When singleness becomes the enemy
I was recently listening to a talk given by a well-known, reputable, even eminent theologian, pastor and teacher. He was speaking from the 2016 platform of a well-known and reputable, even eminent theological conference. He was addressing a very large audience of worldwide ministry leaders, church pastors and Christian theologians, many of whom themselves would have been well-known, reputable, even eminent.
Ostensibly, the topic of his talk was the Christian privilege of, and challenges facing, marriage, children and parenting today. I say ostensibly because the focus of over half his talk (yes, I mean that quite literally) was singleness.
This is almost all of what he said in the first 9 minutes of his talk (emphasis original):
The assault on family and on marriage is coming in a very subtle way from a direction you might not assume […] Let me tell you that the most devastating attack on marriage is coming today from singleness. Singleness is an assault on marriage. Marriage is the grace of life. As a pastor I just, I tell my people 'Look, if it keeps going this way, I'm going to line all the girls on one side, all the guys on the other, we're going to just match you up and have a huge wedding". This escalating self-preoccupation, personal ambition, personal development, personal promotion that creates a kind of terminal singleness is devastating on obviously the family. It leads to sexual sin, at a rampant level in a world where pornography is available all the time and you've got all these people with these pent-up desires that can't be normally met and they are about the explode and you bring them together even in a church and at the age they are at they can't conduct a normal relationship. I just see singleness as a disaster. You know, I'm not saying it is wrong to be single, but it better be a gift. Because otherwise you are going to burn, and then when you're going to burn you are going to have a very difficult time having a meaningful relationship with somebody else. You are going to frighten more people than you're going to win. And you're … you’re dangerous. You reach a place where you … you can't be trusted. So, we face some very difficult challenges…
I think in my position as a pastor I have to exhort young people to find someone to who loves Christ and make them a life partner and grow together in love. Love and marriage is a command, isn’t it? It’s a command…
So, I’ve tried to tell our people that God designed a man and a woman to get married and to have children and to pass righteousness on to the next generation and that this, Peter said is the grace of life…
But the great challenge for us, those of us who believe in the role of the man and the woman is to somehow protect this young generation from perpetuating their selfishness to a point in time where they just can’t connect in a meaningful self-sacrificing relationship that becomes a marriage. The more they push it off, and push it off, and push it off, the more complicated internal transgressions are brought into that union that finally takes place. So, you say how young is too young? Well I don’t know? 13? [soft chuckle]. This is a pastoral dilemma of epic proportions. There was a time when we had a singles’ ministry at our church. Now we have a singles’ ministry and a singles’ ministry and a singles’ ministry and a singles’ ministry because we kept adding on at the bottom because they Just. Don’t. Get. Married…
So, a little outline I gave our people, after making all the single people feel guilty, on purpose. Marriage is a blessing. Marriage is the grace of life. It is the absolute best.
These are excerpts from the last few minutes of his talk (emphasis original):
Parenting IS God’s plan for passing righteousness on generation to generation to generation. So, the priority for believer is to marry and have children and pass on righteousness. This is the beauty of God’s design...
I think singleness is a problem. And I think it fails to understand the marvellous plan of God as leaders and shepherds and pastors in our Churches. We need to have men and women come together in Christ for the purpose of raising children that can pass righteousness to the next generation.
This was his closing prayer (emphasis original):
We just don’t understand why it is that people attack your created purpose. We want to say to them what you said to Job, “Where were you when I made the world. If you’ve got so much wisdom you tell me what to do.” We know your created order. […] we know your design. To question it is to even bring heavenly scorn such as came down at the end of the book of Job. Who do you think you are- Questioning my creation?
(I thought about posting these excerpts without indicating who it was that said them and where he said them. After all, I’m not so much concerned with the ‘who’ and the ‘where’, so much as I am (very) concerned with the ‘what’. However, I also think that quoting and critiquing someone’s words without identifying whose words they are lacks integrity. So I have provided a link to the video file of the talk at the bottom of this post for those who are interested).
WHEN SINGLENESS BECOMES THE ENEMY
The narrative of this talk is that marriage, children, family and parenting are under actual attack… and the real problem, the destructive assailant, the covert enemy is singleness.
“Let me tell you that the most devastating attack on marriage is coming today from singleness. Singleness is an assault on marriage” (2:33 mins)
This well-known, reputable, even eminent theological, pastor and teacher is firmly convinced that singleness – in the church, amongst Christians – is the enemy.
