A Biblical Response to “Test Case for Libertarian Free Will”

A couple days ago Denny Burk published an interesting essay entitled Test Case for Libertarian Free Will. It is a reflection on YHWH’s commission to Moses (Exod 3:18-19). Burk points out YHWH’s two predictions:

(1) The Israelites will choose to follow Moses. [and] (2) Pharoah will choose to reject Moses’ directives.

With these two predictions Burk discusses the issue of “free will.” He invites readers to think about the following quesitons: “Were the Israelites and Pharoah free to choose other than what they did?”

I’d like to answer the questions from the teaching of the Wisdom of Ben Sira (Sirach). Richard J. Clifford denotes that one of the main teachings of Sirach is “divine sovereignty and human freedom [my emphasis].” It emphasizes an “obligation to reassert human freedom and responsibility” (Clifford, 130):

Do not say, ‘It was the Lord’s doing that I fell away’; . . . ‘It was he who led me astray’ (15:11-12); ‘Do not say, I am hidden from the Lord, and who from on high has me in mind?’ (16:17).

Ben Sira’s emphasis on human freedom is based on the nature of human beings (15:15) and the character of God (15:11-20). So my answer to Burk’s quesions is simply “yes.” Both the Israelites and Pharoah were free to choose what they would have chosen.

Reference List

Clifford, Richard J. The Wisdom Literature. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998.

The Monday Night Group

Did you know that there were missionaries who aided Korea’s democratic revolution? I went to the library today and found an interesting book entitled More Than Witnesses: How a Small Group of Missionaries Aided Korea’s Democratic Revolution (Seoul: Korea Democracy Foundation, 2006).

More Than Witnesses in EnglishMore Than Witnesses in Korean

This book is a collection of the witnesses of missionaries who got involved in Korea’s democratic revolution. They came from the United States, Canada, Australia, and Germany. They voluntarily walked the path of suffering in the darkest days of Korea’s political history in the 1970s and 1980s. The current president of Korea Democracy Foundation, Father Ham Sei Ung, designates them as “Good Samaritans.”

They are a small minority of missionaries those who were struggling for justice, while the majority of missionaries remained silent. They agreed to get together to share news about what was happening to their Korean colleagues, students, and neighbors on Monday nights. This is how the “Monday Night Group” was born.

As a missionary-journalist and a member of the Monday Night Group, Jim Stentzel edited this book, and all contributors of the book were also the members of the group.

Stentzel identifies the small group of missionaries with the small minority within the Korean Christian community:

One of the interesting things about the democratic revolution that occurred slowly in south Korea over the last three decades of the 20th century is that the Korean Christians who played such central roles in the revolution were a small minority within the Korean Christian community, which at that time comprised a minority of the south Korean people. Why is this worth noting? Because self-proclaimed ‘Christian majorities’- in south Korea today as well as in the United States- lay moral claim to levers o conservative state power. As a small minority within a minority Christian in the 1970s, the Korean Christian patriots could never have been accused of such arrogance. Any secret ambition to impose a religious or moral agenda would have been laughable. The Korean Christian patriots were more the conscience of the nation than a power base. They sought not power themselves but the empowerment of others, especially the exploited and oppressed (pp. 29-30).

This book provides a new aspect on missionaries to Korea. They were sent to Korea to transform Korean, but they were transformed. They were also introduced to some of the dark side of capitalism. They saw God’s handiwork to the Korean Christians who moved to the forefront of the country’s struggle for democracy and human rights.

Taste of Korea at Redeemer Lutheran Church

kevin.jpgKevin Roiseland, director of international student programs at Wartburg College, presented today his one-month experience in Korea at Redeemer Lutheran Church. The title of the presentation was “Taste of Korea.” As the title indicates, he heavily focused on the Korean food and their warm hospitality. He also addressed the current situation of Korea in relation to the U.S.

I helped his presentation, and also presented a brief history of Korea from the Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945) to the present (2008). While I talked about the history, I invited them to think about these questions: What makes the Korean church grow? What do you see for the growth of Korean church from the history of Korea? I stressed the growth of Korean church cannot be separated from the Korean’s experiences from 1910 to 2008: the Japanese colonial period (1910-45), the period of trusteeship of the U.S. (1945-48), the Korean War (1950-53), the period of industrial development (1970-present). I insisted that the suffering of Korean people throughout the modern history is almost incomparable to any other nations. In my view, thus, the experience of suffering may be one of the main forces to lead the growth of Korean church.

Who are the Exiles Today?

The Bible tells us about ancient Israelite expericences. One of the most prominent experiences of the ancient Israel would be the experience of exile. But how would you define the exile? In what sense the Bible accounts for the exilic experience?

The exile may refer to any people forced or voluntary to leave their tranditional homelands, so that the exile could be deportee, diaspora, refugee, alien, and immigrant. The Bible, indeed, is full of the exilic experience either by forced or by voluntary: the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (forced); Abraham and his family chose to leave their own land by the divine command (voluntary); Jacob’s fled from his own territory (forced? or voluntary?); Joseph was deported from his land (forced); Moses fled into the desert after his murder of an Egyptian (forced? or voluntary?); the Exodus from Egypt (voluntary); David’s deportation from his land (forced); deportation of Northern tribes by the Assyrians (forced); and the Babylonian Exile (forced).

The exilic experience is not just the experience of ancient Israel but the experience of modern people. Who, then, are the exiles today? They could be Mexicans in the U.S., North Koreans in China, Tibetans in India, and so on.

Peter Stalker introduces a survey conducted by the United Nations:

80 million people now live in “foreign” lands. One million people emigrate permamently each year, and another million seek political asylum. There were 18 million refugees from natural disaster or war (Stalker 1994, 3).

It is very important to respond to this reality. As a theological response, Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, who is a diasporic or exilic theologian, argues as follows:

Ancient Israelite responses to exile and diaspora, as reflected in the biblical texts, can provide the building blocks for rethinking the role of the Hebrew Bible in informing the modern Christians theological enterpreise (Smith-Christopher 2002, 6).

elvira-arellano.jpgSojourners magazine (September-October, 2007) introduces a movement so-called “the New Sanctuary Movement” that churches are the first to offer refuge to a person facing deportation. In the article “Living in God’s House” in this magazine, Celeste Kennel-Shank introduces an interview with an undocumented immigrant. Her name is Elvira Arellano who has taken sactuary in Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago since Auguest 15, 2006.

Kennel-Shank said,

Elvira Arellanno, 32, wants to be able to pick her son up from school and take him out for ice cream on hot days. But she cant’ leave her church, where she has taken sanctuary. . . after immigration officials told her she would be deported. she fears she will be separated from her son, Saul, who is 8 years old and a United States citizen.

The case of Elvira Arellanno is an example of exilic Mexicans in the U.S. But there are so many exiles in the world today. Smith-Christopher insists that exile is the daily reality for millions of human beings at the opening of the twentieth-first century. How would you respond to this reality?

Reference List

Smith-Christopher, Daniel. A Biblical Theology of Exile. Overtures to Biblical Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002. 

Stalker, Peter. The Work of Strangers: A Survey of International Labour Migration. Geneva: International Labour Office, 1994.

An Adopted Korean Student at Wartburg

I met an adopted Korean student here at Wartburg about three weeks ago. His name is Joshua Kim Dockum. When I met him for the first time, I was confused by his last name. We met several times over the next two weeks.

I wanted to know how he identifies himself. He started to talk about his bio-parents, and he expressed that he is eager for a meet with his bio-parents. Then he identifies himself as an adopted Korean-American and gave me a short article that he posted on Wartburg Trumpet entitled “Life Enrichment found through Adoption Process” (October 24, 2006). He is proud of his parents and encourages people to consider adopting as follows:

My name is Joshua Kim Dockum, and I am adopted. Furthermore, I am not ashamed. I am proud of my parents, and I encourage people to consider adopting.

U.S. citizens adopted 265,677 children between 1971 and 2001 from other countries, according to the Adoption Institute.

United States citizens tend to adopt more children from foreign countries following wars, periods of extreme poverty and social upheaval.

Sixty-four percent of internationally adopted children are girls, and 36 percent are boys. Most are girls from China. The Chinese government actually restricts births. Parents who have more than one child are encouraged to place girls for adoption.

Experts say that almost 90 percent of internationally adopted children are younger than 5. In 2001, nearly 75 percent of all children came from five countries; China, South Korea, Russia, Guatemala and Ukraine.

Sungnyemun: Korea’s National Tresure No.1 Destroyed in Fire


It was on the way to Wartburg Theological Semianry at Dubuque, Iowa (February 12). Dr. Bouzard told me that a Korea’s national tresure was burned out. I was shocked, then I looked up the news through internet. OhmyNews international news site posted the news entitled “Remember Namdaemun: South Korea’s National Treasure No. 1 Destroyed in Fire.”  The news reports:

Namdaemun is considered a national treasure by the government. I was informed that the Great South Gate was once used to protect the city. During the Joseon Dynasty, Seoul was surrounded by walls. I saw glimpses of the wall at war memorial museum. Namdaemun was the southern gate of the original walls. . . It was damaged during the Korean War. On Dec. 20, 1962, it was awarded the status of ‘National Treasure No. 1.’

The original name of Namdaemu is Sungnyemun, which means “adoration of culture.”  This fire was caused by arson.

My Friend Who Loves Lithuania

I’m so happy I teach at Wartburg with Kevin A. Wilson. He is the author of The Campaign of Pharaoh Shoshenq I into Palestine, JSOT 30.5 (2006). He is currently my roomate. Kevin is fun of fun. As he was disappointed by the cancellation of the convocation (Renita Weems) last week, I was also very disapointed by that. I even assigned my students to come to the convocation. To make matters worse, Kevin reminded me another disappointment as follows:

But I don’t understand why they had to cancel the free convocation luncheon. I am sure we could have found someone to eat Dr. Weems’s portion. Pooh and bother. Now I have to eat a frozen dinner for lunch.