Doctrinal Compatibility

Does theology matter when I’m considering marriage with someone?

A lot of couples consider compatibility in terms of culture, education, and interests, before they get married. I propose that Christian couples should also discuss Doctrinal Compatibility when they are prayerfully considering one another.

There are some aspects of the Christian faith that cannot be left to compromise, such as the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus. There are, however, a few instances where there can be a little wiggle room. For example, I’m an infralapsarian who married a supralapsarian. My husband and I used discuss it comprehensively. But we decided to respect each other’s views since there are no clear explanations in Scripture for this one.

I, however, would like to propose these doctrinal essentials where you need to agree on, or at least discuss,  when it comes to finding a spouse:

Pre-Martial Doctrinal Discussions

GOSPEL

A good place to start is to ask whether or not someone truly believes in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Most people would like to stop here, but I personally would like to delve deeper. A lot of people reckon themselves as some sort of “Christian” nowadays. So try to see if they believe that a person is saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone? These are actually Reformation statements that basically defines the Protestant religion. But please don’t end there. Ask further if they they agree with the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and even the Athanasian Creed? These are doctrinal statements formulated and agreed upon in church history that Christians can use to check whether or not their belief aligns with the historic orthodox Christian faith. You certainly wouldn’t want to marry a heretic now, would you? Being curious about what and why a person believes makes you think about your own doctrinal convictions, or lack thereof.

CHURCH

The church isn’t merely a place where you come to worship on Sundays. On this side of eternity, the church is the visible body of believers whom the Lord has called out together as His witnesses into the world. There are many reasons why people flock to different church communities. Aside from distance or convenience, ask yourself why the person you’re interested in may not be in the same faith community as you are. How do they view the church, her ministries and mission, and her officers or leaders? Are there certain values or practices they believe in, that you don’t? Perhaps, you could also consider whether or not they believe in the continuity or discontinuity of some spiritual gifts? Does their church emphasize responsible membership? Is there some sort of accountability to their pastors and leaders in place? More importantly, is the Gospel faithfully preached, sacraments properly administered, and church discipline exercised in their local congregation? Ecclesiology is a big deal because our local churches are covenant communities where we choose to love and serve other Christians with our time, energy, money, and gifts. Whichever church community we decide to commit ourselves to have direct implications on our own lives, our future spouse, and our future children, D.v.

SACRAMENTS

While this is actually related to Church, I chose to make this a separate topic altogether in order to highlight its importance. Do they see the Lord’s Supper as a means of grace, or merely a remembrance of what Christ has done? Do they celebrate it during the Lord’s Day where it is prime and center or in small groups led by an unordained leader? How about baptism? Is their baptism tied to membership? Will you have your future children baptized, dedicated, or none at all? When your future children come up to you and ask, “Am I a Christian?” What are you going to say to them? As a Presbyterian, I affirm the practice of paedobaptism, and I consider it to be sin for parents to withhold covenant baptism from their children. As someone who was baptized by sprinkling as a child, I wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in some Baptist congregations. If I would have married a Baptist brother, I would have been required to undergo another baptism. As a sign and seal  the covenant, this sacrament is only happens once, and never to be repeated. These things need to be addressed before you commit to one another. Who will be following whom? And if they don’t call it sacraments, why not?

GENDER

If you’re serious about having a Christ-centered marriage, your views on gender will affect both your church life, and home life.  Do they affirm that the offices of the elder—both teaching and ruling—and deacon, are reserved for mature Christian men only? Scripture mandates that women should submit to male leadership—this is the Biblical order. Egalitarianism trumps male leadership in the church and in the home.

Theology Matters

I know that this list may seem unconventional to some people, but I truly believe that theology matters. What a person believes about God, the Scriptures, and the world, is their working theology, and it matters greatly.

The first one matters because it is of eternal significance as it relates to our salvation, and the object of our faith. The second one matters because true worship is something we must aspire to do. The third one matters because it affects our piety, practice, and even our parenting. The fourth one matters because the authority of Scripture is at stake.

Theology and Practice

I used to end with these doctrinal essentials, but I would like to add one last thing. Just because a person knows theology doesn’t necessarily mean they truly believe it in their hearts. The Bible tells us that we will know people by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20). These are also things we constantly need to check on as we journey together in our Christian walk. Do we still believe in the Gospel? Do we still repent of our sins? Do we show forth fruits in our life that reveal a changed heart, e.g. good works?

 

——–

This is a rehash of an old post that I wrote almost two years ago in my other blog.

How to Prepare Children For Marriage or Singlehood

The month of February has caused a lot of people to think about their own love lives or the lack of it. For some, it is a celebration of mutual love. For others, it is a constant reminder of their loneliness and lack of romantic excitement.

I have been reading through Josh Mulvilhill’s Preparing Children for Marriage: How to Teach God’s Good Design for Marriage, Sex, Purity, and Dating. And God has been using this book to provide new insights on how to raise covenant children in the area of marriage, etc. It also made me realize that while it is important to teach children about the possibility of marriage, it is equally important to train them for the possibility of singleness as well. Of course, I would want my children to get married someday. Even my five-year old told me she wanted to get married someday. But marriage is God’s gift to some people, and it is the ultimate picture of Jesus and His Bride, the church.

Marriage between a man and a woman is meant to reflect the relationship between Christ and the church. It is a living example of Jesus’ love for the church and of the church’s submission to Jesus. How Jesus loved the church is how a husband is to love his wife. How the church follows Jesus is how a wife is to follow her husband. Every marriage is a picture that tells the world about Jesus’ sacrificial love for us. Marriage points to a greater reality—it’s a living, breathing reminder of Calvary.

God never promised anywhere in the Bible that all Christians will find a life partner. Anyone teaching that purports this claim should be rejected. It is not only un-Biblical, it is utterly dangerous to be dispensing unrealistic hopes.

People want to be loved and desired by others. But we are bound to be disappointed when we make marriage the be-all and end-all of things. Instead of longing for marriage and avoiding singlehood, we should be teaching our children to be satisfied in Jesus. Because anything that replaces Christ as the supreme center in our life is an idol. If love becomes our idol, a difficult marriage can devastate us. If  acceptance becomes our idol, the prospect of singlehood can make us feel rejected. I love how Dr. Mulvihill expresses God’s design for singleness in his book,

Singleness is the ultimate state for every believer. Because it is your future state, you should seek to understand and appreciate it. If God calls your child to a life of singleness, your child should embrace that life with contentment. As parents, we ought to avoid expressing disappointment if this is the path that God has for our children. Instead, let us support our children in this self-sacrificing endeavor.

That is a good way to put things into perspective, isn’t it? But the bottomline is this, We should be teaching our children to find their ultimate joy and supreme satisfaction in Jesus. 

[T]he kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)

If Jesus is our joy, whether we marry or remain single for the rest of our lives, we will find true contentment. I certainly hope my children  grow up to be contented Christians as their understanding of the Gospel grows each day. Even I long for the very same thing.

In a word a contented Christian, being sweetly captivated under the authority of the Word, desires to be wholly at God’s disposal and is willing to live in that sphere and climate where God has set him. (Thomas Watson)