Do not read this book! Yes, there are many reasons why many of you should strongly consider never reading this book.  The Driscolls say this at the beginning of chapter 10:

If you are older, from a highly conservative religious background, live far away from a major city, do not spend much time on the Internet, or do not have cable television, the odds are that you will want to read this chapter while sitting down, with the medics ready on speed dial.

I think the Driscolls were too nice.  Instead of sitting down they should have recommended for you to just give the book to someone else who does not fit their description.  Additionally, if you believe you have the spiritual gift of criticism, this book will give you too much ammunition.  You won’t be able to handle all the ways you could criticize this book.

If you have heard negative things about this book, it is probably related to chapter 10.  The people who criticize this chapter are most likely the people who were never meant to read this book. Do not read this book.

Please, make sure you read this book.  Yes, there are many people who should, no, who need to read this book.  Our culture is sexually messed up.  Yes, many generations and many cultures throughout history treated sex in ways dishonoring to its Creator.  Technology is being used today by many people to make fringe images, thoughts and behaviors mainstream.

Here is a quick non-exhaustive list of the people who need to read this book.  If you: have been addicted to pornography; lived with your spouse before marriage; were sexually mistreated as a child; see women as sexual objects more than individual people; experimented with bi-sexuality; have been involved in sexting; do not see your spouse as attractive; struggle with how to live as a monogamous Christian in a sex-charged atmosphere; have had an abortion; admit to yourself that you struggle with lust; are ashamed of things you did before marriage; are having struggles in your marriage; have been divorced; are under the age of 30…  If one or many of these things describe you than this book is definitely for you.

The Gospel does not change.  The message is the same.  The methods of teaching the Gospel, however, should always be contextualized. This is why every local church is gifted by the Holy Spirit with at least one teacher. This is why every good teacher will contextualize their messages to their audience.  The Driscolls have written a book contextualized to a new generation desperately in need of God’s way forward.  If you think marriages are in trouble today, imagine all these junior high kids with naked images of their girlfriend on their phone, getting married one day and trying to figure out how to have a God-honoring marriage.   This is the book I will recommend to them.

The Driscolls surprised me by getting into quite a bit of Church history.  They discuss several church fathers and then spend time having us learn from Martin Luther’s marriage and the unfortunate marriage of John Wesley.  The Driscolls, additionally, spend a lot of the book using themselves as the positive and negative example.  This will be refreshing for many post-Christians and postmoderns.

Chapter 10 is the chapter most people are talking about.  The chapter is entitled, “Can we _____?”  Yes, this chapter is very in-depth.  I’ve never read 2 1/2 pages on anal sex and I don’t ever want to again.  But I admire the way they discussed the sensitive issues in this book.  Their tone was professional, biblical and medical.  I felt like I was hearing a straightforward medical presentation of the biblical pros and cons of many issues couples might quietly discuss but never have the confidence or ability to actually ask an expert.

Yes, Mark Driscoll can be crass.  There are a few times in the book where his crassness made me laugh.  For example on page 153 where he is talking about pornography he states, “Sure, the naked people you like looking at are hot…but so is hell.”  Come on, that’s concise, profound AND humorous in a weird way that made me laugh out loud.  In chapter 10, however, where you expect him to go way over the line and not be a wise, tactful Christian leader, he is not crass.  Some will disagree on his inclusion of some topics, but I found it hard to criticize the way he discussed the topics.

My biggest criticism with the book was actually with the last chapter on Reverse Engineering.  I think the concept in the chapter could have been very helpful, but I felt the chapter was underdeveloped and out of place in this book.  I’m familiar with Driscoll’s idea of “Reverse Engineering” your life.  I’ve heard some great stories of how people have made major life changes due to reverse engineering. Someone knows exactly where they want to end up and then works backward figuring out all the steps needed to get from point A to B. 

