By Thom Patterson, CNN
(CNN) - Has God taken an interest in the computer dating business? Does he (or she) have a username and password?
You might think so, if you’ve seen TV ads for the subscription-based dating website christianmingle.com.
The announcer says confidently: “Find God’s match for you.”
Really? Is God going to hook you up online? Cue the blogospheric debate.
"That's awfully bold to presume they already know who God wants you to marry," tweeted @Jessie_luvJesus recently.
"... SMH [shaking my head] these folks should be ashamed," wrote @EWebb424.
The tagline has been creating a “misconception” that God works exclusively through Christian Mingle, says spokeswoman Ashley Reccord.
Launched in 2001, Christian Mingle now boasts more than 5 million members, 40% of whom joined within the past year, according to the site (Full disclosure: Christian Mingle advertises on CNN.)
Members can register free and are asked to answer several questions based on religious background and personal preferences. Based on those answers, the website offers profiles of potential matches.
A search on the site for “soul mate” among women age 18-80 came up with 1,000 profiles, including one from Florida.
“I’m in search of the man God has for me,” writes the 35-year-old woman. “I’m looking for my best friend, my soul mate, and someone to share life’s greatest moments with.”
A 39-year-old woman in Colorado Springs, Colorado, wrote, “I still believe in true love … a soul mate. I am reasonable. I understand that there is not a perfect man out there … but one who is perfect for me.”
Says Reccord, the Christian Mingle spokeswoman: "God can orchestrate and use the medium of Christian Mingle to allow people to find their match for one another on the site. He may or may not use that means, but he can use that means."
So does that mean the cliché is true, that some matches really are “made in heaven?" Does God, if you believe there is one, pre-select us to pair up as life partners, as "soul mates?"
The Bible has little if anything to say about the matter, according to many religious writers and leaders. But several high-profile religious commentators have strong opinions about the idea:
–Soul mates do exist, according to some religious voices who cite the Jewish Talmud.
–Many Christians believe God helps people create their own kind of soul mates.
–Some say the Bible's "language of sexuality" supports the concept.
–Islam rejects the notion of soul mates, according to Muslim leaders.
–Many say belief in soul mates has negative consequences and can even be harmful.
Some of those warning about the dangers of the soul mate idea are Christians.
"If I get to heaven and I hear God say he had someone picked out for me, I'll believe him," says Lisa Anderson, host of "The Boundless Show," the evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family's podcast for young adults.
"But it seems that this soul mate idea is really breaking up a lot of marriages and it's keeping a lot of young adults single."
Anderson says that believing in soul mates sets up two possible worst-case scenarios: a revolving door of marriages or a lifetime of being single.
Many young adults, she says, make this mistake: They think if they marry their “soul mate” then the marriage will be easy and wonderful. Then if the marriage turns rocky, game over; they suddenly decide they've picked the wrong mate. The marriage ends and they return to square one, searching for someone else to fill the soul mate role.
On the other hand, searching for a soul mate can be tragically intimidating, to the point of indecision.
"We're seeing young adults – X-ers and millennials - absolutely paralyzed and unable to get to marriage because they want to do it right," says Anderson. "They don't want to be their parents' generation ... the largest divorce generation in history."
Yada yada yada
But other evangelical Christian opinion-makers back Christian Mingle’s idea of an divinely ordained match.
"I would be scared to jump off a theological cliff and say we’re intended for one specific person," says Christian author Dannah Gresh. But based on the Bible’s “sexual language,” she doesn't dismiss the possibility.
The Old Testament’s original Hebrew text uses the word "yada" to imply the act of sex, says Gresh.
However, yada doesn't necessarily mean having sex in a literal sense, says Gresh. It means "to know," "to be known" or "to be respected."
She says yada biblically links the concepts of sex and the soul. "Sex is about a soul connection in its truest form," says Gresh, giving credence to a possible connection between God and the soul mate concept.
