Should Christians Of Different Denominations Marry?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Should Christians of different denominations marry?  Is the Bible silent on this?  What should those Christians who are dating consider before marrying someone of a different denomination?

Premarital Counseling

The first step before anyone even considers getting married is to have premarital counseling because those who have counseling prior to marriage have lower divorce rates because they go into the marriage having eyes wide open and having expectations for their marriage. Premarital counseling may open the door to discuss things like: Does each one agree to where they will live? How many children they plan on having (if any)? What are their styles of raising children? Do they agree on spanking at a young age or not? Do they both plan on working outside of the home? Do both want to rent or own a home? What kind of home would they agree on? Do they both like to go out on a regular basis or are they both home bodies? Do they want pets or don’t like pets?

And many other unresolved questions that could create friction in the home. Certainly they should solve which church they plan to attend.  Do they both go to the same church or do they have different denominations? If they are different, how different are they doctrinally?  These are all important issues to get out on the table and discuss before any marriage is consummated, not to mention, even considered.

What should those Christians who are dating consider before marrying someone of a different denomination?

What should those Christians who are dating consider before marrying someone of a different denomination?

Unequally Yoked?

Paul wrote to the church at Corinth to “not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?  What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?” (2 Cor 6:14-15) but was he talking about marriage or about having friendships with unbelievers in the world?  If we read the context of this entire chapter we can see that he is talking about the expectations of a believer and the behaviors of the world and believers and unbelievers certainly don’t have a lot in common.  It doesn’t appear that Paul was expressly talking about marriage but since this was more about running with the crowds of the unsaved, how much more important would this be when considering marriage to an unbeliever!  It would make no sense for Paul to say we are not to be mixing with the unsaved but it would be okay if we married an unbeliever.  If we are not to be having our closest friends with the unsaved, and that is the context I believe of not being unequally yoked, how much more important would it be then to not marry an unbeliever.  Since Paul asks “what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever” then it would be even more critical if we are marrying someone who is not a Christ-follower.  This doesn’t have anything to do with marrying someone of a different denomination because at the time Paul was writing this, there weren’t any other denominations, only different churches. Even so, these churches are different from one another and so a person who attended the church at Colossae might have difficulties marrying someone in the church at Jerusalem because of the differences in the ethnic backgrounds, culture, families, and practices.

Protestantism and Catholicism

Even though Protestants and Catholics agree on the major areas of their faith like Jesus being born of a virgin, Jesus’ sinlessness, His crucifixion, death, and resurrection, there are major differences in the way each church practices their own particular, orthodox faiths.  Would someone who was raised in a Protestant church be comfortable in a Catholic church?  Would someone who was raised in the Catholic faith feel at ease in a Protestant church?  Would a Protestant feel comfortable confessing their sins to a priest?  Would a Catholic feel comfortable receiving communion from someone who was not a priest?  There are also differences in Protestant churches; some have infant baptism, some do not, some have baptism by submersion, some by sprinkling, some believe in speaking in tongues, some do not, some observe certain holy days, some do not, and the list goes on and on.  Of course, the ideal would be to marry someone from the same church or same denomination but as they often say, love is blind and the strong passions of love can sometimes make us overlook many of these important areas until it is too late.  I am not saying that these marriages are impossible but these things should most certainly be brought to the couple’s attention and should not be glossed over.

Can Two Walk Together?

Amos 3:3 is a good principle to consider when couples of different ethnic backgrounds, different denominations, and different upbringings are to ask, “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?”  The meaning of the two walking together is unless they agree about major life principles, they cannot be walking together.  Circumstances and love might have brought them together but is this enough to keep them together?  Remember that God intends marriage to be for life…until death…so this will be the most important lifetime decision the couple will make next to their choice of placing their faith in Jesus Christ.  Back to what Paul said of being unequally yoked, in the agrarian society of ancient Israel, two oxen had to walk together to get anything done. If one walked ahead of the other or if one didn’t do his or her share of the work, then the work would be seriously and negatively impacted.  The two must work together, side by side, and be in agreement with one another or it just won’t work at all. The farmer will be frustrated and the oxen will be unruly and the harvest will be affected.

Conclusion

The Bible is silent on whether there can or should be interdenominational marriages because denominations did not exist at that time. The main points for any couple should be as follows:

  • Seek premarital counseling,
  • Get everything important out in the open,
  • Have each one define what they think an ideal marriage looks like, would one spouse be comfortable if they went to the – other spouse’s denomination and who makes that decision?
  • Is there disagreement on biblical issues, doctrines, faith practices and if so, are they major differences or can they be reconciled by mutual agreement?
  • What do both couples have as expectations on raising their children regarding discipline?  Do both agree on even having children?
  • Each of them should have already repented and placed their trust in Christ because the Bible forbids marrying someone who is not a believer.
  • Can they walk together on major life issues such as work, home, hometown, jobs, renting or owning, and other areas that involve daily living?
  • Finally, which church will both attend and who makes this decision? Is it something both will be comfortable with?

I urge you to seek premarital counseling before you even consider saying “I do” for it is “until death do you part” and this is the most important decision, next to salvation, that you will ever make in your life.  No marriage is always preferable to a questionable one or a bad marriage because to God…divorce is not an option.

Related reading: Christian Advice Before Marriage

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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