Redeeming Singleness Book Review (5/5)

Though I kissed dating books goodbye, I was captivated by this gem because it is thoroughly theological at heart. This is not a dating book. This is not a how-to book for singles. This is not about praying for your future spouse. In other words, Redeeming Singleness is unlike anything I've ever read. And as a single woman in her 20s who was raised in the church- HALLELUJAH!

"In an age in which evangelical Christianity has been strongly identified with the politically active 'family values movement,' Jesus' statements in reference to family relationships sometimes seem surprising" (166). Growing up in the church, singleness was often considered more of a holding tank for people until they get married, in the sort of way that unemployment is a holding tank for people looking for a job. It was only when someone went a substantial number of years without being married, people said that person "had the gift of singleness" (which barely sounds like a gift at all.)

However, in Redeeming Singleness, while recognizing the tremendous value and blessing of the God-glorifying call to marriage and family in the Church, Barry Danylak also highlights the tremendous value and blessing of the God-glorifying call to singleness as presented by a painstakingly detailed walk through the Bible.  

Danylak does not merely provide his personal opinions with a few scattered verses to support his thesis. Neither does he cite sociological or psychological studies for his argument. Instead, he starts "in the beginning" with Adam and Eve and the creation of the nuclear family. He then examines God's covenants to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; God's promises, commands, and curses at Mt. Sinai; and God's renewed covenant to David. Though these former instructions and promises were very family-centric, Denylak identifies a shift in the prophets, particularly Isaiah, where we see an increasing emphasis on blessings coming through Jesus as opposed through a familial connection to the Patriarchs.

The latter chapters focus on the Gospel: the work of Jesus on the cross and the implications for a new kind of family, individuals bound to God and each other through spiritual adoption instead of physical and familial kinship ties. Denylak also focuses on Jesus' and Paul's teachings, particularly Matthew 19:10-12 and 1 Corinthians 7. The crux of the book rests on these key passages, where both Jesus and Paul place value on singleness, even "singling" it out as a God-given spiritual gift with God-given blessings for the person who is willing and able to receive it. Lastly, Denylak details the blessings conferred on those with the gift of singleness and makes some final comments on the issue.

Christ redeems all things, and He certainly redeems singleness. Here, what Denylak has done is to re-redeem singleness from a reactionary, cultural context and bring to light a theology of singleness as presented in both the Jewish Scriptures and the New Testament. This is a must-read for singles, anyone who was formerly-married but has become single, anyone in formal ministry to singles, and anyone in informal ministry who has contact with singles.  My only critique is that it may be too theologically dense, particularly in its study of the Old Testament covenants, to be palatable to everyone, but those interested in the "takeaways" of the book may skim the beginning chapters for a foundational understanding and focus on the latter ones starting with "Prophetic Paradox."  Excellent read. 5/5

(Disclosure: I was given a free copy of "Redeeming Singleness" by the publisher but was not paid for my review. The opinions and impressions expressed herein are my own.)