Friday, April 4, 2014

Misunderstanding about Paul's gospel

I intended to leave blanks in the following so that you may wonder why.
  • Paul's gospel is about not how I am (           ) but how we become (         ) of God.
  • Paul's gospel is not a law-free gospel but a (          ) gospel.
  • Paul's gospel is about not an individual justification by faith in (        ) but the individual/communal participation in (           ) faith and life because of God's righteousness.
  • Paul's gospel begins with not (          ) but God's gospel (Rom 1:1) which concerns his Son.
  • Paul's gospel declares that what matters is not an individual faith or righteousness but God's (           ) that is revealed through Christ's faith and for all who have faith (Rom 3:22).

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


 When Jesus says in the Fourth Gospel, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," does he mean that Christianity is the only true religion, or did he mean something else? As we know, Jesus did not found a new religion nor did he pave a new way to salvation or truth. Rather, Jesus worked for God, by showing the way of God, testifying to the truth, and engaging in the work of liberation. Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, like Moses, is sent by God to liberate people from darkness. Unlike today's triumphant Christianity, the Johannine community was a small, marginalized, expelled community that struggled because of their faith. It will be very interesting to see how this struggling community was transformed into a loving community, following the model of Jesus.

       I wrote this book out of my hope that the Fourth Gospel and John 14:6 in particular could be the scripture of engagement, embodiment, and empowerment for Christian readers. I hope this book will help the reader rethink the role of the Logos or the "I am" sayings in the Fourth Gospel. In a pluralistic society, the focus of the gospel shifts from conversion or theological doctrine to empowerment of people. I dream that this book will contribute to theological education in that the "I am" sayings of the Fourth Gospel give a voice of inclusivism rather than exclusivism, solidarity rather than marginalization, and liberation rather than oppression. In the pluralistic life contexts of America today, the theology that accepts others as friends is very important; it engages others on the basis of God's love and justice. With a focus on the language of embodiment and empowerment, theological education can be more inclusive to others and help students to reorient their attention to the present life in the world. -from the preface of the book.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Misunderstandings about Freedom

 Yung Suk Kim

Often we think that Jesus brought to humanity complete freedom from sins (or Sin) by his work or death. However, we know by experience that such a reality is yet to come. Our world still has a mixture of light and darkness. People still struggle with everyday life issues. No Christians are free from sins. From the outset, it must be said that freedom is not the result of Jesus’ death or of believing in him; rather, it is the result of Christian participation in his death or in the truth of God. This kind of understanding is manifest at least in Paul’s teaching and John’s Gospel. According to Paul, freedom is possible only when people put to death the deeds of the body -- all kinds of evil thought and action. Notice here the agents of freedom are very people although they need help. Paul seems to say like this: “You can be free as long as you put to death evil thoughts or desires.” Otherwise, he is not naive enough to say that Jesus’ death made complete human freedom or salvation. Rather, his advice is “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). For this kind of reading in Paul’s letters, see A Theological Introduction to Paul’s Letters: Exploring a Threefold Theology of Paul.

Similarly, according to John’s Gospel, freedom is possible only when people participate in the truth of God. Notice here the truth is God’s. Otherwise, it is not given once and for all. Freedom is also a future tense. See what Jesus says, “If you remain faithful to my teaching, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31–32). Freedom needs our involvement in God’s work and Jesus’ faithful teaching; see below for more about this. [For more about freedom in John’s Gospel, see Truth, Testimony, and Transformation: A New Reading of the “I am” Sayings of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel.]

1. Remain to Jesus’ teaching
Jesus’ teaching is about God’s word (Logos) or God’s truth for all. Jesus fought for freedom because there was no freedom in the world. He testified to the truth of God that all are worthy to live fully in the world and before God. God is truth not simply because God is almighty but because God cares for all people so that they may live with light. People need to abide by Jesus’ teaching about God’s work.

