Are People Still Kissing Dating Goodbye?

One question that has come up on a few discussion groups that I have been on is how popular are the concepts that Joshua Harris promoted (but certainly didn’t pioneer) about Dating and Courtship?

From what I have seen, it was more of a “fad” that came and went. I don’t sense that what he promotes is that widely practiced anymore. I have looked on a few used book store web sites and found I can purchase a copy of his first book about kissing dating goodbye for $1.00 plus handling. That kind of confirms what I thought. Other churches in same area around Harris’s church haven’t adopted the system he promoted.

I am sure it will remain in groups like Sovereign Grace who incidentally introduced it to their group before Josh Harris was grade school age. I am sure it will go on in other groups but it seems to come and go.

It certainly may have done some good things for the body of Christ (as Joshua likes to point out) like challenging singles on their beliefs and reminding them of their need for purity in relationships etc. I am sure it has also left some “wounds” and missed opportunities for people both to get to know each other and marry.

Does anyone have any thoughts or comments on this?

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Revised 2/25/08

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34 Responses to “Are People Still Kissing Dating Goodbye?”

  1. Philip Says:

    I enjoyed the book. When I picked it up I honestly thought it wasn’t going to be what I expected it to be. It was very insightful and just brutally honest. It isn’t anti-dating at all. It just has examples on what not to do.

  2. steve240 Says:

    Phillip

    Thanks for your comment. It may not be “anti dating” as you say but so many times people take the “examples on what not to do” and go to an extreme with them. Thus for various reasons this book and its proponents at minimum have at best lead to a lot of misapplication of what was taught. If you haven’t already, you might want to look at some of my other blog entries.

    • kstarrlynn Says:

      People shouldn’t take things to the extreme. That’s common sense. Have an open mind about both sides of the “intentional dating” issue and pray about it. Do what God says. If you do what God wants you to do, and you hate how your life turns out, who do you blame it on? The book? God?
      I don’t think it’s very misleading. He clearly states in the introduction, “You see, I don’t want to argue with you about whether or not you should date. … But ultimately my goal isn’t to convince you to stop dating. I want to help you examine the aspects of your life that dating touches — the way you treat others, the way you prepare for your future mate, your personal purity — and look at what it means to bring these areas in line with God’s word.”

  3. Amber Says:

    I’m feeling uber pissed with Joshua Harris, and the whole anti-dating culture he’s helped create. After reading his book at 17, I shut myself off from men and just “waited.” What a waste of my time. I’m almost 26 years old, and I don’t know how to date. I feel absolutely juvenile and robbed of a genuine growing/learning experience.

  4. Edmund Bertram Says:

    In my experience, the ideas of the courtship movement are still alive and well.

    The problem is that when many people believed those in the courtship movement (of whom Joshua Harris is just the tip of the iceberg, or perhaps more appropriately, a gateway drug) were simply suggesting a model, they were actually presenting an entire system of philosophy which was gradually accepted by many conservative Christians.

    It may fairly be said that Joshua Harris as a media phenomenon has passed, but the influence of the courtship movement is greater than it ever has been in it’s thirty to forty year history.

  5. steve240 Says:

    Edmund

    How large of a contingency do you think still practices the courtship model?
    I don’t think it is that large of a percentage but might be wrong.

    One big problem I see is that this system always seems to go to legalism vs. being guidelines.

  6. Edmund Bertram Says:

    While I would not be in a position to make a claim as to the general prevalence of it, I know the ideas of the courtship movement are still promoted by many within the conservative branches of the Reformed church, some of the conservative non-denominationals (particularly the charismatics), and, especially, among the home-schoolers.

    I attend a small liberal arts college in the Midwest, and though my many home-schooling friends here come from the more mainstream branches (if you’ll permit my slightly-loose vocabulary), I only know one who wasn’t taught to “court” instead of “date.” She was taught to “group date.”

    While I would agree that many people in college have begun abandoning the form of courtship when it comes to “what it looks like” for reasons of practicality, they still think in terms of emotional purity, guarding their heart (in the CM sense), retroactive marriage (what’s wrong after marriage is wrong before), and “getting under an umbrella of authority.”

