Sam Allberry, 7 Myths About Singleness (Crossway, 2019)
I’ve been lucky enough to hear the content of this book from Sam himself several times over the last few years. I greatly appreciated the talks then, and the same goes for the book now.
The first thing I noticed when reading 7 Myths About Singleness was that it is refreshingly well written: a straightforward and enjoyable read. In the world of Christian writing, there is no end of bad poetry, cringey illustration, needless academics, and jarringly impersonal application. Sam avoids all of these. 7 Myths is lively and accessible while also being wise. Sam’s writing comes across much like he does in person: witty and to the point – his jokes land; his one-liners are memorable, and he doesn’t patronise.
Singleness is valuable
I have seen bookshelves in the homes of people I know filled to overflowing with romantic fiction and advice on how to stop being single. 7 Myths would look out of place in those collections, and yet it would likely be a very helpful addition. Sam takes a brief (150 page) but critical look at the assumptions we tend to have about singleness, assumptions such as: singleness means no intimacy and no family; singleness wastes your sexuality, and singleness is just too hard.
Sam identifies the problems with these assumptions, but more than that he offers a bigger, more hopeful picture of how singleness in the Church can look. He argues that, within God’s people, celibate singleness can be of real value to the community, a beautiful approach to life, and a powerful way of demonstrating the worth of the gospel.
For example, in the chapters ‘Singleness Means No Intimacy’ and ‘Singleness Means No Family’, Sam unpicks intimacy from sex, two things that are often considered synonymous, and describes how single people can find intimacy in friendship and church community. He supports this with biblical promises that say the Church can and should provide family for those who go without a biological family of their own (see, for example, Mark 10:28-30). The chapter on family is particularly useful and challenging – I’d encourage all married couples and church leaders to take heed of it.
Singleness isn’t easy
A good communicator will anticipate the questions of their audience. There were several moments where I thought, ‘Yeah, but what about…?’ and, sure enough, in most cases, my question would be addressed in the next section. Similarly, just when you might begin to think, as I did, that Sam’s vision of Christian singleness is potentially, possibly, maybe, just a little overly optimistic and clinical, chapter 7 opens up before you.
Myth number seven is ‘singleness is easy’. At this point, Sam opens up about his own struggles in singleness, both practical and relational, including the very real feelings of grief and loss that can come from not having a romantic partner, and the difficulty of trying to relate to people in a church environment that is primarily set up for families and not for single people.
All of this will be relatable to the single person, as it certainly was to me. I wanted to hug Sam upon finishing the book.
Chapter 7 demonstrates that Sam’s arguments for singleness aren’t just theory. Being a committed single man, he adds a weight of evidence to what he is saying through the use of personal example and experience. 7 Myths strikes the right emotional balance of being both realistic and hopeful.
Sam challenges our assumptions and offers a fuller picture of singleness. He explains that the gospel can infuse singleness with a great deal of meaning and worth, stating, ‘If marriage shows us the shape of the gospel, singleness shows us its sufficiency’ (p.120). In other words, if marriage provides a picture of our ultimate relationship with God in the new creation, then the experience of singleness reminds us that sex and romance are not necessary for human fulfilment and that our deepest needs can only be met in Jesus.
I value singleness, and I second Sam’s challenge to our assumptions about it, and so, of course, I absolutely recommend this book. It will help the single Christian to feel understood and more optimistic about their relationship status, and, by God’s grace, it will help the Church to become a more biblically inclusive community by developing deeper practices of spiritual family.