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. Andrea M

    Sorry, but no book, and especially not one invoking the bible, can tell me how I should handle my own private relationships. I couldn't ask to be in a better relationship and it is 100% bible and s*x-advice book free. Our bookshelves instead are crammed full of sci-fi, horror, fantasy, non-fic in a range of subjects, and great coffee table size art books. Our relationship thrives on H.P. Lovecraft and Mick Rock photography.

    January 6, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • @andrea

      The Bible actually is a wonderful book about how to handle personal relationships, just as qualified, more qualified, than the self-help books. Don't dismiss it simply because it is the Bible. That's mypoic and naive-ignorant too.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Handy tips on relationships like the monetary value of virginity.
      "If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silvers, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days." (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)

      The Bible lets us know what the ideal woman should be like: silent and full of shame for the curse her gender has forced on all of humanity.
      "A silent and loving woman is a gift of the Lord: and there is nothing so much worth as a mind well instructed. A shamefaced and faithful woman is a double grace, and her continent mind cannot be valued." (Eccles. 26:14-15)
      "Of the woman came the beginning of sin, and through her we all die." (Eccles. 25:22)
      "For from garments cometh a moth, and from women wickedness. Better is the churlishness of a man than a courteous woman, a woman, I say, which bringeth shame and reproach." (Eccles. 42:13-14)

      January 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Beadles

      Doc – gotta love that Bible – a source of great wisdom.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • NC

      Doc – Great post!

      January 6, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Fact check

      @Doc: Ecclesiasticus, not to be confused with Ecclesiastes, is only found in the Catholic version of the Bible. Take that for what it's worth, but most of the verses you quote are not read by non-Catholics.

      January 6, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • JGreg

      @Fact check - thank you! I was trying to figure out where in the world he came up with those verses as Ecclesiastes only goes to Chapter 12.

      January 7, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • OGR99

      Sorry "Doc". No such verses. Which makes you no better than the Driscoll's for trying to manipulate the Bible for your own purpose.

      January 7, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • tsv0728

      @all of you believers. This is why your faith is so often thought of as being full of hypocrites. The fact that sects that came after Catholicism removed some books, and some chapters of books, does not make those books any less a part of your religion. I'm glad the protestants thought the woman hating, infidel murdering chapters were a bit to extreme for their taste, but they are a part of the bible none the same. Can I just read Genesis 1-10, leave out all of the rest, and pretend it doesn't exist if people point out the hate and discrimination in it?

      January 9, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • bankerlady

      Doc- google "context." Anyone can take something out of context and twist it to suit their purpose. All you've proven is an ignorance of the text. Do you alwasy pick up a book, read one line, and assume you know everything about the book based on that line? Of course not. At least, I hope not.

      January 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Heard of Philosophy?

      Actually if you do a bit of your homework, you will find that the Catholic Bible did not include such books until the year 1500 in response to the reformation. Before that time, those books were not regarded as inspired books and instead were only helpful literature written in the time period between the old and new testaments, much like Driscolls own writing is considered helpful literature today. The Catholics decided they needed to backup their unbiblical structure and so they incorporated those books and suddenly declared them to be "Holy" and "inspired". Do your homework before speaking out in ignorance

      January 24, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  2. AGeek

    If you have to read a book to answer a question on whether you can _____ ... try instead being an adult and asking if your partner is interested in trying _____. What a bunch of immature, bodybody miscreants.

    January 6, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Franque

      I love Madlibs! For the first blank "stick it in my feckhowl" for the second blank "to greese my feckhowl first"

      January 6, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  3. Jesus

    Whatever works between two consenting adults is all that matters. You don't need a book TO TELL YOU what to do. You may need a book to tell you how to maximize your particular preferences, but that book should not be written by a religious businessman.

    January 6, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • earnest T Bass

      Now please pass the offering plate, And give generously.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy one

      Rick Santorum once stated that 2 consenting adults DO NOT have a right to privacy.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Jesus

      Santorum is nuts! He makes Romney appear sane.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  4. Observer

    Can heteros engage in "perversions" or only gays?

    January 6, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy one

      Rick Santorum wants to criminalize anything that isn't hetero- missionary-position. The guy is a freak.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  5. shelley farrell

    Why is this "news" on CNN? Really? News????

    January 6, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • J.W

      Why do people always ask this same stupid question? It is the belief blog so it features religious articles. If that is not what you are interested in then do not read it.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • tfour


      January 6, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Greg s

      If CNN puts something on there site concerning Christianity it is not to further that religion, Its not to celebrate Christ or to place the Church in a good light its just the opposite. Its done in such a way as to fool even Atheists who think at a glance that a Article is there to push a Christian agenda. But once you read the article you see that it was written either as a new age Christian piece or as a article to ridicule Christianity in a PC way.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  6. bob

    I bet ole' dicky boy Saint-orum is a REAL SNEAKY FREAK on the P#RN websites!

    January 6, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy one

      Don't be surprised if he likes little boys.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  7. Joanne Michels

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

    January 6, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • richunix

      At a loss here. Help them do what?

      January 6, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • earnest T Bass


      January 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • 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 1:20 pm |
  8. momoya

    Same song, different verse. Pastors are always trying to figure out a way to get more people with money on their side without offending the people with money that they already have.

    The topic covered in the article is rather dull, though. Who cares that some reviewers find some of the book too racy? Readers DO care about a concerned deconstruction. Does Driscoll's writing expose a contradiction between what he claims to believe and what he actually practices in his romantic life? Does Driscoll's writing on this topic expose a patriarchal and/or misogynistic outlook?

