Monday, February 21, 2011

Redeeming Singleness Revisited: My Take

Although I did not read every word of Redeeming Singleness, I did skim it thoroughly before passing it along to my friend Kristy for her review. It appeared to be well written and easy to follow. Most of the chapters end with a helpful "Wrapping Up" section which summarizes the content of the chapter, enabling the reader to better follow the flow of the text.

I must say that Redeeming Singleness was not what I was expecting. Therefore, I think it is helpful to clarify the intentions of the author and purpose of the book. This book is not about living as a single or tolerating singleness. It is a book that expounds upon the Scriptures in order to affirm the single life as a  valid and God-honoring choice. In the author's words:

"This book is also not a how-to manual either for living the single life well or for most expediently relieving oneself of the status…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" (pg. 15).

It must also be clarified that this is not primarily a book for singles. It is a book from which all in the church are intended to benefit. As Mr. Danylak writes:

"…the church should encourage all those who can to receive the challenge of both Jesus and Paul to remain single and free for the kingdom of God as a visible testimony of Christ's sufficiency in the present age and the true inheritance yet to come."

We all have a part to play in reflecting the glory of God and the work that He is doing. Redeeming Singleness helped me to realize afresh that God has uniquely gifted all of his children and that marriage and singleness are equally important callings in His Church. One of the ways that Redeeming Singleness challenged me was that it spurred me on to consider how I might minister to singles that they might be able to serve more freely (ex. inviting them to supper routinely so that they don't have the burden of preparing a meal for themselves). Furthermore, Mr. Danylak states that, "There are many possible living arrangements for single Christians" (pg. 215). While he didn't expound much on this notion, I think this bears consideration in our highly individualistic culture.

I was also encouraged and excited by Mr. Danylak's high view of singleness. He writes: "…singleness anticipates the age to come in which marriage itself will be obsolete. Singleness visibly heralds the coming of the new age" (pg. 172).

Additionally, he states:

"Christian singleness is a testimony to the supreme sufficiency of Christ for all things, testifying that through Christ life is fully blessed even without marriage and children. It prophetically points to a reality greater than the satisfactions of this present age by consciously anticipating the Christian's eternal inheritance in the kingdom of God. Christian singleness lived as a testimony of this gospel truth is a redeeming singleness" (pg. 215).

Redeeming Singleness  appears to offer a lot of "food-for-thought" for the Christian community. It is full of Scripture and seeks to adorn the Gospel. I look forward to thinking more about the questions that it raises and considering ways which the Lord might have our family serve Christian singles in our local church.

*Many thanks to Crossway for supplying us with a copy of this book in exchange for our honest opinion!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Guest Review: Redeeming Singleness

The following review was written by my friend Kristy who has a love for the Lord and a commitment to the local church. She uses her many gifts to serve our church including singing with the worship team, ensuring that we have great books from which to choose in our church bookstore, and watching children for marriage and parenting seminars. She has a beautiful servant's heart, is a wonderful friend, and an excellent example to us all! Without further ado, here are her thoughts on Barry Danylak's book, Redeeming Singleness.

Okay, I admit it.  I began reading Redeeming Singleness in the hopes that I would find practical and applicable ways to redeem the blessing of singleness.  Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I haven't always felt that singleness was a blessing.  Some days I still struggle, but thanks to God's mercy those days seem to be growing fewer and father apart.  My hope was that this book could help encourage singles like myself, and point us to practical ways that singles can serve within the church.  It turns out, this book was very interesting to read, but was written for a completely different purpose.

Reedeming Singleness, by Barry Danylak, is subtitled "How the Storyline of the Scripture Affirms the Single Life".  Mr. Danylak takes a theological approach to breaking down the gifts of marriage and singleness throughout the Old and New Testaments.  His book is very well-written, well-researched, and it is evident that Mr. Danylak is extremely knowledgeable on the topic about which he writes.  That said, I know now this book was not intended to be a practical guide for approaching the single life.

The first three chapters of the book focus mostly on the importance of marriage and child-bearing in the Old Testament.  This is helpful in creating the foundation for Christ's appearance in the New Testament and for comparing the old law versus the new.  At the end of the third chapter, Mr. Danylak does end on a hopeful note.  On page 113, he writes:

     "The barren woman, who was unfruitful in producing physical offspring, is now able to bring forth something profoundly greater - spiritual sons and daughters in the pattern of the servant...The eunuch, conversely, who had been denied access to temple service, is now given an eternal and permanent place within God's house...Both are begetters of spiritual offspring and can serve as models of devoted services to the Lord."

This tone continues through the fourth chapter, ending with a wonderful truth about our Lord and Saviour:

     "All the blessings of the New Convenant come to us through Christ.  He is the sufficient source...To suggest that to be a complete or fulfilled christian in the new covenant requires anything more than Christ is to deny the fundamental sufficiency of Christ as the sole vehicle of covenental blessing."

Unfortunately, I felt a bit frustrated as I finished reading this book.  Most of my frustration was summed up in a statement made by the author in the epilogue, in which he wrote that one of the elements by which Paul distinguishes the spiritual gift of singleness is "a life characterized by freedom and simplicity, which testifies to the complete sufficiency of Christ." (p. 213)  While I do not disagree on a theological level, and I do believe that "through Christ life is fully blessed" (p. 215), I would not go about describing my life as a single woman as free and simple.  As I said, I do not disagree on a theological level, but I do feel this could have been written in a more sensitive light with respect to the amount of pressure and responsibility that can fall on single men and women.  We may not have the distraction of a spouse and children, as the author wrote, however life in general tends to create it's own distractions.