I did not, however, feel like they adequately illustrated the chapter to allow people to see what they were trying to communicate.  If I were to suggest any improvements to the book I would only ask them to spend more time finishing the book with a bang instead of tapering off.  Let me see how this concept of reverse engineering practically helps people live out the rest of the book.

All-in-all make sure you do not read this book.  Or, make sure you read this book as soon as possible.

    25 replies to "Book Review: Real Marriage"

    • Aaron Walton

      Well done.

    • Daniel Eaton

      I’m sure any list of do’s and don’t’s will come up with some disagreements, but the topics are necessary in our culture and prompted my own series of blogs (some pretty explicit) on Theologica about it ( The church is pretty shy about this topic and it is good that someone is willing to step out and address the topic. Seems that the church wants to focus on the condemnation of per-marital relations and post-marital adultery when the subject comes up at all, but doesn’t tend to give a lot of instruction otherwise. There is much I disagree with Driscoll on, but I applaud his efforts to address this topic. I may or may not draw the lines in the exact same places as he does (perhaps someone can tell me), but I’m glad someone is out there drawing them.

    • Rebecca

      Well, I’d have to read the book to comment on whether anyone should read it. But I predict that it will sell a plenty. Why? Because America is into all kinds of sex, from missionary to pornographic kind of sex. But the real thrill for America will be to read about a pastor and his wife airing dirty sexual laundry. Some Christian couples might read for the value of,”hey, it’s a pastor and his wife that are just like we are. They’r real, so I bet they can help us”. But I think many more….Christians and non Christians will read to get their kicks out of going behind closed doors with the Driscoll’s. There is something extra titillating about sex, sin and the clergy. What I’m saying is, I think it will get mostly read for the wrong reasons.

    • Timothy Payne


      Yes, that’s very possible. They actually address all of that at the beginning of the book. They spend an introduction pleading with people to seriously read this for yourself and your marriage and not to just find out about juicy details of someone else. They could have walked away from this project thinking it’s not worth all the work it’ll take to write the book if it’s going to be abused by so many. I’m glad they wrote it anyway, trusting the results to God, because if it authentically helps a bunch of marriages then it’ll be worth it. If people act like peeping Toms then it’s on their head and not the Driscolls.

      just some thoughts,

    • […] more: Book Review: Real Marriage | Parchment and Pen This entry was posted in Books and tagged driscolls, highly-conservative, never-reading, not-read, […]

    • SPP

      It seems patronizing to say if you admit you struggle with lust (100% of males) then this book is for you. Does that mean if I don’t think it’s for me I am self righteously claiming to not struggle with it. Or, I just may find the book to obliterate much of the nuance of sex between married couples. One also does not have to be backwoods without Internet to pass on a Christian sex manual.

    • C Michael Patton

      Yeah. That is categorically something. I don’t know what, but something.


      Very good and gracious review Tim.

    • Greg.

      So what to say?? It’s very easy I know to make ones protestations from the anonymity of simply a name on a screen. Well actually I am on facebook with many pictures and I live in Ireland and some people who contribute here may be friends including Michael. Would I say what I am about to say to Marc Driscoll to his face? I think so. And it’s this..I find his method of preaching and expounding on the word of God very disturbing to my soul. I have been a Christian for twenty one years and was converted one night in the blink of an eye when Jesus spoke to me through the spirit and said “Just believe” I understood perfectly. Since then I have waded through much that faces me in the church from certain teachers and teachings, including health wealth and prosperity, eternal security and its opposite. I read “The Shack” and cried and yet would not give it to an unbeliever or new convert because it is theologically off, in my opinion.

      Marc Driscoll rather than presenting as an encourager in my faith I find him to be an obstacle. In my spirit I believe that he is a very angry man and would punch you in the face as quick as look at you if you annoyed him enough. While people may think he is being radical and relative I find he is a stumbling block to the faith to me and I would not recommend him to any of my unbelieving friends or family. He postures in a macho way which is the opposite to the spirit of gentleness. My real issue with Marc Driscoll sadly is is he Actually…

    • Greg.

