Shamanistic Influences In Korean Pentecostal Christianity:
An Analysis

Spring 2000
By Jeremy Reynalds

Table of Contents


Shamanism Defined
Shamanism And Christianity -- Compatible Or Not?
The Precursor To And Beginnings Of Korean Pentecostalism
Historical Background Of Paul Yonggi Cho And Yoido Full Gospel Church
Cho: The Controversy
Is Cho a Pentecostal Shaman?


Korean Christians tend to see Christianity as a path to material prosperity. That trait is a

residue of shamanism, the native folk religion for centuries in Korea and other Northeast Asian

countries. In shamanism the shaman (a quasi medicine man or woman) is asked to intercede with the

spirits to ensure one's health or business success. Many professing Christians contend that the gods

of shamanism and the God of Christianity are kindred spirits.

In this research I will contend that there is a relationship between the gods of shamanism and Korean megachurch

pastor PaulYonggi-Cho. I will propose that the relationship existing between shamanism and Cho is that they both seek to resolve a common

human propensity (the desire to be well off) and that in so doing Cho makes his faith utilitarian, and that with the long history of shamanistic

influence on the Korean culture there is thus a favorable environment created for the receiving of his message.



Although Protestant Christianity in Korea is only about 100 years old, it has grown dramatically. At the end of World War II

only approximately 8 percent of the population was Christian. But by 1994 that figure had increased to over 33 percent of the South Korean


Korean Christianity could not be called "other-worldly." After the 1951 ending of the Korean War, South Korean Christians

mounted a fierce opposition to the authoritarian regimes of Syngman Rhee and Chung Hee Park, during which time many believers were

beaten and jailed. Korean Christians invented their own version of "liberation theology," which they called "minjung theology" (Cox 1995).

In addition, today's average Korean churchgoer believes that by embracing Christianity, he or she will get plenty of material

success in this world and their spiritual rewards in the next (Tongshik: 9-21 quoted in Yoo 1988:104).

A key element of understanding "minjung" is being able to comprehend the concept of "han," which has been deemed

as "untranslatable" by some Koreans but called by others an indispensable key in being able to understand the Korean soul (Cox 1995).

But more exactly, what is "han?" One scholar calls it a "feeling of unresolved resentment against injustices suffered, a sense

of helplessness because of the overwhelming odds against one, a feeling of acute pain in one's guts and bowels, making the whole body

writhe and squirm, and an obstinate urge to take revenge and to right the wrong -- all these combined (Nam-dong:55-72 quoted in


Han is very deep rooted in Korean culture and the country's entire way of life has been profoundly shaped by the

doctrine/concept (Yoo 1988).

Suh Nam-dong writes:

Koreans have suffered numerous invasions by powerful surrounding nations so that the very existence of the Korean nation has come to be understood as Han. Koreans have continually suffered the tyranny of the rulers so that they think of their existence as Baeksong(individually or collectively, those under the control of a sovereign. This term is nowadays used to mean common people). Also, under Confucianism's strict imposition of laws and customs discriminating against women, the existence of women was Han itself. At a certain point in Korean history, about half of the population were registered as hereditary slaves and were treated as property rather than as people of the nation. They thought of their lives as Han. These four points may be called the fourfold Han of the Korean people. Indeed, as the poet Ko Bun exclaims, 'We Koreans were born from the womb of Han and brought up in the womb of Han.' (Suh Nam-dong:55-72 quoted in Yoo 1988:222)

Another scholar says that Han is an underlying feeling of the Korean nation. While one aspect of Han manifests as a feeling

of basic worthlessness, on the other hand it can also be displayed as a zest for life which comes to weaker beings. The first aspect can

sometimes be sublimated to result in a demonstration of great artistic expression and the other aspect can result in a revolution or a

rebellion (Yoo 1988).

Minjung theology has had a huge influence on Korean Christianity, including on that of Korean pentecostalism. For example,

during a "Here's Life Korea" campaign, in addition to being encouraged to pray for new converts, believers were also exhorted to pray

for the justice of the Kingdom of God as well as national reconciliation (Cox 1995).

Interestingly, the missionaries who brought Christianity to Korea passed over Korea's ruling elite and took the

gospel message to the poor and rural areas. They also translated the Bible into Hangul, the language of the common people

(Cox 1995).

"As a result, Korean Christianity quickly became associated with the national resistance to Japanese imperialism and, in part,

because it has blended with shamanism, it has retained a strong hold on the masses" (Cox 1995:239-240).

But what about the massive eruption not just of Korean Christianity in South Korea but more specifically of Korean

Pentecostalism? How can the phenomenal growth be explained? Some explanations attribute the growth to the painful aftermath of the

Korean War and the resulting economic and social changes. Others cite the mushrooming of large cities and pentecostalism's emphasis

on healing. However, healing and the growth of large cities are not unique to Korea. They also occur in various other locations

throughout the world far removed from Korea (Cox 1995).

