Friday, June 28, 2013

Book Review: Sex and the iWorld by Dale S. Kuehne

Sex and the iWorld: Rethinking Relationship beyond an Age of Individualism

Dale S. Kuehne. Sex and the iWorld: Rethinking Relationship beyond an Age of Individualism (2009) Grand Rapids, Baker Academic.

June 28, 2013:

I am re-posting, with a few revisions, a post I originally made over two years ago, as I think this book is needed right now. If you would like to hear the Mars Hill Audio Journal where Kuehne was interviewed, follow this link for more information for purchase of the MP3 episode.

In our society today, there is the idea, brought forward by the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960’s, that in order to live a truly fulfilling life, one needs to be fulfilled sexually. In this book, Dale Kuehne (pronounced "keen") challenges the modern idea that sexual fulfillment is essential to human happiness. The thesis he sets out to answer is this: “Is the scriptural teaching about sexuality good news for everyone?”(Audio,2009) 

In this world of independence and individuality, we are not often presented with a book so thoughtfully written which describes our current cultural surroundings. As media has hailed the ‘self-made’ man, Steve Jobs after his death, Kuehne writes of the intent of the title of this book:

I believe the best way to describe and understand our present moment is to call it the “iWorld.” Steve Jobs and the people at Apple Inc. have brilliantly understood the spirit of our age—a spirit of unfettered individualism and freedom—by marketing many of their products using the prefix i…In short, the t [traditional] World is being replaced by the iWorld. (p.45)

As a culture today, I believe we need to take time to understand where we came from, and the schools of thought about sexual relationships. In the classical world of Greek philosophy, the highest form of relationship was friendship, and our “appetites” (including sexuality) were detrimental to the highest form of human fulfillment. “Bodily passions” as so named by Socrates, were something to be mastered in the quest to “practice philosophy” and purify your soul. In the dialog from Phaedo, Socrates is quoted as saying:

But I think that if the soul is polluted and impure when it leaves the body, having always been associated with it and served it, bewitched by physical desires and pleasures to the point at which nothing seems to exist for it but the physical, which one can touch and see or eat and drink or make use of for sexual enjoyment, and if that soul is accustomed to hate and fear and avoid that which is dim and invisible to the eyes but intelligible and to be grasped by philosophy—do you think such a soul will escape pure and by itself?(p. 72) 

So which is correct? Should we attempt to try the ancient “Classical” ideal or should we continue the search for ourselves and what makes us happy, especially our sex lives; but could there be another possible path?

Is sexual intimacy essential to human fulfillment, or have we lost something precious and vital to human flourishing by the sexualization of most of our most intimate relationships today? To read Dale Kuehne’s book is to find a thoughtful and loving answer to these questions. This is not a book of dogmatism, but a true, loving, Christian response to the problems in the clash of the Bible and the culture of today.

In the midst of heated debates over same-sex marriages, and the lack of dialogue or discipleship on sexuality within churches today, perhaps we all should talk more about the "why's" of sex only in a marriage. Many, in and outside the church think that the sex only in marriage is God's  way of being a cosmic spoil-sport. Kuehne writes:

"...[C]ontrary to some contemporary popular evangelical theology, the two great commandments are not to get married and have sex. Being married is not the only means of experiencing true love and intimacy. Marriage is an important institution that exists in service of the family, and God wants those who are married to have great marriages. But the quality of the marriage is connected to the ability of the couple to enjoy true love and intimacy with God, with each other, and with the rest of the people in the extended relational matrix...Sex will sometimes produce children; sex will provide a bond for the marriage that is useful in holding a married couple together. But sex in itself will not be the catalyst for happiness or fulfillment..." (p 162)

This, in my estimation, is a “must-read” for all people; within and without the Christian world, no matter the denomination or outside affiliation. Perhaps we can cease remaking ourselves, and begin relating.

Find it here at Amazon.

Or here at Baker Academic.


D. Kuehne.(2009) Sex and the iWorld: Rethinking Relationship beyod and Age of Indiviualism. Grand Rapids, Baker.

Ken Myers. Interview of Dale Kuehne from Mars Hill Audio, #99 September/October, 2009.

Plato: Complete Works. Edited by John Cooper (1997) Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing.

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