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Book Review: Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll

03 Jan

As Real and Raw As It Gets: Review By Dr. David P. Craig

At the outset, there is no doubt about it; this book is going to be controversial. However, before I spend the rest of this review focused on the controversy that will ensue, 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 feel 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 context of the whole book.

If you are a pastor, counselor, or life coach and reading this review I would ask 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 good stuff in this book – a lot of 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 a single caveat or reservation that are out there: Tim Keller’s “The Meaning of Marriage,” R.C. Sproul’s “The Intimate Marriage”, “Love and Respect” by Emmerson Eggerichs, and also “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 books that are biblically and theologically right on – without all the controversy.

However, don’t let some of the “chaff” of this book (and the negative reviews that are sure to come) 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.

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