Not quite, says Bible scholar O. Wesley Allen of Lexington Theological Seminary. "The intimate knowing implied in [yada] is created through the act of sex, not as something that leads to union," Allen says.
A biblical companion to yada is the Greek word "ginosko," says Gresh, which is found in the New Testament. The Bible's original text uses ginosko to describe an "intimate soul connection between a husband and wife in the act of marriage," she says.
But she says the Bible also uses ginosko to describe a deep, intimate connection with God.
Gresh is giving too much weight to these words, Allen says. The fact that these words are used in dual contexts does not imply - or even suggest - the possibility of divinely ordained matches, according to Allen.
Gresh stresses that she does not believe God has intended matches for us. "However, I think there can be a really good theological argument made for exclusivity - once you have found someone you choose to love," she says.
On this point, says Allen, Gresh is on strong scriptural grounds.
A soul mate and a spare
Judaism, meanwhile, specifically includes the concept of soul mates in the Talmud, a collection of writings that constitute Jewish civil and religious laws.
According to the Talmud, before a soul comes into the world it is paired with a bashert, or first match, which is the first soul that you’re supposed to end up with, says Rabbi DovBer Pinson, of the New York-based IYYUN Center for Jewish Spirituality.
“If everything works out you’ll end up with that person,” says Pinson. Jewish tradition also includes a “second match” for every soul, which also could end up as a soul-mate relationship.
The names of everyone’s first and second matches are written down, “We just don’t have access to that information, because they’re written down in the spiritual plane” – or heaven, Pinson says.
The Kabbalistic tradition, rooted in Jewish mysticism, spells out clues to recognize whether your partner is your soul mate. If a partner is helping you overcome your negative traits and negative challenges while helping you pursue your positive traits, that person is your soul mate, says Pinson.
“It means these two souls originate from the same soul root and they’re meant to be connected to each other,” he says.
The Islamic faith, meanwhile, rejects the soul mate concept. "The words 'soul mate,' that you are meant to be with this person forever, there is no concept like this in Islam,” says Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America.
Infinite knowledge allows God to know which partners end up together, but it’s up to people to sustain their marriages and stay together, Magid says, because “the concept of a soul mate in Islam would put the fault of divorce on God."
Are you telling me to 'settle?'
Shaunti Feldhahn and her husband, Jeff, have created their own industry with their popular books, required reading for Christian premarital counselors at thousands of churches.
But she says their marriage, which has produced the million-sellers "For Women Only" and "For Men Only,” was not necessarily preordained.
"If I'd gone to a different graduate school I may have never ended up marrying my husband," she acknowledges. Feldhahn says there probably isn't “one perfect soul mate” for each person. For her, the bottom line is that "whoever you end up with ... God knows what the eventual outcome of your life is going to be."
The flip side of that is God has also given people free will.
“We have every right to screw it up if we want to - and sometimes we do,” Feldhahn says.
However, if couples follow God’s general principles about relationships, it’s possible they can enjoy the same benefits as so-called “soul mates,” she says.
Don’t focus too much on the search for your perfect mate, according to Feldhahn, focus on leading a Christian lifestyle and things will work out fine.
As for Christian Mingle’s “God’s-match-for-you” tagline, Feldhahn says it could mean “Meet the person who’s going to end up being your perfect match - because that's what you're going to make it."
Is Feldhahn telling single folks to stop searching and to “settle” for the best person available?
“No,” she says. “That implies that the person cannot be the person you need. If you both live by God's principles, you will both become the people you need to be.”
Reminds me of the question number 2 "what do you look for in a women" The answer most men give "My Dick".
If people do or don't get married because a website tells them they have a "soul mate" out there than they truly need God's help. Marriage is hard work. It takes respect, and give and take, and mutual sacrifice. It takes this even for "soul mates" to be successful over the long term.
