Kim Kyo Shin, Conclusion: Why He Matters Today More Than Ever

Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, Voice of the Martyrs Korea President, concludes this special 8-part series on Kim Kyo Shin, one of the greatest martyrs in Korean Christian history whose voice needs to be heard today more than ever, by Korea and the world.

 

What Kim Kyo Shin attempted—a Holy Spirit-led transformation of the nation through the personal transformation of its individual citizens according to the word of God—was daring indeed. But the recent beginning of the decline of the Korean church (cf. Hwang, 2012, 23) suggests that the effort may not have been reckless but instead essential. If so, then it may be as relevant and necessary today as it was in Kim Kyo Shin’s own time. Time may be running out on the model favored by some early Korean church leaders where an American form of Christianity was embraced as “a cultural instrument for advanced civilization” (Lee, 2011, 99). Kim Kyo Shin continues to point the way to something more radical: a renewed commitment to rediscover a truly indigenous form of Korean Christianity, one totally faithful to the Bible and to Korean culture, and one capable of being shared with the world, as driven by providence.

If it sounds unrealistic to believe that Korean churches would repent and embrace such an approach, it did to Kim Kyo-Shin as well; but this did not stop him from believing that God would bring it to pass. As he wrote in the first issue of his magazine in 1927:

‘Sungsuh-Chosun’!  You shall go to Koreans who have Korean spirit rather than to so-called established Christians!  Go to countryside, to mountain villages; make it your mission to comfort a woodcutter (Kim, 2012, 214).

 If comforting a woodcutter does not sound like the start of the kind of international Biblical revolution that Kim Kyo Shin advocated, it is only because our understanding of what it takes to make a Christian is shaped more by proselytization and church growth strategies than by the experience of teaching that leads to genuine conversion and personal transformation. For Kim Kyo Shin, such teaching only ever happened in small numbers, and it always happened over time. His own work reflected this patient, intimate approach. As the compiler of his collected works noted, “Subscribers (to Sungsuh-Chosun) numbered 300 at the most and associate members were not over 10–20. At times, he continued Bible study with one audience in his living room for some time. He did this, saying, ‘A true regeneration of Christian occurs once over 3 years, one or two in 5 years, or 3 or less in 10 years’” (Kim, 2012, 178). If it was a strategy that was sand is unusual to Korean, it does not appear to be unusual by New Testament standards.

It was the New Testament that Kim Kyo Shin took as his sole standard, using this as the measure to evaluate the Korean church and the fruit of its labor. He grieved that the Korean church portrayed Christianity “as a path, not to the cross, but to health and material well-being” (Wells, 2001, 168). He quoted Mark 8:32-38 (in which Jesus rebukes Peter for failing to see the necessity of the Cross) and Luke 12:49-53 (in which Jesus warns that his word will divide families and bring fire to the earth) and urged Korean Christians to renounce the world’s ideas of power, along with Western-influenced conceptions of the Christian faith (Wells, 2001, 168).

All of this brings us back to the KPC ordination study guide with which this essay began. The guide asks, “What were the problems of the Non-Church Movement by Gyo Sin Kim?” It answers its own question by saying that the problems were the rejection of the established church, the denial of the church’s authority and ordination, and the refusal of baptism and communion (KPCA Ordination Exam, 2015).

It is not hard to imagine Kim Kyo Shin replying to the examiners that in fact the problem of the Korean church is that tends to regard such things as serious problems while neglecting its divine mandate for national and personal transformation.

In this day in which the decline of the Korean church has begun, it is not hard to imagine that perhaps he may be right.

 

Works Cited

Hwang, S.C. 2012. A theological analysis of the Non-Church Movement in Korea with a special reference to the formation of its spirituality. Birmingham, UK: University of Birmingham.

Kim, J.C. 2012. Recollection of Kyo-Shin Kim. BibleKorea.net. Accessed November 30, 2015 at http://www.biblekorea.net/articles/Recollection_of_Kyo-shin_Kim.doc.

KPCA Ordination Exam. 2015. Korean Church History. Accessed December 2, 2015 at http://www.kpcaep.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Korean_Church_History_Study.pdf.

Lee, S.C. 2011. Revisiting the Confucian norms in Korean church growth. International Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 1(13): 87-103.

Wells, K.M. 2001. Providence and power: Korean Protestant responses to Japanese imperialism. In Reading Asia: New research in Asian studies, ed. F.H. Huskin and D. van der Meij. London: Routledge Curzon, 154-172.

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Peace is Not Something You Ask For From Others But Something You Give To Them Yourself

What does it mean to promote peace? This week, the Chosun Christian Federation, an organization in North Korea, wrote a letter to South Korean Christians asking them to promote peace by supporting the peace plan of their Young Marshal, Kim Jong Un.

