Why Josh Harris’ Deconversion From Christianity is a Positive Development, and How Evangelical Christians Are Responding to Him

Recently on Instagram Josh Harris explained that he is no longer a Christian. Harris’ deconversion from Christianity has created a buzz on the internet. This post looks at what happened and explains why this is a positive development for Josh Harris. A faith crisis can be healthy and good and this blog hopes that each reader who processes this post will go through one in their life. The real tragedy in the perspective of this blog is how Josh Harris is being mocked, ridiculed and and attacked by evangelical Christians. This situation shows the insecurity of many evangelicals.

“Atheism leads a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation: all of which may be guides to an outward moral virtue.”

Sir Francis Bacon 

“Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.”

James Madison

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

1 Timothy 4:1-2 NIV

Glacier National Park in Montana

The other day Josh Harris announced that he is no longer a Christian. Josh Harris has been a profound and well known Neo-Calvinist evangelical pastor. He was a leader in the courtship movement with his book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” The responses by many keep coming across the blogosphere and podcasts. For example Al Mohler addressed the topic the other day. Carl Truman also responded to the issue to take a swipe at the Young Restless and Reformed movement. Over at The Gospel Coalition Kevin DeYoung, Collin Hanson, Josh Gilbert and Justin Taylor also commented on it. Julie Roys wrote a post about this situation which you can read here. Over at The Friendly Atheist they also noted how Heath Lambert wants to remove Josh Harris forward from a book he has written about pornography. The evangelical community is responding and this blog wants to comment on how they are reacting below. 

Before I get into what I am planning to say, let me acknowledge that what I am about to say will upset many people. Its going to be misunderstood and deeply criticized. But this post is being written from a personal experience and the way I am looking at this is quite different. So if you disagree with this, then please speak your mind. I’m a big boy I can handle many different hostile opinions. 

 

Why Josh Harris Deconversion is a Positive Development 

The deconversion of Josh Harris is viewed by this blog as a positive development. Its a step in the right direction especially from the Neo-Calvinist fundamentalist theology that he was immersed in. During this time Josh Harris is going to be misunderstood. There will be many people that will claim that he was never a Christian to begin with. People who have known him for years will turn their backs upon him. But his deconversion is necessary as that is an out from the theology in which he was raised. This is a hard process for him, and one that will leave many who know him confused. Everything that he knows is being thrown overboard. And yet in order to get healthy this is a path that he must take. 

There are many reasons why people can go through such a process of deconversion. It can be triggered by the issue of evolution and creationist theology. Or the problem of evil can trigger this move. Another possibility is that the topic of Old Testament genocide can be an issue in the context of the question asked is how is God any different than Mao, Joseph Stalin,  or Adolf Hitler? There are other issues that can trigger this process of deconversion. During this time he will probably wrestle with topics and issues that he never wrestled with before in his life. Evangelical theology can be too smothering to allow for a journey or process of asking questions. In many situations questions create problems. In rejecting fundamentalism Josh Harris will be closer to the human race and more in line with humanity than many in the Neo-Calvinist camp. 

One thing Josh Harris is to be commended for is it brutal honesty. His coming out and sharing that he doesn’t believe in God anymore is healthy and transparent. By taking that course of action Josh Harris is much more transparent than 95% of evangelicalism. Behind the scenes at this blog this writer has interacted with some people that could not believe in faith but covered it up in silence because they were afraid of losing their marriage or family. Instead of coming out of the atheist closet they stayed silent and bottled it up. That is far from healthy and how alcoholics are created. The most important thing one can do is to be honest with oneself. If you can’t do that you are deceiving yourself and that is problematic. Josh Harris is being brutally honest and open, and that is to be singled out and commended. The decoversion of Josh Harris is essential to him reclaiming his life. During this time he will re-order and re-shape everything from his life as he leaves the shell of fundamentalism. That includes issues like money, sex, career, work, hobbies, life, dating, entertainment, family and more. Fundamentalism can be so toxic because it is controlling and destructive. Individuals who deconvert can go through a discovery phase where they find themself by experimenting and trying new aspects of life. In his 40’s and 50’s Josh Harris may be doing things for the first time that people do in their late teens or twenties. And that is healthy and good. You won’t understand any of this unless you have gone through a similar experience. When I write this it comes from personal experience, let me explain some more. 

