Sunday, September 3, 2017

A naive religion and spirituality

Yung Suk Kim



"Jesus died for me, and I don't die. I am raised to life. All done and no worries. That is, Jesus died instead of me and he was punished instead of me. He paid the price of sins. The Lamb of God in my place, Your blood pour out, my sin erased. It was my death You died. I am raised to life. Hallelujah, the Lamb of God."

The above is what we hear most frequently in most popular Christian churches these days in America and elsewhere. This shows a most selfish form of religion and spirituality. The following gospel song typifies such a naive understanding about Jesus.

You came from heaven's throne
Acquainted with our sorrow
To trade the debt we owed,
Your suffering for our freedom

The Lamb of God in my place,
Your blood pour out, my sin erased
It was my death You died
I am raised to life
Hallelujah, the Lamb of God

My name upon Your heart
My shame upon Your shoulders
The power of sin undone
the cross for my salvation

My God, there is no greater love
There is no greater love
The Saviour lifted up
There is no greater love

The Lamb of God in my place,
Your blood pour out, my sin erased
It was my death You died
I am raised to life
Hallelujah, the Lamb of God
*Lyrics source: http://www.songlyrics.com/vertical-church-band/lamb-of-god-lyrics/


But Jesus did not come simply to die for sinners but to testify to the truth of God (John 18:37). His death is the result of what he said and did, proclaiming God's rule, not Caesar's or any human master's. In other words, his "dangerous" teaching and act cost him a life. 

In 2 Cor 13:4, Paul also admits the fact that Jesus was crucified "by or from weakness" (eks astheneias). That is, he insinuates that Jesus could not overcome Roman violence because he had to continue preaching God's kingdom against Rome. But the crucifixion is not the end of the story about Jesus. Paul says without a stop in the same verse: "but [Jesus] lives by the power of God." 

Given the above view of Jesus, Paul's central message is that Christians have to imitate Christ in his faith and spirit. They must be led by the Spirit, submitting to the law of God. They must die with Christ and live to God. Christians (followers of Messiah Jesus) are not mere believers of Jesus or beneficiaries of him but followers of his life and faith. This implies that they are not welcomed by the enemies of God's justice, running the risk of losing their life because of their testimony to God. But they should not give up on the work of God because God is their true hope. 

Deconstructing a social world through metaphor

Yung Suk Kim


The crucial issue of Pauline interpretation is how to reclaim Paul's radical, contextual theology of soma christou.  Namely, "the body of Christ" can be reimagined as the crucified body of Christ that evokes the broken images of the body in a Greco-Roman world. My debut book, Christ's Body in Corinth: The Politics of a Metaphor, was published by Fortress Press in 2008. Since then, this book has become a must read for serious readers of Paul.

DECONSTRUCTING A SOCIAL WORLD THROUGH METAPHOR
"I highly recommend this work to all who take seriously Paul's metaphor of 'the body of Christ.' Kim interprets the metaphor as an alternative vision of vital reconciling community, over against conceptions that emphasize boundary markers to establish social groups. What is at stake in the interpretation of 1 Corinthians, he argues, is not just the ways first-century Christians constructed and lived out social unity but the consequences of our choices for the way we live out our own responsibilities today."
--David Odell-Scott, Professor of Philosophy, Kent State University

"Reading as a citizen of an increasingly diverse postcolonial world, Yung Suk Kim protests the scholarly consensus that reads Paul's language of the "body of Christ" in 1 Corinthians as a metaphor for social unity, current in Hellenistic and Roman philosophical and political discourse, in which the integrity of the social body required the vigilant maintenance of group boundaries and the harmony of its members. Kim points out the potential of this reading to promote coercive patterns of enforced unity in the contemporary world. Kim argues instead that in speaking of the church as Christ's body, Paul relies upon the metaphoric language of embodied vitality and growth, seeking instead to nourish the life-giving practices of a diverse community and to oppose the ideology of a powerful in-group that threatens to "disembody" the Christic body in Corinth. Reading the language of 
soma christou exclusively from a sociological lens fails to comprehend the important christological coordinates of Paul's thought, which nevertheless have clear and urgent social and political implications. Paul's exhortation is a message of particular importance, Kim suggests, for us who seek to discern the true value of difference in the contemporary world." 
--From the inside flap of the book cover