    Also, to date, despite many dozens of books advocating some form of courtship or another, and hundreds of positive articles in the Christian MSM, there have been precious few voices raised against it. Jeremy Clark, in “I Gave Dating a Chance,” takes no issue with courtship ideas at all, arguing, for instance, that we need to avoid “giving away” our hearts (I’m assuming you’re familiar with the immoderate sense to which that phrase is taken). In my opinion, his book was no better than “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” I appreciated “Boundaries In Dating,” by Cloud and Townsend, but they only rarely address courtship on a principled level. “A Matter of Basic Principles” contains an excellent chapter on Gothard’s advocacy of courtship, but that was necessarily quite specific. Also, the MCOI book was never widely published. Finally, Robin Phillips wrote an excellent book titled “The Way of a Man with a Maid,” but it is only available online as a pdf.

    I believe the courtship movement arose from more than just thin air. And whether that cause was a reaction to the immoral dating practices of modern society, as a way for home-schooling parents to protect their children beyond high school, underlying theological problems, or a combination thereof, all of these factors are still with us today.

  7. steve240 Says:

    Edmund

    Thanks for your comments here. I think there is wisdom and foolishness with the courtship/groups approach. Unfortunately Harris doesn’t point out the foolish side or share the foolish things that have happened.

    My biggest issue with the courtship movement and with what Joshua Harris has published is that it doesn’t give a balanced perspective. It is as if courtship is defect free with dating only having defects.

    When someone is a high school student, doing things in groups might be a good way to start. As one matures go to more one on one dating.

    I find it shocking that Harris can paint this kind of picture when the church he pastors has had years of experience with and should know about the defects with his system.

    With people knowing both the pros and cons they can then if they choose that approach it. It should also help them avoid the pitfalls of courtship.

  8. Edmund Bertram Says:

    “When someone is a high school student, doing things in groups might be a good way to start. As one matures go to more one on one dating.”

    I agree. I try to keep a distinction between the model of courtship, which (with its many variations) is useful in many situations, and the ideas behind that model.

    My “biggest issue” lies not with models or practices but with the false doctrines that generally go along with it.

  9. steve240 Says:

    Edmund

    What do you mean by “false doctrines.” Do you mean where at churches they present courtship as being the better or only Christian way to do something?

  10. Edmund Bertram Says:

    Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. I’ve been quite busy lately trying to find a summer job.

    I do mean that, for one over-arching error. Robin Phillips has discussed many of them in his e-book, to which you’ve linked previously.

    I suppose I could compile a bit of a short-list, below. Each of these could be expanded to discuss many more, and of course, I recognize the heterogeneity present within the CM; not everyone suffers from all of these errors.

    – Emotional Purity: That a) you lose a “piece of your heart” or “heart glue” when you form an emotional bond with someone, and that, therefore, b) you should practice “emotional abstinence” until the wedding day; a romantic relationship is morally or otherwise equivalent to sexual intercourse.

    – Retroactive Matrimony: What would be inappropriate for a relationship with a married woman and someone other than her husband, is inappropriate for any cross-sex relationship before marriage.

    – Improper understanding of authority: Leads to authoritarianism in practice rather than biblical headship; conflates protection of someone with control over them, suggesting, for instance, that widows are under the authority of their pastor on the basis of the 1 Timothy 5 charge to care for them; particularly evident in Betrothal.

    – Gift of Singleness: An unscriptural assumption that if you are single, it is because you ought to be. Often related to, next:

    – Over-emotionalizing or, as Joshua Harris (in extraordinary presentation of good sense) put it, “overspiritualizing decision-making”: presuming your feelings are the result of the Holy Spirit leading you, or an over-emphasis on what are essentially extra-biblical revelations. I recognize that this may divide on more on the basis of denomination than dating method, but in my experience this error has been particularly evident in much CM literature.

    – Atrocious exegesis: especially in applying OT passages to Christians which are either historical or part of the old covenant. Often, there is a failure to distinguish between law and gospel (though a non-Lutheran might phrase it differently 😛 )

    – There are dozens of other errors, as well, but they are less common and would be more related to specific authors or groups. Bill Gothard’s teachings on grace, John Holztmann’s “incest argument,” or Heather Paulsen’s bizarre understanding of our relationship with God, are examples.

