Jeremy Pierre Reviews “Real Marriage”

Jeremy Pierre has a critical review of Real Marriage in Credo magazine, and like many reviewers he takes issue with chapter 10. Pierre is a pastor and biblical counselor, and he has a section that I think is particularly insightful. He writes,

It is precisely the Driscolls’ apparent desire to stand against a sexualized culture that makes Chapter 10 “Can We ____?” so frustrating to read…

Driscoll allows for a broad range of sexual expression… Many things could be said in response, but perhaps most helpful would be to point out that Driscoll frequently answers the question Is it Helpful? affirmatively based on the dangerous assumption that novelty of the sexual experience is the avenue to greater pleasure, that variety gives that edge of intrigue that keeps sex exciting. Driscoll says that [sodomy] can be helpful “for the variety” (187), role-playing can be helpful to keep things from getting “sexually predictable” (190), sex toys “heighten the pleasure” of sex (191), and cosmetic surgery can “make us more attractive to our spouse” (197).

I have spent many hours counseling couples, undermining this very assumption. A pornographic culture teaches that greater sexual satisfaction comes from hotter methods and better bodies…

Such an assumption is by it’s very nature enslaving, for it seeks the pleasure of sex not in the abiding appreciation of a spouse’s body, but the more instantaneous thrill of novel experiences. There is enough variety and newness to the marital sexual relationship without adopting modes of sex largely developed in a sexualized culture. Relational engagement with your spouse offers thousands of moods, emotions, mindsets, locations, timeframes, etc. Sex is sometimes tepid, sometimes passionate, sometimes quiet, sometimes comforting, depending on the dynamic state of the relationship, not on the physical mode.

I would make a personal appeal to the author to reconsider this chapter. The previous chapters on sex were helpful because they sought to undermine the false assumptions of a sexualized culture. This chapter gives into many of them, particularly the one pointed out above. I believe that Driscoll sincerely wants to be a missionary to a highly sexualized culture and not shy away from their concerns (175). But there is something to learn from old school Christians who may be scandalized by the conclusions of this chapter. By not being immersed as deeply in a sexualized world, they may have the better cultural vantage point to see its errors. And maybe this is a better way to bring clarity to sexually confused people.

Read the rest here.

17 Responses to Jeremy Pierre Reviews “Real Marriage”

  1. Raine January 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    Thanks for posting this. There are so many things in this book that I am really uneasy with, but this named one of the ideas I hadn’t yet put my finger on – the idea that novelty for novelty’s sake is always good for a couple’s sex life. While some changes are OK, I’ve seen a lot of couples get into really questionable territory and sometimes outright sin because they get into the habit of constantly seeking a new and different experience.

    I also have an issue with the book listing certain specific acts because some of the things he talked about are distasteful to many women (and some men), and encouraging them may lead to some people pressuring their spouses into acts they do not really want or that they feel shameful or devalued for doing with their spouse. I feel like he should have made it more clear that it is also OK for one partner to not feel comfortable with certain acts, and that their partner should not push them into those things.

    • Matt January 11, 2012 at 1:03 am #

      Raine,

      I dont believe it is fair to the book to say that Driscoll is promoting “novelty for novelty’s sake.”

      I think that is a misrepresentation.

      I believe Driscoll would argue that novelty is permissible within the confines of a healthy, biblical marriage… which includes a solid theology of marriage and sex- that he sets up in the 9 chapters leading up to chapter 10.

    • Matt January 11, 2012 at 1:05 am #

      Raine,

      It should also be noted that Driscoll specifically instructs that spouses should never do anything their spouse isnt comfortable with. Im not sure why all of those types of things are missing from all of these reviews.

      This is from a guy still wrestling with where I stand on the issue. For some reason I havent embraced Driscolls views (at least as of now), but I also havent seen good reasons not to in most of these reviews.

  2. Christiane January 10, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    In trying to help people, it will be very difficult for those Christian people who do not hold with the ‘submissive wife’ concept to see the added-on emphasis on certain marital practices combined and presented as a normal Christian healthy way for a husband and wife to be.

