Book Reviews,  Christianity,  Theology/Bible

My Review of Mark Driscoll’s “Real Marriage”

Mark and Grace Driscoll. Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship & Life Together. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012. 249pp. $22.99 (hardback).

[Download PDF version of this review.]

I am no connoisseur of marriage manuals, but Mark and Grace Driscoll’s recent contribution to the genre has to be one of the most provocative treatments ever penned for and by evangelicals. In Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship & Life Together, Mark and Grace share candidly about the significant sexual brokenness that afflicted the early years of their own marriage and about how the Lord delivered them from it. They also discuss in graphic detail the questions that couples frequently ask them about the marital bed. The two-hundred plus pages of this book focus on personal testimony and practical teaching so that readers might walk in biblical holiness and avoid the pitfalls experienced by the Driscolls. Real Marriage reads like a marriage seminar that has been put into book form, and there are hints throughout that this is exactly what the book actually is (e.g., p. xiii). Real Marriage has eleven chapters that are divided into three major sections: Part 1, “Marriage”; Part 2, “Sex”; and Part 3, “The Last Day.”


Part 1, “Marriage” – Chapter 1 begins with Mark and Grace’s story, in which Mark and Grace appear first as an unmarried, sexually active couple; second as an unhappily married, sexually dysfunctional couple; and third as restored and reconciled husband and wife. Their story is as gut-wrenching as it is honest. Chapter 2, “Friends with Benefits” instructs readers about the necessity of being best friends with one’s spouse. Chapter 3, “Men and Marriage,” is Mark’s effort to exhort men to grow up, take responsibility, and be the godly servant leaders that God has called them to be in their homes. Chapter 4, “The Respectful Wife,” is the corresponding exhortation to women to respect and to submit to their husbands. Chapter 5, “Taking out the Trash,” addresses conflict between spouses and instructs spouses to fight fair and to be quick to forgive and reconcile through disagreements.

Part 2, “Sex” – Chapter 6 instructs spouses not to regard sex as “God” (which is idolatry) nor as “gross” (which is prudishness) but as “gift” (which is God’s intention). Chapter 7 narrates Grace’s story as a sexual assault victim and offers some practical guidance to others who bear the scars of sexual abuse. Chapter 8 addresses the pervasive problem of pornography and its devastating impact on both the individuals who produce it and those who consume it. Chapter 9 instructs spouses on how not to be “selfish lovers” but “servant lovers” to their spouses. Chapter 10—which is probably the most controversial in the book—assesses the morality of a variety of sexual activities that spouses might engage in.

Part 3, “The Last Day” – The final chapter of the book contemplates concrete steps that couples might take to intentionally plan for successful marriages. It is less of a chapter per se than it is a workbook for a kind of self-directed marriage retreat.

Some Areas of Appreciation

Even though I have some theological and pastoral disagreements with this book, I am grateful for some significant common ground.

First, the book is unashamedly complementarian. Mark’s challenge to men in chapter 3 is one of the strongest exhortations to biblical manhood that I have ever read. Mark is particularly strong in admonishing men who prolong adolescence into their adult years: “There’s nothing wrong with being a boy, so long as you are a boy. But there is a lot wrong with being a boy when you are supposed to be a man” (p. 43). Mark challenges men to grow up, to take responsibility, and to lead their families. He encourages them to be producers not consumers, to be students of scripture, and to be faithful churchmen. Above all, he encourages husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. This part of the book is countercultural in the best kind of way.

Grace’s chapter on “The Respectful Wife” is likewise helpful. She encourages women to respect their husbands with their head, heart, and hands. She also gives practical advice to women about how they can disagree, counsel, encourage, and submit in a respectful way with their husbands. The Driscolls argue that the only way to experience marriage to its fullest is to embrace manhood and womanhood as the Bible defines it and to live out the roles that are prescribed in scripture. This is all to be commended.

Second, Real Marriage has a gospel-focus and argues that the gospel gives us the only path toward wholeness in marriage. The Driscolls give healthy counsel when they say that spouses should be best friends (ch. 2). Yet they also acknowledge that sometimes spouses find it difficult to maintain this kind of intimate personal connection (ch. 5). Falling out of love usually means that spouses have fallen out of repentance (p. 90). Yet the gospel helps us to have realistic expectations about marriage. It also gives us the resources to deal with the conflict that inevitably comes when two sinners come into close proximity with one another. The Driscolls present repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation as gospel graces and as a necessity for healthy Christian marriages.

Third, the authors open up their own lives in ways that are uncommon. This actually has both negative and positive aspects in my view, but I am grateful to read a testimony that gives evidence of the redeeming grace of God in some difficult years of marriage. Neither Mark nor Grace have pristine sexual histories, and the baggage they brought with them into their marriage caused significant problems for many years. Theirs is a risky story to tell, but you have to appreciate their willingness to share it. Their testimony could encourage other couples to be more honest with each other about the foxes that are ruining the vineyard.

Having said all of that, my theological and pastoral concerns with this book are considerable, and I will begin with chapter 10. Before I do that, I should warn you that some of the material you are about to read is of a sexual nature and may be offensive. I have tried to summarize and critique as discreetly as possible, but I think that there are still some things here that might raise eyebrows. Caveat lector.

The “Can We _____?” Chapter

Chapter 10 of Real Marriage will most certainly prove to be the most controversial chapter of the book. It has the simple title “Can We _____?,” and the Driscolls fill-in the blank of the chapter title with a variety of sexual activities that are sometimes considered taboo. The chapter goes on to describe these activities in explicit detail, and then the authors give an ethical assessment of each activity for Christians.

The problems begin at the beginning of the chapter where the Driscolls try to pre-empt critics by saying,

If you are older, from a highly conservative religious background, live far away from a major city, do not spend much time on the internet, or do not have cable television, the odds are that you will want to read this chapter while sitting down, with the medics ready on speed dial.

If you are one of those people who do not know that the world has changed sexually, read this chapter not to argue or fight, but rather to learn about how to be a good missionary in this sexualized culture, able to answer people’s questions without blushing (p. 177).

In my view, these remarks start the whole conversation off on the wrong foot. The authors know that the explicit nature of this chapter will be offensive to some readers. But they address offended readers not by allaying their concerns but by suggesting that anyone uncomfortable with the content must be either a rube or uninterested in reaching the culture for Christ. To those with legitimate concerns, these remarks come across as dismissive at best and patronizing at worst.

The bulk of the chapter gives an ethical assessment of a variety of sexual activities. The Driscolls invoke 1 Corinthians 6:12 as the basis for the evaluation, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” From this text, the Driscolls propose a “taxonomy” of questions to assess the different activities: (1) Is it lawful? (2) Is it helpful? (3) Is it enslaving? If one judges a given behavior to be biblically lawful, relationally helpful, and non-addictive, then it is permissible for Christians to participate in that activity. Among the activities that the authors deem permissible within this taxonomy are masturbation, felatio/cunnilingus, sodomy (on both spouses), menstrual sex, role-playing, sex toys, birth control, cosmetic surgery, cybersex, and sexual medication. The Driscolls are careful to stipulate that these are activities spouses may participate in by mutual agreement, but not that they must participate in (p. 180). No spouse should be manipulated into doing anything that violates his or her conscience (p. 178). The only item in the list deemed impermissible in every circumstance is sexual assault.

The value of the Driscolls’ taxonomy is only as good as the exegesis that it is based on, but in this case their reading of 1 Corinthians 6:12 is fundamentally flawed. The Driscolls read “all things are lawful” as if the phrase were Paul’s own declaration of Christian freedom, but that is mistaken. Almost every modern translation1 and a near consensus of commentators2 treat “all things are lawful” not as Paul’s words but as a slogan that Corinthian men used to justify their visits to prostitutes (cf. 1 Cor. 6:15). The NIV captures the correct interpretation:

“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but I will not be mastered by anything (1 Cor. 6:12).

The Corinthians may have been riffing on themes they had heard from Paul (cf. Rom. 6:14; 7:4, 6). But they had twisted Paul’s law-free gospel into a justification for bad behavior. Thus the phrase “all things are lawful” is not an expression of Christian freedom from the apostle Paul, but rather an expression of antinomianism from fornicators! Paul’s aim in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 is to correct the Corinthians’ misunderstanding. One of the reasons for the Corinthian error was the fact that they viewed the physical body as inconsequential in God’s moral economy (cf. 1 Cor. 6:13b). Yet Paul refutes the Corinthians on this point and gives them an ultimate ethical norm with respect to their bodies: “You have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:20).

Driscoll begins his ethical assessment with “Is it lawful?” and he answers the question based on whether or not there is an explicit prohibition of the behavior in scripture. As we have seen, this is a misapplication of Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 6. Paul’s question is not “Is it lawful?” but “Does it glorify God with my body?” To miss this is to miss the entire point of the text. Sex exists for the glory of God, and Paul only commends activities that glorify God with the body. In order to answer the question “Does it glorify God?,” one has to have an understanding of the purposes that God has given for sex and whether or not a given activity fits with those purposes (more on this below). This kind of reflection is absent from chapter 10 in Driscoll’s book.

To be sure, the Driscolls are not the only persons who have ever misread 1 Corinthians 6:12. Nor are they the only ones to use a taxonomy like this one.3 In fact, the Driscolls’ questions are almost identical to the ones that John and Paul Feinberg use to judge the limits of Christian liberty in their book Ethics for a Brave New World.4 Yet the Driscolls’ use of the questions is reductionistic. Whereas the Feinbergs have eight questions, the Driscolls only have three. Consequently, the truncated assessment tool leaves out questions that would have mitigated the impact of the Driscolls’ misreading of verse 12. The Feinbergs questions are: (1) Am I fully persuaded that it is right? (2) Can I do it as unto the Lord? (3) Can I do it without being a stumbling block to my brother or sister in Christ (4) Does it bring peace? (5) Does it edify my brother? (6) Is it profitable (7) Does it enslave me? (8) Does it bring glory to God?. Had the Driscolls used all eight of these questions in their taxonomy (especially number 8), their assessments might have been different.5

The problems with the Driscolls’ advice, however, are not merely exegetical. They are also pastoral. Although some Christian authors comment on the ethics of a husband sodomizing his wife6, I have yet to find any who contemplate the reverse. Yet the Driscolls give explicit instructions to wives about how they might sodomize their husbands in a pleasurable way (p. 188). Yet where in the Bible is such an activity ever commended? The Bible only contemplates such activities in the context of homosexual relationships. The Bible condemns the “unnatural” use of bodies between persons of the same-sex (Rom. 1:26-27). Why would Christian couples emulate that unnatural use in the marital bed? What about a husband for whom such an activity might stir up homosexual desires that he has never experienced before engaging in this activity with his wife? I do not think that the Driscolls have reckoned with the view that says “immorality” (porneia) is possible within the marital bed. The Driscolls may disagree with this point of view, but they should at least engage biblical commentators who understand sodomy as a defilement of marriage.7

I can think of a whole range of other pastoral problems that might be provoked by chapter 10. Is sexual holiness really upheld while engaging in cybersex with one’s spouse over the internet (p. 184)? Does anyone really think it wise for Christians to upload digital, sexual images of themselves to the internet even if it is only intended for a spouse? What if a third party were to intercept such an image and make it available to everyone with an internet connection? How the cause of Christ would be shamed by such a result! But the Driscolls give little consideration to the potential consequences of making private pornography even though they admit that keeping such images private “can be nearly impossible” (p. 200)!

Or what about the endorsement of “Sex Toys”? The Driscolls recommend purchasing them “from one of the more discreet Web sites” (p. 193), but this seems to me a precarious proposition. How does a Christian go about finding a “discreet” seller of sex toys? The authors give no specific vendor for such objects. Specific rather than vague guidance might be better here, since a search for “sex toys” is just as likely to connect Christians to pornography as it is to “discreet Web sites.”

