“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 the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. . . . 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.”—Josh Harris (Instagram)
This month, the Christian world was rocked when Josh Harris, the author of the highly popular book on sexual purity, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, announced he was separating from his wife, recanting his Christian faith, and apologizing to the LGBT community for his former conservative views on sexuality.
The story has hit the headlines of both religious and secular news sources (e.g., Christianity Today, Newsweek, CNN, Washington Post, Charisma). While many Christians are scratching their heads trying to figure out how this could have happened with Harris (who became a husband, father, and pastor) amid offering possible reasons for this demise of faith, there is one reason we have not heard mentioned—Josh Harris’ Calvinism.
When Josh Harris was 21, his book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, was published by Multnomah Books. The book hit the charts and has sold nearly a million copies. There are few evangelical Christians who haven’t heard of the book; and, in particular, it was read and embraced widely by Christian homeschooling families.
As Josh Harris describes in his 2010 book Dug Down Deep: Building Your Life on Truths That Last (also published by Multnomah), in his search for spiritual depth, he went from a seeker-friendly Willow Creek-associated church to a charismatic church, but neither of these gave him what he was looking for. Finally, he ended up under the mentorship of Calvinist pastor, C.J. Mahaney who planned to raise up Harris to eventually take his place as senior pastor of a large Calvinist reformed church (Covenant Life in Maryland). As Harris describes in his book Dug Down Deep, he plunged into extensive reading of numerous heavy-duty Calvinist reformed teachers, ones he thought would give him truths that would last.
At the age of 30, Harris did become the senior pastor of Mahaney’s reformed church. Harris remained pastor of Covenant Life until 2015 at which time he stepped down from being pastor telling his congregation he planned to attend college (Regent College in Vancouver, BC).1 His announcement that he was stepping down and going to college came amid a scandal at Covenant Life wherein Harris and other Covenant Life pastors and leaders admitted to covering up a number of sexual abuses that had occurred in their church.2
A Devastating Combination
Based on the information that Joshua Harris has given in his recent announcements and information he has provided in his books, we cannot know for sure how his recantation of his marriage and his faith came about. But one thing is for sure, Josh Harris was a Calvinist who attended an emergent college—and with regard to his Christian faith, it proved to be a devastating combination.
During Harris’ efforts to find spiritual meaning in his life, he landed in Calvinism, a belief system that does not present the picture of a God of love who loved the whole world so much that He sent His only Son to die for all. Rather, it presents a God who wants most people to go to Hell and who predestined a relatively small number of people to be the “elect” who would be saved; and as Calvinist figure A.W. Pink stated in his book, The Sovereignty of God, in describing Calvinism, no one can resist God’s will (meaning even Hitler must have done God’s will), which creates a God who wants evil things to happen, giving followers a fatalistic view of life and death. In short, God is portrayed as the author of sin, who predestinates most people to live sinful lives (of which they have no choice), and then punishes them eternally in Hell for His “good pleasure.”
Calvinism is growing in popularity by huge measures today. Many young people come into Calvinism because they see what appears to be a highly scholarly belief system and a supposed security for their salvation. And whether they admit it or not, it offers the elite elect something more than the rest of the world can ever have (let’s face it, it makes them feel special). However, once these young Calvinists discover the dark dismal truth about this Calvinistic “God” (thinking this is the God of the Bible), disillusionment and depression set in which results in a spiritual crisis. When this happens, they often choose (as we are witnessing today) one of two paths: some of them head into the Calvinist emergent camp (or as Calvinists call it, neo-Calvinism), and some of them walk away from the church altogether. Eventually, both groups end up in the same place—departed from the faith. Does such a tragedy happen to those in other unbiblical camps (such as a legalistic holiness system)? Absolutely. Extreme unbiblical doctrines lead followers away from truth, not to it.
Being Calvinist is dangerous enough, but when Josh Harris decided to attend Regent College, he picked one of the most emergent Christian schools out there. There, students become indoctrinated with the social-justice “Gospel,” contemplative spirituality (i.e., spiritual formation), and emergent ideology. If Joshua Harris had not already gone in this direction, attending Regent would accomplish this easily, and as we have learned at Lighthouse Trails from 17 years of research and study, the “fruit” of these unbiblical teachings is departure from biblical faith to believing in the god of this world and what he has to offer.
We realize that Josh Harris’ stepping down from the Christian faith is most likely multi-faceted, both in the personal and spiritual realms, but his Calvinist (and probably emergent) indoctrination left him defenseless in standing firm in biblical truth.
No doubt, there will be many commentaries over the next several months (and even years) discussing the departing of the faith by Joshua Harris. Let us pray that he and others like him will someday find the true simple Gospel that Jesus Christ offers. Christ died for the sins of the world, and whosoever believeth on Him will not perish but have everlasting life. It’s a free gift, offered to all who put their trust in Him. He will not turn away anyone who comes to Him: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).
Related Articles and Resources:
“‘I Am Not a Christian’: Former ‘Pastor,’ Author Joshua Harris Kisses Christianity Goodbye“ (Christian News Network)