Monday, December 3, 2012

From my student's reading journal

The following is taken from the reading journal of Marvin Gilliam, Jr., one of my students taking BS500 (Introduction to Biblical Studies) in 2012. His piece is already on the web (see www.youaregood.com/teaching).


1 Corinthians 12:27 is probably one of the most used texts to implore the community
aspect of the church. Paul writes, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of
it.” In class, we were discussing the concept of the “body of Christ” as discussed in Dr. Kim’s
book, A Theological Introduction to Paul’s Letters. He introduced to us the various ways that the
original Greek text can be translated based on its tense. Traditionally, we have been taught that
the body of Christ was an organism comprised of the individual members who have specific gifts
which help the body to function. However, Dr. Kim proposed an alternate and, in my estimation,
more liberating meaning of the text. “The body of Christ” could also be translated “Christ’s
body,” which would imply a Christ-like body. This reading of that text has implications for the
way that we approach topics of discipleship, faith, grace, and the way we approach the Christian
life. There are many other translations that, because of meaning loss in the translation, could
have a differing effect on the way we live out our faith as Christian.

I personally have found that Dr. Kim’s alternate reading actually simplifies the
discipleship concept moving it from believer focused to Christ focused. There is a great freedom
in the concept of emulating Christ, as opposed to the various, almost legalistic requirements that
are attached to our current understanding of discipleship. Conversely, there is also a great, but
different weight of being Christ’s body that comes from this reading. This weight is one that
challenges us to actually preach, teach, and ultimately live Jesus and his teachings. It would seem to me that being the “Christic body” that Dr. Kim proposes would place us in direct conflict with
the religious culture of the contemporary model of “church.” This reminds me of Brown’s rule
about not being fooled by the simplicity of a biblical passage because there is always more than
meets the eye. And with this topic, there is a clarion call to make sure that we are living up to the
standard of Christ. What a challenging thought process this has provoked for me.

It is hard to believe this journey is over! I have so much left to process in regards to all
the information that we have covered. I am sure that it will begin to make sense even more as I
move through this seminary journey. In our final class, Dr. Kim shared a couple of quotes that
really stuck out to me in regards to wrapping up the class. One came from a presenter from
Ellison Convocation and served as a reminder for me. She stated that “the Word of God is not
the Bible. The Word of God is God’s self.” What a powerful statement that reminded me of the
revelation of the word of God that comes through our own experience. It reminded me of when
Jesus was being tempted in the desert and said to the devil that “man does not live by bread
alone, but from every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” In light of this class, I have to
really ensure that what I gleaned from this scripture is really true. But at the risk of eisegesis, this
text has always reminded me that God is always speaking, we just have to be tuned to the right
frequency to hear him. We can’t depend solely on the word of another individual, whether
biblical scholar or church school theologian, for our spiritual experience and growth. It is up to
use to always be anticipating and waiting on the word of God which God reveals to us
individually and collectively to help us become the people and community God desires.

The other quote was raised from Dr. Kim’s article from the  Journal  of Bible and Human 
Transformation. In it, he states, “We often exegete the text, but never exegete ourselves.” This
quote is like the icing on the cake of biblical studies for me. There is so much that we bring to
the table when we are looking at the biblical text; we each have our own ax to grind. Our varied
experiences, things we have learned and been taught in the name of “tradition,” our own ideas
about who God is all influence our perspectives on what meaning we derive from the text. This
journey in biblical studies, and seminary as a whole, is about just that – transforming our hearts
and minds through self-reflection and the power of the Holy Spirit that comes from rightly
dividing the word of truth.

I am reminded by Paul that we are called to be “transformed by the renewing of our
minds.” To renew is to bring about a new freshness and energy. This energy that Paul calls for
enables us to be challenged to a place of new revelation about God in our own experience, which
will transform our hearts and lives, and ultimately the way we live out a Christ-like life. This
class has caused me to want to go deeper to examine the scriptures and bridge the process of
theological, academic discovery with the practicality of everyday  life. I plan to ask more
questions, discover more answers, and then ask more questions of the answers I find. I am still
overwhelmed, but grateful for this experience and the knowledge I have gained.

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