There is a narrative around Christian dating culture, which, while universally accepted, may not be true. As we discuss marriage and relationships, we often use terms such as “finding The One,” “meeting my soulmate” and—perhaps the most common—“You haven’t met anyone because God hasn’t brought him into your life yet.”
Though these phrases seem like mere quips, they are theologically loaded. Each statement reveals an underlying assumption about who God is and how He interacts with mankind. Most Christian dating books and resources imply that God is determining not only WHO you will marry, but HOW and WHEN you meet them.
In other spheres of life, we call this determinism. There are entire Christian worldviews that depend on this view of God, but many people don’t look at life through a deterministic lens. They believe God gives us freedom to choose from many options (for instance, jobs and college) and we must listen for His leading to make the best choice. But when it comes to relationships, people who would otherwise disagree with God dictating the who, what and where of our choices become what I call “dating determinists.”
There are a few problems with this worldview. First is the problem of soulmates. Nowhere in Scripture is the term “soulmate” found, because it is derived from a Greek text by the philosopher Plato, NOT from the Bible. In Plato’s Symposium, the playwright Aristophanes claims that at the beginning of time, all humans were double-bodied. Because they tried to ascend to Mount Olympus, the gods split the human pairs in half. To this day—Aristophanes claimed—humans spend their days looking for their “other half” to be made whole and complete.
The sad thing about this story is how many Christians believe this is a biblical concept! Instead of basing our view of marriage on Greek mythology, let’s look at what the Bible gives as an example.
The Genesis Argument
Some people argue that because God put only Adam and Eve in the garden at the beginning of time, He has automatically determined spouses for everyone since. This view is problematic for a few reasons. First, Adam and Eve were the very first couple in the entire world; it makes sense for God to create only one option for one another. But even in the Garden, Adam and Eve were given the freedom of choice. They could choose obedience to God, or choose rebellion and separation from God. They chose rebellion.
Warnings Against Unequal Yoking
Centuries after this, we begin to see God warning against intermarriage with other people groups. Because of the rebellion brought into the world by Adam, God’s children—promised and born through Abraham—were warned against intermarriage with people who did not serve God. The fact that God WARNS against being unequally yoked indicates it is possible to make a wrong choice in who we marry.
Warnings against unequal yoking occur in Exodus 34:16, Deuteronomy 7:3, Joshua 23:12, 1 Kings 11:2 and Ezra 9:12, just to name a few. Those who rejected this warning saw the consequences play out in heartbreaking circumstances (e.g., Solomon in 1 Kings). This is not the first warning about unequal yoking; later we see the apostle Paul warn against it in 2 Corinthians 6:14.
But here’s where it gets interesting. In 1 Corinthians 7:14-16, Paul gives instructions for the unmarried, the married and the married to unbelievers. He tells them to remain married to their spouses unless the unbelieving spouse chooses to leave. If God determines one’s spouse, but God also explicitly instructs us not to marry unbelievers, what do we do with the people who marry unbelievers? It would seem that God planned for them to disobey His instructions, but we know God does not lead any of us into sin or foolishness (James 1:13).
This is why the “soulmate” argument is theologically inconsistent, and it makes God out to be a hypocrite.
If God Does Not Determine My Spouse, Who Does?
The answer here is revealed, I think, in Genesis 24. In this passage, Abraham sends a servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. The wife must be a believer, and Abraham knows this. So he gives specific instructions for the kind of woman the servant must find for Isaac. God blesses this mission and the servant’s prayer to find a woman worthy of his master’s son.
In Proverbs 18:22 it says, “he who finds a wife finds a good thing.” God gives us freedom to make good and bad choices. He also gives us wisdom to make the best choice possible. He is not determining who you will marry, but He IS going to bring you many different possibilities. You get to choose from those possibilities by walking in the Spirit, listening to Him and trusting His wisdom.
It is possible for God to be completely sovereign and all-knowing without being all-controlling. From the beginning He gave us the chance to choose Him and His way, or to choose unwisely. When it comes to your spouse and future marriage, your trust should be in God Himself and your daily journey with Him. This means being open to all the options He brings across your path, being willing to take action with His wisdom and being willing to change where necessary.
My husband and I could have married different people. We could have honored God in those marriages. But this marriage has changed us into people who can glorify God in a specific way. God allowed us a choice, and He made that choice beautiful. That’s the sovereign grace of a redeeming God.