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Top Ten for 2022
Because I’ve never been one not to jump on a bandwagon, here is my top ten list of substack posts (based on views) for 2022.
Given that #1 came in at the top by a country mile, I thought I’d start there and work my way down to #10.
Dear Michael Foster and Doug Wilson,
My viewing of your short video, ‘The Gift of Singleness?’, prompted me to write to you both. Before I get ahead of myself though, let me make my introduction… Brothers, I was appalled by some of your comments in the aforementioned video. I particularly have in mind your caricature of the old, lonely, unlikeable, “tubby”, attention-seeking spinsters you are so concerned will soon be filling up evangelical churches. You know the ones? Those you described as having an abundance of pent-up love that they can’t do anything with because they have no children or grandchildren to shower it upon. The same women who you said “don’t have anything” at all.
As I have dwelt upon Foster’s and Wilson’s words over the last week I have been repeatedly reminded of the occasion on which the crowds brought little children to Jesus for him to lay hands on and pray over... Mark tells us that when Jesus saw the disciples turning the children away “he was indignant”. Jesus was indignant, affronted, aggrieved and disturbed that his closest followers would think that these little ones were not as important as anyone else clamouring for his attention.
Contemporary Christian critics of complementarianism don’t seem interested in asking “What’s in a name?”. Because they’ve already decided what is in it. And let me tell you, it ain’t me or women like me. It doesn’t matter how many times I might call myself a complementarian. It doesn’t matter how many times I insist that I hold to independently and intelligently considered complementarian theological convictions. It doesn’t matter how many times I explain that my particular denominational context is heavily complementarian in its theology and practice. None of that matters, because it seems that the term has already been defined in a way that excludes me from actually being able to call myself complementarian.
As I observed in my last post, contemporary (mainly US ex-complementarian) critics of complementarianism have a very specifically constructed definition of exactly what they have determined is to be called complementarian. And so also a very specifically constructed definition of who is allowed to call themselves complementarian. But how accurate is that definition?
I just don’t see it. I just don’t see where the Bible speaks of husband and wife blending every single point of their lives into one new life; where it speaks of them becoming indistinguishable from one another; where it commends them to have no experience or relationship or feeling that they don’t share in common with each other.
This week the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia (ACA) has been meeting. At this 18th General Synod I had the privilege of moving a motion that asked those gathered to “affirm singleness”. On 11th and 12th May, 2022 the motion was moved, discussed/debated and voted on by the members of General Synod. The end result was that it was formally and enthusiastically passed (i.e. singleness was affirmed!). I wanted to share with you the full text of the motion and my speech moving it.
If you are not single, I wonder if you’ve ever stopped to consider some of the financial disadvantages and challenges facing those of us who are? Yes, yes. I know that being married has its own costs. And I especially know that raising kids is a very costly endeavour. But my point in asking that question is not to compare, contrast and see who has it worse. Rather, I just wonder if you’ve ever stopped to consider the ways in which being single can come at high price?
Is being single as a Christian (which, it should be said, is always the result of a complex interplay of choice, circumstance, change and context, and all that within the good purposes of God’s sovereignty) truly a “sacrifice”? Is remaining sexually abstinent as an unmarried Christian truly “costly”? When we give up on those deeply held desires and dreams (whether they be of marriage, a satisfying sex life or anything else for that matter), are we genuinely involved in the act of self-sacrifice? Are we engaging in self-denial, for Jesus’ sake? Are we emulating his sacrifice?
So then, what do we do with all this? How do we navigate a complex landscape in which complementarianism is a broadly defined theological movement (again, according to the Danvers Statement), while also a movement in which some bad actors have and will continue to claim shelter? Let me close by offering an illustration.
#10: Let’s be Friends
Marriage & friendship are not in competition with each other. They are not rivals. They are not threats to each other. They are both wonderful, different and unique relationships created by God for us to enjoy according to their own wonderful, different & unique ends. In other words, to recognise the importance and dignity of friendship—including opposite-sex friendship— is not to diminish the importance and dignity of marriage. What is more, both types of relationships can actually strengthen and signify the importance of the other
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