12 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Date a Non-Believer

Let’s start by saying it out loud: I’m single. So here comes another single guy, writing about relationships as if he’s qualified on the topic. But actually, I’d want to suggest to you that perhaps my singleness is in fact exactly what qualifies me to talk about this. Because, while I have never been in a relationship, I have had several serious opportunities for relationships that came close but which I ultimately decided not to pursue. It’s not that these girls weren’t Christian, but I had my reasons for knowing that pursuing a relationship with them would not have been the godly thing to do. So while I may not know that much about dating, I do know a thing or two about, well, not dating. And that’s precisely what this article is about.

So. This is an article about why, if you’re a Christian, you shouldn’t date someone who isn’t. I’m writing this in part because it is a common issue in most Christian communities – all of us will have at some point at least known a Christian who was dating a non-Christian. But it’s mainly because I’ve often thought, from the conversations I’ve had about this topic over the years, that there is a lot of unclarity and maybe confusion around how some people in church think about this. It seems to be a bit of a grey area for a lot of Christians. I want to argue that it’s actually pretty black and white. I want to argue that because I don’t want Christians to be confused and unsure about this. So I hope to bring clarity and definition to the issue for people, so that they can have a conviction about it that is not merely a product of Christian culture, but is the product of their own engagement with God’s word on the matter.

Of course life and people are complicated things, and knowing clearly what’s right doesn’t always produce a lifestyle to match. It’ll take more than one blog post to change a person’s life choices. And the huge premise here is that, regardless of where we’re at on this particular issue, we’re all together in the fact that we’re messy, idiotic sinners who get stuff wrong all the time. And so I would hate for my exhortations here to come across as a self-righteous sense of moral superiority. I assure you I have no delusions that I am a good person. But as a starting point, whatever we do with the information, it is beneficial or all of us to be informed about how God wants us to live, and to know the reasons for our beliefs. Because we definitely can’t live right, or help our friends live right, if we don’t know what right is.

  1. How good or bad a boyfriend/girlfriend they are to you is not the issue

I think this is the first thing that needs to be said. This is not about how good or bad a partner a non-Christian will make. When I say you shouldn’t date a non-Christian, it is not based on some prejudiced, unrealistic notion that unbelievers are selfish, debaucherous people who won’t treat you right. This needs to be said because, personally, I am very perplexed by the frequency with which I hear the argument that goes, “A lot of unbelievers will treat a girl better than a lot of Christians out there.” This is so confusing. Why would you say that? Is it because you believe this is about how well someone treats you? It’s not about getting someone who will be good to you. It’s about something so much deeper than that.

Yes, there are plenty of Christian guys and girls out there who are after your affections and who don’t deserve them. There are some Christians out there who would treat you worse in a relationship than some non-Christians. But the answer to that is not to ditch those loser Christians and pick up the decent unbeliever. The answer is to neither date the inadequate Christian… or the unbeliever. The answer is to raise your standards – not lower them. The answer is to wait for someone who belongs to Jesus’ Kingdom, and will treat you right. Because Christians aren’t perfect, but you’re stuck with them. If you don’t want to marry a Christian, you might be in the wrong religion.

  1. The Bible says no

Sorry to be blunt. (I promise this article gets more tenderly pastoral towards the end.) But I really do believe God has spoken on this topic. Well, almost. The Bible doesn’t forbid dating unbelievers. But then again, “dating” is a foreign concept to the authors of the Bible. What the Bible does forbid is Christians marrying unbelievers. We can see this in 1 Corinthians 7:39, where Paul says a widow is free to marry anyone she chooses, “only in the Lord,” which is First Century Christianese for “only if he’s a Christian.” Continue reading

A Lesson From Prayer

This is not a lesson on prayer. This is a lesson from prayer. Sometimes God teaches us things through our own prayers. As we talk to him, he shows us something new. This is a lesson I learnt from a recent experience praying to God about something.

See, there was something I wanted. Something in my life that I really wanted to happen. I’ll leave you to speculate about what it was, because it doesn’t matter what it was. The point is that I wanted it. I really did.

And yet, as I talked to God about it, I somehow found myself saying, “God, I only want this if you do too.” From where I mustered the faith to say such a thing I don’t know, but there I was, telling God that it was more important to me what he wanted for me than what I wanted for myself. There was something so therapeutic about the very act of saying this to God, because it meant that I wasn’t trying to attain this thing by my own power or finesse. Believing that the outcome was in God’s hands, believing that he was in control over whether or not I got what I wanted, I had no choice but to believe that if I didn’t get it, it’s because God didn’t want me to have it.

