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Over the past several years, Maheny’s Sovereign Grace Ministries has come under serious fire.There was a series of accusations from former members and leadership about Maheny’s abuse of power and controlling nature, then a series of members (11, I believe) who accused the church of covering up child sexual abuse.I read through the information at the time, and felt then that these seemed very much like the moves of someone coming into maturity.Harris was growing up, theologically speaking, and we should all rejoice about this. A growing reaction against what had been “purity culture” was growing in the church.The church has denied these allegations, but the fallout has still been immense—Sovereign Grace has lost a number of its member churches, a number of its members, and Maheny has lost much of his influence (Al Mohler publicly severed ties with him).It was about this time that Harris left his ministry church to pursue education, declaring in a sermon that now he sees there were “flaws in the system.” (As a fascinating, if tragic aside, when Rachael Denhollander, the Olympic gymnast, began to speak up about the abuse she had experienced, her church wanted her silenced, and she and her husband were eventually asked to leave their fellowship.The first is the nature of the church he came from, the second is the nature of Christian Higher Education. Harris had been trained, and nurtured, under the direct tutelage of C. Maheny, once powerful and respected megachurch pastor.Harris was, to my understanding, Maheny’s chosen successor.
Christians should retrieve romance and courtship in their relationships, and all this should be done with a commitment to purity. In some people, it appears—and especially in certain young women of the time—sexual purity came to be seen as a bargaining chip for a good marriage. Christian teaching undoubtedly holds that sexual purity matters, but to turn it into a kind of bargaining chip for God’s work in your future relationships is to try to leverage God.
I confess that I’ve never read the book, but then again, I didn’t need to. The book, like the 90s, faded into memory, until once again Joshua Harris’s name came across my newsfeed.