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My take: Why Christians are criticizing my Christian marriage and sex book
January 24th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

My take: Why Christians are criticizing my Christian marriage and sex book

Editor’s note: Mark Driscoll is founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington.

By Mark Driscoll, Special to CNN

You try to write a book on marriage and sex with your wife and next thing you know there are a lot of ants crashing your picnic.

My wife, Grace, and I recently published "Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, & Life Together," which quickly became a No. 1 New York Times best-seller.

In it, we’re brutally honest about our past struggles, share the lessons we learned along the way and talk frankly about sex. Criticism has ensued.

If you wish to find that criticism, just do a Google search. You’ll find plenty. My intent here is not to name names and pick a fight with my critics, but to provide context on why there is criticism.

We knew before we wrote the book that we’d catch a lot of flak, especially on the chapters dealing with sex. We also knew the criticism would come from every direction, as some people would think we went too far and others would think we didn’t go far enough.

But we wrote it anyway. Why? Simply put, we want to help marriages — and single people aspiring to marry — and we wanted to do so in a way that is practical, biblical and applicable to the reality of today’s culture.

If the book accomplishes that, we’ll take the criticism in exchange for helping people. We don’t think our book is perfect and we tell folks upfront (literally in the preface) to take what is helpful and leave the rest.

The book identifies three ways people tend to view sex: as gross, as a god and as a gift.

Sex as gross

Some people are very uncomfortable talking about sex, even with their spouses.

Many Christians, because of upbringing and past church experiences, view sex as gross and something that should not be talked about in public.

Unfortunately, this view is pervasive in the church. Many couples have honest questions about sex and various sexual acts but struggle to find a pastor willing to teach on these topics.

With nowhere else to turn, these couples find wrong and damaging answers in magazines, television, movies, porn and more.

The practical result is that couples divorce their sex from their spirituality, talking to their pastors about “spiritual” issues and ordering their love life around advice from “secular” sources.

Next time you’re in line at the grocery store, read the headlines on the women’s magazines that are shouting at little kids standing in line with their parents. Our culture has made the wrong answers about sex far easier to find than the church has made the right answers to find.

Those who view sex as gross criticize our book because we speak too openly and frankly about sex for their taste. The accusation is that the private counsel that pastors give to people in the church isn’t suitable to give in a public context.

But many critics tend to want to debate nuances of theology rather than engage head-on the practical realities that many people are facing.

I’ve written systematic theology books with hundreds of footnotes. "Real Marriage" is not that kind of book. It’s a practical book rooted in the Bible.

We call everything a sin that the Bible does and we give directives for married couples to use wisdom and conscience in discussing what they do and do not want to do sexually on matters to which the Bible doesn’t speak.

Because we believe the Bible is God’s perfect and sufficient word, we don’t want to add to it what we want or the archconservative Christian culture wants.

Conversely, we don’t want to remove anything from it just because some people find it uncomfortable.

People in our churches are dealing with the issues discussed in "Real Marriage," and to pretend these aren’t real issues and to avoid talking about them is akin to closing your eyes and declaring that you don’t see the need we are serving. If ministry leaders don’t address these issues in some way, we’re religious cowards who do a disservice to our church.

Before we get to the trickiest sexual questions, based upon what many people are already doing, our book deals with marriage in the context of friendship, men’s and women’s roles and responsibilities and how to deal with sin so that marriage gets better rather than bitter.

When we do get around to evaluating sex acts, we ask three simple questions, based upon 1 Corinthians 6:12 in the Bible: 1. Is it lawful? 2. Is it helpful? 3. Is it enslaving?

Each of these questions leaves room for couples to be grownups and to determine what works for them sexually by allowing them to examine their hearts and the scriptures – and to act according to their consciences on whether they wish to participate in sexual activities that the Bible neither forbids nor condones.

While it may be fun for bloggers and critics to discuss these things, our hope was that couples would instead be the ones having these conversations to build their marriages in ways that don’t pressure, abuse or use one another.