 

My Faith Crisis and Deconversion For Five Years

In 2009 I went through a faith crisis that was dark and painful. What triggered it was a number of things. Issues with evangelical culture, problems with the Bible specifically the issue of Old Testament genocide and the problem of evil. Going through the process of losing faith is hard and painful. I didn’t want to go through it and was dragged through against my will. This blog which does well could have much higher ratings if I focus more on scandal. But issues like atheism and doubt deserved to be looked at and covered, My faith crisis in many ways was “violent.” When I say violent I want to be clear that it was no physical. No one was harmed and nor could I even consider that. But it was violent in the sense that I acted so harshly towards evangelicalism and faith that I went ballistic against it. I burned all bridges and walked away form evangelicalism. I immersed myself in atheist culture even though I considered myself agnostic. The reality is that I was an atheist in my thinking. The issue that drove me the most was the problem of evil. When I developed the courage at the time to ask questions, engage some churches and more – really no one could respond and discuss the problem in response. My faith crisis lasted five years. I read, consumed, listened to and watched a lot of atheist material. Now in my case I came back slightly and remain on the edge. I worked out the problem of evil, though days like today with the shootings in Texas and Ohio bring it to the forefront again. But today I remain on the edge. In looking back my faith crisis and deconversion for five years was a gift. And today I remain grateful for what took place. I look at the world through a different lens. And I look at atheism, evangelicalism and more in a much different light. From my perspective I look at the big picture. And that I think is missing from other blogs. My experience led me to looking at things from that context. If you want to read more about what a faith crisis or deconversion feels like you can read the following posts, “Eagle Writes a Journal Entry Inspired from Neil Carter’s Godless in Dixie on Grieving the Loss of Your Faith” and “What Does a Faith Crisis Feel Like?” Greg Marshall who is a friend of mine from my days in Campus Crusade in Milwaukee has also done pastoring in SE Wisconsin. He used part of my faith crisis and pushing away as part of his sermon. You can watch that above.

 

The Insecurity of Evangelicalism is on Display to the World 

The real tragedy in this situation is how many evangelical Christians are responding to Josh Harris’s deconversion. Reading his Instagram posts and the glee and mocking some people display is very troubling. For some people evangelical Christianity is not a faith system grounded in love, its a system that can be used to increase suffering and pain in other people. Some evangelicals can use their position to tear down, question, or verbally ridicule others. The reason why this is I would suggest can be twofold. The first reason is that many evangelicals are deeply insecure about their faith. Its shallow, lacks substance and when situations like Josh Harris come around they are frightened. Its no different then the way some people had irrational fears about AIDS, or other diseases that afflict western civilization. It can almost be as if Josh Harris has such an illness and people react out of fear. They think that it can be contagious and they worry about his status impacting them. So they mock, belittle and ridicule in this sense because they are insecure. And in the process they withdraw. The second reason is that many evangelicals are privately angry that he is able to leave a system they want to leave but cannot. Maybe this is the case because of social status or family obligations or other reasons. Some evangelicals deep down would like to leave but cannot. Others are dealing with doubt and faith issues but they are in denial and they double down. So what they do in this situation is to attack him. Its no different than the pastor who attacks someone who is gay regularly and then later on it is learned that they are gay. There are some evangelicals who are closet atheists who don’t want to be evangelicals so they attack Josh Harris. 

The reaction by many evangelicals is profoundly sad. Instead of reacting with compassion, love, grace or being willing to listen they go the other direction. Their behavior reveals a theological system that is diseased and troubled. Their faith can’t endure the storms or trials that exist in life. And the deconverison of someone is seen through a narrow lens. They also think in the short term, meaning they can’t picture where Josh Harris can be five or ten years out. All they can think about is the here and now. This by the way is why many evangelicals miserably fail when it comes to evangelizing or witnessing. Their patience is short, they can tolerate little and they can’t deal with difficult questions. For a watching world this behavior by evangelicals only confirms to them why evangelical Christianity and possibly in a bigger picture the greater Christian narrative should be rejected. The real tragedy is that faith and love could be on display, and instead its insecurity that is seen by the world. It takes a lot of talent to screw up like this repeatedly over and over, but only evangelicals can do so. 

