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Jamie Johnson
2 August 2019

Don't Kiss the Truth Goodbye

If you have ever heard of author Joshua Harris, you probably already know: Joshua Harris has mostly rebuked his best-selling book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, left his wife and now has renounced his faith saying he is no longer a Christian. My first reacton is grief. My second reaction is to ask, "Why?" And I guess this writing is my third reaction.

I have never been a fan of his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I first encountered the book in 1999 around the time I met my wife-to-be. We didn't follow the book or consider it in our dating. While I never read the entire book, I read enough to know I wasn't a fan. There was good in the book such as saving sex for marriage and avoiding temptation, but I disagreed with the ideas of only going out in groups and not dating at all. To me, that's like only spending time getting to know God at church or in a group Bible study and never having alone time with Him in personal prayer and Bible study. For the dating couple, I would say to not spend time alone together in places that can fuel sin. Dating and spending one-on-one time together are important in the journey to finding a spouse, but that's a topic for another time. For now, though, I would like to address the sad course of events in Joshua Harris' life.

Joshua Harris' fall reminds me of a something an older gentleman said in book study I used to lead: "An inch is a cinch. A mile takes a while." Harris didn't get to the point of renouncing his faith suddenly. It's been years in the making. It's easy -- a cinch -- for a fly to partake of the sweet taste offered by a Venus flytrap. Yet, as the fly takes a while, the Venus flytrap snaps closed around the fly. Then, it is too late. Let's hope it isn't for Joshua Harris. I am not going to discuss considering if he was ever saved though it is an understandable consideration with the current events. His fall took a while. For years he has been decrying his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. And while there's nothing wrong with that, he was at a time of questioning while not being firmly anchored (else he wouldn't be where he is at currently).

I watched the November 17, 2017, TED Talk: Strong Enough to Be Wrong where Harris mentioned how he was wrong about his book (though there was some good in it) and how it became an identity for him. He talked about his fear and said that letting his guard down helped him. He stopped being a pastor of a church, went to graduate school and started listening to new friends, some adversely affected by his book. He opened his website up to have people comment -- positive and negative -- on the impact of his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

While he let his guard down, it seems he didn't seek the One to fill the void. While seeking to listen, he seems to have only listened to man -- only to the opinions of the masses -- instead of God's Word.

Harris described in the talk that he then began working with a woman who was hurt by his book. They have been working on creating a documentary "I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye." Harris said he thinks "this is the pathway of growth for me." He mentioned discovering the "transformational power in admitting you got something wrong." Harris continued in saying that he learned evolution always involves death and mentioned how personal evolution will also have a "type of death. ... It involves dying to old ways of thinking. ... maybe even old relationships that are keeping us from growing ... letting those things die. "

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

~ 2 Timothy 4:3-5 (NASB)

His focus is on himself. He is about his personal growth to a selfish degree -- now even at the expense of his marriage. He is about his pathway rather than the Way. Transformation comes in Christ. While admitting you got something wrong (if it is indeed wrong, i.e., sin) can be part of the transformation, ultimately the Holy Spirit is the one who transforms. Giving up one's marriage or faith for "personal growth" is selfishness. It shows that self is more important than God and others. That is worldliness, not the key to transformation. Consider Romans 12:2 (NASB):

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Harris has indeed gone through a change, but he has also become more conformed to the world and thus not proving what the will of God is, not doing that which is good. I won't get into all the problems with evolution here, but in his perspective and self-centeredness, Harris is actually hindering his own spiritual growth, the growth that matters.

Harris said, "We just want to get back to being right, but if you try to rush through that, you're not going to grow." While it is true that changes in the heart and mind cannot be rushed, there should be a foundation and that foundation is the truth found in the Bible. Otherwise, one just swaps one floundering, worldly experience for another. Harris outlined what shaped his thinking and while he is articulate on some good principles, there apperas no aim for Biblical truth. His saying, "I cannot be controlled by someone else's viewpoint" does have a level of health to it when it comes to person-to-person (in certain contexts). In those cases, we need to be influencers, not controllers or manipulators. However, given where he is at currently, Harris' statement hints at rebellion as it fails to be balanced with humbling oneself before Almighty God and surrendering oneself to His Word. He can discount my personal perspective. However, if he discounts Scripture, then he discounts God.