Although much has been written on the Pauline notion of the "body of Christ," this contribution by Presbyterian scholar Kim offers a thoughtful and provocative insight worth considering. Kim observes that the Pauline metaphor can be interpreted as setting boundaries or differentiations between the Christian community and those outside. However, if we consider the "body of Christ" as the crucified body of Christ it can be seen as a means of dissolving boundaries and being more inclusive, particularly of those who are pushed to the margins or who suffer. Kim draws out from this key Pauline symbol the implications for the church and society today, particularly in the Gospel call for solidarity with those who are marginalized. 
--Donald SeniorThe Bible Today

"Thanks also for calling attention to your book on the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians. I read the attachment that you sent, and it sounds like your interpretation and ours are very supportive of each other. I do think the body image is about inclusive egalitarianism in the new life in Christ, and not about sharp social boundaries." 
--A message from Marcus Borg (2009)

"I’ll add my own encouragement to it–I was at a clergy meeting last week where the question of “the nature of the church” came up, and someone said “well, we’ve all got to strive for unity because we’re the body of Christ,” and I described your book and said that metaphor meant a lot more than just unity. People had never heard the idea before. I hope it revolutionizes our thinking!" 
--a Message from Neil Elliott, editor of Fortress Press (2009)

WHY I WROTE THIS BOOK:
The interpretation of the "body of Christ" in 1 Corinthians is a pressing concern in the present context of a diversified global church because its predominant interpretation as an ecclesiological organism characterized by unity and homonoia (concord) serves as a boundary marker that tends to exclude the voices of marginality and diversity. This traditional reading, while plausible, ignores a deeper, ethical meaning of the "body of Christ" as reimagined through his body crucified, which questions an ideology of hegemonic power in both the Corinthian context and today. From the perspective of a different conception of community and of soma christou in the image of Christ crucified, this metaphor of soma christou becomes a metaphor for a way of living through which the Corinthian community is expected to live as a Christic body, identifying Christ's body with the most vulnerable and broken bodies in the community and in the world, an issue that we are to grapple with and resolve. Read this way, Paul's theology continues the legacy of Jesus tradition in terms of deconstruction (critique of religion and culture) and reconstruction (advocacy of the beloved community for all).  


Sunday, August 27, 2017

John 14:6 as Engagement, Embodiment, and Empowerment

Yung Suk Kim




Excerpts from Yung Suk KimTruth, Testimony, and Transformation: A New Reading of the I am sayings of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel (Cascade, 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 the 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. 

  Review

This book would be worth reading just for the critical interrogation of numerous cherished assumptions in Johannine interpretation. . . . Kim challenges them all but, in addition, offers a constructive theological interpretation that sets Jesus squarely in his own historical Jewish context; attends to the nuanced ways the text transforms the reader; and commissions the reader to live abundantly in a globally, radically, inclusive way." 
--Jaime Clark-Soles, Southern Methodist University

For many who turn away from the Gospel of John because of its exclusivism, this deceptively slim volume can be, as its title hints, transformational. Plunging directly to the 'I am' sayings, Kim sketches a new way to truth and life, by reading John metaphorically and historically in a Jewish context and showing how the meaning of the 'I am' sayings changes when they are read functionally, as descriptions of Jesus' work. The result is a serious challenge to traditional views of Johannine theology. 
--R. Alan Culpepper, Mercer University

In his capacity to synthesize critical theory and to apply the results to the biblical text, Yung Suk Kim has few peers among contemporary New Testament scholars. Kim deploys the most challenging philosophical frameworks with facility, and communicates the results simply and clearly, keeping his focus on the real-life struggles of Christian readers in a pluralistic context. 
--Laurence Welborn, Fordham University

