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. my2cnts.

    Mr. Morgan didnt seem to display the tolerance that he was asking the minister about. Obviously many Christians love gays in the Christian sense but do not support marriage and in my denomination's case, gay clergy. The minister seems to have a genuine understanding of the faith journey. We should all hope to study and learn what The Word is really telling us and continue to grow. God gave us rules for a reason. Dont knock it if you havent studied it.

    March 11, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
  2. Usman Akhtar


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    February 18, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  3. BobZemko

    Two brainwashed people.

    February 8, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  4. angieg214

    I was raised a Baptist. The author of this article says the bible is " God’s perfect and sufficient word". I have a problem with that because I know that the bible as most of us know it has been edited many times by man (King James Bible anyone?) The reason why a lot of the world isn't Catholic is Because King Henry VIII of England wanted to divorce his 1st wife and marry Anne Boleyn and the pope wouldn't allow it. He left the Catholic Church and claimed himself as second only to God. This man and his minions were the men who dictated what went into the bible and what didn't. Others like him edited the bible further. There were conventions to decide how the bible would be read and what went into it. There are many books left out. Anyone ever heard of the book of Judas? Is it in the bible? Why not? How do we know there were only 10 commandments? European men decided what went into the bible. How would anyone know if what they believe is the ONE TRUE RELIGION? Is God going to make allowances? If there were really 20 commandments and we only got 10 will we be punished because we didn't know about the other 10? Is the Bible truly "God’s perfect and sufficient word"? I don't think so.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:02 am |
    • Harold Art

      Your understanding of the history surrounding the topics and periods you discuss in your comment appears to be riddled with error. The protestant reformation had nothing whatsoever to do with Henry VIII; he was, in fact, an outspoken critic. Much of the christian world isn't Catholic because of the efforts of Martin Luther and those who followed him. Henry VIII and his "minions" did not dictate what went into the bible (his "Great Bible" includes the entire Old and New Testaments and the Apocrypha); that work was done more than 11 centuries earlier by the Council of Rome and the Synod of Hippo Regius. Your point that the bible is an edited selection of texts is certainly accurate, many of your details (and the understanding they demonstrate) are not. Why did the various Councils/Synods decide to include some books and exclude others (especially many Gnostic works, like the Gospel of Judas you mention, as well as many many others)? That's a detailed discussion that will require significantly more space than is available here. I suggest starting at wikipedia if you're genuinely interested.

      February 6, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Mark

      You made an important point. There have been attempts at altering the bible. Fortunately there are thousands of copies going back thousands of years. Mistakes and outright false statements are easy to see by comparison. However man attempts at altering Gods word, God is capable of keeping it intact for a person who is searching for the truth about him and us and why things are as messed up as they are. Many people simply give up searching for the truth, but the truth is available and it is not difficult to find.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • lkf

      hi- what about the Biblic truth that existed with the jews BEFORE king henry the viii did any supposed editing. what about the books of plato and aristotle that have been translated many times by many authors. no one is reading these ancient texts in their original language. and if so, the Bibles original languages can be trusted too. so, the truth of the bible was established already, before king henry the viii. reading and believing the bible is an act of faith. hearts that seek truth will find truth in the bible. i have a problem with groups today who want to rewrite CHRISTIAN history in america, just because they don't want to believe God. facts are facts and Christians founded this country based on judeo-christian values. that's a whole nother ball of wax. thnx.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • DAVE


      February 7, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Steven Vidal

      Angie The only thing I know is there are more commandments then 10. In fact there are hundreds. You can do the research yourself. God is a just God. If you brake one of his laws you must be punished, but here is what you do not understand. The
      Law was made to show man that he could never make it into heaven on his own. Every time you try to follow the law you brake it. Sinful passions within us are aroused by the law. No matter how hard we try in the end we defeat ourselves. Read Romans 7. It explains it better than me lol and read different versions to understand it better. The only way to be freed from this death cycle is to receive Jesus Christ. The bible says we are married to the law which brings death, if we receive Jesus, we die to the law because our sin has been put to death with Jesus, and then we rise with Christ through the spirit and are married to Jesus(God, one in the same), married to unconditional love, and abundant grace. The curse of the law has no affect on those who receive Jesus, because Jesus fulfilled all of the commandments you do and do not know, and his death payed for all the sins (past, present, future) of the world because he was fully God, and fully man, Oh and he was with out blemish. I am sorry if my words offend anyone. This is what I believe and I was just trying to clear up something for Angie who I assumed was Christian. Please forgive me if I have offended anybody, I am just following my heart, my God. God bless Muslims, Jews, and people with a sense of morality, and God bless the president to lead this country with the wisdom, knowledge, and love of God.

