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. Jew York

    Christmas is banned in Israel.... I just want to let you know

    January 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • oneSTARman

      I hope you pass the Audition

      January 6, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Kay

      No, it's not. Don't be ridiculous.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Jesus

      Actually Christmas is banned in Iran, not Israel.

      January 8, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  2. Monnaa

    JUICE have big noses LOL so ugly

    January 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • oneSTARman

      Quack Quack Bark Bark

      January 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Beth

      I thought that description fit two other groups of people but we all have different facial features. Where have I been lately!

      January 6, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  3. ANGRY

    Jews control the media and government. They attack Christians and Muslims and stole the land of Palestine. They make fun of Americans, hate their God and steal billions of dollars of tax payers money. American Jews don't pay any income taxes but pretend they are poor so they get federal aid. ALL JEWS MUST D.I.E

    January 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Freddie

      Too bad the Nazis only killed 6 million 🙁

      January 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • oneSTARman

      REMEMBER take BLUE pill when you get up and the RED pill when you go to Sleep. When you MIX THEM UP you go GOOFY

      January 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Jesus

      Apparently some Jewish guy fired you or some Jewish girl turned down your date request. Just a thought ADOLF – IT MAY BE YOU and not the people that rejected you that caused the rejection.

      January 8, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
  4. Jezzy

    Jews were told to stay home by Hebrew newspaper days before September 11 !!!!! They did it I promise

    January 6, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • oneSTARman

      IS it EPIPHANY that has caused the Bat-SH1T CraZiNess or are You ALWAYS PSYCHOTIC?

      January 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • BNB42

      I had Jewish Friends in the North tower.........They didn't make it.....

      Guess they didn't get that memo.....

      January 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • I_get_it

      Jezzy, Re: Jews forewarned on 9/11 by Hebrew newspaper...

      Nope. At least 130 Israeli nationals were killed that day, in addition to many American Jews.


      January 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  5. oneSTARman

    When I read these Comments I am Reminded of the EXORCIST – I feel like a LEGION of DEMONS is WRITHING in the FLAMES of H3LL and Vomiting onto this BLOG for some Reason – GOD and S3X – Crazy is as Crazy Does.

    January 6, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Kay

      No kidding. It's pretty darned weird, isn't it? There are some very strange people posting some very strange things today,

      January 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  6. Todd Palin

    Iwish sarah would read this book.
    I haven't gotten any in years.

    January 6, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • palintwit

      I've been too busy getting it on with Michelle Bachmann.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  7. John

    Why Why Why is our beloved H.itler gone?! 🙁

    January 6, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Todd Palin

      He isn't gone.
      He is running for the Republican nomination under the name Santorum

      January 6, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • palintwit

      Todd, you always did know how to call a spade a spade.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Jesus

      The irony John is that in 1939 they were also exterminating weak minded individuals like you. I doubt that you would have been a hero of the 3rd Reich versus another victim.

      January 8, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
  8. susansocal

    "God's word is so trustworthy, so praiseworthy. David proclaimed the unique character of God's word, which gives the word its incomparable effectiveness. The Lord has left nothing out of it that we need for spiritual development. Therefore, it can transform lives into what God wants them to be." ~ Bob Hoekstra, Living in Christ; weekday mornings at 10 on K-Wave!

    January 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Jim Morrison

      I'll always be a word man...better than a bird man

      January 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  9. foxfire

    earnest T Bass......that is a good post and truer words never spoken.

    January 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  10. Sam Reid

    This is simply just another example of a Pastor trying to scheme more people out of money. I've seen this guy preach sermons before and all he does is say inflammatory things to incite a reaction. Anyone who thinks Mark Driscoll is a pastor for any other reason other than to make money and elevate himself to a position of authority is a colossal naive idiot. This book is doing exactly what he wanted when he wrote it the way he did, to get a response from the general populace regardless of what it may be.

    January 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Spence

      Seems to me that you can say that of anyone that writes any book.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • debbie

      they say there is no such thing as bad publicity – guess he buys into that concept. whatever gets his name out there. as for myself, I'll forget his name the second I return to the cnn homepage LOL!

      January 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  11. durundal

    congratulations, with this divisive breakthrough by religion they are maybe only 3-4 decades behind modern times.....

    January 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  12. Person

    So...when's the movie?

    January 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  13. John


    January 6, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • .....

      Still need a boost for your low self esteem issues, you really need to see a therapist for your emotional immaturity.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  14. $$$


    January 6, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • BNB42

      You seem to have a hate problem..... Very Christian of you....

      January 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • $$$


      January 6, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • BNB42

      Ok for an Atheist you seem to hate more than the rest of us (fellow atheists)

      By the way it's 'You're' and no I'm not....

      January 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Hmmmm

      Its ok, like us christians and the jews who have their holy days, you atheists have your own, 4/1, think about it.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • oneSTARman

      No Church Pays Taxes – Right or Wrong.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • BNB42

      Hmmm.... the orgin of April Fools day was based on a pagan ritual.... Just like Christmas

      January 6, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • jimmy

      What do the Jews have to do with anything? This shows your ignorance, your insufficient brain cells and your bigotry. Jesus was a Jew so what? Christians do not pay taxes ether.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Kermit01

      Boy an Athiest that is full of hate..... I suspect you have some affection toward the Nazi Party?

      January 6, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • I_get_it

      @Hmmmm - Well, I fell right out of my baby crib laughing when I heard that 4/1 slam for the first time... many decades ago.

      Save it for your brain-dead Christian youth group of 14 year-olds...

      January 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  15. God

    phuck me in the a-ss

    January 6, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  16. A


    January 6, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Jesus

      You had me fooled. I always thought those 19 hijackers were Muslim extremists. They're recorded as their planes went into the tower chanting "Allah akbar". Doesn't sound real Jewlike to me. Also that Christ thing. There is real doubt that He ever existed (modern theorlogical thought says that He is a mythical combination of Mithra, Horus, and Krishna). The 1st Council of Nicea seems to prove that point. The first "letter" in Greek (the sole known evidence) that even mentions the crucififying was well over 100 years after Christ's supposed death. I think a Roman soldier actually killed him in that belated story, not a Jew.

      January 8, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  17. God


    January 6, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  18. YS

    Its a very good book. Mark exposes his whole life to the public and the brutal honesty is something that is not found in the life of any of our leading political and celebrity figures.

    I'd say most people here need to read it before coming to a conclusion.

    January 6, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • ProperVillain

      Dirscol is an out of control megalomaniac who is surrounded by a bunch of yes men that won't dare tell him no for fear of being punished by (Driscol's version of...) god. He is a boorish tool who needs to be ignored. For the love of all that is holy please stop listening to this guy and think for yourself...

      January 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Kay

      ProperVillain – have you actually read the book????

      January 6, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  19. Handmaiden of Dany

    Pastors have been using the Bible to convince their wives to take it up the poop shooter for years and now christian men will give Pastor Mark's book to their wives hoping for the same!

    January 6, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • susansocal

      Thank you... a very big LOL

      January 6, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  20. Jelous Billy Gates

    "Driscoll said the controversy is worth it if"... it sell more books! Woow, innovation in the conservative field? Too much to bear for many!
    I actually love this controversy, becasue exposes the circus of the "God fearing" people and all their hypocrisy. Noise , mo'noise please!!!

    January 6, 2012 at 1:36 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.