Celibacy And Authenticity


Even for the few preachers who do mention anything about the gift of singleness from the pulpit, it all falls flat when you see them getting in their SUVs after church with wives and children in tow. Then you realize that they were only talking about the circumstance of singleness before marriage. Or, more specifically, the circumstance of their daughter’s singleness as they face up to the fact that there are few good men left. “Don’t worry honey. We’ll find one for you. You’ve got the gift of singleness for now.” Yes, we live in a society that worships sex. In such a society, celibacy can’t be allowed to be authentic. But how did we get here? Well, there are several underlying factors that have crossed my mind. I’ve already mentioned one of them. Protestants only hire married preachers. Most of them have kids too. And they have wives who can play the piano and do nursery duty. So it’s at least a double bonus package deal for the church hiring them. Which sets up a classic blackmail scenario right from the start because a preacher’s livelihood depends on the church’s tithes and offerings. They wouldn’t even have medical insurance without the church. They are furnished with nice pastoriums, “love offerings,” and some churches even provide the preacher’s children with scholarships. Are they in any position to say anything that would make one person in their church uncomfortable or withhold one dime from the offering plates? I don’t think so. Basically their hands are tied when it comes to telling Bible truth. They’re only allowed to preach what is comfortable. Some churches claim they are only obeying “the husband of but one wife” command in Timothy 3:2 when they hire married preachers. But it’s clear to me that Timothy meant that if the man was married he had to be a one-woman man. Preachers try to give credibility to this false belief by claiming they can relate to both marriage and singleness because they were once single too, which is not to clever. That’s like a man saying he can relate to being an astronaut because he went for a balloon ride when he was a kid. Marriage and celibacy are not even in the same universe. Which brings us to reason #2. Celibacy has no authenticity because such a long-term commitment has no plausibility in a culture that only celebrates marriage as a short term means to an end, a short term means to prosperity and happiness. It follows then that the only status that would have any value in their churches is the short-term singleness of “true love waits” until marriage. I’ve asked many preachers what the opposite of marriage was, and 100% of them said it was singleness until marriage. It seems like in their minds they somehow see chastity before marriage as being the opposite of committed sex in marriage. They are unable to place any value on the long-term chastity in celibacy, yet if both lifestyles have “equal value before God” as a lot of them claim, shouldn’t both of them be of equal longevity and sacrifice? With that kind of theology, “singleness” is indeed in the same universe as marriage. It’s a stone’s throw away. It’s this kind of hypocrisy that has killed the authenticity of the church. Which brings me to reason #3. They don’t see celibacy as a viable alternative to marriage because they still see mankind as a slave to his desires. They are still living in the “fallen” reality of Adam and Eve, while at the same time trying to convince the world that their nuclear families represent Christianity itself to a lost world. Christianity without celibacy is like marriage without a wife.

The fourth reason celibacy has no authenticity in Protestant churches is that they don’t see any necessity for discerning between it and marriage. They see celibacy as something unnatural and evil that only Catholics practice. They are still protesting it and . . . whatever else they protested some 500 years ago. They don’t want their children to think about such things. They want them on track for a ring by spring and a bun in the oven. What good is retirement without grand kids? If only Paul could setup a phone conference with their preachers. “But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin – this man also does the right thing (1 Cor 7:35).” Which brings us to the 5th reason celibacy has no authenticity. In their world, this man not only does the wrong thing, but also commits the sin of not being “fruitful” and “manning up.” Men with control over their wills don’t exist in their churches. The Southern Baptist’s David Platt, a high-ranking officer in the SBC, even contends that celibacy is a sin because it “nullifies reproduction.” They also believe that homosexuality is a sin not because the Bible says it is, but because two people of the same gender can’t have kids.

“It is not a misunderstanding of Genesis 1 and 2, a misrepresentation. It is total defiance of the picture of Genesis 1 and 2 when it comes to the picture of sexuality in Genesis 1 and 2. It nullifies reproduction. It defies the design of God and marriage in Genesis 2:24 and it takes sexual expression outside of that context and it brings it into our lives. It is direct disregard of Genesis 1 and 2.”  See footnote 1.

