J.S. Park's Reviews > Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship & Life Together

Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll
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Feb 10, 12

bookshelves: christian
Read from February 01 to 10, 2012

Full review here . The following is an excerpt.

Summary:
Mark Driscoll, the pastor of megachurch Mars Hill of Seattle, and his wife Grace write an honest, detailed, gripping, and at times explicit work on the troubles of marriage. While overly practical and less spiritual than expected, Pastor Mark and his wife have written tough words for the prideful and healing words for the hurting. Most of all they have written truth that no other pastor would dare to venture, which is both the book’s best strength and most glaring weakness.


Strengths:
Mark Driscoll spells controversy because of his unequivocal expression, uncompromising views, and his colorful use of language. He makes fart noises in his sermons, got busted over preaching on oral sex (essentially telling Christian women to use it as a lure for their unbelieving husbands), was publicly lambasted by John MacArthur (one of the five Big Johns, including Piper, Calvin, the Baptist, and the Apostle — so you know it’s serious), and is called a chauvinist by both lesbian atheists and evangelicals. We get it: he’s the vulgar, brash, older brother that puts you in a greasy headlock and gives you purple nurples.

But there’s no doubt the man preaches the Gospel, proclaims sound doctrine, and has a brilliant mind for practical theology. Regardless of tactics, he has once again written a clear-headed, straightforward work on marriage that is so unlike any Christian fare it’s bound to grab your attention, fart noises and all. One thing is most obvious in his writing: Pastor Mark is a pastor and loves people. He does the dirty task of writing what no one else will say, and while it may feel gratuitous, it’s true that no one else will say it. So he takes on the thankless duty of speaking to reality about as real as you can get.

Most effective in the first half is Mark Driscoll’s treatise on marriage as friendship, as he covers historical ground on views of marriage and points out the neglect of biblical passages on friends. This is a refreshing chapter that I also had the privilege to hear him preach at the Love Life conference, and it remains perhaps one of the strongest, more timeless chapters of the book. In this chapter and all throughout, you sense Pastor Mark’s loving heart as a shepherd, his years spent hearing hundreds of hurting stories that must have overwhelmed him beyond human capacity, and there’s a plea-like tone in his appeal for families to make it work.


Weaknesses:
The second half, unlike the first, reads more like a broad sword than a scalpel. I wonder if Pastor Mark would let his own daughters read it. Though he says several times that the knowledge presented here must not be abused, this could have been emphasized a bit more. He doesn’t exactly relish in the knowledge and there’s no sense that he’s saying it to “keep it real,” but he could have been more sensitive to invite people into the world of sexual dysfunction. There are descriptions and terms here that may awaken the unwitting, and despite his disclaimer that we’ll have to face it sooner or later, in that case he could have eased us in with less bombardment.

This is also such a practical handbook that Pastor Mark hardly ties into the Gospel or the Bible as well as he could. Many times I asked myself, Why should I do this? Where as Sacred Marriage and The Meaning of Marriage had an overarching theme of the Bible stamped all over its pages, Real Marriage has a very tenuous connection with Scripture. So often it comes across as legalism.

Bottom Line:
Not quite a mainstream book and not quite Christian, Pastor Mark and his wife have still written a truthful work on the complicated matters of marriage and sexuality. The strongest parts here are Grace Driscoll’s incredible insight and Mark’s focus on friendship, both well worth the purchase. More sensitive readers can read the second half with a heavy filter of discernment, or just skip it. I couldn’t easily recommend this book to a youth group or even many singles, but it’s a practical tool for the hurting, confused, misinformed, and weary. I’d much more recommend Pastor Mark’s current sermon series on marriage.
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