Mark Driscoll’s Chauvinist Views on Appropriate Roles in Marriage

Jan 5, 12 • Books40 Comments

You can read other parts of David’s review on Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship and Life Together by Mark and Grace Driscoll herehere, and here. There are also lots of other thoughtful reviews bouncing around the interwebs.

Yesterday, I posted the first part of the review on Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book Real Marriage. Today we will continue.

In today’s parlance, the phrase ‘male chauvinist’ as been abandoned for the stronger term ‘misogynist’. I admit that ‘chauvinist’ sounds like a mid-80s Stenheim disciple breaking through the glass celling with her Murphy Brown shoulder-padded blazer. However, the way that Real Marriage is written follows less of the ‘hatred of women’ misogyny definition and more of the classic “barefoot and pregnant” chauvinist worldview: men are better, or at least more important, than women.

Driscoll follows this line of thinking in creative ways. The man is the really, really important one in the marriage:

In this season we shifted into ministry-and-family mode, neglecting our intimacy and failing to work through our issues. This became apparent to me when my pregnant wife came home from a hair appointment with her previously long hair (that I loved) chopped off and replaced with a short mommish haircut. She asked what I thought, and could tell from the look on my face. She had put a mom’s need for convenience before being a wife. She wept. (11)

See? He doesn’t hate his wife–she’s just not as important as him.

Men, we can help our wives by serving them, especially if they are working outside the home or have children who can take forever to get down for bed. This may include, if finances permit, a housekeeper or other help to free up some of your wife’s energy. (166)

Heaven forbid that the husband actually help his wife himself. Not to mention the implied belief that household duties and childrearing are the wife’s job.

In choosing a church, it must be a church that the husband wants to attend. Too often the wife is the one choosing the church because it meets her emotional desires and the children’s programming needs… [He explains that men don’t like to go to church.] To curb this trend, you, the husband, need to take the initiative to find a church that you also find challenging, one that is filled with men you respect, enjoy and would pursue godly relationships with. (59)

Poor women. They can’t distinguish between their girly feelings and their need to worship God corporately in a c0mmunity of faith.

Tell me this is not a classically male chauvinist attitude–and as I wrote yesterday, I’m not necessarily a feminist! That this kind of thinking is published in 2012 is astounding to me.

Look for part three tomorrow.


David Moore (48 Posts)

David is the coordinator for the Lowell W. Berry Center for Lifelong Learning at Fuller Theological Seminary and editor of The Burner Blog.

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40 Responses to Mark Driscoll’s Chauvinist Views on Appropriate Roles in Marriage

  1. profanefaith says:

    He has a huge audience that “get’s it.” Hopefully voices like yours will help turn the tide.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’ve often wondered why women go to Mark Driscoll’s church and churches like it. I think it may be because in complementarianism, women actually get to experience something resembling true Christian humility, whereas men are the ones who are infused with a perilous spiritual pride.

    To me, submission and Christian servant leadership are the same. There is no need for an official hierarchy in my marriage relationship if I am imitating Christ by being a diakonos pantou. Paradoxically, the most authoritarian tone I take towards my wife is when I tell her that she has to make a decision. Even if I thought the Biblical passages were universally applicable, I just don’t see any merit in making sure that it’s clear I’m the boss. What good leader does that?

    It just seems like what’s going on here is earning your salvation through adhering to politically incorrect social views that are conveniently self-serving to the guys jacked up on testosterone. Doctrinal/ideological Pelagianism is the pandemic heresy of conservative evangelicalism.

    • The Burner says:

      Thanks, Morgan!

      I don’t disagree with you.

