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The Good, Bad & Ugly- A Review of Mark and Grace Driscoll’s Book, “Real Marriage

Real MarriageIn the Evangelical world, you would be hard-pressed to find a figure more polarizing than Mark Driscoll (except for maybe Rob Bell. Those crazy, Mars Hill Pastors!). Those of a more moderate or progressive bent, find Driscoll’s theology too narrow, judgmental and misogynistic; Many conservatives stand with Driscoll in his theological commitments, but find his bombastic style, insensitivity and general jerkiness, off-putting.

Personally, I have some fundamental disagreements with Driscoll and concerns with his approach. Chief among these is my commitment to Biblical Egalitarianism and I find some of his comments are damaging to women, based in antiquated gender stereotypes (generally post-industrial, pre-feminist stereotypes), and arrogant. And so when Thomas Nelson, was offering his book free in exchange for reviews, I opted in just to see where the man (and wife) go amiss in their discussion of marriage; however, I found that while I disagree with the Driscolls in important ways, much of what they had to say here, was thoughtful, balanced and helpful. So read on Driscoll fans, I promise not to smear his (ahem) good name, but nor will I let him off easy!

Real Marriage is divided into three parts. In Part 1, the Driscolls address what makes a good marriage, discussing the roles of both husband and wife, their mutual responsibility to one another and ways to nurture their relationship. In Part II, they turn their attention to sex/sexuality (this is the biggest section of the book). Part 3 of the book consists of a single chapter, addressing how to ‘reverse engineer your marriage’ which involves casting a vision for the type of marriage you want to end up with and making a plan to get there. Part 3, despite it’s brevity is quite good. Parts 1 and 2 are generally pretty good with some issues. As an outline for this review, I will explore the Good, the Bad & the Ugly (with apologies to Clint Eastwood). On to my fair and balanced review (Fox newsworthy):

The Good

For the most part, I liked this book and found myself liking Mark and Grace Driscoll a little more as I read. Mark and Grace shares vulnerablely about their relational and sexual past, their marital struggles and offers advice they personally found helpful in their own marriage together. I was pleasantly surprised that their section on marriage has a chapter which underscores mutuality (showing how a good marriage starts with a good friendship). They also have good things to say about the gift of sexuality and do not pull punches in addressing sinfulness (i.e. abuse, pornography, selfishness). Things are said carefully here; I doubt that Driscoll will feel the need to recant or apologize for anything written here (as he has humbly done on occasion when he’s shot his mouth off). Perhaps the addition of his wife, Grace, has made him more gracious in his presentation! The Driscolls dispense good advice about cultivating intimacy.

Also, while I hedge and differentiate my position from Driscoll, I respect his commitment to being Biblical in his approach. This is a commitment I share with the Driscolls and actually agree with them on good many things, though not without reservations and concerns.I am done talking about the good things. On to the bad!

The Bad

    Beyond my fundamental disagreement with the Driscolls the thing that is done badly in this book is exegesis. Mark Driscoll has a Master’s degree in exegetical theology and should be much better at this, but he’s not (and yes I am singling out Mark on this one). This book is arranged topically and so doesn’t explore any one text in-depth. Often Driscoll proof texts and occasionally just misuses passages. In the chapter entitled, “Can We ______?” Driscoll uses Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:12 as a taxonomy to apply to sexual questions (p.192): “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” From this, Driscoll proposes three questions: 1)Is it permissible? 2) Is it helpful? 3) Is it enslaving? (192).

    I agree that this can be a useful taxonomy in assessing particular issues, but Driscoll’s employment of it fails to account for the fact that Paul, in saying “All things are lawful for me” is quoting and rhetorically dismantling a Corinthian slogan. Someone with a master’s degree in Exegetical theology, ought to take more care here. Elsewhere he handles scripture better, such as his explication of the Song of Songs, but this book is really inconsistent in regards to the Bible.

