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11/28/13 at 05:51 PM 0 Comments

Shinchunji Heresy Challenges Church in South Korea and Elsewhere

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Manhee Lee of ShinchunjiGuest blog by Doomin ChoDoomin Cho was born in South Korea. Causing trouble as a wandering street kid, he had no purpose for life. While he was wandering with alcohol, helpless and desperate, God came into his life. Through the Psalms of David in the Bible, Doomin experienced the grace of God as David did. From this point forward, Doomin committed his life to Jesus and has been following his call into full-time ministry.[1]

The number of the Christians in South Korea is decreasing due to many reasons. The major ones are the corruption of church leaders, the wave of liberalism, the loss of functional churches, secular culture, and the growth of heresy.[2] But these days, these named failings of the global church are meeting a particular challenge in South Korea that is called “Shinchunji.”

This heresy tempts not only non-Christians but also existing Christians. Many Shinchunji members are working in orthodox churches, disguising themselves as leaders or lay people. They try to divide these churches and to bring church members into their own church. Many churches in Korea are becoming victims of Shinchunji. Its main strategy in attacking the churches is to play one against the other. Its proselytizers try to make church members doubt each other and the teachings of church. Then Shinchunji members bring those whom they have made discontented with their church to a Shinchunji Bible study.

Shinchunji’ s teachings have many erroneous views. Especially notable is that the founder of Shinchunji, Manhee Lee, puts himself in Jesus’ position; his teachings undermine Jesus’ person and Jesus’ work to save sinners.

Manhee Lee founded Shinchunji on March 14, 1984 and today claims members not only throughout Korea but registered so far in 13 different nations. The official name of Shinchunji is “Shinchunji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony.” Shinchunji, 신천지 in Korean, means literally “New Heaven and Earth.” Shinchunji uses biblical language that yet is not truly biblical. According to an official Bible study of Shinchunji, Manhee Lee is the promised shepherd who delivers God’s word.[3] He bases his claims on Revelation 10:9 and 11 which he renders as, “you must eat little scroll from the angel’s hand and eat it….you must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.” Here, Manhee Lee says that “you” is he, Manhee. All his adherents believe that Manhee is the promised shepherd. In fact, the most distinguishing factor of Shinchunji is that it depends on this erroneous interpretation of the Bible to formulate its theology and theory, claiming that its interpretation is appropriate and the existing churches’ teachings are corrupt. Thus, Shinchunji advertises its churches as together composing the only true Bible-centered church. Manhee Lee says that the criteria between orthodoxy and heresy has to be the Bible and the interpretation of the Bible as he gives it.[4]

Dr. Changgyun Chung of Hapdong Theological Seminary has emphasized three erroneous views in the salvation theory of Shinchunji.[5]

First, Manhee Lee calls himself the prophet of Jesus or the promised shepherd. In Manhee Lee’s interpretation of Revelation 22:17, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!,” we can find some heterodoxical salvation theory. Manhee Lee asks, “Who are the Spirit and the bride?” and answers “The Spirit is the spirit of Jesus. The Bride is the promised shepherd, the overcomer.”[6] According to Manhee Lee, “The promised shepherd is the counselor (or helper) of the earth who is with the holy spirit, another Counselor and Comforter.”[7] Manhee Lee refers to himself as “the Bride.” Thus, Manhee says that he and the spirit call the lost.[8] In addition, Manhee teaches adherents and Christians through using Revelation 22:18-19, “I (Here, “I” refers to Manhee himself.) warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” Manhee asks his adherents to listen to his words so that they can get to the holy city.[9] Where in the Bible do we find that Manhee is “the Bride” or for that matter that the bride of Christ does the work of salvation? There is no evidence that Manhee is the bride and that Manhee did any salvation work.

The Bible story is consistent from the beginning to the end. What God has done connects to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, because the Trinity is unified.[10] So we cannot add anything more to what God has done through Jesus. Jesus and the Holy Spirit were with the Father in the Creation and are together in God forever. However, Manhee Lee says, “We have to receive the salvation by believing in my revelation.”[11] Manhee preaches that those who do not receive his revelation cannot be saved. He puts himself as necessary for salvation. Thus, Manhee considers Christians to be false believers who are tempted by false shepherds. Manhee falsely interprets the truth of salvation for his own sake. Jesus said, “I am the (only) way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father God except through me” (John 14:16; Acts 4:12). But, Manhee claims himself to be the helper and shepherd to reveal the truth and wants people to believe in his teaching in order to expand his church but not to preach the true gospel of Jesus Christ. This is against Jesus’ words above. Manhee Lee tries to take the equality from God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.[12] Shinchunji’s teachings are Manhee Lee-centered and Manhee-made. While Christianity focuses on Jesus, based only on the Bible, considering the context and connection between accounts, Shinchunji’s interpretations are very random and not consistent. Manhee depends on his ideas to use the Bible for his own purpose to make himself Jesus-like, God-like, and the real Jesus to be regarded as just another counselor.

