The Joshua Harris Fallout: Purity’s Real Destination


Why does all the wild stuff happen while I’m away at youth camp?

I’ve written before on navigating the fall of our Christian heroes. Frankly, it leaves us feeling a little adrift. It’s a sign of just how tangled our relationship with God can become with human intermediaries, and how threatened it all feels when the tent of cards comes down. (I remember some missionary friends moving Stateside after years abroad, hearing how the church they’d left behind started losing members immediately. They’d loved the leaders rather than God.)

Well, it’s happened again. This time it’s Joshua Harris, of I Kissed Dating Goodbye fame/notoriety. He renounced Christ publicly on Friday.

On top of that, he announced separation from his wife. Joshua Harris. Of all people.

Harris was one of the seminal generators of what we call “purity culture”. Boiled down (heavily), it theorizes that undertaking the journey of sexual purity and brotherly love that God commands, largely by avoiding dating, will lead to the destination of an amazing, God-ordained marriage.


Yeah, I know.

I’ve never been one to pile on. Though I disagree with much of what he wrote, I also have the objectivity to spot that many of his teachings were distorted and amplified beyond their purview by others. I’ve also seen my own criticisms echoed by Harris himself the last few years. Frankly, I think a guy deserves credit for being able to so humbly and accurately renounce his central life’s work. (Have you ever been in that position?)

But I’ve also stayed moderate because I think much criticism of purity culture actually misses the point.

Much criticism of purity culture quibbles with the journey. It tells us that we’ve selected the wrong highway, that its rules on physical boundaries and dating are stifling, counterproductive, inductive of shame, and don’t guarantee good marriage anyway.

There’s definitely some truth there. Shame is no good. And as Harris said, prohibition of dating simply isn’t in the Bible.

On the other hand, I value boundaries. My first girlfriend and I barely touched, relatively speaking. I have to imagine it made the breakup easier. And if my next one wants to save her first kiss until the altar, she’ll gets what she wants, ‘cuz I’ll want to honor her. I‘d much rather our relationship be founded on words, food, Bible reading, shared experiences, food…that sort of thing. The moment you start making out, all that stuff takes a backseat to thinking about the next time you’ll get her in the backseat. Food.

My objection is with the supposed destination.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (Eph. 5:3)

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Cor. 6:18-20)

Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers. (Heb. 13:4)

Notice something: in all three of these pivotal purity passages, do you see any direct mention of the future spouse? There’s none.

Yet vast swaths of evangelicalism motivate singles to purity using our future spouse – how disappointed and damaged they’ll be when you have “the talk” and find out you didn’t wait, how purity guarantees wonderful marriages and stratospheric sex, etc.

That motivator is consistently absent. Purity culture gets the destination wrong.

Instead, Scripture teaches that the destination of purity is the glory of God. It’s about pleasing him, preserving his reputation, honoring his ownership of you.

And honestly, ironically, I see very little of that in most criticisms of purity culture.

Yeah, yeah, it’s easier to get students to care about their future spouse than about God’s glory. But truth is still truth. I want our youth group’s students to have the highest aim; I want singles to have motivation for purity when marriage proves elusive.

Yes, I want to protect my future wife through my purity, and plan to do so. But God’s glory needs to be my primary goal, because God needs to be primary in my marriage. The moment either she or I become the center, its prospects drop. He is where the power lies; he is the point.

Motivations matter. Eventually, life sweeps over us all like a tide and tests our foundations. I suspect it will get to our purity motivations sooner or later. When that day comes, I’d rather be anchored by the Highest.

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

NOTE: I’m out this week, but will respond to your comments when I return.

21 thoughts on “The Joshua Harris Fallout: Purity’s Real Destination

  1. Brandon, This was an amazing teaching and well timed. I was edified very much by this.

    in Early 2018 the Lord spoke to me a little bit about the Church in America and one of the things He shared was He would begin making a divide between those who profess and those who “walk.” This is NOT at all to say He causes us to stumble, but rather a shaking has been upon the Body of Christ and it will continue.

    “Hidden things will be brought to light,” He said. The shaking must begin with the Church. This is Love. The next stage will be to purify the self-righteousness in us and begin waling in “Christ’s” Righteousness. In the end, the foundation will become firm and set the stage for a great harvest thru a bride that is motivated, above all, to know and desire and fulfill what is on Father’s heart.

