Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Teaching the Bible in a Different Culture
Yung Suk Kim
Some are more marginalized than others. There are also issues regarding gender and class. More importantly, their theological spectrum is broader than I had assumed, ranging from liberationist to fundamentalist positions. However, one thing I have discovered again and again is that I could share my own marginalized experience with them.
I also found that the students are very open to new learning and challenges in biblical studies. Over the years, I have come up with the following teaching philosophy that tells who I am or what I am doing in this vocation of theological education:
I teach to engage in the knowledge of who we are in this world where we see one another as diverse. Diversity is not taken for granted but utilized as a source of critical engagement with others. I value both a critical and self-critical stance toward any claim of knowledge, truth, and reality and emphasize the following as pedagogical goals: learning from others, challenging one another, affirming who we are, and working for common humanity through differences. All in all, the goal of my teaching is to foster critical diversity and imagination in their learning process.
Most recently, I taught Introduction to Biblical Studies to first-year students. The contents and design of the course focused on helping students to become critical contextual biblical theologians. I explained the processes and complexities of biblical interpretation in which the reader takes the center stage. I also emphasized three elements of critical contextual interpretation: how to read (the text), what to read (textual focus or theology), and why to read (contextuality of the reader), which will be the topics of my future book.
In my teaching, I reiterate the importance of the role of the reader, who has to engage not only the text but also his or her life in a particular life context. At the same time, I help students to be critical of all readings because not all are equally valid or helpful. The oft-cited verse in my classroom is: “Test everything; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).
We not only unpack the texts from many perspectives, but also deconstruct our familiar readings and reconstruct them in new life contexts. Students are refreshed because of their new learning experience in biblical studies. They also find themselves loving the scripture not simply because of what has been written there but also because they can engage it critically and faithfully for their lives. Oppressive theologies are rejected and the students are reaffirmed as the people of God. In this way the Bible is deconstructed and reconstructed through their lives, because God is the God of all. God is not the God of the past alone, but of the present amidst their turmoil.
In one of my classes, I asked each group (made up of six or seven people) to discuss and answer this question: “Who is Jesus to you and your community? Portray him, using all kinds of methods or approaches that you have learned so far.”