Have you heard the news about Joshua Harris? Just over a week ago, the well-known Christian author posted on Instagram that he has decided to stop being a Christian. But here’s the thing… is that even possible? Can someone decide to stop being a Christian?

Joshua Harris and the Bigger Issue: Can You Stop Being a Christian?

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Who is Joshua Harris?

If you don’t know who Joshua Harris is, before he made headlines for declaring himself no longer a Christian, he was most famous for writing the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye back the 1990s. I never read the book myself, but I remember the frenzy that it stirred up regarding the topics of Christian dating, courtship, and purity culture.

If you haven’t seen his Instagram post, here’s a part of it (you can find the whole post here):

The information that was left out of our announcement is that 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.⁣⁣

In I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Joshua Harris advocated for a new mindset regarding Christian dating, one that relied on building a relationship with your intended in group settings rather than traditional one-on-one dates.

He also brought the term “courting” front and center, believing that people should only date with the purpose of becoming engaged and then married. And purity before marriage was another keystone of Joshua Harris’ message.

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I remember kids in my high school back in the 90s donning purity bands on their ring fingers, some having slogans such as “true love waits.” To be honest, I wasn’t a fan then and I still don’t care for the idea now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for sexual purity before marriage. But to me, it was a serious value that I held in high esteem, not something that I wanted to cheapen by wearing a fake wedding ring. (Just my personal conviction on the topic.)

And then there’s the question: what if you made a mistake and lost your virginity? The shame and condemnation that could come from not living up to the Christian cultural expectation of purity could be crushing.

Sexual purity is valuable, no doubt! But it was placed on such a high pedestal that it almost seemed like an idol.

Okay, now that we’re more familiar with Joshua Harris and his beliefs, and the Christian culture of the time, let’s confront the elephant in the room: can you just decide to stop being a Christian?

Here’s the short answer: no. Now let’s look at why.

Once saved, always saved?

Whole denominations have formed based on this question, but when you get right down to it, it’s a simple yes-or-no question. We can look to scripture for the answer, and there’s no gray area.

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. | Romans 10:9, NKJV

If you’ve made this decision, you’re saved from an eternity in hell, from the wrath of God, from the punishment for your sins.

And if you’ve chosen anything but Jesus—if you’ve rejected Him as your personal Savior—you’re not saved.

In flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power. | 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, NLT

It’s as simple as that. The Bible plainly states that if we’ve trusted Jesus, we’ve been made the righteousness of God through Christ’s sacrifice. (2 Corinthians 5:21)




God is solid. He’s unwavering. He’s faithful. He’s just. He’s holy. He is truth. He is light. In Him there is no darkness. He is every single thing that is good and right, and scripture says that with Him, there is no changing nor shadow of turning. (James 1:17)

Now, is that unwavering, unchanging God going to declare us righteous through Christ’s blood, and then when we make a mistake, turn around and send us to hell?

No.

And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand. My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater and mightier than all [else]; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are One. | John 28-30, AMPC

Wow, that makes me so excited! What power, and what assurance we have there of salvation, once for all!

So if you’ve been saved, you’re saved! Rest in the word of Almighty God that tells you so.

But what does this mean for Joshua Harris, and for others who have called themselves Christians only to up and walk away from the faith?

We’ve clearly seen here in the word of God that once you’ve trusted Jesus, you can’t be un-saved.

So then the question becomes: was he ever saved to begin with?

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Religion vs. relationship

Of course no one can know exactly what’s in another person’s heart, but the Bible tells us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45)

And so scripture tells us that we can know them by their fruits:

“For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. | Luke 6: 43-44, NKJV

So we do have discernment. We’re not judges by any means; God Almighty is the Judge of all things! But He has given us discernment about it.

The thing about viewing Christianity as a religion is this: it’s not. Religion is an invention of man who thinks so highly of himself that he should be able to reach up to a holy God.

How dare we think we could ever be good enough? The Bible tells us that the very best we could ever offer is like vile filth. (Isaiah 64:4) There’s absolutely no way we could ever reach God on our own.

If we could, Jesus would have come in vain and died in vain.

But Jesus came with a powerful, personal purpose. He did die for our sins, and He did rise from the dead. And through His atonement, He offers us a relationship to Himself and to our creator God. NOT religion.

And it’s not just any relationship, but one as sons and daughters of God!

But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become the children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name. | John 1:12, AMPC

For [the Spirit which] you have now received [is] not a spirit of slavery to put you once more in bondage to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption [the Spirit producing sonship] in [the bliss of] which we cry, Abba (Father)! Father! | Romans 8:15, AMPC

Our holy, righteous, and just Creator God has seen fit to reconcile us to Himself, and not only that, but to declare us now as His own children!

So we can see that we either have a real, personal relationship with Jesus Christ, or we don’t know Him at all. There’s no in-between. When you accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, you become part of the family of God. It can’t be undone.

There’s no choosing to walk away or to leave, because the Bible tells us that once we belong to the Lord, nothing can snatch us from His hand.

And there’s certainly no religion involved. No amount of works can save us, and no mindset or attitude can accomplish any kind of saving work. Salvation has been accomplished by Jesus’ sacrifice alone, and it is finished. There’s nothing we could add; there’s nothing we need add. Only our surrender of self.

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Choosing your Lord

I think often times when we hear about someone “leaving the faith,” either that person never really knew Jesus to begin with, or they had never made Him the Lord of their life.

