Here is a second of the questions from the PHILADELPHIA CONFERENCE ON REFORMED THEOLOGY (PCRT) Q&A that we did not get to during the conference:

Why so many singles? Why does it seem that God withholds marriage for so many when he clearly upholds it, encourages it, desires it, etc.? Why are there so many singles who want marriage but don’t seem to find it?

It is true that a great many adult Christians, many in their twenties and thirties, are frustrated by not finding a marriage partner. This is of course a very sensitive subject, since so many single Christians feel pain and remorse in this area. But there are some general answers. Let me offer four categories of responses:

1. Immaturity and Sin among Men: I do think the first answer to be given is that there is a general immaturity and sin that hinders marriage in the church. I am referring primarily, though not exclusively, to young adult Christian men. It is well documented that men in our society are maturing later in life — often only in their mid to late 30’s. As such, they pull back from the responsibility involved in serious dating and marriage. This is a great shame, since this immaturity is hindering their own growth as men and is harming women. In almost every case, such men are engaging in sexual sin, often involving pornography, to serve their otherwise unattended sexual desires. The result is that a great many Christian women desire to marry but do not find a suitable match in the church. This is a cause for many Christian to repent and for churches to direct attention on the Christian maturity of young men. I realize that saying this will not make me popular with a great many young men, but it remains widely true and needs to be said. If you are an unmarried adult man, who does not have the gift of singleness (i.e. no or little sex drive), then you should consider the priorities and the trajectory of your life, along with the needs of godly women for husbands. A related point is that many men so immaturity in their attractions, constantly neglecting wonderful women who might be interested for more outwardly attractive or younger women who will not be. A perusal of the book of Proverbs will provide excellent counsel in this area, as with male maturity in general.

2. The Widespread Brokenness of our Society. Another side to this coin is that so many people today come from painful situations that have left them deeply wounded and broken. Many men have not had role models and therefore lack confidence in themselves as male leaders. Many women (and men) have suffered sexual molestation or other forms of abuse and thus are inhibited by fear, anger, and pain. These are far more prevalent problems than most Christians realize. So Christians need to be befriending singles in order to get to know them as people and to minister to their lives. Adult singleness is often terribly lonely, so married believers need to befriend them and churches will often need to arrange fellowship ministries for single adults.

3. Worldly Demands & Priorities among Christians. Some of the problem stems from the structure of contemporary society. Christians do not live around family members, who often play a role in helping couples to meet and grow together. Demanding work lives socially isolate us and leave little energy for actual living. A large part of the high rates of singleness results from the fact that many adults have placed their priorities elsewhere. They spent their 20’s pursuing professional credentials rather than relationships. That is fine and should not be condemned. But there is a reality that goes with it: where you place your attention and efforts will often be where you have results. Thus, we have rich careers but poor relationships — it reflects the choices that we made. I have found this to be especially challenging to professional women. Society has pressed on women the expectation that they match the career attainments of their male peers. But does this leave room for being a wife and mother? I have heard many attractive and godly women who were business executives lament that the Christian men they know tend to be romantically involved with nurses and school-teachers. The reason for this is that these men are seeking wives who are more likely to embrace a feminine role in relationships. Many corporate women have taken on a masculine demeanor, as a simply necessity of success in the workplace. None of these things involves sin, per se, but this situation also does not promote marriage. Hence, our priorities are shaping our results. We have careers and money, but not love.

4. God’s Sovereign Will. It is fine to speak in broad categories, but actual Christians have personal stories that are not broad but specific. Their stories involve opportunities, sorrows, mistakes, and learning experiences. Each single should trust God to provide for his or her needs, remembering that God’s great provision is the gift of his own love through Jesus Christ. We are all in a marital relationship as the Bride of Christ! But Christians who desire marriage and sorrow in singleness should prayerfully reflect on their maturity and character, together with the priorities revealed in their lives, and then prayerfully seek the Lord’s grace in providing exactly what his wisdom declares that we need.


This post is by Pastor Rick Phillips of 2nd Presbyterian Church of Greenville, SC who is also the Chairman of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology.

P.S. My wife and I have written a dating book that is directed at helping adult Christians who are seeking relationships that will lead to marriage: Holding Hands, Holding Hearts: Recovering a Biblical View of Christian Dating. It may be an aid and blessing to those wrestling in this area.
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