Posts Tagged ‘C.J. Mahaney’

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

February 27, 2009

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.


Josh Harris’s Shopping Cart Illustration: Does “KDG” Just Change the Cart’s Drifting Direction?

August 3, 2008

Are we fixing the swerving shopping cart or just changing the direction it swerves?

I have been rereading portions of the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye Book.” I noticed Harris’s shopping cart example that he used to “discourage” dating. In this example he talks about how some shopping carts are unwieldy with a “mind of their own” These are the shopping carts that never seem to want to go in the direction that you are trying to push them. With these carts you always have to make adjustments or they will veer off course either into a food display or another shopper. These are the “swervers” to avoid when shopping.

Harris claims that dating works similarly. Despite a couple’s best efforts and intentions Harris claims the system of dating tends to push you off course and into temptation just like a the shopping carts in his example. After this he lists the “7 Habits of Highly Defective Dating.” The author concludes that the “problems in dating can’t all be fixed by merely “dating right” but choosing an alternative to dating.

Before I share my main point of this entry and as I have said in other comments on this blog, Harris’s ideas have some wisdom and foolishness. With teenagers, he may have a point with this illustration and thought. The immaturity of most teenagers might work to make dating a “swerving cart.” But for more mature adults, does Harris’s alternative only move us into another “swerving cart” that only difference is that is swerves us in another direction?

One of my biggest issues with courtship and groups is that everywhere I have seen it applied, it quickly moves toward legalism. Harris even acknowledged that these problems occurred at his own church (but doesn’t mention this on his website). Harris has expressed regret for people that have been exposed to his book that has been implemented in a legalistic manner.

Christians rather than enjoying their freedom in Christ hold to a set of rules that are suppose to lead toward wisdom. You many times see single men and women “afraid” of each other and afraid to have healthy friendships with those of the opposite sex when exposed to teachings like Josh Harris gives. It is where people take well intentioned concepts liked what Harris writes about and pushes them to an extreme.

It sounds like Harris’s “alternative” to dating just might be another “swerving cart” that keeps trying to pull one in another direction: legalism. It is sad but quite possible that “kissing dating goodbye” only changes the direction your cart swerves but doesn’t change the swerve problem.

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What Another (Now Former) Leader In Sovereign Grace Ministries Teaches About Courtship & Dating

July 21, 2008

I know it has been a little while since I made an entry but I am not one to just keep posting unless I have something to say.

7/14/11 Update

After leaving SGM Brent Detwiler has produced a number of documents showing multiple problems that exist within SGM and especially the hypocrisy of C.J. Mahaney. As a result of these documents becoming public Mahaney stepped down as leader of the group.

The following blogs are good sources of information about what is going on:

I have the highest respect for Brent having the courage to release these documents. Hopefully they will result in needed changes in SGM.

Original Post

I was reading some comments on another blog called SGMSurvivors ( and someone posted the following link:

If you download this pdf file it indicates it is the handout for a message given by Brent Detwiler at “The Summit Men’s Retreat” on September 21-23, 2006.  He is calling the message “Getting Ready” as in getting ready for courtship.

For those who don’t know, Brent Detwiler isn’t just a another pastor in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  He is in the higher leadership of Sovereign Grace including at times having responsibility for oversight of a number of churches.  Thus this teaching shouldn’t be regarded as the teaching of just one of the regular SGM pastors but by someone in upper leadership.

Just like I have commented before on Josh Harris’s books, this handout has both wisdom and foolishness.

Listed below are some of points Brett Detwiler teaches about Courtship/Dating that caught my attention.  I have inserted my comments below each “point.”

  • Courtship is not for fun.

If courtship isn’t fun I wonder what it should be.  Should it be mundane or a chore?  Sure it should be taken seriously and will be some work but shouldn’t a couple have fun exploring whether they are a good match for each other?  Is this a good way to start a marriage?  I question of the wisdom of wanting to get married to someone that I can’t even have a fun experience with.

  • Dating is about personal gratification and an end in itself. It brings all kinds of temptation to sin.

It looks like Detwiler is convinced that someone can’t date without it including all of the above. It is one thing to promote or think that “courtship” is a superior or more holy than dating.  It is another thing to make a generalization like this.