    • geoffh says:

      “Doctrinal/ideological Pelagianism is the pandemic heresy of conservative evangelicalism.” Say what? And now in English for the non-theologian, please!  Which is an Englishman’s way of saying he enjoyed your post! but could you please tell him what you’ve just said.
      As for the rest, yes I agree that we don’t need a patriarchal hierarchy and my main worry is that somehow the Pastor has been elevated to this deified position, where nothing ‘he’ says can be contradicted because he’s God’s man! It seems more to do with the cult of charisma or a business worldview, where the Pastor assumes the role of CEO. So my question would be, where does this come from?  If not from Scripture, then where does American Evangelicalism get this concept from?

      Peace to you all,


      • Sorry to use Christian geek-speak. Pelagianism refers to Pelagius the 4th century ascetic monk who believed that you had to be sinless to enter heaven. Augustine debated him fiercely in favor of the doctrine of justification by faith which has been the norm in all Christianity and particularly evangelical Protestantism.

        So Pelagianism has become a word for the heresy of thinking that you can earn your salvation rather than receive it solely as a gift from God. Neo-Calvinism is acutely sensitive to any semblance of Pelagianism, but I would claim that it has its own form of Pelagianism in that Neo-Calvinists believe they are saved by their doctrine about Christ rather than by Christ Himself. Hence the term doctrinal Pelagianism.

        Furthermore, there’s a certain appeal to taking unpopular, politically incorrect social positions such as Driscoll’s complementarianism as a way of eliciting “persecution” from other people and thus feeling even more “saved” as a result of that.

        Yeah I hear you on the alpha-male cult of personality method of church. There’s nothing in the Bible about it. It’s just American evangelicals following the worldly model of celebrity culture.

      • geoffh says:

        Thanks Morgan, it just sounded so succinct and wonderful statement, like you had a writerly flourish or something, that I wanted to know what you meant!

        Part of the problem with Institutions of Spirituality is this managerial structure, but another for me is the focus on sin, as the promotion of guilt to control the ‘congregation’.

        (In terms of Driscoll’s misogyny, this is a kind of ‘self-harm’ for the Body of Christ.)

        I’m busy exploring new contexts for our cultural discipleship in the arts, as I don’t think the ‘Church’ model we have is adequate to explore the teachings of the ‘Body of Christ’, of being connected so that we can work as ‘Children of Light’. In my sphere there is a great disconnect between art (and the mainstream cultural domain) and the Church (a sub-cultural domain).

        We never seem to focus on ‘practicing resurrection’, the new life, the new creation. So much so, that people never get beyond an entrance level understanding of the Christian faith and go on to develop a maturity and confidence for their calling and vocation, in God’s good Creation.

        More at:

        Thanks for the clarification.



      • Dean Chang says:

        “Doctrinal/ideological Pelagianism is the pandemic heresy of conservative evangelicalism.”

        Just wanted to thank you for this, you have succinctly crystallized something that has been floating around in my head for over  a year now.  It is so ironic that that the self-appointed heresy hunters of the Reformed Mafia can’t spot the age old heresy of Pelagius in their very own ranks!

    • Dana says:

      This seems exactly right to me. If men who believe that husbands should be in charge actually did what the Bible tells them they should do (that Christians should submit to one another in love, that husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the church), they’d act no differently from egalitarians, because they’d be keenly interested to know their wives’ desires, and would want to abide by them as often as possible, and would respect the woman’s opinions enough to take the wife’s view as seriously as their own in making decisions.

      • Karley says:

        I like your last sentence. Unfortunately, when man is given rules to live by, man (and women; generic usage) has a tendency to use them for whatever ends they wish to achieve and often that is exerting control a.k.a. getting their own way. The biblical rules do not allow the wife to rationalize her own selfish behavior this way because she’s considered sinful if she tries to”lead” or dominate her spouse through biblical shenanigans. My solution: Live secular and ethically. It’s actually true that non-Christians are as ethical and loving as Christians who choose as humans to follow what has been written and rewritten by men. Who needs Mark Driscoll or self-appointed “leaders” anyway?

