Should Protestant Christians be getting married to Catholics? Are Protestant Christians and Catholics equally yoked? Can they date or is this just a bad idea?
In the article Theological Differences in Marriage, Dating, and How to Handle Both, I focus more on the ways a Christian couple can respect one another in their theological differences. In this article, however, I want to focus more on the dating side and answer the question, “Should Protestant Christians and Catholics date and get married?”
This is a common question I’ve been getting lately. The common scenario is that a Protestant Christian and a Catholic like each other but they both also know that they hold different beliefs. They want to be equally yoked in their future marriage and want to prevent getting too involved in a relationship that will not work out because of the religious differences.
Here are some Christian dating tips to consider if you are wondering about Christians and Catholics getting married.
The Answer Is: It Depends on the Catholic Person’s View of Jesus and the Gospel
I’m sure a Catholic website would list all the concerns that should be noted in dating a Protestant. However, since I am a Protestant Christian I will be speaking to protestants about the concerns I have in dating a Catholic, though this information will certainly be helpful to Catholics as well.
We will dissect this topic even more as this article goes on, but rather than give the answer at the end, let me give you my main answer at the beginning and then use the rest of this article to explain myself if you want more information.
I believe that Protestant Christianity and Catholicism at their best can agree on the most important truths that determine whether or not someone is in the true family of God or not. If a Catholic person believes they are saved through Jesus Christ alone, I believe they are truly saved. To be saved, the gospel says it all depends on the finished work of Christ. We can only be saved through faith alone and by grace alone. If a Catholic depends on Jesus like that, then I believe they are a true Christian even if they get some secondary doctrines wrong. The same would be true of Protestants who believe falsely on secondary issues. Surely we all error somewhere, but if we get it wrong about Jesus we are literally and biblically damned.
The main danger, however, with dating a Catholic is that Catholicism has added so much that oftentimes, perhaps even most times, the true gospel is hidden by the Catholic religion rather than revealed. It’s certainly not impossible for a Catholic to have a genuine relationship with Jesus, but I do believe that the Catholic church does make it difficult.
So my summary point is that a Protestant Christian and Catholic would be okay to date one another if they both truly depended on Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. Because this is rare amongst Catholics, however, I think a Christian should proceed with extreme caution in dating a Catholic or getting married to Catholic.
In most cases that I’ve seen the two really are unequally yoked but they both want to be together so bad they choose to overlook the core theological differences that should keep them from getting married. Perhaps 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 should be the test when answering this question about Christians and Catholics dating and getting married:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. . . .
Paul said the gospel of Jesus Christ is “of first importance.” If the two of you disagree on the gospel and the way of salvation, you should not date or get married.
Why Is Jesus and the Gospel the Core Issue When Dating/Marrying a Catholic?
The reason I believe the gospel is the core issues when it comes to dating and marrying is because the Bible does not give tons of requirements when choosing a spouse; it does, however, command that all Christians be equally yoked with the person they choose to marry (1 Corinthians 7:39).
Therefore the first step we all must do, including when we want to know about dating or getting married to a Catholic, is to make sure this person is actually a believer in Jesus Christ. As I’ve alluded to already, the tricky part about Catholics is that some truly know Jesus and some have simply adopted church traditions.
Of course there are false evangelical conversions just like there are false Catholics. The issue I’m referring to, however, is that within Catholicism there are deep rooted doctrinal areas that often keep people from Christ rather than point people to Christ.
In the remainder of this article, I will share some of my concerns regarding the Catholic faith and why a Protestant Christian should be very cautious when considering dating or getting married to a Catholic.
My Concerns with Dating or Getting Married to a Catholic
So what is different about Catholics and Protestants? There are many differences in general, and of course each individual holds their own beliefs, but here are some basics:
Catholics elevate the authority of the church to equal status with the word of God. One of the main issues during the Reformation was that the Pope and authority figures in the church made rulings that the people were expected to obey just as diligently as the commands in Scripture. Papal infallibility is a Catholic doctrine which states that when the Pope is operating in his official office as Pope he cannot make an error. In other words, whatever the Pope says becomes truth. Protestants completely reject this idea and believe that the Scriptures are the only infallible source of truth besides God himself.
Catholics believe the sacraments accomplish things for you rather than symbolize what Christ has accomplished. There are many differences between Catholics and Protestants when it comes to the sacraments. Besides the fact that Protestants believe baptism and communion are the only true sacraments, we also differ on the meaning of these two as well. For example, Catholics believe that a person, even a baby, is not saved unless they are baptized. Protestants, however, believe that only adult Christians who have already been saved through faith and by grace should be baptized.
In general, Catholics have added so much to their religion they often detract from Christ rather than point more clearly to Christ. Our list could go on and on. However, to summarize the major issue with all the disagreements such as the Catholic emphasis on the Virgin Marry mediating for us, the need for a priest to confess one’s sins, transubstantiation, indulgences, purgatory, and the many others – the major issue with all these things is that they take the emphasis away from Jesus Christ.
Catholics do not deny Jesus. They believe in the Trinity. At heart I believe they have enough of the core gospel to be truly saved. However, the great danger is that all their extra traditions and religious practices usually deemphasize Christ as the sole means of salvation so much that most Catholics miss the true gospel of Christ.
For these reasons I believe it is usually a bad idea for a Protestant and a Catholic to date or get married. If both are not passionate in their beliefs, perhaps they are equally yoked. However, if there is a strong Protestant and a strong Catholic, I believe it would be unwise in most cases for the two to start dating or to get married.