    Thank you so much for sharing these insights. I gleaned a lot from this teaching.

    Your brother.
    David NY

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a wonderful post. Trying to keep to purity is why I decided to go the courtship route instead of dating. I believe one should wait until after marriage and the dating scene seemed to encourage speeding up the relationship and skip marriage to ‘enjoy the good part’ of being together. I didn’t want to be in a position where the guy expected something by the end of the third date. I was put in an awkward position during one of my dating experiences and I didnt want to be in that situation again. Clarifying a courtship rather than doing the dating route, I think, helps to show the relationship is about getting to know each other as people rather than encouraging the other.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yes! Amen, and thanks for saying this, Brandon. You are totally right – the entire reason for purity, for sacrifice, for anything we go through as Christians is God’s glory. Staying pure for the joy of a future marriage is a pale comparison for staying pure for the joy of glorifying the risen King!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoyed reading this post. It really feels like a breath of fresh air when I read your perspective Brandon. As a fellow singleton (lol I laugh at the word! 🙂 ), I think you are right in your perspective when you state: “the destination of purity is the glory of God” and in some respects, we’ve magnified the goal of purity as only purposed for marriage when really purity should exist in our lives whether we’re single or not.

    To me Purity is a heart condition that chooses to remain in the will of God no matter what our social status is. Our social status doesn’t measure our purity, it’s our character that does. It’s possible to be in a relationship and “do the right things” but still not have a pure character so, it’s possible to see someone like Joshua Harris fall in his weakness. I think that it’s about time as Christians, we should no longer become surprised by those that we deem as prominent and influential figures in the eyes of society, who succumb to temptations that can lead them to fall into a weakness that they have not personally dealt with, that we avoid becoming judges, prosecutors and executioners. We should worry about the planks in our own eyes before we focus on the wrong things. Also, no matter how amazing an influential speaker is whether they are Christian or not, we should not hold anyone to a higher standard if we can’t be held to the same standard either. We can expect better from others, and it doesn’t mean we can’t learn from those that fell, rather, it concerns me that we lack compassion when we see someone fall. The constant reaction is shock, disappointment because we expected better from them…but the thing is…doesn’t God expect better of us too but we have experienced the grace to be able to repent and still come back to right-standing even though we fall many times. Anyways, I just think that our reactions should change from being in shock and rather, can we simply pray for the brother? If our immediate response to when someone falls were prayer, wouldn’t it be amazing how many people would be restored to walk on the right path? I’m just sayin’…. oops I think I’ve rambled lol. Thanks for the post Brandon! – Sherline 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. LOL! Food is a great foundation for relationships, Brandon. Trust your instincts there! I’m laughing, but it’s really true. Jesus Himself bonded with us over the last supper and here we are a few thousand years later, with millions, billions of Christians still taking communion with one another.

    We’ve been married some 35 years now and hubby still has the urge to feed me. I have no idea why, neither of us are malnurished, but it says something about wanting to do life with someone.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. ” Motivations matter”.

    I love this! Purity is so important, and you are so right. We are remaining pure to honor God, not necessarily for our future spouses.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes. Yes. Yes. When I met, dated, and eventually married my husband, I had this glorious image in my mind of his reaction to my virginity. He’d feel so special. He’d be so grateful and honored. Here was the tough truth: I don’t think he cared at all. I mean, sure, he was probably glad to have a wife relatively free from scars on her heart, but the fact that he was my “only” didn’t thrill him like I’d assumed it would. He was happy to be married to me. My previous relationships (or lack thereof) didn’t enter the picture. We have a great marriage, and I’m sure it has helped that I decided to wait, but it was a shock to my system to realize that I’d been saving myself, not for him, but for ME. I had spared myself the emotional agony that many girls my age have suffered for my own benefit, not his … AND your post brings up the culmination of my new thought process. Yes, it was more for me than for him, but ultimately, it was for God. Simply because I wanted to please Him, and I trusted that He knew best. Thank you for that clarification.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve not heard of purity being talked about in this way and this had been so encouraging. I have gotten so busy lately having moved countries etc. But every struggle and every persevering effort to do what is right has not always had GOD’s glory as a goal or aim. In the end, this has encouraged me to search my heart continuously. That I may desire GOD more than any other “lofty, spiritual” reason. This was an encouraging and thought-provoking read. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

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