  3. Matthew Pittman says:

    I hesitate to defend this guy, since hating on him is very en vogue, but my wife and I listened to his “Peasant Princess” podcast series while we were engaged. We rolled our eyes at certain parts where his theology didn’t align with ours, but overall it was mostly helpful for us.

    Driscoll’s whole m.o. seems to be in reaction to what he would deem some kind of domestication or “wimp-ification” of Christianity, especially Christian men. If you can filter out that junk (misogynist tendencies, affinity for MMA, etc.) out, there seem to be some nuggets of truth to be found. If you hate him, why bother?  I don’t like the band Nickleback but I don’t protest their concerts or blog about what crap they put out-I just listen to good music instead.

    • The Burner says:


      I think he does have nuggets of wisdom–otherwise he wouldn’t have a church of thousands. I don’t hate him, but if Nickelback’s record label asked you to review their latest, and you thought that the junk on the album was potentially harmful, would you give it a good review?

    • AnikkiV says:

      Unfortunately, it seems to me that Driscoll’s method for “de-wimpifying” the church is to teach men that the only path to masculinity is to dehumanize women.   I’m a woman, and that makes me angry. I think that if I was a man I would find Driscoll’s philosophies profoundly insulting and belittling. The way to strength is not to demand that someone else pretend to be weak. Thankfully, there are lots of men and women in the world who have  already figured this out . Sorry Mark, but you parade your own smallness for the world to see and don’t seem to notice.  The emperor has no clothes.

  4. Tim says:

    Please would you do a real theological response to this book. what you’re doing at the moment is hardly the work of theologians, its just really poor journalism. Do the world a favour and do a better job, one worthy of your fame.

    • brgulker says:

      Please would you do a real theological response to this post. What you’re doing at the moment is hardly the work of a theologian; it’s just poor blog commenting. Do the rest of us readers a favor and do a better job, one worthy of our interest.

  5. Rorschachwalter says:

    Yet another poorly conceived drivel of a post.

    When Mark says that his wife did something that made her physically unattractive, you equated that, without reason, to Mark saying he is more important than his wife. Would you make the same claim about a wife when her husband lets himself go, doesn’t keep up on hygeine, and farts loudly in her presence? If she complains, is that the same as making herself more important than him?

    When Mark writes of helping his wife, he offers ONE POSSIBLE means of helping her. You respond as if Mark is operating only from a position of purchasing outside help, rather than doing any work himself. That is dishonest of you.

    And Mark may be writing from the persective of either 1) it is RIGHT for women to be the ones in the home or 2) it is NORMAL for women to be the ones in the home. You assume that it is #1, without even presenting an honest discussion of where might be getting this perspective from or how exactly it is played out. This, again, is dishonest. And frankly, it’s lousy scholarly work. Scratch that — it’s simply lousy blogging.

    The last quote you provided lacks context. I don’t think Mark would suggest that women are incapable of choosing churches, but 1) it is the man’s responsibility, ultimately, and the man thus needs to take charge, and 2) it is true that women often choose churches because of emotional desires (not the priority when it comes to finding a church) or a nice place to meet other moms (again, not the priority). You don’t allow Mark to speak for himself, nor do you allow any nuance in the agument. You do a poor job dealing with Mark’s actual intentions.

    You might find that, if you did a better job presenting Mark’s positions, you might be able to have an honest discussion with him and others who hold those positions.

    PS: I am not at all a fan of Mark Driscoll’s. But when I take issue with him, I do it honestly. You, friend, are merely looking to spew all over a guy you don’t like. Just like a Republican saying Obama hates America, your rhetoric is pleasing to the ears of the ignorant, but ultimately harmful and full of more spite than insight.

    • guest says:

      She was pregnant. She cut her hair. I have been pregnant. It AIN”T EASY. You’re lucky she didn’t shave her head. It’s hair. Get over it. Show some grace. What are you going to do when she gets old? 

