Faith In Celibacy

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I think we would all agree that Christianity is built on faith, the belief in things we cannot see. We believe Christ is returning to earth to claim his virgin bride, the church. And we believe that the church’s virginity is only possible if individual members confess their sins. As Isaiah 1:18 states, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Or as 1 John 1:19 states, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But we must see things the way God intended, not the way the world has twisted them. Leading up to marriage, two people have faith that someone else is waiting for them, keeping all their sexual desires under control. Yes, God designed those two people to be virgins. I know. It makes the world cringe. And it includes men. Cringe even more. Virgins are not the adjectives you see in locker room graffiti or the buffoon characters in Hollywood movies. They are probably not the people you hear your preacher describe in church. But, most importantly, these “unknown” people have a choice. They can wait on an earthly marriage, as is common today, or they can wait on heavenly marriage, which is the uncommon spiritual gift of celibacy, and have the opportunity to be unknown the rest of their lives. Yes, I said opportunity. They have an opportunity to be barren and unknown with no family for the rest of their lives as far as the world and its kinship goes, but have so many spiritual children and siblings they can’t be counted. Young people today are not conscious of such a choice.  They go through no period of discernment and the church offers no alternative other than matrimony and the standard white picket fence. It’s “ring by spring” or nothing. Why?  It’s because churches today have very little faith, they follow the ways of the world, they worship the nuclear family, and they are still under the influence of Martin Luther and the Protestant reformation of some 500 years ago. The only tomorrow they know is the one they see in the eyes of their children and grandchildren. Unbeknownst to them, virgins are actually in a win-win situation because waiting for either one of those two marriages is what every Christian is called to do. And we can only wait one time because, even though it causes great pain to the world to think about, virginity is binary. That’s the way God designed creation. This is where marriage and celibacy intersect. The person waiting on marriage on earth has faith that they will meet their spouse soon and spend their time on earth together. The person waiting on marriage in heaven has faith that they will meet Christ soon and spend their time in eternity with him. Those two waits require totally different support. When the wait of celibacy fades out of the picture and is no longer respected, there is greater risk for society to elevate marriage to a place of sanctification, which is where we are today. If we do not provide young people a choice, we will never understand the spiritual nature of marriage or celibacy.

Even if that person with the gift of celibacy is as rare as 1 in a 1000 as Martin Luther claimed or 1 in a billion, it is still true. It doesn’t matter how many times a church says “most people.” That doesn’t make it so for everybody. The Southern Baptists have their foundational origins in segregation and slavery. Millions of people bought into those beliefs. Did it make them right? God puts just enough eunuchs on earth, male and female, to meet his needs. Our rarity ought to serve as a reinforcing agent for marriage and cut through the shortsighted quagmire that passes as faith today. Here’s why. If God created everything in this universe, he also created sex and the entire sexual process. Sexual desire had to be made strong in order for us to multiply. And that is a good thing, right? It had to be so strong that it would take a supernatural act of God for someone to resist it or, as Paul put it, for someone to “have power over his own will.” 1 Cor 7:37. Hence, we have the gift of celibacy and the gift of a supernatural faith.

Even if we do not exist in the statistics and opinion polls, as churches love to quote, our presence is nevertheless real and we have a responsibility to reproduce spiritually that eclipses the responsibility to reproduce biologically. Who are we to second-guess God’s numbers or set an “ideal age for marriage”? While marriage symbolizes Christ’s (groom) marriage to the church (bride), these marriages are temporary affairs. All of them will eventually end either in divorce or death, etc. Those who have the gift of celibacy, however, have a marriage that will not end in divorce or death. Their status as a virgin is the same today as it will be in heaven. Their commitment to Christ is just as real today as it will be in heaven. Their anticipation of the arrival of Christ is more real than anybody’s anticipation of a spouse or birth of a child. But their waiting takes a much larger leap of faith, as it should, than those waiting on husbands and wives and children. Even though it may take a little more blurring of the eyes to see the symbolism, people with the celibate gift literally guard in their own personhood what the church guards symbolically. We should see ourselves already separated from this world and drawing closer to Christ, with one foot on the ground and the other foot in heaven. Our advent should be more urgent than anything expressed in traditional candles and wreaths. So while earthly marriages symbolizes Christ’s marriage to the church, the celibate gift symbolizes eternity in heaven after the wedding is over. Like a landing signal officer on aircraft carriers, we point the way to our final destination. Marriage has not caused us detours. In other words, the person with the gift of celibacy has the capacity to serve as a witness for Christ that goes beyond the symbolic because he/she is closer to landing on the ship and closer to God. Since there will be no marriages in heaven, we represent a part of eternity that can be seen today. That does not mean we are perfect. It does not mean we should climb up on rooftops and boast about it. It should be something that other people see in us, a faith so real that it’s visible. That should speak for itself.

Did You Hear Of Celibacy?

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Recently, Nic Gibson, the pastor at a mega church in Madison, WI wrote a blog post titled, “Dear Single People, From Your Local Pastor,” in which he talked about how people with the gift of singleness can “flee and hide better and cannot be extorted through dependent family members.”  I don’t know about everybody else, but I’ve been in plain site my whole life.  But  here we have another married man with multiple children who thinks he’s an expert on the topic.  Par for the course.  Let me say this right here:  Husbands and fathers, you are not qualified to write about celibacy.  When you do, you only show how much you don’t know.  In the comment section, I asked him, as I have hundreds of other supposed experts, to name one pastor who had the gift of celibacy.  Since the U.S. has over 300,000 Protestant churches and over half  the population is single, you would expect there to be at least 150,000 single pastors, especially if marriage and celibacy are of the same value, as preachers like to tout.  But he couldn’t name one (see footnote 1):

“I don’t think I can name a single pastor off the top of my head right now, however some of the great ones in church history were single. John Wesley was single most of his life. Charles Simeon I believe was single his entire life- maybe the greatest English pastor of the 18th century. John Stott was single for all of his life. The fact is that most churches won’t touch a single person, not for primarily biblical reasons, but for reasons of sociology and bigotry.”

