I should have known Real Marriage
would be controversial. It is, after all, by Mark and Grace Driscoll, and Mark Driscoll seems to be in trouble a good deal of the time. As I write this I have several friends who almost lose it when Driscoll’s name comes up. I have several other friends who appreciate him, even though they recognize his faults. Why did I agree to review this book again?
Well, it’s too late. I did agree to review the book. I began reading, and it wasn’t long before I got to some controversial bits. When Grace cuts her hair short, Mark disapproves. “She had put a mom’s need for convenience before being a wife,” he writes. Say what? I remember being surprised by my wife’s haircut one time, but I’m not sure I would have put it this way. He makes a few statements like this that made me scratch my head.
Early on the Driscolls talk very openly about the struggles they’ve experienced in their marriage. Kudos to them for this. Their openness and honesty is important. This section is pretty raw, though, and it left me feeling a little defensive of Grace. And I’ve never been sure what to think about Mark’s visions, such as the one he has of Grace committing a sexual sin around the time they started to date. Even if you believe in revelatory visions, it’s unusual to think of one that is as sexually graphic as this one.
Once you get past the first chapter, you’re into the best part of the book. The chapter on friendship in marriage is good. The chapters addressed to men and women respectively are also fairly well done. The chapter on taking out the garbage — dealing with sin and conflict — is also helpful and important. These chapters are the best in the book.
Strangely, the next five chapters are on sex. That’s half the book. Sex is certainly a topic that needs to be covered, and the Driscolls do cover some important ground here. They talk about a biblical understanding of sex, and recovering from abuse, and breaking free from porn. Perhaps it takes half a book to deal with this area of marriage because we’re all sexually broken, but it is a big part of the book.
The most controversial chapter in the book is chapter 10, “Can We ____?” I have no problem with honest questions, and I’m amazed at how well some people answer them. The grid that the Driscolls use, however, is a little too simple, and it never gets to some of the deeper issues that need to be explored. I would use this chapter as a discussion starter, but a lot more needs to be said in answering some of the questions.
The final chapter is a simplified guide to setting goals as a couple. It would be a useful chapter to go through as a married couple. The questions are good, and I’m sure they’d start some good discussions.
I get why the reaction to this book is so mixed. Some like it, and I can see why. There is lots that’s good about this book, and I’m glad the Driscolls tackle tough topics with honesty and candour. But I also get why some struggle with this book. It’s a little too hard on Grace at points, a little too harsh sometimes in general. It goes fearlessly into areas that need to be addressed, but maybe a bit of fear would be appropriate.
I’m not sure how long the Driscolls have been married, but it seems to be less than twenty years. At this point they have lots to share, and I’m sure their congregation is benefiting. But it may be too soon for a book on marriage.
I hate pile-ons, and I really don’t like that the Driscolls have become such a target. I appreciate a lot about them and their ministry, and I’m sure this book will prove useful to many. But it’s not the book it could be. It’s a book with good points, but with too many flaws to ignore. That’s too bad, because there’s so much to like about this book, but so much that leaves me feeling disappointed.
More on Amazon.com
Advanced Reader’s Copy of the book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favorite bookseller from Thomas Nelson.