  11. steve240 Says:

    Edmund

    Thanks for your response. What you are saying is that in many circles they are teaching as doctrine precepts of men.

    I certainly see what you shared above in some of the teaching I have seen on kissing dating goodbye.

    I hope you have/had success on finding a summer job.

    Steve

  12. Edmund Bertram Says:

    Precisely.

  13. Tim Says:

    We have just begun to work through this in our youth group. With my marriage as a product of a courtship relationship (very happily and normally married with 3 girls, 16, 13 and 7), I must say I lean toward the courtship model. I have also seen it’s success in my 3 sibilings (all happily and normally married, with 16 children between us).

    Which is not to say there cannot be success in the dating model if the principles applied in the courtship model (purity, accountability etc) are applied. The problem as I (and the teens in my youth group echoed) see it, is the worlds veiw of relationships seeps into the Christian experience all to easily if we do not make a concious distiction between the two.

    I don’t have time right now to develop this further right now, but look forward to comments and continuing discussion.

  14. steve240 Says:

    Tim

    Thanks for your comment. You are only the 2nd poster to comment on how courtship worked for them. What is your definition or courtship. That word can mean a lot of different things. I am glad it worked for you. I hear that some couples who met with the courtship model struggle with attraction.

    I don’t know if you have read any of my other blog pages yet? It appears that you might not have.

    First I would say that the “kissed dating” goodbye approach might work for teenagers especially when they are first developing an interest in the opposite sex. One of my biggest issues with “kissing dating goodbye” is how I have seen it imposed on older singles. IMO, they take something designed for teenagers and impose it on older singles.

    The net result is you see single men and women in their 20’s and 30’s many times afraid of each other and acting like teenagers. One person in a discussion shared that the IKDG book encouraged the men in their 20’s to stick to themselves and play hackey sack etc.

    My other big issue with the group/courtship model that Harris presents is that he gives a very biased report on groups/courtship. He is quick to point out all the defects of dating but not the defects of groups/courship nor does he acknowledge the problems that occurred over the years with groups/courtship. In Harris’s own church they have experienced problems with both groups and coursthip.

    I look forward to reading more of your comments.

    Steve

  15. A Kindred Spirit Says:

    Hey Steve,

    One flaw I see with courtship is the fact that “the real self” is rarely exposed.

    One complaint of the dating process is that each party consistently “puts their best foot forward” in an attempt to “sell themselves”, but the courtship set-up accomodates such even moreso. Only time, and alot of it, to observe one another in alot of different environments and situations, will reveal the “real self”. The fact that “courters” are only allowed to be together in groups and with family members prevents them from the opportunity to experience such. Their interaction is limited.

    I see the same problems with “courtship interaction” that I see with couples who only date in environments that help “mask” who they really are. I have a family member who is in a terrible marriage right now because the guy never showed his “true colors” until after the marriage. We all thought he was just being respectful of her when he wouldn’t allow himself to be alone with her. Sadly, after they married and she was finally alone with him, his “true colors” were exposed.

    I shared this with a pastor at a Sovereign Grace church I was attending. He laughed smugly at me and said that there was no such thing as the perfect mate…that marriage was the time for such things to surface and the commitment to the covenant of marriage was the motivation to work through them.

    I prefer “chaste dating” with an emphasis on treating one another like brothers and sisters-in-Christ.

    Good posts, Steve.

    -Kindred

  16. A Kindred Spirit Says:

    Edmund,

    Excellent posts! You’re certainly “well read” on the topic. The only book I wasn’t familiar with was “A Matter of Basic Principles”.

    -Kindred

  17. steve240 Says:

    Kindred

    Thanks for your comments. You bring up a good point about one drawback to courtship and where in some circles they limit one on one time with a courting couple.

    If a couple is going to get married they are going to be spending a lot of time together alone. Wouldn’t it make sense for the couple to spend some time alone with each other and see how they do?