 

My Hope for the Person Reading this is that You Will Have a Faith Crisis…Here’s Why

As I get to the end of this post I want to turn the attention to you – the reader. And I want to leave you with my own personal desire. My hope is that you will experience a faith crisis and walk away from faith for a few years. Here is why I desire that to occur. If that takes place it will help you in the long run. It will remove you from the bubble that you are involved in, and force you to ask hard questions. It will refine you and shape you and make you more human. You will be more a part of humanity than you are right now. In the process you will also learn a lot about yourself. What you believe or don’t believe and why. You may not come back to the faith or you may but in a different way. Your perspective will be permanently altered and you will look at things forever different. A faith crisis can be healthy in that after you have gone through it you will be able to process and think about things you never previously did. Spending four or five years reading Neil Harris or Christopher Hitchens or science books by biologists or more will give you much to look at. You may hate me for saying this, and the reality is that this post will bother some people. But if more evangelicals had faith crisis and walked away for a while – I think the landscape would be much better. Being in the wilderness has its advantages. Not all who wonder are lost. And sometimes to find yourself you must become lost. I leave you with these parting words as I wish you well on your journey whatever it may be. If there is anyone out there who wants to tell their story of a faith crisis or deconversion this blog would be honored to do so. 

17 thoughts on “Why Josh Harris’ Deconversion From Christianity is a Positive Development, and How Evangelical Christians Are Responding to Him

  1. OK, so I’m watching some new COURTNEY HADWIN YouTube Video’s, and this article pops up.

    Dude, he was a Calvinist. What does that have to do with your article about your famous “EVANGELICALS”?

    He’s NOT ONE OF US, and he never was. He’s was an idiot then, and he’s still an idiot.

    He needs to lay low for a while for the damage that he’s done in people’s lives, and go join the military or something.

    As far as your advice to US, the reader? I’d rather die a cold death in Siberia before I’d ever follow that advice. Nice try tho. I want to be with Jesus.

    Faith is SO EASY, and YOU make it as difficult as possible, all because of your experience. You are STILL a Cathlic, thinking that we command rules and regulations, and a particular lifestyle, blah blah.

    Faith is all is required. Once you figure that out, it’s SIMPLE and easy. Why do you think it’s so hard?

    You just want to feel sorry for yourself. You need a mentor to tell ya to GROW UP, AND GROW A PAIR.

    Stop wallowing in your sorrows, about some Army dude that hurt your feelings. Are you really that weak? You know that I am not being mean…just wondering why you always PLAY THE VICTIM CARD, when if you were THICK SKINNED, you could SHAKE IT OFF like that girl who sung that song said. Taylor SWIFT.

    You are NOT ANGRY AT EVANGELICALS. You are angry at God. Admit it. WHY? Don’t tell me that this is about evangelicals, cuz it’s NOT. There is NOT ONE evangelical that cares what you think of them. Seriously. NOT ONE. This is all about YOU AND GOD alone. YOU KNOW that God exists, no matter how much you talk about de-conversion. You are TRYING YOUR HARDEST TO BE IN DENIAL. But…it ain’t workin. Get right with God, REGARDLESS OF EVANGELICALS.

    Dude, we all know that Calvinists are of the devil. I learned that from Adam Sandler in Waterboy. His mom. Ben Franklin didn’t invent electricity. She did. Ben Franklin is DA DEBIL. All cuz MAMMA SAID…

    Ed Chapman

    Like

  2. My momma was a Catholic Nun 20 years before she left, and decide to get married and be a mom. If she taught me one thing in my 47 years, is being a Christian,is a personal relationship with Jesus period. A TRUE Christian walks in His faith, and is only concerned in their walk. I don’t preach, I don’t judge. I act in His actions as much as I can, and pray for Him to keep me in His Word. Sometimes I slip, and fall, and He helps me back up. I can’t be Unsaved, and I will never turn my back on Him. However I wouldn’t even fathom to question someone else’s beliefs or try to turn someone.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I’ve been following this at both Wartburg Watch & Spiritual Sounding Board, most of the time defending Josh Harris. Citing both your (Eagle’s) and my burnouts, pointing out that JH grew up the equivalent of a Child Star CELEBRITY with additional Famous Father Syndrome and how the rules of CELEBRITY Burnout are what applies in his case.

    Besides his former BFFs in Christ trying to turn the Apostate Traitor into a pile of rocks, those who got burned bad by IKDG purity culture are also after him.