Bigotry.  At least he was honest.  Imagine the public’s reaction if there was not a single African-American person employed in the United States today, if there was not a single minority represented in the Fortune 500 Companies.  There would be so much upheaval that what happened in Montgomery, Alabama during the 1960’s would look like child’s play. But a church?  It’s do as they say – not do as they do.  They’ll cancel church services to be with their families if Christmas happens to fall on Christmas day, as many of them did this year.  But a person has to die first and have their life analyzed to determine if they had the gift of celibacy. How encouraging.  How equal that makes celibacy to marriage. And they assume all unmarried adults are living selfish and non-committed lives, but that marriage automatically bestows a sanctified status of salvation.  That’s why I don’t recognize marriages today. Couples have to die first so that I can determine if they were faithful to each other.  Otherwise, they’re just another couple of cohabitators.  It’s beyond hypocrisy that churches stake their entire Christian theology on marriage licenses, wedding ceremonies, nuclear families, and a few bags of rice, when the Christ they worship was a never married man.  Even the word celibacy makes them uncomfortable.  I’ve seen it first hand many times, eyes dropping and face turning flush.  It forces them to think about their own bankrupt marriages and unfaithful sex lives. Because, let’s face it, most marriages today are pretenses. They are about as biblical as the fruit punch served at wedding receptions; merely social and legal arrangements setup as a means to entitlement and division of assets after they part ways. They’re not about two people becoming one flesh and being faithful to each other for the rest of their lives. They are about two people “putting a ring on it” and being socially recognized as full-fledged responsible adults with a ticket to have sex with each other, as long as both are agreeable.  As marriage-idolater and Baptist theologian Al Mohler puts it,”marriage is the God-given context for the achievement of maturity in adulthood (see footnote 4).  As a matter of fact, author Tim Challies says marriage is nothing more than a ring on a finger and the gift of singleness is the absence of a ring (see footnote 2):

“How can you know if you have the gift of singleness? I don’t meant to be trite, but you can go about it this way: Look at your ring finger. No ring? You’ve got the gift of singleness. Ring?  You’ve got the gift of marriage.”

Wow, how simple Ernie.  Can you hold up your finger?   Faithfulness?  Who cares.  Commitment?  What does it matter?  Symbolizing Christ’s marriage to the church?  Are you kidding?  All that matters to Challies and churches today is the ring on the finger.  Because faith for the church today literally goes no further than skin deep.  Challies and Josh Byers actually have a book out now titled “Visual Theology” in which they explain how their faith is based on what they can visualize (see footnote 3).  That’s why celibacy flies in the face of their superficial faith.  It remains invisible in a sex worship society.  It forces husbands and wives to look at their own culture of adultery, divorce, remarriage, broken families, legal separations, child support, alimony payments, paternity tests, pregnancies out of wedlock, abortion and fertility clinics, supervised visitations, dependent children, restraining orders, battered spouses, biological dads, biological moms, civil unions, de facto parents, inheritances,  annulments, financial statements, prenuptial agreements, shared custodies, safe houses, and same sex marriages. It forces them to think about their own chastity and the people they had sex with before they married/remarried and their own hypocritical witnesses. It forces them to come face to face with their culture of greed and entitlement and consider the few people who have said “no” to the family-centered gospel of prosperity. And importantly, it forces them to acknowledge that there are those who have not had all their desires met, whose lives have not been ruled by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with sex as a basic human need on the same level as food, water, and oxygen. Celibacy makes them think of their comfortable cocoons of pleasure and convenience, surrounded by a white picket fence of security the church calls a “family.”  It makes them think about the possibility of somebody living a life of self-control and patience. That’s not possible in their calvinized “fallen world.” In short, it takes the air out of their sails and words out of their mouths. Where does this leave the young people who venture into church today trying to discern a life of marriage or celibacy?  Totally confused.  They will hear nothing about a choice between marriage and celibacy or see any real examples of celibate life, other than being told they’re all dead.   I get it church. I really do.  Segregation and discrimination run deep in your pews and they give you a sense of security.  Yes, you have to protect your families, but you can’t do that at the expensive of half truths.  As we all know, half truths are one hundred percent lies.  This is nowhere more evident than in the church.  Take a look at God’s creation and the natural dichotomies built into it; heaven and earth, day and night, hot and cold, sea and land, morning and evening. Then there’s marriage and . . . did you hear of celibacy?  Their balance is part of God’s creation.  It doesn’t take equal numbers, but equal value and respect.  If you don’t start demonstrating how much value you place on those called to celibate life, that void will be filled in by abominations you can’t imagine.

  1. https://hpcmadison.com/2016/10/22/dear-single-people-from-your-local-pastor-part-1/comment-page-1/#comment-3526
  2. http://www.challies.com/articles/what-is-the-gift-of-singleness.
  3. https://www.amazon.com/Visual-Theology-Seeing-Understanding-Truth/dp/0310520436
  4. http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/08/20/looking-back-at-the-mystery-of-marriage-part-two/