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  • Writer's pictureTerrell Pugh

How Do You Practice Christianity?: Doctrinal Diversity In Marriage

Updated: Apr 24

How Do You Practice Christianity?: Doctrinal Diversity

Rooted in the scripture from 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Christians are reminded that despite the many forms and practices, all believers are united as one body in Christ, sharing in one Spirit. This article explores the significant areas of Christian doctrine and the expressions of these doctrines, emphasizing how understanding these differences is crucial, especially when they impact personal relationships, such as in marriage.

Don't skip the 30 Questions to ask your partner at the end of this article!

Cessationism vs. Continuationism

In Christian theology, the debate between cessationism and continuationism can significantly impact individual and communal faith practices. Cessationists argue that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, such as speaking in tongues and prophecy, ceased with the apostles and the completion of the New Testament scripture. This belief is often rooted in a theological framework that sees these gifts as having served their purpose in establishing the early Church's authority and foundational doctrines. Continuationists, however, maintain that these gifts continue to be vital for the church's mission today, supporting personal edification, corporate worship, and evangelism. This view encourages a dynamic and experiential faith where the Holy Spirit actively works through believers.

Interpersonal Impact: In a marriage where one spouse holds cessationist views and the other continuationist beliefs, the couple may encounter challenges in worship styles, prayer practices, and expectations of spiritual experiences. For instance, a continuationist might seek a church community that actively practices charismatic gifts, which might be uncomfortable for a cessationist. Understanding and respecting each other’s theological views on spiritual gifts can help navigate these differences, fostering a shared spiritual environment that accommodates both perspectives.

Gender Roles in Ministry

The topic of gender roles in ministry continues to be a significant and sometimes contentious issue within the Christian community. Diverse interpretations of biblical texts lead to varying practices regarding the roles men and women should play in church leadership. Some denominations hold to a traditional view, based on passages like 1 Timothy 2:12, which restricts women from serving in authoritative pastoral roles, advocating that leadership positions should be held by men. Others interpret Galatians 3:28—"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus"—as a call to equality in ministry roles, supporting the idea that both men and women can serve in all capacities within the church.

Interpersonal Impact:These differences can deeply influence the spiritual dynamics of a community and individual beliefs about service and leadership. In marriage, differing views on gender roles in ministry can impact decisions about church involvement and leadership aspirations. Understanding and respecting each other’s views on this matter can help couples support one another's spiritual gifts and ministries, regardless of differing doctrinal stances, thereby enriching their joint service and worship in the body of Christ.

Tithing vs. Giving

Tithing and giving reflect another area of doctrinal variance that can impact Christian practice significantly. Traditionally, tithing involves giving ten percent of one's income to the church, a practice derived from Old Testament laws. Many see this as a mandatory practice for Christians, supporting the church's work and acknowledging God's sovereignty over all resources. Conversely, the practice of giving, often viewed more broadly and flexibly, emphasizes generosity driven by the heart and circumstance, not bound by a specific percentage. This approach is supported by New Testament teachings, such as 2 Corinthians 9:7: "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

Interpersonal Impact: The choice between tithing and giving can influence how individuals and couples approach financial stewardship and charitable contributions. Differences in belief can lead to tension and require thoughtful negotiation and compromise in marital finances. Open communication and mutual understanding of each other’s views on tithing and giving can foster harmony and shared purpose in managing finances in a way that honors personal convictions and communal responsibilities.

Salvation: Faith Alone or Faith Plus Works?

The doctrine of salvation is foundational to Christian belief and profoundly influences personal life and worldview. Protestant traditions typically emphasize salvation by faith alone (sola fide), asserting that good works are a natural outcome of faith and not a means to earn salvation. This view highlights grace and divine mercy as the sole basis of salvation. On the other hand, Catholic and Orthodox traditions often emphasize a synergistic approach, where faith accompanied by works—such as participation in sacraments and adherence to church teachings—plays a crucial role in the salvation process.

Interpersonal Impact: These differing views can affect how individuals in a marriage understand moral responsibility and spiritual growth. For example, a spouse who believes in salvation through faith alone might focus more on personal faith development, while one who believes in faith plus works may put substantial emphasis on community involvement and formal religious observances. Recognizing these differences can enhance mutual respect and allow couples to find common ground in their spiritual practices and expressions of faith.

Original Sin and Human Nature

Beliefs about original sin and human nature are central to how individuals view themselves and their interactions with others. Views on original sin vary, with some denominations believing in total depravity, which suggests that every aspect of humanity is tainted by sin, thereby necessitating divine grace for redemption and moral action. Other Christian traditions view human nature as essentially good or neutral but weakened by sin, suggesting that humans are still capable of choosing good with God's assistance.

Interpersonal Impact: These beliefs fundamentally influence how spouses perceive personal and mutual failings within marriage. A belief in total depravity might lead to a greater reliance on divine grace in overcoming personal flaws, whereas a more optimistic view of human nature might encourage a more self-reliant approach. Understanding each other’s views on human nature can help spouses provide appropriate support and encouragement in dealing with personal and relational challenges.

The Nature of Christ: Fully God, Fully Man

The doctrine of the nature of Christ—affirming that Jesus Christ is both fully divine and fully human—is a mystery of the Christian faith with significant theological implications. This dual nature allows Christ to bridge the gap between God and humanity, providing a model for how divine qualities can be manifested in human life.

