December 28, 2017

Why We’re Glad Joshua Harris is Rethinking His Dating Advice

It’s been twenty years since Joshua Harris wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye (IKDG), a book offering Christians a new approach to dating and romance. Namely, replacing dating with friendship-based courtship. The book exploded in popularity within Evangelicalism and rapidly climbed the bestseller lists. Harris was only 21 years old when he wrote IKDG. Now the author is rethinking his dating advice.

Stories of damaging consequences affecting many people who encountered IKDG served to highlight the book’s shortfalls, according to Harris who addressed his reevaluation during a recent Tedx event. (You can watch the entire talk below.)

“My eyes have really been open,” shared Harris. “I didn’t leave room for the idea that dating could be a healthy way of learning what you’re looking for in a long-term relationship. That it could be a part of growing personally.”

I’ll admit here that I couldn’t make it past the first chapter of IKDG. That could be because I didn’t attempt to read the book until I was in my early twenties. While I respect Harris’ pushback against society’s harmful hook-up culture, IKDG’s overall concept seemed impractical to me. As a young woman working virtually non-stop for a non-profit in Washington, D.C. I just didn’t have time for an interview-style, no-strings-attached coffee meeting, which I’d argue is an unhelpful result of IKDG culture. Instead, I found intentional casual dating a healthier approach.

Please note the purpose of this post is not to analyze the merits of IKDG. Obviously, I cannot in good faith step into that discussion, not having read the book in its entirety. My only intent here is to highlight why Harris’ admission that he overlooked the benefits of dating is significant.

The best dating and romance advice I found during singlehood came from the experienced evangelical women around me. One of those mentors was (and still is) Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, the author of Marriage Matters: Perspectives on the Private and Public Importance of Marriage and chair of the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s board of directors.

In fact, it was a tweet by Dr. Crouse that first notified me of Harris’ Tedx talk. So I reached out to Dr. Crouse asking her to expound on why she is grateful Harris is rethinking some of his early advice to single Christians.

“Having talked with countless young women about today’s dating culture, I know the longing they feel for the days when a guy actually called and asked for a date, arrived to pick her up and took her to a planned evening of entertainment – a concert, dinner, ice skating, a movie, a formal dance or event, or just to sit, talk, get to know each other at a coffee shop,” wrote Dr. Crouse in an email. “That’s distinctly different from a guy saying he’ll meet you somewhere and he feels no responsibility for seeing that the evening is a success.”

There is a chapter in Marriage Matters titled, “Bring Back Dating,” explained Dr. Crouse, where she argues intentional casual dating actually builds self-confidence and social skills. Seemingly,

“It also helps young people discern who they are in relation to the opposite sex, helping young people hone in on those characteristics that they want in a husband or wife, teaching young people good judgement in terms of assessing character and integrity and helping young people develop the antenna that they need in order to recognize when others are not who they present themselves to be,” explained Dr. Crouse.

She continued, “I fell in love with my husband in part because our dates were carefully planned, very special occasions; he worked at planning them to make sure that I felt special and had a good time.”

Harris seems to now agree with Dr. Crouse’s observations on the benefits of intentional casual dating for Christians. You can watch Harris’ entire talk addressing how he got some things wrong, below:

 

Readers, what are your thoughts on the effects of I Kissed Dating Goodbye? Did you find Harris’ advice helpful or harmful? What is the best godly dating advice you’ve heard? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

 


7 Responses to Why We’re Glad Joshua Harris is Rethinking His Dating Advice

  1. Greg R says:

    You wrote “[a]s a young woman working virtually non-stop for a non-profit in Washington, D.C.” – unless you grew up in the DC area, you would already be outside the general bounds of this book and the culture from which it arose. A huge part of the courtship culture involved intense participation from parents, especially the girl’s parents. And yes, I specifically used the word “girl” instead of “woman” – the people I knew who were most into this made it clear their daughters would not be allowed to live outside their home until married.

    Major Kudos to Josh for growing beyond his Bill Gothard roots. Even to the point of going back to school for more education!

  2. I would like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in writing this blog.

  3. Jason says:

    I read Harris’ book in college. Actually a certain lady and I read it together and got together each week with her and we discussed it.

