Recently an article has been circulating the internet entitled "My husband is not my soul mate." (which can be read here) by a blogger named Hannah.  The post described an encounter she had with her Father (who is also a pastor) in which he argued that using verses such as Jeremiah 29:11 and Psalms 37:4 to justify the concept of a single person being predestined to be your spouse was erroneous.  The article has seen, at least in my own friend group, widespread support and posts of "Amen." and "So glad someone said this."  

I have always believed in the idea of a single person being picked out by God to be your spouse so long as you choose to love and obey Him.  But being willing to have my beliefs challenged, I read the article and pondered what Hannah wrote for several weeks.  After some thought, my conclusions on this topic are recorded below.

I do think there is "the one" out there.  And I think there are several reasons why this is the case. 

Definitions

As is often occurs, it is important to clarify what is meant in a question.  What does one mean by the phrase "soul mate?"  Below are three definitions of "soul mate" from various, commonly-cited dictionaries.

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition © 2011
"One of two persons compatible with each other in disposition, point of view, or sensitivity."

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, © 2013
"1.  a person who is perfectly suited to another in temperament
  2.  a person who strongly resembles another in attitudes or beliefs <ideological soul mates>"

Oxford Dictionaries, © 2013
"a person ideally suited to another as a close friend or romantic partner."

With regard to the first definition, it seems entire plausible on its face that one would--and indeed should expect to find--a soul mate.  If a soul mate is just someone with whom a person is compatible, then undoubtedly one would marry their soul mate by definition (for who would marry someone with whom they are not compatible?  That is just foolishness.).

The first point of the second definition I will address in a moment.  The second point of the second definition would make it not only possible but extremely likely that every person has a soul mate and further that every person both would and ought to marry that soul mate.

The third definition and the first point of the second definition allow for valid contention to be offered since both definitions contain very nebulous words such as "perfectly" and "ideally."  At the first, I will agree emphatically and unconditionally that no man or woman will ever find a perfect marriage partner nor a prefect relationship of any kind in this world.  Man is at his core sinful and the world fallen and cursed by God, therefore there is no perfection to be found in this life except that of God Himself through the Father, His son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  Beyond what God Himself has touched or worked in this world since the Fall, there is "there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Ps. 14:3b; 53:3b).  Consequently, I will not spend any time defending that idea because by and large it is doubtful any serious Christian believes in the idea of either a perfect human or a perfect relationship.

With respect to a person "ideally suited for another," I believe a case could be made that a soul mate exists for each person.  "Ideally," as used in this writing, is defined as "the best possible fit for all concerned."  It seems reasonable a priori to me that when one considers a person P, assuming P intends to marry, that he or she would by definition have another person out in the world with which compatibility would be more likely than anyone else in the world.   Belief in this postulation does not by necessity negate Hannah's proposition that "You could have a great marriage with any number of compatible people."  Because there would undoubtedly be several people with whom P would be very compatible but not ideally compatible.  Take the following example: suppose the soul mate (as defined to mean an ideal mate in life) for person P is 90% compatible with person S and that for both P and S this represents an ideal (best possible fit for all concerned) match (it makes sense that S would find P to be their soul mate just as P does for S seeing that if S possess personality and character traits that fit well with P then P must contain personality and character traits that fit well with S by definition).  That would mean that the billions of other people on the earth could all be organized by a measure of compatibility with respect to S.  Say person Q is the next most compatible at 89% after person S and so on.  Thus, it would be possible for P to marry Q and still have found a very successful match.  Therefore, to believe in the conception of a soul mate does not necessarily preclude one from having successful relationships with other, closely compatible people.  It does appear however, by the above logic, that there should by definition be a most compatible person in the world for each person seeing that there are billions of people on the earth and thereby billions of different sets of personality characteristics.  Since no two people are the same, then one should expect to find a most-compatible-person--i.e. a soul mate.

Scripture

One of the points with which I strongly disagreed with Hannah's father was his assertion that there is no Biblical evidence for a single person that God has for each person to marry nor that God has planned that everyone should marry.  Not much was explained concerning the reasoning behind Hannah's father's critique of the usage of Jeremiah 29:11 to justify the concept of a soul mate and no explanation at all was offered as to why he believed Psalms 37:4 to be inapplicable to the idea of soul mates.  I think several things could be said concerning these two passages.  I find his exegesis of Jeremiah 29:11 to be valid.  That verse is quoted somewhat half-contextually in many modern Churches and to Hannah's father's credit, the verse is not preached in its entirety very often.  However, a negation of the applicability of this verse to finding a soul mate does not necessarily negate the idea itself of a soul mate.  The New Testament counterpart to this verse is found in Romans 8, in which Paul writes: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Rom. 8:28)  This is not copiously different from Jeremiah's prophesy to Israel, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jer. 29:11; Rendered here in NIV as is done by most Christians now.)  Therefore, it would seem that God does work things for good for a true Christian because that is His nature.  This assumption about God's character--that He desires to do His followers good--is therefore still apparent even if one ignores Jeremiah 29:11.

