Joshua Harris Kisses Jesus Goodbye

It would be a major understatement to say that Joshua Harris has had quite the rise, and fall, in the Christian world.

As an otherwise intelligent, but untested, young man, he rocketed to the forefront of the evangelical world with his landmark book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. In it, he made several controversial propositions:

  • Dating–in which relationships are often temporary–only conditions people for marriages that break up, contributing to the divorce culture;
  • Dating also contributes to more sexual immorality;
  • Courtship is the prefered model.

The book would become a best-seller; it would make Harris a proverbial rock star: he would go on to serve as a pastor under the wing of C.J. Mahaney at Covenant Life Church. As a high-profile megachurch figure with two bestselling books, he was one of the “go-to” men in the evangelical world. Even though he got where he was, not on the basis of having fought the good fight and having kept the faith, but rather on the basis of a bestselling book that promoted an unproven thesis without Biblical veracity. The book would become the field manual for the Purity Culture.

At Covenant Life Church, Harris became both a victim of, and a perpetrator in, one of the most abusive church settings in the history of American evangelicalism. While former Boundless editor Ted Slater, a friend of ours, contends that his experiences at CLC were very good, it is also demonstrably true that Mahaney and Harris–and the others in their circle–left a trail of victims that extends miles. The overbearing, micromanagy church discipline model, the sexual abuses by staffers–and ensuing coverups–those are a matter of record, and Harris continues to be mum about his own culpability in that.

In 2014, in the wake of the fallout over the sexual abuse scandal and resultant lawsuit–which was dismissed due to Statute of Limitations and not merits–Harris ultimately resigned from CLC and subsequently decided to attend seminary.

(Having spent some time at seminary myself, this set off some red flags for me, as that signaled to me that Harris was “trying to find himself”. I saw a fair share of these types at SBTS: they go to seminary expecting to find the answer to some internal conflict they are having. I do not recall one instance where that ended well. In fact, when I was there, there was one suicide.)

From there, he began to question the basis of IKDG in light of the trail of damage it caused. On one hand, the developments seemed positive–he finally repudiated the very book that made him a rock star. OTOH, he still did not come clean about his role in the abusive system at CLC, particularly the coverups of sexual abuse and the overbearing system of church government.

Then, a little over a week ago, he Instagrammed a message that he is separating from his wife. Any time a major evangelical figure has a marital failure, it’s a very big deal. In Harris’ case, it is far, far worse: he became a mega-star in the evangelical world for promoting a formula as a key to strong marriages that last. And his was failing.

Most in my circle were concerned that this was the prelude to the next chapter in his life: I Kissed Jesus Goodbye.

And sure enough, on Friday, Harris announced exactly that. In his announcement, he also specifically apologized to the LGBT movement. (Yes, there is an elephant in the room.)

At Wartburg Watch, Dee has expressed considerable skepticism about Harris’ stated “deconstruction”, and I agree with her for exactly those reasons.

Here’s my take, and I think Dee is absolutely correct: Joshua Harris’s “deconstruction” is, at least in part, a cowardly attempt to shirk his responsibility for his role at Sovereign Grace, which was was a cog in the abusive machine that is NeoCalvinism. It’s not just CLC and Sovereign Grace; it’s 9Marxism, it’s in many Acts 29 sectors, it’s various SBC churches, it’s a model of church government that micromanages peoples’ lives; attracts and encourages ministers who are narcissistic and Machiavellian, promoting them as models for leadership; promotes a good-old-boys network by which the key leaders travel to conferences, get paid lots of money, promote each others’ books, and market their brands; all while ignoring–even covering up–flagrant abuses at their churches.

Here’s my hot take: many of these “preachers” aren’t even Christians. And if you think Joshua Harris is a one-off, you’d be mistaken. There are thousands of Joshua Harris types in the evangelical world. He is the tip of the iceberg.

