Saturday, December 30, 2017

Learning from golf (lesson 2): knowledge works for me when I am weak


When I was in my thirties, I had good knowledge and tips about golf, but they did not apply to me because I was too ambitious with power. Now in my fifties, I feel that knowledge works for me because I am weak. The paradox is when I am weak, I am not stiff-headed or hard-muscled with my playing. Lesson 2: Knowledge works for me when I am weak. But the irony of life is your physical power is dwindling as time goes by. Today, in Atlanta, GA, I enjoyed practicing in driving range and got confidence that I could still play a golf. I now have more precision than before, even though I may not have the same stamina as before.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Analytical brain versus empathy capacity

Yung Suk Kim

Research finds that analytical brain is separated from empathy capacity. The two are not compatible with each other. This seems true because we know sometimes empathy or feeling sympathy may prevent a researcher from encountering bare facts or the reality.

But there are also times when we need empathy more than anything else. In such times, no analysis or word is necessary. Perhaps the best policy is to stay calm.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Dao De Jing Calligraphy 2

Yung Suk Kim

From the Dao De Jing 40

"To return is the movement of the Way." 

"To be weak is the function of the Way." 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Dao De Jing and my calligraphy

Yung Suk Kim

The following words are taken from the Dao De Jing. These are my calligraphy, and the translation is mine.

The Way of heaven reduces what is excessive and supplements what is insufficient. The way of human is different. It reduces the insufficient and increases the excessive. 

Keeping softness is strength

Those who conquer themselves are strong

Seeing small is enlightenment

Knowing self is enlightenment

Treat both grace and disgrace as wonders

What is most straight seems devious

Humans must follow earth

Friday, December 8, 2017

Learning from golf (lesson 1): focus on yourself

Yung Suk Kim

I used to play golf long ago when I lived and worked in Panama, Rep. of Panama, and later in Miami, Florida. At that time, I was a businessman and was expected to play because of that. I was sent to the foreign business office by a famous Korean company. I don't play golf anymore, but I still keep my golf club. In my living room, sometimes I play with these balls and practice putting. I do this rather from a perspective of mental gymnastics. I learn life lessons from this.

Here is one. I must keep a focus on myself when I putt a ball toward the target area. I must keep a hold on to my posture after putt. The habitual mistakes are made when I lift up my head to see where the ball is going. Life lesson one: When you have a goal, you must keep a focus on yourself.

Here is another one. I have to believe myself. I don't worry where the ball is going. At this very moment of putting, I am the only one whom I can and must trust. All other things are external. The result is all good. The ball went to the place I wanted to reach. Even if it does not go in the intended direction, I still have to believe myself because trusting is nothing wrong with itself.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Good news (gospel) begins with God, not with Jesus

Yung Suk Kim

For most Christians, the gospel (euangelion, good news) is equated with Jesus. Or, easily, they say "let's spread the gospel of Christ." What they mean is as follows: Christ died for sinners and he dealt with sins. His redemptive death resolved the problem of sin. So he is the savior who made a perfect sacrifice for humanity. Salvation is done once and for all. It was "my death" that he died. Whoever simply believes this and repents will be saved once and for all.   

But he did not simply come to die. Rather, he came to testify to the truth (John 18:37); he came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45); he came to save the lost (Luke 19:10); he came to fulfill the righteousness (Matt 5:17). For Paul, the gospel of Christ has to do with what Jesus did for God; namely, he revealed God's righteousness to the world through faith (Rom 3:21-26).  

Strictly speaking, however, the good news begins with God. All good things about God constitute the good news (euangelion). According to Mark 1:14, Jesus as the Son of God began to proclaim "the good news of God" of which details are in Mark 1:15: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." In Rom 1:1, Apostle Paul also says that he is an apostle called (like a prophet) and "set apart for the gospel of God." Then, in verse 2, he relates God's gospel to Jesus, who was declared to be the Son of God with power because of his faith.

