Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Theological Introduction to Paul's Letters

A Theological Introduction to Paul's Letters: Exploring a Threefold Theology of Paul (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011)



The book informational page


Sample syllabus

  • A new wave of Pauline theology characterized by the threefold participation of God, Christ, and the believer
  • An extensive, insightful, original research on key themes of Paul’s texts and contexts
  • Engaging Paul for today: Convergence of theology and ethics


Author information
Yung Suk Kim is Assistant Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology, Virginia Union University, in Richmond, Virginia. Kim is the author of Christ’s Body in Corinth: The Politics of a Metaphor(Fortress, 2008), and editor of the Journal of Bible and Human Transformation (Sopher Press).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Music and theology (written in 2000)

Music and theology basically deal with human experiences, which involve our whole sphere of life interacting with the world, people, and God. Music is composed, based on a composer’s self-reflections on the world and meaning of life. Theology is not very different. Sad or merry, lucky or unfortunate, mundane or religious, private or public, light or serious events can be expressed, interpreted or reinterpreted by the theologian. In fact, many classic music pieces have been written through the religious spirit. Maybe it would be impossible for us to think of Beethoven and Mozart without religion or theology. Their faith with life stories was expressed through music that delivers messages, feelings, and mysterious sound. Likewise, theology is a response to a life, based on reflections on our lives: happy or sad events, mysterious experiences, inexplicable life moments, etc. A theologian uses religious language, symbols, metaphors, and all forms of story to do theology.


Music and theology is a public act, because they touch on other people. Any music piece or theological work must be played out in public to make effect on the audience. There is responsibility entailing of course. Any theological work should be shared with others so that there might be further theological conversations. Theology must be practiced and rewritten accordingly because there is new discussion and engagement among people. These days I feel a great responsibility that I have to take my theology to the public and listen to other people. My audience is never a silent multitude.

Four seasons: Memory ingrained in my flesh and blood (written in 2000)

My early childhood memories begin and end with nature. There were no toys or television sets available in our small village; so we had to go out to play with other kids in the rice fields or on the little plateau of the small mountains in front of our village. I have so many beautiful memories about these early days. I would like to describe how we played in nature according to the seasonal change. In spring we have a very mild weather, which naturally calls our minds into the rice fields, the hilly small mountains and orchards and vineyards. Usually we play soccer on the low plateau or sometimes on the rice fields. Often times we play other kind of games that has to do with the ground. Another time in spring we go out to the mountain or orchards to find a bird’s nest or sometimes to put a trap in between the fence trees to catch a wild rabbit. At another time we shoot birds with a handmade wooden rubber shooter (sling shot). This very primitive tool cannot kill birds but at most hurt them maybe. Still at times we just play on the grass by wrestling with one another. As is often the case, one of our tasks as a rural boy is to feed rabbits or oxen at home, which means we have to collect various plant foods from the nature. Those good plants for rabbit and oxen can be obtained in the edges of the unpaved rural pathways, of riverbanks, small fords, rice fields, orchards, and so forth. But sometimes we take our oxen to the good places to feed them.

In summer we go to a river to swim or to fish. We have a shallow river a mile off from our village. We all kids love water. Nobody taught us how to swim, but we learned. We go fishing at times to the rivers and ponds. On some rainy nights we stay awake to catch lots of fish. In autumn we help our parents in harvesting rice, apple, grape, pear, watermelon, and many other produces. In the middle of dark night, sometimes we crawl under the fence of the small watermelon field to pick and eat watermelon. When winter comes, we go to the small mountains to hunt rabbits by chasing them through their footsteps clearly marked on the snow. We also do sledding at a small hilly mountain, using a small plate put on our hips. At other times, we go to the frozen rivers or the ponds to enjoy skating or to break ice (risky play) in the middle of the ponds.

Nature, my school (written in 2000)

Long ago I was sitting on a bench at Nichols Park in South Chicago. On a sunny, breezy, flowery, green, spring afternoon, heart-melting spring wind touches on my winter soul, barren tiredness after a long snowy, chilly, desolate winter. I felt ineffably smug like a baby in a mother’s bosom. Green grass, different plants and trees blanket the whole park. My eyes conspicuously spotted yellow dandelion. Some trees wear white flowers; still others do not put on any green clothing and remain the same as winter. I see some trees tall and others small. Above me the sparse gray-white clouds hung in the sky and the pleasant sun throws its warming light upon nature. Birds are singing sweet songs of the spring. When I look at green leaves, I feel energized. Looking at winter trees that do not hold any leaves, I prepare for the spring through winter. It is a great reminder that how humans go through that kind of cycle, which is nothing negative but a necessary part of life rooted in divine, providential wisdom.

