Friday, March 21, 2008

Singleness

While at the Ligonier conference last week I had the privilege of working with and getting to know some new friends, and in particular a girl my age who I especially enjoyed talking to over the entirety of the weekend (hey SW!!!). She raised a very thought provoking question during the conference and then again in an email this week, one which I have given a lot of thought to lately so it was amazing to hear someone else asking the same questions I have been for the last few months. Namely, what about singleness and the role of young, reformed Christians in this area? On the part of the single men, I wonder why more are not seeking out a marriage partner from a seemingly large pool of qualified, dedicated women in the church. What about women? What is our role in encouraging without flirting and being a friend and listener without compromising our emotional purity?

One thing God has definitely convicted me on as I have pondered singleness is the false assumption that I am currently waiting on his will for marriage. I hear the term thrown around a lot in evangelical circles, that singles who do not currently have a prospective partner in view are "waiting" on God's will. If the will of our omnipotent God does not involve the here and now, but only the future, then what comfort and hope can there be found in his sovereignty? Obviously I am in God's will, it is just that his will now dictates that I am single during this time. Perhaps I am waiting on marriage, which is a correct statement, but not on God's will, for his will is now, this day, and not just tomorrow or for specific life events. I think this has been one of the most comforting assurances God has given me as I visit again the question of using my singleness to glorify him while I hope for future marriage.

9 comments:

rockingchair said...

Amen! God ordains whatsoever shall come to pass!

Anonymous said...

interesting thoughts - will have to think about that when I am more awake :)

I have been "bothered" when people say if it is the Lord's Will that so and so changes (from sin) and I think - No, God's will is that everyone walk in obedience to Him - it is "our" will that chooses the path of disobedience.

But back to what you were saying about today - this day - that is good.

Love,
Mrs. Molder

Shelbi said...

Thanks, Mrs. Molder! I'm glad I made a little bit of sense. ;-) I wasn't sure that I did when I wrote it out. I would love to hear your thoughts if you have any more!

Trent said...

Good post. My $0.02:

1.) It's not flirtatious for girls to be actively involved in singles groups at church. How else are guys and girls going to get to know one another in a community context? If a guy just saw you in the morning service at church and asked your dad and mom if he could "court" you, I'd think he is doing it because he is merely attracted to you physically (how else could he know anything about you if he just observes from afar?). The likelihood of that happening is next to zero. God wants singles to mingle and get to know one another in the church.

2.) Most homeschooling guys and girls are too afraid of the opposite sex. Not saying YOU, just saying the homeschooling community, in general, has instilled a fear into members of the opposite sex that is unwarranted. Guys only want one thing, we're told. Don't even talk to a girl or smile at her unless you're ready to marry her, we're told. It's ridiculous and not biblical whatsoever.

My best advice would be to get out, and get involved in your church's singles groups. Sure, there will be people there that you don't agree with on theology, dating, etc... but how else is God going to drop the right person in your path?

It's one thing to wait on God's provision. It's quite another to throw roadblocks in God's way of providing.

Thoughts?

Shelbi said...

While I agree with most of what you say, that a single community is not wrong or sinful, I know way too many girls who are active in such communities and still remain unmarried. You cannot tell me that while it does work sometimes, it is THE answer, because it most assuredly is not. And it isn't homeschoolers that are the problem, b/c I have witnessed more homeschoolers marrying than non-homeschooled people. Homeschoolers are more willing to accept responsibility, having been raised in a different atmoshpere than public schools where youth and adolescence prolonged are the answers to a fun and and fulfilled lifestyle.

But while we may disagree slightly there (and no hard feelings, right?;-) ) my other concern is with this:
but how else is God going to drop the right person in your path?
Can we limit a limitless God? Is he not sovereign anyway? Does he work within our boundaries or without? Is he God or isn't he?
It's one thing to wait on God's provision. It's quite another to throw roadblocks in God's way of providing. So God needs my help? Do we believe in a powerless God? He may work in a singles group. He may not. He is God and he moves people no matter who, what or where they are.

Trent said...

Of course we can agree to disagree. :-)

1.) "You cannot tell me that while it does work sometimes, it is THE answer, because it most assuredly is not." First, I didn't say it was THE answer. But... uh, your chances of success without it are going to be challenged indeed. I'll tell you one thing: you cannot dismiss it so strongly, having never tried it. Try it and get back with me.

2.) Your response on the sovereignty of God is admirable and justifiable. My theology will never waver from my uber-Calvinism. We're on the same page there. But you should do some more research on the will of God... there is His permissive will, and His perfect will. Which one are you in? The Reformers understood this more than anyone. Of course we cannot limit God's sovereignty. You know that. But we can challenge it. If I walk into 820 during rush hour, chances are pretty high that I'm going to get hit, regardless of my view on God's sovereignty. You see, God's sovereignty isn't relegated to our marital status. He sovereignly gave us common sense... a brain. He sovereignly gave us the church community. He sovereignly gave us the desire to marry. He sovereignly gives us Starbucks.... so while you may feel as though God may someday answer your prayer with a knock on the door someday (and it might), God has also sovereignly given you a charge: get married. Have kids. He's given you the resources to do it. If you ignore that, that's fine... you may be in His will, but it's probably His permissive will.

I love you, you know that. It's good to be challenged on your views from time to time, but just remember, I know exactly where you're coming from. :-) I hope we can keep talking about it.

