Joshua Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Courtship, Dating
Josh Harris, former senior pastor at Covenant Life Church – the flagship church of then Sovereign Grace Ministries church – has posted a statement at his website (statement follows). After considerable thought has decided to cease publishing his very influential book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye.
I Kissed Dating Goodbye became wildly popular in Christian communities. While, Josh Harris and his family were key influencers in the Christian Homeschool Movement, this book also crossed into mainline Christian circles and gained popularity.
Josh Harris was only 21 years old when he wrote the book. He had dated before, and it didn’t end well. Amazon reviews of the book showed a mixed bag of opinions. They reminded me of the herb, cilantro; people either loved it, or strongly disliked it. Some thought it was too legalistic and not Biblical. Others thought it was a good way to remain pure before marriage without the harmful effects of baggage from broken relationships.
I have to commend Josh Harris for reaching out to people and listening to their stories about how his book affected them. Not everyone was hurt by the book, but some were, and it is because of that, he has decided to stop publishing the book. I respect his choice.
For many years people have asked whether I still agree with my book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. In addition to this question, some readers have told me the book harmed them.
Two years ago I began a process of re-evaluating the book. This included inviting people to share their stories with me on my website, personal phone calls with readers, an in-depth study of issues surrounding my book overseen by one of my graduate school professors, and finally, creating a documentary film that captured the conversations with people who were reshaping my thinking.
For me, it’s been important for this process of reevaluation to engage other people and other voices. It has been drawn out because I did not want to be superficial in my response, and I have made it public because I think my reevaluation should be commensurate to the public reach of my book.
While I stand by my book’s call to sincerely love others, my thinking has changed significantly in the past twenty years. I no longer agree with its central idea that dating should be avoided. I now think dating can be a healthy part of a person developing relationally and learning the qualities that matter most in a partner. I recommend books like Boundaries in Dating by Dr. Henry Cloud and True Love Dates by Debra Fileta, which encourage healthy dating.
There are other weaknesses too: in an effort to set a high standard, the book emphasized practices (not dating, not kissing before marriage) and concepts (giving your heart away) that are not in the Bible. In trying to warn people of the potential pitfalls of dating, it instilled fear for some—fear of making mistakes or having their heart broken. The book also gave some the impression that a certain methodology of relationships would deliver a happy ever-after ending—a great marriage, a great sex life—even though this is not promised by scripture.
To those who read my book and were misdirected or unhelpfully influenced by it, I am sincerely sorry. I never intended to hurt you. I know this apology doesn’t change anything for you and it’s coming too late, but I want you to hear that I regret any way that my ideas restricted you, hurt you, or gave you a less-than-biblical view of yourself, your sexuality, your relationships, and God.
And to those of you who benefitted from my book, I am so grateful that something I wrote helped you. The fact that a flawed man could write a flawed book and somehow that could help some people is amazing to me. But, to borrow an analogy from the automotive industry, if a car serves some people but a flaw in its design causes damage to others, good intentions by the carmaker and even the endorsement of other customers don’t override the problem. I cannot recall all the copies of my book that have been published. However, my public critique in written and documentary form, and the numerous media interviews I’ve done in the past two years, are my attempt to both apologize and spread the word of about the problems I see in it.
In light of the flaws I now see in I Kissed Dating Goodbye, I think it’s best to discontinue its publication, as well other supplemental resources tied to it (this includes the two books I wrote after it whose content is similar). My publisher, whose encouragement in this process has been deeply meaningful to me, supports this decision and will not reprint the books after the current copies in their inventory are sold.
Whether you agree or disagree, I hope you’ll think for yourself and be compassionate toward those whose experience has been different than yours.
Thanks for reading. I wish you all the best on your journey.