Thursday, December 25, 2014

Heaven shows no partiality

Yung Suk Kim


Look up to heaven, and you will marvel at its incalculable size and no-end space. At the same time you will be dumbfounded at its relentless impartiality under which everything, human or not, is treated the same. That is what Jesus also acknowledges: "so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45). This saying follows the command of "love your enemies." The sun shines equally on all, the good or bad. So we exclaim that the heaven or the skies are great not because they are simply big but because they are impartial, not adopting a tactic of favoritism.

Likewise, we can say that God is great not because he is simply sovereign or he has absolute power as such – in ways that anything would be possible. In fact, that kind of thought is very dangerous because God's name or power can be misunderstood or misused in wrong context. God (heaven) is great because of its impartiality. God follows the way! Interestingly, this idea of God following the way is also found in Lao-tzu's writing, a famous wisdom book written in 5-6th century BCE China, the Tao Te Ching which I translated into English. Lao-tzu says, "Heaven follows the way." His idea of heaven-following-the-way lies in heaven's impartiality. Heaven is great because it runs with impartiality.

If we understand heaven or God this way, God is great because of his impartiality. Any God-talk or theology that does not operate with this mode would seem vague at best or dangerous at worst. The bottom line is that even God cannot do everything; if he does so, he is a despot. Even God follows the way!

Jesus' parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) shows this point of God's impartiality. As opposed to the popular reading that God can do anything with his power, my reading of this parable emphasizes the character of God's impartiality with which early birds and late birds receive the same "usual daily wage." The owner of this vineyard represents the impartial God who sees the need of both the early and late birds. The landlord knows that all need work and equal pay for their families. Their needs are the same. By the way, according to the story, the late birds are not lazy people; simply, they couldn't find a job early enough. Interestingly and expectedly, the early birds complained to the owner of the vineyard about the equal pay. These people did not understand what the contract was; the landlord promised a usual daily wage. Otherwise, they did not see the need of other fellow workers.

God is great not because he can do anything but because he is impartial. Great does not mean that anything is possible. The notion of greatness does not depend on manipulative power but on impartial love for all. All under the sun are to be equally respected and cared. If that happens, we say God is great. If that happens, we say that we follow the way of heaven – the way of God.





Tuesday, December 2, 2014

성서에 던지는 물음표 (Question Mark to the Bible)

성서에 던지는 물음표

성서에 던지는 물음표
문화 비평적 성서 해석과 오늘 (동연, 2014) 김영석 지음
보도자료(PDF)
연합뉴스 기사 링크


드디어 위의 한국어로 된 책이 출간 되었다는 소식을 들었다. 만감이 교차한다. 91년 한국을 떠날 때는 LG전자의 싱그러운 해외주재원으로 중남미 지역 특히, 파나마와 중미, 카리브해 그리고 미국 마이애미 등지에서 해외시장 개척의 선봉이 되어 동분서주 하던 어느 날 문득 드는 생각, “나의 의미는 무엇인가?” 그러다 전전반측, 씨름을 하다가 가보지 않은 길, 신학을 하기로 마음먹고 회사를 사직했다. 무모한 도전이었다. 그러나 많은 이들의 지원으로 공부를 마치고 미국의 대학교에서 가르친 지 벌써 10년이다. 세월유수이다. 돌아보니 아련한 추억은 수줍은 듯 아지랑이처럼 피어 오르고 기억하고 싶지 않은 일은 어둔 밤의 거대한 벽처럼 나를 막아 선다. 다 지난 일이다. 삶은 선물이다. 오늘을 마지막으로 살되 내일이 없는 것처럼 살고 싶지도 않다.

그러던 여정 가운데 이번에 한국에서 나의 작은 책이 나오게 되니 기쁘기도 하고 여러 감정이 북받쳐 오른다. 이 책이 나오기까지 제3시대그리스도교연구소 김진호 실장은 처음부터 격려와 조언을 해 주었다. 출판을 허락해준 동연의 김영호 대표와 정성스레 편집을 해준 조영균 편집장에게도 감사를 드린다.

이 책은 성서에 대한 질문을 다룬다. 성서는 무엇인가? 어떻게 읽을 것인가? 수많은 해석과 말 많은 성서가 오늘 우리들의 삶과 세상, 나아가 인류공동체의 현안을 이해하고 해결하는데 어떤 건전한 시사점을 주는가, 아니면 효력 없는 위험한 구시대의 유물인가? 서론에서 “문화 비평적 성서 해석”이란 개념을 소개하고, 1부에서 그런 해석을 위한 몇 가지 전제조건을 다룬다. 예를 들면, 성서와 하느님의 말씀은 같은가? 2부에서는 문화 비평적 성서 해석의 실재로서 성서에 물음표를 던지며 대안적 읽기를 모색한다. 3부에선 문화 비평적 성서 해석의 시각에서 오늘의 인간상과 당면과제를 탐색해본다.

이 작은 책을 통하여 독자 스스로 성서에 대해 다시 생각해보는 계기가 되었으면 한다. 성서는 결코 스스로 말하지 않는다, 독자가 해석할 뿐이다. 그렇다고 어떤 특별한 사람들이나 조직이 해석을 독점하는 애장품이거나 남을 공격하는 오만한 무기가 될 수 없다. 오직 날카로운 비평을 통하여 재해석되고 거듭나야 하는, 버릴 것은 버리고 취할 것은 취하는 그런 대상일 뿐이다. 그래서 독자의 비평의 눈이 중요하다. 비평 없이 읽는 책은 자기만족의 도구이거나 해로운 독이 될 수 있다.

이 한 권의 책으로 무엇을 얼마나 말할 수 있으랴 만 여기에는 나의 삶의 여정과 진실의 고독이 녹아 있다. 물론 아쉬움도 있고 부족함도 많다. 하지만 나는 언제나처럼 이곳에서 나의 길을 묵묵히 가려 한다, “저 광야를 가고 있는 코뿔소의 외뿔처럼” (Suta Nipata).


목차

이 책을 추천하며
머리말


서론 문화 비평적 성서 해석을 위한 준비
문화 비평적 성서 해석이란
문화 비평적 성서 해석의 계보
문화 비평적 관점으로 본 신약성서
문화 비평적 성서 해석의 지형과 의의

1부 문화 비평적 성서 해석의 몇 가지 전제
성서와 하느님은 말슴은 같은가
기독교는 누가 시작했는가
로마제국의 이데올로기
신학의 땅의 것
법(法)은 물이 가는 것처럼
초월의 내재와 삶
메타포의 다양성과 한계

2부 성서에 던지는 물음표-문화 비평적 성서 해석의 실재
교만하지 말라는 게 바벨탑의 교훈일까?
약속의 땅이란 미명으로 약자를 압살해도 되는가?
아브라함이 어떻게 믿음의 조상인가?
사라와 하갈의 대조적인 눈물에 대해
성서에 나온 부전자전에 대해
상반되는 지혜에 대해
롯기에 대해:누구를 위한 해석인가?
예수의 죽음을 어떻게 이해할 것인가?
만사 믿음 형통? 바울의 예수 죽음 이해
예수가 말하는 세상에 대해
포도원 일꾼의 비유에 대해
예수가 길이다?
거듭남은 무엇인가? 예수와 니고데모의 대화
물세례의 진정한 의미에 대해
우리가 잃어버린 예수의 믿음은 무엇인가?
예수와 바울이 전혀 다르다고?엽락분본에 대해
죽어야 산다 와 죽어도 산다?바울 신학의 두기둥
교회가 그리스도의 몸이라고?

3부 문화비평적 성서 해석과 오늘의 당면과제
들어가기에 앞서
천로역정의 문제점:개인주의와 이분법적 세상관
하느님의 사람들에 대한 정의
부자와 나사로의 비유로 본 세상의 문제
근본 물음
역지사지의 교훈
표리부동에 대하여
기적은 우리에게 달려있다
넘어야 할 선 넘지 말아야 할 선
미션이란 무엇인가
약함을 인정하라
죽음이라는 희망
진정한 나의 모습이란
인생의 수고와 짐
인생의 세 가지 순간
판타지와 진정한 희망은 다르다
진정한 변화에 필요 한 것
변화의 원리
나보다 더 큰 세상

-------------------연합뉴스 기사 아래에 옮깁니다--------원문은 여기에!
김영석 버지니아 유니언대 교수 '성서에 던지는 물음표'
(서울=연합뉴스) 황희경 기자 = 구약성서 창세기 11장에 나오는 바벨탑 이야기는 흔히 인간의 교만함에 대한 이야기로 해석된다.  
도시에 모인 사람들이 하늘에 닿고자 높은 탑을 쌓으려 했고 이에 하느님이 원래 하나였던 언어를 다르게 하고 사람들을 흩어지게 해 벌했다는 해석이 일반적이다.
그러나 미국 버지니아 유니언대에서 성서해석학과 신약학을 가르치는 김영석 교수는 이러한 전통적 해석에 반론을 제기한다.  
바벨탑 사건의 핵심은 사람들이 한 가지 말을 하며 모여서 힘을 집중하고 약자를 억압하는 도시 구조와 지배력의 문제였다고 김 교수는 해석한다. 이에 하느님이 언어를 다르게 한 것은 다양한 문화와 사고 속에서 다양한 말을 하며 살아가게 하기 위한 것이라고 읽는 것이 창세기의 전체 맥락과 어울리는 자연스러운 해석이라고 주장한다.
김 교수는 탑을 쌓는 것 역시 교만의 행위로 볼 근거가 없다며 도시에 모이면 건물을 짓는 것은 오늘날 도시에 고층 건물을 짓는 것이 하느님에 대한 도전이 아닌 것과 마찬가지라고 설명한다.  
또 사람들이 흩어진 것 역시 창세기 1장에서 생육하고 번성하고 온 땅을 다스리라는 내용이 있는 만큼 사람들이 흩어지는 것 역시 벌이 아니라 창세기의 맥락상 당연하다고 해석한다.
김 교수가 쓴 '성서에 던지는 물음표'(동연 펴냄)는 이처럼 성서의 내용을 당시의 역사와 사회, 문화를 고려해 의미를 찾아내고 그 의미를 우리 시대의 관점으로 평가하는 문화비평적 성서 해석에 관한 책이다. 
저자는 성서의 내용은 성서에 쓰였기 때문에 무조건 따라야 하는 정언명령이 아니라며 오늘날의 독자는 왜 그런가를 따져야 한다고 주장한다. 
저자는 머리말에서 "전통을 사수하는 것도 중요하지만 사수해야 할 가치가 있는지 진지하게 고민하고 분석하고 비판할 수 있는 능력을 쌓아 새로운 패러다임을 만들어야 한다"면서 "성서의 내용을 어떻게 해석하고 비평하며 그것을 자신의 문화·정치·사회와 연결할 수 있는가가 중요하다"라고 말했다. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

An example of a transformative preaching

Yung Suk Kim



Over the past few years, I have heard two very different types of sermons about Acts 3. In the text, Peter and John go up to the Temple to pray and meet a beggar who is asking for alms. One type of the sermon emphasizes God's power, the Spirit, or Jesus' name. Peter and John are equipped with the power of the Spirit and they could help the beggar to rise against the crippling conditions. This kind of religion or spirituality looks like Shamanism. In fact, this type of preaching is so popular in the church that we hear something like this: Jesus is the solution; there is no other name than Jesus. But this kind of preaching is very superficial and misses out transformative faith shown by Peter and the beggar.

But today I heard a very different sermon full of transformative points in that the preacher talked about Peter's former dysfunctional life and his experience of transformation. He was ready to serve others because he had been there, seeing the same dysfunction in other's life; therefore he challenged the beggar to see beyond his meager conditions. Peter did not give him what the beggar wanted but what he needed. Thus he challenged the beggar to expect more, that is to live as a normal person as God wants him to be, a person who can walk freely without begging anymore.

We also need to see how the beggar is transformed through faith. He listened to Peter and followed what he was told. He tried to stand up by moving his legs and feet through faith. He saw a miracle for himself. Even though the sun is available in the world, a person cannot benefit from it unless he or she comes out to it. Transformation is possible through faith.  



Sunday, July 27, 2014

To stimulate conversation about atonement of Jesus' death

This is a short response to Michael Gorman's book, "The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant: A (Not So) New Model of the Atonement" (Cascade, 2014), in terms of his interview at Crux Sola.

The purpose of writing this response is to generate further conversation about atonement. Otherwise, I appreciate the author's great work.

