400 of 440 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This is the first book I've read by Mark Driscoll. I'll admit it: I was drawn in by a desire to see what all the fuss is about. After reading it, my conclusion is that there's more smoke than fire. Sure, some of the content is going to be shocking to some folks, but other books on Christian marriage also cover the same topics--better.
The first part of the book is about marriage. Mark and Grace share bluntly about their marriage and sexual history, including Grace's history of sexual assault. Mark also talks quite bluntly about a period in their marriage when Grace was what he describes as "frigid." On one hand I appreciate their transparency. Their story shows the difficulties our sexual pasts can put on a marriage, and the hope of finding wholeness despite our pasts. On the other hand--well, we'll get that in a minute. They also emphasize the importance of friendship in marriage. Mark writes a chapter to men and Grace writes a chapter to women, both from the complementarian or male headship perspective. Chapter 5 talks about sin and how it affects our marriage relationships.
Part two is about sex. Chapter Six is a theology of sex. Chapter 7 is written by Grace and talks about healing from sexual abuse. Chapter 8 is a great explanation of the dangers and exploitation associated with pornography. Chapter 9 talks about the attitude we should have toward marital sex--servant as opposed to selfish. Chapter 10 is the infamous "Can we___" chapter--less shocking than some reviewers have made it out to be, though I disagree with some of his conclusions. And his approach. And his exegesis. We'll get to that in a minute, too.
The last chapter is a sort of "reverse engineering"--imagining what you want your marriage to be like in the future, and planning backwards so you live in a way that will get you there.
There were some things about the book I liked. I appreciated the candor with which Mark and Grace shared their story. I liked the emphasis on friendship within marriage. As I said above, I thought the chapter on pornography was well researched and well written. I also liked the reverse engineering concept as applied to marriage.
But there were a whole bunch of things I didn't like.
I really felt sorry for Grace in the first part of the book as I read Mark's treatment of her and emotional reponse to learning she had cheated on him--when they were in high school. Granted, he admits that he was sinful and has repented and been forgiven. Fine. And as a pastor's wife I know that no pastor's marriage is immune from conflict. One of the things that bugs me though, is that during this period of pretty intense marital and sexual conflict, he was apparently teaching on sexual freedom in marriage through the Song of Solomon--one of the series that really started garnering him serious attention, as well as counseling other couples on sex in their marriages. I'm not saying that pastors shouldn't preach on issues they don't have total victory in, but preaching on an area you're experiencing strong crisis in is not wise. I'm also not over the paragraph where he talked about a pregnant Grace cutting her hair as putting her needs as a mom over her role as a wife. Really?
I'm also not over the part where he tells men that they need to be providers so their wives will respect them and that a man whose wife works outside the home is worse than an unbeliever. Really?
I also disliked that in the chapter on selfish sex, every example of selfishness Driscoll gives is about *witholding* sex. Is it not also possible to be selfish in the way you *demand* sex? Or selfish in seeking your own pleasure without taking into consideration your spouse's needs? I felt this chapter was very much written from a male point of view.
Chapter 10--"Can we ____?" Heh. I had a couple thoughts here. Again, Driscoll does a great job in chapter 7 talking about the dangers of pornography. I wish that he had made the connnection that the reason folks are asking questions about the practices he discusses is because of the influence of pornography, whether directly or indirectly. I also think his grid: is it lawful? is it helpful? is it enslaving? is incomplete. Amongh other things, I'd add: is it holy? Driscoll also follow the evangelical trend of finding specific sexual acts described in the Song of Songs. It's poetry, people. Get a grip. There is one specific practice I can't name directly or I won't get past the filters that Driscoll winds up saying may be okay if both husband and wife are in agreement. On that issue I think he should really have stressed more the physical risk to the wife. I much prefer the discussion on the same topic in Kevin Leman's Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage.
There's some good stuff here, but it's so interwoven with problematic material that I'd have a hard time recommending this book to anyone, really. There's better books on marriage out there, folks. If you want to read something by Driscoll, great. If you really want a book about marriage or sex from a Christian perspective, go elsewhere.
