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Re-evaluating “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”

with Joshua Harris | October 23, 2017

Joshua Harris, author of the popular book, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye," tells how the book forever defined him as a single man. Now a husband and father of three, Harris takes a second look at some of his earlier assumptions and considers how he would say things differently if given the opportunity.

Show Notes and Resources
Joshua Harris reflects on 'I Kissed Dating Goodbye' on FamilyLife's Facebook Page
Joshua Harris' documentary project 'I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye'

Joshua Harris, author of the popular book, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye," tells how the book forever defined him as a single man. Now a husband and father of three, Harris takes a second look at some of his earlier assumptions and considers how he would say things differently if given the opportunity.

Show Notes and Resources
Joshua Harris reflects on 'I Kissed Dating Goodbye' on FamilyLife's Facebook Page
Joshua Harris' documentary project 'I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye'

Re-evaluating “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”

With Joshua Harris
October 23, 2017
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: Twenty years ago, Joshua Harris, famously and publicly kissed dating good-bye.

Dennis: Josh Harris joins us. Josh welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Josh: Thanks a lot.

Bob: We have been talking this week about dating.

Josh: We cannot practice the life-long commitment of marriage in a series of short-term relationships.

Bob: Twenty years later as a father raising teenagers. Does he feel any differently about what he wrote?

Josh: There’s so much of it that I still completely stand by when it comes to calling people to put Jesus first and following Him. The call to making singleness not some season where you’re just pining away from a relationship, but really seeking to grow and form friendships and to develop the gifts God has given you. All of those things I love about I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

But I’m wrestling with ways in which the presentation of that maybe caused people to have a false sense of hope that if I do things a certain way then I’m safe.



Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 23rd.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.

So we’ll explore the good and the bad and the ugly of Josh Harris’s book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, with the author himself, today. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.

You know what I’m glad about? I’m glad for both you and me. I’m glad that when we were 21 we didn’t chronicle our thoughts about dating, when we were 21, in an article or a book that anybody could look back on years later and say what do you think about this now. Aren’t you glad?


Dennis: Fragments, fragments of thoughts.

Bob: Do you remember what you were thinking about at 21?

Dennis: Oh, oh, it was not good.

Bob: I’m also glad that nobody spent hours interviewing us about that and kept the audio.


Dennis: Like we did!

Bob: Like we did!

Dennis: For today’s guest!

Bob: With our guest!

Dennis: Who 20 years ago—

Josh: That’s right.

Bob: 20 years ago.

Dennis: On FamilyLife Today.

Bob: He was 21 years old at the time,

Dennis: Wrote a little book called, I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: Joshua Harris is a man because he came back to revisit this scene of the crime.

Welcome back, Josh!

Josh: It’s good to be back with you.

Dennis: Are you sure about that?

Josh: Well…


Bob: In 1997, when we first sat down with you, the book had first been out, I don’t know, a couple of months at that point. It was brand new.

Josh: It was brand new, that’s true.

Bob: Nobody had any idea what was going to happen with this book but it blew up!

Josh: It did!  People actually bought it and I was amazed.

Bob: You had no idea how defining this book was going to be to your life, right?



Josh: Yes! It has become sort of a punch line and the thing that I’m known for, either admired or hated, depending on who you talk to. Yes, I will forever be the guy who wrote that book about not dating.

Dennis: For those who haven’t heard of, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Joshua Harris did write that. He is the husband of one. His wife’s name is Shannon since 1998. They have three children.

Josh has authored a half dozen books, been a pastor, and is currently at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, which is the Graduate School of Theology there on campus. He has written a new book called Re-evaluating I Kissed

Bob: [Laughter]

Dennis: Dating Goodbye.

Bob: You have been exploring in the last six, seven months, looking back and going, okay, here’s what I said, here’s what I’ve heard from people over the years. Have you thought about a revised, updated retake on this book?


Josh: Well, that is a kind of a strange journey that I’m on. While I was driving over here, the gentleman that was giving me a ride said, so what book are you promoting? I said, I’m kind of actually un-promoting a book right now. I’m going back and asking this question. What was the effect of this? I’m listening to people who are sharing, in some cases they feel like the book really harmed them and misdirected them.

For me it’s such a huge part of my life and kind of my own identity, I feel like it’s a journey God is taking me on to really evaluate that and ask some of these questions, and hopefully it will be some sort of healing process for people as I share what I’m learning.

Dennis: So for those who haven’t read it, haven’t read about it, give them a little more than a little more than the twitter edition.

Josh: I wrote this book when I was single. I had gotten out of a relationship that I look back on and felt like: I hurt this girl, I made promises I shouldn’t have made.