I do agree with and like Gorman's participatory atonement of Jesus' death which we need most desperately in our day. But as a critical scholar myself, I have to say that not all books in the NT can be read with a single view of atonement. Whereas the so-called Paul's seven undisputed letters can be grasped in such a direction, Deutero-Pauline letters, Pastoral letters, and especially Hebrews, do not share such a view of participatory atonement. Rather, these later books emphasize "static" atonement of Jesus' death (in the sense that Jesus' death is understood as a penal substitution, for example). There are plenty of references or theology about such a static atonement. So much so, in these books there is an emphasis on believers' faith in Jesus, which is quite different from Paul's seven undisputed letters.

Now when it comes to the gospels, Jesus' death is not needed for the forgiveness of sins or for salvation since baptism and repentance of people are enough for such purposes. If we follow the logic of the gospels, Jesus' death is a result of his costly preaching about God's rule in an unjust, hostile world. In other words, if people had accepted his challenging message about God's rule, he would have not been executed on a cross. So overall, the NT does not give us one view of atonement nor one reason of his death. What we as critical readers need is how to explain and explore Jesus' life, teaching, and death in his context, in the early church's context, and in our day. In the end, the reader's essential task is discernment: what to accept in what way and what to reject why.

If you wonder about my view of atonement and biblical interpretation, please go and see a list of my works at my web site, especially "Christ's Body in Corinth," "A Theological Introduction to Paul's Letters," and "Biblical Interpretation."

See also my small article, "Jesus' death in context," published in Living Pulpit 2007 (available through ATLA Religion database).


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Ask why; a mere obedience or obeisance is not the answer


A most recent tragedy of the Korean ferry Sewol has left unforgettable scars on the minds and souls of Korean people, which won't go away easily or any time soon. This seems an unprecedented case for a total failure of the government and private sectors. More than 470 passengers were on board and most of them were high school students at their teens for their school trip to a remote southern island Jeju. Only 174 passengers exited the boat and were saved. All others were confirmed dead or still missing. Sadly, all things worked together (negatively) to get things worst ever. First of all, this ferry company called Chungjin Haewoon violated several laws and regulations about safety codes (overloading containers and cargo, adding more space by rebuilding the boat, not providing adequate safety training for its crew members, ignoring boat repair requests from its staff, hiring a temporary captain to run the boat on the day, and etc). It is so shameful to hear all these ugly things about the company and its greedy owner as well as other interest groups.

Second, there were no immediate, organized responses of the government to this disaster. Sea police for example was so senseless that it did not know what to do. It could save a lot of them if they acted fast enough. There were no adequate manual and saving equipment or personnel. Even emergency control or watch in the sea failed completely.

Third, the crew members (except for service crew such as Park Ji-Young and another man who did not escape the boat but saved other passengers at the risk of their lives) left the boat for their lives without doing anything to evacuate hundreds of passengers, who were told by the boat broadcasting to stay calm in their place. There is a suspicion that the ferry company may have ordered its crew members (captain and others) to sink the boat with passengers inside, in which case she could receive lots of insurance money along with life insurance compensation. This must be investigated. Otherwise, some suggest that the behavior of the crew members are hardly explainable, because they had to time to issue an emergency sign before they left the boat.

Actually, if passengers had been told to come out with jackets worn and move to the deck of the boat, they could have been saved. Because of this broadcasting, many students waited in their cabins or rooms even though the boat began to sink. They simply believed in the announcement that says "stay where you are." Even at this dire moment our students had a chat and took pictures and looked very playful. They were acting like they were dying, leaving a few words to their parents. They seemed unaware of their impending deaths. In this dangerous time they believed that they would be saved because they trusted in the repeated announcement that they stay where they are.

At several points when they heard this same announcement, they said "yes." One student in the room of the boat video-recorded all of this, using his smartphone. This student who took pictures and recorded was found dead and his body was recovered with his smartphone. His father recovered his son's smartphone memory chip and sent it to the news agency. That is how I saw the video and pictures taken at the very moment they got stuck inside. What a painful video this is! Before the ferry was completely submerged, as this video indicates, they had been alive and waited in the boat to be rescued. This makes me utterly sad. These students were too good and followed what they heard: "stay in."

