Friday, June 8, 2012

Real Marriage

Real Marriage, Mark & Grace Driscoll

Those who are in touch with these type of things will know that this book has gained considerable attention in the last few months. The reviews I read were not complementary and so I had decided not to read it.

Ah well – times change. As we continue to do a large amount of marriage preparation with engaged couples and an increasing amount of marriage enrichment/input, I felt the need to form my own opinion, as a number of people we know are ‘fans’ of the authors and therefore have purchased it or given it to others.

When you hear continued bad press about a book, it is very hard to come to it with an open mind. I have certainly tried to read it with grace and a willingness to learn. At the same time, I have come to agree with the hesitations I heard expressed.

I could go into great detail in this review but have decided not to knowing that others have, for example here and here .

Here are my general thoughts:
  • All is all, it is OK. It is not the worst book on marriage written for Christians, but by no means is it the best. (On a minor note, it had no cohesive logic from chapter to chapter and would have benefited from a very strong edit.)
  • It contains some good material. It is complementarian and espouses a view of marriage many of us would embrace. It has a good and helpful chapter on friendship in marriage; it encourages men to step up, lead and love their wives; and for women to respect and honour their husbands.
  • It is trying to be gritty and edgy. They have perceived a need for a book like this, one that answers the so-called tough questions and doesn’t shy away from some of the mess of marriage and sex.   It is very honest about the Driscoll marriage, the baggage both brought to it and the repercussions on their life together.  I want to ask whether we need gritty and edgy books on marriage at all?
  • As such, it lowers rather than raises our view of marriage. It primarily deals with issues such as previous abuse, previous sexual sin, pornography use and poor relating /communication. For those who are dealing with these matters, it could be helpful. (Although, I think there are better resource options for any issue this book deals with.)
  • If none of these previous issues (especially sexual abuse, sexual sin, pornography) have been a part of your marriage – rejoice. Stay pure on such issues and do not read this book. Why invite images or concerns into your marriage that are not there?
  • The chapter which raises them most questions is Chapter 11: “Can we ___?”. Using an appalling exegesis of 1 Cor 6:12, they create a grid of questions from which to ask “what can Christian couples do?” This becomes a very unhelpful discussion of various sexual behaviours, unwisely connected with statistics claiming how many people engage in such behaviour.  I am not squeamish about such matters, nor I am unwilling to discuss them (and often do with couples).  However, this whole section left me feeling incredibly uncomfortable.  I felt it could be so badly misused and misunderstood, even with all the caveats they tried to place over it. (Tim Challies did a very helpful 3 post series working through the issues with this chapter in considerable depth, you can find the first post here)

My conclusion? 
There are much better Christian books on marriage. Read those instead.
  • For those wanting to think about God’s purpose for marriage and how their marriage can meet it – try Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage
  • For those who would like some input on intimacy in marriage, both advice for the wedding night and the years thereafter, try Kevin Leman’s Sheet Music.
  • For those who want to work through some practical issues in marriage, try H. Norman Wright’s Now That You’re Engaged.
  • There are also many resources available for those dealing with specific issues in marriage – perhaps ask your pastor for suggestions.


Unknown said...

Thanks Wendy,

Very helpful comments as I was going to read it (might not bother now!).
I am working my way through Tim Keller's book, and finding it very good.


Anonymous said...

Hi Wendy,
I'm currently in Seattle and I have to say that I'm finding it a really hard place to be (even though it's only for a few days). I went to a party last night and met many people with drug and abuse backgrounds, family members in gaol etc. But praise God, they are now saved!
I Haven't read the book but I suspect the 'grittiness' is because it is speaking into a culture like this.
Maybe instead of asking why we need a book like this, we need to ask why our churches in Australia don't have more people like this in them. Our comfortable university elite may not need to read such a book, but where are the people who do ... Strangely missing from our Aussie churches.