Towards a Moisim Christology: A Korean Response

Resources »Eapr »East Asian Pastoral Review 2003 »Volume 40 2003 Number 1 »Towards A Moisim Christology A Korean Response

Kwang Kyung Hoon

Kwang Kyung Hoon, a Korean layman, holds an M.A. in Theological Studies from the Institute of Formation and Religious Studies, Manila. He is a researcher of the Woor i (our) Theology Institute, Seoul, Korea which supports the lay empowerment movement of the Korean Catholic Church. He is also involved in developing Korean contextual theology in the Woor i Institute.


In the first part of this article I will reflect on Jesus’ understanding of God before moving on to discuss the Korean people’s cultural understanding of Jesus. Finally I will offer Mosim Christology (mosim means reverencing or serving humans and God in one’s heart sincerely) as a meaningful Christology for Korean people. I wish to show the relationship between Jesus’ experience of God as abba and mosim which is our main theme. In the gospels we can see how Jesus felt so intimately close to God that he could call God Abba. In his abba experience Jesus experienced God’s intimate presence, not as a strict judge but as a loving and generous father. I wish to stress that Jesus also felt so uniquely and intimately close to God that he could express in his Gethsemane prayer "Not my will, but your will, Father" (Lk 21:42; Mt 26:42). Like a teacher who asks his or her pupils not to give up pursuing truth endlessly, Jesus’ God asked him to accomplish his mission even on the cross as an expression of the close Father-son relationship. In our Korean context we call that a mosim relationship.

In this respect, we see Jesus as the man of doing hyo, or filial piety or reverence, which is important in our Korean tradition. Although we put Jesus in the Korean tradition of doing hyo, the ethical virtue of hyo is too limited to grasp the essence of the relationship between God and Jesus which is expressed in the abba experience. Mosim, which is the thorough and sincere exercise of serving with sincere reverence is deeper than doing hyo. Jesus is our model of mosim inviting us to revere hanunim, our heavenly God, as well as to reverence and serve all our brothers and sisters.

We would also like to emphasize that when Jesus called God Abba, he felt the ultimate life as the Spirit. With the presence of the Spirit he continued to grow into a deeper relationship with God especially from his baptism onwards. In the abba experience he experienced such a deep presence of the divine power, that in the power of the Spirit he could conclude that the reign of God had already come. When he called God Abba, he felt that he was already in the kingdom. For Jesus, therefore, the reign of God is nothing but the world of the Spirit. To clarify our point, our reflections will begin with Jesus’ understanding of the reign of God.

By saying that Jesus is a Spirit-filled person, I mean that he lived in and through the Spirit as God’s ultimate life until he died on the cross. To translate this and make it meaningful in Korean culture, we should say that Jesus is the Spirit-filled person who accomplished the father-son relationship by sincerely doing hyo (filial piety or reverence). This leads us to claim that Jesus is the model of doing mosim.

The latter part of this article will be devoted to introducing the Ul (Spirit) Christology of the late Yoo Young mo, a very infuential Korean thinker and theologian. Comparing his Christology to doing mosim will be our other main concern here. We will find similarities and closeness between the Ul Christology and mosim in terms of doing hyo on the one hand, and differences between the two with regard to usage, focus and range of each development on the other. Through these efforts, we will come to articulate and explore our own Christology which we wish to call Mosim Christology.

In the Ul Christology Yoo stresses the special relationship of God and Jesus as Father and Son. However, I would like to insist that the father-son relationship is too narrow to include reverence and piety for every human being and creature in the universe. By offering the model of doing mosim, devotion to Jesus can be very meaningful in our Korean tradition. It can also challenge Koreans to go endlessly beyond the ‘vertical’ and what can sometimes become oppressive relationships such as father-son, men-women, old-young, humans-nature…etc. In other words, I am convinced that our mosim relationship to Jesus has to be broadened and widened in order to actively respond to our commitment to our neighbor and to the political, moral and ecological crisis of our time. In this sense, doing mosim, or mosim Christology goes one step further than Ul Christology.

The Abba Experience of Jesus

We will begin our discussion with Jesus’ experience of God as abba. Jesus’ calling God Abba represents an intimate and strong relationship with God. As we have said above, the abba experience not only refers to intimacy but to a solemn reverence and appreciation of God. Because of the experience, we believe that Jesus accomplished the Father-Son relationship by sincerely doing hyo, or filial piety. In other words, without the abba experience, we could say that it was impossible for Jesus to complete his mission which ended on the cross. Before discussing the abba experience in detail, let us summarize briefly the abba debate with Joachim Jeremias.

In his book The Prayers of Jesus (1967), Joachim Jeremias put forward several innovative theses which have made much impression on New Testament scholarship during the last quarter of a century. Among Jeremias’ arguments is firstly that abba originated in the babbling of ‘children’s speech.’ The germination ab-ba (dada) is modelled on the baby’s more frequent call to im-ma (mama). Secondly, this form of invocation is so familiar in tone that its association with the deity would have struck ordinary Aramaic-speaking Jews as disrespectful. Hence "there is no instance in Jewish prayer literature of the vocative abba being addressed to God" and its use by Jesus was "something new and unheard of" (Jeremias 1967:58-62). I will not discuss all the stages of Jeremias’ argument of abba here. Instead, I would like to briefly point out his contribution and limitation in the light of our main concern by mentioning his main arguments, and to introduce some criticisms of them.

According to James Barr, although he admits the undeniable influence of Joachim Jeremias on people in terms of God’s image as abba, abba didn’t really belong to the speech of children. On the contrary it was in normal use among adults. Barr suggests that the Mishnah (B. Bathra 9.3) discusses what happens when a father dies leaving property to his sons and the elder sons improve the property. The sons might then discuss, saying ‘See what Father (abba) has left us…’. These were no longer mere children (Barr 1988:173-9).1 Gordon D. Fee, however, supports Jeremias by saying that although Fee thinks that Barr (and Geza Vermes) may well be right on the question of origin of the word abba, its use by adults in an Aramaic home does not thereby make it a more adult word.

Fee goes one step further to say that Barr seems to miss the point: while he is correct that it did not originate with the babbling of children, the fact that the words abba and imma are the first words that most children would stammer needs to be noted. Fee explains that children do so, because these are the first words children are ‘taught,’ as it were. Therefore, Fee concludes that the ‘origins’ as such are irrelevant, but not so with usage and significance (Fee 1983:411 and note 154).

In regard to Jeremias’ assertion that there is no instance of abba in Jewish tradition in terms of addressing God, Jeremias more clearly says: "We do not have a single example of God being addressed as abba in Judaism, but Jesus always addressed God in this way in his prayers" (Jeremias 1971:66). Oscar Cullmann is careful to agree with Jeremias on this. According to Cullmann, more recent studies such as intertestamental literature and Qumran discoveries do not allow us to insist so. Although he will not prove Jeremias’ claim, Cullmann says that we should accept Jeremias’ main thesis to the degree that the word abba is particularly typical of Jesus as a form of address to God (Cullmann 1965:41). As Cullmann suggests, the more important thing with regard to our subject is to know that, "Jesus’ use of this familiar form of address to God in his prayers must have resulted from his own personal experience of prayer, and his disciples must have sensed this"(41). Jesus experienced God in such a way and taught his followers how to pray by asking them to call God Abba, my father, in the intimate relationship.2

However, we think Jeremias overstated his case by saying that there is no single example of God being addressed as abba in Judaism. He even seems to be mistaken to assert that the term abba only belongs to children. But we accept the fact as Cullmann suggested above that Jesus called God Abba, Father, in his prayer showing his intimate relationship with God which distinguished Jesus in some degree from his contemporaries. In other words, as far as the meaning of the term abba is concerned, we appreciate Jeremias’ painstaking achievement. Jesus experienced God as an intimate being so that he called God Abba, Father and was willing to share his image of God with his disciples.

Abba and the Spirit

Jesus, the Spirit-filled Person

When Jesus addressed God as Abba in his prayers, as St. Paul clearly shows in his writings,3 Jesus strongly felt that the Spirit came to him. According to Marcus Borg, Jesus’ use of the word abba to address God is one of the distinctive features of his prayer life, which points to the intimacy of Jesus’ experience of the Spirit. Borg points out that the reason why Jesus did not address God as Father but Abba which is rare in Judaism was because of his strong experience of the Spirit. The intensity of his spiritual experience led him to call God Abba which is quite an intimate expression. Borg is trying to understand Jesus’ calling God Abba in the Jewish charismatic tradition.4

For Jesus, however, when he prays to his Father it is not the first time he experienced the Spirit. The Spirit that he encountered was present at his baptism. There was from the beginning the tradition of spirit-filled mediators in the Bible. These charismatic figures dominated in Jesus’ time in Galilee as well. They connected the visible world and the world of spirit, and communicated with God through their intimate relationship with God. This was the tradition in which Jesus stood and without which consideration we cannot understand the historical Jesus properly.

Jesus’ Baptism and the Spirit

When Jesus was baptized by John, he saw the Spirit descending on him. "And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him" (Mk 1:10 NRSV). C.S. Song, a well-known Chinese theologian, also stresses the presence of the Spirit at Jesus’ baptism. He says that it is not baptism by water but empowerment by the Spirit that is the heart of the scenario. Since the Spirit is the Spirit of God, Song says, Jesus must have experienced the powerful presence of God. For Song, the God whom Jesus experienced in the river Jordan was Abba, that is, Father-Mother-Parent.5

Borg also reminds us here of Jesus’ intimate experience of and relation to God and the Spirit with the term abba. Jesus’ use of the word abba to address God points to the intimacy of Jesus’ experience of Spirit. When Jesus calls or cries Abba, Jesus experiences such an intimate feeling toward God as he did when he experienced the Spirit (Borg, 45). In this respect, we can say that when Jesus experienced the Spirit, he felt God so intimately close that he seemed to be sure in the world of Spirit, that is, the reign of God. In other words, Jesus experienced such fullness of this divine power. He experienced the Spirit which the prophets of old had longed for and was preserved for the messianic age, the reign of God in and through Jesus. And this experience, therefore, could make Jesus conclude that the reign of God had already come (Dunn 1975:48).

Discussions about the Reign of God

In this section, l would like to show how Jesus understood the reign of God by examining some arguments concerning the reign of God. We understand that there are different opinions regarding the reign of God. We need to look at them briefly here. Geza Vermes classifies the various discussions regarding the reign of God:

Albert Schweitzer’s ‘consistent eschatology’ (konsequente Eschatologie) assigns it to the near future. C.H. Dodd places it in the present time in the form of a ‘realized eschatology.’ Joachim Jeremias compromises, and with his ’sich realisierende Eschatologie,’ eschatology in process of being realized. He allots it partly to the present and partly to the future" (Vermes 1983:37).

Vermes points out the weakness of these eschatologies. He says that the chief weakness of the Schweitzer-Dodd-Jeremias’ school of thought is that it applies ordinary time-concepts to Jesus’ eschatological outlook. He insists that Jesus himself holds out the fact that the hour of the reign of God is unknown, citing Lk 17:20, "The reign of God is not coming with signs to be observed." Even Jesus does not know it. In other words, Jesus interpreted it not as the harsh judgment of a terrifying God but as the intimate presence of a loving Father (59).

Sheehan stresses that by the reign of God, Jesus meant the immediate presence of God as a loving Father. He explains that the reign of God has nothing to do with the fanciful geopolitics of the apocalyptists and messianists or with the juridical, hierarchical church. Nor was it any form of religion. The reign of God, Sheehan asserts, was the Father himself given over to his people.6 Given that the reign of God is the Father himself and is entirely and purely God’s gift as invitation, what remains for humans to do is to respond to the invitation. Sheehan picks up forgiveness, justice and charity as ethical virtues with which people can and must respond to God’s gift. He says that this mutuality—eschatology as the ground of ethics, and ethics as the realization of eschatology—is what made Jesus’ moral demands so radical (Kasper, 63).7

While Sheehan stresses practicing the ethical virtues, James Dunn emphasizes Jesus’ total surrender to God in the kingdom. Dunn sees that abba became the expression of the complete surrender of Jesus as Son to the Father’s will. Jesus’ self-surrender to God’s will is based on the intimate relationship of Jesus to God. The complete surrender of Jesus which was geared to his mission should be found in the fact that Jesus’ sense of being God’s son was an existential conviction, not intellectual belief. In other words, as Dunn explains, Jesus’ consciousness of an intimate relationship with God is not an awareness of metaphysical sonship, nor of a ‘divine consciousness’ (second Person of the Trinity). Dunn stresses that the only words adequate to express the experience of the relationship of sonship were that of Father and Son. By the experienced relationship of sonship, Dunn means that Jesus felt intimacy with God (abba experience), he had the approval of God (from Jesus’ baptism onward), dependence on God (Jesus’ total surrender and mission) and responsibility to God (Dunn, 383).

Schillebeeckx also focuses on the relation of Jesus as son and God. He notes that in Jesus’ time what the abba signified for him was authority and instruction: the father is the authority and the teacher. In other words, being a son meant ‘belonging to’ and one demonstrated this sonship by carrying out the father’s instruction. Schillebeeckx stresses that Jesus uses the familial term abba in addressing God and that shows the quite natural expression of the very core of his religious life: ‘Not my will, but your will, Father’ (Lk 21:42, Mt 26:42). According to Jewish spirituality, that is ‘doing God’s will,’ the familial concept of father and son can be applicable to the relationship of Jesus towards God who is understood as abba (263). Schillebeeckx also stresses that the soul, the source and ground of Jesus’ message, praxis and ministry as a whole served to illuminate the exceptional and peculiar character of the abba experience (266). Therefore, we suggest that the event of God’s reign must be considered in the light of Jesus’ response to God’s pure gift as invitation.

Being the sons and daughters of God in this sense expects filial piety of us. In the Korean cultural religious tradition we call this filial piety mosim, or reverence. We show this piety and reverence by doing ‘hyo,’ filial piety and we show this piety towards our parents or elders. We would like to suggest that Jesus who addressed his Father as Abba and who’s life was spent in bringing about the reign of God is the model of doing mosim whose filial piety, passion, mission. His whole life clearly shows it more than anyone else.8

Ul (Spirit)9 Christology of Yoo Young mo

Yoo Young mo and His Understanding of Jesus

The late Yoo Young mo was born in March 3, 1890. He was the teacher of Ham Seok hun, a well-known Korean thinker. Yoo was the one who had lived counting the days on a daily basis, had only one meal per day and had declared ‘haehon,’ that is, liberating husband and wife from the marital relationship in a good and positive sense. For Yoo, the haehon was done as a discipline in order not to engage himself in any sexual relationship. Not only theologians, but many religious leaders in different religions, as well as politicians and educators owed much to Yoo in terms of his wide and deep range of thought. Kim Heung ho, one of Yoo’s disciples describes Yoo as follows:

Yoo’s understanding of Christianity is, in a word, an oriental understanding of it. The teacher was very great at Chinese scholarship so that he could deeply understand oriental classics. Yoo was much interested not only in Confucianism and Buddhist philosophy, but also in the Christian Bible (Kim 1992:1).

According to Lee Jung bae, a Korean Protestant theologian, Yoo had never studied theology in school but he read the Bible and interpreted it by himself in the light of the oriental mind. This was so that Yoo’s idea of the Bible or Jesus Christ could be a non-western model of Christology. Although Yoo became a member of a Protestant Church by being baptized at the age of 16, it was 38 years later when Yoo finally confessed his faith in Jesus Christ. In the meantime Yoo thought and examined the Bible and Jesus’ teachings in his own way (1996:293-5).

