Friday, September 25, 2015

Laozi and Jesus: Life in Wisdom

Writing the words of the Dao De Jing from memory ... I am resting. Then I am entering a conversation with Laozi and Jesus. For example, in the Dao De Jing Chapter 81 there is a phrase of "sinunbulme" which means "true words are not beautiful." You know what? Jesus, in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector, seems to teach a similar thing, because the tax-collector's simple, inarticulate prayer is more authentic than the Pharisee's beautiful, articulate prayer.

For my hobby, I translated the Dao De Jing into English with a brief commentary.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Prolific writer

I think I am a prolific writer. Thus far for the past 10 years I have produced more than a dozen books. Some people say that I am a writing machine. But let me be clear that I don't write things overnight and submit them for publication. Most of my writings are done over time and revised hundred times. Because people do not know the whole process or habit of my writing, they tend to think that I write fast and easy, as if I were a writing machine. That is misunderstanding. Today when I was exercising at a gym as I used to, I thought about my prolific writing habit and know-hows. There are three key elements for a possible prolific writing: 1) distinctive ideas; 2) investment of time and its wise management; and 3) the healthy body and spirit (physical and spiritual).

First, unique or distinctive ideas about the book are most important. There are already tons of books in the market. So I ask: Why do you waste your time if there are similar books already in the market that you are going to write. Check yourself and find where you are insterested and how your idea makes a difference as compared with others. Of course, idea making does not happen in one day or overnight. Day and night, ask yourself about everything that you read and see. Also, ask why you want to write and whom you want to impact on. Often I resist familiar readings and struggle with new ways of reading. Maintain a habit of note-taking and visit your notes often and revise them. All this means you need to maintain a pool of ideas.

Second, even though you have good ideas about a new book, you cannot produce anything without setting aside time to study and reflect. I mean you have to give yourself to where your passion is. Day and night, in big or small time, you will need to have constant brainstorming for your topic. Time management is also important. For me study does not happen only in a study room or library; I often enjoy thinking and planning to write in a coffee shop or in a local park where I often walk and think. In a sense, nature is my library and classroom. Even in a sleeping bed, or in the middle of night or early morning I wake up with new ideas or better plan for writing. I often write in my head when I go to bed. Sometimes I wake up by new ideas about the book or clear thoughts about something in a book and take notes on papers.

Third, even though you have unique ideas and perfect time for writing, you cannot produce anything without your health. You need to maintain your body and spirit in perfect condition. Physical exercise is basic. Eat properly and exercise regularly. Meditate on your life and time. Simple life styel will help. Our body does not last forever.

As you see above, the above three elements are gifts of God. You cannot take boast about them. Ideas are given by God in some sense, because you don't own anything in your life. You are not the owner of your life, and therefore everything good about yourself is not yours. We say that is the grace of God, which is everything in your life. Think about good ideas about the book, your time, and your body and spirit. All these are not yours. You cannot create time and body. You can use them judiciously. That is your responsibility. In the end I want to say that writing is a vocation and mission for me. That is why I put all I have into my writing, thanking God for what I received from him. That is it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Finally new book Resurrecting Jesus was released today


Finally! I am so excited to announce the publication of my new book --- “RESURRECTING JESUS: The Renewal of New Testament Theology.” This is my sixth book published in the area of New Testament and biblical studies. This particular book deals with the historical Jesus and his importance in New Testament theology. I would appreciate it if you could share this information with your library, friends, or anyone you want to include.

-Title: RESURRECTING JESUS: The Renewal of New Testament Theology.
-ISBN 13: 978-1-4982-1834-4, Retail: $17
-Publisher: Cascade, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers
-If you want a free copy for textbook adoption or review, please click on the below link and follow the instructions:  
-Press kit (excerpts and author mock interview):

Thank you very much for your attention in advance.


Yung Suk Kim


Monday, August 3, 2015

Interview with Author Yung Suk Kim

Resurrecting JesusThe Renewal of New Testament Theology (Cascade, 2015)

1. Your book title “Resurrection Jesus” is very interesting. To be blunt, why did you write this book?

I wrote this book to tell the people that the historical Jesus must be brought back to our discussion of New Testament theology. The traditional New Testament theology has not seriously taken into account the work of the historical Jesus. For example, people have no interest in the question of what brought him to death. His crucifixion is the result of what he did. We have to know what he proclaimed and why he was willing to die. Otherwise, he was not born to die. Jesus is a historical figure who should not be domesticated by any one.

