The following is a reposting of an article written for Focus on the Family's Boundless
website ministry for young adults. The article may be found here
. Like most young people growing up, I always assumed that someday I would get married and have a family. When I was in college I even picked out the hymn I wanted sung at my wedding! I was a bit of late bloomer as far as social interactions with the opposite sex, not really pursuing relationships in any serious way until I had completed college and started my career. When I did begin to seek out relationships in a more intentional way, I enjoyed relationships with a number of godly women, although I never felt a real sense of God’s peace and confirmation in any of the relationships I pursued. In fact, the overwhelming sense of God’s grace, peace and positive confirmation invariably would come whenever I was not in a relationship rather than when I was in a relationship. Over time, questions began to develop in my own thinking: had God given me the “gift” of singleness? What exactly was the “gift” of singleness? Were both singleness and marriage gifts? And was the gift of singleness for a season or would it be a lifetime calling? Called to Singleness? Does God sometimes call individuals to remain single even though they desire to marry? I believe God sometimes calls us to remain single for the sake of the ministry he has commissioned us to do. God specifically called the prophet Jeremiah to remain single as part of his prophetic ministry (Jeremiah 16:2). I believe God has called me to be single as a vital part of the ministry he has uniquely equipped me to fulfill for his church. But apart from a specific ministry context, I remain doubtful that God ever "calls" individuals to remain single against their will. Rather, we should view singleness as a spiritual gift. The Spiritual Gift When, as Christians, we talk about the biblical idea of the "gift" of singleness, we are referring to one reference by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:7 where he says, "I wish that all persons were as I am, but each one has their own gift from God, one has one kind, another has another kind." The Greek word for "gift" here (charisma) is the same word used for "spiritual gift" elsewhere in Scripture (1 Corinthians 12:4-31; Romans 12:4-8; Ephesians 4:11-13). In 1 Corinthians 12:7, Paul says, "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." This verse offers three important characteristics of spiritual gifts. First, spiritual gifts are a "manifestation of the Spirit" in us. Second, they are given for the "common good," not for our particular gain. Third, they are distributed to each of us who belong to Christ. Peter likewise urges us to use our gifts to serve one another as faithful stewards of the grace of God (1 Peter 4:10). I like to think of a spiritual gift as a God-enabled capacity for service. Exercising our spiritual gifts normally brings joy to the one exercising the gift and blessing to those who receive benefit from the gift. In 1 Corinthians 7:7, Paul’s comment suggests that he has a special endowment or manifestation of the Spirit to remain single, something not everyone else shares. The spiritual gift of singleness is not simply the state of being single, since Paul appears to encourage some singles to remain single, while others he encourages to marry. What Paul "wishes" upon all others is a particular manifestation of God's Spirit that allows one to serve God in complete dedicated service to His kingdom without undue preoccupation with sexual relations, marriage and children. It is the body of Christ in its mission to proclaim the Gospel and build the kingdom of God that is the direct beneficiary of Paul's spiritual gift of singleness. If the state of being single is not a spiritual gift, neither is the state of being married. Our common experience makes clear that there are many singles that do not have the spiritual gift of singleness, but are nevertheless not married. They do have some other spiritual gift described in the various lists of spiritual gifts described in the passages listed above, which is what Paul means when he says, "one has one kind, another has another kind." Now certainly when God supplies us with an excellent mate, it is a gift more precious that jewels (Proverbs 31:10). It is a "gift" in the common sense of something for our benefit, but being blessed with a good spouse is not in the same way a special capacity for service to the body of Christ. Do You Have the Gift? So, how do we know if we have the spiritual gift of singleness? This is a bit tricky because, while Scripture affirms that all believers are given one or more spiritual gifts, few of us have ever received a divine bulletin informing us what our particular gifts are. Rather, we most often find out by trying different modes of service in the context of ministry. Normally, exercising our spiritual gift brings us great joy and satisfaction as the Spirit confirms our gift in us while we serve. The best way to know if you have the gift of singleness is simply to begin directing your attention to service within the body of Christ. Take a season off from dating and pursuing the opposite sex, and devote that energy toward a renewed capacity for serving in ministry. If you are energized with joy in that service, keep going and see where God takes you with it. The gift of singleness is not a repression or denial of your sexuality. God will give you many ways to express your manhood or womanhood in the context of serving Him. But His grace will be sufficient for you to be able to serve Him in a way that honors Him with sexual purity. In Matthew 19:12 Jesus describes three types of eunuchs (individuals who cannot produce children). The first category is those who are born such that they are not