May a Christian marry someone if not convinced he or she is also a Christian?

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Jie-Huli

Puritan Board Freshman
No, I myself am not considering marrying a non-Christian. In fact, I have always believed adamantly that a Christian may not become "unequally yoked" by marrying someone if not convinced that person is also a true Christian, and I have given sharp exhortations to others about this as well.

The main reason I am asking this question is that I was startled to find in a biography of Jonathan Edwards (by Iain H. Murray) that Mr. Edwards may not have believed as I do.

In a chapter concerning Edwards' daughter, Esther, it is related that a young women corresponded with Esther concerning her doubts over a potential suitor because he was not capable of "religious conversation". Esther apparently "replied that any certainy as to a person's conversion is not essential to marriage."

She wrote:
"How knowest thou, O Woman, but thou mayest gain thy Husband. I think there is a good deal of reason to hope it as he has such a desire to have a religious wife." (Let me say I find it very dubious indeed to use this verse in such a context when the young lady had not actually married the man yet).

Esther's letter to the young woman also contains some surprising statements as to her parents' view on the subject:

"I know it to be the opinion of my Honoured Parents that a person aught not to make conscience of the matter. They say that some other things were more necessary to happyness in a Married state, (which things you have mentioned of him) but when a Religion meets those other things it Crowns all - tis properly the Crown, but my dear this alone wil not do - look around, you will soon see that tis not every good Man that you could live happily with in that state."

I find this statement of Edwards' views surprising to say the least.

So whay say the brethren and sistren here?

May we or may we not be dogmatic in asserting that the Bible forbids Christians from marrying someone if not convinced of his/her conversion?

Jie-Huli
 

Shadrach

Inactive User
These sound like the views of Edwards' daughter and not necessarily his own. Are you certain he believed the same?

Shadrach
 

Augusta

Puritan Board Doctor
I doubt this would have been their view having just finished a book on their marriage. In those days there were few who were not religious, so I wouldn't necessarily equate not capable of "religious conversation" with being heathen. He probably just was not religiously learned and this young woman being a aquainted with the Edwards family was. That may have been her reservation.

It's possible that they held this view, if they held it at all, because of the small number of options in those days. This was during the colonization of our country and some villages were very small with few marital choices. It was incumbent upon all to marry young and marry soon to populate the new world. :pilgrim:
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Originally posted by Jie-Huli
"I think there is a good deal of reason to hope it as he has such a desire to have a religious wife."

I think this part of the quote is central to her thinking in exhorting her freind. She assumes the man is religious because he seeks a religious wife. Whether she is right in her assumption or not, is one thing. But if she is right in her assumption, then it makes complete sense. Men are not always good at "talking" much less discussing personal religious experience. So if he's got all the other good qualities, but is not good at discussing, then there should be no objection to marriage since all that will work itself out as they get to know each other better. :2cents:
 

default

Puritan Board Freshman
Lets just say, for arguments sake, your assessment of the book, that Edwards did not believe Christians are to marry non-Christians. Even when I hold someone in esteem as most here do Edwards, do we believe everything as they do or do we turn to scriptures for truth? Just because someone is held in high respect does not give us the "green light " to be lazy and not compare what they say to scripture. As to the topic at hand, Christ said we are to be equally yolked. I've found this to be a principle laid for our best interest! To do otherwise would not only reek havoc but also be direct disobedience to Christ.
 

Jie-Huli

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by Shadrach

These sound like the views of Edwards' daughter and not necessarily his own. Are you certain he believed the same?

No, I certainly am not certain, but the way it was presented in this book, the daughter represented it as her parents' view as well.

Originally posted by puritansailor
Originally posted by Jie-Huli
"I think there is a good deal of reason to hope it as he has such a desire to have a religious wife."

