The recent marital breakup [1] and renouncing of Christianity [2] by evangelical author and pastor Joshua Harris has placed renewed focus on the paradigm of romance, relationship building, and marriage preparation promoted for years by this individual, a paradigm which remains popular in many conservative Christian circles and has its adherents in the Seventh-day Adventist Church as well.

Stated simply, the paradigm of which Harris was a principal architect disavows the modern Western notion of “dating” so far as romance and the path to the wedding altar is concerned [3], preferring instead the old “courtship” model in which parents and others closely manage the direction taken and practices pursued by a couple interested in marriage [4].  Indeed, so the theory goes, until one is ready for marriage there should be no romantic relationships, whatever one chooses to call them [5].  Within this paradigm, physical intimacy prior to marriage is closely restricted [6], with many couples postponing even their first kiss till the day of their wedding [7]

No one, to be sure, who takes the Bible’s moral agenda seriously can belittle or begrudge anyone’s struggle for purity in any line.  For those Adventist young people seeking a return to the Bible-based, Spirit of Prophecy-affirmed principles of our faith, in particular as articulated by the construct known as Last Generation Theology, moral seriousness is a non-negotiable imperative.

However, Seventh-day Adventists are a “sola scriptura” denomination, not a “traditional values” one.  Returning to practices merely because of their antiquity or restrictive nature is not a part of our agenda.  (The absurd adage, “If it feels good, do it” cannot be replaced by the equally absurd rejoinder, “If it feels good, beware of it.”)  The written counsel of God must remain our exclusive authority in all matters of faith and conduct (Isa. 8:20; Acts 17:11).  The Savior’s warning against “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9) remains as valid as ever.  In Ellen White’s words:

Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain “Thus saith the Lord” in its support [8].

Whether an idea or practice is accommodating or restrictive, it must be tested by the written counsel of God.  Too many conservative Christians assume, when encountering a religious theory or lifestyle admonition, that if it prunes enjoyable behaviors out of one’s life that it must be “for their own good.”  But this is a dangerous premise to accept.  Biblical self-denial (I Cor. 9:27; Gal. 5:24) should not be confused with reflexive “killjoy piety.” Many throughout the centuries—such as the ancient Pharisees, the medieval monastics, and the English Puritans—crafted and imposed rules and regulations not found in the Sacred Scriptures.  The hypersensitive conscience, though certainly less common in the historical record than the less restrained variety, must nevertheless accept the guard rails set by the inspired Word as surely as the conscience inclined to self-indulgence.

Encountering the Book and Its Philosophy

Josh Harris’s mentor in the anti-dating movement was the late Elisabeth Elliot, widow of the famous missionary-martyr Jim Elliot [9], whose 1994 book Passion and Purity [10] laid the cornerstone of the concept of romance and relationships Harris would later champion.  (Harris would write the foreword to the 2002 edition of Elliot’s book [11].)  A friend lent me her copy of Passion and Purity in the mid-1990s.  Reading it, I took copious notes, and though admiring the author’s faith and courage in the face of more than one wrenching tragedy, I found the book long on conservative tradition and mystical impressions of God’s will and too short on strict adherence to the parameters set by Scripture.

I was first introduced to Harris’s initial, blockbusting bestseller at a self-supporting Adventist camp meeting in southern California, where a woman with college-age children promoted it with great enthusiasm.  Soon thereafter, a love interest of mine at the time spoke of having read the book, and of writing a notably negative e-mail to the author in reply.  When I too obtained the book in the coming months, reading it carefully and marking it up, the sentiments of my love interest quickly became my own.

In the wake of my call to the Greater New York Conference as a Bible instructor/evangelist in 2001, I noted on the front page of the Sunday New York Times—two days before 9/11, no less—an article reporting on the rise of the anti-dating movement in conservative Christian circles.  As the primary election for New York City mayor was scheduled for the following Tuesday, the Times included a profile (also on the front page) of the various candidates from both parties.  (Pity the poor politicians who had to compete with an article like this!)  The article included the story of a young Christian couple brought together through mysterious and unexplained divine messages to themselves as well as their parents:

Casey Moss was a baby sitter to Kara and her younger siblings, and was a friend to her older brother Jonathan.  Kara’s father had taken a liking to the intense young man and began to mentor him.  He says God had told him that Mr. Moss would one day marry his daughter.

And yet the Prices were stunned when Mr. Moss came to them one day after they returned from Dagestan and confided that he had heard God tell him that Kara was to be his wife.  Kara was only 14 at the time.  That night, entirely unaware of his interest, Kara had told her mother that God told her Casey Moss was to be her husband. . . .

“You don’t raise kids to hear God, and then say, I don’t think He told you that,” Mrs. Price said.  “If you raise them to trust what the Lord says, then you have to trust what they say the Lord is telling them” [12].

This same lady is quoted elsewhere in the article as saying:

“We’ve always taught them that dating is not the way,” Mrs. Price said.  “Hearing God is the way, and He will tell you who to marry” [13].

Though I am familiar with hundreds of Bible promises, the one this Mrs. Price describes has thus far eluded me.  Where does the Bible—or for Seventh-day Adventists, the writings of Ellen White, often called the Spirit of Prophecy—promise that God will directly tell a person who to marry?  If so, how is this supposed to happen?

If anyone out there has yet discovered the answers to the above questions from the inspired pen, I’d be most interested!

The Intrusion of Pious Mysticism

Josh Harris’s erstwhile arguments against the democratization of romance range from the sober and sacred to the mystical and frivolous, from a rightful reverence for God’s written commandments to a perilous exaltation of man-made rules and reasoning to a de facto equality with Biblical teachings.  This mystical approach to knowing God’s will can lead to a dangerous reliance on impressions, mistaking these mysterious inklings for the divine voice.  Yet mystical thinking of this kind both starts and finishes Harris’s bestselling attack on dating.

The book opens with a girl relating to the author a dream she had of her future wedding—complete with friends and family crowding a small church, sunlight pouring through stained glass, and the soft music of a string quartet filling the air [14].  But as the bride joins the groom at the altar and the minister begins leading them through their vows, one girl after another from the congregation rises, approaches the platform, and stands on the other side of the groom [15]. The bride tearfully asks her soon-to-be husband who these girls are.  He answers, “They’re girls from my past . . . they don’t mean anything to me now . . . but I’ve given part of my heart to each of them” [16].

The bride begins to weep, then wakes up [17]. 

