Given his proclivity for provocative proclamations about oral sex, "real" men, and the reasons (later retracted) for Ted Haggard's infidelities, you might assume Mark Driscoll's new book on marriage, cowritten with wife Grace, would stir the pot to boiling levels. Popular Reformed blogger Tim Challies predicted that Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, & Life Together (Thomas Nelson) would land Driscoll "all over the news in the new year," especially for a chapter titled "Can We ______?" which discusses specific sexual practices. Everything from submission to pornography to finances and date nights are discussed here, with a candidness that will, says the publisher, "send shock waves throughout the evangelical world," vowing it will be among "the most talked-about Christian marriage releases in years."
But despite Driscoll-addicted buzz, Real Marriage is strikingly conventional, emphasizing the same commonsense ideals that other Christian marriage books do: honesty, mutual respect, forgiveness, and becoming friends with one's spouse. As Mark told CT, "If you have a solid friendship that you're working on, the rest of the marriage is going to come together. The sex is going to get better. You're going to work with your sin. You're going to deal with tragedy in a way that is more hopeful than if you're just business partners doing stuff together." He and Grace, approaching their 20th wedding anniversary, spoke with CT associate editor Katelyn Beaty and Her.meneutics writer Marlena Graves about strong foundations for marriage, as well as the steamier sections of their book, out this week.
There are already plenty of Christian books about sex and marriage on the market. Why should Christians get advice on sexuality and marriage from a pastor writing a book instead of, say, a counselor, friends, or their own pastor?
M: As far as books that address sex go, I actually disagree. I think there are only two that go into much depth on sexuality, and one is quite old, and the other is pretty old. A lot of Christian teaching about sex is answering the questions of a previous generation. Both of the books I can think of were written before the Internet existed. Well, that's a game changer in every way. One of the books goes so far as to basically say that oral sex in marriage is a sin. Today, we have a bunch of teenagers who don't even think oral sex counts as sex. So we've taken what we hope are eternal biblical truths and applied them to the cultural questions of our day. That's why we felt it was necessary.
Also, a lot of people pick up bits and pieces of information about sex in marriage, but they lack a comprehensive biblical understanding of how it all fits together. So the big idea early in the book is friendship. There isn't a Christian book that addresses friendship in the context of marriage. We read all or part of 187 books on marriage and couldn't find anything of substance on friendship. And you ask young people, and they would say, no, marriage is primarily about friendship and sex. Right? I mean it's about friends with benefits. So there is a different cultural conversation that's happening.
Mark, many of your public statements about sexuality have drawn criticism from fellow Christian leaders. Is this book a way to back off from some of your previous comments?
M: No, but it's a way to clarify what I meant. I don't apologize for what I believe. I've never changed it. But I can always communicate it more effectively, more articulately, more humbly, more graciously, and more considerately. Especially in the age of the Internet, something gets ripped out of context, and then it's, "Oh, Mark said blank." It's like, well in the context Mark didn't say blank, or that wasn't exactly what was said. But this [book] allows me to put it into context of the whole framework of marriage and sex, and to do so with my wife. Grace is really brave in the book and adds a woman's perspective. A guy on a stage talking to the universe is not the best context to get to know who a guy is and how he operates in his marriage and what he means by that. Once you get to know his wife and you get to see her perspective and how it plays out in their marriage, it clarifies and provides context.