    It is sad that the one pastor you shared the story with didn’t see the problem with no alone time for a couple before they were married.

    Thanks again.

  18. Edmund Bertram Says:

    Kindred,

    Thank you for the encouragement! Awhile back I nearly fell into some of the emotional and rhetorical traps of the courtship movement. Since then, I’ve done a lot of research, and I’m planning to make a presentation at my school to help out those who are in the position I was, as soon as I can get all my thoughts together.

    I loved a Matter of Basic Principles. It presents a thorough critique of Bill Gothard, and really opened my eyes to how far to the extreme many associated with the courtship movement are. And I, too, appreciated your point about how courtship tends to hide the self. It makes sense, considering how often even the most moderate of authors sacrifice honest communication for a false view of guarding one’s heart. I’m disturbed at the reaction from your pastor; I thought the reason they avoided romance was because “love is blind,” but if the goal is to have couples entering marriage completely ignorant of each other, then I suppose Lindvall’s betrothal model makes a good deal more sense.

    Keep testing everything so that we Christians may preach no other Gospel. We really need firm, biblical Christians.

    God bless,
    Edmund Bertram

  19. steve240 Says:

    Edmund

    I will be curious to see what you have to say on this.

    If you read the online book about the betrothal movement (see my entry about Courship Extending Parents’ Protection) the author of the book points out what seems to be Harris’s underlying motivation: Harris feels that emotional intimacy between one other than the one you marry is tantamount to no heeding the warning about premarital sex and the two become one when there is intercourse.

    Remember all the other girls hands that showed up at the altar in Harris’s IKDG book when a couple were about to marry? Remember how Harris said the groom could only give to his bride what was left of his heart?

    That seems to Harris’s biggest motivation for what he writes in his book.

  20. Edmund Bertram Says:

    Dear Steve,

    I would agree absolutely that there are elements of the Emotional Purity argument within Joshua Harris’ books, and I would agree that this comprises the main thrust of his argument. The alter scene, like many of his unfortunate anecdotes, is a clear (and IMHO, an over-the-top) example of this. In his own life, though, Harris didn’t really “guard his heart” much at all (in the afterward to the later edition of IKDG, he describes thinking about his wife in a manner which could only be described as infatuation).

    If you mean to ask Joshua Harris’ personal motive, then I would suggest something else. While of course we never can know for certain what motivates someone else, there are several trends I can’t help but notice in his books. When he writes of his life as a teenager, he spares himself no censure. While such a clear condemnation of his behavior seems to be only humility, it also screams, “I’ve repented! I don’t want to do that ever again!” In addition, the references to sin that occur after he repented of his earlier way of life are such that the average reader cannot help but think that Harris is doing whatever possible to avoid lust. What this together suggests is that Joshua Harris has sincerely struggled with a great deal of guilt.

    Because, even in the face of sin, Harris desperately desired purity for his relationship, it is possible that Harris did whatever was necessary for his conscience to be clear, essentially drawing a line in the sand and affirming, “If I don’t cross this line, my marriage will have a pure foundation.” Having such a visible repentance and clearly delineated boundary is likely the foundation of many girls’ opinion that Harris is a “nice guy,” an incidence of which Harris describes in IKDG (not that Harris isn’t a nice guy). In other words, if Harris wrote whole books on purity, we must know purity is important to him. I have no doubt that the primary motivation for Harris is that he wants to help other Christians avoid tragic pitfalls. But this must have the effect to, in some part, salve his conscience.

    What’s unfortunate is that this feeling of guilt carries over even into the tone of his book, a fact which he himself describes as useful in Not Even a Hint (if memory serves). Now, I have no problem convicting people with the Law, but only if you remind them that ultimately our hope is not in ourselves but in God’s grace. In his books, the “meat” of the text consistently leaves the impression that our purity– and especially, our marriages–depend upon our own work. Thankfully, Harris does point out more than any other courtship author that all our sins are forgiven, even devoting an entire chapter to it in IKDG. But it just seems to me that these glimpses of the gospel are discordant with the body of his text.

    Even if I am correct, I cannot blame Harris for this, because I’m confident I would do the same if I could. And I mean that.

