As expected, there’s been a lot of controversy around Mark Driscoll’s latest book Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, & Life Together, written with his wife, Grace. Despite him being such a controversial figure, I generally like Mark Driscoll and have really benefited from some of his teachings. I had a chance to read the book earlier this month. So, what are my thoughts?
I really wanted to like the book. But honestly, I have mixed emotions. There’s a lot to like. I admire Mark and Grace’s courage in being so open and honest with their own story. They’re incredibly transparent about the areas where they’ve fallen short or messed up and the problems they’ve had in their marriage. It has to be hard to open yourself up and bare the intimate details of your marriage relationship to public scrutiny and criticism. And yet, they obviously feel strongly that they need to be real about their own struggles so that they have credibility when addressing these subjects. Their heart to help others is apparent and I don’t doubt that it’s genuine.
I appreciated the discussion of marriage as a covenent versus a contract, and thought the chapters on forgiving and serving were excellent as well. The discussion of sex as an idol was Mark at his best, and in my opinion, the most gospel-centered part of the entire book (more on that in a minute). He explains how we tend to one of two extremes: sex as “god” or “gross” when the correct view is sex as “gift”.
Most of the controversy, of course, is over the chapter titled, “Can We ____?”, in which the Driscolls answer specific questions about what is and is not appropriate sexually within marriage. Honestly, I wasn’t bothered by this chapter. They were frank but not inappropriate. I felt they handled some questions quite well, others were just okay. Overall, I really didn’t feel this chapter added to or took away from the book much at all.
The disappointment to me was the lack of a unifying theme to tie all the chapters together. I saw little in most of the book tying what we should be doing…where our motivation and ability comes from…or why marriage should be a certain way…to the gospel and our identity in Christ. This left me dissatisfied, thinking “Yes! This is good!” at certain points but frustrated that it wasn’t all being tied together on the foundation of the gospel. As I mentioned earlier, Mark does an excellent job of relating the issue of sex as an idol back to this foundation, but I don’t see it so explicitly in the other chapters. They strike me as more “behavior modification”, where we’re told what we should be doing but not how we can possibly accomplish it. My fear is that some readers might come away with the impression that they should suck it up and make things happen themselves.
So, would I recommend Real Marriage? Probably, but only in conjunction with a more gospel-centered book like What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage by Paul David Tripp or The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller.
So there’s my .02!
Thank you to Thomas Nelson for the opportunity to preview Real Marriage. All opinions are solely my own.