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. K2

    The pastor is trying to perform a great service to many Christians whose marriages would be better if there were more physical intimacy. After all, if you don't have an active physically intimate relationship with your spouse then what's the point of being married or staying married.

    January 6, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      He is a carnal carnal SINNER because s.ex is for procreation only. He and his devil bride are going to hell.


      January 6, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • .....

      "He is a carnal carnal SINNER because s.ex is for procreation only. He and his devil bride are going to hell."

      Passing judgment on sin is a sin moron.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Inconvenient George

      Calling a moron a moron and passing judgement on a judgmental moron is also a sin, moron. Oh wait....Oh, my head will explode. ..........Well, everyone except ME is a sinner.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • .....

      "Calling a moron a moron and passing judgement on a judgmental moron is also a sin, moron. Oh wait....Oh, my head will explode. ..........Well, everyone except ME is a sinner."

      It's not a sin if you're not a christian idiot.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Jaszbo Christus

      Passing judgment on sin is sin? Where is that written, friend? Passing judgment on people is not to be done, however. Convince me.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  2. lloyd roberts

    This is just too funny. These people sound like children, talking to children. And children are controlled by their parents. And when children get bigger and become adults and they still act like chuidren, then they need to be controlled by something. Since their parents are no longer around, big children get controlled by religion

    January 6, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  3. Doc Vestibule

    Once upon a time, a man named Onan was commanded by God to get jiggy with his sister in law.
    And while hip thusty jigginess did ensue, Onan kept pulling out at the last minute and spilling his seed on the ground.
    For this, God rained a smitey vengeance upon him.

    That's is why any se.x act other than missionary style with the intent to impregnate your wife is a terrible sin.
    Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

    January 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Jaszbo Christus

      God's smiting of Onan was because Onan refused to leave an heir for his brother, which was a tradition in those days. He hated his brother through his act of wickedness.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  4. TooDark

    Don't worry ladies. It isn't what's inbetween your legs that counts. It's what you're willing to do with what's inbetween your legs that counts. 😉 Slam your legs shut for months at a time and see what happens.

    January 6, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  5. Hypatia

    Is this what passes for erotica among the fundie set?

    January 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  6. Leucadia Bob


    January 6, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • BNB42

      MMmmmm...... B a c o n ........

      January 6, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  7. Andrew

    God taught us what your wife and you do in the bedroom is private period. There is only one God and love others like you love yourself.

    January 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Jill

      You mean all-seeing god isn't watching when Jack and I do it? Awesome. Although we did do it in a public place a few times on vacation.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • TooDark

      I love myself with an occasional digit in the exit.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  8. debbie

    how funny – cnn moderators make us re-spell azz but I see that someone with ... as their name is allowed to use 'the f word'. hilarious!

    January 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • *****

      @..... is a truly magical being!

      (or has some good html skills to use as a work-around - and the time and patience to apply them)

      January 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Jill

      debbie, you just need more conviction when you say fuck.

      You really have to mean it, because CNN's filter takes out insincerity.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • #########

      What the fuck are you talking about ?

      January 6, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  9. Mommy

    USA is a Christian country.... Don't like it? MOVE OUT!

    January 6, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • BNB42

      The Treaty of Tripoli

      Signed by John Adams

      "As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims] ... it is declared ... that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever product an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries....
      "The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation."
      - Treaty of Tripoli (1797), carried unanimously by the Senate and signed into law by John Adams (the original language is by Joel Barlow, US Consul)

      January 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • momoya

      You sound a lot like your god: childish and whiny.... waa waaa! You don't like me! Waaa! Go to the eternal lake of fire I built for people who don't like me!! waaa!

      January 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • BNB42

      If you don't like that than you can move out......

      January 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • expatADAM

      You're completely wrong, but I took your advice anyway!

      January 6, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • TAK

      You are wrong. Read the First Amendment. Then you move out. Fool.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm |

      Mommy has drank too much kool aid of the right...

      This is a prime example of the Religious Right pushing their beliefs onto all. Mommy needs to demand all written text from the original bible be published and then she will know .. its (Organized Religion) a farce.. This bible you hold dear has been perverted from leaders and church leaders looking to profit in power and monetary gain.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Ab

      Wow, mommy. You should consider reading the bill of rights. You only need to make it through the first amendment to prove yourself wrong. Kudos to your ignorance.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Bizarre

      Alack and alas, @Mommy probably votes... and has obviously procreated already - **sigh**

      January 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • ProperVillain

      If this were true and it were Driscol's particular brand of "Christianity" then I will gladly go and leave this nation to it's inevitable descent into lunacy.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • ProgressiveMike

      Rubbish. Your fantasy world crumbles a little more each day. You can't stop it with prayer, or anything else.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Timmy never really read the Bible

      Have to thank you for posting that. Were you the one last week who first posted it ? If so, thanks again. A number of people have sent it around to many publications in the country. Did you know it appeared in the Des Moines paper last weekend ? Also have done some checking. The treaty was written by the George Washington Administration, and read out, aloud, in both houses of Congress, before the unanimous vote. Anyway ... kudos !

