Book Review: “Redeeming Singleness” by Barry Danylak

Christian books about singleness are all the same.

I should know.

I think I’ve read every one of them.

They all have a couple of requisite chapters explaining why singleness is good before getting into the meat: a) how to be content and productive as a single and b) how to get un-single as quickly and in as godly a manner as possible.

Barry Danylak’s Redeeming Singleness stands out like an apple tree in a field of blowing grass.

In other words, it’s not a thing like the rest of the Christian treatments of singleness.

Redeeming Singleness seeks to establish a Biblical theology of singleness–starting from the beginning, when God said “It is not good that man should be alone”, and ending with Paul’s startling (within the Jewish culture, at least) statement that he “wish[es] that all men were even as [he himself].”

The epilogue neatly summarizes the main thesis of the book:

Christianity is distinctive from its monotheistic sibling faiths of Judaism, Islam, and Mormonism in its affirmation of singleness…it differs from the others in distinctively affirming both singleness and marriage as something good within the new family of God. The reason for this difference has its roots in what makes Christianity fundamentally different from its sibling faiths, namely, its affirmation that Jesus Christ has come in human history as God’s offspring and that through him come all the blessings of the new covenant.

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promised seed of Abraham, and in him are Abraham’s true offspring….Since all the blessings of the new covenant are realized through our reconciliation to God through Christ, marriage is no longer a fundamental marker of covenantal blessing as it was in the covenant of Sinai. Singleness lived to the glory of God and the furtherance of his kingdom testifies to the complete sufficiency of Christ for all things. The Christian is fully blessed in Christ, whether he or she is married or single, rich or poor, in comfort or duress…

Paul distinguishes the spiritual gift or charisma of singleness by three elements. First, it is characterized by one who, by the grace of God, lives a continent life apart from marriage…. Second, it is distinguished as a life free from the distractions of a spouse and children, a life characterized by freedom and simplicity…. Third, it is a life enabled for constant service to the King and the kingdom. It emulates the model of the eunuch who is ready and waiting to serve the king whenever and however he is called.

~Redeeming Singleness by Barry Danylak, page 213

This is a robust, Biblically-sound theology of singleness; and it is presented in an engaging and surprisingly (for theology) readable manner.

After reading Danylak’s closing chapter on “The Charisma of Corinth”, I truly desired (perhaps for the first time in my life) to have the gift of singleness. While I can’t say that I have the “charisma” of singleness, Danylak’s description of Christian singleness (the “charisma” or spiritual gift of singleness) as a powerful testimony to the sufficiency of Christ made me long to live out such a testimony. Where previously I had recognized and spoken of marriage as a testimony (in a cosmic play-act) of God’s relationship with His church, I can now see the equally glorious testimony that the single-in-Christ have–the testimony of being complete IN Christ, without need of any other mediating person, action, or state.

This book is a powerful and much-needed look at singleness as seen through the lens of God’s redemptive work. I recommend this book for the single and the married–and especially for the friends of and ministers to single adults. This perspective, lifted straight from the Bible, can help the church to encourage and bless the single among them while avoiding the twin pitfalls of glorifying marriage to the harm of the single adult or denigrating marriage in order to “encourage” the single adult.

Check out Three Star Night’s review of this book. She comes to the same conclusions as I–but expresses her thoughts (and mine?) much better than I.

Rating: 5 stars
Category: Theology of Singleness
Synopsis:Danylak traces a theology of singleness throughout Scripture, seeing singleness within the redemptive framework of the Old and New Testaments.
Recommendation: A much-needed resource in an age where singleness is becoming a new norm–and where the church is struggling to find a holy way of dealing with the “new norm”.

Book Review: “Christianity: A Short Introduction” by Keith Ward

**I’m going on another book review kick, this time sparked by having to return another section of books. Which means I have to get them all reviewed before I forget them!**

Keith Ward’s Christianity: A Short Introduction travels through a collection of Christian doctrines and thought from creation to the nature of the soul to the incarnation to the trinity to the role of art. Each chapter is divided into three sections, in which each section seeks to portray one Christian perspective on the topic at hand.

In general, the three perspectives given are as follows: one perspective is the majority position of historical Christianity (that is, Christianity as reflected by Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Reformation Protestantism), a second perspective represents a minority position among historical Christianity, and a third perspective represents liberal Christianity. (Not that the author makes this distinction. He simply refers to the positions as being “different Christian positions.”)

An example of this trichotomy (except that I’m not sure which of the two historical positions is the majority position) is Ward’s three views on the Bible. The first view is the view of the Bible as inerrant (such that every detail of the Bible is correct). The second view is the view of the Bible as infallible (such that the Bible communicates every “pertinent” detail correctly.) The third view (the liberal view) is that the Bible is an accurate representation of what followers of God believed about God in their own times.

Of course, in suggesting that Ward follows this format of majority historical/minority historical/liberal, I leave out at least two important chapters that DO NOT follow this schema.