I know this was just a dream, but the scene described by the young woman in question has likely come across to many as ridiculous, even absurd.  (After all, what bride or groom with a modicum of respect for others’ feelings would invite ex-boyfriends or girlfriends to their wedding?)  And the notion of the human heart as the sort of entity to be eternally divided among successive past lovers borders on the spiritualistic.  Millions of human beings throughout history have romantically, genuinely, loved more than one person in the course of their lives.  Certainly no inspired passage, even those that rightly warn against trifling with hearts [18], can be twisted into teaching that the human spirit is incapable of recovering from the end of a previous relationship, whatever the reason for the end might have been.                              

Indeed, whatever happened to the apostle Paul’s testimony: “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14)?

Harris’s book closes with part of the story of how his own parents became acquainted:

“Lord,” [his mother] prayed, “if this guy is different from all the rest, if he really listens to you, then tell him not to call me.”  She turned off her bedroom light and went to sleep.

On the other side of town, my dad said his own prayer.  A fair share of false starts with girls had left him unsure of what he should do.  “God, please show me if I should call this girl.”  The prayer was more a matter of form than an actual request; God had never before intervened in his romantic interests, and Dad didn’t expect him to do so this time either.  In fact, he was already planning to call and was even forming a speech that he hoped would sweep Mom off her feet.

But that night Dad encountered something different.  He clearly sensed God speaking to him. “Gregg, don’t call her.”

God had spoken.  My dad obeyed [19].

 What To Do With Impressions

Stories like the above raise the inevitable question of what the Christian should do with impressions as a guide to spiritual conviction and duty.  The issue of romance and relationships is but one area where this principle needs clarification—though aside from conversion and the acceptance of Bible truth, the question of who to marry is without doubt the most important any of us will make.  For each of the above reasons, it is imperative that we digress at least in part from the romance issue and take a closer look at the larger question of spiritual impressions and how to relate to them.

Consider the following scenario: A young man is torn over which school to attend.  He agonizes in prayer, then asks God for a sign to show him what to do.  He tells the Lord, “If you want me to go to ___ school, have my mother call me right now.”  Before he even gets out the word “now,” the phone rings, and it’s his mother on the line.  He is therefore sure God wants him to enroll at the school in question.  And so he does.

Such reliance on what is thought to be direct intervention by the Lord in one’s decision-making has become a major issue with some, even among conservative Adventists for whom objective truth buttressed by dispassionate reasoning comprises the anchor of religious life.  The young in particular find themselves vulnerable to the lure of direct divine guidance, beyond what is found in the inspired writings, in the often difficult dilemmas one confronts in young adulthood.  Where to attend school, what job to take, how to address one or another conflict situation, the choice of a life partner—all become areas where what is thought to be the mysterious moving of God’s Spirit is supposedly available for answers, provided one is sufficiently “in tune.”  Often attending this mindset are such statements as, “God told me this,” “God told me that”—pronouncements referring, not to what is found in Scripture or the Spirit of Prophecy writings, but to some vaguely-defined impression coming at an opportune moment and believed to be from heaven. 

Perhaps the central question to consider in this discussion is, To what extent should spiritual impressions or the seeking of signs be permitted by the faithful to become a substitute for common sense?  Does the written counsel of God offer any promises that such mysterious inklings, configurations of events, or unusual circumstances should be expected by God’s people as a means to guide their steps?

The Written Word Our Anchor

We can’t reiterate often enough that the written Word can never be trumped by impressions, experiential testimonies, or portentous developments of any kind.  Once the counsel of God is clear regarding a certain teaching or practice, praying for further guidance becomes an act of presumption, not faith.  What is needed at that point is prayer for strength to carry out God’s objectively revealed will.

Governing bodies within the church often fail to remember this.  How many times, when a committee considers candidates for church office who violate the clear doctrinal or lifestyle standards of Inspiration, do we find the committee members still praying for God to show them what to do?  But as Ellen White says so clearly, “prayer can never take the place of duty” [20].  Divine instruction is to be followed irrespective of personal, political, or social consequences.  The only purpose of prayer at such a moment is, not for the seeking of heaven’s guidance, but for the seeking of strength and wisdom to carry out the clear guidance already revealed in God’s written counsel. 

A well-known, tragic narrative in the Old Testament reveals what can happen when even pious impulses succeed in transcending the written Word.  Jephthah, the Israelite general who defeated the Ammonites during the period of the judges (Judges 11:32-33), was obviously a godly man.  Indeed, he is listed in Hebrews 11 among the heroes of faith (Heb. 11:32).   Yet his vow to give in sacrifice, upon his return from battle, whatever came out of his door to greet him (Judges 11:31), was one he almost certainly couldn’t have fulfilled had he made God’s written commands his final authority. 

Controversy has raged for centuries as to exactly how this story ended.  Did Jephthah in fact offer his daughter as a burnt sacrifice, or did his daughter commit herself to lifelong virginity?  For the purpose of our discussion, this argument is beside the point.  The problem in this situation was one of pietistic extremism—an extremism so devout even the written Word made no difference.  “I have opened my mouth unto the Lord,” Jephthah declared, “and I cannot go back” (Judges 11:35).   

Never mind, of course, that the Mosaic law expressly forbade human sacrifice, whether in the worship of pagan gods or the true God (Lev. 18:21; Deut. 12:30-31).  The latter passage even adds the warning: “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it” (verse 32).   Nor in the Bible record was lifelong virginity ever imposed or embraced as an act of consecration or piety.  Not only this, but even if an animal had been the first to greet Jephthah upon his return, only under certain, very restricted circumstances could he have sacrificed that animal and stayed true to the Levitical law.  For starters, it would have had to be a clean animal, based on the standards found in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.  Secondly, the animal would have had to have been without spot or blemish (Lev. 3:1).  Unless these conditions were met, it would have been impossible for Jephthah to keep his vow as initially made, while still staying true to the written counsel of God.

Impressions and Common Sense

Inspired counsel offers some serious warnings against trusting impressions as a means of spiritual guidance:

Impressions alone are not a safe guide to duty.  The enemy often persuades men to believe that it is God who is guiding them, when in reality they are following only human impulse [21].

It is unsafe to trust to feelings or impressions; these are unreliable guides.  God’s law is the only correct standard of holiness.  It is by this law that character is to be judged [22].

Self subdued will lead to the submission of thought, word, and action to Christ.  The Word of God, not impulses, not impressions, must be your guide [23].