298 of 339 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2012
This book disturbed me, so much so that my visceral reaction was "I want to protect my daughter from men like Mark Driscoll."
The first half of the book is an intermingling of personal narrative and pastoral counsel. The personal narrative is primarily a specific and detailed litany of Grace's sins against Mark (i.e., cutting her hair, being late, lying during premarital counseling, withholding sex, and not being adventurous enough in the bedroom). There is no corresponding litany of Mark's sins. The only sins Mark admits to are: a) purity code violations prior to marriage; and b) sinful responses to Grace's sins against him.
Mark does tell how he has changed his behavior, replacing sinful responses with godly responses. But, he never takes the next step of rewriting his story in a way that acknowledges his full complicity in the Driscoll family sin drama. Grace remains the lead sinner, while Mark plays only a supporting role. Despite a chapter title to the contrary, there's precious little grace in this story.
This is very important because it is the personal narrative in the first half of the book - not the pastoral counsel in the first half of the book - that becomes the implicit framework for the practical counsel on sex in the second half of the book. Mark did/men do struggle with purity, so there's a great discussion of porn. But apart from that, selfishness in the bedroom is assigned to Grace/the wife. Chapter 9 is ostensibly a general discussion of selfish versus servant love in the bedroom. In principle, that could have been the jumping off point for a balanced discussion of the variety of ways in which husbands and wives struggle to be selfless in the bedroom. In practice, however, the chapter is little more than a list of the ways in which wives withhold sex (just as Grace withheld sex). Similarly, Chapter 10 is about adventure in the bedroom, with the conclusion being that almost everything on the list of possible adventures that husbands desire is consistent with Scripture (in contrast to Grace's earlier attitudes, which led to behavior that was not sufficiently responsive to Mark's Scripture-consistent preferences).
So, there you have it. In the absence of his porn usage, it's all her fault.
I don't disagree with the Driscolls' characterization of the ways in which the typical wife struggles with selfishness. But, I also don't think the typical husband is as blameless as Chapters 9 and 10 imply. If you want counsel on sex, I strongly recommend any book by a Christian sex therapist over this one.
178 of 202 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
A Church home group I am in used this book for a series of meetings. Here is the review I wrote of this book after that experience:
My response to reading the book Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll:
Prior to beginning this home group study I had never heard of Mark and Grace Driscoll. After having read the first four chapters of the book I have come to the conclusion that there is a pervasive and significant underlying belief in the doctrine of male dominance throughout the work. I personally do not believe this is an accurate representation of God's intent for the roles of men and women. The doctrine of male dominance, simply stated, is that it is God's will that women are to be ruled over, controlled by, and dominated by men - particularly their husbands - in family, Church, and civic life.
While the belief in the rectitude or correctness of male dominance has long been held by many in both secular and Church circles, I along with many Biblical scholars, theologians, and teachers disagree with this belief. Much of the history recorded in the Bible demonstrates the reality of male dominance. I believe that a proper understanding of scripture demonstrates that this is a result of sin entering into the world rather than being God's intent for mankind. The Genesis account of the fall of man clearly states that man's rule over women was part of the curse brought about by sin and not part of God's original intent for marriage or man-woman relations. Before the fall, God directed man and woman to collectively rule as equals, with neither one being appointed ruler over the other (Genesis 1:26-28). After the fall it was proclaimed as part of the curse of sin that man would rule over woman (Genesis 3:16). Jesus, however, came to redeem us from the curse (Galatians 3:13).
While Jesus' earthly ministry was in a fallen world where male dominance was the norm, He never taught that male dominance was God's will. On the contrary, Jesus often had interactions with women that demonstrated His belief that they were equal in status to men, directly going against the societal norms of the day to speak to and interact with women in a way that a typical Jewish male never would. The woman at the well, the adulterous woman, and the woman with the issue of blood are some examples of this.
