Saturday, June 18, 2016

So dark and bright a night

I have never seen this much brighter night sky with an almost full moon accompanying a few first-grade stars. That was last night when I stayed inside home without power. I fell in love with this particular night-- so dark and bright a night. It is interesting to see a bright moon and stars in the dark night. Literally, I could see both light and darkness in the same wider place. What does this imply to our reality of the world and human lives? What does this coexistence of dark and light mean to us?

In fact, the night before yesterday, I mean just a day ago, this same night was full of laser-light show-like thunderstorms and lightenings. What a mystery of nature that is full of uncertainties, having every possiblity in it!

Monday, June 13, 2016

An alternative view of Jesus

We need an alternative view of Jesus beyond the Western Jesuses or Jesus the liberator.

QUOTE (pages 4-6)
To some people Jesus becomes a hindrance to God’s revelation because they see only Jesus without looking at God to whom Jesus points his finger. Jesus does not preach about himself but proclaims “the good news of God” (euangelion tou theou) (Mark 1:14).6 Jesus does not say believe in me but “believe in the good news (of God)” (Mark 1:15).7 The good news is not about Jesus but about God. Jesus is not the primary source of good news. Rather, he testifies to the truth of God, as indicated in John 18:37, and embodies the good news of God through his costly journey of faith. Therefore, if we do not distinguish between God and Jesus, Jesus becomes an idol that keeps us from seeing who God is or what God requires us to do. Micah seems to deliver a good word about that: “O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

In this idolatrous view of Jesus, his crucifixion is understood merely as salvific atonement through which sins are dealt with and cleansed.8 But in fact, Jesus’ death would be unthinkable if he did not proclaim the good news of God in a hostile world. His lifelong ministry and message is focused on God’s good news and his rule: “The time is fulfilled and God’s rule has come near; change your mind and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15). Jesus was willing to die for God’s good news and God’s rule in the here and now. But this does not mean that his death is necessary or that his suffering is good. Jesus’ mission is not to die for humanity as a sin offering but to proclaim God’s rule on earth.

As we see above, the historical Jesus has been understood in ways that remove him from the very struggle he had in proclaiming God’s good birth to death, and therefore that he only identifies with the weak. In other words, Jesus himself was not weak.10 This view explains away the weakness of Jesus that results in his crucifixion. However, Paul so clearly states that “Jesus was crucified out of weakness (ex astheneias)” (2 Cor 13:4a). Paul does not hide the fact that Jesus was crucified because of weakness. Ex astheneias means “out of weakness,” “by weakness,” or “because of weakness.” I wonder why then the NIV and others including the NRSV translate ex astheneias as “in weakness,” as if Jesus suffered voluntarily. In my judgment, translators or editors of those English Bibles have interest in making sure that Jesus’ crucifixion is voluntary and salvific. But there are two problems with this kind of translation. On the one hand, the problem is that evil hands behind Jesus’ crucifixion are not questioned or named. Even though Jesus risks his life for God’s good news, his tragic death is not the goal of his life; it is the consequence or price of his work. On the other hand, the problem is that questions about theodicy are not raised, as if God allowed Jesus to be crucified for salvation of humans. Actually, Jesus’ death is tragic and it is not wanted by God or Jesus. If Jesus’ message about God’s rule had been accepted by people, he would not have been crucified. In Paul’s view Jesus was a weak human being like any other. That is to say, Jesus could not avoid his tragic death as long as he continued proclaiming God’s rule on earth.

Paul does not stop at Jesus’ crucifixion by weakness. He goes on to declare God’s power: “but [Jesus] lives by the power of God” (2 Cor 13:4b). Jesus’ crucifixion happened in the past, but now God makes him live now. Paul makes a distinction between Jesus and God. On the one hand, Jesus did his best and yet was crucified because of weakness. In other words, Jesus could not raise himself. His best job was to live for God even at the risk of his life. The next part is God’s business. God vindicates Jesus by his power. In this way, Paul contrasts Jesus’ weakness with God’s power and in doing so he makes a distinction between God and Jesus. So the whole verse of 2 Cor 13:4 makes better sense if we translate it like this: “For he was crucified by weakness, but lives by the power of God.” Here “by weakness” has a direct parallel with “by the power of God.” But most English Bibles do not have this distinction or contrast between Jesus and God. By translating ex astheneias as “in weakness” they support the view of Jesus’ salvific suffering or the redemptive suffering of God with Jesus.11 In doing so, what is sacrificed is the negligence of evil power and complex meaning of his life and death. We will discuss more about Jesus’ crucifixion and weakness in chapter 6.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Big questions about theological education

On a scorching humid June day, I strolled and pondered on things like these following: 
  • What is diversity-driven education and how can we go about it? 
  • Where can we begin to do theological interpretation of scriptures with a focus on holistic human transformation? 
  • How can we put in place inter-cultural curriculum? 
  • What does intercultrality mean?

