Nathan A. Finn

Historian, Theologian, Teacher, Preacher



January 2012



Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage: Two Helpful Reviews

Written by , Posted in Books

Mark Driscoll is no stranger to controversy. In my opinion, some of it is blown out of proportion by folks who are predisposed to dislike him for any variety of reasons. But I also think other complaints about Driscoll are completely above-board and legitimate. This is often the case with any polarizing public figure. That Driscoll is a pastor seems to add fuel to the flames of controversy.

I’m frequently asked by seminarians what I think of Driscoll, and I tell them that I agree with him in some areas and disagree in others–sometimes strongly so, on both counts. But more important, I tell them I wish Driscoll would stop trying to be what seems to me to be deliberately provocative and that he’d be less obnoxious in how he engages other Christians with whom he disagrees. Again, these are my personal opinions; some of my readers may really resonate with Driscoll, while others may feel much stronger in their disagreement.

In the interest of full disclosure, one area where I frequently disagree with Driscoll is sex. I’m very uncomfortable with the way he talks about sex (which seems sophomoric), and I differ with him concerning which sex acts are appropriate between a husband and wife (I think he allows for far too much). While I agree with Driscoll that the church has often talked about sex in unhelpful ways, I’m totally unpersuaded his overly frank (ribald?) approach is preferable. For example, take his popular e-book Porn-Again Christian. In my opinion, this is a pretty good book that would be a really great book if it didn’t read like it was written by a middle schooler who has watched too many sketchy movies on late-night cable.

Driscoll’s latest book, co-authored with his wife Grace, is titled Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together (Thomas Nelson, 2012). It is already receiving a lot of buzz, both positive and negative. I’ve not read the book and probably won’t–I’m just being honest with you. But I have read two very helpful reviews that I’d commend to you. Denny Burk and Tim Challies have written lengthy reviews that I believe are models for critical Christian engagement. Both men express sincere appreciation for the book’s strengths, but they also are willing to push back against elements in the book that seem unbiblical, unhelpful, or both. Neither review is a “hack job” that offers a mean-spirited skewering of the Driscolls, but neither do the reviews briefly glance over what many Christians would consider to be serious problems with the book. (Many of the problems will be familiar to those who have heard Driscoll’s teaching on Song of Songs or who have read Porn-Again Christian–this is one reason I see no need to read Real Marriage.)

If you are considering reading Real Marriage, I’d encourage you to take a look at the two aforementioned reviews. While this isn’t always the case with a book review, I suspect many will be in a better place to decide whether or not they want to read Real Marriage after they read these reviews.