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Pastor’s detailed book on sex divides reviewers, sparks controversy
January 6th, 2012
07:10 AM ET

Pastor’s detailed book on sex divides reviewers, sparks controversy

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Mark Driscoll, the pastor of a megachurch in the Seattle area, understands the uniqueness of a man in his profession coauthoring a book about sex with his wife. From the chapter on biblical approval of detailed types of sex to the chapter titled “Selfish Lovers and Servant Lovers,” the book is far from a timid look at a usually private subject.

And that has struck a nerve with a large swath of believers whose reactions have propelled the book to a trending topic on Twitter and has elicited responses that range from praise to disgust.

“Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship and Life Together” released on Tuesday.  The book was written by Driscoll and his wife, Grace, to, in Mark’s words, “compel married couples to have important conversations about important things.”

In the first half of the book, the Driscolls discuss their own sexual issues using the lessons they learned to discuss how to reignite a marriage whose flame may have gone out. The book’s second half, which is getting most of the negative attention, discusses sex in detail.

In response, religious scholars and writers have blasted the Driscolls’ work on a number of grounds ranging from the logistical to the biblical.

“In the first place, there is a kind of sloppiness and inconsistency to the book…” writes pastor and religion blogger Tim Challies. “Real Marriage reads more like a series of seminars than a cohesive introduction-to-conclusion look at a subject.”

But more than just punctuation and flow, the backlash against the book stems largely from the revealing chapter titled “Can we ___?” The Driscolls fill in that blank throughout the chapter by using different forms of sex and then answering whether the act is biblically lawful. This chapter even comes with a disclaimer, warning conservative readers or readers who “live far away from a major city” that they may want to sit down while reading.

Denny Burk, a Biblical studies professor at Boyce college and popular blogger, writes the chapter is inherently flawed because Driscoll’s interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6:12, his main argument in allowing many of the sex acts, is incorrect. Even more, writes Burk, this chapter could be dangerous.

I think chapter 10 has the potential to wreak havoc in such marriages where one spouse will feel a whole range of taboos to be “permissible” if he can convince his spouse to participate. This to me seems like a recipe for marital disaster, and I do not think the Driscolls’ requirement of “helpfulness” mitigates the difficulty.

And even that that was timid compared to what author and blogger Rachel Held Evans writes about not only the book, but Driscoll in particular. "True maturity,” she writes, “is marked not by how much a person knows but by the wisdom he or she shows in discerning when to speak with authority and when to hold back. And when it comes to maturity, I’m afraid that Pastor Mark still has a long way to go.”

When asked to respond to his critics, Driscoll said he hadn’t read any of the reviews but that “sometimes reviewers will reveal more of their own struggles than actual problems with the book.”

“I am not backing down from it. I am going to stick to my guns on it,” Mark Driscoll said. “This is not just stuff that I have pulled out of my mind. These are issues I have dealt with for 15 years and it is battle tested.”

Seattle pastor returns to Haiti

Mark and Grace Driscoll founded Mars Hill Church in 1996. Though it started out as a single location church, as the congregation grew, Mars Hill became a multi-campus church and now has locations around the Puget Sound region and in California.

Though the scathing reactions have been loud, not all reactions were harsh – a fact that Driscoll notes on his website.

“I am so thankful that Mark and Grace Driscoll wrote this book,” writes Perry Noble, senior pastor of NewSpring Church. “Their approach to marriage, its benefits and challenges, are transparent and challenging.”

This division among pastors and scholars shows the polarization of opinion that boundary pushing pastors like Driscoll have come to embody. As noted by Aaron Armstrong on Blogging Theologically, “Whenever Mark Driscoll talks about sex and marriage, ears perk up. Some listen for ammo (and can usually find it). Others listen for something Tweetable. Still others search for something helpful.”

And in a way, that is how Mark Driscoll likes it. In response to the criticism, Driscoll jokingly said, “you try and write a book on sex with your wife.”

He went on to say that the negative attention is just part of writing a book like "Real Marriage." Looking at himself in that light, Driscoll said the controversy is worth it if marriages are helped by the book.