In the absence of direct instruction from the written Word, in the absence of any inspired promise that direct supernatural intervention—miracles, signs, impressions—will provide an answer to a given question, it is fair to assume that common sense and the process of reason must decide.  Ellen White has written, “It is God’s purpose that the kingly power of sanctified reason, controlled by divine grace, shall bear sway in the lives of human beings” [24].  If, for example, a believer is faced with more than one positive option for school, work, or love interest, common sense and a wise assessment of one’s choices are a much safer course than seeking some supernatural impression or sign.  Especially when such signs are not promised anywhere by the inspired pen.   

The following inspired statements offer specific guidance as to how to know God’s will for our lives, in the choice of a lifework and other matters also:

There are three ways in which the Lord reveals His will to us, to guide us, and to fit us to guide others.  How may we know His voice from that of a stranger?  How shall we distinguish it from the voice of a false shepherd?  God reveals His will to us in His word, the Holy Scriptures.  His voice is also revealed in His providential workings; and it will be recognized if we do not separate our souls from Him by walking in our own ways, doing according to our own wills, and following the promptings of an unsanctified heart. . . .

Another way in which God’s voice is heard, is through the appeals of His Holy Spirit, making impressions upon the heart, which will be wrought out in the character.  If you are in doubt upon any subject, you must first consult the Scriptures.  If you have truly begun the life of faith, you have given yourself to the Lord, to be wholly His, and He has taken you to mold and fashion according to His purpose, that you may be a vessel unto honor [25].                 

We need to follow more closely God’s plan of life.  To do our best in the work that lies nearest, to commit our ways to God, and to watch for the indications of His providence—these are rules that ensure safe guidance in the choice of an occupation [26].

Notice how, in seeking God’s will, the Holy Scriptures—and by implication, all of God’s written counsel, including the Spirit of Prophecy writings—must remain the supreme authority.  Note also that while impressions and the outworking of providence are included in the list of ways in which God’s will is (or may be) revealed, the written Word is the ultimate means whereby such developments are tested. 

We must also consider in such circumstances that God’s will for our lives may in fact involve a variety of options in areas not expressly defined by inspired counsel.  One might, in the course of life, serve God well in any number of life vocations.  One might acquire an optimal education, both in received knowledge and opportunities for godly service, by choosing one of a number of possible schools.   In not all areas of life is there but one right answer.  Where God’s written counsel gives such answers, by His grace we must obey.  But in the absence of such answers, all we can rightly claim from God is grace and strength to both endure and enjoy the journey of life. 

Some will point us to an inspired statement which seems to imply, if taken by itself, that only one specific place in the scheme of life is intended by God for each person:

Each has his place in the eternal plan of heaven.  Each is to work in cooperation with Christ for the salvation of souls.  Not more surely is the place prepared for us in the 7heavenly mansions than is the special place designated on earth where we are to work for God [27].

But how, according to the same author, is this special place determined?

The specific place appointed us in life is determined by our capabilities.  Not all reach the same developments or do with equal efficiency the same work.  God does not expect the hyssop to attain the proportions of the cedar; or the olive the height of the stately palm.  But each should aim just as high as the union of human with divine power makes it possible for him to reach [28]. 

In the same context we find the following counsel:

There are many lines in which the youth can find opportunity for helpful effort.  Let them organize into bands for Christian service, and the cooperation will prove an assistance and an encouragement.  Parents and teachers, by taking an interest in the work of the young people, will be able to give them the benefit of their own larger experience, and can help them to make their efforts effective for good [29].  

Putting all these statements together, it becomes clear that: (1) the written Word is our ultimate guide as to determining God’s will; (2) our recognized capabilities, as well as the outworking of providence—made evident by the opening and closing of doors for work and service—will also determine our place; (3) the guidance of the Holy Spirit through impressions upon the heart, tested constantly by the written Word, can also give such guidance; and (4) the plan God reveals for our service to Him may extend into a variety of lines. 

Let us also note, in studying these statements, that while the role of impressions and providential leading is not denied or disallowed, such developments are never to take the place of the written Word, nor are they promised as a substitute for sanctified reason and common sense.  Such interventions may supplement what God has already revealed through His Word and through sanctified reasoning, but they are never presented as replacing this process nor as a means to be counted on to ultimately confirm God’s will. 

The Voice Behind You

Some will no doubt refer us to the words of God through Isaiah, which offer the promise:

And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left (Isaiah 30:21).

But this verse must be placed alongside Psalm 119:105: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”  Only through this Word can we be certain it is God’s voice speaking to us.  And the Word gives us no assurance that in the absence of direct written counsel, some audible voice, direct impression, or other supernatural indicator can be counted on to replace personal effort, the power of sanctified reason, even the painful but instructive course of trial and error. 

I maintain very strongly that such words as, “God told me . . . “ should never be uttered unless the words of Inspiration are being quoted, or unless one has received the call to the prophetic office.  This is not the same, of course, as saying, “I (or we) believe God is leading or is directing my (or our) plans.”  Hopefully the foundation of such a statement is reliance on God’s written counsel first and foremost, and sanctified common sense secondarily.  But such pronouncements as “God told me such-and-such” or “God hasn’t told me this-or-that” are most dangerous for one who is neither quoting the written Word nor speaking under direct divine Inspiration. 

The Commandments of Men

Reliance on impressions and “inklings” as a guide to duty is a natural mate for the crafting and adoption of human commandments in the spiritual realm.  In the philosophy of relationships once held and promoted by Josh Harris, the “mating”—no pun intended—of these two tendencies is both conspicuous and deeply troubling.

At the beginning of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Harris wrote: “I do not believe that dating is sinful” [30].  Yet surely I was not the only reader to find this disclaimer confusing in the light of subsequent statements like the following from the same book:

I’ve concluded that for Christians dating is a swerver—a set of values that wants to go in a direction different from the one God has mapped out for us [31].

Leaving dating behind is a side effect of God’s primary desire for us to consume ourselves with seeking Him wholeheartedly [32].

Elsewhere Harris flatly insists that “true love nullifies dating” [33], and states concerning not just sex, but romance also: “God just asks us to wait.  While you might not find that idea bold or daring or very impressive, it is obedient, and our obedience impresses God” [34].

Aside from the obvious theological perils of the last statement—to say our obedience “impresses God” comes dangerously close to pharisaism—one has a hard time reading such observations and not concluding that to do other than what the author says is indeed sinful.  To speak of dating as “a direction different from the one God has mapped out for us” [35], that to leave dating behind is “a side effect of God’s primary desire for us” [36], that “true love nullifies dating’ [37], certainly implies that to choose to date is to violate God’s will—which, by definition, is what sin is all about.

