While I was a singles’ pastor for six years, I often dealt with issues from those whom I had married. I had these issue in both premarital counseling and post-marital counseling. In post-marital counseling things got interesting. I would often sit in the presence of a discouraged wife or husband whose marriage was less than happy. For some, things just weren’t clicking. For others, the problems were more serious. Much of the time people would suggest that they had made a mistake. In their mind, they simply married the wrong person and their “soul-mate” was still out there waiting.

These type of things quickly become a matter of theology—very practical theology. The question is this: Is it possible to have married the wrong person?

No matter how difficult things were I would always discourage such a direction in thinking. I don’t think that it is ever possible to have married the “wrong” person. I know that this sounds strange to some, but it is simply a natural outcome of my belief in God’s sovereignty. Just as the election and the government is ultimately in God’s hands (Rom. 13), even if and when people make selfish and evil choices, God’s will is ultimately being accomplished.

Getting personal: My wife and I met in a bar. Yes, that is right. Seventeen years ago, I was out, drunk and picking up on women. In a drunken stupor, I stopped my wife (my waitress at the time) and said “Before I get drunk, I want to say ‘I love you’” (sweet pick-up line, huh?) We hit it off, and to make a long story short, we got hitched. As I grew in the Lord, I questioned my motivations for marrying her. If you have seen her, you know she is very beautiful. This is not to brag, but to give you a sense of conflict that I have had (and, I am sure, Kristie has had as well). We have had our share of difficulties. I would like to say that things have been great with me and Kristie, but we have some very serious personality conflicts. Sometimes these are so severe, so discouraging, so long-lasting, so unforgiving, that the terrible question pop’s in my head, “Did I marry the wrong person?” It is in these times that my theology begins to lock certain doors.

Are you supposed to meet your wife in a bar? No, not ideal. Are you supposed to fall in love with her primarily because of looks? No, not ideal. Can you make wrong decisions that lead to an important decision such as marriage? Absolutely. So, was it God’s will that I marry Kristie. You bet.

You see, I believe that God works with us in our sin. Come on folks, does he have any other choice? If he did not work through our sin, 1) what does the world “grace” mean and, frankly, 2) when would he work? If God works, he works through fallen people who make selfish and ungodly decisions. If his will is going to be accomplished, he uses these to do so. He uses sin. This does not mean he brings about the sinful disposition that leads to our choices nor does it justify sin, it just means that they become his instruments to bring about his plan.

God brought Kristie and I together and our togetherness has been hard. Yes, I am sure it could have been easier had we married someone else. We could have smiled more. We could have been more relaxed. Things could have more “click” to them. We could be setting an example of a “Christian marriage” for all to see. Simply put, we could have a “better” marriage according to another standard. Although I hate to say this, the grass sometimes really is greener on the other side.

But my shade of green is not necessarily God’s. My standard is not God’s.

Is it God’s will for Kristie and I to be together? You bet. And we are committed to this. Could there have been better choices made? “Better” is rather relative and can get you into trouble. From a human perspective which does not see all ends and is foolishly self-serving, yes. From a divine perspective, no.

God has a purpose for Kristie and I to be together. Neither of us married the wrong person. Sometimes we cannot see what is really going on and our passions are clouded by the pain, but we must keep our eyes on the sovereignty of God and find a much deeper level of satisfaction in each other knowing that God—the all-knowing God—has put us together for a reason. In this we discard our thoughts of mistake and we let go of the humanistic “soul-mate” theory. Once this is done, we find a new fairy-tale marriage that is better than any we could have chosen. Why? Because God knows best. Because God works through sin. Settled, satisfied, and in constant delight describes my marriage when I take this perspective.

Did you marry the wrong person? No. What if you are divorced, does that mean you married the wrong person? No. What if you are remarried, does this mean that you remarried the wrong person. No. It does not sanctify our decisions and attitudes that led up to these decisions, but we have to remember that God, in grace and his relentless pursuit of his own will, works out his will in all things, even sin (Eph. 1:11).

Before you react to this post in a very critical matter, believing I have lost my bearing, heading toward some sort of radical Calvinism, please answer this: If you were talking to someone whose birth was the result of a rape/incest union and they asked you, “Was it God’s will for me to be conceived?” What would you say?


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    170 replies to "Is it Possible to Marry the Wrong Person?"

    • cherylu

      I answered you question in my last comment. (I thought anyway). Beyond that, I am honestly not sure what my answer would be. I still don’t think your question really fits the context either. It seems to be sort of like comparing apples and oranges.

      BTW, if you read my conversation with Hodge yesterday, this whole thing I have been asking about concerns me particularly because it is Christian that we are talking about here. A Christian that is to be conformed to Jesus image. Therefore to say that it is the right person for a person to marry an unbeliever when they are a Christian (which involves actual sin on the Christians part) seems to go directly against what God is out to do in the Christian’s life.

      You know what, these discussions give me a headache after a while. They tend to make me feel like my brain has gotten turned inside out!!

