Pastoral Meanderings — A dirty little secret…

Another excellent post by Pastor Peters over on Pastoral Meanderings. I don’t know about other Pastor’s experiences in pre-marital counselling, but the pastor in our church says when he started in the ministry he would see 1 in 10 people coming in for marriage were in a co-habitation situation; today he’s surprised if people aren’t doing this. It’s even become common for the parents to approve of such a living situation.

For those doing this for “financial reasons”, we offer space in an older couple’s home for one of the couple .. as far as I know noone has taken us up on this as of yet, but it proves to the couple that this isn’t the real reason for them doing this.

Another article by Pastor Scheer about strategies to use is found here.

 

Cohabitation in the United States has increased by more than 1,500 percent in the past half century. In 1960, about 450,000 unmarried couples lived together. Now the number is more than 7.5 million. The majority of young adults in their 20s will live with a romantic partner at least once, and more than half of all marriages will be preceded by cohabitation. This shift has been attributed to the sexual revolution and the availability of birth control, and in our current economy, sharing the bills makes cohabiting appealing. But when you talk to people in their 20s, you also hear about something else: cohabitation as prophylaxis.

In a nationwide survey conducted in 2001 by the National Marriage Project, then at Rutgers and now at the University of Virginia, nearly half of 20-somethings agreed with the statement, “You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along.” 

About two-thirds said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce.  But that belief is contradicted by experience. Couples who cohabit before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages — and more likely to divorce — than couples who do not. These negative outcomes are called the cohabitation effect.

The dirty little secret is that cohabitation is an enemy of a happy marriage.  It has been known for a very long time but the assumption was that those peddling this truth were merely naysayers trying to steal sexual happiness and an adventuresome spirit away from youth.  That is another dirty little secret.  Those who insist that cohabitation is an enemy of marital happiness are not trying to prevent sin (a laudable goal, to be sure) but to assist those seeking to be happy in their lives as husband and wife, joined together until death parts them.

You can read it all here (from the New York Times). It is not the stuff of religious nuts but credible study and very secular researchers.  There are differences to be sure — male to female, religious to agnostic, but one thing they all seem to agree on is that their standards for a live-in partner are lower than they are for a spouse.  In other words, marriage suffers from an idealized relationship compared to relationships which, for all intents and purposes, looked and acted like marriage but without the conversation, commitment and community recognition.  These low-cost, low-risk living situations both become a mine field to a happy marriage and a trap which is hard to get out of — they hold cohabitators captive.

Cohabitation is here to stay and, therefore, so is the disappointment when the cohabiting decide to tie the knot and find out that the person they married is the same old flawed individual they were living with all those years.  One of the things that sustains a young marriage through its rough time of adjustment is the honeymoon (not the trip but the time of newness in which the relationship is fresh and love is willing to overlook wrongs and irritants and make sacrifices).  There is no honeymoon for the cohabiting who marry.  There is only the same old same old.  What began as a test become the predictor of the future — not for good but for ill.  Without anything hidden or any surprises to be revealed, the cohabitors are left with only the past as their future.

BTW… what is so severely disappointing is that Christian young folks and their parents had accepted the fallacy of cohabitation leading to happy marriage and even encourage cohabitors to marry and make legal what is immoral and, not to be forgotten, a marker of sure disappointment to come.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Pastoral Meanderings — A dirty little secret… — 92 Comments

  1. Mrs. Hume :
    Thanks for all the thoughtful responses.
    @Pr. Duane Meissner #46
    “As long as the state says a piece of paper is required, that’s the way it is in God’s eyes.”
    Okay, I understand that we need to follow reasonable laws like getting a driver’s license or in this case a marriage license. So, I can see that point. The church expects Christians to follow the law. But does the civil law really define adultery for the church by passing a law that says marriages have to be registered? What if the state decided to stop registering marriages? That certainly wouldn’t make adultery impossible. It just seems that the way to end the sinful state is for the couple to marry.

    Consider this. A cohabiting couple wishes to marry. Then they separate. Then for whatever reason their relationship ends and one of them wishes to marry someone else. That seems more like adultery than if they had stayed together. They were already united albeit unofficially. Do you follow what I am saying? Where am I getting off track?
    I would really like to have this clearer in my mind so I can communicate correctly to my children, who someday likely will have a discussion of this topic in some form.