    • Lisa Marie Mutchler says:

      “Just like a Republican saying Obama hates America..” Hilarious! and honestly a great comparison, IMO

      • M.J. says:

         I’m a republican and Obama does hate America. Open your eyes. What’s even worse, he doesn’t defend Christians who are being persecuted in the middle east. His latest statement, something about these persecutions being misunderstandings.

  6. P. Clark says:

    David – I am a new reader to your posts and a future Fuller seminarian. Frankly I am appalled that the Fuller umbrella has been used to allow such an unbalanced and biased attack on someone who you admit is not on your favorites list. That is not journalism or even Christian. Excerpts most always take the story out of context. Especially in the second paragraph (as 
    Rorschachwalter stated). A fair review would include your unbiased opinion, the good and the bad of this book (and if you can’t find any good in it then maybe someone else should’ve done this post). Or post this on a personal blog without the backbone of Fuller. 

    • The Burner says:

      While there is no such thing as an “unbiased opinion,” far be it from me to discourage you from coming to Fuller.

      You will find here a diversity of opinions both appealing and unappealing. You will need to be able to listen to them presented with and without civility and with or without adequate research.You are headed for a place with a variety of voices and opinions about subjects we hold dear. I thoroughly enjoyed my education from Fuller, and I hope that you will too!

      • Lisa Marie Mutchler says:

        For what it’s worth, I think it’s really interesting that your reaction to P. Clark’s criticism of your review is they need to learn how to listen to opinions they don’t like if they’re coming to Fuller.
        Maybe you need to learn how to truly accept criticism…

    • brgulker says:

      Declaring oneself a Christian does not immunize oneself from criticism from anyone, including other Christians. 

      Cross reference, Peter versus Paul in the early church when debating whether or not Gentiles needed to be circumsized in order to follow Jesus.

      Cross reference the opening chapter of Galatians. 

      I could go on, but it may fall on deaf ears?

      Further, it could be argued that Mark is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Jesus and the apostles didn’t back down to such. In fact, quite the opposite. 

  7. Anonymous says:

    Frankly, you guys aren’t hitting Driscoll hard enough. The opinion of him in the outside world (where I live) is that he’s a sexist pig. Moreover, to me, he’s the perfect example of so many Evangelical Christian pastors. He lives in a bubble. There is no woman in Driscoll’s life who can tell him to (this is blunt) sit down and shut up, not even his wife, Grace. The only people who can tell Mark Driscoll that he’s out of line are certain men who have Y chromosomes–and who he respects at this moment. 

    As for the business with the hair…my father always told me that I should keep my hair cut short, because it was more professional. It’s only been in the last five years, as I entered middle age, that I grew my hair to my waist. Dad’s had to admit it looks good and I take care of it. But I can tell you that if I had small children at home like Grace does, I’d cut it short too–and it should be her decision, not Mark’s. Grace is not Mark’s doll to dress up and play with as he feels, and that’s how this woman perceives he sees Grace.

    • bftaylor says:

      Mirele, I think Driscoll’s opinions, albeit stated in a provocative manner, make sense within the context of a culture where the pendulum of marriage roles has swayed closer to absolute egalitarianism than male authoritarianism. 70 years ago, he would have been a chauvinist for saying these things; today, his motive might be to resist an equally perilous excess. Read 1 Peter 3:1-7 and gauge you reaction. My knee-jerk reaction is a little embarrassment – at holy scripture! I think that’s evidence that our culture doesn’t like everything the Bible teaches about gender roles. For example, you say “her haircut should be her decision” as if it were not relevant that she ought to strive to appear pleasing to her husband – an obligation of love that trumps her convenience. This does not deny the man’s role, which is to love her even when her appearance doesn’t suit his preference.  Driscoll’s not going there, and I think it’s a paranoid extrapolation. I appreciate Driscoll’s defense of the currently unpopular side of a two-sided coin.