There is an additional uniquely Korean reason which worries many observers. It has been described as "Korean

pentecostalism's unerring ability to absorb huge chunks of indigenous Korean shamanism and demon possession into its worship ...

What troubles people everywhere about the Korean case is that the degreeof importation is so extensive that some wonder out loud

what has absorbed what" (Cox 1995:222).

However, not all observers are as concerned. One wrote, "Many people think that Korean Christianity is strongly influenced

by shamanism. However, like all other countries in Asia, shamanism was a popular religion in the ancient society. Therefore shamanism

is just one of (the) religious soils of Christianity" (Lee, e-mail to the author, 2000).

Harvey Cox summarizes the situation well when he asks whether this is a case of "the so-called indigenization of Christianity

in an Asian culture? Or is it merely the continuation of the most salient forms of previous Korean folk religion wearing a Christian

mask?" (Cox 1995:222).

Cox cites Paul Yonggi Cho as being a vivid example of Christian shamanism. This research will investigate whether that is,

in fact, the case. But before we look at whether Cho meets the qualification for being a Christian shaman, it is important to define what

exactly shamanism is.


Shamanism Defined

Among tribal peoples, (a shaman is) a magician, medium, or healer who owes his powers to mystical communion with the spirit world. Shamanism is based on animism; the shaman shields humans from destructive spirits by rendering the spirits harmless. He receives his power from a spirit who selects him and whom he cannot refuse. Characteristically, he goes into auto-hypnotic trances, during which he is said to be in contact with spirits. He occupies a position of great power and prestige in his tribe. Noted especially among Siberians, shamans are also found among the Eskimos, some Native American tribes, in SE Asia, and in Oceania. [Online] Available:

To successfully understand the Korean religious mentality, it is essential to understand Shamanism.

Shamanism sets forth a universe in which human beings, animals and inanimate objects all have a spiritual side. Hananim

is the chief spirit and some scholars have said that he dominates the lives of the Koreans as they are always talking about him.

In spite of their reverence for Hananim, Koreans do not appear to worship him, as he "remains remote from the events of the world

and rules the world through power delegated to lesser gods" (Yoo 1987:10-11).

Christian missionaries were able to use this monotheistic tendency to their advantage as they shared the Christian gospel

with the people of South Korea [Online] Available:

In Shamanism's three-storey universe, Hananim along with the other benevolent spirits live in the upper storey. Man's

habitation, along with that of animals and inanimate objects, is the middle storey. The lower storey is reserved for what evangelical

Christians would define as hell, and is reserved for all the evil spirits (Yoo 1987).

However, in the typical practice of Shamanism most people are concerned with "freeing themselves from the ever present,

harassing spirits and the discomfort which they bring and have little interest in the weightier matters implied in Shamanistic belief" (Yoo


As a result, one scholar (controversial in some circles) contends that Shamanism has exercised an overall negative influence

on Korean culture. "The characteristics which Koreans have developed in the practice of Shamanism are fatalism, moral indifference,

self-centered interest, escapism, and also external fanaticism in its external rites" (Yoo1987:11).

In spite of this negative assessment, the same scholar says there are nonetheless some redeeming characteristics of

shamanism. Yoo says that shamanistic beliefs have allowed Koreans to better understand some of the basic Christian tenets such as the

idea of God, the evil present in the world, the concept of heaven and hell and good and evil spirits (Yoo 1987).

In addition, Yoo points out, the traits developed through shamanistic practice "greatly affected the Korean appropriation

and expression of Christianity, through revival enthusiasm and other-worldly orientation" (Yoo1987:12).

Yoo says while it would be easy to dismiss Shamanism as just a primitive superstition that has absolutely no place in

modern society to do so would be a mistake. Shamanism is more than a "superstition of the people who are still captive to primitive

psychology and an unscientific world view." It is an integral part of Korean culture, satisfying the spiritual needs of many


When that is realized, Yoo points out, it changes one's perception of Shamanism. Shamanism brings out the Han,

hidden deep in the lives of the nation in general and the minjung in particular (Yoo1987).

Minjung theology has been loosely defined as being a theology of the underdog. Korean theologians have been unable

to formulate a precise definition of minjung. In its commitment to the poor, it does bear many similarities to other Third World liberation

theologies, but it is not identical (Yoo 1987).

It has been said that:

The minjung reality is known only through its biography, its story, its hope and suffering. It is the Korean story of suffering and hope that defines the essential story of minjung theology. It cannot be explained rationally, as is the case of European theology, Chinese philosophy and some manifestations of liberation theology influenced by it ... Minjung is not a concept or object which can be easily explained or defined. Minjung signifies a living reality which is dynamic. This living reality defines its own existence, and generates new acts and dramas in history; and it refuses in principle to be defined conceptually (Yoo1987:201).

Thus those who engage in Shamanistic rituals feel they are having their accumulated Han released, an obviously liberating

experience for them as they live out their seemingly frustrated lives on a daily basis (Yoo 1987).


Shamanism And Christianity -- Compatible Or Not?

