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Missio Apostolica November 2014

The Korean Lutherans’ Perspective of Lutheranism and Lutheran Identity - Jin-Seop Eom

Abstract: This paper is a revision of the paper originally delivered at the Lutheran World Federation’s conference on Asian Lutheranism and Identity, Nov. 5–8, 2013, Kuala Lumpur, West Malaysia. It gives an account of how Lutherans in Korea understand their Reformation heritage and think of their Lutheran identity in an environment surrounded by other branches of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism as well as traditional religions. In so doing, it deals with some of the characteristic Lutheran teachings which the young Lutheran church can re-appropriate and with which it can contribute to the Korean Protestantism.

I. Introduction

The Lutheran Church in Korea (LCK), the only Lutheran body in the country, is young and small compared to other Protestant churches. Maynard W. Dorow, one of the first expatriate missionaries sent by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) to Korea, once reminisced about the early years of his time in the country: “The Lutheran Church was a small fish in a large Calvinist ocean.”1 This situation is as true today as it was a half century ago. In terms of numerical size, it is not in a position to be influential over other churches, but rather to be influenced by others. However, Lutherans have marked themselves with their distinctive Lutheran presence in many ways.

Below, I will first describe the religious landscape of Korea before progressing to the main subject and dealing, one by one, with some of the characteristic Lutheran themes. In so doing, I will try to illuminate the themes in light of Korean ways of thinking that can be witnessed in mission history and in the context of the common language that people unconsciously employ.


II. Religious Landscape in Korea

Roman Catholicism was introduced into Korea in 1785. One hundred years later, Protestantism was introduced when the first missionaries of the Presbyterian and Methodist churches came from the USA. Protestant churches enjoyed rapid growth, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. According to the national census of 20052, the Buddhists are the largest religious group with 22.83 percent of the national population of around 47 million. The Protestants make up 18.3 percent, while the Roman Catholics 10.9 percent. There are 19 mega-churches (over 10,000 members) in South Korea, out of which twelve are in Seoul. The Full Gospel Central Church in Seoul has over 700,000 members, earning it a place in the Guinness World Records as the world’s largest single congregation. Presbyterians comprise over 60 percent of the Protestants. There are almost twice as many Presbyterians in South Korea as in the United States, the country that sent the missionaries to Korea 129 years ago.

It was 73 years after the appearance of the first Protestant mission in Korea that Lutheran mission began. Kurt E. Voss, L. Paul Bartling, and Maynard W. Dorow, sent by the LCMS, arrived in Korea on January 13, 1958. Won Yong Ji, a Korean native, joined the team in September of that year. The four formed the Korea Lutheran Mission (KLM), which was phased out when the national Lutheran Church in Korea was organized in 1971.

According to the reports of its 43rd General Assembly held on Oct. 11–12, 2013, it has 5,022 members. Its 49 congregations are spread all over the peninsula, even on Jeju Island to the south, but mostly in the capital and the surrounding satellite cities. It is not a big number compared to other denominations that came in the same period. There are distinct reasons for that. The first missionaries worked on the basis of a mission strategy that envisioned their work as supplementing efforts of already existing churches rather than adding another denomination to compete with them. They wanted a “clean start” in the turbulent period after the end of the Korean War (1950–1953). Thus, the KLM started a mass media mission, which was later called “A-approach.” They did not ignore, however, traditional church planting, which was called “B-approach.”3 Today, 56 years after its beginning, a big challenge for the Lutheran church is to teach Lutheran identity, not only to the newcomers but also the quite sizable number of members who converted from other denominations (“horizontal migration”) and who carry their theological bags with them.

It would be helpful to mention some characteristics of Korean Protestantism, of which the Lutheran church is a part. Most of the Protestant Churches in Korea were established as results of the mission work by American Churches in the end of the nineteenth century and beyond. Most of the early American missionaries were evangelical and pietistic: they could be labeled as revivalists. Kyoung Bae Min, a well-known scholar in Korean church history, maintains that the undercurrent of this evangelical and pietistic faith has been long and persistently flowing throughout the entire history of Korean Protestant churches. He connects these characteristics with conspicuous aspects such as “vulnerability of theology, weakness of the ecclesiology, individual salvation with little regard to social redemption, quietism so much as to disregard politics, contempt of intellectualism and dualistic world view.”4



III. Lutheran Publications and Education

Lutheran Books and Other Materials

I deem it appropriate to explain what kind of Lutheran materials are accessible by Lutherans and what they are taught in the church before dealing with their perspectives of Lutheranism and Lutheran identity. Concordia-Sa, the publishing arm of the LCK (started in 1959), has published over 500 books, pamphlets, and parish education materials, including Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms, the Book of Concord, books on the Reformation and Luther’s theology, and Luther’s Works–Korean Edition (LW–KE, 1981–1989) in twelve volumes (two volumes were added later). It has also published books for children, such as the Arch Series in 75 volumes. Other Christian publishers also have published books on Luther, Luther’s theology, and the Reformation.5


Teaching and Learning

Members of the Oksudong Lutheran Church in Seoul read through the entire Book of Concord during a retreat of the whole congregation and at training of lay leaders. But this practice is not common to the other Lutheran churches. The Small Catechism is used only as an instruction for candidates for Baptism. It is seldom referred to in the sermon or used in Sunday School. One of the reasons for its desuetude may be that it is packed with Bible verses as proof texts, which gives the impression that it is a dogmatics treatise. It is too long and difficult for beginners. So pastors sometimes make adaptations by themselves. It was interesting to learn that Lutherans in North America smile when they hear, “What does this mean?”6 This is the effect of lifelong learning, which I wish we also had in the LCK.

The Augsburg Confession, the “Lutheran Magna Carta,” so to speak, needs also to be a subject of teaching and preaching. Paul Gerhardt reveals his lifelong commitment to it:

I am a Christian, profoundly committed to the Confession of Augsburg in which my parents reared me. And I am also committed to it as a result of my constantly renewed and considered reflections, and of a daily struggle against every sort of temptation.7

To have lay people become interested in confessional writings, however, practical books on them need to be written for lay people. George Forell wrote a popular book on the Augsburg Confession along practical lines.8 He took the articles of AC and showed how modern issues can be related to them. Written almost half a century ago, however, it needs to be revised because of the new challenges of postmodernity. Some years ago, Timothy Wengert explicated the Formula of Concord, a much less well-known portion of the Book of Concord, bringing life to the doctrinal articles by reviving the grassroots’ experiences from which those articles of FC had originated.9

Bethel Bible Series needs to be mentioned, because most of the Lutheran churches completed more than once the two-year Bible study curriculum of the Bethel Bible Series. Started at Bethel Lutheran Church in Madison, Wisconsin, it was adapted into the Korean situation in 1974 under the auspices of the LCK. Some churches, including Lutheran, also used the additional Life Dimension course (an adaptation of Luther’s Small Catechism), Salvation course, Faith course, and Worship course. For the past forty years, some 470,000 individuals have taken the Bethel course in their respective congregations and other places.

Before becoming Lutherans, some members took the Christian Correspondence Course, which the LCK started in 1960 and drew 750,000 people. Also, many listened to the Korea Lutheran Hour which started in 1959.