    Thanks for the good questions, Mrs. Hume. In the end, I’m not sure how much it matters how far one pushes the definitions of terms like “adultery.” One can have a narrow definition or a wide definition. Either way, in the end, pre-marital sex is still sin, and marrying two people involved in it doesn’t “fix” that sin. It is true that if I were to go against my better judgement and marry a cohabiting couple, their relations after that point would no longer be sinful. But, does that automatically make marrying them a good idea? I personally don’t think so. As I said before, how can I in good conscience marry two people who do not respect the institution of marriage enough to go through the inconvenience of separating? That’s not to diminish the inconvenience. I don’t mean to make that sound trite. It is indeed inconvenient. But, in the end, the couple will need to be able to deal with more difficult problems in a marriage than the problem of physically separating for a period of time prior to marriage.

    One other thing needs to be mentioned: pastors who require cohabiting couples to separate before marriage are not asking the couple to end their relationship. There’s nothing wrong with the couple spending the other 16 hours of the day with each other. We only ask that they 1. abstain from having relations and 2. live in separate dwellings so as not to give the clear message to the rest of the world that “we are Christians sleeping together before marriage and it’s all cool.” They are still encouraged to love and care for one another.

    I hope this helps you see my point of view! Thanks again for the questions!

  2. @Pr. Duane Meissner #51

    You are correct–I would only add that not only is pre-marital sex a sin, but all sex outside of marriage is sinful. This is God’s definition, not man’s. So, a cohabiting couple’s
    “faithfulness” to each other means nothing, because they have not been faithful to the Sixth Commandment. Their “faithfulness” in what is a sinful relationship is an offense. “Well, yes, we broke the sixth commandment, but we were faithful to each other,” simply does not wash.

  3. @Win #40

    “BTW, Common law marriages came into being to protect the woman, and any children–after, say seven years, they were married in the sight of the law.”

    I’m not sure that such is the public policy behind common law marriage. Perhaps it is because your conclusion is based upon a false premise.

    I.e., your definition of common law marriage is lacking. A couple living together for seven years or another period of time is not automatically married in any state. Two other actions are necessary to create a common law marriage where recognized. The couple must:

    •hold themselves out as a married couple — typically this means using the same last name, referring to the other as “my husband” or “my wife,” and filing a joint tax return, and

    •intend to be married.

    http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/common-law-marriage-faq-29086.html

    Such a marriage is recognized in limited jurisdictions even though no legally recognized marriage ceremony is performed or civil marriage contract according to state statute is entered into. See:

    http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Common-Law+Marriage

  4. To all unmarried women: If your boyfriend tells you that marriage is just a piece of paper, run for the nearest exit and do not ever return.

    Again: All sex outside of marriage is a sin. This is clear from God’s word. The constant propaganda of TV and movies do not change that. Sex is a blessing of God for people married to each other, and is reserved for them.

  5. When a cohabiting couple establish separate residences for a few months in order to give the appearance of propriety, does that constitute an act of contrition?

    Are acts of contrition required of divorced persons before they can have a wedding in the church?

    Can divorced people get remarried in a ceremony in the church?

    I guess I see divorce as much more offensive and those who commit that sin seem blatantly and boldly unrepentant.

    I find it more believable that a cohabiting couple that wish to marry, say for the sake of their children, seem at least plausibly repentant and wish to go forward properly.

    I know I am not the judge. This is just kind of a gut reaction. I know there are abandoned spouses who were the victims of a divorce, and there are cohabiting couples who felt entitled to cohabit rather than remorseful about it.

  6. @Richard Lewer #55
    To all unmarried women: If your boyfriend tells you that marriage is just a piece of paper, run for the nearest exit and do not ever return.

    Good advice, but what are you teaching your boys in confirmation class or Lutheran day school?
    (Not to put too fine a point on it, the “Sin, so grace may abound” doggerel has been reported from the latter source. Public school programs don’t bother with the “justification”, of course; it’s more like, “Do it because it feels good.”)

  7. Mrs. Hume :
    When a cohabiting couple establish separate residences for a few months in order to give the appearance of propriety, does that constitute an act of contrition?
    Are acts of contrition required of divorced persons before they can have a wedding in the church?
    Can divorced people get remarried in a ceremony in the church?
    I guess I see divorce as much more offensive and those who commit that sin seem blatantly and boldly unrepentant.
    I find it more believable that a cohabiting couple that wish to marry, say for the sake of their children, seem at least plausibly repentant and wish to go forward properly.
    I know I am not the judge. This is just kind of a gut reaction. I know there are abandoned spouses who were the victims of a divorce, and there are cohabiting couples who felt entitled to cohabit rather than remorseful about it.

    Mrs. Hume,

    A better question may be “what scenario could there be that would make it unreasonable/sinful for a pastor to expect a cohabiting couple to separate?” If separating temporarily is going to make their relationship crumble, for example, they shouldn’t be getting married in the first place. I’m probably less concerned about seeing a couple publicly show contrition as I am concerned about the foundation of a relationship between two people who refuse to go through the trouble of sleeping in different dwellings for a time.

    As a pastor I should not feel like it’s my responsibility to marry anyone. At all. That’s not what God placed me into the office of the Holy Ministry to do. It’s something I volunteer to do on behalf of the state. Therefore, if I don’t feel two people should be getting married for any reason, I shouldn’t feel bad about passing up the opportunity.

    Is it possible for there to be a scenario where I could feel adequately comfortable making arrangements with a cohabiting couple to marry them without expecting them first to separate? I dunno… Sure, I suppose it’s possible. But for me, a number of red flags would go up if a couple balked at the idea of separating: I’d have questions about their personal maturity level, their spiritual maturity level, their ability to make sacrifices, their respect for the institution of marriage, their grasp of the seriousness of sin, etc., etc.

  8. @mbw #57
    What status does Common Law have in the United States?

    It still exists in Texas.
    Little known “NOT FAQ”, if you establish a “common-law” marriage, you’ve saved the expense of a wedding, but if you wish to get out of it, you still need a divorce. 🙁

  9. @mbw #57

    Per wikipedia (I know, not always the best source of information):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common-law_marriage_in_the_United_States

    An excerpt:

    “Common-law marriage can still be contracted in 10 states and the District of Columbia, can no longer be contracted in 27 states, and was never permitted in 13 states. The requirements for a common-law marriage to be validly contracted differ from state to state. Nevertheless, all states — including those that have abolished the contract of common-law marriage within their boundaries — recognize common-law marriages lawfully contracted in those jurisdictions that permit it.

  10. Pastor Kirchner # 53,
    Many know what we don’t. Per legal/state law, that which we dwell under, controls what our Church does. Hence, many a state, same sex marriage.

    We must all be very, very, careful, not to define it as those who oppose, what is good, right, & true, in His eyes & in His sight. States can dicate, & change on a dime. His Word does not.
    Anyone ever heard the term Jus Primae Nocits? State demanded & condemed by it, but what did those who suffered under it do?

  11. Former Anglican :
    @mbw #57
    Per wikipedia (I know, not always the best source of information):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common-law_marriage_in_the_United_States
    An excerpt:
    “Common-law marriage can still be contracted in 10 states and the District of Columbia, can no longer be contracted in 27 states, and was never permitted in 13 states. The requirements for a common-law marriage to be validly contracted differ from state to state. Nevertheless, all states — including those that have abolished the contract of common-law marriage within their boundaries — recognize common-law marriages lawfully contracted in those jurisdictions that permit it.

    Thank you. I was wondering about the entire concept of Common Law vs say England.

  12. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I appreciate and agree with Pastor Peter’s article-post that started this discussion, and also Pastor Schroeder’s comment @Pr. Mark Schroeder #39

    Some of you mentioned the previous discussion on this discussion at BJS. That was here, about a year ago: https://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=15567 That blog post included reference to President Harrison’s good book on the subject, which you can order here:
    http://www.cph.org/p-249-second-thoughts-about-living-together.aspx

    A lot of confusion exists on this subject because people don’t realize that the US legal definition for “adultery” and the common dictionary definition for “adultery” are different from the traditional Christian definition of the same term. This is not surprising, if you understand history, because all of the English cultures in the world are heir to Henry VIII’s Reformation–the real purpose of which was to redefine marriage and adultery to suit his purposes, mistresses, and many “merry wives.”

    Luther has the older and Christian definition of adultery exactly right. See his Large Catechism, Sixth Commandment, which states: “This commandment applies to every form of unchastity, however it is called. . . . This commandment requires everyone not only to live chastely in thought, word, and deed in his particular situation” (Tappert, pp. 392 & 394).

    So a Christian cannot condone cohabitation, whatever the circumstances. It is sin, and if it continues, it is “living in sin” and an ongoing violation of the 6th Commandment, as well as the 4th Commandment.

    The difficult question, which Pastor Peters leads us in, is how should the church deal with its members who live this way. I wish that my church-body, the LCMS, would issue something like “standard operating practice” in this matter, so that pastors and congregations could work together in unity with individual cases.

    I have seen too many cases where good, loving, and cooperative pastors are attacked by laymen in this matter. The pastors were upholding the teaching of the Scriptures and Confessions, and the erring laymen didn’t care–they wanted what they wanted, and they didn’t care if they destroyed the pastor and his family, if necessary, to get what they wanted. Conscientious laymen need to defend their pastors when this happens, not sit idly by.

    The development and adoption of “standard operating practice” in the Lutheran Reformation, in matters of marriage and divorce, was part of the important work of Johannes Bugenhagen. His treatise Vom Ehebruch und Weglaufen (1540) became the standard authority on the subject among Lutherans (see discussion in Steve Ozment, When Fathers Ruled: Family Life in Reformation Europe [Harvard: Harvard UP, 1983]). Among other practices, remarriage of divorcees was done only in private, i.e., with the pastor and witnesses, not in public.

    This suggests a practice for marrying cohabitors today, if they are unwilling to separate before the wedding. But I would be unwilling to mandate this, unless my congregation would be willing to take a stand in defense of marriage with me. A clear stand by the LCMS would be very helpful to convince my congregation and others that they need to take a stand in defense of marriage in this way.

    Why are so many people up in arms about the politicized “Defense of Marriage” against homosexuals, if they are not willing to defend and protect marriage against its most common threat today, i.e., cohabitation?

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  13. “I wish that my church-body, the LCMS, would issue something like “standard operating practice” in this matter, so that pastors and congregations could work together in unity with individual cases.”

    I wish they would so that our kids would know what is what. If it isn’t taught or discussed, our kids will just stumble along.

  14. Mrs. Hume,
    Don’t we all in WELS & in LCMS. I can’t teach my boys, if they above cannot agree. All I have to go by is Sola Scriptura & Concord. Easy for laity, not so much for those above. Those are open for debate. We tend to focus on the non important, because the vital is so much more difficult, to demand a yea or nay. And in the fray, stand their sheep.

    Tarry, dicker, & bicker, all ya like, the time ya take, means your sheep, are asked to defend & shepherd themselves. Neither choice, is a wise one, on any subject, this being just one.

  15. There is no doubt about what the 6th. Commandment says. The only problem is those who try to get around the clear Word of God.

  16. Richard Lewer :
    There is no doubt about what the 6th. Commandment says. The only problem is those who try to get around the clear Word of God.

    Okay, sounds fine, but when your older sister or your aunt is living with her boyfriend and they come over and hang around and mom and dad don’t say anything, then as a kid, it is kinda confusing, I think. And that is where plenty of young people are these days. So, it has to be explicitly taught.

  17. @Mrs. Hume #69

    Absolutely right – it has to be taught. But if the understanding and knowledge is lacking in any regard, if the family sees active participation in the faith as more of a tradition than something that is vital and precious, it is no surprise that people are so blasé and unconcerned with co-habiting, shacking up or whatever else is accepted.

    This is why fathers, as heads of households, need to teach their children, and why the saints in any and all congregations should not abdicate their responsibility to listen carefully to what is and is not taught by their pastor – and to call him out when he is in error.

  18. all congregations should not abdicate their responsibility to listen carefully to what is and is not taught by their pastor – and to call him out when he is in error.

    Okay, but what about silence? It is the silence on these topics that leaves young people to their own devices, and under the influence of culture.

  19. Silence is an abdication of responsibility by parents and others, so yes, young people will come under the influence of the world and their own sinful natures in the face of silence.

    I would guess that if these young people are raised in a household that does not see these things as important, then they will not be important to the young people. So, if they are cohabiting and then go to a church and ask the pastor to marry them, one has to wonder as to their motivation. Why would they choose this church, especially if they are not members or even regular attendees (I know of a few individuals who chose a church due to its beauty rather than any connection to the congregation), it would probably be easier to have a civil ceremony at a court house or with a justice of the peace. Trying to satisfy a familial desire for a church wedding when they don’t really believe in what it represents, is hypocritical. If they are members, even if irregular attendees, the pastor, and the congregation, should address their open and public sin. If the couple are unwilling to address and deal with it, they have in essence cast their lot.

    A child brought up in the fear of the Lord should well understand the implications of turning their back on the Lord, and one would hope that they would know where to turn for help in resisting the clutches of the devil. It is not an easy path we walk as faithful children.

  20. @Mrs. Hume #45

    Mrs Hume,

    Your depiction of the committed, faithful couple has much to commend it, even if only on a comparative basis. It has more to commend it than so much else that is going around us. The earnestness of your questions about it add to the drawing power of that portrait. I will try to be as earnest in my reply.

    Christ did not cohabitate with the Church, and only afterwards espouse marriage to her. No further reason against cohabitation should be needed, since human marriage is on the design of Christ’s marriage to the Church, not the other way around. Lovers of Christ ought to be imitators of him.

    But, if more reasons are needed, consider these.

    Joseph, though only espoused and not married to Mary, had to contemplate “putting her away” legally, if quietly. If espousal was legal, certainly the marriage itself was legal.

    Moses gave the bill of divorcement for any cause to the Hebrews because of their hardness of heart. The bill, being legal, was necessary because the marriage was legal.

    Though Moses and the State of Montana provide laws of marriage, it is still God that hath joined husband and wife together. No surprise to Lutherans that God works through order and means.

    So marriage is legal, but not only legal and not legal first. Marriage is firstly theological, and then legal, but not non-legal simply because it is theological first.

    Marriage is another place to think in the way of Divine Monergism. Just as God and God alone saves, though He uses the water of Baptism and the Office of the Public Ministry to baptize, God and God alone marries, though He uses the Office of Public Ministry or the Justice of the Peace to marry.

    Respectfully,

    T. R. Halvorson

  21. Mrs. Hume,
    You [try to do] something about your own house. You cannot run anyone else’s. If the couple you discuss are family, you can talk to them. (It doesn’t sound like parents were much of an influence.) If there is already a toddler, it’s a little late for “pre-marital” advice.

    What to do now depends on whether they really want to get their relationship on a sound footing, regular church attendance & general amendment of life.

    [IMO, “moving out” is a fig leaf; it would only be confusing to the child.]

    But I would not bind the conscience of any Pastor here; they have to work through these situations according to their understanding of sin, of contrition, of absolution. And if the couple is still with them after that, I’d suggest a very private wedding.

  22. I only gave some hypotheticals.

    Is the idea that folks should separate before marriage supposed to serve as deterrent to others? What is the purpose?

  23. @Mrs. Hume #75
    “Is the idea that folks should separate before marriage supposed to serve as deterrent to others?”

    The idea is that they realize their sin, repent and receive forgiveness. Then in their new desire to live a God-pleasing life they separate until the wedding night where they can reunite in a God pleasing way.

  24. If they have already realized their sin and repented, then why do they need to move out? As some sort of public display to satisfy their self righteous neighbors?

    I guess this comes to mind because the couple down the street who have been sleeping together for six months but have separate residences are perfectly welcome to marry in the church. The aren’t the least bit remorseful about their relationships. They get to have grandma and aunties all come and it’s smiles all around because they were affluent enough to afford separate residences and conscientious enough to use contraception to hide their sins. So smiles everyone. Aren’t they just great! Surely they are thankful that they aren’t sinners like those cohabiters that can’t get married in the church until they achieve the same level of phoniness as their self righteous neighbors. I mean I guess the invisibly adulterous aren’t advertising what they are doing like cohabiters, so at least they are trying to consider the sensibilities of the community if in fact their particular community even cares. Anyway, it still seems punitive.

    Do pastors ask couples in premarital counseling whether they are continent? Do they advise them that they need to repent and stop having relations before they can marry in the church?

  25. @Mrs. Hume #77
    “If they have already realized their sin and repented, then why do they need to move out?”

    If they have repented, they will not want to continue to live in sin. If they plan to continue to live in sin, this is a pretty good indicator that they have not really repented — or perhaps they did briefly, but have fallen back into living in sin again.

    “…the couple down the street who have been sleeping together for six months but have separate residences are perfectly welcome to marry in the church.”