    And just this weekend I found a musical expression of what he must be going through. In the words of the prophet Robert Zimmerman:

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I basically blogged all the way through my faith crisis. It started–Geez, when did it actually start, early naughts? And it hasn’t stopped. I think it actually made me more compassionate toward different beliefs (different religions, LGBT, etc.) and different forms of life (even bugs) because of the thought, “What if this really is all there is?” A huge chunk of my website is a collection of theological questions and existential crises going back to 2005 and still continuing.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Here is the precise wording of Josh’s announcement: “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.”

    I take strong issue with Josh’s characterization that “deconstruction” is equivalent to “falling away.” I would characterize “deconstruction” as “questioning and thorough examination of everything in one’s belief system.” At its heart, deconstruction is taking apart one’s belief system, examining it, and determining what pieces are well-founded and can remain, and what pieces need to be discarded. It is not *necessarily* the same thing as “demolition” or “destruction,” which is how Josh seems to characterize it. We all have belief systems, and so “deconstruction” of one belief system inevitably leads to “reconstruction” of another belief system, and that process looks different for each person who undergoes it, and there is wide variance in the differences between the deconstructed system and the reconstructed system.

    Yes, when one undergoes deconstruction, one possible outcome could be that one entirely walks away from one’s faith. In those cases, either all of the components of one’s belief system are discarded, or a large enough number are discarded that one can no longer “reconstruct” any similar coherent system without them. One still comes out of the process with a new belief system, just one very different than their former one. I think that is how Josh is understanding the process, probably because of (1) coming from a tradition that associates any examining and/or questioning of one’s own faith to be tantamount to denying it, and (2) because leaving the faith was the particular end result he experienced.

    But in other instances, and this was the case for me, it results in a reconstructed faith, hopefully one with a firmer foundation than before. The extent to which the “after” differs from the “before” varies widely person to person. It may be substantially different, or it may look similar with some “tweaks.” In a small number of cases, it may be exactly the same as before.

    In my own case, my faith definitely remained throughout the examination process, and I believe it is much stronger now than before. I believe that much of what I discarded were points that were not healthy components of faith as much as they were components of a human-constructed “systematic theology” that tried to over-define faith and package it in a neat little box with impenetrable boundary lines. Other things that were discarded were beliefs that had nothing to do with Christian faith but were somehow tacked on to my faith understanding, or components of my belief system that were based on faulty understandings or applications of Biblical truth.

    All this to say, every case of “deconstruction” looks very different, and making it equivalent to “falling away” as Josh does is incorrect. I tend to think that his view of deconstruction has been significantly impacted by his association of faith with a rigidly defined set of theological doctrines, and that impacts how he defines it, and how he himself has viewed it in his own life.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Always interesting to watch Christians attack each other and insist that each other aren’t TrueChristians(tm). I was a Presbyterian, lost my faith in that, looked at other religions and realized that they make all of the same baseless claims. I’m happily an atheist now. I got that way by reading the bible in its entirety and seeing that the claims in it don’t match with reality. It’s not just that we have no evidence for the nonsense in the bible, we have entirely other things happening in reality during the times that Christians try to claim magic was happening.

    I see Ed Chapman making the same silly claims about atheists, that we have to be “angry” at his version of his god. Nope, though if this being existed, I certainly wouldn’t worship such a petty vicious thing. I can get angry and disgusted at Christians who spread their hate and ignorance by their making their religion in their image. As for evangelicals not being calvinists, from their actions they certain act like them, all sure that they and they alone are chosen by this god, predestination at its finest. They only mouth the claims of “free will” because they need an excuse for their impotent and evidently imaginary god.

    Some people will deconvert and then convert again since the belief that some magical being agrees with you and will take care of you is very intoxicating, and it’s easy to make up one more god in your image. Some will become agnostic or atheist. I’m happy to be an atheist because I don’t have to make up excuses for a god invented by ignorant and fearful people a couple of thousand years ago. My morality is wonderfully subjective and I am far more moral than any silly god is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The truth is in yourself, as you choose to define it. I’m guessing you don’t like morality dictated to you, yet, if I tell you I’m pro-life, your mind wanders immediately to how I’m going to legislate abortion. The problem with your view is that there is no universal truth. It’s made up for you, and makes living in a society peacefully a major pain in the ass. To each their own truth amounts to chaos. This is what God provides, among many other things, to one’s life. You may not “need” it and have risen above, but that really only makes you a super-intellectual intolerant piece of work.

      Like

    • Club, ChapmanEd has shaped up as this blog’s regular troll.

