Navigating Theological Differences in Dating

Dating & Marriage, Podcast Episodes

It’s not easy out here in these dating streets! How do you ask good theological questions of a potential date? When do you give grace for differences and when you do draw the line? We talk about all this and more in this episode plus answer some listener questions on Christian Dating.

Resources:


How Relationships Have Changed with Dating Apps

44 Questions to Ask Before Getting Engaged

Short History of Dating

 

URLS:

 

How Relationships Have Changed with Dating Apps: https://scrippsnews.com/stories/how-relationships-have-changed-since-surge-of-dating-apps/#:~:text=Dating%20apps%20have%20expanded%20the,attitudes%20toward%20dating%20have%20shifted.

44 Questions to Ask Before Getting Engaged: https://phyliciamasonheimer.com/44-questions-we-asked-before-getting-engaged/

Short History of Dating: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/ztrptrd#:~:text=Dating%20%2D%20the%20term%20can%20fill,or%20a%20mixture%20of%20both.&text=The%20first%20use%20of%20the,getting%20turned%20by%20other%20men.

 

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Transcription

Welcome to Verity podcast. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer. I’m here to teach you how to know what you believe, to live it boldly, and to communicate it graciously to the world around you. I believe that women are ready to go deeper in their faith than ever before and they don’t have to go to seminary to do it. I am so glad you’re here. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey because every woman is a theologian.

Hello friends and welcome back to Verity podcast. Thank you for your grace, as we had to take a break last week because my voice was definitely not in the position to record an episode and it’s still a little bit rough. So, I want to apologize for that at the beginning of this episode. And I want to introduce our topic for this week, which is discussing theological differences in dating. It’s been a little while since we had an episode specifically for our single listeners and hopefully this one will be helpful to you, even though I am an old married woman to quote the movie Emma. And I am going to be looking back, as well as pulling from some recent research that I pulled up regarding the current state of dating, the history of dating, and how it has changed in the last decade. Since I have not been dating for 10 years or 11 years whenever I met Josh.

In this episode, I just want to introduce a few questions that you can ask to navigate some of the theological differences that may come up when you are dating. The reason this is on my mind is this is a question that I get sent via email pretty regularly. And also, as a friend to single women I have seen some of the issues that are arising in these dating relationships and the interactions on dating apps when it comes to theology and trying to figure out where someone is at in their faith. Whether before you go on a date or during a date or during the development of the relationship. It sounds like it should be pretty straightforward, but so often it actually isn’t because sometimes the terms that we use are laden with a meaning that someone else doesn’t understand or maybe they use a term in a different way, or they come from a different tradition. And so, you’re just trying to navigate a lot when it comes to dating theologically. And so hopefully some of what we talk about in this episode is helpful and thought provoking for you.

I don’t promise to offer any solutions for the state of dating in 2023 nor any sage advice, because once again, I’ve been married for 10 years, but I do hope that this will give you a few things to maybe bring to the table in terms of asking questions and thinking through theology in dating. So, before we get there, I wanted to first go over a really short history of dating and how it’s changed over the years. Because I thought whenever we talk about the Bible and dating, people will often say, “Well, the Bible doesn’t talk about dating.” [chuckles] Because dating didn’t exist. So, I thought, “When did dating actually start?” And according to BBC, the first use of the word dating is attributed to an American columnist named George Ade in the Chicago Record in 1896 in which one of the men inside this little column is referring to his girlfriend and says that, “She’s seeing another boy and he’s filling up all my dates.” So, he’s taking up all my dates on the calendar. And so that’s where people think the term dating came from but obviously, before 1896, people didn’t really have the freedom to date in the way that we know it today.

And even in 1896, they didn’t have that freedom because up until about 1870, this BBC article says, “Women couldn’t keep property or money or goods they inherited upon marriage.” So, it was very, very important that a woman consider who she was marrying, not necessarily for love, but that he needed to be a responsible person, someone who could handle the inheritance with wisdom and steward it, so that it wasn’t completely taken away from his bride or spent. We read about this all the time in Jane Austen books or Louisa May Alcott books, where you have this spendthrift boy that somebody falls in love with and he ends up being a total loser, a dandy, if you will. And these women are basically put in a terrible position by marrying this irresponsible man. So, you had to think through who you were marrying, and because at least, in the UK, historically divorces could only be granted by the king. So, you honestly couldn’t do anything. You couldn’t get out of an abusive marriage or a terrible marriage with a neglectful husband if you were in this position. So, people were marrying for practical reasons.

Women particularly were marrying for practical reasons until Queen Victoria married Prince Albert and this was a love match. There was so much about Queen Victoria and the Victorian era that impacted how we view love and relationships. It’s fascinating, including the fact that she wore a white wedding dress, and that’s why everyone wore white wedding dresses ever since then, [laughs] that was something that Victoria started. So, there’s a lot there that we can’t get into here, but basically what happened when Victoria married Albert is that it introduced this idea of marrying for love that became very popular. This is also around the time that Valentine’s Day became commercialized. If you listen to my St. Valentine’s episode, I talk about that. So, the romantic became central and of course, over the course of a 100 years, a lot continues to change. You’ve got the two world wars and one thing, this BBC article, I’ll put this in the show notes once we get it up on the blog, is that the chaperone system, which was really innate to the culture up until World War I, what happened to it after World War I is that women were starting to work to aid the war effort and this gave them more freedom.

They also were able to bicycle and get around by themselves so they could do it on their own. They didn’t have a chaperone cycling with them, they could travel by train on their own. They could basically meet people anywhere. And so, this just expanded with World War II and of course with the sexual revolution after World War II, we are where we are today. And so, I wanted to look at that big span of history of dating but then I also wanted to ask the question what changed in dating when dating apps were introduced? Because when I was thinking about the differences today versus when I was dating, so I would have been dating from around 2008 to 2013-14. I got married in 2014, so 2008 to 2013ish and the first dating app I looked this up on Scripps News. Let’s see here, the first dating app was introduced for heterosexual couples in 2014. Bumble came out in 2014 and Tinder came out in 2012. So, this is right when I was about at the end of my dating career. And I really believe this is when things started to change, when the culture of dating just wildly changed. If you look at the 10 years between when I was dating, [chuckles] when people still like asked you out on the street or asked you out at a restaurant. And I know this happens still, but I’ve heard from my single friends and from my anecdotal research online that this is not as common as it used to be.

And I think the big part of this has to do with the advent of dating apps. So, Tinder launches in 2012, which is seen in this Scripps News article, said “It’s a pivotal moment for online dating.” Because at this point, eHarmony already existed, Match.com, the Christian Mingle, which I did, by the way. I used Christian Mingle for a while before I met Josh. And then eventually we get Bumble. So, what happens here is there’s this change from a dating website, where you had to fill out this really involved profile like eHarmony. It’s a very involved profile, Christian Mingle was a pretty involved profile back then to now a dating app where the profile is a lot less involved and the way you’re even engaging with the app, the way it interacts with your brain is totally different than sitting down to a desktop and interactions are shaping the dating culture. So, I think that for those who are listening, who maybe are frustrated with the state of dating today, I kind of want to say, “I don’t think it’s your fault.”

Now, I’m no expert on dating. I’m no expert on dating apps. But based on my overall observations, overall research, as I was reading some different articles and I’ll put these in the show notes, which are always on my blog, phyliciamasonheimer.com, and you can take a look at them yourself. But basically, there seems to be a major shift in dating culture and if you feel that [chuckles] I don’t think you’re crazy, I don’t think you’re the one that has the super high standards necessarily. I think it’s definitely a difficult culture. It’s different than it was 10 years ago, which is wild to me that it could change that much. But when everybody is going to an app and using it almost with this consumer cynical mindset, it’s really easy to fall into that trap. Especially, if you are not a believer, which so many people who are using these apps are not. Which brings me to what we’re here for, to talk about dating. When you are a believer, how do you navigate that? How do you go through a couple dates or interactions online? And how do you decide if you want to go on a date with somebody? If you’re still trying to figure out where they’re at theologically. Do you need to go on a date with them, etc. I’m not going to be prescriptive with this. I’m just going to give some thoughts on this, especially given today’s culture.