In Korean society obeisance is highly emphasized, and so some students didn't seem to learn to disagree to or disobey certain things. At a critical time such as that, students may have had to ask: "Why should we stay inside when the boat began to sink? Why should we believe what you said?" I know this seems not easy. Mere obedience can be horrible otherwise. If obeisance is a virtue, so is suspicion.
*For more, see the previous posting on this tragedy.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Total Shock and Shame in the Korean Ferry Sewol Tragedy

Yung Suk Kim


For a few days now my mind cannot find rest and sinks again and again and over again. 476 passengers were on board when the Sewol departed from Inchon to Jeju Island in Korea. Among them, more than 370 were high school students who were en route to that island as part of their school trip. So far about 170 passengers were rescued (actually, they exited the boat) and more than 181 bodies were found so far, still missing 121; most of them are young high school students at their teens. Despite the desperate rescuing efforts, their survival is yet to be heard. While I am weeping, I am shocked to find the following information about this tragedy from various sources of the news report.



1. This ferry was imported from a Japanese shipping company in 2012 and it had been already running for 18 years in the sea of Japan. It could retire there. Before 2012, the official retiring age for a ferry boat in Korea was 20 years old. But this age limit was changed under the Lee Myung-bak government of Korea, allowing for a 30-year old ferry boat running. This must be crazy. In this regard, Lee is to blame since he was a promoter of new capitalism with deregulation policies during his presidency. Because of this law change, the current ferry was imported in 2012 as a used one, which had run 18 years already. Alas! I am very angry because of this law change by the senseless government and the Sewol's decision to import such an aging ferry for Korean passengers.

2. Now this ferry boat is said to have been rebuilt adding more space and capacity for passengers after imported. This rebuilding has to be checked whether this was done according to safety law codes. Along with this, there must be a special investigation about the ferry's technical issues; the official inspection agency of the government also must be investigated.


3. In this ferry, there were two inexperienced ferry crew members (one in controlling the ferry and the other in navigating) who had an experience of less than a year. They were in charge when the ferry sunk hopelessly. The captain in charge was Lee Joonsuk, 69 years old, left them for a while and asking them to take charge. Somehow they took a swift turn for unknown reasons and the ferry tilted suddenly toward the left side and began to sink. We even don't know how much shipload (containers and cars) was carried and whether they were secured and fastened tighten. By the way, we are told that lots of containers fell when the ferry tilted sharply. We are also told that Lee was a replacement for a regular captain who was on his vacation. Worse comes after worse.



4. The most terrible thing happened for 90 minutes when the ferry began to tilt and sink almost. If Lee had made a right decision that all passengers are to leave the ship immediately he felt something wrong about the ferry (there was a big roaring sound), most passengers could have been saved. This critical time of 90 minutes was wasted because the crew members repeatedly told the passengers to stay calm and stay inside of the ferry (meaning stay in where they were). Most students apparently stayed in! They trusted in vain. Why did the captain not ask all the passengers to immediately wear life-saving jackets and prepare life-saving boats for evacuation? One report says no life-saving boats were working except for just two. We don't know whether there were enough life jackets. Without remaining at the helm there to help, instead, the captain Lee and the other crew left or abandoned the ferry and passengers in danger for their lives. They were among the first group of people rescued by the rescue team. Even after being rescued, Lee tried to hide his identity, acting like one of the passengers. I am so sick and hurt of this.

5. However, the only exception is one young lady Ms. Park Ji-Young at her early twenty, who was a crew member (for passengers), and helped young students to get out of the sinking ship while making no success in rescuing her own life. Her story makes me cry again.

Park Ji-Young, a 22-year-old crew, who lost her life while saving others

6. Now the high school of these students is also to blame because it put their students in harm's way. There should have been a careful examination about this ferry trip. In fact, this ferry boat left for the destination several hours late due to the weather condition. By the way, I am sorry to hear that the vice-principal of this high school has hanged himself on a pine tree due to the pressure and guilt he had; he was a leader of this trip and was rescued.

7. Overall, the government's emergency response and rescue efforts are very disappointing. There are lots of worries, inefficiencies, and complaints about this rescue operation. I know nothing is easy in an emergency. But how much can we learn from the past tragedies? The current government's leadership is questioned. There were enough lessons in the past; but do we learn and put them in practice today? My mind sinks again and over again. I keep all affected due to this senseless tragedy in my thoughts and prayers.