One Korean scholar believes that Shamanism poses a very real danger to Biblical Christianity. He writes, "Korean

Christianity faces imminent and dramatic confrontation with the power of Shamanism. If we overcome, we remain true to Jesus Christ.

If we compromise, we are reduced to yet another form of Shamanism with Christian veneer" (Lee1994:3-4).

This same scholar says that "bok," or material blessing, lies at the heart of Shamanism. He says that among other

(negative concepts) shamanism emphasizes material blessing and success in society without any accompanying concern for others. "It is

individualistic, self-centered and possessed with selfism; a combination which results in divisiveness. Bok is not amenable to either

individual or social ethics" (Lee 1994:4).

With this in mind, it is perhaps not surprising that the concept of Biblical blessing eventually became distorted (sic) in the

Korean church. This theology began in the 1960's when then President Park successfully took over the government by a military coup.

His five-year economic plan was extremely successful and the result was a time of great success for Korea. Part of that success

encompassed unprecedented church growth. (Lee 1994).

Along with that church growth the philosophy of positive thinking swept over Korea. "The messages from Korean church

pulpits were changed, reoriented toward material blessing and away from emphasis on repentance. Bok became the central theme of

the Korean church" (Lee1994:172).

While it is a sweeping statement to say that "Bok became the central theme of the Korean church," (Lee 1994:172), that

point of view seems to be reinforced by stories found in Cho's book The Fourth Dimension.

For example. Cho relates a story about an individual who came to ask his advice about possibly going into the retail

business to make a living selling salt. Cho told the individual that if he believed he was supposed to do that to go right ahead. "So he

went out, selling salt on a small scale. He paid tithes, paid his pledge and all the time was rejoicing in the Lord. God began to bless him,

and his salt business grew and grew ... Now he is a multimillionaire through his salt business" (Cho 1979:178-179).

In another part of the same book Cho says:

Your first step must be to change your thinking attitude from that of a negative attitude to that of a positive one ... So this doctor came to the church and I prayed for him. He received the prayer of faith and he stood up and walked from his wheelchair, his steps strong ... Next Sunday he came to the church, walking by himself with no assistance. He again requested my personal prayer, but as I was busy I could not. When he saw that I could not personally pray for him, he changed his thinking; his thoughts regressed and he returned into his old self ... and as he walked out of my office to his car he collapsed ... He collapsed because he changed his thoughts. (Cho 1979:122)


Lee says that it is such a preoccupation with bok that has produced unhealthy symptoms (sic) manifested in the Korean

church. Some of the instances he cites include the tendency of a number of pastors to greet others in ministry with comments such as

"How many people do you have in your church?" or "How much do you get paid?" (Lee1994).

A number of pastors orient their messages on giving to the Lord in order to receive bok -- blessings -- from God.

Repentance is not thought of as being that important, Lee feels (Lee1994).

While the Korean church is known for prayer; Cho's Yoido Church being a prime illustration of this point, Lee points

out that while there is a lot of prayer for bok, there is little prayer for Biblical repentance (sic). While once speaking at the world's

largest prayer center located in Korea (presumably Cho's) Lee "found out that more than 98 percent of its visitors came to seek bok

from God. Bok is a natural gift of God if we have a right relationship with Him. Repentance is the key to a right relationship with God"

(Lee 1994:175).

Korean shamanism's "marriage" (sic) to positive thinking has also infiltrated the Korean Christian church (sic).

One researcher feels that steeped in this way of thinking it was a natural tendency for Korean Christians to attempt to control God

instead of allowing themselves to be controlled by Him. It is important to note that the "gospel" of positivism does not emphasize the

Biblical concept of denial. It encourages, rather, human self-development, says researcher Lee. (Lee 1994).

Reading Cho's material seems to validate this claim of Lee's. For example, Cho writes:

Claim and speak the word of assurance, for your word actually goes out and creates ... Your word is the material which the Holy Spirit uses to create ... There are times for you to pray but there are also times for you to give the command .. You have the resources within you and now you know the elements needed in incubation to make your faith usable. Get a clear-cut goal and objective ... Then begin to speak the word about which you have been given assurance. (Cho1979: 31-35)

Two Korean words adequately address this situation. They are "shinyum," which means using human faith to

accomplish one's ambitions and "shinanhg," defined as divine faith given by the Lord; faith to obey the will of God. It appears to be

sadly evident (sic) which concept is having the greatest effect on Korean Christianity (Lee1994).

Lee says that a major concern for Christians is Shamanism's emphasis on the present and on material blessings. Shamanism's

primary goal is the happiness of individuals and its practitioners even perform a ceremony to avoid or overcome personal difficulties

and problems (Lee1996).