    • phantom

      I like CMP’s question so I will answer it from two perspectives 🙂

      If you believe that God is in direct causal control of everything that happens, then you would say that God decreed for the person to be conceived, even though sinful means would be used.

      If you believe that God is not in direct causal control of everything that happens, then you would say that God is neutral on the issue of who is born (he lets our decisions being about reproduction), but he foreknows the people who will be born and uses them to achieve his ends.

      In the first case it is God’s Will of Decree that the person be born; in the second case God has no Will of Decree as far as who is or is not born; in both cases it is God’s Will of Desire that rape/incest not occur, but this has no bearing in either case on the person who is born out of rape/incest.

    • Ed Kratz

      No, you did not answer (at least directly), you just said that it did not really relate and explained how it did not relate.

      Eitehr way, I understand you fatigue. Please don’t feel pressure to continue here. Get some rest. You are very smart and on the right track in so many ways, even if we don’t see eye to eye here.

      • cherylu

        I also said, “In your scenario, I would say that God used what happened to bring about a new life.”

    • Ed Kratz

      The question is not whether God merely used it, but was it his will for that person to be born?

    • ruben

      Hi CMP, I’m actually in the same boat as you, married someone quickly against my better judgement and I constantly remind myself every time we have difficulties that this was my fault, pretty much God saying “I told you so!”. This is probably the one thing I don’t blame God for (I tend to be a whiny Christian at times), because it was clearly my willfulness that caused this. At the time of my decision I was thinking to myself that God’s overarching will will cover it and fix it eventually even if it is wrong but I know better now, I have sufferred for it. To me it makes little sense to say that God willed it anyhow, it makes more sense to say that I did not follow God at that point and I’m sorry.

    • Hodge

      Phantom:

      I think it’s helpful to understand that random choices and events did not cause you to make something occur that was not supposed to occur. If it was not God, then maybe one should always wonder if he or she is married to the wrong person. If it was God, then one can regret any sin committed, but can still have joy that even his or her disobedience was planned and the person to whom he or she is married is in fact the person he or she was meant to marry.

      • phantom

        Hodge,
        I read your first sentence like five times and my brain is not making sense of it. What comment of mine are you responding to?

        • Hodge

          The comment where you said you don’t see how it is helpful to say that something is according to God’s will, since it’s descriptive (#50).

        • phantom

          I was just making the point that a bunch of theologians telling you it’s God’s will is not very helpful. Like when someone gets cancer and everyone says “oh, it was God’s plan.” I don’t see how that is encouraging. We ought to focus on how God can fix relationships, not on whether he fatalistically arranges them.

          That said I am pretty sure that everyhting is more-or-less fatalistically arranged.

    • Ed Kratz

      David (#39)

      You asked if even our bad choices are within God’s will, what is the point of seeking his will.

      The difference is that sin is still transgression and will still impact us. It may be within God’s will in the sense that he uses it for His purpose, but we suffer the consequences for it. Ideally, we obey, maintain peace and fellowship and enjoy the fruit of that.

      So in the case of a believer marrying an unbeliever, it is sin and judgment will ensue. But that choice is not outside of God’s will, even if he desired something far better.

      • david carlson

        But that choice is not outside of God’s will, even if he desired something far better.

        what?

        If he desires something better, how cannot that better be his will? And if that is his will, how can it not be accomplished?

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      “But in the NT, people were disciplined and removed from fellowship for many reasons if they remained unrepentant.”

      Yes, that’s true. The same in the OT. The difference is that marrying an unbeliever, in both the OT and the NT, is a repudiation of YHWH/Christ. Other sins maybe hostile toward God, but they are not necessarily a wholesale repudiation of Christ. To marry a person of a foreign god is to be/become a person of a foreign god. To marry an unbeliever is to be/become an unbeliever. I think that makes most sense of the biblical evidence.

    • Ed Kratz

      Hodge,

      You don’t think that a believer can grieve the Spirit to the extent that they make a bad choice to marry an unbeliever? If they do so, they were never saved? I’m sorry, but I don’t see the Biblical evidence supporting that or that they are rejecting Christ. Is that what you would tell that young woman in your church whom you baptized, that otherwise had exhibited fruits of Christianity, that she is not a believer for insisting to enter into such a marital union?

      Also, what do you do with the believer who enters into a union with one whom they believe to be saved only to find out that the person was not a believer AFTER they have been married? Are you saying THAT person was never saved because they entered into a union they understood to be between two believers?

    • Ed Kratz

      Hodge,

      You don’t think that a believer can grieve the Spirit to the extent that they make a bad choice to marry an unbeliever? If they do so, they were never saved? I’m sorry, but I don’t see the Biblical evidence supporting that or that they are rejecting Christ. Is that what you would tell that young woman in your church whom you baptized, that otherwise had exhibited fruits of Christianity, that she is not a believer for insisting to enter into such a marital union?

      Also, what do you do with the believer who enters into a union with one whom they believe to be saved only to find out that the person was not a believer AFTER they have been married? Are you saying THAT person was never saved because they entered into a union they understood to be between two believers?