well-suited physically or developmentally for marriage. The second category is those who are made to be eunuchs by "men." I don't think Jesus is simply referring to those who were physically mutilated as in the times of the Persians. Rather I think this category also embodies those who are single not by choice, but remain single because of other people or life circumstances. In other words, sometimes we are single because a suitable spouse has not become available. This may be because we have poor criteria in the kind of spouse we consider to be suitable for us. But I have also known godly men and women who did have appropriate criteria and nevertheless were still not able to find a suitable spouse for reasons outside their control. The third category Jesus mentions are those who choose to remain single by making themselves eunuchs. This is the category of those who are single voluntarily—it is closest to the "gift" of singleness that Paul describes. At the end of Matthew 19:12, Jesus says, "the one who is able to receive this teaching should receive it." Jesus is challenging us to grasp a very big idea— to choose voluntarily to remain single for the sake of serving the kingdom of God. Those with the gift of singleness will be on special assignment from God to remain single for the sake of serving His kingdom. Temporary or Lifelong? Is the gift of singleness temporary or lifelong? It can be for life, but I don't think it must be. The point of spiritual gifts is to serve the Lord with joy for as long as He gives you that particular capacity for serving Him. In singleness, choose to focus on serving God for the indefinite future, and let the question of marriage take care of itself. If, after a few years, it becomes evident that the desire for marriage is too much of a distraction or if God brings what appears to be an especially good marriage candidate across your path, it is not wrong to prayerfully consider marriage for the next season of your life. Paul himself makes clear that, even though he encourages the Corinthians to remain as they are in their present circumstances, it is not wrong for a believer to get married (1 Corinthians 7:27-28). Conclusion The Bible’s teaching on the gift of singleness reminds us that each of us is a valuable member of the family of God whether we are single or married. Most Christians will marry and have children. But God also has gifted some individuals with the special capacity to remain single for the sake of serving his kingdom with joy and satisfaction in an assortment of different ways. All singles whether they are single for a season or for a lifetime can know that they are complete persons in Christ just as they are, and that being single provides a special time of opportunity for building up the Body of Christ as God leads in their lives. Praise be to our great God!
A recent Leadership Journal article by Adam Stadtmiller entitled, "What Happened to Singles Ministry
," suggests that traditional singles ministry is best left behind in favour of new models that integrate singles with marrieds. In the process he reminds us of all the negative and largely inaccurate stereotypes associated with singles ministry (they don't last, singles don't want to be there, the ministry doesn't accomplish much, "recovery individuals" eventually turn the group toxic, etc.). His solution is to replace the singles pastor with a pastor of "second-stage adults" both married and single, i.e. a pastor for 30-somethings. But will most churches jump at the opportunity to install a pastor of 30's, and presume they don't also need a pastor dedicated to the 20's, 40's, 50's and 60's? And even if they do install a pastor for the 30's, will this more effectively integrate singles into the life of the church than a ministry directed just to singles? I remain sceptical.
Regardless of the popular perception of singleness, the need to integrate singles in the life of today’s
church is far greater now than it was in the swinging 70’s. In roughly one generation U.S. census figures show those living together as married have declined from around two-thirds of the adult population to now less half. George Barna meanwhile has documented that while more than 50 percent of marrieds attend church regularly, less than 30 percent of the never marrieds singles do so. Likewise only 29 percent of never marrieds meet Barna’s born-again criteria compared to 47 percent of marrieds. Churches simply cannot afford not to have a coherent strategy for reaching the growing segment of mostly non-Christian singles and drawing them into the life of the church.
As a lifelong single who has served one way or another in singles ministry for 25 years, I can appreciate Adam Stadtmiller’s desire to see singles integrated into the church rather than segregated from it. But is his prescription the right one? The purpose of a singles ministry or any
demographic-based sub-community (e.g. youth, young adults, young marrieds, seniors, etc.) should
be to integrate that sub-community into the larger life of the church, while providing a network of friends and contacts in similar life circumstances. It serves further as a natural forum to speak to issues of specific interest to the sub-community. For singles, having such a community is a vital entry point into the life of the church, without which many singles would simply by-pass church
involvement altogether. Segregation results when pastors and leaders of singles ministries create their own mini-flocks out of the community, rather than moving it forward toward greater
participation in the larger body of the church. Changing the mix by adding a percentage of married couples into the ministry does not in itself integrate singles into the life of the church, rather it requires intentionality in the approach of the ministry itself.
