Singleness: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life,
written by Dr. Barry Danylak, and published by Crossway Publishers, Wheaton,
the three great monotheistic religions of modern time, Judaism, Christianity
and Islam, only Christianity affirms singleness as a distinctive calling
and gift within the community of God’s people.
affirmation of singleness is not merely an accidental phenomenon within
Christianity but has a fundamental relationship to the distinctive claims
of Christianity. To the extent that singleness does relate to larger theological
themes which develop through the biblical canon, there is a firmer basis
both to encourage those who feel called to pursue it as a distinct calling
within the church, and also to offer constructive consolation to those
who find themselves in an undesired single state. It is no less important
that those who are married also understand the theological significance
of singleness within the community of faith and the emphasis on the new
community which its presence affirms.
of demographic changes
significance of this question also arises from demographic changes which
are underway in most Western societies. Among these demographic shifts
is the sizable increase in the percentage of single adults that constitute
most Western societies. From 1971 to 2005 the percentage of single adults
in the United Kingdom rose from 32 percent to 50 percent of the total adult
population (16 years and over).
are a number of reasons for this societal trend, including a growing acceptance
of out-of-wedlock partnerships, the increasing divorce rate, and the increasing
age of first marriage.
the church is not immune to the effects of changes in society, it too can
expect to see an ever increasing proportion of its congregations consisting
of unmarried adults. In addition, the increasing acceptance of homosexual
marriage within society now also challenges the church to greater theological
reflection on the place of marriage and singleness within its community.
singleness as a life option is affirmed in the New Testament, those who
are single may experience two different but related absences.
first is the absence of intimacy and companionship resulting from living
without a marriage partner. This is experienced by all those who are single—whether
never married, divorced or widowed. A second is the absence of physical
offspring. This is experienced by those never married and only some divorcees
and widows, but it is also a shared experience of many who are married
and have either been unable to have children or have lost their children
desire for intimate companionship and the desire for physical offspring
are both characteristic of those who are called to life-long singleness.
But many more others may find themselves experiencing one of these absences
without the other. These individuals may also resonate with aspects of
the biblical-theological reflection here proposed.
perspective of this book is to offer biblical-theological reflection on
the purpose of the calling and gift of singleness. While a number of other
treatments begin theological reflection with the experience of singleness,
either personally or as it is portrayed in the Bible, the intent
here is to depict the significance of singleness in relationship to the
developing storyline of the biblical covenants.
appreciate this fully requires us to consider just how important marriage
and physical progeny were for the Israelite community under the Sinai covenant.
But it also requires us to recognize how physical progeny in the old covenant
served as a model to anticipate Christ and the spiritual birthing process
of the new covenant. Thus the present approach begins with an extended
treatment of marriage, procreation and singleness as it functioned in the
Old Testament covenants as a backdrop for the emergence of the topic in
the New Testament.
it may be a life devoid of the joys of both spouse and physical offspring,
the New Testament nevertheless affirms singleness as a calling for the
church. The place and contribution of singleness arises naturally out of
the biblical storyline as God’s redemptive hope unfolds to all humanity
Christ a new community is being built, a community of male and female,
Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, married and single. Singleness reflects
important aspects of this community in a distinctive way.
affirming singleness as a calling and a gift, the New Testament also offers
a message of hope and inclusion for those who are single. The message
in no way denigrates marriage, but rather, affirms that life together in
the body of Christ needs and benefits from both single and married people.
It is the storyline of the biblical text that explains why this is the