The Joshua Harris Fallout: The War Everyone’s Forgetting (Or Never Saw)

Few days of history compare to the last day of the World Wars. Millions danced in streets across the globe.

But those scenes seem far removed from today.

“Why continue torturing myself? Why not just forget God and get on with life, like most of the rest of the world? Instantly I felt a sense of relief and freedom, like I had just passed a final exam … I picked up my Bible and a couple other Christian books and walked downstairs and out the back door. I shut the door softly behind me, so as not to wake anyone. In the backyard was a brick barbecue grill, and I piled the books on it, sprayed them with lighter fluid, and struck a match. … at last I had peace. A great weight had lifted. I had been honest with myself. Any pretense was gone, and I no longer felt the pressure to believe what I could never be sure of.”

Sunrise Sky Battlefield

These aren’t the words of Joshua Harris, nor those of Hillsong worship leader Marty Sampson, who this week declared his own critical struggle with his faith.

The words are from Richard, a young man whose conversations with author Philip Yancey served as the backbone of Yancey’s book Disappointment with God.

They’re becoming familiar. Within the battle reports offered by these leaders, there’s a pattern:

“I’m genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn’t bother me. Like, what bothers me now is nothing. I am so happy now, so at peace with the world. It’s crazy.” – Sampson

Though Sampson goes on to cite intellectual conundrums, I sense an undercurrent of feeling in his words. It was similar with Harris – in his case, internal conflict over a doctrine that’s particularly costly for certain Christ followers. He couldn’t reconcile, so he took the path of least emotional resistance and found himself outside.

And I get it.

I know the weight they’re talking about, the Gordian knot deep in the chest year in and year out. It’s the “oh, come on” knot, that just won’t accept paradox and longings deferred and the constant tension of cultivating a relationship with the unseen. People hit their forties and start realizing that “that thing” won’t just evaporate by itself, isn’t responding to simple prayer or maturity, and might never resolve in this life. A final straw.

That’s why I’ll decline the usual “let Scripture matter more than your feelings” line that John Cooper offered.

Not that he’s wrong. Our generation has forgotten to trust Scripture. Or never really heard it.

But remember that we are refugees in war-torn lands. Not all of us found trouble as adults; some were born into it. Into families that didn’t get us, that fell apart while we were still in high chairs, that carry unspeakable secrets. Right from the opening credits, we were beleaguered. Those feelings do not simply go away. They matter.

So the part of Scripture we might most need is the part where faith is a war.

Many Christians seem to have assumed that proper belief is one long, unbroken catharsis and inner resolution (and anything else is failure). There is partial relief to be had. I’ve found much.

But Scripture tells us that complete relief is not our present (Romans 8:23), and misdiagnosing reality is always dangerous. John Eldredge said, “It’s the equivalent of arriving on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, with a lawn chair and a book to read. It is a drastic misunderstanding of your situation.”

Read the Biblical accounts of the faithful. Does any of it look easy? Yes, Jesus is a God of victory, but victory implies war. Paul often uses military analogies. Ephesians 6 outlines spiritual weapons. Your life is a war.

It would explain some things, wouldn’t it? Look around you. See it as a war, with sides and weapons and tolls, and it makes an ugly sort of sense.

So the dragon was furious with the woman and left to wage war against the rest of her offspring–those who keep God’s commands and have the testimony about Jesus (Revelation 12:17).

It also explains the weird way life suddenly gets better when faith is jettisoned. Of course things got better – you abandoned your post. You stepped off the front lines and experienced the flooding relief of not being shot at. Of course you’re surrounded by “positive and affirming” thoughts now. Of course you have a fiancee now. Of course you no longer have theological quandaries to wrestle. You aren’t in the line of fire anymore. Already Satan has retasked his resources towards the next guy on the line. Why would he bother with you now? You’re right where he wants you.

My friends, there is relief to be found in this life. I fully believe it. Though weapons must be shuffled through and strategies shifted (and God allows the process), I believe it can be found.

But I suggest the theory that if you find yourself struggling to love Jesus through your disappointment today, it means you haven’t surrendered. The Christian life is unnatural to the fallen soul. Always was. And the war that results is brutal.

