Monday, January 22, 2007

Relational Cultural Myths of Post Y2K: Part I

The following thoughts are from a presentation given by my pastor at Life on the Vine Church, David Fitch, this past Saturday, Jan 20, 2007. The presentation was titled "Singleness in the City of Endless Desire: Why it is Spiritual Formation or Die." As part of the presentation, there was a handout highlighting seven cultural myths about relationships/singleness/marriage that predominate in our society and in the evangelical church. I thought these thoughts were so good that I want to share them here with my readers. Both the sub-headings, and the text that follows are Dave's. In this post, I will feature the first three myths. I hope these are an encouragement to you or at least provide you with some good food for reflection. I hope over the coming weeks and months to offer a number of posts featuring encouraging and thoughtful theological reflections/writings on singleness by various authors.

Also a word of warning: To those who wish to debate the issue of the so-called "gift of singleness" or the mandatory marriage teachings and the like, please take it elsewhere. There are a number of sites where that issue is regularly discussed and debated if you wish to do so. At this time, I have no desire to debate that issue any further. I wasted a lot of time and energy following and being involved in that debate during 2006 and I found it to be a largely fruitless and rather acrimonious debate that generates far more heat than light. Any attempts to drag it up here will be summarily deleted. Rude remarks will also be deleted. You have been warned.

Myth 1: A woman or man is incomplete until (s)he is married. (then (s)he is finished).

American society reinforces that each person must have a soul mate, a complimentary partner who makes him or her complete, but this is neither Scriptural nor possible. The picture of marriage is one of spiritual formation (Eph 5), not soul complementarity, of growing in Christ, a oneness achieved over time. This is why marriage can in fact be forgone in anticipation of the completion of the Kingdom whereby in Christ we can live in his reign (Matt 22:30). Man and woman's ultimate true end is God, and his/her purpose is His glory/His purposes/His mission, not marriage.

Myth 2: I would rather die than face life not married.

Culture says"to deny ourselves sexually" is to deny the essence of life. It shapes us to believe "Who we are" is based a.) in marriage and children, and b.) in our job status. We can't imagine being single as a calling - a station to be embraced as vocation. Yet if we are ever to be in God's will in regard to marriage, we must also be in his will regarding being single. We have the MEANS TO RESIST THESE SHAPING FORCES (emphasis Dave's) via the nobility and superiority of singleness in the church. 1 Cor 7:25-35

Myth 3: If you're going to be in ministry you need to be married.

The message around the evangelical church is that you are not fit for leadership if you are not married. Yet this is a lie contradicting the apostle Paul. The prejudice should be for single pastors and ministers of the gospel. If you are single you have less encumbrances towards pursuing a life of service and mission. And it is in that service that the will of God for your marital future will be made possible (whether single or married). Matt 19:12


thekid said...

Good stuff Gordon. I think the first myth is so prevalent that we even see people divorcing out of a feeling that they are not with the person who they were "meant" to be with.

Indeed, single people have a whole different landscape of ministry possibilities precisely for the reasons you stated under Myth 3.

I am glad to see that you are moving forward sharing constructive ideas.

I miss you and I'm praying for you so keep me informed about your prayer needs.


Gordon Hackman said...

Thanks sis,

I was hoping you'd find my latest post. Glad you liked it. Regarding your reflection on the first myth, you'll see when I post the other four that Dave has specifically addressed the idea of "the one I was meant to be with."

I'll try to write you soon, when the week slows down a little more.


Anonymous said...

Under myth 2: "We can't imagine being single as a calling - a station to be embraced as vocation. Yet if we are ever to be in God's will in regard to marriage, we must also be in his will regarding being single."

So all he's done here is supplant one myth with another: the myth that you must first ascertain from God if He wants you to marry or not. This myth has created more neurotics of single people in the church than any one I can think of. And it's totally unbiblical. Nowhere in the scriptures does it say that you'll get an answer if you ask God if he's calling you to be single.

If we're trying not to make too much of a big deal out of being single, why do we have to call it a "vocation"? Let's just call it a state, and one that can be chosen, particularly if it's an advantage to Christian service. It should be enough to just stick to biblical basics and say that if you are single by circumstance or single "for the sake of the kingdom", either way, you must remain sexually abstinent, until marriage or death-- which ever comes first.

Gordon Hackman said...


You said: "So all he's done here is supplant one myth with another: the myth that you must first ascertain from God if He wants you to marry or not. This myth has created more neurotics of single people in the church than any one I can think of. And it's totally unbiblical. Nowhere in the scriptures does it say that you'll get an answer if you ask God if he's calling you to be single."

I don't think that this what Dave is doing or saying at all. I have a close personal relationship with Dave, and I have never heard him ever say that one must first ascertain whether God wants one to be single or married. That's not the point. The point is that the place I find myself in today is a place that must be submitted to the Lordship of Christ. Since the point of Christian marriage is the furtherance of the mission of Christ's kingdom and not self-fulfillment or getting my needs met, I must first submit my life to Christ's mission and live out of that. If my life as a single person is not submitted to Christ and pursuing his will, then pursuing marriage will not really be a good thing for me either. I've seen this born out in my own life and the lives of people I know.

Anonymous said...

But can't you see what a mess he makes when he muddles together the circumstance of wanted singleness/celibacy with words like "vocation" and calling"?

Yes, there are some people who find themselves still single after a certain period of time, but it only creates anxiety to suggest to them that their singleness might be their "calling" or "vocation".

It's a critical confusion and it's got to stop.