    This should not be, but even if it is, two wrongs do not make a right.

  26. @Mrs. Hume #77

    1. To lessen the temptation to fall into sin again.

    2. Since the sin is public… friends and family at the vary least know of the sin. A public display of repentance is appropriate so their reputation is restored. Separating acknowledges the desire to live a more God-pleasing life and their repentant heart.

    3. As a display of appropriate Christian behavior so that someone else may not be led to fall into the same sin by seeing their example.

  27. @Mrs. Hume #77
    “If they have already realized their sin and repented, then why do they need to move out? As some sort of public display to satisfy their self righteous neighbors?”

    How about a few examples of non-sixth commandment sins?

    “I’ve repented of trashing your reputation, but I’m not quite done because I dislike you so much).” (Eighth and fifth).
    “I’ve repented of stealing CD’s from the music store, but there’s a few more I need for my collection, so I’m going back.” (Seventh)
    “I’ve repented of disobeying my parents orders to stop playing my radio loud, but I like the songs loud, so I’ll keep on doing it.” (Fourth)
    “I’ve repented of missing church for the last six weeks to play soccer, but there’s still five games to go, so I’ll have to miss a few more games.” (Third)

    Time to read Bonhoeffer’s words on cheap grace again, “Cost of Discipleship”, pp. 45-49:
    “Instead of following Christ, let the Christian enjoy the consolation of his grace! That is what we mean by cheap grace, which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs.” (p.47)

  28. Mrs. Hume :Anyway, it still seems punitive.

    See Win about cheap grace. You really can’t have the sweet Gospel without the Law. They kinda go together. No mercy without justice/condemnation.

  29. Jason and Win:
    Yes. See the Epistle reading for this past Sunday (3 year lectionary), 3rd Sunday in Easter: 1 John 3: 1-7 “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” and Romans 6: 1ff, therefore, Luther:

    “That is what my Antinomians (against the Law), too, are doing today, who are preaching beautifully and (as I cannot but think) with real sincerity about Christ’s grace, about the forgiveness of sin and whatever else can be said about the doctrine of redemption. But they flee as if t were the very devil the consequence that they should tell the people about the third article, of sanctification, that is, of new life in Christ. They think one should not frighten or trouble the people, but rather always preach comfortingly about grace and the forgiveness of sins in Christ, and under no circumstance use these or similar words, “Listen! You want to be a Christian and at the same time remain an adulterer, a whoremonger, a drunken swine, arrogant, covetous, a usurer, envious, vindictive, malicious, etc.!” Instead they say, “Listen! Though you are an adultery, a wordmonger, a miser, or other kind of sinner, if you but believe, you are saved, and you need not fear the law. Christ has fulfilled it all! . . . They may be fine Easter preachers, but they are very poor Pentecost preachers, for they do not preach… “about the sanctification by the Holy Spirit,” but solely about the redemption of Jesus Christ, although Christ (whom they extol so highly, and rightly so) is Christ, that is, He has purchased redemption from sin and death so that the Holy Spirit might transform us out of the old Adam into new men . . . Christ did not earn only gratia, grace, for us, but also donum, “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” so that we might have not only forgiveness of, but also cessation of, sin. Now he who does not abstain fro sin, but persists in his evil life, must have a different Christ, that of the Antinomians; the real Christ is not there, even if all the angels would cry, “Christ! Christ!” He must be damned with this, his new Christ (On the Council and the Church, Luther’s Works, 41:113-114).

    Now more specifically to issue at hand. In Luther’s day, the huge issue was “secret engagements”, which seem to me to be the equivalent of “living together”: both before marriage. Even in Luther’s day, such secret engagements could involve physical union, not as brazenly as our day, but it could be known to many. Luther has a treatise “On Marriage Matters”, LW Volume 46 in which he addresses “secret engagements”. It was an involved mess. In Luther’s day, secret engagements were considered to be “like marriage” and those involved would, “…cite Christ’s words in Matthew 19: 6…now they say that God has joined together the two people who have secretly become engaged. (sound familiar? Pr. Schroeder) See how badly they apply this verse, for according to their opinion the meaning of this verse would be that where two people come together, God has joined them. From this it would also follow that the adulterer and the adulteress could not be separated either, for God has joined them together too, since we are well aware that they could not live for one minute without God, let alone come together. So we would have to say that a thief and his theft and a robber and his spoils should not be separated either, for God has joined them together. In this way all evil would go unpunished, and they would finally put the blame on God as Adam did in paradise, when he put the blame on God through Eve, and said, “The woman whom thou gayest to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree, and I ate” [Gen. 3:12], as if he were saying, “If you had not given me the woman, I would have remained innocent, punish yourself first,” etc.”