For instance, the chapter on the Incarnation presents two liberal views:

  1. Jesus was just a man, but one who the early Christians saw as an “icon” of the Messiah–one who died, but who appeared (in visions given to early Christians) to be raised
  2. Jesus was just a man, but one who was specially gifted by the Holy Spirit such that he “represented” God on earth.

Not having had much exposure to liberal Christianity, I had no idea of the mental gyrations liberal theologians perform in an attempt to still merit the term “Christian”.

It is here, in the theology of the Incarnation, that liberalism completely separates itself from Christianity. It is notable that only one of the three views given on this topic is that of historic Christianity–and the reason is simple.

Christians throughout the ages have united to affirm the Incarnation of Christ as true God and true man–and to condemn all other views as heretical–from ancient times (especially the Council of Chalcedon in 451) onward.

This doctrine of Incarnation is fundamental to the Christian faith–and any faith that calls itself Christian without affirming the doctrine of Incarnation deceives itself.

While the author points out that he doesn’t want the reader to know his position on any of the issues in this book, the mere inclusion of such liberal theology in a book purporting to be an introduction to Christianity indicates that this author has no firm attachment to the historic Christian faith (such as is articulated in the three ecumenical creeds: the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.)

Furthermore, the author’s continuing statements that “some Christians still believe…”, as though Christian thought that is not continually changing is inappropriate, also indicates his derision for the historic Christian faith.

A better title for this book might have been “Religions Calling Themselves Christian: A Short Introduction”–except that, sadly, this author and many others in liberal “Christianity” have deluded themselves into thinking that they are Christians, when in truth they are no such thing.

Rating: 1 star
Category:“Christian” Thought
Synopsis:The author attempts to introduce the reader to Christianity–but ends up doing something less than that since the author’s personal brand of Christianity is not, in fact, Christianity.
Recommendation: As an aspiring theology geek, I enjoyed sharpening my mind on the (often heretical) views of the author–but, as an introduction to Christianity? This is not a good choice.

**Oh, in case any of you were wondering, the second chapter which definitely did not follow the “majority historical/minority historical/liberal (heretical)” format was the chapter on the Trinity. Once again, this is because historical Christianity has always united to affirm the Trinity. (And no matter how hard Ward tries to argue that Modalism is compatible with the historic Christian understanding of the Trinity, he epically fails.)

Songs I love and hate

Recently, Christianity Today asked a collection of prominent evangelicals whether they thought “Away in the Manger” should be done away with.

Why do away with “Away in a Manger”? some of you may ask.

The bad theology, of course.

You know…”The little Lord Jesus no crying He makes…”

At best, it’s extrabiblical. At worst, it’s unbiblical.

It’s a denial of the full humanity of Christ.

But it’s a pretty song, a cute song, a song rich with memory for many of us.

The question brings to mind a whole slew of other songs that I love and hate. There are the songs whose melodies I love but whose words I abhor. And the ones whose words I love but whose melodies I hate. And then there are the worst ones, the ones whose melodies and words I love–except for a couple of lines.

Songs like “Above All”.

I think it might’ve been my favorite song except for its one huge glaring fault.

Above all powers, above all kings
Above all nature and all created things
Above all wisdom and all the ways of man
You were here before the world began

Above all kingdoms, above all thrones
Above all wonders the world has ever known
Above all wealth and treasures of the earth
There’s no way to measure what You’re worth”

It’s beautiful–singing about the supremecy of Christ over all things, of His matchless worth.

And the chorus only increases the wonder, telling of the pinnacle of God’s glory displayed through the cross.

“Crucified laid behind the stone
You lived to die rejected and alone
Like a Rose trampled on the ground
You took the fall..”

I exult in the supremecy of Christ, I celebrate the incarnation, I rejoice in the crucifixion–the Power of God displayed for all to see.

And the next words send me back to earth with a thump.

“You took the fall
And thought of me
Above all.”


Are you serious?

So I just sung about how God is above all–but now you’re telling me God worships ME?

Uh-uh. Not happening.

God, the supreme God who is above all, thinks of me (Hallelujah)–but He does not think of me ABOVE ALL. God thinks of me and loves me–but He is God-focused above all. He does not live to make me happy or even to save me–He lives to be Himself and to be seen as Himself. And, boy, is that a good thing! If God were me-focused, it would decrease His God-hood, it would make Him an idolator. God doesn’t think of me above all.

So, needless to say, that song frustrates me a bit.

So good. So bad. So difficult to separate the good from the bad.

Tell me, do you have a song you love and hate? Do you think about the theology in the songs you’re singing? What songs bother you–and what do you do about it? Do you still sing along? Do you stand in silence? Do you write a letter to the editor? Tell me what you think about theology and music.

