God’s Plan for My Wife–Who Isn’t My Soul Mate

I keep seeing an article passed around friends on Facebook. Hannah (that’s all I got) wrote it, and if you haven’t read it, then I highly encourage it. I enjoyed it a lot.

I find myself torn on this article, though. It encourages a revamp on the cultural idea of dating—which I’m all for, of course! But Hannah makes a move that, honestly, made me squirm a little in my seat. I’ll keep it short, since I’ve been told I should stop writing on dating topics.

Hannah sacrifices a deep and beautiful theological truth to make her point. She rightly attacks the cultural idea of soul mates, but makes the unfortunate move of giving up God’s sovereignty.

So how can we reconcile the two? Well, that’s a large task, as many brighter and greater men than myself have attempted to tackle it. And while I may be foolish for even trying in this severely limited context, I will try nonetheless.

God does have a plan for you and whomever you marry. Sorry to go against Hannah’s father here who said something like, “God doesn’t have a husband for [you], doesn’t have a plan for who [you] marry.” This is just hogwash. Sorry to be blunt, but it is. God absolutely has a plan for who we will marry (should the Lord will that we actually do). He has written whether or not we will marry, and to whom we will be married, from the dawn of time.

The problem we face is this ‘soul mate’ business. This, too, is hogwash. There’s no perfect person that just ‘completes your soul’ when you find them. Your soul is already completed in Christ! But, that doesn’t remove God’s sovereign plan for your life.

In other words, the danger of Hannah’s line of thinking is simply this: we would be able to think that we married the wrong person. We can’t think that, nor should you married folks ever think it. God wanted you to marry that person for the sanctification of you both. That is to say, for your good!

So let’s ditch the soul mate idea, but not God’s sovereignty. Let’s agree that God does have a plan for the person I marry (should He will it so), just as He did (and does!) for Hannah and her husband! How wonderful that is! But let’s also agree that whoever I meet, woo, and say ‘I do’ with is that person—even if she doesn’t meet this bizarre standard of being a ‘soul mate.’

String Him Up!

This morning I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and I came across this article, which was posted by The Aquila Report’s Facebook page. This is, of course, in my area of self-proclaimed expertise, and falls within the bounds of what some of my friends have called the dead horse I’ve been beating. Naturally, I can’t be silent on this!

This article is a fun little read. Aimed primarily at women (of course), it asks the question: “Should [women] submit to [their] boyfriend?” This is a question I think I’ve dealt with elsewhere, both in conversation and blog posts, but perhaps not as explicitly as this article. Many would (but shouldn’t) be surprised that I agree wholeheartedly with Erin. Women aren’t called to submit to their boyfriends, or even their fiancees. They are, however, called to submit to their husbands.

Erin says at the beginning of her post:

But since I see dating as preparation for marriage (as opposed to just having fun), is it reasonable to think a girl could disregard what the Bible teaches about submission while dating then suddenly flip a switch after saying “I do”? Hmmm … that’s a little trickier.

As I have definitely dealt with elsewhere, the model which says, “dating is preparation for marriage,” has some massive problems which, on the surface, remain unseen in a lot of dating relationships. I daresay, the intimacy in those relationships might be approaching (if they haven’t already reached) a dangerous point.

Erin and I would, naturally (it’s me, after all!), disagree on the nuances. And, of course, on her definitions of ‘submission’ and ‘dating.’ But overall, we reach the same conclusion. And that brings me to my point:

If I were to say any of what she did, the cry, “String him up!” would echo throughout Christian female circles. My female readership would explode, and, as further evidence for this, the ones I’ve said this to in person have. You have to admit, it is interesting that when I say it, I’m wrong–but if she says it, well it’s golden!

Oh well. I guess I’ll just have to face the rope.

A Review and Clarification

[Author’s note: This could, if necessary, be seen as an impromptu Part Three of my earlier posts (1 & 2). This is more of a review and clarification, but in order to understand the scope and context, I highly recommend spending the 10 minutes it takes to read the other two and Ryan Goble’s article before continuing here.]

A friend brought this article to my attention after reading my blog posts on dating. I’ve encountered, unsurprisingly, pushback from many about my ideas of Christian dating. I’ve been admonished, rebuked, and learned a great deal about interpretation, intent, and implications from my blog post. So, in order to clear things up and interact with Ryan Goble, I’d like to take a moment and clarify my position on several fronts through examining Ryan’s post.

