A New Confession of Faith with an Eco-Theology and a Father-Centred Trinitarianism: A Critical Study of the 21st Century Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church of Korea

Article excerpt

Abstract

A mainstream Korean Protestant church has recently produced a noticeable confession of faith that includes two distinctive elements: eco-theology and Father-centred trinitarianism. The eco-theological position of the confession emphasizes the whole creation's participation in God's saving works, and declares humans 'solidarity with all other creatures. However, this results in weakening the Reformed doctrine of God's free and covenantal dealing with humans. The confession also includes a thorough trinitarianism that turns out to be a Father-centred trinitarianism. This significantly weakens the Christology and pneumatology of the confession, and may reflect a Confucian and patriarchal way of thinking by the Korean church.

I. Introduction

One of the major Korean Protestant churches (the Presbyterian Church of Korea) (1) has recently produced a noticeable confession of faith called The 21st Century Confession of the Presbyterian Church of Korea (hereafter referred to as "the Confession"). It includes both a noteworthy ecological theology that emphasizes nature's participation in various dimensions of God's saving work, and a Father-centred trinitarianism that stresses the position of God the Father over against those of the Son and the Holy Spirit. The eco-theology echoes contemporary and environmentalist thought. The trinitarianism seems to reflect a conventional patriarchal or Confucian way of thinking. Both elements seem to make the Confession very attractive and challenging for the Western churches. This article, therefore, attempts to understand how the PCK has come to do theology in this way. I will first translate the Confession from Korean to English, and then try to analyze its theological problems, especially those concerning its coo-theological and trinitarian positions.

The Korean Protestant churches began in the 1880s largely as the result of the work of American missionaries, mostly Presbyterians and Methodists, to the country. The churches grew up under the strong patronage of the American missionaries, whose theology in general was very conservative. So, in terms of their doctrinal standards, the Korean Presbyterian churches have been content with the Westminster Confession and Shorter Catechism. It took more than a hundred years for the Presbyterian Church of Korea to produce its first official confession of faith, (2) while other Korean Protestant churches do not yet even dream of making one. Therefore, the PCK's 21st century Confession is very significant for Korean Protestant churches in general. It is also important for world Christianity since it shows how a non-Western modern church deals with the situational and theological problems it faces.

II. The Confession in translation

The 21st Century Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church of Korea (shorter version) (3)

1. We believe in one God who lives as three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and who, as the origin of love and life, is eternally worthy of praise and worship. We believe that God the Father is God of creation and providence, the Saviour, and the One who calls all humans and all things to a fellowship (koinonia) of eternal love and life.

2. We believe that God's good creation has been destroyed by mankind, who has sinned and been corrupted by accepting Satan's temptation, and that mankind's fellowship with God has been broken, and that, as a result, mankind and all other creatures are under God's eternal wrath and judgement.

3. We believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God, who, having eternally been God's wisdom and Word, was incarnate through the Virgin Mary by the work of the Holy Spirit. We believe that Jesus, being truly God and truly human, died on the cross and rose [from the dead], and is the Reconciler and Mediator redeeming mankind and all creatures, and restoring their eternal fellowship with God.

4. We believe in the Holy Spirit, who, as the giver of life, created heaven and earth with the Father, and who is to be worshipped and glorified eternally. …