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Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Christianity Is Not A Private Affair

Greetings from Seoul, South Korea.

Immediately following the Korean War, North and South Korea shared one thing in common: they were among the poorest countries in the world.

56 years later, the International Monetary Fund listed South Korea as having the 12th largest Gross Domestic Product in the world. South Korea, a small country, came out ahead of Canada, ahead of Australia, ahead of Saudi Arabia and ahead of 165 other countries.

In 1910, only about 1% of the Korean population was Christian. By 2005 (95 years later), the number of Christians had risen to 29.2%, and Christianity replaced Buddhism as the most prominent faith among all citizens.

Korea is second only to the United States in the number of missionaries it sends overseas.

Many people have wondered if there is a relationship between the growth of Christianity and the impressive growth of the Korean economy since 1970, when the bulk of economic growth occurred. During this time, the population of Korean Christians rose from about 6% to nearly 30%.

Dr. Kirsteen Kim, former resident of Korea now teaching at Leeds Trinity University College in England, maintains that the connection between Korean development and Christianity goes back to well over a century of Christian influence in politics, education, human rights and service to the suffering in Korea.

Three of today's top five universities in Korea were founded by Korean Christians, and many hospitals were established by Korean believers. With respect to politics, Kim notes that Koreans in the nineteenth century acted on the belief that "Christianity would help revitalize the nation."

"The main contribution of Christianity," she asserts, "was to stimulate new visions and inject a new energy that enabled Koreans to transform their existing situation and revitalise--or redeem--their society."

Historically, early Korean Christians operated on the premise that Christianity is not a private affair, concerned only with the salvation of individual souls. They saw it is a message of transformation that applied corporately as well as individually. This belief, put into action, invigorated early Korean development.

In her paper, "Christianity and modernization in twentieth-century Korea: perspectives on new religious movements and the revitalization of society," Kim sites examples of Korean Christianity as "a revitalizing force that inspired Korean activity toward development."

Kim's research paper is at http://www.bezinningscentrum.nl/Religion_Development/kirsteen.pdf.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

The Rise Of Christianity In Korea

Next week I will be in Seoul, South Korea, teaching at the International Christian Educators Conference hosted by the Association of Christian Schools International.

My instruction will focus on: 1) the creation of lesson plans that connect academic subject matter with the bigger picture of a biblical worldview, and 2) making connections between the biblical worldview and everyday work.

I hope to persuade Christian educators in Asia that "theology of work" should be part of every Christian school, no matter in what culture that school finds itself.

One might think that theology of work (or, "integration of faith and work") would already be a part of every Christian school curriculum in the world. But, amazingly, it is not.

I know from personal experience that theology of work is absent from American Christian schools because I was the principal of a Christian school for fourteen years. It never occurred to me to offer such instruction, and none of my fellow principals offered it either.

This is not surprising, however, since theology of work has fallen off the radar screen of most churches, too. This is regrettable, since it was once very much on the radar in this country. (See "The Missing Curriculum" at http://www.biblicalworldview.com/The%20Missing%20Curriculum%20Article.pdf.)

I am aware that the "Sunday-Monday Gap" exists in Korea, too. Yet, I have wondered if there is a relationship between the economic development of South Korea and the rise of Christianity in Korea.

As mentioned last week, some Chinese scholars have concluded that the moral foundation of Christianity is what made possible "the emergence of capitalism and the successful transition to democratic politics" in the West.

But what do scholars have to say about South Korea in this regard? Is there any connection between Christianity and the fact that this small country had the 12th largest GDP in the world in 2009?

One scholar who has researched the effects of Christianity on Korea thinks so. Her name is Dr. Kirsteen Kim, a member of the Lausanne Theology Working Group who teaches at Leeds Trinity University College in the UK.

I'll share some of her findings next week.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

The Amazing Conclusion Of Chinese Scholars

It is one thing to point back to the positive effects of the Wesleyan revival upon business in India some 250 years ago, but can we point to examples of the positive effects of Christianity upon business today?