8. Conclusion
This tragic accident could have been avoided or many could have been saved. This accident is human error, terribly wrong and morally failing. There is a system failure involving multiple parties: the government (former and the current) and its overseeing agencies that did not do their job properly, the ferry company's importing of an aging ferry and renovating by adding more space and careless management, and unpreparedness of its crew members in an emergency.


*Last-minute text messages sent by students trapped in the sinking ferry:









*memorial place:
photo: courtesy of Newsis

=============================

Ask why; a mere obedience or obeisance is not the answer

*For convenient purpose, I paste another blog posting of mine here.

A most recent tragedy of the Korean ferry Sewol has left unforgettable scars on the minds and souls of Korean people, which won't go away easily or anytime soon. This seems an unprecedented case for a total failure of the government and private sectors. More than 470 passengers were on board and most of them were high school students at their teens for their school trip to a remote southern island Jeju. Only 174 passengers exited the boat and were saved. All others were confirmed dead or still missing. Sadly, all things worked together (negatively) to get things worst ever. First of all, this ferry company called Chungjin Haewoon violated several laws and regulations about safety codes (overloading containers and cargo, adding more space by rebuilding the boat, not providing adequate safety training for its crew members, ignoring boat repair requests from its staff, hiring a temporary captain to run the boat on the day, and etc). It is so shameful to hear all these ugly things about the company and its greedy owner as well as other interest groups.

Second, there were no immediate, organized responses of the government to this disaster. Sea police, for example, was so senseless that it did not know what to do. It could save a lot of them if they acted fast enough. There were no adequate manual and saving equipment or personnel. Even emergency control or watch in the sea failed completely.

Third, the crew members (except for service crew such as Park Ji-Young and another man who did not escape the boat but saved other passengers at the risk of their lives) left the boat for their lives without doing anything to evacuate hundreds of passengers, who were told by the boat broadcasting to stay calm in their place. There is a suspicion that the ferry company may have ordered its crew members (captain and others) to sink the boat with passengers inside, in which case she could receive lots of insurance money along with life insurance compensation. This must be investigated. Otherwise, some suggest that the behavior of the crew members are hardly understandable because they had to time to issue an emergency sign before they left the boat.

Actually, if passengers had been told to come out with jackets worn and move to the deck of the boat, they could have been saved. Because of this broadcasting, many students waited in their cabins or rooms even though the boat began to sink. They simply believed in the announcement that says "stay where you are." Even at this dire moment our students had a chat and took pictures and looked very playful. They were acting like they were dying, leaving a few words to their parents. They seemed unaware of their impending deaths. In this dangerous time, they believed that they would be saved because they trusted in the repeated announcement that they stay where they are.

At several points when they heard this same announcement, they said "yes." One student in the room of the boat video-recorded all of this, using his smartphone. This student who took pictures and recorded was found dead and his body was recovered with his smartphone. His father recovered his son's smartphone memory chip and sent it to the news agency. That is how I saw the video and pictures taken at the very moment they got stuck inside. What a painful video this is! Before the ferry was completely submerged, as this video indicates, they had been alive and waited in the boat to be rescued. This makes me utterly sad. These students were too good and followed what they heard: "stay in."

In Korean society, obeisance is highly emphasized, and so some students didn't seem to learn to disagree to or disobey certain things. At a critical time such as that, students may have had to ask: "Why should we stay inside when the boat began to sink? Why should we believe what you said?" I know this seems not easy. Mere obedience can be horrible otherwise. If obeisance is a virtue, so is suspicion.

Friday, April 4, 2014

What is Paul's gospel?

I intended to leave blanks in the following so that you may wonder why.
  • Paul's gospel is about not how I am (           ) but how we become (         ) of God.
  • Paul's gospel is not a law-free gospel but a (          ) gospel.
  • Paul's gospel is about not an individual justification by faith in (        ) but the individual/communal participation in (           ) faith and life because of God's righteousness.
  • Paul's gospel begins with not (          ) but God's gospel (Rom 1:1) which concerns his Son.
  • Paul's gospel declares that what matters is not an individual faith or righteousness but God's (           ) that is revealed through Christ's faith and for all who have faith (Rom 3:22).