IV. Korean Lutherans’ Perspective of Lutheranism

With the background mentioned above, I will focus on Korean Lutherans’ view of the Lutheran heritage, beginning with the three solas (sola fide, sola gratia, sola scriptura) including solus Christus.10 Lutherans, as well as other Protestants, quite often hear of them. On special occasions, such as Reformation Day worship, Lutherans see flags with the three solas being carried in the procession. However, they often only hear them as slogans and are not well educated in them in preaching or teaching. Further, the small word, sola, is a stumbling block for many, as was the case with the medieval church.


1. Faith Alone (sola fide)

For nearly five hundred years, Lutheran identity has been indelibly linked to the doctrine of justification. This is the teaching by which the church stands and falls.11 Luther’s Reformation breakthrough occurred when he realized that with the phrase, “The just shall live by faith” (Rom 1:17), the Gospel reveals a righteousness that is not demanded from us by God, but a righteousness that God bestows on us. Luther reminisces one year before his death:

There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the Gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.12

According to Gritsch and Jenson, the meta-linguistic character of “justification by faith” dogma should affect the way we think of ecclesiology, ministry, etc.

The church is the gathering that occurs when it is speaking the Gospel that brings the persons together. A community constituted by some other communication is not the church at all—though it may well be a useful community of some other sort. And where the discourse is not the Gospel-kind of discourse, and the gathering is not the church-kind of gathering, then the other dogmas of Christianity have no application; it is in this sense that “justification by faith,” if a right dogma, is the chief dogma.13

Even though this doctrine has many facets, only a couple of related themes are selected here.

1) “Wonderful” or “joyous” exchange (fröhlicher Wechsel)

Luther says in The Freedom of a Christian that faith “binds the soul with Christ, just as the bride with the bridegroom. By means of this secret (as the apostle teaches in Eph. 5:32) Christ and the soul become one flesh.”14 The Christian is joined to Christ by a faith that clings to the Word and accepts that Christ is totally responsible for us. This means “our sins are now not ours but Christ’s and Christ’s righteousness is not Christ’s but ours.”15

Korean Protestants tend to understand faith in terms of intellectual consent rather than trust of the whole person in what God has done for us in Christ. Instead, everything depends on how strongly one believes; thus, the gifts Christ brings to us are not fully received, which then results in turning to works for assurance of salvation. Faith is itself a work, as Gritsch and Jenson observe: “the ‘believing’ that can be one of a list of desirable deeds or characteristics is just what the Reformers called a ‘work’; moreover, it is the kind of special religious work against which they mostly directed their polemic.”16

This concept of faith has affinity with the medieval Catholic notion of it. According to Thomas Aquinas, faith is an act of intellect, “in which the intellect, moved by God, acknowledges the dogmas of the church as revealed truth.” This faith (fides informis) is a dead faith; only fides formata justifies. For Luther, however, fides caritate formata, is a denial of God’s mercy to sinners, because fides caritate formata seeks to reach its goal by fulfilling the law and thus is an expression of contempt for Christ.17

For Luther, faith is synonymous with Christ as is emphasized by Mannermaa. Luther says, “Christ is the object of faith, or rather not the object but, so to speak, the One who is present in the faith itself.”18 In faith, the believer mutually shares everything with Christ.

2) Living in freedom

Martin Ludder or Martin Lutter changed his name to Martin Luther, based on the Greek word for freedom, elutherius. This change had to do with his discovery of the freeing Gospel. James Nestingen mentions Ebeling’s observation that Luther’s best writing is all devoted to the theme of freedom.19

The passive righteousness of faith gives us the gift of self-forgetfulness. In that God does what is decisive in us, we may live outside ourselves and solely in God, which means that “we are hidden from ourselves, and removed from the judgment of others or the judgment of ourselves about ourselves as a final judgment.”20 Oswald Bayer elucidates it by interpreting Dietrich Bonheoffer’s poem, “Who am I?”: “Am I what I know myself to be? Or am I who others determine me to be? These questions do not disappear from our lives. Nevertheless, Bonhoeffer concludes the poem with the affirmation, ‘Whoever I am’—this question can be left open—‘thou knowest, O God, I am thine.’”21

This message needs to be heard by many people struggling with difficulties in their lives in a highly competitive society like Korea. The “bare face” of such a competitive society includes the highest suicide rate among the OECD countries and third highest worldwide, the highest number of plastic surgery per capita, ostracism at schools and jobs, cyber-bullying, etc.22 According to the Better Life Index 2014, Korea took the 25th place among the 34 OECD countries, including Russia and Brazil regarding life satisfaction level.

It is interesting to note that the first work of Luther ever to be published in Korean was The Freedom of a Christian in 1949. That year was the fourth year of South Korea’s being placed under an American trusteeship and the North under a Russian one, after the nation’s liberation from Japan in 1945. One year later, the Korean War broke out. The treatise was repeatedly published in the 1970s as a part of a volume in a complete series by secular publishers. The decade of the 1970s was a period of rapid economic development under a tough military regime. These two cases may be used as an indication that Luther’s idea of freedom has power to appeal to people living in various situations of bondage. The time is ripe for another publication, explication, and popularization of the treatise.


2. Christ Alone (solus Christus)

God’s self-giving is not an easy thing to swallow for human beings who are tuned to works righteousness. I will illustrate this with a mission history in Korea. Malcolm C. Fenwick (1863–1935), an independent lay missionary from Canada, arrived in Korea in 1889, four years after the first Protestant missionaries from the USA. After ten months in Seoul, he went to Sorai, where the first Korean Protestant church had been established in 1884 by indigenous Koreans who became Christians while helping with Bible translation in China. He met with difficulty when he was translating the hymn, “Look and Live,” by Ogden. The sentence in the hymn, “Life is offered unto you,” caused a problem: There was no appropriate word in Korean for “offer” except when a servant offers something to his master or a subject makes an offering of something to the king. Another complicating factor, it seems, was that Korean translation was done using the honorific expression (ba-chi-si-ne). His Korean friends said with one voice: “That will never do!” “Why not?” he responded. “Why, it humbles the great and holy God to the position of a menial servant, and exalts worms of the dust like us to a high place.” Fenwick explained to them that in lowering Himself to a servant, God has taken the place of a servant to bring us to eternal life. But they resisted adamantly, saying, “It will never do to say that God takes the position of a servant. Quite impossible to believe.” So he opened the Chinese Bible and let them read Philippians 2:5b–11. He explained that God offers them eternal salvation as a free gift for acceptance with both hands stretched to them as servants do to their masters. This was persuasive to them.

Fenwick experienced the same when he later came to Seoul and met the first Christian Korean and asked about his opinion of the translation of the hymn, “Life for a Look.” When the man came to the word “offer” in the hymn, he stopped and said that it would never do—it was awful, it was putting God in the humiliating position of a servant. After the same prolonged discussion as had taken place in Sorai, Fenwick reminded him of Philippians 2:6–11. The man read it and said quietly, “Thank you, shepherd.”23

As it was difficult for the first Korean Protestants to understand God’s self-giving in Christ, so is it, still, for contemporary Koreans. To challenge their inherent legalistic leanings, they need to be taught to let God be God and, also, to be assured that even though faith saves, God’s promise comes first and man’s response second.

