Sunday, January 3, 2010

a response to a book review

Response to a book review

Recently, I saw Daniel Christiansen's review of my book (Christ's Body in Corinth) at The Bible and Critical Theory 5.3 (2009) and appreciate it. I admit his critique of the book's length (slender volume) and less-connectedness with the pictures contained in the book. However, to be honest, his review is not fair-minded as he labels my interpretation as ideological. The biggest weakness of his review is that he does not sum up main arguments of the book. A typical book review is expected to contain main points, development, and evaluation of the book. But skipping this part of the book review, he himself becomes ideologically driven, hastily and vehemently rejecting the idea of diversity without talking about the main argument of the body metaphor in this book.

By the way, according to a theory (Althusser Louis in particular), all interpretations are ideological. So is mine and are all others'. What is at stake for anyone's interpretation is not whether his or her reading is ideological or not, but what kind of ideology is operative in interpretation and/or whether that kind of ideology helps us to read the text clearer or healthier than other kind of ideolgy. So it is nothing wrong with reading texts through an ideological lens. But here the problem of his review is not to discuss the book's main points and hastily judge it on the basis of what he believes true while ignoring what the book says entirely. For instance, in his review, he rebuts the idea of "Christic body" by asserting that every community is run by "doctrine or practice." But he is not aware of the book chapters on Community and Body in which various conceptions of the community and different understandings about the body are discussed. So in the book nowhere I am saying there is a community possible without boundaries. Rather, I talk about the role of boundary and the function of Christ's body as a metaphor in the Corinthian context. The question is not whether the community is bounded or not but how the given community functions. In so doing, my book focuses on the roles of the boundary, the conceptions of the community and the different understandings about the body. The real question is which interpretation of the body might be closer to the reality of early Christian life experience in Corinth.

I would welcome any challenge to or critical evaluation of my book if there were a fair balance between what the book really says and what it lacks. I would expect that any reviewer recognizes various approaches to the "body of Christ" discussed in the book, and engages the main argument of the book that lies in the figurative, discursive analysis of 1 Corinthians: an alternative reading of the "body of Christ" understood as a metaphor for a way of life or living (Christic body), on the basis of re-imagination of the "body of Christ" as the crucified body of Christ.

By contrast, Donald Senior's review of my book at The Bible Today clearly states the gist of the book as follows: "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" (excerpt from Donald Senior's review, The Bible Today 47(2) p.141. Mar-Apr 2009). --Yung Suk Kim