I know of couples that have dated and wasn’t about the above.  It was done with integrity.  I can’t believe Detwiler’s audacity to make this judgment about dating.

At least Detwiler is out and open about his beliefs vs. writing a book that decries problems with dating but then claims they aren’t against dating.

  • Keep Courtship Brief
    • The longer a courtship goes the greater the likelihood a brother and sister will get involved emotionally and physically in ways that are inappropriate or sinful.
    • By keeping the courtship brief (e.g. 3-6 months) you are trying to prevent this from happening. There is a balance between getting to know the person better and escalating temptation.

I have heard of couples that being under pressure to either get married or cut off seeing each other.  Some couples in response to this pressure would get married before they had spent enough time to get to know each other and fully “explore” the possibility of a marriage.  They would then get married and discover they weren’t as good of a match as they thought.  Imagine being married to someone that isn’t the best of match when God wants this to be a commitment for life.

I guess if you listen to what Detwiler says here and other places in this handout, there is only one way to do things?

  • Marriage will not prosper and may not survive apart from wholehearted involvement in a local church.

Though it always good for a couple to be involved in a local church I am not sure how one can make this generalization.

  • Role oriented marriages – the reason why arranged marriages work.
    • Man – priorities as a husband, father and provider
    • Woman – priorities as a wife, mother, and home worker

(I added the underline and italics.)

Well at least Detweiler is being honest about this.  He is promoting “arranged” marriages.  It sounds like he wants the children’s parents to arrange a marriage.  I wouldn’t want my parents deciding especially without my input on who my mate should be.

In conclusion this teaching may show the real heart and what is really behind what Sovereign Grace Ministries believes and teaches on courtship and dating including how bad they consider dating to be.  At least it is nice to know what their views are so that one can make an informed decision.  It is shocking that Detwiler teaches that there is only one way to do something.

Detwiler’s message may also show the real heart behind what Joshua Harris believes on courtship.  Harris may claim that he doesn’t have strong views against dating but when one sees something like this it really makes you wonder if Harris’s views aren’t this extreme also.  Of course there could be differing views in SGM.

8/31/09 Update

Did Joshua Harris “Forget” His Own Church’s History With Courtship/Groups?

February 25, 2008

As I ask myself why did I set this blog up and do all of this writing one of my big drivers: “forgotten” history.

I am one that has seen the “kissing dating goodbye” in practice long before Joshua Harris wrote his book. This includes seeing it implemented in the church Harris now pastors (Covenant Life Church) as well as in other churches. I both saw and heard directly from others mentioning the problems that occurred with the group/courtship system that he promotes. Thus, despite Harris’s failure to mention this his approach had its own problems and still does. Having seen this, I am sure you can understand my shock when I read his book and saw that he left this out of his book.

Harris had no problem saying how defective dating was but failed to acknowledge any of the problems his even his own church had with the system he promoted. In fairness to Harris I should add that Harris wasn’t the pastor of this church when Covenant Life Church first implemented these practices. He was only 21 when he wrote the book but the other pastors at his church certainly knew about them or should have been. Did they not share these problems with Harris or did he choose to not mention them in his book?

When attending the church Harris now pastors in the early to mid 90’s, I would repeatedly hear singles complain about problems with how the single men and women related. The number complaining were more than just an isolated few. Some would say that that the single men and women were “afraid” of each other. Despite this sentiment among the singles, the pastors seemed to think there were no problems. One former lay singles leader indicated that the pastors heard what they wanted to hear about this vs. hearing the truth. Maybe the leadership of CLC is still in blissful ignorance of what problems dating/courtship causes?

I am not sure what to think when I see someone write a book promoting his alternative to dating and doesn’t write about the history or acknowledge the problems that occurred when this was implemented. Have the pastors failed to ever acknowledge these problems? Maybe they truly think it went and was implemented without problems. Of course there being misinformed would be better then purposely hiding the problems with “kissing dating goodbye.”

Maybe not sharing these problems has contributed to his system being used legalistically? Maybe had these problems been mentioned people would have taken more of a realistic view of his system?

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Universal Courtship: If so, would you be here?

