Original Research

The Biblicism of the Korean Protestant churches: Its origin and early development

Jae-Buhm Hwang
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 3 | a3441 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i3.3441 | © 2016 Jae-Buhm Hwang | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 April 2016 | Published: 30 September 2016


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Abstract

The purpose of this article is to clarify the origin and early stages of the Biblicism of the Korean Protestant churches in general, and of the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) in particular. The Biblicism is very important for Korean Protestant churches, because it is believed to be a main cause of their unusual growth on the one hand, and on the other hand, of their Fundamentalism and many schisms in the post-liberation era. The article, in the beginning part, investigates the four crucial elements of Korean Biblicism and then examines how the four elements worked together to form a resilient Biblicism whose two distinctive theological forms were practical on the one hand, and dogmatic (fundamentalist), on the other. Among the four basic Biblicist elements, the first was the firm Biblicist theology of the early North American missionaries in Korea who tried to follow and flower their original, puritanical and Old Princeton theology in Korea. The second was Korean Protestants’ original, Neo-Confucian biblicism, which facilitated them to readily accept the missionaries’ Biblicist teachings of the Bible. The third element was the so-called Nevius [Mission] Methods, which emphasised simplistic Biblicist Bible studies, and offered both opportunities of learning and ways to become meaningful leaders in their communities. The fourth and last element was the Biblicist creed of PCK, which became the fundamentalist weapon against its modernist or liberalist wing. To sum up, Korean Biblicism has been the result of those four Biblicist elements working together. The Korean Biblicism was developed into two more or less different positions; the one being practical, exemplified by Rev. Samuel A. Moffett; and the other, dogmatic and fundamentalist, represented by Rev. Dr W.D. Reynolds.

Keywords

Korean Protestantism; Biblicism; American missionary theology; Confucian biblicism; Nevius Methods; Korean Presbyterian creed; fundamentalism; Samuel Moffett; W. D. Reynolds

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