      April 2, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  5. CoCoDol52



    February 3, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  6. Leucadia Bob


    February 3, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  7. leon

    cool do what ever u like criticize its different thing who r in limited area of brain can think limited if u can write this much i think u should avoid further unwanted comments ....... do what ever u want to do but very cool......... my motto of life is be cool and wait for right time u will achieve something

    February 2, 2012 at 12:02 am |
  8. jo

    wow you guys are just funny. its just a book don't read it or do which ever.

    January 31, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  9. ProgramD

    I guess the rights argument that gay people are evil and perverted must now be rescinded. Evidently straight religious people are doing it for sheer pleasure now...Go figure.

    January 30, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  10. bneasy

    Guess we will all find out the truth when we die, but jus wanted to say arguing over whos right does it really profit anything? think about it, what we say to someone who already has their mind made up on whats the truth or not isnt gonna persuade them to your or lack of beliefs. lets jus call it a day and have a cheesburger and watch a movie lol

    January 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  11. Erika

    For those who are not a fan of Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill but are still looking for good books on relationships based on scripture, consider taking a look at Bill and Pam Farrel's work. They are incredibly transparent in their own experience and their books are easy (sometimes laugh-out-loud) reads with real life application exercises (optional of course). They have reads for both the couple and single crowds. Here's their link: http://love-wise.com/. Their website also gives some free resources so you can get an idea of their writing styles.

    January 30, 2012 at 4:19 am |
  12. Seminarian

    Driscoll's Mars Hill is a cult which employs draconian measures and spiritual abuse to keep their brainwashed members 'in line.' see article below...


    January 29, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • K in Seattle

      I'm sorry, have you ever been to Mars Hill or even personally heard Mark Driscoll speak? Everyone is able to criticize this man when they have never physically been to his church or even heard him talk on a weekly basis. Well, I have and I find it interesting that everyone in America is choosing this one church to single-out, when believe me, there is so much worse out there. Obviously they are doing something right because satan is trying so hard to discourage this one man and his church. And you're letting him use you like puppets.

      February 19, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  13. smadam1

    i wish people commenting would stick to the fookin' issue in the article and not the God vs. No God argument.

    January 29, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  14. Devon

    I just found out about Driscoll in the past week. The guy is a bully and a creep. Don't take my word for it. Watch for yourself the emotional abuse he spreads out. Google the self-help groups of those who have opposed his authoritarian agenda. Mars Hill is nothing but a cult led by a charismatic but deeply flawed man. He is in pure Elmer Gantry territory. Thank God for the internet which allows us to call out his behavior. And the complementarian nonsense he spouts is pretty close to misogyny however well he couches things. Try to debate with them and it all it's in the Bible and you can't quote just one verse to refute us...and then they use one verse to justify their view! It's very dangerous and very nasty. Shine a light on these people.

    January 28, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Nevil

      TYPICAL, atheistic CRAP.

      January 29, 2012 at 3:29 am |
    • Eric'n Seattle

      You are spreading lies because of your hate. I invite you to attend Mars Hill with me so that you can make your judgments first hand instead of dredging the internet. Unless you are one who believes that everything on the web is true and in depicted in it's proper context.

      January 29, 2012 at 4:17 am |
    • jbfromptown

      I just read how a member left the church and was under some sort of church discipline? That sounds like some Jehovah Witness cult stuff. That is not in the bible under the New Testament. We are not bound to one church if we leave it.

      Very cultish. I won't be reading his book... And yes I am a child of God who doesn't go for cults..

      March 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • WASP

      this hill guy sounds like another david koresh to me. very convincing, and very dangerous if too many fall for his pretty words.

      April 2, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  15. toadears

    Atheists and scoffers who come to these stories just to mock and scoff are a lot like the current situation with the American military and Iran. Trying to bait someone into attacking them. I NEVER go to atheist or disbelievers stories to bait the message board posters. I don't care if you ever believe in God. Believe what you want. Now perhaps you should go to an Afro American or Hispanic message board and make fun of their music and lifestyle if you are finished here.

    January 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • A. Wolf

      "Athiests are like Iran. They're always trying to bait people into attacking them."

      Yeah, and like comparing a religious belief to a hated national enemy isn't flame-bait. Good one.

      January 28, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • GodPot

      " Now perhaps you should go to an Afro American or Hispanic message board and make fun of their music and lifestyle if you are finished here."

      I might if some were trying to pass laws forcing everyone to buy gold rims for their cars or declare America a "Latin Nation". If you kept your Christian lifestyle at home with your family instead of trying to police others morality or claim America is a "Christian Nation" then I wouldn't have to point out your blatant racism and hypocrisy.

      January 29, 2012 at 3:39 am |
    • Maya

      Isn't baiting exactly what you are doing right now? Careful, your hypocrisy is showing.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • toaders is a stool

      i just got off an article about catholics and birth control and you are the biggest troll on there. What a hypocrite you are. and a coward for your inability to allow other people their own beliefs. if they dont swallow your agenda, you attack. really cgristian of ya!