Satan is furious that Jesus has a death grip on you that cannot be dislodged. This Jesus never will let go, as long as you don’t. And remember the mighty thrust of his truthful words: that reward is not found fully in this life, but the next.

Morning is coming. Hold on!

 

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!

48 thoughts on “The Joshua Harris Fallout: The War Everyone’s Forgetting (Or Never Saw)

  1. I have talked to so many women who “abandoned their post” of marriage; the same sentiments come from them. I have often questioned the phase, “I feel peace about it!”
    Peace is a consequence of obedience, not a feeling of relief. Keep going, Brandon. Your post was a timely encouragement!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Right? Good stuff, Brandon! And it’s not just your generation either. This is a “Boomer” issue, “Buster”, X, all of us. And I think, as you pointed out, it was even an issue in Paul’s day. The early church struggled with it. Demas failed, but Timothy hung in there. Something that Jesus says in His “Little Apocalypse” in each of the “Synoptic Gospels” is this repeated statement that, “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” I refer to it as the “theology of the last man standing”. But He also says that, “In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The so called peace is another of Satan’s tools. The only thing that brings true peace comes from the Word of God which shows us our sin and our salvation. We need to know how much we need Jesus and then submit to his will for our lives. Sometimes those who make the greatest noise in their faith walk, are the first to fall when things get tough. Thanks for your words, Brandon and for keeping the Gospel alive and relevant for all of us.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Again, I don’t know enough about guys like Harris and Sampson to think they were losing peace because they were disobedient. What I’m trying (perhaps badly?) to convey is that our peace is OPPOSED, even when we’re obedient. Knowing that reality will let us set better expectations and leave us more prepared for the battle.

      I always appreciate you swinging by, though. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are certainly right. Humility, a servant attitude, loving our neighbor as ourself all require obedience. On our own we can’t do it. Our advocate is Jesus and he is still the source of our peace. I don’t know about those guys either, but apparently others do and are being swayed by them.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Brandon, good post with reality unfolding as Jesus said it would. I’m thinking we’re definitely moving into the falling away period and there will be many more that follow suit as our crosses begin to get heavier. This journey we’re committed to isn’t like a bus ride where you can pull the cord when you want to get off. Well, obviously you can, but when you do, the driver and destination immediately change. I can’t help but be mindful of how when many turned from following Jesus after he had given some hard teachings and Jesus asked Peter if he was going to leave too. And Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) . Stay the course, that reality hasn’t changed either. Grace and blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve always wondered what Peter’s emotions were in that moment. You could read it either way. A brazen, bold exclamation with fists on hips and hair fluttering in the wind, which might not be so far-fetched given Peter’s typical cluelessness, or a dazed, world-weary “where else are we gonna go?” after having heard the sermon about Jesus’ flesh being eaten and his blood being drunk.

      Either way, he knew where his bread was buttered. You’re right, Paul foretold people falling away. I still pray that Josh and Marty will come back.

      Like

      • I think Peter wore his emotions on his sleeve so to speak and that came from his heart. I also think it’s why Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Jesus knew he did. That part gets me every time. And you’re right Brandon, we all pray that Josh and Marty will come back or at least, we should. Blessings.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post, Brandon. You know, my wife and I recently faced what was not a crisis of faith exactly, but a loss of faith in the ability of God’s people to behave like God’s people. We ended up leaving a church where I had been 12 years and my wife 44 years, or most of her life. Although the thought was brief, it did occur to us that if we just rolled over, we could have peace. Thank Him for helping us understand that it would have been a false peace, and we are safely in the middle of another assembly of believers, all the stronger for having let Him get us through the mess.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is an excellent post. I thought about those two young men when I read they had jettisoned their faith. We all have questions, we all wonder why we don’t see more power in the church and more miracles, we wonder about seeming contradictions in the Bible, but in the end we trust. We trust that God is greater and bigger than my sense of understanding and I trust Him to get me through to the end of my earthly life and beyond.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, great and encouraging post, Brandon. Totally agree that the Christian life is unnatural to the fallen soul. Agree too that Satan would like to have us, but when we are Christ’s, he will hold us fast.
    “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
    ‭‭John‬ ‭10:27-28‬ ‭KJV‬‬

    Those who depart were not apart of the kingdom. I John 2:19

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fortunately their story isn’t over until they’re in the ground. Perhaps if we pray for them collectively, they will be helped.