The article asserts that singles don’t actually want to be part of a singles ministry, and “always”try to exit the group as soon as possible. This is apparently because the well adjusted routinely “graduate” out of the group, while the more dysfunctional remain eventually turning the group into a recovery ministry for the walking wounded. So Stadtmiller proposes balancing in enough marrieds to ensure that the group remains attractive for newcomers. But this approach only masks the problem of recovering individuals, it does not solve the problem. A better solution is to be intentional that singles ministry is not a recovery ministry and to direct recovering singles into a recovery ministry specific to their particular issue whether it be divorce, grief or an addition. The assertion that well adjusted singles do not want a singles ministry and are always looking for the exit as soon as possible does not square with reality. I have rarely found any single Christian who does not see value in organizing some type of community network of singles within the larger life of the church. Never marrieds are the fastest growing segment of the population and most find far greater acceptance of their status outside the walls of the church than they do inside. Every successful singles ministry I have been involved with has invariably had a core of well adjusted never marrieds that have had some sustained involvement in the ministry. Successful singles ministry focuses on the positive message of the New Testament that in Christ singles are fully blessed members of the body of Christ regardless of their marital state, and challenges them to use their season of life wisely for the sake of Christ and his kingdom. Pastoral vision and oversight is essential to maintain a positive focus for the group as a whole while also directing recovering individuals toward ministries that can more effectively assist them with their individual
Stadtmiller asserts that singles’ needs are best addressed in a mixed setting. This is doubtful on two accounts. Does a mixed setting provide an improved forum to address topics of specific interest to either marrieds or singles? It is true that relevant topics of interest to singles may get repetitive for the pastor. We also need to teach our five year olds things that we may find mindlessly repetitive, but are of crucial importance for their spiritual development. One of the precise benefits of having sub-communities within the church is to provide an appropriate forum for biblically addressing concerns specific to that sub-community. Blending singles and marrieds together only diminishes this capability.
Are the social needs of singles better addressed by simply adding marrieds to the mix? Those who have been married for some time often underestimate what that marriage provides for them. Marrieds spend a significant portion of their social energy in exclusive contact with their spouse and immediate family. What some marrieds do not fully appreciate is that singles need significantly more social contact with other singles than marrieds need with other marrieds. To presume that mixing marrieds and singles together is a better way to meet the social needs of singles fails to
acknowledge that their distinctive state of life merits greater social engagement within the life of the church. Stadtmiller has noticed that singles tend to want more events than marrieds and recommends, “Don’t over-program.” Yes, that approach works well for marrieds, but maybe it is also indicative that his prescription is more of a forced-fit than an effective solution for singles.
A September 3, 2012 editorial by Jeremy Klaszus in the Calgary Herald entitled, "Churches Slow to Change Views on Gays
," is good example of the current thinking of many people that Christians and Christian churches need to "update" their perspective on homosexuality. Though I am deeply sympathetic to the genuine struggle that gay Christians face and I have personal friends who face this struggle, the approach we take on this issue must be governed by the moral standard established by the God whom we profess to believe and follow. To take this approach is neither irrational nor unloving. It simply acknowledges that ethics are not whatever majority opinion decides they should be.
Here is my letter to the editor in response to Klaszus printed in the Herald on September 6:Re: “Churches slow to change views on gays,” Sep. 3.
Jeremy Klaszus is embarrassed by his apparently naive thinking in college that it might be okay
to have homosexual inclinations only as long as one didn’t act on those urges. This perspective he now summarily dismisses because it “didn’t make a lot of sense, as you can tell.” But what exactly doesn’t make sense?
Morality is about helping us navigate between inclinations and temptations in our heads and
what is acceptable behaviour. That Klaszus has changed his views toward homosexual behaviour does not make others who still hold such reservations irrational.
Biblical Christianity has traditionally held that sexual activity of any form outside the confines of heterosexual marriage is morally wrong not because it has hang-ups with human sexuality or homosexuality, but because it recognizes that such behaviour is morally accountable to a higher being.
We live in an open society that embraces people who hold differing views on God, religion and morality. That openness should not presume as Klaszus does that churches need to “change”their sexual morality to match his own, but should respect the rights of all to adhere to their own moral conscience or tradition.