Korean Christians selfishly pray for the solution of their own problem and their prosperity. Since they are more interested in their personal benefits than in divine providence, their faith is in danger of becoming something of a sorcery ... Shamanism implicitly drove Korean Christians to focus on blessings. Throughout the history of Korea, most Koreans have cherished and pursued blessings. This tendency may have resulted from a geopolitic cause, as the social atmosphere was unstable due to constant invasions from other countries (leading) people to seek individual stability. Another reason may have been the desire of Koreans to overcome uncontrollable natural phenomena by seeking blessings. The concept of blessing in Shamanism is the search for secular and material blessings in the present life. In this concept, it resembles the earliest concept of blessedness in the Bible but is quite different from the blessing of God that Jesus promised or St. Paul held out to his churches (Lee1996:20-21).

This research will now look at the precursor to and the beginnings of Korean pentecostalism, followed by a study of

the history of Cho's ministry and then consider whether Cho fits the category of being a Christian shaman and whether his services

should be described as shamanistic.


The Precursor To And Beginnings Of Korean Pentecostalism

Prior to the latter portion of the 20th century, Korea was extremely resistant to the message of the gospel. With

deep Buddhist and Shamanistic roots, Korea was commonly referred to as the "hermit kingdom." Catholic missionaries arrived in

1784, bringing the first Christian ministry, bu they encountered the whole gamut of persecution, ranging from plain indifference to

martyrdom. Anti-Catholic sentiment came to a head in the infamous 1866 massacre, when as many as 10,000 bishops, priests and new

converts were martyred for their faith. Was Available [Online]: (now a dead link)

Protestant missionaries did not arrive until about a century later. They landed at Inchon, a city quite near to Seoul. Prior

to their arrival, John Ross had successfully translated the New testament into the Korean language during the 1870's. [Online]

Available: (now a dead link)

Presbyterian Henry Underwood and Methodist Henry Appenzeller arrived in Korea from the United States in 1884.

With the Presbyterians sending more missionaries to Korea than the Methodists, it did not take long for Presbyterianism to become the

country's biggest Christian body, although substantial progress was very difficult for all of the Christian church bodies during that time.

It is worth noting that by 1900, Korea Christians still only comprised 0.4% of the country's population. [Online] Available: (now a dead link)

The first spiritual revival among that small group of Korean Protestant believers began in 1903 in the City of Wonsan, "where

a mighty wave of confession and repentance occurred under the leadership of R.A. Hardie, a Methodist missionary from Canada." This

revival had both profound and lasting results. There occurred a "renewal of personal holiness which has characterized the Korean

church ever since." Subsequent revivals between the years of 1904 and 1907 intensified this passion for holiness in addition to resulting

in church growth. [Online] Available: (now a dead link)

In 1906, a Korean student initiated early morning prayer meetings with resulting positive effects on the Korean church.

"This custom, as well as the all night prayer, also became vital to the spiritual life of the Korean churches. In these meetings, the

missionary H.A. Johnson linked the Korean experience to the Welsh revival which was sweeping the world at the time." [Online]

Available: (now a dead link)

There was another revival at Pyongyang in 1907. The prevailing characteristics of this revival were a hunger for the Word

manifesting in intense Bible study and intense prayer with everyone praying at the same time. During these times of prayer, there

occurred what could be best described as a great wave of weeping and prayer that swept over those present, which included both

Methodist and Presbyterian missionaries as well as the Korean laymen. Observers called the meetings indescribable. Synan notes that

the thunderous style of prayer which was a characteristic of those meetings still so remains in today's Korean church. He also points

out that while the meetings did not feature the vocal charismata such as tongues and healing, there were a number of prophecies of a

new Pentecost for Korea and the world. [Online] Available: (now a dead link)

The advent of World War II interrupted this precursor to the development of Korean pentecostalism. In 1940 all of Korea's

foreign missionaries were forced out of the country by the Japanese. This time resulted in a period of persecution for all of the churches which

were forced to go underground. Churches were not free again until the Japanese were defeated again in 1945. However, this period of

freedom did not last long. The Korean War, beginning in 1950, caused considerable hardship for every aspect of Korean society, including

the church community. When the Korean War finally ended, Korean churches were finally free again to develop and receive needed help

from abroad. during this time frame, the first American Pentecostal denominations established Korean mission fields. [Online] Available: (now a dead link)

In 1952, the American Assemblies of God sent Abner Chesnut as their first Korean missionary. He first made contact with the

Chosun Pentecostal Church. The Korean Assemblies of God was organized in 1953. The next year, the Korean Assemblies of God opened

its first Bible School. Paul Yonggi Cho was one of its first students. [Online] Available: (now a dead link)


Historical Background Of Paul Yonggi Cho And

Yoido Full Gospel Church

Cho: An Overview

Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho, a South Korean preacher and head of the world's largest church started his ministry in 1958 with a small

number of converts in an army tent. That is a far cry from the number of people now influenced by his ministry. His church in Seoul, Korea

holds more than 60,000. And that number does not include those people who sit in the overflow area equipped with video screens (London

Daily Telegraph, March 12, 1995).

