By Elizabeth Prata
As a companion piece from yesterday’s blog essay, I also offer this further thought to you. It shocks us when someone leaves the faith becuase it is always hard to believe someone who professed faith never possessed it.
First, this is a helpful article on the alleged deconversion of Josh Harris. What to Do When Professing Christians Leave the Faith: Reflections on Joshua Harris and Perseverance
Perhaps you haven’t had much experience with Josh Harris. But maybe you’ve had people close to you fall away from the faith: a family member, a dear friend, a relative, a colleague, a college roommate, a pastor. But when these events occur, we can’t leave our questions hanging in mid-air. Unless we train our minds to go to the Bible when we hear of professing Christians denying the faith, we will be tossed to and fro by confusion, discouragement, and spiritual insecurity.
I can understand. If you have invested time and money and energy following a teacher and they fall or they ‘leave the faith’ it might send you reeling. ‘What now?’ you might ask. ‘What next?’ Worst of all are the doubts such an event leaves behind. ‘What does this mean for my faith, my discernment?’ Josh Harris, according to Wikipedia,
…is an American author and former pastor. Harris is widely known for his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, in which he laid out his ideas concerning a Biblically-based Christian approach to dating and relationships. I Kissed Dating Goodbye “helped shape purity culture” for many Christian millennials. Wikipedia
I said ‘alleged’ because there is no such thing as a Christian deconversion. 1 John 2:19 says “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”
If someone “leaves” Christianity, they never were Christians. It might seem impossible when you’ve been watching a long-term pastor suddenly go out from the faith, or someone who has such good works, or another who wrote books that spoke to your mind and spirit. But external works are not the only evidence of faith. It’s perseverance too. If God has you, He HAS you. He will not allow the evil one to snatch you from His hand, nor can you leave Him (and why would you want to? If His Spirit is in you, you are part of His body).
Let’s say you are a person who has an interest in education, and you silently attended all the classes in a university without having been enrolled, and then after 4 years of participating in study groups, and being seen in the library, and taking all the tests, decided to ‘quit college’. CAN you quit something you never were an official part of? No.
Your fellow study buddies might be shocked, but then when they hear you had never taken SATs, never applied, never were accepted by the Dean, and never actually enrolled, never accumulated any credits, would never be an Alumni, then they’d understand. “Oh!” They would probably say. “He never was part of the College.”
There are many pretenders in the faith. Many. (Matthew 7:22)
If something like the Joshua Harris issue leaves you questioning, that’s good. It’s good to question our own faith once in a while. Examine our motives. (2 Corinthians 13:5). Whether we are truly saved or not saved, we are always moving. The falsely saved/ sadly deluded, as Josh was, move downward and away from the cross. The truly saved in increasing sanctification always move toward the cross.
Almost 40 years ago, writer Eugene Peterson coned the phrase that sanctification is a “Long obedience in the same direction.” Despite his latter difficulties with the faith, that was a terrific coinage. You can turn it around and say the opposite is also true.
The deluded or pretenders display the same thing- a long obedience in the same direction…just movement toward and obedience to satan and not Jesus. Eventually the split becomes obvious to others or unbearable to the false Christian pretender, and they “leave” the faith. The sad punctuation point for Harris is that once you have tasted the Gospel and reject it, you can never be brought to repentance again:
Hebrews 6:4–6, It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.
Because Harris has tasted and spit Jesus from his mouth, so, Jesus will do the same to Harris. (Revelation 3:15-16).
For the truly saved, nothing on heaven or earth can tear us from the Father’s hand. and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:28-30).