      January 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  10. Jeepers


    January 6, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  11. TRH

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

    That's good Mr. Driscoll because it will come in spades.

    January 6, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  12. TRH

    This can't be taken seriously.

    Whatever goes on between two CONSENTING ADULTS in the bedroom is acceptable so long as no physical injury could occur. Note the operative word here is "consenting". And the word "adults" is gender free. You don't need a book for this....well, maybe the Kama Sutra.........LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 6, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Matrix

      only two?

      January 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Jill

      M, how many did you have in mind?

      January 6, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • sn

      What if the physical injury is consensual? Hey, maybe we roll like that....

      January 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  13. Ben James

    Are you a Nazi too?

    January 6, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  14. St. Joseph

    Today is Jesus Christ' baptisism...... Happy Ephiphany everyone!!

    January 6, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • oneSTARman

      ...and Orthodox Christmas Day the 7th – whenever you feel that Day Begins.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Timmy never really read the Bible

      Wrong. The Feast of the Epiphany is the commemoration of the visit of the three "Wise men". The Baptism is celebrated on the 11th. Look up the meaning of "epiphany". That was the first clue.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  15. Beth

    I've always thought that what goes on in private (and I wish the supposed 'Rich and Famous' would keep their lives private!) between two people is up to them if they both are in agreement and no one could be hurt. Why drag religion, or anything else, into it?

    January 6, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • BNB42

      Pressing 'Like' button

      January 6, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Fred Evil


      January 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • ProgressiveMike

      Now, now, Beth... your point of view is FAR too sensible to gain any traction with a SIGNIFICANT portion of the American electorate. You're probably an anti-Christian secularist, using sensible logic and language like that. No, we can't have that in America...

      January 6, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  16. Matt

    The reason why Ephiphany is not a federal holiday is because of the Jews & Atheists!! It is a public holiday in secular countries like Sweden

    January 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Matt2

      Did you read your own post? It's not a holiday here due to Jews and Atheists, yet it is in a secular country? Talk about contradiction. Clearly, it has little to do with Athiests as Sweden has plenty. As for Jews, I doubt they care as much as you claim.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Manen

      Sweden? Interesting choice....it wasn't until 2000 that Sweden ceased having an official State Religion. That's only about 250 years more than REALLY SECULAR countries, like the United States.... Typical pro-European leftist socialist prejudice much? Apparently......

      January 6, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  17. ProperVillain

    Driscol is an unfortunate product of a very American version of Christianity where controversy and style trump any sort of real substance or thought. A version of Christianity that celebrates evangelical celebrity. One where pastors surround themselves with a doting group of yes men that won't dare go against them for fear of getting (the pastors version of...) "god" angry at them.

    I also find it sad and a bit horrifying that people are such sheep that they need to read a book by someone to let them know what is "biblical and acceptable" in the way of s ex between a husband and wife. Have people become so weak minded that this is now necessary? Think for yourselves people! If you and your mate are comfortable with it, it is ok! There, I just saved a lot of you about $15. Thank me later....

    January 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      I think everyone is focusing way too much on one chapter of the book. The majority of the book is a testament of what the Driscoll's marriage and how they have dealt with problems and issues in their marriage. Many people presently and historically often as their religious advisers for advice on marriage and many other topics. I have not read the book, but from the article all but chapter 10 seems to be a straight forward marriage self help book.

      It amazes me today how everyone likes to find the negative in everything just so they can pick it apart. Why not focus on the positive and see the glass as half full instead of half empty?

      January 6, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • ProperVillain

      My views on Driscol stand. He has shown himself over and over to be a boorish, unthinking tool that seems to relish in the attention he gets. Living with him must be a real joy. By the way he talks and his views I'm sure whatever opinions his wife has he either gives he or allows her to have. Plus he tries to re-cast Jesus as some macho, muscle bound "not whimpy" American. I think Driscol puts on a brave front but under it all probably has enough issues to keep any therapist busy for at least a decade. My opinion is that he is not what he seems and that he projects an image that keeps him employed, rich, and beyond anyone's reach as far as getting to know who and what he really is.

      January 6, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  18. Israel against Christmas


    January 6, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  19. American atheist

    Can you imagine a world without any Jews.......... it would have been paradise!

    January 6, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • BNB42

      Are you sure you're an atheist.... The rest of us don't believe in any of the fairy tales and won't single out 1 religion to not believe in...... Hating other religions is a Theist thing anyways.....

      January 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • American atheist


      January 6, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • BNB42

      Well sir... I think maybe you need some hate counseling..... The amount you hate makes it seem like you're a theist.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Ben James

      Atheist maybe, bigot, antisemitic for sure.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Ben James

      Proud atheist Nazi!

      January 6, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      As a REAL American atheist, I'd like to ask you to crawl back under your rock now. We're all full up on crazy hate here.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Amber

      Islam is the largest religion in the world, moron.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  20. ......

    Sex is such a dirty word, Ann, but maybe fucking isn't such a bad thing to write about. The tomes they aren't a-changin, much.

    January 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Ed Sr of Dallas Tx

      ******you have a way with words....such eloquence...........you must certainly be a minister!

      January 6, 2012 at 2:41 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.