“I will endure as much criticism as necessary to help as many people as I can,” concluded Driscoll.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Books • Sex • Sexuality

soundoff (727 Responses)
  1. Bob

    Is there going to be a movie?

    January 6, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • momoya

      Ha! No, no... this pron is ok! It's my pastor and his wife. \ Christians are sooo funny!

      January 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  2. andrew melcher

    passionaite lust like the heathen
    from your former way of lust..
    IN Christ you escaped the corruption of sin through lust.
    Don't be fooled by such fables and doctorines and things pastors own minds have made up

    January 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  3. paganguy

    I am waiting for the ex-Bishop of Los Angeles to write a book about this subject.

    January 6, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Bobby

      he doesen't have time...keeping the kiddy p0rn site running is full a full time job.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  4. Talgrath

    I hope the book is better than the Catholic version "How to Seduce Young Boys".

    January 6, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Kim

      I was thinking the same

      January 6, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Levi

      lmao I hear it was a best seller in Italy and Greece. I hear the sequals coming soon too. the illustrated virgin

      January 6, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  5. logical centrist

    Another example of modern day theology...written in crayon. When I hear 'megachurch', I immediately think wrongly dividing the truth.

    January 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  6. goldenstate

    Just another Pastor trying to become famous or wealthy 😦

    January 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  7. GoatInTraining

    Are your ears tickled enough yet?

    January 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  8. earnest T Bass

    Lorraine W, could you guide me?

    January 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  9. jeff

    1st Cor.
    6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

    This is talking about god having full power and rule. Not man. Read below. I get mad at preachers taking one scripture out of context to make a buck.

    6:1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?
    6:2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
    6:3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?
    6:4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.
    6:5 I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?
    6:6 But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.
    6:7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?
    6:8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.
    6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
    6:10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
    6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
    6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
    6:13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.
    6:14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.
    6:15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.
    6:16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.
    6:17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
    6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
    6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
    6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

    January 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • goldenstate

      Amen 🙂

      January 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Pho Non

      Heh there how come you not quotespew also the down and dirty stuff in Leviticus too for some balance heh or was god wrong in version uno testimente?

      January 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Conrad Shull

      Next time I owe you money and you want it repaid, I'd be happy if you went to the saints and not the law.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  10. snowboarder

    no s3x acts between adults who love each other are sinful. who could possibly think so?

    January 6, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Name: (required)

      Maybe, maybe not. In any case, any guy that would purposely go to a sewage treatment facility when right next door is Disney Land needs serious help.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  11. manfromthe24thcentury

    you monkeys are stupidly preoccupied with procreation.

    January 6, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Mott the Hoople

      First off, sir, the term is "talking monkeys", not just "monkeys". And we are not preoccupied with procreation: we are preoccupied with sense gratification.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I prefer "hairless ape" myself.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Inconvenient George

      "Pink Monkeys"

      January 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  12. D

    God wants us to get begatting...finally a book to guide us!

    January 6, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  13. earnest T Bass

    Well? I guess if you ever wondered how your preachers wife liked to do it? I guess You'll not only know that but how often, where, and with what else besides him.

    January 6, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  14. ThatGuy

    So, this is different from Pope John Paul II's "Theology of the Body"/Christopher West's "Good News about ex and Marriage" published 20/30 years ago, how?

    None of this is remotely "new."

    January 6, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • ajk68

      The theology of the body did not change any moral decisions – it just clarified the foundational principles. Primarily, the theology of the body gives a more comprehensive view of s3xuality. John Paul II focused on the integrity of the human person and how a person's body is not an object for use.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  15. Bobby

    Really religious people....not to be confused with those who believe in God.....who believe more in a "church" than God, are stup!d

    January 6, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • He_loves_me

      exactly.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  16. Bobby

    I think God has much bigger fish to fry than whether or not a married couple should have @n@l $ex or not.

    January 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • paganguy

      Any guy doing it to his wife is already a closet home-boy.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Bobby

      no he's not cause his wife is a girl.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Jesus

      The Bible is slient as to HOW God didlled Mary, that married babe. Did he take her cowboy, reverse cowboy, dog style, the Rick Santorum method? I asked my Priest and he said that God wanted a B J first and then back doored her. He said that the Catholic Church hundreds of years ago excised that scripture that spoke of how God diddled Mary. Too bad for us followers.

      January 8, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
  17. GAW

    Periodically Evangelicals come out with a book that shakes their subculture while we on the outside world say "Ho Hum" . Deep down inside many of them want to be accepted by the non-Evangelical world and want to do what they can to keep their sheep on the inside by appearing cool and up on the latest trends. Perhaps it's no longer about being "holier than thou" and about being "trendier than thou".

    January 6, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • ialsoagree

      I appreciate your analysis. I don't know that it's true, but I think it is well thought out.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • GAW

      Note I said many not all. Some Evangelicals intend on offending not attracting.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  18. Hmmmm

    Let's think about this shall we? We have the free world trying to tell everyone what is good and bad, so why not the church? In my opinion, the church as a whole has been silent on the subject for way too long which is oen of the reasons divorce is so rampant in this society. Our society has this "Hey, if it feels good do it!" not mentioning that your feel good intentions are going to possibly destory your spouse and children. But what I'm referring to is the psychological damage this type of worldly behavior causes children. Who are we adults to assume that if we lay with jane or joanne who isn't our wife will have no repurcussions on our children? The same could be said of women too. Also our world has this way of candy coating everything, they don't like the word Adultery so lets sugar coat it by calling it an affair or even more politically correct "irreconcilable differences". I'm happy to say I've had 16 years of irreconcilable differences with my wife and I will never look back or doubt. Why? Because I choose to, being faithful is not only a promise, its also a choice. The book Song of Solomon points out the absolute necessity in each spouse keeping the other satisfied so they don't get tempted to look elsewhere. Satisfy each other and happiness will abound. But it goes beyond just that, its also communicating!

    January 6, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Lorraine W

      I appreciate this comment. I am also of the opinion that churches should engage in conversations that might be uncomfortable, because otherwise people will turn to other willing parties for answers. And those answers may not be based in faith.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • He_loves_me

      Well said.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Hmmmm

      Exactly. The modern world calls irreconcilable differences when they can't or don't want to call it for what it is. You can't divorce someone for arguing or disagreeing. That's why they use that term. Look at Tiger Woods for example. He cheated numerous times on Elen and what did they call it? They used that catch phrase simply because they didn't want to call it what it really is. In reality, having differences that are not resolvable are actually the cute little quirks that made our partner so irresistable. The problem in today's society is that everyone gets this unrealistic expectation that the other person should change; this is not reality, plain and simple. I look at it this way, if we all were exactly the same life would get pretty boring. It would be like "You know...oh yeah, you do.." I say if folks want someone to agree with everythign they say then they should just marry themselves. 🙂

      January 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Hmmmm

      Lorraine, I have always been of the opinion that if we as Christians are not making someone uncomfortable, then we aren't doing our job. Think how many times the apostle Paul made folks uncomfortable... right?

      January 6, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • paganguy

      You guys should try a three-some or four-some to even out the inequalities of desires.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • ruthfassett

      if a husband sleeps with other women 8 times does his wife or is it wrong that his wife dont want to be with him any moore would doe you say. reply please. thank-you.

      February 22, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  19. SMH 2012

    "Perry Noble, senior pastor of NewSpring Church. “Their approach to marriage, its benefits and challenges, are transparent and challenging.”

    Their approach to the challenges of marriage is challenging. Wow.

    January 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Hmmmm

      Granted, Perry needs to work on his word-smithing. He should have stopped at are transparent.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Jesus

      Transparent? Does that mean keep the window coverings off or do it in public? Sounds like it to me.

      January 8, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  20. earnest T Bass

    Now please pass the offering plate, And give generously. Thank you.

    January 6, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.