I think this part of the quote is central to her thinking in exhorting her freind. She assumes the man is religious because he seeks a religious wife. Whether she is right in her assumption or not, is one thing. But if she is right in her assumption, then it makes complete sense. Men are not always good at "talking" much less discussing personal religious experience. So if he's got all the other good qualities, but is not good at discussing, then there should be no objection to marriage since all that will work itself out as they get to know each other better. :2cents:

I agree with the latter half of your statement. It is just that the quotes presented, on their face, are not just addressing the ability to "talk" about religious experience, but the reality of religious conversion itself not being a prerequisite to marriage. Esther said that "any certainty as to a person's conversion is not essential to marriage." And the quote of the verse "How knowest thou, O Woman, but thou mayest gain thy Husband" would seem to be assuming that the man was not only not capable of religious conversation, but that he was not converted. Esther is presenting the hope that he is open to spiritual things and may be converted in the future because he is interested in a religious wife. But that seems bad (and unbiblical) advice to me, given the assumption he is not yet converted. There are surely many reasons a man might be interested in a religious woman, and it is no proof of his immiment conversion.

And most importantly, Jonathan Edwards himself is presented as saying that "other things" besides Religion (as opposed to just the ability to engage in religious conversation) are "more necessary to happyness in the married state", and by saying "When a Religion meets those other things it crowns it all" he would seem to be undermining the necessity of it.

This is what I found surprising. Were they merely talking about the ability to express religious experience, it would all make a bit more sense to me.
 

Jie-Huli

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by Loriann
Lets just say, for arguments sake, your assessment of the book, that Edwards did not believe Christians are to marry non-Christians. Even when I hold someone in esteem as most here do Edwards, do we believe everything as they do or do we turn to scriptures for truth? Just because someone is held in high respect does not give us the "green light " to be lazy and not compare what they say to scripture. As to the topic at hand, Christ said we are to be equally yolked. I've found this to be a principle laid for our best interest! To do otherwise would not only reek havoc but also be direct disobedience to Christ.

I certainly have no disagreement myself with the doctrine that Christians may only marry other Christians. Of course the Bible is our final authority on all matters, and the doctrine itself is never drawn into question by the writings of any man. I just found the idea that Jonathan Edwards might have different ideas on this to be quite surprsing, given his other writings, and wanted to explore what possible reasons he might have for such a view. All men have their mistakes, but I would not expect him to have a mistake of this magnitude.

It is possible, however, that since the quotes presented are from his daughter, and not from Edwards himself, that there is somewhat of a misrepresentation of his views at work here.
 

Jie-Huli

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by Augusta
I doubt this would have been their view having just finished a book on their marriage.

What is the name of this book? It would probably be an interesting read.

It's possible that they held this view, if they held it at all, because of the small number of options in those days. This was during the colonization of our country and some villages were very small with few marital choices. It was incumbent upon all to marry young and marry soon to populate the new world. :pilgrim:

Again, I myself am also not convinced Edwards held this view, but if he did I cannot imagine that the "small number of options" would be reason for such a compromise.

I know many Christians who live in places where the number of Christians is, I am sure, much smaller than it was in Puritan New England, but I cannot imagine ever advising them that because of the lack of marital choices they could marry non-Christians.

Blessings,

Jie-Huli
 

turmeric

Megerator
Then there is the fact that at that time few people were sure of their conversions. This was when it was felt that there was a need for prolonged seeking before conversion could be certain. Maybe he was a "seeker". It's possible that this fellow's "religious experiences" weren't up to the mark, though he seemed allright otherwise, and a good prospect for conversion. Everyone went to church back then, the fellow probably would have taken his family there. Emily Dickinson's father led his family in family worship and fervently believed (assent at least) in evangelical doctrine for years before he was able to become a member of a church by "experience".
 

Rich Barcellos

Puritan Board Freshman
The book mentioned is most likely Marraige to a Difficult Man. Robert Shaw's commentary on the WCF has a comment I have seen some use to justify marriage to an unbeleiver as does John Brown on 1 Peter 3. I think the Bible clearly forbids it and the Confession accurately reflects the Bible. WCF XXIV.3 says, "yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord. And therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, Papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies." 1. Professing Christians are duty-bound to marry professing Christians. 2. Profession Christians are universally prohibited from marrying known unbelievers, no exceptions (three types of unbelievers are listed). 3. Professing Christians cannot marry any professing Christian. O. Palmer Robertson's The Genesis of Sex comes highly recommended on this issue by a trusted frined of mine. Also, Banner of Truth has a helpful pamphlet on it: Whom Shall I Marry, or somehting like that.
 
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