Question: I am an evangelical Christian and I have been dating a wonderful man who is a devout Catholic. We are concerned that we will not fully agree on important things if we consider marriage. What do you think, is right or wrong if a Catholic and a Christian were to marry?
Answer: I am deeply concerned for you and your friend. I wish I can tell you to go ahead with your plans, but I would be irresponsible to do so.
Catholicism and biblical Christianity are two dissimilar religions built on different foundations. Evangelical Christianity is based on the teaching of the Bible alone; Catholicism is built on the teaching of the magisterium. As a consequence, the respective teaching on the way of salvation is different. Both cannot be true. Evangelicals believe in Christ for salvation - and in nothing and nobody else, nor do they rely on any merits of our own; whereas Catholics, in addition to faith, base their salvation on the reception of baptism and other sacraments, good works and penance. Evangelicals seek to live a godly life in grateful response to the grace of God; Catholics perform works to merit the graces needed to attain eternal life.
What are the implications of the differences between Catholicism and biblical Christianity? Well, marriage is a covenant of life-long companionship. God joins the man and woman together so intimately that they become “one flesh”. Their unity is a reflection of the relationship between Christ and his bride, the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). But the fulfillment of that union can only be experienced if the husband and wife are spiritually united in a common faith and love for Christ. Otherwise there would be discord and untold misery. 'Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?' (Amos 3:3).
If you and your partner are divided at the very core of your soul, on the spiritual and most important aspect of your life, how can you experience genuine unity? On Sunday will you go to Mass with your husband to renew the sacrifice of Christ, or will each one of you go separate way? Will you pray the rosary together? Will you be happy when your husband goes to confession and divulge the details of your personal and married life to another man?
Besides, you will be compelled to agree to raise up your children in the Catholic religion, including infant baptism and Catholic education. As an evangelical you do not consider that Catholicism is right for you, why should you give it to your children?
Over the years I have received heartbreaking letters from fellow Christians who made this tragic mistake. Please don't repeat it.
This week I received two letters. The first from a Christian woman who has just divorced her Catholic husband; she believed that they could make their marriage work despite the differences in their religions. She found out the hard way that Christianity and Catholicism do not mix. Now she has two kids to raise up, and their father is insisting that they go to a Catholic school. The five-year-old is already confused because he has been told at the Catholic school that only he, his brother and his father will go to heaven because they are Catholics but mommy and her side of the family are will not! Do you want that to happen to you and your children? The other letter came from a man in his 50's. He wrote about his childhood experience, how he was raised by a Christian mother and a Catholic father. Mum showed him the errors of Catholicism. But he saw no unity at home and he gave up Christianity in disgust when he grew up. He is now a hardened and bitter agnostic. Again I ask you, do you want that to happen to your kids?
There are two options: the painful but shortest way is to break up the relationship immediately; the other is more risky, but not altogether impossible. Is your friend willing to consider evangelical Christianity; perhaps the Lord will open his heart to biblical Christianity and grant him the gift of faith in Christ. That will clear the way for your marriage. There is danger, of course, that he will pretend to convert for your sake. You need wisdom from above. Remember that the choice of your marriage partner is one of the most important decisions you'll ever make. A mistake here could lead to terrible and life-long consequences. Do not let romantic love blind you. Your responsibility is clear. This is the test whether you really love God above all others. May God give you the strength to be faithful.
A sincere word of encouragement to the Catholic party. I would not tell you to make any compromises for the sake of your Christian sweetheart. However I exhort you to examine your religion in the light of God's holy Word, the Bible. Maybe the Lord would be gracious and lead you to a saving knowledge of Christ. Then you and your Christian friend would be free to marry.
May God fill your hearts with joy.
The departure of Catholicism from the biblical truth is so serious that many faithful Catholics are being led astray by a false gospel. It is entirely possible that your Catholic friend is not saved at all. To marry a non-Christian is a violation of the clear will of God.
The Old Testament emphatically teaches that God does not permit his people to marry outside of the household of faith.
The New Testament is equally adamant in its position against mixed marriages. Christians should not be "unequally yoked" with unbelievers (that is, with people who do not believe the Christian gospel): "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14). Spiritually, there is nothing in common between Christians and unbelievers. Christians know God; the latter do not. How can the two walk together if they are going in different directions? That’s why God will not allow his children to marry non-Christians.
The apostle Paul advices a Christian widow who wants to re-marry, saying, "A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7: 39). She can marry the man of her choice as long as he is "in the Lord" -- a phrase which Paul uses to denote a Christian. The believer does not have an option to marry a non-Christian, but “only” in the Lord.
The Catholic teaching on this matter is contrary to the Law of God. The magisterium does not encourage marriage between Catholics and non-Catholic Christians, much less with non-baptized (Hindus, Buddhists, etc); but such marriages are allowed if a special “dispensation” is granted by higher Catholic authorities. (See Catechism 1633-1637). That is most presumptuous. The Catholic magisterium has no authority to annul the Word of God!
© Dr Joseph Mizzi