    Take for instance how he handles ‘submission.’ Driscoll argues that it is the role of the husband to provide leadership to the household (and the church), it is the role of women to submit. They do balance this by addressing the limits of submission (women should not submit to abuse, or to commit a sin), but this is generally what they argue, for all cases regardless of personality, temperament and gifting of each spouse. The basis of their case comes from their reading of the Biblical household codes, particularly the one that we read of in Ephesians 5:21-33. Wives are told to submit (vs. 22) because the husbands are their head as Christ is the head of the church; Thus women submit, men lead.

    But this is a skewed picture of this passage. The section on women submitting (5:22-24) is bracketed by two verses which the Driscolls quote but fail to adequately expound. 5:21 says “Submit yourself to one another.” This sets this whole passage in the context of mutual submission (not just wives to husbands). In fact the word used for submit in this passage (ὑποτασσόμενοι), is said here, but not in verse 22, when Paul tells wives to submit. This reads literally “Submit yourselves one to another, wives to your husbands…” The context is mutual submission, not just wives to husbands.

    The second verse they fail to properly expound is verse 25: “Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” They quote this and talk about the husband’s loving leadership, but not about what it means to love like the Jesus who laid his life down. The Driscolls and I can disagree on egalitarian/complementarian concerns, but they need to trumpet the mutuality and shared submission more than they do here.

    The Ugly

Finally, there is the ugly side of this book. The Driscoll’s spend a great deal of their section on sex, talking about sexual responsibility and what can couples do sexually. They give the green light to just about everything from anal sex, cyber-sex, mutual masturbation, roleplaying, etc. Pretty much their modus operandi is if the Bible doesn’t forbid it, and it doesn’t involve anyone else but husband and wife, go for it (yes, they also ask if it is helpful or enslaving). They did not, here say women or men had to perform certain sexual acts they feel uncomfortable with, but they do imply that within the context of marriage, you should be open to experimentation.

While I agree that sexuality is a gift to be celebrated within the context of marriage, and there is some freedom in how it can be expressed, I think the level of detail here is unnecessary and unhelpful. What you can do sexually in marriage is the wrong question if you ask me. I like the title of one of Marva Dawn’s books, Sexual Character: Beyond Technique to Intimacy. I think the Driscoll’s fetish with what you can or can’t do sexually emphasizes technique, sometimes at the expense of intimacy. Healthy Christian sexuality is about mutually sharing, more than about experimentation.


The Holy Spirit in the Protestant Tradition: Book Review of The Spirit Unfettered

After reviewing Breath of Life: God as Spirit in Judaism, Paraclete Press graciously allowed me to review other books in their Holy Spirit series (You can read my original review of Breath of Life here). For my second review from the series, I read a book reflecting on protestant views of the Holy Spirit. As a Protestant, this is where I live, so some of it was familiar terrain. Yet I appreciated Edmund Rybarcyzk’s guidance in exploring the history of Protestant thought on the Spirit.

Rybarczyk, an ordained Assemblies of God minister, Associate Professor of historic and Systematic Theology at Vanguard University and former managing editor of Pneuma: The Society for Pentecostal Studies, presents here a broad overview of protestant understanding of the Holy Spirit by profiling different protestant theologians. With the exception of chapter two (which focuses on the 16th Century Anabaptists), each of the chapters profiles different protestant theologians and examines their contribution to our understanding of the Holy Spirit. The chapters are as follows:

1. Martin Luther
2. The Sixteenth Century Anabaptists
3. John Wesley
4. Friedrich Schleiermacher
5. Abraham Kuyper
6. Karl Barth
7. J. Rodman Williams
8. Jurgen Moltmann
9. Wolfhart Pannenberg
10. Clark Pinnock
11. Michael Welker

This list, though not exhaustive or comprehensive does hit many key theologians who reflected on the reality of the Spirit. Personally my list would have also included Calvin (whose understanding of the sacraments was that the Spirit mediated the presence of Christ in the ecclesia), Pietists and some Anglican theologians, and Miroslav Volf, but as a whole, Rybarczyk’s group has a nice balance between Lutherans, Reformed and free church theologians and so provides a nice balance overall.

