Archive for the ‘Singleness’ category

Resources on Singleness

31 May, 2008 EUTC

Having examined the issue of singleness, it seemed good to me to write a post, most excellent Theopholus, so that you may know of some of the resources that exist. I may add more as I come across them.

A great place to start is the article A Biblical-Theological Perspective on Singleness by Barry Danylak.

Al Mohler takes the position that single adults who do not have the gift of celibacy ought to marry soon if they can, based on his interpretation of 1 Cor 7:8,9. See for example these articles, which arose from this talk of his on marriage. Less extreme is the view that Paul was describing singleness itself as a gift. A key proponent is Al Hsu in his book The Single Issue (in US: Singles At The Crossroads). That book is also valuable for its interview with John Stott on his views on singleness, and it is perhaps no surprise that other single British pastors take a similar view (Vaughan Roberts and Andrew Page). Another helpful book on singleness, and one also taking the singleness is the gift position is The Rich Single Life by Andrew Farmer, (free download here).

Those who don’t accept Mohler’s narrow restrictions for remaining single still expect a God-glorifying view of the issue. In this article John Piper briefly discusses respective benefits of both singleness and marriage that combined with internal longings constitute a call or compelling to one or other in an individual’s circumstances. That article followed on from this sermon to singles based on God’s promise of a name greater than sons and daughters (Is 56:4,5) from his 2007 sermon series on marriage. Piper more recently recommended that While celebrating the call to life long singleness, the church will not encourage those who don’t have the cal to wait till late in their twenties or thirties to marry, even if it means marrying while in school. Piper’s forward to the book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is worth reading.

For single women desiring marriage, Carolyn McCulley encourages them that singleness is a gift, in chapter 2 of her book Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?: Trusting God With A Hope Deferred and elsewhere. The bulk of the book is taken up with looking at the model of womanhood presented by the woman described in Proverbs 31. Much more by her on singleness and biblical womanhood more generally can be found via her blog. Also from the female single Christian perspective is Lydia Brownback’s Purple Cellar blog.

The following sermons cover singleness from 1 Cor 7: Jeff Purswell (Covenant Life Church), Mark Dever (Capitol Hill Baptist Church; also in book form), Rick Holland (Grace Community Church; see relevant sermons during 3-11/03). Ben Stuart gave a challenging talk on Undivided Devotion at the Passion 07 conference. A download can be purchased for £1.99 here (also hear him here).

Boundless.org (a ministry of Focus on the Family) has articles, blog posts and podcasts targeted at singles.

Modesty Survey Results

28 June, 2007 EUTC

TheRebelution.com: The Modesty Survey
Back on St Valentine’s day the folks at The Rebulution posted the results to their modesty survey, which they describe as ‘a resource to help Christian girls (and guys), not a list of legalistic rules… which encourage young women to focus on the heart, not the hemline, to honor their parents, etc.’. I didn’t find the presentation conducive to examining the results, so I have now made up a spreadsheet based on their data. Their website includes a lot of other resources on this topic.

I switched some of the questions around so that agreeing with the statements always represented a more conservative position (so in particular agreement with questions regarding clothing implies the clothing is immodest). If the reversed questions had been asked then the results would likely have been slightly different, but not by much. Then I ordered the percentage agreement (including agree and strongly agree) for each category of questions. The questions are not consistent in form, eg. they vary between asking whether something is a stumbling block, immodest etc., but hopefully this doesn’t make too much difference so that the percentages can still be seen as a consistent measure of the extent to which guys struggle with these various things. That said it clearly illustrates that guys vary in their attitudes/struggles with lust. So for example, 6.9% don’t agree that miniskirts as immodest while 9.1% find sparkly, shiny skirts a stumbling block, regardless of length.

