Mark and Grace Driscoll’s new book Real Marriage has drawn much attention. The attention comes partly due to its content and partly due to some critical reviews.123 Denny Burk probably offers the most thoroughly biblical critique to date.
Today Burk linked to an article on CNN’s belief blog titled “Pastor’s detailed book on sex divides reviewers, sparks controversy.”4 The CNN article provides a few interesting responses by Mark Driscoll to his critics. I would like to briefly consider Driscoll’s responses from the CNN article.
First, I would like to explain why I am responding. My initial reading of Driscoll’s comments did not go down well. Driscoll has a lot influence in certain parts of Christendom and he continues to push and market for more reach. He has access to a secular audience (e.g. CNN religion blog) that many Christians will never have. He is a pastor-teacher which comes with a greater responsibility as noted in Scripture in James chapter 3, for example. The more popular critical reviews are from well-known bloggers who are essentially on Driscoll’s side theologically.
Also, Driscoll was asked less than a year ago in an interview in Tabletalk magazine, “What have you learned from those who have criticized your ministry and has your life or ministry changed in any way as a result?”5 Driscoll answered with the following six points offering six categories of criticism.
- Theological – I simply have to accept the conflict if we have differing beliefs about an essential issue.
- Jealous of Success – I need to lovingly serve them in humility.
- Misinformed – I need to try and inform them of the truth.
- Personal Dislike (e.g., tone, humor, style) – I need to consider their criticism, seek godly counsel, and either change or ignore them.
- Legitimate (e.g., sin) – I need to repent publicly and thank God for using my critics to sanctify me.
- Take Up Offense for Another Person – I need to rebuke them for meddling.
Given those observations on the critics, responsibility and Driscoll’s own answer to dealing with critics, one should find it hard to believe the Driscoll seemingly dismisses the critical book reviews. He also does not seem to be following his own advice and, furthermore, has not even read the critical reviews as will be shown from the CNN article quotes which follow.
CNN quotes Driscoll about his critics.
When asked to respond to his critics, Driscoll said he hadn’t read any of the reviews but that “sometimes reviewers will reveal more of their own struggles than actual problems with the book.”
Driscoll’s allegation about peoples’ struggles may be true. However, when the criticisms are run through a biblical lens it is unhelpful and disrespectful to create a general category of motive and throw everyone into it. How fair would it be to reply that sometimes Christian authors will not read critical reviews because it reveals their own struggles with trying to actually teach the Bible? Also, since he hasn’t even read the reviews, how would he know whether or not the criticisms are valid?
“I am not backing down from it. I am going to stick to my guns on it,” Mark Driscoll said. “This is not just stuff that I have pulled out of my mind. These are issues I have dealt with for 15 years and it is battle tested.”
All Christians have some form of battle tested experience. Having experiences does not automatically translate into using these them as teachable moments for others. Even when particular experiences are used to teach others it may be difficult at times for the one who went through the experience to best biblically discern how to teach from such an experience. Christians are to seek wise counsel from others. (Cf. Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Prov. 19:20 ESV)
[Driscoll] went on to say that the negative attention is just part of writing a book like “Real Marriage.” Looking at himself in that light, Driscoll said the controversy is worth it if marriages are helped by the book.
“I will endure as much criticism as necessary to help as many people as I can,” concluded Driscoll.
At this point one can infer that Driscoll is heeding pragmatism over biblical criticism. Driscoll’s book may help some marriages, but what is meant by help? Is some help is better than no help? Is this marital help the best biblically available? When pragmatism becomes the guide for Christians to make and justify decisions just about anything can be excused.
For example, the review of The Shack on this blog alone has hundreds on comments, many of which praise the book for helping them have a closer relationship with God.6 However, Driscoll himself has biblically criticized this work of fiction that many have praised for its spiritual help.
In the end, I hope Driscoll will read and consider the biblical criticisms of Real Marriage. I hope he exegetically explains why he disagrees with his critics. On the other hand, if his critics are found biblically justified I pray he repents as he said he would in his Tabletalk interview. I would also remind those who are not part of Driscoll’s congregation that he is not your pastor.7
The way Mark Driscoll handles his biblical critics can provide a great example, or a poor example, of how to respond to this battle tested issue of criticism.
- Denny Burk. My Review of Mark Driscoll’s “Real Marriage” ↩
- Aaron Armstrong. Book Review: Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll ↩
- Tim Challies. Book Review – Real Marriage ↩
- Dan Merica. Pastor’s detailed book on sex divides reviewers, sparks controversy. CNN belief blog ↩
- Mark Driscoll. An Outpost of Jesus’ Kingdom: An Interview with Mark Driscoll ↩
- The Shack Review ↩
- Should “Celebrity” Pastors Offer Disclaimers? ↩