At the heart of the rising numbers of Christians who are remaining single for longer, or remaining single forever, is an ‘escalating self-preoccupation, personal ambition, personal development, personal promotion […] that is devastating on the family’. Singleness amongst Christians is a ‘perpetuation of selfishness’. Not only that but it inevitably leads to sexual sin because ‘you’ve got all these people with these pent-up desires that can’t be normally met and they are about to explode’. Single Christians who insist on staying single without “the gift” ‘are going to burn [with lust] ’.
But the real problem with all that pented-up burning and exploding isn’t so much the sexual immorality itself, the grievous sin in the life of redeemed people who have been (as the old chorus goes) justified, sanctified, forgiven and made free. No, the real problem is that people who are burning up and exploding with passion and lust ‘can’t conduct a normal relationship… have a very difficult time having a meaningful relationship with somebody else… [they’re] dangerous… [they] can’t be trusted … they just can’t connect in a meaningful, self-sacrificing relationship that becomes marriage’.
Because that is the end goal. Marriage is the moral imperative of the Christian life. Young people ‘need to find someone who loves Christ and make them a life partner and grow together in love [because] love and marriage is a command isn’t it? It’s a command… Marriage is the grace of life. It is the absolute best’.
These single Christians who adamantly refuse to obey this divine command, who ‘Just. Don’t. Get. Married ’ present a ‘pastoral dilemma of epic proportions’. Why? Because ‘parenting IS God’s plan for passing righteousness from generation to generation to generation. So, the priority for believers is to marry and have children’. This is God’s created order, his marvellous plan and to question it, as single Christians do by their very singleness itself 'is to even bring heavenly scorn such as came down at the end of the book of Job. “Who do you think you are, questioning my creation?’.
Singleness is the enemy to God’s created order and marvellous plan for righteousness. Singleness attacks God’s created purpose. So says this well-known, reputable, even eminent theological, pastor and teacher.
GRIEF FOR THE SAKE OF...
I can't express to you how deeply grieved I was after listening to this talk. I am so deeply grieved:
For the sake of single Christians who deeply long to marry a godly man or woman, to have children, a family of their own… but for whom it just hasn’t happened yet and for whom it may never happen.
For the sake of single Christians who could have married years ago, started their own family years ago had they not been convinced that God’s will for them is to marry a man or a woman who loves Jesus first of all.
For the sake of single Christians who, sexual beings that they are, have desires and are tempted and yet have prayerfully resisted for many years because they have the Spirit of God and he is bearing in them the spiritual fruit of self-control.
For the sake of single Christians who, sexual beings that they are, have desires and are tempted and may have tragically given into those desires, who may have sinned sexually, but who find complete freedom and forgiveness in Christ and the promise of sanctification in the Spirit.
For the sake of single Christians who wrestle with same-sex attraction, who long for relational and sexual intimacy, but who are convinced that God’s good plan is that sex is for marriage, and that marriage is for a man and a woman. For those men and women for whom the “sexual cure” of marriage is not an option.
For the sake of those single Christians who are not single because of their ‘self-preoccupation, personal ambition, personal development, personal promotion’ (which is the absolute clear majority of them in my experience), but who are faithfully serving God where he has placed them, discipling his people, seeking to pass righteousness on from generation to generation to generation within God’s primary family – the church – through the proclamation and ministry of the gospel.
For the sake of married Christians who grieve the devastating reality of infertility and so who are excluded from ‘passing righteousness on from generation to generation’ because God’s plan for doing that is through parenting.
For the sake of married Christians whose temptation to sin sexually hasn’t been “cured” by getting themselves married.
For the sake of married Christians whose spouse wrestles with sexual temptation, and may have indeed succumbed to sexual immorality, because as a husband or wife they haven’t fulfilled their "responsibility to be a sexual cure” for their spouse.
For the sake of all Christians – and indeed non-Christians – because this teaching presents a flawed picture of God’s marvellous plans and purposes for singleness… and for marriage… and for redemption and sanctification… and for the proclamation of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Of course, it isn’t productive or helpful to listen to teaching like this and simply grieve. Rather, our grief ought to compel us to hold the teaching up to the plumb line of Scripture – to measure it against the living, breathing, and active word of God. I hope to do just that in my next blog posts.
Source video available here.