Josh Harris of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” has quite publicly and unreservedly renounced his faith. “I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus,” he writes on Instagram. “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.” (Emphasis added.)
This naturally raises questions in the mind of every sincere Christian observer. Was he ever a true Christian? If he was, how could he so flatly repudiate his faith? And where does all this leave him with regard to his eternal destiny?
There will be those reading this who are firmly in the “once-saved, always-saved” camp, which believes it is impossible to forfeit one’s salvation. Someone may look like a genuine believer for a long time, but if he ever falls away, it will simply demonstrate he was never a Christian to begin with.
I grew up with this view, and believed it until I finished my training in the biblical languages at Dallas Theological Seminary, which paradoxically still stands firmly in the always-saved camp. I still have many friends, including pastors, who believe the always-saved view, and I have no interest in starting a quarrel with them or anyone else. I respect them, and my disagreement with them on this issue is not personal but biblical.
There is a flaw in the always-saved view that I’m not sure its advocates recognize. They look at the always-saved view as a matter of eternal security. But, if people can look like the real thing for decades and then be exposed as inauthentic, how can any of us know for sure we’re not one of them, and just haven’t lived long enough for our inauthenticity to be revealed? The traditional view might actually create eternal insecurity.
Their explanation for Josh Harris is that he was never truly converted in the first place. It might have looked that way while he was writing his book on dating, it might have looked that way while he was successfully pastoring congregations (and fooling them the whole time), but his faith was counterfeit.
For myself, I see no reason to doubt the authenticity of Harris’ Christian faith. He seems to fit the profile found in Hebrews of those who were genuinely converted, who genuinely walked with Christ for a long time, and who then got pulled away from Christ by the world, the flesh, and the devil. This is a very precarious place to be, if the writer of Hebrews is to be believed.
“It is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, to restore them again to repentance” (Hebrews 6:4-6).
In 10:32, “enlightened” refers to salvation, “tasted” refers to a genuine experience of something, as Christ “taste[d] death for everyone” in 2:9, and “restore…again to repentance” means they once were repentant.
How does someone get to where Josh Harris is today after beginning as he did? The writer warns us that we must be careful to pay close attention to the Word, “lest we drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:3). It’s not deliberate at first, just an almost imperceptible drift from the shore. But if we do not become aware of the drift, and right the boat, we can soon find ourselves carried by the tides a long way from home.
Eventually the “drift” becomes willful and defiant. We will not find our way to shore even when we still can. “If we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27).
God has given us the precious gift of free will, and does not revoke that gift when we come to faith in him. Our free will can be used to continue to trust in God for our salvation and everything else, or it can be used to turn our back on him and the salvation we once knew. The choice is ours.
Some believe the tailgate is up on the back of the pickup, others believe it is down. Either way, the point is to ride as close to the cab as we can.
What does all this mean for Josh Harris? He may, without even being fully aware of it, have put himself at risk of eternal separation from God. “It is a fearful thing,” says Hebrews, “to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31.)
The apostle warned us that dangerous apostates would arise even from the leadership of the church. “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).
Is it too late for Josh Harris? It might be.
Let’s pray that he has not in fact gone too far to be reeled back into shore. And let’s pray that we ourselves will notice the slightest drift from God in our own lives and correct course immediately. The consequences of not doing so are too dreadful to contemplate.
Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at “Focal Point”
Host of “Focal Point” on American Family Radio, 1:05 pm CT, M-F www.afr.net
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NorthWest Connection, American Family Association or American Family Radio.)