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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
William

How Much Theology Should Couples Agree on Before They Get Married?

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Derek Rishmawy

 

I'll admit, this isn't a typical question most Christian singles, or even couples, are asking. Most are still stuck on, "Wait, I'm supposed to date Christians?" That said, once you've established the importance of marrying someone who will be your partner in the faith and has the mutual goal of encouraging you in your relationship with Christ, you may start to wonder, "Well, does it really matter what kind of Christian they are? How will our theology affect the way we point each other to Christ? I mean, does it affect things if I'm a Protestant and he's a Catholic? Or what if we have different views on the end times? What about speaking in tongues? Can I date someone who 'quenches the Spirit' and thinks I worship with 'strange fire'?"

 

As I've thought about the issue while talking with friends, considering my own marriage, and searching through the Scriptures, I've concluded there isn't any quick, easy answer. Instead, I want to simply put forward three questions, and a couple of caveats, to help singles and couples navigate the dating and marriage decision.

 

Do You Agree on the Core?

 

This question can simply be another way of asking, "Is this person a Christian?" That said, you should definitely have some bottom-line requirements like, say, agreeing to the content of Apostle's Creed, Nicaea, Chalcedon, and so forth. Of course, the person doesn't have to be a theology expert such that he or she knows the names of these councils. But you should agree that God is triune and Christ is the God-man, that he lived, died, and rose again in history for the salvation of mankind. Also, you should make sure you both hold a fundamental commitment to the Scriptures as the final authority in these issues; that way, there's common ground for discussion and dialogue on other issues.

 

Beyond that, I don't think couples have to agree on every point of theology to have a solid marriage. A Calvinist and a Wesleyan (preferably of the Fred Sanders sort) could do well enough together, unless they're both super crusty about things. People with conflicting eschatologies could probably love and care for each other without an unnatural amount of friction (that is, until one of you reads the paper and decides its time to go down to the bomb shelter).

 

Can You Go to Church Together?

 

A further question to ask after the core questions is, "Can we go to church together?" Note, I don't simply mean, "Can you put up with his church?" or "Can you suck it up at hers and then podcast later?" There are going to be seasons where one of you likes your church more than the other, but the point is that worshiping and growing together in your marriage needs to happen in the church context. Going to different churches for a while during the dating process is fine, but eventually you're going to need to knit your life together in the broader church community. If you're theologically so far apart that one of you is thriving and the other is dying, that's not going to make for a healthy spiritual life and will likely lead to strife in the marriage.

 

Can You Raise Children Together?

 

The third question is one my pastor asks of couples seeking premarital counseling. Practically speaking, theology is going to play a role in the way you parent and disciple your children. For instance, right off the bat, if one of you is a credobaptist and the other is a paedobaptist, that's going to be a tough conversation when you have your first kid. My wife and I are going to have that conversation in time, because I've shifted in that area since we started dating and got married (moving from credo to paedo), but it's important for this act to not be taken unilaterally.

 

Theology Changes

 

The other thing you need to remember is that theology changes. You need to be ready. I just mentioned I've been shifting from credo- to paedobaptist over the past couple of years. That's just one of the many changes my wife and I have been navigating. The person you're dating now might have different beliefs by the time you get married. They could have shifts in theology after you're married, too. So will you. And in a lot of cases, given you're not an inspired apostle, that's a good thing. Actually, I'm convinced one of the reasons God gives you your spouse is to sharpen you, challenge you, and correct your understanding of God in light of the Word. I know I've learned from my wife and she's learned from me over the years as we've sought to submit to God's Word together.

 

Word to Reformed Guys

 

On that note, I have a special word to Reformed men—or rather, guys. A while back I wrote a joke blog on how to meet Reformed men. In the comments one fellow said he didn't mind dating a non-Reformed girl since he'd take it as a point of pride to "conquer" her theologically. Let me just say this loud and clear: This is arrogant, foolish, and must not be your attitude. Your future bride is not a notch to add on your theological belt but your sister in Christ with a mind of her own, given by her heavenly Father to be used properly, just like yours. In fact, hers might be sharper than yours. You may be a Reformed complementarian, but the command in Ephesians 5:21 says to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ, and that command isn't revoked by the next few verses, however much you think they nuance it. Yes, you are called to "wash her with the word," as Christ does the church, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't mean with a firehose of theological argument designed to cow her into mental acquiescence. Basically, treat her like a person.