Anonymous said...

Correction: I meant to say that Fitch muddles together UNWANTED SINGLENESS ("I would rather die than face life not married") with words like "calling" and "vocation". What right does anyone have to suggest to someone who is single and struggling with it that it might be God's "vocation" or "calling" for them?

Gordon Hackman said...


I don't think you're really getting where Fitch or I are coming from, but I'm going to let this one go rather than continue to argue about it, because I just don't have the time or energy or desire to invest into getting into a long debate about it.

Thanks for commenting.


Anonymous said...

I am sure that Fitch is a godly individual who means well for singles, but I just don't think he really considers the implications of talking about those two different kinds of singleness unwanted circumstantial singlenes with vocational singleness, both in the same breath. The latter is CHOSEN by the individual for the sake of the kingdom, ie. Matt 19:12: MADE THEMSELVES EUNUCHS (just as who you marry is a matter of personal volition). "Singleness by vocation" is not something you consider if you can't find a mate.

And just so that I'm not misunderstood, I'm not saying that God "plans" that everyone will be married. Obviously, some people wind up single all their lives. But I don't think anyone has any business saying to those people, "well, I guess that was just God's will for your life", clearly some people are "made eunuchs by men" (from bad church teachings, perhaps?)

Nor is it appropriate for Fitch to say "we must also be in His will regarding being single", as if God has somehow promised some verification of what he wants each individual to do, in regards to choosing either marriage or singleness. I mean, maybe I have misunderstood what Fitch is trying to say here. Maybe he's trying to say that if you are single, then you need to resist the urge to have sex outside of marriage-- fair enough. But he needs to know that when you discuss "single by circumstance" along with "single by vocation", you can create a lot of anxiety and confusion for people about "God calling them to be single" (see Marnie Chediak's story on her husband Alex Chediak's blog).

thekid said...

Wow, interesting to follow the dialogue here. When I read Myth 2, I don't see the question of determining whether singleness is God's will for an individual at all. I take from it that regardless of our status, married or single, our true identity comes from who we are before God and we must have the perspective that He is the only source of our completeness; not our spouse or any would-be spouse. Or maybe I read it like that because that is what I already think. I think the point of the term vocation being used is to say that we must live out this Gospel that we believe from our present circumstance.

Okay if you are single and you are longing for the intimacy of a spouse. Does not that need to be laid down before God as you continue to live your life (hopefully, expectantly) in the reality of God's Spirit dwelling in you. Guiding you. I mean the consequences of not laying it down are that you structure your life around an idol that will most certainly leave you wanting.

Or what do you think?

Gordon Hackman said...


Thanks for commenting. I think you've hit the nail on the head, especially in your first paragraph. I especially like the last sentence there concerning how we must "live out the gospel from our present circumstance." I think that is exactly the point that Dave is making.

I also like the last sentence of your second paragraph about "structuring your life around an idol." If I'm not willing to live under the Lordship of Christ where I am, whether I like it there or not, then I am essentially declaring that God can only work in situations where I get what I want. This, to me, is a counsel of despair and is the opposite of the gospel.

I am reminded here, of the lyrics to an old Vigilantes of Love song, so I will leave you with them:

In the middle of this long drawn out session
In the middle of your gathering depression
Pardon me if i interpose a question
Big as Christ, smaller than your life

Anonymous said...

I have no objection with the message to "live out the gospel from our present circumstance." I merely object to equating our "present circumstance" with "vocation".

If you get hit by a drunk driver and find yourself in a wheelchair for the rest of your life, then "wheelchair" is not your "vocation". It is merely a fact about your present circumstance. In that circumstance, you are indeed called (as in a "general call" to all--we need to say general or specific when talking about calls) to find your contentment in Christ. Even though the accident happened under the sovereignty of God, we do not say that it was "God's will" or "His plan for your life" because impaired driving is a sin and God is not the author of sin.

Same thing with singleness. Why are we so quick to insist that singles see their singleness as "where God wants you to be right now", when so much singleness is directly and indirectly caused by sin?...and I'm not just "singling out" the single person here, but the sins of other people in that person's life, community, society that contribute to their prolonged singleness.

Also, I hope everyone realizes that asking these questions (instead of just shrugging our shoulders at them and saying "oh well, just accept the circumstance") and calling for reforms in teachings to single people is not "making an idol out of marriage".

thekid said...


I'm sorry for any upset I've caused by not being clear. I think our vocation as Christians is to a life of holiness regardless of our present circumstances and I see that you are on the same wavelength with that.

It is an interesting perspective you have on singleness being directly and indirectly caused by sin. I'm tempted to say the same thing about marriage these days... but then I think we just have to say that the world is drenched in sin and always has been. It affects us in every area of our life, right?

Anon, I've offended you and it wasn't my intention. Of course I'm not suggesting that daring to ask questions can be equated with making an idol out of marriage.
I guess I am lucky that I have never been in a church where singles were taught differently than other people. Using my imagination though, I am sure there is a myriad of different reforms to be made in all sorts of directions depending on the denomination or specific church.

I wish you the best and bid you peace.

Anonymous said...

No apologies necessary, kid (ugh...that sounds patronizing, but that is the nickname you've chosen!)

I think that what you've said is probably no different than what you've been told in church. I recognize it as the same old language used in teaching to singles in the church. It's just that you've come into this discuss right when a lot of that old language is being revised. We can no longer just stop at the contentment sermon-- there have been some really unhealthy ideas afoot that have made singles doubt if pursuing marriage is what God wants them to do.