Protestant Opposition to Celibacy

Outside discussions about gay and lesbian people, I’ve found that most Protestants tend to have a very low view of celibacy. This manifests itself in a number of ways. For example, single seminary graduates often find that it can be difficult to become a pastor in an evangelical church without being married. Lack of marriage can be viewed with suspicion, as an indication that people are likely to fall to sexual sin. Some even argue that failure to marry is a sinful shirking of adult responsibility.

Solitary Tree

Underlying much of this attitude is the belief that for the vast majority of people, celibacy is either impossible or cannot be fulfilling. For example, many Protestants blame the Catholic sex abuse scandal on the requirement that priests remain unmarried, and this is taken as a cautionary tale against an expectation of celibacy. Many Protestants see celibate living as a needless source of loneliness, and as the sort of thing that can be viewed as a form of punishment. On the other hand, they see marriage as the universal solution to the problems of loneliness and sexual temptation.

This relates to the increasing movement of Protestant communities in the direction of viewing marriage as a legitimate vocation for same-sex couples. It is becoming increasingly well-known that there are people with a stable, enduring pattern of attraction to people of the same sex, without corresponding attractions to people of the opposite sex. There are a number of such people who blog here on Spiritual Friendship (although I’m not actually one of them). For such people, marriage to someone of the opposite sex can bring significant issues and is not always advisable.

Many Protestants find the idea that these people could need to remain celibate to be unthinkable. I don’t doubt this was a major reason that many supported the ex-gay movement’s idea that people could develop feelings for the opposite sex. This was a way to “solve the problem of gay people” within a framework that allowed them to continue to see marriage as the universal solution to loneliness and sexual temptation.

However, this approach has been falling apart for some time now. It has become increasingly clear that some of the claims of ex-gay organizations were less than honest, and that putting hope in orientation change is, for many, a false hope.

This reality is forcing the Protestant world to deal with the uncomfortable tension between typical views of celibacy and the traditional understanding of marriage as being only between a man and a woman. If celibacy is punishment—cruel or impossible to expect of people—how can there be people whose only desired sexual relationship is off-limits? I think that the move to see same-sex marriage as a legitimate Christian vocation is often an attempt to escape this tension without having to question the prevailing view of celibacy.

But is this the right way to resolve that tension? Or could it be our view of celibacy that is the real problem?

I think it’s important to examine the source of our beliefs. For example, I often hear the claim that views affirming same-sex marriage as a Christian vocation are simply the result of following our culture. However, I find it interesting how similar the Protestant view of celibacy I described is to the view of wider American culture. The only real difference I see is that the Protestant world expects sexual intimacy to occur within one particular, lifelong romantic relationship, rather than to romantic relationships as a broad category. I think that our broader culture idolizes romantic relationships, and we often respond by turning God’s good gift of marriage into an idol. Are we following our culture’s leading with too little thought?

Historically speaking, Protestant criticism of celibacy dates as far back as the Reformation itself. Several of the early Protestant Reformers such as Luther criticized the Catholic mandate that priests be celibate. While as a Protestant I agree that this requirement went beyond Scripture and was unjustified, I think the Reformers often swung too far in the opposite direction. This is not to say that all Protestant thinking on celibacy has been universally negative. For example, several respected single missionaries and leaders such as Lottie Moon, Amy Carmichael, and John Stott have spoken positively of their celibacy. Popular Reformed pastor John Piper also gave an excellent sermon on singleness. However, negative views of celibacy have been common throughout Protestant history and continue strongly today.

But what does Scripture actually teach? Many Protestants claim that their negative view of celibacy comes from the Bible. However, I’m not so sure they’re following what the text actually says. I’ll summarize my biggest concerns.

The biggest concern I see is the way that the direct teaching of Scripture too often seems to be either ignored or worked around. For example, both Jesus (Matthew 19:10-11) and Paul (1 Corinthians 7:37-38) teach that, when feasible, it is better for the unmarried to remain unmarried. I don’t get the sense that most Protestants actually believe this teaching, and that concerns me.