      Good to see you blogging again, Barb.

      Like

  8. Reblogged this on Truth in Palmyra and commented:
    Great post, Brandon. It’s just a real thing that any of us, at any time, can be tempted into thinking that life without our faith would be more peaceful. It may even seem that way just looking at the surface. We just have to remember where our eternal peace comes from, and not exchange it for false peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on a simple man of God and commented:
    I am interested to see if this spurs conversation. I know some of my friends would take issue with this (well, probably Christianity and Christians as a whole …), but I would not mind seeing conversations go down this route.

    Daniel

    Like

  10. You are so right, Brandon! This is spiritual war. The more we try to stand firm, the harder the enemy fights.

    Yesterday, I made an effort to spend more time praying in the morning and mentally “putting on” my spiritual armor.

    Yesterday was awful. I was under fire all day. Conflicts. Depression hitting like a vengeance. The nagging urge to give up.

    I bring this up because I know exactly what you’re talking about. When we dig in to face the enemy, he brings out the big guns. The good news for us is that if we fight with God and remember that He is our strength, we won’t be overcome by the enemy.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “in his case, internal conflict over a doctrine that’s particularly costly for certain Christ followers. He couldn’t reconcile, so he took the path of least emotional resistance and found himself outside.”

    I think you would also have to consider one of the major issues would be how in this modern 21st century Christianity can have justification for a God who condemns LGBT people. Many younger Christians I would predict are troubled with this issue, would personally know such people and understand this Christian doctrine is not in line with the scientific and social facts, not to mention the other issues regarding the behaviour of the Old Testament God and the politics Christians are expected to support, therefore life without God would logically become freedom from suppressive issues and feelings of guilt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know, Tim Keller had an illuminating thought on how to handle the ways of God that don’t fit our moral mesh:

      “Now, what happens if you eliminate anything from the Bible that offends your sensibility and crosses your will? If you pick and choose what you want to believe and reject the rest, how will you ever have a God who can contradict you? You won’t! You’ll have a Stepford God! A God, essentially, of your own making, and not a God with whom you can have a relationship and genuine interaction.

      “Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination.

      So an authoritative Bible is not the enemy of a personal relationship with God. It is the precondition for it.”

      God has done (or allowed) things in my life I don’t like. LGBT individuals are far from the only ones carrying a cross. But he’s also provided his own form of peace and restoration in the midst of all that, and there are LGBT individuals who claim the same.

      Like

      • Therefore what you are really saying is that the evolved morals and the scientific facts universally understood today should be unacceptable for real Christians and people should simply try to love God in a way of normal human relationships, a person who has undertaken some of the most horrific acts you can imagine and is totally out of touch with the morals and tolerances of the people we accept in society today.

        This is quite impossible for reasonable people to comprehend that this God is a God of love. I think this is why indoctrination of children is emphasised for all religions, because when an individual is able to comprehend and think rationally they are extremely unlikely to accept the terms of this Christian ideology or any other ideology with a similar god for that matter.

        The Gods of ancient times are simply being outdated and overtaken by modern evolved rationality, morals and science.

        Like

      • You’re employing circular reasoning, appeals to ridicule, recency bias, and straw men all throughout. You also completely ignored what I said and continued talking as if it hadn’t been said. Why have a discussion if that’s what you’re going to do?

        Like

  12. Very well-stated. We live every day in a war zone, a free fire zone. Not only do we daily walk through a fire fight, we are in the enemy’s crosshairs. Sure, going AWOL brings peace and quiet. Any coward can run from the fight, which is what those two cowards did.
    Thanks for speaking the truth in this, Brandon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Cowards” isn’t how I’d put it; they fought for a long time. Harris had the courage to face criticism and publicly retract some non-Biblical teachings of his. They grew “weary of doing good”, though, certainly.

      Like

  13. Amen. A relative whom I love recently stepped away from her family and, by all appearances, her faith. Her life seems idyllic. I don’t think it will lead where she thinks. Your words give clarity: she has left the battle behind. 😢

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad God is giving us clarity here, because this sort of thing can be really disillusing to Christians who stay as well. It’s important to have the right interpretation of what we’re seeing.

      Liked by 1 person

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