It should be said that many arguments formulated about Christian men and women are largely from experience. People can cry “evangelical leaders told me this!” but that holds little—if any—weight when no names or references are brought up. As I argue in my previous post, census data can’t help either camp.

So what are we to do? Some on either side of the fence are saying opposing things (at least, that’s how many people see it). Who are we to believe? Should we even pick a side? And what about those expectations I mentioned before, are they a legitimate thing? Let’s take a look at Ryan’s post and see if we can figure this out.

From the outset it should be mentioned that Ryan and I would largely agree with one another, but the specific details and different premises with which we reach that conclusion are definitely different. There are 4 things that I’d like to address about his post:

1. Ryan is a single Christian man who “noticed a trend.”

This is exactly what got me interested. I read Kevin DeYoung and Thomas Hardesty on the subject, and was immediately intrigued (among other things). Ryan, like myself, is unsatisfied with this trend. Interestingly, I’ve been told that my views are limited to the scope of Erskine College (a tiny little school in the middle of nowhere), and Reformed Theological Seminary (both Charlotte and Jackson campuses). This is, I was told, too small of a sample size. Now, I don’t know where Ryan went to college (the article is a little under a year old at the time of this writing), but it definitely wasn’t Due West. I’ll say that it’s fair that a college campus and two seminary campuses are too small of a sample size, but finding an article that’s a year old talking about a completely different school’s issues is significant.

However, I am still willing to admit that these arguments are, in fact, from personal experience—and there’s a real danger in that. This brings me to number 2:

2. Ryan argues from his experience

Here, I think, is a crucial aspect of the whole issue: there are no arguments from anything else. While as a rationalist that irks me to a degree, I must remember we’re dealing with human emotions, and that tends to get tricky. All of the arguments—those found by young women saying there aren’t any good Christian men (“dateable men” and “marriageable men” can be substituted here), and the arguments made by men like me and Ryan—are going to be based, in some way, in personal experience.

So the question is this: why should we listen to one side over the other? Keep in mind that in my previous two articles I never claimed men should stop being rebuked for their behavior, and for that matter neither does Ryan. Check out these quotes from us:


It’s time for double standards to stop. It’s time for this tirade only against young Christian men to stop. It’s time for an edifying discussion on how both men and women fail, but also on how they succeed.


As a male in the church I am constantly being told by pastors to grow up, take on more responsibility, and become a man so that I can take care of a woman one day; but I don’t hear the same message being told to women on a large enough scale.

Neither of us is advocating that men get out of the rebuke we’ve been (rightly) getting. Both of us are advocating for an equal treatment of the issue.

3. Ryan uses the physical appeal

It definitely needs to be said that Ryan and I are talking about two, relatively, different things. Ryan’s focus is on the physical, while mine is much more broad in purview dealing with those mysterious expectations. Ryan and I would completely agree (and without even really knowing we did) in the use of famous actors/musicians; though I think the names will vary depending on the person, and actors/musicians are certainly not the only ones we’re able to add to the list.

I can think of several athletes (let’s go ahead and get rid of the elephant in the room), and other famous people who don’t fall into the categories, but Ryan most certainly wasn’t trying to create an exhaustive list. His point, and interestingly my point in my other articles, is simply that women idolize these men (even the fictional characters of a book!), create their own “Mr. Right” based upon those qualities (both physical and not), and thus we have the only person in their mind who is “dateable.” This, as I have mentioned elsewhere, is absurd. Men are torn to pieces for doing this, because ours tends to focus more upon the physical aspect and “objectification,” (though, women do this, just not always in the physical sense) whereas the female tendency to do this revolves around “biblical” or “respectable” principles (of which I am surely not convinced as of yet) that are immediately expected from a 20-something-year-old guy.

There needs to be something said about sanctification in this whole ordeal, on both levels of male and female. Where is that?

4. Ryan discards Jesus

In a rather unfortunate move, Ryan remarks,

 Now, you also may be reading this and you may be thinking to yourself that you don’t do this and you use Jesus as the benchmark of whom your spouse should be. But, even looking to Jesus can still be unrealistic because the only person who can be like Jesus is Jesus Himself (author’s emphasis).