The Ul Christology of Yoo Young mo came not only from his own ideas but his ceaseless and strict praxis and discipline. As we have mentioned earlier, Yoo had been counting the days. He had lived day after day, because as Yoo has often said, he thought that he was born and that he died everyday. Yoo had only one meal a day for more than 40 years until he died at the age of 92. He thought of the denial of a meal as a sacrificial offering to Jesus Christ and he was eager to offer his life as an offering as the purpose of his life. As an example of the discipline of Yoo’s philosophy and faith, he declared ‘haehon,’ for his wife, that means ‘liberating her from the relationship between husband and wife.

Although Yoo does not admit the ontological difference between Jesus and other religious figures such as Buddha, Confucius and Laotsze, he confesses his faith in Jesus Christ. Yoo Young mo sees Jesus as a man of hyo, of filial piety. In other words, he understood that Jesus was the one who accomplished the non-torn relationship between Father and Son by doing hyo which is a Korean traditional virtue in Confucianism. Besides, his Christology much stresses the spiritual aspect which is quite similar to ours. This is the reason why we have chosen him and his Christology to be examined here in relation to the abba experience, the Spirit and doing mosim. We will now examine the Ul Christology articulated by Yoo Young mo in the light of doing mosim.

Yoo says:

Humans have beauty because of their sumgim (mosim). Among many people, Jesus is the highest that really respects God and serves other human beings. It is Jesus Christ that takes God and human kind as his life itself (Park 1994:140).

Yoo Young mo for whom Jesus Christ has a special meaning in his life, differentiates Jesus from other religious figures. This is because, for Yoo, it was Jesus who accomplished hyo, so that Jesus could be united intimately with God in the father-son relationship. Yoo expresses his relation to Jesus more existentially: "It is Jesus Christ that I cannot ever forget until the last moment (of my life). Jesus is the only teacher for me" (Yoo 1993:1383). Yoo thinks of Jesus here as his teacher who has a deeper relationship with Yoo than any one else in terms of pursuing and sharing truth.

Abba as Teacher

We need to look into the implication of Yoo’s idea of teacher in the context of the Father-Son relation a little further. As we have seen earlier, Schillebeeckx has pointed out that the word abba as Father signified for the son both authority and the teacher. Focusing on the latter, being a son means that one demonstrates one’s sonship by carrying out the father’s instructions. Although addressing God as Abba in Jewish prayers was very rare, doing God’s will was the core of Jewish spirituality. Schillebeeckx stresses that the following statements of the Gospel express well the very core of Jesus’ religious life and Jewish spirituality: "Not my will, but your will, Father"(Lk 21:42, Mt 26:42). This is simply applying the familial concept of father and son to the relationship of Jesus towards God, expressed as abba (263). In this sense, we can say that when Jesus called God Abba, the image of abba was closer to that of teacher who pursues truth with his disciple.

Like Schillebeeckx, Yoo also sees his relation to Jesus in terms of a teacher-disciple relationship. He says, "The most holy relationship among human relationships is that of a teacher-disciple relationship. For Koreans, no relationship is deeper or more spiritual than that of the teacher-disciple relation" (Park, 1463). Yoo Young mo is able to say this because he lived and learnt as an oriental and studied Confucianism in which the teacher-disciple relation is special. In other words, Yoo understands Jesus as the only one who lived out the great oneness in relation to God as the ultimate life through hyo. The oneness that Jesus reached with God was achieved the moment Jesus called him ‘Abba,’ Father.

According to Lee Jung bae, Yoo sees that Jesus in addressing God as Father means that Jesus has overcome momna (ego) in him and was reborn into ulna, or God’s life. Because of the ulna, Jesus became Christ as God’s life itself (Yoo, 223).10 Lee says that since Yoo sees Jesus’ ul as Christ, that is, God’s invisible reality, the Christology of Yoo is quite different from that of Arius which focuses mainly on the ontological difference between God and Jesus.11 Let us see more about Yoo’s usage of ul (spirit).12 In the following passage of John’s Gospel, Yoo translates ul into Spirit: no one can enter the reign of God without being born of (water and) ul (Spirit). What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of ul (Spirit) is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born of ul (from above)’ [Park, 128], John 3:5-7 (NRSV).

With regard to the ul or ulna, Yoo stresses that what is unique about Jesus is that he overcame his momna and became ulna (state of having overcome the flesh), and accomplished the father-son relationship with his Ultimate being. In other words, as we have noted above, by calling God ‘Abba’ and accomplishing hyo, Jesus became Ultimate life in his ulna. Through bujayuchin, or ‘close union of father and son’ in a non-torn relationship, and by overcoming the temptation of momna and living life to the fullest Jesus became the Christ (Park, 41). Although Yoo uses the term momna, or the flesh negatively as the opposite meaning of the ulna or Spirit, it does not mean the suppression of the body and the detachment of the soul from it. On the contrary, Yoo stresses the mom, or human body in relation to the discipline of one’s body. In Confucianism, the human body has always been regarded as the object of self-discipline. Because according to Confucianism in Korea, the human is born as having a good nature and goodness is normally expressed through the body. However, it can easily be tempted. Therefore, the reason why Yoo uses the term mom or the body more often than the term ego, which is usually used in Buddhism, is because the Confucian tradition focuses on the discipline of the human body.13