Finally, I question the wisdom of addressing sexual topics in such explicit detail. I understand that the authors view their approach as contextualizing the Bible’s teaching to reach modern people who are sexually broken (p. 177). Yet I wonder about how this book will land on Christians whose social context has been one of innocence. I have been far from innocent in my own experience and enculturation, yet there are perversions that even I have never heard of before reading about them in chapter 10 of Pastor Driscoll’s book. It seems to me that there is something wrong with that.

I can only imagine how chapter 10 might land on someone whose experience has actually been one of sexual innocence. I work with college students who tend to get married at a very young age. I meet students who come from sexually broken backgrounds and others who come from sexually innocent backgrounds. Sometimes these students marry each other. I think chapter 10 has the potential to wreak havoc in such marriages where one spouse will feel a whole range of taboos to be “permissible” if he can convince his spouse to participate. This to me seems like a recipe for marital disaster, and I do not think the Driscolls’ requirement of “helpfulness” mitigates the difficulty.

Purposes of Sex

One of the great weaknesses of Real Marriage is its failure to set forth a biblical theology of marriage and sex. There is no other text in the whole Bible that goes to heart of the issue like Ephesians 5, yet there is no sustained reflection on Ephesians 5 anywhere in Real Marriage. This is more than just an oversight, for it affects the entire framework our thinking on marriage and sex. Paul argues that the deepest meaning of marriage and indeed of the sexual union is to signify another marriage—Christ’s marriage to His church (Eph. 5:32). In Ephesians 5, we learn that every marriage from Adam and Eve until now exists ultimately to give an enacted parable of Christ’s covenant love for His bride. In other words, the purpose of marriage is to glorify Christ—to shine a light on his redemptive love for His people.

It is only within that framework that we can understand the ultimate meaning of the marital act. That is why Paul can command believers in other texts to “glorify God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:20). In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul specifically has in mind the use of the body for sex, and he still says that the purpose of the union is the glory of God. The glory of the marital act is in the gospel union that it signifies. All the other “purposes” for the sexual union are subordinate to the ultimate end of glorifying God. Where this biblical teaching is absent, so is the framework for putting together ethical standards for sexual behavior within marriage (as chapter 10 purports to do). Again, the fundamental question is not “Is it lawful?” but “Does it glorify Christ?”

Direct Revelations from God

Much of Real Marriage contains personal testimony from the Driscolls, and this is especially the case in chapter 1. The most critical turning-points in Mark’s testimony come from direct revelatory experiences from God, some of which are quite bizarre. After Mark’s conversion, he describes going for a walk and asking God for direction in what to do with the rest of his life.

I was basically just walking along a river in the Idaho woods, talking aloud to God, when He spoke to me. I had never experienced anything like that moment. God told me to devote my life to four things. He told me to marry Grace, preach the Bible, train men, and plant churches (p. 8).

This direct revelation would later be the basis for Mark’s continued commitment to the marriage, even though he no longer wished to be married to Grace. Grace writes

All we knew was that we had made a covenant before God in 1992 to stay married for better and for worse… and God had told Mark very clearly to marry me—it was all we had to hold on to (p. 12).

Do the Driscolls really wish to communicate that direct revelations from God were the basis of their staying together? Should not the Bible’s clear prohibitions on divorce have been enough to bind Mark’s conscience to his marriage?

The interpretation of Mark’s experience, of course, is entirely dependent upon one’s view of the Bible’s teaching on the revelatory gifts. Those of us who understand the scripture to teach a cessationist perspective are not going to be compelled by claims that God spoke to Mark like he spoke to Jeremiah or other prophets, nor are we going to feel comfortable setting forth such revelatory experiences as an authoritative norm alongside of scripture. But in some ways, that is exactly how these experiences are presented in the book.

At least one of Driscoll’s direct revelations from God looks unbiblical even if one holds that the revelatory gifts are still valid today. Mark writes,

One night, as we approached the birth of our first child, Ashley, and the launch of our church, I had a dream in which I saw some things that shook me to my core. I saw in painful detail Grace sinning sexually during a senior trip she took after high school when we had just started dating. It was so clear it was like watching a film—something I cannot really explain but the kind of revelation I sometimes receive. I awoke, threw up, and spent the rest of the night sitting on our couch, praying, hoping it was untrue, and waiting for her to wake up so I could ask her. I asked her if it was true, fearing the answer. Yes, she confessed, it was. Grace started weeping and trying to apologize for lying to me, but I honestly don’t remember the details of the conversation, as I was shell-shocked. Had I known about this sin, I would not have married her.

Mark describes a revelation from God on the order of what we find God giving to the prophets of the Old Testament or to John the Revelator. Yet Mark describes his vision as pornographic in nature. Is this really a faithful depiction of the scriptural gifts of prophecy or discernment? Mark’s visions seem a far cry from Peter’s vision of the sheet descending from heaven in Acts 10 or from Daniel’s vision of the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7. I am not gainsaying Mark’s experience. But I am questioning his interpretation of it and the implication that other Christians might expect to have similar experiences.

Salacious Speech and the Song of Solomon

The Driscolls argue that a prudish impulse in the history of the church has led some Christians to regard sex as “gross”—a necessary evil for the propagation of the race. According to the Driscolls, it was in fact this very impulse that has distorted the Bible’s true teaching on marital love. This fact is clearly seen in the history of interpretation of the Song of Solomon. The Driscolls write,

Early in the history of the Christian church, as allegorical methods of Bible interpretation became fashionable, the Song of Songs was explained as being about our relationship with God instead of being a passionate poem about a husband-and-wife relationship… Those who consider, to varying degrees, sex as gross drive this misuse of Scripture. And rather than renewing their minds to agree with the Bible, they instead change the meaning of the Bible to fit their own error, as they simply cannot fathom that God would speak in detail positively about sexual pleasure (p. 117).

I agree with the Driscolls that the Song of Solomon is mainly about marital love. I disagree, however, with the notion that the content of the Song might be used to excuse sexually provocative speech. The Song of Solomon should not be used as the Bible’s permission-slip to speak salacious words about sex. Pastors and authors would do well to explain what the Bible says using the same level of discretion that the Bible itself uses. The Song of Solomon gives us a poetic depiction of the marital act that is cloaked in symbolic language. Should not Christians exhibit similar discretion when speaking about the marital act? Shouldn’t our speech about sex be more discreet and indirect than it is provocative and explicit?


I love and appreciate the Driscolls, and I am really grateful for the testimony that they share about their own marriage. I was genuinely helped by many of the practical exhortations in this book. I think many marriages would be strengthened by the Driscolls’ advice on becoming a friend to your spouse. Men would benefit from hearing Mark’s powerful call for husbands to grow up, take responsibility, and lead their families. Women would be edified to hear Grace’s testimony and passionate call for wives to follow the leadership of their husbands. At the end of the day however, the shortcomings I have identified above keep me from giving Real Marriage an unqualified endorsement. Indeed the theological and pastoral errors of chapter 10 alone are weighty, and they are the primary reason that I would not recommend this book for marriage counseling. There are other books that have many of the strengths of Real Marriage without all the weaknesses.



2 E.g., Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 251; Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians, Interpretation (Louisville, KY: John Knox, 1997), 101; Joseph A. Fitzmyer, First Corinthians, The Anchor Yale Bible 32 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 263; Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 460; Craig L Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, NIVAC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 125-26; C. K. Barrett, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Black’s New Testament Commentary (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1968), 144; F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Corinthians, New Century Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 62; Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, “Corinthian slogans in 1 Cor 6:12-20,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 40, no. 3 (1978): 396; Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, 1 Corinthians, New Testament Message 10 (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1979), 49-52.

3 E.g., Andreas J. Kostenberger and David W. Jones, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation, 2nd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 83-84; Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus, Intimate Issues: 21 Questions Christian Women Ask About Sex, (Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook, 1999), 203-204.

4 John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World, 2nd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010). Driscoll does not attribute his taxonomy to the Feinbergs.

5 On the question of limits, I have found a disturbing trend in the literature, and the Driscolls fit in to that trend. Upon finding no specific biblical prohibition of an activity, authors are quick to categorize a given sexual activity as a matter of Christian freedom. But this approach is reductionistic. The Bible has much to say about God’s purposes for the sexual union, and those purposes can be used to assess the morality of sexual behaviors. For example, Dennis Hollinger identifies four scriptural purposes for sexual intimacy in marriage: consummation, procreation, love, and pleasure. He then argues that the ethics of any sexual act should be measured by its ability to encompass those four ends. See Dennis P. Hollinger, The Meaning of Sex: Christian Ethics and the Moral Life (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009), 95. Christian ethical reflection has to take into account the whole counsel of God. Ethical decision making can fall short of that ideal when Christians are quick to label something a matter of Christian freedom simply because there is no explicit prohibition in scripture. An act may fall short of the glory of God because it does not achieve His purposes for human sexuality.

6 Even those who allow for sodomy within marriage often do so with extreme caution, both for marital and medical reasons. For instance, William Cutrer writes, “In my years of practicing medicine, I have never met a woman who engaged in anal sex because she thought it was ‘the best thing going.’ Most were doing it because their partners were pressuring them… If couples wish to engage in this practice, they should know that at first it can be somewhat painful, cleanliness is important, anal contact followed by vaginal contact can cause infection, and anal sex carries with it the potential for damage to the sphincter” (William Cutrer and Sandra Glahn, Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, 1st ed. [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1998], 87).

7 It seems to me that the Driscolls need to engage interpretations of the biblical text that disagree with their own before declaring sodomy lawful. F. F. Bruce, for instance, thinks that Hebrews 13:4 has a bearing on this question, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral [pornos] and adulterous.” Bruce comments, “Fornication and adultery are not synonymous in the New Testament: adultery implies unfaithfulness by either party to the marriage vow, while the word translated ‘fornication’ covers a wide range of sexual irregularities, including unions within the bounds prohibited by law” (The Epistle to the Hebrews, revised, NICNT [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990], 373). One early Jewish commentator remarks on Leviticus 18:22, “Outrage not your wife for shameful ways of intercourse. Transgress not for unlawful sex the natural limits of sexuality. For even animals are not pleased by intercourse of male with male. And let not women imitate the sexual role of men” (Pseudo-Phocylides, lines 189-92 in Pieter Willem van der Horst, The Sentences of Pseudo-Phocylides: With Introduction and Commentary, Studia in Veteris Testamenti Pseudepigrapha 4 [Leiden: Brill, 1978], 101). Such commentators are not inerrant, but their views have a long history in the Christian church. Christians have long studied what comprises an “unnatural” sex act, and the Driscolls need to give a better defense of the idea that sodomizing a husband fits within God’s aims for human sexuality.


  • yankeegospelgirl

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s about time more pastors started holding Mark accountable for some of this stuff. I truly am saddened to see it, as I think he is biblically sound in many ways, but this is unacceptable.

    • David McKay

      Constantine, several reliable godly leaders have carefully described the Driscolls’ book so that we are able to see that it introduces and promotes perverted practices and also that we do not need to read it to improve our marriages.

      I don’t need to try cigarettes or getting drunk or becoming addicted to hard drugs or gambling to have an informed opinion about them, either.

      • Constantine Ivanov

        as for “perverted practices” as you named it, on what ground would you object if I say that sex with love is not a sin and that ANY sex that loving spouses are getting pleasure from is not a sin?

      • Joshua

        “I don’t need to try cigarettes or getting drunk or becoming addicted to hard drugs or gambling to have an informed opinion about them, either.”

        A book that contains ideas that can be accepted or rejected is just not comparable to involuntary addictions like alcohol or tobacco. The men who have reviewed this book are Godly, but that doesn’t make their opinions infallible or sacred. Moreover, they did in fact read the book in order to review it, so what’s the harm in reading a book to make sure you understand what exactly is being said before you disagree with it. This isn’t a matter of orthodoxy, this is simple logic.

        Read before you reject.
        Understand before you undermine.
        Consider before you castigate.

