Biblically Evaluating “The Shack Up” – Part 1

The Shack

“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 “try before you buy”.

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 least claim 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 on TodaysChristianWoman or this facepalm on the Christian Post or this absolute faceplant on Charisma.

Soccer 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’ve looked in the Bible and recognized that adultery is mentioned, but you’re not talking about committing adultery; you’re not even 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 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’re serious 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?

Padded Room

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 giants” in your life don’t seem to be able to find them.  I also grew up around a bunch of “spiritual giants” that were actually fairly clueless about what the Bible said about this stuff.  That’s probably why the youth groups (and the Bible College) that I was a part of 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.  It’s God’s book in 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.  Without that one 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…

Cash Guns

…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 are morally right and other things are morally wrong and there is an objective standard by which those two things are differentiated.

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, and the Bible is the actual words of God from the mind and mouth of God, unveiled to mankind.  The Bible is actually 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 and his power (1 Cor. 2:3-5).

– Paul then says that he still has a wise message, but not wise in the way that the secular 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 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 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 God gave to Paul to reveal those secrets (1 Cor. 2:12) which Paul then can pass on to the 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 since it takes the Spirit of God to not only reveal them to Paul but make sense of them to Christians (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 and what doesn’t, since the man with the Spirit isn’t judged by the 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 infinitely more 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 it’s universal and unequivocal authority.

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 getting direct revelation from the Spirit of God (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.

God speaking

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.  Seeing that this one is already getting long, I’m going to save the Biblical exploration of the topic of “the shack up” until next time.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “trying my best to pick up the slack with what little time I have available” Unger

17 thoughts on “Biblically Evaluating “The Shack Up” – Part 1

  1. When you post part 2, should that be the queue to fire up the tune “Love Shack” by the B-52s, just to be able to listen to the one while reading the other? What? No sense of humor, let alone irony?
    Huggin’ and a-kissin’
    Dancin’ and a-lovin’
    Wearin’ next to nothin’
    ‘Cause it’s hot as an oven
    The whole shack shimmies
    Yeah, the whole shack shimmies
    The whole shack shimmies when everybody’s
    Movin’ around and around and around and around
    Everybody’s movin’, everybody’s groovin’, baby
    Folks linin’ up outside just to get down
    Everybody’s movin’, everybody’s groovin’, baby
    At the Love Shack

  2. As I understand biblical marriage to have been: a father waits for his daughter to become a woman, that is, thirteen years old give or take a few months. In all that time she is isolated at home and learns to cook and clean. One day, her future husband, he is usually about twice her age, asks her father permission to marry her. He can say no or he can let him ask his daughter. If the daughter accepts, she drinks the wine her husband offers her. She can decline by pouring the wine out on the floor. The next phase is the husband returning home, building his home on his fathers land. When it is done, the husband and wife have a week long wedding – think the miracle of cana, without Jesus. And that was how it was done. She was always the property of her father or her husband. And that was why Paul gave men permission to marry their virgins if they felt so inclined, the virgins opinion didn’t matter – what did matter was that the virgins bore sons for their husbands, without sons, a mother was a failure and her future was uncertain. Today our culture is very different. We are opposites.

    • “We are opposites.” Meaning in gender only? (your name could be male or female) or in your apparent differing of opinion on marriage and/or gender equality with the author? Opposites as in a dispensational take on the state of marriage comparing the progression of the attitudes on marriage in the past with the present? I am unclear as to just what you mean in your post. Since Mr. Unger hasn’t posted his promised part 2 to date, I don’t actually know what to expect about his take on one aspect of what might be viewed as married life in the present times, but perhaps you know better than both of us here? I enjoy reading the hermeneutical priorities of others and what their exegesis reveals, and this blog by Lyndon Unger is a place to be able to do just that. Lyndon seems like a reasonable fellow, but he has in my opinion certainly endured enough personal difficulty to have earned the freedom to be unreasonable from time to time. Although I am always left more in the doubtful column about what he writes, I’ve never taken any offense by what he blogs, marriage included, as you have seemed to. I feel like I am somewhat of an expert on recognizing offensive material, since so many people seem to find offense in nearly anything I write. I have yet to find anything he writes even remotely similar in a style to what I write, so I can’t seem to see any offense if it’s there. Let me say this about the subject at hand, whatever marriage means as a concept or institution to any particular individual, past or present, I can’t begin to say, mostly due to a personal lacking in both erudition and interest in the topic. What I can say is that marriage as a concept or institution isn’t meant for me. Being male, particularly in arguments such as yours, whether you be male or female, I often feel that I have been thrown under the bus and then can begin to feel the entire weight of the bus backing over me (and sometimes the tires spinning too) whenever anyone, particularly a woman of today, deems it necessary to invoke what is often viewed as ‘historic male patriarchy’ merely to try and make a relevant point about the present; however unrelated the ‘historic male patriarchy’ idea actually is to the point he or she is otherwise trying to make. Am I reading too much into your words here to sense not only your utter disgust with the past, but at the same time an almost relishing of it all, in that it is being described in such seemingly unflinching, albeit pejorative, terms? Comparing the marriage roles of males today in terms of those historic scenes you describe doesn’t necessarily reflect any of the real experiences of most males today (yours too apparently if you are male), let alone their attitudes. In order to take any of what you write here seriously on any personal level would require me to encounter something seldom, if ever, found in evidence. That is women in great numbers addressing modern day abuses against men, and speaking of marriage, ones that are routinely found in such places as in the divorce courts of today. Unless or until that happens, your comments have only served to help preserve a completely deafened ear for your on sided perspectives. Your quibble about what a marriage means in Biblical terms may vary from woman to woman (again whether you are a woman or not), but nearly all women have a universal belief in the institution of divorce that is actually far loftier than that of marriage, if in no other way than it usually represents a lifetime commitment, and one that is not only absolute, but for the most part uncompromising as well. What would make comparing and contrasting any part of the past with the present more relevant in my opinion? Again, it would be if any part of womankind was in any way inclined to begin the discussion by noticing and redressing the wrongs against men in the present, especially by not engaging in a recounting the past as an excuse for maintaining those same conditions in the present. I can only guess that from a true historic male patriarch’s perspective, the state of mind of men making the final long lonely walk out of any divorce court could not be comprehended at any level, let alone empathized with. I venture to guess that in any historic male patriarch’s eyes it would seem that what were never even ersatz, or even want to be male patriarchs in any traditional sense, had been rendered virtual eunuchs by a system, and a process; and all done as if they were in fact historic male patriarchs guilty of the of the worst kind of egregious self serving behavior. I can’t help but wonder if for you that spectacle might be somewhat more enjoyable if you had a working set of burdizzos at hand, and full license to redress all your grievances about marriage, past or present, directly and forcefully without any personal consequence.

      • I make it a point to not identify my gender because it always derails the conversation. Either I’m a guy who should be happy that complementarianism entitles me the right to be the leader, have the final say, make all the decisions, etc. and it’s ludicrous to speak against all that privilege or I’m a girl who should be happy that my sole role is to follow the leader, have opinions that don’t count, don’t get to make decisions, not speak, etc. and of course I’m bitter about that. You see? I don’t want the conversation to go in either direction. Culturally, we’re opposites. Modern society does not hold the view that a woman is the possession of her father or husband, but a person who is their equal. However, religions are all too often pointing to the Bible as the sole authority on the matter of relationships as if all marriages are Christian, but they aren’t. Not everybody agrees that is the best place to start considering we aren’t the intended audience. At best, we’re somebody reading somebody else’s mail two thousand years after the fact. Generally, it is a good idea to behave oneself, but you can’t require it of absolutely everybody any more than you can require all people to sing because the Bible says so. If you look at the patriarchs, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, David had multiple wives and cheated on them all simultaneously with Bathsheba. By the time of the New Testament, most men couldn’t afford to have multiple wives, but the teaches of the law taught that if their wife hadn’t had a child during ten years of marriage, divorce was compulsory so that they could try again. Marriage is difficult enough in modern times without ancient advice. Some of the problem you’re having is that we’re also theological opposites – I’m not a strict ultra-conservative fundamentalist literalist in the reformed school of thought. I see the Bible as guidelines, not a rule book. I like to look at scripture through the lens of historical context and figure out how culture changes modern interpretation and thought. Paul had no way of knowing his words would endure. And there is inconsistency with modern church that pushes marriage as the cure-all and ignores his message on singleness. looking at the stats, a great many couples that live together do eventually marry. The institution may be a biblical one, but it doesn’t have the best reputation. My last problem with the institution is that of domestic violence, Christianity shouldn’t say ‘wives should endure a season of abuse’ … it’s just wrong no matter who you are.

    • Strange how no biblical scholar in the last several hundred years has come to that conclusion regarding “Biblical Marriage”.

      Wonder why that is?

      Maybe it’s because they know something that you don’t?

      • Jamie Carter opined that “I’m a guy who should be happy that complementarianism entitles me the right to be the leader, have the final say, make all the decisions, etc.”
        Lyndon, forget for a brief second the Biblical marriage part and ask a let’s ask a different question. Does that sound like anything you’ve ever experienced in your marriage or have even heard of in any secular marriage, let alone Biblical marriage you know of? How does that fit in with the three rings of marriage? You know, the engagement ring, the wedding ring and the suffering.
        I think Jamie might be conflating the virtues and vices of old men versus young men, rather than fully reflecting anything illustrative about male versus female.
        Prince Feisal in Lawrence of Arabia said:
        “There’s nothing further here for a warrior. We drive bargains. Old men’s work. Young men make wars, and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men. Courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace. And the vices of peace are the vices of old men. Mistrust and caution. It must be so.”

  3. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” In Matthew 19:5 Jesus quotes this are referring to marriage and in 1 Cor. 6:16 Paul quotes it as referring to the act of sexual intercourse. This shows that when two people who aren’t legally married to each other engage in sex God considers them married and permanently committed to each other. If they break up and marry other people they are actually guilty of adultery.

    • Run that logic by me again?

      One flesh unity is reserved for marriage so anyone who engages in sexual intercourse is “de facto” married in the eyes of God because of Matthew 19:5 and 1 Corinthians 6:16?


      I wonder why Paul, the author of 1 Corinthians, doesn’t make the connection that you do? You should probably re-read 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 and notice the argument that Paul himself makes. It’s also probably worth reading 1 Cor. 6:9-11 and noticing that some of the folks in Corinth had previously engaged in sexual immorality, but Paul doesn’t tell them to go back and marry those people with which they engaged in immorality.

  4. Pingback: Biblically Evaluating “The Shack Up” – Part 1 | Prisoner of Christ

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