And what a difference that makes. Because a “no” from God is so much easier, so much more tender than a “no” from just… life. It is so hard to handle the idea that the thing that has prevented you from getting what you want is nothing other than the blind, mindless processes of chance. But if this thing was withheld from me by an intelligent agent, a personal being who was consciously aware of my desires, and who does things for reasons, and not only that, but whose reasons include the fact that he loves me and is deeply and intimately concerned with my life. That is something I can handle. That’s something I can be okay with. That my “no” comes from God proves that I didn’t need what has been withheld. A “no” from God comes with a smile, and with the promise of a better alternative. As the old adage goes, that God answers every prayer in one of three ways: ‘Yes,’ ‘Not yet,’ or ‘I have something better.’

But that’s where the fears started coming in. What exactly does God consider “better”? Given that God’s ways and thoughts are so much higher than mine, what if his ideas of what would be best for me consist of things that I would consider abhorrent and miserable, and will only understand the benefit of in the next life or when I’m like 80? What if it’s best for me to go through decades of suffering? What if he needs to teach me a painful lesson? What if God wants me to live a truly hard life, overcoming some serious, heart wrenching battle in order to humble me or something? And while I’m slightly exaggerating, don’t write off questions like these. It’s not a stupid thing to wonder about. A life of suffering is literally what God, in Acts 9:16, explicitly had planned for the Apostle Paul.

And can anyone say, “Job”?

This stuff isn’t beyond the realm of realism. Earthly exemption from suffering (of whatever kind) is never promised in the New Testament. What God promises is to empower us to experience joy through pain. And that’s great, but it doesn’t come easy. It requires a journey. And that journey is terrifying. And what doesn’t help is Christians coming around you with empty promises, saying “God’s gonna do this, and give you that,” when they’re often just platitudes based more on hearsay and the hopeful thinking of folk theology than on God’s own words to us.

Yeah, some days I really was worrying about stuff like that. Because, while I knew that God, according to Romans 8:28, was doing everything for my ultimate benefit, I feared what kind of journey that might entail – and what kind of crazy, ridiculous, deep trust in him I might need to find in order to be okay with whatever journey he has planned. And so, at this point, for God to say “no” to my prayer, would to me have been taken as more evidence that God’s plans for me might be radically, painfully different to my own.

Well. I found the answer about an hour before the “no” came. One night, the door was shut to the thing I wanted. But, to the Devil’s dismay, that door shut itself right after a church service. And I guess God used that service to prepare me for the impending denial. Because as I was standing in worship that night, I can’t remember what song we were singing, but for some reason it reminded me of Romans 8:32, which says:

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

It’s funny how God works. Because he usually doesn’t answer your questions. He just distracts you from them. Our questions are stupid, and so rather than answering them, he gives us something better to think about. While I had all these fears running around my head about the scary things God might put me through, I was hit with this… thing… from the Bible.

God gave me his Son. How could I not trust him? He has already given me his best. The very best thing he had in his possession, he has already given me.

Now I guess the usual lesson we take from that would be the fact that, “Jesus is enough.” And that’s true. But that’s not what God was showing me that night. He was simply showing me that he was worthy of absolutely all of my trust, because he is the kind of God that would give me his greatest and most prized possession.

On that day God withheld something from me. And I don’t like speculating about what his reasons for that might be; how could I possibly figure that out? But the fact that he has already given me his very own Son, tells me what isn’t the reason he withheld it from me:

He didn’t deny me this thing because it was too good a gift.

It’s not because it was too good for me. It’s not because I’m not worthy of it. It’s not because I don’t deserve it. How could it be? If he denied be some earthly gift because of my lack of merit, how the heck could he possibly give me his priceless, glorious, eternal, majestic, only begotten Son? If he gave me his Son, then I just know for a fact that he’s not in the business of withholding things from me because they’re too good. The giving of his Son showed me what kind of value he places on me, what kind of a giver he is to me. He’s not holding out on me things that he knows will bless me. He doesn’t look at me and look at the gift and think, “Hmm, nah this is to valuable a thing for me to give away to him.” That’s not what’s going on, because that’s not what he did with his Son – the best thing that anyone has given to anyone.

How could I not trust him?

A little atheist myth about science.

Myth: Even when scientists believe in God, they become practical atheists whenever they do science; they never bring God into the laboratory.

FALSE

That is neither true historically nor conceptually.