Eventually, this gospel of God proclaimed by Jesus must continue with his followers. I am still convinced that Paul's theology is thoroughly theocentric, Christ-exemplified, and Christian-imitated. The church is God's, not Jesus's. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Cause and Meaning of Jesus’s Death: History, Theology, and Interpretation


Yung Suk Kim

There are historical facts about Jesus's crucifixion that cannot be fabricated or oversimplified. History is one thing, and what it means to people after the event is another thing. We must know why he was brought to death. The main reason is that he said and did something against Rome. He could not overcome violence and torture.  

Now all those who hear the story of Jesus and his crucifixion are challenged to live differently because of his tragic death. On the one hand, people must say his death is a tragic one and wrong. Evil and torture are wrong. How can an innocent person be crucified? Injustices must be named and those who responsible for his death must be judged and condemned. It is not God's character that allows his innocent Son to be killed for vicarious death paying for sins. On the other hand, Jesus's terrifying death is a holy sacrifice of love for God and the world because he did not spare his life to proclaim the good news of God in the world.

Therefore, the statement "Jesus died for us" (Rom 5:8; 2 Cor 5:14) can be understood as a moral challenge, as opposed to the payment understanding of sins. Namely, the challenge is that people must live a moral life of justice for others, moving away from an egoistic lifestyle.  

We need the correct interpretation of Jesus’s death. In other words, not all interpretations are valid. Especially, the problematic interpretation is found in the following lyrics, which show a most selfish form of religion: "The Lamb of God in my place, your blood pour out, my sin erased. It was my death you died. I am raised to life; Hallelujah, the Lamb of God." In other words, the point of the song is simple: “Jesus died for me, and I don't die. I am raised to life. All done and no worries."  

A Proposal to an Alternative Christology: Messiah in Weakness

Yung Suk Kim

In 2016, I published Messiah in Weakness: A Portrait of Jesus from the Perspective of the Dispossessed (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2016). The book's synopsis is as follows:

Kim raises a perennial question about Jesus: How can we approach the historical Jesus? Kim proposes to interpret him from the perspective of the dispossessed--through the eyes of weakness. Exploring Jesus' experience, interpretation, and enactment of weakness, understanding weakness as both human condition and virtue, Kim offers a new portrait of Jesus who is weak and strong, and empowered to bring God's rule, replete with mercy, in the here and now. Arguing against the grain of tradition that the strong Jesus identifies with the weak, Kim demonstrates that it is the weak Jesus who identifies with the weak. The paradoxical truth with Jesus is: "Because he is weak, he is strong." In the end, Jesus dies a death of paradox that reveals both his ultimate weakness that demands divine justice and his unyielding spirit of love for the world and truth of God.

I have an issue with the "strong" Messiah, which is the Western view of Jesus characterized by triumphalism, colonialism, and supersessionism. In this view, he is fully divine and all-powerful. He defeated death and evil and completed salvation for humanity through his voluntary redemptive suffering. This is the Western Jesus of triumphalism. In this Western view, Jesus also appears as a colonial ruler who is the way. Likewise, John 14:6 ("I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me") is interpreted exclusively. All countries and cultures must accept him as the way and the truth. Non-Christians and their countries are forced to convert to the Western gospel of Jesus. It is our known history in the 19-20th centuries that commerce and Christianity went to other countries hand in hand. Colonialism and Christianity are hardly distinguishable in many colonized countries in Africa and the Caribbean. Similarly, this kind of a triumphant, colonial Messiah opposes Judaism or Israel. Namely, the issue is supersessionism or Antisemitism in that Jesus replaces the old covenant with Israel. Jesus's sacrifice is perfect once and for all and completes salvation. The law's time ended with Israel. Now is the new time for the church through Jesus. Old religion and tradition are rejected and relegated to inferior things.

But Jesus was born into a poor abnormal family and experienced weakness as a poor Galilean Jew. He did his best proclaiming God's good news and was executed by the Roman authorities. He showed God's way and truth; nevertheless, his work is not complete, the end did not come yet with his resurrection, and his work must continue with his followers.