      P’s The word count said I had four letters left but my comment is incomplete above. So can you please let me finish the sentence and it’s this. “My real issue with Marc Driscoll sadly is, is he actually saved?

    • Alex Guggenheim

      Driscoll is a theological, temperamental and spiritual child. This is not to say such children cannot learn sophisticated vocabulary or investigate adult concerns but it does mean that their handling og such matters will be as a child with the hope that their lack of discretion and its cousin audacity will be viewed as adult courage. It is simply amazing to watch so many giving this man-child such a broad platform. And this comment is a general one not to be interpreted as one for LR. But I will say that the review is disappointing. It seems there is an attempt to be fair and balance the poison with whatever acceptable elements one might find. No thanks God goes not intend on us having to navigate land minds when we drink from streams of living water.

    • Alex Guggenheim

      P.S. That LR should be TK. Sorry Lisa and Tim.

    • Jim Zeirke

      Thanks for the review, Tim. As a chaplain for a local stock car racing facility, I encounter a lot of requests for help with marriage issues and I’m always looking for help in assessing those folks. I’m woefully un-prepared to do marital counseling even though I’ve been married over 30 years. (It’s one of the reasons that I’m getting a masters degree in pastoral ministry.) I’ll give this book a try and see if it merits my reference library. Way too many Christian books on marriage seem gun-shy on a lot of issues and won’t deal with them in a frank manner. This one might be an exception.

    • Nick D

      Good word Tim. Read the book unless your marriage is perfect or if you have no personal issues.This should be a mandatory read for pre-marriage counseling.Yes, Driscoll can be crass and macho, but at least someone who has face in America has let their stones drop…. We as Christians must face the reality that we live in a sexually saturated society and world that has a skewed view on marriage. This is not just a sociological issue, its in the church too. We can bury our heads in the sand and cover our kids eyes or we can face this thing head on. The charge is for inoculation not isolation. I personally, am a product of a Christian culture that refused to address the difficult topics of sex and marriage. As a result, I put my wife through Hell. By Gods grace we survived and are now able to help others prevent and brave though similar battles. I blame myself and no one else for my actions but I have to realize that things may have been different if I were better equipped for the challenges we all face in these areas. I work with youth on a regular basis and the odds they are up against are staggering. We must lead the charge to change this epidemic and it starts in our own lives and marriages. I can say that intentionally repairing and protecting my marriage has been the most difficult yet rewarding journey I have taken in my life. But, for my wife and kids sake and for my (future) children’s children sake,it is worth all costs. Does God require any less of us?

    • Don

      I listened to Driscoll being interviewed by Justin Brieley on his podcast called Unbelievable. To be honest Driscoll came across petty and rude when the graphic chapter came under question. Though I generally like what he can say, the manner in which he has chosen to communicate the holy message is anything but holy. Crass talk should have been jettisoned before entering the pulpit or penning of a book. In light of how Driscoll never fails to disappoint I will (unjustifiably in many eyes) leave his material on the shelf. Maybe it is a petty peeve of mine but it seems that Titius and Timothy lays out a different temperament for the pastorate than that which Driscoll typically exhibits.

    • Ananya

      Great Job, Tim 🙂

    • Loo

      Sorry, but the first chapter was free before New Years and I read it on – line. DON’T take any advice from this guy. He treats his wife like garbage. There is just no other way to say it. He blames her for his sexual frustrations, never himself. Seriously, a guy who has had every one of his girlfriends cheat on him has a LOT to learn about sex! But Chapter 1 showed that he learned nothing. He, in his messed up, narcissistic space preached and counselled other couples while his own marriage (which he blames 99% on bad sex) was a disaster. A narcissist to the core, you won’t learn about God or Jesus in this book, just how to take a legalistic “can I, can’t I ?” oooooh what does the bible say approach to anything you can dream up. Also, Esther was NOT a submissive wife but an OPPRESSED “wife” and Grace (Mark’s wife, who gets to say about 3 things in the book) can’t tell the difference. I really think we need a “free Grace” – and their oldest daughter Ashley – movement here.