One common attempt I see to escape this teaching is to point to Paul’s reference to the “present distress” in 1 Corinthians 7:26 and to similar themes in verses 29-31. The basic argument is that Paul only suggested celibacy due to his particular context, and that his words shouldn’t be applied more broadly. I see at least three problems with this approach. First, this reasoning only addresses the teaching of Paul, and not the teaching of Christ. Second, its presence in the structure of Paul’s argument seems to be embedded in the discussion of the betrothed in particular (verses 25-38), and may not even be relevant to Paul’s own teaching earlier in the chapter. Third, this argument ignores the more detailed reasoning Paul provides in verses 32-35, and Paul’s further reasoning is just as applicable today as it was then.

Relatedly, Protestants often neglect to grapple with the reality that celibacy requires a significant amount of self-control, even for those gifted with it (1 Corinthians 7:8-9), and that it sometimes results from factors other than personal choice (Matthew 19:12). When people argue that those who desire marriage are universally called to marriage, that people really called to celibacy will not deal with sexual temptation, or that celibacy must be a voluntary calling, they flatly contradict what the text actually says. For those of us who view Scripture as authoritative, this is a big problem.

A more legitimate point of concern from Scripture is Paul’s acknowledgment that marriage is a proper alternative to “burning with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9). Paul points to marriage as his typical advice. However, I’m not sure that it’s responsible to read this as an absolute promise that God’s provision will always come in the form of marriage. Based on the context within the passage, I think Paul’s reasoning was directed at those who already had the immediate option of marrying. Because Scripture is clear that marriage is not inherently sinful, it makes sense that Paul proposes it as an alternative to something that actually is (Matthew 5:28).

When marriage is a live option, proposing marriage as an alternative to lust does not require any pastoral creativity. However, many people (and not just gay people) do not have marriage as a readily available option. In such cases, we’re going to need more thinking. I think we Protestants need to acknowledge the reality of involuntary celibacy so that we can start thinking through the hard questions that result. Our call to love our fellow believers and to pursue holiness requires no less.

36 thoughts on “Protestant Opposition to Celibacy

  1. Pingback: Protestant Opposition to Celibacy | Heather Tomlinson's Blog

  2. Jeremy,

    Thanks for your reflections on celibacy. Having experiencing a divorce after 23 years of marriage, I had the opportunity to discover both the challenges and blessings of celibacy–and there are both.

    All scripture is contextual–there is no systematic theology found in Scripture, but only discussions or responses to situations. The only reason/s Jesus and Paul could say that being celibate is “better” is under certain conditions (e.g., physical limitations, circumstances beyond one’s control, a choice). Jesus was addressing the commitment (or lack thereof due to a hard heart) needed in marriage. Paul was addressing misguided teaching about marriage from false apostles. Both discussions were centered on marriage, with celibacy being another option. It certainly was not–and is not the “norm” per the number of marriages vs. singles (of marrying age). If in creation, the God who said that everything was not only good but very good, then said that it is not good for man(kind) to be alone–and the Creator’s solution was not just creating a woman friend, but a woman spouse (leaving/cleaving/becoming one), then I would think that this would be an overall precedent for how loneliness is to be generally and “normally” addressed.

    But my experience of celibacy was not a bad one at all; in fact, I learned that there are many advantages of being single, and I enjoyed to a great degree that time of my life as I learned to hone commitment and allow the Spirit to develop the fruit of self control even stronger than when previously married, as well as develop very close holy ties with both men and women. (I remarried.)

    Thus I am certainly not one who opposes celibacy. I do agree with you that there are roles for singles (think Jesus, Paul!), but the Creator’s intention appears to have been for a married partnership for life–and our world seems to reflect that understanding, imperfectly for sure, but nevertheless, by the continued majority of adults who are married (and by those who are living together ‘playing like they are married.’) I uphold a high view of celibacy for special and unique purposes (e.g., Jesus needed to be single most likely to carry out his very busy agenda for his 3+ years of public ministry), but I lean strongly toward the model of a life-long partnership in marriage as modeled by Jesus and his bride, the church.

    Blessings,

    Steve

  3. As always Jeremy I enjoy your posts. Your gentle logical way of understanding this topic makes perfect sense and I feel encouraged. As well, I am sure others draw encouragement from your words. I hope to lay out a thoughtful response to your thoughts to see if we might connect on some points.