2. What do you think is the primary work of Jesus?

I believe that Jesus’ primary message or teaching is well summarized in Mark 1:14-15: “After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and God’s rule has come near; change your heart and believe in the good news.” As we see here, Jesus proclaims the good news of God; it is God’s good news. Good news is about God: God’s time and God’s rule has come in the here and now (perfect tense). For this God’s radical time and rule to be effective, people have to accept it by changing their minds, which is what metanoia means. So it is impossible to talk about Jesus without God-talk in first-century Judaism. New Testament theology would be misleading if we do not look at God to whom Jesus points his finger. Jesus does the works of God, not his own.

3. As you know, there is a big divide between history and theology, or between the historical Jesus and New Testament theology. For example, some historians say that the New Testament is not based on the historical Jesus. How is it possible for you to do theology by drawing attention to both of these seemingly irreconcilable areas of study?

I believe that it is possible by redefining New Testament theology in which we can engage the historical Jesus. I broadly redefine New Testament theology as our explorations about God, the Messiah, and the world. New Testament theology is not constructed deductively (from heavenly revelation, for example), but can be constructed by readers who critically reevaluate not only the work of the historical Jesus but also various writings in the New Testament. So in my book I define New Testament theology as follows:

New Testament theology involves both what the New Testament says about God, the Messiah, and the world, and how the reader evaluates, engages, or interprets diverse yet divergent texts of the New Testament, including difficult, sexist, and oppressive texts. The reader’s task is not merely to discern what is good and acceptable in the New Testament, but also to surface its limitations by examining early Christians’ disparate positions about God, the Messiah, and the world. Consequently, New Testament theology is constructed by the reader who deals with both the divergent texts of the New Testament and the historical Jesus to whom they refer. By carefully sifting through the layers of New Testament witnesses while acknowledging unbridgeable gaps between them and the historical Jesus, the reader, in view of all aspects of life in the first century CE and today, has to explore relevant relationships among God, the Messiah, and the world.

4. Once again, why is the historical Jesus important to your New Testament theology?

Let me use a body analogy. Just as the body without the spirit is dead, New Testament theology without the historical Jesus is dead because the former is built on the work of the latter. No matter how many gaps exist between the historical Jesus and the New Testament, New Testament theology needs a solid understanding about the historical Jesus.

5. Can you give us a few examples of your critically reconstructed contents of New Testament theology?

Yes. For example, the “righteousness of God” will be redefined as God’s righteousness rather than as an individual justification. “Faith of Christ Jesus” will be also redefined as his faithfulness through which he proclaims and embodies God’s rule in the here and now. Accordingly, “the kingdom of God” will be redefined as God’s rule in the here and now that challenges Rome’s rule or any obstacles that occlude the flow of God’s justice. In the end, Christians will be redefined as Christ-followers who do the works of God.

6. What do you want to say to your readers if they ask why this book should be a must read?

I like to list three important benefits for readers:

1. Getting a better, clearer understanding about the historical Jesus and the New Testament writings that refer to him.

2. Exploring the significance of Jesus’ life, teaching, and death, based not on doctrine but on his work of God in first-century Judaism and Palestine.

3. Redefining New Testament theology as a process of discerning and engaging the historical Jesus and the New Testament writings.

7. Do you believe your newly defined New Testament theology can improve human conditions?

Yes, very much so. We can learn from Jesus and follow his footsteps that embody God’s presence in the here and now. Jesus’ death is the result of his costly proclamation of God’s rule in the here and now. It is not somewhere else than here. However, there are lots of people who see Jesus’ death merely as salvific, vicarious atonement that does not look into the evil hands responsible for his crucifixion. By the way, Jesus’ death is the form of crucifixion, capital punishment by Rome. So when we see Jesus’ crucifixion, we have to see both God’s love that he embodies at the risk of his life and both his love of God and God’s judgment that brings evil people and power to justice. Condoning evil is not the point of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Book intro video Resurrecting Jesus

While my new book is expected to be released in a few days or so, I made this author video first time in my life. I used tablet to record, which is more powerful than webcam. Well, this video looks like preaching, but that is okay; that is what I am about. Enjoy and feel free to give me feedback if you like.

Resurrecting Jesus: The Renewal of New Testament Theology (CASCADE, 2015)

Yung Suk Kim’s Resurrecting Jesus is a rare synthesis of historical criticism and spiritual passion. Kim boldly challenges the conventional divide between theology and history. Making the words and deeds of the historical Jesus the foundation for theology, Kim redefines central concepts of the New Testament in ways that are relevant to seekers for ethical consistency in a harsh world. Kim resurrects the memory of Jesus as a fearless witness to the truth who risked it all for the sake of God’s justice. —L. L. Welborn, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, Fordham


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Photo Essay: The Way It Is

Photo Essay
The Way It Is!