According to Shinchunji’s theology, Manhee Lee has the only ability to reveal the Bible.[13] But, Shinchunji uses the Bible as a secondary source to prove Manhee Lee’s opinion that he is the promised one. The Bible, however, is the primary source to interpret God’s word and the Bible itself is God’s word. But, when Shinchunji’s proponents think that they can control those who study their teachings, Shinchunji interprets the Bible for its own sake. Therefore, even if Shinchunji’s teaching claims it starts from a study of the Bible, its doctrines prove to be different from those of the Bible itself. Shinchunji erroneously misappropriates the word of the Bible in regard to Jesus for Manhee Lee: “As God who is spirit was with the first coming Jesus, the second coming Jesus is with the shepherd who takes the position of the apostle John.”[14] Manhee Lee proclaims that what the apostle John saw was an illusion (Rev 1:1), but what he himself sees is a fact, as Manhee Lee compares himself to the second coming of Jesus.[15]

Second, Shinchunji has a wrong view of the existing churches. Shinchunji considers the current Christian church to be “the spiritual Babylon.” He compares the teachings of the orthodox churches to a field where two kinds of seeds are sown. Shinchunji insists that there is no salvation in the orthodox churches, the existing churches’ interpretation being wrong. Also, the church tries to make every congregation’s members followers of Shinchunji, saying that the existing churches are dominated by Satan. Citing Revelation 2-3, Shinchunji claims that there is no salvation without the overcomer Manhee Lee.[16] According to Manhee Lee, he is the second coming of Jesus. As Jesus was persecuted in his first coming, Manhee Lee says that he himself is also persecuted by heretical shepherds, accusing his Christian opponents of worshiping a foreign god. This way he attempts to confuse Christians who are attending existing churches and thereby to divide those churches.

Third, Shinchunji considers the Bible as “the parable.” Shinchunji urges that its task is to interpret “the parable of the Bible.” In other words, Shinchunji thinks the Bible as a book is a parable. Thus, Shinchunji’s claims its interpretation of “the parable” is right because Manhee Lee is the promised one to reveal the truth of the Bible. Shinchunji understands Matthew 13:11, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them” as proving that Manhee Lee is the one who takes charge of interpreting the secret. Because of this reason, it considers other interpretations to be wrong. However, the interpretation of Manhee Lee is groundless and self-proclaimed. Manhee Lee grounds his claim of “pairing interpretation” on Isaiah 34:16, “….None of these will be missing, not one will lack her mate….” For example, he uses word-pairings for interpretation: Sun, Moon, and horse refer to shepherd or evangelizer; star, plate, crops, and fruit are believers. Heaven, mountain, and island express church. Water, bread, Manna, jewelry, and fire refer to the word of God. Groom is spirit and bride is flesh. Shinchunji contends that the Bible is written with parable words and the words yield these meanings in pairs.[17] Therefore, Shinchunji insists that it alone can interpret the Bible, because only Manhee Lee knows the pairs of the words.

Practical Step by Step Recommendation for Freeing these Victims

Heresy prevention education against Shinchunji is very important before church members become adherents. Regularly, church leadership should provide instruction, since taking care of parishioners is the intrinsic mission of pastor and elders. In particular, through education, teachers should become aware of the risk of off-church Bible study, because Shinchunji’s main missionary way is its Bible study. In addition, Shinchunji criticism tracts or books should be distributed so that church members will be made aware of the wrong doctrines of Shinchunji against the person and work of Jesus for redemption.

Further, churches should search out and identify Shinchunji “harvesters.” Because many Shinchunji members disguise themselves in churches, so sorting them out and expelling them out of church are very important tasks. To distinguish Shinchunji members, there are several ways: “First, Shinchunji harvesters try to visit new comers or existing members, not noticing pastors or churches. Second, they approach to church members by saying that they have a dream for you. Third, Shinchunji members try to introduce pastors outside of church.”[18] If you see these kinds of people, immediately notify your pastor.

Those who have been adherents for Shinchunji need special care and help. If we know those people, we have to tell our church’s pastor because former victims of this error need not only family care, but also pastoral care. Through counseling with pastors who are knowledgeable in the heresy of Shinchunji, we will learn how to help adherents in an appropriate way. If we are family or friends of present adherents, we can help them open their heart, not simply making them feel guilty for what they believe, but ultimately learning why the doctrines of Shinchunji are in error from a pastor who can teach them the true orthodox salvation theology.[19]Above all, when we help victims out of a heresy like Shinchunji, we should provide not only the teaching of orthodox theology to fix them, but also take continuing care and interest for their mental and spiritual health.

