Saturday, July 12, 2014

sex as god, gross or gift? Mark Driscoll self-identified as leaning "god" early on, a survey of Driscoll on marriage and sex or a lack thereof from 2004-2012


There are a few things that never got particularly thorough discussion about Real Marriage when it was first published.  The most significant thing that wasn't discussed in 2012 that should have been was the amount of plagiarized material that showed up in the book.  But Driscoll as a lightning rod tended to dominate discussion.  What didn't get discussed at all were some basic questions about narrative in the book.  The book was billed as a self-help/marriage advice manual and so the fact that the framing sales pitch for the entire book was a narrative of Mark and Grace Driscoll's marriage and their history as the founding couple of Mars Hill went undiscussed.  That they were not the only founding couple to establish Mars Hill has been taken up in other posts.

But amid all the fracas about the Driscoll book over citation problems or the Result Source controversy some other things have not come up for discussion, such as a basic question about narrative.  Mark Driscoll mentioned that he tended to view sex as a god but didn't describe how or why this was.  In fact the story of the Driscoll marriage seemed to be that the cure for Mark Driscoll's depression was more frequent sex.  Grace Driscoll described a tendency to view sex as gross and yet Mark Driscoll's account within the opening pages of Real Marriage raise some question about whether husband and wife were ever on the same page.  Why?

Real Marriage
Mark and Grace Driscoll
Copyright (c) 2012 by On Mission, LLC
Thomas Nelson
ISBN 978-1-4002-0383-3
ISBN 978-1-4041-8352-0 (IE)
page 9-10
To be honest, fornicating was fun. I liked fornicating. To stop fornicating was not fun. But eventually Grace and I stopped fornicating, got engaged, and were married between our junior and senior years of college.

I assumed that once we were married we would simply pick up where we left off sexually and make up for last time. After all, we were committed Christians with a relationship done God's way.
But God's way was a total bummer. My previously free and fun girlfriend was suddenly my frigid and fearful wife. She did not undress in front of me, required teh lights to be off on the rare occasions we were intimated, checked out during sex, and experience da lot of physical discomfort because she was tense. [emphasis added]

Keep that emphasized material in mind as we go.

Before long I was bitter against God and Grace. It seemed to me as if they had conspired to trap me. I had always been the "good guy" who turned down women for sex. In my twisted logic, I had been holy enough, and god owed me. I felt God had conned me by telling me to marry Grace, and allowed Grace to rule over me since she was controlling our sex life. [emphasis added] I loved Grace, but in the bedroom I did not enjoy her and wondered how many years I couild white-knuckle fidelity. ... We desperately needed help but didn't know where to turn. Bitterness and condemnation worsened.

page 14
I grew more chauvinistic. I had never cheated on a girlfriend, but I never had a girlfriend who did not cheat on me. And now I knew that included my own wife. So I started to distrust women in general, including Grace. This affected my tone in preaching for a season, something I will always regret.

There's an entire post to be written about just that quote.  It's striking that Mark Driscoll expresses regret about his tone but no regret at all about the substance of what he said over the years.  Now, on to the pertinent quote about sex as gross and sex as god.


page 121
... When we married, I (Mark) tended toward sex as god. I was a newer Christian who had accumulated most of his knowledge about sex from culture, locker-room talk, and sinning sexually with a few young women. Conversely, Grace was raised in a home that was religiously conservative when it came to sex, had sinned sexually, and had been sinned against sexually. She considered sex gross. For her I was too much sexually. For me she was too little sexually. We made very little progress for many years until we had spent considerable time talking through our sexual history and beliefs, working together through many hours in the Bible and Christian books to arrive at a unified view of sex as gift.  Once we came to the same place in our thinking about sex, we began to work as allies instead of enemies. Our marriage has never been the same since, and our sex gets better all the time.

When we got married, I (Grace) didn't understand the physical and emotional aspects of sex for men. It seemed with his high sex drive that was all Mark wanted from me and that he didn't appreciate anything else I did. His drive seemed to get stronger the less we had sex, and I wondered if it was an idol to him or if that was normal for me. I later realized it was partially a real physical need, not an obsession, since he wasn't masturbating  or getting relief some other way, which I am thank for. I read somewhere that if you have sex more, it actually decreases the necessity for frequent sex over time for most men. I tried that but it didn't seem to change anything for Mark.