Students of the writings of Ellen White, to be sure, understand that not every practice against which God warns the Christian is necessarily sinful.  Ellen White, for example, warns quite strongly in her writings against the use of flesh meat in the diet [38], yet also writes that meat-eating cannot be called a sinful indulgence [39].  But the difference between Josh Harris and Ellen White is that Harris is not inspired, while Ellen White is.  An inspired messenger can be instructed by the Holy Spirit to admonish believers against practices which may not in themselves be sinful, but which invariably predispose the Christian in that direction.  But an inspired prophet speaks for God in ways that others cannot.  For one lacking the prophetic gift to identify, without a clear Biblical command, which practices a Christian should adopt and avoid, is to take upon oneself an illegitimate spiritual role.

Had Harris simply written that for himself “dating is a swerver.” one could perhaps refrain from faulting his arguments.  But instead he is speaking for Christians in general, declaring dogmatically that it is God’s will for them not to date.  And this he declares while acknowledging that the practice of dating is neither referred to nor condemned in the Bible [40].  This would surely seem to be a textbook case of “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9).

As I’ve often said when addressing the above verse, it is important to consider what it does and does not say.  Jesus did not forbid the teaching of man’s ideas.  God doesn’t do our thinking for us.  Sanctified reason and common sense are often needed in determining Christian duty, beyond what is spelled out in the written Word.  But what Jesus clearly forbade in the above passage is teaching human ideas for doctrines.  When we start insisting that God forbids this or that course on the part of the Christian, in the absence of a plain “thus saith the Lord,” we get into trouble.

The Hammock and the Hypersensitive Conscience

In his second book, Boy Meets Girl, Harris describes an incident involving him and his future wife a scant four months before their wedding [41].  The incident illustrates what can happen when one’s conscience grows hypersensitive, together with the distortion of Scripture and man-made piety such a conscience can produce.

In the story thus recounted, Josh and Shannon decide to take an afternoon nap in an outdoor hammock hung between two trees [42].  What follows in the story is a silent altercation between Josh and his conscience, the latter apparently upset that Josh and his fiancé would allow themselves such close physical proximity prior to marriage [43].  Josh reminds his readers in this context that he and Shannon had already “made the commitment not to kiss till [their] wedding day” [44], a vow that had likely emboldened his conscience to develop new—and equally extra-Biblical—frontiers of sensitivity.  At one point Josh’s conscience underscores its transcending of the Bible with the rejoinder, “Don’t quote Scripture to me, Bucko!” [45]. (For me, I would be more than a little nervous if my conscience took that tone with me!)                                                                                                                           

In the same context his conscience asks, “Would you do this if your pastor were here?  Would you put this in a book?” [46]. (One might as well ask if Josh would have invited his pastor to observe in person the ultimate intimacy of his honeymoon, or whether he would write in a book a detailed description of those activities.  Privacy and guilt aren’t necessarily related.)  Josh’s conscience then tells him, “Stop looking at her legs” [47].  Josh replies, “I’m just admiring them.”  His conscience replies, “You’re lusting” [48].

In the end, tormented beyond endurance by the unseen voice, Josh tumbles out of the hammock and apologizes to Shannon for suggesting the encounter and “enjoying this for the wrong reason” [49].

It isn’t my purpose here to condemn the setting of boundaries which may not necessarily be spelled out by the inspired text, boundaries which for different couples may justifiably vary.  But aside from the problems already noted with Harris’s “voice of conscience” as depicted in the above incident, it appears that he—at least in the above context—had embraced a common error among devout Christians in understanding the New Testament word “lust.” 

The word “lust” as used in the Gospels and apostolic writings is not a bad word—indeed, the word used in Matthew 5:28 regarding lusting after a woman for the purpose of adultery is the same used in Luke 22:15, where Jesus declares “I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”  “Lust” in these verses is merely a synonym for “desire.” The mistaken notion that “lust” in the New Testament is always negative is a key argument currently used by defenders of homosexual practice in the church, who insist that Paul’s condemnation of same-gender sexual relations in Romans 1:26-27 refers to lustful rather than loving relationships [50].  But if one recognizes that the word in question is not uniformly negative, but is only negative when directed at actions and objects forbidden by the written Word, the pro-homosexual argument here cited falls apart. 

In Jesus’ signature statement equating lust with adultery (Matt. 5:28), He is describing in context neither the admiration of physical beauty nor an engaged couple’s premarital contemplation of the intimacy that will be theirs when married.  Rather, Jesus is speaking of contemplating and desiring an act forbidden by God’s Word—in context, adultery (Matt. 5:27) and by implication any other sexual act forbidden in the Sacred Pages.  Jesus’ reference in this passage from Matthew 5 is to wicked acts desired but never committed for lack of opportunity, and how these are viewed in God’s eyes as if they had actually been committed (verses 22-28).  Neither the admiration of another’s physical attributes nor an engaged couple dwelling on the divinely-blessed marital intimacy that will soon be theirs (Heb. 13:4), are the focus of Jesus’ admonitions in the context of His statement about lust in Matthew 5:28.

Had Harris been desiring not to wait for his wedding and to contemplate the consummating of total intimacy with his fiancé while they were still engaged, the words of our Lord on this point would surely apply.  Premarital sex is identified with fornication in the Bible (I Cor. 7:2), and that includes sex between an engaged man and woman.  To desire the commission of such an act prior to marriage would most assuredly be sinful.  But if we take Harris’s word at face value, that isn’t what he was describing in the story recounted above. 

More Rules

Harris continues as follows with the story of his and Shannon’s relationship following the “hammock” incident:

After our “nap” in the hammock, I realized that Shannon and I needed stricter and more specific guidelines for our physical relationship.  We were accountable to friends, but we hadn’t really spelled out what it meant for us to be obedient [51].

“We” hadn’t spelled out?  Isn’t that God’s responsibility, through His written Word?  And this business of being “accountable to friends” opens another proverbial “can of worms.”  Where does the Bible contain such a concept?  Isn’t it God alone to whom obedience is owed, and to whom confession of wrongdoing is to be made?  I realize Harris and his bride-to-be didn’t have the Spirit of Prophecy writings, but those Adventists who have embraced Harris’s teachings and followed his formula for marriage preparation are without excuse.  The following Ellen White statements warn very plainly against confession of secret sin to others:

            It is not required of you to confess to those who know not your sin and errors [52]

I have been shown that many, many confessions should never be spoken in the hearing of mortals, for the result is that which the limited judgment of finite beings does not anticipate.  Seeds of evil are scattered in the minds and hearts of those who hear, and when they are under temptation, these seeds will spring up and bear fruit, and the same sad experience will be repeated [53].                                                                                                             

Ellen White is clear, of course, that while “secret sins are to be confessed in secret to God,” that at the same time, “for open sin, open confession is required” [54].  And certainly Jesus is clear that if we have wronged others we need to be reconciled to them before God will accept our worship (Matt. 5:23-24).  But such confessions are a far cry from obligating oneself to reveal to others acts committed in private, be they sinful or otherwise.  This whole notion of human accountability partners has long come across to the present writer as an infringement on the historic Protestant principle of the priesthood of all believers, based on the Biblical teaching that Christ alone serves as Mediator between God and humanity (I Tim. 2:5).