The Bible instructs people how to be married. "Husbands. love your wife as Christ loved the church". When people consistently place their partners health and happiness above their own great things happen. However, it must go both ways. This is in direct confrontation to the "me" generation promoted by secular culture where everything is about "what's in it for me. This is why divorce is so rampant. People just aren't in to the type of self sacrifice needed to create the kind of trust that makes marriage work over the long haul. It isn'nt about having the right "soul mate", it is all about how you and your partner act towards each other.
I found my soul mate (married 24 years now), but not due to any flaky religious dating service – she's Jewish and I'm Unitarian. We just happened to literally bump into each other at an event we both had an interest in. I opened a door from w/in a room just as she tried to open it from the other side. She stumbled into the room and bounced off me. Married 18 months later. Put fantasies aside; get out, see the world, meet people, stop waiting for someone else to set up your life for you.
"The words 'soul mate,' that you are meant to be with this person forever, there is no concept like this in Islam"
...um...that's probably because you guys practice polygamy...
Have intercourse before you get married and stop believing in imaginary beings.
God's Will is for us to decide for ourselves & take action in any given situation.
We decide, we act and then when we die God judges us.
No magic, no hidden messages, no destiny.
Think, Act & live with the consequences – then be judged in the afterlife.
I keep getting e-mails to join Christian Mingle......interesting......I've been married – happily- forever.
Not terrible christian!!
Since there is no "magic" then there is no god.
No one is going to judge us in an afterlife because there is no afterlife...period. Get over it...you die...that's it. No magic, no heaven, no hell...no anything. You simply cease to exist. I'm fine with that as are millions of others. Why can't you be? Afraid to face death without making it sound "magical" and pretty?
Seems that you are making the assumption that there IS an afterlife
We need a dating website where Zeus will hook us up!
I am surprised this article takes things so literally.
First of all, if you believe in God and believe he cares about you and your life, you pretty much feel that he will help guide you when you make a choice of who to marry (not choose for you, but help you recognize a good match when you come across it). In particular the things that happen in your life might lead you to a particular place where you find someone who is a good match. You aren't forced to choose that person though and can make a different choice if you wish. There is such a thing as free will.
I really have never seen where the Bible suggest there is only one person for anyone. A lot of times especially in biblical times one spouse would die and the other remarried. So I don't think it suggest there is just one Soul Mate.
As far as going to a website like that, oftentimes for some people it matters to them that their future spouse has similar beliefs. Going to a website where there are more people who are similar isn't exactly a poor way to find a spouse. That doesn't mean a Christian cannot marry someone who is not religious. Is just may be more important to one person than it is to another. Just like an atheist may not feel they could be comfortable to marry a Christian and would therefore look in other places for someone who is like minded.
hahahahahahahahahahahaha...I had a friend in HS who said he was going to be a "preacher". We all laughed because he was a non-believer and couldn't tell you one passage from the Bible, but then he said "While all of you are going to school and then working pay check to pay check, I will be sitting back and raking in the money from my followers." He said that religion pays. 30 years later, he has "built" at least two mega-churches and drives a Lexus and he (and his mother) live in $500K houses, built by his followers. Evil people prey on the weak and vulnerable. Christian Mingle is preying on true believers who buy it hook line and sinker because they want to believe it. I joined CM to troll for hot near-virgins who can't get a date.
Aaaaaand, who is evil?
That's just hilarious!
That is awefull!! I would hate to be either one of you when you stand before God and have to give an account for how you lived your life!! My husband & I are real pastors of a church & believe me it's hard work to really care about people! I will be glad to stand before God because I know I have done my best!
Daryn: I don't think that he is concerned about judgment
My pastor once said, "Once you marry him, he's your soul mate!" In other words, marriage is for a lifetime. I think it's great advice.
That would be nice if it were true...however it's not. If you really believe every word of your precious bible, then you would have noticed that god commands the men to marry the women they assault s_exually. No, I'm not taking it out of context. It's in the old testament.
There are approximately 100,000 people out there for every one person who we're compatible with. The term"soul mate" is believed by some to be the person with whom one has a feeling of deep or natural affinity. Not your twin "soul" which by the way, doesn't actually exist.
Divorce is common, and it's okay. Who cares what some magical being, who was invented by man thousands of years ago, would think.
My parents are of different beliefs, and they get along great. Limiting yourself to only Christian dating sites possibly eliminates the best potential mate for you – unless you're too closed minded to consider a person who thinks a little differently from you, in which case you probably won't make a relationship last anyway.
Actually, I DID dismiss the possibility of God having one soul mate out there for us. Sad to be misquoted on such a public forum. While I really enjoyed talking with Mr. Patterson and this is an interesting article, I would have preferred to have been more accurately quoted. It might be a fine line, but it matters to me. Here's a more accurate view of my take on a soul mate. http://advice.eharmony.com/blog/2011/12/08/finding-your-soul-mate/
Thanks for clarifying, Dannah. I very much enjoyed your article more than this one on CNN. Very insightful.
If it's a "god's will" then you don't need a dating service.
What if there are a few people who made to have a soul mate? Not everyone but a few placed here and there. Might sound silly and I am not saying I believe in it but haven'y you ever ran across those couples that just seem....seem different, special, "perfect" (And by perfect i dont mean that they always get along and agree on everything and ALWAYS live in complete harmony) These couples seem to spread a little light for others, be good examples for others to follow, maybe put things into perspective for few passing by...OR maybe all it is is that they just got it right, AGAPE LOVE.
Just remember people, you can't have a soul-mate if you don't have a soul. In other words, maybe it is time to stop dating from the "I'm greedy and deserve everything the world has to offer" point of view. Could God even fit your list of necessities? I doubt it.
Nice hardsell SDF. I like where you're coming from. But we all have a soul if we're sucking air. Zoombies are pure hollywood. Take a deep breath, try to be a happy camper.
Not that I agree with SDF, but who says we have souls?
92% of the world believes they have a soul. I understand the rules of logic prohibit me to coclude 6.3 billion people cannot be wrong. So, how is it 8% of the population gets it right?
fred: perhaps it is blind luck
Look – its simple – you're "settling" no matter what you truely think. B/c that perfect person does not exist – I hate how this article tries to dance around the "Settling" aspect of this. Pick the best mate for you and stick to it. Work out any issues/problems together and agree to never quit each other unless cheating, murder, and destructive behaviors.
No, god is not going to elp you find a date. He is too busy helping Tim Tebow win football games.
I met my wife on a Christian dating site–however, I definitely don't believe in predetermined soul mates. My wife and I could have both chosen to marry someone else and could have been just as happy and in God's will. I think God's only instruction for us relating to who we marry is to not be unequally yoked, meaning we should marry people who share our faith. Pretty simple. Other than that, try to use wisdom and make sure you marry someone who complements you well. Then commit to loving them for life, no matter how they inevitably change or how hard life gets. This idea that "Being married to him is too hard – I must have missed God's will, so I can leave him and get back on track" is a totally unbiblical, self-serving human invention. Fine, you can't stand being married to them anymore. Just don't rationalize that it's somehow God's will for you to leave them–as if your personal happiness is more important to God than you keeping your promises. Not getting onto everyone who divorces, just those who think it's somehow God's will.
I prefer to be single. FWB are just fine. A lot of people complain about being married. Doesn't sound like a good idea to me.
This whole idea is too time consuming. If you meet someone you genuinely like and they genuinely like you and you are both interested in being companions on this journey called life, i say go for it. The real trick is how many of you understand what it means to really like someone, flaws and all because no one is perfect. I say, if you meet him or her and there is something there besides physical compatibility. like intellectual similarities like interests, hobbies, money, morality, ethics, religous compatiblity, child rearing etc. Then go for it. I mean my best friendships are with people that I have the majority of these few things in common. These websites are just hook up sites if you ask me. You would be better off going to your local happy hour and hooking up instead of joinging these websites.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.