When a pastor renounces the faith
It’s never easy when someone renounces their faith. It’s especially difficult when that person has served as a pastor.
The news broke (on Instagram, of course) that celebrity megachurch pastor and author Joshua Harris is not only ending his marriage, but he no longer understands himself to be a Christian;
The information that was left out of our announcement is that 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.
In addition, he’s decided that he was wrong to hold to and teach the traditional understanding of human nature and sexuality:
‘…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.
How ought we to respond?
Remember, God’s Kingdom will endure
The first thing to note is that God’s Kingdom was not built on the shoulders of Joshua Harris.
That Harris has changed his mind and moved on or away from the Christian faith makes little difference.
Sure, he was a persuasive preacher, a decent writer, and for a moment he was a big deal and sold a lot of books.
Those things are, however, pretty superficial. They don’t add up to much in the long run.
Don’t forget to have compassion
Christian internet reactions to famous people who renounce the faith are often shrill. That’s likely because the faith of those denouncing the apostate isn’t all that much stronger.
Whatever you think of him, Joshua Harris is clearly someone who is struggling and suffering. And just as he was certain when he penned I Kissed Dating Goodbye, he’s certain now.
Chances are that before he dies he’ll be certain in another direction.
Say no to proxy wars
Really, what’s happening in episodes like this one is that the life of a famous person becomes a morality play or proxy war used as a prop in a larger ideological struggle.
The narrative that Harris has embraced does just that: I was a sex-averse, legalistic fundamentalist who spent time and energy judging others. I have now become free to love all and have turned my back on my prior ignorance.
There will be a book to follow. I guarantee it.
Don’t let the veracity of the Christian faith be litigated on the basis of Joshua Harris’s life and faith. It’s not worth it.
For every best-selling Christian personality there are myriads of simple, faithful, orthodox pastors who preach the gospel and love their people.
Look at them, not Harris. Or better, look to the great shepherd of the sheep–Jesus himself.