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. all hail me

    i wanna motor boat that bi.tch , i'm the king of the world. prove me wrong!

    January 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  2. Chad

    Driscoll isn't a normal pastor with money. Most if not all of his books, he doesn't see a single dime. The money goes back into his church which in turns donates about 20% to other organizations and churches.

    January 6, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Bill

      He just quickly grabs the bigger denominations before anyone sees them.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      Most pastors of big churches don't get paid much, but they have a tax-free credit card "from the church" that they use to buy cars and big-ticket items for themselves. That way they don't have to pay high taxes, but they can live like kings.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  3. My husband's husband.

    A very sad statement on straight Christian marriage if you ask me. Are they really that stupid?!

    January 6, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • wisdomVS


      January 6, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Ken from FL

      Care to explain??

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

    Think i will join this guys church!

    January 6, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • 2 Pc

      And your response is why they wrote the book.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  5. Mary Davis

    Some things should remain "behind closed doors". What happens in the bedroom.............STAYS..................in the
    bedroom. Have you heard the word, "Private"?

    January 6, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Akim

      Nothing, but AGREEEEEE

      January 6, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      Funny how you say that but then Christians are against gay people doing the deed.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  6. george k1

    How utterly bent !

    This obsession with silly religious natterings is found only in the USA. The real reason these nutcases are in the religion racket is to avoid taxes.

    Get over it – there is no god.

    January 6, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Zeus

      There is no god.... What do you mean all bow down to Zeus... the one and only god....

      And no don't give my that 'Hera' argument

      January 6, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Freethinker Seeking Reason

      That pretty much sums it up nicely. What will it take for the masses to accept the truth?

      January 6, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Patriarchae

      Zeus? What blasphemy! Worship the mighty Thor before he smites you!

      January 6, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Pick a God, any God –
      Angus, Belenos, Brigid, dana, Lugh, Dagda, Epona, Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Atehna, Demeter, Dionysus, Eris, Eos, Gaia, Hades, Hekate, Helios, Hephaestus, Hera, hermes, Hestia, Pan, Poseidon, Selene, Uranus, Zeus, Mathilde, Elves, Eostre, Frigg, Hretha, Saxnot, Shef, Thuno, Tir, Weyland, Woden, Alfar, Balder, Beyla, Bil, Bragi, Byggvir, Dagr, Disir, Eir, Forseti, Freya, Freyr, Frigga, Heimdall, Hel, Hoenir, Idunn, Jord, Lofn, Loki, Mon, Njord, Norns, Nott, Odin, Ran, saga, Sif, Siofn, Skadi, Snotra, Sol, Syn, Ull, Thor, Tyr, Var, Vali, Vidar, Vor, Black Shuck, Herne, Jack in the Green, Holda, Nehalennia, Nerthus, endovelicus, Ataegina, Runesocesius, Apollo, Bacchus, Ceres, Cupid, Diana, Janus, Juno, Jupiter, Maia, Mars, Mercury, Minerva, Neptune, Pluto, Plutus, Proserpina, Venus, Vesta, Vulcan, Attis, Cybele, El-Gabal, Isis, Mithras, Sol Invictus, Endovelicus, Anubis, Aten, Atum, Bast, Bes, Geb, Hapi, Hathor, Heget, Horus, Imhotep, Isis, Khepry, Khnum, Maahes, Ma’at, Menhit, Mont, Naunet, Neith, Nephthys, Nut, Osiris, Ptah, ra, Sekhmnet, Sobek, Set, Tefnut, Thoth, An, Anshar, Anu, Apsu, Ashur, Damkina, Ea, Enki, Enlil, Ereshkigal, Nunurta, Hadad, Inanna, Ishtar, Kingu, Kishar, Marduk, Mummu, Nabu, Nammu, Nanna, Nergal, Ninhursag, Ninlil, Nintu, Shamash, Sin, Tiamat, Utu, Mitra, Amaterasu, Susanoo, Tsukiyomi, Inari, Tengu, Izanami, Izanagi, Daikoku, Ebisu, Benzaiten, Bishamonten, Fu.kurokuju, Jurojin, Hotei, Quetzalcoatl, Tlaloc, Inti, Kon, Mama Cocha, Mama Quilla, Manco Capac, Pachacamac, Viracoc.ha, Zaramama.

      Eenie, meenie, miney – Quetzlcoatl!~

      January 6, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  7. wisdomVS


    January 6, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  8. Jim J

    If God didn't want us to 69, why did Jesus create numbers?

    January 6, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • My husband's husband.

      Jesus created numbers? Then how did the Hebrews of the old testament know hom many Philistine's Samson screwed... er, slew!? 😉

      January 6, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  9. countrycook


    January 6, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  10. vel

    as always, Christians can't ever agree on what their god "really" wants, though they all sure try to claim it for themselves and their opinions. I seem to recall the bible saying that if one could stand to do it, one shouldn't marry at all. Seems that as usual, what is convneient for beleivers is all they think applies to them.

    January 6, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Brad

      Christians don't use or know the word opinion, their beliefs are fact, and if yours are different, well then you sir are going to hell. Side note, ever notice how much joy they get out of telling someone they are going to hell? Kinda creepy.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  11. Chemack56

    Why does the fanatical religious right insist on butting it's nose into everyone's private affairs,as well as into government? Provided you're not hurting anyone you should be free to practice whatever religious beliefs you choose....but in the privacy of your own home or church. Why do they insist on publially shoving it down everyone's throats?

    January 6, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • gateway

      Because they crave approval.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  12. Robert

    A far better book on the topic is Tim Keller's book on marriage. If you want something of balance, and something of substance, read Keller's book. It demonstrates wisdom.

