Are Prenuptial Agreements Okay for Christians?

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A pastor emailed me recently to say that he’d been in the process of preparing a couple for marriage. In the flow of premarital counseling he learned that the man had insisted that his future wife sign a prenuptial agreement, and that she’d agreed to it. The pastor told the couple they’re not ready to marry, and wondered whether prenuptial agreements have any place in a Christian marriage.

Let me first note that I am sure there are some legal circumstances in which a prenuptial agreement is mandated by law or by insurance policies, say in the case of a widow who remarries and who has minor children from her first marriage receiving an ongoing inheritance.

The typical arrangement of a prenuptial agreement, however, is completely outside the Christian vision of marriage. Here’s why.

First of all, a prenuptial agreement assumes a contractual rather than a covenantal view of marriage. It assumes there are two “partners” in the marriage, each protecting his or her interests and resources.

A Christian marriage, however, is a one-flesh union. What is true of the one is true of the other. A prenuptial agreement in a Christian marriage makes about as much sense as a legal contract between one’s mouth and one’s stomach, in case of a refusal to provide nutrients.  The Apostle tells us: “No man hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church” (Eph 5:29).

This one-flesh union is in view in the traditional Christian vows, “with all my worldly goods I thee endow.”

A prenuptial agreement also presupposes divorce. Divorce is a regrettable future possibility, in this scenario, but it is a possibility. A couple that begins preparing for the possibility of divorce is headed toward it. Why not have the couple sign a legal document with arrangements made for the children in the case that she murders him? We wouldn’t think to do so because murder is, or ought to be, unthinkable for a couple preparing for marriage. Sadly, divorce is all too thinkable, even for those marrying in Christian churches.

I’m with my pastor correspondent. This couple is not yet ready to marry, to give themselves to one another completely. If the future groom can’t trust his bride with his money, how can he trust her with his life, his family, his children, his future?

We live in a fearful and cowardly time. The crisis we face is not a crisis of clarity but a crisis of courage.


About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Public Theologian at Christianity Today and Director of Christianity Today’s Public Theology Project.