As far as Psalms 37:4 is concerned, seeing that no criticisms were expounded, no response may be offered.  I see no reason this verse cannot be used to justify one's desire for an ideal soul mate as long as one remembers that in order to obtain the desires of one's heart, one must delight in the LORD--i.e. love God and follow His commands.

Beyond these two passages, it seems that there are others that would justify the concept of God having a particular person planned for each Christian to marry that He wills should marry.  The foremost of these being Genesis 2:24, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."  God has designed mankind to marry and to desire to marry.  Consequently, it would not be consistent for God to design man to desire marriage yet not provide a mate who has characteristics compatible with that man--or worse that God would arbitrarily deny that man a woman who would have been more compatible for another woman who is less compatible.  God wills what is best for His children.

The common rebuttal to be offered is that the denial of the idea of a soul mate only means that a successful relationship is possible with many people and not just one and additionally that one should not live his or her life waiting for "the one" with a naive expectation for an unrealistically great relationship.  This is one point with which I heartily agree with author: writing love letters to your future spouse and creating a sort of fantasy around what they will be like is not a wise or prudent use of a Christian's time.  Surely such inventions of people will breed only disappointment when that person discovers that all people (including their spouse or possible spouses) are fallen and imperfect.  But to me, these practices are foolish not because a specific person God has planned for that Christian to marry does not exist, but because these practices perpetuate the false hope for a perfect person or a perfect match.  Such beliefs are completely unwarranted, but have little to bear on the concept of a soul mate.  If a soul mate is simply the most-compatible-person with whom a particular person is the most aligned, then it is entirely judicious for a person to wait to meet their soul mate and expect God to lead them to that soul mate.

Hannah also mentions that "Nope, [my father] said, a husband is not only not a biblical promise, it is also not a specific element of God’s 'plan for my life.' God’s plan is for us to be made more holy, more like Christ… not marry a certain person."  It is entirely true that one of God's ultimate purposes is that of making people more like His Son Jesus Christ.  Thus, I agree with that part of the statement.  However, the prior statement that marriage is not a specific element of God's plan for a particular person's life is a downright foolish assertion.  God desires the continued existence of mankind and through the science of ecology it is well-established that most couples in a country must have at least 2.1 children in order to replace the number of elderly who pass away.  In other words, to maintain a population of individuals, each couple in that population must have approximately 2.1 children.  Thus, with few exceptions, most people must go on to have children in order to perpetuate the human race--an objective for which I believe God is absolutely in support--and that requires marriage.  That being the case, due to the basic nature of humanity, God must desire and therefore will in most people's lives to pursue marriage.

Many will be quick to point out--and not incorrectly so--that Paul twice says that being unmarried is good.  He writes that  
"For I would that all men were even as I myself." (1 Cor. 7:7a; Here he refers to his status as unmarried.)  One verse later he also admonishes, "I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I." (1 Cor. 7:8)  By these two verses, I admit there will be people (such as Paul) for whom it is better for them to remained unmarried because God has not called that particular person to marriage or remarriage.  But even as the example of Paul demonstrates, this is the exception and not the rule.  Most people will go on to marry and making qualms about one exception does not make it follow that all should remain unmarried or especially desire to remain unmarried.  Indeed, Paul wrote right after saying that he desired the Corinthians church members to be unmarried that "But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that." (1 Cor. 7:7b) meaning that not everyone is called to remain celibate.  Concerning verse 8, Paul is addressing widows and thus this verse has no bearing on the question of first-time marriage.  Paul was not arguing that Christians should not marry but that they should not remarry if they are widows and they can help it.  Even on this point Paul was not firm.  Proverbs 18:22 states the point well: "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD."  It is a blessing to be married and bear and rear children.  

Finally, it is instructive to deal with the issue of predestination.  I think what bothers many people about the concept of a soul mate is that belief in such a proposition seems to bind the believer to some sort of belief in predestination.  A full discussion of predestination will not be presented here (to those who are looking for one, see my article concerning that subject).  However, I think it is useful to mention that God is all-knowing and also all-powerful.  God therefore knows and works according to His knowledge of the future and what is referred to as God's "middle knowledge"--God's knowledge of what would have happened given a certain set of circumstances (this is also sometimes referred to as God's "hypothetical knowledge").  Thus, it is reasonable to postulate that if God knows what would happen if a given Christian person P marries a given Christian person S and what would happen if a given Christian person marries a given Christian person Q, that He would will that P marry the person that better orchestrates history to achieve His will.  Thus, God must will that each Christian that is to marry should marry someone specific because God's will might better be achieved through P marrying S instead of Q.  This seems to me to be intuitively true.  As a result, it seems that the idea of a soul mate does not have as much to do with predestination as it does with the ideas of God's sovereignty and His will. 