Harris said in the talk that we should encourage people who thought they got something wrong and gain wisdom from them. Yet, is there necessarily wisdom there? If it contradicts Scripture, then it is folly.

Some of the comments to the talk were telling as well. Alan Kelch wrote, "For a former Pastor, I did not hear any scripture that helped him through his struggle......but he did talk about how evolution helped. Telling." This is putting man's flawed perspective over God's Word. And Robert G wrote, "How did you come to the conclusion you were wrong and now right? Where did your new wisdom come from? What's the source...urself?" And the question is rhetorical. I see echoed throughout Harris' talk that he is his own source -- his own subjective experience detached from absolute truth or authority found in the Bible.

This is echoed in the trailer of the documentary I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye. In the trailer, Harris says, "I need to take a journey of asking hard questions and letting the answers lead me wherever they will." Again, he is being guided by questions and opinions, not by the Bible.

In the Christian Post article Joshua Harris falling away from faith: 'I am not a Christian', Harris is cited as saying, "I am learning that no group has the market cornered on grace. This week I've received grace from Christians, atheists, evangelicals, exvangelicals, straight people, LGBTQ people, and everyone in-between. Of course there have also been strong words of rebuke from religious people. While not always pleasant, I know they are seeking to love me. (There have also been spiteful, hateful comments that angered and hurt me.)" There is certainly common grace, but the only grace that ultimatelly matters is the grace of God. And we don't need to be spiteful, but there is room for rebuke. We need to love Harris while not condoning his conclusions. He, again, is looking to the masses for direction, not God. And while he is quoted in the article as repenting for various things, namely not standing for "marriage equality" for the LGBTQ (which contradicts Jesus' statements in Matthew 19:4-5), he isn't repentant for leaving his own marriage or renouncing his faith. He is unrepentant when it comes to the right things -- faithfulness to God and to his marriage.

Yet, Harris isn't the only one to echo a self-focus that looks to man's opinion over Scripture. In the Heavy article Joshua Harris: Former Pastor Says He's No Longer a Christian, it references his estranged wife Shannon Boone in an article, which itself references her Instagram post where she wrote, "My fundamentalist conservative Christianity experience taught me to ignore my inner voice. ... I learned to distrust and override myself..." This is self-focused. What about God's voice? What about His Word? What about allowing the Bible and the work of the Holy Spirit to override yourself? We are to distrust our hearts apart from Christ for in and of ourselves we are no good. Jeremiah 17:9 (NASB) says,

The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?

Boone has fallen prey to the same lies her estranged husband has embraced. With two self-focused persons pursuing their own respective journeys, marital separation is not surprising.

A comment to the Instagram post announcing Harris' and Boone's separation captures what I am seeing in Harris' talk and posts and in his quotes from the various articles. Instagram user richardgrohman wrote, "This all happened due to the faith he had in his book. Not the Bible." Harris admittedly built his identity on his book. He built his success on his book. And like all man-made empires, it all came tumbling down. And in the crisis, we see what is left...and left behind to the detriment of Harris himself.

Now, I don't want to discount the pain that Harris and Boone must be feeling. In an Instagram post, Harris wrote, "To my Christians friends, I am grateful for your prayers. Don't take it personally if I don't immediately return calls. I can't join in your mourning." Yet, we mourn. And we do need to pray for him. There is still a hope in that he is grateful for such prayers. And we are to love them. I am not out to make them devils, but to allow this to serve as a warning: We need to get our eyes off of ourselves and onto God. We need to look to what the unchanging Word of God -- the Bible -- says, not the masses. We need to build our identity and foundation on Jesus Christ. We need to listen and ask questions, but do so with the truth of Scripture in mind. We change and we transition, but in the process, don't kiss the truth goodbye.

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