    • phantom

      Hodge,
      You are implying either that someone who marries an unbeliever must not be a Christian (it is not possible for a Christian to commit that kind of sin), or else that God cannot forgive the sin of marrying an unbeliever.

      I know a woman who is a dedicated Christian who is married to an atheist (they are in their 60s, no sign of the man converting) so the first option is empirically false; and the second is Biblically false. What, then, is the basis for your assertion that a Christian cannot marry an unbeliever?

    • Hodge

      “Is that what you would tell that young woman in your church whom you baptized, that otherwise had exhibited fruits of Christianity, that she is not a believer for insisting to enter into such a marital union?”

      Yes, I would.

      “Also, what do you do with the believer who enters into a union with one whom they believe to be saved only to find out that the person was not a believer AFTER they have been married?”

      How is being deceived a willful unrepentant act unless one was willfully deceived? I’m not talking about the mere union, but the willful rejection of the faith through it. Read Num 25:6-13; Mal 2:11-12 (notice that the one who marries the daughter of a foreign god is to be cut off from worship); 1 Tim 5:11; 2 Cor 6:14-18 (notice that God will be their Father if they come out and are separate from them, not before).
      I think 1 Tim 5:11 is best interpreted in light of the OT evidence:

      “But refuse [to put] younger widows [on the list], for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married, [thus] incurring damnation, because they have set aside their previous faith.”

      Phantom:

      Your arguments here are like saying this: “You don’t think a person is a Christian just because they commit the sin of rejecting Christ?” It seems silly, doesn’t it? This isn’t just a sin. It’s THE sin. If this sin isn’t a repudiation of Christ, then of course, one may do it and still be a Christian. I simply don’t believe that a Christian repudiates Christ.

    • Hodge

      “I know a woman who is a dedicated Christian who is married to an atheist (they are in their 60s, no sign of the man converting) so the first option is empirically false;”

      You empirically verified that she was a Christian? Did you ascend to heaven to accomplish such a feat?

      “and the second is Biblically false.”

      I never said one cannot be forgiven. I said that they were not a Christian when they did it. I explicitly said that they may become one later. I believe all sorts of pseudo-believers, or even people on their way, marry unbelievers and then become real believers. I’m talking about what a Christian does and does not do. They do not repudiate Christ and the Faith.

    • Ed Kratz

      Hodge, I find your reasoning untenable. If a believer enters into an sinful union with an unbeliever, he or she is rejecting 1) God’s design for marriage; 2) God’s mandate on moral conduct and 3) their own preservation of healthy fellowship with the Father.

      In 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, Paul’s entreaty to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers infers that one CAN be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. If the act itself of entering into the union denies Christ, then how is one able to come to Christ in the first place if they are a believer and their spouse is not? Based on your logic that would have to be the case and yet we find in 1 Peter 3 and 1 Corinthians 7 where believers are married to unbelievers.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      Rather then argue the point any more at this time, I just want to comment that I have never heard any one else interpret this Scirpture in this way. It is a new one to me! I am wondering if you came to this conclusion on your own or are there others out there that you could point us to that have the same take on this?

    • Hodge

      Lisa,

      I find your reasoning unbiblical (and yes, I read your previous post ;)). You didn’t offer anything but your own personal view of what you think marrying an unbeliever is. Where’s your interaction with the biblical data?

      By your logic, if I say a Christian ought not become an unbeliever, it means that Christians can become unbelievers. Paul is talking to a group of people that profess Christ. If their confession is true, then they will obey the command. If not, they won’t. It simply does not imply that a regenerate Christian will do this.

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      I don’t know of others. I came to this on my own. We’re moving more as a church toward acceptance of any sin and any person into what we consider the sphere of Christianity due to our radical rejection of exclusivism, so I wouldn’t think a lot of people would be with me on it. Does that diminish the likelihood that it’s true for you?

    • Hodge

      “Based on your logic that would have to be the case and yet we find in 1 Peter 3 and 1 Corinthians 7 where believers are married to unbelievers.”

      Can you point out in those texts where it says that these believers married unbelievers after they became believers, or is it more likely that these are first generation believers and they were already married as unbelievers?

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      Two things. First of all you can use the same logic you are using with any sin, not just this one. If a person’s confession is true, they will obey the commandment. So any time a professing Christian sins, that would mean they were an unbeliever.

      Like Lisa, I just don’t see how this situation is “repudiating Christ”. Sinning yes. Grieving the Spirit, yes. Putting yourself in a very bad place spiritually, yes. Setting yourself up for a lot of pain and heartache because the two worldviews and kingdoms just don’t mesh, yes. But repudiating Christ, no. That could be the case if a person goes into it with the attititude that they are giving up on Him to marry this person. But I don’t believe it is necessarily the case at all.

      Secondly, yes it does make it more unlikely to me that your interpretaion is true if you are the only one believing it. Seems like if it is true there would surely be others that see the same thing as you do.

    • Ed Kratz

      I am not saying they married unbelievers after they came to saving faith. The text does not say that but rather suggests that they came to Christ after being married. But I am saying that you are segregating this sin from others such that committing it is a rejection of Christ because of the nature of the marital union. My point is that if it is based on nature of the union, then how can a believer be married to an unbeliever and still proclaim Christ? If it is possible for one who believes to be married to one who does not believe then why is it not possible for one who believes to enter into that union with one who does not believe.

      You say that they reject Christ, but I say they have allowed sin to cloud judgment to see Him fully and clearly, and thus are being disobedient. There is a big difference between one who rejects the saving work of Christ and one who trusts in the saving work of Christ, but is disobedient.

      Also, based on your logic, you would have to say the same thing about a spouse who has an extra-marital affair. The problem is sin in the regenerate not a sign of being unregenerate. Although it can be the case that one is unregenerate. But to say that one necessarily does not believe if they marry an unbeliever is creating a premise that I don’t find supported by scripture.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      In John 14:23-24 Jesus tells people that if they love Him they will keep His commandments and the Father will love that one and God will make His abode with him.

      Is not this a very similar, if not the same statement as what we find in the II Cor 6 passage you have talked about above? Yet here it is a general statement about all of our life, our love for Him, and our obedience to Him. It certainly does not single out marriage to an unbeliever as a sin that makes it impossible for a person to be a Christian at that time. All commandments and sins are included in the John passage.

      To me this just reinforces the idea that disobedience to the commandment in II Cor 6 is no more an actual repudiation of Christ then any other sin is.

    • cherylu

      Lisa,

      You made very good points in your last comment. I agree with you.

    • phantom

      Ok Hodge, so you don’t believe that the woman I spoke of who is married to an atheist is a believer. On what basis do you believe she is not Christian? (Certainly you are not claiming to know she lacks Christian qualities or fails to produce Christian fruit, both of which I can attest to, since you have never met her).

      I will answer the question for you 🙂 You believe she is not Christian on the basis of knowing she is married to an atheist. That is called circular reasoning.

      Furthermore, since you concede that a nominal believer may marry and later become an actual believer (I don’t remember your exact wording), could that not be the case for her? Couldn’t I say about anyone who marries an unbeliever that they were an unbeliever at the moment they were married, but aftweword they became a believer again? Although being married to another believer is advisable, it seems absurd to use it as a litmus test for someone’s salvation.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      In several New Testament books there are lists of sins given that we are told that we are to turn from. It even goes as far as to say that “those that do these things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God”.

      It seems to me that using your logic, one would have to say that if someone ever commited one of these sins, it would have to mean that they were not a Christian, would it not? Is that not a logical extension of what you are saying?

      Can we say we are so perfect since we came to the Lord that we have never once been guilty of any of these things? Even such a thing as envy is listed here. Ever envied anyone or anything since you became a Christian?

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      “Two things. First of all you can use the same logic you are using with any sin, not just this one.”

      No, you can’t. Most sins are punctiliar in nature, not a life-long commitment to join the temple of Satan in repudiation of the temple of God. You can do this with any unrepentant sin, sure; but I’m talking about committing the act. Any sin, once committed and embraced, about which the person remains unrepentant may indicate that the individual is not a believer; but this is a sin that indicates that by the very act, not simply the willingness to repent later.

      Lisa,

      “But I am saying that you are segregating this sin from others such that committing it is a rejection of Christ because of the nature of the marital union.”

      No, it is the nature of the will and love in the act of the individual, not the nature of the union. I thought I made that clear. The willingness and love one has to join with one who’s life shuns Christ and embraces the devil is the issue. The unbelievers who marry, where one becomes a believer, is not an issue.

      “The problem is sin in the regenerate not a sign of being unregenerate.”

      Actually, it is. It just depends upon what kind of sin is present. I think the Bible is really clear on that. But beside that point, I don’t think you’re getting what I’m saying. I’m saying that the act of marrying an unbeliever is the same act as joining the cult of Baal, or a cult of the devil in disregard to one’s supposed faith in Christ. The passages I gave you, which you have not engaged yet again, indicate that this is in fact a repudiation of Christ, and therefore, one that bring about damnation for the individual. You’re arguing with the Scripture here, especially Paul, not me.

    • Hodge

      Here’s my question to all of you: Can a Christian decide to worship another god and join a cult for the rest of his or her life and likely be a Christian? If so, is your idea supported by the Bible. If not, why could I not argue the same things you have been in regard to what I said (e.g., aren’t all sins forgivable, since Christians aren’t supposed to do it, it probably means that Christians can do it and still be Christians, you’re singling out one sin above others, etc.)?

    • cherylu

      Back to my statement that no one else believing this that I or you know about makes it suspect. At least as to it’s orthodoxy, what do you think about Michael Patton’s statement about orthodoxy as being that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by everyone?

      It seems to me your belief here fails in all three of those areas. Doesn’t that make you wonder at least a little bit if you are viewing this correctly?

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      Why do you think that a Christian marrying an unbeliever means that she/he has decided to worship a false god or to turn her back on the true God? She might be united in flesh to the person she marries, (or he marries) but that does not mean that she will join that person in every thought and motive of heart, or action either for that matter.

    • Hodge

      Phantom:

      “Ok Hodge, so you don’t believe that the woman I spoke of who is married to an atheist is a believer.”

      No, I said I don’t believe she was a believer when she did it based on the Scriptural data.

      “Certainly you are not claiming to know she lacks Christian qualities or fails to produce Christian fruit, both of which I can attest to, since you have never met her”

      No, but neither am I claiming that my Mormon friends lack Christian qualities or fail to produce what looks like Christian fruit. In fact, they do more so than most evangelicals I know. That’s why there are wheat and chaff analogies. That’s why Paul says that Satan’s servants look like servants of righteousness (2 Cor 11:14-15). My point is that you don’t know if it is Christian fruit or not. You have no empirical way of knowing beyond the rest of us. We only have the Scripture that tells us what a Christian is and does and what a Christian isn’t and doesn’t do.

      “That is called circular reasoning.”

      I must have missed where you showed this to be circular reasoning. A Christian is committed to faith in God and does not become one with someone who is not. To do so, is to reject the Faith and be joined to another god. A Christian will not be joined to another god. Ergo, one who does is not a Christian. How is that circular?

      “Furthermore, since you concede that a nominal believer may marry and later become an actual believer (I don’t remember your exact wording), could that not be the case for her?”

      I said a pseudo-believer or someone on his or her way to becoming one, meaning that he or she is not a believer at the time. Of course you could say that maybe she wasn’t and now is (if she is repentant). That’s not what we’re discussing. And the litmus test for someone who is a Christian is whether they have a faith allegiance to Christ. If someone has a faith allegiance to Zeus instead, I think it’s a good indication that they are not a Christian. To marry an…

    • Ed Kratz

      Hodge,

      No, I’m debating your interpretation of the passage. The fact that Paul commanding them not to, means its something they can do. His reasoning does not suggest that the one who makes such a decision is repudiating Christ but is commending those who are considering such a decision to understand the incompatibility of the two contradictory world views because of who they are in Christ. He is not saying, if you do this you are not a believer but rather, because you are a believer you should not do this.

      You say,

      “The willingness and love one has to join with one who’s life shuns Christ and embraces the devil is the issue.”

      How does that differ from other sin? The believer whose judgment is impaired and set to embark on disobedience is not joining the devil (at least not in their minds) but is acting out of fleshly, selfish desire to want what they want. If they join the unbeliever because they want to live as an unbeliever then I would say your position stands. But that is different than being blinded and deceived and acting out on desires. But that speaks to motive, something that none of us can know.

      The reality is many believers who make this kind of decision think they are smarter than the Word and that it won’t make a difference only to discover the harsh reality that the passage is there for a reason.

    • Ed Kratz

      I should correct something I said. I can’t possibly know what is in the mind of believers who marry unbelievers as that would be contradictory to one of my main points. But I would bet that most believers entering into a union are not doing so because they wish to turn away from Christ, the same way that believers fall into sin – there is not an intent to turn from Christ. Rather, it is most likely that he or she wants to have their cake and eat it too, something that all of us are prone to to one degree or another.

      So again I reiterate that it is possible for one to become engulfed by sinful desires that all perspective is lost, the Holy Spirit is grieved and judgment ensues. I think James had something to say about that. Oh and Paul too (see chapter 6).

    • Hodge

      “It seems to me your belief here fails in all three of those areas. Doesn’t that make you wonder at least a little bit if you are viewing this correctly?”

      Cheryl,

      I’m talking about what people believe today. If you want orthodoxy then here’s an example of it:
      “A man of the Faith is not permitted to marry a woman who is not of the Faith, nor is a woman of the Faith to be joined to a man who is not of the Faith. But if anything like this appears to have been done by anyone, we require them to consider the marriage null, and that the marriage be dissolved. For it is not fitting to mingle together what should not be mingled, nor is it right that the sheep be joined to the wolf, nor the lot of sinners with the portion of Christ. But if anyone shall transgress the things which we have decreed, let him be cut off. (Quinisextene Ecumenical Council, Canon LXXII)

      I think the marriage here is being annulled rather than a divorce taking place (otherwise there is conflict with other orthodox doctrines on marriage).

      There’s no official pronouncement if that’s what you’re looking for, other than this and implications by what is said in other confessions and writings.

      • cherylu

        Hodge,

        The marriage being declared null and void is not the same thing as saying the person was not a Chrisitan. No one is arguing either, that marrying an unbeliever is “fitting”. But neither is this statement you have quoted in any way saying that the person was not a Christian that made this choice. People that sinned in the New Testament were to be cut off from the fellowship of believers as a discipline, to bring about repentance and to protect the rest. That didn’t mean they were not Christians because they did what they did in the first place.

        • Hodge

          Cheryl,

          It’s the last statement. What if the person doesn’t want to annul the marriage? What if they want to marry the unbeliever? What does it say?
          “Let him be cut off.”

    • phantom

      A Christian is committed to faith in God and does not become one with someone who is not. To do so, is to reject the Faith and be joined to another god. A Christian will not be joined to another god. Ergo, one who does is not a Christian. How is that circular?

      You have defined that a Christian can’t marry an unbeliever and then stated that therefore someone who marries an unbeliever is not a Christian. This is circular; it cannot be empirically falsified.

    • Hodge

      Lisa,

      He doesn’t comment explicitly on whether they are believers or unbelievers. He’s instructing believers (i.e., those who have a profession–Paul doesn’t know who is regenerate). The point I am making is that from this passage and the one in 1 Tim 5:11, Paul seems to be making it clear that God is the Father of the one who is not unequally yoked with an unbeliever. You’re assuming that a regenerate believer can do something that professed believers are commanded not to do. My point is that a regenerate believer will obey the command and not do it. Your argument essentially says that a command assumes the possibility of disobeying that command. If that is the case, then the command given to the elect to accept the gospel can be disobeyed and they can still be the elect. That is a completely absurd argument. Commands don’t assume that those who disobey them are still in right standing with the one who gives them. That is just patently false.

      “How does that differ from other sin?”

      How does redirecting one’s life-long allegiance away from Christ to the devil differ from other sin? I don’t know, I guess there’s no such thing as an apostate in your mind.

      “But I would bet that most believers entering into a union are not doing so because they wish to turn away from Christ, the same way that believers fall into sin – there is not an intent to turn from Christ.”

      And most “believers” don’t become cultists because they desire to reject Christ. That has nothing to do with it. The point is that one loves the devil more than Christ. Hence, Christ is rejected as one’s first deity and demoted to second in the pantheon. You’re confusing what one wants to do in the negative with what one wants to do with what is positive in their minds. I don’t want to give up money, but I really want that car, so………..

      • cherylu

        Hodge,

        Any time someone sins, they are in effect demoting Christ from the place of “first deity” and putting something else there instead.

        And like Lisa said, I seriously doubt most Christians that would marry someone that was an unbeliever do so intending to put God on the back burner. Maybe some do. But like with most other sins, I think we are all great rationalizers and think that somehow this sin simply will not make that big of a difference.

        • Hodge

          Cheryl,

          Did you read my comment? No one thinks about rejecting God and going to hell either. That’s irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how one thinks about it. It’s what’s being done. I can think I’m painting a pretty picture by spilling paint all over the floor, but I’m still ruining your floor nonetheless. How I think about my crime has nothing to do with what that crime accomplishes. I am committing an anti-creational sin by marrying an unbeliever, repudiating the community of Christ, and repudiating my faith in Christ. That seems clear. If it was not so, then there really is no reason for God to reward Phineas for killing the dude who married a foreign wife. There’s no reason for Paul to say that younger widows have damned themselves for setting aside their previous faith in disregard to Christ (btw, it literally says that they are drawn away from Christ, being condemned, having set aside their previous faith).

    • Hodge

      Phantom:

      LOL. I didn’t realize that divine revelation needs to be empirically verified. I’m not an empiricist, so I’m not with you there. I could have easily said:

      A Christian accepts Christ. Therefore one who accepts Christ is a Christian. Is that circular too?

      • phantom

        We are in dispute as to the meaning of the divine revelation (I agree w/ Lisa’s post #81). Therefore I pointed out that I know a Christian who is married to an unbeliever, which falsifies your argument. You have merely asserted that she is actually not a Christian based on your presupposed interpretation of scripture. I do not believe that we must empirically verify divine revelation; I do believe that the universe is rational and that therefore empirical data should confirm and shed light on divine revelation.

        • Hodge

          The problem is in your statement that you “know” that the woman is a Christian. You keep saying that this is empirical verification which falsifies my argument. It doesn’t do any such thing. You have no ability to know whether she is a Christian or not apart from divine revelation. Simply saying that she appears to have a righteousness is not evidence because we know from divine revelation that the servants of Satan appear to have a righteousness. We also know by divine revelation that those who marry an unbeliever are to be cut off from the community, acknowledging their true status as unbelievers. I see no weight or consistency to the argument you are presenting.

    • Hodge

      “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world , the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world , the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and [also] its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.”

      So here’s another one. A Christian does not love the world. Therefore one who loves the world is not a Christian. Is that not what this passage says? Is it circular?

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      Any sin we do is loving the world at the moment it is done is it not? And I still don’t see why you are so convinced that to marry an unbeliever means that person is repudiating Christ. Married people have differing belief systems all of the time. Doesn’t mean the person is planning on buying into the other person’s beliefs–or lack thereof. But it sure does mean they are in for a hard ride.

      But, I give up. This conversation is going nowhere. Since you seem to be determined to place marrying an unbeliever in a class of sins all by itself that proves a person is not a Christian, so be it.

      As far as I am aware and by your own admission, you are still the one and only that believes this. And so far any way, you haven’t shown that anyone in the past believed it either. Maybe you are right and all of the rest of the world is l00% wrong. Myself I find that a little bit unlikely. Possible but certainly not at all probable.