Cho has 500 pastors who work for him, and an annual budget of $100 million. However, it is not Cho's income that has thrust

him into theological controversy. It is his teachings about money and prosperity. Cho believes that Christians have a RIGHT to wealth. He

preaches that poverty is a curse from Satan and that Korea's spiritual revival is the driving force behind the country's economic prosperity

(London Daily Telegraph, March 12, 1995)

Cho: His Origins

Cho had rejected the Buddhism of his youth during the time he was dying from tuberculosis. Apparently, he said that if he was

to ever get well he would like to become a medical doctor. Cho claims to have been converted after Jesus Christ appeared to him in the

middle of the night, healed him, call him to preach and filled him with the Holy Spirit. Upon his graduation from Bible School, Cho planted the

church for which he is so well known today. [Online] Available: (now a dead link)

Synan points out that "What became the Yoido Full Gospel Church began in 1958 in a tent located in a poverty-stricken slum area

in the city of Seoul. In 1961 Cho gained valuable experience when he served as interpreter for Sam Todd, an American Pentecostal healing

evangelist. As a result of his involvement in Todd's meetings, Cho's church increased in numbers. An additional by product of Cho's

involvement with Todd was an introduction to the so-called "prosperity gospel," espoused by such evangelists as Oral Roberts. [Online]

Available: (now a dead link)

Synan says that Cho overcame many severe difficulties before he was able to build a 1500-seat "revival center." The name of

this facility was subsequently changed to "Yoido Full Gospel Central Church." Synan says that a number of high profile divine healings

resulted in Cho's church growing to 2,000 members by 1964. Cho was apparently under such great stress from building such a large ministry

that he began to organize so-called "cell groups," where church responsibilities were delegated to a lot of members. [Online] Available: (now a dead link)

With women comprising a major number of these cell group leaders, a major paradigm shift had occurred for Korean culture.

The cell group movement exploded so rapidly that there were at least 50,000 cell groups in his church by 1985. Then in addition to his duties

overseeing and planning for this enormous church, Cho became General Superintendent of the Korean Assemblies of God. [Online]

Available: (now a dead link)

Cho's church continued to experience phenomenal growth. In 1974 the church reached 23,000 members and in 1979

passed 1000,000 members. A congregation that size was heretofore unknown. This phenomenal growth continued during the next 15 years

with the addition of thousands more new members. There was one point, Synan remarks, when as many as 10,000 new members were

being added to the church monthly. With its numbers at 700,000 by 1994, the church was making plans to be the first congregation ever to

reach the 1,000,000 mark. [Online] Available: (now a dead link)

In addition to his pastoral responsibilities, Cho has been a prolific writer, penning such titles as (the controversial)

Fourth Dimension, Successful Home Church Cell Groups and Prosperity: Our Three-Fold Blessings in Christ. Cho used these books

as teaching vehicles, not the least of which was to expound on his theory of the theology of Biblical prosperity. [Online] Available: (now a dead link)

In 1976, Cho founded Church Growth International, "an ecumenical group of pastors dedicated to spreading his theology

and church growth methods around the world." Then to further expand his already burgeoning influence, Cho launched in 1989 a daily

newspaper titled Kook Min Daily News. The paper boasted a circulation of well over 700,000 by 1994 and according to Synan had

become "a powerful voice for Christianity in Korea." [Online] Available: (now a dead link)

Synan says that the doctrines taught by Cho and his Yoido Full Gospel Church "are generally those taught by Pentecostals

throughout the world. Synan says that the doctrine and creed published in the church's literature state a "Fivefold Message of the Gospel,"

which includes the following: Salvation, Holy Spirit, Divine Healing, Blessings and the Second Coming of Jesus.[Online] Available: (now a dead link)


Cho: The Controversy

Synan plays down the controversy over Cho when he says that the only difference between these statements and the

American Assemblies of God is the article on "Blessings," which is further amplified in a subsidiary statement titled, "The Threefold Blessings

of Salvation." These blessings include salvation for the soul, material prosperity and physical health. It is primarily Cho's theological stance o

n divine healing, blessing and prosperity that has generated so much controversy.

For example, in his book The Fourth Dimension, Cho writes "Jesus is bound to what you speak forth. As well as you can

release Jesus' power through your spoken word, you can also create the presence of Christ. If you do not speak the word of faith clearly,

Christ can never be released" (Cho, 1979, p's 81-82).

In another section of the same book, Cho explains his controversial theory of the fourth dimension. Because this is such an integral

part of Cho's thinking and theology, the portion is reproduced below in its entirety.

In the universe there are three types of spirits - the Holy Spirit of God, the spirit of the devil and the human spirit. When you study geometry you put up two points, one here, and one there, and if you draw a line between the two you call it one dimension. It is just one line between the points, one dimension. But if you add line upon line by the hundreds of thousands, then one dimension naturally creates a second dimension, a plane. And if you stack up planes one upon another then it becomes cubic; this is called the third dimension. The material world and the whole earth belong to the third dimension.