    I will say again that naturally, this is all speculative. But that’s the impression I received. If I understand properly, you said that you attended CLC, so you would have a better opinion than I of what’s going on behind Joshua Harris’ pulpit.

    Finally, it’s worth noting that having read nearly every dating book on the market, when my mom asked for a book for my young teenage brother to read, I recommended IKDG and Boy Meets Girl, with some reservations. So I’m not “anti-Joshua Harris.” But I do believe there are some *serious* errors and over-generalizations in his work that must be recognized. And he’s probably the best of those associated with the CM (with the possible exception of Douglas Wilson or Elizabeth Elliot–if she may even be said to be so associated).

    So there’s my two cents and a whole lot of hot air.
    -Edmund

  21. steve240 Says:

    Edmund

    If your younger brother is HS age then reading his book might not be a bad idea.

    To clarify things, I wasn’t in Harris’s church when he was there. I left CLC long before he arrived. Thus my comment on emotional purity being his big motivation is based on what I have read and discussions with people.

    I agree with you on errors and overgeneralizations in his book.

    Thanks of your continued comments.

  22. Homeschool Mom Says:

    Courtship is very much active among Christian homeschoolers. Harris’ book is in high demand. I am on several homeschool email lists and when the topic of courtship comes up, ikdg is always recommended. When I say the topic of courtship is discussed, it doesn’t mean the homeschoolers are discussing whether courtship is right or wrong, good or bad. They are only discussing how to present this to their kids, what books are good, how to go about it, etc. It is virtually “always” considered the only thing to do. Dating is never an option among almost all Christian homeschoolers.

  23. steve240 Says:

    Home School Mom

    Welcome to my blog. That is interesting how you say that most people who home school also take the ikdg approach. Have you seen my blog questioning whether the ikdg/courtship is another extension of parents “protection” of their children?

    Any idea what percentage of children are home schooled?

  24. qmark Says:

    AKS:

    “One complaint of the dating process is that each party consistently “puts their best foot forward” in an attempt to “sell themselves”, but the courtship set-up accomodates such even moreso…I see the same problems with “courtship interaction” that I see with couples who only date in environments that help “mask” who they really are.”

    So let me get this straight–you’re saying that it’s going to be much easier to put my best foot forward and hide who I really am when I’m surrounded by my best friends and family who know me since I was born, and much harder to hide who I really am alone one a date with someone I’m just getting to know?

    To the contrary, I think it’s much harder to put on a show when you’re surrounded by people who know you, care about you, will hold you accountable, etc.

  25. steve240 Says:

    qmark

    Welcome to the blog.

    I can see someone putting on a “mask” in either situation. That is when you are with your family and when you are alone with your “date” or partner you are courting.

    I remember when I was in elementary school and we would go on field trips. I sadly remember not really wanting my mother to go one field trip since it meant that I had to behave more than normal. I would think a similar analogy might happen with a courting couple. Maybe you would be better behaved in front of your parents when you are courting vs. out alone.

    It sounds like the idea that it is better for a couple to spend all or most of their time seeing each other in the presence of their families is an idea that someone started and few in courtship circles have questioned IMO.

    Thanks again for your post.

  26. Seth Ofori Amankwah Says:

    steve

    i think Harris has an idea and it is not bad as a whole although some of his explanations get quite to the extremes. for me what i strongly hold on to is a perfect interlace of both ideas, chronologically specifying when a particular dimension of the spectrum should be employed. certainly every commencement of a relationship that has the motive of marriage should start with dating and later advances to courtship.

    Edmond you are doing well.

  27. MKin Says:

    ok…you steve240 are a very critical person. did you really believe that Josh Harris would never court a girl ever? honestly. i do not believe it was a fad. it’s something to live by. i read i kissed dating goodbye and i learned so much about what not to do and what to do and how it’s great to wait. he had the right idea writing the book. it just depends on what you get out of it.

  28. steve240 Says:

    MKin

    Welcome to my blog.

    Where did you get the idea that I thought “Josh Harris would never court a girl ever?”

