In recent times, we’ve sadly seen many pastors and other church leaders (and whole denominations) change their stance on marriage, abortion, and other social issues. Of course, the ultimate reason for their changes is sin! But there is also a foundational reason as to why these changes have been happening.
Now another example of change has rocked many people in the Christian world.
In July, headlines appeared in Christian and secular media concerning a person named Joshua Harris. Here is just a tiny sampling of what was being said this summer:
“Joshua Harris falling away from faith: 'I am not a Christian'” (www.christianpost.com, July 27, 2019).
“‘I Am Not a Christian’: Former ‘Pastor,’ Author Joshua Harris Kisses Christianity Goodbye” (https://christiannews.net, July 26, 2019).
Atheist bloggers were almost giddy with excitement over this sad situation.
Now, Harris is well known in many Christian circles for his 1997 million-plus bestselling book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. He was also known for holding a key position with the group Gospel Coalition and for pastoring a megachurch in Maryland for ten years. Harris was homeschooled and was brought up by parents who were considered pillars of the homeschool movement in the 1990s.
I must admit, I was not familiar with Harris or this book (maybe because of my age!). But I recently discovered that three years ago, a headline in the Christian Post read, “Abstinence Author, Pastor Joshua Harris, Apologizes for Telling Christians Not to Date in 'I Kissed Dating Goodbye'” (www.christianpost.com, August 26, 2016).
The July 2019 Christian Post article quotes Harris from his Instagram post, saying:
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.
All this news coincided with an announcement that he and his wife were divorcing.
So what contributed to Harris’s falling away personally and theologically?
Now, before we get to what I believe is the heart of the matter, I must make one more observation. Unless you are immersed in a particular situation, you can never be sure of all the facts so that you can understand things completely. I know from my own experience over the years in regard to accusations against AiG, staff issues, etc., that unless you were intimately involved in the issue, you can’t fully understand the reality of a situation.
My point is this: I don’t know all that has happened in Joshua Harris’s life—and I can never find all that out. Regardless, I’m reminded of this Scripture that teaches that each of us will answer for our own sins:
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself (Ezekiel 18:20).
Look for the Source
I found a 2017 TED talk (as this type of public lecture is called) in which Joshua Harris said he was wrong in his famous book about dating. I watched the entire talk and have two observations:
- Not once in this entire talk did Harris cite Scripture. He mentioned evolution, and that evolution involves death, as his analogy for his evolving views. He addressed how people should be thinking about things. But not once did he indicate that he even considered God’s Word as an anchor for his worldview. It seemed to me from watching the video that he was acting as his own authority.
- He made this statement: “But at the end of the day, I know that I can't be controlled by someone else's viewpoint” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2kV4ngi7J4 at 15:25).
Well, it’s true that we can’t just accept a fallible human’s view on something unless we have an absolute standard that we can judge it against. For Christians, all of our thinking is to be controlled by a worldview anchored in the absolute authority of the Word of God. Without the foundation of God’s Word, we have no basis except our subjective opinion (which permeates Harris’s talk) to determine what we believe.
Look to the Source
My father taught me many things that I have never forgotten, and I have applied them many times over the years. He taught me that what I believe has to be judged against the absolute authority of God’s Word. My father also told me that whenever someone made statements that contradicted what we read in the Bible, I needed to do three things:
- Go to Scripture and make sure I’m reading the words correctly according to the literature, the context, the grammar, etc.
- If I’m sure that I’m taking Scripture as God meant it to be taken, then I’m to question any of man’s fallible views that say there are contradictions in Scripture.
- My father taught me to search for answers as to why claims about contradictions in Scripture are wrong. Not finding a solution doesn’t mean that Scripture is wrong. It just means that at this stage, I don’t have all the answers and need to wait and see if God allows me to find them.
Throughout my 42 years in apologetics ministry and Answers in Genesis, I’ve always tried to apply these principles my father taught me. He also said that when you use a study Bible, you need to remember that the notes at the bottom are not inspired like the text—the text should actually be looked on as the commentary on the notes!
I’ve never forgotten these principles. How I praise the Lord for godly parents who taught me to acknowledge that the Bible is the absolute authority and the Word of God. They also reminded me over and over again that man’s word changes, but God’s Word never changes! And how I praise the Lord for my wife of almost 47 years who is one with me on this stand on God’s Word.
It’s always important to distinguish between what Scripture clearly teaches and what it doesn’t.
Many of our supporters have commented to me over the years that AiG has never wavered from its stand on God’s Word. Yes, the culture is changing, and attitudes toward issues like gay “marriage” are changing (and sadly many church leaders have changed their views to accommodate unbiblical positions). But AiG won’t change its stand on biblical marriage because God’s Word hasn’t changed. And it’s always important to distinguish between what Scripture clearly teaches and what it doesn’t.
Now, we have changed in some areas! For instance, certain models about how the flood of Noah’s day actually occurred, whether there was a canopy around the pre-Flood earth, or the actual shape of Noah’s Ark—these models have been modified for various reasons. But what the Scripture clearly teaches concerning the truth of a global flood and the dimensions of Noah’s Ark, well, we’ve never changed our views (nor will we)!
Another principle my father taught me was to understand that only God knows everything! Compared to what God knows, I know next to nothing! That’s why I get so frustrated with Christians who compromise God’s Word with man’s fallible ideas about the age of the earth, biological evolution, and so on. How arrogant of us to tell God where he got it wrong in his Word! That’s why we’re so zealous at AiG for standing on the authority of the Word of God.
Put It into Practice
Over the years, we’ve worked hard to make sure people understand that the Answers in Genesis ministry is not just dealing with creation, evolution, fossils, the flood, the age of the earth, and so on. Ultimately this ministry is all about proclaiming the truth of the absolute authority of the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are an evangelistic, biblical authority, apologetics ministry!
They will learn who the true God is and learn to recognize false gods.
And that’s why I’m so thrilled that the Vacation Bible School (VBS) program for 2020, Mystery Island, will teach children how great God is. They will learn who the true God is and learn to recognize false gods.
Children will also be taught what it means that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, omnipresent, and immutable! They will understand that his Word never changes and that we know nearly nothing compared to God! Children will grasp the idea that we can learn for eternity and yet always have an infinite amount more to learn about God! They will also understand how God is holy and what it means that we are sinners.
Yes, the Christian life comes down to how you view God and his Word and how you view our fallible, sinful selves and our relationship with a holy God. We need to raise up generations as described above to prayerfully help them not to become a Joshua Harris of the future.
We are so grateful for the gifts, prayers, and encouragement AiG supporters have provided over the years. They have helped equip millions of believers to stand firm and accept the good news of salvation in this increasingly secular culture.
After I spoke at the Ark Encounter recently, a group of young men approached me and said they appreciated my boldness. They told me they also wanted to be bold in teaching God’s Word as I had just done in my talk at the Ark.
I explained the reason I can be bold is that I really do believe God’s Word from the very first verse. I explained to the young men that if they really believe God’s Word and are equipped with answers, they can preach with authority—for God’s Word is the authority!
Yes, that’s what the Answers in Genesis ministry is all about!