Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tips for writing a strong academic paper (thinking of theological students)

1. What are your topic and thesis?
You must present a strong thesis, signaling the paper's direction early in the introduction. Do not attempt to cover too many things in one paper. Keep your topic focused throughout. 

2. Why do you write and what do you want to achieve?

You need to ask why you write a paper firsthand. Is there a new argument that you want to make or is there an area that you can improve the existing arguments? What are some implications for a future scholarship or our lives?

3. How is your paper argued?

Your paper would be a noisy gong unless supported by the reasonable material or evidence. You can use all critical methods to make a strong argument. Also, you must engage other researchers/scholars in the field. Do not use empty words or jargons and write clearly with the best choice of vocabulary.

For your information, see my writing philosophy:

Friday, July 8, 2016

My teaching philosophy

I foster and teach to engage in the knowledge of who we are in this world in which we see each other as diverse and different. 

Diversity is not a given but a source of critical engagement with one another. 

I value both a critical and self-critical stance toward any claim of the knowledge, the truth, and the reality. 

I emphasize the following as pedagogical goals: learning from others, challenging one another, affirming who we are, and working for common humanity through differences. 

In my teaching, all in all, I aim to communicate critical diversity and transformative identity in a variety of life contexts. 

This is also found on my website: http://www.youaregood.com/personal.htm 

My writing philosophy

Life is short, and writing is long.

By profession, I am a biblical scholar with expertise in New Testament study. In retrospect, all books and articles that I have written reflect my philosophy of writing characterized by the three adjectives: critical, short, and practical. 


Because texts come with many aspects of human life-- political, economic, social, cultural, psychological, I try to interpret them from all possible perspectives. Facts are different from my belief, and my job is to understand various aspects of the text. Through critical study, I can learn from the biblical texts not because they are infallible or morally superior to other scriptures but because there are biblical characters (real humans) who experienced the divine. Jesus can be studied with the same rigor that we apply to other historical figures. Paul is not an exception. All the Gospels and early Christian communities will receive the same critical treatment. Also, as a critical reader, I have to acknowledge my own limits as a human. So I must be critical and self-critical toward anything I see or discuss.


My idea of a short book has a range of 100 and 200 pages. The reason is realistic. People have little time to read a long book full of repetitions or jargons. 
There are already millions of books out there. I always think why I want to write another book. 


I do not write merely argue for a new idea or theory that does not have implications for our lives. Eventually, as a writer, my job is to take a stand and to communicate my findings with the larger audience.

The other blog piece for your interest: To become a prolific writer?

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 flashes of lightning. What a mystery of nature that is full of uncertainties, having every possibility 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.