Rybarczyk’s outline traces the history of Protestant pneumatology. In the first half of the book (Luther to Barth) traces the story from Luther’s musing on the nature of salvation, protestant accounting for subjective ‘spiritual’ experience, and reflection on God’s personhood and sovereignity. The second half of the book shows how in the late 20th Century, Pneumatology explored different avenues and directions.

The Story Rybarczyk tells begins with Luther’s musings on the nature of salvation and sanctification and the Spirit’s role. The Anabaptists, Wesley and Schleiermacher each, though in significantly different ways, talked about how the Spirit mediated the felt, subjective experience of the faith (i.e. Spirit guiding believers, sanctifying us, and ‘God-consciousness). Kuyper responded to this subjectivity by emphasizing the cosmic scope of the Spirit’s work in transforming culture for the common good. He also emphasized the historicity and objective elements of the Christian faith and argued that the Spirit made these ‘subjectively alive.’ Barth in turn, also reacted against the subjectivity of Schleiermacher by approaching theology from above, focusing on God and Trinity and God’s sovereignty in salvation. According to Barth, believers share in God’s story by being baptized by the Spirit into Jesus’s identity and story, His community and his mission.

In the late 20th Century saw the maturation of pentecostal and Charismatic scholarship as exemplified by the Reformed Charismatic theologian J. Rodman Williams who explored the experiential dimension of life in the Spirit. Moltmann further probes the cosmic and contextual understandings of the Spirit’s work in this world. Pannenberg’s approach upholds the Spirit’s creative work his approach is more rationalistic and far less subjective than any of the other theologians in this study and he cautions an over emphasis on the Spirit to the exclusion of Jesus (both are central). Pinnock’s approach blurs categories and draws an expansive vision of the Spirit’s work in creation and redemption. Welker doesn’t restrict his reflection on the Spirit to Biblical revelation (as would Barth) or theological literature, but seeks to discern the Spirit’s presence with science and philosophy. Moltmann, Pannenberg, Pinnock and Welker are all ecumenical and expansive in their exploration of the Spirit.

This book provides quite a survey of protestant visions of the Spirit! I found it helpful, even though the size of the book and accessibility of its prose, dictated that the exploration of each thinker was much more general than it was in-depth. At times I found Rybarczyk’s theological eye oversimplified historical matters (as in the case with his brief chapter on the wildly divergent 16th century Anabaptists). But in the main, he was fair and judicious in his analysis of each thinker’s theology of the Spirit. Certainly I have flagged several of these theologians to delve into more deeply as I seek to deepen my understanding and experience of the Spirit.

Text Critical Extravaganza: A Book Review of Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament


In his scholarly tome, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, and his more popular treatment, Misquoting Jesus Bart Ehrman has argued that the Biblical text that we have is deeply mired by tampering of scholars for theological reasons. In Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament: Manuscript, Patristic and Apocryphal Evidence, the inaugural volume of the Text and Canon of the New Testament Series (from Kregel Publications), Dan Wallace has edited a volume which takes Ehrman to task. Wallace’s introductory chapter, is an expansion of a paper he delivered in 2008 as part a dialogue with Ehrman over the Corruption of the New Testament. The subsequent chapters are each written by former academic interns and ThM students of his at Dallas Theological Seminary. Individually, each essay presents a strong case; cumulatively they systematically demolish Ehrman’s arguments. For the most part, the author’s are judicious in their analysis (I only can think of one or two places which felt like over reaching to me) and each chapter evidences copious research. While the authors are all theologically conservative and take issue with many of Ehrman’s claims, this book is not a smear-campaign either. They respect Ehrman’s scholarship and confirm his findings where they feel it’s warranted, but it is clear that they find his premise wanting.

