(I read this book for the first time nearly four, even five years ago. I was thirteen or fourteen, and while I got a lot of good out of it, I missed more than I got. I did wait until I'd read it three times to review it, but I was still missing much of the book and my reviewing skills didn't do it justice).
Anyone reading through the book quickly (as I did before and most people likely do), would likely assume this 'anti-dating' face value to be the subject of the entire book. Harris writes on his website, "I'd encourage you not to assume you know what it [the book] says without having read it. Many readers who start out critics of I Kissed Dating Goodbye are surprised to learn that the core message of the book isn't about "dating," but living your life for God." As Harris said, the book only comes across as "anti-dating" because the system of dating is so fundamentally opposed to the Biblical principles that he writes about in the book.
The true core of this book is not "Dating is evil." Like Harris himself says, dating isn't really the main point of the book. No, the core is the gospel of Jesus Christ who died for us and saved us from our sins. This is the radical part of the book. When we look at our relationships in the lens of the Gospel, Harris writes, "sparks fly." It is this idea of looking at everything in our lives — including relationships — as surrendered to God, that is radical.
The world approaches relationships from the angle of how they can benefit "Me." Blessing or serving the other person is out of the question. In fact, romantic relationships are often for the romance itself. Harris, a self-proclaimed romantic, writes that he is just as susceptible to this view as anyone else. But "True love waits, but not just for sex. It waits for the right time to commit to God's brand of love — unwavering, unflagging, and totally committed.
The author does make some points about dating itself, though they're not the main point of the book. He says, correctly, that dating is a system invented by the world. It comes from a viewpoint that's completely opposite from the viewpoint we as Christians are exhorted to carry. While dating in itself isn't sinful, it's part of a system that can't do us any good. Joshua Harris compares it to trying to navigate a swerving grocery cart down narrow aisles filled with fine china.
But, in short, I Kissed Dating Goodbye is built around one sentence Joshua Harris calls The Little Relationship principle:
The joy of intimacy is the reward of commitment.
This quote reflects his idea of seasons, which are a biblical idea (Ecclesiastes 3:18) that we often forget. We live in the Microwave Culture, where everything needs to be ready in two minutes or less, and nicely heated too. But to demand romance and intimacy before their time is deadly, and is falling for the idea of romance just 'for romance's sake.'
Waiting for God's timing requires trusting in His goodness and wisdom. We develop patience as we trust that God denies us what we think is good only because He has something better for us — both now and in the future.
But this is not just some book of rules and a guy preaching at you. This is a guy who's lived it, and wants to point you towards the cross of Christ (something we need much, much more of in this culture). He gets it: we want intimacy: it feels good. We were created for it; he likens guys and girls to 'magnets' pulling at each other. But as always, the book boils down to the two core ideas that drive his thinking: first, that Christ should always be the focus and lens of our life, and second, that the joy of intimacy is the reward of commitment. These two principles drive the book.
While the later half of the book dives into practical applications, mainly for people who are currently dating, or are looking at marriage, I didn't find that part any less helpful (I don't fall into any of the above categories, for the record). There are tons of gold in those sections, about fighting for a woman's heart, and treating it with the value that it deserves (The poem he quotes, "A Woman's Question," is incredible). Harris also examines true marriage, and how we can use this time of singleness to prepare for marriage.
Far from coming across as preachy or legalistic, this book plainly and simply tells the truth. It's practical, and it's centered on Christ and the Gospel and how we can best serve God. It is real with the grit of everyday life, and doesn't shy away from exhorting us towards difficult ideas and practices.
You've doubtless already read it, but I urge you heartily to read I Kissed Dating Goodbye again. Perhaps this will be the season of your life that God will greatly use it. Even if you're already married, this book is incredible, simply because of the passion and focus that Joshua Harris has on the Cross: a passion and focus that we are all called to.