One more example as regards the language: Worship in Korean is ye-bae (ye stands for courtesy and bae for bow), that is, something human beings offer to God. Moreover, it is most frequently used with the verb, “offer.” Even if in the worship service people give thanks to God in terms of hymn, prayer, offerings, etc., the aspect of God’s coming to and serving His people, as is expressed in the German Gottesdienst, is lost.

It is symptomatic that certain theologians confuse the doctrine of justification by translating “justification” in terms of i-shin-deug-ui (by-faith-acquire-righteousness), not in terms of the common usage, i-shin-ching-ui (by-faith-be-called-righteous). The forensic aspect of the doctrine (“You are declared righteous by faith in Jesus Christ”) is set aside. Instead, you are expected to acquire or achieve righteousness with your faith.24


3. Grace Alone (sola gratia)

1) Sola gratia is often thought to be only a synonym for sola fide. However, the understanding of gratia is easily caught in the legal scheme. The medieval theologians defined grace something like “a booster shot or a form of steroids”: “As such, grace helped the Christian pilgrim to follow God’s will more easily and more readily and thus attain righteousness before God.”25 Gerhard Forde hits the mark when he says, “The assertion of ‘justification by faith’ in the sixteenth-century Reformation can be understood only if it is clearly seen as a complete break with ‘justification by grace.’”26 Nonetheless, Christians in Korea tend to understand gratia as a kind of medicine infused into the human being that, in a synergistic sense, assists him in achieving salvation.

2) In modern times, grace is “disgraced” because it is treated as cheap. It can be exemplified in Koreans’ use of the word “grace.” The Korean word for “grace” is eun-hye, or eun-chong, a more archaic term but used as often as the former. “Grace” is often used to express that one overlooks (turns a blind eye to) another person’s mistake, or winks at an offense. This is one of the characteristics of cheap grace that Dietrich Bonhoeffer observes: “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves,” “not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin.”27 When one uses the term this way, one eventually becomes confused about the profundity of his sins and the abundance of God’s grace. For language both reveals what one thinks and imprints what one should think.

Also problematic is that the word “grace” is used in everyday life together with verbs like “repay” or “return” and in expressions like “return somebody’s favor,” “repay somebody’s kindness,” “repay good [kindness] with evil,” “I shall never forget this favor,” “I am very much indebted to her,” etc. These expressions do not coincide with the meaning of the mid-sixteenth century gratia, which meant “for nothing, freely, without recompense, free of charge.” The radical character of the grace of God, that it cannot be repaid, can be lost.

This confusion of the language is bound to affect the thinking of Christians, just as agape was confused with eros as the Gospel was proclaimed to the Hellenistic world, as demonstrated by Anders Nygren in Agape and Eros.28

Wrong linguistic uses of “grace,” however, only seem to be symptoms of the human depravity, as is pointedly spelled out by Forde: “The problem with grace is not that it is cheap or expensive. The old creature does not like to hear of grace because it is free.”29

Lutherans often seem no better than other Christians with regard to understanding of grace. Bonhoeffer’s critique of cheap grace regrettably applies not only to Lutheran churches in Germany and other Western countries but also to young Lutheran mission churches, including the Korean Lutheran church: “To be ‘Lutheran’ must mean that we leave the following of Christ to legalists, Calvinists and enthusiasts—and all this for the sake of grace. . . Cheap grace had won the day.” We cannot but consent to his assessment that this fatal misunderstanding of grace is worse than works-righteousness. “The word of cheap grace has been the ruin of more Christians than any commandment of works.”30




4. Scripture Alone (sola scriptura)

1) Love of the Bible

Korean Christians are Bible-loving people. However, Korean Christians’ approach to the Bible is influenced by the Presbyterians. For them, the formal authority of the Scriptures is much more emphasized. The Old Testament has a different status than it has in the Lutheran Church.31 A theology student from a Presbyterian background revealed this by raising a question in the classroom regarding why chapel attendees should stand up during the service to listen to the Gospel reading, while they remain sitting in the pew when they listen to Old Testament text or other New Testament texts. For Calvin, the Bible was an authority one has to bow to without any presupposed meaning of what its central message should be, while Luther judged each biblical book’s value and authority using the doctrine of justification as criterion. With its Biblicism, Reformed/Presbyterian churches have somewhat legalistic characteristics.

2) Law and Gospel dialectic

Knowing how to distinguish Law and Gospel is a prerequisite to understanding the doctrine of justification. This is the most important matter, though also most difficult, as Luther admits: “[W]hoever knows well how to distinguish the Gospel from the Law should give thanks to God and know that he is a real theologian.”32

A former expatriate missionary from the USA, jokingly, praised Korean people for understanding Law-Gospel distinctions on the ground that there are many LG (his abbreviations of Law and Gospel) signs in the country (LG is the 4th largest chaebol or conglomerate in Korea). But Korean Lutherans, lay and ordained, have difficulty in fully understanding the Law and Gospel dialectic, even though its importance in Lutheran theology is frequently emphasized. One reason is that they are influenced by the Presbyterians, who follow Karl Barth’s order: Gospel and Law instead of Law and Gospel. It also seems to have something to do with the fact that Koreans are more attuned to harmony than dialectic. In harmony, both elements make the whole in tranquil balance, as can be seen in the harmonious yin-yang (eum-yang in Korean, as seen in the center of the Korean flag), whereas in dialectic both elements stand to each other in dynamic relationship. In the Law-Gospel dialectic, the Law accuses the sinner so that he runs to Christ (the second use of the Law). Then the Law fulfills its function and ends as St. Paul says in Romans 10:4: “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Only in this way can the Gospel be clearly heard as the eschatological word that breaks through into this world as an unheard of message (“No ear has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived . . . ,” 1 Corinthians 2:9).33



5. Simultaneously Righteous and Sinful (simul justus et peccator)

Luther opposed both the view of salvation by psychological transformation and the view of salvation by ontological transformation, both of which, according to Kolb, make sense only in a Platonic, spiritualizing frame of reference. Luther held that the verdict of justification does not come at the beginning or end of a movement (toward becoming increasingly righteous); instead, it establishes an entirely new situation.34 The Christian enters in a new relation with God through the righteousness by faith. Luther maintained, thus, that the Christian is a person who is simultaneously righteous and sinful: “Though I am a sinner in myself, I am not a sinner in Christ.”35 This relational category opposes the Augustinian notion of partim partim. (Augustine said that we are “ex parte justificati.”) For Luther, however, imputed righteousness “as a divine judgment brings with it the simul justus et peccator as total states.”36 This biblical paradox cannot be reconciled with the Roman Catholic understanding of man. Simul was one of the main differences the Lutheran side emphasized over against the Roman Church in the Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification (1999) between the Vatican and the LWF. Members of the World Methodist Council, meeting in Seoul on July 18, 2006, voted unanimously to adopt the JDDJ. It is a question, however, whether this distinctive Lutheran anthropology is accepted by the Methodists, who opt for an understanding of sanctification in terms of gradual progress.


