Unequal Yokes Or Respectful Dialogues?

UnliberatedScripture tells us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
    and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
    then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
    and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.” ~~2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (ESV)

Most Christians understand that this passage applies to much more than marriage. Those of you who follow my Tuesday series on the Reformation undoubtedly know that I by no means embrace ecumenical alliances. Furthermore, when I examine suspected false teachers, I often include looking at their associations in determining the legitimately of their ministry (though wrong associations, in and of themselves, don’t necessarily mean that a teacher is an apostate). God unequivocally calls us to separate from those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ.

That separation, however, never requires animosity, nor does it mean that we can’t learn from those who believe differently than we do. A public discussion of our differences (and even points of similarity) needn’t indicate that we have comprised the Gospel. Such compromise can happen, admittedly, but it doesn’t always occur.

Sometimes, properly understanding what Catholics, Muslims, atheists or Jehovah’s Witnesses (just to name a few examples) actually believe helps us witness more effectively, especially if we demonstrate a willingness to listen. Not all of us have the temperament to engage in such conversations, I realize. I can do it in writing, but not face-to-face (I consider my inability to do so as one of my many character flaws). But all of us ought to recognize the value in honest, respectful dialogue with people who embrace false beliefs.

Respecting someone enough to let them articulate their beliefs shouldn’t result in other Christians accusing us of violating 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. I may not have the grace to dialogue with someone of another religion in person, but I see tremendous value in extending that kind of respect to someone. Particularly if I want them to consider the claims of the Gospel!

Open, respectful dialogue, even when planned by both parties in a public setting, may not be the wisest course of action. But neither is it sufficient reason to accuse a brother or sister of compromising the Gospel. Before seizing on an isolated incident, examine the broader scope of that person’s teaching and overall ministry. It could just be that, precisely by having that dialogue, that person will make his or her separation from the world abundantly clear.

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7 thoughts on “Unequal Yokes Or Respectful Dialogues?

  1. Debbie Lynne, I get what you are saying and generally agree. But what if the dialogue is being done in a Christian church? What if, during his comments, the Christian shows more reverence and respect for the false religious books of the unbeliever than for the Bible? What if, for whatever reason, during the course of the dialogue the Christian never gets around to giving the gospel to the unbeliever?


    • What if, on the following evening and in the unbeliever’s place of worship, the Christian shares the Gospel without interruption? What if that Christian talked about the Trinity, justification by faith and Jesus as the only way of salvation? And what if YouTube had a video of that second dialogue, documenting that the Christian actually did present the Gospel?

      What if you watched the video before deciding that the Christian shows more reverence for the false religious books than the Bible? True discernment requires looking at a matter for yourself rather than believing what you hear from third parties.


  2. Let me back up. I am not trying to defend anyone, but I am trying to use biblical wisdom. Discernment is great, but having godly wisdom to apply it to specific situations is even better. I am also not looking to have a contentious argument. There’s been plenty of that going around which is too bad since the Bible expressly tells us we are not to argue, and it can actually do harm. See 2 Tim 2:14

    It’s one thing for a Christian to have a one on one discussion/witnessing encounter with an unbeliever. Of course we are to do this and be respectful toward them. But it is an altogether different thing to bring unbelievers into a Christian church or assembly to instruct Christians about a false belief system. Or to have a lengthy dialogue, to look for “common ground” as if the belief systems are equal. They certainly are not. We are to give every unbeliever the gospel. Whether we know very much about their beliefs or not is really not that crucial. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation, not dialogue, human understanding, apologetics, or even friendship.

    Also, error is dangerous. Isn’t this why so many discernment blogs have sprung up? Discerning folks are geniunely alarmed about what is comiing into or being allowed in the church. My understanding from scripture is that we are not to study error but scripture. Because no matter where an unbeliever is coming from spiritually, the scriptures tell us very clearly what their spiritual state is and what they need. They are dead in trespasses and sins. They are enemies of God and under His just condemnation and wrath. They need to hear that Christ Jesus died to pay the penalty for their sins, rose again from the dead and offers forgiveness and peace with God for those who repent and believe on Him for salvation. To carry on a lengthy dialogue in church and give error the floor, so to speak, is extremely unwise, and as I understand scripture, unbiblical.

    I am grieved and alarmed by this whole controversy on a number of levels, but for me this is the most glaring problem of all.


    • Yes, the whole matter is extremely complicated, and since writing this essay I’ve had to consider other perspectives. Again, we must remember that a discussion happened the following evening, and the Christian did present the Gospel.

      Yet, I question the wisdom used in that situation. I believe the motives were right, and I think this person has been wrongfully characterized as having compromised. At the same time, I believe you’re correct that it wasn’t the wisest course of action. I pray for this Christian, who otherwise has a ministry that my husband and I very much enjoy. I also pray for those who have taken so much of what he said out of context. Both sides are wrong.

      I do think understanding what non-Christians actually believe is important. In writing my Tuesday series on the Reformation, I’ve been forced to study Roman Catholicism in order to understand why Luther and the other Reformers stood against the teachings of Rome. And isn’t it interesting that Luther originally posted his 95 Theses in order to generate a discussion with false religionists? Just food for thought.


  3. Debbie Lynne, thanks for your reply. Yes, it is complicated and we need God’s wisdom. Both sides desperately need wisdom, the wisdom that James wrote of in James 3: 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

    I also believe this is a wake-up call for all of us – not to follow men, but our dear Lord Jesus Christ. I learned this lesson once already a few years back and it was painful but necessary. Like you I have benefitted from the apologist’s ministry and have 2 or 3 of his books. I have also benefitted somewhat from the other ministry, but have also had various concerns from time to time.

    After many years of studying scripture I have studied other belief systems in depth, including the one in question. The reason I wrote what I did about studying the Bible instead is that most Christians are not studying it as much as they ought. We often hear about the lack of discernment or biblical knowledge. Yet too often Christians are encouraged to study the false in order to witness to others. The problem is we only have so many hours in a day. My experience is that being grounded in the doctrines of God, man, sin, and the Gospel has left me better equipped. I used to get intimidated in witnessing encounters because I couldn’t always remember what various groups believed. But then I realized that in the end the gospel message is the same. Not only that but a diet of error after awhile is downright exhausting, if not perilous. Sometimes it seems like certain groups are being singled out as special somehow, and in need of different handling, which is confusing to the average believer. The scriptures make it clear that there is nothing new under the sun, and we can trust our Lord and His unchanging gospel.

    That is interesting what you found from studying Luther!


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