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

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.

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. 

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.