Oh! Nature is truly a learning school--the best school in the world. I can learn many things from great nature, which has multiple, divergent, different colors, shapes, and heights. No green or white is superior to black or brown or yellow. In nature many different things naturally inhabit. Each thing in nature does not seem strange to one another. Each thing is just there as part of the whole and also as a distinctive agent in nature. When each thing takes one’s own color, shape, and size, which means distinctiveness, then each thing in nature is beautiful on its own and is in harmony with other things. Heidegger’s philosophic idea dasein (being-there) is a great reminder that each being in nature is meaningful by being there. In other words, no one can control others' existence or impose a meaning on to the other. It is a joy to find a similar idea from the Chinese word for nature: cha-yun. Cha literally means "for oneself" or "self" and yun means "for granted" or "given."

In nature, there is no hierarchy but interdependent relation through which other things exist. On the other side of "being-there," interdependence or interconnected life in nature must be emphasized, as modern ecology or biology or any other science greatly reflects this interconnected life in the world and universe, which marks a great shift away from Newtonian idea of materialistic, atomic, mechanic worldview in which things are not connected with each other, often leading to lifeless study and to an exploitation of nature. Sheer realization is that no thing in the world or universe including humankind can exist without its connection (interdependence) to others.

Reflections (written in 2000)

Staying is different from living. I have stayed in Hyde Park, Chicago, but I have not lived here in a sense much less enjoying this neighborhood; I was not aware of this community of neighborhood. Most of time I just passed by the streets or maybe I thought I didn't have to know this community. I stayed here in Hyde Park as guest. But today I realized that I live here. This afternoon my wife and I went out for lunch. By the way the weather was just perfect. We went to a small neighborhood restaurant. Food was wonderful together with nice people there. After eating, we walked around the Harper court to see what was interesting around us. We found many interesting stores such as health foods, records store, and face and body care shop, etc. For the first time since we lived here we realized that living is different from staying.

Stillness in the midst of busy-ness, 3/1/2000
No matter how busy, there is always a place for stillness, a time for calm down, a time for a little reflection, a time for thinking back to my past life, a time for thinking ahead of my life. 'Busyness' doesn't have to do with my absolute time. Rather, it has to do with my mind capacity. Even Jesus often times found a still place, a kind of solitary place for praying, for thinking ahead of his life, even though he was so busy taking care of the needy. I need ten minutes with my own place of being myself. It can be a corner of the library or any place that I find easily according to the day's situation. The richness of life is from the little time of contemplation. I enjoy being alone, at least for ten minutes a day. I stand before God as a solitary unique person.
A little flower that knows the time, 2/29/2000
After a long hibernation a tiny flower in front of my apartment was in bud. It could not be seen easily before our eyes because we don't have still mind and open eyes. But this afternoon I saw it awakening from such a long sleeping. I was just amazed by this flower that knows the time to come out and to tell the season to us. A time to know the season, a time to rethink about our past winter, a time to awaken my hibernation, a time to restart and a time to work.  

Going round is not really going round, 3/7/2000
My daily life is full of busy schedule. So often times I am hurried to making my schedule going well. I choose the best way to keep my schedule fine. I am probably too much tuned to economic living that needs efficient time management. As always, I try to find a short-cut to get to the meeting place. But life is not used to such a well-planned economic system. Rather, life needs a free, flexible, indirect way. That is to say, GOING ROUND gives us time to enjoy the time and the process of getting there. How did I get this idea? This morning I walked around the nearby park Nichols in the morning. With the fresh air I tasted a smell of maturity of the spring. In fact, this park is close to our apartment by several blocks away. But I don't use this park all year around. I could have used this park going to the school or the bank I was going to. Life is not always giving us a best shortcut. Intentionally I choose a round-way. Going round is also going.

A new definition of living together, 3/8/2000
When we say we live together, it usually means living together with other people (human beings). But living together is not complete unless we extend its meaning and boundary to the whole creation. Namely, we have to include birds, dogs, any living animals, any kind of living things on the world such as trees, plants, grass, and more than that, even including the earth, air, the wind, whatever exists in the world. But unfortunately because of our anthropocentric orientation we have been thinking in a way that we maximize our own benefits at the price of our fellow beings whether living or not. When we say that we are part of nature, our eyes and ears are opened so that we can hear the sound, the color, and the smell of the nature. We, then, can hear the birds singing and flying over the sky freely. We would spot even a little movement of the ants on the ground, otherwise it will never be recognized. Humans are not a center in this world but just a part of it. What is benefit for us to say this? Yes there is a big benefit. Try this! Go out for a walk in the early morning and find a best park or any street you want to walk on for a while. Slowly walk around it and have attention on your breath, on whatever you see with the fresh air. Then your heart will be full of the energy of the nature.

