The issue I was trying to raise in my rejected comment on Adrian Warnock’s post has been ignored in the discussion which has raged about it. But it is an important issue. Here is part of what Mark Driscoll said at the MenMakers conference in Edinburgh, as reported by Adrian:
The only thing that was described as “not good” before the fall was man being alone. Some single guys are strange, and what they need is a woman. There is nothing that sanctifies a man like a woman can sanctify him. Many young men run away from responsibility and think being alone is good. This is not true. The difference between a man and a boy is the responsibilities they carry. You need help! …
God is not alone. He is trinitarian. Man does not have that relationship in himself. He cannot fully reflect God unless he has someone alongside him—namely a woman. …
So, according to Driscoll, we single men are “strange”, irresponsible, boys rather than men, and, most damagingly of all, unable to fully reflect God. Now I can understand him coming to this conclusion from reading the Old Testament. Indeed it seems to have been the majority Jewish view, both in Jesus’ time and today, that men are fulfilled only in marriage. But in the New Testament we see a very different picture. So, no wonder I wrote
Looks like Driscoll has not read 1 Corinthians 7:25-32, or noticed that Jesus was not married. Come to think of it, looks like Driscoll has not read the New Testament at all, except perhaps for isolated verses, …
If, as Driscoll teaches, a single man “cannot fully reflect God”, then what does that imply for his view of Jesus? Is he not “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15)? In principle, as shown here, Driscoll accepts that Jesus should be an example for Christians, that
Being spirit-filled means living the life of Jesus.
But why is it not Spirit-filled but rather irresponsible and not reflecting God to follow Jesus’ example of singleness?
Within the Christian church there has always been an ambivalence towards marriage. In some quarters, especially Roman Catholic ones, there has been a tendency to reject it as incompatible with holiness; thus it is a disqualification for priesthood, and, as I noted in a comment about St Margaret of Scotland, quoting from here, almost as a disqualification from sainthood:
of all the saints canonised by the Church of Rome, Queen Margaret stands alone as the happy mother of a large family
Evangelical churches, on the other hand, have tended to promote marriage, perhaps partly in over-reaction to Roman Catholic excesses. Perhaps Driscoll is simply standing in this tradition, but, characteristically, he does seem to be taking it to extremes.
One important reason for the difference between the Jewish and Christian approaches is related to the universality of Christianity. Both religions rightly see some kind of duty to
Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.
Genesis 1:28 (TNIV)
In Jewish thought this is clearly understood in a purely biological way: only biological descendants of Abraham are true Jews, and so the religious duty is to increase that number of descendants, which implies marriage. However, in Christian thinking the kingdom of God is not increased in population through natural biological birth, but only through new spiritual birth. While it is not wrong for Christians to produce more children in the hope that they will be born again and increase the kingdom, it is in some ways a higher Christian calling to increase the kingdom by bringing into it by new birth those who are born outside the Christian family. And, as Paul implied in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35, married life can be a distraction from the Lord’s work of evangelism and building his kingdom.
Now I don’t want to oppose marriage as an institution. It is certainly an institution under attack, with rising incidence of cohabitation outside marriage and of divorce, with the promotion by some of homosexuality and same sex marriage, and most recently here in the UK in the ongoing debate on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, which, if passed, would allow lesbian couples to have children (by in-vitro fertilisation) without a legal father. I hold strongly that it is important for children to be brought up with loving fathers as well as mothers, and that the lack of proper fatherhood is a major cause of the the ills of our society. Those who choose to remain unmarried (that is, without a marriage partner of the opposite sex) should accept the biological reality that they should also remain childless.
But as Christians we must accept that Jesus and Paul set before us an alternative path for our lives, the voluntary renunciation of marriage, at least temporarily, for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Jesus said:
For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others have been made eunuchs; and others have renounced marriage [footnote: Or have made themselves eunuchs] because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.
Matthew 19:12 (TNIV)
It is not for everyone to renounce marriage, making figurative eunuchs of themselves. But it is for some who are called to it, whether through a deliberate choice or, as in my case, through circumstances and without permanent renunciation. And it is a way of life which Jesus himself modelled for us. We singles don’t expect others to renounce marriage. Why can’t those others accept that singleness is also a valid way of life?