Yoo understands Christ as the ul, not just of individual persons but of the whole cosmos, as well as of all history and humankind. He sees the ul as the Spirit which is being sent to us ceaselessly. Yoo says that although it sounds like pantheism, the term Spirit is easier for Koreans to grasp than the term Christ. As long as the Spirit is God’s seed in humans, he says that not only Jesus but all humans become Ultimate life as Christ.14 The fact, therefore, that the Ultimate life as God’s seed exists in all humans coincides with the ultimate and universal character of the Spirit (Yoo, 142, 9; Lee, 308). Accordingly, Yoo emphasizes that the ultimate human life is possible not because Jesus’ blood was shed for us, but because we are filled with the Spirit (Park, 204). He says: "We met Christ. The Christ sent to us is eternal life. As oxygen is being supplied to us, the Spirit of Christ is being supplied to us"(Yoo, 3412).

Yoo’s Understanding of the Reign of God

With regard to the reign of God, Yoo’s idea of the kingdom is quite close to our conclusion that we have articulated and developed so far. Yoo sees the reign of God as the moment of the ulna, or Spirit being received. As Borg also argues, Yoo points out that for him the classical idea of eschatology is wrong. According to Yoo, the idea of the ‘coming’ of the reign of God to the world is wrong in the first place. The idea of Jesus’ second coming to the world as the kingdom of earth that has long been yearned for is similar to that of communist utopia.

Now that we wait for Jesus’ coming again and cling to the end of history, we cannot avoid facing certain ideologies which oppress humans. For Yoo, the reign of God is not a place to get into after the death of the flesh nor the object of great expectation to be fulfilled in the future. He points out that this kind of understanding of history was the product of the people of Israel, not Korea. Then he asks in return, "If the life of Christ has never been divided into two, then what second coming are you talking about?" (Park, 552).

Like Yoo, we have reached our conclusion that the reign of God is the moment of receiving the Spirit. As we have mentioned earlier, when Jesus experienced the Spirit, he felt God so intimately that he could call God Abba and seemed to be sure in the world of Spirit, that is, the reign of God. In other words, the fact that Jesus could call God Abba, means that on the one hand he received the Spirit and entered the kingdom and on the other hand, he overcame his momna15 in him - because he went beyond his ego - and became the ulna as God’s life because of which Jesus as God’s life itself finally became Christ (Lee, 314).

Mosim and Mosim Christology

The word mosim is best translated into English as reverence or worship or the state of worshipping heartily. When one is doing mosim one embraces God in one’s heart and obeys God with utmost sincerity. As one makes one’s parents glad by sincere filial piety, doing mosim for God means revering God with utmost reverence. It is the experience of the mystic and the sacred energy fulfilling and making one’s life more dynamic (Kim, 249). Guided by the spirit of mosim God is worshipped in the midst of daily life, while serving families, neighbors, and all creatures including all of creation.

Dealing with Yoo’s Ul Christology, we have found that his Ul Christology is quite close to our development of the idea of mosim. Indeed, doing mosim or hyo is the essence or the center of the Ul Christology. Without mosim or shi, we cannot imagine that Yoo could articulate his idea of Jesus Christ. Despite such similarity, we believe that there are other important aspects of mosim that make the Ul Christology more meaningful, broader and more relevant to the contemporary world. We believe, however, that the significance of the two aspects and the inter-relations are better explained in Jesus’ doing mosim. Going back to abba, as we have earlier discussed, when Jesus called God Abba, Jesus felt God so intimately and strongly present that he could enter the reign of God.

God’s reign, however, is neither God’s ruling over this world nor the next world, but God Father-Mother or the Spirit as the Ultimate life. In this regard, when Jesus called out Abba in the middle of severe suffering in the garden of Gethsemane, the chi,43 (invisible energy in the universe) becomes God Father-Mother for Jesus. Jesus’ doing mosim for God at this painful moment clearly shows how Jesus sincerely embraces the han, or sadness-ridden feeling so that Jesus finally comes to the <han>, the great oneness with the heavenly God.17 Even on the cross, he could embrace the han by doing mosim for God. Reaching the <han> as great oneness, however, Jesus did not use any miraculous ways. There were no miraculous methods; only doing mosim with great sincerity.

In this regard, we can say that hyo or the father-son relationship on which Yoo Young mo focuses mainly is not enough to grasp the sincerity of doing mosim. It limits hyo only to the father-son relationship. We need to broaden and widen the boundary of doing hyo as Jesus did. The more Jesus embraces the han of all the oppressed, the poor and the sick, the more Jesus sees their unity with God, the great oneness between them and God, that is, the <han>.

If Jesus could not see and feel God in the most minute things in the universe, he could not call God Abba and embrace the han (suffering) of them until the end of his life. Because in the world of <han> which is a world of great oneness, the han of the smallest things was experienced by Jesus. The term hyo with which Yoo articulated his idea, therefore, is not enough to have a good sincere relationship with all things. Therefore while we have great appreciation for the Ul Christology of Yoo we wish to emphasize our relationship to Jesus Christ as Mosim Christology.18

Mosim as Power to Form Relationships

We have to remind ourselves that mosim refers to reverence for all creatures including non-organic matter which is also reverence for hanunim, or heavenly God. When one is doing mosim for someone or something, one always trusts that on the one hand one keeps hanunim in one’s mind, and on the other one also does mosim for God.

