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Nam Center for Korean Studies Colloquium Series: Disappearance of Prophetic Voice from the Korean Church and Its Disservice to Korea

Wednesday, February 25, 2015
12:00 AM
Room 1636, School of Social Work

This lecture will be about how the Korean church has been distorted and tamed into a Neo-liberalistic, market-totalitarian system that lost its prophetic and subversive stance toward the status-quo in the early 1990s, amid the collapse of the USSR and the Eastern Bloc. The Korean church began to make the audacious assertion that any socially-geared Christian messages should be scrutinized because they could be stemming from an already falsified communist ideology, so assured of the triumph of the free market and democracy over socially-oriented states and their communist ideology, when in fact the USSR and its Eastern Europe allies were undergoing a regime change for many reasons.

It is against such a background that the Korean church distanced itself from the rich prophetic tradition of the Old Testament and expelled prophetic voices from Korean society itself. The disappearance of prophetic voice from Korea society in turn represented a serious disservice to Korea in many ways.

First, through its expulsion of a prophetic voice, the Korean church has deprived itself of a self-critical and self-correcting capacity. Korean Christianity has rapidly changed into little more than a private religious company, whose goal is to recruit as many clients as possible, clients who wish to enter the promised paradise-based afterlife. Little wonder that Korean society was appalled at the abnormal changes in spiritual leadership at several mega-churches. The Korean church found itself crippled by its own corruption as it attempted to play a prophetic role in criticisms against the larger, secular world, because the Korean church itself had been disqualified as a prophetic voice.

Second, the Korean church allowed many capitalist principles(competition, incentives for evangelistic performance, investment of tithes on stock markets) to erode its spiritual foundations, especially by awarding individual Christians who excelled at recruiting nonbelievers to the Church. The Korean church made no effort to curb an inhumane and apathetic neo-liberal global economy from dismantling a democratic Korean society.

Third, Korean society is certainly not benefiting from the Korean Christianity because the latter has forfeited its paramount charge as Light of the World and Salt for the World. Any society without a transcendental and self-referential checks is likely to fall apart because it cannot prevent its own disintegration into an inhumane and non-sustainable Mammon-dominated Market.

Hae Kwon Kim is head chaplain and associate professor of biblical studies in the College of Humanities at Soongsil University in Seoul, Korea. An ordained Presbyterian minister, Kim is known for his exegeses of much of the Old Testament and translation of several commentaries on the Bible. He is chief editor of the International Journal of Christian Studies and the author of Modern Humanity and the Bible (Seoul: Soongsil University Press, 2007) as well as Reading "The Book of Acts" from a Theology of God's Kingdom, Volumes 1 and 2 (Seoul: The Blessed People) among many others. Kim received his BA from Seoul National University, his MDiv/ThM from Presbyterian College and Theological Seminary, and his ThM and PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary.

This program is also made possible in part by a Title VI grant from the US Department of Education.
Hae Kwon Kim, Professor of Biblical Studies, Soongsil University