Conclusion

Shinchunji teaches erroneous views of the Bible, focusing not on Jesus but on Manhee Lee. Even if it maintains a basic flavor of Bible teaching, at the end, its teaching gives prominence to Manhee Lee. The Bible says that Jesus is the promised one in the Old Testament. Jesus came in New Testament times, and Jesus will come in the second coming. While Manhee Lee appears to maintain these teachings of the Bible, he slips a false fact in that he himself is the promised one for salvation as the final prophet following Jesus. But in true Bible teaching, the most important point in regard to the promised one is that the promised one is Jesus himself; Jesus will come to judge and Jesus will judge the kingdom of God.

Also, such a false interpretation of Jesus results in an erroneous view of existing churches as evil (“Babylon”). This allows Shinchunji to insist it alone has the way to salvation so that it causes division in the churches. But Jesus is our head and we are a part of him. Claiming that only the Shinchunji way of Manhee Lee has salvation for Christians is to distort the Bible and to destroy the existing churches.

Shinchunji’s teaching, based on its own interpretation, is not the result of interpreting the Bible, but is a means to justify its own theology. Therefore, we have to stress who Jesus is more correctly based on the Bible to avoid this destructive and divisive movement. Jesus is the only way, truth, and life, and no one comes to God the Father, but directly through Jesus himself (John 14:6).

[1] This blog began as a paper for Systematic Theology II for Professor William David Spencer, fall 2013. Doomin graduated from Gordon College in 2010 and immediately began his studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, MA. seeking a Masters of Divinity. He is currently the president of the Korean Student Association in GCTS and has served as the Educational Director for young adult and educational ministries at Jusarang Korean Church in Connecticut for two years. Along with seeking a Th. M. in Christian Thought, Doomin hopes to plant a church in New Jersey. His vision for this plant is a multi-ethnic church which is centered on missions and evangelism. His desire and prayer is that God would be glorified in all he does.

[2] http://article.joins.com/news/article/article.asp?total_id=2876703&cloc= (Assessed 3 October 2013).

[3] Café.daum.net/scjschool/E3qZ/556, this website is used to teach Shinchunji members. It includes Manhee Lee’s teachings and theology (Assessed 4 October 2013).

[4] www.amennews.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=11680 (Assessed 4 October 2013).

[5] www.amennews.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=11680 (Assessed 4 October 2013).

[6] http://www.shincheonji.kr/2012/scj.php?sMenu=D3000&mode=view&no=143 (Assessed 6 October 2013).

[7] http://www.shincheonji.kr/2012/scj.php?sMenu=D3000&mode=view&no=143 (Assessed 6 October 2013), Manhee Lee refers himself as the promised shepherd and he cites John 14:26, 15:26, 14:16, 16:7, and Rev 1:1-3 to refer him.

[8] According to Manhee in his book The Reality of the Book of Revelation, the lost are the Christians who go to the general churches.

[9] Manhee Lee, The Reality of the Book of Revelation (AnYang: ShinChunJi, 1988), 37.

[10] Milard J. Erikson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 885. For further study of the works of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, you can refer to ch. 42 of Erikson’s Christian Theology.

[11] http://www.shincheonji.kr/2012/scj.php?sMenu=D3000&mode=view&no=143 (Assessed 8 October 2013).

[12] Jesus warns us in Matthew 24:23, “So if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is! Do not believe it.” Also Jesus teaches us how he will come. “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (Matt 24:30).

[13] www.shincheonji.kr/2012/scj.php?sMenu=D2000 (Assessed 6 October 2013).

[14] Shinchonji Website (http://www.shinchonji.kr) , “Know Shinchonji well” in the bulletin 160 (Assessed 6 October 2013).

[15] Manhee Lee, The Reality of the Book of Revelation, 499-500.

[16] www.Jesus114.org/gnuboard4/bbs/board.php?bo_table=bbs02_01&wr_id=65 (Assessed 10 October 2013).

[17] http://blog.naver.com/PostView.nhn?blogId=wnslazgz&logNo=110093881591 (Assessed 10 October 2013).

[18] www.amennews. Com/news/articleView.html?idxno=11539 (Assessed 10 October 2013).

[19] See also Hanhum Ok, Let Christ Master You, Master Your Temptation (Seoul: Kujae Discipleship Center, 2010).

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