Mosim always requires individual or communal discipline to put all things ‘in’ relationship. In this regard, doing mosim would never succeed if one could only recognize the ul or God in one’s mind without any praxis. It is humans themselves who can make God or the ul move or act when they themselves do mosim sincerely. Keeping or recognizing God in your mind does not unite us with God. Faith calls for compassionate action.

Although the Ul Christology notes and stresses that all creatures have the presence of God in them, we cannot see the power of forming relationships as a praxis in Yoo’s thinking. Recovering the recognition that all creatures are united in the one relationship with sincere discipline can heal the ecological crisis. Overcoming our self-centeredness (or momna) or individualistic way of life19 is significant for a world that faces a critical ecological crisis. In this sense, the spirit of doing mosim can play a significant role in solving and healing the crisis. Once again, doing mosim is the power that unites all things in a great oneness with hanunim or heavenly God as Ultimate life. The statement of the late Chang II sun, Korean ecological activist, expresses this idea well: "There is nothing that is not shi (mosim), if we have an attitude toward the mind of living together with others and trying to make the relationship among ourselves grow" (Chang 1990:68-72).

Mosim as Principle of Non-violence

We would like to emphasize another character of mosim, that is, non-violence. Like the ahimsa of Gandhi, the non-violent character of mosim could never be passive or negative, but active. In other words, as we can see in the extract of the following poem "I Saw Hanunim," the non-violent character means even "kissing the asshole of the world." That means loving the most minute of creation as oneself. The poem was written at the very spot of the Kwangju massacre in 1980.

5 p.m., July 31, 1980
Sitting on a cumulous cloud,
coming to fill me,
at Sinan-dong in Kwangju,
I saw hanunim.

With my heart swelling and likely to be blown,
feeling hanunim pushed me
to come out with love
for all people in this world...
Ah, I will not be in despair,

ah, I will not hate, cry out or wander
leaving my soul abandoned.
As long as life lasts, for even a minnow
I will dote on it.

. . .I will kiss even the asshole of the world.….
Ah, I really saw hanunim (Kim 1983:2).
When Jesus says "Love your enemies" which expresses the sentiments of the non-violent character, the term hyo is not comprehensive enough to explain his spirit of compassion. The idea of doing hyo as filial piety should be widened and deepened to that of mosim. Because the Ul Christology is not sufficient to describe a meaningful Korean Christology. We need a new Christology - Mosim Christology.

Mosim as Praxis

Although Yoo uses the ulna as the opposite of momna (the flesh), it does not mean that he divides human beings into two, flesh and soul in a dualistic way. For Yoo the ul or Spirit cannot exist without mom (body or flesh). We need a union of the body and mind. This is what is different from Gnosticism’s understanding of body or flesh. Yoo stresses not only exercise of the body, but fasting and the absence of any sexual relationships for the human Spirit needs discipline. He emphasizes discipline, not because Yoo wants to deny mom, the body, but he asks to experience spiritual poverty by reducing his sexual desire.

As we have mentioned above, Yoo sees the cross in the light of doing hyo as Jesus’ praxis in his whole life. Because of the influence of Confucianism which is patriarchal, the word hyo seems to represent a somewhat ‘vertical relationship,’ and limits the boundary of the word to the relationship with one’s parents. Mosim is a pure Korean term, which has a wider or ‘horizontal’ connotation. The word mosim can be used and generalized in the relationship with one’s parents, the weak or the sick, and even nature: grains, trees, rains, winds, storms and rocks. In doing mosim, we humans serve all beings and all of creation in relationship with hanunim, the Ultimate life of God.

We also have a question about the validity of the word hyo or doing hyo. In other words, the term hyo does not seem to include the meaning of leading and guiding one to praxis or discipline. As so many people in this contemporary world really think, doing hyo can be done not by one’s sincerity or discipline but by money and material things. Fortunately, Koreans still think and use the word mosim in a way that their heart and spirit have to be involved in doing this. Moreover, the word mosim includes one’s intention or decision to serve others. In other words, doing mosim presupposes a concrete relationship in which one is required to do good deeds to the best of one’s ability. Relational thinking and establishing relations is an alternative way of life to the crisis of western individualism.

Once again, we want to emphasize the fact that it was the person of Jesus and his life that made it possible for the Spirit to come, as we have pointed out in Jesus’ baptism. In other words, Jesus was the one who ‘recognized’ the reign of God as Father himself (Sheehan), or the Spirit (Song, Borg) through the source of Jesus’ message and ministry as a whole (Schillebeeckx), that is, Jesus did hyo as a discipline (Yoo). Mosim is the power to bridge the world of han to that of the <han>. In other words, mosim helps people embrace more deeply the suffering-ridden feelings of themselves or others as the han so much so that they can go forward to the <han> in which they can be united as one with hanunim, their heavenly God.