2. Become true disciples of Jesus
True disciples are not those who believe something or merely follow Jesus but those who remain faithful to his teaching. “Remaining” is an ongoing process of the faithful journey with Jesus. Discipleship is not complete until the end of one’s life.

3. Know the truth (of God)
Knowing is a future tense (“you will know the truth”). This knowledge is the result of your remaining faithful to Jesus’ teaching. As long as you abide by his teaching and live as his disciples, you will know the truth. This knowledge is not gained once and for all. Rather, it is an experiential and engaging knowledge. Also, this knowledge is holistic; there is no separation between knowing and acting. As a result, the truth will make you free! Notice here the subject of freedom is the truth of God and that the tense is future. This means as long as we know and participate in the truth of God, we shall be free.

If you remain faithful to my teaching, you are truly my disciples; and
you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free
(John 8:31–32)

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except
through me
(John 14:6)

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into
the world, so I have sent them into the world
(John 17:17–18)

I was born and came into the world for this reason: to testify to the
truth. Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice (John 18:37)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Seeking Comparative Wisdom

Why Christians Need to Read the Tao Te Ching

A New Translation and Commentary on the Tao Te Ching 

From a Biblical Scholar's Perspective

This book seeks comparative wisdom in the Tao Te Ching and the Bible. For this purpose, the Tao Te Ching is newly translated and commentated from a biblical scholar's perspective. In doing so, this book brings the Tao Te Ching into dialogue with the Bible with a focus on cross-cultural wisdom and ethical mandates in both traditions.

1. There was no name when heaven and earth started
2. Produce things, but do not possess them
3. Do not praise those who are smart
4. Become one with the dust
5. Heaven and earth are impartial
6. The spirit of the valley does not die
7. Giving up themselves, they find themselves
8. Water is the best thing in the world
9. Things too sharp do not last long
10. Give birth to and nourish all things in the world

11. The usefulness of the vessel depends on its empty space
12. The five colors blind your eyes
13. Regard the world as precious as your body
14. Things on the lower place are not darker than on other places
15. Like a hesitating person in crossing a thinly frozen stream in the winter
16. Empty your mind thoroughly and keep yourself calm
17. The best leader is the one who people barely know exists
18. When the great way is forsaken, codes of morality and justice arise
19. Forget holiness and abandon intelligence
20. I appear weary and feel no home to which to return

21. The great way seems elusive and evasive
22. To yield means to be whole
23. Nature says few words
24. Those who stand on tiptoes cannot stand firm
25. The Way follows nature
26. Heaviness is the root of lightness
27. A good traveler leaves no tracks
28. Know the white and keep to the black
29. The wise avoid extremes, excesses and extravagances
30. If things overdevelop, they will decay fast because it is not the Way

31. Even victory at war must be treated as a funeral ceremony
32. Like rivers and streams that flow into the sea
33. Those who conquer themselves are strong
34. It never claims greatness, and therefore it is great
35. Hold fast to the great form of the Way
36. What is soft and weak can overcome what is hard and strong
37. Like the nameless uncarved wood
38. They dwell in the fruit and do not rest with the flower
39. Do not try to be like the glittering jade, but be like a common stone
40. Reversion is the movement of the Way

41. A great vessel takes time to be filled
42. Loss is gain
43. Non-being can penetrate even where there is no opening
44. Those who know when to stop will not fall into danger
45. Great eloquence seems awkward
46. No fault is greater than the desire to possess
47. The further one goes, the less one knows
48. Unlearn everyday
49. The wise have no fixed mind
50. Because they have died, there is no room for death in them

51. The Way gives birth to all things
52. To see small is enlightenment
53. Walk in the great way
54. What is well planted cannot be rooted out
55. To manipulate energy of life is unnatural
56. Soften the brightness
57. I do not force my way
58. To manipulate energy of life is unnatural
59. Begin with saving frugality
60. Leading a large country is like cooking a small fish