While this short statement cannot possibly address all of the complexities of this issue thoroughly, I did want to offer a number of good resources to anyone who is interested that discuss this topic in great detail. In the final analysis, I personally believe that the relationship that God intends between men and women is based upon equal authority, mutual submission, and mutual respect and love.
My wife and I have been married for over 17 years at this point. We have had our share of struggles to be sure. I can say that we now have a better, more enjoyable marriage than we have ever had. Having said that, when I read of prominent Christian teachers such as Mark and Grace Driscoll teaching that the husband has the final say in every decision that is made in the family and that the wife's role is to support her husband's call subservient to and irregardless of any calling or desire to serve with the God-given abilities she may possess herself - I am grieved. I do not want that kind or marriage and I believe it is a misunderstanding of scripture to teach it as God's design.
I don't want an employee or an indentured servant as a life partner - I want a wife. I believe that a man who has learned to value, communicate well with, love sacrificially, and honor the wife God blesses him with has no need to serve as a ruler in her life. She has Jesus for that and the same Holy Spirit that God gave to her husband. It is a much happier and fulfilling marriage when both the husband and wife are able to serve one another as equals, with equal authority, valuing each other's gifts, abilities, and free will as their own without feeling the need to repress the free will of their mate out of feelings of fear, a desire to control and manipulate to get their own way or to dominate, or some other false sense of Biblical entitlement or erroneously perceived responsibility.
Paul, Women, and Wives: Marriage and Women's Ministry in the Letters of Paul by Craig S. Keener - I have read this book and find that it is an invaluable resource in gaining a correct understanding of the teachings of Paul on this subject. It is a very scholarly work and might be a bit detailed for some, delving deeply into the culture of the day and original language of the Bible.
Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman's Place in Church and Family by Gilbert Bilezikian - I am currently reading this book and have found it very enjoyable and enlightening so far, bringing excellent points to the discussion. It is less focused on dealing with the Greek and Hebrew and written in layman's terminology.
Other books that deal with this topic that I have not yet read, but have in my library:
How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals - edited by Alan F. Johnson
Troubling Her: A Biblical Defense of Women in Ministry by Jessica Faye Carter
Why Not Women? - by Loren Cunningham, David Joel Hamilton, and Janice Rogers
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2014
The book is not one of grace, mutual respect, and love. It is a cry for help. Mark appears in every way to meet the criteria for narcissistic personality. He is manipulative and borders on abusive. The book's primary objective is to hold patriarchy firm in its place, while citing that it is "Biblical" to do so. What about machismo is even remotely Biblical? It takes the beauty and liberty of the gospel and replaces it with bondage. Don't walk, run from this book. In addition, it is not a true NYT Best seller, just another manipulative ploy. According to World Magazing, "Seattle’s Mars Hill Church paid a California-based marketing company at least $210,000 in 2011 and 2012 to ensure that Real Marriage, a book written by Mark Driscoll, the church’s founding pastor, and his wife Grace, made the New York Times best-seller list."
68 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
After reading Tim Challies review of Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together by Mark and Grace Driscoll, I wanted to see what others were saying. I went on over to Amazon and there were many mixed reviews but I couldn't find any from women. I may have simply missed it. After some thought and prayer (since Challies did not think it was appropriate for women, namely his wife) I spoke with my husband and read most of the book. I write most because I skipped the chapter devoted to men (Men and Marriage) and skimmed through chapters Disgrace and Grace and The Porn Path. I believe I read enough to give you an honest take on the book from a woman's perspective.
The Driscoll's opened up their life and marriage and gave a very clear view from the inside. There is no doubt that they are speaking from their personal experience, ministry and heart. It was vulnerable and raw and there is also no doubt it was honest. The speech wasn't calculated and religious but completely relatable. Grace confessed very humbling sin and Mark shared about his misplaced priorities and idolatry.
There were times when I felt like I was sitting across the table from them as they poured out their hearts to me. I cried, I was nervous, I was embarrassed along with them. I was also hopeful, excited and thankful that God restored their marriage. I am sure they are a gift to their church and to their friends. I am confident that God will use their story to help many struggling marriages. Their openness and honesty is what is good about the book. They are real people trying to fight the fight of faith together, and it's hard.
