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Evangelicals & Perseverance

It seems to be an almost an weekly, if not daily occurrence, of some prominent Evangelical figure repudiating their faith to one degree or another.  The most current figure is Joshua Harris.  I admit Harris was never on my radar, but he was a major player in the Evangelical community.  He wrote a bestselling book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. He was a key figure in the Gospel Coalition ministry, and he pastored a megachurch in Maryland for ten years.

It is tragically sad Harris has come to the position he no longer believes in the Biblical position concerning sexuality, specifically, and faith in Christ in general. Harris posted on his Instagram account in July 2019,

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 measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.

His post went on to say:

But I specifically want to add to this list now: to the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry. I hope you can forgive me.

I do not recount this from an ivory tower as if I am not the chief of sinners and always the recipient of Grace and Mercy.  This is Harris’ plight, but it could easily be mines if not for the Grace of God extended to me.  It should come as no surprise that shortly after Harris’ Instagram posting it was revealed that Harris was divorcing from his wife of 19 years.  There is no glee or haughtiness intended by blogging about this tragic fall from faith.

What is intended is to provide hope and comfort vice gloom and doom.  I write as one from the Reformed Calvinist position.  For those who are not familiar there are two major positions within Evangelicalism concerning the doctrine of salvation (soteriology).  There are the Calvinists and the Arminians.  Calvinists hold that God is the one player in the execution of salvation while Arminians believe that God grants human freedom so that the individual determines if they choose to trust Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.  The Calvinist holds to what is called theologically monergism (one unit/agent working) while the Arminians believe in the concept of synergism (two or more units/agents working together). 

Calvinists derive their hope and comfort because they believe since God is Sovereign (He alone has supreme rule and reign) and makes a unilateral decision to save someone there is no chance once that person genuinely comes to faith that person will not endure to the end.  Since God is the Person who originates the salvation process, He is the Person solely responsible to bringing salvation to completion (see Philippians 1:6).

Arminians, on the other hand, take the theological position God makes salvation possible and in the final analysis the human being uses his free-will to either accept or to reject the offer of Christ.  According to the Arminian soteriological worldview since God would never override a person’s free-will a person can at one point accept Christ and actually walk with Christ (as a genuine believer) but still retain the ability at some future point choose to renounce Christ and thus forfeit the salvation he once embraced.

Thus, there are some who will see Harris as an ex-Christian, as a former Christian.  Using Harris’ own words, the biblical phrase is falling away.  I would submit to the reader that Joshua Harris (if he continues and dies in this state of disbelief) was never at any point a genuine believer.  There is a plethora of Biblical texts one can easily use to support this doctrinal belief.  I direct the reader to 1 John 2:19, “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.” 

I could list several other texts which support the biblical doctrinal position that genuine believers do not depart from the faith, but I would hope this one verse would serve the purpose.  I hasten to add one extremely important caveat.  If this is indeed a falling away it must be final and full.  This would mean that Harris must die in his current state of unbelief.  He must never repent of his repudiation, he must continue to espouse his regret associated in the aforementioned Instagram post of his prior belief about homosexuality, specifically, and faith in Christ in general.

I want to highlight the proposition that informed Evangelicals passionately believe doctrine always matters.  We live in an age where allegedly “living the faith” is more cherished than “knowing the faith.” On the surface this may seem orthodox but very subtly it really is not.  So while authentic Christianity is not contingent on Law-keeping. The truly converted Evangelical must first cognitively (head-knowledge) understand the Law, then secondly display an emotional delight and affirmation (heart-knowledge) that God’s Law is good and necessary. The final step is to volitional alignment (Hands and Feet-Knowledge) where one’s life demonstrates transformation, principally in Word and Deed.  Orthopraxy (right actions) ALWAYS AND NECESSARILY SO flows from Orthodoxy (right beliefs).  It is never in the opposite direction. 

Once one capitulates on the matter of doctrine then non-biblical actions invariably follow.  Hence, we see Harris apologizing to the LGBT+ community for the former positions he took as both an author and a pastor.  Harris is not apologizing for caustic, hateful comments some erroneously may take concerning the LGBT+ community.  He is not attempting to draw parallels to the Westboro pastor (and I use the term pastor ever so loosely) who drew national attention for his vitriolic directed toward the homosexual community.  Some may remember Fred Phelps, pastor of Westboro, gained national attention for his venomous attacks of homosexuals. He, amongst other vile attacks allegedly in the name of Jesus Christ would attend the funeral of LGBT individuals to spew hateful rhetoric

No, Harris is repentant towards the LGBT+ because he once held to the biblical position that sexuality is grounded in the Judeo-Christian understanding, that marriage is only allowed between a male and a female. We are certainly living in a world where what was once condemned is now tolerance. But, it never stops with mere tolerance, eventually the demand is celebration.

The emphasis of this post is not towards the issue of sexuality, properly speaking.  The issue of this blog post is that ALL and EVERY true believer of Jesus Christ will endure to the end.  They will not endure because of any human self-effort.  No, they will endure because He (God) who began a good work promises He will see it to the end.

We will continue to see more and more Joshua Harris in the coming days.  Scripture is crystal clear that there is a major falling away in the last days.  I firmly believe we are in those last days.  In fact, we have been in these last days since the revelation of Jesus Christ, according to Hebrews 1:2. 

So, while I grieve over the plight of Joshua Harris, his wife, his children, his former church and the Body of Christ in general, we need not succumb to despair.  The Evangelical’s destiny is never contingent or what we are able to do or not able to do.  If matters were truly left to us that would be the cause for genuine despair.

Thankfully, matters are not let to mankind to find their way.  Jesus Christ reveals Himself as The Way, the Truth and the Life.  Just as humans have no input, whatsoever, into their natural birth, they have no input, whatsoever, into their spiritual birth. Jonah prophetically exclaimed in the Old Testament, “But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD [emphasis mine]!” (Jonah 2:9).

So, while we properly grieve for Joshua Harris, we grieve not as a people without hope. Evangelicals are a people full of hope and trust in the sovereignty of Jesus Christ concerning our eternal security. We do so because Christ promises, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me to me I will never cast out …. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it upon the last day (John 6:37-39).”

I believe my Arminian brethren are faulty in their soteriology (doctrine of salvation) but they are still my genuine brothers in arms if they are completely trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ ALONE for their disposition before Almighty God.

I believe my Arminian brethren are also wrong regarding the doctrine of eternal security.  Thank God salvation is not dependent on doctrinal fidelity to all the Bible reveals.  I could really delve into the Calvinism/Arminian debate but that must wait till a more opportune time and place.

What I want to make clear is the Bible’s clear contention that we can be absolutely sure of our salvation, because according to John’s Gospel both God the Father and God the Son are holding ever genuine Evangelical in their hands and they promise no one can snatch any of us out of their hands (John 10:28).

Please don’t be the simplistic guy who believes the passage permit the possibility one can snatch themselves out of the hands of God.  The intent of the passage is clearly “being snatched” is an impossibility as there is no agency stronger than God Himself.

There is still hope for anyone who has not committed the unpardonable sin.  As I believe based on the context no one presently alive can commit such an act. Thus, there remains hope for Joshua Harris.  My trust rests not in Joshua Harris coming to the proper conclusion before it is too late.  My trust is in the promise of Jesus Christ when He said He would lose, “no, not one.”

Let me know what you think by dropping me a line. Until then keep your hands to the plows and seek to serve for an Audience of One.

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