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Unless something unforeseen arises, I won’t be reading Mark Driscoll’s new book, Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship & Life Together. I have read the first chapter and several passages quoted in reviews, but only in preparation for this post.
It’s simply not the kind of book I think is wise or helpful.
Besides the fact that it is not written for people like me, who have been married for a few decades, I can’t imagine wanting to read this book. Is this because I am older and wiser now? Who knows? I guess I did read a few books like this when I was younger, but to be honest, even then I never found them that helpful for me personally or for the people I was trying to serve as their pastor.
Mark Driscoll disagrees.
Because we are a pastor and his wife, we really do want this book to be used of God to help people. It’s the kind of book we wished we could have read earlier in our marriage, and wish we could have given to those we served in ministry. So we wrote what we hope is a book that is biblically faithful, emotionally hopeful, practically helpful, sociologically viable, and personally vulnerable.
I think what he has given us is just another evangelical circus act.
First of all, what pastoral theology taught Driscoll to be a marriage counselor or sex therapist?
That is not a pastor’s job.
I know. I know. Driscoll believes that the church is called to be missionaries to our overly sexualized culture. Hmm. How did Paul serve people as a missionary in the immoral, pornographic world of his day? Does Driscoll’s approach bear any resemblance to apostolic ministry?
For someone touted as truly Reformed with a high view of Scripture, where in the Bible do you find anything like this kind of self-focused, self-promoting, sensational (note how “Sex” gets pride of place in the subtitle), confessional-style, behind-the-scenes peek into someone’s home and bedroom employed as a legitimate tool of ministry? Packaged and promoted to be a bestseller, to boot. Become a big shot, write a book. Act all vulnerable and real. It’s the American way, not the apostolic pattern.
The very last thing any of us need is a purportedly Christian “how to” book exposing the intimate revelations of some hot-shot celebrity pastor and his wife to guide us in the most important relationships in our lives.
This, in a nutshell, is the bane of American religion.
What I have read from the book convinces me that I would have some criticisms typical of the usual flak Driscoll receives for the persona he sets forth, the coarse, in your face style which is his trademark, and, not least, his opinions about men and women. For example, if I were a strong complementarian like Driscoll, and believed it was my duty as a husband to protect my wife, why in the world would I encourage her to share the intimate details of her sex life with the world? And how is it that a biblicist like Mark Driscoll has bought into the therapeutic ethos of the culture, promoting this kind of “vulnerability” as an approach to ministry?
But I don’t even want to go there. The whole approach is off-base. I find the very idea of this book as misguided and distasteful as Ted Haggard appearing on Celebrity Wife Swap as a “testimony” to his “resurrection.”
This is our idea of Christian “impact”? Of helping people see Jesus? Of helping people become truly mature, pure, and loving followers of Jesus? If I want to experience a little boy running around the room all day shouting, “Look at me! Look at me!” then I will invite my three-year old grandson over to spend some time with me.
What we need are real people in our lives. Real family members. Real friends. Real brothers and sisters. Real pastors. Real churches. Real neighbors. Who will tell us and show us what real life is like. And actually walk beside us in it. Not hand us a juicy book.
Furthermore, we need people who are courageous enough to refuse to pander to our personal preoccupations and our culture’s obsession with sex, even within marriage. We need people to help us discern what is and what is not an appropriate topic for public conversation among followers of Christ. We need spiritual mentors who will look us straight in the eye and tell us to get real help if we need it. We need older men and women who can come alongside younger men and women and mentor them about virtues like chastity, privacy, respect, modesty, and restraint.
And…we need pastors to hear our confessions and pronounce absolution through Christ’s finished work. Pastors who will nourish us with the Word of the Gospel and food from Christ’s Table. Pastors who will catechize us and teach us and pray for us so that we will die to ourselves each day and rise again to walk in newness of life with Jesus — a life of faith that works through genuine love for others, including our spouses. Pastors who will encourage us to seek first the Kingdom, to involve ourselves in an enterprise bigger than ourselves and to serve others with grace, kindness, and humility. Pastors who can help us put all of life in perspective in Christ and not focus our attention on such things as which sex acts are permissible for married couples.
We need spiritual nourishment and spiritual formation. And I am not using the word “spiritual” in some dualistic sense that leaves out matters like marriage and the marriage bed. I mean it in the sense of our deepest selves, our very lives and all that they encompass.
What we do not need is rock star celebrity pastors pontificating on the big screens of their cool megachurches about how Song of Solomon is a sex guide or writing books laying bare the intimate details of their lives in wrongheaded attempts to be relevant and edgy. Hurting and bewildered people deserve better than that.
Even if Mark Driscoll says some good, helpful things in this book — and I’m sure he does — I wouldn’t be able to hear them over the circus music.
You see, this rant is really not about a pastor and his wife and the book they wrote. It’s about the system of American evangelicalism that glorifies all the wrong things and seeks “answers” in all the wrong places.
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For further analysis, here are two critical reviews of Real Marriage:
- Short comments only. Anything longer than one reasonably sized paragraph (3-4 sentences) will be deleted.
- No provocative sexual language will be tolerated.
- No links.
- I will be the judge. I will not explain my decisions.
- Don’t take moderation personally. It’s not. It’s just the rules by which we are playing this particular game.