Grace Driscoll shared great tips and advice on how to respect husbands in Chapter 4. I specifically enjoyed her writing on encouragement. At one point she wrote, "A wife is the most powerful person in her husband's life.." I whole-heartedly agree. I am an encourager and if I'm not first and foremost encouraging my husband, my priorities and potentially my motives may be misplaced. I was specifically struck by the part about lecturing. I can fall into lecture mode if I don't see something I like. This isn't respectful to my husband and I thank Grace Driscoll for addressing these issues. It's always good to be reminded of ways to grow in respect to my husband!
I agreed with Challies that there didn't seem to be a clear gospel message. I felt like this was more like a memoir/"how to" book rather than a theologically based book on marriage. There were plenty of biblical references, mostly from Song of Songs, but I just didn't get the sense that God was the power we'd draw from because of Jesus' work on the Cross for change. I could see men and women striving to this level of intimacy without the grace of God. It at times seemed like, "here's what you need to do if you want a good marriage; now do it." That may not be how Driscoll intended it to come out, but that is how I interpreted it.
Real Marriage also made me more concerned for pastors who are not governed by other pastors or the church, who do not have a team, or who are not a part of a formal organization. Maybe this should go under the "good" category above because it has led me to pray for pastors. Do many pastors give their lives away to their ministries at any and all costs? Are congregants life suckers, sucking the life out of pastors and preachers? Do young pastors need more checks and balances? I just felt an overwhelming concern for pastors everywhere. What horrible pressures they place on themselves, at least Driscoll did. By the grace of God, he shares how God helped him to realize this and make changes. It took a decade of giving, sacrificing his family, and being absolutely miserable.
The book could just as easily been named Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex . I'm concerned that much of the book may put unnecessary pressure on couples to perform acts that they just aren't comfortable with as a way to die to themselves. Driscoll notes that "the biblical pattern of for Christian marriage is free and frequent sex." The problem is his interpretation of "free". From a women's perspective, his interpretation could led to women being abused and men being tempted.
Driscoll goes into specific detail on what can and cannot not be done in the marriage bed. In Chapter 10, "Can We______?" Driscoll lists do's and don'ts and most of everything listed he argues is acceptable to some degree or another. What the Driscoll's do in their private homes is completely their business. I am not condemning them. What I didn't see were clear biblical references or guidance in these areas. Many of the questions and answers seemed worldly. He gave statistics (lots of them) about each topic, statistics for example of how many people and what age group was performing oral sex. What significance does this have for the Christian? Why do we need to know how many people were doing it? Was it merely to prove the importance of the question or shall I say the relevance of it? I kept thinking of this scripture as I read: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world," (James 1:27 ESV).
At one point Driscoll explains that cosmetic surgery is not only permissible but can be helpful. Helpful because you have had an accident and are disfigured?; Helpful because you have a birth mark or have some circumstance that makes it uncomfortable to be the way you are? No, Driscoll shares, "There are many reasons cosmetic surgery may be beneficial. It can make us more attractive to our spouses. And if our appearance is improved, we feel more comfortable being seen naked by our spouses, which can increase our freedom in lovemaking," (Chapter 10: "Can We___?"). I respectfully disagree. Where do we see this in scripture? Scripture says: "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well," (Psalm 139:13-14 ESV). I imagine that even the women who made the Dove commercial would be confused and concerned by Driscoll's logic here.
My biggest concern is for women whose husbands may read this and may try to apply the teaching without the full consent of their wife. I'm afraid a man could read this and become: 1)discontent in their marriage: "Why won't my wife do xyz?" "My wife is selfish because she won't, fill in the blank?"; 2) place unnecessary pressures on their wife; 3) be tempted to find someone who will perform these acts. Driscoll in no way at all would want his book to have this affect but as I read it, from a woman's perspective I could very easily see a weak man succumbing to these temptations. I say weak meaning weak in faith, weak possibly because he is already in a struggling marriage or weak because he is a new Christian.
