One of the things we are taught in Christian culture or at least the evangelical/protestant version of it, is that in every area of life we should ask what does the bible say about it? In other words if I have a question in a certain context, I can look to the bible to find the answer to that question. This is because not only is the bible inspired, inerrant, and authoritative, it is also sufficient.
This is supposed to work on all moral issues obviously, but the idea here is that it also works for everything else. The bible is the “road map” that we are to follow. It is God’s instruction to us. In it is everything we need. Some will go so far to say that not only is a way to hear God’s voice, but it is the only way.
Now this works pretty well on a lot of moral issues. It can even work when you think about how we as people are supposed to treat each other. However, we can sort of start to run into some problems in certain contexts of life.
A few posts ago I wrote about that the fact that holiness is not THE point of marriage. Without rehashing all of that here, the main points were:
We often act as if there is not joy in marriage and that happiness isn’t even part of it, which is super counter productive to our culture at this time.
We’ve sort of created a context in which marriage is the answer to our supposed uncontrollable desire for sex. In other words we all desire sex, can’t control that desire, and therefore the only “holy” answer to that is marriage. This is theologically bad and practically creates all kinds of conundrums in our current culture.
But this raises many other questions not least of which is: what then makes you holy? Or maybe in this context a more exact question would be, when it comes to sexual desire, what is the path to holiness?
Carrie Underwood accidentally stirred the the twitter pot recently when in an interview with Redbook she said that at 35 she may have missed her chance to have a big family. This was of course one answer to one question in the interview but people jumped on it.
Now Carrie wasn’t trying to say that no one over 35 can have a kid. She also went on to say that they have talked about adoption and they do a lot to help kids which she enjoys. But that wasn’t good enough for many who insist that there are no limits to fertility.
I bring this up because I think we need to be honest about where our culture is at. Especially as we navigate singleness, marriage and children.
One of the recent trends in that I see in much of Christian culture is the idea that marriage makes you holy or that the point of marriage is holiness. In fact, as you look back over the last few decades (if not centuries in Protestantism), you see some groups state that it is the path to holiness.
Some of this was a reaction to celibacy for the kingdom previously being seen as more holy than the domestic life. But I see this idea of marriage as the path to holiness all of the time and frankly it’s not helpful as it views the whole frame in the wrong way.
Here are a couple of ways that this plays out in our culture:
One of the things that I’ve read on occasion and heard in conversations as well as from the pulpit, is the way to know if you have the gift of singleness is if you are single right now, then you’ve got it.
Now, in some evangelical circles, there is of course debate on whether singleness is a gift or even a calling at all. But I’m going to go ahead and side with 2000 years of Church history along with a straight reading of the scriptures and say that it is.
Here is the general idea of what these folks are selling. The basic idea is of course that God is sovereign and therefore whatever context you find yourself in is the one that God is “gifting” you with right now. If you are unmarried then right now you have the gift of singleness. Married? Then right now you have the gift of marriage. Both are gifts. All contexts we find ourselves in are gifts.
But in our current culture this idea is fraught with problems.
Many years ago when I was driving through Colorado Springs I saw a bumper sticker directed at Focus on the Family that said, “Focus On Your Own Family”. I thought it was sort of funny but I didn’t really give it a lot of thought. But the phrase sort of stayed with me. Whenever I’d see something from Focus I’d think about that sticker and smile.
But in thinking about it, this might actually be a good idea. Now to be clear, before I start, I like a lot of what Focus the organization does.* I’m not picking on them here. However, the Church’s focus on the nuclear family is a huge problem with far, far reaching implications.