"Should We Marry If We’re Theologically Divided?"
- Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Calvin, if you secretly think of Aimee's background as nothing more than ridiculous "man-centered" "holy-rolling," don't marry her. She will be, if the Lord wills, the mother of your children, training them up in the sacred writings (2 Tim. 3:15). Your headship isn't raw force of argument. It is modeled after the way our Lord Christ loved his church, cleansing her "by the washing of water with the word" (Eph. 5:25). How did our Lord Jesus do that with a foundation stone of his church, the Apostle Peter? By kneeling to serve, while teaching (Jn. 14:1-20). You must do likewise (and I would say the exact same thing if the roles here were reversed).
I would also say that a common congregation is essential. If you marry, you will be a one-flesh union. A church isn't simply a place to go to learn about stuff and pool money for missions. The church becomes your identity, with you as one part of the larger body (1 Cor. 12:12-31). Aimee, if you believe being a part of Calvin's church, and to do so without seeking to change it, would be a binding of your conscience, don't marry him. If you believe exercising the gifts as you see them trumps other considerations, this will not be a happy marriage for you.
Many of the churches in Calvin's tradition would probably gladly receive Aimee as a member, but many would restrict certain roles to her, especially teaching roles, because of her doctrinal beliefs at this point. Some of them, I don't know, might even exclude Calvin from such roles. Count the cost, based on the worst possible scenario, not the best. If the two of you knew that you could never, say, teach Sunday school or direct the youth camp, would you still want to be with one another? If you ever desire any kind of formal ministry or missionary service together, this could be disqualifying. Is this worth all of that risk to you?
Calvin, if you marry, you're going to be called to self-sacrifice, to love Aimee as your own flesh (Eph. 5:28-29). That doesn't mean joining a Pentecostal church. It does mean looking for a place where your wife can be nourished spiritually. Aimee, if she's the kind of woman she seems, will probably be willing to learn from your pastors and worship in our common Spirit together. I don't know what kind of church you attend, but there might be some "incidental" factors that are more cultural than theological that actually may be even more of a sticking point than you think.
Someone from a Pentecostal background is probably going to wilt under a steady worship diet of slow, organ-dirge renditions of "How Sweet and Awful Is the Place" (and I'm with you on that one, sister). If you marry, you will have to take the same account of her spiritual growth and vibrancy as you take physically for your own heart or pancreas function.
You're not necessarily predestined to heartbreak. If you've counted the costs laid out above, if you're able to receive one another in the gospel, if you're able to be unified in your church life and your child-rearing, if Aimee's willing to follow cheerfully, if Calvin's willing to lead self-sacrificially, then I now pronounce you husband and wife. Wait, that's not what you asked me to do.
I wish you both happiness and joy, and love. Tongues, they will cease (1 Cor. 13:8), and so will the arguments about when tongues will cease. But "faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13:13).
Russell Moore is Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and executive director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement. Dr. Moore is the author of The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective (Crossway) and Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Crossway).
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