Singleness in the Bible

Redeeming Singleness: How the storyline of Scripture affirms the single life

Barry Danylak, Crossway, Wheaton, 2010, 256 pages.

Some Christian topics seem to engage our interest and time more than others. Predestination is a classic; marriage and singleness is another. With so many books already written on this subject does Redeeming Singleness bring anything new to an already crowded ‘relationships’ section of your local Christian bookstore (if you still have one)?

Barry Danylak answers this question in the first paragraph of his introduction: “The starting point for this book is to reflect on the purpose of biblical affirmation of the single life by exploring how singleness itself fits into God’s larger purpose of redeeming a people for his glory” (p. 15). Straight away I get the feeling that perhaps this is not just another simple ‘how-to-live-the-single-life’ book.

Danylak’s goal is to trace ‘singleness’  as a theme throughout salvation history, and to show how in Jesus, singleness finds its place in the kingdom of God. His exploration is serious and thorough, and at times requires careful reading and re-reading to absorb the detail of his argument. He starts with creation, and works methodically through the major stages of biblical history, often pausing on a particular passage or section to allow the reader to see how singleness develops within the kingdom of God.

Methodical it might be, but Danylak’s treatment has its share of surprises, and this is where his book differs from so many. Firstly, there is a substantial exploration of marriage, procreation, barrenness, blessing, land and inheritance. In a book on singleness, some may be confused or perplexed by this, but in fact this analysis turns out to be a vital plank in Danylak’s argument. Reading this section carefully proves worthwhile in the long run.

The second surprise comes when we arrive at the world of the prophets, and in particular to the figures of the eunuch and the barren woman in Isaiah’s prophesies. Danylak gives a fascinating overview of the place of the eunuch within the kingdom from the books of the law, through Isaiah, and ultimately to Jesus. It is the eunuch (among others) who provides a new framework to understand blessing and inclusion and singleness in the kingdom of God. I found this the most thought-provoking and stimulating connection within the whole book, and again it sets Danlyak’s book apart from others on this subject.

While the New Testament material is comprehensive, the almost mandatory exposition of 1 Corinthians 7 is quite challenging, or perhaps difficult (which may not be surprising at all). To really grasp his treatment of this chapter will take slow and careful reading. The amount of historical background he uses makes it very difficult to assess his conclusions, and I found myself needing to simply take him at his word on a number of points.

Finally, in the preface, introduction, and epilogue, Danylak offers some lengthy comments regarding singleness and modern trends. I suspect his conclusions may leave some feeling slightly short-changed, partly because they are not particularly new, and partly because they could have been more far-reaching. If the argument of the book is right, then both single and married people will have to reexamine their attitudes and understanding of marriage and singleness, both within the church and the broader community.

Given the weightiness of this treatment, Redeeming Singleness won’t be for everybody. It requires serious consideration and study. It certainly isn’t a touchy-feely, how-to manual. But for those able to absorb the depth of theological investigation and willing to explore the thread of his argument, this book does in fact provide a rich, thorough and practical presentation of singleness. I would recommend it to any pastor, teacher, or gospel-worker to help them continue to develop a theological understanding of singleness.

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