Sex as a god

There are some who think about almost nothing else but sex, treating it as a kind of god. This can happen in the form of addiction to sex or porn, severe promiscuity, adultery or participating in various sexual acts that the Bible speaks against, making personal preference and desire more important than what God says about sex.

This view of sex is pervasive, as many go to extraordinary lengths to fulfill their sexual desires, even when it’s not good for them physically, spiritually, mentally or emotionally.

Even worse, this view causes some to do unspeakable acts against others in the form of rape, assault, marital sexual assault, pedophilia, sex trafficking and more – making literal human sacrifices to their god of sex.

Those who view sex as a god criticize our book because it doesn’t go far enough for them. Because we teach that the Bible does call some sex acts sin, such as pornography, premarital sex, homosexuality, adultery and more, we are criticized for being judgmental, prudish, antiquated and fundamentalist.

We understand that not everyone will believe what we believe, but as Christians who view the Bible as our highest authority in life, we don’t write the mail, we simply deliver it.

In the end, for conservatives we’re too liberal, and for liberals we’re too conservative. We can’t win.

Thankfully, we’re not concerned with winning. We’re concerned with helping others build healthy, happy and holy, God-glorifying marriages.

Sex as a gift

What Grace and I have found in nearly 20 years of marriage and more than 15 years of ministry is that both the church and culture often get sex wrong.

So we went back to the scriptures to see what they have to say.

The Bible gives us a different way to think of sex. Instead of seeing it as gross or slavishly worshiping it as a god, the Bible teaches that sex is a powerful and exhilarating gift that God gives to married couples.

It is also a deeply spiritual act, bringing together a husband and a wife to be one flesh (Genesis 2:24), binding them together on a spiritual, mental, emotional, physical and neurological level.

As a deeply spiritual act, it’s important for people to understand what the Bible teaches (and doesn’t teach) about sex, to be able to speak openly and honestly with their ministry leaders regarding sex, and to find solid, biblical teaching on sex.

God has a plan for sex: that it is to be enjoyed between one man and one woman in the context of marriage. This means that there are certain types of sex acts that abuse and misuse the good gift of sex that God gave, and that we are to honor God with our bodies by living our sexual lives in a way that glorifies him and honors the scriptures.

In our book, we blow up some common misconceptions about sex (like that the Bible prohibits stripteases or oral sex). We help people understand that it’s God’s intent that we steward and enjoy the gift of sex, like every gift he gives, in such a way that is glorious to him, good for our marriages and a lot of fun.

It is our prayer that you and your spouse would move past any misconceptions of how you’ve seen sex and understand it to be a gift from God. A gift to be stewarded. A gift to be guarded. A gift to be enjoyed. And a gift to be shared together for God’s glory and your good as friends.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mark Driscoll.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Opinion • Sex

soundoff (750 Responses)
  1. David, CA

    BC "christians" criticize EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING offends them. EVERTYHING upsets them. They attack EVERYTHING that is different and doesn't conform to their collection of cherry picked verses from an ancient, contradictory, illogical, book of myths and legends.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • GoFigure

      You just defined a majority of the people on this planet. And no, I'm not a Christian.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Lorraine

      I don't know you, but obviously you criticize EVERYTHING and you have a beef with EVERYTHING awesome. Seriously, check yourself before you make sweeping statements like this. That is like saying Muslims blow everything up, gays want to have se-x with everyone of the same se-x, or Atheists are all obnoxious jerks.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  2. Hasa Diga Eebowai

    The reason someone is religious is fear and ego. Even thinking about reproduction starts a train of thought that gets at the root of these issues, this reasoning is what their security blanket is meant to protect them from.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • justme

      Say what? The reason someone is religious is fear and ego. I do not have fear, I trust God in all matters that I should fear, as for my ego, I work a mediocre job that pays like crap and I have no money for wrinkle cream. I don't have an ego, I am who I am. Religion is an organization and I am a Christian. Jesus did not die so I could have a religion, he died so that I might have ever lasting life.