    Within the comforts of a nurturing environment I think celibacy is possible, but still, there is lingering doubt that it is possible for all. I say this as I reflect upon my own experience. I go through long periods of equilibrium within my sexual temperament and then there are the difficult times of intense struggle which I manage to get through. I reflect on those difficult periods with deep despondency because there is not an equal return on investment after I ‘get through’ the battle— the spiralling, the suffering, the lingering wounds— the feelings of something unrequited and lost.

    The vicious cycle wears a person down and the times of refreshing are felt more as relief from the battle rather than growth or moving forward. I know Jesus was and is ever present with me. I draw strength from Him even in the worst struggle just by knowing He is there with each step I take. But I have sensed for some time that Jesus was coaxing me to put down the burden I was carrying and this is not a war He wants me to sacrifice my life for. So it was the war itself which began to trouble me, because I can no longer grasp the ultimate purpose in it. Specifically, the purpose of killing my sexual attractions as if they were illicit desires— denying my romantic feelings as if they were the demise of my spiritual life— focusing on my sexaul struggles as if sex is the end all to be all of my Christian journey. That practice of constantly checking myself has not been successful in moving me forward spiritually.

    My sexuality is not the worst thing about me and is not the most broken thing about me. So I let go of it — the debate, the conflict, the crutches and reinforcements, the belief that if I only do this one thing I am saved and blessed by God. As a result my sexual orientation was not utmost in my mind anymore. This change of perspective has led to every aspect of my being reaching out for renewal. As I have taken the focus off navel gazing my sexuality— I gave permission for life and love to pour into all aspects of my heart, mind and soul. I have found rest and assurance.

    So I would suggest that this is a question of conscience and freedom for many people. If we respect those who do not think same sex behaviour is sin and who are in same sex marriages as equal Christians of the faith we don’t have to fear this opens up everyone to pursue those relationships. Just like divorce did not make every married couple separate but rather it accommodated those in particular life circumstances. And although, I do not see same sex marriage presented within scripture, I see God’s mercy, compassion and accommodation reflected there— by way of His unwavering grace.

    In realistic terms we have people in all various stages of maturity, environment and life situations. Some people who accept Christ as their Saviour and Lord are LGBT. They have spouses and children. They have extended families. They are tied to communities and workplaces by their memories and shared life. It is speaking violence to ask same sex couples to separate themselves from each other in order for them to be equal in the church.(I know some would think that this is the kind of violence and tearing apart Christ would want— but think again— the only division Christ speaks about is division over who He is and that is another discussion). I think we can find unity as we challenge each other to welcome those parts of Christ’s body we have never seen at the table before.

  4. Kathy,

    First I want to tell you I want to understand you better. My question is, how do you understand this:

    Mat 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
    Mat 10:38 and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.
    Mat 10:39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

    • Hi Rosamin

      Coincidentally, I just finished listening to a commentary on this passage a few minutes ago and now I am reading your comment. I thought you might like the randomness of that 🙂

      Oftentimes we find ourselves confronted with passages from the Bible that people use for the purpose of either condoning their beliefs, supporting their argument, or justifying their actions. Similar to how a trend gets started, Bible passages and what they ‘should ‘ mean, become popularized and we recognize them immediately. Over time these snippets of scripture, used in this way, take on a static meaning which is passed on from Christian to Christian and we no longer have to step back and go hmmm or question how the passage is being used or what it was originally meant to convey. Much like Pavlovian conditioning Bible passages are ‘used’ or misused to elicit a response. To further complicate the process the ones who started the trend were and are most often in positions of religious authority to which we felt obliged to obey. Because most people are not trained theologians and have busy lives they don’t have the time to critically think about scripture and rely on others to expand on the meaning.

      Rosamin, simply throwing scripture out there and asking me to tell you what I take from it says much about what you think of what I wrote. Yet you haven’t explained your purpose. Is that because you assume I know what you mean based on the traditional application of this particular passage? Therefore your request could actually be taken as a reproof rather than a sincere desire to know what I think. Is that the case? If not then I stand corrected.

      We are limited in our ability to communicate as we are only posting comments and not talking over a meal eh?

      In any event I will overlook that and tell you what I understand about Matthew 10:37-39. First of all I prefer using the New Jerusalem Bible translation because it has the best translation from the original languages.

      “37 ‘No one who prefers father or mother to me is worthy of me. No one who prefers son or daughter to me is worthy of me.38 Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me.39 Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”

      I think verse 37 speaks to the first commandment. Verse 38 tells us that following Christ means we do everything we can to serve God and our neighbor to the point of dying for them if it comes to that because that is how Jesus lived and verse 39 is related to the context of the whole theme of persecution in the chapter in which we are willing to confess Jesus is Lord despite what others think or do to us. If we lose everything we have because of persecution we find our life is not lost but in God’s care.

      • Hi,

        I have given Mat 10:37-39 and the answer from Kathy some thought and I think I am ready to share what I see in Mat 10:37-39 in a thoughtful and careful way, hopefully without offense to anyone.

        Mat 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
        It is true what Kathy says: This is about the first commandment which tells us to love God above anything or anyone else. But what does it mean to love God? It means first of all to obey him to the point of surrendering our most cherished relationships to Him. For instance, if my husband and I are infertile we have to surrender the need to become parents to Him and not attend to become parents through illicit means such as artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization because these techniques corrupt the plan of God for us.

        Mat 10:38 and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.
        Kathy is also right, this means that we must follow Christ in serving God and others. But how do we follow Christ? What does taking up our cross means? What does dying with Christ means? We are most likely never going to suffer death in a wooden cross. But this scripture is meant for us here and now. So what does it mean? Again, it means to obey God. Taking up the cross is painful because it means to nail down our most basic desires, such as the desire of a barren woman to be a mother. Even when her desire to be a mother tears her apart. Even when the instinct to become a mother is so very strong she still can’t resort to artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization because these procedures break up God’s plan for humanity and thus, they are illicit.

        Mat 10:39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
        Yes, this can be seen as dealing with persecution. But as the previous passage, this must mean something for us here and now. It is unlikely that we will suffer a full blown persecution because of our religion. So what does this passage means for us under our present conditions? We have to lose our lives for His sake. We have to go through the surrendering of our desires, our most intimate desires, and this involves suffering. Thus surrendering our lives means that we will suffer. But, is it useless suffering? Not if we do it for His sake because suffering for Him will transform it into redemptive suffering and this is the only way to participate in God’s very own life. Again this means that not everything is licit to me. If I try to become a mother trough illicit means I’m trying to “find my life”. I hold on to my life, to what I want, to what I think I need. But if I surrender my very intimate yearning to Him and reject illicit means of becoming a mother, I am dying with Him and will be resurrected with Him. It will be painful, very painful but it will bear delicious fruit.

        And that’s how I think Mat 10:37-39 affects my life in the here and now. This is how I believe Christians ought to live in order to enjoy right now the Kingdom of God.

      • God bless you Rosamin! Thank you for your response. My heart goes out to you with love and prayers and hugs! I get your wrestling and have asked the same questions you ask. Obviously it is not my place to answer them, for you, although I have answers for myself and sometimes those answers are not crystal clear but take the form of stepping out in faith. Don’t be concerned about saying something controversial. It is good for you to get your thoughts out there. And, as a sister in Christ I accept your place of belief and experience. So there is no shame in expressing yourself. I want to share something about my own conversion and background because you said earlier you wanted to understand me. I hope I don’t offend anyone either ! 🙂

        The beliefs I held as a child, as a youth, as a young adult, as an older broken adult have challenged me for years. The process of redemption for me has most often been outside of a physical church building. I was raised in a ‘we-are-not-practising- religion’ home. The one thing I remember being on the walls— or on my mother’s lips was the serenity prayer. I was given my own personal Bible at age twelve; a gift from my godmother after I was confirmed. A Bible I still have. We went to an Anglican church on special occasions like Christmas or Easter. I first came to believe in God through an experience I had when I was all by myself in a field looking up at the clouds, smelling the sweetness of wild grass and watching a bumble bee lumber from dandelion to dandelion. There was no church around me— no people— just the cathedral of nature humming in my ears. I blurted out the words “I love you God” with an unexpected joy. From that point on I labelled my belief as a belief in Christ because that was the religious frame of reference I came from. It has been a long journey to reconcile the difference between my innocent belief, on that day, and a deeply understood posture of contrition, humility and repentance through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. The question, ‘What does it mean to lay down my life?’ has remained a question all my life— not an answer. A question that continues to propel me to my knees in prayer to seek God’s direction.