    Luther then makes a clear distinction: in a secret engagement, the situation is “What has joined itself together” and in a public marriage it is truly “What God has joined together.” I think Dr. Noland is on to something when he suggests the possibility different kind of wedding service for those who have been living together who decide to marry. https://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=18576#comment-323337 For instance: in the Orthodox churches, when a couple are entering a second marriage, the liturgy does not include the crowns and usual Orthodox rite, instead, as an Orthodox priest friend has told me the rite is almost penitential.

    I hope, Win and Jason, and all BJS readers, to be submitting an article on this topic using Luther’s treatise that I cite above because marriage is as an involved mess as it was in Luther’s day (and with the beginning of a marriage, the ‘wedding ceremony’) and in as in Luther’s day, the church was complicit in making it so.

    Peace in His Name,
    Pr. Schroeder

  30. “I’ve repented of disobeying my parents orders to stop playing my radio loud, but I like the songs loud, so I’ll keep on doing it.” (Fourth)

    Hey, now that hit way too close to home! Besides, I said I was sorry!!

    Thanks, all. Great insights and resources. I appreciate it.

    @Pr. Mark Schroeder #82

    What does Luther recommend be done for those involved in secret engagements?

  31. @Mrs. Hume #83
    “Hey, now that hit way too close to home! Besides, I said I was sorry!!
    Thanks, all. Great insights and resources. I appreciate it.”

    Mrs. Hume–I know your “I said I was sorry” was at least slightly tongue-in-cheek. Just a quick comment on that expression, however: There’s a world of difference between “I’m sorry” and “Please forgive me.” One maintains control (it’s all about “I”) and the other relinquishes control–the “you” is an unspoken pronoun, but clearly there–“[You] please forgive me,” or “Will you please forgive me.” The difference is not nuanced, either. And, as we all know, an unconditional plea for forgiveness is much harder to say than a statement of our own feelings. The reason, of course, is because we hate to give up control. To my mind, this tells us a lot about repentance.

  32. @Pr. Mark Schroeder #82
    @Mrs. Hume #87
    @Win #88

    It has been challenging at times, but I think we actually have had a good conversation (I have mostly just been reading). Thank you for the probing questions: steel sharpens steel kinda thing. And I don’t sense we hate each other, which is also good. Thank you for all the posts. I have had much to think about. Koinania!

  33. @Mrs. Hume #87
    @Win #86
    Right, good point.
    Sometimes, “I’m sorry,” really means, “Shut up about the fact that I am wrong.”

    Mrs. Hume,
    You’re not wrong to the extent that problems like this have to be dealt with and promoting a discussion so that they can be dealt with consistently is not wrong at all.

    There is a fine line between “dealing with this couple’s consequences in a way that will bring them back to the church, and help them to raise their child better than they evidently were”
    and “letting it appear that there are no ‘consequences’ so that other teenagers think that ‘sleeping around’ or ‘shacking up’ is no problem in their spiritual lives.”

    It’s not only the Pastor’s job to deal with this. In fact, the community’s “grandmothers” used to have the most influence, albeit wielded negatively! [And, it must be admitted they often spoke from personal experience (although they never admitted it).]

  34. Just a little while ago, while cleaning toilets, I remembered something from my first call as assistant pastor at a LCMS/AELC congregation: the justification for pastors to solemnize marriages of couples who were living together. “At least they will hear the Gospel.” For a pastor, this is the vice of sloth. Yup, that was it. FWIW…NM (not much). I do not know the causal connection between toilet bowl scrubbing and remembering this, but there has to be one! 🙂

  35. @Pr. Mark Schroeder #91

    I’m sure that if you think about it for a few more minutes, you’ll see the connection. I saw it right away. That is not to cast any aspersions (or asparagus) on your memory pathways, but the connection is patently obvious. (Insert smiley face here, as I am icon-challenged.)

    Let us all know when you get it.

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