This is unfortunate on a few levels, but primarily because women should expect Jesus from their husbands—after all, that is what the Apostle Paul commands of them: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25); and secondarily because the Apostle Peter commands all believers: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Pt 1:14-16).

Ryan has an admirable point, however. Understanding. He wants (as do young, Christian men) women to realize that they aren’t going to find and date a Jesus. They can, however, find a follower of Jesus; a man who seeks to be rebuked for his wrongdoing, repents, and cherishes the Gospel and its truth, among other things.

In the end, I like Ryan’s article. I agree with his conclusion, though I diverge some on the details. And it goes to show others that I’m not as crazy as I seem. The only question, though, is this: who will listen to young, Christian men like Ryan and myself? Or perhaps better yet: who should? Surely if we listen to the young women in the Church, we should also pay heed to the young men?

Are All the Good Christian Men Really Taken? A Young, Single, Christian Man’s Objection (Part Two)

In my earlier article, Are All the Good Christian Men Really Taken?: A Young, Single, Christian Man’s Objection (Part One), I explored a statistical claim by Thomas Hardesty in his World Magazine article concerning young Christian men and women. In my analysis, I explain that numbers can’t show the picture Hardesty or the young women consulted are trying to paint. I also examined the arguments presented by both Hardesty and Kevin DeYoung in his blog post, “Dude, Where’s Your Bride?” My conclusion was simple: the arguments were formally and informally fallacious, and more edifying and fair discussion needs to take place. The other half of the picture needs painting.

Moving away from statistical analysis (which, in the end, proves to be unhelpful for both men and women) and towards a biblical look at relationships, everywhere you go you’ll hear people say something to the effect: “dating isn’t found within scripture, so there isn’t one way to do it.” This is true, of course. Dating isn’t explicitly found within the Bible, but then again neither is our formal doctrine of the trinity, our Christology, Presbyterian form of government, nor original sin. The substance of all these teachings is present, but at the end of the day, we have to infer and form our doctrine from these implicit passages.

There are things we can learn about dating from Scripture even though it isn’t explicitly mentioned. For example, a dating couple is commanded to abstain from sexual immorality (Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20). This immediately sets up a tight fence in terms of intimacy. Furthermore, there is no explicit command for a girl to submit to the authority of her boyfriend (much less that he has any), nor even that the boyfriend is called to be a leader in a dating relationship. Finding what is commanded and what is up to our Christian liberty requires discipline and perseverance. The problem, however, is that both men and women are forcing expectations upon one another—something that is definitely not Christian liberty.

Let’s take a time-out. There ought to be an understanding of the term dating before proceeding. Dating, as I use it, means an exclusive, intimate relationship with no special divine obligation on either party, yet aimed towards marriage. What this means is dating isn’t something we do casually as Christians, but do with 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:17 in mind. Dating is ultimately aimed at the glory of God, and his divine plan for men and women to marry. Some call this courting; others don’t know what to call it. I call it dating.

Part of the problem, as far as I can tell, is simply that Christian men are nervous of rejection. Of course, this is no excuse, but this fear isn’t irrational by any means. Interestingly, some are even fatigued by rejection, saying to themselves that their emotions and time can be better spent elsewhere. As an RUF Campus Minister said, “Ladies you deserve to be driven, you deserve to be lead around and a guy be your driver—but you have to hail the cab.” A biblical marriage is rarely ever a man pursuing a woman, and her sitting back and enjoying the ride, evaluating his leadership. In fact, most of the biblical marriages we see are mutual pursuit. The woman in Song of Songs gets a side, too. If dating is aimed toward marriage, we should see similarity in pursuit rather than difference.

DeYoung explores the other part of the problem, unfortunately rather briefly; it is the idea that, “Some women may be expecting too much from Mr. Right. But in my experience this is not the main problem. Impossible standards? Not usually. Some standards? Absolutely.” DeYoung stuck gold, yet walked away from it. As a married man who has been out of this game for a while, he uses his experience to say impossible standards aren’t the main problem. Of course it wasn’t for him—he’s married! However, something all the single men I know share in common is rejection from young women who then turn around and complain about the lack of men. Contrary to DeYoung, in my experience impossible standards (perhaps better phrased as too many standards) are, in fact, the main problem for young Christian women. Young men don’t have a problem with women who have some standards—they cherish them!—but it completely depends on what those standards are.

