Joseph's Reviews > I Kissed Dating Goodbye: A New Attitude Toward Relationships and Romance

I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris
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's review
Mar 21, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: theology
Read in March, 2012

Much to my surprise this is actually a really good book for young believers IF you are willing to read the whole thing and not skim it.

I was by surprised how much I liked what he had to say because I was told that it was very legalistic. Unlike Harris, I did not grow up in a Christian home, and I tend to snarl and gnash my teeth when anyone says anything remotely legalistic. Given what I had heard about this book, I expected to, at best, find just enough good to not totally hate it. I actually ended up agreeing with a lot of it, and I think the message behind it, when properly given, is something countless unmarried Christians need to here.

It is very important, however, that one doesn't just skim this book. This book is full of really good stuff, and I will discuss the many good things about the book later on. However, two things make this book easy to misunderstand if you don't pay attention. First of all, the writing isn't always all that precise, and this can make Joshua Harris' ideas seem a lot more legalistic and out of touch than they really are. Also, a lot of his ideas can be abused really easily. I'm not pointing that out because I hold that against the book. I don't. I point that out because that might explain some of the reasons why this book puts people off. I myself was quite put off initially, until I realized that I wasn't really judging what Joshua Harris was saying, but rather I was judging similar ideas and statements of others.

An example of this:
Early in the book, he talks about how, until you are ready to commit, you should avoid entering into romantic relationships, and in doing so, you should avoid "intimacy." What does "intimacy" even mean? Does he just mean something like the saying "don't give your heart away"? Or, does it go deeper? Does he mean that boys and girls shouldn't have any real emotional closeness or vulnerability with one another, since that could lead to confusion and people getting hurt? Is it wrong for a girl who is going through a tough time to open up to a guy friend, a brother in Christ, about it? For that matter, should we avoid intimacy in any relationship except for that with our potential spouse? What about parents and family? I have heard talk of "intimacy" being used like that, as an excuse for emotional hardness and a lack of compassion. Is that what he is saying? It is not, and this becomes clear if you keep reading. Towards the end of the book (not the end of the chapter, but the end of the book), he talks about how we SHOULD build intimacy in other relationships, just not romantic intimacy. In other words, he just means "don't give your heart away" until you and the other can at least consider being ready to commit. THAT is great advice. Had he qualified that intimacy in non-romantic relationships is a good thing, he would have left himself less open to a lot of ultimately unfair but nonetheless understandable criticism. Things like that pop up at times.

Also, it is important that you read the introduction (the start of which basically says "please don't skip the introduction!"). A lot of questions one might have are answered, and a lot of extreme ideas that might have otherwise seemed implied are qualified or even denied. For example: boys and girls spending time together in groups is emphasized, but since that can easily be misconstrued as "they must never ever spend time alone together!", he makes clear that while groups are emphasized, time alone, even when not dating, is okay (so long as there is no temptation to sin). "If dating were merely a guy and a girl going out for coffee, we wouldn't need to spend a whole book talking about it, would we."

Now, there are moments where I do think he genuinely gets a bit legalistic. He devotes a whole chapter to purity. Purity is good. And, he makes good points about how purity isn't just not crossing a line, but rather it is a state of mind and a direction of your life. Lots of good stuff. But, I'm not willing to say that kissing your boyfriend or girlfriend before marriage is sinful. That seems to be what he is saying; not just that he thinks its good to wait until your wedding to kiss (which is fine), but that it amounts to sinful physical contact before marriage. Again, maybe I misunderstood, but he seems to be saying that since (according to him) kissing is the start of the sexual processes, that it must be avoided. On very rare instances like this, I do say that he needs to get off his high horse.

That said, moments like that are much rarer than I was led to believe, and I'm willing to overlook them. In fact, at the moment I cant think of any other specific moments like that at all. And they don't detract from the core of the book enough to where you can't ignore them and extract what is good.

Most of the other issues with the book are minor or are excusable. It's a little cheesy and old fashioned at times, I'm not gonna lie. And it is kind of awkward to look at relationships so systematically as he does. In practice, there is something to be said about things that don't need to be said. But that's excusable, since he is writing a book about relationships...

So why is this book good? Why did give it four stars despite it being rather easy to misunderstand?

It is good because it says a lot of things that needed to be said. The main idea of the book is that instead of young people having romantic relationships with people they have no intention of marrying, "dating" as he calls it, they should wait until they are ready to talk marriage before entering into anything romantic. People getting together for fun or out of emotion without any intentions to commit, even if they remain sexually pure, causes a lot of unecessary heartache, strife within the body of Chris, and can distract people from making the most of their single years in serving the kingdom of God. It causes a lot of problems and in the end leaves you (and more important, the others) with nothing but scars and lost oppurtunities. And he's absolutely right.

More than that, however, the problem isn't just going out on dates, but the attitudes and mentality behind it that whole lifestyle (and no, it's not just premarital sex, which many Christians who "date" don't even do - I'll leave that there as a teaser for you).

From there he elaborates on this, he elaborates how to go about love and romance and boy and girl issues within the will of God, how it affects affects one's relationship with God, and lots of good stuff like that.

Now, at first it sounds really cold and archaic, like someone who was raised in a commune or who was homeschooled by Ned Flanders and told that women were sin and that they should be avoided until you are ready to buy a wife. But it's really not like that, which is clear when you read the actual book. One of the things he opposes about "dating" is that it negatively affects the friendship and fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ. In my experience, he's right. He ultimately encourages, not discourages, non-romantic intimacy in your relationships, and says that boys and girls should be friends and get to know each other (though mainly in groups). There should be MORE love and companionship among believers as a whole, not less, as a result of following what Harris teaches in the book. There would be less fear and tension between boys and girls, because they would view each other as brothers and sisters first, not as potential girlfriends and boyfriends.

One might also counter that if you don't date the person first, how can you know what you are getting into? But he isn't saying that you should just meet a girl, and then if you like her you should go ask her father for her hand in marriage. Rather, you'll have gotten to know each other for years as friends and as fellow believers. In fact, you can know one another with LESS commitment than is the case sometimes now. Some girls it's hard to get to know at all unless you are willing to ask them out, or at least confess that you like them and want to get to know them so you know if you want to ask them out. Here, you don't have to put it on the line until you have some idea that it is the right thing.

And I should note that "commitment" doesn't mean "engagement." It's not like he's telling you to get on one knee and ask your platonic friend of the opposite sex to marry you. He's just saying that, if they are going to enter into a romantic relationship, then you need to be open and clear that you are looking into marriage, not just a fling or even a long-term but open-ended relationship. Some would call that courtship. I always just called "dating" but with a clear purpose of marriage. Whatever you call it, that's all that he means.

I think that that is a great idea, and I think that he does a good job of explaining the various reasons why.

So, give the book a chance. Read it trying to see what he is actually saying, not what others who misuse those ideas are saying. While he does go a little too far on occasion, there's enough gold in it to make it worth recommending.

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