In Chapter 1, Dan Wallace presents a brief, accessible apologetic for the reliability of the New Testament, taking specific aim at Ehrman’s arguments. Next Philip Miller examines Ehrman’s methodology and reveals that Ehrman is committed to the premise that the least orthodox readings are closer to the original text, regardless of whether the textual evidence and scholarly consensus supports him. These two chapters provide a more general overview of the issue. Matthew Morgan and Adam Messer provide a more detailed account by each examining a specific text which are asserted to be ‘corrupt’ by Ehrman and others (John 1.1c and Matthew 24:36, respectively). They each demonstrate the spurious nature of Ehrman’s claims Tim Ricchuiti examines the text-critical transmission of Thomas showcasing where theological interests effected the transmission of that text in line with the theology of the Nag Hammadi writings. In the final chapter, Brian Wright examines the textual evidence for the equation of Jesus as God in the New Testament. Wright demonstrates that such claims are not a result of corruption, but are original to the first century Christian community.

This book is written for a scholarly rather than popular level (and is endorsed by an impressive stream of theological conservative scholars). Certainly students engaged in Biblical studies or textual criticism would benefit from reading this book. Yet, this book is also of value beyond the walls of academia. Giving the ubiquity of Bart Ehrman on college campuses, the New York Times best sellers list, and numerous television appearances, serious engagement with ideas is a necessary apologetic task. A book I read by Sam Harris, one of the so-called New Atheists, recommended Misquoting Jesus because of the way it undermines Christian truth claims and casts doubt on the reliability of the Bible. This book reveals the places where Ehrman’s assertions do not stand up to examination. Some of this book, will be too technical for popular consumption, but the book would make a good addition to a pastoral library and Dan Wallace’s and Philip Miller’s essays certainly are accessible to an educated layperson. I think the arguments in this book will remain significant for the Evangelical community at large.

Thank you to Kregel Publications for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for this review.

The Monster Mash (up)-Book Review and Giveaway of Night of the Living Dead Christian

Mikalatos BookIf you don’t think that monsters are a big deal, you need not look any further than the Young Adult fiction section of your local library, prime time television or anything Twilight related. Everywhere you turn there is some fabled beast slouching toward Bethlehem. So it’s not surprising that Christian publishers have gotten into the mix (besides this book I can think of two other recent publications which explore the theme).

Matt Mikalatos has written an interesting book about Spiritual transformation using ‘monsters as a metaphor for our Spiritual maladies. Without giving the whole plot away, here is the basic premise: Matt, as the self-appointed and sole Neighborhood Watch patrol person discovers the existence of monsters in his neighborhood when he comes upon a Mad scientist (eccentric genius) and a robot (ahem…android). The mad scientist’s experiment is supposed to repel and cure werewolves but instead sends a werewolf and zombies streaking through the neighborhood. Matt joins forces with the mad scientist and robot to capture the werewolf (who is a Lutheran non-Christian named Luther Martin) who happens to be a neighbor. Their capture attempt fails but the three of them try to help Luther cure himself from being a werewolf. There attempts bring them into contact with a church full of zombies, an (almost)ex-vampire who Matt went to high school with, and horror of horrors, a psychologist.

So there you have it. Admittedly I was disappointed that though the title eludes most specifically to zombies, they are not the focus of the narrative (though certainly significant). The story instead focuses mostly on the werewolf, but the monster phenomenon in general. Mikalatos is interested in what the monsters tell us about our sinful, fallen nature. This isn’t novel to him, most great monster literature from Dracula, Frankenstein to Dr. Jeckle, Mr. Hyde reflect on human nature and the inner psychology of the monster. What Mikalatos does is explore the theme from an explicitly Christian perspective. The central theme of this book is that our own monster-like-tendencies are only overcome through a transforming encounter with Jesus Christ. This is good theology. It is only through Jesus that we are fully human (though the second Adam, he is the prototype of the new Humanity of which Adam is merely a Type). There is even a self-diagnostic inventory at the back of the book, so you could discover your own monstrous tendencies (or more likely just diagnose your friends).

