By Patricia Engler, Crosswalk.com
Fun fact: humans were originally each created with two faces, four arms and four legs. Also, people were spherical. They literally rolled around the planet like giant, multi-limbed oranges.
Despite their dysmorphic appearances, however, early humans possessed incredible strength. In fact, their power posed such a threat to the divine realm that the pagan Greek deity Zeus elected to slice each of these humanoid oranges in half. Problem solved! Now, humans would be sentenced to spend their days not rivaling the gods, but mournfully seeking their missing halves—their soulmates.
At least, that’s the story of humankind Plato outlined in his text, The Symposium. And, being the ancient Greek philosopher who founded the Academy ancestral to Western universities, he should know. Right?
Then again, Plato is also the guy who allegedly defined humans as “featherless bipeds.” He must have felt deliciously satisfied with this epiphany, until a prankster arrived at the Academy with a plucked chicken representing “Plato’s man.” Talk about having to go back to the drawing board!
Clearly, the surest source of insight into humanity’s true condition is not Plato, his plucked chicken, or his mythology. Pagan myths, in fact, are the last place where Christians would look for truth. Instead, we look to the One who is Truth (John 14:6), knows truth, and reveals truth through His word.
Because God’s word is truth (John 17:17), we can always detect a lie by comparing it against Scripture. So, we constantly need to think critically about the messages we receive from culture, to see if they really match what the Bible teaches. And culture’s messages about “finding your soulmate” are no exception.
Despite originating from an unbiblical, pagan (and slightly disturbing) myth, the soulmate concept still grips today’s culture with the strength of a four-armed orange. From pop songs to romantic comedies, a thousand messages suggest that we’re incomplete until we find our elusive “missing half.” How does this message compare with what the Bible teaches?
Soulmates vs. Scripture:
From the first pages of Genesis, Scripture indicates that humans are hardwired for relationship. Genesis 2:18 records how God, having created Adam, declared, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” True to His word, God then fashioned Eve, uniting her with Adam in the first marriage. As verse 24 continues, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
So yes, God definitively designed humans for intimacy, connection and relationships, including marriage. Yes, God often works through marriage to glorify Himself, further His purposes for us, and provide for our needs—like He provided Eve as a helpmate for Adam.
And yes, God may have particular spouses in mind for us—like He had Eve in mind for Adam, Rebekah for Isaac, or Boaz for Ruth. But before jumping to the conclusion that Scripture somehow therefore accommodates the soulmate concept, we need to remember two important caveats.
Earthly Marriage Does Not Make Us Complete
First, the relationship which God ultimately created us for is not an earthly marriage, but the heavenly marriage between Christ and the Church. We are designed first and foremost for connection with God! As Paul explained,
“… for we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:30-32)
This eternal union between Christ and His redeemed creation is the only relationship that will fully quench the human thirst for intimacy. It’s the only true happily ever after known to time. And it’s the only marriage which makes humans complete. So, not even the most meaningful, fulfilling human relationships can offer more than mere shadows, flickers and passing glimpses of that glory.
The second caveat is that nothing in the Bible suggests that in addition to this heavenly marriage, we also need earthly marriage to be complete as humans. Was Jesus humanly incomplete because of His singleness?
Did Daniel, Shadrack, Meshach or Abednego fail to fulfill their God-given purposes in life because they were single? Did Paul consider himself less of a Christian or a man because he embraced a single lifestyle? Not at all. In fact, Paul suggested that singleness is a desirable, more carefreestate which fosters clarified devotion to God. Just look at some of his statements in Scripture:
“If you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.” (1 Corinthians 7:28, emphasis added)
“A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 7:39-40, emphasis added)
- “I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:32-35, emphasis added.)
Far from translating to incompleteness then, singleness presents an unparalleled opportunity to become more complete by strengthening the ultimate connection for which we were designed: relationship with God.
Dangers of the Soulmate Myth:
As clear as Scripture is on these issues, however, soulmate myths from pagan philosophy and popular culture have still sneaked into the church.
Have you ever heard a well-meaning churchgoer hint that you “need” to find Miss or Mr. Right to fulfil God’s plan for your life?
Are the shelves in your church library stocked with more fictions where Miss Protagonist meets the man of her dreams than testimonies where real men and women meet the God of the universe?
Have you noticed that amongst the scores of wonderful Christian songs which celebrate biblical marriage, it’s hard to name any which celebrate biblical singleness?
Did you spend your youth group years listening mostly to talks on “waiting” for the right spouse, as though the point of the Christian life is to someday be happily married rather than to maximize the everyday purpose, mission and adventure of living for God?
Then you know just what I’m talking about.
When these kinds of messages, suggestions or emphases that may subtly glorify soulmates sneak into our churches, hearts and minds, we come face to face with several dangers:
1. Idolizing marriage. It’s easy to take beautiful things which our Creator made and put them on a pedestal. We elevate them, covet them, and animate them with the attributes of God—including His ability to rescue, redeem and satisfy the human heart. That’s what the Israelites did when they worshiped the golden calf as the hero which delivered them from Egypt. And it’s what we can do when we elevate marriage as the thing which would deliver us from the wastelands of our perceived incompleteness. But this, by definition, is idolatry.
2. Wasting the opportunity of singleness. Messages that idolize marriage can also give us a distorted view of singleness, as though being single is mainly an occasion to sip lattes and check the time on our phones while waiting for Miss or Mr. Right to breeze in and whisk us off to real life. But that is a LIE. Worse, it’s a lie that can lull us into missing some of our most valuable years for freely pursuing God and His purposes for our lives—years we can never reclaim.
3. Buying identity lies. Beyond giving us a distorted view of singleness, the soulmate myth also gives us a distorted view of ourselves—as if our very worth and identity is founded in the presence or absence of a significant other. But our identity is not our relationship status. Whether single, married or anything in-between, our value and identity rests in nothing less than belonging to Christ.
4. Seeking satisfaction from wrong source. Even while recognizing that human worth is found solely in Christ, messages geared toward churched singles can sound something like this:
“Sure, you’re single. But don’t worry. You can still be satisfied with just Jesus.”
While these messages might hit close to truth, they’re nevertheless misleading, because there’s no such thing as “just” Jesus. Jesus is everything. He is our exceedingly great reward, to borrow God’s description of Himself in relationship to Abraham (Genesis 15:1). Nothing, nothing, could satisfy us apart from Him. And in theory, we know that.
But in practice, there can still be this lingering idea in Christian circles that the formula [you + Jesus] somehow equates to less than [you + Jesus + significant other].
Underlying this idea is the age-old deception that [Jesus + ______ = satisfaction]. Fill in the blank with a relationship, a career, a realized dream, or anything else. If that ______ disappears from our lives, or if we never achieve it in the first place, then according to this deception, we aren’t quite whole—not even with Jesus.
But that is so opposite of reality! Knowing God is the crux of human existence, satisfaction and completeness, so much that anything which draws us away from Him—even otherwise beautiful, desirable things—counts as lost ground, a step backwards. Ultimately then, humanity’s core problem is not separation from the soulmates of the Symposium, but separation from the God of the Bible.
The Truth Is Even Better
Interestingly, Plato’s symposium and the Bible do agree on something: humans are naturally incomplete. But they disagree on the solution to that incompleteness.
Plato says we are complete in our soulmates—the other half of our orange. The Bible says we are complete in Christ. And while humans are finite, fading, fallible, and guaranteed to let us down, Jesus is infinite, immortal, infallible, and guarantees 100% faithfulness. He vows to never leave us, forsake us, or fail us.
That’s something no half-orange could ever fully promise! The reality, then, is far more magnificent than Plato could have ever imagined: human completeness stems not from finding our mythical other half, but from being found in Christ.
Patricia Engler is a Christian apologetics speaker, writer and Youth Outreach Coordinator for Answers in Genesis Canada. After 12 years of homeschool and a B.Sc. degree, she backpacked 360°around the world documenting how Christian students keep their faith at university. You can follow her stories and get connected at www.patriciaengler.com or answersingenesis.org.
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