      • Hodge

        “Any sin we do is loving the world at the moment it is done is it not?”

        So John is saying that anyone who sins at any time does not have the love of the Father within him? John seems to paint these people as unbelievers, so it is not a matter of simply sinning.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      I’m sorry if I sounded harsh in my last comment. My basic understanding is still the same. But my tone could of used some improving.

    • Ed Kratz

      Hodge,

      You said:

      “You’re assuming that a regenerate believer can do something that professed believers are commanded not to do. My point is that a regenerate believer will obey the command and not do it.

      So it is impossible for a believer to sin, to become influenced by sin and make wrong choices? All believers obey 100% of the time or they are not believers? C’mon, read Romans 6 and sin becoming slave master if we yield our instruments to it. And what on earth was going on with the Corinthians church? They were all being obedient?

      Then you said,

      “Your argument essentially says that a command assumes the possibility of disobeying that command.

      Yes, that is why we have commands because there is the likelihood that we will do it.

      Then you said,

      “If that is the case, then the command given to the elect to accept the gospel can be disobeyed and they can still be the elect.

      Election is different than the believer’s volitional will to sin. Whom God has chosen will respond to his effectual call but that does not preclude the elect’s ability to engage in sinful acts.

      Its interesting you bring 1 Timothy 5:11 since all that demonstrates is that sin can cause our passion to shift from Christ. But that does not necessarily mean a repudiation of Christ. How does that contradict anything I’ve said?

      Anyways, I’m with Cheryl. You still insist that one who marries an unbeliever must not be a believer themselves and it seems obvious that you are intent to believe that.

      • Hodge

        “So it is impossible for a believer to sin, to become influenced by sin and make wrong choices? ”

        Lisa,

        Is it that you can’t argue a good case for your position that you have to distort mine and refute a strawman? Answer my question: Is it possible for a regenerate Christian to reject Christ and worship Baal for the rest of his life instead? If you say no, then I’ll just proceed with your line of reasoning: Are you saying, Lisa, that Christians don’t sin? Read Romans 6, etc. etc.

        “Election is different than the believer’s volitional will to sin. Whom God has chosen will respond to his effectual call but that does not preclude the elect’s ability to engage in sinful acts.”

        Uh oh, a chink in the armor. 😉 My whole point is that this is an issue of election. The believer will not repudiate Christ, but remain a believer. My whole point is that marrying an unbeliever is to deny the Faith, something the elect will not do. Do you understand this point? You may disagree that marrying an unbeliever is the act of repudiation, but gimme a break, at least acknowledge that I’m not saying a sin causes someone to lose their salvation or that Christians never sin, etc.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      I don’t like this format of sub comments. It is way too easy to miss something that has been said. I just noticed a comment of yours way back up there somewhere. I have no idea what you mean by an “anti-creational sin.” Can you explain that to me?

      • Hodge

        Sure, it works against God’s goal for human beings to be covenant images of Himself. The children humans are to have are to be covenant children. To marry an unbeliever is to shun the procreative purpose of God in creation to raise up godly children. That’s just one of the things that is wrong with it.

    • phantom

      “A Christian does not love the world. Therefore one who loves the world is not a Christian.”

      That does not mean we do not slip up sometimes and commit an act out of love of the world. You seem to be saying that a Christian by definition must be unable to sin. You are taking those passages out of the context of the greater scriptural narrative, which shows people doing the wrong thing over and over and nevertheless receiving forgiveness. The point of the passage you quoted is that we should not love the world more than God because it is sinful–it was not intended as a diagnostic for who is and isn’t Christian.

      • Hodge

        My point in quoting the passage is that it’s not circular. However, it IS meant to be a diagnostic for who is and isn’t a Christian. That is John’s whole purpose, i.e., for those who are saved to identify themselves in distinction to those who are not saved. Hence, they can know that they are saved when they affirm orthodoxy and orthopraxis in contrast to those who do not. He states it pretty explicitly.
        Again, this is talking about a repudiation of God for the world. Just like marriage to an unbeliever is a repudiation of Christ for a follower of the devil.

    • cherylu

      Hey Hodge,

      I just thought of something! Correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t you the one that has spoken often about the need to have the church interpreting Scripture? In fact, if I remember correctly, someone recently asked you why you weren’t Catholic or EO if you feel so strongly about that? Or do I have you confused with someone else?

      If my memory is correct and you have indeed spoken of that need more then once, what is up with you out here riding a lone horse on this issue anyway??!?? 🙂

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      I’ve already commented that orthodoxy agrees with me. Anyone who defiantly marries an unbeliever when the Scripture clearly teaches that it is a devotional issue to God is to be cut off. The Church doesn’t excommunicate believers, but people who profess to be believers and are not.

      • cherylu

        The church excommunicates (in the Bible) those that are not willing to repent at that time of a sin they have committed. Does that mean that all of those folks are automatically unbeliever’s? I don’t think so. Disobedient Christians but not necessarily unbeliever’s.