Those who know me or have casually followed my blog, know that I don’t like to throw the “false teacher” tag around very often, as I’m a big-tent Biblical conservative. There are many pastors and ministers who are concerning to me, but I don’t throw the “wolf” tag at them, as I prefer to let them out themselves. Many in the discernment blogging community suffer from the hammer-nail syndrome: when you’re a hammer, everything is a nail. For many of them, if you’re off on one little micro-detail in the Bible–not a young earth creationist, not a five-point Calvinist, etc.–you’re a heretic. I don’t waste my time throwing such invective around. If you affirm the basics–a high view of Biblical authority, the Deity of Jesus, the Virgin Birth, the Substitutionary Atonement, the bodily Resurrection, the Second Coming–you’re inside the realm of sound doctrine.

On the other hand, being a peddler of false doctrine is not the only qualification for being a false teacher. It’s easy enough to target the Joel Osteens and the Benny Hinns and the Creflo Dollar types, but let’s be honest here: you can preach exceptionally on Sundays and Wednesdays and still be a wolf. And if you think Prosperity Theology is just about material riches, you’d be mistaken.

I would contend that modern evangelicalism promotes its own brand of Prosperity Theology. The type of pastor they seek to develop and promote–from Bible Schools to seminaries to churches–is more akin to a business executive than a shepherd. One of my pastor friends, speaking of Harris, said, “everyone around him said ‘he’s a natural at expositing Biblical text.'”

My response: Biblical exposition is not brain surgery. Fact is, I can take someone of good intelligence and oratory skills, teach him how to study the Bible, show him some good commentaries and resources, and–with some practice–he can exposit well enough to preach. And he can do this while not even being a believer. This is because exposition is something we can objectively teach. What we cannot impart, however, is a relationship with God.

I can teach you the fundamentals of Biblical exposition; I cannot make you like Abraham, who made time to offer sacrifices of thanks to God, or returned to Bethel to seek God after a big failure, never giving up even as it took 25 years from the time of his calling from God until–at 100 years of age–his promised son was born.

I can teach you how to navigate the Old Testament, especially how to read it in light of Jesus–that is a lost art among modern evangelicals. I cannot make you like Moses or Elijah–who loved God. I cannot make you like Peter, who fell on his keister and failed often, but would go on to be the lead Apostle. I cannot make you like Paul, who–before God knocked him on his butt on the way to Damascus–was a major persecutor of Christians, who went on to become one of the greatest Apostles. Peter and Paul loved Jesus and were devoted to the well-being of His sheep. They were about Jesus; the “system”–in this case doctrine–was a something they preached from their love of Jesus; it was not a business model.

The problem is this: what if I am seeking to develop teachers, and I am fixated on developing qualities that are indicative of charisma and academics, while not cultivating the shepherdlike qualities that you see in Jesus and the Apostles from Acts through Revelation? The end-result: you get leaders who are more likely to take sexual advantage of parishioners, leaders who are more likely to be heavy-handed and micromanagy, leaders who can teach with great charisma who do not get along with people, leaders who do not love their wives or their children. They may be able to, like a competent sports coach, talk a great game about Xs and Os, but their character is majorly lacking because they are either immature believers or not believers at all!

Make no mistake: Big Evangelical gave us Joshua Harris!

He was raised in a system–homeschooled in a system, churched in a system, became famous by promoting his own system, learned how to preach and promote a system.

That’s not to say that all such systems are bad. Any educational regimen–homeschool, private school, church community, even public school–has to rely on a “system” at some level. Every church community has its own “system” that defines their bent or flavor; all of those are not evil, some in fact are very good.

The problem is, the Christian life is not about knowing a system, even if the system is good. Knowing and loving the system is not the same as knowing and loving God, whom your system articulates with eyes through which we will always see darkly on this side of eternity.

Still, when your system is attracting, developing, and rewarding ministers who are charismatic marketers who turn out to be scandal-ridden, then it is long past time to revisit the very system that is producing such ministers.

As for Joshua Harris, it is my hope he will spend some time with Satan so that his flesh will be destroyed and–ultimately–he may be saved. I hope that his ensuing years are times of utter misery, and that God bashes him upside the head with the almighty Louisville Slugger and brings him to his senses.


Update:

“This Ain’t Hell, but I Can See It From Here!” After-Action Report: Ride Across Indiana (RAIN) 2019

This year, I decided to take a break from triathlons and just do one event: Ride Across INdiana (RAIN). I enjoyed that ride last year, and my wife said she and Abigail enjoyed the time.

I figured this would be a long, tough ride that would otherwise be uneventful. It didn’t seem bad last year: I used it as a training ride for Ironman Chattanooga, and it was a good time.

The problem?

Last year, the conditions were perfect: high temperature was in the low 70s with occasional light rain, and a really nice west-to-east tailwind that made the last 45 miles wonderful.

No such joy this time.

Here is a simple comparison, by the numbers:

20182019
High Temperature77/light rain97/sunny
Winds18mph (tailwind)16 mph (crosswind from south)
# Starters~1,1001,032
# Finishers1,042644
Total Riding Time (hrs:mins)9:3011:06
Avg Moving Speed (mph)16.814.7

I woke up at 4AM and began my preparation for the ride: brushed my teeth, strapped on my Garmin heart rate strap, checked my gear to see if I had forgotten anything.

Dangit!!!! I had forgotten sunscreen! And I was going to need it today!

So, making no delay, I hightailed it to Kroger and bought some sunscreen. On the way back, I pulled back into St. Mary of the Woods College–where we were staying, and where the ride began–to see a couple riders taking off early. (That is legal, as this is a ride, not a race. As long as a rider completes the course before the 9PM cutoff, it counts.)

It was 5:25 and still dark outside. It was already 80 degrees.

This was going to be a long, hard slog.

Still, I felt ready.

While I was not training for Ironman–and therefore was not as fit as I was last year–I was still pretty darn fit: I had three century rides in the last 2 months, and I had done a fair amount of strength work, as I had bulked up considerably. I wasn’t in Ironman condition, but I was still in good shape. And my training rides were in hot conditions.

I figured I would go slower, but this course shouldn’t be too tough. I had two extra tire tubes “just in case”, and I am experienced in changing out flat tires. If I ran out of fluids, I knew there were convenience stores around. I carried extra cash just for that purpose. I also knew that my wife would be trailing me on the back section.

I made it to the start line with 5 minutes to spare before the official start. There seemed to be a solid turnout. According to the folks in-the-know, the number of starters was less than they had last year, but not by much.

My problems began early: My rear tube blew out at mile 6. Apparently, my tire pressure was too low, and I hit a bad section of road, causing a “pinch flat”. I was able to swap a new tube, and a SAG driver had a pump ready for me, so I did not have to use my CO2 cartridges. I was back in business within 5 minutes.

Unfortunately, I had trouble getting a good pace going due to (a) many traffic lights and (b) bad road quality. I also noticed the climbs, due to the lack of a tailwind. I was clearly working harder for my miles. But I still felt ok considering the conditions.

Pulling into the first rest stop at mile 39, my wife was relieved to see me. She thought I had suffered a really bad accident, as I took longer than she expected to get to the first stop. My riding pace at the time was close to 15mph, but the flats and the traffic congestion–and traffic lights–slowed me down. But at the rest stop, I got some food down, got some fluids down, refilled my bottles, kissed the wife and toddler, and headed back out.

On the second stretch, I felt better and my pace was improving, even as the temperature climbed. I was having a good time until mile 57: that’s when my front tire blew out.

Thankfully, I was ready for that: I had a spare–although I was down to my last one–and was changing it out when a Good Samaritan came by. He let me use his pump–once again keeping my CO2 cartridges unused–and even gave me a bottle of ice water. I was back in business.

Pulling into the second stop, at mile 64, I still felt pretty good. Even with the flat, I was doing well. For the sake of precaution, I purchased two additional tubes from the SAG mechanic at the rest stop. I figured I’d rather have them and not need them, than need them and not have them. In this heat, anything can go wrong.

I made it a point to get more food down, refill the bottles, get some more fluids down, kiss my wife and toddler–who was having a great time–and head back out.

The ensuing 28 miles were brutal. Indianapolis traffic slowed us all down: traffic lights, traffic circles, stop signs, railroad tracks, and some stretches of bad road quality. Making matters worse, I ran out of water and Gatorade. I could feel the heat; I knew I needed to hydrate.

