Josh Harris Renounces Christianity: Will Acronyms Send You to Hell?

josh harris

Josh Harris, the best-selling author of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” (Harris’ repudiation of the book) and former pastor with Sovereign Grace Churches (formerly Sovereign Grace Ministries, formerly People of Destiny), recently announced that he and his wife were separating. Not long after announcing his separation from his wife of twenty-one years, Harris — a one time five-point Calvinist — announced to the world that he was no longer a Christian. Harris wrote:

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. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.

Harris’ admission of unbelief has caused all sorts of controversy, and True Christians® have been quick to not only condemn Harris, but also consign him to the flames of Hell. As long-time readers of this blog know, cross True Christians® and they will eviscerate you from their pulpits and on their blogs, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I left the ministry almost fourteen years ago, and left Christianity altogether in November 2008 — before social media was widely used by zealots to strip naked those who leave and parade them through the public square. My detractors took to their pulpits and blogs (please see Gone but Not Forgotten: 22 Years Later San Antonio Calvinists Still Preaching Against Bruce Gerencser), along with endlessly stoking gossip about me at preacher’s meetings. Harris, unfortunately, comes out of the proverbial unbelief closet in a day when critics have seemingly endless ways to abuse, attack, and gaslight those who dare to leave the True Christian® club.

Grayson Gilbert — who considers himself relevant and reformed — writes:

For Joshua Harris, this journey didn’t lead to an embrace of Progressive “Christianity”–not yet at least. In the end, it looks much the same, sans the false notion one can deny the text and remain a Christian. For that, I earnestly think he is more forthright than many of his predecessors who have left the Evangelical world. His embrace of the sexual anarchy that is homosexuality, departure from men’s roles in ministry, etc., is but the cherry on top of his apostasy. Surely, if one departs wholly from “all the measurements [they] have for defining a Christian,” it is little wonder they would likewise depart from the biblical sexual ethic, or any biblical ethic.

Nevertheless, it is an incredibly sad thing to witness. Here you find a man married for twenty plus years announce his divorce amicably, as if the separation of what God joined together is as low-key as returning an unwanted grocery item to the store. Just a few days later we then find the stoic picture by a serene lake and scenic mountains, announcing his departure from the faith. Truly, it is a breathtaking view of the handiwork of our Creator and one who stands before it as if to say, “It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

I look upon it, read, and grieve for how casually he has thrown away the preciousness of the gospel. Here we have the opposite of Matt. 13:44-46, where a man experiences the blessings and benefits of living amongst the wealthy sojourners who sold all they had in order to gain riches eternal, all the while not tasting the goodness of Christ. He may have chewed upon it; his mouth may have even salivated–yet he spit it out, all the while never tasting of it. He labored, toiled even, for years–yet never for the sake of the gospel or out of a love for Christ.

This is where it gets particularly difficult for those who remain as they reconcile with the fact that the worst part about being deceived is that the deceived are never truly aware they are deceived. They acted like a Christian. They looked like a Christian. They did and said Christian things; and yet the apostle John just simply says of them, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19, NASB). Surely, they might, “…feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful,” yet they are dead, sleepers, and without any hope at all.

If you’ve never witnessed someone apostatize firsthand, this episode involving Joshua Harris is but a minor twinge of sadness. Surely, we can grieve from afar–but none will grieve as much as those close to him who will continue on in Christ. We can lament the fact that he dangles over the pit of hell by the slenderest of threads, held only by the stablest of hands in the Sovereign One. We can contemplate the significance in the difference a single breath can make, as it is but one breath to the next that holds the distinction between salvation and damnation. But we will never contemplate those truths with as much gravitas as the young man who looked up to Joshua Harris as his pastor, or the blossoming young couple he led through pre-marital counseling, or the elderly widow he took the time to speak to on Sunday mornings prior to service.

There is a vast difference between knowing of the apostate and knowing the apostate–and these are those whom should be the focus of our prayers. If you didn’t know, these are the same people who dealt with the fallout of sexual abuse amongst their midst, under the leadership of CJ Mahaney. Mahaney caught the most media attention for these scandals, but as many have come to reveal years afterward, former leadership is likewise culpable for mishandling abuse victims (and criminals). Pray for these people. They have surely endured the crucible in many ways and this simply piles on top of an already burdened people. Nonetheless, we still need to be in prayer for others under his influence, that they do not follow in his example of making a shipwreck of their faith.

In other words, Harris is an LGBTQ-loving apostate who was never a Christian. Boy, I sure have heard that refrain a time or two. Okay, more times than I can count. But that’s what True Christians® do. As soon as someone strays outside of the narrow confines of their peculiar box, out comes 1 John 2:19:

 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.

