Pastor Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, has released a statement apologizing for his best-selling book and announcing that he will be discontinuing its publication.
"I no longer agree with its central idea that dating should be avoided," Harris wrote in a lengthy message posted on his personal website. "I now think dating can be a healthy part of a person developing relationally and learning the qualities that matter most in a partner."
"In light of the flaws I now see in I Kissed Dating Goodbye, I think it's best to discontinue its publication, as well other supplemental resources tied to it (this includes the two books I wrote after it whose content is similar)," he continued. "My publisher, whose encouragement in this process has been deeply meaningful to me, supports this decision and will not reprint the books after the current copies in their inventory are sold."
Written in 1997, when Harris was just 20 years old and had not yet been in a dating relationship, I Kissed Dating Goodbye highlights the problems with contemporary "recreational dating" and presents "biblical courtship" as an alternative. Traditional dating, he says, is "a training ground for divorce" because it puts people in the habit of quitting relationships when things get tough. In his book, Harris also urges Christian singles to commit to "purposeful singleness," arguing that romantic relationships should exist only as a means to preparing for marriage.
The book became a staple among many in the Christian community, earning the praise from the likes of purity matriarch Elisabeth Elliot and Focus on the Family, selling over 1.2 million copies.
In his statement, the 43-year-old Why Church Matters author explained that he began a process of "re-evaluating the book" two years ago, and shares his evolving perspective on the matter in an upcoming documentary called I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye that will release next year.
"I know this apology doesn't change anything for you and it's coming too late, but I want you to hear that I regret any way that my ideas restricted you, hurt you, or gave you a less-than-biblical view of yourself, your sexuality, your relationships, and God," he said.
Last year, Harris gave a TEDx Talk identifying what he got wrong in the controversial book.
"I was young, I was religiously zealous, I was certain, and I was restlessly ambitious," Harris recalled. "Youth, zeal, certainty, ambition ... they have the tendency to set the world on fire. I was writing to fellow Christians, I was saying, 'We need to be serious about our faith, we won't have sex until we're married, and if we want to avoid premarital sex, we should radically change our lifestyle, and that means we should stop dating.'"
Harris, now a married father of three, admitted that over the years, a number of individuals have shared how his book negatively affected them and promoted a damaging and unhelpful view of sexuality, relationships, and dating.
While there are some good ideas in "I Kissed Dating Goodbye — like the fact that "you don't have to be in a dating relationship to be a whole person" — Harris said his eyes have been opened over the past few years to "see some fundamental problems" he included in the book.
"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," he said. "I gave the impression that there was one formula that you could follow, and if you followed that, you'd be happily married, God would bless you, and you'd have a great sex life and marriage. Obviously, the real world doesn't work that way."
"Fear is never a good motive," he said, adding: "Fear of messing up, fear of getting your heart broken, fear of hurting somebody else, fear of sex."
It wasn't until he stepped down as the pastor of a large church and went to graduate school that he understood the problems presented in his book.
"I stopped having to be constantly right about everything," Harris concluded. "I just became a student who was listening."
You can read Harris' full statement on the matter here.