This first dimension, a line, is contained in and therefore controlled by, the second dimension, a plane; and the second dimension is included in and therefore controlled by, the third dimension, the cube. Who then creates, contains and controls the third dimension, the cubical world? You have the answer when you open the Bible and read in Genesis 1:2: "And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."

But if you look into the original language of that Scripture, it carries the meaning that the Spirit of the Lord was incubating over the waters, brooding over the waters. This chaotic world belonged to the third dimension, but the Holy Spirit, who is pictured here incubating on the third dimension, belongs to the fourth dimension. So the spiritual kingdom of faith belongs to the fourth dimension.

Since the spiritual world hugged the third dimension, incubating on the third dimension, it was by this incubation of the fourth dimension on the third dimension that the earth was recreated. A new order was given out of the old, and life was given from death; beauty from ugliness; cleanliness from those things dirty; and abundance from poverty. Everything was created beautiful and wonderful by the incubation of the fourth dimension.

Then God spoke to my heart, "Son, as the second dimension includes and controls the first dimension, and the third dimension includes and controls the second dimension, so the fourth dimension includes and controls the third dimension, producing a creation of order and beauty. The spirit is the fourth dimension. Every human being is a spiritual being as well as a physical being. They have the fourth dimension as well as the third dimension in their hearts." So men, by exploring their spiritual sphere of the fourth dimension through the development of concentrated visions and dreams in their imaginations, can brood over and incubate the third dimension, influencing and changing it. This is what the Holy Spirit taught me (Cho 1979:38-40).

Cho concludes The Fourth Dimension by writing that God's children have all the power of God dwelling within them.

"You can tap that power for your tuition, your clothes, your books, your health, your business, everything! When you go out to preach the

gospel you are not preaching a vague objective, a theory, philosophy, or human religion. You are actually teaching people how to tap endless

resources!" (Cho1979:186).

That notwithstanding, after hosting the "largest prayer meeting in history," in 1994, when the International Assemblies of God met

in Cho's church for a 1,000,000 strong session of prayer and planing as to how the world might be won for Christ, Cho was named

chairman of the International Assemblies of God

Synan says that by the 1980's, with the permeation of the charismatic movement into traditional Korean Protestant and Catholic

churches, pentecostalism had now entered the mainstream. By 1990 it was being noted by researchers that five of the largest churches in the

world were in Korea, and they were all classified as being "charismatic" to some extent. (Synan 1997, Internet: (now a dead link) ).

By the end of the century, it was clear that South Korea was well on its way to becoming a Christian nation. By 1992 the percentage of Christians in the population of the nation stood at 40.7%. From small beginnings in the early years of the century, the Korean Pentecostals added their spiritual fervor and organizational skills to the massive growth of the church in the nation. By 1995 the Pentecostals had grown to be the third largest church in South Korea with almost 2,00,00 members. The record of Korean church growth was unparalleled in any other part of the globe. The growth from a tiny persecuted minority is a quantum leap that an only be explained in spiritual and supernatural terms. The pentecostals and charismatics, with their gifts and zeal have led the way in Korea as they have in many other parts of the world" (Cho, Vinson Synan, p.4) (Synan 1997, Internet: (now a dead link) )

Is Cho a Pentecostal Shaman?

However, not everyone shares quite such an optimistic view of Korean pentecostalism in general and Cho in particular.

In his classic 1995 book Fire from Heaven, Harvard professor Harvey Cox expressed a number of concerns about some of the activities at

Cho's church. Cox said that even someone used to Pentecostal worship might be quite surprised with their first encounter with Cho's church.

Take what is called 'Hallelujah-robics. It is a form of dancing to hymns played to an ear-piercing rock beat by an ensemble of electric organ, drums, accordion and other instruments. The dancing is led by enthusiastic teams from the church's youth division. When the music stops temporarily the congregation takes up what sounds like the religious equivalent of the cheers used at an Ohio State football game. At full volume they shout 'Aboji Hananim' (Our Father, who art in Heaven) and then with hands raised many begin praying in word and phrases of no known language. Then more singing begins ... and the people move faster and faster until, no longer able to keep it up, they stop in happy exhaustion (Cox1995:223).

Cox went on to say that when the singing, dancing and shouting has finally finished, the minister prays in a way that is reminiscent

of an incantation (Cox 1995).

He repeats over and over again, sometimes a hundred times or more, such phrases as 'Hallelujah!' or 'O Lord!' or 'the Spirit fills!' while the congregation joins him ... The ministers keep assuring everyone that whatever their illnesses or infirmities might be, they will certainly be healed ... As the service ends, the people who believe they have been healed shout out short prayers of gratitude and stream out of the church, leaving behind those who are still caught up in the fervor and continue to sway and pray until evening comes, the lights are extinguished and the building is closed. To a visitor schooled in shamanism, the worship at the Yoido Full Gospel Church bears a striking resemblance to what is ordinarily known as 'shamanism' ... (Cox1995: 223-224).

Cox says that when similarity is pointed out to Korean pentecostal ministers, they deny any similarity. It is not only the Korean

pentecostals who disclaim similarities between Korean pentecostalism and shamanism.

Lee Wanak, a United States missionary working in the Philippines as Dean of the Asia Graduate School of Theology and

Director of the Ed.D. program said although he is not of Korean descent he has nonetheless worked with a number of Korean missionaries

and occasionally preached in Korean churches. He has found no evidence of a link between Korean pentecostalism and shamanism (Wanak,

e-mail to the author, 2000).

After receiving the hypothesis for this paper, Wanak suggested a more "open-ended approach which would include the nterviewing

of Korean pastors and lay people in an attempt to discover their "motives, values, dreams and desires" and thus allow the Korean people "to

speak for themselves" (Wanak, e-mail to the author, 2000).

He suggested that the hypothesis of this research be changed to read: "Korean church growth is a complex of factors including

emphasis on sacrifice, prayer, hard work, evangelism, courage in the face of persecution, economic growth and biblical preaching and

teaching, not to mention the sovereign work of the Spirit of God (Wanak, e-mail to the author, 2000).

Wonsuk Ma, the Academic Dean at the Asia Pacific Theological Seminary in Baguio, Philippines was initially hostile about

the suggestion of a link between Cho and shamanism, writing that the abstract for this research appeared to be "very biased and misinformed"

(Ma, e-mail to the author, 2000).

Ma said in an attempt to properly understand Cho, it is important to consider the beginnings of the Christian faith in Korea.

Ma said that Korean Christianity began "under the harsh rule of the Japanese" and as a result was initially "extremely other-worldly" with a

"strong martyrdom mentality." Ma said that thousands of people gave their lives in a deliberate refutation of "the traditional ancestor worship

which combines Confucianistic veneration of ancestors and Shamanistic idea of 'blessing' through the ancestor spirits. There was a deliberate

distancing from these religious ideas and this brought much sacrifice of lives"(Ma, e-mail to the author, 2000).

With that in mind, Ma said Cho's message "is not to bring the Christian message to the animistic motif of blessing, but with social

changes (after the liberation and much poverty) the other-worldly outlook had to change and the Lord used Cho to bring this long-neglected

part of God's message to the Korean churches" (Ma, e-mail to the author, 2000).

Ma concluded his first communication to this researcher with a warning to be very careful in criticizing another Christian or church.

If one does criticize, Ma said it is important to understand the church being criticized in the context of its struggles and difficulties (Ma, e-mail

to the author, 2000).

In addition, Ma said: "You need to be a good friend of the Korean church to be able to offer a constructive criticism for the good

of the church. Otherwise, it will be like throwing a stone to the pond unmindful of the frogs in there. Indeed, I would dare say that we are not

frogs. Perhaps Asian churches may have good dose of advice to the western churches" (Ma, e-mail to the author, 2000).

After receiving Ma's first e-mail, the author consequently assured Ma that the proposed paper was going to be legitimate academic

research (that would attempt to answer the question as to whether or not there is a relationship between the gods of shamanism and Yonggi

Cho) and not a polemical ad hominem attach against Cho..

In subsequent correspondence to the author, Ma appeared to have changed his opinion of Cho, writing that not only was he

not trying to justify Cho; he had even been somewhat critical of him on several occasions. Ma said that in his opinion, Cho is not a consistent

theologian; he is rather a pastor and evangelist whose book The Fourth Dimension (1987) "is almost like either positive confession or kind

of will-power religion"(Ma, e-mail to the author, 2000).

Ma said that while he feels bad about some of the terminology used in Cho's book, and he has no defense for it, one thing is

clear. "His 'faith' message, as very similar in outlook, has a little different root than let's say Robert Schuller at one point. It is (only after) his

healing experience (only those who were so close to death and dramatically saved/healed can understand its full implication and impact), that

his preaching became (that of a ) 'good and able God'" (Ma, e-mail to the author, 2000).

Ma added that he also regrets The Fourth Dimension being the best known of Cho's books when Cho has written more than

one hundred other titles in Korean (Ma, e-mail to the author, 2000).

Interestingly, one correspondent with this researcher still has bad feelings about The Fourth Dimension even though it has been

more than 10 years since she first read the book.

She wrote that in the book Cho asserted:

there is a fourth (spiritual) dimension that can be tapped into by either legitimate means (through Christ and his church) or illegitimately (through Satan and false religions). He proposed that this spiritual dimension of power was available two both the good and the evil, but that God proposed the parameters with which the dimension may be accessed. I left the Wesleyan Church over ten years ago over the propagation of his works. Cho is Baaaaaaad News (Julie, e-mail to the author, 2000).

Dr Mel Robeck, professor of church history at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California believes that there are some shamanistic

elements in what Cho does (Robeck, interview with the author, 2000).

I think they are conscious decisions that he makes to play that role. (For example) The role of ancestor worship and his response to the people who want to go out on ancestor worship celebration days with their families to participate lead me to believe that he's trying to function in the way that shamans function within traditional Korean religions. He plays the role but at the same time tries to Christianize what he's doing giving different explanations for what's going on (Robeck, interview with the author, 2000).

According to Robeck, if asked by one of his congregants whether it is appropriate to participate in certain traditional shamanistic

religious practices such as ancestor worship, Cho might well say:"'You can participate if you understand this about it.' There's a sense in

what he's trying to do is to take what I would consider a phenomenology and give it a different meaning within the Christian context that

allows that to serve a legitimate function rather than not" (Robeck, interview with the author, 2000).

Robeck said that there is nothing wrong with veneration in any branch of the Christian church and "if you can look at it as

celebration of the veneration rather than worship then that's a very different kind of thing. But the problem is that if you get people who are

around Roman Catholicism they can't understand that because it's easy to cross that line between veneration and worship" (Robeck,

interview with the author, 2000).

Using his wife as an example, Robeck pointed out that it is quite appropriate for her to adore him, but not to worship him, which

is reserved for God alone (Robeck, interview with the author, 2000).

"Veneration and adoration are two different things and I think that's what Cho is trying to say in ways that because there may

be the giving of fruit or whatever lying there on the grave that it has the trappings of looking like a Buddhist fest or some kind of an animistic

celebration" (Robeck, interview with the author, 2000).

This researcher asked Robeck for his perspective on the Korean pentecostal practice of attributing illnesses to "dead relatives

and ancestors who never accepted Christ and are therefore angry and troubled. They return to afflict the living, so they have to be sent

packing (Cox 1995:224).

Cox points out to his readers that this practice by Korean pentecostals "does not always assure their western brethren that they

are operating within the usual parameters of pentecostal practice (Cox1995:224).

However, Robeck says he is unable to find anything basically wrong with the practice. He asked why that should be considered

any different from the sins of the fathers being visited upon the third and fourth generations (Robeck, interview with the author, 2000).

I know that it gets pushed to extremes in some charismatic circles. I know that there's been some concern in the administration here about Korean students and that particular theory. What they've gone into is whether you can break a generational curse and I suppose that it's possible in some instances. I think prayer does help. I'm not sure that casting out of demons and all that stuff necessarily helps. It might (Robeck, interview with the author, 2000).

Robeck said that prayer, commitment and spiritual maturity are in his opinion the most important elements in breaking any

generational problems. He cited his own father as an example, saying that he was a child abuser. "He beat us senseless. It was terrible"

(Robeck, interview with the author, 2000).

Robeck said that he made up his mind never to do that. "And also never to hold rancor against my dad. I understand what

he did. I don't think that it's right, but I understand it. I think with the Lord's help we 'broke the curse' in a sense. My kids haven't had to

live with that, so I think that's possible (Robeck, interview with the author, 2000).

However, Robeck said he does have some reservations about the way the ritual is practiced in Cho's church."My sense is that

it has developed into some kind of a system that has been pushed further even than what Cho had wanted and clearly further than what the

Old Testament is suggesting" (Robeck, interview with the author, 2000).

Robeck says he personally considers Cho to be a very "shrewd" (sic) person who knows exactly what he is doing.

What it has enabled him to do is to speak to a broader constituency and in a sense reel them in ... What he is doing is connecting with these people and helping them to move from that conjuring culture in which divination takes place apart from God and brings them into a charismatic experience which is very directly in relation to God (Robeck, interview with the author, 2000).

Robeck said that during 1999 he was a speaker at Cho's church and he addressed the issue of shamanism to congregants.

"I tried to explain it even to them and they were all going 'Yes, that's right, you've got the take on it,' whereas most external readers,

especially if they're unsympathetic to begin with, would come in and simply say, 'He's nothing but a Korean shamanist.' I don't think that's

true" (Robeck, interview with the author, 2000).

Neither did Young Hoon Lee, president of Bethesda Christian University and Theological Seminary in Anaheim, California.

"Dr. Cho preaches on salvation, prosperity and healing as a result of the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross. He

knows the danger of shamanistic concept in Christian faith. He often preaches about this. He emphasizes sound doctrine based on the Bible"

(Lee, e-mail to the author, 2000).

It is, perhaps, important to point out that Cho is the chancellor of Bethesda Christian University where Lee is the president as

well as being one of Cho's associate pastors at Yoido Full Gospel Church.

Commenting on the allegations of Christian shamanism raised in Cox's book, Lee said that four years ago after visiting one of

the services at Cho's church and being a conference lecturer, Cox realized he had been mistaken about the concerns he had raised in his

book and admitted the same in a press conference with "all leading daily newspaper reporters" (Lee, e-mail to the author, 2000).

"At that time he admitted that he made mistake in the book about Korean church (Yoido F.G. Church). He had to rely on the

written material about Korean church. He never came to Korea before. Also he mentioned that he will rewrite chapter 11 (Korean church

part). I have a good relationship with him since then (Lee, e-mail to the author, 2000).

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