Another concern is that women could simply be condemned. The book asks for us to be vulnerable, open to things, respectful of our husband's wishes and active in every way. I believe wholeheartedly that sex in the confines of marriage is a wonderful, beautiful, exciting and invigorating gift from the Lord! I'm so glad God made us this way! But, I think that when we add tasks that are extra biblical it can be dangerous. And for the woman who is conservative but still satisfying her husband this book could be condemning. I imagine the questions: "Am I good enough for my husband?" and "Am I selfish because I won't do xyz though I hate the idea of it but my husband really wants to?"
Scripture commands husbands to: "Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love," (Proverbs 5:18-19 ESV). It doesn't say, "Let her breasts fill you unless she has had babies and they are no longer the breasts of her youth." As a matter of fact, God doesn't speak too much of what is in the book, which is another reason why I am cautious about applying what I've read.
The Driscoll's story is powerful, sad at times, and a testimony of the power of the gospel and work of the Spirit. Mark's leadership in pursuing change is to be commended. But, I am not convinced that their method needs to be applied to every marriage, every situation. Challies wasn't excited about the idea of his wife reading the book, I'm not sure I want my husband or my husband's friends to. I'm afraid it could plant questions or ideas that may not have been there before. I also think, many of it, is just unnecessary for a loving, intimate, long marriage and friendship.
66 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2012
Please go to Janet Mefferd's website and listen to the March 9, 2012 radio interview with David Kupelian entitled "The Church of Sex." He also has an article up on World Net Daily. While Mark Driscoll may hit the mark in his theology on a number of issues, he misses the mark with this one. The book focuses too much on things a woman should be doing (supposedly) to please her husband rather than emphasizing a balanced view to include a woman's needs and how a husband ought to be loving his wife the way Christ loved the church. In a sense, it is almost as if the woman is expected to be some type of "sex slave"--always and ready to be at her husband's beck and call to satisfy his urges. Kupelian emphasizes that there is nothing wrong with addressing marital issues of sexuality in general...but he emphasizes that the Church (in some sectors) has overemphasized an unhealthy and inordinate amount of interest in sexuality, even going so far as to use salacious language. There should still be boundaries of modesty and decency to respect the beauty of what sexuality is designed to be by God. It is a beautiful mystery of marriage.
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2014
Many of the reviews here are mostly concerned with whether Mark Driscoll is a chauvinist or not. However, before buying this book and taking this man's advice on anything, there are more things to consider than just that. For one thing, it may actually be someone else's advice, as there are reports that it was mostly written by uncredited ghost writers Justin Holcomb and Crystal Griffin. This may be a generally accepted practice in some circles, but passing somebody else's work off as your own is still a lie. Even more troubling is that he used his church, Mars Hill, to pay a marketing company over $200,000 to purchase the book in bulk under fake names to get it to the top of the NY Times best seller list for advice books. Not only is that unethical, unfair, and dishonest, but what business does the church have taking money that people have sacrificially given to God and then using it for something as corrupt as this? He just doesn't sound like anyone I would want counsel from.
Many people who found problems with the content of this book and/or after reading the bad reviews, have asked for alternatives. I'm amazed that this book focuses so much on sex and so little on friendship and communication. Most problems in marriage stem from either finances or communication. In truth, sexual problems are often no more than a result of bad communication or else selfishness on the part of your partner (some might insert [Mark D.] here). : ) The same is true about problems that couples have over their finances. So the best book I can recommend is War of Words by Paul David Tripp. By the way, this isn't a book just for couples. It's for anyone. And it operates on the principle of work on yourself first - something every spouse should take to heart. In the area of finances, I also recommend Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace course, taught at local churches. Just be aware that Dave Ramsey doesn't really know much about investments or the stock market, so get expert advice there. But his basic principles on debt management and savings are sound.
