Over the past two weeks I have heard a lot about Joshua Harris and his departure from not only his wife, but from Christ and the Church. This story is heartbreaking to me, as is any story about someone getting divorced or leaving their faith in Jesus Christ.
I read his two books nearly fifteen years ago, and they weren't life-shattering. My family taught and upheld basic Christian sexual ethics already. The main message of his books were simply nice anecdotes in support of views I already held.
The title, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, was memorable.
I was only fifteen or so at the time I read the book, so I wasn't really taking notes about concerns that might arise. That being said, I usually have a very critical eye for things like this and would expect to notice any blatant heresies or major red flags in the book. I don't remember any. And I haven't seen any quotes from the book recently that cause me any concern. It is simply a restatement of basic Christian Sexual Ethics written for a younger audience.
So I was a bit surprised to hear that Joshua Harris repudiated his book a few years ago. His public statements about why he rejected the books were only focused on the harm people were caused by those who misapplied his book.
I don't think Joshua Harris still upheld basic Christian Sexual Ethics even then. If he didn't uphold the Christian Sexual Ethic that his book taught, it would be natural for him to repudiate his books. But he hadn't yet repudiated Christianity. That other shoe had not yet dropped.
Well now it has. And it's very honest.
If Christian Sexual Ethics are not true, then shouldn't all of Christianity be rejected? Christianity is either true or it is not. If it is not true in the whole, why would we ever hold on to a part?
Joshua Harris's announcement that he was leaving Christianity made me sad, but I wasn't really surprised. Once someone rejects basic Christian Sexual Ethics, I don't think it will be long before they reject Christianity itself. They may argue that they're only rejecting the way that Christianity is being applied, but that doesn't really work. Christianity is a religion based on a static source material - the Bible. The Bible doesn't change. The sexual ethics the Bible teaches have been the same from the beginning.
God created human beings in his likeness, and he made them male and female. These image bearers were directed to be fruitful and multiply, which is done sexually. The way to be fruitful and multiply is for the man to leave his father and mother and become one with his wife. (Genesis 1:26-28; Genesis 2:24)
This is Christian Sexual Ethics. Everything outside of this is wrong.
Joshua Harris has rejected Christian Sexual Ethics. So it wasn't really a surprise to hear that he has now rejected Christianity itself.
So why write about this? What do I possibly have to add to the cacophony of voices writing about his change in belief?
The only reason I want to write about this story is because of something Joshua Harris said in his announcement (on Instagram) about leaving Christianity.
Here is the excerpt that caught my attention:
to the LGBTQ+ 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. I hope you can forgive me.
This is an interesting apology to make. What he taught in his books about homosexuality was probably the most refreshing thing I had read on the topic up until that point. His was the only book that I read which actually applied the Christian Sexual Ethic equally to both heterosexual and homosexual sexual sin.
There is only one part from his book which I still remember vividly today. (Perhaps this scene was in Boy Meets Girl. I can't find either of his books on my shelves now that I want them.)
He wrote an anecdote in one of his books about being catcalled by a group of flamboyantly gay men. He was standing outside of a hotel waiting for his ride, if my memory serves me, when a group of men driving by called out sexually charged comments at him.
His first though, he records honestly, was something very prideful. He thought about how disgusting those men were, and that he was glad he wasn't like them.
Then he wrote down the application point from the story: God put in his head right then and there, he wrote, the clear truth that homosexual lust was no more distasteful to God than heterosexual lust was. The two forms of lust were both sinful and required Christ to die for them.
This anecdote always reminded me of Jesus's parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (or Tax Collector).
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
What Joshua Harris wrote was Gospel truth.
And it was the first time I had ever read it anywhere. I don't think I ever even heard it said anywhere before this.
By reading this simple anecdote I was relieved of any feelings of especial shame that I may have had before. I could easily insert the word "homosexuals" in the list of people the Pharisee was condemning in Jesus's story because of the truth written in Joshua Harris's book. He helped me see how my own sinful sexual desires were not condemned any more than anyone else's were.
For that I am glad that Joshua Harris wrote his books.
And because of that, his equal treatment of homosexual and heterosexual lust, I was a bit taken aback that Joshua Harris has specifically apologized to the LGBTQ+ community. (And is now marching in "Pride Parades.") These men and women were no more harmed by his book and his teachings than anyone else who doesn't apply a Christian sexual ethic.
But that's the point. He's not apologizing to the LGBTQ+ community because of anything that he said apart from a Christian Sexual Ethic. He's apologizing to the LGBTQ+ community precisely because he upheld the Christian Sexual Ethic.
The only "harm" the Christian Sexual Ethic causes the LGBTQ+ community is the same "harm" it causes any other sexual community. The Christian Sexual Ethic doesn't give human beings permission to pursue their sexual appetites in any way that they want to. It requires self-control.
Those who fail to exercise self-control are not affirmed by the Christian Sexual Ethic. Every sexual sin of every stripe is condemned equally by the Christian Sexual Ethic.
Joshua Harris wrote this correctly when he pointed out that his own heterosexual lust was just as sinful as the homosexual lust he observed others exhibit.
Both forms of lust required a perfect man to die.
I pray that Joshua Harris and all those who are with him will look to that perfect man and receive his forgiveness.
Jesus is our only hope.
Jesus is true love.
Through Jesus I am pursuing life and godliness.