WiW: With my mind

The Week in Words

“The current tendency to minimize Bible study and sound theology in the interests of focusing on the heart is badly misguided. We need to be cultivating our minds in order to cultivate our hearts. We must set our minds on things above and love God with our hearts and minds, never …supposing we can do one without the other. ‘Be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Romans 12:2).”

~Randy Alcorn via Jason’s Facebook

My goal for this year has been to exercise my mind towards the things of God. I wanted my mind to come alive with God’s attributes, with His character, with His praises.

I’ve been reading, discussing, writing. I’ve been thirsty for knowledge of God.

And I’ve heard the warnings: “Beware of dead doctrine,” they say. “I’ve heard sermons from those thinking churches. They’re all knowledge and no heart.” “Don’t think too deeply,” they tell me. “That only leads to division.”

I disagree.

Yes, it is possible to have knowledge without faith. It is possible to have a form of godliness but to deny its power.

But this is no excuse to remove our minds from our worship.

The fact is, my heart is fickle. It is inclined to despair.

This year has been a tough one. Many times I have felt desperately hopeless and fearfully alone. Many times my heart has told me that God is not sovereign, that God is not good. It has told me that life is not worth it, that the pain is too great, that I should just give up.

My heart has told me lies.

But in God’s grace, He has moved me this year to exercise my mind towards Him. My exercised mind now teaches my heart. It teaches my heart of the sovereignty of God when things seem out of control. It teaches my heart of the goodness of God when all I can see is bad. It teaches my heart to hope in the Lord, when my heart would otherwise despair. It teaches my heart to find joy in the Lord even when it’s bleeding.

Far from finding that focusing on doctrine has caused my heart to atrophy, I find instead that doctrine has become the firm rock to which my fickle heart can cling.

I still feel.

Boy, do I feel. But now I feel more than simply the storms of circumstances that buffet. Now I feel the rock that is stable through the storms of life. My heart feels truth now, instead of just circumstance.

“We’re either building our lives on the reality of what God is truly like and what He’s about, or we’re basing our lives on our own imagination and misconceptions.

We’re all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true.”

~Joshua Harris, Dug Down Deep

“Theology matters, because if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong.”
~Joshua Harris, Dug Down Deep

Collect more quotes from throughout the week with Barbara H’s meme “The Week in Words”.

Who can you trust?

Greg Boyd (author of The Myth of a Christian Nation) espouses open theism. John Stott (author of The Cross of Christ) has written in support of annihilationism (which denies an eternal hell). Ergun Caner (author of Unveiling Islam) lied about the extent of his Muslim upbringing.

It seems I can’t read anyone without uncovering a theological skeleton in their closet.

What’s an armchair theologian like myself supposed to do? Who can I trust?

Should I take Beth Moore’s tack?

“She does not show much interest in theology or tradition, distrusting the way the academy has, at times, handled the Bible.”

“Moore is primarily self-taught. She uses commentaries and concordances when writing her studies, but she relies primarily on her own intuition when interpreting and applying Scripture.”

Maybe I should just throw out the academics, throw out theology, throw out tradition, throw out the scholars. I can be my own scholar.

I don’t really like the hubris of this approach. I’m not a Greek or Hebrew scholar–and it doesn’t matter how many times I look up the Greek or Hebrew word that the scholars translated as such, I don’t have the intimate knowledge of the language that allows me to determine which of the many translations of the word is the best. What’s more, I’d be foolish to suggest that I don’t have blind-spots in my theology–underlying assumptions that may or may not be based on Scripture which inform my interpretation of Scripture. Reading a variety of scholars can help me to identify and correct those blind spots.

So maybe I just need to find the perfect teacher. I can read all of his books and become a groupie. Let’s see. I could choose John Piper–he’s a favorite among the young Reformed, and I like him quite a bit. The middle-aged Reformed folk of my acquaintance really like John MacArthur–he’d be an option. N.T. Wright is a popular fellow among my book-club friends. Or I could do the really hip Reformed thing and find myself a good Puritan pastor to go ga-ga over. And then there’s always Beth Moore :-P

The problem with this approach?

There’s no such thing as a perfect teacher (except Christ Himself). Each of these men (or women) have something useful to say, certainly–but they also have blind spots, things they overemphasize, things they underemphasize. They’re humans, they’re fallible, and so is their understanding of Scripture.

I’ve said I can’t trust myself to do theology alone. I can’t trust an individual to do my theology for me. So who can I trust?

I don’t really have an answer. Instead, I have a reminder.

Remember the Bereans.

They were said to be fair-minded because they a) “received the word with all readiness”, and b) “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”

I urge all armchair theologians (and if you’re not one yet, you should become one!) to do the same. Gladly hear what the scholars have to say–and then search the Scriptures daily to see if what they say is so.

Some bloggers I’ve enjoyed for quite a while have recently started a new blog called Southern Baptist Girl, which encourages women to critically evaluate what they hear and read in light of Scripture. Those who want to know what critical analysis of teaching looks like might want to follow along to see how Lisa, Melissa, and Leslie do it.