61. The lower part of a river, the converging point of the world
62. The Way is sanctuary for creation
63. Taste without tasting
64. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step
65. Keeping them natural and simple
66. Rivers and seas can be lords of the hundred valleys
67. For love wins all battles
68. Good warriors do not show off their military strength
69. No disaster is greater than underestimating the enemy
70. The wise wear coarse clothes and keep the jewel inside

71. Knowing not to know is the best
72. Do not restrict their living space
73. The net of heaven is vast
74. If people do not fear death
75. Why do people take death lightly?
76. If a tree is still, it will break
77. The Way of heaven is like bending a bow
78. True words seem paradoxical
79. Virtuous people stand in the place of debtors
80. Let people revert to communication by knotting cords
81. The wise are not erudite

*Note: Chapter titles in this book, as seen above, are mine; this is for readers’ taste or further reflection as they read back and forth. Otherwise, in Chinese texts there are no titles as such.

Why Christians Need to Read the Tao Te ChingWhy Christians Need to Read the Tao Te Ching by Yung Suk Kim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In fact, it is not a small surprise to find remarkable similarities between the Tao Te Ching and the Bible. Among others, a primary teaching in the Bible is to seek God, which means to follow the way of God (the way of heaven). As God is holy, faithful, and merciful, people are asked to live with the same character of God. The way of God is the way of righteousness, love, justice, and peace. Though the Tao Te Ching is not a religious book, it clearly seeks to explore ways that humans should follow: to live like nature, which is the way of heaven. For Lao-tzu, the Way actually permeates everywhere, on earth or in heaven. That is probably like what Jesus teaches how to pray, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10).

Bible readers or Christians need to read the Tao Te Ching. First, the Tao Te Ching teaches that we are very limited and should seek the way of nature. Second, by comparing both traditions, Bible readers or Christians may deepen and expand their understanding about God or the ideal human life in this world. Third, by comparing both traditions, Christians may deconstruct their knowledge or understanding about theological truth. In doing so, they may strengthen or reconstruct their views about truth in a more critical, comparative sense.
--Sample chapters--

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"No Longer Bound"

A Theology of Reading and Preaching
by James H. Harris

Book Link at Amazon

A Short Book Review

James Henry Harris is Professor and Chair of Preaching and Pastoral Theology at Virginia Union University and Senior Minister at the Second Baptist Church, both in Richmond, Virginia. His earlier works include The Forbidden Word (2012), The Word Made Plain (2004), and Preaching Liberation (1996). 

In this book No Longer Bound, as the title implies, Harris is truly free, though limited in a realistic sense, to engage the word of God in a still race-divided society where freedom is shackled, love is superficial, faith is idolatrous, and hope is groundless. No one can do better than he in deftly combining an art of preaching with interpretation theory, ethics, and theology. Harris claims that preaching involves an act of love, not only based on the love of God but also on the love of self and community. 

This book is more than about preaching; it asks what preaching is, why it should be embodied in the world, and how it can be holy and holistic in the preacher's community and beyond. I have never seen a book like this in the field of homiletics; this book has souls of preaching that engage everything. I am reminded by Paul: "Test everything; hold fast to what is good" (1 Thess 5:21). The preacher is no longer bound because of this responsibility; in fact, there is no boundary for the preacher because everything is in his or her radar. Harris argues that everything must be tested and interpreted for the real people today in various communities. 

The last thing I want to point out is how important the preacher's identity or self-understanding is. As a biblical scholar (New Testament) I would like to echo him with a similar note that I often say in my classrooms: "Know who you are even before reading Scripture." This book is a must read for all who preaches and teaches scriptures.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Everything changes -- jehangmusang (諸行無常)

Yung Suk Kim

Everything changes, not once but continually, cyclically, and perpetually; that is the law of existence and life. It may come true to us too. The question is what would be such an ideal change for us? Or how should we understand change itself?

The idea of everything-change is very old. A Buddhist phrase jehangmusang (諸行無常) literally means every thing changes: things in the world, including humans and universe. This is true if we think from the perspective of science. Nothing exists constant without undergoing a change. 

