I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, discussing, internet reading, and podcast listening in the days since Joshua Harris announced the end of his marriage alongside his falling away from the Christian faith. Derek Webb, singer/songwriter and former member of the band Caedmon’s Call, called it “The Two Divorces” when he separated from his wife, broke away from the identity of Christian, and announced his unbelief in God.
My reactions to the departures of these two men have been different. I still listen to Derek’s songs. His lyrics, to me, were true, theologically deep, and beautiful. It seemed impossible to believe that a man whose heart was so in love with God could reach such a place that could fully deny him. With Derek Webb I hoped it was a phase that would pass with the decades. I still believed that somewhere deep inside the love was still there.
Joshua Harris’s book didn’t cause me distress. I read I Kissed Dating Goodbye in high school. It came out at a time when I was searching for answers regarding sexual purity, sin, and relationships. I’d made mistakes I regretted and didn’t want to make the same mistakes anymore. His book gave me hope that the bridge from teen virginity to Christian marriage could be crossed. It was actually possible to save sex for marriage.
I can see how the book caused problems for people. I’ve had to work through my own issues over the years coming out of what’s referred to as “purity culture”. What I think these teachings lacked was a theology of suffering. It was a good thing to want to love God and flee sin, but we came out of it expecting God’s blessing and reward and there was nothing to help us make sense of life’s pain. The cross was not enough for us then.
It was the cross that made us pure and the cross that still does. In the cross of Christ we find God’s favor and from the cross flows eternal life’s rewards. Our sins are forgiven, our hearts are washed clean. Our lives are made holy and we are given the promise that our days surpass time. Our hope, never again, was in the strength, the heart, or result of our actions. Every single one of these failed. But You, O Lord, upheld my life.