Jesus was a devout Jew who never denied his Jewish identity and his loyalty to God. He affirmed the law and prophets. He did not preach about the heavenly kingdom of God. Rather, his primary concern was the rule of God in the here and now. His claim is: God rules, not the Roman emperor. He proclaimed "the good news of God," not that of Rome. He broke the laws of Sabbath and purity to advocate for the sick and the marginalized. This led to his death. In other words, he did not come simply to die for sinners but to testify to the truth of God (John 18:37). His death is the result of what he said and did in proclaiming God's rule, not Caesar's. His "dangerous" teaching and action cost him a life.

The Western view of Jesus with an emphasis on his power and glory is in error because we ignore his humanity with weakness in the first-century Palestine where so many people suffer, including Jesus. There are physical ills, social ills, famine, economic exploitation, and slavery. Why should we deprive him of his humanity and his weakness? Why do we not talk about his struggle to understand the chaotic world lacking God's rule?

In 2 Cor 13:4a, Paul also admits the fact that "he [Jesus] was crucified 'by or from weakness' (eks astheneias)." That is, he insinuates that Jesus could not avoid or overcome Roman violence because he had to continue preaching God's kingdom against Rome. In this regard, the often-made translation of "in weakness" for eks astheneias does not convey Paul's meaning. In fact, Paul contrasts eks astheneias ("by or from weakness") with ek dunameos theou ("by or from the power of God") with that phrase. Paul's point is clear in 2 Cor 13:4: 1) Jesus was crucified because of his humanity, which is weak; 2) But he lives because of the power of God.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Ruth: Survival, Race, and Transformation

 Yung Suk Kim

Survival and transformation are very important to a family of suffering going through economic hardships and/or family crisis. There was a famine in Judah, and Naomi’s family (her husband and two sons) moved to Moab to find food and economic prosperity. While staying there, worse things happened. She lost all men in her family: her husband died, and her two sons also died leaving two more widows beside her. So Naomi decides to return to her homeland only after losing everything. So she tells her two daughters-in-law to go back to their homes. The story may have ended at this point if she returned to the land with empty hands. But the story goes in different directions because of Ruth, a Moabite woman who insisted on following her mother-in-law. Ruth becomes a model of an ideal immigrant or foreigner who confesses the God of Jews to be true and follows her mother-in-law and widow. But Orpha, the other daughter-in-law, returned to her home. That is her decision that must be honored. It is nothing wrong with it.

From the perspective of Jews who hear this story, Ruth is a model foreigner/minority that can be part of Jews through confession of faith and through marrying one of them. Even as a widow, she must follow her mother-in-law to become an ideal foreigner/immigrant to Jews. So finally, Naomi reluctantly allowed Ruth to follow her to Judah, the land of others to her [Ruth]. At this point, Naomi may have felt that it would be okay to take Ruth with her because she may be a very helpful means of her survival and redemption back in Judah. In other words, things happening in Judah were roughly imagined of by her, especially about her redemption through Ruth from her goel, Boaz. Ruth was asked to glean in the field and happened to meet Boaz, having sex. Soon, the redeemer, Boaz, married Ruth, and she bore a son to Naomi. Ruth is a surrogate. Naomi’s success (redemption from poverty and recovery of her family through Ruth) sacrifices Ruth. Does the end justify the means?

But if we hear from the underside of this story of Ruth, we cannot help but imagine her own struggle when she got to live in Judah. She is surrounded by strange people and the unfamiliar hostile environment. She was a foreign woman who was committed to the God of Jews, showing respect to her mother-in-law. Because she came to their country by her decision, she had to endure all hardships, economic or psychological. But she certainly suffered from those conditions. She could not have her full humanity in the foreign land of Judah. She was still a Moabite woman who bore a son to Naomi. While she came to Judah with hope and was successful in some way, she was caught up in the middle. Was Ruth's decision to immigrate to Judah with her mother-in-law a good one? Does she not regret not having stayed in her homeland?

When it comes to the transformation of Naomi and Ruth, we can see its complexities. Naomi was hopeless when she lost everything in Moab. But because of Ruth, she hoped for a better future and made it through her goel, Boaz. But she used Ruth as the means to achieve it. Ruth chose to follow her mother-in-law out of her loyalty to the God of Jews and also to Naomi. She also hoped for a better future with her mother-in-law. She persevered and survived well with Naomi. Other than this, we do not know how terrible her life was because of her Moabite identity. Did she feel happy throughout her days? Did she feel complete integration into the Jewish culture? What role did she play in raising her son? 