Everything exists through a change and because of a change. A simple example: if we swallow food after chewing, it must undergo the process of a change we call digestion. Food is transformed into various forms of molecules or energy that the body needs. It is said that cells of human body are roughly completely replaced every six years. Cells exist through a change. If we deny a change, we are a death. Even death is part of a change. For many people in the Western world death is denied. That is against who we are. Death is part of life. We observe the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. But actually it is not a linear move; as we know, the sun rises again next morning. Even though the sun sets in the west, it rises again in the east.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

[new book] Reading Minjung Theology in the Twenty-First Century

Yung Suk Kim

I am glad to share with you that my edited book was published yesterday: Reading Minjung Theology in the Twenty-First Century (Pickwick Publications, 2013).

This edited volume brings Ahn Byung-Mu’s minjung theology into dialogue with twenty-first-century readers. Ahn Byung-Mu was one of the pioneers of Korean minjung theology. The centerpiece of his minjung theology is focused on the Greek word ochlos, understood as the divested, marginalized, powerless people.

Part 1 introduces readers to his life and theological legacy. Part 2 includes four important writings of Ahn Byung-Mu: “The Transmitters of the Jesus-Event Tradition”; “Jesus and Minjung in the Gospel of Mark,” “Minjung Theology from the Perspective of the Gospel of Mark,” and “Minjok, Minjung, and Church.” Part 3 contains a collection of articles from international scholars who evaluate and engage Ahn’s ochlos/minjung theology in their own fields and formulate critical readings of minjung theology. Responses include postcolonial, black-theology, and feminist perspectives.

Who are the ochlos today? What is the primary mission of the historical Jesus and its impact on our global lives today? What can the minjung do? What is the role of community and society? How can we engage in the postcolonial world through the eye ofochlos-minjung theology?

"A fascinating collection exploring the roots and current relevance of Korean "minjung theology" as expressed by one of its founders and most prolific exponents, Ahn Byung-Mu. The writers engage a wide range of social locations revealing both changed circumstances since Ahn's pioneering work and the ongoing importance of his work in our globalized, dominating empire. A great conversation to enter for both those already familiar with this indigenous Korean form of liberation theology and those looking to expand their listening to include voices often silenced." -- Wes Howard-Brook, Seattle University


저자 : 김영석 (편저)
편저자 김영석(YUNG SUK KIM)은 경북대학교 무역학과, 맥코믹 신학대학원을 거쳐, 밴더빌트 대학에서 신약학 박사학위를 받았다. 현재는 미국 버지니아 유니온 대학에서 초기 기독교와 신약성서신학 분야의 교수로 재직하고 있다. 영문 단행본 저서로 『고린도서에 나타난 그리스도의 몸CHRIST’S BODY IN CORINTH』(2008), 『바울서신에 관한 신학적 입문A THEOLOGICAL INTRODUCTION TO PAUL’S LETTERS』(2011) 등이 있고, 특히 최근에는 『성서해석: 이론, 과정, 규준BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION: THEORY, PROCESS, AND CRITERIA』(2013), 『성서에 관한 변혁적 독해A TRANSFORMATIVE READING OF THE BIBLE』(2013), 『진리, 증언, 변혁TRUTH, TESTIMONY, AND TRANSFORMATION』(2013)과 같이 건전한 성서해석학 이론과 인간변혁을 주제로 한 책들을 연이어 출간했다. 2011~2012년에는 릴리 재단으로부터 릴리 신학연구기금 지원(LILLY THEOLOGICAL SCHOLARS GRANT)를 받아 요한복음의 로고스 신학에 대한 연구를 진행했으며, 고린도전후서에 관한 책의 편집자로 참여한 바 있다. 현재 미국 성서학회(SBL)의 분과위원이자, 『성서와 인간 변혁JOURNAL OF BIBLE AND HUMAN TRANSFORMATION』의 편집위원으로 활동 중이다.