I would highly recommend this book to pastors, or others who are desiring to teach on the topic of singleness. The theological groundwork Mr. Danylak covers is very well-researched and will be helpful for anyone wishing to learn more about biblical singleness.  I would not, however, recommend this book to singles looking for encouragement or ideas for practical application.  As I said, I ended my reading feeling a bit discouraged, as though the entire married world felt that all single people were living life free and easy, far from the stresses of having a spouse and family.  I realize this wasn't a rational thought, but it was my thought nonetheless. 

My suggestion would be to read Reedeming Singleness prayerfully, asking the Lord to show what He would want you to gain from the reading.  The Lord is faithful, and He will show you what He wants you to learn, and will always be faithful to show you where He is directing your steps.  I think this book has much to offer whether single or married, and I would recommend this book as a tool for increasing one's biblical knowledge on the topic of singleness.

*Many thanks to Crossway for sending a copy of this book in exchange for Kristy's honest opinion!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bible Study Review and Discount

Over the past several months, I have had the privilege of reviewing some materials from The GoodBook Company. One of these is The Good Book Guide to Biblical Womanhood which includes nine studies for individuals or groups as well as a leader's guide. This guide is excellent because it is Biblically faithful, short yet deep, and practical. Not surprisingly, this booklet is largely about our design, how we relate to God, and how we relate to others. It has some excellent application questions such as "How can I pursue true, unfading beauty for myself, and encourage others in that too?" (pg. 26).

One of the benefits of Bible Study is that often, Biblical truth is more readily assimilated when it is discovered as oppose to being taught. Don't get me wrong, these guides won't let you discover "your truth" while I discover "mine," but they will allow you to dig and ponder a bit before briefly expounding upon the truth of Scripture.

If I were using this book with a group of ladies, I would rearrange the lessons a bit as I would want to cover "Women and their Lord" before covering any other relationships. It is worth noting that this guide does include a lesson on marriage and a lesson on singleness and is equally applicable to both seasons of life.

This week is an excellent week to consider purchasing some of these materials as they are having a sale on all of their guides: 5 for $15. You could purchase a sampling of five different guides for personal study or consideration for a group study or order five of the same guide for your small group. Just use the coupon code 5FOR15 at checkout. May God use these studies as a means of grace in your life to make you more like Him!!


* Many thanks to Brad @ The GoodBook Company for sending me this guide in exchange for my honest opinion!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Book Review: Histories and Fallacies

Over the past year, I have become increasingly aware of and interested in the need to exercise discernment in the arena of history studies. (This is largely due to following Simonetta Carr's blog which chronicles "The making of Christian biographies for young readers." It has been a lot of fun to "watch" her piece together the truth of history. I am grateful for her willingness to share her journey and for the example that she sets.)  As a result, I was excited to learn that I would have the opportunity to review Histories and Fallacies: The Problems Faced in the Writing of History by Carl R. Trueman.  I must confess at the outset of this review that I am incredibly "out of my league" with this particular title. I realized very quickly that my vocabulary is extremely narrow and that I am woefully lacking in my knowledge of basic history (and current events pertaining to said history). However, in spite of my limitations, I was able to glean a good deal from this book.

The Introduction serves as a road map of sorts ad is a very good one at that. In Chapter 1, Trueman discusses the difference between  neutrality and objectivity. While no historian will be neutral in his/her retelling of the past, there will be verifiable facts, evidence, etc. by which one may ascertain what actually occurred. Trueman walks through some of the claims of those who deny the Holocaust in order to bring to light some of the basic strategies of good (and bad) historical method.

Trueman then moves to a discussion of interpretive frameworks in Chapter 2. Call it what you will: worldview, presuppositions, ideological commitments, beliefs; we all have them, and they drastically influence how we interpret the truth, including the truth about the past. Truman chooses to demonstrate the strengths and limitations of  interpretive schemes by evaluating Marxism.

Chapter 3 addresses the problem of anachronism. This was a new term for me and really made me feel like I was back in college with a bunch of intellectuals...and a bit out of my league. However, anachronism isn't nearly as complex as it sounds; it merely refers to the fact that the historian is in the present while addressing questions to the past. This time gap creates a whole host of problems similar to a tourist visiting a foreign country. Trueman highlights many of these problems and says, "Simply to be aware of the potential problem is a crucial move toward avoiding it" (pg. 115). This chapter, like the ones that go before it, is full of helpful reminders including the need to be modest in the conclusions one draws (pg. 140).

Finally, Chapter 4 is a treatment of various issues to which historians can be prone and of which they ought to be aware (oversimplification, generalization, poor framing of questions, etc.). Once again, Trueman makes statements that are pertinent to all of life. Fox example, he spends time relaying the importance of asking the right questions.

"...the framing of a question can shape the answer" (pg 162).
 "...often, questions are clearly driven by particular ideological commitments that arguably lead to distorted answers" (pg. 163).

In layman's terms, we tend to ask loaded questions.

Mr. Trueman rightfully acknowledges that he has "barely scratched the surface of what it means to write history" (pg. 169). While I would have liked to have seen greater depth in certain aspects, especially with regard to how a Biblical worldview affects ones' study of history (as opposed to merely focusing on Marxism), I believe Mr. Trueman gives his reader a great start. In my case, he has successfully fulfilled his objective "to ignite that interest [in understanding the past] in others, to guide them away from dead ends and methodological mistakes to fruitful and creative avenues of approach, and to help in some small way the next generation of those who wish to make history come alive for future generations" (pg 181).

In conclusion, Histories and Fallacies is a book I would loved to have understood before or during my college years. However, I am grateful for the opportunity to read and process the material now and look forward to using the knowledge that I have gleaned to be a more discerning reader across multiple disciplines. I trust many others will greatly benefit from it as well.

*Many thanks to Crossway for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!