Doing mosim always includes a sincere attitude and mind: when you do mosim for your parents or God, you should always do it with utmost sincerity. When one is doing mosim with one’s utmost sincerity, the creativity in every single being in the universe becomes divine and godly. We witness Jesus’ sincerity doing mosim in the Jesus prayer on the mountain of Gethsemane. When Jesus called out Abba in the midst of the most severe sufferings on the Mount of Olives, the chi in the universe became God Father-Mother for Jesus. Jesus’ doing mosim for God at this painful moment clearly showed how Jesus sincerely embraced the han so that he finally came to the <han>. Reaching the <han> as great oneness, however, he did not use any miracles. There were no miraculous methods only doing mosim with great sincerity.

We believe, therefore, that the Ul Christology of Yoo needs to be complemented by our development of doing mosim so we emphasize again the importance of Mosim Christology. In other words Koreans stand in the religious tradition of Jesus. They describe hanunim (heavenly God) as a personal being in an honorific system. He becomes the model of doing mosim. By Jesus’ becoming the model of mosim, he continuously challenges Koreans who are accustomed to limit the idea of hyo to their own parents to go forward to hanunim, our heavenly God who is present in all creatures. From the perspective of doing mosim, therefore, we dare to say that in Mosim Christology, Jesus Christ can be well-received and grasped by Koreans today more so than in any other Christology. Jesus invites us to serve or revere hanunim by doing mosim for all creatures.


Abba—Father (or daddy in limited usage) in Aramaic.
Bu-ja-yu-chin—"Father and son are close" is one of the main ideas of Confucianism.
Chamna —Real self or another name for ulna, or Spirit being.
Chi —Invisible energy which is translated into the Spirit many times.
Haehon —"Liberating husband and wife from the marital relationship in a good and positive sense." One of the disciplines practiced by Yoo Young mo, Korean theologian and thinker.
Han —It has many different meanings including heaven, ‘one and many,’ and suffering or pain-ridden feeling especially in Minjung theology.
<Han>— Integral meaning of han. Oneness in all things. Mosim is the power that makes han go forward to <han> as great oneness with God.
Hanul-gut —Shamanistic ceremony for heaven in the Korean religious tradition.
Hanu(l)nim —Name of God especially in Donghak. The literal meaning is the Lord of heaven, or heavenly God.
Hyo — Filial piety especially to one’s parents is one great virtue of Confucianism.
Imma —Mama in a baby’s speech in Jewish.
Jomna —Another name of momna that sticks to the flesh or ego.
Minjung —Ordinary people at the grass-root level.
Minjung Theology — Korean version of liberation theology from the 1970s onwards.
Mom —Human body
Momna — Human ego. State of being stuck to the flesh or one’s ego.
Mosim —Pure Korean term. Serving or revering someone especially God in your mind with sincerity, or shi in Chinese.
Ul —Spirit or the high degree of the human mind.
Ulna —the Spirit. -- State of getting over one’s momna or ego, and becoming
Yum-jae-shin-jae —Literally, it means, "where there is thought, there is Christology."