        “[W]e do not need to read it to improve our marriages.”

        You may not need it to improve your marriage. But then again, you might. You would have to read it to know that either way. But even if you didn’t profit, don’t presume to speak on behalf of the scores of married couples who would beg to differ with you.

        • Hanna

          I think it may be a little early as the book is new to judge whether “scores of married couples” have profited from this book .If a marriage needs repairing, I sincerely doubt this will be the mere result of simply reading a book. If what is suggested is acted upon, or at least tried, it will take some time to see any results, positive or negative. We must therefore all wait some time before we can judge long term results.

            • Hanna

              Yes. For some reason it didn’t work as such.
              We seemingly both arrived later to this discussion ! I also responded to you above ( then “reply” did work !)
              Here it is again for the sake of ease:

              And what if the spouse is not “comfortable” with anything suggested? Are they then disappointing, or to be understood and respected.? What is then the solution according to the Driscolls? it would seem in the Driscoll’s case anyway, whatever was suggested was done. Or not ? I have not read the book, so I am curious .

              • Joshua

                Okay, great thanks, Hanna. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to say that scores of people will benefit from it, if they begin reading it with the intention of learning some things that they can apply to their marriage (they influence millions of people, and not everyone who listens to him does so with an eye to disagree, even though they may).

                About your first (or second?) question. I’m not sure his solution is all that helpful, but these are problems most married people have to work out between themselves regardless of any advice they hear from the Driscolls, isn’t it? I mean, it’s not uncommon for one spouse to want to try something that their spouse is uncomfortable with inside and outside the bedroom – compromise is important, but so is being upfront and honest when you’re not comfortable with something. That’s true no matter what advice they give. But, they made it clear that you shouldn’t be forceful and coercive and pressure your spouse (whether it be the husband or the wife) into doing something that they don’t want to do. So, I think they would say yes to the second part – that they are to be understood and respected.

          • Joshua

            Oh, but I agree with the bulk of what you said in your first response to me, by the way. If marriages need “repairing” as you say, then I’m not sure any book would be a solution. Some couples need counseling. I think Driscoll’s book is aimed at improving marriages, not repairing them, but I may have missed something.

  • Chad G.

    Thank you for the helpful review and for your commitment to gospel-centrality! I have benefitted from Pastor Mark’s teaching for years as a podcaster. I was excited about the book release, hoping it would be a good resource for my own marriage as well as one I could recommend to other men in my group. But after reading this and another in depth review of the book I am a greatly disappointed that the Driscolls failed to focus on the marriage relationship being a beautiful picture of our relationship with Christ. Thanks again!
    P.S. Roll Tide 🙂

    • Carla B

      What I find sad is the fact that this book IS mostly about marital friendship and how God glorifying biblical marriage portrays the beauty of the gospel. Most people miss that because they are so caught up in “controversy”.

      The “scandalous” chapter will be helpful to a certain demographic. It meets head on questions that are being asked. I thought some of it was “too much” but the over all theme and view of sex was good and biblical. It certainly isn’t worth throwing out all the other chapters because this one focuses on practical sex questions. Over all the book is about so much more as it challenges us to serve, forgive, repent, and be our spouses best friend. I advice couples to read it….if they want to skip a certain chapter because they don’t want to deal with the sex stuff…go for it but don’t through the baby out with the bath water.

  • Chris Poe


    Thank you for this review. I found your discussion of 1 Cor. 6:12 to be particularly helpful in light of how it is often used today.

    While there is much to admire in Mark Driscoll’s ministry, I am sorry that he has chosen to put into print some of the things that have previously been hinted at on his website with regard to what many would consider to be questionable and/or deviant sexual practices within the confines of marriage. This includes (or in the recent past included) a link on the Mars Hill website to the website of a Christian sex toy vendor in which sodomy was also discussed. But I have to say when looking into this issue a few years ago that I don’t recall any mention there or elsewhere of female on male sodomy!

    Well, one plus (if you can call it) is that now this is very clearly out in the open and those raising concerns cannot be accused of just dredging up the old cussing accusations. When I blogged several times about this almost three years ago, that was often the response, along with accusations of being a prudish rube from the “Old South” who doesn’t understand what it takes to reach people today in what is largely a post-Christian (if only in a nominal sense) culture. Ironically, my past is very likely much more wicked than the vast majority of those who defended the approach you call into question in this post, with some of them being pastors who are sons of prominent SBC ministers and in general being men who were raised in conservative evangelical homes.

  • David McKay

    Thank you for going to the trouble of reviewing this book. We need godly leaders to advise us.
    Appreciate the frank, direct and discreet way you have described this book. I would be uncomfortable reading it, especially the X rated chapter, and could not imagine reading it with my wife.

    I am pleased that there are great books like the Kellers’ book which will not embarrass and horrify me, but which are biblically sound.

    I do hope that reviews by mature Christians such as you and Tim Challies will be a wake up call to Mark Driscoll.
    It sounds like there is plenty of helpful stuff in his book, but which has been negated by the explicit, extremely unhelpful material in a significant part of it.

  • Joe B


    I have been praying for you and others that would review this book. Thanks for your review. I believe you have accurately addressed the core issues. I know you are in a difficult position and I appreciate your words of caution very much.
    However, I do wonder if it is a failure to not recognize that the Driscolls follow a very common pattern of false teachers. They preach enough truth to get their perverted doctrines a hearing. Satan is very clever and often subtle. Driscoll does share a lot of truth. It is no surprise that a book that is a “recipe for marital disaster” would contain a lot of good stuff that would make it more widely read. The enemy knows that if it was only full of this pornographic nonsense presented by a couple whose sexual baggage “caused significant problems for many years” – very few people would read it. Driscoll’s consistent and absurdly perverted preoccupation with distorted views of sexuality, in my mind, clearly mark him as someone who has “gone too far” 3 John 9. How messed up is someone who has sexual images of his wife making love with someone else as though watching a film? Male sodomy? What does he have to say or write that is too far? I see Philippians 1 reference in light of the Driscolls often where Paul was grateful wherever the biblical gospel is preached. We should be. But when is it time to be like Paul in Acts 16. I am “annoyed” by the kind of confusion he is bringing to young pastors? There are a lot – A LOT – of men who are seriously giving themselves away missionally to transform a sexualized culture with a biblical gospel AND are pursuing and calling others by the grace of God, to a holy life. PLEASE YOUNG PREACHERS – FIND ROLE MODELS WHO PREACH THE TRUTH, LOVE THEIR WIVES AND LOVE HOLINESS. “Without which no one shall see the Lord”. Would to God young preachers would be like Christian going through Vanity Fair and would simply plug our ears and not listen or read such filthy nonsense – even if it has some good stuff mixed in. My heart breaks to think of marriage – such a beautiful and gracious picture of our union with the Beloved Jesus – being so marred. May God keep us holy.

    • DanLyn

      I 1000000% percent agree with you! I completely agree that all forms of sodomy are sinful…not to mention EVIL. God didn’t make your a— for sexual pleasure. That’s what he made your genitalia for. My husband and I were both appalled and disgusted with his view on sodomy, role play, and sex toys. We have a healthy and wonderful sexual relationship and felt sick to our stomach’s that Christians would consider a— sex among, role play, toys, among other things. Not only is it unhealthy, but it is unnatural. I think that if God wanted us to “participate” in these acts, he would have created “toys” from the get go. BUT HE DIDN’T. I read one of Marks blogs which recommended a website called “christian nympho’s” I checked it out, and was once again, appalled and disgusted, and so was my husband. It recommended stuff like buying your husband “a pocket mast——” so he can use that while you orally stimulate his a—. Once again, sinful and unnatural. I had to pray for God to cleanse my mind from the junk that I saw on there. I do not think Mark is a “false teacher” but I do think he really thinks to be convicted of his wrong. Promoting a— sex, watching your husband mast——, and sex toys to married couples is bad news. I am more than perfectly happy making love with my husband in the way God created us to do so. And I know my husband and I will never change our mind about that. I can only pray that God will convict these people of there wrongs. Our body is the temple of the Lord, and we should do all we can to glorify God in our marriage, not the world. Amen.

      • Joshua

        “I think that if God wanted us to “participate” in these acts, he would have created “toys” from the get go.”

        Really? That’s not an argument. God didn’t invent computers, but you clearly use those. He didn’t invent cars, either. In fact, God didn’t create many, albeit, most things that we use and take for granted on a daily basis.

        As I have said, this just puts people who find certain activities as “unnatural” (by which they actually mean taboo) in a position where they are the sole arbiters of what is and is not acceptable between a man and a wife when they are intimate.

        If you and you’re husband are both not comfortable with something, then do what you are comfortable with. But don’t take your discomfort as a warrant to say what is and is not Biblically permissible. At least, don’t do it with a principle that is as ambiguous as “that which glorifies God.” Doesn’t passion glorify God? Does a stale sex-life glorify Him? This standard is just too subjective to be any more useful (in fact, it’s less useful) than Mark and Grace Driscoll’s.

  • Dillon

    ” Yet the Driscolls give explicit instructions to wives about how they might sodomize their husbands in a pleasurable way ”

    I’m having a bit of a tough time with this one, amongst others I guess.

    So Mark has unnatural sexual desires and would encourage others that if it’s within the bounds of marriage to have your wife do it to you instead that it’s acceptable?

    I really don’t have a problem with the sexual nature of the book as within each of us we entertain some pretty dark stuff and certainly open and honest discussion of this subject is lacking, however…however…

    • Joshua

      “So Mark has unnatural sexual desires and would encourage others that if it’s within the bounds of marriage to have your wife do it to you instead that it’s acceptable?”

      That’s just not true. He CO-WROTE this with his wife. Moreover, often enough it’s the WOMAN that initiates – this just reveals ignorance and stereotypical sentimentality. Finally, they both made perfectly clear that it should be mutually acceptable, and they further explicitly instructed husbands and wives to not do something that their spouse was not comfortable with.

      • Hannah

        And what if the spouse is not “comfortable” with anything suggested? Are they then disappointing, or to be understood and respected.? What is then the solution according to the Driscolls? it would seem in the Driscoll’s case anyway, whatever was suggested was done. Or not ? I have not read the book, so I am curious .

  • donsands

    Thanks for the review. Driscol is a bit warped, though his theology is also good. He needs some purification in a particular area, as we all do, but he sure can say things that are ungodly, and not wholesome.

    May our Lord purify us all more and more, so that we become more and more holy in His name, and less sinful in our hearts. And may we desire more than anything to be humbly and set apart for Christ. Gal. 6:14

  • Chris Tolbert


    This review is gold on many levels. Thank you. Also, thank you for the graciousness with which you speak concerning Mark and Grace. I have benefited greatly in my Christian walk from listening to Mark’s sermons and reading his books. He is a fallible man just like the rest of us and, while many of his errors are great, his Savior is greater still. As Christian leaders, we must speak up and confront error, but we must do so without condemning our brothers who err as heretics unworthy of the prophet’s mantle. And you have done a remarkable job of doing just that. May God continue blessing you and your family in 2012.

  • Rodney Brown


    Nicely done, well balanced and informative. It is the standard all of us as pastors need in an age of new found freedoms in the church. By starting with the issue of exegesis, you anchor it in the word. Then continuing through the grid of theology “Does it glorify God?”, you firmly set the standard for how we are to our equip of the saints in our decision making. I know Piper has lovingly shepherded Driscoll in years past. Has he weighed in on this book?

    • Phil S

      Ted, try, “Intended for Pleasure” by Ed Wheat. Also, we all need to evaluate Driscol’s work in light of EPH 5:12… “for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.” I thought Driscol’s low point was his reputation as “The Cursing Pastor.” (Google it) But this is a new chapter in an already sad story. If we are “older, live in a rural community, or outside of a major metro area, we are perhaps too ignorant to “get it.” Lot’s life and family didn’t survive that environment. It was old (& rural) Vance Havner who once spoke of “Contact without Contamination. “Causing a brother to stumble” in 1st Cor 8:1-13 refers to encouraging a fellow believer to do something that their conscience forbids. How many people will read Driscol and violate an internal taboo because he and his wife said it was permissible? Too many, I fear.

  • Don Johnson

    Looking to Driscoll for marriage advice is ill advised, for many reasons.

    1 Cor 7 is the largest discussion on marriage, Piper ignored it in his book, so I assume similar with Driscoll. And no wonder it gets ignored as it has 10 symmetries in the relations between husband and wife and symmetries are naturally read as egal. If you want to teach gender hierarchy, better to ignore symmetries and hope no one finds out.

    In Eph 5, comps get the mapping of marriage to Christ and the church backwards. The mapping is a husband is to look at how Christ serves the church and practices sacrificial love and go and do likewise to his wife. There is no backwards mapping about how the husband represents Christ and a wife does not, no matter how much comps might prefer such a mapping. In any case, this is a 1st century application of the mutual submission principle, one can figure this out as it is a subordinate clause in the Greek to Eph 5:21. The reason 1st century believing husbands in Ephesus were told to serve and sacrificially love their wives is because they had the power in Roman law and culture, as Ephesus was under Roman law, even to the extent of choosing to discard children or not, like a mafia godfather in power. They were to lay down this power to love and serve their wives, a very counter-cultural statement, then and now. In any case, we know that the sacrificial love (agape) that a husband is to practice is not about getting its own way, per 1 Cor 13.

    • yankeegospelgirl

      As usual, the Christian left will continue to criticize Driscoll for all the wrong reasons. Here this book contains a graphic sex acts manual within its very pages and all you can find to complain about is the fact that they’re complementarians? Unbelievable.

      • Don Johnson

        I have not read Driscoll’s book and do not plan to do so. I was responding to Burk’s review with my critique of points he made in his review. To be honest, I am not sure what some of the sex terms Denny used in the review mean and not sure I want to know.

        On married sex, I like the Wheat’s “Intended for Pleasure”. He is a doctor and they are believers and discuss the subject thoroughly and Scripturally.

      • Joshua

        This says more about your biases than it does the importance of discussing gender roles in a manner that is Biblically faithful. The place of men and women in the context of marriage was a central theme in the book. Therefore, complementarianism is just as important, though it doesn’t get the attention because the “graphic sex manual” (interestingly, I don’t think there were any pictures, so one wonders by what standard you use the word “graphic”) is more sensational.

        Not all egalitarians are identifiable with the “Christian left.” Many are, but even still, the issue is what the Bible says and how to interpret it faithfully. Let the arguments do the talking, rather than your bias against anything deemed “of the left.”

  • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

    We know the tragedy of having multiple partners; it can lead to dissatisfaction in any marriage. People tend to compare the sex they had with a person(s) in the past with their current partner (hopefully a spouse). When we expose our hearts and minds to books of this graphic nature, we are only doing our own marriages a disservice. In effect, this type of literature becomes a “surrogate” partner. A partner we WISH we had. A partner WE fantasize over. A partner WE covet sexually. This is so dangerous!

    In essence we are taking into our bedrooms a “third” partner. What I mean by this is that by reading this literature, we learn and hear of all kinds and types of sexual acts and fantasies that others may be doing and living out that are pleasurable, and if our partners are not willing to act out in similar fashion, many people then become dissatisfied with their spouses unwillingness to perform such acts, and we then long for a surrogate (even in book form). This is so dangerous! So dangerous! There is so much to be said for innocence. God will bless it; have no fear!

    As in all things, do all to the glory of the Lord. Use your God given, good sense, as married adults to figure out what makes you and your spouse happy, and know for sure, as we live and breathe in this FALLEN world, happiness and self fulfillment have a way of eluding all of us. In other words, let’s grow up and understand that we will encounter issue in the marriage bed, but by being submitted to God (first and foremost), then submitted to one another and keeping a clear conscience before the Lord, sex, within the confines of a loving, godly marriage, has a greater chance of coming close to what God intended it to be.

    Also, on a side note, we all know that false teachers can and do attain a high degree of understanding of the deeper things of God. They even can teach the true gospel message with great zeal, but this is no sign they are born again, even the devils can appear to be an angel of light. As in everything, you shall know them by their fruits. So “buyer” beware!

    • Casey

      Mary Elizabeth Tyler,

      If your conscience won’t allow you to read this book, then don’t.

      Your third paragraph sounds exactly like it was written by Mark and Grace Driscoll. And I completely agree! 🙂

      Your last paragraph seems to be implying that Pastor Driscoll is a false teacher. That seems a bit disingenuous. Though they have obvious differences in opinion, I seriously doubt Dr. Burk would suggest Pastor Driscoll as a false teacher.


  • Larry Geiger

    “I have been far from innocent in my own experience and enculturation, yet there are perversions that even I have never heard of before reading about them in chapter 10 of Pastor Driscoll’s book. It seems to me that there is something wrong with that.”

    Sums it up for me. I’m not going there.

    • yankeegospelgirl

      Bingo. I wonder if it’s occurred to the Driscolls just how much marital damage they could do by introducing sexual ideas to couples (especially younger couples), that they’ve never even heard of before.

      • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

        They’re introducing more than just different sexual ideas; something more along the lines of creating sexual dissatisfaction with their spouse’s performance, and a longing in their hearts to be fulfilled through these detailed sexual acts as graphically described in the book. In my estimation this is adultery of the first order. By exposing us to the variety of sexual acts, the Driscoll’s have exposed us to multiple partners because they have caused us to COMPARE what others are doing in their beds. Like comparing one lover to another lover. (I hope I made this clear)?

        As I said before, if we honor God with our virginity and innocence, we have a greater chance of receiving blessings. Obedience seems to work that way, often times. However, why do we always think we will reach 100% satisfaction in our sexual pursuits? This is not true in other areas of our lives. We live in a fallen world.

        It is Nice to see you here from Challies blog, yankeegospelgirl, you, too, Don Sands.

        Also, this is a wonderful review, Denny. God bless you for this.

      • Joshua

        Well, if the first reaction of those couples who hear things they’ve never heard of before is anything like the reaction of many people on this blog (incredulity and offense), then I would hazard to say it’s not doing any damage at all.

        On the other hand, if people who have genuine questions aren’t getting direct and honest answers from Godly men and women, from within a Christian/Biblical context, then one wonders what use the church is if it’s only response is as ambiguous as it is subjective.

        People ask these questions. Mark Driscoll didn’t make them up. They really ask them. At least he tries to answer rather than declaring “anathema” to anything considered taboo.

  • Jason D.

    I recently just finished the audiobook of this and I share the same appreciations and concerns that you have shared here.

    I am one of those Mark would call “20 somethings” and I made it 20 minutes into the 64 minute “Controversial Chapter 10” and honestly felt disgusted and even dirty just for listening.

    Despite what is good I agree, there is too much bad. Don’t get this book, in any format.

    • Jon M.

      Just the review made me “cringe”. Bad enough, this article brought disturbing images now a book that endorses them is too much. I wonder if Homosexuals and bisexuals are going to grab the book and make a case for sexuality being a matter of personal choice.

  • Louis Tullo

    Denny thank you so much for writing such a thoughtful review – acknowledging both the beneficial and not beneficial elements. You review is such a powerful demonstration about what godly men should be doing with all books – evaluating them against the standard of Scripture.

    • Casey


      Are you suggesting that we send folks in our local churches who need counsel in regards to sexual issues to a sex therapist and not their pastor? I’m having a hard time tracking with you here. Please correct my misunderstanding if I am off base.

  • Shalim Jacob

    This is a balanced response, respectfully done and highly readable! I personally think Christians should assess Driscoll’s teaching in a respectful way (as a brother in the Lord), not in a way that belittles him or his personality. And this post did the former! 🙂

  • Emmanuel

    I’d agree with you that in 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul is actually quoting the Corinthians rather than laying out a universal principle. But in my experience, the average Christian reads this verse and take it litteraly as a universal principal (which it isn’t). Most Christians seem to be completely unaware that “scholars” have a different understanding, and it is very difficult convince them of the contrary. Many well read Christians haven’t read the latest commentaries and would assume that Paul is laying out a principle. At least, that’s my experience for both Britain and France. But I don’t think that the average American Christian would be different.

  • Kevin

    First, may I simply say thank you for the time you invested as a service to others in reviewing the book of the Driscoll’s. I find your approach very pastoral and your critique offered in a way that would bring preeminence to “Scripture” first (e.g. proper exegesis) and with all to a view of the glorification of God.

    To offer “correction” is divine, provided it comes from a heart set to “know Him” and with humility to make “Him known”. I personally an concerned with the vitriol spewed out from within the body of Christ, towards this one or that one at the drop of a hat for what the other would find egregious, salacious or malicious. My point in a nutshell is that much that is written via blog’s or twitter or printing press, most often was unneeded much less profitable.

    I find that I have most often erred in the very fact that I have spoken or written when what was most needed is that I kept quiet and instead of protestation, should have employed prostration before God. My failures in following are many. I was once told by a wise elderly man that discipled me, that if I truly have a message of reproof to offer to another member of the body of Christ, that it,”should cost me more to give the ‘message’ than for the listener to hear it”. Most offense that we confront or correction that we give is often based more upon affront towards our preference rather than a broken heart over the Glory of God being sullied by abhorrent taxonomy or theology. While I am sure the heart of God is grieved by the manipulators of scripture, I am also sure that he is equally angry with those who would abuse His bride. To confront, is possibly more “art” than simple dogmatics.

    I unequivocally agree with your assessment and find grace in the text and between the lines. A writer with his readers is often able to bully and get by with loud amens, provided his advice caters to his audience and their preference. I do not see you employing any of those methods and for that I am grateful.

    Again, to hearken back to the sage who discipled me, I was often told, “never read books written by living men, wait till they are long dead and see if they have withstood the test of time”. I understood the spirit behind his injunction.

    In retrospect and with a view towards the history of the church, I can only say that I thank God that in His preeminent plan of unfolding and unveiling Christ, both by incarnation and by His inherent and infallible WORD that He did so in a time without twitter, facebook, nor blog. I value more and more that as the early church fathers began to articulate and aggregate the Apostolic teachings that they did so, being separated by geography and instant messaging. These men poured over the Word of God with great care and with quill and papyrus reasoned and prayed and expounded. Then with scrolls tucked under camel saddles, their work was submitted to others and so on and so forth. The point is, the process was slow, but forced much contemplation as well as reasoned searching of scripture. As we know many still produced aberrant writings but “the body orthodox” was upheld and maintained.

    I like the approach that is found in D.M. Loyd Jones book, “Unity- The true and the false” and how he approached Schism against that of Division. The former being divine and the latter being from hell itself. With most of our modern era seeing division in the church based upon arrangement, decor, use or lack there of of instruments and what tune they should strum. Few are the true defenders of God’s glory because His name is sullied by a bride that prefers “spots and permits a few wrinkles” all the while calling it “grace”.

    I think that J.R. Lowell said it best in “Present Crisis”.
    Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—
    Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
    Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

    I am continually aware that I stand upon the shoulder’s of giants, to look over the fence. To pontificate in the public forum, while seeking to glorify God is a Holy yet most arduous task and in so doing we must of need open ourselves up to the most carnivorous and cordial among us. The arena of “TRUTH”, it’s proclamation as well as its defense, is a bloody one to be sure. And the man who longs for the praise of the panderer will find he has chased after “a feather”.

    This “sexsplicit” writing done by many of late, serves only to promote more pablum from the pulpit and while it may thrill the listen for a time, it does nothing to promote a mesmerizing encounter with a Holy God that should drive us to the dust. In my mind and heart, as I meditate upon Christ my King and see His precious brow bloodied and covered with the spit of men- while naked and exposed and heading to a place called Calvary, I cannot help but be overcome by such redemption. Possibly if our focus was upon the central truths of His Holiness and humiliation and exaltation our pulpits would resound with thunder once again; and the reductionist approach to all that is holy would not be reduced to “thunder in a bedroom”? Please forgive my lack of brevity, but a broken heart sometimes releases more than tears.