Living with disability in God and community, 6/22/2000
Many people live with disability but our culture and society function for the majority of "normal" persons. I walk well but sometimes I do not consider much about those who do not walk well. I think every one tends to forget about others' difficulty. In one way or another, we all have kinds of disability or weakness. Nevertheless, somehow we tend to promote the society of "normal" people. But we have to remember we have more or less intrinsic disability whether it is physical or not. The weakness or disability of our bodies makes us rethink of ourselves, especially about our living together. In other words, the life of a community needs to find a new meaning of living together. The meaningfulness of a community does not lie in the degree of success, which is measured by soundness or healthiness or normality. The real meaning of a community, I think, should be found in its community itself in terms of how that community as a whole supports the weak, the unfortunate and the disabled in many ways. In this way of thinking disability is not an unfortunate thing of an individual but a task that a community should embrace to support for the disabled persons. This word "support" does not limit to social welfare. It is more than that. In fact, this support involves a whole aspects of life, from bodily to spiritual, from social, communal to personal. It is also a mystery that we grow together through taking care of each other. Sharing our sound body with others and supporting for those in need are blessings of God who intends to enrich our human community in a way we learn to help each other.

Dancing at a time of low
When I led a bible study group, one person asked or rather challenged to me, saying: "how is it possible to dance when I am low?" In fact, this question was not a sudden but was expected because my day's topic or theme was related to dancing with God. My thesis was that we could dance bodily or spiritually in any circumstances. What is dancing? If we can think of dancing as an expression of merriness with a bodily movement, that person cannot dance at all when s/he is low. But what if we would think of dancing as something like an expression of our whole being, high or low? Certainly, there is a sorrowful or liberating dancing in Korea such as Hanpoori, which is usually performed by women. Women used to express their Han - bitter and hurt feeling or oppressed one - by this Hanpoori. In this sense of dancing of Han, dancing is hardly related to simple joy or happiness. Rather, hanpoori is one way of letting go of emotional or oppressive leftover of hearts. Through that process of Hanpoori, women reach liberating moments and get energy to sustain them with self-empowerment. So, we can dance all the time, high or low. Dancing is, in essence, God's in a sense that God is dancing with intra-divine relationship: God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Like a divine community of dancing, our dancing is also danced in a community, high or low.

A Mystery of Love

A Mystery of Love


Through a little cottage
the bland, uncaring wind blows,
a candle fire wanes,
a baby sits on a sick-bed
breathing a deadly silence of peace
a brisk voice shouts:
“do you love me?”
“Do this for all”
“again, do you love me?”
“do this love for all people”
“do all, sick or healthy,
poor or rich, strong or weak, all”
Sisters and brothers,
Fathers and mothers,
“Nothing can separate us
from the love of God,”
“do you believe this, my son, my daughter?
do this love for all, my companion!”
Suddenly,
the melting, sweet wind blows to unfreeze all,
it blows through the seasons,
in the spring —a time to wake up, a time to tell the people
of hope that God breathes into all.
only then we live together,
only then we are resurrection,
only then we find you in our heart,
in our walking,
in our dreaming,
in the desolate winter – a time to wait
for a hope yet to be realized;
a time that we realize we are nothing to be something,
in the summer—a time to sweat for our gardens
a time that we are baptized with waters all over again
a time that toil and sweat never pass away without returns,
in the fall—a time to thank God for our life here together in difference
a time that we see different colors in our gardens, hills, mountains, and forests.
My daughter!
Do you feel this power of ever-new, ever-fresh dews?
My son!
Do you feel this joy of the loving wind –
in the past, present and future seamlessly
flowing into our heart of spring,
whispering that we are one and different.
In seasons like this we feel
seasonal beauty embedded in our souls and bodies,
a sense of solidarity and diversity,
in the same glaring sun rising in Panama and in Korea,
in the same azure ocean of the Pacific in Fiji and in America,
it is the mystery of life together
the mystery of love and peace so vulnerable,
the mystery of ever-challenging differences,
the mystery of this life,
the mystery of you and me in the world.
Around the circle of bonfire
we feel it, we live it -
only then we say it enough;
enough is all, for all creation;
only then, doves and eagles fly in their sky,
together, we fly into the same sky;
only then, we feel the power of mystery of God everyday,
today and tomorrow, yesterday and today,
like an ever-flowing river we too blow.