6. Sanctification

In Korea, Presbyterians give honor to Luther for having rediscovered the doctrine of justification but add that Calvin went further than Luther in emphasizing sanctification, kindly explaining the different Sitz im Leben of the two Reformers. Drawing the line further, Methodists proudly say that it was Wesley who completed the doctrine of sanctification. This attitude is characteristically reflected in the title of an article by Carter Lindberg, “Do Lutherans Shout Justification but Whisper Sanctification?”37 This reflects, however, the influence from Pietism and the Enlightenment: Sanctification is a matter of personal and individual development and orientation.

For Luther, justification and sanctification are not two separate acts that we can distinguish, as though sanctification follows justification.38 Forde succinctly explains Luther’s concept of sanctification as follows:

Sanctification, if it is to be spoken of as something other than justification, is perhaps best defined as the art of getting used to the unconditional justification wrought by the grace of God for Jesus’ sake. It is what happens when we are grasped by the fact that God alone justifies. It is being made holy, and as such, it is not our work. It is the work of the Spirit who is called Holy. The fact that it is not our work puts the old Adam/Eve (our old self) to death and calls forth a new being in Christ. It is being saved from the sickness unto death and being called to new life.39

This dimension of the death-and-life dynamic of Christian life opposes the notion of sanctification as progress. In the mind of Korean Christians, a person with the help of grace progressively gains more and more righteousness and thus sins less and less. One strives toward perfection until, theoretically, one would need less and less grace or perhaps finally no more grace at all. But as Luther puts it, “To progress is always to begin anew.”40 Or as Oswald Bayer says, “living by faith is already the new life.”41


7. Vocation

Earthly vocation is a corollary of justification by faith alone. Lutheran teaching maintains that active righteousness is practiced in vocation. The place of the doctrine of sanctification is here. Justified by faith through grace, one is free to serve neighbors without worrying about salvation. Works done in faith are God-pleasing and good. Works done for the well-being of neighbors are holy, while works one chooses for oneself are not, because they are self-serving. Sanctification must be viewed as a descent of the entire person into the world. Thus, Luther’s approach to sanctification is unlike any other, sui generis.42

Marc Kolden explains that Luther’s point with regard to vocation was to emphasize familiar earthly roles and activities: “Luther’s ideas made service to God exceedingly concrete and readily available to believers of all sorts.” He also says, “one of the most far-reaching results of the Protestant (in both its Lutheran and Reformed or Calvinistic aspects) was this raising up of earthly roles and duties as having great value in God’s eyes. . . .”43 This assessment is shared by Emil Brunner, Swiss Reformed theologian:

This expresses one of the most profound truths of ethics, indeed one of the most profound truths which have ever been conceived by the mind of man, namely the idea of “the Calling,” which is so characteristic of the thought and teaching both of Paul and of Luther. When Luther drew forth this forgotten truth from beneath the rubbish heap of ecclesiastical ethic which had been corrupted by Aristotelian and ascetic ideas it was an act of significance for the whole of world history, an act of overwhelming importance.44

The value of earthly vocation is not shared, however, by Korean Protestants, who think of the reality in a dualistic fashion, divided between the sacred and the secular. Therefore, their Stand or places in the secular realm, such as mother, father, teacher, citizen, etc., are not valued as highly as are their churchly activities, such as evangelization, attending worship, early dawn prayer meetings and vigil, tithe-offering, and diaconal service. Moreover, vocation is understood narrowly as a job, and job is the means by which one makes money to support oneself and give tithes and other offerings to the church. Christians do not act differently from non-Christians outside of the church walls. They are success-oriented as much as other people at the cost of ethical integrity. They are criticized by non-Christians for their egoistic and exclusivist attitudes. Korean Lutherans do not seem to be different from other Protestants in this respect.


8. Two Kinds of Righteousness

According to Luther, the righteousness of faith does not draw us out of the world or render life in the world as an inferior order of existence. Luther emphasized that the passive righteousness of faith does not remain in heaven; it descends to earth and contributes to the active righteousness in the world. On earth we actively pursue a life of works and virtues in accordance with God’s will for creation and his reclamation of creation in Christ.45

Christians in Korea tend to regard questions related to salvation as the only really important matter that deserves their attention. They are taught that the evangelization is the only Great Commission. Neighbors are regarded as objects of evangelization, instead of service.46 As noted above, Korean Protestant churches enjoyed remarkable growth in the 1970s and 1980s. Now, the church growth has stalled. Protestant churches are criticized both from inside and outside for their exclusivism relative to non-Christians, dualism between the sacred and the secular, privatization of religion, individualism, neglecting community, worshiping at the altar Mammon, undue emphasis on the multiplication of church members, church building projects, expansion of finances, clericalism, nepotism, etc.47 Dissatisfied with their own church bodies, many Protestants become inactive or convert to the Roman Catholic Church, which, according to the mind of many, is seen as a “religion of justice” that opposes dictatorial governments and a “religion of conscience” that does not require as much in the way of monetary offerings as Protestant churches and is less corrupted than them, etc.48

It is a good sign that theologians are beginning to talk about public theology, while philosophers focus on public philosophy. Lutheran teaching on the First Article is raison d’être for the discussion of public matters, given its positive value of the First Use of the Law. Lutherans can work together with people from other religious or ideological convictions in common endeavors for diaconal works as well as social issues.


9. Two Kingdoms Theory

Even though religion and politics are separated according to the Korean Constitution, it is not the case in reality. The former president, Myeong-Bak Lee, is an elder in a Presbyterian mega-church in Seoul. As mayor of Seoul, he was criticized for alleged religious bias against other religious groups. At a rally of the Holy City March, he dedicated Seoul to God, which made people ask in fury whether he was mayor only of the Christians and not of the non-Christians. During his early presidency, the Ministry of Education aroused the anger of the Buddhists when they discovered that many famous Buddhist shrines in the country were missing on its internet map, while churches were not.

Such actions can be explained by the influence of the Reformed ideas to establish theocracy on earth, still alive in that tradition, i.e., “ideas that the commandments of God should be applied for all the situations of human, economic, social, and political life.”49 Another factor is that from the time when it was a small minority in Korea, Protestantism has been taking a leading role in various fields of the society, for example, in the opposition against the Japanese occupation (1910–1945). Many Protestants were recipients of the modern Western education at mission schools run by American missionaries and became political leaders. Other political leaders, one of whom is Dr. Syng-Man Rhee, the first president of the country, were converted to Protestantism because they saw in Christendom the solution for liberation and rebuilding of the nation during Japanese occupation and after the Korean War (1950–1953). These factors help to explain the high number of Protestants in leading positions of society, then and now. According to an investigation by the Christian Council of Korea in 2012, out of the total 299 members of the National Assembly 119 were Protestants, which is almost 40 percent of the total and twice as high as the average population.

In this context, politics and religion often are mixed. Conservative Protestant Church leaders have been criticized for giving sanction to dictatorial governments by holding a breakfast prayer meeting for the presidents. This mixture of politics and religion happens also on the local level. Especially during election campaigns, politicians visit churches, as well as Buddhist temples, begging for votes. Pastors introduce the visitors to the congregation during the service, in anticipation for a favor of whatever kind. In this way, God’s left hand and right hand rules are confused and the Gospel is contaminated.


10. Universal Priesthood of All the Baptized

There is a strong tendency in Korean Churches to regard the relationship between ordained and lay offices in the church in terms of hierarchical rank, which is influenced by the hierarchical consciousness of Confucianism. Strong emphasis on families also contributes to regarding social relationships as extensions of familial relationship. Thus, the church, too, is looked upon as a structure of vertical hierarchy, with the senior pastor as patriarch, rather than as a body of diverse gifts. The importance of face-saving in Korean culture makes people eager to have important titles. Thus, in the church people are always called with their titles and second names and never with only first names.50 In church polity, the LCK is influenced by the Presbyterian Church with its elder system. The latter turned out to be more adaptable to the Korean situation than the church council system and replaced it in the LCK in the mid-1970s. Otherwise, the LCK polity combines congregational and synodical elements.51

Karlfried Froehlich asserts, “Luther did not eliminate priests or do away with the priesthood. Instead he eliminated the laity!52 But in Korea, lay people are called pyeong-shin-do (common or ordinary believers), while those engaged in the full-time religious work, such as pastors and Buddhist priests, are called seong-jig-za (holy office holders). This connotes that only the religious jobs are sacred. In the same vein, this claim is used as a justification for seong-jig-za’s continued exemption from taxation for their income.

The universal priesthood is sometimes thought of in terms of “right.” Lay people think, “I can have a direct contact with God without any middle man such as the Pope.” Several years ago there arose heated debates in the Presbyterian Church whether or not elders, too, have the “right” to preach and give blessings at the end of the worship service. Even though this debate is inherent to a Presbyterian concept of order, still, it distorts Luther’s idea of serving the neighbors as little “Christs,” as Christ the High Priest Himself served human beings.


11. Sacraments

As observed above, Korean Protestantism is largely evangelical and pietistic. Young-Jae Kim, church historian at a Presbyterian seminary, connects the influence of evangelicalism in Korean Protestantism with poor treatment of the sacraments. The pulpit stands out at the center of the forefront of the church building, while table (not altar) and Baptismal font are not seen. According to Kim, this arrangement is incongruent with the teaching of the Reformers, who taught that the Word and the sacraments are marks of the church.53 Lutheran church buildings are different from other Protestant churches in that altar, baptismal font, and pulpit are placed side by side in the front.

Scott H. Hendrix hits the mark when he says, “At its religious core, the conflict we call the Reformation was a controversy over the following statement from Luther’s Small Catechism that appears in his explanation of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed: ‘Daily in this Christian church the Holy Spirit abundantly forgives all sins—mine and those of all believers.’” He continues, “To explain theologically how forgiveness happened required a redefinition of justification, but to explain how it happened in the actual lives of believers led Luther to redefine both the church and the sacraments.”54


1) Baptism

Luther replaced penance with Baptism as the most important sacrament in Christendom. This shift was based on two meanings of Baptism: Paul’s image of dying and rising and God’s indelible covenant with the baptized person. The significance of Baptism was “a blessed dying unto sin and a resurrection in the grace of God, so that the old person, conceived and born in sin, is there drowned, and a new person, born in grace, come forth and rises.”55 Luther called the life of a Christian from Baptism to the grave nothing other than the beginning of a blessed death.56 The baptismal death and resurrection continues each day as “the old creature in us with all sins and evil desires is . . . drowned and dies through daily contrition and repentance, and on the other hand a new person . . . comes forth and rises up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”57 Thus, Luther intended for Baptism to cover past, present, and future with God’s promised mercy, while in the medieval church Baptism dealt with what had happened in the past.58 The sacraments were “tall guideposts along life’s highway.”59

Korean Protestants often lack this high view of Baptism. It has partly to do with the low esteem of Baptism in Presbyterian theology, which emphasizes that God is not bound to the sacraments. God is free from external means of grace, even though the sacraments established by Him belong to the ordinary life of church.60 It has also to do with the subjectivist orientation on faith influenced by the evangelical and Pentecostal movements. Baptism is only an initiation ceremony to be left behind. It is characteristic that people prefer revealing that they have mo-tae-shin-ang (having faith in their mother’s womb or being born of a Christian mother) to telling that they were baptized as an infant. In the old hymnals (Tong-il Chan-song-ga, Unity Hymnal, 1988) adopted by most Protestant denominations, there was no hymn on Baptism, while in the new hymnal (Sae Chan-song-ga, New Hymnal, 2007) three hymns on Baptism are included.61 Lutherans need to heed to their own rich tradition, as is exemplified by the words of a longtime Lutheran missionary to Korea: “I think of my Baptism every time I wash my face.”

2) Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper is a beneficium, not a sacrificium. What happens in the Supper is the Gospel, a testament, a last will, a sheer gift to the sinners. Forde emphasizes, “What our Lord did at supper ‘on the night in which he was betrayed,’ must therefore be conceptualized, taught, and claimed as pure Gospel if we are to approach what might be a ‘Lutheran’ understanding of that supper.”62

On the other hand, Heinrich Bornkamm senses that therein lies Luther’s concern for his greatest treasure, i.e., the forgiveness of sins, in his emphases on the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the sacrament as well as unbelievers’ receiving Christ’s body and blood and recipients’ eating them with the mouth, etc.:

God was as palpably close to him as his own sins were. Luther yearned for a reality of grace no less than his sins. His doctrine of Holy Communion is an expression of his faith in this reality of God amid the world’s reality and the reality of man’s Anfechtungen; it is the ultimate deduction of his belief in the reality of forgiveness.63

Most Korean Lutheran churches celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week, some less frequently, but still more frequently than other Protestant churches. There arose a small discussion in the Lutheran church about the ideal frequency of the Supper. Some argued that we should celebrate it as often as possible, since it is a treasure. Others used the same logic only to conclude the opposite: we should not use it very often since it is a treasure. The latter position seems to be taken partly out of concern for right preparations of the recipients rather than faith in God’s action in the Supper.

Moreover, it is important to remember that for Luther, the sacraments are nothing other than a separate instance of the proclamation of the Gospel, as in the expression, Word and sacrament. There is a close relationship between the Word and the sacraments. This gives perspective to proclamation as sacrament and to sacraments as proclamation. On the former aspect: “The preacher has to have the audacity to exercise the office of ministry, the audacity to believe that the very moment of the preaching is itself the sacrament, the audacity to claim that from all eternity God has been preparing for just this very moment and thus to say, ‘Here it is, it is for you!’” Regarding the latter, we should not merely talk about the sacraments, but preach them: “The task is to preach the sacraments as a Gospel Word for us, a Word which cuts into our lives, puts the old to death and raises up the new.”64


12. Theology of the Cross

The theology of glory is dominant in contemporary Protestantism in Korea. Church growth went hand in hand with economic growth in modern Korea. Naturally, economic or material success has been regarded as a blessing from God. This combination of faith and material well-being or success in life, however, has deep roots in the Korean people’s religious consciousness, especially Shamanism, which has ruled the Koreans’ consciousness for a long time. Traditional religions such as Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism are also said to be influenced by it.65 Basic tenets of Shamanism are focus on the blessings in this world, ill-defined ethical standards, controlling or appeasing gods/devils by means of gut or exorcism by shamans, etc.