If a young woman’s standards include that the guy she dates be interested in traveling because that’s what she’s interested in, there is no biblical merit for that. Nowhere in the entirety of scripture are women commanded to marry a man who has the same interests. So what about Christian liberty, Jim? Didn’t you use that before? Yes! Women are free to say no to people who don’t share their interests! But in doing so they have no right to claim there aren’t any good Christian men available. They are also under no biblical obligation to deny men who don’t have similar interests, something that probably isn’t said enough.

This leads me to expectations. I divide dating expectations into two categories: biblical expectations and extra-biblical expectations. Simply put, expectations both men and women have are either biblical (e.g., I expect someone I date to be a Christian), or found outside the Bible (I expect someone I date to be reformed). Some men and women mistakenly use Paul’s warning in 2 Corinthians 6:14 to be equally yoked to mean that some extra-biblical expectations (such as being reformed) are actually biblical. A reformed believer, then, must marry a reformed believer. When this happens, the phrase “with an unbeliever” is often dropped, making the text say something it quite positively does not.

Biblical expectations are binding upon all Christians, because they’re biblical. So all Christians should only pursue dating relationships (as defined above) with other Christians. They also are bound to expect repentance, confession (not directly to them, but certainly to the Lord), participation in the sacraments, and a reverence for the Lord from their significant other. These things can be firmly found in Scripture, and this is not an exhaustive list of biblical expectations. These expectations should be priority number one for Christian daters.

Sadly, extra-biblical expectations are often mixed into those biblical expectations. For example, my aunt once told me that she expected whomever she were to date and marry to be taller than she was. Now married to my uncle, she recognizes that simply because my uncle is shorter than her doesn’t mean his love is somehow diminished, or his character somehow less than other sinners—he still needs Jesus. We have extra-biblical expectations for the physical appearance, doctrinal commitments, interests, and a myriad of other things. These expectations should not be, by definition, expectations. They should be preferences, and they almost never are recognized as such. There is no divine law, ordinance, command, or decree that I should pursue a reformed woman, but I would like to. I would prefer to. Young women are buying into standards that are really preferences rather than an obligation—and DeYoung and Hardesty aren’t helping. And again, if you deny someone based upon preferences rather than standards, you immediately forfeit the right to the claim that there are no good Christian men available.

In the end, it comes down to this: both men and women are sinners. Both men and women are failing at being who they should and are called to be, and neither party is encouraging the other. Hearing women say, “all the good Christian men are taken” (Hardesty) doesn’t encourage me to pursue those women. I’m a single Christian man, but because I’m single apparently I’m not “good.” I’m not dateable. I’m too immature because I play games, but women can go make definitive generalizations and they’re mature? I don’t think so. It’s time for double standards to stop. It’s time for this tirade only against young Christian men to stop. It’s time for an edifying discussion on how both men and women fail, but also on how they succeed. When the Apostles go after men, they also go after women (Eph. 5; 1 Cor. 11; Col. 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7). This one sided painting we have doesn’t do justice to the real issue. The issue isn’t just men, hasn’t been just men, and will never be just men, and it’s time for someone to say that.

Are All the Good Christian Men Really Taken? A Young, Single, Christian Man’s Objection (Part One)

Recently, a good friend of mine posted on his Facebook page a World Magazine article by Thomas Hardesty discussing a problem young Christian women seem to be facing. This article came as no surprise to me, as Kevin DeYoung wrote a blog post that discusses a very similar point just under a year and a half ago. Both discuss young, gospel-centered women who seem to have trouble finding marriageable Christian men. As a young Christian man about to leave college single, this subject naturally interests me a great deal. In this article, I’ll be exploring the logic used in both DeYoung and Hardesty, as well as examining the statistic cited by Hardesty. In part two, I’ll examine the biblical merits to their arguments and offer a fuller view of this issue.