Here are some more examples with the % who agree or agree strongly that these things are immodest/stumble-inducing etc. in parentheses: showing any cleavage (70.3), exposing the stomach when wearing a swimsuit (57.5), the lines of undergarments being visible under clothing (71.6), reaching into the shirt to adjust a bra strap (65.4), spaghetti-strap shirts and dresses (60.8), skirts that fall above the knee (58.4), the way a girl walks can be immodest (74.9).

Piper On Singleness In Christ

12 May, 2007 EUTC

John Piper has recently finished a sermon series called Marriage, Christ, and Covenant: One Flesh for the Glory of God that comprised 8 sermons on marriage and 1 sermon on a biblical theology of singleness, based on this. In the latter he says,

My main point is that God promises those of you who remain single in Christ blessings that are better than the blessings of marriage and children, and he calls you to display, by the Christ-exalting devotion of your singleness, the truths about Christ and his kingdom that shine more clearly through singleness than through marriage and childrearing. The truths, namely,

  1. That the family of God grows not by propagation through sexual intercourse, but by regeneration through faith in Christ;
  2. That relationships in Christ are more permanent, and more precious, than relationships in families (and, of course, it is wonderful when relationships in families are also relationships in Christ; but we know that is often not the case);
  3. That marriage is temporary, and finally gives way to the relationship to which it was pointing all along: Christ and the church—the way a picture is no longer needed when you see face to face;
  4. That faithfulness to Christ defines the value of life; all other relationships get their final significance from this. No family relationship is ultimate; relationship to Christ is.

To say the main point more briefly: God promises spectacular blessings to those of you who remain single in Christ, and he gives you an extraordinary calling for your life. To be single in Christ is, therefore, not a falling short of God’s best, but a path of Christ-exalting, covenant-keeping obedience that many are called to walk.

This sermon elicited the question “If what you say about the blessing of singleness is true, then why would one even want to be married?” with his response here. He explains that both marriage and singleness work out God’s design in different ways, and says of both “That is a high calling, but it is only compelling if it meets with internal longings for God that lean strongly into these designs.” He sets out God’s design for marriage as

  1. To display his covenant keeping love between Christ and the church,
  2. To sanctify the couple with the peculiar pains and pleasures of marriage,
  3. To beget and rear a generation of white-hot worshippers, and
  4. And to channel good sexual desire into holy paths and transpose it into worshipful foretastes of heaven’s pleasures.

While he similarly sets out God’s design for marriage as,

  1. To display the spiritual nature of God’s family that grows from regeneration and faith, not procreation and sex,
  2. To sanctify the single with the peculiar pains and pleasures of singleness,
  3. To capture more of the single’s life for non-domestic ministry that is so desperately needed in the world,
  4. And to magnify the all-satisfying worth of Christ that sustains life-long chastity.

While previously he interpreted 1 Cor7:7 to refer to singleness and marriage as gifts he now says

neither I nor the Bible means to say that either [marriage or singleness] is compelling in and of themselves. That is why Paul says, “One has one gift and one another” (1 Corinthians 7:7). I think he means: The internal reality of one person finds one of these powerfully compelling and the internal reality of another finds another powerfully compelling. And I would add: This can change from one season to another…Objectively, we cannot know ahead of time whether marriage or singleness will sanctify us more or honor God more. Does the internal reality of our heart lean us into the designs of marriage or the designs of singleness? That is a huge question and one that only the heart can answer. But it should be a heart well-formed with much Bible and much prayer and much maturity through life and counsel of friends and family.

I really like Piper’s balanced view of marriage and singleness. He promotes them both, focusing on their God glorifying nature, rather than taking a more man-centred approach of promoting singleness to make single people feel good or promoting marriage to reduce the suffering of unwanted singleness. I have some more thoughts, but they will need to wait for another post.

