They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out,that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. (1 John 2:19)
The recent brouhaha over Joshua Harris’ announcement that he is abandoning the Christian faith underscores just how deep the modern church’s obsession is with celebrity culture. This announcement was proceeded by an earlier and similarly shocking announcement that he and his wife are separating. That he chose to reveal both of these on Instagram is indicative of this banal cult of personality.
Harris is perhaps most famous for his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye which was a polemic in favor of courtship in order for young Christians to avoid the pitfalls associated with modern dating. Others have written elsewhere about how it was so foolish for so many Christians to imbibe a book written by a 21 year-old who hadn’t raised any children of his own. Additionally, there’s much great commentary calling into question the church leaders who immediately scooped up Harris and effectively groomed him to be their next celebrity pastor. I won’t add anything to that except to say that this whole train wreck of a story should cause every church in America to consider whether their standards for leadership actually line up with Scripture.
What I offer here is simply my own perspective as someone who came into the Christian faith just as Harris was getting off the ground with the aforementioned book. I had heard mention of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and someone I knew in college actually recommended it to me. For whatever reason, I never got around to actually reading it. Yet I could see in many of the conversations at the time that it was having at least something of an impact. Indeed, his book became staple reading content for a segment of Evangelicalism which vigorously promoted sexual purity. And this leads me to the point of this post.
The apostasy of Joshua Harris, sad as it is, reflects a template of apostates everywhere in modern Western civilization. What he’s said and done is so utterly trite and predictable that he’s basically made a caricature of himself. Like all apostates in our present age, he calls into question the clarity and authority of the Bible. He then apologizes for many of the things he used to teach. Even before his apostasy became official, Harris vociferously apologized for his book on courtship, claiming that it hurt so many people. Usually in the process of apostasy there is revealed some kind of personal moral failure. Next on the apostasy checklist is genuflecting to the “LGBT” crowd. Just days after he came out of the closet as an unbeliever, Harris happily participated in a sodomite parade. Color me shocked.
Apostates of a high-profile nature like Harris rarely keep their mouths shut after they renounce Christianity. More often than not they become trumpets for preaching an anti-gospel. They get a media platform and then begin a new career of tearing down the very faith they once claimed to have and uphold. Harris has been talking about doing just that. In reality, he’s just exchanging one pulpit for another. Am I overly concerned that Harris is going to be yet another bomb-thrower, propagating lies against Christianity and so forth? Not really. He’ll be preaching to the choir.
The real damage, unfortunately, is being done by those who are still within the church who will use Harris’ apostasy as fodder for their respective agendas. Antinomians who rail against “purity culture” immediately began using him as the poster-child for why the church shouldn’t teach against sexual sin. The feminists will pile on with grievances of their own. And so on. Harris loves to affirm people in their supposed victimhood and this fifth-column within the church will milk this for all it’s worth. At the risk of sounding cynical here, I’ll just reiterate my point that this is all predictable. It’s almost like a script.
In an effort to end on a positive note, let me point out as well that God is using this to actually purify His church. The fall of Joshua Harris is just another nail in the coffin of this celebrity culture which has long infected the church. We serve a God who uses famous apostates for His own glory and for the good of His people. And if we’re going to read anyone, let us read dead guys whose lives have been lived and their contributions to Christ’s church fully vetted.