This part of my life doesn’t reflect what God calls me to in terms of loving others, in caring about others. I was in a season where there was so much discussion about purity, and what it meant to honor God and save sex for marriage. I basically was saying the way we are doing things in relationships and romance, it’s broken, it’s unhealthy, and the problem is dating. We need to kiss dating goodbye, we need to think radically differently about how we approach this.

It was really my attempt to bring God’s word to bear in my own life, and share some of the convictions that I was coming to. In saying if we really want the Bible seriously in loving others sincerely, if we really want to take purity seriously, if we want to use our singleness in a productive, healthy way, we need to do relationships differently than the rest of the world is.

Dennis: And you just called people to a different standard, back to the biblical standard, right?


Josh: Well, you see, that’s part of the question that I’m grappling with. I think so much of the book was based on biblical principles, but I’m going back and I’m asking the question, were there ways that I added things and presented that as if it was the biblical standard.

That’s compelling. When you raise a high standard in Christian circles, it’s hard to argue with that. Who wants to be the person to say let’s lower that standard a little bit? And yet, I’m realizing that just as it’s very unhealthy if we go below the standard of God’s Word, in some cases we cause different problems when we go above the standard of God’s Word. We add new ideas and rules and regulations, if you will, that are all maybe  based in wisdom and really common sense values but that can mislead us, too.

Bob: So as you have heard people say, this book really damaged me. There’s kind of a natural instinct that goes, hey bro’ that’s on you, not on me, right?



By the same token, you look at some of that and go, okay Lord, should I have said this differently? Did I misrepresent? In general, would you say the book you wrote 20 years ago is a book that you’d hold up and say maybe 85% of this--I’ll let you give the percentage. What percentage would you say?

Josh: Yes.

Dennis: 95, Bob.

Bob: He was going to say 95.


What number would you give to say I’m still, I still feel pretty passionately about this?

Dennis: [Laughter]

Josh: Right now, I don’t feel like I could give some sort of percentage. I think it’s more complex than that. There’s so much of it that I still completely stand by when it comes to calling people to put Jesus first in every part of their life. When it comes to a willingness to lay anything aside that’s keeping you from obeying Him and following Him. The call to holiness when it comes to sexuality, the call to making the singleness not some season where you’re just pining away from a relationship, but really seeking to grow and form friendships and develop the gifts that God has given you. All those things I love about I Kissed Dating Goodbye.


But I’m wrestling with ways in which the presentation of that maybe caused people to have a false sense of hope that if I do things a certain way then I’ll get this outcome. I think I’m seeing how easily we latch onto simple ideas, simple formulas, that we think if I just do these things then I’m safe.

Bob: We were talking earlier about the predisposition in all of us to want a recipe, to want a formula—

Josh: Right.

Bob: —to want a new law. Tell me if I do A, B, C, and D, I‘ll get a guaranteed outcome of a happy marriage, if I follow the purity principles my married sex life is going to be wonderful.

Josh: Exactly.

Bob: So there can be an illusion. I think it’s good for you to look back at the book and say to what extent did I propagate that illusion.



Josh: You make an excellent point there. There’s a book called, Making Chastity Sexy, by Christine Gardner. The point that she makes as she’s evaluating some of the different purity movements that took place right as I was writing I Kissed Dating Goodbye, is that their intentions were so good; the call to purity is so biblical.

Yet she made the point that part of the way they sold that was to promise amazing sex in marriage, okay, which I think is true in terms of you obey God and there are good things that come with that.

Bob: There are blessing that come.

Josh: But when you use the promise of great sex as the motivator for following God, if that doesn’t perfectly come about, you feel like God’s let you down.

I see different ways in I Kissed Dating Goodbye, as I tried to argue for doing things God’s way,—okay?—which in my mind at that time, meant not dating. Dating was the big problem that I was trying to go after.


The promises if you do things God’s way then you will have that amazing marriage and your relationships; God’s going to provide this and so on. Those things are true about God’s faithfulness. But God doesn’t promise us marriage.

Bob: Right.

Josh: God doesn’t promise that we’ll have a trial-free marriage or our sex life will work perfectly or any of those kinds of things.

Yet I think that part of the over-simplification that my book communicated, you could walk away with that impression. If I just make these sacrifices, my life is going to turn out in this way. That’s just not—that’s not the Christian life.

Dennis: Josh you actually went after a cultural norm, dating. And you went after it with a biblical approach questioning whether or not this was God’s way of selecting a spouse.

Josh: Right.

Dennis: Do you think you were on target for going after what was a cultural norm at that point?

Josh: I think I did, I think the book was pointing out real problems—

Dennis: No doubt about that!


