I am dating a girl from Israel, and considering becoming a Christian later via baptism. For practical reasons, if we do not get married, she will eventually have to go back to Israel. Therefore I am considering getting married in order to keep seeing each other, and then if we want to "really" get married, we will have a public wedding. And, if not, we can quietly divorce.

In Judaism, a marriage can be ended for a variety of reasons, as Hillel taught, or for sexual immorality only, as seems to be held by the school of Shammai. In the gospels, it seems that Jesus taught the latter view. Also, in the time of Jesus, polygamy was practiced among Jews (much to the chagrin of Romans who tried unsuccessfully to stamp it out for centuries) so it is likely that Jesus did not disapprove of having multiple wives (see for example https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+25) but only of divorce.

My question is how the Protestant churches approach divorce, in the case of a marriage where neither participant was baptized, and where there was no formal wedding ceremony, and only one witness. I have read that in the Catholic Church, a marriage between two non-baptized persons can be annulled via the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pauline_privilege . But Protestants do not consider baptism to be necessary at all. On the other hand they follow Paul quite a bit, so what do they mean by "unbelieving" partner. Both people are open minded and often times Protestants will admit that even the person themselves doesn't know if they are true believers or not. So, when it comes to divorce, what happens?

Add to that an additional problem. What if the non-Christian party wants to stay together, and the Christian party decides that they want to get divorced? What would Protestants say then? In short, how do they treat the teaching of Jesus on the matter? What do they do in practice when their faithful come to inquire about a divorce, and seek to get married again later?

I wish I didn't have to single out a particular denomination, as I am also curious about the views of the Orthodox church on this.

  • You certainly do seem to be basing a marriage on all of the wrong reasons. Your reason all appear to be based on your desires. Have you even asked her if she wants to stay in the U.S. not return to her native country, do you not even care enough about her to consider her feelings, let alone not marrying out of love, and the desire to become one? – BYE Dec 28 '14 at 21:25
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    Most protestants do not consider that you become a Christian via baptism, so the whole question is a little nonsensical from the start. – curiousdannii Dec 29 '14 at 1:04
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    I think you're asking about too many topics here: reasons for marriage, divorce (a topic with no protestant consensus), unequal marriages, remarriages, and how churches treat nonmembers wanting to get married. – curiousdannii Dec 29 '14 at 1:07
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    I must add that this topic is also way too personal and soliciting pastoral counseling advice. – Double U Dec 29 '14 at 2:07
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    I would highly recommend that you remove the I, me, and my, and narrow your question to a specific topic and preferably a specific denomination or theological tradition. There are many Protestant churches in the world, from most conservative to most liberal. – Double U Dec 29 '14 at 2:09

According to most Protestant denominations (plus a few non-Protestant ones) marriage is a God ordained relationship that should model Jesus relationship to the church. It is not primarily for personal pleasure or convenience, it is for holiness. No matter how one gets into it the expectation is that all marriages should be lived out to model more and more each day the way God has commuted himself to the wellbeing of his chosen bride.

The vast majority or Protestants recognize all marriages as binding covenant relationships no matter how they were initiated. There is no particular allowance made for having entered into the relationship as non-believers. Whether the procedure was overseen by a civil magistrate or a church of different beliefs or with no particular proceedings at all, all married couples are treated the same and expected to stay married. A marriage of convenience will be just as binding in the eyes of a Protestant church as any other.

The few exceptions you will find in Protestant circles do not apply to your scenario at all. Civil unions that do not fit the broad scope of Biblical marriage will not be viewed the same way (i.e. same-sex unions, unions between humans and non-humans, polygamous unions, etc. are likely to be rejected by many if not most Protestant churches as not falling under the category of marriage at all).

  • @Anonymous You can feel iffy all you want but obviously I disagree with your analysis (which really should be on the question not my answer). This is not pastoral advice in that it's looking specifically for views of a theological tradition not what to do in his case. Also it's not too broad because it's really quite easy to generalize the answer while still covering most of the asked scope. I might have been too brief but it's not unreasonable to expect an answer to cover this. If you disagree then vote to close. – Caleb Dec 29 '14 at 5:11
  • Some historical references would be nice. I believe that many Protestant churches derive their theology on marriage from the Roman Catholic Church, as they are directly descended from that denomination. During the Middle Ages, when the Roman Catholic Church instituted marriage, it largely contradicted the norms of the greater society, which involved polygamy and divorce. – Double U Dec 29 '14 at 5:18
  • I think the development of the Christian marriage may be important to add. I remember I answered a similar question on here about marriage, and I included a source about the history of the Western Christian marriage. – Double U Dec 29 '14 at 5:20

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