As promised, I’ll be taking a look this week at Mark Driscoll’s new book, co-authored with his wife Grace: Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together. Based on their years of experience ministering to young adults in the Seattle area, biblical and theological perspectives, cultural studies, and personal history, the book is a fascinating–and at times unexpected–look at marriage.
As I’ve referenced on this blog, Driscoll is rather controversial. In many camps he is perceived to be a close-minded, misogynistic, bull-headed antagonist who tends to practice a macho scorched-earth pastoral policy with any who dare oppose him. Just Google his name, and you’ll find more than you’ll ever want to know about him.
I’ll be honest; I don’t prefer Driscoll’s pastoral style…and there are few important issues on which disagree, more notably his perspective on women in ministry. Considering how much flak he’s been getting for Real Marriage, I wondered if his book would enrage me. Somewhat surprising, then, that it didn’t.
As a book on marriage , its broad contours are rather solid. I suspect that a majority of it would be acceptable to and helpful for all Americans, regardless of their religion or lack thereof. About 75% of the book would be accepted with little problem by all Christians, and a full 90% of the book is within the broad stream of evangelicalism. The other 10%? Well, that’s where Driscoll gets too complementarian and macho on me.
A look at two early sections:
In the first chapter, Mark & Grace share their stories, both as singles and a married couple. It makes for interesting reading. Their lives are anything but “plain Jane,” and they confess to significant marital issues even as Mark was beginning his meteoric rise as Mars Hill pastor in the 1990s. To be sure, there is plenty of fodder for the Driscoll haters here, but in some ways it all depends on how you interpret what he’s saying. When he writes about his dislike for his wife’s “short, mommish haircut” that “put a mom’s need for convenience before being a wife,” our hackles are naturally raised. So too there are questions about Mark’s reaction to his wife’s (much later) confession of unfaithfulness during the early stages of their dating: in short, he would never had married her if he had known about it at the time. Heady stuff.
If one takes this all as a sign of his continued perspective, I have some major issues. If, however, all of this is meant to be an honest confession of sin and being generally “messed up” in the past, then I understand. After all, the chapter does include the following thoughts:
“Through it all, we’ve learned a lot. On a scale of 1 to 10, we’d say our marriage is somewhere around an 8+ or 9, when in years past is was a 3 or 4. Writing this book has been an absolutely unifying and trust-building project by God’s grace. We have a lot of fun as friends, and we get a lot done in life an ministry.”
Equally interesting is the second chapter, where Driscoll offers extended discussion of the essential idea that “marriage is about friendship.” By focusing especially upon the story of Martin Luther and his wife, he paints a picture of marriage that is as helpful as it is needed. I would submit that this chapter is worth the price of admission all by itself. Most revealing is his statement about the intimate side of their marriage:
“Some years ago, I sat Grace down and told her that I really needed her to be my intimate friend and ‘functional pastor’…while we do not believe a women should be a pastor according to the Bible, I asked Grace to be my functional pastor. As a pastor myself, I’ve never had a pastor since I left college. So I invited Grace to be the one who checked in on my heart, prayed for me, gave me wise counsel, and knew the most intimate parts of my past and present as well as my longings and fears about the future.”
That, my friends, is certainly a different side to Driscoll than we often see. There’s more to the book, and we’ll be taking a look at that in coming days. But for now, I invite you to reconsider “just how bad” Mark Driscoll really is, and what insights into marriage he can truly offer.
Tomorrow, we’re back to politics. But on Wednesday, a look at Mark Driscoll’s views on men & women in Real Marriage.