    Is there someway that the ‘submissive’ does not turn into ‘co-ercive’ in the minds of those who follow both of these teachings (CBMW and Driscoll’s methods) ?

    What are the safe-guards for the wife in this combination?
    How is she to be seen and considered ?
    How is the husband responsible to his wife in this matter?

    Clarification is important for those on the outside of these teachings and for those participating in these teachings within their own marriage . . . I can see problems coming from the ‘misunderstanding’ (at best) or tragically from the ‘manipulation’ of these teachings to force compliance in a way that destroys the relationship ultimately.

  3. Matt January 10, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    Denny,

    I am not sure where I stand on Driscolls views in Real Marriage yet… I have my reservations about his conclusions, but I havent found most of the critical responses helpful either.

    For instance, no one has said, “Here are these passages and here are these principles that Scripture teaches and based off those this _____ is why Driscoll has come to wrong conclusions.”

    In your first post, I think you RIGHTLY pointed out Driscolls error in his use of the Corinthians passage, but you didnt go on to show how his wrong use of that led to his wrong conclusions.

    People have been taking issue with how pastoral it is, but is a book not the best avenue to deal with this topic? I definitely disagreed with Driscolls SoS sermon series. I didnt feel it was appropriate and pastoral to address those issues in the setting of a pulpit. But, to me, a book is a perfect place to have this conversation.

    Don’t we want pastors dealing with questions that people are asking? The older generation might not be asking all of these questions, but my generation definitely is. I would rather them go to a pastor to answer these questions than some ungodly place like a progressive minded sex therapist… or worse.

    With Pierre’s review I dont think they are even dealing with the same question. I dont think Driscoll would disagree with what Pierre has said. Pierre seems to be frustrated with thinking chapter 10 is answering the question, “How can someone be sexually fulfilled in their marriage?” While Driscoll is answering the question, “What is sexually permissible for the Christian?” While they have overlap, they are fundamentally two different questions.

    Driscoll answers the question Pierre is addressing in a very biblical way earlier in the book when he says, “Make your God-given spouse your standard of beauty.”

    It seems that a lot of people are asking questions of Driscoll and only looking at chapter 10 when he answers most of those questions very well in other parts of the book.

    Pierre said he has spent hours counseling couples undermining the assumptions that Driscoll seems to condone, but Driscoll doesnt condone those assumptions. The 9 chapters leading up to 10 show that he doesnt affirm those assumptions that Pierre deals with. When we come to chapter 10 Driscoll has already dealt with the heart of marriage and sex. The WHO and the WHY have already clearly been established and in chapter 10 Driscoll is dealing with WHAT. In this article it appears that Pierre changes Driscolls answers to the WHO and WHY and then took issue with his what.

    Again, this comes from a person that, as of now, does not agree with Driscolls conclusions. The best point I have seen made is the comment you left about the passage in Hebrews, but that also wasnt elaborated on.

    Help a brother out! I have personal hesitations and havent been able to agree with Driscolls conclusions, yet, I havent seen strong arguments against them.

  4. Matt January 11, 2012 at 12:56 am #

    Denny,

    Is there a reason my long comment is awaiting moderation?

    I dont think I was inappropriate or harsh or bad in any type of way, but let me know if I am mistaken.

    I wrote it with the utmost respect of you and Jeremy Pierre.

    • Matt January 11, 2012 at 1:00 am #

      Thank you. Feel free to delete these two comments!

  5. Andy January 11, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Good comments Matt. I’m not sure what I think about the conclusions yet either, mostly because I haven’t read the book yet. I find many of the comments on the posts here coming from people in a likewise position.

    One of the hardest things for people to do is differentiate what they know is certainly and absolutely wrong, from what they think might be, or would like to to be, wrong.

    I am also leery of people using the excuse argument that we shouldn’t talk about these things, or put them in a book because people who struggle with it, don’t want to do it, think it might be wrong, might then be forced or coerced into doing that which goes against their conscience. Where then do we go when we have a question, how then do we figure the issues out?