I am persuaded that there is a type of corporate joy in celibate Christian singleness that is seldom appreciated or talked about. In Luke 20:34-36 Jesus tells us that those who attain to the new age of the resurrection will neither marry nor be given in marriage because they cannot die anymore. Rather, they shall be “like the angels”. With death and marriage (in the traditional sense) passé in the age to come, we can also infer the disappearance of few other things such as old age, childhood (assuming we are all resurrected as adults), spousal and parental relationships, and most likely sexual union. Former familial relationships (spouses, parents, children, etc.) may be recognizable, but they will not function as they formerly did. On the other hand the reality of being brothers and sisters in our new family in Christ may well be the best sense of what does continue in our eternal state.
Part of the excitement and joy of being single in Christ here and now is that it can serve as an anticipatory glimpse of our eternal community. This is because Christian singleness is not meant to be a singleness lived in isolation, but lived within a larger family of brothers and sisters in Christ. Christian singles have greater availability for sharing in and strengthening the lives of one another in a range of different ways. Singleness brings more flexibility to spontaneously make time to encourage someone else’s spiritual journey over a meal or coffee. It can serve to spur each another in existing or new opportunities for service within the kingdom of God. There can be a genuine buzz of excitement in the anticipation of wondering how and where God might choose to move us next in his global
operations. There is continual opportunity to create time to drink deeply of the well of life experiences of others around us, and there are many opportunities to meet and share in the lives of an enormous range of persons of both sexes within the global family of Christ. Though in some degree these things are also experienced in our fellowship as the broader corporate church, Christian singles that cultivate community together often find an
intensification of this unique joy insofar as they are less distracted with traditional familial responsibilities of the present age. This is the joy of singleness that rightly serves as a prophetic token of the age to come. It is something to be savored and shared.
There is a growing wave of popular sentiment across the Western world that we should not discriminate against homosexual persons who wish to sanctify their relationship in marriage. After all isn’t marriage an inherent unalienable right of all human beings irrespective of race, disability, age or sexual orientation? Is it not in the full spirit and ethos of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment that all human being should be entitled to the same rights and privileges? When Christians (or those of Jewish, Islamic and a host of other faith traditions) do object on the basis of expressed moral scruples or religious convictions, they are generally dismissed on basis of the need to accommodate our diverse multicultural society with the presumed separation of religion and state. Hence while many Christians may personally object to homosexual marriage, they often feel they have no compelling political argument to make against it.
Traditionally when government has a vested interest in certain behaviours of its constituents, it may at its own discretion choose to reward such behaviours through tax incentives or other special privileges. Those who serve in armed conflict are entitled to certain veteran benefits. Granting such benefits to veterans is not regarded as act of discrimination against non-veterans. Rather it is a token reward for serving the government in a necessary and vital capacity. The government necessarily encourages participation in the armed forces expressly because such participation is vital to the nation’s national defence. The government may also reward other less heroic behaviours. Tax incentives are often given for home ownership. This is not an act of discrimination against renters. Rather it is in recognition that home ownership generally enhances the stability and welfare of society. When the government has a vested interest in certain behaviours over other behaviours, it has the right to reward those behaviours.
Does the government have an inherent vested interest in heterosexual marriage over homosexual marriage? The simple answer is “yes” for two reasons. First, new citizens are born out of the expressed heterosexual marriage in a way they are not produced from homosexual marriage. The future of the next generation of tax-payers and soldiers depends on procreation, and the government has a vested interest in encouraging children being born into an accountable family unit. The second benefit provided to the government (in both traditional and in modern societies) is a presumably automatic identification of the father responsible for the welfare of the child. When it works as intended marriage provides immediate social recognition of which man (the woman is obvious) is responsible for which child. When it doesn’t work as intended and children are routinely born outside of wedlock, the government is required to be much more involved in the legal entanglements of identifying which adult is responsible for which child. Homosexual marriage provides neither of these benefits to the government since it is by nature an infertile relationship. Though not every heterosexual marriage produces offspring, it is heterosexual marriage alone that is capable of providing an environment for procreation that is optimal for the future welfare of the newly born citizen. When homosexuals or other citizens choose to adopt and raise children, it is right and appropriate for the government to give them benefits (tax credits, etc.) for doing so. But the unique benefits that accrue to the government from the committed heterosexual relationship makes it also worthy of formal recognition and certain distinct social benefits. It is these benefits societies traditionally have socially recognized and granted under the rubric of the special designation “marriage”.