Let’s consider the great pioneers of modern science – the scientists of the scientific revolution (who produced modern science as we know it). Believe it or not, they were not looking for “naturalistic” explanations of things. They simply looked for consistent explanations of things. The reason they believed that nature would behave consistently is because they believed that God ruled nature.

Atheists often tell us that that bringing God into the laboratory (bringing the theistic worldview into scientific endeavours) will lead to lazy inferences: that is, supernatural explanations. It is as if God becomes a conceptual crutch – an escape clause in every difficult anomaly whereby they can simply say, “God did it,” while atheists, who must assume nature causes everything, are left to do the hard work of figuring out the natural patterns and causes of things. (This is all part and parcel of the broader atheistic myth, that science and theism are essentially opposed.)

Of course, this would entail on the theist’s part an inconsistent model of nature – a nature that lacks the resources to produce the systems around us. For a scientist to invoke supernatural explanations for things would be to assume that nature, unaided by God, is unable to behave in the way that it has been observed to.

But the mistake this makes is not that it brings the theistic worldview into the laboratory; it is that it fails to consider the way in which God governs nature: rationally, consistently, and uniformly. The scientific revolutionaries – almost all of them Christians – didn’t make that mistake. They assumed that nature would behave according to intelligible patterns and laws, because they believed in a divine intelligence as nature’s lawgiver.

Thus when they came across an anomalous piece of data, rather than calling it a miracle, their way forward was not to suspend belief in a divine intelligence, but to invoke their belief in God by assuming that the anomaly must be a consistent part of a divinely designed pattern that had yet to be discerned.

Then they searched for the pattern. And the rest is history.

This myth does not seem to pass the test of history, let alone pure reason.

6 important differences between the Exodus movie and the Biblical Exodus account:

I know what you’re thinking. “Here comes another Christian complaining about the inaccuracies of a Bible movie and spoiling everybody’s fun.”

Well. Please don’t worry. This isn’t a negative film review, or a film review at all. If the Exodus movie isn’t Biblically accurate, that doesn’t make it a bad movie, or a movie people shouldn’t watch. This isn’t one of those articles.

What this is, is an appeal to watchers of the Exodus movie to be informed and educated. Everybody knows that this film is not entirely Biblically accurate, and that’s fine; it wasn’t trying to be. But what I know is going to happen for many people who watch this movie is that they will come away from it making certain conclusions about the Bible based on this movie, even though we all know that the movie doesn’t accurately represent the Bible.

No adaptation is 100% accurate. That’s impossible. But what people should be aware of with Ridley Scott’s Exodus adaptation is that it is different to the Biblical story in all the important ways, rather than being different in peripheral, secondary ways. Many people’s perceptions of God will be influenced by this film, when this film actually says some pretty different things about God to what the original Biblical story says about God.

So before you make conclusions about the God of the Bible, based on your viewing of Ridley Scott’s adaptation of this story in the Bible, be aware of the following differences between the stories:

1. In the book of Exodus, Moses is a spiritual leader; not a military one.

Ok. This isn’t a terribly important difference (not in my books anyway). But if you watched this film, thinking you were watching a faithful retelling of the Exodus story, then perhaps this fact will make you wary of assuming that what you watched is similar to what is written in the Bible.

This difference shows us that the filmmakers were not trying to simply put the same original story of Exodus onto the screen.

2. In the book of Exodus, Moses is a reluctant leader because of timidity, not because of arrogance. (Exodus 3:11, 4:10-13)

Ridley Scott’s film depicts Moses as a self-confident, at times hot-headed character, who is hesitant to lead the Israelites out of Egypt because, 1) he doesn’t yet fully self-identify with the Israelites and has residual allegiances to the Egyptians, and 2) he is unimpressed by the God of the Israelites, and tends to disagree with God’s way of doing things.

This is actually completely different to the character of Moses in the Biblical book of Exodus, who literally says to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex 3:11), then points out his oratorical inadequacy (Ex 4:10), and then asks God to just send someone else (Ex 4:13).

In the film, Moses’ primary character development is a process of gradual humbling before God and before Israel. But in the Bible Moses develops in the other direction; he needs to go through a process of emboldening and encouraging in order to do what God asks of him.

Now, again, this difference isn’t terribly important in the scheme of things, and I rather enjoyed it as a piece of characterisation. But it does show us further, that the makers of this film have changed deep and basic things about the central characters of this story.

In what ways do you think they might have changed the character of God?

Continue reading

On women preaching.

There are Christians who believe that women should not preach to men.

Understandably there are many Christian women who are upset about this.

