Preaching the Gospel in Korea: A Critical Analysis of the Contextual Theologies of Shamanism and Minjung

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Systematic Theology

First Advisor

Klaus Detlev Schulz


The main concern of this dissertation is to research the relationship between contextualization, syncretism, and indigenization and compare these to Shamanism and the Minjung Theology toward an authentic contextualization in the Korean context.

The first reason of the study is missiological of discerning theological contextualization from cultural contextualization. The second reason is of a social kind where a society opposes Christian mission. Exclusive nationalism and a cultural reactionism of a society may lead to rejecting not only western culture but Christian mission as well. Both the missiological and social challenges can be reduced by the authentic contextualization of Christianity.

First, contextualization requires a basic understanding of the reciprocity between the gospel and culture. The gospel and culture have different characteristics. The gospel is unique, absolute, unchangeable, kerygmatik, by God's revelation, and theological. Culture is variable, relative, changeable, linguistic, by human hands, and anthropological. When mission communicates the gospel within culture, the gospel has cultural factors and cross-cultural factors. It is hard for mission to separate the gospel and culture because both are very closely interrelated. Their relationship is dependent on as well as conflictive with each other. Thus, the church has been called to debate the reciprocity between them by using a number of concepts: Accommodation, Quarantine Approach, and Transformation. Contextualization also includes the discussion of the gospel's relation to other religions: Inclusivism, Exclusivism, and Pluralism.

Contextualization is to communicate the gospel in a context. Therefore, contextualization is useful for mission to connect between Christianity and the context. However, contextualization can go too far and lead to theological syncretism. Contextualization is temporary, flexible, open, and in the process while indigenization is traditionalized and the destination of contextualization. In the Bible, the issues related to contextualization are raised with individuals such as Joseph, Paul, and Jesus who contextualized themselves to communicate the word of God with people who lived in different cultures.

Korean Christianity needs to apply the authentic contextualization to the Korean context. As is well known, Korean Christianity has been influenced by Shamanism. Thus, Korean Christianity has shown some shamanistic factors: seeking earthly blessings, believing a shamanistic concept of God, regarding clergy as shamans, opening for ecstatic worship, and embracing supernatural works of the Holy Spirit. Although they were inevitable for Korean Christianity in the process of contextualization, they still remain a missional task for Korean mission in order to overcome the confusion between the gospel and Shamanism. Theological differences between Shamanism and Christianity provide Korean churches with important criteria on how Korean Christianity can indigenize Christianity into the Korean context while avoiding theological syncretism. More apparent syncretism is Minjung Theology in the Korean context. Minjung Theology reveals serious and sharp theological differences between Scriptural doctrine and theology such as a political and economical gospel. For the authentic contextualization, Korean Christianity needs to develop a disciplined approach by paying respect to the gospel as it is preached and taught in the Korean context; a balance between the Bible and the recipient culture; an open-ended dialogue between the gospel and culture; transforming syncretistic beliefs and worldviews into a Biblical belief and worldview; observing authentic hermeneutics of the Bible; teaching Biblical doctrine; and helping missionaries or missioanl workers toward an authentic contextualization.


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