When I imagined married life as a wide-eyed, dreamy teen, I did not picture running through the house slamming doors and screaming; and, I certainly did not picture doing so after a conversation about the Bible. It is fair to say Eric has played a big role in shaping my theology over the years, but it has not been a carriage ride through a flowery meadow. At times, I experienced intense feelings of anger when Eric challenged my beliefs.
As friends, he first introduced me to the sermon Hell’s Best Kept Secret which I received with an open heart. In fact, it answered a lot of questions which had bothered me for years. Questions like “Why did the teenagers in my youth group come home from Winterfest on fire for the Gospel and then dwindle to embers after three weeks back home?” and “Why after a wildly ‘successful’ altar call noting 50 salvations, did only a couple people show up for church the next week?” In this case, I was grateful to hear this message.
Then, Eric and I grew to love each other despite our many differences. We got engaged, married, and then we discussed theology. If you are thinking, “Isn’t that backwards?” you would be absolutely correct. We knew we were marrying a fellow Christian and, at the time, that seemed like enough. It is easy to connect with someone and assume you share identical (or, even largely compatible) beliefs, but couples rarely see everything the same. We all come from different backgrounds, homes, families, belief systems, and we all have unique experiences which shape our worldview.
After a year or so of marriage, I remember having a friend over to my house who was experiencing some intense emotions. So, I prayed for her the way I grew up praying for people. My friend, who was raised in a different denomination, had no concerns over the way I prayed and told me later she felt better afterwards. However, Eric, who was listening in the next room, emerged later with some concerns. He was not sure my method of handling the situation was Biblical.
He was not harsh with me, and I wish I could say I replied with a gentle, “Why, whatever do you mean, darling? Let’s discuss it,” response – but that did not happen. Instead, I became quite defensive. Who is this man to tell me I am not praying Biblically?
Then, even further into our sacred union, Eric told me he wanted us to read a book together called Easy Chairs, Hard Words. Not being an avid reader, I was not as enthralled with the idea as I was with listening to Hell’s Best Kept Secret all those years earlier, but I agreed. Quickly, I came to realize that this was no easy book. It challenged everything I learned growing up and made me question so many concepts which I considered foundational truth. At one point, I became so angry that I began stomping through the house, screaming and slamming doors. It was as if my entire identity was in question and I was furious and more than a little afraid.
After my tantrum, I was relieved to realize my frustration was in good company. A friend of Eric’s wanted to throw the book across the room when she first read it; however, she later came to affiliate with its teachings as she found them to align with Scripture. Eric was not thrilled the first time he read the book either (his first reaction is that he wanted to burn it… but couldn’t due to its sound, biblical logic). Though he did not scream and slam doors, he found the experience uncomfortable. It was only years later, slowly reading it again and discussing it with a friend that he finally came to agree with its contents (his friend was also very much against it at the beginning – but, ended up believing in the end as well). It was the beginning of a profound shift in his theology.
Years later, I am no longer angry at what was in it; but, in many ways, I am still searching. It takes a lot to change my mind once I believe something. In spiritual matters, it takes the Holy Spirit working in me to change my heart – and that is true of everyone. After fourteen years of marriage, Eric and I still do not share identical beliefs in this area. We are close, but there are theological concepts about which he is completely convinced while I remain unconvinced. Thankfully, we know Who knows the answers and we can seek Him for the truth.
Have You Dived into Discussing Theology Yet?
Some people would rather discuss (or debate) theology than anything else in the world. I confess I am not one of those people. If you want to sip coffee with me and talk about what the Lord has done in your life, I am there! If you want to dialogue about a ministry the Holy Spirit has impressed upon your heart, call me! (Actually, text me or meet me for lunch – not a big phone fan ~smile~) But, if you want to spend an hour debating what a passage means, please message me later when you have it figured out. I will be happy to hear the result. Studying theology comes easily to some people just like exercising comes easily to others. To people like me, we know it is important even if tackling it requires ongoing discipline.
Couples who love theological debate have probably already broached many topics; but, for the rest of us, we must prioritize such discussions to make them happen. Before engagement, all couples should talk about their beliefs – and not in a shallow way. Dive in! Read theology books together, watch sermons from credible Bible teachers, read Scripture, and study the Greek and Hebrew words behind the translations. Use this time to discover and develop your theological beliefs.
Warning! You may be tempted to say you believe what your significant other believes to keep the peace and relationship moving forward. Though I (a harmonizer extraordinaire) understand such a temptation, it will come back to bite you later. If you are struggling with your beliefs, or if you believe differently, talk about it. Seek counsel from a wise Bible scholar if necessary, but please do not hide from your differences – even if it leads to screaming and slamming doors – that is better than years of disagreements.
Ready to Get the Conversation Started?
Sincerely, one of our biggest regrets as a couple is not diving deeper into our theological beliefs in our dating season. We covered some topics, but we did not dig nearly deep enough and we paid the price later. Having sound theology does affect relationships. Our view of God affects our view of everything else – especially marriage. If we do not see God in truth, how can we expect to see His creation – each other – in truth?
So, are you ready to dive in and begin your ongoing theology discussion? Pull out your Creed notebooks and let’s get started.
- True or False: I feel confident that I fully know my significant other’s theological beliefs.
- True or False: I am concerned that we share different beliefs which will have significant repercussions on our future together.
- True of False: We find it easy to discuss our theological beliefs together.
- True of False: We both believe studying theology is important.
- What are my theological beliefs? (Be as thorough as possible.) How do they line up with what my boyfriend or girlfriend believes? (See link for Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem at the end of this post.)
- Have I ever challenged what my church or family taught me about God? If not, what has stopped me from doing so?
- What problems might arise if I marry my boyfriend or girlfriend knowing we do not agree on various theological teachings?
What Does the Bible Say?
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15, ESV)
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8, ESV)
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. (Psalm 119:15-16, ESV)
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV)
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11, ESV)
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. (Titus 2:1, ESV)
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:24-27, ESV)
All creeds are unique and get to the heart of what the author believes (or, authors believe). Some put faith in themselves, higher powers they never hope to know, or in science and only what can be seen. Will your creed’s foundation be one of earthly wisdom or personal experience? Will it reveal a faith only in what you can see, touch, and hear?
Or, will you build your creed on the God of the Bible? He who cannot be seen, but is seen daily in His creation (cf. Psalm 19:1). He who cannot be touched, but sent His Son to touch the masses (cf. Matthew 9:21-22). And, He who rarely speaks audibly but can be heard through the reading and preaching of His Word (cf. Romans 10:17). We pray you know the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, and that every dream, pursuit, and belief you possess flows from Him and Him alone.
Growing up, learning theology was not prioritized in my circles. In fact, some people would brag about their lack of theological knowledge. “We don’t need theology! We love Jesus and that is what is important!” Almost as if theology was a highbrow way of looking at God which kept Him at bay. But, as a friend recently reminded me: How can we say we love God when we do not know Him? Studying theology (literally: the study of God) helps us know the God we say we love.
If you need a place to start, we recommend combing through Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem together. Enjoy lively discussions, weigh the information against Scripture, and grow in the process. You will no doubt change and mature in your faith as you study!
No one believes more strongly than I do that every Christian should be a theologian. In that sense, we all need to work it out. I want all Christians who can read, to read their Bibles and to read beyond the Bible – to read the history and theology. – D.A. Carson
Are you satisfied with how much you know about your significant other’s theological beliefs?