In his recent book, The Meaning of Marriage,
Tim Keller (with contributions from his wife Kathy) provides another treatment of the Biblical view of marriage motivated in part by the monumental demographic shift away from traditional marriage in the Western world. The stated goal of the book is “to give both married and unmarried people a vision for what marriage is according to the Bible (p. 12)”. Most of the book feels as if Keller is primarily directing his argument to his own congregation, where singles are in significant majority and have (perhaps) to some degree fallen prey to culture-driven misguided perceptions regarding what marriage is all about. Keller argues that an earlier ideal of marriage in Western civilization as a permanent contractual union for the sake of mutual love, procreation and protection largely gave way during the Enlightenment to a contract for mutual individual
growth and satisfaction. In Keller’s words, “Marriage used to be about us,
but now it is about me
For the principal purpose of marriage according to the Bible, Keller draws upon Paul’s discussion in Ephesians 5:21-33 and argues that marriage was essentially designed for our sanctification. Marriage, he suggests, “is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us (p. 120).” Keller argues from Ephesians 5:25 that just as
Christ loved the church and gave himself for her, so too spouses should follow Christ’s example. Christ, moreover, gave himself up for the church to sanctify
her that he might present the church holy and blameless. Keller infers a direct parallel to both spouses not just in the nature of Christ’s love expressed, but also the goal of that love, namely to sanctify his bride, the church, in perfect holiness. But is such a parallel warranted by the text? The parallel in 5:25 is between how husbands
are to love their wives and how Christ loves the church. Keller extends an imperative specific to the husbands to include both the husband and the wife eliminating any complementary distinction between husband and wife, while simultaneously bypassing the exhortations specific to wives in 5:22-24 and 5:33. He acknowledges this jump in a footnote (n8 p. 262) and simply suggests that since all
Christians are to hold each other to account for spiritual growth generally, wives must also do this for their husbands. But given that sanctification is already an inherent part of Christians relationships generally independent of marriage, it hardly seems compelling that the specific
purpose for which marriage was designed is our sanctification.
But should the parallel in the goal of Christ’s love, in its perfectively sanctifying effects, even be granted in the case of husbands? The text in 5:24-27 speaks of Christ sanctifying his church through the single sacrificial act of his death. This one time act sanctified the church cleansing her through washing that she might be presented as completely holy and blameless. The unique nature of Christ’s accomplishment is underscored in the choice of the simple undefined aspect of the aorist tense for each associated verb. On the other hand Paul uses the continuous present tense for the love expressed by the husband. The husband is to continually
love his wife following the model by which Christ offered himself sacrificially once-for-all on behalf of his bride. To infer a direct parallel between the once accomplished positional sanctification completed in Christ and the on-going perfecting process of sanctification that occurs among husbands and wives living the journey of faith is strained at best. Nothing that the husband can do for the wife can remotely compare to the all accomplishing perfecting work of Christ on our behalf. Surely the parallel Paul intends in Ephesians 5:24-27 is in the magnitude of the sacrificial love expressed. So great
was Christ’s love for his bride the church that he gave himself in this fashion. In the same fashion, so great
ought the husband’s love for his wife that he too continually gives himself up completely and sacrificially. Christ is the model of the depth and extent of the type of love the husband is expected to express for his wife.
But there is much more at stake in suggesting that the biblical
purpose of marriage is sanctification than is first apparent. What Keller fails to clarify in his historical-cultural analysis is that the real contrast between ancient views of marriage and modern post-Enlightenment views of marriage is that earlier views always placed the procreation and welfare of the next generation at the forefront of the purpose of marriage. Yes, social status and provision for old-age were also part of it, but the ultimate purpose was to raise up
an heir, who would succeed you. What post-Enlightenment individualism has encouraged us toward is a new definition of marriage that focuses entirely
on the welfare of the present generation—the husband and wife, irrespective of children at all. The Bible also describes God’s design of marriage for the purpose of procreation. Even before the first marriage is depicted in Genesis 2, God blesses humankind as male and female (Genesis 1:27-28) with the command, “Be fruitful and multiply”. Jesus reiterates this divine intent in Luke 20:34-36 where he makes clear that the sons of this age marry but those who attain to the resurrection do not, because
they do not die anymore. No death means no need for procreation, no need for procreation means no marriage. Marriage was designed by God requiring male and female because its fundamental purpose was to provide for the procreation and welfare of the next generation. This is fundamental not accidental to the design of marriage.
