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The Potential to Wreak Havoc': Critics Respond to Pastor Mark Driscoll's Book About Sex & Marriage

"disjointed and somewhat frustrating"

Mark Driscoll, a pastor at Mars Hill Church in the Seattle, Washington, area, has made a name for himself in Christian circles and on social media. Due to his increasing influence, it isn't uncommon for his mega-church to make its way into the headlines. Now, after co-authoring a book about sex with his wife, Grace, Driscoll is, once again, getting some buzz.

(Related: 'Religious' Sex Toys for Christians, Jews & Muslims? You'd Be Surprised)

Interestingly, the book, "Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship and Life Together," delves deeply into subject matter that isn't always at the forefront of Christian discussion. Perhaps CNN's Dan Merica best captures the controversy that is surrounding the literary project:

From the chapter on biblical approval of detailed types of sex to the chapter titled “Selfish Lovers and Servant Lovers,” the book is far from a timid look at a usually private subject.

And that has struck a nerve with a large swatch of believers whose reactions have propelled the book to a trending topic on Twitter and has elicited responses that range from praise to disgust.

According to Driscoll, the book is intended to spur conversations among married couples. The first half of it is extremely personal, as is highlights the Driscolls' own issues with sex. The couple provides lessons from their own experiences and challenges -- lessons that can be used to revitalize mariages that have lost their luster. It is the second half of the book, though, that is gaining attention among critics.

Both Mark and Grace delve into the details surrounding sex. Blogger Tim Challies writes that the book encompasses a sort of "sloppiness and inconsistency." Additionally, he dubbs the book "disjointed and somewhat frustrating." In addressing the two sections of the literary work -- marriage and sex -- he writes:

...the fact that half of the book focuses on marriage and the other half on sex leads to some confusion as to the nature of the book. Is it a book on marriage or a book on sex? How do these things relate to one another in such a way that they merit equal attention? Obviously marriage is not less than sex, but is the sexual relationship fully half of marriage? Why does it receive such emphasis?

In one chapter entitled, "Can we _____?," as CNN notes, the Driscolls tackle different forms of sexual activity and whether or not they are biblical. The chapter apparently comes with a disclaimer that warns conservative readers or those who "live far away from a major city" that they may want to sit down while partaking in the book. Here's the exact wording of the content warning:

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.

If you are one of those people who do not know that the world has changed sexually, read this chapter not to argue or fight, but rather to learn about how to be a good missionary in this sexualized culture, able to answer people’s questions without blushing (p. 177).

Faith Blogger Denny Burk says that the couple's interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6:12 -- the basis for the argument that many of the acts presented in the chapter are permissible -- could be damaging. He writes:

I can only imagine how chapter 10 might land on someone whose experience has actually been one of sexual innocence. I work with college students who tend to get married at a very young age. I meet students who come from sexually broken backgrounds and others who come from sexually innocent backgrounds. Sometimes these students marry each other. I think chapter 10 has the potential to wreak havoc in such marriages where one spouse will feel a whole range of taboos to be “permissible” if he can convince his spouse to participate. This to me seems like a recipe for marital disaster, and I do not think the Driscolls’ requirement of “helpfulness” mitigates the difficulty.

Driscoll, though, isn't backing down. While he says he hasn't read any of the reviews, he pledges that he's "going to stick to [his] guns." Sometimes, he says, reviewers reveal some of their own personal struggles rather than attacking legitimate problems with a book.

“I am not backing down from it. I am going to stick to my guns on it,” 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.”

Driscoll says he's prepared to handle the controversy and skepticism and that he's determined, through the book, to assist as many people as possible.

(H/T: CNN Belief Blog)

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