Josh Harris leaving the confines of the box proves he never was a true box-dweller; his departure reveals to those still in the box who the True Christians® really are. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You are in it and What I Found When I Left the Box.)

Yesterday, an Evangelical zealot named Marcus Pittman — who uses the ImKingGinger handle on social media — unleashed the following tweet:

tweet from imkingginger marcus

For readers who live outside of the Evangelical bubble, you might not be aware that Southern Baptists, Fundamentalist Calvinists, and other Evangelical groups are currently embroiled in controversies over social justice (definition of social justice warrior) and the recognition and acceptance of LGBTQ people. On one hand, it is hilarious to watch saved, sanctified, filled-with-the-Holy-Ghost “followers” of Jesus devour one another, fighting amongst themselves like toddlers over toys. On the other hand, however, people are being hurt by these skirmishes. While I have mixed emotions about Josh Harris and I think he has much to atone for, I do sympathize with him as he attempts to move on with his life post-Evangelicalism. It remains to be seen to where Harris ends up. He may end up an atheist in the style of Bart Campolo, or he may follow a path similar to that of Rob Bell. Who knows? It’s Harris’ life, and he’s free to follow the path wherever it leads.

As Evangelicalism faces increasing pressure from within by Christians who believe in social justice and reject Evangelicalism’s rightward political bent, True Christians® such as Pittman respond by painting such people as “fake Christians.” According to Pittman, Harris’ embrace of social justice and LGBTQ people shows without a doubt that Harris was never a Christian, and unless he repents he will burn in Hell for eternity. In taking this approach, Pittman reveals what many of us have long known: Evangelical salvation is based on right beliefs. BELIEVE THIS, and thou shalt live is the gospel preached by Pittman and others like him. For Calvinists, believe the right things and persevere to the end and you will make it to Heaven. Believe the wrong things, and Hell is your final destination. Now, Pittman will argue that the real issue is the authority and teachings of the Protestant Bible — THE BIBLE SAYS! However, the Bible is hardly unambiguous in its teachings, as 2,000 years of Christian church history clearly shows. Calvinists and Arminians have been fighting for hundreds of years over what the Bible teaches about salvation, and neither side has budged an inch. Christian sects constantly fight amongst themselves, with each sect believing it has the truth. Rarely does a week go by without another internecine battle breaking out among God’s chosen ones. Pittman likes to think that his beliefs are the one true faith, but at best all they are is his personal interpretation of an ancient religious text. That he is willing to condemn Harris to eternal pain, suffering, and torture at hands of his angry, righteous God says more about him than it does Harris. In Pittman’s mind, there’s coming a day when he and his fellow Evangelicals will gather along the rim of the Lake of Fire to watch as God throws everyone they tweeted against into pit. With smug smiles on their faces, these self-righteous servants of God will say, see, motherfuckers, we told you what would happen if you crossed us!

I wish Josh Harris nothing but the best. His books and work in the pastorate hurt a lot of people. I hope he will deeply reflect on his past and do what he can to make amends. As a former Evangelical pastor myself, I can tell Harris that coming clean about the past and being honest about the damage Evangelicalism causes can go a long way in undoing the damage you caused. Can’t make the past go away, but at very least you can apologize to those you harmed and help others who are trying to extricate themselves from Evangelicalism.

Note

Here’s an excellent takedown of Grayson Gilbert (and others) by David Davis. Gilbert expressed a similar view about the late Rachel Held Evans as he does Harris.

Pittman uses the CRT acronym in his tweet. I have no idea what it means. Cathode Ray Tube? Critical Race Theory? Cadaveric Renal Transplant? You choose one.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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12 Comments

  1. Dale

    The assumption by True Christians (TM) (I don’t have a fancy registered trademark character 😢) seems to always be that the apostate never believed in the first place and knew they didn’t believe but just got their jollies deceiving everyone. You know, like you, Bruce. You didn’t believe but you had oodles of fun working 100+ thankless hours per week for little, if any, pay. This, on top of working a “worldly” job to keep your family clothed and fed. Yep, sure sounds like someone who never believed in the first place. GIMME A BREAK.

    Why don’t the True Christians (TM) shoulder some of the blame themselves? After all, isn’t one of the gifts of the spirit discernment? They never ever had an inkling that, to paraphrase Darth Vader, “The Force is really weak in this one?” Especially the deacons who are responsible for selecting and presenting preacher candidates to the church for an up-or-down vote: they should have filtered apostates out before they became apostates!

    There’s so much good stuff in this post, Bruce, but this is the one that baffles me.

