- Millennialism in the Korean Protestant Church
In this extensively researched work, Ung Kyu Pak examines the ways in which Christian eschatology has influenced the Korean people. Seeing Korean millennialism as 'a religious movement', he locates his work 'within the broader context of the American evangelical heritage upon which Korean Christianity was founded and the various eschatological implications of Korean religions' (p. 6).
Pak's work informs us of fascinating historical new evidences with deft and creative insight. Chapter one deals with Korean traditional religions in terms of eschatology. In analysing characteristics of Korean religions, the author argues that Korean history is 'a religious progression from shamanism (or animism) to Buddhism to Confucianism to Christianity' (p. 19). One of Pak's major contributions to the study of Korean Christianity is his assertion that previous traditional religions influenced the early formation of Korean Christian eschatology. His analysis of the implications of this fact is truly an advancement of our understanding.
Chapter two examines the eschatological beliefs of the nineteenth century American missionaries and their impact upon Korean Christians. Pak contends that, after the Civil War, premillennialism was revived and strengthened by dispensationalists, prophecy conferences, and missionary movements. Conservative and fundamentalist perspectives influenced [End Page 184] most American evangelical missionaries to Korea and their theological ideas, especially their eschatological emphasis.
Five different forms of eschatology are dealt with in chapter three. Pak first classifies Korean nationalism as 'the eschatological orientation toward outwardness', suggesting as examples such historical events as the Great Revival of 1907 and the Independence Movement of 1919. Secondly, he regards revivalists and the Korean Holiness Church as, what he calls 'the eschatological orientation toward otherworldliness'. Thirdly, he analyses the 'inward eschatological orientation' of Yong-Do Lee, categorising him as a mystic, and evaluates Buddhist influences upon his theology. Fourthly, he explores diverse sectarian movements, including the Korean Jesus Church, the Non-church movements, and Korean Christian Socialismas 'the eschatological orientation toward alternation'. Fifthly, andfinally, emphasising Confucian influence on a high view of Scripture,the author addresses the 'premillennial' tendency of conservative Korean Presbyterians.
Chapter four focuses on the eschatological background of Korean resistance against the imposition of 'Shinto shrine worship'. Offering detailed information on the process of colonialists' proselytising Korean Christians under the Imperial Way, the author contends that the opposition movement of Korean Presbyterian Christians against 'Shinto shrine worship' was theologically influenced by 'the conservative theology of American missionaries, with a strong emphasis on premillennialism'(p. 197).
In chapter five, Pak examines characteristics of the Korean Protestant church in light of its premillennial worldview. 'Premillennialism was introduced by American missionaries to Korea', he argues, 'but its apocalyptic character fit in well with the major eschatological implications of traditional Korean religious thought' (p. 222). Indicating continuity between the traditional Korean worldview and Christian millennial thought, he explains the conservatism, biblical emphasis, and premillennialism of Korean Christianity. On the one hand, the author characterises the indifference to social reform and separatism/schisms as negative effects of millennialism upon Korean Christians. But on the one hand, he characterises the evangelistic zeal and individualism of Korean pietism as positive dimensions of Korean millennialism. In his concluding remarks, Pak suggests a more balanced Korean eschatology, based on 'a Kingdom perspective', to overcome the traditional dualistic worldview.
In spite of his profound description and consistent explanation, some areas need further exploration, particularly the focus of his study and [End Page 185] ambiguity of terms. First of all, though the title indicates that his work covers 'the Korean Protestant Church', the author seems to concentrate primarily on the Presbyterian Church and theologians, from the North-Western part of Korea, overlooking other Protestant movements. Unlike most Presbyterians, Methodist churches (of Southern Korea) and other Christian movements such as YMCA movements and the Positive Faith League had a great concern for social reform through educational mission and ecumenism.
Secondly, when he deals with issues of continuity/discontinuity between traditional religions and Christianity in Korea, Pak doesn't clearly define the term, 'religion(s)'. For example, after indicating that Confucianism became 'the official religion' (p. 16), he claims...