There’s never a quiet day when pastor Mark is in town. And true to his word his Mark Driscoll is in town early this year to revamp your (umm) life. Sort of. When the news in the vine spread that Mark and his wife Grace were going to release a book to set the eyes and tongues of conservative Christians aflame, every one thought it was going to be a revised edition of his earlier serene book called Doctrine. To make sure there was no mistaking what he had in store he had to clarify a few things. This book is not meant for grand ma!
In Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship & Life Together, Mark and Grace Driscoll take a no holds barred approach and candidly delve in to (umm) “the birds and the bees” plus some more! Well a prompt advisory notice greets you as you lie back to begin one of the colorful chapters in Mark’s book : If you are older, from a highly conservative religious background, live far away from a major city, do not spend much time on the internet, or do not have cable television, the odds are that you will want to read this chapter while sitting down, with the medics ready on speed dial.
With my finger on speed dial (on your behalf) I will tell you what the book is about. No, I am too faint hearted but Denny Burk has a graciously insightful review:
The two-hundred plus pages of this book focus on personal testimony and practical teaching so that readers might walk in biblical holiness and avoid the pitfalls experienced by the Driscolls. Real Marriage reads like a marriage seminar that has been put into book form, and there are hints throughout that this is exactly what the book actually is (e.g., p. xiii). Real Marriagehas eleven chapters that are divided into three major sections: Part 1, “Marriage”; Part 2, “Sex”; and Part 3, “The Last Day.”
Part 1, “Marriage” – Chapter 1 begins with Mark and Grace’s story, in which Mark and Grace appear first as an unmarried, sexually active couple; second as an unhappily married, sexually dysfunctional couple; and third as restored and reconciled husband and wife. Their story is as gut-wrenching as it is honest. Chapter 2, “Friends with Benefits” instructs readers about the necessity of being best friends with one’s spouse. Chapter 3, “Men and Marriage,” is Mark’s effort to exhort men to grow up, take responsibility, and be the godly servant leaders that God has called them to be in their homes. Chapter 4, “The Respectful Wife,” is the corresponding exhortation to women to respect and to submit to their husbands. Chapter 5, “Taking out the Trash,” addresses conflict between spouses and instructs spouses to fight fair and to be quick to forgive and reconcile through disagreements.
Part 2, “Sex” – Chapter 6 instructs spouses not to regard sex as “God” (which is idolatry) nor as “gross” (which is prudishness) but as “gift” (which is God’s intention). Chapter 7 narrates Grace’s story as a sexual assault victim and offers some practical guidance to others who bear the scars of sexual abuse. Chapter 8 addresses the pervasive problem of pornography and its devastating impact on both the individuals who produce it and those who consume it. Chapter 9 instructs spouses on how not to be “selfish lovers” but “servant lovers” to their spouses. Chapter 10—which is probably the most controversial in the book—assesses the morality of a variety of sexual activities that spouses might engage in.
Part 3, “The Last Day” – The final chapter of the book contemplates concrete steps that couples might take to intentionally plan for successful marriages. It is less of a chapter per se than it is a workbook for a kind of self-directed marriage retreat.
And then there is Chapter 10:” The Can We ___?” Chapter. Chapter 10 of Real Marriage will most certainly prove to be the most controversial chapter of the book. The Driscolls apparently fill-in the blank of the chapter title with a variety of explict and detailed sexual activities that are sometimes considered taboo ranging from masturbation, felatio/cunnilingus, sodomy (on both spouses), menstrual sex, role-playing, sex toys, birth control, cosmetic surgery, cybersex, and sexual medication.
Denny in his review goes through Mark’s exegesis or lack of it as he bases his freedom on the interpretation of 1 Cor 6:12: All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Driscoll from this text, proposes a reductionistic “taxonomy” of questions to assess the different activities: (1) Is it lawful? (2) Is it helpful? (3) Is it enslaving?
To be sure, the Driscolls are not the only persons who have ever misread 1 Corinthians 6:12. Nor are they the only ones to use a taxonomy like this one. In fact, the Driscolls’ questions are almost identical to the ones that John and Paul Feinberg use to judge the limits of Christian liberty in their book Ethics for a Brave New World. Yet the Driscolls’ use of the questions is reductionistic. Whereas the Feinbergs have eight questions, the Driscolls only have three. Consequently, the truncated assessment tool leaves out questions that would have mitigated the impact of the Driscolls’ misreading of verse 12. The Feinbergs questions are:
(1) Am I fully persuaded that it is right?
(2) Can I do it as unto the Lord?
(3) Can I do it without being a stumbling block to my brother or sister in Christ
(4) Does it bring peace?
(5) Does it edify my brother?
(6) Is it profitable
(7) Does it enslave me?
(8) Does it bring glory to God?.
Had the Driscolls used all eight of these questions in their taxonomy (especially number 8), their assessments might have been different.
You can read the rest of Denny Burk’s review here. It’s true that many marriages may be strengthened by the Driscolls’ advice on becoming a friend to your spouse. Well, men may probably benefit from hearing Mark’s call for husbands to grow up, take responsibility, and lead their families. And probably some women may be edified to hear Grace’s testimony and passionate call for wives to follow the leadership of their husbands. But at the end of the day however, the shortcomings that Denny Burk identifies in his wise review may keep me too from giving Real Marriage an unqualified endorsement.
I am still on speed dial…to the medics!