The major problem with Keller’s view is two-fold. First, in suggesting the purpose for marriage is sanctification the focus is entirely upon the husband and wife—thus Keller himself in a very true sense still reflects the modern perspective rather than corrects it. Second, if the ultimate purpose of marriage is sanctification, there is no compelling reason why it must be male and female. Males can serve to sanctify each other outside of marriage, so why not inside of marriage? In other words, Keller’s “biblical” purpose for marriage contains nothing inherent in it that requires it to be male and female. Our sanctification may be one of several secondary purposes for marriage, but it cannot be elevated above what the very fabric of biblical creation points to as the supreme purpose of marriage—namely, a divinely appointed institution to foster the continuance of humankind in the present age.
Valentine’s Day celebrates the expression of romantic love. It is a day to pause and reflect over whether we have lost our first love, and to renew our commitments to those we do love. For those that are married, it is an occasion to rekindle and express afresh the love commitments that were mutually expressed on the wedding day. For all Christians, married or single, it is also an occasion to pause and reflect whether we have lost our first love of a greater sort. This was precisely the problem for the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7. They were “doing” things right. They were labouring and toiling for the Gospel with fervour. They were doctrinally sound, testing and casting out false teachers. They were persevering faithfully under persecution without growing weary. But despite their exemplary service (impressive indeed by modern standards) they were firmly reprimanded for a greater failure. They had “left” their first love. The verb aphiēmi used in 2:4 takes on a number of different meanings in the New Testament. It can mean to “separate” or “depart from” and it is used 3 times in the legal sense of “divorce” by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:11-13. It could be said of the Ephesians that though they were going through the rudimentary outward motions, so thoroughly had their love grown cold, that they had effectively divorced themselves from Christ. But it also can connote simple neglect (e.g. Matt 23:23; Mk 7:8). Though the Ephesians were doing all the very right things, they had neglected the love they had expressed in their first encounter of Christ.
Given that the Ephesians were faithful “doers”, it is tempting to imagine that the love they were lacking was that of emotion or attitude. The actions remained, but the original motivation was gone. But in the next verse (Rev 2:5), the text suggests something more was lacking. They are called to repent and do the deeds they did “at first”. The repetition of the adjective “first” suggests a direct parallel with their lacking love. Their early love had been tangibly expressed in action. Whatever these actions were, they had evidently diminished over time. Were they tangible acts toward each other or to God? Probably they were both. The Ephesians had expressed their true love to each other in attitude and action. And in so doing they were expressing their genuine love to God, the giver of all life and abundance. We too must never begin to think that simply doing our Christian duty can ever substitute for tangible love of the brethren expressed in word and action. For it is only through loving the brethren that we can begin to aspire to love God as we truly ought (1 John 4:20-21).
As a schoolboy growing up in Illinois I recall being taught the principle of honesty through the example of Abraham Lincoln. So honest was Lincoln in his dealings with other people that he once walked a mile to return a penny he was overcharged in a shop. Character was modelled for us in great presidents like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson. It was thus very surprising to see Newt Gingrich receive a standing ovation in South Carolina last week when he railed on John King for such "despicable" behaviour in even raising the character question in light of the recent attention upon his divorces and infidelity. Moreover pundits resoundingly agree that Gingrich’s quick-witted retorts were key to thrusting him into a decisive victory among South Carolina Republican voters. Let us not forget that all of this happened in a state known for conservative “family values” and a substantial Evangelical voting constituency. Let us also not forget that two other candidates (Santorum and Romney) have relatively intact marriages and families depicting far more consistently in their lives what we would regard as strong “family values”, whether Catholic, Protestant or Mormon. But Gingrich proved victorious.
Gingrich does deserve forgiveness for past transgressions that he has confessed and admitted. That is not at issue. What is at issue is whether patterns of indiscretion (e.g. divorcing two wives for sake of personal expediency and marrying a third who was a former mistress) have bearing upon the worthiness of the candidate to hold office and be responsible for ethical and moral questions of far greater consequence. Moreover one cannot help but wonder what exactly motivated the audience to give Gingrich a standing ovation for such retorts. Would Gingrich have received as much sympathetic support if his indiscretions had been a series of homosexual liaisons or some very deviant behaviours? Could it be that Gingrich received such a groundswell of support because many South Carolinians could readily identify with his sin, and they retain some carnal desire to be able to lash out at the accusers of their sin in as powerful and effective way as he did on the big stage? Maybe this points to a worse problem than Gingrich’s character in our own hypocrisy. And maybe it’s really our own character that has been shown hollow this week rather than his.
