Kissing Kalamity Hello

NOT LONG AGO, MANY OF us were greeted by the sad news that Josh Harris, the man (then boy) who had written I Kissed Dating Goodbye, was separating from his wife. As if that calamity wasn’t big enough, a week later he announced, again via Instagram, that he was also no longer a professing Christian. 

How to handle the hellacious Harris headache:

1. The first thing we should reflect on is the legacy of Purity Culture. By ‘reflect’ we don’t mean ‘scorn’. That would be easy and it’s exactly what many, especially the boys and girls in the ExVangelical camp, are doing online at this moment. According to some, Purity Culture was the worst thing that happened to this world since Attila the Hun and they are only to gleeful to dance on its gravein rainbow coloured, Stonewall approved attire, of course.

We need to be able to clearly identify just what it is that was wrong with Purity Culture. Simply saying ‘I didn’t like it’ isn’t enough. Some of the critique we’re currently seeing is about as profound as ‘Because I was raised in purity culture, it made me feel guilty when I cheated on my husband with a polyamorous crew I met on Tinder and we all know guilt isn’t from God.’ Their condemnation is just.

Identifying the excesses of Purity Culture is one thing. Find the way forward into true, Biblical purity is the next. And the church desperately needs a vision of Biblical Holiness. Some would want to use a failed attempt at creating a culture of purity to extol a culture of fornicationwhich is a bit like moving from a house with a leak in the roof to living in a sewage pipe. Let’s cast a vision for simply fixing the roof.

2. The second way we should be reflecting on is what exactly scripture does teach about ‘falling away’. ExVangelicals will be rejoicing that Josh has ‘seen the light’ and left the ‘toxic world of evangelicalism’. Some in the Reformed camp will simply quip that, as he no longer professes Christ, he was obviously ‘never really a Christian’. But for those who followed Josh’s ministry, heard his sermons, listened to his prayers, and were inspired by his devotion to the Lord, such a quip will not easily satisfy. Just what are we to do with all the warnings in the New Testament about falling away if indeed it is impossible to fall away?
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. -Heb 3

Minds much greater than mine have debated these points for centuries. I make no recommendations other than encouraging people to go back to their Bibles and to reflect on the relevant passages of Scriptureboth those that seem to suggest that falling away is possible and those that seem to say it isn’t. It is all too easy to seek verses that confirm our bias and to quickly pass over the ones that don't. 

3. Lastly, we need to let teachers grow up. Josh Harris wrote his kissing book when he was 21. How many of us have changed our mind about significant issues since we were 21? Instead of having a bonfire book burning to the tunes of ‘Losing my Religion’ perhaps we can simply see the book for what it was: a young man, living in a secular and immoral culture, trying to pursue the Biblical call to purity albeit in an imperfect way.

For those of you who were quick to throw stones, were you already wiser than Gandalf at 21?

What would have been ideal, had Josh kept his (supposed?) walk with the Lord and marriage intact, is to write a new book at 41 ‘I Kissed Wisdom Hello’ in which he evaluates what he wrote in his youth and paints a more mature way forward for those who what to embrace sexual holiness in an unholy world. We need leaders and teachers that are humble enough to confess that they’ve changed their mind. Being able to say ‘I used to teach this, but now I think that is not truly Biblical’ is a fine quality for nay Bible teacher.



  1. Good points here. I looked up a few articles on this issue and was surprised to see how much controversy was already around CJ Mahaney, Josh's mentor. It almost looks like both men are in their own way trying to escape the moral outrage regarding how multiple molestation charges were handled by their church. The fallout from these charges is still fresh and will be brought up in the future. Now then, regarding Peter's denial of Christ could Josh do the same? Yes, or he could be going through the worst crisis of his life and realizing that true faith would cost him everything so instead of turning to Christ for salvation he turned and ran. I served as a youth pastor in my church for some years before I realized I myself had never really surrendered. For me it was a conversation that started me toward questioning my heart, for Joshua perhaps a storm.


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