I am revisiting my review to add some additional troubling information regarding the author. Mark Driscoll was recently forced to step down after a number of charges were leveled against him by the elders of Mars Hill Church. Reviewers have commented on how Driscoll promotes dominance over women. Should we be surprised that someone who tends toward bullying women is accused of also bullying his staff and elders? And while not part of the formal charges, the issue of sexual harrassment has also been raised - this is a quote from the church document outlining the charges, from the section on other issues of concern: "Is Pastor Mark guilty of sexual harassment in the form of sexual immorality in speech (Eph. 5:3)? We are aware of a number of credible reports of inappropriate sexually- oriented comments that Pastor Mark has made to and about other men's wives, particularly in casual social settings." I don't know about you, but I can find a lot of better marriage advisors than someone like this!
205 of 247 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I think that there is a ton of good advice, encouragement, and -- take it from a pastor that's been married for twenty years with five kids myself (ironically like Mark) - they make marriage as real as it gets - the ups and downs, the agonies and ecstasies, and the thrills of victory with the help of Jesus at the center of it all.
We live in a culture where we are bombarded with sexual images, discussions, and details that sometimes feels like a barrage from which we can never get away from - and I don't think we will encounter less, but an increasingly greater exposure to all things related to sex. Many pastors and theologians will attack this book in particular for the issues the Driscoll's discuss. They are very open and honestly discuss and tackle a lot of the questions that never get asked "in church." However, in my experience as a pastor and life coach I am grateful that the Driscoll's address the reality of the times in which we are living. No sexual rock is left unturned - but dealt with thoughtfully, theologically, and forthrightly.
I think one of the reasons for so much open talk about sex is the fact that the Driscoll's minister to literally thousands of men and women in their early twenties - and it happens to be a very hot topic in their context.
Perhaps the best contribution of this book is how the Driscoll's turned a marriage on the rocks into a marriage on the Rock - built on the solid foundation that is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through repentance and faith. Too many partners have the "grass is greener on the other side" mentality. The Driscoll's demonstrate that all things are possible with God's guidance and wisdom and especially with Christ at the center of a marriage. Mark states this very important truth, "There are no loving marriages apart from repentance and forgiveness. Marriage either gets bitter or better." They show how a difficult and broken marriage can be repaired, restored, resurrected, renewed, and rejuvenated by the amazing grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. The good news is that it's never to late to repent and change with God's help.
I would hesitate to recommend this book to just anyone. Mark and Grace's style may be too open, vulnerable, and transparent for some people. Also, some of their advise is definitely in the extra/non-biblical category. You will encounter the "reality" of marriage from "real" people who are seeking to do things God's way for the long haul. If you are "old school" and squeamish about frank talk on sex - I would encourage you to just skip chapter 10. I am grateful that they are willing to be authentic and transparent in addressing issues in such a sexualized culture as ours - especially in a church (Mars Hill) with so many young people asking the questions they are addressing. Whether you agree with what they say in chapter 10 or not - it's important that you read this in contextually in light of the whole book.
If you are a pastor, counselor, or life coach and reading this review I would advise that you read the book first and prayerfully decide whether you would recommend it or not. I will use some its contents in my own marriage and in helping others - again there is a lot of helpful material in this book - many practical applications. There are some things that I agree wholeheartedly with, and others that I do not. I would encourage you also to read Tim Challies' review on his blog, and Albert Mohler's review on his blog to see some specific warnings and examples of why this book needs to be taken with a "grain of salt" - as they say.
There are simply too many other good books on marriage that I can recommend without any reservations over this offering: Tim Keller's "The Meaning of Marriage"; R.C. Sproul's "The Intimate Marriage"; "Love and Respect" by Emmerson Eggerichs; "What Did You Expect?" by Paul Tripp; "Sacred Marriage" by Gary Thomas; "Marriage Matters" by Winston T. Smith; and "When Sinners Say 'I Do'" by Dave Harvey would all be books that I would recommend wholeheartedly as biblically and theologically sound - without all the controversy.