 

If you keep these points in mind, prayerfully listen to input from trusted, believing brothers and sisters, and keep God as God in your heart (i.e., avoid the temptation to compromise because you're desperate), you should be fine.

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On 3/7/2015 at 4:13 AM, William said:

 

Theology Changes

 

The other thing you need to remember is that theology changes. You need to be ready. I just mentioned I've been shifting from credo- to paedobaptist over the past couple of years. That's just one of the many changes my wife and I have been navigating. The person you're dating now might have different beliefs by the time you get married. They could have shifts in theology after you're married, too. So will you. And in a lot of cases, given you're not an inspired apostle, that's a good thing. Actually, I'm convinced one of the reasons God gives you your spouse is to sharpen you, challenge you, and correct your understanding of God in light of the Word. I know I've learned from my wife and she's learned from me over the years as we've sought to submit to God's Word together.

 

 I wonder how much it can change and in what areas where this doesn't start tearing the two of you apart?

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I am an almost Pentecostal: I myself pray in tongues but don't think that everybody baptized by Spirit speaks tongues (1Cor. 12:30).

 

I recently started to acquaint with a Protestant Quaker girl.

 

This girl has math education, what I consider a must for my wife and she appeals to me.

 

What should I say to her about baptizing by Spirit? Well, I yet know very little about her, some Quackers do speak tongues by the way.

 

I am somehow afraid to turn her away if I say it to rashly. What question should I ask her first?

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16 hours ago, porton said:

I am somehow afraid to turn her away if I say it to rashly. What question should I ask her first?

Perhaps you should start by visiting her church and inviting her to visit yours.  Talking with her about those visits should lead to bringing up the subjects you need to discuss with her.

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59 minutes ago, theophilus said:

Perhaps you should start by visiting her church and inviting her to visit yours.  Talking with her about those visits should lead to bringing up the subjects you need to discuss with her.

I cannot, because she is in Kenia, while I am in Israel.

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On 12/23/2018 at 7:48 AM, Faber said:

 

 I wonder how much it can change and in what areas where this doesn't start tearing the two of you apart?

My wife and I were married in an Evangelical church and after some years we began attending Calvary Chapel, the church I was in before we met. The thing about Calvary Chapel is they are independent churches which pride themselves on expository teaching. They also do not believe in emphasizing doctrine to the point of causing division. During the time I was at Calvary I tended to overlook the fact that the Pastor was a former Roman Catholic which constantly commented on material things which "felt" holy in the Roman Catholic church.

 

There were a couple of things that I noted in my first year of study in theology which came six years after becoming an active Christian. Verse by verse teaching but not Systematic I kept noting that the Pastor sometimes sounded like a Calvinist. I approached him one day about theology and to my surprise he actually rejected Reformed Theology and Calvinism. Studying theology more and more I began to realize that the lack of a Systematic approach to the Scriptures were why he only "sometimes" sounded like a Calvinist.

 

As I was learning I was sharing with my wife some of the doctrines I encountered. I have to admit that learning various theological positions divided the people I came into contact with and listened to in the church. In my mind the very doctrines which Calvary Chapel does not emphasize had a wonderful way of showing which teaching was approved from Scripture. As time went by people no longer fell into a theological camp that was either Calvinism or not Calvinism but rather Calvinism or Arminian, then Pelagian, then Semi-Pelagian, then Universalism, Arian, etc.

 

I was fascinated that doctrine does divide so precisely. My very studies which divided me from others didn't have the same effect between my wife and I. Why? I believe, and I say this to her credit because she "cleaved" to me. She listened to me for a better part of a year attempting to articulate a theology which took millenniums to develop. One day as we were watching a documentary on the history of Calvinism where the pivotal debates throughout church history were discussed her eyes opened big time in excitement. The theological giants, from Paul, Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, and the church herself, her councils and synods in the face of heresy and controversy birthed in the eyes of my beloved "orthodoxy". All the contention towards truth by theological giants had an effect as these men battled.

 

It has been a wonderful study and theological journey in my marriage. I've witnessed a slow but constant transformation in my wife. She's gone from years of reading the News every morning to morning devotions, bible reading, led by some of the most credible theologians in church history. Her opinionated criticisms of everyone's depravity around her has been replaced by a smile as a recipient of Grace.

 

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