Now, if you want a resource that would be excellent on this, I recommend the book Outdated. I have really loved reading through the reviews of this book by JP Pokluda. He’s a pastor and he wrote Outdated and he’s worked with singles and twentysomethings for many years and this book has amazing reviews and I think it may be helpful to you to get his perspective on how to date in today’s culture. But let’s focus on the theology aspect here. Let’s say that you are chatting with a guy, I’m assuming you’re a woman listening to this, you’re chatting with a guy online and as you are beginning your conversation, you assume that he’s a believer because maybe he has it in his profile or he has a Bible verse in his profile or he says, “He’s a Christian.” And of course, you begin the conversation and you start to wonder is this person actually a Christian or is he just a Christian in name only? This is a very valid question. How do you get to finding out what somebody believes? Well, I of course, am a fan of just being direct. Just being direct and just asking, “What do you believe about this? What do you believe about this?” And if the guy is like, “You’re coming on too strong, or whoa, you’re being way too deep too fast.” I’m. like, “You know what? we probably just aren’t a good fit anyway.” [laughs]

So how do you transition a conversation or how do you deepen a conversation? How do you talk about these theological things? When you maybe can’t be as direct as you want to or you’re trying to develop the relationship or maybe you really have hit it off and you just want to know more about where someone is at. And how do you navigate the theological differences because sometimes you might agree on a lot of things, but maybe you have some significant differences and when is a difference too big and when is it too small? So, what’s really helpful is that we actually are going to go back to an older episode to answer that question. Going to go back to the episode, Determining Core Doctrine. How do you know what issues are essential and what issues are nonessential? The reason we need to do this is because when it comes to dating and it comes to being unified in marriage, which the goal of dating on the first date isn’t marriage. But we shouldn’t be dating people who aren’t marriage material, we shouldn’t. We are all developing, we’re all growing and no one is perfect. No one’s you know the person they’ll be at 50 when they’re 22 and on a date. But at the same time, we shouldn’t waste our time with dating people who don’t take relationships seriously.

What I’m saying is different than what purity culture taught in the sense that I’m not promising that you should marry the first person you date or don’t go on a date with them if you couldn’t see yourself marrying them. No, you have to go out with them to find out if they’re marriage material. You have to actually spend time with someone to know that for the most part. But if after dating someone a little bit, you realize they don’t have the commitment, the values, the responsibility, the faith that is necessary to make someone a good spouse, someone worth covenanting to, don’t waste your time. Don’t try to fix them, save them, make them different. They will change and God will change them on God’s time. But you are not the Messiah, you’re not the savior, the shaper, the fixer-upper. So, it’s a tension of going into dating knowing that someone is imperfect while also being able to see whether they actually value the things that God values. And that’s where theology comes into play because someone can truly have those values and not have a ton of theological knowledge yet. Like my husband, he didn’t go to school for Bible. He didn’t get a Bible degree. He wasn’t a huge reader, but he had those values in place. And that’s what kept us together through our hardest marriage years, was that we did share the same mission and values even when there was not much else that was holding us together. So having those values, that mission in place, that’s important. But what else is important? Well, a desire to grow on their own so that you’re not the one motivating that growth. You’re not the one pushing them forward. They have their own engine, the Holy Spirit. And then of course, even if you have that, even if you have the shared mission and values, there might be some theological differences, denominationally or maybe in practice, spiritual life, spiritual disciplines, all of that just might look different person to person. 

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So, to start us off, I’m just going to articulate a few questions that I think are really important to ask regarding theology as a whole when you are talking to someone or dating someone. I definitely think these conversations should be had way before engagement, so very early on in a relationship. First of all, they’re just healthy conversation topics in general. They just take stuff deeper and they lead you to deeper conversations, which offers opportunity for more connection in the first place, but secondly allows you to get a peek at where they’re at in their faith journey and whether they value the things that, A, the Bible values and B, that you value. And so, these are taken from an article on my website called 44 Questions We Asked Before Getting Engaged. These are questions that Josh and I asked, not in a formal way, but we definitely addressed every single one of them before we got engaged. And I am so glad that we did. Because even though, we had a lot of difficulty in our marriage, especially in the middle years, years like three to six, these questions and making sure we were on the same page in our mission is what kept us on mission in those heartrending years. 