        How do we face and deal with those challenges, we have, which don’t fit the ideal such as being LGBT or being infertile or being disabled? We can be open to God’s teaching through experience, through people, through an organized church, through the Bible. Yet, as much as we want clear answers we may continually be confounded and the people who give us advice are human beings and doctrine or church constructs do not perfectly contain God. It is still up to us to make the final decision on how we live and the choices we make. I think God grants us that freedom. It is the freedom of conscience and choice. Not choices that are judged and sifted through as right or wrong, but choices we make which flow from God’s grace as we discern His will for us and we do our utmost for Him— in the hard place we find ourselves— esteeming Christ most of all.

        If anyone is in an organized religious body which teaches doctrine, which they don’t believe in, they have more than one choice (1) they can submit to church authority (2) they can question/criticise the church or (3) they can leave the church. But, no matter what choice we make we can still be called Christians and we are still part of the body of Christ— no matter if we obey, question, or leave the organized church of our preferred denomination— we abide in Christ. We can never lose faith in Him. This is the reality for each of us who are born to different circumstances, cultures and nationalities. Each of us experiences life differently and it may mean we never catch up to each other or stand in the same place or believe all the same things at the same time. Therefore, God’s grace is enough for all of that and all of us. It might even be enough for more than we can imagine. And none of this will matter when we see His radiant face.

        Rosamin, I don’t have any investment in any particular kind of church. I want to meet with Christians and have that corporate worship and fellowship every once and awhile— weekly would be nice. But primarily I try each and everyday to keep my focus on Jesus, do good unto others and learn from my mistakes. The most I ever got involved in church was after I left home and I attended a fundamentalist church for eight years. It was an extremist Sabbath keeping -End time prophecy church which did considerable emotional and psychological harm. They taught you must turn your back on your unbelieving family (even if they were Christians because they didn’t believe Christ like the one true church did) They taught you had to stop keeping popular religious holidays, stop listening to secular music, stop appreciating non-christian art and literature, you must be ever eat unclean foods or dress in ways inappropriate to your gender, no short hair or trendy jeans, and you must quit your job if it conflicted with Sabbath keeping and whatever else was a ‘literal’ truth in scripture dictated from the pulpit. And yet this is not an extremist problem. I see the same subtle and not so subtle patterns in most every church I have attended. This is not an isolated problem in one denomination, rather it is an ‘organized church’ problem. So my question is— do we ask something of people which Jesus did not ask of them— in the name of taking up their cross?

        It is similar to how a visual illusion works. We see a face in a tree. It looks like a face but in truth it is not. Yet if we are superstitious we might be led to believe we saw a face in the tree and create some sort of special belief around that experience. I think human beings are prone to that. All of us are. Illusions are natural and sometimes unintentional because we are efforting to make sense of what we see. Seeing is tied to perceiving is tied to believing. We put together Christ’s words to make meaning for ourselves in the midst of our own personal suffering. However Christ never teaches we must add to our suffering a stoic helplessness or a prison of our own construction or to suffer further indignities at the hands and bequests of others. In surrendering our desires our desires can be fulfilled through Christ— but what that means for me as a biological being following Christ is understood through my relationships with others. What if God turns around and leaves a gift behind? And what if that gift is a person?

        Persecution, because of Christ, is different from what we suffer in this life as a result of cards being dealt to us. It was the ministry of Jesus to provide relief for those who suffered— not to ask them to continue to suffer. Taking up our cross is the act of proclaiming “Jesus is Lord !” despite what others think or say or do to us. Further to that is the suffering we are asked to endure for the sake of Christ and others. Enduring shame, forgiving over and over again, long suffering, sharing our belongings… There is a case to be made for the inward crucifixion of desires and temptations. I would even say— as I tread gently here because we are fragile people— as far as the ‘self’. But we don’t want to damage people by saying they must sacrifice their ‘self’ in a destructive way. Rather we can say “we are a new creature in Christ” therefore, we are now turned to God rather than turned away from Him. (1 Peter 4:3, 1 John 2:16, Eph. 4:22) And as we turn towards God nothing changes about our biology except now we have the Spirit given to us, who teaches and comfort us. So as we journey with God our perspective changes such as our worldview, how we view our neighbour and the hope ahead of us. So I don’t believe our sacrifice is meant to extend to our basic personal needs. We are biological beings as well as children of God. And coupled with that is an outwards demonstration of taking up our cross which is our sacrifice in service to God and humanity.

