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Harris and homeschooling

One man’s apostasy doesn’t undermine a way of teaching children

Harris and homeschooling

Joshua Harris (Instagram)

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.”


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  • AlanE
    Posted: Fri, 08/16/2019 01:25 pm

    A piece nicely done. Thank you.

  • CJ
    Posted: Fri, 08/16/2019 01:31 pm

    Well said! And Joshua Harris's story is still being written. The prodigal son did not remain with the pigs. His father never stopped watching for him on the road home. 

  • Theodore
    Posted: Fri, 08/16/2019 07:26 pm

    I heartily concur CJ!  God the Father pursues us.  His mercy and grace are incomprehensible but oh so real!

  • VolunteerBB
    Posted: Tue, 08/20/2019 02:47 pm

    These 2 latest incidents of Christians losing their faith and even rejecting everything they say they once belived has brought much dialog to our homeschooling family.  Were they really saved?  Can they return once they have rejected it?  It has us digging deep into the word.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Sun, 08/25/2019 11:15 pm

    Jamie Dean hits a home run!  A well written article about how to respond to the apostasy of Joshua Harris.  We shouldn’t freak out and abandon home schooling, for those called to the task. We must remember that looking down our noses at those who don’t home school is an instrument of the devil. Some women aren’t cut out to be home schoolers and a husband or church should never force a wife/person to do homeschooling! And besides God does want the light of Christians in the public schools! So let us show grace to each other on the homeschooling front and not cast judgment. 

    Joshua Harris abandoned his faith but we shouldn’t be surprised because we were warned about false prophets by Jesus himself. He allowed Judas to be a disciple when he knew full well that he would betray him! He did this for our benefit, so we would not be surprised when the “inner circle members” abandon the faith.  

    1 John 2:19 New International Version (NIV)

    19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

    New International Version(NIV)

    Joshua Harris’s abandonment of the faith shows he was really never a Christian from the get go! Of course we may pray and hope that he is a “prodigal son” but only time will tell the real truth. 

    Another point to consider is the book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”.  Some people read the book and were spiritually benefited by following it. Was there spiritual wisdom in the book even if an apostate wrote it? I do think there was some wisdom, since many of the principles aligned biblically. Again here we need to show grace to different views on Christian dating styles: courtship dating, not dating, Christian dating, and I’m sure there are others. Ironically, the Bible is rather quiet on the subject, where it pushes the point of purity, sexual holiness, Christian love, and not using people selfishly. So if you read “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and felt it helped you spiritually, you should thank God for the book which has roots from the scriptures. At the same time, we need to give people room on how they view dating as long as they place the emphasis on the biblical mandates as stated above. 

    I thank God for each of you my brothers and sisters in Christ! Sometimes I get too worked up over the political and fail to say how grateful I am that each of you are there fighting the fight! Hang in there staying connected to the vine for that is where we draw our strength! Don’t grow discouraged over the political but let us trust God even when we strongly disagree. I can’t wait for the great feast in heaven when we will look back at our squabbles seeing the truth fully. I love you each in Christian love and encourage you to stay constant not swerving off the path! Carpe Diem!

  •  TInaH's picture
    Posted: Tue, 12/31/2019 11:21 am

    God does not want children of Christian parents in public schools (Luke 17.2). Christian adults might be called into the ungodly government school system if they can withstand one of the toughest missions fields around (from my personal experience on that field for nine years, I can attest I saw many previously solid believers fall into the pit of humanism after teaching in public schools) - but the children? No. If a parent would not put his/her child into a Muslim school to "witness," s/he cannot justify putting them into the humanist government schools. Christian school is viable as an option if homeschooling is entirely impossible for some reason - biblically justified by God sending Samuel to live with Eli. But, biblically speaking, homeschooling IS the mandate and it's a cop-out to suggest that some parents aren't "called" to it. Every Christian parent IS called to it, whether or not they feel equipped. They need to do it and trust God to equip them on the journey. Homeschooling doesn't save - only Christ does that - but is IS the biblical mandate, pure and simple. It's also the logical choice, as we can see from 100 years of government school dominance what has happened to our culture. 85% of kids with Christian parents who attend those government schools abandon the Lord, most never to return (and if they do, most have shallow, distorted theology); in contrast (and this is Barna research, by the way), only 4% of those who were homeschooled give up on the Lord. God's commands are there for our protection; the mandate to train up our own (in all facets of life, not just the spiritual) is one example of that.

    Posted: Mon, 08/26/2019 04:11 pm

    Joshua Harris is a good example of why Christians should not put their faith in men. 

    Always keep your eyes on God.