Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll hit the evangelical world by storm a few days ago. Some, like the influential theologian, Wayne Grudem, are praising it and some are condemning it. In my mind, the hype is a bit overplayed on both sides.
Real Marriage is biblical in its scope, practical in its counsel, and contains a wealth of information that will serve to strengthen marriages.
The book is grounded in a transparent look at the Driscoll marriage. They share candidly about their mistakes and failures. And they humbly share their triumphs and some of the necessary ingredients that have contributed to what is now a healthy marriage.
One of the greatest strengths of Real Marriage is its bold promotion of complementarianism, the notion that men and women are created equal as image bearers in the eyes of God, yet maintain distinct roles. The husband must love his wife as Christ loves the church and the wife must respect her husband. Mark and Grace point to numerous examples from their own marriage that bolster the case for complementarianism. They should be applauded for their clear biblical teaching on a controversial theme that draws angry fire from liberal critics.
Mark rightly admonishes men: “God wants His glory to shine through men. God wants His kingdom to be made visible through them. God wants them to be His sons. God wants us to follow, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the example of Jesus.” Driscoll charges husbands to honor their wives in several significant ways: “physically, emotionally, verbally, financially, and technologically.” He demonstrates the importance of understanding the covenant of marriage and includes several practical points of encouragement, especially for young husbands.
Grace further elaborates on the complementarian position that is advanced in the book: “Men and women were created with equal worth but different roles. God created and called the man to lead and love his wife, and when he doesn’t do that in a holy way, he is sinning. God created the woman to help and respect her husband, and when she doesn’t do that in a holy way, she is sinning.” She helpfully overviews biblical respect/submission and provides numerous ways that wives can embrace the biblical model by respecting their husbands.
In a chapter entitled, “Taking Out the Trash,” the Driscolls spell out what repentance looks like in marriage. Repentance is not “managing our sin, blame-shifting our sin, excusing our sin, or manipulating God or people for blessing.” They rightly argue that repentance includes “confession, contrition, and change.”
Additionally, forgiveness is explored: “Forgiveness is a gospel issue … It has everything to do with God. As an act of worship, we must respond to our sinful spouses as God has responded to our sin – with forgiveness – because it is a gospel issue. We cannot accept forgiveness from God without extending it to our spouses.” The Driscolls maintain that the gospel is the only answer to a healthy marriage.
Almost half of Real Marriage is about sex – a sensitive subject that been largely under-emphasized by Christians. There is much to commend in these chapters. The Driscolls include many practical principles that are rooted in Scripture. Mark exposes the sin of pornography; a sin that has ruined many a marriage and he duly warns men and women to steer clear from this grievous sin.
Chapter ten is entitled, Can We _____? and is receiving the most criticism in the online reviews. While the Driscolls seek to answer legitimate questions based on the framework of 1 Corinthians 6:12, much of the material is inappropriate and does not benefit readers. The graphic nature of the material proves more harmful than helpful. Indeed, “not all things are helpful” (1 Cor. 6:12).
Real Marriage is a difficult book to review. There is a blend of good and unnecessary. Readers should approach the book with a discerning eye and be sure to keep it out of the reach of children.
I received a complementary copy through the BookSneeze program.