But as Pastor Foley shares, peace is something we first give to others, not something we request that others give us. It does not come from following a certain political leader or ideology, changing regimes, or waging war with military power.

We can promote peace only when we first experience peace ourselves by following the ways of Jesus. Then, in word and deed, we can share the ways of Jesus with others so they can also experience peace.

To watch other Voice of the Martyrs videos, visit the Voice of the Martyrs Video Page!

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Kim Kyo Shin, Part VII: Missionary To Chosun

Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, Voice of the Martyrs Korea President, authors this special 8-part series on Kim Kyo Shin, one of the greatest martyrs in Korean Christian history whose voice needs to be heard today more than ever, by Korea and the world.

 

Reviewing Kim Kyo Shin’s life and death is a reminder of how inaccurate it is to describe him as a Christian nationalist who opposed the Korean church. In truth, Kim’s mission had very little to do with opposing the Korean church but everything to do with promoting a truly Korean Christianity. He did not come to faith in a Korean church or even in Korea at all (Hwang, 2012, 85). He is better understood as a missionary to Chosun who sought to introduce the Christian faith without American or foreign presuppositions, believing that God’s special providence for Chosun as a nation made the development of a truly Korean expression of Christianity an urgent necessity. As both he, his supporters, and opponents would agree, he loved Chosun and Christ, not the church:

“A renowned Presbyterian, Reverend Kim In-seo (1894-1964)…a disciple of the famous revivalist Gil Seon-ju…[criticized KKS]…professed to have three C’s to love: Choseon (Korea), Christ, and Church, whereas Kim Kyo-sin used to say that he loved two C’s: Christ and Choseon” (Hwang, 2012, 111).

Or as Kim Kyo Shin himself put it in the editor’s column of the 75th issue of Sungsuh Chosun, “Bible and Korea; Bible to Korea; Korea on the Bible” (in Kim, 2012, 192).

Ultimately the Korean churches opposed him, not on the basis of his character or on the fruits of his ministry but simply on the basis of definition of what constituted a Christian:

For Calvin, the marks of the true church were that the word of God should be purely preached and heard, and that the sacraments should be rightly administered according to Christ’s institution. He stated that the true church is indeed to be found where the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered. In the early twentieth century in Korea, most churches had similar views concerning the church. In contrast, the NCM practiced neither preaching nor the sacraments (Hwang, 2012, 113).

For Kim Kyo Shin, there were far more significant issues facing Christians in Korea than whether or not they adhered to Western-style religious rituals. He called Korean churches to rise above denominationalism in order to defeat what he called “a very strong monster”:

Today a very strong monster is before Christians. We are facing a generation when God-fearing people, whether they are in church or out of church, have to fight with all their strength. The prevailing state of this generation requires us to shed martyrs’ blood to discern true religion. Since we live in such generation, we lost interest in debating whether salvation is in church or out of it. We would prepare a tomb for those who suffer persecution for Christ, and please bury us if you see our corpse. (From the 100th issue of Sungsuh Chosun, in Kim, 2012, 193).

Perhaps because his focus was on this greater task, it did not seem to change or challenge him that Korean churches ultimately rejected him and his teaching. As his former student Guhn Goo, later a professor of natural science at Seoul City College, later recalled, in matters of church and all of life, Kim Kyo Shin was “free to do right things daringly”:

King Lee and Queen Bang-ja visited Yangjung School that his mother Queen Uhm founded. Whole neighborhood and school was cleaned up, teachers wore tailcoat, and students’ work was displayed in two classrooms. 500 students wore clean clothes, standing on their feet in two lines, one each side of the road. Finally, after one hour of waiting, King’s motorcade arrived. Inspection at the end of a ceremony just ended solemnly. At that moment, someone was passing by us on a bicycle on a steep downhill road from main building to the entrance gate, as swift as a flying arrow; it was Teacher Kim. When the whole school was under holiday mood, Teacher Kim was going home, without having any concern about it; the more I think about his appearance at that time the more he seemed to be perfectly composed, without being overly sensitive to others’ opinion, and free to do right things daringly.” (Kim, 2012, 209).

Next in the Conclusion of this special series on Kim Kyo Shin: Why He Matters Today More Than Ever

Works Cited

Hwang, S.C. 2012. A theological analysis of the Non-Church Movement in Korea with a special reference to the formation of its spirituality. Birmingham, UK: University of Birmingham.

Kim, J.C. 2012. Recollection of Kyo-Shin Kim. BibleKorea.net. Accessed November 30, 2015 at http://www.biblekorea.net/articles/Recollection_of_Kyo-shin_Kim.doc.

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