Being single is not good for anyone.

God affirms this in Genesis when he says of the first man “it is not good to be alone.” People went from one to two so that we could, in some mysterious way, imitate the natural fellowship in God.

If you are alone, then you know the wisdom of that Biblical story.

There is, however, a weird belief that if one is not married then one is alone. This is a bit like arguing that if one does not own a car that one has no access to transportation.

A person can be married and alone just as one can be single and live a full life in community. There are advantages to both situations, but guaranteed happiness belongs to no human condition this side of Paradise.

Culture will need most of humanity to get married, because this is the only way we can survive. Ideally children should be raised with examples from the two sides of humanity: the male and female. Traditional society is not sexist enough to imagine that either the man or the woman is replaceable.

However, not all men or women can marry or wish to do so. For those folk there is more time to develop friendships and other forms of human relationships. Falling in love does not just happen to those entering married. A man can love his friend.

Friendship is not a replacement for marriage, but for many men and women it is better than marriage. The love David had for his friend Jonathan was better than married love for him. In fact the least healthy aspect of David’s life were his multiple marriages and his deplorable parenting skills.

Israel needed David to have children, but would have been better off if he had a good many fewer of them.

These thoughts are motivated by a recent discussion of pastoral searches. Churches in some Protestant traditions tend to look askance at unmarried clergy. To do so they must ignore the Bible and Church history pointing to the special ability of the unmarried to love passionately in ways outside of marriage.

Churches would do well to examine whether a candidate is alone. Is the married candidate healthy in all his relationships? Is he lonely even if he is never by himself? Is the candidate without a spouse healthy in relationships outside of marriage? Nobody should hire a single person even if he is married.

We need fewer lonely leaders working out their pain on the congregation. Being unmarried is no sign that a person is single and married that he isn’t alone.

John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute, and Professor of Philosophy at Biola University. In 1996 he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Rochester. John Mark Reynolds can be found blogging regularly at Scriptorium Daily.

Publication date: March 28, 2011