Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll, along with wife Grace, recently released Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together, which discusses everything from date nights to tricky "can we do that?" sex questions. The book has been met with praise and criticism alike.
"In reading Real Marriage I felt that it was timely and very, very applicable because it dealt with subject matter that sometimes is not being dealt with, especially for 20-somethings," Bob Coy, Pastor of Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., told The Christian Post in a previous interview.
The book addresses issues that both Christians and pastors are often hesitant to openly discuss. The Driscolls talk honestly about sexuality – covering topics such as pornography, sexual abuse, and what kind of sexual activity is acceptable for married couples. Real Marriage, which also exposes some of the Driscolls’ own sins, is divided into three sections: "Marriage," "Sex," and "The Last Day." It concludes with a "big homework assignment" which challenges readers to turn "the principles of the book into plans for your life and marriage," Driscoll wrote on his blog.
However, some religious writers and scholars have blasted the work, with many criticizing Chapter 10: "Can We _____?"
According to Denny Burk, associate professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, the Driscolls prefaced that chapter by noting that its content would be offensive to some readers.
However, "they address offended readers not by allaying their concerns but by suggesting that anyone uncomfortable with the content must be either a rube or uninterested in reaching the culture for Christ," Burk stated. "To those with legitimate concerns, these remarks come across as dismissive at best and patronizing at worst."
Burk pointed out that this section could be detrimental to a union where one partner comes from a sexually broken background and the other from a sexually innocent one.
"This chapter has the potential to wreak havoc in such marriages where one spouse will feel a whole range of taboos to be 'permissible' if he can convince his spouse to participate," said Burk. "This to me seems like a recipe for marital disaster, and I do not think the Driscolls' requirement of 'helpfulness' mitigates the difficulty."
Burke acknowledged he was "no connoisseur of marriage manuals," but this was one of the most "provocative treatments ever penned for and by evangelicals." He added, "Even though I have some theological and pastoral disagreements with this book, I am grateful for some significant common ground."
Pastor and religion blogger Tim Challies on the other hand, believes there is a "kind of sloppiness and inconsistency to the book." According to Challies, instead of a coherent "introduction-to-conclusion look at a subject" Real Marriage reads more like a "series of seminars."
"The fact that half of the book focuses on marriage and the other half on sex leads to some confusion as to the nature of the book," he stated. "All of these things together lead to a book that is disjoined and somewhat frustrating."
Challies also pointed out that certain acts discussed in Chapter 10 were so "invasive" that as a husband he would not want his wife reading some of the content – adding this was not "prudish, but protection."
He also noted that Mark Driscoll’s alleged abuse of the Song of Solomon has been widely discussed, "but he continues to treat it as a graphic sex manual." And to do so is to "utterly miss the point."
According to Challies, a book on marriage needs a unique angle and the Driscolls chose "vulnerability and answers to the toughest questions."
However, "what they haven’t done is laid a solid gospel foundation for marriage; they haven’t looked at these questions in the fullest context of gospel-centeredness and the rich biblical theology of marriage," he added. "This is near-fatal because it leads to a book that is not firmly rooted in what matters most."
Amazon customer, David P. Craig ("Life Coach 4 God") said that despite the controversial nature of Real Marriage, there was plenty of "good advice."
"I think that there is a ton of good advice, encouragement, and – take it from a pastor that’s been married for twenty years with five kids myself," he stated. "They make marriage as real as it gets, the ups and downs, the agonies and ecstasies, and the thrills of victory with the help of Jesus at the center of it all."
Regardless of the criticism, Driscoll jokes, "You try and write a book on sex with your wife." The Mars Hill Church leader pointed out that the negative feedback was just part of writing a book with this kind of content.
"I will endure as much criticism as necessary to help as many people as I can," Driscoll stated.