Grace refers to sex as almost a physical need.  What never gets discussed is whether males have almost a physical need for sex regardless of whether or not they are married.  Mark Driscoll has only intermittently addressed the connection between male sexuality as an identity and the sex drive in particular but that is the subject for some other post.  What we can establish from the cumulative Driscollian narrative is that Mark Driscoll believed that he needed to have more sex, convinced his wife of this reality, and it was made so.

While Grace Driscoll describes how she tended to view sex as gross Mark Driscoll's account about a hundred pages earlier remarks on how unpleasant a surprise he had when his previously fun and carefree girlfriend turned out to be his frigid and fearful wife.  What happened?  They decided to stop fornicating and wait to resume sex until marriage.  It's certainly possible Grace tended to view sex as gross and who can know the thoughts of a mind but the mind itself, as Paul the apostle so famously noted?  Still, by Mark Driscoll's own account he seemed pretty satisfied with the nature and frequency of sex he was having with Grace before they decided to take their respective Christian faiths seriously.  There's a paradoxical sense in which a heathen would suggest the problem was just that, that the Driscolls took their respective Christian faiths seriously, stopped having the kind of sex they'd been having, and then found they couldn't get back to the old normal once they were married.  The solution outlined by the Driscolls later on looks lie something a completely secular counselor would have advised, communication.  At least the communication part.  Can't see a reason to address the rest.

page 164

As with many things in marriage, communication is key. When I cam to the conclusion that the cure for a lot of my moodiness was having more frequent sex with my wife, I simply told her. Yes, it's that simple. For years, when I would endure depression, I tried to talk to Grace about it. Her natural inclination was to want to have long talks about our feelings toward each other, and I know that connecting with her like this is important. But sometimes I was jsut too frustrated and ended up blowing up and hurting her feelings. The truth was I wanted to have more frequent sex with my life, and we needed to discuss how that could happen. 

To make matters worse, seemingly every book I read by Christians on sex and marriage sounded unfair. Nearly every one said the husband had to work very hard to understand his wife, to relate to her, and when he did that to her satisfaction then, maybe, she would have sex with him as a sort of reward. After many years I finally told Grace that I needed more sex. I asked if we could have sex more days of the week and try a variety of positions. She'd be the one to decide exactly how we would be together> Grace said that helped her think about our intimacy throughout the course of the day, which helped prepare her mind and body. To our mutual delight, we discovered that both of us felt closer more loved and understood, and were more patient with each other if we were together regularly in some way. And whether my depression was testosterone-induced or not, I just generally felt happier.

For a wife, sex comes out of a healthy relationship, whereas, for a husband, it leads to one. 

That last sentence is a zinger for anyone who has read some Puritans.  It would be difficult to overstate the contrast here between the Driscolls on sex in marriage and Richard Baxter's statement that an impotent man and a frigid woman can nonetheless enjoy the fellowship and benefits of marriage as there are other positive things to be enjoyed therein regardless of whether physical infirmities may prevent the husband and wife from having any sex at all.  But this is not a post to rehash the matter of the Driscolls vs the Puritans.


As noted elsewhere in this blog neither Mark nor Grace Driscoll saw fit to mention in their 2012 book that Grace endured no less than five C-sections and a miscarriage and that this just "might" have negatively impacted her willingness and capacity to have sex as often as Mark Driscoll may have wanted it.  This matter is made all the stranger by the reality that none other than Mark Driscoll himself saw fit to inform the entire world of these details of Grace Driscoll's medical history in the 2008 book Death By Love.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears
Published by Crossway Books
PDF ISBN: 978-1-4335-0423-5
ISBN-10: 1433501295
ISBN-13: 9781433501296

page 164
My wife, Grace, and I love Gideon and thank God for him often. My wife is petite, and I have a big head, which resulted in C-sections with the birth of each of our children. Having endured one miscarriage and four C-sections, Grace was ready to be done with pregnancies. But I was not yet ready to do anything to prevent God from giving us a child. So, we left it in God's hands and we were given Gideon, whom I affectionately refer to as Guppy, for being the youngest, and as Flip Flop, because at a very young age he decided he only wanted to wear flip-flops on the wrong feet for the rest of his life.  To her credit, Grace often gives me a hug and thanks me for not stopping at four children, because Gideon has been an absolute blessing and a joy to our family.

