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Why Joshua Harris’ Apostasy is Good for Purity Culture

News Division

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us (1 John 2:19)

Far from being a bad thing for so-called “Purity Culture” (that’s what its critics call basic holiness), Joshua Harris’ apostasy from Christianity is a good thing for the movement. Or, at the very least, there’s a silver lining if we’ll take note of an important lesson you might be quick to miss.


Born in 1974, Joshua Harris rose to fame with his 1997 book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. That book promoted “purity culture,” which advocated for an end to recreational dating.

Harris later wrote Boy Meets Girl in 2000, highlighting his engagement to his wife, Shannon. In 1999, Harris started the New Attitude Conference for Christian singles with the help of Louie Giglio, who is the founder of the popular Passion Conference. As a charismatic Calvinist, Harris found a home with C.J. Mahaney. In 2004, Harris became the lead pastor of Covenant Life Church, the flagship church of Sovereign Grace Ministries, founded by C.J. Mahaney. He was then 30 years old.

We explained last week that Harris had already left the ministry, writing…

In 2015, embroiled in an alleged molestation cover-up scandal (which he largely inherited), Harris resigned from Covenant Life. Raising eyebrows at the time, Harris said it was “to connect to other parts of Christianity.” It seemed at the time that Harris was moving on, the only question was from what?

Harris, who had already denounced Purity Culture after his departure from the ministry, then denounced his marriage, as he and his wife posed for a divorce photo on Instagram.


If Rachel Held Evans weren’t already in hell, she’d be squealing in delight instead of torment. Her good friend, Nadia Bolz-Weber, couldn’t be more excited about Harris’ departure from Christian holiness.

From far-stretching corners of “evangelicalism,” countless thousands spiked the football for the news that purity had failed Joshua Harris. After much ado about nothing, the Prince of the Purity Movement was divorcing his wife. It was all for naught, is the narrative.

Those who have a hatred for Biblical courtship, physical boundaries and personal chastity applauded Harris’ absconding from the movement, just as they applauded his divorce like happy little demons.

Purity Culture, they told us, was dead.


Only a few days later, Harris denounced Christ altogether.

The real threat to Purity Culture was extinguished the moment that Harris made his denunciation of Jesus public.

You see, the real and present danger of Harris’ turn on purity would be if he continued the charade of being a faithful Christ-follower while denouncing a godly sexual ethic. What would have truly hurt the Purity Movement would be an established Christian figure claiming that you can both believe in Jesus and have sub-par sexual standards. What would have been downright catastrophic is if a major leader in the movement, like Harris, had claimed you could be both a Christian and denounce personal holiness.

Although that’s what Purity Culture opponents thought Harris was doing, he made it only a very short time before clarifying that he had left Christ altogether.

Harris, you see, left Jesus before – or at least at the same time – he was leaving Purity Culture. The two, for Harris, have always been intertwined.


What Harris has demonstrated for us is that there is no purity without Jesus, and there is no Jesus without purity. To abandon one is to abandon the other.

Let this be a lesson to those who want to continue to claim Christ, but denounce personal holiness when it comes to our character and relational or sexual conduct. Our Jesus is a holy Jesus, and he demands holiness of us.

Harris was smart enough to know that to forsake his convictions on human sexuality was the same as forsaking Christ.

If only we would learn that lesson! Much will be said about how purity can’t save you in coming days (which is true). But don’t forget this lesson, which will no doubt be overlooked by people on both sides; Joshua Harris knew you couldn’t denounce purity and embrace Jesus at the same time.