1. Barr 1988: 173-9. This article is updated by Barr 1988a:28-47. Vermes 1993: 182 stresses that the Jewish Aramaic term abba belonged not only to the style adopted by children but could also be used in the solemn, ‘religious’ context of an oath.
2. Boff 1979:29 supports this idea. He counts the expression "Dearest Father" (Abba) in the mouth of Jesus 170 times in the gospel:
‘Abba’ alludes to the secret of Jesus’ intimate relationship with God and his mission in the name of God. … all of these (other names) are subordinate to the great rainbow arc of God’s incomparable goodness and tenderness as seen in ‘Dear Father.’ All the other titles are common nouns or names for God: Father is God’s proper name.
3. In Rom 8:15 and Gal 4:6, Paul says that when we experience God and call "Abba! Father!," we are children of God, experiencing the Spirit. In other words, at the very moment, we experience the Spirit that God sends into our hearts we call God abba.
4. Borg 1987:45 says, "Abba is used as a term for God in traditions reported about Jewish charismatics contemporary with Jesus."
5. Song 1994:27 emphasizes that the Spirit is not the private Spirit of Jesus himself, but the Creator Spirit. The Spirit is engaged in creation and new creation. In the Spirit of God, Song stresses, vitality, dynamism and freedom as the source of its creativity. Also 27-82. Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
6. According to Walter Kasper, the reign of God has three characters: eschatological, theological and soteriological. From Kasper’s side, we would like to point out that Sheehan focuses only on the theological aspect of the reign of God. We agree with the arrangement of Kasper, but we do not deal with the classifications in detail because our main concern at this point is the reign of God in relation to Jesus’ calling God Abba.
For Sheehan the reign of God will arrive in the act of ethical virtues like forgiveness, justice and mercy, without more elaboration on the contents or implication of God the Father as God’s reign. See Kasper 1974:72-88. With regard to the meaning of rule of God, see Schillebeeckx 1988:269.
7. Kasper stresses that the kingdom is totally and exclusively God’s doing and so what we need is faith that responds to God’s love. Although we do not disagree with Sheehan, we would like to ask him to listen to Kasper at this point in order not to limit the reign of God to the world of ethics. See Kasper, 81-2.
8. We would like to make clear that hyo and mosim are similar in terms of serving your parents. Doing mosim, however, goes beyond the boundary of hyo, focusing firstly on revering God in all the creatures. We stress, therefore, that Jesus becomes the model of doing mosim for God. This is a challenge to Koreans who are accustomed to doing hyo in Confucianism.
9. The term ul is one of the most important ideas of Yoo including ulna. The ul means the highest degree of the human mind. Yoo uses the term many times as the spirit or Christ himself. Ulna, on the other hand, means a state of getting over one’s momna or ego, and becoming the being of Spirit.
10. Yoo, 223 says, "The eternal life of Jesus is not his flesh but his ul. The ul of Jesus has been consistently sent to us. In a way, our base is Christ."
11. According to Park, a Korean scholar and a specialist in the thoughts of Yoo Young mo, it was also difficult for Yoo to accept Athanasius (295-373) saying that the body of Jesus is divine and is the same as that of God (127).
12. Yoo is able to express his idea of Jesus’ divinity through the concept of the ul which is acquired in the world of the oriental spirit. Yoo understands that Jesus came to the world in order to let people know the fact that real human life is not in mom, or the flesh, but in the ul, the spirit. The ul in this sense can be equivalent to ‘kyunsung,’ or enlightening your one Buddha in yourself in Buddhism; ‘muwijido,’ or letting tao take initiative to be as it is in Taoism; ‘in,’ or realizing love for others in Confucianism. All these mean the state being beyond the ‘I-thou’ schema or subject-object relation. See Kim 1992:23.
13. Moltmann stresses the role of the Spirit in relation to matter as saying that by experiencing the Spirit as inner force that interpenetrates body and soul, the spring of life begins to flow in us. If according to Christian hope ‘the transfiguration of the body’ consists in raising from death to eternal life, Moltmann insists, that it is already experienced here and now in the Spirit of life. What is interesting is the fact that like Yoo, Moltmann also stresses the life character of the Spirit. He says that the Spirit as eternal love and life transfigures or ‘liberates’ the body. This is to say that it is life that brings the body’s liberation and transfiguration. See Moltmann 1992:94-8.
14. The debate about whether the Spirit comes from God as Father or Jesus as son is meaningless to Yoo. For Yoo, as long as the ul or Spirit as the ultimate life is concerned, God, Jesus and humans would never be different from one another. In this context, therefore, the ‘Filioque Debate’ in the western world does not have any possible meaning for him.
We would like to appreciate the work of Moltmann who suggests that we understand the Spirit as both ‘the Spirit of Christ’ and ‘the Spirit of God’ in an effort to end the debate in his own way, stressing that: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
But Moltmann tends to admit Jesus’ ontological superiority to other people so much so that the ul or Spirit as ultimate life is limited to Jesus Christ again. Moltmann says that we can see who God the Father of Jesus Christ is, solely from Jesus’ experiences of God and from people’s experiences of the Spirit when they live in fellowship with Jesus. More clearly, Moltmann stresses that if God becomes our Father through the Son and for his sake, then he can be called ‘Abba, beloved Father’(Rom 8:15, 2 Cor 3:17). See Moltmann, 21-2.
15. With regard to Jesus overcoming momna, we would like to refer to his self-surrender to God’s will when he experienced God as Abba. As seen before, James Dunn sees that Jesus’ total self-surrender was coming out of the abba experience based on his intimate relationship to God. In his self-surrender he overcame momna (the flesh) and became the ulna. In Yoo’s terms, Jesus was finally reborn as Christ, as God’s child.
What is interesting and worthwhile to note here is the fact that while Dunn sees the intimate relation of Jesus and God, may be ‘daddy’ to whom Jesus surrenders completely to God’s will, Yoo stresses the rather solemn image of God as teacher. As far as the intimate relationship between Jesus and God is concerned, we would follow the image of God Abba as ‘daddy’ but we would also like to include the meaning of solemn father and teacher.
16. There are some theologians who use the word in their own way like Song Cheon-sung. According to him, the chi as the Chinese would call it, can be equivalent to the air, breath, and even spirit. For him, the chi is the material origin of all things, but at the same time, it is the origin of life-force and energy for action. Or rather, it is, itself, equipped with life-force and energy for action. See 1994:293.
17. Han has many different meanings including heaven, ‘one and many,’ and suffering or pain-ridden feeling especially in Minjung Theology, or Korean contextual theology. We differentiate han from <han> in meaning. Because of doing mosim, han as sadness-ridden feeling can get into the world of heavenly God as <han>. In other words, doing mosim with sincerity is the power to make han as sadness-ridden feeling go forward to <han> as great oneness with heavenly God.
18. Mosim Christology is my own term and development, but I do not intend to complete it in this work. I think of this article as an initial stage in the study of the Mosim Christology. With the terms, I want to point out two things in regard to the Ul Christology of Yoo Young mo. Mosim is closely connected and proceeds to han thought (or faith) as Koreans’ fundamental religious and cultural experience of hanunim, their heavenly God. Although I believe that the term ul of Yoo is also rooted in the han thought, the main focus and the process of development are different from mosim. Secondly, literally speaking, the range of the word ul is wider than that of mosim. While the former stresses mainly the Spirit as its existential character in all things and free movement, the latter focuses on the character of making or putting all things ‘in’ the relationship with hanunim, the Ultimate life as praxis or discipline.
19. If we admit that the individualism of the West is the main cause for the destruction of the relationship between humans and nature, the idea of mosim or Mosim Christology is significant especially for the Westerners to listen and learn to solve the problem.


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