Posted by: rbbadger | April 6, 2009

Korean storefront church

I had mentioned before about the huge number of Protestant churches in Korea.  While there is only one Catholic parish in my area of Namyangju, you can’t go very without running into a Presbyterian church or two.  There are three within easy walking distance of my house and two very large ones not far away.  Anyhow, many churches in Korea often share their buildings with other businesses.  Here is a photo of the Hansomang Presbyterian Church near the Deokso subway station in my city.  On the first floor is a pharmacy and a number of other businesses.  On the second is the church.  The third floor looks to be a residence, so maybe the minister lives literally over the church.  They’ve also placed a steeple on the building.  This sort of arrangement is very, very common.

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This church belongs to the smaller of the two main Presbyterian denominations in Korea, namely the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea.  After the end of the Korean war, a great split happened in the Presbyterian Church in Korea.  It centred on the question of historical-critical biblical interpretation. 

Biblical criticism is a very complicated thing to explain, but basically it seeks to apply rigourous scientific methods of study to the texts of the Bible, much as one would apply them to any other body of literature or history.  Some of the tools used are not controversial, such as textual criticism which seeks to come up with the best and most correct form a given text.  Source criticism is still controversial in some circles, such as the generally accepted theory among Bible scholars that the first five books of the Bible were not written by Moses, but were basically oral traditions that were written down and that the four different sources were eventually edited together to make up the first five books of the Bible.  These sorts of things were being taught in the Chosun Theological Seminary and did not sit well with many.  A split occurred and the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea came into being.  The American missionaries were more conservative than the Canadian ones.  The Canadians supported the professors at Chosun Theological Seminary and the Americans did not.  A split happened among the missionaries as well.

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