Church and secondary societies in Korean ecclesiology and the Christocentric perspective of Karl Barth.
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Oh, Sung Wook.
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My purpose is to critically map out the relationship between Church and society in the current Korean context in light of three models: difference, identity, and harmony, and to propose a better relationship between Church and society in the Korean context from Karl Barth’s Christocentric vision of the Church. First, the difference model between Church and society is represented in the “Fourfold Gospel Theology” whose theological basis is John Wesley’s teaching of sanctification. This theology says that the Church and society are two distinctive territories and have their own different tasks, not to be confused with each other. Second, the identity model of “Korean Indigenization Theology” has emerged as a theological position that contradicts the difference model. This theology holds that the ultimate reality of Christianity already exists everywhere; salvation can be found outside the Church, and thus there exists an essential identity between Church and society. Third, the harmony model is an alternative position between the difference model and the identity model, and is proposed by “Minjung Theology.” Minjung Theology focuses on the poor who suffer economic crisis and domestic violence and supports Christian’s active participation in the socio-political conflicts. Hence, the Church and society should cooperate toward building a utopian society as an “all-comprehensive society” within which the Church fulfills its function as a subsystem. By contrast with these three models, Karl Barth (1886-1968) suggests a new vision of the relationship between Church and society. Barth unfolded his theory of Church and society under a Christocentric perspective: Christ the Lord is at the center, the Church is in the inner circle next to Christ, and society is in a more distant outer circle. Although Church and society cannot be mixed and confused, Barth believed that society is not an “independent entity,” and the Church is not a neutral space completely independent of politics. However, Barth prioritizes the Church over society. As an “asymmetrical” relationship, society becomes secondary to the Church in God’s redemptive economy. Consequently, the Church has a duty toward secondary societies as a model of peaceful behavior and should serve as a non-violent judge.