        And by the way, you are the one that said you are the only one that you know of that takes this stand, remember?

    • Hodge

      I disagree that they are just believers who are unrepentantly disobedient. I think that is an oxymoron. I think a believer can be disobedient, but not to where he rejects the Holy Spirit through other Christians and finally the Church. So that’s an issue of disagreement for us. Christ says to let them be as an unbeliever to you, meaning that despite their confession and seeking to identify with you, do not identify them as believers. I believe those who actually repent later on become believers where they were not before.

      “And by the way, you are the one that said you are the only one that you know of that takes this stand, remember?”

      In regard to who currently holds my position, not in regard to the historic Church. There is diversity there too, but I think I am most consistent with the Fathers and councils here.

    • Hodge

      This sub-comment thing is getting confusing.

    • Ed Kratz

      Hodge,

      You said,

      “Is it that you can’t argue a good case for your position that you have to distort mine and refute a strawman?”

      That is your assertion. I don’t see where I have distorted it so let me see if I can summarize

      You indicate that one who is truly regenerate cannot choose to marry an unbeliever because that is choosing to align oneself with Satan, and therefore repudiates Christ. Am I right? Did you not say that the one who enters into such a union could not have been a genuine believer? Where is my strawman?

      Where I think we are missing each other is that you are differentiating this choice from a choice to engage in a sinful act. You are failing to acknowledge that the motive for engaging in a sinful act can be the same as the motive for entering into an unequal union – to fulfill fleshly desires. What is the difference between believer A who, in line with James 1:14-15, yields to the temptation to fornicate or commit adultery and believer B who wants to marry an unbeliever? In either case, they are choosing sin and disobedience over Christ. They are choosing self over Christ. Yet you say one is a rejection of Christ and one is not. Therefore believer A can be a believer but believer B cannot? Sorry, I fail to see that logic.

      And I find your example of the early church interesting in light of the sinning brother in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 who was ex-communicated from the church. Yet Paul indicated in 2 Corinthians 2:7-8 to forgive and comfort him. So here we have an example of a believer who was excommunicated from fellowship but does not deny that he was a believer. Could not the same be true of the early church where believers were thrown out of fellowship for sinful unions? Does that necessarily deny the fact that they were believers?

    • Hodge

      Lisa,

      “Did you not say that the one who enters into such a union could not have been a genuine believer? Where is my strawman?”

      Where you’re missing me and creating the strawman is that I see this as the sin that rejects Christ, i.e., the same sin one commits when the gospel is preached to them and they reject it. Now, maybe you don’t see the gospel as something that proclaims and calls the individual to resign him or herself to Christ’s lordship, but I think the Bible indicates that this is the case. When one chooses to marry an unbeliever, he or she rejects that commitment, not just temporarily, as is the case with so many other sins, but as a life-long decision to reject Christ for this individual. It is the same thing as deciding to be a serial killer for the rest of your life, or to worship Krishna for the rest of your life. You may repent later and become a Christian, but I don’t believe you are one at the time you make that decision.
      So the strawman is that I am arguing that a Christian cannot sin, or that my argument implies that. That’s not my argument and it implies no such thing. My argument is that a Christian does not make a lifelong commitment to join in the worship of Satan with an unbeliever.

      “Yet Paul indicated in 2 Corinthians 2:7-8 to forgive and comfort him.”

      Because it brought him to repentance. Paul indicates that if it had not, the sorrow felt would have been one that leads to death. Paul also indicates that he gives him over to Satan so that the man might repent and be saved, indicating that he is not at the time Paul is speaking. Obviously, there is some ambiguity there, but I believe that is consistent with what is being said.
      Please explain to me 1 Tim 5:11 in light of your view. What is Paul saying here?

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      Also in II Thessalonians chapter 3 people are told to not associate with a brother but rather to withdraw from those that are disobedient to anything that Paul has commanded. This may not be official excommunication. But they are told to not treat him as an enemy but to admonish him as a brother.

      • Hodge

        Cheryl,

        Actually, this proves my point that some sins are a repudiation of Christ and some are not. In 1 Cor and in Matt 18, the believers are instructed to treat the one who is in sin as an unbeliever. Paul seems to differentiate between an unruly life and sins like homosexuality, idolatry, etc. I would argue that marrying an unbeliever falls into the latter category, not the former, since for the latter Paul says that one who practices such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do you know of many regenerate Christians who will not inherit the kingdom of God?

    • Dr Mike

      Lisa, Cheryl, phantom, et.al. –

      You’re not doing Hodge any favors by arguing with him: it only drives him further into his conviction that his private interpretations are correct. It should be clear to any and all by this point that he is hardly teachable and that he is fully convinced in his own mind of the wisdom of his novel position. Scripture has not left us without direction as to how to handle such people.

      Conversely, Scripture also instructs us to “give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning,” which is to say that we should invest our time with those who want to learn, not waste it with those who do not.

      • phantom

        I for one am participating in this conversation because it is more interesting than studying for midterms, not because I hope to convince anyone of anything 😉

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