This blog post is the third in a series. I recommend reading the first and second posts before reading this one.
In my last post I gave one reason why I think a well-known Christian theologian, pastor and teacher is wrong when he teaches that singleness within the Church is a direct attack on God’s created order and purpose for marriage. In this post we'll be considering a second, though no less important reason.
First of all, let's trace back through the line of his argument (read it in full here)
1. Humans were created as sexual beings which means most of us have desires related to our sexuality… desires we’d quite like to be able to fulfill.
2. Given the Bible says that sexual activity belongs to and in marriage, as a matter of godly obedience those who are not married (and in fact, also those who are married) are going to face some pretty serious temptation, especially in our sex-saturated culture.
3. If those sexual desires aren’t fulfilled, then the individual ends up with a whole lot of pent-up desires which simmer and bubble away until finally… KABOOM! It is inevitable that single people (or at least those who do not have the ‘gift’ that takes away all their sexual desires) will fall into sexual immorality. (Click here to read why I think argument doesn't stand up to the scrutiny of Scripture).
4. The major problem for all those exploding single Christians (at least as he expresses it in this talk) is not primarily that their sin grieves their Heavenly Father and hurts others. No, the ultimate problem is that by giving into temptation they ruin their chance at a having a normal, meaningful marriage…
[Singleness] leads to sexual sin, at a rampant level [...] you've got all these people with these pent-up desires that can't be normally met and [..] they can't conduct a normal relationship. [...] when you're going to burn you are going to have a very difficult time having a meaningful relationship with somebody else.
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.
Source video available here.
Now, this conclusion (that singleness somehow 'stunts' the individual from pursuing and attaining the meaningful relationship of marriage) rests on a number of assumptions. The first (the inevitability of sexual immorality) has already been addressed in this previous blog post. A secondary assumption, that singleness inherently promotes selfishness, thereby making it difficult for an individual to embark on a relationship in which they are required to do that whole 'thinking about someone else thing', has also been addressed in a previous blog post.
However, there is a third assumption which undergirds this bible teacher's argument about the tragedy of singleness. Strangely enough though, it doesn't actually have much to do with singleness, but everything to do with marriage.
In his talk, given to a room full of ministry workers, this bible teacher stated:
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…
He even says:
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".
From his tone and the rest of the content of his talk, I'm guessing that he was only half-joking about that prospect. Why? Why is this bible teacher so certain that marriage is a moral imperative for the Christian? Why is he fixated on it as the end goal of the Christian life? He goes on to explain why.
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…
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.
Marriage is a Christian moral imperative - the end goal of the Christian life - because marriage is the arena in which Christian parenting takes place, and Christian parenting IS God's plan for passing righteousness on from one generation to the next. Parenting is not part of God's plan for passing righteousness on. It is not one way in which Christians are called to pass righteousness on. It is THE plan. It is THE way. And therefore, the Christian's priority is to get themselves married - the younger the better - so that they can start having children and get on with fulfilling their divinely instituted mission.
FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION
To put it simply, I don't think this line of reasoning stands up to Scripture.
Now, don't get wrong. Raising children in the knowledge and love of the Lord is fundamental to Christian parenting. That is, parenting IS part of God's plan for passing righteousness on from generation to generation. However, it is not the sum total of that plan. It is not the framework of that plan. It is not THE plan.
So what is THE plan then?
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
- Matthew 28:16-20
As the resurrected Jesus farewelled his disciples he commanded them to "Pass it on". He commanded them to go and proclaim him to others; to teach others what he had taught them; to show them what it was to live with him as their Saviour and their Lord; to see others baptised as a sign of their spiritual rebirth and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.
The disciples were commanded to "Go... and make other disciples"... because that is God's plan for passing righteousness down from generation to generation. That is THE plan.
You know what I love? I love going to the homes of Christian friends as they are knee-deep in that whole, chaotic night-time routine. I love watching them open the Bible with their kids. I love watching those precious little ones grapple with such exquisitely complex and wonderful theological concepts as they sit listening to their mum and dad teach them the Word of God.
I love how they can so often sum up those complex concepts with such beautiful simplicity - "Jesus loves me. That's why he had to die!"."God made every single thing in the whole world. Including me!". "Daddy, I'm going to see grandpa again when I get to heaven because he trusted Jesus like I do!".
I love watching my friends lead their children in prayer to their heavenly Father, and, gosh do I love hearing those little people speak to Him themselves. I love getting to witness my Christian friends applying themselves to the everyday, hard but incredibly wonderful slog of discipling their children. Christian parenting is a vital part of God's plan for passing righteousness on from generation to generation.
But it is not THE plan. THE plan is making disciples. And here's the thing - you do not have to be a child to be the "disciplee" and you do not have to be a parent to be the "discipler". Disciplemaking is not the exclusive privilege of the parent. Instead, Jesus calls all of his disciples to go and make disciples.
Young or Old.
Family or Friend.
Spouse or Stranger.
Child or Co-worker.
We are called to disciple others of all ages and stages and places. We are called to share the wonderful news of the gospel with the 2 year old and the 92 year old, with the people that we gave birth to and the people who have birth to us. Be we single or married, parents or not, we are called to be disciplemakers.
So, no. Parenting is not THE plan for passing righteousness down from generation to generation. Discipleship is.
So, no. Getting married and having children is not THE priority for the believer. Making disciples is.
So no. Singleness is not an assault on God's plan to see righteousness passed down from generation to generation. Singleness is not a tragedy that prevents a Christian from seeking after their ultimate purpose in life. Singleness is not an attack on God's created purpose for humanity. Singleness is not the enemy.
In fact, when it comes to going and making disciples of people of all nations, biblical singleness might just be a better option (1 Cor 7:9,38)... but let's leave that for another time shall we?