REAL MARRIAGE by Mark & Grace Driscoll

Mark Driscoll, the outspoken (some would say bombastic) pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle has a new book out. It’s on marriage, and it’s co-written with his wife Grace.  I was eager to read it: partly because I appreciate pastors who are willing to speak candidly about what the Bible teaches on controversial subjects (I respond to what my husband calls a “Straight/No-chaser” approach) and partly because the Driscolls have very specific ideas of what women are and aren’t to do based on their interpretation of the Bible.  I was curious to see how that would play out in writing, and to try and understand a little better where they’re coming from.

To cut to the chase: I really liked this book.  They take candor to a whole new level…but reading their stories & examples in context, I think they do so thoughtfully, with a specific goal in mind that isn’t just “Please pay attention to us,” but rather, “Here’s what it’s looked like for us to follow God as best we can in a complicated marriage.”

In terms of spiritual leadership, I wish they were less certain of the universal applicability of some of the specific ways God calls them to build their marriage and ministry–particularly around gender roles.  They’re not at all sensitive to people who are not in the “families with young children” stage of life, and I don’t think the Bible is as clear-cut on some things as they profess.  (I give God credit for a little more creative variety in how life with Him can shape up!)  But I love the Driscoll’s discussion of on some of the things God does call all married couples to–love and respect, friendship (this chapter is great), and–yes–regular marital relations, even when one of you isn’t quite in the mood.

For that last point, there’s an entire chapter where they go through various acts to answer whether or not Christian couples may engage in them.  It’s a bit much, but I appreciate the three-part framework they apply to the questions:  1. Is it Biblical (or lawful)? 2.  Is it helpful (does it enhance your marriage)? 3. Is it enslaving (does it demean one or both of you, or could it trap you in an addictive/unhealthy place?) Seems like this framework has broader applicability than just this topic.

As I mentioned above, Mark Driscoll is a controversial guy because of his blunt, my-way-or-the-highway style.  Hyperbole is one of his primary teaching tools, and nay-sayers love to call him out on this.  But I don’t mind it.  I’m not sure his church would be a great fit for me, but I’ve learned a lot from his sermons and books, particularly in areas where his blunt statements have challenged me to move beyond saying, “I disagree with that!” to to figure out, “If I disagree, what is a statement I would agree with…what do I really believe?”  That’s good stuff.

If you’re single, I wouldn’t recommend this book to you…yet. There’s just a ton of talk about physical marital relations (forgive my word choice here, I’m trying to avoid spam) and that might discourage you about the season of life God has you in now.  (As I mentioned, the perspective here is very focused on the season they’re in.)  Put it in your TBR pile for when you get back from your honeymoon!

If you’re married, this is a good resource, especially if you can resist the urge to respond just to the hyperbole and generalizations and focus instead on the larger issues and what the Driscoll’s story might offer your marriage.

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