page 166
... For example, before I met Jesus I was guilty of sexual sin. I was sexually active prior to marriage and also occasionally looked at pornography. But because Jesus died for those sins and saved me from them, I have been able to put those sins to death. As a result, you were brought into a family where your mom and I truly love one another and have been faithful to one another in every way.  We know that apart from Jesus , dying for our sin, sin would have killed our marriage. You would have been either raised by a single mother or trapped in a home of sin and bitterness, marked by unrest and hostility between your mother and me, if it were not for Jesus' death on the cross.

page 176
After four children, we thought we were done having babies because your mom suffered through painful C-sections with each birth, and we feared for her health. Yet, as I prayed, I believed that someone was missing from our family. Your mom prayed a lot and trusted me to lead our family. Out of our love you were conceived, and we were both thrilled because we believed that God has chosen you to be a blessing to our family and to the world in some way.  Throughout the pregnancy, your mother and I, and your siblings prayed daily for your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

But with respect to the statements from page 166 ... it kind of seemed as though the first chapter of Real Marriage established that there was sin and bitterness marked by at least some unrest and hostility between husband and wife, didn't it? 


Now there is something worth noting in addition to all the above, that when Mark Driscoll referred to how he felt Grace was controlling their sex life and that he felt there wasn't enough sex in the marriage that based on a February 2008 lecture given to Mars Hill leadership Mark Driscoll considered this the first category in what he called the "ordinary demonic".
Spiritual Warfare part 2, The Devil
February 5, 2008

Ordinary demonic, about 10 minutes in

Sexual sin, a married couple should have sex frequently otherwise 1 Cor 7 says Satan will get in there and destroy everything.

"How many of you would think that a couple that doesn't have enough sex is experiencing demonic spiritual warfare? It's true. How many Christian marriages divorce?  Well, statistically, more than those who are not Christian. When non-Christians can work it out a rate that is more successful than Christians that would indicate to me that Satan has really found a way to climb into bed between a husband and a wife and, in one way or another, cause devastation.

When I'm meeting with a couple and one of them, maybe it's the husband, says, "Well, my wife's not being very nice to me so I'm gonna deny her sex and until she's nice to me I'm gonna withhold it."  That's demonic. The wife who says, "You know, I'm just never in the mood and, you know, I know you love me and we have a decent marriage and there's no reason I shouldn't have sex with you, but, I'm just not in the mood or, you know, I don't feel like giving it to you until you give something to me and it becomes a bartering chip in the relationship." That's demonic. That's demonic.

To be sure, there are sex addicts in marriage who are unreasonable in their expectations of their spouse but what I'm talking about is the common situation where one person in the marriage wants to be intimate more often than the other and they're rejected, they become bitter,  Satan comes in and feeds that bitterness, baits the hook of their flesh with the temptation of the world, and all of a sudden Satan puts in front of them images and people and opportunities to lead them astray and to destroy everything.

It doesn't make anyone a victim. It doesn't make anyone a victim because we all of our own choosing choose sin but it does mean you're giving Satan an opportunity to literally sleep between you and your spouse.

So it seems pretty clear Mark Driscoll viewed denying a spouse sex was Satanic as a general rule.  The case Mark Driscoll made to his wife for the necessity of him getting more sex was that it remedied his moodiness and depression in the 2012 book but in 2008 the instruction to leaders within Mars Hill Church (the 2008 Spiritual Warfare series was a lecture given to Mars Hill staff that was not shared from the pulpit on any regular Sunday service) the leadership culture of Mars Hill was told in pretty blunt terms that denying sex within marriage was simply Satanic.  A week after Wenatchee The Hatchet quoted from the 2008 Spiritual Warfare material Mars Hill decided to withdraw all of the audio.


And for all that, if the question one asks is how Mark Driscoll may have viewed sex as a god there may be hints from the pulpit preaching itself which has since been removed by Mars Hill.  But Wenatchee the Hatchet has a bunch of that stuff still at hand.

