage.

The problem is, we’ve been taught that the only way to feel truly fulfilled in life is to have married sex.

That means there is no hope for joy and fulfillment in life for the unmarried Christian or Christian that’s in a sexless marriage. 

You Can’t Be Friends With The Opposite Sex

A call to courtship has only sealed the deal for those that believe people of the opposite sex can be just friends.

Courtship teaches you should only go out with someone if you want to marry them.

Even television shows teach us that if a man and woman develop a good relationship of any kind, it will lead to sex.

This philosophy has caused us to separate genders instead of teaching them how to develop healthy relationships.

It’s has caused there to be a general distrust between the genders, which in turn, has lead to more same-sex relationships. 

Today, the purity culture is being railed against and many are blaming Joshua Harris for how his book negatively impacted a generation. 

We had a good experience with the purity culture.

Why did I have a positive experience with the purity culture? Because it wasn’t shaped solely by a 21-year-old dude.

There were a lot of voices in my life that pointed me to read the scriptures for myself and seek out God’s will in my life. 

We believed in true love waiting so much, we inscribed it on the inside of our wedding bands.

That book is the reason Austin and I stopped kissing during our dating years. That decision kept us from sex before marriage.

But more than anything, it allowed us to focus on our friendship and remove the distractions of sex from our relationship.

Our goal of getting married wasn’t just so we could have sex with each other, but so that we would stop saying goodbye to each other every night. We wanted to build our lives together. 

As Christians, we put too much on Joshua Harris. 

There were a lot of great things he wrote in that book, but it was taken as the Bible of dating and every suggestion he made was followed. That should’ve never been the case.

We put too much on him. And as a result of that, he’s had to read story after story of people blaming him for the horrible marriages and lives they ended up with.

It’s no wonder that 20 years later, Joshua Harris is hitting a point of crisis in his life and re-thinking everything he has ever believed. 

We should not be surprised when our Christian leaders go through a divorce, make bad judgment calls, or walk away from their faith.

Instead, we should remember that we all fall short and that our job is to come alongside one another and in prayer and love. 

Stop following people and go to the Bible.

This is a reminder to me that we cannot follow people and make them the be all end all of our decision making. We must go to the Bible.

Each and every one of us believers have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. We can’t put so much on others. It’s not fair to them and it’s not biblical. 

I hope that this is a lesson to us that we cannot put so much on our leaders. Taking everything they say without comparing it to scripture and blaming them for our failures because we followed, sets everyone up for failure. 

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