Sexual Temptation, Worldly Desire and Marital Status

2 March, 2007 EUTC

I have just discovered an interesting post that presents a good way of thinking about the choice of whether or not to pursue marriage from 1 Cor 7. The author Dan Miller argues that there are 2 principles to consider: “The principle of avoiding temptation to sexual immorality makes us conclude that we should marry” and “The principle of avoiding worldly anxieties makes us conclude that we should not marry”. Neither is absolute, neither is primary, we each choose for our particular situations which is the more compelling. The strength of the avoiding temptation principle depends on how much a person struggles with sexual temptation, while the strength of the worldly anxiety principle depends on a person’s gifts and opportunities. The latter may be expressed in terms of whether marriage would help or hinder ministry.

This idea of conflicting principles ensures that both principles are considered together. If the principle of avoiding sexual immorality were ignored then one might get the idea that because singleness has advantages that ought to be used for God’s glory by those who are single, singles therefore ought to prefer singleness and avoid marriage, irrespective of the level of sexual desire and suitability for long-term single ministry. Similarly if the principle of sexual purity were taken on its own, one might take the position that those who struggle at all must marry because serious sexual sin is inevitable, ignoring the possibility that the advantages of undivided devotion that singleness brings may be worth the loss of marriage as one major way of reducing the struggle. (more…)

Sex and the Single Guy

6 November, 2006 EUTC

One of the first articles to appear on Boundless from CHBC folks was Physical Intimacy and the Single Man by Matt Schmucker which is based on the talk he has given a couple of times in the church’s sexuality talks and at the Sex and the Supremacy of Christ conference (and taken from the conference’s book). Well now Boundless have published an interview their staff had with Michael Lawrence and Scott Croft on the subject of sex and the single man, which is well-worth reading. In part 1 they discuss the extent of what constitutes sexual activity, the need for asking specific questions to single men regarding their ‘struggles’ and the obligation for many men to pursue marriage. In part 2 they discuss the marriage norm and the gift of celibacy being a rare thing and that often men attempt to use 1 Cor 7 to justify selfish singleness, and they oppose married couples choosing childlessness. There is also a comment to women who desire marriage regarding singleness being a gift in the sense of 1 Pet 4:8 and also a form of suffering.

While I disagree with some of what they said, particularly regarding the gift of celibacy, I do think that there are some helpful points that they raise. Here are some key points:

  • Singleness is a gift to be used for the church, as in 1 Pet 4:8.
  • Unwanted singleness is a sharing in Christ’s sufferings.
  • There should be no getting onto the sexual on-ramp outside of marriage (see also the last reply in this Q and A post).
  • Extended singleness requires particular sexual control (Michael and Scott take a gift of celibacy position that goes further than I do, believing that the gift involves no sexual struggle).
  • Extended singleness is for the purpose of ministry (indeed Michael includes having such a ministry as part of the way to identify the gift).
  • Extended singleness is a sacrifice.

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Vaughan Roberts Talk on Singleness

28 September, 2006 EUTC

The following are my notes based on a tape recording of a talk by Vaughan Roberts in 1997 on the subject of what the bible has to say about singleness.

No Christian is Single Forever

No Christian is single forever, in fact no Christian is single, Christ gives us marriage. Eph 5:22-25 has implications about marriage, but also shows that human marriage is a reflection of divine marriage between Christ and his church. Whether or not you are married to another person, you are married to Christ. 2 Cor 11:2 has the image of engagement. Rev 19:7 shows that when Christ returns our marriage to Christ will be permanent. That marriage is the one that will last, the most important relationship, there will be no human marriage in heaven (Mk 12:25). (more…)

National Singles Week

19 September, 2006 EUTC

This US Census bureau has a page listing a number of statistics to mark National Singles Week. The page explains:

“National Singles Week” was started by the Buckeye Singles Council in Ohio in the 1980s to celebrate single life and recognize singles and their contributions to society. The week is now widely observed during the third full week of September (Sept. 17-23 in 2006) as “Unmarried and Single Americans Week,” an acknowledgment that many unmarried Americans do not identify with the word “single” because they are parents, have partners or are widowed.

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