Chapter Three: The Meaning of Singleness
The Character of Christian Singleness
My upcoming book, The Meaning of Singleness, will be published by InterVarsity Press on May 9, 2023. In the lead up to its release, I thought I might share a short weekly excerpt, chapter by chapter.
You can pre-order or see more information about the book (including its full contents page, endorsements & a free sample chapter) here.
Chapter Three: The Character of Christian Singleness
“… there is little doubt that sex exercises a totalitarian ideological reign over twenty-first-century Western society. It is now seen as both the arena in which the individual is able to publicly and politically express their personal sovereignty and as the methodology by which the authentic inner-self is most truthfully able to be apprehended. Contemporary secular society holds that it is only in discovering and disclosing our innermost sexual inclinations, attractions, desires, actions, and ultimately, our sexual identity (itself the culmination of all these things) that we are able to authentically know ourselves and be known by others. As a consequence, where historically only a small subset of relationships between individuals had been defined in relation to sexual possibility, today all relationships within the vast realm of human interactions are regarded as being potentially complicated, compromised, compounded, or completed by sex.
As one might anticipate (and hope!), Christian discourse has not imported such ideology wholesale. In fact, evangelical thought and practice has largely sought to set itself apart from—and speak as—a corrective to secular sexual mores. And yet, despite such active attempts at differentiation, a number of the foundational implications of contemporary cultural attitudes toward sexuality have still found manifestation within the Christian discourse. The first is located in a heightened alignment between sexual experience and a Christian sense of fully realized personal identity. The contention that men and women have been divinely oriented toward emotional, physical, and sexual intimacy with a person of the opposite sex (in order that they might fulfill one of the chief responsibilities of humanity—“be fruitful and multiply,” Gen 1:28) is a fairly unremarkable and orthodox Christian statement.
However, such understanding of the place of sex within the creative commission has recently found itself increasingly influenced by the secular ideological commitments outlined above. As a result, the historic biblical understanding of sex as designed to serve a particular context (i.e., marriage) for a particular purpose (i.e., marital bonding and procreation) has become increasingly obscured by a preoccupation with sex that Kutter Callaway critically depicts to be “the gateway through which we [Christians] enter ‘the life we love,’ an experience that every man and woman not only desires but also deserves . . . the essential ingredient for an individual’s self-actualization.”
This quasi-theological development is connected to the positioning of lust as the one temptation which the Christian is truly unable to resist, even with the sanctifying help of the Holy Spirit. Because sexual desire is seen as so necessary to the actualization of an individual’s understanding of their own anthropology, it is supposed that the Christian is simply unable to endlessly say no to engaging in sexual activity. Instead “they can only wait. And the hope is that Christian singles will get married before eventually giving in to the temptation.”…”
Taken from The Meaning of Singleness by Danielle Treweek. Copyright © 2023 by Danielle Elizabeth Treweek. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com.
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Kutter Callaway, Breaking the Marriage Idol: Reconstructing our Cultural and Spiritual Norms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2018), 65.
Christine A. Colón and Bonnie Field, Singled Out: Why Celibacy must be Reinvented in Today’s Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2009), 88.