Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Celibate Life Unveiled!

One of my closest friends has just entered the blogosphere and I'm quite excited about it. Not least, because of the rather dramatic title of his new blog - The Celibate Life Unveiled! (See the link on this blog).

Yes, my friend (along with a few hundred others in our church) has committed himself to lifelong voluntary singleness in order to be freer to serve God and give himself to people. Which is impressive wouldn't you say? And inspiring. And contraversial. (I guess there may be a few outraged comments on his blog over the coming months - I hope he publishes them...)

As it happens I got involved in the singleness controversy just yesterday (which is one of the reasons I didn't post on my blog that day). I read a book review on the Christianity Today website. The book was called Getting Serious About Getting Married. The author makes a case against adult singleness, going so far as to call it unbiblical — and marriage a "biblical mandate" for all but the few who have been called to full-time kingdom work that makes family life impossible or who have a medical condition that makes them unable to perform marital "duties".

What rubbish! I'm pleased to say that the reviewer of the book took issue with what this author was saying - but I didn't think her criticism was strong enough (so I wrote an email to Christianity Today - goodness knows if anyone will ever read it, but I needed to vent my outrage). Anyway, if you want to read the email I sent, I've entered it as the first comment on this post. (I thought I'd enter it as a comment to stop this post becoming enormous!)

In the mean time - thank God for The Celibate Life Unveiled and thank God for courageous, noble, wonderful saints like my friend and his fellow followers of the Lamb - wherever He goes.


normal said...

For those who are really interested, here's the email I sent to Christianity Today:

I agreed with many of Camerin Courtney's concerns about the book Getting Serious about Getting Married. In fact, I would want to raise even more serious concerns about a book which so seriously ignores New Testament teaching about singleness. If Jesus Himself urges 'all who can receive this ( i.e. the single state) to receive it' and Paul can say that he 'wishes all were' as he was (i.e. single), then we can only dismiss singleness as undesirable if we ignore both the Lord and His Apostle!

As for marriage as a 'mandate' - well, such a mandate was indeed given to Adam and Eve 'too be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it'. This is a mandate that was faithfully carried out through millenia of Old Testament history. But, with the arrival of a single John the Baptist who announced the coming of single Jesus (born of virgin Mary) who was preached around the world by single Paul and worshipped by a host of single 'virgins who follow the Lamb wherever He goes' (Revelation 14 - and however we may interpret this chapter, it still remains significant that singleness is the motif which is used), we appear to have a change in emphasis!

In fact, on closer analysis, we have a new mandate: the Great Commission. In a passage that seems almost to echo the Genesis 'be fruitful and multiply' mandate, he says 'Go into all the world and make disciples'.

Whereas the Old Testament, old covenant, old creation mandate was to marry and have babies, the New Testament mandate is to reproduce spiritually by bringing disciples to new birth. And, as Paul makes abundantly clear in his first letter to the Corinthians, such 'affairs of the Lord' can be a lot easier to be free to invest your energy in when you're single.

Of course, there's still an honoured place for marriage, as the New Testament makes abundantly clear (though Paul advises those who are married 'to live as though they were not' - an interesting angle, not often emphasised in many schmultzy Christian books on marriage!) Marriage is good, holy and from God - but singleness, let's be clear, is better.

The real difficulty is that singleness as a valid, affirmed, fruitful, honoured lifestyle is nigh-on impossible in a church culture that circles around marriage and family (what Paul calls 'many cares in this life'!) If singleness is to take its place in our churches, with all its powerful potential, then our churches must become closer communities with deeper fellowship and real networks of committed friendships - of married and single people - within which deliberate, chosen singleness can flourish. Single people should live with families (as part of the spiritual family, not as an awkward tag on) or live together as an expression of authentic Christian community. And singleness must be promoted as valid and as valuable.

If I now seem to be getting into the realm of fantasy... what a shame that is. For it seems to be the New Testament norm (even a cursory reading of Romans 16 gives us a glimpse of this kind of deep network with their shared houses and 'hard work' together).

Let's take the New Testament as our yardstick - and fulfill our great task with vigour.

Jeesh said...

Lack of self-esteem.
Performance anxiety.
Religious false teachings based on shame. Saves the church a few quid having less kids to support. If everyone took the celibate line down the century there would be no one to diciple now would there logically. It's just another form of selfishness and self indulgance don't kid yourself !

normal said...

Well, Jeesh, I guess you're right that people CAN pursue a life of celibacy for all the wrong reasons. But that doesn't means that's always the case. I know a number of celibates who have made their singleness commitment in order to 'mother' and 'father' others who need their care - they're some of the most unselfish people I know.

I'm a married man myself and I love my wife and my two kids. But sometimes (see what you make of this) I realise that that love can be rather selfish (looking after my own) while my celibate friends are pouring themselves out for those who they have no natural ties with - just the ties of faith in Christ and love for God.

tschaka said...

Dear me that sounded opinionated Jeesh. Show some balance and folk might think you've got a point to make.

Raz said...

Hey Jeesh - I'm glad it's not only those wiv xtian mums n dads that becum xtians - i'd b in a real bad way. thats wot ur sayin init? plenty 2 disiple out there wiv out getting ur own

Supernatural said...

Yeah, I seem to have my hands full with disciples. Beautiful people, born from above.