Mapping Christian Scholarship in a Pluralist Korean Society:
Incorporating the Reformed Worldview with the “Missional” Vision
Kuk Won SHIN
Prof. Kuk Won SHIN (SHIN) is the professor of Philosophy and Culture at Chongshin University in Seoul, Korea. He has been a visiting scholar and faculty of Calvin College 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”.
慎國原教授 (Prof. Kuk-won SHIN、慎教授) 是韓國總神大學 (Chongshin University) 的哲學及文化學教授。他曾是美國加爾文大學的訪問學人及訪問教授，並有不少關於韓國基督徒的世界觀和全球化多元主義的著作。
慎教授所談論的是全球性多元文化的本質。 他承認韓國早已長期經歷宗教的多元化，自公元四世紀以來，佛教和儒家思想已經成為韓國最有勢力的宗教文化。基督教在韓國多元文化社會中面對着以下的挑戰: 第一，宗教和形而上學被指控為散播教條主義、成見、和偏見；基督教應該避免信仰教條化和必須承認多元宗教存在的事實。 第二，全球化所賦予的多元文化環境是所有宗教群體在現代文明社會中賴以生存的必然處境，在這樣的境況下，宣教學者必須對西方傳教士過往之帝國主義傲慢的表現和文化優越的態度表達歉意。 慎教授相信回應多元化的正確態度必須是在以下兩種負面態度之間取得平衡: 一種是以“高舉正統信仰＂為名停留在“傲慢和反理性的啟蒙時期”的心態; 另一種是以“互相包容”為名躲藏在多元文化的意識形態中。
慎教授進一步建議韓國基督徒應該採取正確的態度評估多元文化和反基督教的思潮。“他們需要從早期現代化(韓國)的文化優越思維中走出來”；“教會和現有政治勢力掛鈎是不應該的”；“反之，我們需要培養一種謙遜的態度… 現在是時候重新思索神在那裏和祂在當今世界的計劃，基督徒是誰，和神在期望我們作什麼等的問題”。簡言之，韓國教會不應該停留在傳统應對多元文化的意識形態裏。 韓國的基督徒也一定要有別於世俗的看法，不單只在信息上、更是在態度上，亦包括在與政府關係或政治立場上。
最後，慎教授建議基督徒在全球化處境中應當以改革宗神學裝備自己具有“使命的異象”。基督徒必須意識到一個事實：就是基督教在現今多元文化中已不再是像過去一樣擁有其特別優越的地位。無論如何， 教會應該竭力重拾它的公眾及神聖的召喚 - 成為一個為福音見證和抗衡世俗文化的社群；見証出它的“末世視角的觀點”來。基督徒的使命並不是去宣告審判，而是為真理作見證;“見證”就是要忠誠地宣告福音，而不是運用武力或經濟力量叫人信服。 早期教會也是堅持福音的普世性，但卻沒有使用武力或經濟力量去強迫任何人接受信仰; 縱然如此，基督教卻最終戰勝了羅馬帝國。 在結論中，慎教授補充說，“基督徒學者(應是)全情投入全球性多元文化的處境中，從“末世的視角”(“聖經信仰”)的角度提供一種另類的觀點… 唯有這樣，基督徒才能夠在今日多元文化的處境中獲得機會以他們獨特的“使命異象”去服務這個世界”。