So, in a section on church and theology, here are a few questions I recommend asking. In what denomination or faith did you grow up? So, what church tradition did they grow up in? I actually ask this at my retreats. Anytime I have a lot of Christians together, I actually like to ask this question because knowing what their church tradition was growing up or the lack of church tradition if they did not grow up in the church, really affects how they interact with Christianity as a whole and the Bible, their understanding of certain terms, and it will help you in having better conversations. So, what denomination or faith did they grow up in? If they grew up in the church, what did they agree or disagree with in their denomination? Like, what did they still hold to or what did they change their mind about? What church do you attend now and why? What do you like most about it? Are you happy there? What drew you to it? This is a great question to ask when you’re in the talking stage on a dating app or an online dating website, because a lot of times people will say that they’re Christians, and then when you ask them, what church are you in now? They might say, “Oh, well, I actually haven’t been to a church in a long time.” And while there is definitely room for not attending church every single Sunday rigidly or if you have a chronic illness or if you’re taking a break for a set period of time.

If you go back to my episode on the purpose of the church, the church is the gathering of like-minded believers who are exposing themselves to the apostles teaching through scripture, to fellowship and accountability. And if somebody doesn’t want to invest in that that’s a red flag. Have you explored other denominations and what do you think of the ones you visited? So, another thing that I’m always looking at when I’m talking to someone who’s been in the faith for a while or claims to be. Is have they only been in one church tradition? And if so, do they read the materials of other church traditions? Are they at all exposing themselves to what other Christians believe? So, if they grew up reformed and they’re in a Reformed church, do they only read John Piper books or have they ever read something by John Wesley or by a Catholic or by someone in the Orthodox tradition or a Mennonite? Have they ever read outside their tradition? If not, I would ask them why? And I would ask them, have you ever considered visiting another church just to understand how people do things in different church traditions and just see what that conversation looks like?

Now, here is one of my absolute favorite activities. Josh and I did this when we were dating, and we’ve since done it a lot while married because we’ve moved a lot. And here’s my question. This is if you are actually dating somebody. Are you open to attending several different churches and discussing them? Josh and I did this when you were dating and it was such a good activity, going to different denominations, going to these different services together, and then talking about them over lunch. What stood out to you? What did you disagree with? What did you agree with? What do you wish there was more of? Not in a consumer kind of way, but like looking at scripture and looking at what the church is meant to be and discussing whether these churches align with what scripture says and then of course, your own vision for how you as an individual or you as a couple could invest in that church and buy into their mission. Different churches have more explicit missions. They all have one overarching mission, which is to spread the gospel and disciple believers. But some might have more of a focus on prayer, might have a focus on missions. There are different things that churches might be equipped to do. So, I really encourage, if you can, if you’re in an actual dating relationship. It can be really helpful to visit different churches and discuss them as a sort of date.

This next question may not be something a person can answer. It depends on if they are very aware of theology and not everybody is and that’s okay. A lot of people don’t know what the label would be for their theology. And this question is what is your theological perspective? So, if somebody can’t answer this question, that is not a red flag. It just means that maybe they don’t know what the label is or what the term is and that’s a lot of people today. It’s a big reason why we do what we do at Every Woman a Theologian. So, this is not a red flag. It’s just a question that might be helpful if somebody has shown you that they actually have a lot of interest in scripture and theology and could answer this for you and they might say, “I’m a Calvinist or I’m a Wesleyan or I’m a Pentecostal, or I’m Catholic or whatever they might say.” And then the last question is, can you see merit to other theological views within biblical Christianity? Or and this is a little harsh, [laughs] but do you think yours is the only way to interpret these passages? So, say this nicer than I’m saying it right now, but this question is basically asking are you able to give grace for different viewpoints and stand on the essential doctrines? Or are you extremely dogmatic about everything? And this question might not even be one you have to ask. It might just become apparent as you talk to somebody online or you go out on your first date, sometimes that dogmatism can come out very clearly.