At about mile 87, I found a CVS. I pulled in to get some Gatorade. The manger saw me and invited me to use his walk-in cooler–which was 38 degrees!–to cool off. (I <3 CVS.) Still, I felt pretty good going into the lunch stop at mile 92.

Remarking about the heat, I told my wife. “This isn’t Hell, but I can see it from here.”

From there, I got some food down, got some water and Gatorade down, refilled the bottles, kissed the wife and toddler, and headed back out: 21 miles to Greenfield.

The stretch to Greenfield would have been a killer, except there were several wonderful families who handed out bottled ice-cold water to riders. I had, once again, expended both my water and my Gatorade, and those Good Samaritans saved my butt. (Every finisher with whom I conversed, shared the same story.)

Pulling into Greenfield at mile 113 2 was lonely–no personal service vehicles were allowed, so my wife was camped out after that on US40–so I did my business quickly: refilled the water bottles, peed, got food and fluids down, and headed out.

My only problem: I forgot to unpause my Garmin. As a result, I lost about a quarter mile on my data feed.

Turning onto US40, I saw my wife parked at a Speedway station. I stopped, gave her a quick update, kissed her and the toddler, and headed out. We agreed to meet every 8 miles. I was feeling the heat, so I figured I’d sit in the car for a couple minutes to cool down. She also had extra Gatorade in case I needed a refill before I pulled into the final rest stop at Dunreith.

That last stretch of US40 was pure brutality. The heat radiated from the ground, ensuring that we had no relief, even as the air temperature began to slowly drop. The climbs, while not as difficult as the hills of Kentucky’s century routes, are still noticeable when you’re on the back end of a 160-mile ride with heat indexes above 100 degrees. Being able to cool off in the car was a game-changer.

I pulled into the Dunreith rest stop, with 28 miles to go, exhausted. I knew I was going to finish, but this was going to suck. I inhaled more fluids, ate some carbs, got some pickle juice down, and sat in the car to cool off. Then I kissed the wife and toddler and headed out.

I met my wife 8 miles later, and–to my surprise–felt pretty good. I was tired, but I felt better than I did at Dunreith. I told her to meet me in 10 miles.

About 10 miles later, I met her again. As I cooled off, I had one problem: I needed water, not Gatorade, as I was almost out of water. I told her to meet me at the next gas station–or at 5 miles–to get some water. At this point, I had about 10 miles to go. The next stop was going to be precautionary only. I was getting strength back.

With 5 miles to go, I saw my wife on the opposite side of the road. A Good Samaritan had a bottle of ice-cold water: exactly what I needed going into the final climb! Oh, and there was shade now, as it was later in the day. I thanked God for the shade. I told my wife, “Meet me at the finish…we’ve got this!”

The last 5 miles felt easy. Yes, there was a climb left, but it didn’t feel so bad with the shade and some cold water. I finished with 45 minutes to spare. At the finish, I chatted with the folks at the finish line, enjoyed the moment with my wife and the toddler, and downed some chocolate milk.

After the finish, I followed the RAIN Facebook group for updates from other riders. There were mass casualties: riders were dropping like flies. Heat exhaustion TKOd a large swath of folks.

Every rider I know who finished indicated that the Good Samaritans with the ice water saved their day. I can attest to that. The DNF rate was above 37%, which exceeds the mega-brutal Ironman Chattanooga 2016, which was in comparable weather. Heat exhaustion took a lot of riders out of the fight. Several ended up leaving in ambulances. To my knowledge, however, there were no fatalities.

Another dynamic I saw was the support crews out there: just as my wife did for me, other riders had help from their spouses and/or cycling clubs. They parked their cars, vans, and RVs at churches, gas stations, even open fields, providing food, water, and A/C for riders on that last stretch of US40.

As I look back on the day, I was happy to come out on top. I had never suffered a flat tire during a century ride, and I took TWO of them in the first 60 miles. I had never biked in conditions this hot, but this time I did it for 160 miles.

