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In the 1980s and 1990s, Gregg and Sono Harris became familiar faces to many in the growing number of Christian families educating their children at home.
Gregg Harris spoke at conferences and workshops, and the couple’s oldest son, Joshua, became something of a teen icon: He spoke to homeschool audiences, he wrote articles, and he produced New Attitude, a magazine for homeschool kids.
In 1997, Joshua Harris gained fame for his wildly popular courtship book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. But he wasn’t a one-hit wonder: Harris wrote more books on Christian living and theology, he spoke at more conferences, and he became pastor of the 3,000-member Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., before stepping down in 2015.
Four years later, Harris has grabbed attention again, but the headline is dreadful: “I am not a Christian.”
Harris announced his renunciation of Christianity in an Instagram post on July 26, shortly after a separate post announced the end of his 19-year marriage. He apologized to the “LGBTQ+ community” for the Christian sexual ethic he once taught.
The Twitter responses were predictable: “Joshua Harris kisses marriage goodbye,” and, “I kissed Christianity goodbye.” Some may also have wondered: Should we kiss homeschooling goodbye too?
The short answer is no. Harris’ failures don’t mean homeschooling is a failure. But the apostasy of a well-known evangelical is a tragedy, and it’s worth reflecting on what Christians can learn.
Lots of Christian writers have noted the smorgasbord of factors that might have contributed to Harris’ fall: early celebrity, later celebrity, a lack of formal theological training, a sex abuse scandal that engulfed his church, and more.
But apostasy is a terrifying mystery, and it’s impossible to know all the details of how it happens in a man’s soul.
Things that are more certain: Homeschooling isn’t a formula for producing godly children, and personal purity isn’t a guarantee of a dream marriage. Only Christ changes hearts and gives the grace to keep going.
Another takeaway: Healthy churches—not occasional conferences—are the best soil for Christian growth. We should value helpful teaching from good books and good speakers, but the ideal diet comes from Biblical preaching in the context of Christians who know us well.
We can ponder these lessons—and pray for Harris—without laying the woes of an entire generation at his feet or rejecting the things he taught that were helpful. We don’t give up on Biblical teaching because one man has given up on the Bible.
So as the new school year begins, don’t put your hope in homeschooling, but don’t be hopeless about how God can use it. Don’t put your hope in personal purity for relational bliss, but don’t doubt the blessings purity does bring.
In the pursuit of both knowledge and purity, Jesus taught the ultimate reward is the same: “Blessed are the pure in heart—for they shall see God.”