      Sorry, I don’t care what Mark wrote about sex, I care about how he treats his wife – its abysmal.

    • Nick D


      I was wondering if your statements about Driscoll concerning the way he treats his wife are first hand?
      I agree that he has the aroma of arrogance but he doesn’t deny it and is open about it being his weakness. I don’t respect him for his arrogance but do respect his willingness to address it for what it is.


    • Rick


      “He blames her for his sexual frustrations, never himself.”

      Really? Here is a quote from his interview on CNN:

      “I think I was selfish and I think I was being a hypocrite. And I’m not going to defend things that I’ve done or said or thought that were wrong.”

    • Loo

      Rick – he counselled and preached for years while this was where is marriage was at. When was the CNN interview? Last month? The comments were around the time just before Ashley’s birth, I think she is now 14 or 15, so a little late to send regrets.

      The kicker for me is: He says the pastor’s wife has the most important job in a church plant, that is: to have sex with the pastor. It isn’t in this book, but on the web.

      So, he got himself an editor and avoided his usually misogynistic rants in this book (google his take on Ted Haggart’s marriage breakdown for an example). Why not get a book about the Ayotollah’s marriage(s)? Consider the source before you choose a book. If mega pastors are suddenly martial experts, then marital counsellors should start helping out with the Preaching of the Sunday service.

      Nick, did you read Ch. 1 of his book? It says it right there. It says it was Grace’s problem. It is very eye-opening. Especially on a blog that is not too comfortable with spiritual gifts.

    • Martin


      Just a comment to what you said about Driscoll. You said that he is open about his weaknesses of being arrogant and you respect that.
      I do respect that as well, but there seems to be a culture of making things acceptable in Christian circles by just admitting them. And this is something I do not respect at all.
      Everyone sins. But where is the fight? We should fight sin, flee from temptation, take sin seriously. Too often we just acknowledge our weakness but we don’t fight it, we do not put it to death. I do not want to judge Driscoll. But if he thinks he is arrogant, what is he doing about it? Is he getting councling, does he confess to his brothers and receive their encouragement to fight it, does he fight the fight about his weakness? Maybe he is doing that. I don’t know. Sorry it just got to me, there just have been lately too many example of godly men who by announcing their weaknesses making them acceptable and do not actually work on them. At least it seems that way.
      What I do respect is people admitting their sins and I see them fighting the sin and taking it as seriously and grave as it is. Especially as a leader one sets an example.

    • Aaron Walton

      I just started listening to the Sermon series and was completely shocked to read what you had written. As a result, I located chapter 1 to read it ( The content isn’t really different from the 1st sermon, which makes me to conclude that you are reading Mark completely wrong here.
      Mark’s admitting to how he has failed in the past; he admits and wasn’t pleased with how his marriage was; it isn’t as if he is hiding it in the book and is pretending everything is okay; it isn’t as if you are finding this information out elsewhere, he is admitting his failure and being honest and authentic.
      God has fixed many of these problems, and it is from God fixing these problems, he is able to speak on the issues.

    • […] “Book Review: Real Marriage,” Tim Kimberley, Parchment & Pen Tags: Social Conservative Review […]

    • […] Real Marriage by Mark & Grace Driscoll is reviewed by Tim Kimberley at Parchment & Pen. […]

    • Edgar Shouldice

      Since the invention of the printing press non-fictional literature has been used for the dissemination of the Christian message, and also for disseminating different viewpoints within Christianity. The tract (a small pamphlet containing an explanation of some point, or an appeal to the reader) was in use at the time of the Reformation and continues to be used as a part of proselytization.,

      Current blog post coming from our new blog

    • Monique Johnson

      I actually haven’t read that book and I don’t have plan to buy it either. Yet, thank you for a great review, Tim.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.