Josh: —in the dating system. If you will.

Dennis: Yes!

Josh: I think there always has to be in the church this willingness to question assumptions, to question the way that everybody just does things. But I don’t know that the prescription that I gave was necessarily always on target. Or I think part of the problem is, is that when you try to fix things you can create a different set of problems.

I do think that the modern dating which is not interested in pursuing commitment which is very selfish, which has only increased in its pursuit of a sexual relationship outside of marriage. All of those things are things that we really need to look at, we need to critique, we need to challenge, we need to push back on.

But as I tried to set forth an alternative which was we need to make this about commitment, let’s call it courtship, let’s pursue it in these different ways.


What I’ve seen 20 years on, and it’s taken me a long time to come to this because I’m proud, I want to be right and I want people to like my book and all these kinds of things, but what I’ve seen is there can be other problems that come with that. Where people go into a relationship and they say this has to be serious, this has to be about commitment and it causes them to lock in too quickly.

Or maybe not take the time to get to know different people and realize, okay, this is the kind of person that could be a better fit for me when it comes to a spouse. I’ve interacted with so many different people and so many different stories and recognized that there are some problems with trying to completely push out the whole concept of dating.

Bob: I remember a conversation with my mother. She would say, I don’t what the big deal with you all is. I have gone on a different date with a different guy every Friday night.

Josh: Exactly.

Bob: She said it was always who’s going to ask me out this week, and she was growing up in a different time and a different culture where the getting to know one another you went out on a date and it wasn’t all around the school that guess who asked who out. And they’re a couple now.

Josh: Yes, exactly!



Dennis: And men actually initiated back then.

Bob: There was some of that going on as well.

Josh: One of the great thing about that era as well, is that it really put a lot of control in the girl’s court in that she could accept or not accept different dates and she wasn’t tied down to one guy.

Bob: Yes.

Josh: There’s a book called, Courtship in Crisis, by a gentleman named Thomas Umstattd. He critiques some of the ideas in my book in a way that I think is very insightful. He basically says yes there are problems in modern dating, which my book was critiquing, but this modern courtship, that Josh has championed, has created its own set of problems. It’s made things too serious too soon. It’s led to different form of heartbreak.

He’s advocating for returning to your

Bob: Mother’s…

Josh: …Form of dating, what he calls traditional dating which is the idea of don’t stay out past 11, date a lot of different people, be respectful, learn how to interact and kind of what you’re looking for and that can be a healthy thing.


That is one thing I think that‘s really missing in I Kissed Dating Goodbye, is that acknowledgement that there can be benefits to dating people, not in a selfish way, but in a healthy, respectful kind of a way. I think I left that out of the book.

Dennis: You’re a dad now of two teenagers soon to be three.

Josh: That’s right.

Dennis: What word of advice would you have for a mom and dad right now, who are going how do I train my children?

Bob: Well, is your 17-year-old going on dates?

Josh: The world is so different.

Bob: Oh, I hear what you’re saying.


Josh: You know what I’m saying? It is funny; I am trying to leave my kids out of some of this discussion—


—out of respect for them.

Dennis: Yes!

Josh: Honestly, that is one thing that I’ve never wanted is my kids to be carrying this burden because of books that I’ve written. One of the things that I think that’s shaped my own thinking is watching them and realizing how different and individual each one of them is which is obviously true of everybody.


One of my kids could probably really benefit from reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye.


Dennis: We won’t say which one!

Josh: We won’t say which one!

But another one of my kids is the type that would take that and try to meet every requirement of it and want to make sure they were doing the right thing in every way. It would become bondage, it would become a law book, it would become so oppressive. I think seeing that has helped me understand how one book can have in some cases a positive effect. I’ve heard those stories and I’m so grateful for that. I’m thankful to God for it.

At the same time, that same book can be something that becomes really burdensome, and in some cases harmful to people. That’s sort of the tension I’m trying to live with. How do we communicate ideas without falling into easy slogans that become movements that forget the complexity of learning to walk with God in a humble, honest, authentic way? A lot of times those easy answers fall short.



Bob: By the way, the one who could benefit from reading it, we have copies in our FamilyLife Resource Center and they can order online at if they’d like to get a copy, all right? Or if you’d like to get a copy for them we can take your—

Josh: I’m sure this child would appreciate this signed copy from their dad. I’m sure that’d be super meaningful.


Dennis: Having six children of my own and having written a couple of books, too. Oh, yes! I get that one 100%!

I want to come back, though, to the parent and let you speak to them. What should they know about this culture and being a young person today that as parents we are charged with being good stewards to train them in how to think and how to live out their faith in an effective, authentic way?