      • I’m sorry Kathy, I appreciate your response but as a result I see an even greater breach opening between you and I and I just can’t say anything else at this precise moment. For now I can only hope God blesses you and leave it as it is. Thank you again.

      • Kathy,

        When I was a child I trusted my mother without second thought and did what she ask me to do. Then I became a teenager and I started questioning all of my mother’s advice. At the time all of her rules seemed arbitrary and meant only to hinder my longings and dreams. Now I’m an adult and clearly see her wisdom and her love for me. I can see that if I had taken her advice during my teenage years I would have been better off, happier and healthier.

        The Church is my Mother, Kathy. And I am still not fully matured. I need Her advice. But because of my experience with my mother I am convinced that my Mother’s rules are not arbitrary but meant for my own good. As I continue to strive to follow Her rules I continue to realize how wise and wonderful they are, how they are meant to draw me ever closer to God.

        God gives us freedom to choose but not all choices bring us closer to Him. He need to follow the narrow path just like He wants us to and then we will realize that it is actually the only path.

        God bless you.

      • Rosamin

        I appreciate the circumstances and way in which your faith has been formed. I shared my story to help you understand how my faith was formed. I wouldn’t ask you to change anything at all that supports and affirms your faith. Or anyone who helps you with advice and wisdom.

        My thoughts are more on the overview when speaking about these things in a public forum. So I am thinking of all circumstances not just mine or yours yet your story and mine are part of it all because we are interconnected with each other.

        What if the best my mother did was teach me the serenity prayer? What about those who did not have a mother teach them well? What about those who grew up in circumstances without a mother or their mother was absent and they were taught the ways of the street or the rules of a group home or lessons from reading books or the discipline of military training. What they were taught did not lay the groundwork for understanding mother, father, family or church. So they understood life through other ways through nature, through stories, through brotherhood, through survival of the fittest and God met them in the place they are.

        In the Bible Jesus called us ‘ekklesia’ which is rightly translated ‘out-called’. We are called out of the system of the world as John described “For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world”. Our commonality is that we are both called out of the system of the world but, we most often remain in our circumstances.

        Therefore it furthers the good news to be salted over the world not concentrated in one place. Sprinkled salt is pleasant and good but salt in concentration is not inviting, not appetising. Indeed all people are called who hear the gospel. Church is simply the places we built to gather as called out ones. Yet, Jesus said where two or three called-out ones are gathered He will be there in the midst of us (Matt.18:20) He wasn’t saying two or three church buildings he was talking about individual people.

        There are those well placed in denominations and church organizations and I appreciate that so I want you to know I respect church organizations and the good works they have done because they have Jesus in the midst of them. But those who find themselves cast off and not welcomed in church buildings have Jesus with them as well. So we can respect those who are ‘ekklesia’ who have no building to gather in- who have only each other or Christ.

        In the end Jesus will gather us all up together as the Good Shepherd does. He travels far and wide to gather His sheep into the fold. So I am looking at the big picture keeping in mind that those called by Jesus are everywhere not in one particular church structure. That all of us called by Him are the Body of Christ.

        To address your last statement : “God gives us freedom to choose but not all choices bring us closer to Him. He need to follow the narrow path just like He wants us to and then we will realize that it is actually the only path.” It’s a cliche Rosamin. In reality when all nations come to worship God in the kingdom there are many roads which bring them there. The narrow path parable is more about the choice between choosing Jesus as Lord and not choosing Him and that can be a daily exercise. Jesus is always close to us— we don’t need to do anything to bring him closer instead we need to pay attention to Him and realize He is there at all times for His beloved children.