Christianity is not exempted from its influence. It is easily associated with health and wealth Gospel or kibok-shinang. The superficial phrase in evangelism, “Believe in Jesus, and You will get blessing,” reveals this association. Faith is regarded as a kind of power that makes possible the impossible. One prefers experiencing resurrection without the cross to experiencing the resurrection through the cross. The idea of a reality under the opposite sign, e.g., a life of poverty, is rejected by a triumphalism that equates seeing with believing. This makes church members blind to those underprivileged or the so-called “losers” in society. As Forde pointedly says, however, the victory of Christ is the victory of a loser in a world of would-be-winners: “In a world of destructive, compulsive ‘winners,’ how else could he (Christ) be victorious except by losing? How else could he get to us?”66 Luther’s theology of the cross is one of the hardest things among his teachings to swallow. That an expatriate missionary from Germany said that Lutheranism is a high class teaching, especially applies here. In this sense, Korean Lutherans can address and give perspectives to the problems many people in the country are struggling with these days, mentioned elsewhere in this paper.


V. Lutheran Identity

Because of the LCK’s small size, both ordained pastors and lay members are the more eager to keep their identity strong. Major factors binding them together have been the liturgy, vestments, the lectionary, the Christian church year calendar, etc. The importance of doctrine has been of second rank, even though the three sola principles are frequently preached from the pulpit.


1. Subordination of Doctrine to Liturgy

Worship in other Protestant churches is simple and vastly different from Lutheran worship that keeps most of the traditional ingredients: Confession and Absolution, the Kyrie and Gloria, candles, banners, procession, lectionary, Lord’s Supper, pastor’s alb, stole, cross, sign of the cross, etc. If Lutherans are not well versed in distinct Lutheran doctrines and therefore cannot explain them to other people, they can nevertheless point to their liturgy. So they tend to regard the liturgy as the most characteristic Lutheran thing. On the flip-side, the Lutheran liturgy is one of the biggest obstacles to newcomers to the church on Sunday morning, because of its apparent similarity with Roman liturgy.

It is true that liturgy lays out basic Lutheran theology. However, what is essential (satis est) for Lutherans is doctrine as is expressed in AC 7.

Likewise, they teach that one holy church will remain forever. The church is the assembly of saints in which the Gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly. And it is enough for the true unity of the church to agree concerning the teaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions, rites, or ceremonies instituted by human beings be alike everywhere. As Paul says [Eph. 4:5, 6]: “One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all . . .”67

2. Attitudes toward the Lutheran Confessions

Lutheranism started as a confessing movement. The LCK subscribes to the three ecumenical creeds (Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed), the Augsburg Confession, and Luther’s Small Catechism as “representative creeds of Christendom and a true interpretation of the Scriptures.”68 It refers to Luther’s Large Catechism, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, the Smalcald Articles, and the Formula of Concord as a “faithful exposition of the evangelical theology of the Lutheran Reformation.”69 This differentiation in importance of the individual confessional writings matches the different publication times of their Korean translation. The entire Book of Concord was not translated into Korean until 1988, even though individual components like the Small Catechism and the Augsburg Confession were translated much earlier.

M. Div. students take a course in Lutheran confessions. At ordination, the pastoral candidate is asked whether he subscribes to and will hold fast to the Confessions. However, the line looks disconnected between the classroom and the “ministerial field,” as it is commonly called by pastors. Once stationed in the “field,” they feel that they have to sow seeds of whatever kind in order to reap the fast visible harvest. For them, the Lutheran Confessions do not appear ready for parish use. Consequently, the knowledge of the Confessions among the lay people is minimal.70 It is, however, encouraging that Lutherans, lay and ordained, feel the growing need to strengthen their Lutheran identity, especially as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is approaching. It is up to church leaders to provide them with good study material.


3. Ecumenical Attitude

Faithful to its original intention to be a “plus” to the “total” Church, the LCK has been actively involved in ecumenical enterprises. Thus, it is a member of the Christian Council of Korea and since 2011 also of the National Council of Churches in Korea. The former is more conservative and has more member churches than the latter. The LCK also plays active roles in various Christian organizations: Korea Education Association, Christian Broadcasting System, Christian TV/CTS, Korean Bible Society, Korea Christian Service, and the Joint Hymnal Committee. Korea Lutheran Women United has been active in Korea Church Women United since 1973. It needs to be added that one of the motives for its active involvement in ecumenical enterprises is its urgent need to be seen as an authentic Christian church despite of its small number and its somewhat, for most people, unfamiliar church name.

On the international level, the LCK became a member church of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in July 1972, one year after its formation succeeding the KLM. Members of the LCK, male and female, have actively participated in LWF agencies and activities, both on the international and regional levels. The LCK is also a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) ever since it was constituted in 1993. The LCK presidents have served in the Executive Committee, and a scholar from LCK has served on the ILC’s Seminary Relations Committee. The LCK hosted the ILC conferences in 1989 and 2009.

Lutherans in Korea like to call themselves the eldest son of Protestantism. It often means no more than its chronological sense, however, even though the word has special meaning in Korean culture, because it is the eldest son who is to carry on his family line. It should be stressed, however, that neither age nor antiquity is a criterion for a true church. Lutherans should remember that a true church is where the Gospel is preached harmoniously according to a pure understanding of it and the sacraments are administered in conformity with the divine Word (AC 7). Lutherans, lay and ordained, need to endeavor to promote these essential activities of the church in whatever capacities they have. For, in Korea, the Gospel is often confused with the Law, and Protestants live with only half of the Word, i.e., sermon.


VI. Perspectives in Conclusion: Lutheran Contribution to the Universal Church

Mark Noll sees in American Lutheranism hope for the redemption of the deficiency he finds in the American Protestantism: “Protestantism has been one of the truly formative influences in American history, but in the process much of the original Protestant vision has been modified, distorted, or lost. Lutherans are the major denominational family in the best position to redeem the deficiency.”71 Even though the American situation cannot be directly applied to the Korean context, Noll’s statement has some relevance to Korean Protestantism.

The Korean Protestant Church has deeply shared the destiny of Korean people ever since its formative years in the end of the nineteenth century. It was a spiritual force to fill the vacuum of the Korean mind after the forced opening of the last Yi dynasty, when the old religions and ideologies no longer seemed tenable for the new situation. It shared the lot of the suffering people during the Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945. It has been an undeniable force in rebuilding the country after the Korean War (1950–1953); it shaped the ethical minds of people; it worked for the welfare of the poor and underprivileged in society; it worked for promoting democracy in the country and for easing the tension between North and South Korea by humanitarian aid to the North and prayers, etc. In short, it contributed to the modernization of the country. Now it has become an object for criticism for reasons mentioned elsewhere in this paper. It has become a punching bag for people inside and outside. Its high morale has declined. Its enthusiasm has cooled down. Its self-understanding as a new Israel, though unbiblical, in the former days has weakened as it is registering a drop in membership.

