The story is told of a young pastor who developed a series of talks titled, “The Ten Commandments of Child Raising,” which was a big hit – making him a much sought after speaker. By and by he and his wife had children of their own, and after a while he retitled the series to “The Ten Suggestions of Child Raising.” It was less popular but still in some demand. When his children grew into their teen years, without explanation the pastor dropped the series altogether. Hmmmmmm.
Although our intentions might be very good, very often life comes along and smacks us right up against the wall of reality. Perhaps that is what we are witnessing with Joshua Harris, author of the 1997 book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. We have no reason to doubt his good intentions. Harris certainly seemed committed to sexual purity and high moral commitment. He portrayed himself as someone who was frustrated by what he saw in the “secular dating scene.” For many, his book became the “Bible” of how to meet and secure a spouse God’s way. As popular as the book was, selling in excess of 1 million copies, very few of the ideas were original with him. He was the product of a patriarchal/authoritarian Christian subculture which was strongly influenced by Bill Gothard, Jonathan Lindvall, Joshua’s father Gregg Harris, and others. (A guest writer contributed The (No) Dating Game to a 1996 issue of our MCOI Journal addressing the problematical issues with Gothard/Lindvall on their views in the area of “courtship.”) Joshua Harris went on to pastor under yet another authoritarian, C.J. Mahaney at Sovereign Grace Ministries.
Spring forward 20 years when he seemingly began publicly apologizing for the detrimental effects his book had on lots of people. According to Wikipedia, “During a 2017 TED talk, Harris said his greatest regret about the book was him transferring his fears into the book.” Joshua Harris has been living and swimming in the same theological authoritarian culture which Bill Gothard and others had fostered.
Harris recently announced he and his wife are separating – and subsequently publicly declared he is questioning his faith. Why? The progressive publication, Sojourners, did an interview with Joshua Harris in February which they recently published at approximately the same time he announced his marital separation. The beginning paragraphs of Sojourners article, Questioning Faith After Purity Culture: In Conversation with Joshua Harris are helpful to understand what happened to Joshua:
In February, I spoke with Harris for a story on the recent public rejection of purity culture and the journey to find what comes next. Harris wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye at the age of 21 and married at 24. Now 44, after leaving the pastorate, Harris discussed what led him to call for an end to his book printings and his own journey from the unquestioning faith of his youth.
Joshua left “the unquestioning faith of his youth.” But here is a question that begs to be asked, and might be helpful for Joshua Harris to ask himself: Was it the historic biblical faith he left, or another faith that was passed off to him as the truth of scripture? Harris’s teaching is actually a heretical view which Tyler O’Neil dubbed, “the sexual prosperity gospel” in his article, Josh Harris Kisses Christianity Goodbye. O’Neil goes on to outline the premise of “the sexual prosperity gospel”:
Harris’s book and others like them were part of a “sexual prosperity gospel.” Prosperity gospel huxsters [sic] preach that if you have faith in God and pray, then God will reward you in this life with health, wealth, and prosperity. This dangerous message also has a tragic corollary — if you get sick and don’t recover or if you become poor, that means your faith was lacking.
It is that, and more. It is the heavily authoritarian sexual prosperity gospel, a version of the “works prosperity gospel” found on so much of “Christian TV.” The sexual prosperity gospel is as follows – if you do the things your “authorities” tell you, your kids won’t rebel, your car won’t break down, and you probably won’t even get acne. You will be financially prosperous and have the dream spouse and your life will be heaven on earth. On the other hand, if you get out from under your authority, and try to seek a spouse in any way other than the sexual prosperity gospel way, you will suffer greatly at God’s hand. Gothard calls staying under your authority the “Umbrella of Protection.” Safety is found in obeying your authority – great disaster awaits those who step out from under it.
A bit earlier in Tyler O’Neil’s article he quotes Joshua Harris concerning his faith:
“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.
It may well be that he is not a Christian we can’t know his heart, but we ask again – is the faith he is “falling away” from the historic biblical faith or a heretical one? The Apostle Paul said it was very possible for people to follow “another Jesus” and “another gospel” than the one he preached to them. They could also follow after a “different spirit.” (2 Corinthians 11:4) So, was Harris truly following the prosperity gospel of legalism and not true Christianity at all? Had he accepted another gospel – a cause and effect-based faith where the “believer” has a relationship with his authorities, along with steps, principles, and do’s and don’ts – rather than with the person of Jesus Christ? Our Lord spoke to a group very like this in John 5:39-40:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
We cannot know Joshua Harris’ standing before God, and that’s not our place anyway. He could use our prayers. We cannot know his heart, but we at MCOI have seen the great spiritual wreckage in the lives of many people who have been in these types of authoritarian groups after they leave. To former Gothardites we have had to say, “Just because God and Gothard both begin with “Go” and end in “D” doesn’t mean they are the same personage.