Josh: I would love for you to tell me how to do that because that’s exactly my heart cry right now in my own life.



I think the thing that I’m learning, especially when I think about my own book and different ways that I’ve seen it applied, is that part of the journey of parenting is creating a dependence and a desperate awareness of your need for God and His work. There’s not a single formula or a curriculum or a conversation that you can have that fixes everything.

I think that that’s the problem in ways my book was used. Let me hand this book to a child and say we’re going to do it this way, or you’re not going to date until a certain age.

Part of growing as a disciple and learning to own your faith has to involve conversation. It even has to involve mistakes. That’s one of the biggest things that I’ve seen as a parent.



The more I think I can control and perfectly protect my kids the more I take on a posture that really doesn’t leave room for the work of the Holy Spirit,

Bob: Right.

—even that scary process of my kids failing at times.

Bob: Yes.

Josh: I think that’s something that I’m still grappling with.

Dennis: I’d like to make a pass at answering your question. You said you’re grappling with this as a parent right now. If Barbara was here, she would say this: Train your kids to think critically from the scriptures—

Josh: That’s so good!

Dennis: —about issues of life, such as dating.

Secondly, train your children in how to develop a relationship with the opposite sex that honors them for their dignity as an image-bearer. And that begins with friendships—

Josh: That’s true.

Dennis: —same sex friendships—but has to spill over into how a young man treats a young lady with dignity and protects her innocence and protects her as an image-bearer as well.



And then third, I think as parents we have to show our kids what a real relationship with Christ looks like, which means sharing our failures and how we’ve received grace and mercy. It’s back to what you said there as you were finishing up your comment; teach them how to handle their mistakes.

If they’ve got a real relationship with Jesus Christ, they’re going to know how to take those mistakes to Him and experience grace, mercy, forgiveness, and how God can pick them up out of their errors. He can continue to use them. You don’t have to be perfect. There isn’t a formula here. You’re raising human beings not a robot and you know that because you’ve got a couple of teenagers right now.



But it is a race that you have to run with wisdom and with steadfastness, persevering, not giving up. Your teenagers are going to do all they can to push you out at a time when they need you in their lives.

Bob: So here is my big question for you.  Twenty years ago, we offered your book to our listeners and encouraged them to get a copy and to read it and a lot of them did. Should they, the parents who are listening today, who didn’t have kids 20 years ago but now they got 15 year old, a 16 year old, should they get a copy of your book and read it?

Josh: There are things that I want to communicate to them to encourage them to read with discernment. And questions to ask and not just to take all of it and apply all of it blindly.

Bob: So you are saying that if you can read critically, and objectively, and not just highlight and say whatever he says to do.

Josh: That’s the way we should approach everything. We should be using the Word of God to critique and evaluate any message. I think that there are some blind spots to my book that people need to be aware of.



That’s part of what this journey is for me is figuring out how to communicate that in a way that will serve people that can read the book in the future.

Bob: We’ll continue to talk about some of those blind spots but I do want to say, I think this is a good healthy part of your process as a parent, to figure out how you are going to steer and direct your kids. You need to be reading critically, books like this and other books on the subject. Saying, okay, how are we going to do this as mom and dad?

Dennis: You’re always looking for a great way to stimulate discussion.

Josh: That’s right.

Dennis: This book will do that!

Josh: It will do that! All kinds of discussions!

Dennis: All kinds!


Bob: I know you are not here today to re-launch or re-sell your book. In fact, you are in the middle of making a documentary about what you’ve learned since you wrote the book. We have a link on our website,


If folks want updates on the progress you are making on that documentary, they can go to and find out more about the project, where you are, and what you’re learning.

I hope other moms and dads who are at the same place you and Shannon are and are starting to ask questions—how are we going to help our children navigate these years? I hope they will engage in some good, healthy conversations and maybe get a copy of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and read it with a highlighter and say okay, what do we agree with and what don’t agree with. Where do we think Josh things pushed too far?

There are other books available on the subject, articles we’ve got available at Go to our website for more information on the resources that are available and on the conversation that is being had on this subject. The website is; you can order resources from us online or call 1-800-FLTODAY, if you’d like to order by phone. 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and the word Today.


Our goal with conversations like this is to do what Hebrews tells us we’re to do with one another. That is to spur one another on to provoke one another toward love and good deeds. Our goal with the ministry of FamilyLife is to effectively develop godly marriages and families, the kinds of marriages and families that can change the world one home at a time.

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Tomorrow we’re going to continue our conversation with Joshua Harris about dating— about what he thought 20 years ago and about what he thinks today. I hope you can tune in for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry.

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