However, don't let some of the "chaff" of this book keep you from enjoying and benefiting from the multitude of wheat (that which is beneficial and practical) contained in the pages of this book. I think chapter 11 with its plethora of ideas, questions, and principles for discussion are more than worth the price of the book. I am grateful for Mark and Grace's ministry in their home, for the sake of Christ's Church, and their commitment to tackle all things related to the gospel through the lenses of Scripture, their own experiences, and with a passion for Jesus Christ.
70 of 82 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I am an evangelical Pastor/Chaplain by training and profession. My credentials include an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, five units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) including a full year of clinical residency, and a minister's license with the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA). So, I write as a evangelical Pastor and Chaplain who has provided extensive and intensive pastoral counseling professionally. I speak for myself on these matters. These are my own views.
While I applaud the courage Pastor Mark and Grace exhibit by sharing the story of their marital struggles, I am still deeply disturbed by the poor exegetical and pastoral teaching found within the covers of this book. It is too hit-and-miss to be of lasting value for counseling and care. I am especially disturbed by all the shaming done in this book. Shame and condemnation are out of place for those living in the fullness of the Gospel.
I will take two particularly glaring examples of poor exegetical and pastoral work from this book.
On page 51, Pastor Mark offers this verse as proof text that Christian men need to provide for their families financially. "The Bible plainly says, 'If anyone does not provide for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.'" Major problems arise from using this as a prooftext for his point about men needing to be the financial providers for the family. The first is that there are NO MASCULINE pronouns listed in the original Greek text. So, he is making a major statement about gender roles based on a SUPPLIED pronoun! In fact, this verse is rendered, "And whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (I Timothy 5:8) in the NRSV. What this tells you is that reasonable Biblical scholars disagree upon whether or not masculine pronouns ought to be used in translation of this verse. Pastorally, I think it is dangerous to base a major teaching with such exegetical doubt in place. It is far from as he writes, "The Bible plainly says..."!
Even though that was bad, it is not the worst exegetical abuse I noted in this book. That actually comes in the appendix where Pastor Mark lays out resources regarding Biblically justified divorce. The section is entitled: "Appendix III: Divorce and Remarriage." He writes, "What consitutes the legitimate ending of a marriage? ... 5. Treachery or treasonous betrayal (Mal. 2:14-16)." Now, I cannot imagine Pastor Mark ever using a passage in Scripture that explicitly prohibits homosexual acts (one of Pastor Mark's favorite sins to point out) to then turn around to use that same passage to justify them as God-honoring. However, that is precisely his exegetical move here. To justify divorce (as Biblical!), Pastor Mark is using a text (Malachi 2:14-16) that clearly teaches against divorcing spouses of the same faith (Jewish)! In fact, some of the strongest language against divorce in the Bible is expressed in these verses where God declares, "I hate divorce...." Pastor Mark could not use this text in a more opposite way than how it is written in Scripture! For this major exegetical abuse alone, I would not recommend this book to anyone under my pastoral care.
Are there any good pieces in this book? Yes, I do believe Pastor Mark and Grace share some excellent points at various junctures in this work. However, the dangerous exegetical moves and poor pastoral foresight on those matters have led me to write this review as a warning to all. If you want to sort through shaming and poor exegetical moves for the nuggets, then this could be a book for you. If not, then I would recommend other books that have better Biblical teaching on the subject matter. (e.g. A CELEBRATION OF SEX by Dr. Douglas Rosenau and/or THE MEANING OF MARRIAGE by Tim Keller).
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2014
This book has some good advice. I agree with some of its conclusions about what is acceptable sexual behavior between a man and wife. Beyond that--which you can find elsewhere--I found it repelling. It is full of Mark. And more Mark. And, oh yeah, Mark. I am sad for Grace. The book is a rehash of patriarchial ideas, wifely submission, and for some will be damaging and shame inducing. I found myself cringing more than once. It will be loved by overbearing men, and I fear it will be used as a weapon against Christian wives who will be told, once again, that they exist for their man's pleasure. The church of today, especially young Christians, need a book that is frank about sex, friendship and life together. This book, however, is not it.