Pneumatology from the Korean perspective

Writer: Man Joon Kim


Although missionary activities in Korea are a recent phenomenon, they have still earned the attention of theological research due to their rapid growth. Many theologians believe that the cause for this rapid growth is the Pentecostal movement. In Korean society, industrialization and urbanization flourished during the years 1960 to 1970 and led to a Pentecostal revival of the Korean church. Representative of this movement is the Yeouido Full Gospel Church. It was founded in 1958 and three years later, in 1961, had 400 parishioners. By1968, it reached 8000, 1979: 100,000 and in 1984 she crossed the 400,000 mark and became the largest parish in the world.

The reason why the Pentecostal church was so successful in Korea is located in its understanding of the Holy Spirit. The particularity of pneumatology in Korea can be seen in the following mystical elements: 1) With prayers special feelings and experiences are produced. 2) These mystical experiences put the common life and personal faith at the centre. Therefore, one can say that the Pentecostal church is a mystical church. Filled with the Holy Spirit people will seek blessings in this world, which is associated with a move away from reality, and salvation in the afterlife is emphasized. This approach tends to be very individualistic.

The pneumatology of the Pentecostal Church is closely related to shamanism, which in turn is firmly rooted in Korean society and mentality. Using a shaman or "mudang" people make contact with the spirits. The mudang, a mediator between the spirits and man, is credited with the ability to call spirits. In a special ceremony, will be called the "gut" people dance to seek good luck and blessings and to avert disaster.

The characteristic feature of Korean shamanism is the attempt to obtain salvation and turn away from reality. On this point the Pentecostal Church and shamanism have many similarities.

The Korean church learned about their understanding of the Holy Spirit and its practical implementation in a relatively short time, an astonishing growth, which has now almost come to a standstill. Over time there were many critical points. For example, many people participated mainly for individualistic reasons, namely their own salvation, while neglecting the care and attention of society.

Beginning in 1980 a democratisation movement took place in the Korean society. Previously, citizens suffered reprisals of the dictatorial government, which is why they longed for freedom and justice. But the Korean Protestant churches of the authoritarian government did not support the democratisation movement. They ignored the ardent desire of citizens for justice and peace. As a result, the public lost confidence in the Korean Protestant churches and increasingly turned away. During mid-80s stopped the growth of Protestant churches stopped due to their lack of interest in the welfare of society.

This situation had a major influence on the pneumatology of the Korean Protestant church. The pneumatology of the Pentecostal church is limited to the individual. The focus is on one's own welfare and blessing, and not on the diaconal area that is committed to others and society. The lack of interest applies equally to poverty, neglect, failure, despair, justice in the world and peace.

Can using a new, modified pneumatology overcome this crisis? How must this new pneumatology be constructed in order to overcome this crisis? After an attempt in the Korean tradition is deeply rooted idea of the "Asian Energy" (in Korean, "Gi", otherwise often referred to as Chinese "qi", "chi") that relates to a correlation in the Great through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is an energy that is directed toward life. In this way an attempt at interpretation of pneumatology, based on the Korean shamanism and the Asian energy thoughts, is made .

New pneumatology for the Korean church is a holistic pneumatology. Holistic means that the soul is not separated from the body. The same applies to the individual and society and for the people and the world. The work of the Holy Spirit is not limited to the salvation of the individual, but also includes the salvation of humanity, society and the creation.

The goal of such a holistic pneumatology is the establishment of the kingdom of God through the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit saved not only the people but also the entirety of creation, in order to build the kingdom of God. Before the 90s it had missed the Evangelical Church of pneumatology to work on building the kingdom of God. J. Moltmann affirms in the second half of the 20th Century, the importance of pneumatology in the focus on the establishment of the kingdom of God. This is followed by the work of M. Welker.

The work of the Holy Spirit for the kingdom of God is working for justice, liberation, freedom, peace in the world and the preservation and salvation of creation.

Team/ Research Partners:

Man Joon Kim

In cooperation with: