When I ran across this book, I first noticed the authors: Mark Driscoll, controversial pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and his wife. Given some of Driscoll’s famously blunt statements, I was a little leery of any book bearing his name – let alone one dealing with such sensitive subjects as marriage and sexuality. That being said, however, the Driscolls’ “Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together,” is both biblically grounded and intensely relevant.
(Disclaimer up front: I’m not married. That, however, makes reading a book like this particularly useful: it offers insights and perspectives I can keep in mind for the future. As such, this review will treat this book predominantly on its own stylistic and biblical merits, given that my framework for practical application is relatively limited.)
The Driscolls are remarkably straightforward in detailing their own struggles, both sexual and emotional. In humble and sometimes painful detail, both authors recount their personal journeys towards greater fullness in Christ. Throughout the book, they explore issues as complex as biblical gender roles and recovery from sexual abuse – and while not all these topics are covered in great depth, they’re discussed with raw, heartfelt honesty.
Particularly touching are the simple anecdotes the Driscolls cite to demonstrate “covenant love” as applied to the little things: a couple going to the library, swapping books, and discussing them later in the week over a glass of wine; a husband calling home every lunch hour just to tell his family he loves them; a couple dancing to a Frank Sinatra song in an antique store; a wife surprising her husband with pizza, wings and beer after work; and the list goes on. Though similar vignettes are found in many Christian books, the Driscolls describe them particularly powerfully.
The Driscolls’ writing style is fluid, contemporary, and engaging (I read the book straight through in a few hours). As a church librarian, I spent a lot of time looking through various Christian self-help books, and “Real Marriage” is certainly one of the best-written. It’s scripturally sound without being didactic.
One caveat is in order: the chapters dealing with sexuality are substantially more explicit than many other Christian books. While the book is never gratuitous or pornographic, the Driscolls frankly discuss various sexual practices in the light of Scriptural statements. The criterion they seem to apply is “if the Bible does not condemn a given sexual act, it is permissible” – a somewhat antinomian standard about which reasonable people might disagree. For some – if not most – readers, these parts of the book may be uncomfortably detailed. (It is important to note, however, that much of this book was inspired by actual questions asked by Driscoll’s parishioners). Particularly of note: Driscoll touches on the Song of Solomon throughout, pointing out that hermeneutically, it is far more explicit than many conservative Christians would like to admit. His analysis, however, will probably scandalize some.
Is this book worth reading? The answer to that question depends on where one is in life. At times, the book reads more like a fix-it manual for dysfunctional marriages than a guidebook for those starting from scratch – but, to an extent, that’s to be expected. Some may be put off by the Driscolls’ bluntness, but perhaps that’s what our jaded culture requires. Personally, I found it interesting and insightful, with some useful takeaway principles. Recommended.
A well-written, insightful examination of marriage from a Christian standpoint. Relevant without abandoning principle.
* I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”