A recent article in the Calgary Herald
reports that an editorial from the Canadian Medical Association Journal is calling for doctors performing prenatal ultrasounds to conceal the sex of the baby for the first 30 weeks in order to avoid a trend of “female feticide” especially prevalent among the Asian community. According to the editorial, Canada is “a haven for parents who would terminate female fetuses in favour of having sons.” The editorial notes that female feticide is "the worst form of discrimination against women. . . . They're saying (to women), 'we don't want you,' and that's extreme."
Selective abortion and infanticide based on gender is not a new idea. The ancient Greeks and Romans were known for gender-based infanticide and exposure, and in modern times the Chinese one-baby policy has all but institutionalized gender-based abortion. But now it is suddenly coming much closer to home as earlier sex identification of a fetus affords the same convenient option to all parents, and statistics begin to show similar discrimination patterns in “progressive” nations in the West such as Canada.
But the ironies abound. The same feminist movements that have ardently supported a woman’s “right to choose” now find themselves in support of a practice that enables stealth discrimination against women throughout the world. In response they must now insist that to selectively kill female fetuses is an “extreme” and discriminatory practice. The readily apparent duplicity is astonishing. Why should the act of feticide suddenly become wrong when we know the baby’s gender? Female feticide is wrong not because we are saying to women
, “we don’t want you,” but because we are saying to the human being
, “we don’t want you.” It is hypocrisy of the worst sort to suggest that it is fine to practice feticide as long we don’t know the gender of the fetus, but the moment we do, it suddenly becomes wrong.
The intent of this blog is to be a forum for theological and cultural reflection on a wide array of issues that relate to singleness, marriage and the household of faith. In our modern multicultural climate, orthodox Christians who affirm a high value for biblically-based “family values”, such as sexual chastity, heterosexual marriage, life beginning at conception, and the discouragement of divorce, often find allies in those from other faith traditions including Judaism, Islam and Mormonism. But the New Testament’s surprising additional affirmation of singleness as something “good” (1 Cor 7:1), on the other hand, generally breaks with these other traditions and raises the possibility that the distinction itself points to something fundamentally different in Christian theology. What is it that makes Christianity different, and why is it that Christianity positively affirms a positive role and purpose for singles within the community of faith, while these other traditions also rooted in the creation account in Genesis do not? The answer is not a simple one, but intersects how we understand the person and work of Christ, the nature of Christian discipleship and the household of faith. Genesis is the foundational beginning of how we are to understand marriage, singleness and offspring, but it is not the end of the story. As theologically astute Christians we are compelled to follow these themes as they develop through the full canon of the Word of God culminating in the person work of Jesus Christ and the nature of the new community that he inaugurates.
The theological question of singleness is worth exploring not simply because we may find ourselves or someone dear to us in the single state, but because in exploring it we gain greater understanding of the larger macro-theological themes of Scripture. The payoff is not primarily therapeutic, but transformative in what it has to teach us about the nature of God and the grandeur of his plan for humanity. The upshot is that this is a topic worth exploring because the journey has much to teach us beyond the topic itself. For though we begin with a theological question about singleness, we soon find ourselves standing before the grand and comprehensive plan of God purposed in Christ for all creation. From there we return, blessed and enriched in our understanding not only of singleness, but also of marriage, offspring, family and everything else in God’s created order.
The topic is also important because it does touch so many of us, either at present, or in the past, or possibly in the future. We all begin our life as single and we all will exit it single. The majority of us find ourselves unmarried as we approach death’s door. Even those in long and very blessed marriages recognize that circumstances can suddenly tear us from our spouses with no advanced warning. So it is perhaps the stark reality of life in this age that compels us to take fresh comfort in this distinctive New Testament teaching. And it is reason enough that we should seek to understand the deeper theological truths to which it points.
It is my hope and prayer that my work can be a positive step forward not only in theological exploration of these themes, but also in cultural engagement for the benefit of those both inside and outside the church. It is to that end that I also hope and pray that this blog can be glorifying to God and edifying to his people.
Soli Deo Gloria