Book Review: “Single-Minded” by Revd Kate Wharton

Full Title: “Single-Minded: Being single, whole and living life to the full”

Author: Revd Kate Wharton

Publisher: Monarch Books

First Published: 21st June 2013

Print length: 192 pages

Available as both a Paperback, and an eBook

“Single-Minded” is a widely accessible and succinct look at the question of how to live a full, happy, sustainable and fulfilled life as a Christian single in a sex-obsessed culture, a relationship-absorbed society and a marriage-obsessed Church. It contains challenges both for the married and for the single, hence its very positive reviews from both the single and the married. It illuminatingly illustrates the unique gifts that singles can bring to other singles, the married, the Church, other Christians and the whole of society, but also the unique gifts that the married can bring to other couples, singles, the Church, other Christians and the whole of society. It additionally, draws on the positive, beneficial value of solitude, as opposed to loneliness.

This book is a highly topical one for a number of important reasons. It has always been the case that everyone will be single at some point(s) in their lives. However, with the significantly higher average age of marriage today, the fact that less than half of all British couples ever marry, the fact that those who do marry have often been living together beforehand, the fact that almost half of all marriages end in divorce and the fact that almost half of all children are born out of wedlock all means that we need to take a closer and more careful look at the Christian visions for both singleness and marriage and constructively contrast them with their inferior secular alternatives. This isn’t just a problem of secularism and secularisation, it is also a growing problem within the Church as, for example, the proportion of males who attend church regularly is significantly lower than females and so this makes the ideal of Christian, believers’ heterosexual marriages even harder to attain. Kate helpfully explains what she believes the ideal of Christian marriage to be, how it can be aimed for and attained, and how churches should work towards this and aid this. She also explains how marriage, as opposed to voluntary singleness/celibacy, should not be forced upon any Christian and how to draw that precise line between churches encouraging all who desire long-term romantic relationships to life-long marriage, while also not forcing this on voluntary singles/celibates and not excluding them. Kate helpfully points out that, for many non-Christians in modern-day Britain, to be single doesn’t mean to be celibate. No, it instead means to engage in a complex, confusing and changing web, cocktail and myriad of different types of relationship with different individuals. She expands upon this, pointing out how to develop strategies and mechanism to try to live up to the high standard and moral expectation of Christian sexual ethics and how it makes for a more better society overall.

Kate is clearly very well-read on the subject and draws not only on her own life experience as a Christian single, but also on that of many others. She often draws on Scripture too, keeping the book aligned and faithful. Her approach is very pragmatic, practical, realistic, candid, honest, open and down-to-Earth while simultaneously being rooted and grounded in Scripture. Her writing style is fun and helpful while also simultaneously attaining the benefits of being probing and thought-provoking. She fills a gap and niche in the market, there are few books on singleness and even less on Christian singleness. I also like the fact that she addresses both those who feel called to lifelong celibacy, and those who are currently single with the future hope of marriage. Kate also specifically addresses the question of how singles, celibates and marriage couples can all thrive, flourish and live well together for the common good, each helping, sustaining and supporting each other in their own unique ways.

She provides helpful, practical management strategies which singles can put in place in their lives to deal with and tackle the challenges of perpetual singleness. The book is well-structured and slots and fits into easy, accessible and manageable chunks, making reading it enjoyable rather than endurable! It was also great to have a more evangelical perspective on lifelong singleness, rather than a Roman/Anglo- Catholic perspective, as is mostly given, and also to actually have a single author writing on this subject! A great deal of thought prayer and research has clearly gone into this book and is found on every page. Its tone is careful, balanced and considered and is helpfully not just aimed at a specific group in particular, as is shown in the fact both male and female and married and single people have all given it glowing reviews. It is grounded not just in academic theology and Biblical Study but also in real life experience and accounts of other singles surveyed has lots of useful. Unique challenges and opportunities of both. She follows a sensible, Biblically rooted while pragmatic theology and approach with a careful, sensitive and balanced tone.

Overall, I would definitely highly recommend this excellent, concise, succinct, accessible book to all my Christian friends and believe it to have greatly enriched and enhanced my thinking regarding the Christian views of singleness, celibacy, relationships and marriage.

Throughout this excellent book, I have loved Kate’s wonderful way with words. I will just leave you all with my favourite quotation from her book:

‘I’ve learnt to be content whatever my circumstances. And this contentment isn’t a nice, easy, floaty, flowery feeling that surrounds me. No, it’s a decision that I very deliberately make every day, through gritted teeth and with clenched hands if necessary. But that is my choice. I choose a full life – what do you choose?’

(Page 95)

By Ben Somervell

Thank you very much for reading this blog post. If you would like to read more about Christian singleness and celibacy, please read my articles linked below:

(1) ‘Single but Whole’

(2) The Purpose of Sexuality for the Sexless

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