    January 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  9. earnest T Bass


    January 6, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  10. earnest T Bass

    Never judge a book by the cover. Judge by how calloused the knees are instead.

    January 6, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • bob

      You so CRAZY & HONEST..........EarnestT!

      January 6, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • R


      January 8, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  11. rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy one

    Rick Santorum wants to make all forms of s*xual activity illegal except for a heteros*xual couple in the missionary position.

    January 6, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • momoya

      Some states/cities already have such a law on the books. Doesn't seem to work very well, though.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Jesus

      Voting for insane politicians such as Santorum ought to be illegal.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  12. connie cornhole

    I bet he has a giant hard-on while he preaches and when finished has a huge wet spot around his crotch.

    January 6, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • earnest T Bass

      Wow can I sit next to you in church?

      January 6, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • connie cornhole

      What about if I just sit in your lap and you get my butterbean!!

      January 6, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  13. LetsBeCivil

    An Italian woman once protested outside the Vatican. Her sign read "If you don't play the game, you don't get to make the rules."

    January 6, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • David

      That is hilarious!

      January 6, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Wrong

      Very common comment that is just plain wrong, that priests cannot understand this topic. If you believe that, you must also believe:

      Male doctors cannot understand anything about childbirth
      Female doctors with no children cannot understand anything about childbirth
      I cannot have an understanding of the president, because I have never been president
      Current college professors cannot understand ancient Greece
      etc etc etc

      Moral: You don't have to experience something to understand it.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Terri

      @Wrong, it helps though, and it depends on the situation. I would not take skydiving lessons from someone with no experience. Likewise, I'd prefer that any advice I need regarding intimate marital relations come from a married pastor rather than from a celibate priest.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  14. krishna

    what has a pastor got to do with s-e x ? he should pray and shut up.

    January 6, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • JJJ

      He's a protestant pastor, not a Catholic priest. He's married and has s-e-x. I may not like his worldview, but he's as qualified to talk about it as any of us (unlike a Priest)

      January 6, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • krishna

      @JJJ...just because he is a protestant pastor doesn't mean he can have a free reign with s – e x. Martin Luther the original guy was wrong. There is no place for a man of God to fiddle with his w-ee-nie.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • nympha

      So what is your perception of the Song of Solomon?

      January 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Steve

      He has a pen15.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Dizzy Dezzy

      @krishna And where in the bible does it say that a man of God cannot fiddle with his w-ee-nie? Or are you like most making it up like most man-made non-bible sourced laws of the Catholic church?

      January 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • krishna

      @Steve...use it as a drainpipe to p-e e.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • krishna

      @Dizzy Dezzy...and why isn't the pope allowed to play with is w e-enie ? if its not there in the bible, then the bible is wrong. lets put it in there.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • krishna

      @nympha...that song describes the relationship between the Universal God, The Creator and the individual soul. There is no gender involved and has no s e – x- ual connotation.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  15. Chief Two Dogs Phucking

    I bet Driscoll is down in Haiti phucking little black boys in the buttHole and spewing his manGravy all over them.

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

      YOU are sick

      January 6, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy one

      With that hypocrite Rick Santorum taking pictures.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • -----

      No, he's not sick, just suffering from low self esteem issues and the only way they can feel good about themselves is the make stupid comments like this.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Riding your mothers doookie-hole

      LOL...its probably as big and uncontrolable as a fire hose spewing cottage cheese and homestyle gravy all over the little haitian boys.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  16. Jake

    Religion is dumb lol

    January 6, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  17. larry simpson

    wonder if he puts a sack over grace's head first?

    January 6, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Willie The Pimp

      I bet she puts his ballSack over her face.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  18. James

    You can tell the backwardness of one critic when he talks about how there could be trouble if one partner thinks certain things are permissable and the other doesn't, the critic assumes the one wanting the act will be the male in the relationship. I think many of the people reading this will think and realize that women are not beyond desiring and asking for what they want.

    January 6, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Barnaby Jones

      James, speaking of backwards. Would you like to hump my butt, doggystyle!!

      January 6, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Jillian

      Agreed, one should not assume its the male half to be the responsible party all the time. women have need to.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  19. TheyNotHim

    “Real Marriage reads more like a series of seminars than a cohesive introduction-to-conclusion look at a subject.”

    Yeah, that's because that is what this guy is doing...using the pulpit to sell his "wisdom", and to sell books...expect a speaking tour and a series of seminars as well...

    January 6, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  20. Kate

    "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. "

    Interesting that the assumption is it will be the MAN who wants to do something risque and the woman who will need convincing. says volumes about the commentators own marriage methinks rather than anyone elses.

    January 6, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Kates Lover

      I agree baby and after I ve thought about it well, YES! I will allow you to take a doo doo in my mouth...for you, BABY!

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

      I thought and posted the same thing.

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

      He's a protestant pastor, not a Catholic priest. He's married and has s-e-x. I may not like his worldview, but he's as qualified to talk about it as any of us (unlike a Priest)

      January 6, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Actually, proper English assumes the masculine whenever gender is unknown. "He" in this case could refer to the wife as easily as the husband. The recently popular "he/she" notation is, well... a very recent development.

      That said, it's probably not a horrible assumption that the commenter assumed the husband would be the one pushing the envelope in most situations.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
About this blog

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.