Studies In The Theology Of The Korean Presbyterian Church An Historical Outline Part III -- By: Harvie M. Conn

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 30:1 (Nov 1967)
Article: Studies In The Theology Of The Korean Presbyterian Church An Historical Outline Part III
Author: Harvie M. Conn


Studies In The Theology Of The Korean Presbyterian Church
An Historical Outline
Part III

Harvie M. Conn

III. Conflict And Disorder — 1945 To 1949

In 1934, Dr. Samuel A. Moffett, noting the rise of theological liberalism in Korea, wrote these words, “Today in the Church we occasionally hear that the Church will have to make a change; that it must become up-to-date; that if the Gospel is preached in the old way, people won’t like it; that in a new day, the old-fashioned Gospel does not fit. We would be wise to preach a new Gospel in the new day — so we are told …. Today some modernists criticize me as being too conservative. But the old Gospel brought salvation, while the new does not. When we preached the old Gospel that Paul preached, there were great results …. There are those who go about talking of a new theology, a new Gospel, today, but let us beware of them. Even though the Korea missionaries should all die or leave the country, let the brethren of the Korean Church continue to preach the same Gospel as forty years ago…”.1

By 1945, Moffett’s words had become prophetic rather than admonitory. All the Korea missionaries had gone, and the gospel that had survived radical modifications by the Japanese-directed Korean church was not the same gospel preached in 1894. The continued presence of Chosun Seminary marked for many “the start of a liberal Korean church”.2

And the presence of officials still remaining in control of the church who had favored obeisance at the shrines marked for many also an attempt to consolidate the liberal gains of the war years.3 In a time of great political upheaval, the church had to face its own past and the theological problems that had developed. What was now to be the attitude of the church towards the Shinto controversy and those who had participated in the Shinto ceremonies? Should the church go back to the old foundations laid at Pyungyang Theological Seminary? Or should it reflect the theology being emphasized at Chosun Seminary? The very raising of the questions created serious strife. The various answers were to bring conflict and division.

The relative necessity for reform in the Korean church has never been fully agreed upon in the literature discussing the post-war controversy. Generally writers of more liberal bias or perspective tend to underplay any profoundly theological necessity and to emphasize more psychological or personality-centered motives behind the post-war drive for ecclesiastical reform. The church did not need theological purificati...

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