Not Even a Hint by Joshua Harris

Harris set out to write a “PG rated” book that would instill a love for holiness and a hatred for lust without dragging the reader’s imagination through the gutter. A worthy goal; one in which I believe Harris is successful. Far too often well intentioned authors writing on lust or adultery inadvertently infuse in the heart of their readers the very fires they desire to extinguish. Harris has skirted this problem and has produced a helpful little book, which draws us to holiness while offering many practical guidelines to purity.

Harris defines lust as “craving sexually what God has forbidden” (p. 18). Successful war against lust will involve a two pronged approach. On the one hand is the recognition that only God can satisfy our desire for intimacy (p. 88). True pleasures are found in Christ and in His provisions not in the forbidden tidbits that our flesh craves. On the other hand we must take seriously the instruction of Romans 13:14 and make no provision for the flesh. Throughout the book the author offers many helpful suggestions for implementing these two prongs. Harris has done the Christian community a service with this book.

There are some weaknesses however that the reader should note. First, Not Even a Hint leaves some loose ends. His description of what constitutes lust is highly subjective and a bit simplistic (p. 35). Then his chapter on masturbation, to which he draws much attention, leaves too many questions unanswered. I don’t know of any author who has tackled these thorny issues any better, but still I felt the discussions were somewhat inadequate.

I had bigger concerns with a couple of other items. Harris writes in a transparent style, admitting his failures and weakness—and here there is much to commend. But it disturbed me some that this young man confesses that it is only within the last two years that he has begun to get a handle on his own media intake (i.e. viewing of impure materials) (p. 116), and it is only during the same period that he has become consistent in his personal time with God (p. 166). This would leave us with the question as to whether this man, with his relatively small window of victory, would have the mature understanding to handle such a difficult subject. This being the case, would not we expect some holes in his understanding of lust? I would expect so, and that hole shows up in his understanding of the “flesh” and how it functions. Harris believes that as we grow “God peels away our desire for sin” (p. 51); a person who has experienced God’s grace “can still choose to sin, but he can’t love sin like he used to” (p. 54). As a matter of fact, “As your mind is renewed by His Word and as you put away wrong thinking, lust’s power will steadily weaken in your life” (p. 110). On the contrary, absolutely nothing in Scripture indicates that the flesh ever weakens, tires, or loses any of its power in our lives. We battle with the flesh until the day of our final redemption. It may prove deadly to understand the flesh as slowly becoming anemic as we focus on God and flee sin. When the power of the flesh is not particularly evident at some moment in our lives we need to recognize that it has not died but is only “resting,” waiting for just the right moment to catch us unaware. And at no point are we more vulnerable than when we think we have the flesh at bay.

This is the one major area of concern that I have with Not Even a Hint, otherwise, I find it a valuable tool.