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My second book, The Holy Spirit, Chi and the Other was released last year on October 11, 2011.  To celebrate its publication, I will be posting a series of book reviews which have come out in the past year.  The first review comes from Sheri Kling who reviewed my book in the journal,  Interreligious Dialogue.

“In this worthy addition to inter-religious dialogue and inter-cultural dialogue, Grace Ji-Sun Kim introduces the term “Spirit-Chi” and builds a strong case for her assertion that the Holy Spirit as present in the Christian tradition is more resonant than dissimilar to the Eastern concept of Chi found in Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism.Though a compelling argument could have been made through only a theological or religious lens, Kim incorporates post-colonial theory and hybridity, enriching this exploration greatly.

Constructed in five chapters, Kim begins with an introduction to the Eastern concept of Chi, moves into a comparison between Chi and the Holy Spirit, then draws from the work of literary critics to explore “Chi and the Other” through post-colonial theory. Shethen links “hybridity” to Chi and the Self, discusses Chi and our relationship to theOther, and finally outlines her pneumatology of Spirit-Chi.

Kim defines Chi as “the Eastern term for life force energy, which manifests the idea of wind and Spirit…Chi is essential, as it is what makes one alive and is the life force that makes one a living being. Every living thing has Chi; it is the central, animating element of our overall energy system, giving power and strength” (5).

She puts the concept of Chi in conversation with the Christian concept of the Holy Spirit on primarily three fronts: 1) through comparing Chi’s characteristics to those of ruach in the Christian Old Testament and pneuma in the New Testament, 2) through criticism of Western dualistic thinking, and, 3) through an exploration of Western Christianity’s diminishment of the Holy Spirit’s standing and role in the Trinity.

Kim highlights ways in which the writers of the OT stressed the experience of ruach in nature and notes that a common view of the human spirit as a personally “owned” spirit/mind that is embodied runs counter to the OT understanding that we are bodies that have been “animated” by God’s Spirit (39). Both the Greek pneuma and Latin spiritus carry much more dualistic connotations where spirit and body are seen as separate realities. On the other hand, Chi incorporates the dialectical poles of yin and yang, forces that are not in “competitive dualism” but which are interpenetrating and “equally necessary,” and whose “inherent harmony of opposites” creates all things and exists in all things (15-19). While Christianity can find similar themes reflecting God’s presence in the world in its own texts, historical divisions between Western and Eastern Christianity around the Spirit’s relationship to the other members of the Trinity have resulted in a diminishment of the Spirit in the Western church.

While the early church understood the experience of the Holy Spirit as central, and as always “a physical experience,” battles over whether the Spirit proceeds only from the Father or from the Son as well have caused Christians to “lost sight of the Father’s central role as the origin of the Trinity.” In Western Christianity, the Spirit now is understood as having no operative abilities independent of the Son. For Kim, a restoration of an appreciation of the power of the Holy Spirit might return Christians to a sense of “the Spirit as the glorifying and unifying God… the Spirit is not an energy proceeding from the Father or from the Son; it is a subject from whose activity the Son and the Father receive their glory and their union” (54).

In this work, Kim reminds us that the Spirit is free and that it is neither “tethered to the Church” (41) nor to any empire or system. “If empire is that which seeks to control, the Holy Spirit by contrast is that which cannot be controlled; it is like the wind that ‘blows where it chooses’ (Jesus’ image in John 3:8)” (132). She strongly asserts that a new pneumatology that “embraces a global understanding of the Spirit” is necessary now because it will “contribute to eliminating injustice and racism within society, open doors for interreligious dialogue, and make the world a better place for all who inhabit it” (32).

Kim proposes that a “hybrid understanding of the Asian concept of Chi and the Christian understanding of the Holy Spirit is an excellent model of an intercultural and global pneumatology” (63). She lays the groundwork for her argument in a thorough and expansive discussion of post-colonial theory, racialization, marginalization of the Other, and decentering through “hyphenated reality.” Understanding the hyphenated reality, for example, of Asian-Americans, might lead us to experience “multiplicities of centers” through “hybridity.” Just as when a vine or rose is grafted to “a different root stock,” hybridity “implies a disruption or forcing together of any unlike living things”(105). Such hybridity “decenters identity regimes,” while it “fuses” two things that are unalike into a new, transformed “third,” forcing a renegotiation of power.

In a thought provoking discussion of Self and Other, Kim argues – as does feminist theology – that human identity is formed, at least in part, through relationship and that we “need others to help us define ourselves and to help us exist as individual selves.” But colonization has left a devastating legacy. “The colonial experience annihilates the colonized’s sense of self. It causes one to become an object and not a person. As a consequence, one becomes an object to Others and to oneself. This in turn can destroy the self” (110). As well, she makes the point that our lack of awareness of the “Other” within our own selves leaves us ill-prepared to embrace the Other that stands before us or on the other side of the world. As an alternative, Kim proposes that Spirit-Chi “embraces life and makes it whole” and is the “binding element that will keep us from destroying both ourselves and the planet” (134).

For Kim, global hybridity provides a way out of our dualistic thinking and is a positive force that can redefine Christianity. It is what will allow Christians to release a false notion of Christianity as a pure and untainted religion versus being “itself a hybrid,” and to instead accept the inevitability of change if any form of dissolving hegemony is going to occur for the sake of the oppressed” (107). She writes, “We can no longer take it for granted that the center will always remain the center as we are in a constant flux. In other words, theological discourse also needs to be decentered, disconnected from its European center and welcomed into the faith discussions of those who have been marginalized. Black, Asian, African, Latin American, feminist theology, among other theologies, were understood to be insignificant and irrelevant to theological discourse. However, these theologies can add richness and diversity to the traditional forms of theology. We need to ask why white Euro-theology is at the center” (106)?

Why, indeed. In my opinion, Kim’s work is one fruitful step toward the decentering that Spirit demands of Western Christians.”

For the journal link, click here.

Kindle link

Amazon link

for more review’s please read Jon Rinnander’s review https://gracejisunkim.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/jon-rinnanders-review-of-the-holy-spirit-chi-and-the-other/

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Kling is a Ph.D. student at Claremont Lincoln University. She is also a singer, songwriter, guitarist and essayist and considers herself a “voice for transformation.”  She blogs regularly on her own site http://asacredlife.wordpress.com/.

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