"Thanks for sharing your blog. Very interesting read. The story can certainly be read differently. Ruth can be interpreted as a model foreigner who gives birth to the future Messiah of Israel--a line connecting David and Jesus. That is, Jewish ancestry has foreign blood in it. But Ruth remains ethnically a Moabite and we can imagine behind the text that she may have had an identity crisis although the text is silent about it, perhaps because she is a model foreigner. Elsewhere in the Bible, Moabites and other non-Israelites are vilified. So Ruth may be rehabilitating the image of the bad 'other' in the Bible." 
--From Dr. Robert Wafawanaka, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Who wants "unity"?

Yung Suk Kim

Those who have power prefer unity to diversity. They do not want a diversity of thoughts. They are afraid of losing everything if their rule or leadership is challenged. But everyday people are not really concerned about unity. Rather, they need more of respect, dignity, and equality in their lives.

Often unity becomes the language of control. This is true to the case of the Roman Empire. Even if diversity is allowed in the Empire, it is limited to religion and culture. That is, people are prohibited from protesting against the rule of Rome. They must speak the language of Rome and its Empire. They are forced to stay in their place of identity. They are told again and again that society is one body with an emphasis on unity. In the name of unity, the unfortunate are taken for granted and suffering is taken for granted.

Even in the church, pastors talk about the unity of the church, based on 1 Cor 12:27 ("You are the body of Christ and individually parts of it"). In their preaching, members of the church are expected to think in the same way without asking questions about church doctrine or any teachings about God. In a traditional frame of interpretation, scholars read "the body of Christ" as a social body with an emphasis on unity (homonoia) just like Stoics who tell members of the society to be one without asking about injustices (c.f., the fable of Menenius).

But Paul does not mean that members of the community have to be in consensus in all matters; rather, his point to the Corinthians is they have to have the same mind of Christ. In other words, they must live like Christ, being ruled by his spirit, imitating his faith. An alternative reading of this body metaphor is "a way of living" (I wrote Christ's Body in Corinth (Fortress, 2008) about this issue). That is, Paul's point is: "you are Christic body. You are to be ruled by Christ, individually and communally."

This way of reading of the Greek genitive is certainly plausible as we see in Rom 6:6: "the body of sin might be destroyed." Here, "the body of sin" is construed as "sinful body" or "sin-ruled body."

In this alternative reading of the body metaphor in 1 Cor 12:12-27, Paul's emphasis is not the unity of a community but the lack of true diversity due to the lack of Christic embodiment. Some Corinthians claim that they are wise in Christ and saved already. Others boast about their gift of the spirit: speaking in tongues, prophesying, and even their knowledge.

Given these problems of the disembodiment of Christ, Paul asks them to identify with Christ and his spirit. For example, in 1 Cor 6:12-20, the Corinthians are advised not to sleep with prostitutes because they are parts (mele) of Christ. Here, we have an image of Christ's body (as a human, not as a social body). Because they are connected to Christ, they must behave accordingly based on Christly manner. Then they can glorify God in their body (1 Cor 6:20).

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Naive imagination vs. critical imagination

Yung Suk Kim

[Photo courtesy of Frank Yamada]

Imagination is necessary to enrich our lives. We can live a new life through imagination. Science has been advanced through new imagination. New discoveries of many things were possible through imagination.

We can imagine flying like a bird and can do so through airplane or other means of flying. But if one does not do anything with his/her imagination, nothing will happen. Indeed, we can realize our imagination variously. But how to realize it is crucial. If one goes up a mountain and jumps off from a cliff or mountaintop, that person will be killed in a few seconds. This kind of imagination is so naïve that even one’s life may be lost. But if a person invents new things to ride on or uses a hang glider, he/she can fly like a bird. Thus what we need is imaginative power combined with critical, self-critical thinking.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A naive religion and spirituality

Yung Suk Kim

"Jesus died for me, and I don't die. I am raised to life. All done and no worries. That is, Jesus died instead of me and he was punished instead of me. He paid the price of sins. The Lamb of God in my place, Your blood pour out, my sin erased. It was my death You died. I am raised to life. Hallelujah, the Lamb of God."

