A Southern Baptist pastor and former seminary professor asked a Christian publisher to remove a foreword written by Joshua Harris from future printings of a book published in 2013, after the well-known advocate of the evangelical purity culture announced he has fallen away from the Christian faith.
Heath Lambert, a former professor of biblical counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary now senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, said in a blog July 29 that he was “ecstatic” when Harris, author of the best-selling relationship book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, wrote the foreword to Lambert’s Finally Free, a book written for Christians who are struggling with pornography.
“That is why I have been so shocked and so saddened to see the public statements from Joshua. In recent days he has announced the ending of his marriage, his rejection of traditional Christianity, and his embrace of LGBTQ+ approaches to sexuality,” said Lambert, who prior to becoming pastor at FBC Jacksonville in 2017 served as the executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.
“When I learned of these realities, I knew there was no way for me to continue to have his foreword be associated with my book,” Lambert said. “In Finally Free I am trying to be clear about a Christian approach to sexuality. Joshua’s recent actions and statements only confuse that attempt at clarity and will lead others astray.”
Last Friday he added details to the reasons behind his divorce.
“The information that was left out of our announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus,” he wrote. “The popular phrase for this is ‘deconstruction,’ the biblical phrase is ‘falling away.’ By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.”
Last year Harris admitted he had misgivings about his earlier advice for unmarried Christians to forsake dating in order to avoid the temptation to engage in premarital sex. “I now think dating can be a healthy part of a person developing relationally and learning the qualities that matter most in a partner,” he said in 2018.
In Friday’s statement, Harris also repented of his former views regarding homosexuality.
“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,” he said. “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.”
In his 2013 foreword to Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace, Harris described Lambert’s writings as “thoroughly biblical and sharpened by grace.”
“I’ve read many books on sexual purity (I’ve even written one myself), but this one is at the top of my list of favorites,” Harris wrote. “I found myself praying as I read it that God would use it in the lives of millions of men and women who are right now enslaved to pornography.”
Lambert said in his blog announcement he asked Zondervan to remove the foreword from future publications of the book, and the publisher agreed. “Of course, there is nothing that can be done about copies that have already been published, but Zondervan will no longer print copies of Finally Free with the foreword by Joshua Harris,” he said.
Lambert, who believes homosexuals can change not through reparative therapy but rather by turning away from sin, said before posting his announcement he reached out to Harris “in a spirit of Christian care.”
“Much more is at stake in all of this than names on the covers of books,” Lambert wrote. “Joshua’s statements are of grave concern for his soul, and are sobering for all of us who name Christ and have appreciated his ministry.”
“The author of Hebrews warns, ‘Take care, brethren, that there not be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God’ (Heb 3:12),” Lambert said. “Think about this verse, and consider that Joshua Harris — the man who summoned an entire generation to purity — has now left his wife, publicly rejected Christianity, and embraced the LGBTQ+ agenda.”
“Let that sink in, and be sobered,” Lambert advised. “If this can happen to Joshua Harris, how much more do I need to heed the warning of Hebrews, and take care to avoid an evil, unbelieving heart? How much more care do you need to take?”