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Mapping Christian scholarship in a pluralist Korean society: incorporating the Reformed worldview

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

Prof. SHIN Kuk Won (SHIN) is the professor of Philosophy and Culture at Chongshin University in Seoul, Korea. He has been a visiting scholar and faculty of Calvin University and wrote several books on Christian worldview and global pluralism in Korea.

In his paper, SHIN attempted to explore the issue: “How would Korean Christians understand the biblical way to live faithfully to the truth of the gospel in the global pluralist world today? He illustrated the cultural landscape of global pluralism in the emerging world, accounting its influences in Korea and Asia, and exploring what is required of Christian scholars and those who are concerned with worldview discourses on the changing pluralist culture. Though SHIN addressed specifically to the Korean context, it is also of great relevance to the global world today.

SHIN asserted the very pluralistic nature of our global culture today. He admitted that Korea has already experienced religious pluralism for a long time, since, Buddhism and Confucianism have been the dominant religions in Korea in the 4th century. Christianity has been challenged by pluralist culture in Korea in the following aspects: firstly, religions as well as metaphysics are accused of spreading dogmatism, bias, and prejudice; Christianity should not be as dogmatic about her faith and must acknowledge the plurality of religions. Secondly, pluralist cultural environment of globalization demands peaceful co-existence among religions as necessary virtue for the survival of civilization, in such a way that mission scholars have to regret for the Western missionary’s imperialistic attitude and arrogant superiority of their own cultures. SHIN believed that the proper response to pluralism lies in keeping a balance between caving into pluralist ideology in the name of “tolerance”, or falling back into “arrogance” for the sake of upholding Christian orthodoxy.

SHIN further suggested that Korean Christians should assess the pluralist culture and anti-Christian atmosphere correctly. “We need to move out of the memory of cultural superiority enjoyed in the early years of modernization (in Korea)”; “it is not desirable for church to be lined up with dominant political power”; “Instead, we need to cultivate an attitude of humility… It is now the time to rethink what God’s plan is in the here and now, what and who we are, and what God wants us to do”. In short, Korean Churches should not cave themselves into the spirit of arrogance of the past century. Korean Christians should, however, be different from the secular world not only in the message for the world but also in the manners Christian faith relates to politics and to identify with the governing power.

Lastly, SHIN proposed that Christians should equip themselves with "Missional Vision" from the Reformed Tradition in the global context. Christians should be awakened to the fact that Christianity is no longer enjoying a dominant position in the pluralist culture today. However, the Church could still be able to recover its public and cosmic calling – to be a witness of the Christian gospel, as its “eschatological perspective is counter-cultural”. The missional vision could help Christians recognize that they are called to be witness and not being the judge. “The duty of a witness is to proclaim faithfully the messages in a given situation. We need to take heed that the early church insisted the universality of the Gospel firmly, but it did not attempt to force the faith to anyone through military or economic power. In fact, the early church had no power to do so. Yet, despite the humble attitude of servitude that the early church took in the spirit of the Incarnated Christ, it did eventually conquer the Roman Empire”. And in conclusion SHIN further added, “(rather than) securing a way to respect each other and live peacefully together… Christian scholars (should be) engaging the global pluralist culture with alternative visions from missional perspective… Christian scholarship needs an intellectual sophistication appropriate for pluralist culture. It also needs specific civility and proper confidence that is based on gospel truth. Only then can today’s pluralist culture provide an opportunity for Christians to serve the world with their unique vision.”


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