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)


    January 6, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Get Real

      There, there, dear - maybe things will be better for you next year when you are in the 6th grade.

      (hint: the contraction for you are is you're, not your. You should have learned that last year in 4th grade.)

      January 6, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Franque

      Go teach grammar, I mean grammer to someone who gives a sh!t, fuctwaht.

      January 6, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
  2. Amanda

    Sounds like a bunch of prudes lifting a glass of haterade. I am personally glad to see these topics being discussed in detail by pastors like Driscoll. The church can't stay sheepish on these subjects and leave their congregations to flounder on their own. I mean, we've all seen how well THAT works out.

    January 6, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Canine Humper

      Amanda you are so right. I want to phuck you in the butt you little bytch. BARK FOR ME!!

      January 6, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Franque

      I need to spend about 30 seconds to four and a half months with your butthowl you sweet sweet k9 humpr

      January 6, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  3. Chris

    This was a great article. Thanks for reporting on the book! Love the belief blog.

    January 6, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  4. mckillio

    I sure hope doggy style is allowed.

    January 6, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Jesus

      Only if you have a bible placed between the male and female when doing the act.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  5. Charles Gannon

    Are top pastor's different than bottom pastor's?

    January 6, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Mike

      no apostrophe please.

      January 6, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Alyssa

      Unless you're talking about the pastor's !@#$. Then the apostrophe is required.

      January 6, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  6. The Truth Is

    @Reality..... Professor Chilton's quote about Paul is WAY out of context. That scripture has nothing to do with Paul having a fear of women. If you take a look at 1 Cor, you'll see that there were lot of crazy things going on in that city. His statement was dealing with a cultural issue that was creeping into the church.

    January 6, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Bizarre

      The "Holy Spirit" certainly did a poor job of communicating, then... not able to make a distinction between temporary, local problems and universal facts?

      Evangelical Rule of Thumb: If a bible verse furthers the cause, it is to be taken literally. If a bible verse is detrimental to the cause, it is either: taken out of context; is allegorical; refers to another verse somewhere else; is a translation or copyist's error; means something other than what it actually says; Is a mystery of god or not discernible by humans; or is just plain magic.

      January 6, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • TheyNotHim

      Paul hated women, and himself, because he was born with the desire to have se-x with men...DUH!

      January 6, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Patrick

      It’s always “out of context” when someone disagrees.


      January 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  7. Doc Vestibule

    What's with all the puerile, scatalogical references lately?
    Why don't you move on to mucus now?
    Boogers, snot, nose goblins, schnegs etc.
    Then once you've done urine, you'll have covered the grade school trifecta of gross.

    January 6, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • slayer

      nice, i laughed quite strongly upon reading this reply

      January 6, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Third Grader

      Can you hack up some lung butter and give me some head with it in your mouth?

      January 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  8. Doodee Pot Pie

    Is there a chapter on doo doo consumption? Currently Im writing a book of recipes using fresh "Hot Brownies!!"

    January 6, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  9. hippypoet

    wow...i just watched a casey anthony vid diary..... i want her dead, is that wrong? she got a fuking dog – who the hell gave this creature a fuking dog!!! how is this thing walking free idk, how does it have a dog idk, how does it wake up in the morning and just go about living – BECAUSE NO ONE HAS KILLED THIS BITC.H YET!!! i'm sorry but if it lived in my town or even near me she would be moving away or i would be arrested and it would all be worth it! kill an adult sure, you don't fuk with kids!

    January 6, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • hippypoet

      sorry, wrong place – i meant this for the blog speed read as it is for trash anyway...

      January 6, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • ObaManure

      Shut up you silly basturd. Casey Anthony was found not guilty.

      January 6, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • hippypoet

      i think you may be slow – just because someone is found not guilty doesn't mean they didn't do it – ever hear of OJ smipson?
      there is no way in hell she didn't kill her daughter, the evidence was lacking and thats the only reason why she walks free today!

      truth and justice are different words for a reason! you may find the truth and be left without justice, or you may seek truth and find justice instead but never learn what truly happened....thats the world we live in, a lie is money while truth is fired!

      January 6, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • ObaManure

      OJ was much different than C Anthony. You doo doo eating fool. Get a life.

      PS...your poems SUCK.

      January 6, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • SeanNJ

      Plenty of stuff to be permanently angry about. I don't have time to be p1ssed at Casey Anthony just because Nancy Grace says I should. And I don't feel bad that I don't feel worse.

