Monday, July 18, 2016

Inculturation in Korea

In both Catholic papers we have book reviews of Monsignor Sim Sang-tae's Theology of Inculturation of the Korean Church. [Inculturation is the term used in Catholicism to denote an encounter between the Christian Gospel and a particular culture] Monsignor is the Director of the Research Institute for Korean Christian Thought, and a seminary professor.

While preparing for the diaconate in Munster Germany in 1970, and on a retreat at a monastery in the outskirts of the city where the abbot of the monastery happened to be Asian: he asked about issues facing the church  in Asia, and was quickly answered: What is 禪? This is the Chinese Character for Seon the Korean variant for Zen.

He, the priest, was a Korean who knew little of his own history and spirituality. Knew little of his ancestors, and had little interest in their way of life but knew the thinking in the Middle Ages of Europe.  No knowledge of the Buddhist ascetic practices, and decided from that moment on to make inculturation his life study.

Christians need not only believe, pray together but to live what we believe. And to remember we are influenced by Confucianism, Buddhism Taoism and other cultures. Book contains: Church's teaching, and the  concept of inculturation;  direction of inculturation; road taken and the present reality of inculturation;  study of different areas of inculturation.

He mentions when persons are interested in becoming Catholic it is important to show from where they are coming, and the relationship to Catholicism.  Similarities and differences will make a person's faith life more comprehensive and active. 

Monsignor sees the Korean Church as narrow minded and exclusive as the pre-Vatican II Church of the West. He thinks the Church is more Roman than the Roman Church which he hears as a criticism of the present church, and warns of the results. We still depend on books of theology translated from the West and are not open to discussing the Korean way of thinking, the structures and concepts and  influence of the main religions of Korea on the thinking of Koreans. With this understanding we can come to a greater knowledge and depth of Jesus'  teachings and behavior.

If we don't leave this thinking of the West in its world view, manner of life, and ways of evangelization we will never get far in our task of evangelizing Asia. We need a new ardor, new methods, new expressions from the ways of the West.  
If we are not to follow in the footsteps of the West we have to find ways to experience what we believe,and to change to a spirituality proper to out mental make up, and this is what inculturation wants to do.

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