That tormenter of Ironman triathletes–Ironbitch–showed up for a rematch, and she brought the heat with her. I took her best shot, and I won. I even had the legs to tour the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB with the wife and toddler the next day.

As I talked with my wife last night, I remarked that I am not an elite cyclist.

She laughed. “Why do you say that?”

Me: “I’m not pulling that course at 18-19+ mph. To me, that would be the sign of an elite cyclist.”

Her: “You may not be the fastest one on the course, but I’m not sure that matters.”

I don’t have elite speed; I do have elite endurance.

But there is one important difference in me now compared to what I once was: I don’t quit. Yes, I’m in better shape than the average bear, but let’s be honest here: fitter people than I punched out on Saturday. You need to be fit to finish a 160 mile ride in that heat, but you need more than physical fitness; you need mental toughness.

Learning that isn’t an academic exercise. You can only learn that the hard way. I’ve suffered DNFs, so I know the humiliation that comes with it. That teaches you more about perseverance than anything. In general, you don’t start learning until you get pushed to the edge of what you think your limits are.

In my case, as I am getting old, I have severe disk problems in my neck, middle back, and lower back. My heat tolerance isn’t what it once was.

Still, in the nearly two decades with such health issues, I’ve learned to adjust and improvise, and focus on what I could control, and roll with the punches. I couldn’t make it cooler outside, but I think of all the times I got into the car to cool off. I think of the time I walked into the cooler at CVS to cool off. I think of the times I stopped to grab some ice water, the time I sat in front of a fan.

Even with the 2 flats. Even with heat exhaustion. I had no doubt about the outcome, only the finish time. I didn’t quit; I just stopped to regroup and get my bearings. I was never out of the fight.

Over the years, I have learned to embrace the suck.

And on Saturday, I French-kissed it.

Joshua Harris, of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”, and Wife, are Separating

This is both saddening and infuriating.

As a very young, intelligent–but untested–adult, Joshua Harris rocketed to the top of the evangelical world on the basis of his landmark book–I Kissed Dating Goodbye–which promoted the notion that dating was evil and that courtship is the preferred Christian alternative to dating.

Sadly, a large sector of Big Evangelical embraced Harris and imposed this dogma on the larger segment of singles, making getting married marginally harder at a time when it was already difficult due to many factors in play. Focus On The Family ran with it. Many homeschooling families ran with it. Churches used it to banish singles into a proverbial black hole.

The book made Harris an evangelical rock star. He would become C.J. Mahaney’s right-hand man at Covenant Life Church, the flagship church of Sovereign Grace Ministries.

As a student of Mahaney, Harris helped commandeer a dysfunctional church whose model of discipline was overbearing. Worse, multiple child abusers operated with impunity. The gross negligence was so severe that even Al Mohler–and the larger Southern Baptist Convention–are now reconsidering their support and alliance with Mahaney.

And make no mistake: Harris was an integral part of that abusive system. He was an executive under Mahaney, and therefore he has command responsibility.

(That is the price of being in charge.)

To his credit, Harris has recently repudiated his book and apologized for the damage he caused with it.

Sadly, it now appears that his marriage was not all he made it out to be.


I am saddened for his children. They didn’t ask for this. They will bear the brunt of this epic disaster.

Do I feel bad for Harris and his wife? Yes. The Church failed Harris, his wife, and his children.

I believe Big Evangelical used him for their financial gain. Yes, he benefited–sort of–but it was other parties which made the really big money at the expense of the larger Body. Harris was a means toward their ends.

NOT ONE evangelical leader stood up and tried to stop this big promotion of Harris.

NOT ONE evangelical leader stood up to question the wisdom of IKDG.

NOT ONE evangelical leader lifted a finger when Harris, an untested young adult, was Mahaney’s right-hand man.

Where was Piper? Where was Keller? Where was Mohler? Where was MacArthur? Where was Duncan? Where was Dever? Where were all of these super-knowledgeable mega-leaders? Most of these leaders pride themselves on their ability to ask hard questions. But none of them bothered to ask any of their own ranks.

Who was holding Harris to account? No one.

This is what happens when you take an untested, young adult–even someone otherwise intelligent like Harris–and make him a General.