    I also take issue with people saying that Pastors shouldn’t be sex therapists. I disagree. Not because I think every pastor should be a sex therapist, but because I think some have the skills and knowledge and experience to be so, so they should engage the topic. Just as there are those who are great with money and should offer the expertise to those that need financial help. I am neither an expert on sex, nor money, but as a pastor, I do what I can to gain a general knowledge on issues because I am asked by my people about many different issues. I offer them what I am able, and from there, if it goes beyond my level of expertise, I refer. As a professional pastor for 20 years, if you don’t want pastors to be sex therapists, then tell people to stop asking us the questions. They come to us for help, it behooves us to able to offer something, whether it’s good counsel on the topic, or a referral to someone who is better qualified. I have sat in rooms where people have brought up honest and deep questions about sex, and stopped in mid sentence because I, a pastor, am in the room. The definite jist of the comments that followed were not based on their embarrassment on the issue, but an assumption that pastors just don’t talk about that stuff. That is a tragedy.

    One last thing, while I agree that a constant push for something new and exciting in the marriage bed can lead to a vapid search in the end, the same search can also lead couples to more open conversation, greater trust, a willingness to serve their spouse in new ways out of the bedroom, and a closer mutual relationship with God. It’s like anything, bring balance and moderation into the equation, and the journey can be great. Leave them out, and things go quickly bad.

  6. Charlie Albright January 11, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    Hey Matt, good questions. Let me interact with them a bit to see if I can help.

    “no one has said, ‘Here are these passages and here are these principles that Scripture teaches and based off those this _____ is why Driscoll has come to wrong conclusions.'”

    Are you looking for an exact verse? Pierre is quite clear that the big issue he has is with contentment. Now you will not find a verse where contentment and sex within marriage is connected. But contentment is an mindset that is part of how a person reacts to everything in their life (Phil 4:11-13). Pierre is saying that the attitude towards sex communicated in Chapter 10 of the book betrays the biblical view of contentment.

    “Don’t we want pastors dealing with questions that people are asking? The older generation might not be asking all of these questions, but my generation definitely is. I would rather them go to a pastor to answer these questions than some ungodly place like a progressive minded sex therapist… or worse.”

    I do agree with you that pastors should be willing and able to counsel on such topics. But there is also the issue, as the critics are pointing out, that the culture has created a world where our view of sex is messed up. People are asking these questions because they have a corrupted view of sex. The answer is to model the correct view in the way we speak on such matters. The reason their is such exploration of sexual practices in today’s world is because people (men in particular) are becoming bored with normal sex. Thus, they press forward to find more fulfilling practices. The Christian response is to not go along with this exploration. But instead, as Pierre does, to speak about contentment.

    “Pierre seems to be frustrated with thinking chapter 10 is answering the question, “How can someone be sexually fulfilled in their marriage?” While Driscoll is answering the question, “What is sexually permissible for the Christian?” While they have overlap, they are fundamentally two different questions.”

    People do sex for a reason. The obvious reason that brings about this discussion is pleasure. (procreation would make no sense for the chapter. One may say that protection could be under the discussion. But most people are asking the “Can we do _____” question in regards to pleasure) So Pierre’s question is right on target.

    “Driscoll answers the question Pierre is addressing in a very biblical way earlier in the book when he says, “Make your God-given spouse your standard of beauty.”

    It seems that a lot of people are asking questions of Driscoll and only looking at chapter 10 when he answers most of those questions very well in other parts of the book.”

    Pierre makes this observation in his review, “[chapter 10] does not square with the sexual contentment the Driscolls promote in earlier chapters.” (p. 67). So Pierre is bring out an inconsistency within Driscoll’s teaching. In the earlier chapters a good picture of marriage was painted. But the teaching in chapter 10 was clearly against what we found in the earlier chapters. And Driscoll would not know about his inconsistencies because none of us know where we are, ourselves, inconsistent. Pierre does not change Driscoll’s teaching but instead points out deeper sin issues that may be encouraged what Driscoll is teaching. Make sense?

    • Matt Svoboda January 12, 2012 at 10:19 am #

      Charlie,

      I appreciate the interaction. I was curious as to why no one was engaging.

      I’m not looking for a specific verse- I know one does not exist. What I am looking for is a more full “complaint” of the book. I think most of the reviews I have read havent addressed what Driscoll is saying very well and I think Pierre i a good example (I will illustrate below). I also want to say as a former Boyce College student I have a lot of respect for Pierre and appreciate when he helped me with my paper!

      Here is my main issue with Pierre’s review… You say that Pierre is pointing out inconsistencies with Driscoll showing that Driscoll shows a good marriage in earlier chapters and then abandons it in chapter 10. That is where I disagree.

      We need to read chapter 10 in the context of a good marriage. We need to read chapter 10 in the context in which the couple is living and experiencing all of the other great aspects of marriage that are laid out in the first 9 chapters. Why are people getting to chapter 10 and then acting like this MUST be describing a couple that isnt content in marriage and is wanting the novelty of sex simply for novelty itself?

      The disconnect seems to be with the reader, not the writer, IMHO. Cant perfectly content couples also ask what is permissible in the marriage bed? If a couple is perfectly content and have all the aspects of a great marriage- what is it that Driscoll says is permissible that Scripture says isn’t?

      The problem with most reviews, including Pierres is they all assume that any couple asking questions like these or experimenting with some different things MUST have an unhealthy, uncontent marriage and I just dont see why that has to be the case.

      Do you get what I am saying? I agree with Pierre and others that couples can read chapter 10 and totally make their marriage all about the novelty and the next sexual experience, but that isnt what Driscoll is saying. That could happen with ANYONE that chooses to address the sex.

      As to your last paragraph, that is exactly my hesitation with Driscolls conclusions (even though I cant and havent seen anyone else explaining really WELL why his conclusions are wrong). I fear there might be more cultural influence in chapter 10 than Pastor Mark realizes. Im sure this is also very true of my own life in several areas.

  7. Charlie Albright January 11, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

    I think Doug Wilson gives a good perspective on this as well. You can read part of his take here: http://www.dougwils.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9250:sexual-dirt-and-a-gospel-backhoe&catid=84:sex-and-culture

    • Matt Svoboda January 12, 2012 at 10:06 am #

      Charlie,

      I agree. Doug Wilson has probably interacted the best with this issue since the book came out.

    • Matt Svoboda January 12, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

      Charlie,

      I just read the one you linked. I had read the first two already, but I just read this third one.

      I totally agree with Wilson and I am grateful he wrote what he did. IMHO, he was the first to disagree and have his disagreements be strongly exegetically rooted.

      He perfectly expressed the hesitation I knew I had, but didnt know how to articulate (or even fully understand myself).

      Wilsons reviews have by far been the best. I find it interesting that Wilson does say that Driscolls book is grounded solidly in the gospel and yet guys like Challies say it was absent from the book. Challies just doesnt seem to like Driscoll at all.

  8. Andy January 12, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    Charlie, I agree with what you’re saying about contentment. However, I also agree with Matt in terms of the idea that a couple that is trying new things isn’t necessarily struggling with contentment.

  9. Charlie Albright January 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    For some unknown reason the page is eating every reply I make to you Matt. Sorry. I have tried to post my reply multiple times.

    • Charlie Albright January 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

      Sorry for the delayed response Matt.

      I do hear what you are saying and I thank you for the clarification.

      I agree with you that content people can explore. Contentment is not about limiting yourself when you can legitimately go further. A content couple can explore different means of sexual fulfillment.

      However, I think the reviewers are right in that there are dangers in this area. There is a reason no one before the culture became pornographic was asking these questions. Granted, correlation does not prove causation. And such the reason I agree with your point. But, and I know you would agree with this, we should not be naive about the fact that the practices younger couples are asking to imitate come straight out of the pornographic culture.

      I think we are pretty much in agreement but coming at it from two different angles. Think this is right?

  10. Charlie Albright January 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    I just sent it to your Facebook Matt. You can read it there.

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