By: Amy Cheng
Singleness paints a picture of what eternity with God will look like, just like marriage does, according to a theologian specialising in singleness.
Last month, the Reverend Dr Danielle Treweek, founder of Single Minded which provides resources on singleness for Christians, launched her book The Meaning of Singleness.
“God has a vision and a purpose and a dignity for singleness in the life of His people that is grander than we realise in our day and age,” she said.
“And that vision is actually not simply about what you do with your singleness or how you feel about your singleness but actually the way your singleness points towards the eternity that is awaiting us and the new creation in a unique way.”
When talking about an eternity with God, the image of marriage is often used to explain that relationship and “rightly so”, Dr Treweek said.
“Our new creation reality that’s coming for us, as a people relating to other human people for eternity, will not be as husbands and wives.”
“The human marriage between a husband and wife is meant to give us some sort of signpost towards a greater reality that’s to come in the new creation.
“(This will be when) the church, the bride, marries Christ at the supper of the lamb, which we see in (the book of) Revelation.”
However, Dr Treweek said that although the church will be married to Christ in the new creation, no one will be married to each other, which can be seen in passages such as Matthew 22:23-33.
“Our personal, new creative, new creation reality that’s coming for us, as a people relating to other human people for eternity, will not be as husbands and wives.
“In that sense, we will all be ‘single’, and I’m hesitant to use that word because I don’t think that carries the full meaning, but we won’t be married.
“So, if for eternity, when we will be our… most perfected human (self), the human person that I was always intended to be… I won’t be married, that gives the fact that I’m not married in this life a dignity that’s not just about how I feel about it but about what God’s purpose for it is.”
How Do We Live This Out?
Thinking about the life to come should shape how we think about life now, according to Dr Treweek.
One area impacted by this view of singleness is our understanding of sex, she said.
“If we are not going to be married in eternity, that means we’re not going to be having sex with each other in eternity.
“That then informs the way we think about what it means to be sexual creatures – having a sexual nature can’t just be about whether you are or are not having sexual intercourse because actually, for eternity, we will not be having sex with each other.
“We will be embodied – I will still be Dani the woman, and men will still be men – so, we will still have sexual natures, but I think it challenges (our view that) sex equals having sex; it actually explodes our understanding of what it means to be sexual creatures.”
“[My book] challenges this Christian contemporary idealisation and even idolisation of marriage as the goal of the Christian life.”
Another area to be reshaped by this view is friendship, Dr Treweek said.
“We live in a time where friendship is increasingly being subsumed into marriage, it is now where we find our very best friend,” she said.
“But, actually, if our ultimate human relationships with each other are going to be ones that are not characterised by marriage, then that actually says that… friendship itself is something independent of marriage.
“It’s not kind of just a side note of marriage, it is its own form of relationship that marriage gets to participate in but not own.”
Dr Treweek does not want her book to be against marriage because she believes it to be “a wonderful, important creative good for this life only” but would like to challenge the current view of marriage.
“(It) challenges this Christian contemporary idealisation and even idolisation of marriage as the goal of the Christian life.
“Marriage and singleness both need each other; we only know ultimately what marriage is because it is not singleness and we know what singleness is because it’s not marriage.”
What is the Gift of Singleness?
Dr Treweek is hoping to work on another book that challenges misconceptions about “the gift of singleness”, which the apostle Paul alludes to in 1 Corinthians 7:7.
“The dominant understanding today, and has been basically since the Reformation, is that Paul is saying that to remain unmarried you need some special spiritual gifting,” Dr Treweek said.
“That means you are content with your singleness and aren’t particularly fussed about getting married, that you don’t struggle with sexual temptation or sexual desire; you’re just made to be single.”
However, Dr Treweek does not think Paul is referring to what may seem to be “a booster shot of the Holy Spirit”.
“Paul is saying God gives potentially different situations to different people and He gives us the grace we need through His mercy in the Holy Spirit to live for Him in those situations.
“I am really troubled by the idea that we are suggesting that the indwelling Holy Spirit is not enough for me to live a godly life as an unmarried person, that I need something extra to control my sexual desires.”
Dr Treweek wants her book The Meaning of Singleness to generate conversations.
“My main hope and prayer is that it will just start generating new conversations, fresh conversations, about marriage and singleness in the church.
“Not just talking more or about new things but realising there’s old conversations that we’ve forgotten and starting to have those conversations with each other.”