Yung Suk Kim's TRUTH, TESTIMONY, AND TRANSFORMATION strikes a delicate balance between genuine piety and rigorous biblical scholarship, according to the conventions of the academic discipline. Such faithful, accessible exposition makes the Fourth Gospel sayings much more useful as an instrument for empowering devotion rather than as a 'tool of empire.' This work is lyrical in its tone and liberative in its scope. 
--JoAnne Marie Terrell, Chicago Theological Seminary

*Yung Suk Kim's website


Monday, August 21, 2017

Often I forget where I live (after the solar eclipse)

Yung Suk Kim

During the solar eclipse, even though I did not see it myself, I could feel something going on in the sky, happening beyond and bigger than me. Gradually, a gloomy darkness covered the whole area. It did not last long. Gradually, it became bright just like any other afternoon.



Then, I went out to give a walk in the neighborhood. All of a sudden, I realized that I live on the beautiful planet earth. The sun is beautiful, making me live every single day. I am a beneficiary of the solar system. What a blessing!


When I am weary because of day's work, I may look up the night sky full of named and unnamed stars near and farther. I feel good, falling in love with them. I am not lonely anymore because I am precious. When there is a full darkness in the night, I may enter a deep sleep of love and comfort. Often I forget where I live and who I am.




Sunday, August 20, 2017

Education is repetition

Yung Suk Kim

Education derives from two different Latin roots: (1) "educare," which means "to train or to mold"; (2) "educere," which means "to lead out." In either case, to be a person of education, what is essentially needed is repetition. I never assume that I already know enough. Likewise, I never assume that my students know something already or correctly enough. In fact, we know in part or through the crooked mind. Only through a repetitive critical reflection on what we know or what we do, we may be better educated.




Friday, August 18, 2017

Reader-response questions on Luke 5:1-11

YungSuk Kim


Luke 5:1-11 (NRSV):
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ 5Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ 6When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’9For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ 11When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
The following is a list of reader-response questions that I think is important to our consideration: 
  • Why does Jesus stand at the lakeside?
  • Why are the crowds thirsty for the word of God? What is the word of God that Jesus preaches?
  • Why does Jesus use boats to teach them?
  • Why does Jesus use Peter's boat?
  • Why does Jesus ask Peter to go to the deep water and let down the nets? (deep water as a difficult place or as an abundant place?)
  • Why is there an irony between the success of many fish and the crisis that boats begin to sink?
  • Why does Peter say that "I am a sinful man!"? (Is he saying that 'I am nothing'?)
  • What would be Peter's response to Jesus' word: "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people"?
  • What causes Jesus' disciples to leave everything and follow him? To do what? Compare this with the crowd's need.
You must come up with your own list of questions!!!
Then the text will be alive to you and do something to you.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Forgetting history without thorough investigation is another form of evil

Lessons from Kwangju, South Korea

Yung Suk Kim

In America today, there are so many forms of injustices, racism, classism, sexism, white nationalism or supremacism, and other isms. We must call them by name and investigate them thoroughly and remove them as soon as possible. History will repeat itself unless we act upon to change it.

Because of the outbreaks of violence, racism, and hatred by white supremacists in Charlottesville and elsewhere, I remember watching the violent video showing deadly cruel attacks on innocent young protesters at Kwangju, South Korea, in 1980, who were against the military Coup whose leader was Chun Doo-hwan. I was a college student at that time in another region and saw the actual graphic video on campus with other students. I was also actively participating in anti-government protests in and outside the campus. I was terrified and stunned to see that video. How is it possible to batter and kill young students on the streets at the protest?

In fact, a few weeks ago, a movie called Taxi Driver, which deals with this Kwangju event, was started to play and is being watched by millions of Koreans now. Chun was tried and imprisoned after the democratic government was established in the early 1990s. But he was too easily and fast pardoned by the civilian government. That was too bad. Forgetting history without thorough investigation and justice is another form of evil.

Now Kwangju became a holy site and symbol of Korean democracy. But many people were killed and injured and still many people suffer from it. I want to put below some old pictures that show such horrible scenes of violence and death. Actually, for years these pictures were kept on my hard drive. Justice shouts. No justice, no peace.