Part 8: 1 Timothy 4:1-8
February 22, 2004

You guys should aspire to get married.  You guys should aspire to get--you gotta get a job first. You gotta get a job, not a job where you wear a uniform and ask people fi they wanna supersize something. You gotta get a job.  You gotta get a job so you can get a wife so you can get kids.  And it's a great, glorious thing to be a husband and a father, and only a demon would tell you otherwise.  Only a demon would tell you otherwise. [emphasis added]

And if you're a guy in this church, c'mon. I mean look around.  It's like fishing in a trout pond. I mean, any woman that is in this church and endures me as her Bible teacher is obviously patient, kind, forgiving and loyal, right? She's just--she's got all this stuff to be a wife. She does.
There are universal sins, which are a sin for everyone: murder, rape, theft, lying.  For everyone, everywhere, all the time, all circumstances, those are universal sins.

Then there are also particular sins, which maybe your conscience won't permit you to involve yourself in but are not universal sins, so you have to obey your conscience. Maybe your conscience doesn't allow you to eat meat. Maybe your conscience doesn't allow you to participate incertain forms of diet.  Maybe it doesn't. And you know what? A good teacher will tell you to obey the universal principles and to obey your conscience in all of the particulars.

A false teacher will take their beliefs on all of the particular sins, and they will force them on everyone. We need to be very, very careful that we say what the Bible says, and where it's silent, so are we.  And if someone should ask, we can be free to say, "My convictions and my conscience is this way, and I conduct myself this way for these reasons. ...

We're all weak and strong in different areas, and we gotta abide by conscience. If the Bible doesn't prohibit something, we can't enforce prohibtion on one another, but bad Bible teachers don't know that. They make rules and legalisms and moralities; and they enforce their conscience on everyone. And in so doing, they're acting in a demonic way because they're going against the freedom that the Scriptures give.

We might get back to how that was all hypocritical in light of the courtship fad inside Mars Hill going on at that very moment some time later.

Still, for a reader who was never in Mars Hill at that time, that might all still look innocuous enough.  How about this?

Part 8 of 1 Timothy
Pastor Mark Driscoll
1 Timothy 4:1-8
February 22, 2004

So as a young boy growing up, I aspired to be like my father. I’m thinking, “You know what? I can’t wait to get married, have kids, be a dad, coach Little League.” This is like my vision and goal. I go to church. Catholic priest is effeminate. No wife, no kids, no Little League, can’t catch, can’t throw, can’t change his own oil, nothing. And I’m looking at him and I’m looking at my dad, saying these two guys are totally different, and I wanna be like my dad. So I didn’t go to church anymore. I just checked out till I got saved at 19, just checked out. Didn’t want anything to do with it. I was thinking, “You know what? I don’t wanna be like this guy. I don’t wanna be single.” Like virginity is a season, not a goal. [emphasis added] Sorry. I wanna have kids. Just thinking about that sort of just – it just hit me like how ridiculous that is. I wanna have kids. I wanna be a dad, and I wanna love my wife, and I wanna coach Little League. And like yesterday, I’m outside and my kids are riding their bikes.

"Only a demon would tell you otherwise?" eh?  Was Mark Driscoll positive about that because it kind of looks like Paul could be seen as saying that marriage, however valuable and positive, is not strictly necessary. 

Curiously, over in 1 Corinthians 7 (NIV)

25 Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

36 If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong[b] and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. 37 But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. 38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.[c]

Was Mark Driscoll going to suggest that Paul was demonic?  No, the explanation was Paul was referring to a time of persecution or famine and that the normative pattern was that unless God called you to do something like smuggle Bibles into China you needed to be married.  Never mind the eschatological component that's not even latent in Paul's instructions. It wouldn't have been the first or last time Mark Driscoll made a sweeping pronouncement on who should get married and why without necessarily bothering with the whole counsel of Scripture, as the old saying goes.


But perhaps the 2004 quip about virginity being a season and not a goal was due to whatever had not yet happened in 2006 in Mark's conversations with Grace.  Very well, then. Let's consider a curiosity from 2008's Peasant Princess.  Behold!

