Original Research

Korean theologians’ deep-seated anti-missionary sentiment

Jae-Buhm Hwang
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 1 | a5930 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i1.5930 | © 2020 Jae-Buhm Hwang | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 December 2019 | Published: 15 June 2020

About the author(s)

Jae-Buhm Hwang, Department of Christian Studies, Systematic Theology, Keimyung University, Daegu, Korea, Republic of


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Abstract

This study examines a deep-seated anti-missionary sentiment of Korean theologians and church historians. Chai-Choon Kim and Jong-Sung Rhee were arguably most responsible for popularizing anti-missionary sentiment among Korean Christians. The main reason for the criticisms of both Kim and Rhee against the American Presbyterian Korea missionaries was the supposedly fundamentalist schisms of the Presbyterian Church of Korea in the 1950s, which both Kim and Rhee reasoned to have been originated from their Old Princeton theology. The theological rationale of both Kim and Rhee was the Barthian triumph frame that the Reformed Orthodoxy including the Old Princeton theology, which had been suspected of having a fundamentalist tendency, was overcome by Karl Barth’s Neo-Orthodoxy. These theological anti-missionary criticisms facilitated some younger Korean church historians, especially both Kyung-Bae Min and Man-Yul Lee, to view Korean church history from an anti-missionary, Korean ethnic nationalist perspective. Min emphasizes some seemingly good but anecdotal works of individual Korean native Christians, hence resulting in depreciation of the works of the missionaries and their Korean coworkers. Following Min, Lee goes even further, praising what some individual Korean Christians did for socio-political (anti-establishment) purposes and ignoring what the missionaries and their Korean coworkers did cooperatively for their Korean churches. Those Korean theologians and church historians with quite a strong anti-missionary sentiment might have succeeded in arousing Korean Christians’ ethnic nationalism, but in so doing, they have quite surely deprived Korean Christians of their critically significant and rich ecclesiastical and theological elements which have been originated from the missionaries.

Keywords

Anti-missionary sentiment; American Korea missionaries; Korean theology; Presbyterian Church of Korea; Chai-Choon Kim; Jong-Sung Rhee; Kyung-Bae Min, Man-Yul Lee; Reformed Orthodoxy; Old Princeton theology

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