A good theologian must be a great poet who thinks deeply about the meaning of existence of world and people. This afternoon I took a trip to the nearby park, Deep Run, in Richmond, VA. I walked a lot and gave me lots of poetic thoughts about nature.

Key words of this photo essay: interpretation, diversity, solidarity, perspective, the way, weakness, nature, beauty, others, reality, participation, poet, theologian

I am blessed with an eternity out here: moments of breathing fresh air, standing alone for seconds with intention, focusing on what I like to do, asking for a help from somebody unknown, and above all, the sky, trees, lake, fountain, wooden deck, and the very time and earth.

  I walked trails.

I looked up and down and marveled at the complex yet understandable picture of this. I saw green leaves and trees; and yet right next to them lie dead trees and their branches. This is the way it is and we call it nature. Then, suddenly, my thinking mode switched to theological poetic sensitivity. I continued to walk along the trails, wondering about the reality of the downside or dark side of nature.

I cannot believe this dry trunk. Why did this happen? By nature or some other natural forces? Is this natural and okay in nature? Or is this something unnatural? Can it be there any remedy to this? From a holistic perspective, is this picture as a whole just beautiful?
Everywhere I went through the trails, I saw the fallen trees. What can we think of this dark part of nature? Of course, I don't mean the dark side is simply bad. But the question is, Is there good sacrifice that we have to accept? For whom and why?

Oops! This tree was broken and dried. What is wrong with this? Or, is it just natural? How is this seen by the background trees?

We tend to see the bright side of things without paying attention to their complex or dark side. But when we see things out there from a holistic perspective, we can appreciate the way and reality in which all things are intricately connected. This is a mystery of life in nature. No one, human or not, can live independently. Even weakness or vulnerability may have a role to play in our lives though not desired by us.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Reading the Bible From a Perspective of Human Transformation

*Note: This following piece was also posted at New Testament Scholarship Worldwide.

(Yung Suk Kim, PhD., is a Korean American New Testament Scholar, currently serving as Associate Professor of New Testament & Early Christianity at School of Theology, Virginia Union University. He is Editor of Journal of Bible and Human Transformation as well as Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion).

I have a passion for human transformation, rooted in self-knowledge and self-criticism. Traveling many Latin American countries during my business career, I learned a great deal about cultural diversity and the need of human solidarity. With a new vocation of theological education, I now ask: What does it mean to live in this world in relation to each other (i.e., meaning of the Other — which resonates Emmanuel Levinas’ “the face of the other,” Paul Ricoeur’s inter-subjective narrative identity, or Jacques Derrida’s “relationless relation”), and How can we do theology in our thoughts, deeds and action, while moving pointedly away from individualism? How can we read biblical stories with each other in a critical context? What are some viable definitions of cross-cultural hermeneutics, if any, by which we can improve the sense of living together in difference?

My approach to the Bible is based on “kenosis.” Let me illustrate. Once upon a time there were a father and his son; they were beggars. One day just across a river a big fire broke out and saw a big house being burnt down by the fire. The father said to his son proudly, “My son, we are so fortunate because we do not have a house to be burnt down.” This comic but pithy conversation speaks of some lessons about our life. There is a saying in the Buddhist book banyshimkyung: “sak-jeuk-see-gong and gong-jeuk-see-sak,” which can be translated as “all visible things are empty, and all that are empty are all visible.” It is hard to explain here what it means. I can say like this: life is nothing (empty) but your nothingness (emptiness) makes you something.

Similarly, Christian understanding of kenosis (Phil 2:6-11, emptying of oneself) reflects nothingness attitude in our life. It is also found in the Q gospel: There was once a rich man whose lands yielded a good harvest. He thought to himself, “What should I do? I don’t have enough room to store my crops. I know, I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones so that I can keep all my grain in them. Then I will say to myself, ‘I have enough to last me for years. I can take it easy, eat, drink and have a good time.’ But God said to him, “You fool! This very night you may die. Then who will own this hoard of yours? So it is with those who pile up possessions but remain poor in the treasures of the spirit. Jesus says, “If you try to gain your life, you will lose it; but if you lose it, you will gain it.”

St. Paul also says, “I die everyday on the cross.” If you gather more and more and do not give out, you will become slaves of riches. But if you give up more and more, your freedom of heart will be greater and greater. Furthermore, your self will live a meaningful life, a perfection of life with a sense of living with others in the community. In this way our life extends forever; it is not different from the idea of “eternal life” in the Gospel of John. True spirituality begins when we feel the same fate with others and act out by giving what we have. God wants a fair balance between the rich and the poor. God wants the light and life for all because God is the God of all. That is how I read the Bible.