      January 6, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • hippypoet

      the cases may have been different but the kill then free is the same hence the comparing... and i am sorry that you don't understand my poetry, i can write kiddie poems for you if you'd like... whats your favorite color and your pets name? 🙂
      Oh and i have a life – its rather nice...you must be one of those people who believe the justice system is never wrong and always does whats right....thats sad! so if shes not guilty what happened to her daughter – how did she get taped, tied down, chloroformed then lefted to rot, then dropped off in a field – yup, sounds like a whoops moment ...OR SHE WAS MURDERED so little casey could go and party – which is what she was doing for the month or 2 while OTHER PEOPLE were searching for HER daughter.... but your right, totally not guilty. watch the youtube vid of her, she never even mentions her daughter – she is walking cancer and should be wiped from existence like the piece of sh!t she is!

      January 6, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • ObaManure

      You are quite emotional. Perhaps cutting back on your estrogen pills might help.

      January 6, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • JohnQuest

      hippypoet, I don't recall you being this outraged over a "seemingly" innocent person going to jail or being executed. Is there a bit of hypocrisy in you?

      January 6, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • hippypoet

      wow – thats an amazing rebuttal... truly showing your depth...rather shallow even in the deep end – poor little gene pool...:(

      January 6, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • hippypoet

      If I seem somewhat out of sorts lately its because my boyfriend left me for another man. Its still stinging...

      January 6, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • hippypoet

      JohnQuest – are you talking about the dude in iran? i discussed my opinion on that – and i think because of where he lives and what he knew would happen to him if he choose to do what he did that he should get whats coming.

      January 6, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • hippypoet

      you people keep calling me g@y as if thats an insult... not really. its really more of a compliment. so i thank you for your whitty banter. it was enjoyed to its full!

      January 6, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • hippypoet

      Roses are red
      Violets are blue
      Weiners are tastee
      and so is doo doo.

      January 6, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • JohnQuest

      hippypoet, I really don't care if you are male, female, gay, straight, both or neither, I have always enjoyed reading your post. I may not agree with you (or even understand you sometimes) but I often enjoy your post.

      I was thinking of the people exonerated after spending decades in prison. How many have been put to death wrongly (has to be a fairly large number.

      January 6, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • hippypoet

      extreme lack of creativity... too bad... i had high hopes, now i'm just high! darn!

      January 6, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • hippypoet

      JohnQuest, yes you are correct, the people who are in prison wrongfully and some even get put to death – thats wrong.. and that was another view on the point i was making that the justice system is extremely flawed. i feel for those that are wrongfully inprisoned but i feel even more for those that are let out or even never held (casey anthony) when they did committ the crimes they are now being set free over. There was a time when a town would have just shoot her and it would have been done, but now we go thru all this trial crap – sometimes i long for the old days of justice...while other times i am happy i live when i do with the laws and allowances of the day.

      January 6, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • KawiMan

      Guilty or not – I'd still bang her!

      January 6, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  10. Larry Christ, the real messiah

    Just pray real hard. Prayer works. Really it does.

    January 6, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • A. Wolf

      It works even better than voting! Praying all day on election day rather than going to the polls is a surefire way to ensure God's will is done.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  11. Jesus

    Just pray real hard and I will make your words go through uncensored. Prayer works. Really it does.

    January 6, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • ......

      No shit. It worked. Praise you lard.

      January 6, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • LinCA

      Holy fucb>king shit! It really does work. I prayed to allow dirty words like porn, homosexual and constitution to post, and voila!

      January 6, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Jesus

      God wants you to pray all day on election day and refrain from voting.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  12. Portland tony

    @de Pope....exceptions, of course, are made for your holiness! _

    January 6, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  13. Just Like Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart

    A megachurch pastor writes about sex? Well, you can be sure he is actually talking about lots of other women besides his wife.

    January 6, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • ......

      He'd likely be, uh, documenting a few boys too, writing from his experiences.

      January 6, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  14. hippypoet

    so a pastor helpped write a s.e.x book huh... does it have pop ups? maybe a section on how to touch and get away with it... with a side note if you get caught to ask OJ simpson for some help in the trial! the pastors first choice for t!tle was "If I Did It, Here's How It Happened" but then people would start asking "wheres timmy" and the whole in the well aint gunna cut it this time!

    January 6, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • hippypoet

      i wonder if when he was listing all his referrences if he listed god as one? that would be funny as hell!