But on the flipside and this might actually be a bigger issue that many of you are facing is not dogmatism, but passivity and borderline universalism. And this is when people take the name of Christian but they actually don’t have a grounding in the sound teaching of scripture and what the Bible has taught for 2000 years of church history and then before if we are looking at the Old Testament. So, if you’re talking to someone who seems passive, a question you might want to ask could be, so how do you arrive at your conclusions about faith? Like what’s your measure for that? And leave it open like you’re not– don’t try to lead the question, just try to kind of have them open up about how they are discerning their life decisions, how they are walking through their view of God, their view of others, their theology. And if they’re saying things like, “Well, I go by what I feel or God’s voice just guides me.” And there’s no authoritative basis for how they are navigating faith and navigating decisions. There’s no reference to Godly community or church, scripture, anything like that. You can ask some more clarifying questions to find out, like where do they actually stand in terms of the authority of the Bible and its ability to guide our decisions, and then the Holy Spirit’s ability to guide those decisions based on what the Bible says.

These are some things that you can discuss over the course of whether it’s an online chat or in person. I prefer to get off the online chat as soon as you can and in person. But I realize that the way that dating apps have shaped society, that’s not always the easiest thing to do but if you can move it to in person and have these conversations in person, I think that’s always going to be a better conversation. Now, I’m not saying that you should just bring out these questions like a machine gun, one after another. There’s a way to do this where you’re listening, you’re actively listening and you’re housing this in somebody’s experience, even though this is dating you really should treat these kinds of theological questions just like you would with somebody that you were discipling or just talking to about their faith. I think in dating we can get really interested in this end goal and we can get really almost materialistic about the relationship and this was true 10 years ago too. Where it’s like, “Well, I get in, get out, I need to get what I need to get, see if this is worth my time. If it’s not, I’m just leaving.”

This is a human being in front of you. This is a human being with a story and yes, their story might affect you if you were to choose to be in a relationship with them, but you can still have an incredible influence and witness towards this person even if you don’t end up in a relationship. I think we need to be careful for men and women to not come into a date materialistically like, “What can I get out of this?” And you’re impacting me right now so I have no interest in this conversation other than finding out if I can get what I need out of this. No, this is still a person that God loves, person with a story to be stewarded, a person who needs to be witnessed to. And so even if they’re theologically, wildly off base, you can be thinking about how you can be a witness to them in that moment.

Okay. So, now in the second half of this episode, I am going to address some questions that I got via Instagram. So, I wanted to ask those who followed me, what are some scenarios where this might be an issue navigating theological differences in dating and I will try to work through these on the latter half of this episode. Here’s the first question how to biblically discern if you are unequally yoked. So, this passage about unequally yoking is in 1 Corinthians, where it’s talking about how there is no fellowship between light and darkness. And that when we are covenanting closely fellowshipping with someone else, they should share our Holy Spirit values. We should share that same spirit. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with unbelievers, but it does mean that when you are looking at dating somebody, you should not be dating someone who is not a believer. And not just a believer in name only, but an actual active follower of Jesus Christ. And I know that’s a hard word, I understand, but the reality is that I had to turn down gentlemen that I wanted to date when I was a single person because of this it was the hardest thing I ever did and it was the best thing I ever did. Because I can promise you right now that Josh and I would not be married today if we did not have the Holy Spirit both residing in us and both believe that we answer to God for how we steward our marriage covenant.

It is so serious who you commit your life to and asking those hard questions before you marry. So how do you know then if you are dating and you’re unequally yoked? This is where it gets tough because we’ve added so many layers onto what a man specifically must do to be a “spiritual leader.” We misconstrue spiritual leadership for true authentic faith. We mix it up and we think if he performs these things, so if he may be aggressively says, “This is the church we’re going to go to or these are my theological views.” Really dogmatic about it, you can mistake that for spiritual leadership when it might actually be just dogmatism and pride and theological pride. And on the other end of things, you could end up with a guy who says, “Yeah, I’m seeking the Lord.” He says all the right things, but he’s actually really passive and he’s waiting for you to do the leading. So, scripture makes a case that every person is responsible for their own faith before God. And the passages that talk about submission are only in reference to husbands and wives says, “Wives submit to your own husbands” in Ephesians 5, which means that you as a woman who is dating, you are not responsible to submit to anyone that you are dating ever. Like, “No, he’s not your husband you don’t submit to him.” He’s not responsible to lead you. You do get to look for signs that he will take initiative in his faith, but you are responsible for your own faith. You don’t look to him to be the one leading you in your dating relationship. That is not something he’s responsible to do. It’s not something that you are to put on him.

At the same time, though, as I said, “You can look for signs that he is actively responsible for his own faith.” He is actively seeking God on his own. And so, in an unequally yoked relationship, what that would look like would be someone who, A, doesn’t have the Holy Spirit at all, isn’t a believer, just does not follow God at all and maybe he tries to be a moral person, he’ll come to church with you, doesn’t count. He needs to be actively seeking God on his own. And that means getting accountability, getting men around him, being in the word, however that looks, listening on audio, whatever, just being in the word and seeking and growing. You can also be unequally yoked if a person is a believer but is extremely passive. Now, passive is not the same as lacking in knowledge. When I met my husband, he was lacking in knowledge, but he was eager to grow. There’s a difference between that and someone who’s just passively like, “Whatever you want, babe.” So, when you’re looking at someone, think about the spirit of their heart because that’s what Jesus looks at, all throughout the gospels he gets back to the spirit of the heart who’s the one who he says, “He’ll sell everything he has to buy the field that has the treasure in it.” That’s the kind of passion that you want to look for. And it doesn’t have to be loud, it can be quiet. He might be a servant hearted, administrative gifted type of man or woman if you’re man listening, but you are allowing that person to pursue God of their own initiative and pursue Him with a passion the Holy Spirit has given, you’re not acting as that Holy Spirit for them.

Next question, is orthodox versus evangelical dating one another. Another person asked Catholics and Protestants dating. Is it a good idea? I’m going to tell you something honestly, in all the years that I’ve been doing this, never have I seen a Catholic and a Protestant or an Orthodox and a Protestant date where the Protestant did not have to convert. And it’s also true for Reformed most of the time, Catholics, Orthodox, Reformed if you are dating them; you must convert for them. And so, you need to weigh that very carefully. You need to know that theology, you need to dig into it, you need to wrestle with it, compare it to scripture and you need to decide if that is the kind of life that you are willing to commit to. And you need to decide if you are able to come under that teaching and teach it to your children. And yes, I do think you need to be thinking about children when you are dating. And here’s why?

Marriage as a covenant the design of sex in marriage by God is procreative. Procreation is one of the functions of sex. If it weren’t, we wouldn’t have to have birth control. So, you need to be thinking about the family that you’re entering or forming with this person and the children that would come of it, Lord willing. Are you comfortable stewarding them in the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, the Reformed Church? Are you able to raise them in that tradition? And is your spouse, if they are of that denomination, are they fine with you teaching other denominational viewpoints or not? Could they be Catholic and go to Mass every week but go to Protestant vacation Bible schools? These are things that they sound so far off right now in the dating stage, but I promise you, they cause so much conflict once you are at that stage and nobody thinks about it when they’re dating. But then I get the emails once they’ve been married five years and their marriage is struggling because theologically, they cannot get on the same page because they thought it’s a non-issue when you’re dating. 

So personally, as a Protestant, I had the opportunity to date Catholics and I always turned that down because the theological differences were too wide and I would not convert for them, nor would they convert for me. So, it was something where I could not come under that teaching and align with that teaching. Same with the Orthodox Church, Reformed Church. That is within the Protestant tradition so I think there is more room there where you could maybe make it work. But again, it depends on how dogmatic the person is about that theology. And this would go also for Charismatic or Pentecostal, any denomination, if they’re dogmatic about it. Most likely the person who is less dogmatic and less invested is going to be the one who has to convert. So, you need to navigate that accordingly, I would wrestle with it theologically, wrestle with it in prayer, but then also, if you decide I can’t come under this teaching for the rest of my life or bring my potential family under this teaching, just know this that God still has you. Yes, there are more people in the world. There really are. If this is what you are choosing to do by God’s leading, then God is going to sustain you through it even if that means you’re breaking up. 

Practical advice for my younger sister on true deal breakers for marriage versus a workable difference. So, this again, to me really goes back to the heart of seeking God and the heart of true faith. What is true faith? Well, it’s an allegiance to God that His grace through faith. He gives us grace. We respond to Him in faith, our allegiance shifts from self to Christ, and then we become more and more like Christ over time. If someone is just not showing any fruit, they’re not naturally propelled towards following God, then there is a significant problem, and that would be a true deal breaker. Whereas somebody who doesn’t have the theological knowledge, that would be a workable difference. They could work on that. They could grow and just as my husband has an engineering degree, I have a religion degree. And when we married, obviously, [chuckles] the gap between our theological knowledge was pretty significant. But over almost 10 years now married, he has closed that gap by learning about these things. Even as I’ve continued to grow, he has closed that gap in his spiritual growth and so we are much closer in terms of our knowledge but you know what else, in terms of our actual spiritual maturity, he was ahead of me in many ways. He was ahead of me in sanctification when it came to his grace and mercy, whereas I was behind because I was struggling so much with criticism and judgment. So that’s something to think about too is what’s the state of their sanctification? 

Okay, the next question is when one party believes only their denomination or practices are pleasing to God. So, this goes back to way at the beginning when I was talking about that idea of understanding the tears of doctrine and determining core doctrine and knowing what’s essential and what issues to give grace on. If somebody is this dogmatic, it doesn’t matter what denomination they are. You are the one who’s going to have to come under that or convert for that and I’ll be honest with you, that concerns me a lot for the long-term health of this marriage. Because if the husband believes this and if it’s paired with an extremely patriarchal understanding of the marriage passages of scripture you are looking at a potential for a man. Potential not always, potential for a man to abuse those passages of scripture on submission and to force his wife to follow these kinds of spiritual practices that he believes are the only way. In a way that is not in alignment with how husbands are to graciously love and lead their wives.

And again, this is sneaky because guys like this, they come off as spiritually authoritative, and it can be really refreshing at first. Like, “Wow, this guy’s got it all figured out.” He’s so confident in his faith, he’s so almost aggressively leading and when you’re used to passivity, which a lot of women are in today’s dating culture, that can be really refreshing. So, I would just say, “Caution Flag.” Let’s see what are his views on the submission passages? Because submission is freely chosen, it’s deferring. It’s coming under the mission. It’s freely chosen of the wife. The husband is never to force it. He’s never to make it happen. It’s a command to wives, it’s not a command to husbands. Husbands are commanded to love. So, if you are dating a man who’s highly interested in submission, [chuckles] that’s a red flag. But then if they’re super dogmatic about the denominational practices, that would be a caution flag to me, something to ask some more questions about. 

Okay, another question was Reformed versus Non-Reformed, can it work? So again, going back to kind of the Catholic Orthodox thing, I kind of talked about this, but I want to go more into depth. If you’re like, “What’s Reformed?” Okay. Reformed is a term for a branch of theology that came out of the Protestant Reformation. Thank Martin Luther, Martin Luther tried to reform the Catholic Church. They didn’t want him to do it, so they kicked him out, and he began a branch of churches that then splintered into many other types of Reformed churches. And what characterizes Reformed theology is that it’s covenantal. So, it looks at scripture in terms of the covenants and movements of God. It’s confessional, so it has creeds that it confesses. And another thing to note about Reformed theology that is not like necessarily Calvinistic every single time, but one of the distinctives of Reformed theology is their view of God’s sovereignty. So, the way that Reformed people understand God’s sovereignty is the very specific definition, and it usually means all causing or determining so God is causing or determining most things in the world or all things in the world including electing specific individuals to salvation. So, this is a pretty specific view. Again, it’s only found in the Reformed theological world. It is not found in Catholic, Orthodox, Anabaptist, Wesleyan, or traditional Baptist viewpoints.