But Josh and Shannon weren’t to be deterred from the crafting of additional rules, which I will refrain from quoting in their totality to avoid encouraging similar hypersensitivity among the youthful striving faithful in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  One thing is sure: any Talmudic rabbi would have been proud of the guidelines Josh and Shannon cobbled together.  Among other things, they agreed not to “caress” each other [55]—please understand that physical features unique to each gender were not the focus here, but rather, such innocuous gestures as “stroking each other’s face” and “playing with each other’s hair” [56].  Later in the same guidelines, Josh—while not allowed to play with Shannon’s hair—is permitted to put his arm around her shoulder [57].  (With some girls, doing that without playing with the girl’s hair could be quite a challenge!)  “Leaning or resting on the other person” was likewise forbidden, while holding hands and “brief ‘side hugs’” were allowed [58].

When you realize that their wedding was only four months away, one must truly wonder at the need for this kind of rigidity.  Though I haven’t yet been engaged, it would seem that restraint in this area would be easier as the moment of ultimate oneness draws ever closer.  And while Josh was clear that he wasn’t trying to impose these guidelines on others [59], such a qualifier rings a bit hollow in the context of a largely human paradigm for romance and marriage preparation.  When one starts with a man-made formula for achieving integrity or purity in any line, adding more man-made rules won’t be difficult. 

Ellen White offers the following, very wise counsel relative to the hypersensitive conscience:

Now we read in the Bible of a good conscience, and there are not only good but bad consciences.  There is a conscientiousness that will carry everything to extremes, and make Christian duties as burdensome as the Jews made the observance of the Sabbath [60].

Speaking further of the Jews in Christ’s day, she writes:

With all their minute and burdensome injunctions, it was an impossibility to keep the law.  Those who desired to serve God, and who tried to observe the rabbinical precepts, toiled under a heavy burden.  They could find no rest from the accusings of a troubled conscience.  Thus Satan worked to discourage the people, to lower their conception of the character of God, and to bring the faith of Israel into contempt.  He hoped to establish the claim put forth when he rebelled in heaven—that the requirements of God were unjust, and could not be obeyed.  Even Israel, he declared, did not keep the law [61].

Dangerous Rules

But what was even more disturbing—frankly, alarming—about the rules Josh and Shannon devised for this point in their relationship, were the following, which I will reproduce in full:

            We will guard our conversation and meditation.  For us this means:

·       not talking about our future physical relationship.

·       not thinking or dwelling on what would now be sinful.

·       not reading things related to physical intimacy within marriage prematurely [62].

Though never having been married (still hoping to be, God willing), I have a sufficiently large number of happily married friends and have read enough material from Christian marriage counselors to know such guidelines as the above could prove very dangerous to the future happiness of a husband and wife.  For an engaged couple to refrain from discussing their future sexual relationship in advance of the honeymoon means leaving unaddressed and undiscussed the only unique aspect of bonding that marriage brings. 

Elisabeth Elliot, Harris’s mentor in the anti-dating movement, sets up a false dilemma along these lines, in responding to the question: “How in the world can you tell if you want to marry somebody if you’ve never kissed them?” [63]. She replies. “But how in the world can you tell you want to marry somebody just because you’ve kissed them?” [64]. The word just is the key word here.  No one, not even a sensible non-Christian, would say that the choice to marry someone should be made exclusively on the grounds of physical intimacy.  This is not an either/or matter.

But Elliot goes on to make the categorical statement that “intimacy is not necessary” [65].  Such a statement belies the fact noted above—that the physical dimension of romantic love is the one thing that makes romance unique among human friendships.  Spiritual oneness, intellectual and social companionship, affirmation of one’s gifts and potential, mutual encouragement, corrective counsel, emotional support in times of stress—all can be experienced with family members and non-romantic friends of either gender.  But the physical attraction between male and female is the one experience that distinguishes Biblical romance from all other human relationships.                          

If, as the Bible mandates, the partner we choose for life is the sole human being with whom we are to share ultimate sexual intimacy, it is imperative that those looking to be married learn a potential mate’s comfort level with his or her sexuality.  Though sexual relations are to be reserved for the wedding night, knowing how a partner relates to sexual emotions, stimulation, and responses can be an instructive guide to the future of the relationship.  From all I’ve observed in the marriages of people I know, incompatibility in this area can prove a major problem.  (Without wishing to speculate as to why the Harris marriage has ended, to not discuss in advance one another’s sexual needs and comfort level could well have been an early warning sign.)

I share the following experience from one I know very well because I believe it illustrates the peril which can result from too extreme a suppression of these God-given feelings.  The person of which I speak was raised to be extremely guarded and strict in boyfriend/girlfriend relationships.  Unfortunately, when this person got married, it was very difficult to surrender to the physical playfulness and mutual stimulation in which marriage partners should be able to engage with complete joy and the absence of guilt.  Problems ensued in the marriage, and the marriage partner of the person in question contacted the person’s mother, inquiring exactly how the person in question had been raised.  Tragically, this would become, in the minds of this couple, just another outmoded feature of conservative Adventism which the couple would eventually throw overboard, in the wake of their embracing an unscriptural view of the gospel which in time led them out of the church.

Common-Sense Counsel

I don’t wish to be misunderstood here.  In no way do I endorse the absurdly technical definitions by which some these days consider themselves “virgins,” doing everything short of actual intercourse but not quite going over the line, thus believing their purity to be still intact.  One author wrote years ago that such practices are to the Seventh Commandment what beating a man half to death is to the Sixth Commandment!  Certain physical practices short of intercourse are without question best reserved for the honeymoon.  But not all.