Now someone can trust in Jesus as their Savior—as the sacrifice for their sins—and accept His forgiveness, and they’re saved. But that’s not the same as choosing to make Jesus the Lord of your life.

We have to decide to surrender ourselves to His lordship. Otherwise we’re going to be completely and utterly at unrest. It reminds me of what Jesus said when He appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus: “It is hard to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 9:5)

In other words, as the Amplified Bible puts it:

“It is dangerous and it will turn out badly for you to keep kicking against the goad [to offer vain and perilous resistance].”

Wow. So we have the Lord Jesus Himself telling us that if we refuse to surrender to His lordship, man, it’s gonna be rough. And dangerous. And “will turn out badly for you.” That’s a pretty clear message right there!

Not only do we have to admit our sinfulness and need for a savior—and accept Jesus personally—we also have to submit to His lordship and surrender our lives to Him.

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Can you leave the faith?

So if Joshua Harris can just decide to “stop” being a Christian, what’s to stop others from suddenly deciding to leave the faith?

Well, that depends on what you mean by “faith.” If someone views Christianity as a religion, then it would make sense to them that they could just change their view and leave that school of thought.

But if by “faith” you mean a personal belief, trust, and reliance on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the answer is no.

You can’t stop being a Christian.

If you’ve truly trusted Jesus as your salvation from sin and as the only way to God the Father, then the Holy Spirit has come to dwell within you. It’s done. He ain’t leaving.

The Spirit Himself [thus] testifies together with our own spirit, [assuring us] that we are children of God. | Romans 8:16, AMPC

So rest assured, if you’ve trusted Christ, the Holy Spirit lives within you forever and for always, and your life begins to change because of it. For the good.

Your actions change. Your thought life changes. Your heart is molded into something new that follows after Christ.

Yes, we’re still in these fleshly bodies and we still make mistakes, and we still sin. But we’re not IN sin. Jesus has taken us out of sin and into His righteousness since we’ve been baptized in, or identified with, Him.

So if your faith is in religion and vain works? Yep, you can sure enough decide to up and leave that.

But if your faith is in Christ Jesus alone? The Spirit will bear witness with your spirit, and you will KNOW that you’re a child of God.

You’ll know that you have a relationship, not a religion. And it’s not something you can stop believing or choose to leave behind. Because you’ve been changed. Because Christ has become a part of you. Because the Holy Spirit dwells within you.

Because you’re a part of the body of Christ. You’re no longer a sinner because you’ve been sainted, your identity now in Christ alone. You belong to a heavenly family, and you’re no longer your own.

You’ve been bought with the high price of the blood of Christ. You’re accepted in the Beloved.

To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He [a]made us accepted in the Beloved. | Ephesians 1:6, NKJV

Responsibility

One thing that’s plain with this Joshua Harris news is that somebody somewhere is responsible for those among us who believe themselves saved when indeed they’re merely participating in what they believe to be the religion that is “Christianity.”

It’s very sad that Joshua thinks he can just choose to no longer be a Christian. That’s why I’m not a fan of the word “Christian,” to be completely honest. Because the word itself tells so little and gives an appearance of religion, which should not be the case. Most people don’t understand that it’s not about religion but rather relationship.

I love when people ask me if I’m a Christian though, because I never answer yes. Instead, their question opens the door for me to ask them what they mean by “Christian,” which is usually some religious idea about people who are “good.”

We all know that’s 100% not the case. In fact, I personally trusted in Jesus because of how inherently bad I am! So I like to use that question as an opportunity to share what I believe about Jesus and what He’s done for me, and I encourage you to do the same!

Honestly, I believe when this kind of thing happens like with Joshua Harris, it’s our fault as the church for misleading people into an idea of religion instead of leading them into a relationship with Christ.

It’s a staggering and solemn fact that there are people out there going straight to hell from a church pew. And it’s even more horrendous to know that they don’t realize it.

As for Joshua Harris—and other “false converts,” for lack of a better phrase—I pray God opens his eyes and that he finally does repent and truly place his trust in Christ Jesus.

Because for someone to say they’re no longer a Christian means they never knew Christ in the first place.

As for us as believers in Christ, I pray God leads us to speak boldly and be witnesses for Him, not only in deed but in word.

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Joshua Harris and the Bigger Issue: Can You Stop Being a Christian? | Joshua Harris | I Kissed Dating Goodbye | leaving Christianity | renouncing your faith | abandoning the faith | stop being a Christian | lose salvation | #JoshuaHarris #IKissedDatingGoodbye #leaveChristianity #leavethefaith #stopbeingaChristian #abandonthefaith #renounceyourfaith #loseyoursalvation #salvation #religion #faith #Christianity

Joshua Harris and the Bigger Issue: Can You Stop Being a Christian? | Joshua Harris | I Kissed Dating Goodbye | leaving Christianity | renouncing your faith | abandoning the faith | stop being a Christian | lose salvation | #JoshuaHarris #IKissedDatingGoodbye #leaveChristianity #leavethefaith #stopbeingaChristian #abandonthefaith #renounceyourfaith #loseyoursalvation #salvation #religion #faith #Christianity




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2 Comments

  1. Amen sister!. I was so disappointed in his trajectory. I went and read his blog post and was even more discouraged. All I could think was, You Never Were A Christian.

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