Paul Kang-Kul Cho '07 M.Div.
B.A. Yale University 2002
The merits of teaching institutions like Yale Divinity School (YDS) lie not only in helping persons fulfill their expectations or achieve their goals. A good teaching institution must also help in the creation of new expectations and new goals.
I returned to Yale from my undergraduate experience and entered the Divinity School with clear expectations and goals: to understand Christianity better and to prepare for doctoral work in the New Testament. After three years here, I have indeed come to understand Christianity better, its achievements throughout history and our sins, its highest hopes and our darkest failures, and the enduring and developing issues that beckon our bold and humble attention today.
However, I am going on to doctoral work not in New Testament but the Old Testament. In place of old expectations and goals, YDS has given me haunting dreams I am unsure will see fulfillment in my lifetime: dreams for reconciliation between Asian and African American communities, mutual understanding and cooperation between Korean and English ministries of Korean American churches, contemporary thinking and articulation of what the church might mean by ‘the Word of God,' a more intuitive understanding of language and its use in the Bible, etc. These are the gifts and the burdens I carry away from YDS, and they have all but made me a different person.
But the greatest boon I carry away from YDS—forget the diploma I cannot read and forget even the stepping stone to the next stage in life—is myself. At the first chapel service I attended at Marquand Chapel three years ago we were asked to write what we hoped to have accomplished by the end of our time at YDS. I wrote: “I hope to be able to say, as I do now, kariti de theou eimi ho eimi (but by the grace of God, I am what I am) .” Today, I am not what I was. And God is not what I believed God was then, either. However, I can still say and so say now, “No matter what, but by the grace of God I am what I am .” For the gift of God who is not because of me and the gift of me who is because of God I have but to thank God and God's sidekicks—my friends, my teachers, my YDS.