The Human Element of Faith

Josh Harris is now an atheist.

The author of the 1997 blockbuster I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which exploded off the shelves and launched the purity culture movement in American evangelicalism into high gear (where else but American evangelicalism does a 20-year-old homeschooled kid who had never kissed a girl get instantly recognized as a world-renowned expert on love, sex, and dating?), began to have serious misgivings about the fruit of his work a couple of years back.  This set him on a journey which led to the recent announcement via Instagram that he is no longer a Christian.

The author of a Neo-Calvinist blog entitled “The Chorus in the Chaos” wasted no time whatsoever in channeling his inner John Piper and issuing a “Farewell Joshua Harris“.

This is precisely why the entire Neo-Reformed/Neo-Calvinist stream of Christianity is on my shit list.

Completely and conspicuously absent from this author’s attempt to post-mortem Harris’s departure from the Christian faith is any mention whatsoever of the human element of faith.  People grow and change as they grow up and grow older, have new experiences and learn new things.  No one believes exactly the same things in the same way they did twenty or thirty years ago.  If you do, then I strongly recommend you check your pulse.  Harris is not the same person now that he was back in 1997, he does not believe the same things now that he did then, and his faith simply couldn’t handle the disconnect between who he is now and who he was then, thus his present state of unbelief.

I struggle with the same thing myself–trying desperately to hold on to faith when faced with the profound disconnect between who I am now and who I was back in happier times, so long ago when I was still a young hot-blooded evangelical.  The “Snapshots of My Post-Evangelical Life” series was intended to illustrate my struggles in this regard.

As I have said before in this space, the “post-evangelical wilderness” is not some fanciful construct created by young punk bloggers living in their parents’ basements with nothing better to do with their lives than sit around in front of a computer screen all day and write whatever strikes their fancy. It is a real place, inhabited by real people with real stories. It is a space where we are, to borrow a quote from Rachel Held Evans which I have used before, “caught between who we once were and who we will be, the ghosts of past certainties gripping at our ankles”.

In all probability, Harris did not come lightly to his decision to leave the Christian faith.  This decision, and the journey leading up to it, were in all probability fraught with much grief from the loss of certainties he had held for much of his prior life, finding himself a complete stranger to himself because of all the changes happening inside, and living in that strange space between who he once was and who he is becoming.  When this author responds by issuing cheap soundbites about “how casually [Harris] has thrown away the preciousness of the Gospel”, it does a grave disservice.