Raising the above questions, I have rough ideas/answers about desirable theological education. First, diversity should be understood in a critical, self-critical fashion. Diversity is not the same thing as a mere display of different cultures or faces. Diversity involves critical engagement within and beyond the community. Hiring of minority faculty members or recruiting such students is not the same thing as diversity, either. Diversity is a way of thinking and a way of living by allowing comfortable spaces to be openly visited by others or other ideas. 

Second, for this direction of diversity, there must be more of courses that deal with other religions and other scriptures. 

Third, there must be more of exposures to other cultures, for example, by taking students on trips to other countries. 

Fourth, even the Bible must be reinterpreted constantly both in view of diversity (diversity/divergence of scriptural voices within the Bible) and in view of changing contexts of today's world.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Reversion and weakness is the beginning of the Way

Jesus says:
"Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

Paul says:
"For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength" (1 Cor 1:25)

"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor 12:9-10)

Laozi says:
"Reversion is the movement of the Way. 
Weakness is the function of the Way.  
All things in the world come from being. 
Being comes from non-being."


My new book, Messiah in Weakness, is informed by the above ideas.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Jesus and Laozi: Shared Wisdom

There are two different versions of Jesus' beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-11 and Luke 6:20-26.

Matt 5:3-11 (NRSV)
5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Luke 6:20-26 (NRSV)
6:20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 "Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 "Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. 24 "But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 "Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. "Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 "Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
Jesus' beatitudes have the language of reversal (deconstructive wisdom) that challenges the dominant view of success or blessings. That is, people in the culture of Jesus' day aim to be rich, great, filled with happiness, ambitious, self-reliant, self-exalting, and competent contenders of all riches and powers. But Jesus says that blessings come from seeking mercy, peace, and justice. 

Interestingly, Jesus' teaching echoes Laozi's (5th century BCE sage in China). Below is chapter 40 of the Tao Te Ching reputedly written by Laozi.

Reversion is the movement of the Way. 
Weakness is the function of the Way.  
All things in the world come from being. 
Being comes from non-being. 


"Reversion is the movement of the Way" shows paradoxical truth that reverses common cultural wisdom in the day. In Laozi's time, people seek to be great and pursue power and wealth. But Laozi points out a better way of living a life by returning to the basics, which is none other than reversal or reversion of people's thinking or behaving. That is, people have to go against the culture of the day or popular wisdom that teaches only greatness. He goes on to say "weakness is the function of the Way," which is similar to Jesus' teaching about mercy or meekness. As we see above, Jesus and Laozi share a common wisdom based on reversal and weakness.

For more about Jesus and weakness, see the following book.

"Give us this day our daily bread" (Matt 6:11)

"Give us this day our daily bread"
(Τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον)

This is a part of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. 

Jesus taught about what God has done or what God is like in verses 9-10: "Our father, which art in heaven, hallowed by thy name; thy kingdom come and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου, ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου, γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου, ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς.

In these verses 9-10 there are three things that are important to prayer: "our father and his name," "his kingdom," and "his will." First, God must be the holy Other ("in heaven") and take care of all (because it is "our" God, which is communal). God's holy name has to do with his character of love and caring for the world and people. Second, God's kingdom, better to translate the Greek noun basileia as "rule" than as "kingdom" because the point of the lesson by Jesus, as he says and does through the Gospels, is that God rules humans and the world. It must be God's activity or rule that is characterized by mercy, justice, and peace. Most important, God's rule comes in the here and now. It is not merely about future event or about a place. Third, in the end, with this coming of God's rule, God's will be done "on earth," as it is in heaven.

After a series of three godly things, Jesus asks to pray like this: "Give us this day our daily bread." Τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον.

What is sought is "our daily bread." What is sought is a collective community that must survive with daily food distributed to all. "Our" means community and "daily" means each and every day. One cannot save for tomorrow. In Matt 6:25-34, Jesus talks about the importance of communal striving for God's kingdom and his righteousness.

More important, what is asked is not a million-dollar-table dish but the ordinay food. Bread means the most simple yet most natural food for the ordinary. What is asked for is not something luxurious or expensive. We should know how to be content with what we have.

[영어 신간소개] <약한 메시아: 약자의 눈으로 본 예수의 모습>

[신간]Yung Suk Kim, Messiah in Weakness: A Portrait of Jesus from the Perspective of the Dispossessed (Cascade Books, 2016)

이것은 영어책이다. 굳이 한국말 제목을 달자면 "약한 메시아: 약자의 눈으로 본 예수의 모습"이라 하고 싶다.