On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church is enjoying increasing popularity among the people, especially in the wake of Pope Francis’ recent visit to Korea. His every movement and speech was covered by mass media. Many Protestants are expected to convert to Roman Catholicism, as happened after the visits of Pope John Paul II in 1984 and 1989.

The Protestant church needs to be reformed, as the Reformers stressed (ecclesia semper reformanda). It cannot be reformed, however, by imitating the glittering facade of the Roman Church. It needs to think where it has gone wrong by re-thinking, re-evaluating, and re-appropriating its own tradition. The Lutheran church would best contribute to the Korean Protestant Church by adhering to its own tradition and making it a living tradition for its life and practice. As Robert Benne emphasizes, Lutheranism is such a tradition in the sense of Alasdair MacIntyre’s definition: a living tradition is “an historically extended, socially embodied argument about the goods which constitute that tradition.”72

Jin-Seop Eom is Associate Professor of Church History at the Luther University/Seminary, Korea.


1 Maynard W. Dorow, “Lutheran Church in Korea: Its Background and Confessional Stance,” in Won-Yong Ji, A History of Lutheranism in Korea—A Personal Account (Seoul: Concordiasa, 1989), 335.

2 Census results were printed in Donga, a daily newspaper. They can be viewed in Korean at

3 Jin-Seop Eom, “History of Lutheranism in Korea,” Missio Apostolica 20, no. 2 (Nov. 2012): 239f.

4 Kyung-Bae Min, A History of Christian Churches in Korea (Seoul: Yonsei University Press, 2005), 109–110.

5 Jin-Seop Eom, “Luther Reception in Korea,” Luther Jahrbuch 70 (2003) (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht): 149–174.

6 Timothy Wengert points out, however, that it should be translated “What is this?” He says also that he himself was educated in the Small Catechism “packed with Bible verses and organized with an eye toward Melanchthon’s theological loci, so that it was a full ten times longer than Luther’s catechism itself,” which he found in 1990 with great astonishment and joy. Timothy J. Wengert, Martin Luther’s Small Catechism— Forming the Faith (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009), 1ff.

7 Cited by Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity, Vol. 2: The Reformation to the Present Day (San Francisco: Harper, 1985), 172.

8 George Forell, The Augsburg Confession: A Contemporary Commentary (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1968).

9 Timothy J. Wengert, A Formula for Parish Practice: Using the Formula of Concord in Congregation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006). See especially introduction.

10 Günther Gassmann lists a long catalogue of Luther’s theological insights that are rediscovered, reinterpreted, and reaffirmed again and again because they seem to assume fresh light and relevance in ever-changing situations and times, and now also in other Christian traditions than his own. Günther Gassmann, “Luther in the Worldwide Church Today,” in The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther, ed. Donald K. McKim (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 302.

11 Robert Kolb and Charles P. Arand, The Genius of Luther’s Theology: A Wittenberg Way of Thinking for the Contemporary Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 22.

12 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 34: Career of the Reformer IV, ed. J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1960), 337.

13 Eric W. Gritsch and Robert W. Jenson, Lutheranism: The Theological Movement and Its Confessional Writings (Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1976), 43.

14 Quoted by Oswald Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation, tr. Thomas H. Trapp (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 226.

15 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 31: Career of the Reformer I, ed. J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1957), 189–191.

16 Eric W. Gritsch and Robert W. Jenson, Lutheranism, 36–37.

17 Leif Grane, The Augsburg Confession: A Commentary, tr. John H. Rasmussen (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1987), 85–86.

18Sic ut Christus sit obiectum fidei, imo non obiectum, sed, ut ita dicam, in ipsa fide Christus adest.” WA 40/1:228, 33–229, 15; LW 26:129. Cited by Tuomo Mannermaa, Christ Present in Faith: Luther’s View of Justification, ed. Kirsi Stjerna (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005), 86.

19 James A. Nestingen, Martin Luther: A Life (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 2003), 37.

20 Oswald Bayer, Living by Faith: Justification and Sanctification (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 25.

21 Oswald Bayer, “Justification: Basis and Boundary of Theology,” in By Faith Alone: Essays on Justification in Honor of Gerhard O. Forde, ed. Joseph A. Burgess and Marc Kolden (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 84–85.

22 Jin-Seop Eom, “Lutheran Education and Formation for: Re-appropriation of the Lutheran Heritage,” Theology and Faith, 24 (Korea: Luther University, 2013): 68f.

23 Malcolm C. Fenwick, The Church of Christ in Corea (New York: Hodder and Stoughton, 1911), 16–27. See also the interesting paper by Saarinen on the similar theme on the giving and the gift delivered at the annual “Luther Lecture” in Seoul, Korea, on Oct. 27, 2011. Risto Saarinen, “Luther’s Theology of the Giving and the Gift,” Luther Study 24 (Korea: Luther University, 2011), 35–61.

24 Pilgrim W. K. Lo, on his side, mentions the inaccuracy of the translation of the phrase, justification by faith, into Chinese in the Union Version Chinese Bible, the most authoritative Chinese Bible. Pilgrim W. K. Lo, “Luther and Asia,” in The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, ed. Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L’ubomír Batka (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 616.

25 Robert Kolb and Charles P. Arand, The Genius of Luther’s Theology, 84.

26 Gerhard O. Forde, “Christian Life,” Christian Dogmatics, ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, Vol. 2 (Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1984), 407. (emphasis in original)

27 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 6th (complete) ed. (London: SCM Press, 1959), 36.

28 Anders Nygren, Agape and Eros: The Christian Idea of Love, tr. Philip S Watson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982).

29 Cited by Timothy Wengert, “The Future of Theological Education: Building on the Firm Foundation,” 17. (Lecture presented to the students of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia on Sept. 17, 2005.)

30 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 45–46.

31 Einar Molland, Kristenhetens Kirker og Trossamfunn (Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, 1976), 233.

32 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1–4, ed. J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1963), 115.

33 Won-Yong Ji maintains that the Eastern way of asserting reality has considerable affinity with Luther in “My Pilgrimage to Luther,” Concordia Journal 31, no. 1 (Jan. 2005): 37–47. Under the heading, “Luther from an Eastern Perspective,” he writes: “The distinctly paradoxical way of thinking under the umbrella of theologia crucis, Luther’s insight on iusus/peccator, free-person/complete-servant, the absconditus/the revelatus, Gesezt/Evangelium, the ‘right hand’/the ‘left hand,’ human bondage/divine grace, etc., appears to have some attractive aspects for the Eastern traditions. Are they not, in fact, speaking about the same reality of paradox from two contrasting perspectives? The both/and paradigm of the East, the Li/Ch’i contrast (logos/neshama), the classical Tai-Chi principle, and the idea of harmony without deviating from ‘the Center,’ may say something complementarily to Luther’s simul … cum polarity. If Luther’s thought is closer to the Hebraic holistic mode of thinking than the dichotomic Hellenistic thought-pattern, the Eastern way of asserting reality (Tien, Tao) looks like it has considerable affinity with Luther.” Ibid., 44. (emphasis in original)

34 Robert Kolb and Charles P. Arand, The Genius of Luther’s Theology, 48–49.

35 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 12: Selected Psalms I, ed. J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955), 311.

