Let’s Talk About Sex (With the Driscolls)

Books, Essays, Featured — By on March 10, 2012 at 8:57 pm

In the interest of full disclosure: I’ve been going to Mars Hill Church in Seattle since it was a burgeoning church of seven hundred people (it now holds services for over 10,000 people). I began going in 2003, when Pastor Mark still swore frequently, indie rock was a new fad, and both mo-hawks and tattoos littered the halls of Mars Hill Church. Being yelled at was fun—well, not so much fun but it was needed for where my walk was at the time. Pastor Mark and the worship pastor at that time baptized me and my roommate, and I’ve had the pleasure of serving alongside him. Since my first time stepping in the doors of Mars Hill, I’ve become a deacon in the church, trained leaders, led a worship band, and baptized people—something I never thought would happen. I’ve seen tons of lives changed in my nearly nine years there. So obviously, my review of Mark and Grace Driscoll’s new book, Real Marriage, will carry a certain level of bias.

The Driscolls’ new book, Real Marriage, is something that I think will change lives. Marriage is on a severe decline in the United States and across the world, either due to economic decline and the fear of monetary consequences, or due to a dramatic culture shift. Nonetheless, the Driscolls’ propose that it’s not the first day of marriage with all its pomp and circumstance that matters the most, but rather it’s the last day that carries significance:

“To finish well on the last day of your marriage, it is not enough to simply have passion and principles. You also need a plan. Marriages start with passion and over the years accrue principles, but apart from a plan, the passion and principles are powerless. You must choose whether you will spend your time making plans or excuses.

The Driscolls also outline, through a series of helpful questions, ways to reverse engineer your marriage so that it is successful. They break up the questions into annual, quarterly, weekly, and daily plans. The questions include topics on health, friends, learning, daily habits, housing, the bedroom, and more.

Something I’ve enjoyed about Mark Driscoll throughout the years is his frank sense of candor. He shows his honesty in discussing two topics: marriage in general, and sex in particular. In Real Marriage, Mark and Grace address men and women separately. Grace discusses how to respect one’s husband, and Mark writes about how to love one’s wife well. Mark says that the man’s biggest obstacle in marriage is a tendency towards prolonged adolescence: “We are left with indefinite adolescence and a Peter Pan Syndrome epidemic where some men want to remain boys forever. If we do make the transition to manhood, many husbands and fathers revert back to adolescence with something called a midlife crisis. Even some old men revert back to adolescence, trading in their wives for the youngest girlfriends they can.”

Mark then suggests that it is appropriate for men to be tough and tender. Men need to be tough when defending their families, and while providing financially. But, they also need to be tender when caring for their families. Rarely do men find this balance, or even worse, they don’t care to. As a result, many married men remain adolescents.

The second part of the book is about sex, which is in the Bible, believe it or not. Song of Solomon is actually dedicated to this physical act. But, in Real Marriage, the Driscolls outline three ways that we can look at sex: as god, as gross, or as a gift. They then explore the best ways to view sex, and how to overcome some common obstacles in a marriage regarding sex, including sexual frequency, the problem of porn, and being selfish lovers. Perhaps the best sentiment they provide is that “[s]ex is a part of your life, but it is not your life. If you allow sex to become your life, you will compare your spouse’s appearance and performance to other people in general, and sinful people in particular, thereby becoming dissatisfied. This opens the door to temptation.”

Popular culture has promulgated the idea that if you’re dissatisfied with your marriage, or if it’s too much work, you need to move on. Because we have become an over-sexualized, me-based culture, if our needs aren’t met, it’s simply not good enough. The Driscolls address these issues head-on in an effort to save marriages all across the country.

Because the Driscolls approach marriage from a reformed Christian perspective, people who aren’t Christians or who are part of mainline denominations might not enjoy it as much as evangelical Christians. But, at the same time, Real Marriage also speaks to people that might disagree with what they’ve heard about Mark Driscoll from other sources.  There are a lot of controversial ideas surrounding Mark Driscoll and marriage/relationships. Instead of relying on all the hearsay, read the book to see what Driscoll really believes to be true about healthy marriages in our modern church.

Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together by Mark and Grace Driscoll (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012. 236 pp)



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  • Andrew, I, too, have liked what Driscoll has had to say about marriage over the last several years. Sadly, many folks are convinced, either through rumor they heard from others, or watching Youtube and taking things out of context, that Driscoll is something he’s not. You have highlighted the most valuable things he has to say about marriage, and I applaud you for it.

  • Jo hilder says:

    I become very guarded when writers, teachers and pastors claiming to speak for Gods way give us techniques for “planning” a marriage, family life or Christian walk. Its not just how well we can pitch or swing, it’s how we cope with the curve balls. Sometimes that ball just knocks you off your feet, and then what? And what about when the other person takes their bat and ball and leaves? Great marriage advice is not about what we do, it’s about who we are. I haven’t read the book, but I appreciated your “biased” review Andrew, because there has been a lot of vitriolic opposition to things the Driscolls had to say, and some of it has come from me. Thank you :)

  • I’ve read the majority of the book and I have a few impressions. First, the reading humanized the Driscoll’s for me. I’m more familiar with critics of the ministry than I am their voices.

    That said, I found the book to be filled with a complimentarian theology of marriage which I find untenable and problematic. And within that view, I kept bumping up against odd scriptural interpretations.

    And in my opinion there were several cultural biases that were mistaken for “thus saith the Lord” all throughout the book.

    I’m a pastor and my partial reading led me to conclude that the book was too problematic to be used in any classes at my church.

  • In the commercial world, most people are paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first; the cash can come later.
    Don’t get worried about people stealing your notions. In case your ideas are a bit of good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.

  • Ryan says:

    Darn it! Now I am going to have to suspend all my prickly judgements about Mark Driscoll until I have actually read one of his books… Seriously though, anytime a reviewer can convince me to read a book I say that was a job well done.

  • EmilyTimbol says:

    Honestly, I’d be more inclined to listen to a positive review of this book from a woman. I find it difficult for a man who’s on his staff to really understand the many, many, many problems I have with Driscoll, and his way of treating and speaking about women. As far as marriage books that treat BOTH sexes equally and (in my opinion) Biblically, I’d suggest reading Tim and Kathy Keller’s new book of the same topic.

    • Emily, I’ve heard a lot of Driscoll’s sermons about marriage and related topics, and I’ve always found him to be very kind to women, and very harsh toward men, especially toward men who treat women with anything less than the highest regard.

    • Emily, Keller to my understanding is also a complementarian, just a more civil one.

    • EmilyTimbol says:

      Yes, that is exactly my point. He values “Masculinity” above all else, and treats women like weak, inferior little flowers that need protecting and guidance, lest they float away into danger. It seems he does not think very highly of women, or value their competence and capability apart from men. Keep in mind not all women marry, some women don’t marry until their thirties, and some women who do marry become widows or are left by their husbands. Only addressing women in regards to getting ready for, or submitting to, a husband is not just belittling, it’s wrong.

      @Larry, I’ll admit I’m only on chapter six of their book, so I may change my mind (and I’m not saying I agree with EVERYTHING they’ve said so far) but the distinction seems to be not in “how” they live out gender difference, or the roles they themselves have taken, but why. It’s always refreshing to hear a Christian leader say that the traditional English translations of “helper” and “suitable” are wrong, poor word choices that don’t reflect God’s true intention for women in marriage (Google “ezer” if you have no idea what I’m talking about.)

  • Andrew –

    I too attended Mars Hill for a few years, in fact I do believe our paths crossed. Actually, I think we played worship together. To take it a step further, I believe I gave you a ride to the downtown campus during “Snowpocalypse 2008.” Anyway, I’m glad to see you write this. Though there are certainly things I disagree with when it comes to Pastor Mark, reading his book has caused my wife and I to have some tough conversations that is resulting in legit healing.

    Grace and Peace.

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