        I appreciate you, Rosamin and I am always open to what you have to say. 😀

      • Kathy,

        As I understand it I, as a Christian, must teach others as if I were their mother. I must teach the ones that only got learning from the streets or the shelters. I must welcome those who are outcast and bet on them, I must welcome them in the Church, if they want to join us and if not I must not give up on them but help them see the beauty of Christ.

        But right now I’m just wondering about this:

        Mat 7:21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

        How should we teach this? Should I be concerned that maybe this is refereeing to me? Could I be one of those that call “Lord, Lord” but that does not do the will of the Father? Could it be my sister? My daughter? My husband or my neighbor? Was Jesus serious when he said this? How can I tell if I’m down this path? I certainly can’t fully discard the possibility that I am going down this path… However, I’m not anxious about this either but I whish to make everyone aware of this warning and I see this also as my duty as a Christian.

      • Rosamin

        We understand snippets of versus like that which you quoted from Matthew 7:21 in the larger context of the story Jesus was telling.

        I think assurance is one of the saddest problems I see in churches. I encourage and reassure everyone in the unfailing love of Christ.

      • Rosamin especially but also any other readers of this blog: I suggest you search the net using the words “Jesus” and “hyperbole” together. There are interesting articles addressing this.

        One of the things I noted when I moved into a Jewish neighborhood is the use of hyperbole as a device for making a point. It seemed familiar somehow and I realized it sounded like some of Jesus’ statements. Examples would be”turn the other cheek” or “walk with him two”. Maybe the (in some translations) “hate your father and mother” is another example of this.

      • Hypatia,

        Yes, sometimes He spoke using hyperboles. In fact Christ’s life, passion, death and resurrection is in its self a hyperbole. Thus even hyperboles in the words of Christ must be carefully considered. Because His passion constitutes a scandal but it is not less true that He redeemed us through it. It is not less true that it was the will of the Father for Christ to suffer greatly and die a shameful death for you and I. If we can’t dismiss the madness of His love because of its hyperbolic nature, we can’t dismiss the demands of His justice

      • Interesting Rosamin this is why people oppose celibacy because of the view it’s okay for people to suffer because God requires it. I would say this is what allows fanaticism to exist and nihilism to be fostered. Wisdom tells us that although Solomon ordered the baby to be cut in half, he did it to reveal who the real mother was.

      • Rosamin, the post is about celibacy. I think you have been true to your understanding. You don’t seem like a person who would say something you thought was untrue.

  5. Kathy,

    Thanks for your answer. I meant it when I said that I wanted to understand you best. I don’t have hidden agendas. That said I do find myself at odds with some of your comments.

    I don’t know how I can “like” a comment here at SF blog. Can you tell me how to “like” an answer and send the notice to the writer via email, please? Thanks.

      • I want to understand you better because you are a human being, also a Christian, and you have a different perspective on things than I do. I agree with plenty of what you write. However I have my reservations with some of what you say.

        Matt 10:37-39 is an example from scripture that I believe is at odds with some of your standings, the same parts that I disagree with.

        But you must believe me when I say I have no agenda other than listening and understanding. That’s what I try to do here at SF and I have learned so much.

      • so Rosamin what you are doing is more of a test than wanting to understand me. Please enlighten me as to what it is about what I said that could possibly be at odds with Matt. 10:37-39

      • Yes, Rosamin, that is how you made me feel. I think you should follow through with your thoughts when you raise them. Take all the time you like- and only if you are comfortable with that, all my best, in Christ.

      • I suppose this is regarding the “like” issue… So I get that in order to “like” a post the other person needs to enable “receive notifications”… OK, thanks!

  6. This raises an important topic. I would add a few thoughts.

    First, celibacy is not something that you just choose to do by yourself. As a Christian vocation, it is something that’s to be lived out within the context of a community that supports that vocation and provides sustenance for it. Very few evangelical parishes are geared to provide the kind of sustenance required for those who elect this vocation. And, unfortunately, most have no interest in doing so.

    Second, I’m not convinced that most evangelicals have any principled opposition to same-sex marriage. Sure, they may know that they’re opposed to it, and they may have some vague sense that the Bible speaks to the issue. But, when it comes down to it, they’re making a gut call based on experience. In a functional sense, most evangelicals operate with something akin to a “gentile inclusion” rubric on these things. Marriage is good because they see all kinds of happily married people. Singleness is undesirable because most singles they know are lonely and often unhappy. Same-sex marriage is bad because gay people have lives that revolve around kinky sex. (After all, don’t Pride parades define the outer periphery of what it means to be gay?)