  8. robins2002 says:

    Recent studies have demonstrated that the best marriages are those where both husband and wife are generous toward the other’s needs and desires. I think you are correct in demonstrating that Mark’s book places his needs and desires as the only ones that matter. He was upset because his wife cut her hair? Oh, come on! Doesn’t he love her more deeply than that? Isn’t he generous toward her needs and desires? That is, indeed, misogynistic. Thanks for the great posts.

    • Lisa Marie Mutchler says:

      With all due respect, i completely disagree with your statement that Mark being upset that Grace cut her hair automatically translates to “misogyny.”
      My husbands wears a beard. I absolutely love it. If he shaved it, I would be very, very upset. Does that make me “misandrous”?
      Now, if my husband sat down and talked with me about why he really wanted to get rid of the beard for whatever personal reasons and I did not respect that and got angry with him over it, then you could certainly say I am being out of line (although I still don’t think you could honestly say I hated men…) But it does not appear that Mark and Grace ever had that kind of discussion.
      Mark being upset that Grace cut her hair does not mean he only loves her for her long hair, as you insinuate. It doesn’t mean he is not generous toward her needs and desires. It simply means that he enjoys her long, beautiful blond hair- just like I enjoy my husband’s big red beard. No misogyny here, IMO.

  9. Princessnoel 3 says:

    These quotes literally took my breath away in disgust for how little Mark disrespects women. I’m on the verge of tears. 

    David, I read all 4 of your reviews on this book and if this book had given you anything Theological to dissect I think you would have done so, but this book is pure lies and garbage and should not have God’s name attached to it at all.

    Even the most average lay Christian can read Mark’s quotes and know how theologically inaccurate he is, at least I would hope so. 

  10. Mim3ddd says:

    I have only read the first 47 pages of the book but have
    gleaned some excellent points for discussion for couples, who want to improve
    their marriage relationship.


    page 15 “This felt like a noble divine assignment and began
    to change my motivation for pursuing Grace, because I saw her for the first
    time as the Father’s daughter—the Father who loved her as I loved my own

    Discussion point: Are we pursuing our wife as the Father’s


    page 26 “Marital friendship requires both the husband and
    wife to be willing to invest what it takes to be a good friend.”

    page 27 “In our marriage, we have made the mistake of
    assuming we were friends and not working on our friendship as we ought to.

    Discussion point: How do husband and wife’s go about
    developing friendship?


    page 32 gives some help in developing marital friendship
    with a simple explanation of three kinds of marriages—back-to-back,
    shoulder-to-shoulder, and face-to-face e.g. the best kind of marriage includes
    shoulder-to-shoulder and face-to-face relationships.

    Discussion point: How do wives and husband build a


    page 33 gives some examples of how to build a friendship:

    “For a wife to build a friendship with her husband requires
    shoulder-to-shoulder time alongside him.”

    “For a husband to build a friendship with his wife requires
    him growing in face-to-face skills.”


    Page 36 provides some interesting discussion points about
    the difference in doing things FOR your wife/husband and doing things WITH your

    “But when we were not emotionally connected in prior years,
    I did not value her service because it felt as if she was doing things for me
    rather than with me.”


    Now, I have not read the whole book, but I get the sense
    that one of the most important things one can glean from this book is the last
    sentence of chapter 2 Friend With Benefits:

    “So we would commend to you the goal of devoting the rest of
    your life to being a better friend to your spouse.”


    I have been a Christian for 36 years and have a Master of
    Theology degree and do not necessarily agree with everything Pastor Mark
    teaches or says is okay to do, but I also realize that I am an old school
    Christian e.g. 58 years old and realizing the methods of communication are
    totally changing, I cannot relate to the rap music of today but the younger
    generation does and I believe Pastor Mark’s book is the rap music of
    Christianity today by that I mean he is communicating and addressing the issues
    and problems associated with the MTV/Rap music generation, which the old school
    Christian generation will find difficult to fully accept, but I do believe  the older generation of Christians or old
    school theologians like me are realizing that the MTV/Rap music generation has
    changed the norms of communication of transparent truth that may offend others,
    who are not aware of this change of communication language that now requires
    writing books like this.

  11. I’m a bit taken aback with the way you’ve chosen to interpret (I would say, distort) Driscoll’s words. Clearly someone isn’t sufficed to hold a different view, and actually wants blood at any cost.

  12. lilbucket says:

    This man is so immature, so self centered and so full of himself it makes me sick.  How does someone like this get popular in ministry?  What if his wife were to become ill?  He doesn’t even know about self-sacrifice.  Makes me want to go get a haircut…

  13. Saxor76 says:

    Personally i don’t know why men go to his church either.  he constantly bashes men also.  According to Driscoll if  a guy isn’t making a lot of money and dating a lady he is a loser.  I’d like to see what scriptures verses he uses to support this view. He also paints all young men as slackers and moochers.  They sit at home playing video games all day and live off of mom and dad according to Driscoll.  Maybe in his church they do but not every young men does that.  Besides have you noticed how bad the job market is today?  If they sitting at home i’ts probably because they can’t find a job.     Money isn’t everything- do you think God cares how much money you have in your bank account?  As you know there are a lot of females in church who lusts for money and relationships and put marriage on a pedestal.  Marriage is an idol to Drsicoll and many women.  Women also  think of men as ATM machines- A nice looking submissive man and babies are trophies too them as well.  Men aren’t as relationship oriented as women and they aren’t dating like they used to for many reasons. Church Men want submissive wives- not domineering nagging feminists.  So it seems to me that the women are putting the pressure on pastors like Driscoll to shame men into dating.  Well guess what- it isn’t working.  Less men are dating and marrying than before.  Why?  because of all the selfish narcissistic entitled bratty behavior of church women.  Men are running from them in droves.  Driscoll makes a lot of money off his books and speaking engagements so it is obviously to me that since most of the people who read self help books are women- they are the ones he is catering too.  Driscoll is nothing but a self help guru who cares only about money.

  14. Nathan says:

    David Moore, you (and men like you) are the reason Driscoll needs to write books like this. His point that men need to lead the family is not a dictatorship but and example of Jesus leading the “church.”
    Marriage is often used in Scripture as the illustration of our relationship with Jesus, (thats why we are called the “bride of Christ”)Your issues with his book and your citing to support your claims were weak and wildly out of context.

    Please learn what the Bible says and come at this book with a renewed mind, thats what Driscoll has done.

    • Nathan,

      Thanks for your readership. I like to hear from you further as I have some questions:

      1. What is it about my attitude that books like Driscoll’s aim to change? Leadership does not mean “unchecked power.”
      2. Where did I take the book out of context?
      3. What specific passages of the Bible do you think I should look more closely at?
      4. What have I written that shows that my mind has not been renewed?
      5. What have you found to be the most helpful for renewing your own mind?

      Thanks in advance. I look forward to discussing these things with you!


    • Nathan says:

      I also hold little respect to those who obsees over criticizing other mens work.
      Get of the blogs and do work!

  15. […] attention in the press, typically in reference to controversy. Whether it’s Driscoll’s views on male/female relationships and marriage, Mars Hill’s “church discipline” practices, and even acts of vandalism to church property, it […]

  16. […] Oddly enough, a common thread between my marriage and the Driscoll marriage was the control over my hairstyle: … my pregnant wife came home from a hair appointment with her previously long hair (that I loved) chopped off and replaced with a short mommish haircut. She asked what I thought, and could tell from the look on my face. She had put a mom’s need for convenience before being a wife. She wept. -Mark Driscoll (“Real Marriage”, page 11) source […]

  17. MB says:

    “Heaven forbid that the husband actually help his wife himself.” If a husband is just helping with the housework, he is being a male chauvinist because he still thinks it’s her work. All husbands need to take equal responsibility for housework and childcare.

    Mark Driscoll is a misogynist.

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