    Pastor Driscoll is becoming increasingly irrelevant as he becomes increasingly vociferous.

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

      Love Keller's books, God has gifted him as a communicator.

      Have you read Driscoll's book yet? If not, you aer lying when you say there is a better book because you don't actually know.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Russ Hardy

      I believe in God. I am a Catholic.

      Now that being said, read
      "Passionate Marriage" by David Schnarch. It will make you a much better person and better partner in life totale.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  13. HeavenSent

    This is the most carnal thing I've ever seen. I may need to lie down.


    January 6, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Rest those dry bones.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:21 pm |

    MILLIONS TO BE ASSASSINATED FOR THE SAKE OF $$$ LIABILITIES(mk-ultra, chip implants, electroshocks etc. performed on them) AND NEW WORLD ORDER(multiculturalism = terrorism) POLITICAL AGENDA KNOWN AS "YOU ARE NEXT"(financial liabilities are 2 expensive for the government and it is cheaper to get read of you instead) !!! IF YOU WERE TREATED WITH ELECTROSHOCKS OR DRUGS USED FOR WIPING OUT MEMORY(numerous Americans and Europeans were and are) AFTER ENDURING FORCED CHIP IMPLANTS(or to retard individual = how homeless people are produced), YOU ARE SCHEDULED NEXT !!!






    http://www.youtube.com/user/BostjanAvsec OBAMA'S HEALTH CARE RECORDED LIVE IN 2009 !!! These are hard facts about lunatic Obama/Bush's twilight zone administrations(HORROR) or genocide against whites per ZIONIST Washington DC and in complete agreement with communist Moscow !!!


    January 6, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Mr. Hat

      Hello Insane Asylum? I think I found your missing patient...

      January 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Polis

      "Appartments", really? You are going to yell about conspiracies and you misspell a common word in your video?

      Jeez at least TRY to be credible, it's more fun that way.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • vel

      someone missed taking his meds.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Not to worry, the FEW folks that believe this garbage can't read anyway.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • John

      Whatever drug you're on....I want some.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • wisdomVS

      You are a sick person, therefore anything you say is considered irrelevant.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Scott Boswell

      i stuck with it till the end post often?

      January 6, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • monza355

      Dude, put the pipe down. You have smoked enough.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • gypsyboomer

      Where do these people hide in the daytime?

      January 6, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Mr. Hat

      Mostly in padded rooms.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Brad

      So glad I'm not paranoid.......GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!!!

      January 6, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  15. TooDark

    What's to know, ladies? Keep it clean, juicy and available more than once a year. How tough is that?

    January 6, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  16. CRH444

    What goes on in the bedroom between me and my three wives is perfectly acceptable and nobody else's business 🙂

    January 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Jill

      Whatever you say, Mitt.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • CRH444

      I was thinking about having an internet site where I sell videos but that might actually be a sin.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Jill

      Surely that would get more "visibility" for your campaign.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  17. kitty

    Mark Driscoll will do anything to get his name in the papers and make more money for himself. He is not a selfless man. He is a showman and a con man.

    January 6, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Jill

      In other words, the pastor is a typical "man of god".

      January 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Chris

      Yes, he's definitely trying to milk the religious masses. And no, Jill, he isn't a typical pastor.

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

      as Jill said, typical "man of god" making up what he wants his god to "really" approve of. Standard theist through and through. In that no Christian can actually do the things promised by their so-calles "messiah", I'm pretty sure none of you are the real deal. It's just a bunch of people insisting that they are special snowflakes and some magical omnipotent being loves them and only them. It seems that religion often infantilizes its adherents, making them essentially 3 year olds.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  18. Jeepers

    That sounds like as much fun as listening to your parents talk about their favorite positions and that time she let him put it in her butt.

    January 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  19. DavidB

    What has happened to CNN? I read it for years without one religion story, now it's freaking front page news every day. Goodbye CNN.

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

      CNN has an un-stated mandate to subtly attack Christianity. Every article on the topic is always either negative, or in most cases, sensationalist. They place these article headings on CNN's front page, particularly on Sundays.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      DavidB, This is just a guess mind you, but I think the more that people talk about religion publicly the faster we can get rid of it. If it is being debate in open forum people will have to state why they believe and then justify that belief. How long do you think religion can stand, I'd guess another 20 -50 years. (Less and less children and young adults are buying into religion as THE answer).

      January 6, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Jill

      You have to admit, there's a lot of flaws in Christianity to attack. CNN is surprisingly fair, even Christian-biased, if you really look at it.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • TooDark

      Rick – Awwww...poor abused xtians. So put upon. Attacked from every angle.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • ProgressiveMike

      CNN "subtly attacks Christianity"? Really? Debatable, at the very least. And, Christianity, the way it's practiced and extolled in America today, has a lot to answer for. It's far from the force for good in America that its adherents like to imagine it is.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Dimizzle

      you'll be back

      January 6, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • David, CA

      It's so funny when christians try to play the victim.

      It reminds me of that time I saw a bunch of gay guys protesting a christian's funeral with intentionally hate-filled posters or when those gay students taunted and bullied that christian kid until he killed himself.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      David, CA, you do know that your sarcasm is lost on Most (probably not All) Christians.

      January 6, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  20. GAW

    Random Questions: 1.You mean to tell me that Evangelicals know more than just the missionary position? 2. Will there be pictures in this book? 3. Maybe some have the gift of tongues and put it to good use?

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

      this makes me laugh and smile. I do not think there will be visuals da pastor knows anyone can use bing for instructional videos.

      January 6, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Sunflower

      Still giggling.... GOOD comments!!! LOL

      January 6, 2012 at 3:01 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.