A few days ago a popular Christian writer and pastor left the Christian faith. This happened just days after he announced his divorce. Speculation of course has begun to run rampant. Christians are quick to create theories as to why he left while atheist bloggers claim victory.
Joshua Harris had written several books on dating and courtship the Christian way. Despite what seemed like a healthy level of knowledge on relationships and how to make them work, his stopped working. His relationship with his wife and with his God no longer worked the way in which he wanted them, so he ended both relationships.
Let me be clear, I do not know him at all. I have never met the man, and I’ve never even read one of his books. I was never a fan of the idea that dating was some kind of moral wrong, and years after writing his book, he changed his mind on that as well.
I’ve never listened to one of his sermons either. So, in all regards, I’m a stranger to who he is and the journey he has been on. I say this because I don’t want to speculate as to why he left the faith. However, I do want to point out two things that might be helpful in thinking through these types of events.
First, making a celebrity out of any Christian is dangerous business. There is only one star in this show, and that’s God. The Christian culture often lifts certain people up and puts them on display to be a model for us all. We do this outside of the context of community where none of us actually know who the person is.
We may know the person they present themselves to be, but not who they truly are. This is like betting on a popular horse in a race unaware they injured their leg weeks ago.
When someone leaves their faith tradition, this does not invalidate the truth claims of their particular faith. When popular atheist Anthony Flew stopped being an atheist, his community claimed that he was old and crazy while theists pointed to his conversion as a sign of their intellectual victory.
Truth does not ride some pop culture wave nor is it decided by the popularity of one person. People are complicated and inconsistent, and until their life is over, we only get a glimpse of who they are at that particular moment. The strength of a Christian is not found in who he is now but who he is over the span of his life. Unless they run the whole race well we should wait before we run victory laps with them.
Second, truth is what decides what is true. It doesn’t matter who leaves or joins the faith; what matters is deciding if the core claims of Jesus and Scripture are true or not.
Did Jesus come back from the dead? To me this is THE question. We could speculate about God all day, but if Jesus did come back from the dead, then it validates His claims and His teachings.
Truth is not just some vague idea floating around, unable to be grasped by anyone. Though we live in a postmodern world full of hyper skeptics, the evidence points to Jesus.
I am not a Christian because someone else who talks well and looks cool is a believer; I’m a Christian because Jesus came back from the dead like He said He would.