“The Shack Up” – Part 1


Lyndon Unger of The Cripplegate  tackles the topic of professing Christians living together before marriage.  Many Christians feel that there’s no problem with “shacking up” because “everyone else is doing it.”  However, they cannot point to the scriptures to show that God approves of “try before you buy.” In Part 1, Unger lays out a biblical framework for dealing with sex outside of marriage and explains why Christians must not to try to justify “shacking up” before walking down the aisle.  Clearly, God is not silent on the issue of sex outside of marriage.

The link to part 2 of Archer’s piece is at the end of this post.

Photo courtesy of The Cripplegate

Photo courtesy of The Cripplegate

“The Shack Up”?  Is that the sequel to “The Shack”?

Not quite.

I’m talking about the idea of cohabitation before marriage.

I’m talking about “moving in” with your boyfriend/girlfriend before you actually get married.

I’m talking about the “try before you buy” idea.

Now, I’m not writing for non-Christians here (as if too many will end up here or care what I say), but rather those people who profess Christ and still think that “moving in together” is a legitimate option for professing Christians.  I’m addressing those men and women who attend a church and would call themselves “Christians”.  I’m addressing people out there who at leastclaim, at some level, to believe the Bible and follow Christ.

I’m also writing this to those of you that feel the cultural/financial/peer pressure to “move in” with your girlfriend/boyfriend and yet have some sort of silent alarm going off in the back of your head that makes you unsure, if even a little bit.  I write this for those of you who have searched for some wisdom but ended up at articles like this floundering mess or this facepalmor this absolute faceplant.

If you’re like me or grew up in church circles like I did, you’ve probably heard people at church say that “living together before you’re married is wrong” but when you asked for specifics all you got was “the Bible says” without an actual chapter and verse (or an answer with any substance at all).  You were probably told the same thing about the concept of “sex outside of marriage” but when you looked for the verse that says “sex outside of marriage is wrong” and you never found that one either.  You have probably looked in the Bible and recognized thatadultery is mentioned, but that clearly didn’t seem to apply since you weren’t married!  You also saw that in Genesis 2:18-25 (and other places like Matthew 19:4-9) talk about how God has instituted marriage and ruled out divorce, but you’re reticent to leap “full bore” into this marriage stuff precisely because you’ve seen the pain of divorce up close and don’t want to get divorced!

If you’re like I was when I was younger, you’ve found yourself looking in the Bible, being confused, and eventually seriously wondering if there actually were any reasons why you should not move in with your current love interest.

I mean, it seems like an okay idea right?

It cuts the bills in half.

A whole lot of people are doing it, right?

You test drive a car before you buy it, right?  Is not a spouse more important than a car?

Maybe you’re wanting to take the “next step” in commitment and let him/her know that you’reserious about your relationship?

Maybe you’re thinking that marriage is just a piece of paper, right?  It doesn’t make you love someone more, so why jump through some arbitrary hoop, right?

Or maybe your folks got divorced (along with the folks of many of your friends) so the “institution” of marriage isn’t something you want to get stuck with before you know what you’re getting into?

And who’s kidding who?

You’re somewhat interested in SEX, right?

I’ve got really good news for you. The Bible gives you a framework for dealing with, and even answering, every one of those questions.  The Bible has answers even if the “spiritual leaders” in your life don’t seem to be able to find them.  I also grew up around a bunch of “spiritual leaders” that were actually fairly clueless about what the Bible said about this stuff, among many other things.  That’s probably why the youth groups (and the Bible College) that I was involved in were plagued with sexually-related problems.

Still, the same God who created the heavens and earth, who rescued Daniel from the lion’s den and resurrected Jesus from the dead is not silent on the issue.  He’s made his thoughts known to mankind.  Let’s take a look at the Bible on the topic, okay?  You might be surprised what God has to say…but first, we need a single foundation:

The Bible is actually the word of God

I’m not talking about some sort of esoteric “it’s a special book” kinda idea.

I mean that the Bible is actually a book where the ultimate source of the content is God himself.  The Bible is the “word of God” in the sense that he’s the ultimate author.  In that book, in a way that no other book can claim, we have the thoughts of God made known to us. The Bible is quite actually what God has to say about things.  When the Bible speaks, God speaks.

If we have that one foundation, we can deal with the question of cohabitation before marriage.  All we need to figure out is what the Bible says about the issue.

Without that foundation all we have is a bunch of opinions by people who, regardless of how smart they are, are simply guessing.

Without that foundation we have no authoritative position on the subject, let alone issues of morality in general.

Without that foundation there’s no real reason to believe that anything matters, including doing good deeds.