The above is what we hear most frequently in most popular Christian churches these days in America and elsewhere. This shows a most selfish form of religion and spirituality. The following gospel song typifies such a naive understanding about Jesus.

You came from heaven's throne
Acquainted with our sorrow
To trade the debt we owed,
Your suffering for our freedom
The Lamb of God in my place,
Your blood pour out, my sin erased
It was my death You died
I am raised to life
Hallelujah, the Lamb of God
My name upon Your heart
My shame upon Your shoulders
The power of sin undone the cross for my salvation
My God, there is no greater love
There is no greater love
The Saviour lifted up
There is no greater love
The Lamb of God in my place,
Your blood pour out, my sin erased
It was my death You died
I am raised to life
Hallelujah, the Lamb of God
[*Lyrics source:]

But Jesus did not come simply to die for sinners but to testify to the truth of God (John 18:37). His death is the result of what he said and did, proclaiming God's rule, not Caesar's or any human master's. In other words, his "dangerous" teaching and act cost him a life. 

In 2 Cor 13:4, Paul also admits the fact that Jesus was crucified "by or from weakness" (eks astheneias). That is, he insinuates that Jesus could not overcome Roman violence because he had to continue preaching God's kingdom against Rome. But the crucifixion is not the end of the story about Jesus. Paul says without a stop in the same verse: "but [Jesus] lives by the power of God." 

Given the above view of Jesus, Paul's central message is that Christians have to imitate Christ in his faith and spirit. They must be led by the Spirit, submitting to the law of God. They must die with Christ and live to God. Christians (followers of Messiah Jesus) are not mere believers of Jesus or beneficiaries of him but followers of his life and faith. This implies that they are not welcomed by the enemies of God's justice, running the risk of losing their life because of their testimony to God. But they should not give up on the work of God because God is their true hope. 

Deconstructing a social world through metaphor

Yung Suk Kim

The crucial issue of Pauline interpretation is how to reclaim Paul's radical, contextual theology of soma christou.  Namely, "the body of Christ" can be reimagined as the crucified body of Christ that evokes the broken images of the body in a Greco-Roman world. My debut book, Christ's Body in Corinth: The Politics of a Metaphor, was published by Fortress Press in 2008. Since then, this book has become a must read for serious readers of Paul.

"I highly recommend this work to all who take seriously Paul's metaphor of 'the body of Christ.' Kim interprets the metaphor as an alternative vision of vital reconciling community, over against conceptions that emphasize boundary markers to establish social groups. What is at stake in the interpretation of 1 Corinthians, he argues, is not just the ways first-century Christians constructed and lived out social unity but the consequences of our choices for the way we live out our own responsibilities today."
--David Odell-Scott, Professor of Philosophy, Kent State University

"Reading as a citizen of an increasingly diverse postcolonial world, Yung Suk Kim protests the scholarly consensus that reads Paul's language of the "body of Christ" in 1 Corinthians as a metaphor for social unity, current in Hellenistic and Roman philosophical and political discourse, in which the integrity of the social body required the vigilant maintenance of group boundaries and the harmony of its members. Kim points out the potential of this reading to promote coercive patterns of enforced unity in the contemporary world. Kim argues instead that in speaking of the church as Christ's body, Paul relies upon the metaphoric language of embodied vitality and growth, seeking instead to nourish the life-giving practices of a diverse community and to oppose the ideology of a powerful in-group that threatens to "disembody" the Christic body in Corinth. Reading the language of 
soma christou exclusively from a sociological lens fails to comprehend the important christological coordinates of Paul's thought, which nevertheless have clear and urgent social and political implications. Paul's exhortation is a message of particular importance, Kim suggests, for us who seek to discern the true value of difference in the contemporary world." 
--From the inside flap of the book cover

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. 
--Donald SeniorThe Bible Today

"Thanks also for calling attention to your book on the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians. I read the attachment that you sent, and it sounds like your interpretation and ours are very supportive of each other. I do think the body image is about inclusive egalitarianism in the new life in Christ, and not about sharp social boundaries." 
--A message from Marcus Borg (2009)

"I’ll add my own encouragement to it–I was at a clergy meeting last week where the question of “the nature of the church” came up, and someone said “well, we’ve all got to strive for unity because we’re the body of Christ,” and I described your book and said that metaphor meant a lot more than just unity. People had never heard the idea before. I hope it revolutionizes our thinking!" 
--a Message from Neil Elliott, editor of Fortress Press (2009)

The interpretation of the "body of Christ" in 1 Corinthians is a pressing concern in the present context of a diversified global church because its predominant interpretation as an ecclesiological organism characterized by unity and homonoia (concord) serves as a boundary marker that tends to exclude the voices of marginality and diversity. This traditional reading, while plausible, ignores a deeper, ethical meaning of the "body of Christ" as reimagined through his body crucified, which questions an ideology of hegemonic power in both the Corinthian context and today. From the perspective of a different conception of community and of soma christou in the image of Christ crucified, this metaphor of soma christou becomes a metaphor for a way of living through which the Corinthian community is expected to live as a Christic body, identifying Christ's body with the most vulnerable and broken bodies in the community and in the world, an issue that we are to grapple with and resolve. Read this way, Paul's theology continues the legacy of Jesus tradition in terms of deconstruction (critique of religion and culture) and reconstruction (advocacy of the beloved community for all).  

Sunday, August 27, 2017

John 14:6 as Engagement, Embodiment, and Empowerment

Yung Suk Kim

Excerpts from Yung Suk KimTruth, Testimony, and Transformation: A New Reading of the I am sayings of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel (Cascade, 2014)
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 the 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. 


This book would be worth reading just for the critical interrogation of numerous cherished assumptions in Johannine interpretation. . . . Kim challenges them all but, in addition, offers a constructive theological interpretation that sets Jesus squarely in his own historical Jewish context; attends to the nuanced ways the text transforms the reader; and commissions the reader to live abundantly in a globally, radically, inclusive way." 
--Jaime Clark-Soles, Southern Methodist University

For many who turn away from the Gospel of John because of its exclusivism, this deceptively slim volume can be, as its title hints, transformational. Plunging directly to the 'I am' sayings, Kim sketches a new way to truth and life, by reading John metaphorically and historically in a Jewish context and showing how the meaning of the 'I am' sayings changes when they are read functionally, as descriptions of Jesus' work. The result is a serious challenge to traditional views of Johannine theology. 
--R. Alan Culpepper, Mercer University

In his capacity to synthesize critical theory and to apply the results to the biblical text, Yung Suk Kim has few peers among contemporary New Testament scholars. Kim deploys the most challenging philosophical frameworks with facility, and communicates the results simply and clearly, keeping his focus on the real-life struggles of Christian readers in a pluralistic context. 
--Laurence Welborn, Fordham University

Yung Suk Kim's TRUTH, TESTIMONY, AND TRANSFORMATION strikes a delicate balance between genuine piety and rigorous biblical scholarship, according to the conventions of the academic discipline. Such faithful, accessible exposition makes the Fourth Gospel sayings much more useful as an instrument for empowering devotion rather than as a 'tool of empire.' This work is lyrical in its tone and liberative in its scope. 
--JoAnne Marie Terrell, Chicago Theological Seminary

*Yung Suk Kim's website

Monday, August 21, 2017

Often I forget where I live (after the solar eclipse)

Yung Suk Kim

During the solar eclipse, even though I did not see it myself, I could feel something going on in the sky, happening beyond and bigger than me. Gradually, a gloomy darkness covered the whole area. It did not last long. Gradually, it became bright just like any other afternoon.

Then, I went out to give a walk in the neighborhood. All of a sudden, I realized that I live on the beautiful planet earth. The sun is beautiful, making me live every single day. I am a beneficiary of the solar system. What a blessing!