    Third, I suspect that evangelicals will come to accept some measure of same-sex partnering before they accept celibacy. As the sigma against being gay subsides, more and more otherwise normal-seeming non-promiscuous gays are coming out of the closet and pairing up with other otherwise normal-seeming non-promiscuous gays. In many ways, these relationships look a lot more like “spiritual friendships,” except that there’s no express agreement to avoid all same-sex eroticism. Even so, many of these gays don’t have relationships that center around the sex. Once evangelicals get to know such people and come to believe that they’re happier together than apart, acceptance of such relationships will follow. There’s a reason why certain traditionalists continue to fan certain negative stereotypes about gay people, e.g., Denny Burk’s continual refusal to accept that sexual orientation can’t be reduced to sexual desire. They know their people. They know that, if evangelicals come to reject the stereotypes, limited acceptance of same-sex partnering will ensue. Such acceptance can happen without substantial modification of the existing social structure of most evangelical parishes. In contrast, creating parishes that can sustain celibacy would require an entire upheaval of how we do church in the post-industrial era. And that’s just unlikely to happen (even if it should happen). So, for now, one can only elect to practice something that looks like celibacy; practicing the real thing requires the church to become something altogether different from what it currently is.

    • The Protestant obsession with family values is linked to church growth. There hasn’t been a revival for several decades (perhaps a century or more). The only way to grow a church is to attract a larger proportion of the existing Christian population (marketing) or encourage an existing congregation to have more children. Most Protestant churches are a blend of these two approaches. Gay couples bring very little to this table – although there will come a time when being “anti-gay” will scare off enough straight people to ensure that a kind of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays is introduced by all of the larger, more popular church brands.

      Celibacy (gay or straight) has no place at all in the current set-up.

      • In some ways, that gives me hope, though. I suspect that most evangelical opposition to same-sex coupling is based on the fact that it’s at odd with the church’s marketing strategy. After all, evangelical churches tend to treat singles just as badly as they treat gay folks.

        Thus, I can easily envision a day when such a marketing strategy will hinder growth, e.g., when professional Christians no longer want to be associated with organizations that discriminate against gay people. At that point, evangelical churches will become more affirming of committed same-sex relationships–not to attract gay couples to the church, but to retain straight couples with kids who who don’t want to feel like bigots.

        But it’s hard to envision a market driver that would lead the evangelical church to embrace celibate Christians.

      • “After all, evangelical churches tend to treat singles just as badly as they treat gay folks.”

        So true. I know guy who felt the need to step down from a leadership role in a thriving evangelical church because he wasn’t married by his mid-30s. If I had to attend a church like that (and I tempted to think they are the norm) I would have given up on church altogether.

  7. As a fellow Protestant Christian who is single, I wrestle with these issues. There are times when I get excited about the positive things that Scripture has to say about singleness, especially after I listen to a related sermon by the likes of Tim Keller and David Platt (both of whom are very positive about singleness).

    But there are other times that I do feel lonely and that I do feel hopeless in the face of not being able to connect sexually with anther person. And then there’s the very practical issue of how to deal with the sexual tension that I literally feel in my body. And then I think Genesis 2’s account of Eve’s creation and Paul’s concession that it is better to marry than to burn.

    For disclosure, the reason I have not pursued marriage is primarily due to a health condition, but I can also strongly relate to certain aspects of LGBT experiences.

  8. I so often find that the mental acrobatics it takes to reclassify a biological imperative and Divine plan (to not be alone and be in intimate relationship) as “an obsession” has itself become an obsession within this particular community. Perhaps this requires some thought here. Why is it that we so desperately need marriage to be an obsession within Protestantism? Maybe Protestants are just being logical. After all, celibacy doesn’t seem to have worked out so very well even for the folks (Catholics) who have been practicing it for hundreds of years (see A.W.R. Sipe’s “Celibacy in Crisis”).

  9. Pingback: How Do We Deal With Homosexuality? Part 1 « Kaleb's Thoughts

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