Think about the Baptist’s rules a second. No homosexuality. No celibacy. No singleness. What does that leave? You guessed it. Holy and righteous marriage. Breaking news for Baptists: There are other people who don’t have kids and are not homosexuals. Their lifestyles are probably godlier than those of the people sitting in your churches. Yes, homosexuality is a sin, but it’s not because a person lacks children. Somebody needs to introduce Platt to the New Testament. Wait, how many theological degrees does he have? Outside the command to not commit adultery in the Ten Commandments, there is not a sexual ethic in the Old Testament that can be transferred to the New Testament and to our lives today.

The 6th reason is because celibacy is still defined as what a person is not supposed to have by means of religious vows, not what a person does have by means of voluntary sacrifice for a greater good. Protestants see us pitiful souls trying to fight back sexual desires at every turn, always just one step away from raping, groping, or sexually harassing someone. We are people they need to guard their children against. Imagine their shock when they find out Christ is celibate and doesn’t welcome their children into heaven anyway. Because when he returns, there will be no second chances.

The 7th reason is that we are still living under the false notion that sexual values can be taught from an academic standpoint. That is wrong. Sex education classes may go over mechanics. But they can’t teach values. Those can only be transferred to another person through one-on-one modeling, not reading something in a book. Ideally, such modeling would come from a young person’s parents. But many of them today don’t have such luxury. Real mentors don’t have official job titles and most of them go unknown, which is quite okay. They take it upon themselves to be the mothers and fathers young people don’t have. There’s not much chance this is going to occur in churches because they have everybody so age-segregated. By modeling, I mean qualified to exemplify chastity before marriage and faithfulness in marriage. For example, those who are saving sex for marriage can support others who are saving sex for marriage. Those who have the charism of celibacy can support others who have the charism of celibacy or who are discerning between it and marriage. Those who are not called to celibate life can do little to counsel someone who is, no matter how many years they have been preaching, no matter how many years they have taught Sunday School, no matter how many degrees they have, and no matter how old they are. I know some people think celibacy can’t be a spiritual gift because we don’t “do” anything like healing or speaking in tongues. I think that’s why Paul included it separately in 1 Corinthians 7. It’s a being gift, not a doing gift. Sacrificing marriage and sex and children for the cause of heaven itself is far more life altering than a dozen marriages. Just like the checkered flag in a NASCAR race signals the last lap, we signal that time is almost up for mankind when all of us will be standing before God alone with no spouse or family to learn our fate, whether we are beamed up to heaven or dropped down to hell; and that regardless of where we end up there will be no husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, preachers, or Sunday School teachers.

The 8th reason celibacy is given no authenticity is because many Protestant churches believe that a person comes to Christ by confessing and repenting of sexual sins only and “redeeming” them through marriage. This is especially true in cases of young couples with out of wedlock children who are led to believe that Genesis 2:18 tells them they were just being fruitful and multiplying. “No harm, no foul. Just let us give you a right hand of Christian fellowship so you can come back next Sunday and put more money in our plates.” There are two main problems with this line of thinking. First, celibacy was an option for them. Even if their parents didn’t tell them about it, their preachers didn’t preach about it, or their friends didn’t tell them about it, it was still an option. So their only option in life was not to lose control somehow in some circumstance and have sex and get pregnant. Second, Christ had not come into the world in Genesis 2:18 when God commanded the ancient Jewish people to be fruitful and multiply to populate the earth and add numbers to the Israelite armies. After his birth, death, and resurrection, all of this Old Testament fruitfulness with babies was replaced with fruitfulness of souls, and celibacy was given a position of importance over marriage, even if it’s not realized in this present age. Read about the memorial to eunuchs in heaven and how they will be given “a name better than that of sons and daughters” in Isaiah 56.

1. http://www.radical.net/resources/sermons/the-gospel-and-homosexuality/