When I am weary because of day's work, I may look up the night sky full of named and unnamed stars near and farther. I feel good, falling in love with them. I am not lonely anymore because I am precious. When there is a full darkness in the night, I may enter a deep sleep of love and comfort. Often I forget where I live and who I am.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Education is a repetition

Yung Suk Kim

Education derives from two different Latin roots: (1) "educare," which means "to train or to mold"; (2) "educere," which means "to lead out." In either case, to be a person of education, what is essentially needed is repetition. I never assume that I already know enough. Likewise, I never assume that my students know something already or correctly enough. In fact, we know in part or through the crooked mind. Only through a repetitive critical reflection on what we know or what we do, we may be better educated.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Reader-response questions on Luke 5:1-11

YungSuk Kim

Luke 5:1-11 (NRSV):
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ 5Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ 6When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’9For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ 11When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
The following is a list of reader-response questions that I think is important to our consideration: 
  • Why does Jesus stand at the lakeside?
  • Why are the crowds thirsty for the word of God? What is the word of God that Jesus preaches?
  • Why does Jesus use boats to teach them?
  • Why does Jesus use Peter's boat?
  • Why does Jesus ask Peter to go to the deep water and let down the nets? (deep water as a difficult place or as an abundant place?)
  • Why is there an irony between the success of many fish and the crisis that boats begin to sink?
  • Why does Peter say that "I am a sinful man!"? (Is he saying that 'I am nothing'?)
  • What would be Peter's response to Jesus' word: "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people"?
  • What causes Jesus' disciples to leave everything and follow him? To do what? Compare this with the crowd's need.
You must come up with your own list of questions!!!
Then the text will be alive to you and do something to you.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Forgetting history without thorough investigation is another form of evil

Lessons from Kwangju, South Korea
Yung Suk Kim

Today is May 18, 2018. 
38 years ago today, I was a protesting student against Chun's military rule. Remember Gwangju.
Whenever I think about that day or those days when Chun Doo-hwan demolished democratic voices, my blood erupts again. 

I remember watching a violent video showing deadly cruel attacks on innocent young protesters at Gwangju, South Korea, in 1980, who were against the military Coup whose leader was Chun Doo-hwan. I was a college student at that time in another region and saw all the violent scenes through the video on campus. Some students gathered together in campus and watched the video together. I was also actively participating in anti-government protests in and outside the campus. Even though I was not there in Kwangju when hundreds of innocent protesters were killed and thousands of people were injured, my soul was severely damaged. My blood seemed to erupt reversely.  

In fact, a few weeks ago, a movie called Taxi Driver, which deals with this Gwangju event, was started to play and is being watched by millions of Koreans now. Chun was tried and imprisoned after the democratic government was established in the early 1990s. But he was too easily and fast pardoned by the civilian government. That was too bad. Forgetting history without thorough investigation and justice is another form of evil.

Now Kwangju became a holy site and symbol of Korean democracy. But many people were killed and injured and still many people suffer from it. I want to put below some old pictures that show such horrible scenes of violence and death. Actually, for years these pictures were kept on my hard drive. Justice shouts. No justice, no peace.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What does it mean to be a good writer and how is it possible?

Yung Suk Kim

Writing is a hard work. It does not occur in one day or overnight. I want to share my experience of a good writing habit that you may consider adopting. The first step is to check your interest or your inner voice. That is, ask yourself where you are interested. What is something that really puzzles you or engages you to go deeper to write something? Hear your voice and walk to think. Rest on a bench and rethink what you do. Ask again what you want to deal with and why. Even without reading anything, read yourself. In a way, writing begins with yourself. Check your voice entrenched in your daily life experience with your community. Also, realize that you are not the only one who goes through a similar life experience. Check who you are in a larger nexus of society and the global village. What kind of a voice do you want to make to the world?

The second step is to read the related core literature for your interest. Talk with the trusted individuals who may give you a list of essential books to fit your research. Talk with a librarian at your school too. Closely and slowly read one or two most important books for your research. You may spend a whole day reading one page or even one sentence. Make your free notes on the margins of the pages. Write down your questions, emotions, puzzles, or excitements right on the pages that you read over. Use color pens and highlight the words you want to revisit later. In reading, you can compare your initial thoughts about the topic with your reading and engage scholarly voices. You can change your view or reformulate your initial idea.