It is sad. A very high percentage of people who have been raised in these groups or similarly legalistic churches walk away from faith in God altogether. Christianity didn’t “work” for them, they reason. Many become agnostic, often angry agnostics, while quite a few gravitate to New Age beliefs where they just throw out or severely downgrade the scriptures and create a kind of self-worshipping, “anything-goes faith” which reflects ideas they may have picked up in best-selling books, lectures, or heard on Oprah. They feel that God will just have to take them on their own terms. That path won’t work either. We are the ones who have to take God on His terms.
But there is another way you can take – you can embrace grace. Yes, there is a right and wrong – we all know that is true – and we all will face a reckoning with God someday. And yes, you (and me) are hopeless to live up to God’s standard of righteousness, and helpless to do anything about it. But God has made a way for us to become His very own precious children, based upon Jesus’ righteous life and sacrifice on the cross. He lived a perfect life on our behalf and paid our debt of sin in full. Rules keeping and/or staying under a so-called authority will not save you, nor make you righteous in this life, and certainly will not guarantee you prosperity. Your part is placing your trust in Jesus Christ and accepting God’s GRACE, His unmerited favor. You can reject the false faith that led you to despair and come to the true saving faith and a personal relationship with God.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)Ω
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When Josh’s book became popular, thinking back when I was volunteering with MCO and WCCC, I remember how quickly many of Josh’s readers, adults older than Josh began repeating him, were ‘indoctrinated’ into misunderstanding the gospel as related to holiness when they spoke of salvation. ( Or, where they using him to outhold what they already upheld, as he did?) Talking with someone about his books always became more a need to defend the righteousness found in the gospel with someone ( not seeing they were) veiling the good new’s message with their ‘own example’ of what it is to be made righteous according to the message. It was work to break through the subtle counterfeit of understanding.
And, sadly, this is how many unbelieving hear us presently, through books like Josh put out into the air and how many professing still repeat where Josh landed, explaining grace as if evidently believed yet speaking words with the mind governed by the fleshes active fruit instead of the active work of confession through the Spirit of belief in the Truth, being also the way and the life.
The dating ‘issue’ became secondary to where his thoughts about dating lead, supposedly centered. Then, in his next book he apologized for some of the things he taught in the first book.
One of my thoughts with what Josh confessed publically this week: Did he ever in his heart and mind come to the knowledge of the good news and truly believe or did his lens of reading God’s word take the gospel form of his holiness instead of the revelation of God’s holiness having culminated in Christ?
I want to explain this because of how much this is in the air NOW of the professing christians who are famed and pushed( or pushing their theology), those ‘focused’ on preaching the ‘gospel’ and when people search them deeper they become confused in their theological message of assurance. And…. personally, it has been said to me more than a few times by professing christians, “Maybe we are explaining it wrong, about what it is to believe?” (Yes, left in question.) So, I am thinking about how many people sound like Josh Harris, maybe not about the ‘prosperity of dating’ but the ‘prosperity of our works as evidence we believe the gospel.’
So, I just keep repeating and encouraging my professing brothers and sisters with the good news, with out addition to God’s holiness and his work to deliver to us grace unmerited and undeserved. And sometimes I have to say, ” I disagree with John Piper, or Kevin DeYoung or Mark Dever or Russell Moore or James MacDonald or Doug Wilson… about how they end up explaining who is a convert, I am claiming sometimes speaking out load inconsistently. ( And we see the slopes of history move from explaining believing works individually to discovering socially just works communally, and the pendulum swings over the revealed good news among those who claim grace alone) for those who came out swinging about really their ‘own’ sin they preached in the churches they lead, to then swing to far about what is sin and what is not, joining a progressive cry the emergents started with. [ At this point I must clarify , even when all of us who profess to be christians fall short and are guilty of not displaying God’s holiness as he commands it, the question still remains, because all humans are guilty – ” Who do you say I am?” Jesus asks. And so shall it be with the school teacher that brought us to the 70ad temple destruction, being about Christ first coming, now with the world in focus, still being about Christ promised second coming.]
Here’s the main example of the subtle ( unrecognized veiling) that has been repeated to me: ( This example in agreement with Don and Joy about the faith some proclaiming are really claiming): The christian professor sends out into the air,” The faith that doesn’t changed you doesn’t save you!” So, I asked,”Your changed how?” The response is spoken like this,” You will have outward fruit if your really saved.” So, I ask, “What is the outward fruit ?” And so it goes with works or a redefining of regeneration before I get to proclaim this: ” The faith that changes you saves you. The moment you believe God, God knows, and you are changed, crossing over from death to life, born again=regeneration, the masterpiece(workmanship) of God, the change to the flesh now indwelled with the guaranteeing Spirit of God, sealed for eternity. YES, the faith that saves you changes you. God is faithful. Now, the promise to God’s masterpiece, the Holy Spirit indwelling the flesh of the believer, that God disciplines those He loves, who He calls by name- the saved unto a Savior.”
Do the called out ones veil the gospel with a mind governed by the flesh instead of having a mind governed by the Spirit? It was Jesus who said ” The flesh COUNTS for nothing.” The voices that preach into the air that we have been spiritually resurrected are ( unintentionally I believe) veiling the gospel! Resurrection is always physical! The spirit that is not raised to life does not receive a resurrected body! Hence, “the flesh COUNTS for nothing”. With so many unbelievers now understanding the claim of the gospel’s proof- the evidence found in the resurrected body- but do they understand the hope held out in faith? How can they if we veil what we are called to really believe in the gospel because of the resurrection of Jesus’ body: The sin to not believe is actually sin and Jesus Christ paid in full to forgive this sin of unbelief, that only God forgives sins of unbelief and saves. Such is our faith in the gospel through the resurrection. Where sins are understood, justly revealed by the authority of Righteousness, Mercy is revealed in offer. Is Mercy needed where their is no justice reward which an authority outside ourselves reveals? God desires mercy over sacrifice and justice.
2 Timothy 2:17-19 New International Version (NIV)
17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
About faith Jesus said:
Luke 18 New International Version (NIV)
18 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
On the other side of the coin about our faith James teaches man considers righteousness but God credits it in agreement-James 2, Romans 4- in agreement with Paul- about how beautiful are those who preach the good news.
Yes, I wonder, did Josh Harris really read scriptures through the lens of the good news , which is the tip of the arrow at the bullseye, the holiness of God to save? Did he show works KEEPING WITH repentance, which is the active and living word of God to turn to believe actively in our heart and mind it is only God who saves? If he was only confused in the veiling of the good news then I believe he would not have went out from among us…. who believes the good news. Did he ever know the reality of experiencing the activity of a repentant heart and mind to believe God, that to confess to God is active and living? ( God knows if he is a rebel on the cross- but yesterday and today I can only go by what I hear, being the testimony with his mouth.)
Speaking to those who profess to believe the good news John says:
1 John 2:18-20 New International Version (NIV)
18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.
As I stepped down from my soap box as one who really believes in Jesus and believes Jesus.
Revelation 1-3 to the churches of which Jesus stands outside the door and knocks, with fear and trembling I am working out my salvation. Both the worlds politic and the people of God can hold out physical water, food and clothes but there is only one kingdom entrusted to proclaim the gospel, contend for the faith and defend the gospel, holding out our invitation:
Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
Come Lord Jesus as you have also promised You are coming soon, Lord as we hold on to what we have. And with John the believing, your people cry out, Amen.
Until then the pure prayer of Jesus for us left in the world as ambassadors, inviting those oppressed by the kingdom of this world into the kingdom of our God with the rights of a born citizen: John 17- about our blessed hope of the better place-1 Corinthians 15-Romans 8
Luke 4:17-19 New International Version (NIV)
17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
About the old testament our school teacher that leads us to Christ- that oppression comes from a spirit not of God that veils the truth about love about the only one who can raise to life to our spirits and (bodily) resurrect the flesh.
Who is guareented tomorrow? There is only One who has won the victory over sin and death. I am not ashamed of the gospel, it is the good news! It is the only power I know , to the glory of God, that speaks to our neighbor the aroma of death and the aroma of life. May there be unbelieving turn to burn with the believing the incense of life that rises to our Father in heaven. Today is still the day of salvation, as we pass down to a younger generation of professing believers what it means to be prepared to suffer for the faith in unpopularity, even among other professing believers. Romans 1
Josh was really popular among professing believers( over a million books sold), first veiling the good news( in a lack of knowledge) and now denying its power. Did he ever suffer (something) for the gospel?
Love gripping Grace one in Spirit having the mind of Christ about the gospel Don and Joy.