MH-17? Seriously?
God gives young men such strong sex drives because that drive to have sex is what they're supposed to harness into becoming adults?  This sounds like what some folks in Seattle might call a heteronormative biological determinism!  That in 2008 Mark Driscoll would hinge so much of the impulse for a boy to become a man because he wanted to have sexual intercourse with a woman opens up an interesting conundrum to the sex-as-incentive-to-grow-up ... what if a person wants to have sex with someone of the same gender?  If that were to somehow turn out to be the case then the entire matrix of honorably pursuing a formalized heterosexual marriage as the simultaneous means and end of growing up evaporates.  It's astonishing that for all the work Mars Hill Church did to scrub away material from Peasant Princess this stuff is still sitting around in plain sight ... for now.  Let's give them a few days to decide to delete this stuff, too. The screen capture is still here at Wenatchee The Hatchet.


Now it's not just in 2008 that Mark Driscoll made a point of explicitly linking functional adulthood with an active sexual relationship.  He flipped things around in 2012 during the Esther series in his jocular definition of what a eunuch was.
Jesus Has a Better Kingdom
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Esther 1:10–22
September 21, 2012
about 8:39 into the sermon.

Number two, men are castrated. Men are castrated. I’ll read it for you. “He commanded—” and these guys got names. “Mehuman—” That’s kind of a rapper name, I was thinking, like, ancient Persian hip-hop artist, Mehuman. That’s how it’s spelled. “Biztha.” Sounds like a sidekick. “Harbona, Bigtha.” That’s my personal favorite. If I had to pick a Persian name, Bigtha. Definitely not Littletha. I would totally go with Bigtha. “Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas.”

Okay, a couple things here. The Bible talks about real people, real circumstances, real history. That’s why they’re facts. It’s not just philosophy. Number two, if you ever have an opportunity to teach the Bible and you hit some of the parts with the old, crazy names, read fast and confident. No one knows how to pronounce them, and they’ll just assume you do.

Here are these guys. So, you’ve got seven guys, “the seven eunuchs.” What’s a eunuch? A guy who used to have a good life, and joy, and hope. That’s the technical definition of a eunuch. A eunuch is a man who is castrated. [emphasis added] Proceeding with the story before I have to fire myself.

So that meant in Mark Driscoll's joke a man who had been castrated was a guy who used to have a good life, and joy, and hope.  Why?  Because of the possibility of one day having sex?  There's a point at which the kinds of jokes a person makes suggest what the person feels is safe to joke about.

If Mark Driscoll would have the world believe that at some undefined point in the past he tended to view sex as a god an explanation of how that was is not necessarily lacking.  We haven't even touched the Scotland sermon with its "Jesus commands you to do this" comment about wives and oral sex. There's no need to, really.  Alternately claiming in 2008 that God gives young men a huge drive to have sex because that's what will help them ... grow up?  That might be a sign of putting too much stock in sexuality as a basis for defining functional adulthood.  And the joke that a eunuch was a guy who used to have a good life, and joy, and hope?  There's a chapter in Isaiah devoted to sharing with eunuchs that might not be in the Bible that Mark Driscoll reads. 

Even if we assume for the sake of discussion that at some point Mark Driscoll made a god of sex in the past there's no clear reason to assume that has stopped being the case, particularly not when Mark Driscoll worked in the idea that denying sex in marriage is Satanic in a 2008 spiritual warfare teaching; when Driscoll seriously claimed in 2008 that God gives young men a high sex drive to spur them to grow up; when Driscoll joked in 2012 that eunuchs were guys who HAD hope and a future before being castrated; and when in his 2012 book Driscoll declared that the cure for his moodiness and depression was more frequent sex.  Where in that decade-spanning sequence of material is there any sign that Mark Driscoll stopped making a god of sex if he assured us he tended to view sex as a god to begin with? 

What is most striking about all of this content is that to date Mark Driscoll has been willing to sort of say he's sorry about his tone but has never once apologized for the substance of things he has said.  That's not a small thing.  It's all the difference in the world in relational terms to say "I'm sorry you were offended by what I said" on the one hand and, "I am sorry for what I said, it was wrong, and I ask that you forgive me."  In older Mars Hill terms one would be described as a sign of real repentance and the other as an evasive concession that maybe something happened amiss but nobody's going to confess to the true scope of the problem.

POSTSCRIPT 7-23-2014
If withholding sex within marriage is satanic and a category of the "ordinary demonic" then who knows whether one of the most satanic things a group of women could propose to do would be a sex strike? Like the one proposed earlier this year by Ukrainian women to protest recent events, for instance.

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