Repeatedly I have heard the quoting of fabricated Ellen White statements which supposedly forbid any kind of romantic physical contact prior to marriage.  One such statement, which no one has yet found, says that the first kiss should be saved for the wedding altar.  To be sure, I have known couples myself who have set this boundary, but who wisely have not upheld it as normative for others.  This is their right, though I only hope those who seek to follow such a rule won’t consider themselves sinners if they find themselves violating it.  The transgression of man-made boundaries is not the same as transgressing the law of God.  But Ellen White, to my knowledge, never wrote such counsel.  On the subject of premarital physical contact, the clearest counsel I know is from the following statement, which leaves the specifics of such conduct to sanctified choice:

Not one word should be spoken, not one action performed, that you would not be willing the holy angels should look upon and register in the books above [66].

Further Wresting of the Scriptures

Harris makes the following observation about dating, purporting to use Scripture as the basis for his position:

Choosing to quit the dating game doesn’t mean rejecting friendship with the opposite sex, companionship, romance, or marriage.  We still can pursue these things; we just choose to pursue them on God’s terms and in His time.  God asks us to put our romantic ambitions in the “all these things” pile that we must leave behind so we can “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).  Leaving dating behind is a side effect of God’s primary desire for us to consume ourselves with seeking Him wholeheartedly [67].

Let’s take a closer look at this verse and what Jesus is saying, in context;

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek.)  for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:31-33).

Obviously Jesus is talking about physical and financial well-being, instructing people not to worry about these necessities because God can be trusted to supply them.  Paul makes a similar statement when he writes, “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).  I certainly have no trouble including romance in this list of needs God has promised to supply. 

But the problem with Harris’s now-repudiated view of dating and romance is that if one applies his former paradigm relative to this subject to the needs Christ was specifically discussing in the context of Matthew 6:33, one might logically decide to become a panhandler, a welfare recipient, or something comparable.  If, however, one acknowledges that God’s pledge to supply our material needs does not relieve Christians of the necessity of seeking and holding employment, getting educated so they can do this, not to mention enduring the false starts, mistakes, and disappointment such efforts often bring, then we must logically ask why—and on what Biblical grounds—should one believe God will supply romantic needs while the Christian exerts little or no effort?

“It is not good that the man should be alone.”

To read I Kissed Dating Goodbye, with its extravagant praise for singleness and its presumed spiritual benefits, one might be forgiven for concluding that in Harris’s erstwhile view, while God created marriage and sex He did so only grudgingly.  Harris cites in this book a letter he received from a lady who seemed “frustrated that people often view a single woman as just making time until the right man comes along.  ‘Poor single woman,’ she continued.  ‘The world wants her to fornicate, and the church wants her to marry’” [68].

But I seem to remember it was God who said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Gen. 2:18).  Not once, in the over 220 pages and many Scripture references of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, is this verse ever mentioned.  It isn’t hard to guess why.  Multiple references throughout his book to the “gift of singleness” [69] made one believe that unlike God, the youthful Harris deemed it very good to be alone.

In studying the Scriptures, one is fascinated that God never attaches a higher level of spiritual potential or consecration to singleness.  Even the apostle Paul’s famous statement on this subject—which he clearly identifies as after his own judgment rather than as a divine command (I Cor. 7:25,40)—offers no assurance that such a state will bring a person closer to God.  With the exception of the prophet Jeremiah, whom God forbade to take a wife because of the horrific conditions destined to befall the people of Judah (Jer. 16:2-4), no priest, prophet, apostle, or other spiritual leader in Bible history is recorded either as commanded by God not to marry or as taking a vow of lifelong celibacy.  The monastic movement which entered Christendom in the early Middle Ages was a product of pagan culture—a phenomenon still seen in the monasteries and convents of Buddhism and Hinduism today.

While the youthful Harris certainly did not promote lifelong celibacy, he certainly appeared to think that people without romance in their lives are better able to stay focused on God.  None can deny that dating, like many other activities—school, work, recreation, even marriage and the family itself—can divert our attention from God and His purpose for our lives.  But if, as Harris claimed, a dating Christian couple—who presumably are reserving sex for matrimony—are inevitably distracted by their relationship from the full commitment God seeks from them while single, one can’t help wondering how much more distracted they will be when experiencing the full intimacy of marriage.  Following this logic, one might easily conclude that what God in the creation pronounced “very good” (Gen. 1:27,31) was really a very bad idea.

Discomfort With Freedom

Harris’s early books contain an unmistakable yearning for a bygone era in which romance and marriage lay under the rigid sway of parents and strict cultural expectations.  In one statement he writes:

At the turn of the twentieth century, a guy and girl became romantically involved only if they planned to marry.  If a young man spent time at a girl’s home, family and friends assumed that he intended to propose to her.  But shifting attitudes in culture and the arrival of the automobile brought radical change.  The new “rules” allowed people to indulge in all the thrills of romantic love without having any intention of marriage [70].

The extent to which the above statement is historically correct may be argued, though one truly has difficulty blaming Karl Benz and Henry Ford for the moral collapse of Western civilization!  But while respect for God’s Word and parental authority have dramatically and tragically declined in the modern age of enhanced social freedom, one is troubled by the youthful Harris’s apparent fondness for individuals and movements in American life who view liberty as a threat to morality.  A notable illustration authored by Religious Right icon William Bennett is featured prominently in I Kissed Dating Goodbye [71], as is a note of thanks to another champion of the same religio-political movement, Michael Farris [72], chancellor emeritus of Patrick Henry College in Virginia [73] and apparently one of Harris’s early mentors.  Farris and his eldest daughter, and the latter’s journey from “dating” to “courtship,” are also featured in Boy Meets Girl [74], where the daughter’s and father’s experience is told in such a way as to make the reader ask how many unpleasant details were conveniently omitted [75].

Along similar lines, the story of another “courting” couple told in Boy Meets Girl contains sufficient detail to invite wonderment as to the level of coercion applied by parents and perhaps others as the drama unfolded.  The girl in the story is told by her parents that a male friend of hers wanted to pursue a courtship—news which threw her into a torrent of tears, because she liked someone else [76].  Why her parents appeared not to approve of the man in whom their daughter was presently interested, is not told by the author.  The reader is informed of little more than the tortuous two years the daughter’s second suitor was asked to wait, and how her father told him, “Don’t take her first answer” [77]. 

Needless to say, more than a couple details of this narrative make me nervous.

In the end, the girl agreed to marry the young man who had asked her father for her hand [78].  But as with the former “courtship” story, one reads the written account with the haunting suspicion that significant, perhaps painful chapters are missing.  Having read and listened to some of the persons whose experiences with the anti-dating, pro-courtship movement have been vastly less than positive [79], I fear that to “fill in the blanks” of many stories like those Harris cites in his early books could be both insightful and heart-wrenching.