While you might be thinking of Christ-honoring companies in your own state, or business owners in your own city who are successfully integrating Christian faith with their work, there is a distant part of the world that most of us don't usually associate with the integration of Christan faith and business: China.

In the September 23, 2010, issue of BreakPoint, Chuck Colson highlights an article from the BBC by Christopher Landau.

Colson reports: "The Chinese government is studying the impact of Christian entrepreneurs and Christian-run businesses. A professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told Landau that it's clear to him that the growth of Christianity and economic prosperity are taking place simultaneously in Wenzhou--a city deeply influenced by Christian missionaries in the past."

Landau's article includes an interview with Weng-Jen Wau, owner of an industrial valve company in Wenzhou who is an openly committed Christian. Colson relates: "The factory owner is also quite open about another fact: When it comes to hiring, he would choose Christians over non-Christians every time--because he thinks they make better workers." (Regrettably, this is not always said about American Christian workers. But that is a topic for later.)

Colson goes on to reference Rodney Stark, in The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success. Colson writes: "Amazingly enough, at the end of his book, Stark quotes a published statement by Chinese scholars, who said they had no doubt that Christianity is the source of Western prosperity!"

Here is the amazing conclusion of Chinese scholars: "The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and the successful transition to democratic politics."

Colson concludes: "The simultaneous rise of Christian faith and economic success in China is just one piece of evidence that worldview matters. And that the Christian worldview, above all others, allows us to thrive in--and make sense of--the world we live in."

Please view a 2.5 minute video that Colson did for Worldview Matters in which he explains the critical link between the biblical worldview and work:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhBpl4J1NEM&feature=player_embedded

To subscribe to Colson's BreakPoint, go to: http://www.breakpoint.org/resources/subscribe-to-bp

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Friday, November 5, 2010

The Anti-Virus Program Has Been Uninstalled

"The West is like a computer from which the anti-virus program, the gospel, has been uninstalled," writes Vishal Mangalwadi in Truth and Transformation.

Mangalwadi understands the significance of "uninstallation." His country, India, experienced the benefits of the anti-virus program for about 150 years. But when the anti-virus program was removed, negative consequences were far-reaching.

British rule in Bengal began in 1757. The British East India Company came to India to make money. British governmental leaders took bribes, and corruption was rampant.

"British corruption," Mangalwadi writes, "destroyed Bengal's economy and became a factor in the death of several million people in the famine of 1769-70."

But then something remarkable happened.

The Wesleyan revival, birthed through John Wesley (1703-1791), produced British leaders like William Wilberforce, who saw the gospel as something more than a private, personal religion. They saw it as having enormous ramifications for whole societies.

The abolishment of slavery was not the only outcome. "Following the Wesleyan revival in England," writes Mangalwadi, "the British evangelicals transformed their government in India."

Mangalwadi credits Charles Grant, who, in the 1770s and early 80s, campaigned to give India "a philosophical basis for moral absolutes....via evangelization."

The effect of Grant's campaign was a significant transformation of Indian government and business. So much so, writes Mangalwadi, that "in 1947, independent India and Pakistan received clean, although not perfect, administrations."

"During the nineteenth century," he writes, "British evangelicals succeeded in transforming England and their government in India because they believed in a different God. Their God used his power not to oppress and extort, but to serve..."

Mangalwadi also credits Charles Trevelyan, who risked his life to expose corruption in business and public life in India.

But after Independence in 1947, Mangalwadi laments, "we have not seen secular or Hindu civil servants take heroic personal risks to fight corruption."

Why?

Because the worldview that inspired Trevelyan and Grant has been "uninstalled."

While the biblical worldview had a profound effect on India for more than a century, "in the last sixty years," writes Managlwadi, "corruption has grown exponentially."

The anti-virus program has been uninstalled in England, too, and is currently being uninstalled in America.

Proverbs 14:34 says, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people."

Mangalwadi asserts, "What the gospel did for England and India once, it can do again."

For America, too.

But will we let it?


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