So, it’s a distinctive to them, and it’s a pretty divisive doctrine. So, if you do not believe this, if you are in one of these other traditions that don’t believe that God’s electing specifically who will be saved, then this can be a pretty difficult doctrine to navigate. But is it impossible? No, I’m a Wesleyan, so I don’t adhere to Reformed views of predestination. I have episodes about that. I have a book about that. You can read it all up if you want, but I was in a Presbyterian Church of America for a year, and I was in a Reformed Baptist Church for four years, and I still regularly read and consume Reformed materials, even though I myself am not Reformed. So, it’s possible for sure to be in a Reformed church, especially a healthy and gracious Reformed church, and not be Reformed. And in the same way, I think it’s definitely possible to be dating someone who’s Reformed and not be Reformed, because in this case, you’re both Protestants. 

Okay, a few last questions, because I know I’m not going to get to all of them, but I wanted to try and hit most of them. This one says, “It’s not theological, but I feel like my boyfriend ends up using commentaries instead of studying for himself.” I would honestly say that the fact he’s using commentaries is a good sign. Like, yes, maybe he isn’t directly studying every single passage himself, but using a commentary is way better than using like a devotional book or not even studying at all. Maybe he feels like he needs the study helps. I think that’s a good thing. I would respect that. Now, if he’s only reading a certain angle or he’s not even reading the Bible itself and only the commentaries, then sure, maybe you gently have a conversation about that, but I personally think that if he’s reading commentaries, that is a pretty positive sign. 

As we wrap up this episode, I don’t know if any of this was helpful for you. You’re the ones out here in these tough dating streets having to navigate this, having to have these conversations, talking with guys who say they’re Christians, and then you get a couple messages in on the dating app or website and they’re like, “Oh, I believe I’ll pass leave to heaven.” And you’re like, “Well, that was a waste of time.” Or you go out on a date and you find out that the only guys who are reading their Bible are like super hardcore into submission or whatever and it’s just really hard. I get it or if you’re a guy listening to this, I’ve heard this too that there’re girls who say they’re Christians or have a little Psalm 121 in their Instagram bio and there’s no substance there and it’s really disappointing. But here’s the thing, God is sovereign over your dating journey and the higher your view of His sovereignty, the more you believe that He is at work in your heart, your life, your dating life, the more open handed you are in terms of Him working and always and having your best in mind, the less control you need to exert. And this is true for marriage and parenting too. 

So, for married people, there’s a temptation to try to control your spouse into the kind of person you want them to be. And only when you open your hands to God’s sovereignty to work in them can you be at peace in your marriage. Same with parenting, if you’re parenting and you’re parenting from control and fear, God isn’t sovereign to you. God isn’t the one working. And so over and over and over again the Walk of Faith for the Christian, whether they’re single and dating or they’re married, or they’re parenting children, they are empty nesters with adult children, whatever it may be, you have to let God be God. Don’t try to play God in your dating relationships, including trying to force somebody into a theological perspective that feels safer to you, or to take the guy who’s right in all these certain checkboxes, but he’s just wrong on theology. 

The theology is the biggest checkbox. Like that’s the biggest thing in terms of his actual relationship with God, his view of God, his view of the world, his view of women and marriage, that does affect you. It greatly affects you. It affects your entire rest of your life and so it can feel so easy to just be like, it all looks great on paper, but is his heart, is her heart in the right place? Is their heart, has it given over allegiance to God? Because everything else can fall into place if God is truly sovereign in their life, and everything can fall into place when God is sovereign in yours. So, no matter how hard dating is, even if there’s no one on the horizon or if you’ve got lots of plates spinning and lots of people that you’re talking to, just keep in mind that God is the one who knows both the future and the present and that He grants wisdom. And He is found by those who seek Him. And so, seek Him. ask for His wisdom, He does not withhold wisdom from those who ask, and He will lead you in your dating relationships including when you’re asking those tough theological questions. 

Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of Verity podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, would you take the time to leave us a review? It helps so many other women around the world find out about Verity and about Every Woman a Theologian, as a ministry and a shop. We appreciate you and I hope you’ll be back next week as we continue to go deeper into God’s Word and the heart of Jesus Christ.

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