I was recently asked the question “Is having different theological convictions as Christians a deal breaker when it comes to pursuing a mate for marriage?” This is not the first time this type of question has come up, and I am sure it won’t be the last. This is an interesting question that actually has a two part answer. Here are a few things to think about if you, or someone you love, find yourself in this predicament.
What the Bible Says:
When it comes to marriage, the biblical model is between one man and one woman for life (Matthew 19:3-6). Not only is it supposed to be between one man and one woman but it is also supposed to be between two people who are not “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14). There have been a variety of interpretations about this verse in years past. But one clear implication is that marriage between a believer and an unbeliever is strictly forbidden. Some have tried to make this verse mean that two people from different ethnicities should not get married based off this command from Paul. Some have even tried to make it mean (by implication) that two people from different denominational backgrounds should not wed. However, these interpretations are clearly not what Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Corinthian church 2000 years ago. He vividly makes the distinction between those who know Jesus, and those who do not, and that is it. He writes in Romans 10:12, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.” It is pretty plain when he writes “Do not be unequally yoked” that he is making only one command; no interfaith relationships for Christians . . . and that is it here. Black and White, Presbyterian and Baptist, if they are Christians they can be married. However, is that the whole story? As long as the two are Christians, then it is okay to marry?
There are other things to consider (like has a person been divorced before?) for sure, but scripturally speaking, the only requirement is for the two people to be equally yoked together. If they are not, then the Lord forbids it. But, before you go and marry the first Christian you come to, there are some areas of wisdom that you need to consider as well.
What Wisdom Says:
The Bible speaks highly of marriage and even encourages Christians to get married (Proverbs 18:22). Nevertheless, it is important that you think through the process before making a binding marriage covenant. The question that we are trying to answer is not “Should Christians get married?”, but rather, “Should people of different theological convictions get married?” Here is where wisdom kicks in with biblical truth. When two people get married, they bring with them their theology. If one person wants kids, and the other does not, wisdom would say, you need to work through that before ever giving the other person a ring. If the woman is a complete egalitarian (women and men are interchangeable when it comes to functional roles in leadership and in the household) and the man a complementarian (men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage) then this could bring all sorts of problems when talking about spiritual leadership and authority in the home. That could be a recipe for disaster. If one is Arminian and one a Calvinist, how do they deal with the sin of a young child? Holding these different views may well play a role in discipline of children of how you share the gospel even. These are questions that need to be hammered out before any nuptials. Wisdom would also say, how convicted am I of certain doctrines? If one is completely convinced of infant baptism, and the other of believer’s baptism, it may be hard to work through this one . . . and it may be best to find someone else with similar convictions if a consensus is not found. Theology matters and it will order how a home and family is run.
So, should people of different theological convictions get married? Considering all of this, the main thing that binds a couple together is the Lord. As long as the basics of the Christian faith are agreed upon (in the minds, hearts, and the lives) then the secondary stuff can be worked through, but do not make the mistake in thinking that they do not matter, because they do. There may be some theological beliefs that simply do not compute with each other. There are different denominations because of doctrinal differences. This does not mean that all true Christians, no matter the church, are not still brothers in Christ. However, wisdom says that to covenant together in church membership, everyone should hold closely to the same views so as to be able to hold each other accountable (Galatians 6:1-2). The same is true in marriage; while it could be lawful for two to be married, will it be profitable for the sake of the kingdom? Will your marriage be able to be a picture of the love between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22-32)? If theological convictions run deep and they cannot be agreed up, then maybe it would be best to find another to yoke yourself with.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell