What is Soul Oneness?

June 5th, 2020 by posted in Marriage and Family

I was recently asked to comment on the term Soul Oneness.  When I inquired as to where the person had heard the term, he referred me to chapter 2 of Larry Crabb’s book, The Marriage Builder,[1] titled, Soul Oneness: Manipulation or Ministry?  I remembered skimming this chapter many years ago, so I took a second look. As I read through this chapter, there were some good points made that I might consider in a counseling situation and I will review some of these as we go on. Even some of the good points, though, didn’t feel right strictly from the reading. In the spirit of, “A text without context is a pretext for a proof text”, I felt it necessary to read the beginning sections of this book and the chapter following the assignment as well. Reading the surrounding chapters helped put this specific chapter in a more specific context.

Prior to this chapter, Dr. Crabb discussed our human needs. In this discussion he talks about personal needs and physical needs being of equal importance. Thus, the need to have our personal, and felt needs met is nearly as important as eating and breathing. Dr. Crabb believes it is impossible to function effectively if these personal needs are not met. He states, “No marriage can ever follow the biblical pattern unless both partners have experienced satisfaction at the deepest level of their personal needs.”[2] He goes on to make the point, in husband-and-wife relationships, that I cannot really expect my wife to treat me properly until she feels loved. Yet, I will be unable to provide her with the love she needs until someone meets my needs. This all leads to the fact that I must feel significant and worthwhile as a person. This idea that we have a basic need for personal worth is an important concept in Dr. Crabb’s discussion. Dr. Crabb defines this idea of significance as the need for purpose, importance, adequacy for a job, meaning fulfill this, and impact.[3] Dr. Crabb adds that security is also necessary in that when these two needs are met, we will feel like a worthwhile person and be free from psychological problems. He couches this discussion in the idea that we can never meet these needs apart from God, but continually goes back to how we must serve and care for one another on a human level. In other words (mine), I am motivated to meet my wife’s needs in order that she will meet mine. And thus I serve her out of selfish motives in order to manipulate her into giving me what I need.

The chapter at hand tries to speak to whether we are manipulating one another or ministering to one another. There are spiritual truths in this chapter that make us stop and think. On page 47, Dr. Crabb states, “The only truths that eventually grip a Christian at the core of his being are the truths by which he consistently lives.” This statement is certainly true and worthy of our consideration. If our study of God’s word is truly academic, and our application of God’s word in counseling is merely strategic, then we shortchange the power of God’s word in the lives of believers (Hebrews 4:12). We bring God’s word to bear in the lives of our counselees, trusting that the Holy Spirit will use his word to transform our lives. We teach our counselees to truly believe the promises and commands of God. Without this faith and belief, we tend to become functional atheists, saying we believe one thing and then practicing another.

A second concept that Dr. Crabb writes in this chapter is the idea that everything we do has a goal, a desire, and a drive. Everything we do represents an effort to obtain our goal. Beliefs determine goals.[4] This statement, and concept, are certainly thought-provoking. Indeed, where our treasure is, there are heart is also. Unfortunately, while on the surface these two statements seem legitimate, the context of the statements still has to do with feelings, not truth.

The summary of Dr. Crabb’s chapter is stated this way, “The key to achieving soul oneness is to maintain the fundamental goal of ministry to our partner’s deepest needs and to keep that goal inviolate.”[5] Here I see but a shadow of the new covenant command to serve, submit, prefer, love, respect, and honor one another. And while I may see it as this shadow, I suspect, in context, this is not at all how Dr. Crabb means it to be understood.

While, on the surface, these three points may seem legitimate, there are many other statements and concepts that fall short of a biblical understanding and good theology of marriage and relationships with one another.

Dr. Crabb seems to only give lip service to a proper view of God. While he seems to always come back to the fact that only Christ can truly meet these needs, it appears as a passing thought. His view of marriage is based on two people meeting one another’s needs of security and significance, as well as their felt needs. There is no discussion of companionship (Genesis 2), or marriage as a picture of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5). On the contrary, if I want anything for my spouse, it is for me to nourish and cherish her just as Christ does the church. It is not to meet her felt needs, but to sanctify her and present her in splendor without spot or wrinkle so that she might be holy and without blemish. I do this not to get my way, not to have my needs met, not to manipulate her, but out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:27).

Dr. Crabb talks much about our goals and drives, but never makes the connection to heart idols. Throughout this and the surrounding chapters, Dr. Crabb takes a very psychological approach to marriage problems. This is evident in the continual aspect that our most important needs are to be emotionally secure and significant, in Christ, so that we somehow feel worthy. While I may have missed it, I did not read any discussion relating to God being glorified in our lives and in our marriages (2 Corinthians 5:9, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Ephesians 5:10, Colossians 1:9-12). There is no discussion of personal sanctification, “being set apart for a relationship with the holy one, to display his character in every sphere of life.”[6]

In summary, marriage is not about manipulation or ministry. Marriage begins with an accurate anthropology of man as sinful, broken, hardhearted, selfish, arrogant, and prone to create heart idols.[7] And marriage must begin with an accurate view of God, his sovereignty, providential care, goodness, wisdom, judgment upon sin, and the ministry of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

[1] Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder: A Blueprint for Couples and Counselors (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1982).

[2] Ibid. 26

[3] Ibid. 79

[4] Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder: A Blueprint for Couples and Counselors (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1982).48.

[5] Ibid. 52

[6] Peterson, David. Possessed By God: A New Testament Theology of Sanctification and Holiness (Eerdmans, 1995). 24

[7] “The human heart is like a cauldron constantly bubbling forth idols” (John Calvin).


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