      He really started camping out here around late 2016-early 2017 as a Trump Fanatic (“I give Donald Trump Praise and Adoration”), sniffing for any hint of Blasphemy against the Donald and responding fangs-out.

      A few days ago, I was searching the archives at Spiritual Sounding Board on an unrelated subject and noticed his handle popping up in the comment threads there around 2013-2015, pre-Trump but just as pugnacious and argumentative.

      P.S. Like the snow leopard icon, but you’re coming across as an arrogant anti-theist; I recommend you (along with ChapmanEd) mellow out a bit.

      Like

      • HUG,

        I stopped hanging out at SSB when Julie Anne and I had 2 different disagreements regarding Pastor T, and Trump.

        I was voting for a businessman, not a politician, not a PASTOR IN CHIEF, and I KNOW, just like Charles Barkley had said, THE BASKETBALL PLAYER, that locker room talk exists, and all men participate, and that I am a former sailor of the US Navy, and all of us did as well. What do you think we did in Port’s of Call such as Pattaya Beach Thailand? Perth Australia? Subic Bay Philippines? Singapore? GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS.

        And regarding Pastor T, there is NO SUCH LAW to convict pastor T of any kind of pastoral sexual abuse, no matter how much that Julie Anne thinks that he’s guilty of it. To say that the women did not know THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, to me, was INSANE.

        This BUSINESSMAN TRUMP has accomplished a lot, and I also do NOT see ANY racism in anything that he has said or done to warrant the constant false accusations against him.

        But let’s set Trump aside for a moment, it would not have mattered WHAT REPUBLICAN won. Whoever that republican would have been instead of Trump, the SAME THING would happen to them as it is with Trump. But Trump is the only one strong enough to take it, and keep standing. Congress is now trying to investigate Bret Kavanaugh…FOR WHAT? Because he tips the scales at the Supreme Court FROM a liberal court, to a conservative court. That’s why the false accusations of rape came about.

        So, due to the differences between Julie Anne, and I, I stopped going there, because our arguments were getting heated pretty bad.

        I knew Julie Anne from the VERY BEGINNING A FEW MONTHS BEFORE SHE EVEN BEGAN HER BLOG WE HAD PHONE CALLS TOGETHER. She lives not that far from me. I attended a volleyball game with her when her daughter had a game in Seattle. But now…because Trump said something about grabbing pussy, we parted ways. She, as many do, think that Trump ADMITTED to sexually assaulting women, when that is NOT what locker room talk is. Locker room talk is nothing more than a “I caught a fish THIS BIG” story. And the woman he said that about, made a statement, and the conclusion was, HE NEVER GRABBED ANYONE’S pussy.

        Ed Chapman

        Like

  7. Haven’t visited for a long time now, but I think this comment expresses what I feel:

    There seem to be two streams of thought regarding Harris. One, possibly mainly from women sees him as something of a victim of his upbringing, of fame and fortune through his book written probably before he had the maturity to cope with it. This stream is sympathetic to his plight.

    The other stream, predominantly male, sees him as committing apostacy, and especially those of a strong Calvinist persuasion see him as never having been a genuine Christian at all. (He has ‘gone out from among us’.) I think this judgement is somewhat premature.

    I’m not sure either side is simply right or wrong, but I couldn’t but help see Harris’ collapse in the face of the LGBT assault on the faith does speak of a real loss of faith.

    My own sympathy for him is somewhat blunted by the fact that many Christians throughout history and today suffer for their faith and don’t give it up in the face of such adversity. Giving up the faith is an act of moral wickedness, and this aspect does not deserve sympathy.

    That said, I have appreciated the very few commenters who still hold out hope for a reconciliation and restoration of the marriage and a firm faith in Christ.

    I don’t like the speculation indulged by some but there may well be more that will come to light in the future.

    I think I would distinguish between periods of doubt – is God really there, is this stuff really true or I imagining it, which I suspect most Christians go through at some point and may well agonise over, and a loss of faith usually caused by a return to sinful behaviour leading to as very convenient loss of faith. One thinks of Josh McDowell’s dictim that when he met students having a crisis of faith he only needed to ask who the student was sleeping with but not married to, to find the answer.

    Like

  8. Pingback: Hillsong Worship Leader Marty Sampson and Considering Evangelical Christian Culture and Doubt | Wondering Eagle

Leave a Reply to Headless Unicorn Guy Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.