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Dating with Different Theological Backgrounds


Kait Tomlin

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What is dating with different theological backgrounds?

Theology can be defined as the study of God and your personal beliefs OR how somebody studies, interprets, and views God from their perspective. The word ‘personal’ is where we run into a little trouble here. Theology is rooted in truth but is also deeply connected with a person’s passionate beliefs and values based on their personal history as well as their specific divine purpose and calling from God.

How common is this?

Differing theology can cause significant conflict in relationships, even if the partners are both Christians. As crazy as it seems, this issue is way more common than you would think. Despite the fact that all Christians are supposed to be part of the same body of Christ, there are over 200 different denominations in the US alone! 200! These denominations all differ in some details which leads to many Christians having the same foundational truth but growing up, they may have been taught different beliefs and interpretations of scripture. Additionally, people may have different experiences or personal convictions that shape their theology.

Why does it cause so much more conflict in relationships than we care to admit? 

This is a tough pill to swallow, but we see conflict arise in this department because of one main word. Pride. Ultimately, when you disagree with someone with a different theological background and are letting it turn into conflict, you are saying internally, “My view is right because of XYZ, and yours is wrong..” It is SO crucial to not let pride blind us in these conversations. As seen in the Gospels, the Pharisees were so blinded by their own theology and rules that they completely missed the Savior walking right in front of them. They were so stuck on their beliefs that they could not see the truth right in front of them. This is a cautionary tale for all Christians to not let our own beliefs and interpretations blind us to the truth.

It is easy to get caught up in debates and arguments about theology, but it is much harder to live a life of Christ outside of these conversations. It requires us to die to ourselves, our arrogance, our PRIDE, and our self-righteousness. It requires us to selflessly love others, even when we disagree with them. This is the true test of our faith, and it is one that we must continually strive to pass.

Is differing theological beliefs a dealbreaker?

Differing theology is not necessarily a dealbreaker in a relationship. However, it is important for partners to be respectful of each other's beliefs and to work together to find common ground. By doing so, partners can build a strong foundation for a healthy and fulfilling relationship.

If you’ve found yourself dating someone with a different theological background than you, here are some things to think about…

  1. When evaluating their theology.. use the advice from Jesus himself. "You shall know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16) You can learn about them "in terms of what they do, their behavior,"  versus evaluating their theology, which anybody can rehearse and recite... Even the Pharisees could do that.
  2. Have open and honest conversations about theology… don’t let it be a taboo topic that you tip-toe around because you know it causes conflict. You will never work towards a solution or compromise if you refuse to even talk about it.
  3. Seek guidance from trusted mentors. This is HUGE! We often get blinded by so many other things in relationships that it can be hard for us to make wise decisions without a sounding board. Before jumping to any conclusions or having these hard conversations, seek wisdom from those you trust!
  4. The most important thing is… who is Jesus to them? How is he impacting their life today?!

It is also important to remember that there are different levels of beliefs within Christianity. There are fundamental core beliefs that are non-negotiable, but there are also tertiary beliefs that are less important. We should be willing to make compromises and concessions about someone's background theologically, as long as they share our fundamental core beliefs and have a strong relationship with Jesus. For example, someone may be a charismatic Christian while someone else may be a Baptist. While their theological backgrounds may be different, they can still be evenly yoked if they both have a strong relationship with Jesus and exhibit spiritual fruit in their lives. 

Side note in the example above I understand that some Charismatics may argue that spiritual language is of utmost importance to them and they could never be with someone who doesn’t want to pursue things of the spirit… but my challenge to you would be, why is that so essential to your relationship with another person? If you have the same CORE foundational truths, is having the same view on spiritual language that important?

Ultimately, I think this is an area we can and SHOULD be more open in. I see so many people limiting themselves in dating because they want to meet someone with all the same tertiary beliefs as them. This can be so limiting. PLUS, imagine how sharpening it could be to be with someone who has slightly different tertiary beliefs than you.

When evaluating a potential partner, it is important to consider their faith and beliefs. However, we should not eliminate someone solely based on their theological background. We should look at their spiritual fruit and evaluate their character and behavior.

If you want more on this topic, check out episode 172 of the Heart of Dating Podcast!

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