The unmerited Singing Love,
On His merits Ephesians 2/Romans 5
ps: I am prepared to be unpopular, thinking about all Josh’s related camps, though intended to encourage through our hope held out in the gospel….. of which their is no other name that we can boast in. The gospel itself never having been a philosophy, reformed or restored, the gospel having never been lost! If only the professing would stop veiling it. 1 Corinthians 1-3
Just thinking, truly weeping and mourning, when yesterday I read a “progressive christian blogger” preach at the readers (he targets through title), him evangelizing really, about who should not be evangelizing and if you do what you should and should not say in order that people will be drawn away( this is where is is establishing with double speak who the Christian God really belongs to and doesn’t belong to) for who he caricatures to share his own correction- the deceptive evangelist about the good news. I think the above bitter sweet song of wailing comes from some of the weeping and mourning I experienced yesterday reading the ‘progressive christian authors’, but specifically the chaos the ‘progressive christian evangelist’ is lost in, being his own message about the Bible acting with doublemindness. You have to read it yourself to understand what I would have to take apart paragraph by paragraph to explain.
Evangelism as Deception
Sorry, I make lots of typing errors and miss corrections as a terrible proof reader, still reading what I meant to spell or say, until a time separated proof read. ( I especially hate when I mean to say something like “did not” and instead type “did”, with ‘not’ missing! Anyway, among my typing errors above, below a missing thought I should have completed:
Resurrection is always physical! The spirit that is not raised to life does not receive a resurrected body for eternal life, this being a promised inheritance only through the resurrected Savior.)
Thus, now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
It was good to read this article. I found MCO a couple of decades ago after reading Mike Mahurin’s posts at a now mostly defunct “Bill Gothard Discussion Group”. I never participated in Gothard teaching directly but I saw the effects in my friends and church groups.
I think many people, who have never heard of Gothard, are living in the shadow of his awful legacy. Sort of a twist on the sins of Gothard being visited on future generations. I know people who believe that they should be “under the authority” of a lead pastor, who rules his business, institution, “church”, as a benevolent dictator. It’s not about Jesus as head of the church but about finding a man who can lead, give vision, oversee the institution. Who can motivate the “volunteers”. All semblance of congregational oversight is gone.
I believe churches are now full of people who believe that their own hard work will make them right before God, that they can work hard to repay the sacrifice Jesus made for them. And to them grace is the power of God to work hard to bring about God’s kingdom on earth. In other words, Gothard lives!
The name of Gothard is not necessarily mentioned but the shadow of his ‘umbrella’ is still an active scourge over many authoritarian churches. And the Sojourner crowd have a fertile field of disillusioned souls to reap. When you feel the freedom of stepping away from the Gothard influenced “reformed” YRR crowd, it’s easy to turn to some other group who seems to have all the answers. My personal first step of freedom was to buy a Message Bible. What a rebel!
This is really sad that Bill Gothard is being pulled down because he believes that obeying God given authority is what causes people to be blessed. Read the commandment of obeying your parents which is the only one with a promise! Many churches and so called Christians have used Gothards teaching as an excuse to become legalistic and controlling. This is not what Bill Gothard taught! I have personally met this man and there is nothing sinister or controlling about him. Bill Gothard is a meek man. Also please note I have been brought up in a legalistic independent baptist church and have done Bill Gothards seminars and can assure you there is a complete difference! Where the Spirit of the Lord there is Liberty. Unfortunately too many people do not like the idea of submitting to higher authorities or will only to a certain extent until they disagree with the authority. Parents should have a big say in their children’s lives. This world is sexually impure because they do what they think is right and not listen to Godly counsel which should be coming from the first point of authority Parents. How many times in the Bible does it say my son listen to the instruction of your parents that it may go well with you! What makes this post sadder is that I am not even a parent or married but have been blessed when I obey the Lord and my God given authorities as the Bible says.
On a personal level I like Bill, however, he is a false teacher. We spent seven years addressing the issues with him in person, in writing, by email with no repentance on his part. We documented his teachings, compared with Scripture and the impact on many of his followers in our book, A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life. If his definition of “Umbrella of Authority” is correct, than, Jesus is a sinner. If Jesus isn’t a sinner (and He isn’t), Bill’s definition is false. He has a Roman Catholic view of earning Grace. We spent two hours every Monday for about six weeks pointing that out and his response was that Catholics aren’t wrong on everything. That is true but they are wrong on earning grace. He circumcision is a moral requirement for Christians in opposition to the book of Galatians. There is more but we have addressed it at length in the book