But is it good fiction? Well I doubt Mikalatos will win any literary prizes this was a fun, and insightful read (in real life Mikalatos works with college students so he may have more experience with monsters than most of us). I found myself wondering at one point if the Matt Mikalatos in the story (he is a character in his own novel) had a job because he seemed to be free to just drop everything and give copious amounts of time to hunting and helping monsters. Oh well, the whole plot of the book strains credibility but it doesn’t take it self too seriously. Mikalatos fills it with self-effacing humor keeping the tone light.

SPOILER: One thing I really appreciated was the fact that Luther Martin is transformed at the end of the story, doesn’t mean that his life was necessarily easier to deal with. It would have been easy to spin this into a self-help, over come your inner demons and succeed in life sort of narrative. Mikalatos doesn’t do that, but is true to how difficult the Christian life remains for those of us who have experienced real transformation.

Tyndale Was gracious enough not only to provide me a copy of this for review, but is allowing me to offer this book as a giveaway prize. If you are interested in receiving a copy of this book, comment below (you may want to tell us what sort of mythical monster you most relate with).

Watch a video of Matt talking about his book and the meaning of monsters at at the link below:

Book Review: The 60 minute Money Workout

Financial Expert, Ellie Kay,from Good Money (ABC News), author and frequent guest on various news stations offers here a unique approach to personal finances in The 60 Minute Money Workout. Rather than prescribing a one-size-fits-all financial plan she presents a series of ’60 minute money workouts’ where you take the time to reflect on how you use your money.

Each chapter consists on a pretest to evaluate how you handle your money in regards to the chapter topic. Then there is the ‘work out’ which involves a five minute ‘warm up’ where you say something positive about your handling of money (or your spouse) and commit yourself to the task at hand. This is followed by ‘strength training’ for 10 minutes, which for Ellie Kay means goal setting. ‘Cardio Burn’ is where you really get to work organizing, planning, writing out steps to take, etc(20 minutes) After the Cardio Burn you ‘Take your Heart rate’ which is another 20 minutes of work, either continuing research, filling out a plan, or taking some sort of action. Finally there is the ‘Cool Down’ where you spend five minutes congratulating yourself on your progress and planning your next worko

This is not the typical read for me, but because I need to get a better hand on personal finances I thought it would be a good read. There are some helpful tips and the idea of spending 1 hour evaluating how you are handling finances and planning for your future is a good idea. Kay covers various topics related to finances: Financial Freedom, Your Money personality, Spending, Retirement and Saving, Debt, Paying less, Travel expenses, Allowances, Kid Entrepreneurs, College funds, Home Based Businesses, Couples and Giving. In each chapter there are helpful evaluative tools and insights.

The work-out format is a little cutesy for me and I find the 10 minutes of each hour devoted to positive-thinking self talk to be a little over the top. As I haven’t read many books similar to this I don’t know how it stacks up against other treatments of the topic (Ron Blue for instance) but I think Ellie Kay does have some good things to say.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for this review.EllieKay-60 Minute

Advent Reflections

The past five years, before moving to Blaine, my wife Sarah and I were in Vancouver attending Regent College finishing up Masters of Divinity (an overly glorious title indicating that we’ve read through the Bible cover-to-cover at least once). Well we were there we were part of Kitsilano Christian Community Church. This church is where we both did internships, got involved and were supported by one of the greatest small groups we’ve ever been apart of. We had all three of our kids well attending this church, and being out-of-towners, this church was our family. They helped us through seminary by nourishing our spirits and surrounding us with their care.

So when Pastor David Jenkins asked me to contribute to this year’s Advent reader even though it had been some months since I attended, I jumped at the chance. I was given a text reflecting on Jesus’ second coming. This is a layer of Advent that often gets ignored as we focus on Christ’s past incarnation, rather than his coming Glory. Since, as an Evangelical, I come from a tradition which is somewhat muddled in our thinking about the return of Christ, turning it into scare tactics or movies with contrived characters and bad acting, this was my rather playful way at trying to point at something else. Hope you enjoy!

