Christian author and Pastor Tim Challies of Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, has warned that Christians should not marry unbelievers. His advice is part of a broader discussion on the topic: "What's wrong with Christian dating?"
"The Bible makes it very, very clear that a Christian can only marry another Christian. You may not marry somebody who is an unbeliever. You should not marry somebody for whom you're not certain whether they're a believer or not. So absolutely, the first thing is, is this person a believer in Jesus Christ? Do we share faith?" Challies advised Thursday in part two of his message on Christian dating.
"And you know, it can sound very easy, it can sound — that person's almost there, or that person really loves me, and he's promised he won't interfere, or that kind of thing. You may not do it," he asserted.
"And there's very good reasons for that. These things may be easy now when you're really in love with one another and you know, you'll do anything to marry one another. It will at some point get more difficult and there will inevitably be consequences for marrying an unbeliever."
As for Christians who have found potential Christian partners, he says, the other main issue is compatibility.
"Do you enjoy one another? I mean, do you just have fun together? Do you have common interests? Do you have common goals? You know you've got to have a lot of conversations, and often these are guided conversations with other people," he added.
"So salvation, compatibility is really what you're after."
Other topics he tackled is how should a single man pursue a single woman, noting that if her family has certain traditions, such as expecting the man to speak first with the father before dating the girl, then that should be honored.
"But the Bible, I don't think, mandates that for all people and all times and all places. So there may be other situations in which you don't have to do that. You can just ask the girl, 'would you like to go out for a coffee?' and begin to indicate interest that way," he clarified.
He also noted that Christians do not "casually date" with no goal in mind.
"As we date, there should be the view toward marriage. But that can complicate things because it can make it seem like, I'm asking you out for a coffee and I want to have babies with you someday. That's adding a lot of weight to simply having a coffee," he continued.
In part one of his message earlier this week, the pastor said that sometimes things are made out to be more difficult that they are.
"I think a guy and a girl who are single can indicate interest in one another, start doing casual things together, and eventually simply end up having that conversation. Are we dating now? I really like you. Can we progress? Things are more difficult than they need to be," he offered.
"So as Christians, I think we just need to kind of break it down and make it simple again. Allow people the freedom to get to know one another in casual settings, and then progress from there into a dating relationship and from there to marriage."
Christian author John Stonestreet, a fellow of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, also argued in an op-ed published in The Christian Post in September 2017 that "dating unbelievers deadens faith."
"'Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers,' Paul reiterates in 2 Corinthians. Christian widows, he continues, are free to remarry, but 'only in the Lord.'" Stonestreet added.
Dan Delzell, pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska, added in another CP op-ed in 2013: "There is no spiritual unity between a believer and an unbeliever. Not an ounce of it. Why? Because a Christian has the Holy Spirit dwelling within him or her, whereas an unbeliever doesn't have the Spirit's indwelling presence. The new birth results in a new life and a new spirituality. There is no unity on that level unless both people are converted through faith in Christ."
Pew Research Center figures from 2010–2014 found that nearly one-in-five Christians are married to an unaffiliated spouse.
The statistics showed that 61 percent of Christians are married to a spouse of the same religion, while 15 percent are married to one from a different Christian tradition.
Eighteen percent of believers were married to a spouse without a religious affiliation, and 6 percent were in other types of mixed marriages.
Watch Tim Challies' Christian dating advice below: