What Is “Dating” And What Did Josh Harris Supposedly “Kiss Goodbye?”

I read a blog entry written by John that asks that same question.  I would encourage anyone to read this link:

What is “dating” anyway?

That certainly is a good question.  What is it that Harris is supposedly “kissing goodbye?”  If one decides they want to follow what Harris is teaching, wouldn’t they want to know that means and what they shouldn’t do.  The word “dating” can mean a lot of things.

There appears to be some confusion in Christian circles as to what dating is and what  they are “kissing goodbye.”

The different meanings that I see with dating along with subcategories are as follows:


  1. Going out and doing something with someone of the opposite sex (with no commitment implied). This could either be:
    1. Doing something as friends to enjoy each other’s company.  There can be quite a spectrum here of what is done on these dates.  .  “Enjoy” can mean anything from doing some with the purity God commands us to to couples engaging in casual sex.
    2. Spending some time to get to know someone to see if there is possibility that there might be a “connection” to have a relationship.  One might think of this as going out on a number of dates somewhere in the range of 5 dates.  This again can be done with purity or have all the sin issues pointed out in 1a above.
  2. Seeing each other exclusively for a period of time. It might be called “going together” or “going steady” or being someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend. This could either be:
    1. Something relatively short tem such as the repeated hook up and then break up that happens with some high school students.  According to Harris, this produces multiple broken hearts in a person and being at ease with breaking up.
    2. Two people that are seeing each other for a long time period with “no real purpose” in mind as Harris mentions.  .
    3. A couple exploring a relationship to see if they might be a good match for marriage.  Most would call this at least at some point during this stage “courtship.”

As I indicate above, it is quite possible for a couple to be involved in any of the above scenarios and do it in the purity that God commands us to.  Conversely, it is also possible for a couple be involved in the same activities without that the purity called for in scripture.   I am just trying to define the various types of dating.

My study of Harris’s book seems to indicate that what Harris is really opposing is category 2a or 2b: short term boyfriend/girlfriend situations.  Writing from the perspective of his teenage experiences, Harris decries the pattern that some people do (usually teenagers) of being a “couple” for a short period of time and then breaking up.  He also feels it is wrong to be “coupled up” before one is ready to pursue marriage.

Even if one does believe and follow Harris’s thoughts on all of this he unfortunately doesn’t make it clear what he is “kissing goodbye.”  This leads to what some call a “shotgun affect” to where all dating is decried as being wrong while his alternative “courtship” becomes the only thing that is acceptable reason for 2 singles to be together.  This makes all the other categories except 2c seem at least not as “godly.”

One alternative that Harris’s church has pushed for a number of years is singles doing things in groups vs. “dating” someone of the opposite sex until one is ready for marriage and meets someone they are ready to pursue “courtship” with.

This is just something to think about.  There is a broad spectrum in what constitutes dating.  Just know what you are “kissing goodbye” if you choose to do that.

Josh Harris did indicate in his latest IKDG “update” message, “Romance Revisited”, that the title of his book was “confusing.”  He said that he could have said I kissed “short term premature selfish directionless romantic relationships” goodbye but that would be too long of a title for a book.  This confirms what I am sharing above that Harris didn’t really indicate he wanted to kiss all dating goodbye, just  a certain type of dating goodbye.

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15 Responses to “What Is “Dating” And What Did Josh Harris Supposedly “Kiss Goodbye?””

  1. Juli Says:

    Steve…I don’t agree with SGM’s reasoning behind Courtship, mainly because it implies dating is wrong, less “holy”, for the immature or unenlightened Christians, and in some cases, dating is seen as worldly and evil.

    I do think definitions are critical – in my mind, courtship isn’t what SGM defined it as. At least not now. But as a single believer who has made my own share of mistakes with regard to dating, relationships, etc..I think of myself as the “weak minded” believer who can’t eat meat that Paul referred to.

    By that I am saying that there are certain activities and boundaries that I personally feel I need to abide by with regard to relationships with single men, for the sake of my own conscience..I am not “free” in those areas yet, and I know that I would be tempted in areas I am weak. So because I don’t want to stumble, I simply set some boundaries. I don’t think this really “looks” the same for everyone. And my own boundaries are certainly personal, not for everyone. That is where we get into problems – when we begin applying our convictions about dating, love, etc to everyone else. SOmething SGM is SO GOOD at doing (homeschool, modesty, etc) instead of allowing the Spirit of God to lead us individually, they assume they have the answers and hand it to us all wrapeed up neatly and say “Do this, not that” And we listen.

