Christians believe that God created the institution of marriage. Yet given the numerous branches of the Christian faith, like Roman Catholicism and the Baptist tradition, it can be challenging to know how a particular denomination or church views various issues like marriage.
A Baptist can marry a Catholic without jeopardizing their denominational or church membership. Some Baptist pastors and church members may question the wisdom of a marriage for two people that are active in their respective churches, because there are important difference between the traditions.
Why is there less consequence in a Baptist church for such a marriage than in the Catholic church? How does the Baptist and Catholic faith traditions view marriage differently? Keep reading to learn more.
Baptists can marry Catholics, but is it wise?
Baptists have the ability to marry a Catholic without jeopardizing their church membership, because only marrying within the tradition isn’t a foundational conviction. So a Baptist can marry a Catholic, but many practicing Baptists would ask if they should.
Would a Baptist lose their church membership if they married a Catholic?
The Baptist tradition values individual independence and the autonomy of the local church. As long as a person upholds the teachings and the distinct convictions that make a denomination or church “Baptist,” they can hold a wide variety of views on so-called “secondary” matters of the faith.
Examples of similarities among Baptists:
- Believer’s baptism: Baptists argue that only professing Christians should be baptized, therefore, not infants.
- The separation of Church and State: The autonomy of the local church is very important in the Baptist tradition. Local and federal governments should have no influence or decision-making ability with regarding to churches, especially as it relates to the election of leaders, according to Baptist teaching.
- Congregational government: The authority in a church shouldn’t reside is an individual (e.g. a presbyter, a bishop, even a pastor), but in the membership. Baptist church government resembles a democracy, which is one reason the tradition has thrived in America in the last several centuries.
Examples of differences among Baptists:
- A person can Calvinist or Arminian and be Baptist.
- A person can be premillennial or amillennial and be Baptist.
- A person can speaking in tongues or not and be Baptist.
In most Baptist denominations and churches, a person wouldn’t lose their membership status or be discipled by church leadership (e.g. revoking voting privileges or withholding communion). Consequences could vary, however, depending on the type of Baptist.
Conservative and liberal Baptist churches
The Baptist branch of Christianity isn’t comprised of a single denomination. There are dozens of different Baptist denominations, including the Southern Baptist Convention, Conservative Baptist Churches of America, and American Baptist Churches USA. All Baptist denominations and churches broadly constitute the “Baptist tradition.”
How a Baptist church reacts to one of their members marrying a Catholic may vary. Some Baptist denominations are so-called fundamentalist, traditional, or conservative in their beliefs and practices, including marriage. Others are so-called progressive, liberal, or modern in their approach to marriage.
A Baptist marrying a Catholic may be seriously questioned (at the least) the more traditional a church is, and would be accepted or even encouraged the more liberal a church is. Liberal churches would support the marriage for reasons related to tolerance and diversity. Conservative churches would, at minimum, question the wisdom of such a marriage. But why?
Is marrying outside a person’s denomination wise?
Conservative members of Baptist churches are likely to question the wisdom of a practicing Baptist marrying a practicing Catholic. The traditions have some theological similarities (e.g. belief in the Trinity) and moral commonalities (e.g. helping the poor), but there are important differences, too, not only theologically, but practically.
Example from parenting: The couple would have to decide in what tradition would they raise their children. A couple that blends their traditions may seek to expose their children to both the Baptist and Catholic church. Yet there are some experiences that can’t be easily blended.
Example from baptism: A couple can’t have their infant baptized (like in Catholicism) and not have their infant baptized (like in the Baptist tradition). It’s inconsistent with both traditions to have an infant baptized in the Catholic church and baptized again when they are older in the Baptist church.
Why do Catholics have to marry Catholics?
How such a marriage would affect a Baptist in their church is only one part of the scenario. Another consideration of a Baptist marrying a Catholic is that the marriage could have greater consequences for the Catholic’s standing in their church.
It’s possible that such a marriage would have little impact on the Baptist’s church membership, but have a negative impact on the Catholic’s church membership, if the proper guidance isn’t followed.
Marriage in the Catholic church is a sacrament, which means, in part, that it’s a channel of God’s grace to people. The Catholic Church teaches that,
“The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized. For this reason, a valid matrimonial contract cannot exist between the baptized without it being by that fact a sacrament.”Canon law 1055, emphasis added
In the Baptist tradition, marriage isn’t a sacrament (or an ordinance). The only two ordinances in the Baptist tradition are the Lord’s Supper and baptism. Baptists believe marriage is God’s creation, and that it is a holy union that reflects the Trinity, but they don’t believe it’s a sacrament.
Requirements of a Catholic marrying a Baptist
According to the Code of Canon Law, a Catholic can marry a Baptist (i.e. a non-Catholic) when certain conditions are met :
Canon 1125: The local ordinary can grant a permission of this kind if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions have been fulfilled:
- the Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church;
- the other party is to be informed at an appropriate time about the promises which the Catholic party is to make, in such a way that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party;
- both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage which neither of the contracting parties is to exclude.
What about the wedding? There would be less consequence for the Catholic if the wedding occurred in a Catholic church, and according to Catholic guidelines, than if the wedding occurred in a Baptist church. There are certain regulations a couple must follow if the wedding occurs in a Catholic church. 
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