      January 6, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  15. Pope John Paul the Turd

    It makes me so happy when little boys come to the confessional, disrobe, squat and leave me a "Hot Brown." Thank you, my son.

    January 6, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Lorraine W

      Seriously? Just because some people who have turned out to be perverts are also pastors does not mean that every one of them is. You are disgusting.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  16. Portland tony

    Whoever sets the no-no word censorship criteria is either a third grade drop out or a puritanical zealot. I have seen the N word allowed, but seen common usage editorial phrases censored. Common usage should be allowed. What gives here?

    January 6, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Pope John Paul the Turd

      I give! BJs that is. Would you like one, my son?!!

      January 6, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  17. Canine Humper

    What chapter speaks on the love between a man and his animals?

    January 6, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Franque

      You ain't lived till you felt the knot.

      January 6, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
  18. Pope John Paul the Turd

    This book is an abomination. Where is the chapter about men with men or women with women. The cathoLIC church can only condone Ho~Mo relations. Amen.

    January 6, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Christi

      This guy is not Catholic; he's married and runs a mega church. That usually means it’s a non-denominational bible church (but not always).

      January 6, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Jesus

      Running a mega chruch = mega income. Writing books and lecturing to small minded groups all adds to the net worth.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  19. Portland tony

    We spend so much time preparing individuals to perform difficult tasks in life. Medical school, law school,flying school even welding school. Yet we grossly fail the young, who are entering a lifelong contract, when it comes to marriage. The only educational help they get after the marriage is to see a "marriage councilor"!

    January 6, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  20. CNN's blog is just a lulz for the editors.

    To CNN:

    Since this WordPress blog soft-ware you are using here will not allow anyone to say the word s-ex, what would anyone think about such a useless entry into the blog as this one where the topic is s-ex?

    What's going to happen is lots of people are going to try to leave a polite comment, only to find that their comment is never posted because they used words like: se-x, docu-ment, and others all quite innocent and decent words.
    The list of perfectly innocent words that fall afoul of your WordPress filter is a *large* list.

    To put an article in here about s-ex, even though it is based on a pastor's religious take on it, is very unprofessional.

    Whoever does not know about this filter and how to get around it (making it all but useless anyway) will come here, try to post a few times only to have it blocked, and will go away never to return, taking all their potential ad revenue away with them...

    January 6, 2012 at 7:40 am |
    • Reality

      Ditto these comments about the inane word filter used on this blog!!

      And what is the big deal anyway i.e. the Kama Sutra was composed between 400 BCE and 200 CE

      January 6, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • Yet another reason to ignore religion

      The Kama Sutra was not written in a Christian culture. Most ancient cultures were far more open about sexuality that Christian ones. Indeed, Christianity has consistently been VERY hung up about sex and the body, and obviously still is. Islam is even worse.

      January 6, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Mike from CT

      Amen, well said.

      January 6, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Animal Mother

      Hey! How did you get the word s-ex past their censors?

      January 6, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • ......

      It has all been documented about the Christian superstition and its hangups about sex in titillating detail.

      January 6, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Reality

      Professor Chilton pulls no punches in criticizing one of the founders of Christianity. Basically Paul was a "prude". An excerpt for Chilton's book,

      "He (Paul) feared the turn-on of women's voices as much as the sight of their hair and skin..... At one point he even suggests that the sight of female hair might distract any "pretty wingie talking fictional thingies" in church attendance (1 Cor. 11:10). Simply add Paul's thinking about women to the list of flaws in the foundations of Christianity.

      January 6, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Smite Them

      Yes, the automatic word filter is insane.

      I can understand if CNN has no choice but to accept it if they run this particular soft-ware for the blog comments, but they should be ashamed of themselves for not publicizing this fact, along with a highly visible list of forbidden word fragments, on the rules page or even at the beginning of each comment section.

      January 6, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • ......

      You might be titillated by the thought of reading a forbidden words document but CNN will not publish such an entity. Those who graduated Egregia Cum Laude and have the secret codes can bypass the forbidden list anyway.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Ann

      Exactly. The only way to protect the "innocent" from rude words is moderation. We can type f.uck and s.ex and all sorts of things, and those words are perfectly visible and readable. So this achieves nothing except to prevent me telling people I graduated college *** laude.

      And I have no opinion on this man's book, although I wonder if there aren't better-written tomes out there on the same subject (assuming the assessment is true that he's a poor writer).

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

      That must explain why I never saw my comment

      January 15, 2012 at 1:12 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.