      BTW, my husband and I enjoy a very happy and exciting se-x life, not all Christians are prudes and not all prudes are Christian.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  3. Burbank

    Why is every article on this blog about Christians? It should be called the Christian Blog, not the belief blog. Typical conceited Christian arrogance on the part of the news staff. What about all those other religions and even atheists? They are all beliefs and deserve equal reporting. This is bias on steriods!

    January 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • TXJim

      Try reading the other articles on this section. They talk about Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Mormons as well.. I think you just clicked into this one after seeing the headline, so you can comment on it without reading it..

      January 24, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  4. ProperVillain

    I normally criticize Driscoll because he is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with the American church: garish, arrogant, loud mouthed and more concerned with fame and numbers rather than loving people. If people are so weak minded that they need a book to "show" them what is "acceptable" and "not acceptable" in an intimate relationship with their spouse they don't need this book, they need a therapist....

    January 24, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Burbank

      Including the person that wrote the book!

      January 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Robert

      But people do. The problem our society has is that we think there is such thing as "normal" and we try to place everyone into these groups of varying degrees. I haven't read this book but I can tell you from 8 years of marriage that its not easy and its not that simple. Its difficult to know if your doing the right thing in a relationship if:

      A) You've never been in a productive one
      B) You've never seen an example of one
      C) You are dealing with personal issues that cloud your judgment

      January 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  5. MyTake: My take: Why Christians are criticizing my Christian marriage and s ex book

    This should help sell Mark Driscolls book – "Real Marriage: The Truth About S ex, Friendship, & Life Together".

    January 24, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • A Little Help

      Only $12.49 at Amazon, $7.99 if you have a Kindle.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  6. Thomas

    Ants crashed your picnic because you were foolin with your honey.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  7. robCM

    Good reply to the critics, burying your head doesn't work.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  8. CJ

    Most Christians are bizarre.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • BubbaCo

      I'll second that. They are so weird about so many things. I think it's because they think that there's always someone watching.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • G. Cooper

      Let us know what YOUR religion is so we can research it.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Lorraine

      How many Christians do you know? If you are judging based on TV, then you should say "All the Christians they focus on or characterize in the movies are bizzare."

      January 24, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  9. WhatWhatWhat?

    These people are freaks of nature. This represents the most extreme delusional state a human can achieve; religious delusion. With it's overbearing burden of guilt and grief and shame, what a bunch of nonsense. You should be ashamed of the way you act because of those delusions. Please, get help at a qualified medical facility as soon as possible, for your own sake. Thank you.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • CommonSense

      Very judgmental comment, which will not be considered by 99% of people who read it. I already forgot your meaning in the words you wrote...

      January 24, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      You are wrong and you will never forget it.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      And besides, just because you think something is "judgmental", does that mean no one should say it? What kind of censorship is that? Please, just shu t the p ie h ole, please.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Bizarre

      CommonSense,

      And you are not being judgmental by judging others as being judgmental?!

      January 24, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Huh?

      Your response makes it sound like you didn't even read the article. An "overbearing burden of guilt and grief and shame." Doesn't sound that way to me. But then, "The wisdom of God is foolishness to the perishing."

      Praying for you.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • ohnugget001

      @Huh
      If someone's life is biblically based and they have any thought, word, or deed that contradicts the bible, then yes, they are taught to have guilt and then they must repent to their lord and savior to be righteous in his eyes once again. That a deity exists is delusional for their is no evidence for one. Therefore the OP is correct and people who are wracked with guilt because of this bronze age mythos should seek secular counselling because their faith based system is detrimental to their psychological and physical health.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • justme

      I do understand that some people who claim to be Christians are talking out the backside, but not all. What I don't understand is the people who say that Christians ALL judge people. I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe in his teachings, love one another, help the poor and downtrodden and hope for the best when all else fails. Be a kind, giving and caring soul, how can the believe in these things be wrong, this is what being a Christian is all about, not going on TV and making millions and then keeping it to yourself and not gong on street corners and telling people that have to believe or they will die. And not going on blogs and telling people they are wrong and will burn if they don't change their ways, that is not Christianity is.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  10. Bob

    Always with the judgmental crap, even as they claim to try to be "helping" people.

    Stuff it.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Me

      "Helping people", or just writing a book, in order to (hopefully) earn some money from it?

      January 24, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  11. NorCalMojo

    Nothing like a little manufactured controversy to boost book sales.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • DeeNYC

      The book has two arrows and a caption, go in and out more than 3 times and your sinning.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  12. Steve the Athiest

    I might be a believer now! Thursday night I prayed to god (the Catholic one this time) that it would not snow on Friday. Then immediately after that I prayed to Joe Pesci, asking him for snow on Friday. I'll be damned, it snowed like crazy on Friday here in Chicago. Joe Pesci answered my prayers!!!!!

    January 24, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • CommonSense

      You're an atheist and claiming you may be a believer now. Too funny and I thought you would convince me of something.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Zeppelin

      All hail Joe Pesci!

      January 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Observer

      Thanks Steve! Both of your prayers were answered. It did not snow here.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Ah... but was it snowing between the snowflakes???

      January 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  13. Barbara B.

    Oral is the best with both my male and female friends. Glad they mention that the bible is ok with it.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • CommonSense

      Wow.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  14. JT

    Many couples have honest questions about s-x and various s-xual acts but struggle to find a pastor willing to teach on "these topics."

    Why would anyone think that asking one's pastor is the source to go to concerning s-x, money or anything in the real world? Most likey your pastor is more ignorant than you are or will take advantage of your trust in him. This is ridiculous in so many ways.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • jimtanker

      A lot of priests have quite a bit of experience in that realm.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • name

      all a pastor is going to be familiar with is little boys anyway

      January 24, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • MC

      WOW JT you couldn't be more wrong

      January 24, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Lorraine

      My pastor and his wife have been happily married for 35 years and are the most giving and thoughtful people I know. My husband and I have gotten great advice from them about married life. Your comment is ignorant and generalizing.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  15. Hypatia

    *shrug* Maybe those other Christians don't know how.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  16. Jeff

    It amazes me how people get wrapped up in these inane debates in the comment section. Atheists bashing Christians, Christians bashing Atheists. Just live and let live. Let people believe what they want to believe. And if you don't want to read the book, don't read it.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • JT

      Atheists are so appalled and panicky that these deluded Christians vote and affect us all and Christians just can't understand why atheists just can't or won't delude themselves as they have so successfully done since indoctrination from an early age.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Electric Larry

      The problem is that Christians cannot peacefully coexist on fair terms with anybody. They keep trying to reinvent government and laws to force others to obey their ideology. If they minded their own business, atheists wold not care in the least about what religious people believe. But they don't so they get blowback.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • ohnugget001

      It would be nice to just "live and let live" – except the xtians keep trying force their holy text precepts on the rest of us via legislation. I and many, many others refuse to back down when they attempt to force, and even legislate, their version of morality on the rest of us. These comment sections are a healthy way to exchange views and I welcome the opportunity to point out the many fallacies, contradictions, immorrlities, and other negative qualities of this religion, and others, to these fervant believers.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Electric Larry

      Well said, Larry!

      Cheers!

