The fear of death among Korean Christians : a pastoral hermeneutical study

Lu, Hyeon Suk (2015-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This dissertation aims for a clearer understanding of the meaning of death and the fear of death for Korean Christians. Theoretical and empirical research was employed to indicate that Korean Christians have been influenced by other religions, such as shamanism, Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, in their understanding of death. The theoretical research, focused on a description of the background of the syncretistic understanding of the meaning of death that Korean Christians have, and the many religious, philosophical, psychological, scientific and archaeological aspects influencing their understanding. The study also critically analyzed the multi-causative factors such as religion, psychology, emotion, consciousness, the unconscious mind, self-esteem and social problems relating to the fear of death. Through critical reflection from a biblical perspective on life and death, it is shown that the fear of death is rooted in the original sin, and is a consequence of the fall from faith in God (McGrath, 1994:101). The research also explores the difference between psychological counseling, which is based on psychology, and pastoral counseling, which is based on theology. Psychology and pastoral counseling need to be integrated in order to effectively help people to deal with their fear of death. Through the empirical research, which took the form of questionnaires and interviews, it appeared that Korean Christians have mixed concepts with other religions and Christianity. This confusion has often resulted in an intensified fear of death – only a few participants in the study seemed to have a clear perspective of the Christian message of redemption, expressing a conviction that only God can solve the problem of death. Although everybody will stand in the presence of God for the final judgment, Grudem (1994:1144) points out that this should not cause terror for believers, because our sins have been forgiven through Jesus Christ. The process of interviews also highlighted that parishioners want to be counseled by a pastor as a spiritual being. A pastor who does pastoral care without the work of the Holy Spirit cannot promote the spiritual growth of parishioners, as they are spiritual beings. People need to discuss death as an important aspect of their Christianity, rather than avoid thinking or talking about it. As was evident in the discussions that took place, young people want to know more about death. As Krueger (1998, Focus Group Kit, 6:29) states, participants influence each other, opinions change, and new insights emerge as a result. Practical theology as a field of study deals with the praxis of God, salvific and eschatological involvement, and engagement with the trajectories of human lives and the suffering of human beings (Louw, 2008:71). Within the context of theological reflection and design-planning, Christians can be inhabited by the Holy Spirit and can help others to overcome their fear of death by means of a ‘Holistic Pastoral Approach’. Every Christian can communicate with God through the Holy Spirit. When Christians have a conviction of salvation and can commit wholeheartedly to God, they will overcome their fear of death, through the Holy Spirit.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie verhandeling mik op 'n duideliker begrip van die betekenis van die dood en die vrees vir die dood vir Koreaanse Christene. Teoretiese en empiriese navorsing is gebruik om aan te dui dat Koreaanse Christene deur menigte ander gelowe beïnvloed is, byvoorbeeld Shamanisme, Taoisme, Boeddhisme and Konfucianisme, in hulle begrip van die dood. Die teoretiese navorsing het eerstens gefokus op ‘n beskrywing van die sinkretistiese begrip van die dood wat Koreaanse Christene het soos wat dit beïnvloed word deur die verskydenheid aspekte van geloof, filosofie, sielkunde, wetenskap en archealogie. Die studie het ook die veelsydige faktore wat kan bydra tot die vrees vir die dood krities ontleed. Deur kritiese nadenking vanuit ‘n Bybelse perspektief, is dit aangedui dat die vrees oor die dood sy beginsels het in die sondeval, as gevolg van die gebrek aan geloof in God (McGrath, 1994:101). Die navorsing ondersoek ook die verskil tussen sielkundige berading, wat op sielkunde gebaseer is, en pastorale berading, wat op teologie gebaseer is. Sielkundige en pastorale berading moet geintegreer word om mense te help om hulle vrees vir die dood te oorkom. Uit die empiriese navorsing (wat deur middel van vraelyste en onderhoude gedoen is) het dit geblyk dat Koreaanse Christene konsepte van ander gelowe meng met die Christendom. Hierdie verwarring lei dikwels tot ‘n verskerpte vrees vir die dood. Slegs ‘n paar deelnemers in die studie het ‘n duidelike perspektief gehad van die Christelike boodskap van verlossing, en het met sekerheid geweet dat God alleen die probleem van die dood kan oplos. Alhoewel almal in die teenwoordigheid van God sal staan vir die finale oordeeling, beklemtoon Grudem (1994:1144) dat dit nie vrees vir gelowiges hoef te veroorsaak nie, want ons sondes is reeds vergewe deur Jesus Christus. Die onderhoudsproses het ook gewys dat kerkgangers, as geestelike wesens, verkies om deur ‘n pastoor berading te kry. ‘n Pastoor wat pastorale berading sonder die werk van die Heilige Gees doen kan nie die geestelike ontwikkeling van kerkgangers bevorder nie. Mense het nodig om die dood as deel van die Christendom te bespreek, eerder as om die onderwerp te vermy. Die besprekings het ook gewys dat jong mense meer wil weet oor die dood. Soos Krueger (1998, Focus Group Kit 6:29) beklemtoon, word deelnemers deur mekaar beïnvloed, menings word verander, en nuwe insigte word geopenbaar. Praktiese teologie as ‘n area van navorsing handel oor die werking van God, verlossing en eskatologiese betrokkenheid by menslike lewens en lyding. (Louw, 2008:71). Binne die konteks van teologiese nadenking, kan Christene deur die Heilige Gees gevul word en kan mekaar help om die vrees vir die dood te oorkom as ‘n Holistiese Pastorale Nadering. Elke Christen het die vermoë om deur die Heilige Gees met God te kommunikeer. Wanneer Christene ‘n besliste geloof in verlossing het en heelhartig verbind aan God is, sal hulle deur die Heilige Gees die vrees vir die dood kan oorkom.

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