Thursday, February 5, 2009

Deconstructing a social world through metaphor

I am very excited that my book Christ's Body in Corinth like new baby was born on July 1, 2008 by Fortress Press. I am thrilled as a parent on the one hand, and fearful on the other hand, because I have to watch this baby breathing briskly and busily in this "uncertain" world. Feel free to engage this book. The crucial issue for me in Pauline studies is how to reclaim Paul's radical, contextual theology of "soma christou" re-imagined through Christ's own body -- his crucified body which can be identified with numerous broken bodies in the world.

"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."