The “commandments of men” in the spiritual realm (Matt. 15:9) are not always badly motivated, though often they are.  Writing of the experience of Israel during the period between the Testaments, Ellen White states:

During the centuries that followed they suffered the oppression of heathen foes, until the conviction became fixed that their prosperity depended upon their obedience to the law of God.  But with too many of the people obedience was not prompted by love.  The motive was selfish [80].

Notice how she says that “with too many of the people” this was a problem.  Apparently not with all.  On the following page we find the statement cited earlier in this article, regarding “those who desired to serve God, and who tried to observe the rabbinical precepts,” who because of this “toiled under a heavy burden” and were constantly afflicted by a troubled conscience [81].  More than likely, many in this group wanted to preserve Israel from backsliding into the sort of apostasy that had marked the chosen nation’s earlier history.  Devising rules beyond the written Word, as a means of preventing violation of that Word, were thus very probably the work of any number of sincere hearts seeking to be true to God.

But whatever the motives, the negative consequences of enforcing these human commandments are attested by the witness of Christ and the New Testament apostles.  And though our own times—and much of the rest of history—bear witness to the exact opposite spiritual problem, the lessons of the pharisaic age echo down the centuries, even to our postmodern world.

Like so many others across the centuries, Christians who feel threatened have tended to strike back at spiritual foes by any means available.  And at times, as in the late 19th century when they faced the challenge of liberal theology and higher criticism, the notion that “any ally will do” has gotten them into trouble.  Because of the common enemy they believe they confronted in the modernist approach to the Bible and Christianity, they ignored the growing popularity in conservative Christian ranks of the dispensational heresy, which would go on to dominate so much of the Bible-believing world in the century to follow [82].

Many other examples, some quite current, could be noted.

Thoughtful Christian voices have responded to recent turns in Josh Harris’s thinking with justifiable concern regarding the overemphasis on sexual purity that has characterized evangelical “purity culture.”  One professor at Wheaton College has observed that the Christian “chastity movement” is as sex-oriented as the culture it has sought to reverse [83].  This problem is nothing new, to be sure; its dominance of Western culture has been evident since the time of Augustine.  Our very vocabulary reflects it.  When someone speaks of “moral purity” or the lack thereof, what issues come immediately to mind?  Someone gossiping over social media?  Racists chanting Nazi slogans?  The mistreatment of the downtrodden?  We all know the answer.

Sexual sin is clearly identified and condemned throughout the Scriptures, but so are a host of other sins which too many Christians spend far less time denouncing.  None who highly regard the Sacred Pages can fault the desire of conservative Christians for sexual purity and its promulgation, especially among those in their formative years.  But many both within and beyond the Christian fold might be more impressed if the moral agenda of these zealous ones extended beyond sexuality and its consequences.

One observer has lately written, regarding the Josh Harris saga:

The extreme teaching on romance that swept through churches as a symptom of purity culture was not Harris’ fault. Though his desire to take ownership for his words is good, the problem is deeper. Parents and pastors who treated his words as authority are also responsible for promoting a 21-year-old’s teaching on dating and marriage [84].

The apostle Paul warned young Timothy, regarding the choice of leaders, “Lay hands suddenly on no man” (I Tim. 5:22).  Indeed, the problem of youthful and new Christians rising quickly to celebrity status is a widespread problem, even in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  But on this point I would urge caution in both directions.  Maturity and experience matter, of course, but if the Sacred Record means anything, God has often employed youth and young adults, even children, to do notable work for Him.  Numerous Biblical and other historical examples could be cited, including the founders of the Advent movement.  Having worked with the striving young faithful throughout my life and ministry, I have no wish to discourage conspicuous involvement on their part in fulfilling the church’s mission.  What is imperative, regardless of the age or resume’s of those bearing a message for God’s people, is that the written counsel of God remain the unerring, unsparing test of all that is said, written, and done.

Were a manuscript like I Kissed Dating Goodbye to cross my desk seeking editorial review, I would labor earnestly to help the author choose words with Biblically-informed wisdom, and to urge that any authoritative counsel offered in such a book remain strictly within the limits set by God’s Word.  I would certainly have urged Harris to desist from taking our Lord’s name in vain by declaring dating to be contrary to God’s will [85], especially as he himself acknowledged the lack of such admonitions in Scripture [86].  In the absence of a divine call to the prophetic office on his part, I would have urged the earnest, energetic, devout young Christian author to not presume to know what God wants His children to do, beyond what is clear in Holy Scripture. 

Moreover, I would have strongly advised him to reserve technical guidelines relative to physical intimacy prior to marriage for individual counseling sessions, rather than publishing these in a book where [87]—despite qualifiers to the contrary [88]—the overzealous will be inclined to make repetitive reference and likely take them to a higher level of authority. 

The spiritual and marital course Harris has lately chosen has evoked countless reactions—some quite severe, like Michael Farris’s claim that Harris never knew Jesus in the first place [89].  (Such an assessment may well arise from a “once saved, always saved” theology, in which those who turn from God are often deemed never to have been saved in the first place—a position quite at odds with any number of Bible passages (e.g. Eze. 18:24; 33:18; Heb. 6:4-6; Rev. 3:11).  But the seeds of doubt in Harris’s own mind regarding his rigid stance against dating and in favor of old-fashioned courtship, can be detected even in Boy Meets Girl, in which he writes at one point of ‘”serial courters’ who lived like the devil and ‘saintly daters’ guided by integrity and holiness” [90].  In his more recent statement disavowing the message of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, certain of his thoughts gave me hope that he still clung to the Bible as his supreme authority, as in his lament that “in an effort to set a high standard, the book emphasized practices (not dating, not kissing before marriage) and concepts (giving your heart away) that are not in the Bible” [91].

Sadly, as we all know, that wasn’t the end of his spiritual journey.  My great fear is that in mingling for so long the commands of God’s Word with his own formulas for purity and marital happiness, Harris eventually lost the ability to distinguish the two.  And thus, when negative feedback overwhelmed him from those who once pursued and practiced these formulas [92], he couldn’t forestall the collateral damage to his Christian faith inflicted by the implosion of his man-made social paradigm.

In the end, the commandments of men can never convert the soul nor empower—much less sustain—the Christian’s quest for holiness.  Only God’s biddings are enablings [93].  The final generation of believers whose divinely-empowered, spotless purity will greet their Lord at His return (Zeph. 3:13; I Thess. 5:23; II Peter 3:10-14; I John 3:2-3; Rev. 14:5) are described as obedient to God’s commandments (Rev. 12:17; 14:12), not to the mores and taboos of human culture, whatever ideological or philosophical labels that culture may wear.  The greatest (and, we hope, most enduring) lesson of the Josh Harris saga is the folly of trusting human regulations in the pursuit of faithfulness to the God of Scripture.  Jesus’ warning to the religious zealots of His day remains timeless in its relevance:

In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Matt. 15:9).



1.  https://www.instagram.com/p/B0CtVRingGj/?utm_source=ig_embed
2.  “Author Joshua Harris Kisses His Faith Goodbye: ‘I Am Not a Christian,’” CBN News, July 28, 2019 https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/entertainment/2019/july/author-joshua-harris-kisses-his-faith-goodbye-i-am-not-a-christian.
3.  Joshua Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1997), pp. 17-52.
4.  ----Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2000).
5.  ----I Kissed Dating Goodbye, p. 23.
6.  ----Boy Meets Girl, pp. 141-143,157-158.
7.  Ibid, pp. 161-162,219-220; I Kissed Dating Goodbye, p. 219.
8.  Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 595.
9.  Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, p. 12.
10.  Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1994).
11.  Ibid (2002 edition), pp. 7-9.
12.  Laurie Goodstein, “New Christian Take on the Old Dating Ritual,” New York Times, Sept. 9, 2001, p. A38.
13.  Ibid.
14.  Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, p. 17.
15.  Ibid.
16.  Ibid.
17.  Ibid, p. 18.
18.  White, The Adventist Home, p. 57.
19.  Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, p. 227.
20.  White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 143.
21.  ----Acts of the Apostles, p. 279.
22.  ----Faith and Works, p. 52.
23.  ----Manuscript Releases, vol. 6, p. 187.
24.  ----Messages to Young People, p. 134.
25.  ----Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 512.
26.  ----Education, p. 267.
27.  ----Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 326-327.
28.  ----Education, p. 267.
29.  Ibid, p. 269.
30.  Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, p. 13 (italics original).
31.  Ibid, p. 30.
32.  Ibid, p. 51.
33.  Ibid, p. 66.
34.  Ibid, p. 79.
35.  Ibid, p. 30.
36.  Ibid, p. 51.
37.  Ibid, p. 66.
38.  White, The Ministry of Healing, pp. 311-317; Counsels on Diet and Foods, pp. 373-416.
39.  ----Selected Messages, vol. 3, p. 287.
40.  Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, p. 23.
41.  ----Boy Meets Girl, pp. 141-143.
42.  Ibid, pp. 141-142.
43.  Ibid, pp. 141-143.
44.  Ibid, p. 142.
45.  Ibid.
46.  Ibid.
47.  Ibid.
48.  Ibid, p. 143.
49.  Ibid.
50.  See Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian (New York: Convergent Books, 2014), p. 99.
51.  Harris, Boy Meets Girl, p. 157.
52.  White, Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 296.
53.  Ibid, vol. 5, p. 645.
54.  ----The Desire of Ages, p. 811.
55.  Harris, Boy Meets Girl, p. 157.
56.  Ibid.
57.  Ibid, p. 158.
58.  Ibid.
59.  Ibid, pp. 157,159.
60.  White, Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 319.
61.  ----The Desire of Ages, p. 29.
62.  Harris, Boy Meets Girl, p. 158.
63.  Elliot, Passion and Purity, p. 127.
64.  Ibid.
65.  Ibid.
66.  White, The Adventist Home, p. 55.
67.  Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, p. 51.
68.  Ibid, p. 83.
69.  Ibid, pp. 40,47,78-79,84.
70.  Ibid, p. 33.
71.  Ibid, pp. 73-74.
72.  Ibid, p. 233.
73.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Farris_(lawyer)
74.  Harris, Boy Meets Girl, pp. 44-49,59-62.
75.  Ibid, pp. 47-48.
76.  Ibid, pp. 63-64.
77.  Ibid, p. 67.
78.  Ibid, pp. 76-78.
79.  See Kassie West, “Worst ‘Christian Dating Advice’ I Ever Fell For,” Jan. 29, 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvVEevPo_YQ; Anna Timmis, “Harris Returns: ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ Survival Stories, April 11, 2019 http://hillsdalecollegian.com/2019/04/harris-returns-kissed-dating-goodbye-survival-stories/
80.  White, The Desire of Ages, p. 28.
81.  Ibid, p. 29.
82.  Steve Wohlberg, Truth Left Behind: Revealing Dangerous Errors About the Rapture, the Antichrist, and the Mark of the Beast (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Assn, 2001), pp. 75-78.
83.  Timmis, “Harris Returns: ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ Survival Stories, April 11, 2019 http://hillsdalecollegian.com/2019/04/harris-returns-kissed-dating-goodbye-survival-stories/
84.  Ibid.
85.  Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, pp. 30,51,66,79.
86.  Ibid, p. 23.
87.  Harris, Boy Meets Girl, pp. 157-158.
88.  Ibid, pp. 157,159.
89.  Michael Farris, “A Letter to Josh Harris,” The Christian Post, July 28, 2019 https://www.christianpost.com/voice/a-letter-to-josh-harris.html
90.  Harris, Boy Meets Girl, p. 32.
91.  ----“A Statement on I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” https://joshharris.com/statement/
92.  See Kassie West, “Worst ‘Christian Dating Advice’ I Ever Fell For,” Jan. 29, 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvVEevPo_YQ; Anna Timmis, “Harris Returns: ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ Survival Stories, April 11, 2019 http://hillsdalecollegian.com/2019/04/harris-returns-kissed-dating-goodbye-survival-stories/; Christine Emba, “The dramatic implosion of ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ is a lesson—and a warning,” The Washington Post, Nov. 14, 2018 https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-dramatic-implosion-of-i-kissed-dating-goodbye-is-a-lesson--and-a-warning/2018/11/14/eeecd65c-e850-11e8-bbdb-72fdbf9d4fed_story.html
93.  White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 333.


Pastor Kevin Paulson holds a Bachelor’s degree in theology from Pacific Union College, a Master of Arts in systematic theology from Loma Linda University, and a Master of Divinity from the SDA Theological Seminary at Andrews University. He served the Greater New York Conference of Seventh-day Adventists for ten years as a Bible instructor, evangelist, and local pastor. He writes regularly for Liberty magazine and does script writing for various evangelistic ministries within the denomination. He continues to hold evangelistic and revival meetings throughout the North American Division and beyond, and is a sought-after seminar speaker relative to current issues in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He presently resides in Berrien Springs, Michigan