You might already be dating someone religious when you’re not. If that’s the case, this might not be the article you’re looking for (but this article on what to expect when dating a Christian is). This article is for Christians curious about dating non-Christians.
With that said, theologically speaking, things get dicey when you ask a question like, ‘Can it work?’ You’re basically asking if God is capable of doing something. Namely, is God capable of bringing about success from dating a non-Christian?
I think we’re on the same page when I tell you that God is capable of doing whatever He wants. He is omnipotent or all-powerful (Luke 1:37). However, as a Christian, you should want to do the will of God. Therefore, is it God’s will for Christians to be in this type of relationship?
To answer that question, it’s vital to value the Scriptures as inspired words from God Himself (2Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible’s instructions should be authoritative for determining what’s acceptable in the lifestyles of Christians. Therefore, before answering if it could work, we must first examine God’s will for romantic relationships.
There are only two categories of Christians asking this question. There are those considering the possibility of dating an unbeliever and those already in a relationship with one. I’m going to address them both then conclude with what you can expect.
Those Considering Dating a Non-Christian
These are the people that haven’t yet entered into a relationship with a nonbeliever. You’re considering the possibility but wanted to get Biblical advice before making a final decision. That’s a wise choice because you’ll be able to avoid some heartache.
You need to understand the point of dating.
Why Are You Dating?
This is a general question for a specific purpose. I want us to forever conclude the goal of dating anyone. Once we come to the conclusion, it’s important that you become singularly focused on the goal.
Dating is a relatively recent phenomenon, historically speaking. The Bible doesn’t even have a term for it because it’s never specifically addressed. On the other hand, marriage has existed since the beginning (Genesis 3:20). It’s the only appropriate dynamic for sexual relationships between Christians (1Corinthians 7:8-9).
Christians should be dating to find a suitable partner for marriage. However, according to the Bible, a Christian is only permitted to enter into marriage with another Christian (1Corinthians 7:39). Therefore, dating a non-Christian would be counterintuitive.
Those Already Dating a Non-Christian
Perhaps you became a Christian while already in a relationship. Maybe this relationship started before you took the Bible seriously. Regardless of its origins, you want to know what to do about it now.
Since marriage is the goal of dating and patterned after it, let’s see what the Bible say about already being married to an unbeliever. Believe it or not, you have a Biblical argument for staying together with the person you’re dating. The question is if it’s a good argument.
1 Corinthians 7:12-13 (NASB)
This is the passage that applies to the argument. I have taken the liberty of using bold and italics for some of its important parts.
“But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has an unbelieving wife, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if any woman has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not divorce her husband.”
The bold portion indicates that this situation was never discussed by Jesus. However, this does not make the Apostle Paul’s words less authoritative than if Jesus had spoken them first. This isn’t merely Paul’s opinion; he still understands that he is speaking on behalf of God and in accordance with His will (1Corinthians 14:37).
The italicized portions indicate the conditions for the continuance of their marriage. The unbeliever must agree to continue living with them. Basically, the marriage should continue if the unbeliever doesn’t abandon the Christian. Paul later reveals abandonment as an acceptable reason for divorce (1Corinthians 7:15).
It looks like the Apostle Paul is counseling Christians to remain with non-Christians. It’s conditional, but that’s precisely what he’s advising they do if they’re already married and living together. In the context of this article, at least one of those conditions isn’t applicable to you.
Yes, dating relationships should be patterned after the marital relationship. Nevertheless, it’s designed to be a decision-making process for marriage and allows for breaking the relationship. Ultimately, these verses fail to provide a substantial argument for continuing to date a non-Christian.
The Expected Value
As a former poker professional, I would often calculate the probabilities of an outcome before deciding how to act in particular situations. I wanted to make good choices based on reliable data. I needed to know the expected value of my decisions.
Expected value is a mathematical process for determining if the outcome you desire is worth the risk you will take. Don’t scratch your head too hard; I plan to turn that formula into a relatable example for you. Hopefully, it will make your decision clear.
The decision is whether to date a non-Christian. The expected value of that decision is based on reliable data. The reliable data is the Bible. As a Christian, there are two outcomes you want from the decision: their salvation and marriage without divorce. Both are needed for your decision to be a good one.
The reliable data tells you that both outcomes are highly uncertain with a non-Christian (1Corinthians 7:12-16). Over time, you can expect this decision to consistently produce negative results. On the other hand, by choosing to date only Christians, the outcomes you want are foregone conclusions. Each time you date a Christian, your expected value is much more than if you had chosen to date a non-Christian.
Therefore, is it possible that dating a non-Christian could work? Yes, through His omnipotence, God can still counter our poor decisions. However, that doesn’t mean that He will. His guidelines are ultimately for our own good, and disregarding them is akin to asking for trouble.
Choosing to date a non-Christian is a losing bet. It’s simply not worth the risk because the odds are stacked against it. Furthermore, it’s also willful disobedience to God.
Don’t be disheartened by what you’ve read. There are plenty of Christians looking to date other Christians. Plus, that nonbeliever in question might have a divine intervention before your next romance, and I truly hope that they do! Nevertheless, please don’t prioritize your loyalty to them over your loyalty to God.
May God bless you and give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).
Written By: Nicholas Lakin
Nick is an academic scholar, budding theologian, and thoughtful teacher of the Bible. He has a passion to see others grow in their knowledge of God for the purpose of glorifying Christ. He’s also a graduate of Liberty University and a former United States Army soldier.
His academic works range from commentaries and exegetical analyses to nuanced details regarding the Hebrew and Greek languages of the Bible. His future endeavors include Chaplaincy and founding a nonprofit organization that’s conducive to ecumenical orthodoxy across Protestantism.