    I don’t judge others anymore though, who would choose dating or even stricter forms of courtship for the sake of CONSCIENCE. Now, if they are making their choices out of fear, unbelief, pride, fear of man, or a critical spirit towards others, then they should deal with that.

    This is simply yet another area where we need to be careful not to judge or tie millstones around the neck and add burdens Christ Himself is not adding. The only CLEAR command in Scripture with regard to these things are not to have sexual relations outside of marriage, and not to be yoked with an unbeliever. Beyond that, we’re adding to Scripture.

    I once had a friend (in SGM) tell me once that if I were to pursue a relationship with an Arminian it would be like being unequally yoked…I was shocked. THAT is adding to Scripture and taking things too far.

  2. steve240 Says:


    Thanks for your comment and welcome to my blog.

    This blog entry was was to give definitions and define what Harris was “kissing goodbye.”

    I agree that each person has to decide what is best for them in their situation. They also need to take into account what scripture says about things. It is sad when a group indicates that one approach is more righteous than another approach. e.g. courtship vs. dating.

    You might enjoy listening to “update” messages that Harris recently posted on his blog. You can find these messages here:


    I plan to comment on his “Romance Revisited” message.

    Welcome again.


  3. Juli Says:

    Steve, I’ve visited your blog before but it has been a while…thanks for the updated links..but I’m not sure I can stomach Harris yet..I had a hard time listening to him when I was part of SGM..I think now I just might lose my lunch..

    Does he allow comments? well, good for him. Surpised more have not made them..I wish the girltalk would allow comments, although they would have blocked me after the first one!

    Censorship. Classic communistic tactic and controlling mechanism. I guess God isn’t so sovereign in their minds, after all – if they fear what others will say/do in opposition to them!

  4. steve240 Says:


    I understand with what you have gone through. Harris does allow comments but I have seen some of my comments censored.

  5. meg Says:

    … I don’t know why… but I have, all of the sudden, started to “look into” stuff about SGM. I was a member of an SGM church in the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s. They were PDI at the time. Anyway, at one point, Josh Harris (who was quite the eligible bachelor at the time) had a close friendship and communicated frequently by phone and email with our Pastor’s daughter… who was/is physically and spiritually a beautiful girl. (I mean this girl turned heads when she walked into a room) Well, our church was located in TX… I don’t remember where Josh’s was…. but I do remember that there was a bit of a buzz about the possibility of “one of our own” marrying a “celebrity” of our community! Then, from one day to the next, we received news of Josh’s engagement (I think to a church secretary)…. I NEVER heard anyone speak about the change of events or whether or not this lovely girl was hurt… but I bet she is glad she dodged that bullet. Kind of an interesting twist how he became such an advocate of the non-dating scene. I have always wondered what happened there??????? Hmmmmmmmmm…

  6. Juli Says:

    Meg…I suppose a man could technically “court” more than one woman..maybe that is what happened.

    I am in Texas too…were you at a SGM church here? If so, it must have been Houston, because there wasn’t another church here at that time that I recall..I live near San Antonio and our church was adopted. Which, ironically, all the churches in Texas were..except for the Frisco plant where the apostle is, but I digress…

    If you read Josh’s book, then you’d know the sequence of events during that time…he married a woman who worked at the church, yes. Not sure what her job was. I imagine it would have been hard for him to do the coursthip thing as defined by SGM in a long distance relationship, no matter how lovely the girl was…besides, CJ was pulling the strings then (and still is) and he was living with him for a while.

    Yeah, that young woman should count her blessings indeed..she would have ended up another SGM Stepford Wife, especially marrying Josh.

  7. Juli Says:

    Steve, yesterday I shattered some audio CD’s of CJ, Josh, and Purswell that I had..(I never liked Josh’s preaching when I DID like Josh’s preaching if oyu know what I mean) they were buried deep in my console and if you have ever busted a CD like that, they splinter like glass…I almost cut my hand! haha So I doubt I will listen to any more of their messages..but it was fun destroying their dribble.

    It does not surprise me that he is probably back peddling like SGM typically does..always changing, modifying, seeing what works for their body of ideas they are pushing…why not in the area of romance and courtship as well?

  8. painfullyaware Says:

    I am familiar with the scenario in which you speak, meg. I was the young man who had a “relationship” of some sort with the stunning young lady you speak of after her ordeal with Harris. Although I was never granted “courtship” status by dad, we certainly had more than just a passing crush. She was indeed one in a million, and her siblings were just as honorable. They all wanted nothing more than to please their parents and live up to their unenviable roles as PK’s (pastors kids). The sad reality is that all of the youth, and when I say all I mean most young adults in the church we obviously both attended in TX, ended up living double lives. They were forbidden to develop natural feelings, uncensored thoughts, or go through typical experiences without the blessing and oversight of the dominant male figure in their lives. PK’s had it especially hard as they had the fate of their fathers career in their hands. It was doctrine that if the father could not “control” his own household, he could not be expected to lead as a father figure in the church. As such, secrecy became the rule, and all was well as long as dad was kept out of the loop of what they really wanted and felt. Nobody really knew the heart of this amazing young lady, and when I say that, I can say it with a straight face, NOBODY really knew her. Sadly, she existed without peer.

    Inevitably, this scenario resulted in children who hid truth (and every PK I ever met, hid a ton of truth). Had she married Josh, it would have likely advanced the career of dad, and all would have been happy with the uniting of the beauty with the future king (Harris). The problem was that the beauty didnt really like the king, and all he represented. I believe he felt this from her and married the other woman. The beauty became a coin to purchase career advancement and stability for the family fortune….As for my scenario, I dont think I brought enough to the table spiritually or within SG to have a true chance, despite what she felt towards me, which was a strongly shared emotion between us.

    I still struggle with those years, and what these things actually meant. I left the church once it became abundantly clear that they did not allow for sincere questioning without emotional punishment, individuality without complete submission to existing male authority, and free choice with preapproval. I was too old to be told what to do, and probably too self assured for my own good.

    Overall the people in the church whom I met and knew were absolutely some of the finest I have ever known, sincere, pure and honest, but the oppressive rules they submitted to struck me as cultish and as a sick expression of weakness. The fraternity of jesus at SG is hard to join under the terms of their admittance.

    Dont forget to take your shoes off at the door, lest you get asked to leave.

  9. painfullyaware Says:

    Just for the record my parents served as leaders of this same church at some mid management level (CG leaders) for years before my “secret” relationship with the PK daughter doomed them to inevitable exile for their failure to control me. I am by no means a bad person, just inquisitive, and questioning things is not the way to make friends in this environment.

  10. steve240 Says:

    painfully aware

    Welcome to my blog and thanks for sharing your experiences. Sorry that they weren’t the best.

    I have heard of how a number of singles in supposed “courtship” churches find a work around like you describe where the singles have secret relationships as you describe. I hear that some of these singles after being in a secret relationship then go through the actual courtship process where the boy gets the girl’s father permission to court his daughter. Unfortunately when a couple does this work around it leaves the parents and the church thinking that this is a workable system when it may not be as workable as it may appear to the parents and church leadership.

    Sorry to hear what happened to your father.

    I also have seen an environment at the Sovereign Grace “mother ship” Covenant Life Church where they didn’t like questioning.

    Welcome again to my blog.

  11. Headless Unicorn Guy Says:

    They all wanted nothing more than to please their parents and live up to their unenviable roles as PK’s (pastors kids). The sad reality is that all of the youth, and when I say all I mean most young adults in the church we obviously both attended in TX, ended up living double lives. — PainfullyAware

    PKs are always in danger of growing up into either Marilyn Manson or Fred Phelps.

    And a few years ago in a posting about the “Salvation by Marriage” meme going around a lot of churches (where Singleness is a Sin, period), Internet Monk had this observation:

    “Much of what I’ve observed in the ‘Christian Courtship’ movement would not be out of place in Medieval Islam.”

  12. Lori Baldwin Says:

    These posts tell one side of things but as the mother of a 22-year-old single young woman with the “inside scoop” on what’s going on with many of her peers, I can definitely see wisdom in avoiding getting caught up in a lot of casual, going-nowhere, one-on-one opposite-sex romantic affairs. My daughter and I talk A LOT and I respect her as a young woman with the maturity to make her own decisions. She has decided for herself that she doesn’t want to subject herself to being used by young men in ways that are so typical of the casual dating scene. However, neither one of us subscribes to rigid rules about how to “do” courtship or dating. However, I don’t doubt that there are abuses and secrecy in courtship-oriented communities such as posters here have described. We don’t attend a “courtship church” and I am totally against believers trying to bind their convictions or opinions about this on others. I think it’s wise to offer protection to our daughters but it should be in the context of acceptance, respect for their age/maturity levels, flexibility according to circumstances, and without rigid, perfectionistic expectations and “rules.” Sorry this was rambling – thanks for letting me comment!