From the outset, let me say I have a problem with these articles and this line of thinking. Nothing against DeYoung or Hardesty, but with all the great Christian guys I know studying at RTS campuses who are single, I simply have to diverge with most of the ideas presented in both. Hardesty and DeYoung disregard reason in arriving at their conclusions, using fallacious argumentation, and assumptions found outside of the Biblical witness (which will be explored in part two). Hardesty even uses a statistic that cannot be construed in the way he does. Quite frankly, they only give one side; they only paint half a picture.

Hardesty says, “Behind the jokes and smiles lies a serious, and sad, situation too many Christian women find themselves in today. They must either lower their standards for a mate so they can settle down now or hold to their faith as they pine for what is becoming an endangered species: Christian men worth waiting for.” Is it a serious situation that women must lower their standards or wait for a so-called endangered species? Absolutely. But is that actually the case? I’m not convinced.

Hardesty’s article is, as a good friend of mine said, an article with no foundation. The only people spoken to and quoted in the article are married men or single women. Essentially, the logic is that some single women say young men are immature, therefore they are. I’m honestly stunned that Hardesty didn’t ask a single Christian man his opinion—and for that matter, neither did DeYoung. Do young Christian men not get a say in the matter, even though it’s about them?

Hardesty mentions that women may be a part of the problem by wanting a career first, then a housewife position later: “Some of the blame for delaying marriage falls on women, with many wanting to spend time working and living a life of independence before settling down—choices the secular culture encourages.” This is true; some women want their cake and to eat it, too. But then Hardesty closes the paragraph with, “But Christian women who do want to marry young say men stuck in perpetual adolescence are a bigger part of the problem.” This is hardly anything other than a straw man and argumentum ad populum. Simply because most Christian women say that men are a bigger part of the problem does not logically imply or require that young men are a bigger part of the problem. Further, isn’t this to be expected? Of course women want to say men are the bigger part of the problem—just like young men want to say young women are the bigger part of the problem.

DeYoung makes a claim with a similar conclusion when he says, “This path of prolonged singleness is a two way street. But I think the problem largely resides with men. Or at least as a guy I can identify the problems of men more quickly.” DeYoung, interestingly, uses the opposite line of thinking of “well, if it happened with me, then it happened with other men.” This isn’t a very good line of thinking, and without any hard evidence, without allowing young Christian men to have a say, DeYoung’s claim that the large portion of the blame resides with men isn’t helpful for a meaningful conversation.

Young Christian men aren’t consulted. The hasty generalization fallacy says that a generalization taken from too small a sample is fallacious, and is certainly applicable here. It seems as though logic is abandoned in this discussion, which decisively eliminates many young men’s interest in it. As soon as we abandon logic and any meaningful sense, many young conservative Christian men are inclined to chuckle and walk away—but I suppose because they aren’t being consulted in the first place, this isn’t a large problem.

Perhaps the largest problem is the words “immature” and “adolescent” are being widely applied to most young Christian men. Not only is this approach unedifying (which will be addressed more fully in part two), there is also the lack of a coherent definition of what these are, much less what they look like. These are negative terms being tossed about with no clear consensus as to what they mean in context, but are used to paint with a broad brush across American Christianity. A clear definition of terms is most certainly needed for an edifying, constructive, and biblical discussion to take place.

The only evidence used in either article is Hardesty’s statistic, which is the average marrying age of women. He says, “In 1991, the average marrying age for women was 24. Today, it’s 26.5…Christian women who do want to marry young say men stuck in perpetual adolescence are a bigger part of the problem.” Interestingly, the rate of increase for women from 1991 to 2011 is identical to the rate for men in the same time period. Men married at 26.3 in 1991, which increased by 2.4 years to 28.7 in 2011. That comes out to a 2.4 year shift for men, and a 2.4 year shift for women (going by the Census Bureau’s 24.1 in 1991).[1] According to the numbers, both males and females are waiting longer to get married—and numbers can’t tell if it’s because of maturity or not. If the problem were simply that men are more immature today, we would expect to see the men’s rate substantively higher than women’s. The rates are, in fact, exactly the same.

Ultimately, if any definitive statement is going to be made, especially concerning others, it needs to be reasonable, at least. I’m willing to jump on the bandwagon, harping on young Christian men for the reasons DeYoung and Hardesty present, but I’m going to need a more sensible discussion—that is, an actual discussion with both parties involved, with good reason and evidence—and I think other young Christian men want that too.