      January 30, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I don't really care what people believe in, but I reserve my right to point at laugh at people with ridiculous beliefs (i.e. Christians).

      February 1, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • Nii Croffie

      In fact the Christians enjoy themselves at ur expense too Rational Libertarian. They might even get to do it in the After-life too. Hmm think of it! An eternal joke. Now thats funny! hahhahaha...

      February 1, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  16. dstevenson

    My reply was to Mykel Pickens....not Pastor Mark and Grace.
    I wanted to clarifly...

    January 28, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  17. Mykel Pickens

    Seriously Mark, get over yourself. You wrote a book, its not selling as well as you want so you have to create some controversy. Its advertising 101. Next time write a book that people actually want to read.

    January 27, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • dstevenson

      You are an idiot.

      January 28, 2012 at 12:11 am |
  18. Hannah

    "only bigots believe in absolutes" hahaha; what irony in such an absolute statement!

    January 27, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • A. Wolf

      Sometimes that irony is intentional. (The Dao De Jing is filled with it.)

      January 28, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Therese

      Really? Try conducting an open-minded experiment as to whether gravity is real and see how that works.

      (Just kidding – do not want anyone to be hurt – but that was such an absolutist /and positivist statement!)

      January 29, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  19. Parko

    In a society where so many are experts with their opinions, it is wonderful that a couple are putting the reality of their marriage in writing, not just theology. People are also more interested in making their opinion heard (notice the strong irony here). We live in an information society and people are trying to make a name for themselves not out of any great feat or act, but by expressing their views. Unfortunately like being an Airline Pilot or a Quarterback in the NFL, whilst you may have ideas on things, you need to realize you are insufficient to provide expert opinion. Just having an opinion does not justify having to make one, or qualify it as being true or relevant. As the preface says this is a practical book. We loved it.

    January 27, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  20. Dude

    As an agnostic, I'm amazed at the intolerance of the athiests responding to this article. If you consider yourself a liberal and you can tolerate people of all races and cultures, then you can tolerate all of the religions of world. If you've ever read Joseph Campbell's power of myth, you'll recognize that a lot of cultural wisdom and truth about humanity is embedded in religion. Preachers of all faiths can reveal aspects of that truth. In death, we may be surprised to find that one or more of the faiths was right...or not.

    January 27, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Albanius Tacitus Seneca

      Yes! Only bigots believe in absolutes, that there is or is not God that Jesus was illeterie or literate, that Evolution or Creationism are "right." What we fail to appreciate is that we do not know precisily about anything, Even laws such as Gravity and Opposite Attraction are definede only by our understanding of their iimpact and interaction with matter. We forget that facts are relative, that they are indeed perceptions of our interpretation of forces that we define in consistent and yet arbetrary terms. Indeed, theory's are even less realiable then facts because the conclusions that are drawn from facts are also inhernetly defined by perception. Its our failure to understand, on the most fundemental level what encourages the vary smallest of particals to move to engage or connect with other particles and while we understand the results we do not understand the intent, nor can we simply because our perceptions are not absolute and indeed is exceptionally different. How can we possibly comprehend whether Jesus was a carpenter when we can hardly define what "defines" a carpenter today, much less 2000 years ago? To even consider we understand about evolution or creationism is arrogant, and indeed if one looks deep enough they are compatable, indeed, are perhaps inseperable. We must be humble, we cannot understand another person and yet try to understand what gives all creatures life? Why do humans emotions so poignently differ from that of the animals and why does survival need to happen at all? What makes us desire survival when survival is irrelevant to the functioning of the universe, and which governs our plant its minutia and great things alike? These are beyond the mind of even the greatest of us. Its why I believe so strongly in God. Its not definable, its not understandabke, its not convievable, but it is. Its the fundemental pettyness of triivialiy which obscures our appreciation of a much greater idea.

      January 27, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Dreu81

      Dude, thank you for the intelligent and tolerant comment. Power of Myth was a good book. I still own my copy even after converting to Christianity. In my opinion its about as close to truth as one can get without faith.

      January 27, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Nii Croffie

      Dude thank u sooo much. I asked an atheist whether he knew the difference between a spiritual and a religious believer and he thought it meant how many times u go to church. Needless to say u r a spiritual believer (or non-believer). I am glad I heard from u today. I love u as myself.

      January 27, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I just threw up a little in my mouth.

      January 27, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Nichole

      Dude, thanks for your reply. As someone who lives in Seattle and attends Pastor Mark's sermons on a regular basis I really enjoyed your response. Thanks again.

      January 27, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Eric'n Seattle

      Dude. Thank you for expressing your perspective. Isn't it funny how those who call ALL to tolerance are often the least tolerant of other peoples views. What they really mean is no one should have a point of view which differs from their own.

      January 29, 2012 at 4:12 am |
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