    • John David Blair Says:


      I totally get where you’re coming from, in wanting your daughter to avoid meaningless relationships that go nowhere. That is a legitimate motivation/purpose/goal. However, if that is your motivation/purpose/goal, then you are wise to steer clear of Josh Harris’ courting system.

      Under Harris’ system, the concept of arranged courtships/marriages receives support that can result in two people, who don’t know each other and who have no realistic chance of staying married – the epitome of a meaningless relationship. Essentially, skipping from over the dating/relationship process from friends to the altar is neither a very practical nor Godly approach.

      Let me suggest that you consider this article: http://appliedtruthandinterest.blogspot.com/2009/09/dating-revisited-testimony-of-post.html. This article really explains my views on dating with a Godly purpose.

      The crux of my philosophy, espoused in that article, is that dating can be done in a Godly, productive way. Like most concepts in God’s creation, there is a way to do it right (disciplined, pure, and generous), and a way to do it sinfully (unrestrained, lustfully, and selfishly). Done correctly, I believe even the failures will strengthen the marriage that eventually follows.

      Avoidance is not the solution, though, and parents should hesitate teaching lessons of avoidance to their children, whether those children are 2, 22, or 42 years old. The children of this world are more likely to meet quality, worthwhile, and God-fearing members of the opposite sex if they “play the field” with discipline before committing to someone for the rest of their lives.

      I discourage anyone from marrying the first person they ever dated/kissed. Marriage is a life-long covenant, and we shouldn’t shop for spouses like we do a pair of shoes, meaning that we don’t just pick a spouse on based on the recommendation of another person or for aethetics/looks or because we think it will last a long time before eventually wearing out.

      To find the right spouse should, at a minimum, require more effort investigation/shopping (dating) than we put into shoe shopping. You are concerned about unproductive relationships – that’s awesome. I agree with you that there is no one Biblically-mandated approach. However, there is most certainly at least one way to approach dating and relationships in a Godly, disciplined way, if not more.

      I don’t think “casual” dating is the problem. Casual sex/lust is the problem, and people are giving too much of themselves away without receiving a sufficient commitment to warrant that sacrifice. Every advancement in a relationship, phyiscally speaking, should follow miles of commitment and communication. Before a relationship progresses to sex and sexual activities, the commitment of marriage must be made according to the Bible – we all agree there. I also believe that serious kissing should not be done without more commitment than a first date offers.

      That doesn’t mean I am against casual dating. I am against casual intimacy. There’s nothing wrong with catching a movie together or going to an amusement park with someone we can reasonably trust with our safety (a whole other topic). Whether two people should go farther than dinner is a mystery that cannot be solved without investigation. Dating and relationships are the most effrective investigative tool of which I am aware in this context.

  13. Sister Act Says:

    “Even if one does believe and follow Harris’s thoughts on all of this he unfortunately doesn’t make it clear what he is “kissing goodbye.” This leads to what some call a “shotgun affect” to where all dating is decried as being wrong while his alternative “courtship” becomes the only thing that is acceptable reason for 2 singles to be together. This makes all the other categories except 2c seem at least not as “godly.””

    So true! This is one of my biggest problems with the IDKG philosophy–he vaguely defines “dating” with a few extreme examples of what he and some random other people did when they were like 16 and extrapolates from that to the idea that ALL dating is bad.

    My sister and I have a blog on which we intend to discuss many things in the Christian community, but so far have mostly talked about dating & courtship (and the lack thereof): http://sisteract123.blogspot.com/.

    I’ve just started doing a “series” about IKDG, and I’m probably going to talk about the “What is dating?” question next.

  14. Maranatha Ministries Reconsidered – Steve240’s New Blog | The Wartburg Watch 2016 Says:

    […] dating goodbye.” In this system one was required to not date (though what was “dating” seemed to be never defined), but to wait and listen for God to show you who your life […]

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