36 Gerhard O. Forde, “Forensic Justification and the Christian Life: Triumph or Tragedy?” in A More Radical Gospel: Essays on Eschatology, Authority, Atonement, and Ecumenism, ed. Mark C. Mattes and Steven D. Paulson (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2004), 119. [emphasis in original] See also Jin-Seop Eom, “Luther’s Understanding of the Christian Identity: simul justus et peccator” (in Korean) Luther Study 16 (Korea: Luther University, 2002): 49–91.

37 Carter Lindberg, “Do Lutherans Shout Justification but Whisper Sanctification?” Lutheran Quarterly 13 (1999): 1–20.

38 Oswald Bayer, Living by Faith, 58.

39 Gerhard Forde, “The Lutheran View of Sanctification,” in The Preached God: Proclamation in Word and Sacrament, ed. Mark C. Mattes and Steven D. Paulson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 226. LW 25:333; WA 56, 344, 31–345, 2: “Et ita secum ipse pugnat, Sed quia spiritus et caro coniunctissime sunt vnum, licet diuerce sentiant, ideo vtriusque opus sibi toti tribuit, quasi simul sit totus caro et totus spiritus.” (my emphasis) See also Jin-Seop Eom, “Lutheran Education and Formation for: Re-appropriation of the Lutheran Heritage,” 83–84.

40 Citied by Forde. Ibid., 240.

41 Oswald Bayer, Living by Faith, 58.

42 Robert Kolb and Charles P. Arand, The Genius of Luther’s Theology, 125.

43 Marc Kolden, “Earthly Vocation as a Corollary of Justification by Faith,” in By Faith Alone, 278–279.

44 Emil Brunner, The Divine Imperative (New York: Macmillan, 1937), 199. From the Lutheran hold, see Gustaf Wingren’s classical book on the subject: Luther on Vocation, tr. Carl C. Rasmussen (Philadelphia, Muhlenberg Press, 1957). See also Jin-Seop Eom, “Lutheran Education and Formation for: Re-appropriation of the Lutheran Heritage,” 81.

45 Robert Kolb and Charles P. Arand, The Genius of Luther’s Theology, 30–31.

46 Jae-Young Jeong, Religious-Sociological Understanding of Korean Church (in Korean) (Seoul: Yeollin Publishing House, 2012), 336. In an article I wrote: “Korean Protestant churches stressed evangelizing or witnessing to Christ as an obligation of all Christians (this is one of the reasons for rapid church growth), but did not teach the value of vocation (this is one of the reasons that Protestants are accused for their unethical and egoistic attitudes in the public life). These two, I think, are what Protestants can learn from Luther as regards the Christian life in the public domain.” Jin-Seop Eom, “Lutheran Education and Formation for: Re-appropriation of the Lutheran Heritage,” 61.

47 Jin-Seop Eom, “Lutheran Education and Formation for: Re-appropriation of the Lutheran Heritage,” 61–62.

48 Jong-Seo Kim, “Pope Requested Korean Catholics for Qualitative Maturity” (in Korean), Chosun Ilbo (Daily Newspaper), August 20, 2014, A29.

49 Einar Molland, Kristenhetens Kirker og Trossamfunn, 234.

50 Jae-Young Jeong, Religious-Sociological Understanding of Korean Church, 128–129.

51 E. Theodore Bachmann and Mercia Brenne Bachmann, A Handbook of Lutheran Churches in the World (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1989), 188. See more details in Jin-Seop Eom, “History of Lutheranism in Korea,” Missio Apostolica 20, no. 2 (Nov. 2012): 246f.

52 Karlfried Froehlich, “Luther on Vocation,” Harvesting Martin Luther's Reflections on Theology, Ethics, and the Church, ed. Timothy J. Wengert (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 127.

53 Young-Jae Kim, Korean Church History (in Korean) (Seoul: Irehseowon, 2004), 312.

54 Scott H. Hendrix, Luther (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2009), 46.

55 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I, ed. J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1960), 50.

56 Ibid., 31.

57 The Book of Concord, ed. Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), 360. Small Catechism. Cf. Robert Kolb and Charles P. Arand, The Genius of Luther’s Theology, 218.

58 Hendrix, Luther, 48.

59 Heinrich Bornkamm, Luther’s World of Thought, tr. Martin H. Bertram (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1958), 84.

60 Einar Molland, Kristenhetens Kirker og Trossamfunn, 240. Molland especially cites Ch. 21 of Confessio Helvetica Posterior (1562).

61 Jin-Seop Eom, “Lutheran Education and Formation for: Re-appropriation of the Lutheran Heritage,” 79.

62 Gerhard Forde, “The Lord’s Supper as the Testament of Jesus,” in The Preached God, 146.

63 Heinrich Bornkamm, Luther’s World of Thought, 95.

64 Gerhard Forde, “The Lord’s Supper as the Testament of Jesus,” in The Preached God, 97, 100.

65 Dong-Shik Yoo maintains, too, though from another angle, that Shamanism forms the Korean base culture and has exerted influence on Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Christianity. Dong-Shik Yoo, Korean Religions and Christianity (in Korean) (Seoul: The Christian Literature Society of Korea, 1965).

66 Gerhard O. Forde, “Loser Takes All: The Victory of Christ,” in A More Radical Gospel, 100.

67 The Book of Concord, 43.

68 Art. 2 (Fundamentals of the Faith) of the Constitution of the Lutheran Church in Korea.

69 Ibid.

70 See Jin-Seop Eom, “The Lutheran Confessions in Korea,” Dialog 45, no. 2 (Summer 2006): 138–142. I maintain in the article that out of the five types Carl E. Braaten categorizes concerning Lutherans’ attitudes to the Lutheran confessional writings, the attitude of repristination and of hypothetical confessional Lutheranism would apply to most Korean Lutherans. As for the former attitude, Korean Lutherans would accept the Confessions only “insofar as” (quatenus) they conform to Scripture and commit themselves to the confessions only “insofar as” (quatenus) they are relevant to modern times. As for the latter attitude, they, conscious of their Lutheran identity, would subscribe to the confessions “because” (quia) they are Lutheran. See also Carl E. Braaten, Principles of Lutheran Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983), 29–31.

71 Mark Noll, “American Lutherans Yesterday and Today,” in Lutherans Today: American Lutheran Identity in the 21th Century, ed. Richard Cimino (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 20.

72 Cited by Robert Benne, “Integrity and Fragmentation: Can the Lutheran Center Hold?” in Lutherans Today: American Lutheran Identity in the 21th Century, ed. Richard Cimino (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 207.

LCMS Missionaries and an Alien Indian Culture: A Gospel-Culture Engagement at the Margins of Indian Society - Stanish Stanley

Abstract: Does the Gospel message have within it the inherent potential to engage and transform a culture that seems to be alien and at odds with its worldview? A look into the early twentieth century history of the evangelizing efforts of LCMS missionaries in South India provides a glimpse into how the missionaries as the ‘bearers of the Gospel” encountered a native culture at odds with the Biblical message and vision. Through this mission story, the essay argues that Gospel-Culture engagement entails negotiations of varying concerns and aspirations of both the missionary and the “converting” people, with the Gospel enabling the native people to challenge and transform their culture by contextualizing its Biblical promise and hope.