A theological reevaluation is required by today’s church because the early church was familiar with singleness—
The church and culture both have the same problem of being intoxicated by marriage. The intoxication of marriage, particularly within the church, is toxic to Christians and congregations. The church needs to perform a theological reevaluation of singleness and of how being single is compatible with the Christian life.
A Need For A Theological Evaluation Of Singleness By The Modern Church
Theological Reevaluation, Augustine, And The Early Church
Pastor Tim Keller gave a sermon on the theology of singleness. That is a starting point for where the modern church can learn about the case for singleness from Scripture. However, the church requires a theological evaluation on “single,” what it means to be single, and how singleness fits into the Christian life as a united Body of Christ. Christians, whether married or single, are part of the Body of Christ. Being part of the Body of Christ together is more important than marriage.
There are ranges of singleness that church fathers’ recognized, especially Saint Augustine. Augustine writes about singleness that includes virginity, widowhood, and monasticism. These three classical types of singleness that the early church accepted and Saint Augustine theologically evaluated according to the framework of the creation, fall, and resurrection. While the early church was aware of singleness and how being single fit within the purpose of the church and the Body of Christ, the modern church has failed those who are single.
A problem with the modern church is that it focuses on the physical status: married or single. This narrows it view away from the spiritual and theological views that were the aim of Augustine’s studies. By moving away from the church’s three classical types of singleness, it has forgotten the spiritual and theological lessons those states teach while being part of the church. The modern church requires a theological reevaluation of what single means and how singleness fits within the church. Augustine’s study of Scripture after the resurrection found virgins, widows, and the monastic life as examples of singleness. Augustine argued that these three types of singleness, with varying degrees, allowed for Christians to freely follow Christ. This is because they are able to fully pursue Christ without the restraints of marriage and the distractions of a spouse. Further, singles are part of the spiritual family that is the Body of Christ.
Today’s church theological reevaluation can begin by returning to Scripture. It can start with Matthew 12:48-50 and Matthew 19:10-12. Christ asks the crowd, “’Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ And stretching His hands over his disciples, he said, ‘These are my brothers. Whoever does my Father’s will, that person is my brother and mother and sister'” (Mt 12:48-50). Here it can be seen that the Body of Christ is more important than the blood relations of family. Water is thicker than blood. Christ says in Matthew 19:12, “There are some who are born eunuchs; and there are others who are made eunuchs by man; and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone who is able to accept this accept it.” Will the church accept this Christ given mandate as it applies to singleness? The mandate is that these disciples are spiritual eunuchs who devoutly follow Christ without the distractions of marriage. They have their eyes looking towards God and the spiritual state rather than on the earthly body. The spiritual family and kingdom is greater than the physical earthly family.
There is a need for the church to return to the early church’s understanding singleness: virginity, widowhood, and monasticism. A return to tradition along with a theological reevaluation of what it means to be single will help today’s church to refocus its elevation of marriage. The combination of refocusing on the Body of Christ and studying singleness in light of creation, fall, and the resurrection will benefit the modern church.