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Why did I write this book TRUTH, TESTIMONY, AND TRANSFORMATION?




 When Jesus says in the Fourth Gospel, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," does he mean that Christianity is the only true religion, or did he mean something else? As we know, Jesus did not found a new religion nor did he pave a new way to salvation or truth. Rather, Jesus worked for God, by showing the way of God, testifying to the truth, and engaging in the work of liberation. Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, like Moses, is sent by God to liberate people from darkness. Unlike today's triumphant Christianity, the Johannine community was a small, marginalized, expelled community that struggled because of their faith. It will be very interesting to see how this struggling community was transformed into a loving community, following the model of Jesus.

       I wrote this book out of my hope that the Fourth Gospel and John 14:6 in particular could be the scripture of engagement, embodiment, and empowerment for Christian readers. I hope this book will help the reader rethink the role of the Logos or the "I am" sayings in the Fourth Gospel. In a pluralistic society, the focus of the gospel shifts from conversion or theological doctrine to empowerment of people. I dream that this book will contribute to theological education in that the "I am" sayings of the Fourth Gospel give a voice of inclusivism rather than exclusivism, solidarity rather than marginalization, and liberation rather than oppression. In the pluralistic life contexts of America today, the theology that accepts others as friends is very important; it engages others on the basis of God's love and justice. With a focus on the language of embodiment and empowerment, theological education can be more inclusive to others and help students to reorient their attention to the present life in the world. -from the preface of the book.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Misunderstandings about Freedom

Often we think that Jesus brought to humanity complete freedom from sins (or Sin) by his work or death. However, we know by experience that such a reality is yet to come. Our world still has a mixture of light and darkness. People still struggle with everyday life issues. No Christians are free from sins. From the outset, it must be said that freedom is not the result of Jesus’ death or of believing in him; rather, it is the result of Christian participation in his death or in the truth of God. This kind of understanding is manifest at least in Paul’s teaching and John’s Gospel. According to Paul, freedom is possible only when people put to death the deeds of the body -- all kinds of evil thought and action. Notice here the agents of freedom are very people although they need help. Paul seems to say like this: “You can be free as long as you put to death evil thoughts or desires.” Otherwise, he is not naive enough to say that Jesus’ death made complete human freedom or salvation. Rather, his advice is “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). For this kind of reading in Paul’s letters, see A Theological Introduction to Paul’s Letters: Exploring a Threefold Theology of Paul.

Similarly, according to John’s Gospel, freedom is possible only when people participate in the truth of God. Notice here the truth is God’s. Otherwise, it is not given once and for all. Freedom is also a future tense. See what Jesus says, “If you remain faithful to my teaching, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31–32). Freedom needs our involvement in God’s work and Jesus’ faithful teaching; see below for more about this. [For more about freedom in John’s Gospel, see Truth, Testimony, and Transformation: A New Reading of the “I am” Sayings of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel.]

1. Remain to Jesus’ teaching
Jesus’ teaching is about God’s word (Logos) or God’s truth for all. Jesus fought for freedom because there was no freedom in the world. He testified to the truth of God that all are worthy to live fully in the world and before God. God is truth not simply because God is almighty but because God cares for all people so that they may live with light. People need to abide by Jesus’ teaching about God’s work.

2. Become true disciples of Jesus
True disciples are not those who believe something or merely follow Jesus but those who remain faithful to his teaching. “Remaining” is an ongoing process of the faithful journey with Jesus. Discipleship is not complete until the end of one’s life.

3. Know the truth (of God)
Knowing is a future tense (“you will know the truth”). This knowledge is the result of your remaining faithful to Jesus’ teaching. As long as you abide by his teaching and live as his disciples, you will know the truth. This knowledge is not gained once and for all. Rather, it is an experiential and engaging knowledge. Also, this knowledge is holistic; there is no separation between knowing and acting. As a result, the truth will make you free! Notice here the subject of freedom is the truth of God and that the tense is future. This means as long as we know and participate in the truth of God, we shall be free.

If you remain faithful to my teaching, you are truly my disciples; and
you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free
(John 8:31–32)

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except
through me
(John 14:6)

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into
the world, so I have sent them into the world
(John 17:17–18)

I was born and came into the world for this reason: to testify to the
truth. Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice (John 18:37).