There are literally hundreds of books out there on marriage. I think it is likely because no one really has the silver bullet to kill marital strife or even the day-to-day doldrums that every married person experiences. Then comes along Pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife Grace with their crack at it, appropriately titled Real Marriage. I was eager to get my hands on this one in particular of Driscoll’s other books because this is a topic that he is both most noted and most criticized for.
The Driscolls tackle everything from the importance of being friends with your spouse to what kind of sex acts are permissible according to the Bible. Most of the book is rather basic, although Mark has gotten much press for being willing to talk about things like oral and anal sex as well as birth control methods from the pulpit. In an age where many from recent generations have not had an opportunity to talk about sex and marriage with Christian parents, it is good that someone is picking up the slack from a biblical perspective.
Most people can taste just a little bit of vomit when they hear the words “headship” and “submission.” The Driscolls do a good job at looking at both concepts in sections of the book that were the most biblically grounded. Mark does a good job of illustrating how headship is not being a tyrant or ogre and Grace discusses how submission does not mean that she is less than her husband, but simply functions differently in the relationship and in the household.
By far this is Mark’s most maturely written book to date (perhaps that is because he has his wife write it with him). Other books have been frustrating with so much name-dropping, lack of fact-checking, and an overly casual style for his choice of topic. Yet even with the higher level of professionalism, Mark continues to exhibit a strong level of arrogance and annoyingly promotes himself as the answer man. Not to say that he has no wisdom to share; the manner is a definite turn-off.
Mark gives numerous statistics from the more than 187 books on marriage he has read at least part of, but neglects to mention that in terms of helping couples, research has shown that teaching methods and “tips” is not effective long-term. This shows in how the book illustrates a variety of ideas and challenges to build a healthy marriage, essentially becoming a new set of rules and constraints some of which are drawn from Scripture but most from their personal experience and the, well, 187 books.
Rather than a new law, Christians need more gospel. To say something really strong to Christians about their marriages what more effective way could there be but to apply the gospel of Jesus Christ to our marriage? Instead of prescribing guidelines, tips, and methods, which are likely not effective anyway, finding out how I, a sinner saved by grace, can bring depth and intimacy with another sinner saved by grace, my wife. The change of our hearts, minds, and souls that is effected by the gospel is much more than just personal, but it should permeate every aspect of our lives, including our relationships.
If you are a Christian and have specific questions about what should be allowed in the bedroom (it may surprise you) or about birth control this is a very good resource. If you are looking for a book to help you to strengthen your marriage, address arguments, and learn to become more emotionally connected, then, as a licensed counselor, there are many others I would recommend instead.
[Legal: a free copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review. However, this does not incline me to write a positive review, but simply to give you my honest impressions of this work.]