Author Josh Harris "kisses off" "I Kissed Dating Goodbye"

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Bert Perry's picture

Harris comes to the heart of the matter; his book recommended things that are nowhere commanded or recommended in Scripture, nor are they reasonably inferred.  I hope to see a lot more such honesty out of people in the future.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture


Never read it. I wasn't a Christian when I was a teen, but I was aware of the book from a friend who was a Christian. Not sure what it teaches or why it made the impact it did. If I hadn't been married at 18, perhaps I would have eventually read the book.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ron Bean's picture

I'm glad to see this retraction. It also serves as a reminder to us to not be anxious to jump on the latest "Book Bandwagon". (What was my personality again? This book says bad music kills plants. SMILE.)

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

WilliamD's picture

When I was a single guy, I read it after having "dated" several girls and had made some mistakes. It saved a couple of subsequent girlfriends from damage that I could have caused to them, so for that I am thankful for the book and it was a help for me to focus on finding the one that God wanted me to marry instead of taste testing every girl that I had a fancy for. 

Ed Vasicek's picture

When this book came out, I read it in preparation for our children.  Our daughter was junior high age at the time.  I read another book, "Preparing Your Child for Dating" by Dr. Bob Barnes.  Although "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" had some good points, I preferred the advice from the Barnes book better.

Many people in our homeschool group went ga-ga after Harris' book.  Like Harris, they tended to think those who chose dating instead were spiritually inferior. Interestingly, I don't know that any of their kids found mates that way, although some may have attempted for a while.  Back then, many homeschoolers were very idealistic and oriented toward control. It seemed like the more controlling or crusading the parents, the worse their kids came out.

"The Midrash Detective"

Joeb's picture

Is not this the book that kicked off the Purity Movement and the idea of courting.  If it is then this is very good news.  Also if it is all Pastors who still do the Purity Banquets should drop them immediately.   I may be wrong on this so please correct me if I am.  I believe I mentioned this in another thread previously.  

Bert Perry's picture

Joe, I Kissed Dating Goodbye is from 1997, while Doug Wilson's Her Hand in Marriage is from 2004.  Prior to both was Bill Gothard's teaching in IBLP on the subject, I believe. I think it would be safe to say that Harris made it big.  I also believe that the law rewarding abstinence based sex ed was passed in the mid-1990s, so Harris was arguably latching on to things happening elsewhere.  

With Ed, I've seen a number of people whose spirits have been crushed by an excess of conformity, and quite frankly my extended family is even now dealing with the issues of family members who are trying to control things that simply can't be controlled, and when that blows up, they're blaming others for "failing" to control things that are...again, out of their control.  It's brutal.

And to be fair, one at least practical outgrowth of Harris' book that was good, IMO, was the notion that dads ought to be involved in helping their children find mates.  It's been overdone in cases--see Ed's comment again--but given that bad things happen when people think no one's watching, it's not all bad.  Certainly it's better than the old stereotype of the boy driving into the driveway and honking his horn instead of coming to the front door to escort his lady friend on their date.


Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Bert Perry said:

And to be fair, one at least practical outgrowth of Harris' book that was good, IMO, was the notion that dads ought to be involved in helping their children find mates. 

That's why I liked Bob Barnes book.  He recommends having the person over for dinner first. Then, another time, they might go on a date.

"The Midrash Detective"

Jay's picture

I read the book and watched the video series that Harris did before college, and NIU made the book mandatory for incoming freshmen while I was there.  While it didn't help me land any dates or even get better at asking for them, it did do what Harris wanted to - it helped me reformat my thinking on the subject so that I wasn't living in the secular "She's pretty and I'd like to go out with her" attitude any more, although it took more than just that book to do so.  I think I had been a believer for about a year and needed God to upend a lot of my thoughts on the subject to clear away dross I'd accumulated.  Haven't read Wilson's book and I would run screaming away from anything he wrote now.  I remember thinking that the videos were better and clearer than the book was but they didn't seem to have the staying power that the book did.  

Josh has been through a lot lately - he broke his ties with the church he used to pastor, entered and (I think) graduated from seminary, and now he's retracting this book.  I've been impressed from afar, and I think that his motivations are right and that he's grown a lot, so I'm happy to see that.  This statement is another pointer that he's moving in a healthy direction.