But we must remember, that to preach is an act of service. It is not done for the good of the preacher, but for the good of the listener. The only right some women are being deprived of is the right to serve others.

This is true about all gifts within the body of Christ: they are not toys that the Christian has a right to play with, but tools that the Christian has a responsibility to serve the body with. I play keys at my church. If somebody in leadership decided that I couldn’t play in church because I was left handed, how should I respond? Would I assert my equal right to play? Why would I do that? Was I trying to gain something by playing? I hope not.

I hope that I would be upset not because I have lost something, but because my church has lost something. I hope that my love for the church would be so great, so central to my vision, that it would alone be my inability to help them that hurts me.

Preaching is no exception to this law. It seems to me that, if women are angry about the lack of opportunity for those of their gender to preach, it ought not be because they feel that Christian women are being deprived of something, but because men are being deprived of something.

And here lies precisely the reason why it makes no sense for women to be alone in speaking about this issue. If God doesn’t forbid women to preach to his Church, then the absence of this in the Church is an issue for everybody – especially men, since they are the only ones who are unable to hear sermons from the mouths of women. If God desires women to preach to mixed congregations, then it is because he has made man such that he needs it, such that there is something about the way women think, speak, and exhort that men need to hear.

If God desires women to preach to men, then men should be more upset about their suppression than women.

On the Progressiveness of Science and Conservatism of Religion

We all know how often science and religion are pitted against each other. And it happens in so many ways. Various inherent differences are suggested between these two enterprises. They say that science appeals to reason while religion appeals to authority; science improves society while religion hinders society’s progression. We’ve all heard the fairy tales – you might not call them fairy tales, but I do. Anyway. There’s one particular difference that I commonly hear suggested as existing between science and religion, which I want to address here. And that is that science is inherently progressive, while religion is inherently stubborn or static.

Continue reading

To be a philosophical skeptic is, in a man of letters, the first and most essential step towards being a sound, believing Christian.

David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part XII (closing statement)

Hume, I believe you’ve hit the nail right on the head.

Nothing is demonstrable unless the contrary implies a contradiction. Nothing that is distinctly conceivable implies a contradiction. Whatever we conceive as existent, we can also conceive as non-existent. There is no being, therefore, whose non existence implies a contradiction. Consequently there is no being whose existence is demonstrable.

David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part IX.

I have to say, Hume, you are absolutely right.

Many atheists uphold scepticism as a virtue, believing that scepticism inherently leads to atheism, or that atheism is by nature a more sceptical position. But we must remember that scepticism, per se, is always scepticism of something.

Atheists are sceptical of theism.

Theists are sceptical of atheism.

It is agnostics who are truly sceptical, as will challenge anyone’s positive claims on the matter at all.

A note on atheist fantasies.

Many Christians, including myself, have made the argument against atheism that if you accept atheism, then you have to forget the idea that life has any meaning. More often than not, this is met with a sort of personal put-down. Something like, “you theists are so immature if you need a god to make life meaningful for you. We [superior] atheists are capable of finding meaning in ourselves.”

While this sentiment might sound smart, there is very little argumentation in it. It is certainly no-where near as rationally convincing as it is repulsively pretentious.

Here’s the problem. Many of these atheists have come to admit that, if there is no god, then life and the universe have no objective meaning; once we’re dead, that’s it – the universe won’t mourn us. But if that’s the case, why would you congratulate yourself for coming up with your own meaning in life?

See, atheists often make the claim against theists that we are living in a fantasy world, that we have invented a supreme deity to help us find purpose and feel better about life, and then they boast in their ability to find meaning without resorting to a god. But if an atheist has conceded that there is no objective meaning in the universe without God, how can he accuse the theist of fantasising by inventing a God for himself? Has not the atheist committed just as inordinate an intellectual transgression by making his own meaning? Must he not admit that his meaning is an outright fabrication that has no ground whatsoever in the real world? Aren’t atheists supposed to be obsessed with cold, hard, objective rationality, and with believing whatever the evidence says, regardless of how they feel? After all, either we exist for a reason, or we don’t. We cannot justly live under the impression that our existence matters for something if the brute fact is that it doesn’t.

The atheist who so proudly makes his own meaning has committed the very same felony he accuses the theist of: he has invented and believed a sentimental notion in order to get him through Monday to Sunday.

At least theists believe that their God actually exists outside of themselves.

It will probably then be argued asserted that there is no evidence for God!

That’s simply not true.

But if it is, then there’s certainly no evidence of meaning.

We must accept the consequences of the worldview we believe.