    She was the first person who I pursued who actually gave me the time of day. I guess I had already kissed “dating” goodbye because she was my first and only girlfriend.

    That was a while ago, but I have fond memories of the book and with that lady. She became my wife 12.5 years ago so I guess it helped us after all!

  4. Lisa says:

    As homeschooling parents, we were in the middle of this book and figured out that it wasn’t going to be helpful to our children. It was interesting to see that many years later, a book was written from among a group that we had ties to that brought up many reasons it didn’t work and many examples of how it had caused harm. For a short read, the book is Courtship in Crisis: The Case for Traditional Dating by Thomas Umstattd.

  5. Melanie Adams says:

    My husband and I are the parents of 11 children (ages 32-10) and have used a “courtship” model always. #6 wedding is coming up. “Courtship” has many definitions, many flavors and each and every family must decide for themselves how they are going to lead their children in these matters. The default in our culture, Christian or otherwise, is parents have no plan whatsoever for getting their children to their wedding day, take no responsibility, and the fruit is telling. “Christian” young people (in the church) are engaging in all kinds of sexual behaviors whose path is not good for their futures or the reputation of Christ.

    We chose this road, 34 years ago, before babies, to protect our children from the harmful, shallow, excruciatingly painful experiences our dating relationships had produced in our lives. We wanted something better for them and as their parents, it is and was our job to help them. All of our married children arrived on their wedding day, in purity, married to their soulmates building a strong foundation for their families. Our unmarried children have committed themselves to the same purity. We are eternally grateful to our kind Lord. Each of our children’s experience with the process was different because they and their potential spouse are individuals but the foundational premise was the same throughout. Our children have lots and lots of friends, via lots of hospitality, good and Godly friends, male and female, in group settings, with chaperones, with accountability, asking them to trust us, coupled with much discussion of how noble and Godly men and women are to behave and the pitfalls of temptation. Thru the process of time, they have married their best friend (not their parent’s choice). Is it a perfect model? Of course it is not, we live in an imperfect world. Has stress or broken hearts sometimes resulted, have angry words passed, yes they have.
    But for our family, “dating under authority” so far exceeds, over and above, abundantly, the casual dating world that my husband and I grew up with which wrecks havoc and brings temptations that even those who want to be pure, have a hard time resisting. Many days, it is not easy to be “that” parent but the alternative leaves much to be desired. We are fallen people, raising fallen children, but for our children to begin married life without the bondage of sexual regret, unwanted pregnancy/abortion, confusion, and disease is one of the greatest gifts we can give. Kudos to Joshua Harris and his amazing insight and wisdom, at such a young age. He knew the love game could and should be done better!!

  6. Ray Harris says:

    The best advice I can give remains this – Dad must be involved anytime his daughter is to be outside the home with any young man. Call it dating, call it whatever – avoid temptation remains solid Biblical advice.

  7. Steven W. Williams, Ph.D. Missionary says:

    As a family therapist and social scientist I have been keenly aware of this debate for some time as I have studied and researched partner selection historically and cross-culturally for over four decades. In the Christian world, regretfully, I find that people often tend to take somewhat extreme positions advocating one position or another, usually based upon their own personal experience. This may be depicted as a dynamic between form (outside control) and freedom (personal choice).

    “Dating” in the modern sense as the norm in partner selection is actually less than century old and reflects an increasing individualism and the resulting freedom of the partners involved. And as many of us would attest, dating is typically seen as more romantic and spontaneous than courtship. Even so, it must also be noted that societies which have adopted the more freeing notion of modern “dating” have significantly higher divorce rates than those who practice a more accountable or “controlled” understanding of partner selection. Many young adults in today’s world would even admit that the dating scene, even among Christians, might be described as highly risky or even dangerous.

    This is not to say that “courting” as described in Joshua Harris’ earlier thinking is not filled with potential problems and pitfalls. Often, courting has led to relationships quickly becoming far too serious and committed before partners even adequately understood themselves let alone the other partner. In addition, healthy identity development and the development of mature social skills can often become quite diminished.

    While a better solution regarding how partner selection might take place is a subject that is not as simple and straight forward as often portrayed by much of the evangelical establishment, still, without question, the future of the Christian family and as well as the Church is at stake as never before in history and faces threats much more far-reaching than most seem to be aware.

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