Shelbi said...

I don't want you to think that I have forgotten you - I just haven't had time to pull together my thoughts yet! :-) Maybe this weekend...

Shelbi said...

Well, here I am at last! :-) I had written up quite a response but then realized that it still didn't say what I wanted to, or as clearly as I could have wished. So I am going to let a fluent writer speak for me, someone who has penned the very words I had wished (but failed) to say.

The responses are lifted, word for word, from Carolyn Custis James' book When Life and Beliefs Collide. Emphases are my own, in bold.

Your response on the sovereignty of God is admirable and justifiable. My theology will never waver from my uber-Calvinism. We're on the same page there. But you should do some more research on the will of God... there is His permissive will, and His perfect will. Which one are you in? The Reformers understood this more than anyone. Of course we cannot limit God's sovereignty. You know that. But we can challenge it. If I walk into 820 during rush hour, chances are pretty high that I'm going to get hit, regardless of my view on God's sovereignty.
(speaking of King Nebuchadnezzar) ...Here is a purposing, planning, active, accomplishing God. There is nothing passive, hesitant, or indecisive about him. Nebuchadnezzar's God doesn't just step in from time to time when conditions seem favorable to his intervention or we reach the end of our ability to manage without him. He isn't waiting to see how things will turn out before taking action. He doesn't need our invitation to get involved or our advice to know what to do next He is continuously, actively running things here and now.
...Our lives are not haphazard journeys that evolve as we go along, depending on what we do or what happens next. Each of us is running the race God has marked out for her. This race is not determined by the good or evil actions of others, no matter who they are or how much power they hold over us. Neither do we run wherever we please. God has planned our race, and he is carrying out his plan - a plan that guarantees our good and his glory. Nothing - not principalities or powers, not the devil himself, not even we - can throw God off his plan or prevent him from accomplishing his purposes for us. We run a planned race.

God has also sovereignly given you a charge: get married. Have kids.
...Single women with this point of view are waiting for the plan to commence. Until a husband arrives on the scene, they are on hold or must default to a second-class plan that is not nearly as good or meaningful as that of a married woman. Singleness is perceived by many in the church (including some singles) as a woman's private purgatory - a suspended state of uncertain duration useful only as a bridge to marriage. What single woman hasn't cringed at the question, Why aren't you married? This question implies that she has broken rank or somehow failed to live up to God's plan for her. The mistaken assumption that God uses the same plan for all women - to marry, conceive children, raise a family, and move on to grandmothering - is painful for women who fail to fit the profile at any given point. In the meantime, there is an unspoken consensus among Christians that what a single woman does with her life is an interim or makeshift plan - a way to mark time until she marries and the real plan begins. Such notions can lead to some rather half-hearted living.

He's given you the resources to do it. If you ignore that, that's fine... you may be in His will, but it's probably His permissive will
... Those who believe that God has a plan for them sometimes encounter another problem - the conviction that they have lost God's best plan for them. They believe that they have missed or fallen off the plan, or that something has happened to destroy it.
...We know the feeling. Somewhere along the line we zigged where we should have zagged, and now we're hopelessly stuck with plan B. It only takes a foolish youthful decision, a missed opportunity, the interference of someone else in our lives, or our sinfulness, and plan A is gone forever.
But if God is sovereign, then plan B is a myth. No matter how dark things look for us, or how big the mess we're in, we're in plan A. God's plan for us is intact, proceeding exactly as he intended, neither behind nor ahead but right on schedule. Nothing - not our sins, failures, disappointments, bad decisions, nor the sins of others against us - can deter a sovereign God from accomplishing his purposes.
- all excerpts are from chap.3, pages 70-72

By the way, reformed theology never speaks of a perfect or permissive will. Rather, we believe that there is a preceptive will and a decretive will, and that both exist in harmony.
"God's will toward himself is called His Necessary Will; his will toward the creature is his Free Will. God's will is not arbitrary but in complete harmony with his goodness, holiness, etc.,. There is a distinction between God's will which prescribes what we should do, i.e., His Preceptive Will, and God's will which declares what he will do, i.e., his Decretive Will. The two are not opposed to each other but in complete harmony.
-Herman Bavinck, The Doctrine of God

A permissive will and a perfect will implies that God has two opposing wills; obviously that cannot be. God's own will exists in harmony with his attributes (his omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, etc.,.)as well as his decrees.

I love you, you know that.
I love you too and am just glad we can discuss this amicably. :-)
It's good to be challenged on your views from time to time, but just remember, I know exactly where you're coming from. :-)
Agreed, and the same goes here. :-)

Trent said...

I never meant to let this drop, just got busy. You spend time trying to draw unnecessary distinctions in the definitions of the wills of God, when they are considered interchangable terms.

"This distinction in the way God wills has been expressed in various ways throughout the centuries. It is not a new contrivance. For example, theologians have spoken of sovereign will and moral will, efficient will and permissive will, secret will and revealed will, will of decree and will of command, decretive will and preceptive will, voluntas signi (will of sign) and voluntas beneplaciti (will of good pleasure), etc."

"Jonathan Edwards wrote 250 years ago, 'The Arminians ridicule the distinction between the secret and revealed will of God, or, more properly expressed, the distinction between the decree and the law of God; because we say he may decree one thing, and command another. And so, they argue, we hold a contrariety in God, as if one will of his contradicted another.'"

-John Piper