The third step is to brainstorm with your close, critical reading. At this time, you need only a pen and blank note. Review what you have read. Ask what you want to do. What thesis do you want to make? Why is it persuasive? How will you explain it? These three elements (thesis, theory, and method) are very important to the process of writing at a later time.

The fourth step is to outline your writing. You can make a detailed outline, considering the above three elements (thesis, theory, and method). 

The fifth and final step is to write. Follow the planned outline as much as you can. Obviously, you can revise it if you have a better or clearer idea. The best writing has a seamless structure in which the thesis is clear and the supporting evidence (theory) is convincing. In my view, there are 6 characteristics in every good writing: critical, clear, consistent, coherent, contextual, and creative. A good writing formula can be expressed like this: 2W1H+6C. 2W=What, Why. 1H=How. 6C=above 6C's. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Isn't Peter reckless (Matt 14:22-33)?

Yung Suk Kim

Isn't Peter reckless? (Matt 14:22-33)
How do you respond to the story of Matt 14:22-33?

Matt 14:22-23
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid." 28 Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." 29 He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

Reader-response questions and comments:

1. Jesus does not ask Peter to come out of the boat and walk on the water. It is Peter who asks Jesus for his walking on the water. Why does he want such a thing?

2. In fact, the sea is not a place on which to walk. It is a place of danger. The boat must be a safe place. Thus he has to wait there. Isn't he reckless?

3. There are other disciples in the boat who are in fear and wait to be saved. What is his thought about them?

4. Once he was on the water, he walked with faith but soon failed. Why?

5. The wind ceased when Jesus and Peter got into the boat, which is a safe place. What does this imply to the readers?

In John's Gospel, Jesus is compared to Moses

Yung Suk Kim

In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus is better compared to Moses than to God. While in Matthew's Gospel, Jesus appears as a great teacher like Moses, in the Fourth Gospel, he appears as a great liberator/leader like Moses. Moses is sent to Pharoah like God (Exod 7:1; c.f., 3:10-11). His mission is to liberate the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt. For this purpose, he is given power and authorities. He is thoroughly an emissary sent by God.

Interestingly, in the Fourth Gospel, Jesus almost always emphasizes that he is sent by God to do the work of God, which is none other than to bring the life and light to people in a chaotic world. He is given power and authorities to do this mission. Otherwise, he never claims that he is equal to God. The opposite is true. He says that God is greater than he (John 14:28). At other times, he says that "The father and I are one" (John 10:30). What he means is that he does the work of God; they are united with the common work. This is not the language of mutual equality, as commonly misunderstood. If I say that my family is one, I do not mean that all members are the same or equal. I mean that all are united in a family, loving and working together. Jesus's relationship with God is similar.

The conclusion is that the Fourth Gospel does not portray Jesus as God. Rather, he is better compared to Moses, who is sent by God to Pharaoh to deliver the Israelites from their bondage to Egypt. Jesus is also sent by God to do God's work in a dark world: to bring life and light to the world that God loved so much. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah who came to testify to the truth of God (John 18:37).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Be who you are and be ready to change!

Yung Suk Kim

We have been long captives of the Western logic of binary oppositions. That is, if A is correct, B must be wrong. There are evil people out there, and there are good people over here. But in reality, we cannot draw a clear line between them. So to speak, good and evil reside in me too. Beyond this logic, we have to develop a thought of multiple coexistences among otherwise disparate things.

One example of the case is: "Be who you are (A) and be ready to change (B)." In a traditional Western thought, these two, A and B, seem incompatible with each other because A means to stay with one's being or to not change one's view and B means to change it. But if we understand them rightly, they are not necessarily conflicting with each other. These two can stand complementing each other. One's identity or confidence is important, and yet it needs to embrace various changes in his/her life.

In fact, everything changes. That is science and reality. The universe is expanding endlessly without limits. There is not something essential or permanent in us that does not change.

Nevertheless, the bottom line is that we need a sense of uniqueness individually, embracing tensions and changes in our human life. Be who you are! "I am that I am." No one can speak for you. Yet, you are not permanent. Embrace changes necessary to your life. There are many changes that we have to study and make them part of our life. We don't know all of them. But remember that without a proper understanding of change or living through it, our living will continue to be baseless or futile.