For anyone else interested in the subject or the results of the purity movement, this book seems to have been getting some buzz, and I know at least one or two people that have also been damaged by the movement in real life.  I'm thinking about picking it up from the library - anyone else read it?  Obviously, the author isn't where we are theologically.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

I've seen it in my own extended family and friends, though in these cases the damage precedes Harris' book.  In the cases I'm familiar with, the Biblical teaching per Song of Songs and such that sex ought to be a joyful part of marriage, and in no other place, seems to have been interpreted, rightly or wrongly, as "sex is bad."  I have not read Harris' book or Barnes', let alone things from Gothard, to figure out precisely where the problem is.  

Haven't read the book Jay links, either, but I have read around, and there are a tremendous number of people with similar stories to that who do indeed say that purity culture was to blame.  The gap I've seen is establishing the logic of how it works.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Josh S's picture

I read the book in junior high. I remember liking it though, come to think of it, I don't remember a ton of details about it. I did pursue my wife through "courtship" (part of the problem is that no seems to agree on what that means). When I ask her dad if I could begin a relationship, I asked him what the rules were. He smiled and said he wanted us to have a courtship that was governed by grace and not law. That's what we had and I wouldn't have done it any differently. I never felt that it was restrictive or that our parents were overbearing. That's largely because I respect and trust both her parents and mine.

For me, "courtship" means (a) real parental involvement (which is not the same as heavy-handing, authoritarian domination), (b) real safe-guards against the sins that all young people are prone to (which is not the same as the "purity culture"), and (c) a real multi-generational vision (you know, Duet. 6, Eph. 6, that whole bit). If child and parents have a close relationship, this shouldn't be a problem.  

That's part of the problem, I think. Too many dads neglect their relationship when their kids and then when their child (usually their daughter) hits puberty they panic and try to instantly take back authority that they've been relinquishing for the past 14-20 years. Talk about provoking your children to wrath!

Another way that parents provoke their children to wrath with courtship is to promise a perfect marriage and awesome sex life if they do courtship. It doesn't work that way. Marriage takes work, whether you dated or courted. 

Much of the "hyper-courtship" crowd was overreacting to something they saw as bad in the culture. I also fear that many people overreact to things they see (legitimately) as bad in the courtship culture. 

Personally, I'm happy with the way I did "courtship" and have no regrets about it.

Josh Stilwell, associate pastor,  Alathea Baptist Church, Des Moines, Iowa.

T Howard's picture

He smiled and said he wanted us to have a courtship that was governed by grace and not law. 


Josh, what does this practically mean?

Josh S's picture

I can only speak for myself here and from my experience.

Many courtships (not all) are defined by regulation and rebellion. The parents lay down rules and the children try to get by with as much as they can while still being "within the rules". The children resent the rules and the parents resent that the rules are resented.

A "grace-governed courtship" is built on a solid relationship between parent and child. I have great love and respect for both my parents and my now in-laws. The six of us had several conversations about what we thought were expedient practices during the courtship. Whether or not something was "lawful" wasn't the point. "Is this expedient?", not "Can I get away with this?" was the governing question.

Yes, there were "rules" of sorts. That is, we applied biblical principles to given situations and there were things we did and didn't do. Honestly, many people here would probably find some of what we did and didn't do "over the top". But whether it was all necessary or not, it would fueled by genuine desire to please God. From the outside, our courtship may not have looked radically different than a "law-governed courtship". But the motive behind was completely different. It wasn't about guilt, shame, and regulations but about honoring my future spouse, our parents, and God. 

Also, grace-governed courtship takes into account the individual circumstances of the couple (e.g. age of couple, whether or not they both come from believing homes, ect.). 

Hopefully that makes sense.

Josh Stilwell, associate pastor,  Alathea Baptist Church, Des Moines, Iowa.

Joeb's picture

Josh I said it from the beginning and you are absolutely right.  This applies to dating or courtship or dress codes at Christian Colleges.  Unfortunately. the churches and Bible Colleges who ended up in the funny papers have the wrong attitude and teach a corrupted biblical approach ie Purity Movement.  Hence churches and Pastors should dump the purity ring banquets.  It’s associated with to much bad baggage.