January 7, 2008

In one discussion list that I was on that discussed the pros and cons of courtship along with kissing dating goodbye, one person made a good point. Very few of us are here because our parents courted. Another way to put this, is that very few of us would have parents and thus exist if our parents were forced to meet and marry through the courtship “model.”

There may be advantages as well as disadvantages to the courtship model but just something to think about. This was your short thought for today.

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Josh Harris’s View On People Using His Book Legalistically

December 26, 2007

As I started to do some research on the internet about Joshua Harris, his book and what people thought about his book (good and bad) I came upon the following site that is an interview with Harris discussing IKDG book :

This part of the interview really shocked me:

Josh: This was never my intention but some people have taken the message of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and made it something legalistic-a set of rules. That’s something that’s beyond my control and it’s disappointing at times ….

Here we have Harris pretty much shrugging off any responsibility for his book being used improperly. I really question if that is fair? Is it right for someone who “championed” the courtship/group approach to so easily say that it is beyond his control? Certainly with any approach there will be abuses but can and should an author so easily wash his hands of any wrongdoing?

In our litigious society, if one sells a product and doesn’t offer warnings with the produce the manufacturer can be sued. I am not talking about blatant misuses like picking up a running lawnmower with your hands. I am talking about more subtle misuses that wouldn’t be always be normal common sense.
Did this book forget to include the warnings? Could have something been added in the book that would have helped minimize its misuse? Now that he is acknowledging the book is causing this damage, is there something that Harris could and should do to reduce the likelihood of people misusing the system he promotes?

Another interesting note, if you read the rest of the specific answer:

Josh: This was never my intention but some people have taken the message of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and made it something legalistic-a set of rules. That’s something that’s beyond my control and it’s disappointing at times, but what I’m so grateful for what God did in our marriage. He gave us a story that is all about His grace.

it is almost as if he is trying to get away from this problem and talk about something more positive like his marriage. His marriage is great but shouldn’t there be more concern about the problems and misuses his book has produced. There still are unmarried singles with some of them being in a bad situation due to how the system was presented.

I will be curious to hear what people have to say about this.

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Starting My Blog: Should I Kiss Dating Goodbye or Kiss That Book Goodbye?

December 26, 2007


Here is my first attempt at a Blog. If things aren’t perfect, please bear with me.

I am patterning this after another blog I have been following which is related to the subject of this blog. The discussion on that blog has been productive and a learning experience for me. My hope is that this blog do the same for myself and others. BTW, it isn’t the intent of this blog to compete with the other blog. This blog is getting much more specific than the other blog.

I have been involved in a few online discussions about Joshua Harris’s book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” I have posted my concerns along with others while some people have come to Harris’s defense and defended his philosophy. In these discussions I have seen a number of people complain of the bad effects of the book including how it made meeting someone of the opposite sex harder. One writer complained that it also gave the single men an excuse to be passive, stick to themselves, and not find a mate. One person thought the book had merits but the way it was implemented (including in the author’s own group of churches) was the problem.

The one thing I haven’t seen in these discussions is a lot of people stepping up and saying how well the system Harris promotes worked for them. I am sure there are some out there; hearing almost silence makes me wonder just how well this approach has worked for anyone.  If this system really doesn’t work that well, did people follow it due to a “herd” mentality that keeps them from pointing out “the emperor has no clothes?”

Very shortly I will post a summary of my observations (mostly problems) with Harris’s view. Some of my thoughts on the “kissing dating goodbye” philosophy include

  1. It is reactive.
  2. It is presented as “a one size fits all” where it is mostly appropriate for teenagers.  Harris was 21 when he wrote the book.
  3. It might have been what was required for Harris due to his situation and that may be the same for others. That said it doesn’t mean that it should be the “norm.”  What worked for him may not work for everyone all of the time.
  4. I spoke earlier of the “herd mentality.” Sometimes I wonder if pastors who think this is a good system are only hearing what they want to hear (that it is a good system).  Are these pastors ignoring the problems that occur with this approach?

Recently I have come across a few books written by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. One of their books seem to be written as stating an opinion on dating different from Harris. More to be shared on this later.

Well welcome to the blog and please post comments. I look forward to the discussion.

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revised 2/25/08