Without that foundation, there’s no “good deeds”in the first place, except what society dictates…and who really cares what society wants, right?

Without that foundation there’s also no real reason to think that that there’s a life beyond this one, or that you’ll have to answer to anyone for what you do in this life.  You may as well run off and do whatever  you want and use any means to get it…

…but the fact that you don’t absolutely betrays the fact that, somewhere in your heart, you know better.  God has made you with implicit knowledge of himself as well as good and evil (and passages like Romans 1:18-23 talk about this).  Even though that knowledge is fuzzy, it’s not gone.  Your inability to live as if nothing matters should inform you that, somewhere inside, you know that some things do matter.  Some things are morally right and other things are morally wrong and there is an objective standard by which those two things are differentiated.

If that standard is anything, it is probably related (rather closely) to God: the one who made everything (including all standards), right?

The reality of the matter is that what you do in this life matters to God and he has made his expectations of you clear.  Those expectations are revealed in the 66 books of the Bible.  The Bible is the actual revelation of the thoughts and words of God from the mind and mouth of God, unveiled to mankind.

The Bible is actually the God’s book

The apostle Paul addresses this idea rather strongly in 1 Corinthians 2:1-16.  Remembering that Paul was the guy that God personally selected for taking his message to the non-Jewish world (Acts 13:44-52 – Paul wasn’t just some chump), Paul addresses the church in the ancient Roman city of Corinth and in the second chapter of his first letter to them, Paul says,

– When he came to Corinth, he didn’t talk about God with “lofty speech or wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:1), meaning that he didn’t try to impress them with being wordy or trying to sound smart.  Rather, he proclaimed a simple message of Jesus Christ crucified (1 Cor. 2:2) and left the “convincing” up to God (1 Cor. 2:3-5).

– Paul then says that he still has a wise message, but not wise in the way that the unbelieving world would recognize (1 Cor. 2:6).  The wisdom of Paul’s message is a “hidden wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 2:7) that the unbelieving world didn’t understand because if they did, they would have never killed Jesus (1 Cor. 2:8-9).  In an effort to stop Jesus by killing him, the unbelieving world gave God exactly what he wanted.

– The wisdom of Paul’s message is revealed by the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:10), and the Spirit of God is the only person who can ever know God’s secrets (1 Cor. 2:11).  Also, the Spirit of God is the only one who can ever reveal God’s secrets, and that Spirit is exactly who was given to Paul to reveal those secrets (1 Cor. 2:12), secrets that Paul then can pass on to people who are willing to listen to God’s message (1 Cor. 2:13).

– Those secrets revealed to Paul by the Spirit of God aren’t accessible or understandable to everyone, since the person without the Spirit of God in them (namely a non-Christian) cannot possibly understand them.  It takes the Spirit of God to not only reveal them but make sense of them (1 Cor. 2:14).

– That being said, when Paul speaks words from the Spirit of God he doesn’t let the unbelieving world judge him or his words and decide what makes sense since the man with the Spirit isn’t judged by the unbelieving world, nor can he be (1 Cor. 2:15).    The unbelieving world (meaning every non-Christian out there, added together) doesn’t know the secrets of God, nor can it tell God something that he doesn’t already know far better than they do…but the apostle Paul, who has the Spirit of God in him, has access to the very mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).  That “mind of Christ” is also what Paul reveals in his writings, and that mind of Christ that underlies the entire Bible is what gives the Bible its universal and unequivocalauthority.

No other book comes close to the Bible with regards to truth or authority, for the simple reason that no other book claims to actually be written by God by means of people who were writing on behalf of, and empowered and guided by, the Spirit of God himself (see 2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:16-21).  The book of Mormon doesn’t make that claim, and neither does the Qu’ran.  The Bhagavad Gita doesn’t.  The various writings of Buddhism sure don’t, and neither do all the writings of the lesser religions (Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Zoroastrians, etc.).  The Bible makes a big claim with lots of implications that will probably surface in the comments, but I’ll deal with some those implications there (though it’s not really the point of this post to address every challenge possible that skeptics will bring against the scripture).  Still, if you claim to be a Christian this shouldn’t be new information to you.  This should be stuff you’ve heard before, but I just wanted to restate it to lay a little proper foundation for examining what the Bible says about the issues related to “the shack up”.

When the Bible speaks, God speaks and it’s time to listen up.

If we agree there, we can get some solid guidance on the issue of “the shack up”.

That’s exactly what we’re going to do in the next post.

We’ll look at what God says about the issue and then gain some clear direction.

Sound good?


Part 2

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