Monday, May 21, 2018

"Weakness" (astheneia) as a human condition and virtue

Yung Suk Kim

In a traditional worldview and anthropology, weakness (astheneia) is a bad thing that should be overcome. This world is a shaky one full of weakness. It has once been a perfect place as in Eden. But it became a place of punishment because of human sin. This world needs a final redemption.
In a final recovery of creation, weakness would be no more, tears no more, and death no more. Likewise, humanity has once been perfect without sins. At that time there was neither weakness nor death. But because of sin, humanity was destined to die.

But there is an alternative view of weakness which I argue for.
That is, weakness is embedded in the world. It is not the result of human sin.
Likewise, weakness imbues human beings from the beginning.
Even in the creation story of Gen 2, it is implied that weakness is part of God's forming of first human Adam. It is because of adama (ground) that is part of Adam. Adama is the dust to which humans return.

Weakness is a human condition that we have to live with. It is not something we can transcend.
We have to learn how to get along with it.
We have to learn its implication to our life.

Perhaps we can see others, ourselves, and the world from a different perspective of weakness -- an eye of humility and solidarity.
If I am weak, others are also weak.
Because I am weak, hope is not within or from me.
In this regard, weakness can be a virtue, as Paul says that "when I am weak, I am strong" (2 Cor 12: 9-11).

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Dr. Kim 2018 Lecture Schedule in Korea

I am visiting Korea 23 years after my last visit. Now I am taking with me Virginia Union University name. I have a total of 9 lecture events for scholars, students, and pastors.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Thoughts about freedom

Yung Suk Kim

When you feel free, what do you know freedom means?
From where or what are you set free?
What do you do with your freedom?
For whom and what?
How can you maintain your freedom?
Do you know freedom has a boundary to keep?
Freedom is not an unfettered right.
When you are in it, wounds heal. 
Freedom requires a right manner of living. 
Who or what is the basis of your freedom?

*Issues of "freedom from, for, and in."
In my forthcoming book, I am dealing with the issue of freedom in the New Testament along with other themes: "Preaching the New Testament Again: Faith, Freedom, and Transformation" (Cascade, later in 2018).

In light of the above complex implications about freedom, what do you think the limits of liberation theology are?

The Irony of Exodus and Liberation

Yung Suk Kim

What is the irony of Exodus and Liberation?
In the Joshua narrative of conquest, the liberated people become oppressors to the oppressed.
This is an irony. How come?

For some, even Christ is no more than an imperial power.
Similarly, Christians can become oppressors.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A short note on Phil 1:16-18

Yung Suk Kim

Sometimes preachers misunderstand Phil 1:16-18 as a tool that they can justify their preaching even out of selfish ambition.

Phil 1:16-18
Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.

The above text comes after Paul's imprisonment experience that has helped him to spread the gospel. He realizes that into whatever situation he is placed, the gospel can be proclaimed. In other words, he does not say that imprisonment is good and necessary for preaching the gospel. Then, he talks about people in Philippians church who proclaim the gospel from various motives: some from rivalry or envy, others from goodwill. These people proclaim Christ out of love. They are not perfect but, more or less, acceptable because their focus is the gospel's power or Christ's love in the gospel. Still, "the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition." These people promote their power and place in the community. But what they do is to proclaim "Christ" even if their motives are wrong. Thus Paul says, "What does it matter?" His point is that their message about Christ is right. Otherwise, he does not praise them. We are reminded of Jesus' talking about the Pharisees, as in Matt 23:3: "Therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach." Later in the letter, Paul exhorts the Philippians to "be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind" (Phil 2:2). He goes on to say: "Do nothing from selfish ambitions or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves" (Phil 2:3). The hymn of Christ in 2:6-11 also should be a reminder to those who proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

2018 Inter-Korean Summit and the parable of "the father and two sons"

Yung Suk Kim

I have tears in my eyes, seeing the above scene that both leaders hold hands together and cross the dividing line together. This historic summit of South and North Korea is reminiscent of the parable of "the father and two sons" in Luke 15:11-32. President Moon Jae-In acts as "the father in the parable" in some sense. Kim Jong Un, the North Korean Leader, may be compared to the younger son/brother in the parable. Kim is younger than Moon by 31 years. Moon welcomes Kim so open-mindedly and warmly. 