    I call what Josh Harris taught more of a “fad” since it is something that has come and gone in most Christian circles. Sure some still practice it but only a few. It is not nearly as wide spread nor nearly as promoted as it was when the book first came out.

    I also question how age appropriate what Harris teaches is for all ages. Harris wrote about his need to do this as a teenager. Why everyone assumed this is what all ages should do is baffling.

  29. StillSingle Says:

    We need to distinguish between “promoted” and “practiced.”

    My experience circa 10 years ago was that it was promoted in my church, but I knew of only one person who actually did it, and it seemed absurd in the context. So many people just got the guilt without courtship really being a viable option.

    It was a bit like hearing a sermon on the evils of right-hand-side “pagan” driving and the virtues of the True Godly Way of driving on the left. And then looking out the window at Interstate (or Autobahn…) traffic and realizing that the “Godly Way” isn’t appropriate in my community.

    So “courtship” (regardless of its merits) can be very divisive. An individual family can make a personal choice to home school, but dating and/or courtship requires another person.

  30. Julia Says:

    Well I don’t know if courtship is appropriate for older people (since I’m only 19), but I’m really thankful that Joshua wrote the book. When I read it, I had never heard of it (later I discovered that something similar was practiced in my church in the eighties, but as you pointed out, there were some problems), and since it wasn’t a very discussed topic in my church (or most of Brazilian churches), I had never really thought about it.

    For me, it was very positive, since it made me reflect, not only about relationships, but also about involving God in every part of my life. But I guess I was lucky since I had the time to think about the concept without a church, or my parents pressuring me to follow a certain trend. Actually, now I remember that even though we never discussed it officially, in my church, there was a couple that started a courtship, and most of the teens made fun of them.

    Now I am at a different church, that doesn’t use the word courtship, or anything similar, but mostly encourages couples not to be physically intimate. But they do say that it is a option that the couple has to do before God, and that the specifics of what physically intimate mean, can be different for each couple. There isn’t much talk of doing things in groups vs individually, nor of retroactive marriage, and nobody expects a boy to talk to a girl’s father before talking to her. So far, I think we are doing well, but since we are a quite young church, only time will tell.

    PS: Sorry for any typos or grammar errors, as I said before, I’m from Brazil, and even though I can read english well, writing is not my strongest suit.

  31. Katie Says:

    I would definetely say that people are still choosing to kiss dating goodbye. I read the book in highschool and it heavily impacted my passion for not dating. Since then, I’ve nevered had a boyfriend, never kissed, and am in my third year of college at a Christian University in Nashville,TN. In December I starrted my first courting relationship. He came to my house and asked permission from my parents. Our relationship has deepened tremendesly and we’re doing daily devotions for couples. But I have a huge delima. I’m afraid my parents are getting too controlling over my relationship. How do I start making my own decisions as a 22 year-old adult? I know I am supposed to respect my parents’ opinion, but does that mean that I am supposed to obey everything they say, even if I dissagree?
    Spring break is approaching, and Kyle’s family has invited me to stay with them (in Florida.) My parents think it’s innapropriate for me to be sleeping under the “same roof” even if we aren’t in the same room. My parents think its too rushed, that I don’t have to get to know his family RIGHT NOW. But the truth is, we see marriage in the near future, and it IS important to get to know his family.
    So is it THAT bad if I decide to go, against my parents’ opinion??????

  32. Emily Says:

    I think these ideas are getting a new wave! Especially Boy Meets Girl I just heard about a friend’s friend who is in his 30s, has lived a wild life in the past, and is now using it as his guidebook. Yikes! I told my friend to run away. 🙂

  33. Christian Homeschooling: Raising Children or Controlling Them? | The Society of Phineas Says:

    […] While discussion of these things has centered on Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye, the idea of courtship and the thinking behind it exists in many other places (groups like ATI, Vision Forum and SGM; anything connected to teachers like John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and Matt Chandler; or in Christian homeschool literature – Harris, Pride, McDonald, Lindvall, the Ludys, the Botkins) the linkage between the homeschooling movement (specifically Christian homeschooling) is undeniable given that this is Joshua Harris’ background for his whole life. To wit: […]

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