    Reply
    1. Tony McKeon

      ALT + 0153 = ™
      ALT + 0169 = ©
      ALT + 0174 = ®

      Just some of the stuff I learned when I found out that the Bible doesn’t contain all truth. There was a time when I thought it’s “all true” but doesn’t contain “all truth”. Now I see the Bible as a hammer used by those that want to control others.

      Reply
  2. Hugh D. Young

    I read one of Harris’ books,’ Sex Isn’t The Problem-LUST Is’, or something errrr other along those lines back around 2008 or so, when I was ‘fighting the battle to answer Christ’s call for my purity’ as a man in my mid 30s, who was, let’s just say-Really beginning to get some functions & urges back in my recovery from the damage and havoc my alcoholism had wracked upon my body, ( I took my last drink, thru TODAY in March, 2007). I suppose the book did help me gain some insights at the time, and believed that Harris was genuinely trying to be FAIR within the context of what he referred to as ‘Jesus’ no nonsense, no compromise teachings on the matter of S….E……X’, but the bragging and arrogance about what an attractive wife, Thee Good Load blessed him with did make me a bit nauseous.

    Anyway, moving forward, good for him, I suppose. The people trashing and condemning him are just never going to see, despite the obvious evidence right in front of their faces, that it is THEIR RELIGIOUS PROGRAM that is the problem. Fortunately, the tide has shifted, and every time they take to social media with this CRAP, they merely seem to further hurt their cause, and drive yet a few more droves of young people in particular away from it!! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Carolk

      Hugh, congratulations on the 12th anniversary of your sobriety!

      Reply
  3. ObstacleChick

    I left evangelicalism before Josh Harris came on the scene and never read his books, though I knew of them and wanted nothing to do with them. I also have mixed feelings about him as I know many people were hurt by his ideas. He is a victim in being a product of his fundamentalist upbringing, but he is also responsible for his actions and I hope he owns that. I wish him well in his deconversion, and maybe we will see more of him if he joins the Clergy Project.

    I still marvel at the brilliance in some of the construction of Christianity, especially the justification that if they leave us, they were never part of us, and we’re still right. And Josh Harris’ authority supposedly came from a deity who said, “Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believer…” Typically the work of an inexperienced young guy isn’t taken as sacrosanct truth, but in fundagelicalism your inerrant Bible tells you that God chooses and works through whom he will, so you can’t question anyone’s credentials. And if you don’t believe it, you weren’t ever one of us. This belief system sees itself up pretty thoroughly.

    Reply
  4. DoctorDJ

    Of course Grayson is important. He’s a manly young man, sure he’s got it all figured out, mansplaining everything!

    https://www.patheos.com/blogs/chorusinthechaos/author/graysongilbert/
    About Grayson Gilbert
    Grayson Gilbert is in pursuit of the Masters of Divinity degree at Moody Bible Institute with the goal of pastoral ministry. He lives in the balmy Midwest with his beautiful wife and three children. Grayson enjoys reading, writing, designing and producing artwork, and serving his local church.

    At least he’s getting some push-back in the comments. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/chorusinthechaos/farewell-joshua-harris/

    Reply
    1. Hugh D. Young

      You just gotta ‘admire’ how these people can talk ‘love’ and ‘hell’ like they just go together hand in hand, kinda like peanut butter & jelly……WOW THESE FOLKS ARE SICK….Sure glad I got the fuck out when I did, as I’m twisted enough as it is!! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Dale

    Thanks for the cheat sheet, Tony!

    Reply
  6. Dale

    I second that, Carol. I can’t imagine how difficult achieving sobriety can be, Hugh. Congratulations!

    Reply
    1. Hugh D. Young

      THANKS…..I’d definitely say it takes somewhat more determination and ballz than sitting in a comfortable Fun Dan Jellikal Glass House, and throwing stones of ‘eternal damnation’ at others, one doesn’t even know in real life!!

      Reply
  7. Brunetto Latini

    I really enjoyed reading this. Found you from a post on LinkedIn. I never heard of Josh Harris until today, though I remember seeing the cover of his book before. A guy in a hat … well I’m gay, so I remembered it. Elizabeth Elliot was the purity guru during my lifetime as an evangelical.

    I think it’s fascinating that Christians are eviscerating Harris for his honesty while supporting a Dear Leader who lies daily on Twitter.

    Honesty is the deepest purity.

    Reply
  8. Brunetto Latini

    CRT does mean Cathode Ray Tube to me, but apparently he is referencing “Critical Race Theory”. The liberating thing about being agnostic is that I can look-up the acronym and dismiss the theological concept as being something people argue over, like how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Saves a lot of emotional upset.

    Reply

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