Also, consider Romans 12:2: "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."  God's will is perfect--thus the idea that God could present several possible alternatives and contingency plans is not a consistent thought.  God's will being perfect (and good) requires a single path.  Just as God saved the world through one and only one path that was set before the foundation of the world--Jesus Christ's death and Resurrection--so to it must be the case that God has a singular will for the Christian's life.  A singular will by definition would mean that God does not have multiple routes for which He would work in one's life, but only one route.  It is definitely possible that man will sin and "interrupt" God's plan as many say, but seeing that God is all-knowing He will have already factored those sins into His plan for the Christian's life and consequently those deviations do not constitute a defense of the idea that God presents several alternative plans and then asks the Christian to choose one nor does God maintain that those plans are all perfectly acceptable choices because any of them would result in just as successful a life.  God chooses one, singular path for the Christian and then pursues that plan.  The Bible itself is a good example in that God chose very specific people to accomplish His will.  No where in the Scriptures has God said "this position is open and any one can fill it."  In the major stories of the Bible, one finds God choosing particular people.  If God operated that way in the past, there is no reason to assume He does not operate that way now with regard to who a particular Christian should marry.  God is a God of consistency (Heb. 13:8) and thus this reasoning would also lend itself to the idea of a soul mate as well.

When both the considerations of God's nature to do His true followers good and His sovereignty to achieve His will are brought together, one will find, I believe, the concept of a soul mate: a specific person that is most compatible with the Christian that God has planned from the beginning to provide to the Christian.  The same reasoning would follow from the other direction as well: the soul mate for person P also has P as his or her soul mate.

Conclusion

All of this is not to say that a given person's soul mate has all of the personality characteristics that the given person desires, but that his or her soul mate is the best possible person for them according to God and that He wills that the given person should come across them during the course of life.  This seems to me to be the suitable way to maintain the notion of a soul mate while still retaining a reasonable Christian lifestyle that is devoid of unrealistic expectations of one's future spouse.


God bless,
Robert A. Rowlett

 
 
Question

Sal asked CFA: “I appriciate what you all are trying to do, but I'm not buying it. I'm a person who believes in good morals, as I'm sure you also claim to be. But if your "God" truly claims to have any morals, why does he not only accept but even encourage slavery? I'm specifically refering to the following verses in Leviticus 25(39-46):

"If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: he shall be with you as a hired servant and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers. For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God. As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly."

Haven't we declared slavery to be inhumane? If your precious "God" is so loving, then why is he saying this? Do you and all Christians think slavery is okay, or does the bible have some kind of Typo?”

Great question! One I’ve heard before—the answer is actually quite surprising to most people. Let’s dive into the response.

Does the Bible Allow for Slavery?

Yes it does actually, but the difference is in definitions. What the United States, the UN, and the 21st century define as slavery isn’t what the Bible is talking about in the passage you quoted. The 21st century conception of slavery is that of African slave trade ships. The mind conjures images of poor, huddled people with little to eat and no sanitation. Concepts like “malnutrition”, “thirst”, and “death” come to mind. When we come to the Bible, however, we don’t find theses thoughts. Instead, we find something akin to the word “servant.” Consider some of the passages regarding slave treatment (including a section of the one quoted in the question):

Exodus 21:20-21 (NIV), “20If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, 21but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.”

Leviticus 25:44-46 (NIV), “44“‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.”

In the first passage we find how to interpret what happens to those in the second passage. At first, the command to beat the slave until death in order to affect punishment on the master may seem inhumane, but you must remember several things.

Firstly, notice the passage says “with a rod”. That is incredibly significant in this passage as it means the master of a slave is only to
discipline them—not ever hurt them or mistreat them for no reason. Consider the words of Dr. John Gill (1697-1771) concerning this very passage: “only with a rod for the correction of them, and not with a sword or any such destroying weapon, which would seem as though he intended to kill”. The rod was for discipline, never for abuse. This is in stark contrast to the slavery of the present world. Slaves weren’t abused or harmed for no reason—just disciplined. That’s quite a change from African slave trade.

Secondly, notice the passage itself! This passage is the first ever recorded law in history concerning treating slaves as more than property. As Albert Barnes (1798-1870) puts it, “The protection here afforded to the life of a slave may seem to us but a slight one; but it is the very earliest trace of such protection in legislation, and it stands in strong and favorable contrast with the old laws of Greece, Rome, and other nations. If the slave survived the castigation a day or two, the master did not become amenable to the law, because the loss of the slave was accounted, under the circumstances, as a punishment.” The Bible is the first place where we even see protection of slaves. So to the contrary of the idea of the Bible being a proponent of evil slave practices, it is actually the first document to legislate protection of slaves. Also, Barnes notes that the punishment of beating the slave was just that: the slave couldn’t work for a few days and thus you lost his labor. So in both circumstances, there is a reprimand on the master.

Also, please understand where the slave was going: Israel. Israel was a theocracy whose Ruler said (
Exodus 34:6B-7A, NIV): ““The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” With a Ruler like that, what would compel the Israelites to be unkind, ruthless tyrants to their slaves? Nothing!

Conclusion

I hope this shows you, Sal, that though Slavery was permitted in the Old Testament, it wasn’t an inhumane practice. In fact, it would’ve been better in that day to be a slave in Israel than a free person in one of the surrounding countries.

God bless,
Robert A. Rowlett