One and Holy: A Proposal for A Korean Reformed Ecclesiology

Seung-Chan Park

Research output: PhD ThesisPhD-Thesis - Research and graduation internal

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The dissertation attempts to bring the unity and holiness of the Church together in Reformed ecclesiology in Korean context. The context of the inquiry is the history of division and the ongoing dividedness of Korean churches – especially among the Reformed churches. Their conflicting attitudes towards the World Council of Churches against the backdrop of the 10th Assembly at Busan in 2013 showcased the reality of division, as their perspectives on the unity and holiness of the Church were sharply divided. This phenomenon reflects the history of division among the Presbyterian churches, and proved that an adequate understanding of the unity and holiness of the Church was still indeed an ongoing problem for them. An adequate and constructive theological thesis is called for that brings the unity and holiness of the Church together. While being mainly theological in dealing with the principles in ecclesiology, the dissertation addresses the Korean ecclesial context with its own unique characteristics and sensitivities. To seek a constructive theological thesis, first of all, the Faith and Order’s convergence document on ecclesiology The Church: Towards A Common Vision (2013) is investigated along with the context of its ecumenical development. The convergence document was an ecumenical achievement in ecclesiology after the long process of ecumenical discussions, publications and other major achievements. Many churches from the Reformed tradition participated in this ecumenical process, as well. Chapter 2 studies the relevant contextual aspects and historical development of Faith and Order and the ecclesiology of the document itself. Another dialogue partner for a thesis is Gerrit Cornelis Berkouwer. As a Reformed theologian, Berkouwer wrote his ecclesiological works De Kerk I, II (1970, 1972) later in his career after his ecumenical engagements, indicating the maturity of his ecclesiological thinking and its uniqueness. Thus, in Chapter 3, the development of his theological and ecclesiological thoughts as well as the concept of "correlation" he employs consistently in his Dogmatische Studiën, of which his works on ecclesiology are the last ones, are investigated. Following this, his ecclesiological works are looked into and analysed. In Chapter 4, the relevant information is provided on the ecumenical context of the Reformed churches in Korea, followed by the theological investigation of the ecclesiological perspectives of three Korean theologians: Young-yup Cho, Jang-hyun Ryu and Hong-seok Choi. The contextual research revolves around the event of the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 2013. The points of conflict are presented, and further analysis is given to the relevant historical events and points of debate. Then, the ecclesiological thoughts of the three theologians are analysed and critiqued. They profess distinct ecclesiological ideas with dissimilar takes on the subject of the unity and holiness of the Church. Cho firmly stands on the confessional, militant and conservative ground, and he consistently showed a great interest in the World Council of Churches in his writings. Ryu is more on the progressive side in theology, and has continued to write on ecclesiology in his career. Choi is studied because of his uniqueness in resisting both objectivism and subjectivism in theologising. The constructive thesis is to find a way in which unity and holiness are formed together in ecclesiological discourse, so that it would do justice to “credo ecclesiam”. Chapter 5 conducts critical examination on the primary sources together with identifying ecclesiological insights for a constructive thesis. The resultant proposal is a "concurrent" approach or "concurrence", which is rather a loaded concept and combined with "correlation" from Berkouwer's theology. This concept addresses principles in ecclesiology. Still, several relevant ecclesiastical practices in Korean context are discussed. Further conceptual articulation of "concurrence" is provided in Chapter 6.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Van der Borght, Eduardus, Supervisor
  • van der Kooi, Kees, Supervisor
Award date15 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Ecclesiology, G. C. Berkouwer, Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches, Ecumenical ecclesiology, Unity, Holiness, Reformed theology, Reformed ecclesiology, Systematic Theology, Korean Theology


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