이 책은 약함에 대한 책이다. 약함은 헬라어로 astheneia이다. 약함을 어떻게 이해하느냐에 따라 예수의 모습이 달라진다. 흔히, 오랜 서구적인 전통을 통한 예수 해석은 “강자”의 눈으로 예수를 본 것이다. 즉, 하늘에서 온 “강한” 예수가 약자들을 대변했다고 보는 신학이다. 그러나 이에 대한 정면 반박으로 이 책이 쓰여 졌다. 즉, 땅에서 온 “약한” 예수가 약자들을 대변하였다고 보는 것이다. 예수를 약자의 눈으로, 약함이라는 새로운 정의로 바라볼 때 그의 삶과 사역, 죽음까지 잘 이해할 수 있다.

인간의 문제는 약함을 제대로 이해하지 못하는 데 있다. 인간은 죽게 되어 있는데 죽으려 하지 않기에 많은 문제가 발생한다. 인간은 본디 약한데 이것을 모르고 강하여지려고만 하는 것이 문제이다. 진정으로 약함을 안다는 것은 자기를 아는 것이며 그런 눈으로 이웃과 세상을 참되게 바라볼 수 있으며 하나님 앞에서 가장 인간다운 모습이 된다. 약함은 인간의 조건이며 미덕이 될 수 있다.

위와 같은 “약함의 시각”은 예수 당시 스토아 학파와 지배사회의 논리를 정면 도전한다. 그들은 말하길, “약함을 인정하되 그냥 체념하고 살아라. 그것은 타고난 운명이므로 바꾸려고 하지도 말고 자기통제(self-control)로 극복하라.” 그래서, 강자가 약자를 다스리는 것이 하늘의 뜻이라 말하며 약자를 합법적으로 억압하는 것이다.

그러나 예수는 복음서가 말하듯이 이런 지배사회의 논리를 부정하고 사회의 약자가 귀한 존재라 말하며 행동하였다. 그것은 “약함”에 대한 인식을 달리 한 반증이라 할 것이다. 즉, 예수는 약함을 타고 났으며 그것을 뼈저리게 경험하고 잘 해석하고 실천한 사람이다. 그의 약함에 대한 시각은 그의 어린 시절 삶과 가족환경, 갈릴리의 정치사회적 환경, 유대사회의 피폐, 로마제국의 강압통치, 민생의 파탄 등과 관련 있다. 이런 약함으로 가득찬 사회에서 약자를 위하여 “약한” 예수는 그의 삶을 바쳐 “하늘의 길”(하늘이 통치하는 세상)을 가르치며 행동하고 끝까지 그의 길을 걸어갔다.

그 결과 그는 십자가를 지게 되었으며 그 십자가는 약함의 역설을 보여준 사건이다. 즉, 그는 약하였기에 십자가를 질 수 밖에 없었다. 고후 13:4에 바울은 그런 예수의 모습을 분명히 말하였다. 즉, “그가 약하였기에 십자가에 못박혔다고. 그러나, 하나님이 그런 예수를 지금 살리었다고.” 예수의 약함과 십자가의 인과관계는 명확하다. 고후 13:4 전반부에 eks astheneias가 있다. 이 구절은 영어로 “out of weakness” 혹은 “by weakness”로 번역하는 것이 가장 원문에 가깝다. 그런데 많은 영어성경에서는 “in weakness”로 번역하는데 이는 예수의 자발적 대속론을 뒷받침하기 위한 자의적 번역이다. 대부분의 한국어 성경에서는 제대로 번역되었다. 예를 들어, “새번역”: “약하셔서 십자가에 못박혀 죽으셨지만.” 여기서 분명한 것은 예수는 스스로 자기를 구원할 수 없었다. 그는 약함으로 죽었고(약한 척한 것이 아니다), 그의 죽음은 약자들을 대변한 결과이다. 그러나 하나님이 그를 살리었다. 그것이 바울의 예수 이해이며 약함의 역설이다. 예수는 약함으로 죽었지만 하나님의 힘이 그를 살리었다. 예수의 십자가는 동시에 여러 가지를 보여주는 “약함”의 사건으로 해석하여야 한다. 즉, 예수의 십자가 처형은 하나님의 심판을 불러오며 처형에 가담한 자들이 마땅한 처벌을 받는 것이 하나님의 정의이다. 동시에, 십자가는 예수의 사랑과 희생정신을 보여준다. 그는 십자가의 길을 피할 수 있었으나 끝까지 하늘의 길을 따라 갔다. 또한 동시에, 약함으로 십자가에 못박힌 예수를 하나님의 힘으로 살린 것이니 하나님의 정의가 불의를 이긴다는 것을 보여준다.

-출판사 페이지 (Cascade Books)
-저자 웹사이트 책소개
-저자 연락처: