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Book spurs rising above theological comfort zone

Evangelical Christians and reform-minded Protestants have reason to celebrate the recent publication of “Thinking the Think,” a book that critically engages their cherished beliefs and encourages them to live closer to the Bible.

Written by Senior Pastor Lee Jae-hoon of Onnuri Church in Seoul, the 193-page book marks the fifth centennial of Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation in 1517, and introspects the beliefs and practices that dominate Christian lives today.

Interwoven in a diverse spread of social critique, the collection of essays analyzes various concepts -- such as differentiation, challenge, balance, discipline, determination, essence, pain, sorrow, responsibility, predicament, truth and objective -- through its 23 chapters.

“Thinking the Think,” a book written by Senior Pastor Lee Jae-hoon of Onnuri Church in Seoul
“Thinking the Think,” a book written by Senior Pastor Lee Jae-hoon of Onnuri Church in Seoul

Famed believers have heaped praise on the book, including Jungwook Hong, chairman of Herald Corp., who wrote: “The book identifies as the greatest crisis of today’s church and faith: a life detached from teachings. And it elucidates, with sober examination and clearheaded insight, the way to imbibe our everyday lives with our ‘knowledge’ rooted in the bible, in order to live as true Christians.”

Pastor Lee Ju-yeon of Sanmaroo Church in Seoul commented: “For those of us who must navigate our age of tumultuous sea changes, all answers to our problems lie in the bible, although it is not easy knowing which teachings to apply. Through insight and revelation, Pastor Lee Jae-hoon’s book allows people to listen to God’s soundless voice, hitherto hidden in our thoughts. The author’s thoughts are simple, deep and full of energy and life.”

Criticizing the postmodern premise that “no beliefs are absolutely true,” the author argues that postmodernism itself makes the fallacy of absolutizing its philosophical underpinning. He suggests instead that the only absolute truth exists in the biblical God.

The book’s critical take on various themes uniformly reverts back to “the absolute authority of God,” and urges readers to unconditionally accept the Christian God under all circumstances. It also makes judgment on social issues, such as South Korea’s democracy and North Korea’s dictatorship.

Quoting the book “Healing the Heart of Democracy” written by American author, educator and activist Parker J. Palmer, Lee Jae-hoon says “the true power of democracy lies in creatively transforming a society’s tensions and conflicts into a new energy.”

However, he argues that “the healing of mind needed in creatively embracing tensions and conflicts must first be experienced in a faith-based community.” 

Senior Pastor Lee Jae-hoon of Onnuri Church in Seoul (Onnuri Church)
Senior Pastor Lee Jae-hoon of Onnuri Church in Seoul (Onnuri Church)

“A community where difference is prohibited and opposition is forbidden cannot be a mature community,” he says, adding that nurturing a mature community requires creatively incorporating social tensions and allowing free opposition.

For nonbelievers and non-Christians, however, the author’s assertion rings hollow in the face of Christians’ dogged insistence on their exclusive legitimacy, which invalidates other religions’ equally self-righteous claims. Ironically, following through with Lee’s propositions directly contradicts the spirit of democracy, which is premised on respect for diverse beliefs, including religious.

Particularly when one weighs the real-life implications of Lee’s presumptions -- that praying to God in recluse is key to solving the world’s exasperating problems -- there could be adverse consequences, as people would be less engaged in directly addressing social ills, leaving it to the dictate of deity instead.

“The reason why God remains hidden is to revel in the joy of being discovered,” the author explains. Like playing a game of “hide and seek,” “God stays hidden to be discovered” and “does greater things by staying hidden.”

While acknowledging abhorrent crimes taking place in North Korea, the author asserts that “the role of Christians should be praying in tears like Jeremiah did.” Despite the Kim dynasty having ruled the Hermit Kingdom with an iron fist over the last 70 years, with bloody persecution of religious believers, Lee maintains that “God still rules over North Korea.”

In an era of withering civic participation and deepening societal atomization, what may be required of Christians is not their orthodox adherence to biblical doctrines, but their harmonizing of beliefs with the larger interests of the democratic society, where they constitute a critical community.

By Joel Lee (