Friday, March 09, 2012

Marked by grace

Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship and Life Together by Mark and Grace Driscoll

Before one actually starts reading this book, one becomes aware that it is going to be controversial. The endorsement by Wayne Grudem at the front of the book alerts the reader to this, as does the warning in the preface not to read the book "as a critic trying to find where you think we might be wrong."

I can only assume the controversy concerns the chapter on which types of sexual activity are lawful (and/or helpful) to married couples.

The Driscolls do not cover every aspect of marriage in this book, but, of course – one cannot expect them to – marriage, as they say, is a many-splendoured thing. It is a hard subject on which to write a book, and authors must necessarily be selective about what they emphasise. The Driscolls note that most other marriage books neglect to talk about friendship between a husband and wife (p. 24) and so rightly devote a chapter to it.

The Driscolls have chosen, however, to write particularly about sex in marriage. The book is in no way salacious, and the Driscolls are correct to identify sex as a central part of marriage – even when it is missing.

Conversely, the Driscolls do not have as much to say about children in marriage. I wonder if this separates the topics of "marriage" and "family." (For those interested in reading more about the connection between sex and kids, I recommend "Sexual Opera" by Ben Merkle, in this issue of Credenda/Agenda.)

Most of the time the Driscolls only mention kids in passing – they rightly emphasise that one is a spouse before one is a parent (p. 214) and they rather dubiously frown on co-sleeping (p. 166). They also have something to say about birth control. I never expected to wish that Mark Driscoll was more forthright, but the authors call "potentially abortive birth control" (such as the Pill) "murky waters that are more difficult to discern for Christian couples" (p. 196). I would have called nonabortive birth control "murky waters". For potentially abortive birth control, I would have been much happier if the Driscolls simply told their readers not to use it, whereas they simply say that they stopped using it out of conscience many years ago (p. 197).

Finally, I must also mention that this book is intensely personal. The Driscolls have, I think, taken big risks in sharing their personal history, and – like Jesus – are practising intentional vulnerability for the sake of others.


Rusty64 said...

John & Kara, thanks for your blog. I almsot ordered this book in a recent Koorong order, but in my order's final edit, deleted it.
Glad I did. You have been balanced in your appraisal, but the lack of glowing support, and the current and continuing controversies around Mark, means I probably did well in saving my money.

Talldad said...

John, small typo alert. The title with the link is in error, immediately after "Marked by Grace"

John Dekker said...

Thanks. Fixed.