      January 24, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • name

      we could live and let live if politicians would stop bringing religion into every discussion.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      We live in a democratic republic, crazy people have a say in our laws.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Scott

      Personally, I don't care if you want to dance around with snakes, only ride in horse-pulled wagons, and only have s ex with the lights off and a hole in the sheet, but the problem is that you keep trying to force everyone else, through peer pressure but more insidiously the legal system, to be as inhibited as you are.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • G. Cooper

      What is it about the saying, "the bible says"?? Why do ministers and pastors say you have to blindly believe in the bible? Why won't anybody tell the truth about the bible?
      The BIBLE is a collection of writings (scriptures) written long after the death of a prophet named Jesus of Nazaret, and found more than a thousand years after that in a desert cave by a young goatherder. Moreover, some of these scriptures were written hundreds of years apart, and were found in disintegrating condition. "Scholars" of old then tried to piece these together and interpret their language, which was not used in thousands of years. Hundreds of years after that a German printer collected these interpretations into a "book" and called it a Bible (from the Greek word "biblios" for book). It then took another thousand or more years for it to be "translated" into other languages. And we are expected to accept this blindly as a work of God.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • justme

      Gcooper
      The Bible is supposed to be a path in which Christians should walk, a way for them to love their Heavenly Father and each other. People (including so called Christians) that verses from here and verses from there and they put a piece here and a piece there, and then tell people what it means. This is wrong, you are supposed to read the Bible as a book and interpret it how you will, I don't want someone to tell me what I just read, That is what my english comp class was for.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  17. Me2

    S-x, in its proper context, is a spiritual act and prayer to God. It represents the passion and love which He has for us, and the connection He wants to have with us. Jesus desires a marriage relationship with us, and on a spiritual level, that includes s-x. Rememeber what happens on the wedding night – s-x! For those of us who are His Bride, He WILL consummate His marriage with us, in every sense of the word.

    Marital lovemaking, not only mirrors this act of Jesus as our Lover, and we His Beloved, but also the creation of the world itself, when the Spirit of God (male) hovered over the dark waters (female) before the Spirit impregnated the Void with His life, and the Big Bang occurred (orgasm), evolving the Universe to what you see today, which is the creation yearning for the birth of the sons of God - truly the creation and earth and Universe is still in labour pains until the birth occurs! The birth is 15billion years (age of the Universe) in the making!!

    S-x, in its proper context, is a beautiful, divine thing, it is creation and culmination itself, and more subtly beautiful than most, even Christians, can comprehend.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • john

      Wow, now that is truly scary that you would say something like that! You are a nut job.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • jimtanker

      Is that why I make so many woman scream "oh god, oh god"?

      January 24, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Observer

      "Marital lovemaking, not only mirrors this act of Jesus as our Lover"

      Ummmmm. . . . Jesus, like most TOP religious figures was celibate. Weird s-xual fantasy.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Iseeyou

      Very well said Me2...not many have the spiritual insight that you have....this is a time in the world of a birthing........The seed has been planted and I am praying with you for the birthing of the Sons of God.....I pray to see you at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb....be blessed

      January 24, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Me2

      You said: "Rememeber what happens on the wedding night – s-x! For those of us who are His Bride, He WILL consummate His marriage with us, in every sense of the word."

      Maybe that thought pleases you, but oddly, I find it horrifying.

      Something about a $exed up Jesus, carrying a tube of lube, coming to consummate our "marriage".

      I am glad Jesus was a myth.

      Cheers!

      January 24, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Yum

      iseeyou,

      I've had lamb for supper many times - it's quite tasty.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  18. Observer

    Parents know that the best way to raise children is to tell them the rules and then give immediate certain punishment if the rules are violated. Would anyone care to guess what would happen to children if they were told that their only punishments would come after they died as God supposedly did to raise his children? Obviously most parents completely disagree with how God is doing it with his children..

    January 24, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • scott

      I am assuming that you are alive while you are writing this. Since the punishment of sin is death and you are His child. God is a little slow to punishment are you glad now.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Observer

      Scott,

      So were you brought up like the Bible does without any punishment until you die or did your parents discipline you at the time?

      January 24, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • MC

      Please educate yourself before commenting next time.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Observer

      MC,

      Please "educate" us.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  19. lee s

    So glad you know whats best for everyonw

    January 24, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  20. I M Drunk

    I can't wait to get the book. I hope there are a lot of big, colorful pictures!

    January 24, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • name

      hell yeah.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:39 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.