    Thank you for your service to HIS glorious bride!

    Kevin Turner

  • Casey

    At what point is someone going to mention that maybe this book isn’t fit for the conscience of every person who can read, just as not every movie is fit for every person with eyeballs?

    I find it a bit refreshing that there are solid Christian folks finally engaging questions that the vast majority of people in our cities, schools, seminaries, churches, and families are asking. I would much rather have someone address these issues as the Driscolls have done, than continue to do nothing at all.

    I’m not positive on this, but I am sure that there are loads of gospel-centered marriage books on the booktables at Mars Hill and that Pastor Mark would advise his congregation to read them all, not just his.

    Are there critical reviews of this book coming out of the urban Northwest or Northeast? I’m not trying to imply that sexual ethics differ from region to region, but Bible-belt Kentucky isn’t the same as sexually-progressive, pagan Seattle or NYC.

    Also, at what point are those who are so eager to critique the Driscolls also willing and eager to offer concrete counsel on such obviously pressing questions? It is perfectly okay to differ on the specifics, but what are the specifics? What are the differences? I give props to the Driscolls for even caring to name some of them.

    Regardless of whether or not you think sex toys are good or bad, we should all hope that God will use this book in a mighty way, as he has much of what the Driscolls have done in the past.

    Writing my own thoughts out like this makes me want to go watch another clip of Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady.”

    Denny, you should go watch a clip now too. 🙂

  • David Drake

    Full disclosure: I have not read the book and probably won’t. I find this to be a generally helpful review but have some questions about some of the argumentation. I also have no interest in commending or condemning any particular sex act, but am worried that some arguments here could be carried further than intended.

    1. Language: When you use the term Sodomy, one has to assume that you believe this act is sinful. It suggests that the act between a faithful committed loving husband and wife are committing the same sin as the rapists at sodom, or at the very least are engaging in a obviously homosexual (and thus sinful act). You may believe this, but if so it need to be demonstrated not lead with.

    2. On the issue of “Sodomy” you suggest that it could lead to a male with same sex attraction having further stuggles with same sex attraction. Suggesting on some level an ignorance I would guess of both homosexual and heterosexual sexuality…and perhaps suggesting that homosexuality is primarily a issue of an icky way of doing sex and not an issue of broken identity, sexuality and spirituality. Beyond that I am not sure that the argument can be sustained. It seems to go like this: Gays have in a— intercourse, Being Gay is wrong therefore to have a— intercourse is wrong. The problem with this is that it can also be stated that: Gays kiss, to be gay is wrong therefore to kiss is wrong. I am not sure that this argument can be carried out without eventually leading to a prohibition of all sex acts besides simple intercourse. Further the focus on the homosexual nature seems to be sketchy in general. What if we applied it like this. Bob had a sexual affair, that sexual affair was wrong, therefore even though Bob and his wife are reconciled intercourse might remind Bob of the sinful partner therefore intercourse is wrong.

    3. I do agree with what you have said about explicit detail. I think God gives us much freedom sexually. I think that the freedom should be protected, but not just by what we do in the bed but also how we talk about it outside the bed. This I think cuts both ways. I think that to declare any act sinful (that is not clearly condemned) is overstepping pastoral bounds. However I think to describe acts to graphically also oversteps pastoral bounds. Men and women are wonderful creatures and if they are given a Gospel based, grace filled, giving context for their marriage then a emotionally healthy couple should be able to experiment and discover new joys all the days of their marriage… And should not need charts from a pastor to do it.

    I really did enjoy the review and think it was well done.

    • Denny Burk


      1. Language – The way we use the word “sodomy” is quite different than the sin committed in Genesis 19. I am using the term in its modern sense, not as a designation of the sin of Sodom. That being said, I chose to use the word “sodomy” in the review because I was trying to avoid the phrase “A— Sex.” This was my effort at being discreet. So I do not mean to suggest a moral equivalence between the the sin of Sodom and “the act between a faithful committed loving husband and wife” as you put it. That being said, I still think the ethics of “the act between a faithful committed loving husband and wife” has to be tested by the biblical purposes for sex.

      2. The Driscolls bring up the possibility of sodomy causing temptation to homosexuality (p. 189), saying that it might cause men with a homosexual past to fantasize about that past. I was trying to raise the possibility that it might also arouse unbiblical passions in men who have no past background. I am not saying that this kind of activity is what causes all cases of homosexual attraction. But it is a possibility.

      3. There are some things that might be discussed in a one-on-one counseling session that one might not want to say in a book for general readers. It takes wisdom to know which is appropriate for which occasion.

      Thanks for reading and for the comments.


  • Mark

    Denny, thanks for your thorough review. Your scholarship and thoroughness of research definitely shows.

    I do desire that Mark Driscoll would see the importance of thorough research, reviewing relevant literature, informing his readers of the findings, why his view is correct, and appealing to authority outside of himself. The influence he has over people provide a mandate for such.

  • Ken

    By the way, I forgot to say that I really appreciate your review of Driscoll’s book.

    What are the better books on marriage that you would recommend instead of Driscoll’s ?

  • Rich Barcellos

    It is bad logic, history, and theology to argue that culture has so changed that we need to wake up and pull up our skirts a little and talk about things because these are the questions being asked. The believers of the NT era lived in a sex-crazed culture – with fornication, adultery, sodomy, temple prostitution, abortion, exposure, etc., yet when God published His mind on these issues he did not capitulate to the tastes, desires, nomenclature, and questions of the sin-crazed culture. When the apostle Paul, for instance, discussed these things, he hit them head-on, yet with a wholesome reserve. Our problem is not that we need to think and talk about these things because we don’t; our problem is that we think and talk about things that we shouldn’t.

  • anonymous

    >> from footnote #6: “issues of cleanliness” and “damage to the sphincter” . . .

    I have worked in health care for more than 30 years. In the 1980s and ’90s I saw the changes brought about in our work practices by the discovery and proliferation of HIV and AIDS. We were required to wear gloves at all times, were much more careful about handling blood samples and needles, and more.

    I did quite a bit of reading about the sexual activities (sodomy, and more) that facilitated the spread of HIV, and while HIV and AIDS were the main topic of most of what I read, there were other diseases and conditions that were heretofore unknown and which doctors were starting to see in large numbers in male homosexuals. An example is “gay bowel syndrome (GBS).” I haven’t heard this phrase used since the 1990s, and it was “new” at that time, but this syndrome was a plethora of parasites plus normal bowel bacteria being spread to large populations of people, and/or “found” in abnormal locations in the body. Example: E coli in the throat.

    And there were diseases which *were* known, but which were being diagnosed in unusually high numbers among homosexual males. An example is Hepatitis B. This type of hepatitis had been known about for some time, but suddenly it was rampant among homosexual males, and it soon became another addition to the growing list of sexually transmitted diseases –- where it remains today. (A fulfillment, I believe, of Proverbs 7:23.) More recently, Hepatitis C, while transmitted in blood transfusions (as Hep B can be), is now also an STD. (As anyone who has recently donated blood knows, blood donors are questioned very carefully about their sexual practices, and anyone involved in homosexual behavior– “even once” – is excluded as a donor. And all donated blood is thoroughly and systematically tested for a *number* of diseases now, including Hepatitis B and C, and HIV.)

    All that to say this: When God decreed in Deut. 23:13-14 that human egestion was to take place outside the camp, and that the waste matter was to be covered with dirt using a shovel, the health of His people was His primary concern. God created bacteria (good and bad), amoebas, and other parasites, and He wanted to protect His people from the “bad” — and the diseases they would cause. This command is the foundation for modern sanitation practices, indoor plumbing, waste treatment plants, etc.

    So sodomy – when practiced by two men, or a man and a woman, even married couples, violates God’s laws for cleanliness and could be considered a defilement of the marriage bed.

    But there’s more. The footnote quoted the physician and used the phrase “damage to the sphincter.” God did not design the anal sphincter to allow penetration from the outside and still retain its integrity and strength. His design was for that sphincter to be opened by the internal force of egestion, for very brief periods of time. Repeated penetration from the outside will weaken the sphincter, even to the point of incontinence. No one wants that.

    ((Similarly, in an abortion, the abortionist will force open the woman’s cervix, in a way that God never designed, in order to insert his weapons of murder into the womb. This forced opening of the cervix may result in a condition called “incompetent cervix,” where, in a future *wanted* pregnancy, the cervix may be unable to remain closed in order to “hold in” the baby, with the result of a miscarriage. Please note, though: I am not saying here that every miscarriage is automatically the result of a previous abortion. There are other causes for miscarriages.))

    But there’s more. The wall of the rectum is thin — much thinner than the wall of the vagina. This is also part of God’s design. The practice of sodomy puts unnatural pressure on the wall of the rectum, causing tears in the tissue, and allowing bacteria and viruses to escape into the bloodstream. This very serious condition is called “sepsis,” and it is precisely how HIV and Hepatitis are spread so quickly among homosexuals – even today. But the tearing of the rectal wall has another serious consequence: rectal bleeding.

    In the medical center where I work, sometimes I see the list of patients coming to our very busy emergency room, and the reason for their “visit.” I am seeing more and more cases of rectal bleeding in younger patients – those in their 20s and 30s. I don’t know any “specifics” about any of them, but I do think about these things, about God’s good design for sex, and about our increasingly corrupt culture.

    • A mom

      I see a lot of people saying that kind of thing about our culture (our increasingly corrupt culture, or even the Driscolls saying that we are more sexual than other times), and I think it bears pointing out, that our culture is not more evil than other cultures. As early as Genesis (6:5 in fact) we are told, ” the LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.” If it was evil enough to make God sorry for making them and decide to wipe out the lot of them with a giant flood, I must imagine it was pretty ugly indeed….

    • Retired woman

      Dear Anonymous,

      Thanks for your article. I wonder if Mark Driscoll knew the health implications of these practices (sodomy, for instance) before writing the book? did he know how many surgeries had to be performed on those who practiced sodomy? Like you, I worked in hospitals and clinics for many years before my retirement and I am so concerned for our young, and old too, people.

      I am afraid many people will get hurt physically and emotionally when they adopt the sexual perversions the Driscolls say “permissible” in the book. We sure live in a world that has lost its way and the devil is an expert in mixing some truth with error to bring about more moral decay.

      The Scripture that comes to my mind is 2 Cor 14-15 “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”

      I wonder if the Driscolls are being deceived by the Adversary ? I will pray for Mark and Grace.

      Denny Burk gave a solid review of the book and I appreciate it. I do not recommend this book to anyone since there is so much more harm than good in it.

      “Whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” 1 Cor 10:31

  • Reg Schofield

    Denny you did a awesome job dealing with the controversies surrounding this book with both clarity and charity . Excellent review and if people wish to purchase this book , they will have a discerning eye . Excellent job .

  • donsands

    “I would much rather have someone address these issues as the Driscolls have done, than continue to do nothing at all.”-Casey

    Not me.

    “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
    “Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

    (Ephesians 5:3-14 ESV)

    I think this portion of God’s Word does fit with what we are discussing. We really need to be careful when we talk about having sex, and teaching others how to do it. God truly needs to be listened to, and we better have the right amount of fear mixed with love when we study the holy Word, and share it.

    Once again, Denny did a fine review. We should listen to him. IMHO.

  • a reader

    I found it interesting the explicit contradiction in Driscoll’s revelations that you have described above. In one, he is told to marry Grace, preach the Bible, etc. and in the other before his daughter’s birth he “receives” information about Grace’s past to which he writes that if he had known these things beforehand, he would not have married her. So from these two, is he implying that he would have disobeyed God’s “command” that he rec’d through the second vision just because he found its details unsavory?

    • a reader

      * is he implying that he would have disobeyed God’s “command” in the first revelation because of details he rec’d through the second vision just because he found its details unsavory

        • Ty

          ” Assuming Mark is telling the truth, has he considered that it may not have been of God? ”

          I think Mark thinks much too highly of himself to believe they may not have been from God as that type of mysticism has been an important part of his ministry.

  • Bradley

    Why is it that we(the reformed community) are so into calling things in which Scripture doesn’t talk about explicitly secondary convictions or as named on these forums “opinions”. Why can’t we just say that it is not glorifying to God to sodomize your wife or for her to sodomize you. I mean seriously, come on. Has culture so influenced our thinking that we just go with the flow now or what? I would think at least knowing/believing you were made in the image of God would make you wanna do things better than the animals but I guess this is what our culture has succeeded in, reducing man into beasts.
    I have a problem with more than just sodomy but because I know this is wrong without a shadow of a doubt I’m going to stick to my guns on it and let God show me if the other things are right or not. It might not sound like humility but let’s just call it what it is and call it sin. You can go with the argument that if a husband and a wife want to lovingly do this act but at the end of the day you will find no one who has lovingly done so.
    Sorry if this sounded harsh and prideful, I just hate it when sin is somehow passed off as a good thing with excuses that make it sound “okay in that context” but really that context doesn’t happen in reality.

    Please, if you respond with an argument please use constructive criticism. I’m tired of hearing the same old straw man over and over.

  • Justin F

    I agree that there is a proper context for discussions of this type, example you don’t discuss oral sex with 5th graders. But it seems to me that a book specifically dealing with sex is the perfect place to go into explicit detail about sex acts. But I don’t think that being a pastor makes one an expert on sexual counselling, and so I think it would be more helpful to read a book by a trained sex expert on the matter.

    Our Christian culture has dubbed the Pastor the resident expert on everything even in areas that they have no training, and hence the Pastor has become the “May I ___” person for everything (not just sex). This is not a healthy model for a community. And I say this from experience as the son of a Pastor.

    I think the bulk of the criticism against the “May we ___” chapter is misguided. If a Christian couple can enjoy sex in a multitude of ways that is respectful to each other, then that should be their decision. The attitude against some of these acts seems to stem from a belief where some body parts are clean/good and some are dirty/bad. There is a lock and a key, and any other use of the key is wrong. But let’s not forget that the “key” is also the organ responsible for eliminating waste water from the body. I think the bigger concern should should be directed in how a community treats others (non-spouse). We shouldn’t exploit others sexually, we shouldn’t go having sex with multiple partners and reduce the other sex to an object to be exploited, etc.

    This next part is a bit tongue in cheek. I was weak and could not resist.

    “The Feinbergs questions are: . . . (2) Can I do it as unto the Lord?”
    Please tell me you really don’t want me to ask this before having sex.

    “(6) Is it profitable?”
    Isn’t that prostitution?

    “Pastors and authors would do well to explain what the Bible says using the same level of discretion that the Bible itself uses.”
    The same level of discretion as the Bible? Have you read Genesis? Incest, polygamy, adultery, and that’s just Abraham. Don’t forget Onan and Tamar, circumcision, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. You can say that some of these were not healthy sexual expressions, and I would agree. But the author of Genesis was quite explicit.

    The Bible does not have a single voice on sex and marriage. It is a multitude of voices written from various times and cultures. To try to form these voices into a single normative directive for sex and marriage would not be a healthy approach to the text, in my opinion.

    • yankeegospelgirl

      “But it seems to me that a book specifically dealing with sex is the perfect place to go into explicit detail about sex acts.”

      That seems to be begging the question. The very issue at hand is whether or not there SHOULD be a Christian “how-to manual” for certain sexual topics.

      As for the “I’ll bet you can’t get more graphic than the Bible” line… yawn. I’m seriously very bored with that, because trust me, EVERYONE uses it. And it’s incredibly weak. Yes, the Bible mentions sexual sins in fairly dry terms. It is NOT detailed and graphic in the same way the Driscolls are. Simply saying, “And they were all circumcised” or “Men burned with lust for each other,” or “So-and-so lay with his sister,” just isn’t that nitty-gritty. Sorry.

      • Steve D


        I can think of no better place for sex information to be written than in a book on marriage. Do I think that Driscoll has done a good job in explaining the dangers of some sex acts? Probably not (I haven’t read the book, so my comment has to be qualified). However, as Evangelicals we have either run from the physical aspects of sex or given out physiologically inaccurate information based on old wives tales.

        Instead of running from the issue, I think that we should be confronting it head on. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, God created it after all and wants us to enjoy it in the proper context.

      • Amw

        “That seems to be begging the question. The very issue at hand is whether or not there SHOULD be a Christian “how-to manual” for certain sexual topics.”

        I just finished reading an article from Mark Driscol about this question exactly. In it he states that if there isn’t a Christian manual on how-to’s and can we __? then Christian married couples will turn to the wrong source, and find the wrong answers for these questions they have.

      • Joshua

        It’s not a how-to manual (this isn’t a “Christian Kama Sutra”). It’s a Christian “Can-I” chapter in a book about fostering a healthy, Godly marriage. He’s going into as much detail as he needs to to give concrete answers to direct questions. People might not like it. Fine – don’t read it – no one’s forcing you to. But people want to know, and the only concrete answers they get is generally from people who aren’t disciples of Christ. The only advice given in churches is almost entirely subjective and ambiguous. Denny’s criteria of “that which glorifies God,” is a case-in-point. In short, it’s too subjective and ambiguous to be useful in answering the actual questions that Christian couples are asking.

    • Karen Butler

      “The same level of discretion as the Bible? Have you read Genesis?”

      Yes, many many times, and interestingly, today’s reading of the One Year Bible illustrates very well how much God values discretion — in the juxtaposition of the sons of Noah who covered over their father’s nakedness, and the disgrace of the father of all the Canaanites, who was cursed for his sniggering report of his father’s lapse in judgment.

      For me, the Driscolls have now been forever linked to these indelicate ways and unhygenic positions, and I wish more than anything they would have thought of the undignified place this messy chapter 10 puts poor Grace especially into. It really is a case of Too Much Information.

      It makes me even more grateful for my good and discrete husband.

      • Christiane

        no Christian husband should be willing to expose his personal married life to the public, out of respect for the privacy of the marital relationship . . .

        I think Driscoll has maybe in his way tried to help married people, but his personal disclosures are not in keeping with maintaining the boundaries demanded by the privacy of the marital union

        ‘poor’ Grace ?
        I think she has acquiesced willingly, but it has likely been difficult for her to be the object of people’s curiosity

        her husband kind of put her ‘out there’ when he should have maintained her dignity as his wife with a care for their private marital relations

        • Karen Butler

          Yes, “poor Grace.”

          Mark will get some dubious man-points from the overgrown boys of this world, and most everyone will roll their eyes,and say, ‘that’s Mark just being Mark again’, but she has to deal with an entirely different look in the eye, and she should have been shielded from that.

          A double standard, yes, but that is reality in our world.

          • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

            I don’t have access to their book, but I was wondering if they are claiming their marriage improved “after” they became Christians, or “after” they made their bedroom adventures a TOP priority?

            Legitimate question!!!

            Christiane and Karen, I share your sentiments. I feel so sorry for Mark’s **beautiful** wife. Her dignity has been compromised. A “Christian man” should protect that at all costs. What is the world coming to?

  • Daniel

    Maybe Driscoll should look at 1 Cor. 6:9-10 in the NASB. (Unfortunately, the ESV used a dynamic equivalency translation here).

    “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    The term “effeminate” refers to the passive partner in a sodomite relationship. Scripture is not unclear on these questions. All forms of sodomity are sinful.

    • John

      first, the ESV has a textual note to 1 Cor. 6:9 which states that the original Greek uses two terms that refer to the “passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts.” But the term refers to “homosexual” practices. So your criticism is misplaced. There is no condemnation of heterosexual anal sex. We might find the topic disgusting; we might wish there were such a condemnation. But if we’re honest and bound by scripture, then we have to admit there is not. What we need, then are Biblically rooted principles.

    • Amw


      offensive term: an offensive term used to describe a man whose behavior, appearance, or speech is considered to be similar to that traditionally associated with women or girls

    • Dee

      It is quite clear from Romans 3.26-27 that the act a homosexual couple commits is unnatural, with the male act being sodomy. It is a sin and violation of God’s intended purpose for the body. How can one glorify God committing such an act if God deems that very act to be unnatural and contrary to His design?

  • Sarmishta

    One of the best reviews that I’ve read thus far. I think this is a much needed caution for young and old couples, and even those considering marriage, in a world gone wrong. It’s easier to bring to the Scriptures our cultural dogmas than let the Scriptures shake the sinful dust off us, and we all need to hear that fair warning. Thanks!

  • Ken

    What do you think are 2 or 3 best commentaries on the Song of Solomon?

    I also believe it is about married monogamous romance and love within marriage, and also applies in a way to Christ and the church secondarily.
    (because of Ephesians 5, Luke 24, and the many other passages in the OT that when the Israelites went after idolatry, it was called “playing the harlot with Baal”, etc. and Hosea’s parallel of God’s love for his people and his love for Gomer, in the book of Hosea.

    But who is Solomon’s wife when he was monogamous?

    I Kings doesn’t make it clear who it is.
    Abishag may be – the argument that Shulamite and Shunamite are the same person. Driscoll actually helped me on that point, ( I had never heard that or read that before) as I did listen to one or two of his Song of Solomon audio messages a long time ago. I never got back to them (ran out of time and they went out of sight out of mind; then later others started critiquing him for his bad language and explicit visions, so I decided not to back to his messages.)

    the only other wife for Solomon mentioned in I Kings is the daughter of Pharaoh, in I Kings 3:1 – that is the only other one before Solomon defends into polygamy and apostasy – I Kings 11.

    Who is she?

    I am still shocked over Mark’s recommendations and permissions in the “can we _____ ?” section – the same ones you and others are having problems with; and the visions he had about his wife.

  • Ken

    that is the only other one before Solomon defends into polygamy and apostasy – I Kings 11.

    should have been:

    that is the only other one before Solomon descends into polygamy and apostasy – I Kings 11.

  • Bob Gonzales

    Denny writes,

    “Again, the fundamental question is not “Is it lawful?” but “Does it glorify Christ?”

    Driscoll writes,

    “Marriage includes a spouse, and often children. But the goal, center, and purpose of marriage is not self, spouse, or children. The ultimate goal of marriage and family is the glory of God. Only when marriage and family exist for God’s glory–and not to serve as replacement idols–are we able to truly love and be loved.” (RM, 28).

    Trying to understand the basis of Denny’s critical remark. As I’ve said elsewhere,

    “While waiting for my pre-ordered copy of Mark and Grace Driscoll’s Real Marriage: the Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together, I read some of the reviews that were being recommended on the social networks and blogosphere. While not entirely negative, the reviews were primarily negative, basically giving a “thumbs down” on the book. This gave me concern.

    Now I have the book and am reading it. In fact, I purposely forwarded to the notorious “Chapter 10″ to see if it was as bad as the reviewers painted it to be. My conclusion thus far: just as it’s sometime wise not to just a book by its cover, it’s sometimes wise not to judge a book by its reviewers. My advice: if you do feel constrained to express your opinions about the book, read it first and don’t just rely on second or third hand info. The book is not without its flaws. But neither are the negative reviews about the book.”

    • Mark


      I believe Denny was addressing the Driscolls’ three questions which are derived from 1 Cor. 6:12. The questions are: “Is it lawful?, Is it helpful?, Is it enslaving.” If, as the book states, the Driscolls believe that “The ultimate goal of marriage and family is the glory of God,” why didn’t they include this among the questions a Christian should ask themselves before engaging in a certain activity?

      • John

        I think they were trying to exegete 1 Cor. 6:12 which doesn’t explicitly mention the “glory of God.” That is, 1 Cor. 6:12 mentions things as “lawful”, “enslaving”, and “helpful” (and the lack of these.) By the way, Denny’s interpretation of 1 Cor. 6:12 appears flawed to me, assuming both that the phrase “all things are lawful” is a quote from an antinomian source (probably but not certain and certainly not described as such in the text) and that Paul disavows that idea entirely, which he does not.

    • John

      Bob Gonzales is a cessationist, meaning that he has a theological commitment (not any where supported by scripture) that he believes is necessary for protecting the authority of scripture. If you believe in the sufficiency of scripture, you can’t be a cessationist (since scripture doesn’t teach it).

    • John

      That’s true but not really helpful. Yes, the ultimate question is always “Does it glorify Christ?” But when it comes to practices not explicitly denounced by scripture, how do we discern what things glorify Christ and what do not? For that we need Biblically rooted principles, such as “is it lawful?”, “is it helpful?”, “is it enslaving?”. Those minor questions can be helpful in answering the ultimate question. And someone who’s not willing to develop any scriptural principles or even discuss some matters that real people struggle with, shouldn’t criticize the ones who do.

  • donsands

    “The book is not without its flaws.”-Bob

    What flaws are those Bob? If you don’t mind me asking. By flaws are they ungodly words, or still godly words, and teachings?

    • Phil S

      We need to evaluate Driscol’s work in light of EPH 5:12… “for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.” I thought Driscol’s low point was his reputation as “The Cursing Pastor.” (Google it) But this is a new chapter in an already sad story.

      If we are “older, live in a rural community, or outside of a major metro area, we are perhaps too ignorant to “get it.” Lot’s life and family didn’t survive that environment. It was old (& rural) Vance Havner who once spoke of “Contact without Contamination.” Worth considering…

      “Causing a brother to stumble” in 1st Cor 8:1-13 refers to encouraging a fellow believer to do something that their conscience forbids. How many people will read Driscol and violate an internal taboo because he and his wife said it was permissible?

      • John

        you cut off the quote just before the crucial command, “but rather expose them.” Obviously shameful practices cannot be exposed without being discussed. You’ve taken a phrase of scripture out of context and applied to it a meaning which is the opposite of what it really means. The context clearly shows that we’re to “expose” shameful practices by bringing them to the light.

  • FormerFellow

    Will you be doing a similar review of Ed Young’s new book (released coincidentally?) at the same time as Driscoll’s, “Sexperiment”. Seems like all these pastors really want to do is write a sex book, get on national TV, sell lots of books, and then buy jets.

    Would love your thoughts on that book too.

  • John

    You don’t deal with the reality that the questionable practices they deal with are not explicitly condemned in scripture. If we believed in the sufficiency of scripture, that’s not a meaningless fact. We simply don’t have the right to condemn them; we have to have some kind of theological basis to guide us. Just ignoring them, as some suggest, is not helpful. It is, in fact, to leave people to be victimized by the world.

    Further, your exegesis of the key 1 Cor. 6 verse is faulty. It maybe that Paul was quoting an antinomian source. But he doesn’t say that. He doesn’t disavow “all things are lawful” but rather reinterprets and defines it. The three questions of the Driscolls you found insufficient comes from the text. Those of us who believe in the sufficiency of scripture find that compelling.

  • Israel

    For a man that claims all churches are wimpy and unmanly, and that his church attracts real men, for a so called “mans man” like mark Driscoll to be promoting sodomy on men is pretty wierd.

    • Israel

      I like mark Driscoll , he can be very orthodox in his understanding go reformed theology, but he says and teaches things sometimes that are heretical. I wouldn’t call him a false teacher, but he is off in many areas , and is in desperate need of help, since he holds such a influential position.

      • John

        name one “heretical” doctrine that Mark Driscoll teaches? You made a serious accusation. Please support it or retract it.

  • Bob Gonzales

    In an earlier comment above, I cited the reviewer who criticized the Driscolls for not making God’s glory the ultimate aim in marriage, including sexual activity: “Again, the fundamental question is not “Is it lawful?” but “Does it glorify Christ?” Then I quoted the Driscolls who write early in their book, “Marriage includes a spouse, and often children. But the goal, center, and purpose of marriage is not self, spouse, or children. The ultimate goal of marriage and family is the glory of God. Only when marriage and family exist for God’s glory–and not to serve as replacement idols–are we able to truly love and be loved.” (emphasis added; RM, 28). So I had a hard time processing Mr. Burke’s criticism when it seemed to overlook a theological commitment and affirmation already established earlier in the Driscolls’ book.

    A brother named Mark responded,

    I believe Denny was addressing the Driscolls’ three questions which are derived from 1 Cor. 6:12. The questions are: “Is it lawful?, Is it helpful?, Is it enslaving.” If, as the book states, the Driscolls believe that “The ultimate goal of marriage and family is the glory of God,” why didn’t they include this among the questions a Christian should ask themselves before engaging in a certain activity?

    Well, maybe Mark and Grace Driscoll didn’t feel the need to repeat that “ultimate goal” statement throughout every chapter and section of their book for the same reason the apostle Paul didn’t feel it necessary to repeat his 1 Corinthians 10:31 remark in every section and every chapter of every epistle he wrote. Of course, we all assume that Paul expects all of our thinking, speaking, actions to have as their ultimate goal God’s glory. (Interestingly, Paul focuses on marriage in 1 Cor 7 but doesn’t discuss God’s glory as its ultimate aim. Of course, he had already told the Corinthians to glorify God in their bodies (6:20) so I suppose he expected them to assume that was his presupposition as he discussed sex and marriage in 1 Cor 7.)

    Can’t we extend the same courtesy to Mark and Grace Driscoll? Do you really think they would encourage any other ultimate goal and aim for the sexual aspect of marriage than God’s glory? In my mind, a fair reviewer would not assume the worst about a brother and sister in Christ but would give them the benefit of the doubt–especially when they begin the book by clearly and unequivocally affirming that God’s glory is the ultimate aim and goal of marriage (p. 28).

    Moreover, I find the repeated criticism of the Driscoll’s “misuse” of 1 Corinthians 6:12 to be overstated and misleading. It’s true that many modern interpreters view the statement “all things are lawful for me” not as an affirmation of Paul but rather as a Corinthian slogan that was being misused to condone attitudes and behaviors that in some cases were not wise or appropriate. In this case, Paul cites the slogan, then he adds important qualifiers, which the Corinthians were leaving out. Accordingly, Paul isn’t totally disagreeing with the principle behind the slogan, i.e., if it’s not condemned by Scripture, it’s lawful, that is, permissible. But Paul is pointing out that this principle must be qualified and circumscribed by other considerations, namely, is it (1) beneficial? and (2) is it enslaving?

    This is precisely how the translators of the New English Translation (NET) take Paul’s use of the phrase–not as a complete rejection of the principle but as a partial agreement and qualification of the principle:

    “All things are lawful for me.” In the expressions in vv. 12–13 within quotation marks, Paul cites certain slogans the Corinthians apparently used to justify their behavior. Paul agrees with the slogans in part, but corrects them to show how the Corinthians have misused these ideas.” (emphasis added; NET study note).

    So if the Driscolls were using the principle “all things are lawful for me [i.e., anything not condemned by Scripture is permissible]” without the qualifiers Paul adds, they would be guilty of the same error the Corinthians were making. But they don’t do that. On the contrary, they carefully qualify the “what’s not condemned by Scripture is permissible” principle by the qualifiers Paul himself employed.

    So, in the first place, we should assume that they affirm God’s glory is the ultimate goal behind all human activity, even sex. They state that principle at the beginning of the book (p. 28). Could they have repeated more frequently? Sure. Would it have been especially helpful to repeat it in chapter ten? I guess so. But then again, those who disagree with the conclusions the Driscolls arrive at regarding the appropriateness or non-appropriateness of certain practices will simply dismiss a reaffirmation of such a statement since they find what the Driscolls allow as inconsistent with God’s glory.

    Secondly, I don’t think we should find fault with Driscolls’ grid in principle. It would have been best if Mark had noted the other interpretation, which seems to be favored today. But it wouldn’t have altered his grid substantially. However one interprets Paul’s use of the phrase, the outcome is virtually the same:

    General principle: What the Bible doesn’t condemn may be permissible …
    Qualifying principle: … provided that its beneficial (spiritually and physically) …
    Qualifying principle: … provided that it doesn’t foster or create an unwarranted and unhealthy addiction (spiritually and physically).

    So the reviewer’s conclusion that their reading of 1 Corinthians 6:12 is “fundamentally flawed” (a conclusion he employs to largely dismiss the value of most of anything they say in the chapter) is, in my opinion, fundamentally misleading and unfair. In my mind, the reviewer is as guilty if not more guilty than the Driscolls of failing to provide a well-nuanced and balanced reading of the text.

    Thirdly, while giving the Driscolls the benefit of the doubt that they believe even sex has as its ultimate goal God’s glory since they already affirmed that early in the book and while not making too much out of their supposed misuse of 1 Corinthians 6:12, we then may express why we think some of their particular conclusions may not be totally consistent with the principles above or with the ultimate aim of God’s glory. Even here, though, we must be careful to represent their position fairly and attempt to read it in the best possible light.

    I think Dr. Burke is successful to some degree. But in a few instances, I don’t think he’s portrayed some of the Driscoll’s conclusions accurately. For example, Dr. Burke complains that the Driscolls’ “grid” for assessing the rightness or wrongness of a sexual activity is “truncated” and “reductionistic. He cites another pair of authors who employ eight questions for ascertaining the ethics of sexual activity. But a more careful reading of the Driscolls’ book reveals that they actually include other criteria related to the purpose for sex under the second of their three main questions. So is it “helpful” is more carefully defined as does it fulfill one of the following purposes for marriage: “pleasure, children, oneness, knowledge, protection, and comfort.” True, they fail to include, “to bring God glory.” But since they’ve already established that as the overarching purpose for marriage earlier in the book, I’m assuming everything else they say is qualified by that greatest of priorities.

    One more thing I should point out. According to Mr. Burke, “The Driscolls give explicit instructions to wives about how they might sodomize their husbands in a pleasurable way” (p. 188). I read this before I had the book and was initially shocked. How could Mark Driscoll, dudely guy that he is, recommend that a wife and husband exchange sex roles!

    Then I read the book and was relatively relieved to find that what I inferred from Mr. Burke’s remark was incorrect. What Driscoll actually said might be permissible was not at all what I had imagined when reading the word “sodomy.” Granted, the term is sometimes used quite broadly to include things that most folks wouldn’t normally classify as sodomy. Whatever the case, what Mark said “might” be permissible (keeping the other qualifications and disclaimers in view) turned out to be something different from what he himself carefully defined and condemned as sodomy (pp. 187-88). Some may still be of the opinion that what Driscoll actually defends in this particular case as permissible is inappropriate. But it’s vitally important not to misrepresent a person’s position. And sadly, I’m already seeing Driscoll denounced, dismissed, and dissed on Facebook and blog discussions on the basis that he endorses wives sodomizing their husbands. The only conclusion I can draw is that these critics haven’t read the book but are instead basing their remarks on reviews like the one above which use strongly pejorative language but fail to careful distinguish exactly what the Driscolls are and are not endorsing.

    One last thing to underscore. (I could say more but I don’t want to make this my soapbox.) I think it’s important to note that the Driscolls are not necessarily describing what they themselves practice in chapter 10. I don’t think Mr. Burke makes this mistake, but some reviewers decry the idea of the Driscolls opening their own bedroom for everyone to see. In point of fact, they are careful to point out that some of the activities they plan to discuss, which arose as honest questions posed by the people they’re seeking to disciple, are not necessarily practices that they themselves engage in. In their words,

    Throughout this book in general, the next few chapters in particular, we are explaining what a married couple may do, not what they must do. The Bible often gives more freedom than our consciences can accept, and we then choose not to use all our freedoms. This is true of us (Mark and Grace); we do not do everything that is mentioned in his book or the ensuing chapters, although we are free in Christ to do so if our consciences should ever change.

    Here the Driscolls seem to admit that some of the questions they plan to address are not black-and-white. Technically speaking, they can’t find conclusive biblical evidence that clearly and unambiguously condemns or forbids many of these practices. Nevertheless, the light of nature, inferences from other principles, and their own conscience prohibit them from endorsing all the practices whole-sale without any qualifications, cautions, or provisos.

    I could say more but will stop here. If you don’t want to buy or read the book, that’s okay. It’s not for everyone. And I would definitely encourage only the mature to read chapter 10 or to read it with someone who is mature and can help you work through some of the issues discussed. If you’re one of those people who feel compelled to give your opinion about the book, I’d encourage you to read it first. Don’t just base your position on the reviews of others (including my own comments here.) And try to give the Driscoll’s the benefit of the doubt. Isn’t that how you’d want to be treated?


    • John

      Dear Dr. Gonzales, Thank you for that review of the review. It was fair, enlightening, mature and well-reasoned. Thank you for taking the time and effort for doing so.

    • Mark


      First, I Was attempting to answer you within the grounds of your own criticism further based on what Denny presented in his review. It reminds me of Rick Warren writing in his “The Purpose Driven Life” that the book is not about “you” only to offer content all about “you”. Making a belief statement in a book and further demonstating that belief consistently throughout one’s book are two different things. Note: I am not arguing whether or not the Driscolls were consistent, but just making a general observation.

      In my mind, a fair reviewer would not assume the worst about a brother and sister in Christ but would give them the benefit of the doubt–especially when they begin the book by clearly and unequivocally affirming that God’s glory is the ultimate aim and goal of marriage (p. 28).

      My challenge for you is to apply this to your criticism of Denny’s review. Why are you assuming the worst about brother Denny instead of giving him the benefit of the doubt that he reviewed the book through a biblical lens and found it lacking?

      I do think the Driscolls missed out by not including something about glorifying God in decision making when using their three questions based on 1 Cor. 6:12. The verses following 1 Cor. 6:12 go on to further explain verse 12 ending in verse 20 with the exhortation to glorify God in our bodies. The Driscolls’ description of those three questions would have been helped by adding a question about glorifying God and teaching people how God is glorified by one’s participation in any of the actions in question.

  • Steve

    The problem I see with Mark Driscoll is that he is wildly inconsistent in his practical positions, yet fairly dogmatic when it comes to giving them out.

    For instance:

    a) Avatar – a Satanic movie
    b) Ultimate Fighting & Mixed Martial Arts – fine
    c) Yoga – sinful in any format
    d) Listening to JayZ – fine, because he’s a genius
    e) Twilight series – sinful

    And now we have sodomy within marriage as fine, too, although he takes a hard and fast position against a man staying home with his kids and his wife working.

    It becomes harder and harder to reconcile these various positions.

    • Don Johnson

      Ain’t that the truth. What he reminds me very much is he is teaching a Christianized version of his own version of the Talmud. Thankfully, Jesus opposed those traditions that are not in alignment with Scripture and we should also.

    • E. Stephen Burnett

      Great point, Steve.

      In fact, Driscoll is often retreading old legalisms, just inconsistently.

      It’s more dangerous in his case, because it doesn’t *look* like the popular perception of what legalism resembles. Apparently the assumption is: so long as you’re not measuring hemlines, or banning secular music, you’re 100 percent safe from legalism, and any critics of your beliefs or practices *must* be legalists.

      Moreover, isn’t it ironic that Driscoll rejects the same “it looks bad to me, so it must be evil/demonic” reasoning when applied to himself and his own language, dress, or other appearance aspects? Indeed it is the creation of another Talmud, with the strange exception that it exists side-by-side with Driscoll’s Gospel belief and proclamation, but is not grounded in solid Scriptural exegesis and harmonization.

    • Frank Turk

      That, my friend, is a brilliant and poignant insight. I wonder if we catalogued all these sidebar dictums from Pastor Driscoll how it would read — I’ll bet you could play “Driscoll or Phelps” with a complete list of these and nobody could score over .500.

  • David White Jr

    I have only read the first 47 pages of the book but have gleaned some excellent points for discussion for couples, who want to improve their marriage relationship.

    page 15 “This felt like a noble divine assignment and began to change my motivation for pursuing Grace, because I saw her for the first time as the Father’s daughter—the Father who loved her as I loved my own daughter.”
    Discussion point: Are we pursuing our wife as the Father’s daughter?

    page 26 “Marital friendship requires both the husband and wife to be willing to invest what it takes to be a good friend.”
    page 27 “In our marriage, we have made the mistake of assuming we were friends and not working on our friendship as we ought to.
    Discussion point: How do husband and wife’s go about developing friendship?

    page 32 gives some help in developing marital friendship with a simple explanation of three kinds of marriages—back-to-back, shoulder-to-shoulder, and face-to-face e.g. the best kind of marriage includes shoulder-to-shoulder and face-to-face relationships.
    Discussion point: How do wives and husband build a friendship?

    page 33 gives some examples of how to build a friendship:
    “For a wife to build a friendship with her husband requires shoulder-to-shoulder time alongside him.”
    “For a husband to build a friendship with his wife requires him growing in face-to-face skills.”

    Page 36 provides some interesting discussion points about the difference in doing things FOR your wife/husband and doing things WITH your wife/husband.
    “But when we were not emotionally connected in prior years, I did not value her service because it felt as if she was doing things for me rather than with me.”

    Now, I have not read the whole book, but I get the sense that one of the most important things one can glean from this book is the last sentence of chapter 2 Friend With Benefits:
    “So we would commend to you the goal of devoting the rest of your life to being a better friend to your spouse.”

    I have been a Christian for 36 years and have a Master of Theology degree and do not necessarily agree with everything Pastor Mark teaches or says is okay to do, but I also realize that I am an old school Christian e.g. 58 years old and realizing the methods of communication are totally changing, I cannot relate to the rap music of today but the younger generation does and I believe Pastor Mark’s book is the rap music of Christianity today by that I mean he is communicating and addressing the issues and problems associated with the MTV/Rap music generation, which the old school Christian generation will find difficult to fully accept, but I do believe the older generation of Christians or old school theologians like me are realizing that the MTV/Rap music generation has changed the norms of communication of transparent truth that may offend others, who are not aware of this change of communication language that now requires writing books like this.

  • Matt

    Bob above is correct with one point he made…

    People seem to be forgetting that Driscoll set the stage for chapter 10 with 9 chapters. Many people are acting as if he wrote a book only to deal with chapter 10 and ignoring the entire context in which he wrote it.

    Driscoll very clearly lays out the purpose of marriage and the roles of the husband and wife earlier in the book that set the stage for chapter 10. We cant deal fairly with chapter 10 until we have actually dealt with the rest of the book.

    I thought evangelicals valued context?

    • Phil S

      If Driscol denied the resurrection in chapter 10 we wouldn’t care what he said in the first nine chapters. Some things are so self evident that they stand alone. Is he competing with Ed Young in introducing the most outré’ and bizarre statements/behavior possible? Is there anything some men will not do to keep themselves in the public eye?

  • Ken

    Professor Burke, thank you for your insightful and respectful review of the Driscoll’s book. Hard to read some of the harsh comments following as various individual respond. Why do so many on blogs feel they can speak to others or about others in a way they would never face to face? It must grieve the Holy Spirit.

    I did come across one comment that I wish to offer some assistance in. Another Ken requested suggestions of books on marriage. If by chance he is looking for book on marriage that approaches it from a very different angle than most mainstream Christian marriage books than I would recomend highly, “The Mystery of Marrage” by Mike Mason.

    Mason address the subject of marrage using various themes such as “leaving” “vows” and “nakedness” of soul, in ways that are profound and challenging. It is not a marrital self help book, but rather a thoughtful read on what it means to be “one” in marriage. Mason is a Canadian author. I would recommend it for your shelf as well.


  • josh miller

    My wife and I read the book. It’s different; for sure. But We loved it. I’m sorry. We must be the odd stupid couple who are best friends and can talk about anything without shame and guilt. If nothing else readers should also know that there is a “how NOT to read this book” part way in the beginning. That was helpful to us in knowing what the intentions were and the vision of the book.

  • James Veller

    I’m sorry I don’t have time to read through all responses and I hope this is not a copied response. Ultimately by glorifying God in our marriage through sex is to show respect for one another and love between each other. This seems to be what you were saying in your review. However, if both married partners find love with each other through other means than normal intercourse than they are still finding love with one another and sharing each other’s bodies with one another. Ultimately this part of your review does not work to go against what Pastor Driscoll is trying to show in his book.

  • Barry

    I am astounded and somewhat disappointed with how many people are criticising the Driscoll’s in such a severe manner. Most of the respondents have not even read the book!
    I have actually read it.
    You have missed a number of points in this discussion blog.
    1) The book was written by Mark and Grace. Grace is a co-author and helped Mark write it. So to all of you that feel sympathy for Grace because of her ‘indiscrete’ husband, she is a co-author!
    2) There are 9 more important chapters before the infamous Chapter 10. The most important parts of the book are these first parts of the book. Why don’t you all become more informed of what you are criticising and read just chapter 1-9? I don’t necessarily agree with some of their points in chapter 10 either, such as a__ sex, but don’t let this chapter nullify the rest of the book.
    3) The Driscolls have made an effort to respond to a tremendous need amongst christians in a sexualised world. In my view they have made a great attempt at taking God’s gift of sex back for christians and writing down some areas for christians to consider. It in no way is a ‘sex manual’ as some of the ill-informed reviewers seem to think it is.
    4) While Denny’s review was excellent and challenging, I am saddened by the number of reviewers that have ‘attacked the man’ rather than discuss the topic. If you won’t read the book then you really can’t possibly critique what the book says!

  • Joshua

    “Again, the fundamental question is not ?Is it lawful?? but ?Does it glorify Christ?”

    This just replaces a concrete principle with an entirely subjective and ambiguous one. More to the point, it puts people who are uncomfortable with something (ie. sex toys) in a position to be the sole arbiter of what is glorifying to God. Maybe you disagree, but the reality is that this is exactly what has and will continue to happen. Someone thinks sex toys is perverted because they were raised to be more innocent? That doesn’t say anything about whether God is or is not glorified. Again, let’s be real here – the “God is gross” camp will inevitably become the leader in making “unholy” any acts they deem perverted or disgusting. This criteria has wreaked just as much damage on marriages as you suggest Driscoll’s will.

  • Derek

    Just a couple thoughts, and I say this with respect:
    I go to Mars Hill, and I’m a Community Group leader whose group is going through this series right now. Reading many of the comments above you would think I’m an idiot.

    I do appreciate and respect the review of the book. Its another view.

    I just want to say to the people who pound Mark and Mars Hill, I tend to be a big picture guy, and I have seen the Gospel preached more, and more people come to salvation in my 4 years at Mars Hill, than I did in my previous 20 years at other good churches combined. And that is huge when talking about Seattle. We rank 2nd after Portland (where Mars Hill just opened another church) in homosexual population. This State just voted in Gay Marriage, Seattle is highly pro choice, and is full of alternative lifestyles. Jesus is not even remotely popular here.

    I didn’t read all 168 comments, but if anyone of you knew anything about Seattle and surrounding region, you might understand that some of the married people and questions that the Driscolls might encounter, might just be a little bit out of your box. Mars Hill is in the trenches, the trenches are dirty. If you want to dis agree on what a husband and wife can do in the bedroom thats fine, if you don’t want to read the book, thats fine too. But remember, the Gospel IS being furthered at Mars Hill, and we are your brothers and sisters.

    And by the way, all Community Groups are going through this series right now, and many marriages are being helped and even saved.

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