[Moon is waiting for Kim]

The older brother/son in the parable represents the right-wing parties and anti-communists in South Korea who don't like this summit. 

But a new history is being made right now in the Korean peninsula, as Kim said. 

[Left column: Kim Yeo Jung's writing on Feb 10 at her visit to the Blue House in South Korea; she was a special envoy sent by her brother, Kim Jung Un. Right column: Kim Jung Un's writing at the summit, April 27, 2018, about two months after her visit to South Korea. She wrote: "I hope Pyongyang and Seoul will get closer to Korean people's heart, expecting prosperity and reunification." Kim Jung Un wrote: "A new history starts now. Now is a time of peace. I stand at the starting line of the new history."]

Peace is possible because of the mutual trust. Kim is crossing the dividing line of the DMZ and enters into the South Korean territory. This is a very symbolic scene. He comes home in a sense. I pray that a peace treaty will come along the way. In the video footage, we see various movements of them back and forth. First, Kim crosses the dividing line into the south. This is the first time that the North Korean Leader has ever crossed into South Korea since 1953. Then Kim suggests that Moon also cross the line into North Korea; so they cross into the North together. Then, they cross back to South Korea. It is all a matter of the 5 cm-high dividing line at Panmunjom, which is only 60 km north of Seoul and about 150 km south of Pyongyang.

There was a devastating war in Korea from 1950 to 1953. The war stopped in 1953 with the armistice treaty made. This means both sides are at war technically. It needs to end. In the borderline between the South and North, the small blue-painted temporary houses were built after the armistice to conduct meetings to manage unnecessary tensions or conflicts. Through this small route between the blue-painted houses, they meet and cross the borderline back and forth. Healing and reconciliation must start right away. Love is stronger than hatred. They agreed to end the war and move toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. 

Facing each other with full smiles

One step away from shaking hands

Kim is crossing a 50-cm-high dividing block between North and South Korea

Shaking hands in so close a distance


For a planted pine tree

Stone reads: "we plant peace and prosperity"

Walking in the forest

Tea time and secret conversation in the northern corner of the footbridge

Hugging like father and son

Showing hands

First ladies: Lee Sul-Ju and Kim Jung Sook (right)

At the dinner reception


The guy in tears is one of the key persons who prepared this meeting: Seo Hoon, CIA Dir. 
The front person is Lim Jong Suk, the chief executive, and secretary in the president's office

before farewell

at farewell


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A student's word energizes me

Teaching is a hard job.
Sometimes I don't know how students receive what I am teaching.
Sometimes I am exhausted.
But sometimes I hear or receive affirming words from them. 
That is my reward. 
I got this following from one of my students:
"I have REALLY enjoyed being in your class, Dr. Kim. You don't spend a lot of time trying to prove how smart you are. Instead, you spend your time pouring into us. Being in your class has changed my personal theology and enhanced not only my ministry but my personal relationship with God. Please don't ever change. You said in week 2 that you will not apologize for being you. I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate you. God bless you and your family."

I have another one coming from the other person a day later:

Dr. Kim,
I just wanted to acknowledge your work.  I truly get lots of good things from your articles and your books.  I have even bought some of your books for personal reading.  Your journey has produced some great, informative and helpful work.  Have a wonderful day!

Here is another one coming on Teacher's Day:
Blessings Dr. Kim, I'm xxx your African Ghanaian Graduate student at Virginia Union University, Richmond.  God bless you increasingly for the great impact you've made on my ministry. With the revelation of the anatomy of the New Testament, I'm by God's Grace making rapid progress in ministry. The collection of your few books I have has become my main source of reference as far as the historical Jesus is concerned. Thank you so very much and bless-up!