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John Stott is being remembered as an evangelical statesman, a pastor/scholar, and an inveterate birdwatcher. He was also a lifelong bachelor. While researching my book on a theology of singleness, I had the opportunity to meet Stott and interview him about his views and experience as a single. He later revised and expanded his candid remarks into a more thorough treatment of the subject, from which the following is excerpted.

On the balance of marriage and singleness:

We must never exalt singleness (as some early church fathers did, notably Tertullian) as if it were a higher and holier vocation than marriage. We must reject the ascetic tradition which disparages sex as legalized lust, and marriage as legalized fornication. No, no. Sex is the good gift of a good Creator, and marriage is his own institution.

If marriage is good, singleness is also good. It's an example of the balance of Scripture that, although Genesis 2:18 indicates that it is good to marry, 1 Corinthians 7:1 (in answer to a question posed by the Corinthians) says that "it is good for a man not to marry." So both the married and the single states are "good"; neither is in itself better or worse than the other.

Reasons people remain single:

I doubt if we could find a clearer answer to this than in the recorded teaching of Jesus himself in Matthew 19:11-12. He was talking about "eunuchs," meaning people who remain single and celibate. He listed three reasons why people do not marry.

First, for some it is "because they were born that way." This could include those with a physical defect or with a homosexual orientation. Such are congenitally unlikely to marry.

Second, there are those who "were made that way by men." This would include victims of the horrible ancient ...

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John Stott on Singleness
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August 2011

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