Advent week 2

2 Peter 3:8-14

“Always wear clean underwear in case you get into an accident.”
To me biblical injunctions to ‘be good because Jesus is coming back when you least expect it’ sound an awful lot like this maternal saying. Life could be going merrily along when suddenly out of nowhere…the clouds part, Jesus flies right at you, snatching you from your home and dragging you to heaven. So be ready! The worst thing that could happen is that Jesus would come back, see the traces of what you have done and then He and your mother will be embarrassed.
There is more to it than that. The world is broken, full of wounded people, suffering, systemic injustice and evil. We have been betrayed by those we love; we watch as friends are mired in depression and addiction. We are powerless against the pain and injustice. We cry out, “How long O Lord?”
My prayer this Advent is that as we await the Lord’s coming, we long for it. The Jesus who saved us by his death and resurrection is not coming back to catch us in the act; rather he comes to ‘bring a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells.’ He comes to take all our brokenness and betrayal and bring healing and new life. In our waiting, we also work to bring his renewal to our neighbourhoods and our world. Ours is an active waiting. The Kingdom is not yet, but it is now! Come King Jesus!
James Matichuk

Book Review: Healing is a Choice

HealingchoiceThere was a man who lay by the side of the pool of Betheda. When Jesus saw him he asked the man, “Do you want to be well.” His story is recorded in John 5.

The implication of the story is healing is a choice. Steve Arterburn, best known as a coauthor of theEveryman series (Everyman’s Battle and spin-offs), takes the position that healing is available to everyone who chooses it. Of course he casts this broader than physical healing. He speaks primarily of emotional healing.

In 11 chapters, Arterburn explores 10 choices we need to make if we are to experience the healing that comes from Christ. These Choices are as follows (these are also chapter titles):

1. The Choice to Connect your life
2. The Choice to Feel your life
3. The Choice to Investigate Your Life in Search of Truth
4. The Choice to Heal Your Future
5. The Choice to Help Your Life
6. The Choice to Embrace Your Life
7. The Choice to Forgive
8. The Choice to Risk Your Life
9. The Choice to Serve
10. The Choice to Preserve

In these pages Arterburn unpacks these individual choices, asks workbook questions which help you to process personal issues related to each choice and articulates 10 lies corresponding to each choice that we tend to believe. These are:

1. All I need to heal is just God and me.
2. Real Christians should have peace in all circumstances
3. It does no good to look back or look inside
4. Time Heals all wounds
5. I can figure this out myself
6. If I just act like there is no problem it will go away
7. Forgiveness is only for those who deserve it or earn it
8. I must protect myself from anymore pain
9. Until I am completely healed and strong, there is no place for me to serve God.
10. There is no hope for me.

As you can guess from the chapter headings and ‘big lies’ Arterburn has his finger on the pulse of many of the things that keep us from experiencing Christ’s healing in fullness. Each chapter is packed full of anecdotes and he is eager to help you make the choice which will allow God’s grace to pour into your life more fully. As someone called to pastoral ministry I can appreciate some of his insights and diagnostic tools.

Perhaps the only reason that I am rating this as a middle of the road sort of book is that my own need for personal healing, though obviously there because I am as wounded as anyone, is not felt by me particularly acutely at the moment. This made the workbook questions hit or miss for me, though I can see how it would be helpful to someone

But I am also suspicious of the self help genre in general, even and especially the Christian self help genre. The man who lay by the pool of Bethesda answered Jesus, ” Sir I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. When I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me. (John 5:8)” As in the case of this lame man, there are sociological factors that mitigate against healing. I am not saying that Arterburn is unaware of these, I just think that healing is experienced as a gift which often is bigger than our choosing. When we lay on the ground unable to help ourselves and realize we are at the end of ourselves, this is when Christ breaks in and offers grace and healing in fresh ways.

That being said, I saw little in this book that I would take issue with on theological grounds. I would recommend it for those who find themselves in a crisis and yearn for a fresh touch from God to come and heal them. This book shouldn’t replace a trusted mentor and spiritual friend but could be helpfully utilized by one as they journey towards healing with you.

I recieved a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson via in exchange for this fair and honest review.