Interpersonal Impact: This theological point may influence personal devotion and moral aspirations within a marriage. For example, a spouse who emphasizes Christ's divinity might focus on the transformative power of divine grace, while one who emphasizes his humanity might stress the importance of moral effort and personal example. Balancing these aspects can enrich spiritual understanding and mutual support in striving to live a Christ-like life.

Resurrection and Eschatology

Beliefs about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the ultimate fate of humanity (eschatology) shape Christian hope and ethical living. Views on the end times, including beliefs about heaven, hell, judgment, and the kingdom of God, can vary widely among denominations and individuals.

Interpersonal Impact: In a marriage, divergent eschatological views can influence decisions about long-term planning, ethics, and priorities. For instance, a more apocalyptic viewpoint might lead to a focus on spiritual readiness and evangelism, while a more realized eschatology might emphasize working towards social justice and kingdom values in the present world. Couples need to navigate these differences with empathy, ensuring that their shared life reflects a balanced approach to both present responsibilities and future hopes.

Bible's Authority: Inerrancy vs. Infallibility

The authority of the Bible is a cornerstone of Christian faith, but interpretations of its inerrancy (without error in all aspects) versus its infallibility (without error in matters of faith and practice) can lead to different approaches to Scripture.

Interpersonal Impact: These views can affect how couples engage with Scripture in their personal lives and in communal worship. A belief in inerrancy might lead to a literal interpretation of the Bible, while a belief in infallibility might allow for more interpretation and discussion. Understanding and respecting these differences can foster richer Bible study and spiritual growth within marriage, allowing each spouse to feel that their approach to Scripture is valued.

Trinity: Unity in Diversity

The doctrine of the Trinity, describing one God in three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), encapsulates the mystery and complexity of the Christian understanding of God. It emphasizes relationality within the Godhead—an ideal model for unity and diversity.

Interpersonal Impact: This doctrine can profoundly impact how spouses interact and relate, mirroring the relational unity and distinctiveness within the Trinity. Embracing this model can encourage spouses to maintain individual identities while working towards unity in their marriage, reflecting the divine harmony and cooperation evidenced in the Trinity.

Understanding these doctrinal differences and their implications can significantly enrich marital relationships, fostering a deeper mutual respect and a more profound spiritual connection. By navigating these differences with love and understanding, couples can build a strong, resilient marriage that honors both their individual beliefs and their shared faith in Christ.

Just as the human body operates through the harmonious function of its many different parts, so too does the body of Christ thrive through the diversity of its members. This diversity, encompassing everything from theological perspectives to eschatological views and understandings of scripture authority, enriches the church's collective wisdom and enhances its mission in the world. In this way, the differences in how individuals practice and understand their faith do not divide but rather strengthen the bonds within the Christian community, as all are united by one Spirit into one body -The Body of Christ. This unity in diversity not only mirrors the biblical blueprint for the church but also serves as a spiritual foundation for marital relationships and broader church interactions, promoting a deeper mutual respect and a more meaningful communal faith experience.

30 Doctrinal Questions to Explore

1. Are you willing to support and encourage your spouse’s spiritual choices?

2. What type of church would you be comfortable with? (i.e., small, large, Pentecostal, Baptist)

3. Is it important that the entire family goes to church?

4. How often should you go to church? (i.e., weekly, occasionally, not necessary, Sunday, all-


5. Who should lead prayer, and how often? (i.e., doesn’t matter, husband, wife, 10-minute

prayer, 1-hour prayer)

6. Is fasting important?

7. What constitutes a relationship with God? (i.e., acceptance of Jesus, prayers, good deeds)

8. Is holiness important? How is it achieved? (i.e., good works, abstaining from sin)

9. What is more important grace or repentance?

10. Is modesty important? What clothing are you comfortable with?

11. How do you feel about giving and tithing?

12. How do you feel about prosperity?

13. How do you feel about healing?

14. How should sin be handled?

15. What does a relationship with God look like?

16. What will our children grow up believing about God?

17. What would cause you to become spiritually frustrated?

18. To what extent are you comfortable with; watching secular television programs, exposure

to expletives, different genres of music, secular music, non-Christian friends, and sexual


19. How do you interpret and apply biblical teachings regarding gender roles in marriage and family life?

20. What is your stance on controversial social issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, abortion, and environmental stewardship, and how do you believe these should be reflected in your lifestyle and activism?

21. How do you view the role of the Bible in your daily life and decision-making processes?

22. How do you approach evangelism and sharing your faith with others, including within your own family?

23. What are your thoughts on spiritual disciplines such as meditation, fasting, and solitude?

24. How do you prioritize and balance spiritual practices with other aspects of life, such as work, hobbies, and family time?

25. How do you handle disagreements or conflicts regarding religious beliefs or practices within your relationship?

26. What are your expectations regarding involvement in church activities and community service?

27. How do you feel about denominational differences and interfaith relationships?

28. How do you envision incorporating faith into major life decisions, such as career choices, financial planning, and parenting strategies?

29. What role does the concept of "calling" play in your understanding of vocation and purpose?

30. How do you approach the study and interpretation of scripture, including areas of disagreement or uncertainty?


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