Psalm 32 (taken from Korean Psalter)

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Puritan Board Freshman
Hello, everyone.

I just wanted to introduce Korean Psalter to you guys.

Many people know that Presbyterian churches are strong in South Korea;

however, many of these Presbyterian churches (if not all) lost their distinctives as Presbyterian. :(

As to why, that's whole another thread.

For instance, psalm singing was recently introduced to Korean churches

though it is historically reformed/presbyterian practice (and biblical mandate ;)).

Ten years ago, Korean Christians couldn't even sing Psalms, because there was no Psalter.

But praise the Lord! Now we do have some. In fact, there are three versions of Psalter currently published.

Below is one of the versions of Psalter widely used in historically reformed/presbyterian churches in Korea.

View attachment 3024View attachment 3025

It is published by Korea Christian Book House in 2004.

Songs contained in this Psalter are from the Psalter used by Free Church of Scotland.

Here is a sample. It's Psalm 32, verse 1. I sang all the parts and edited them.


"Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit" (Psalm 32:1, 2).

허물의 사함을 얻고 죄악 가리움 받은 자
마음에 간사가 없고 주가 정죄치 않는 자
복 있도다 복 있도다 죄를 용서함 받은 자


Puritan Board Junior
How fantastic! Thank you for sharing. It is a great joy to sing from God's songbook. Praise God that His Word is being sung in South Korea!


Puritan Board Freshman
This is very good. Back in the 1990s I was aware of some interest in producing a Korean Psalter (my wife worked as a full-time translator for Word of Life Press for a number of years, getting a number of older Puritan and modern Reformed books translated into Korean) but I was not aware the Psalter project had ever been completed.

The foreign Presbyterian missionaries to Korea in the late 1800s and early 1900s were from four denominations -- the Southern PC(US), the Northern PC(USA), the Presbyterian Church in Canada, and Presbyterian Church in Australia. None of those denominations, by the time of their mission work to Korea, had a recent history of psalm singing. Of the psalmsinging denominations from that period that were involved in Asian missions, the ARP and UPCNA were focusing on what is now Pakistan and the RPCNA was focusing on China and later on Japan. I'm not aware that there was ever a sustained mission effort in Korea by any psalmsinging denomination during the formative years of Korean Presbyterianism.

I may end up ordering a copy of this Korean Psalter for my own family. It would be nice to show them that psalmsinging isn't just something that round-eyes with American or Dutch names do ;-)


Puritan Board Freshman
Many people know that Presbyterian churches are strong in South Korea; however, many of these Presbyterian churches (if not all) lost their distinctives as Presbyterian. :( As to why, that's whole another thread.

Jaewon... maybe I should say this privately considering that you're Korean and I have no desire to cause you to "lose face," but since this is a public message board and we're in America, I'll act like an American. Please forgive me in advance if I come off sounding rude; I do not intend that at all.

I do not believe it is fair to say that many if not all Korean Presbyterian churches have "lost their distinctives as Presbyterian." I think a better statement is that Presbyterian missionaries from the West often did a poor job of teaching those distinctives in the first place, and that problem goes back all the way to the late 1800s and early 1900s. It's not that Koreans were generally poor students; it's that we in the West were too often poor teachers.

To give an example of how bad things were among the American missionaries, the Northern Presbyterian General Assembly decided it was fine for the Japanese to require the Korean church to submit to emperor worship as an expression of patriotism comparable to saluting the flag. It's been years since I read this so my memory could be faulty, but I think that J. Gresham Machen was upset by that GA decision involving Korea, but his focus at the time was on Pearl S. Buck and the problems of the China mission so Korea didn't generate much ink from his pen. There are reasons why after the Korean liberation from Japan, Korean conservatives contacted the OPC and begged them to send more missionaries like Rev. Bruce F. Hunt -- one of the very few Presbyterian missionaries to Korea who refused to compromise with Japanese emperor worship, and as a result was almost killed by the Japanese occupiers for his refusal to commit idolatry.

That, by the way, is something our modern missionaries need to remember. Efforts to simplify our preaching to a basic level can backfire and have devastating consequences that last for generations. Teaching people to observe all things our Lord has taught us is a Biblical mandate; if discipleship does not follow evangelism on the mission field, bad things happen when native leaders take over from the missionaries.

Make no mistake, Jaewon -- I am not minimizing the problems in the Korean church.

I am painfully aware of those problems. I was directly involved in providing the information that led to the secession of Dr. John E. Kim and his congregation from the Christian Reformed Church, taking with them all but one of the large Korean CRC congregations -- including his own church which at the time was the second-largest church in the entire CRC -- and about 40 percent of the total Korean CRC membership. That included several personal visits to the church and a speech to their elders and elders' families at a church retreat on what was happening in the Christian Reformed Church. My mother-in-law was a kwonsa in the Hapdong Presbyterian Church and now in the PCA; one of my brothers-in-law is a pastor in the Hapdong Presbyterian Church and another brother-in-law is a pastor in the Geheok Church. My wife is a graduate of Chongshin College (the undergrad program of the denominational seminary of the Hapdong Presbyterians), and has been a jondosa in both Korean Christian Reformed and Korean PCA congregations. We were married by Dr. Kim after he left the United States and returned to Korea to become president of Chongshin University.

Those who know Korean denominational politics will be aware that the Hapdong Presbyterians are roughly comparable to the PCA, whereas the Kosin Presbyterian Church has ties with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Canadian Reformed Churches. The Geheok Church is about midway between those two groups in its theological position.

With that as background, I hope I've established my credibility for what I say next.

It is absolutely true that there are major problems in Korean Presbyterianism, but rather than blaming the Koreans, we in the West need to blame ourselves first.

A look at the size of Korean Presbyterianism can boggle the mind of modern American Calvinists.

There are more evangelical Korean Presbyterians than all Presbyterian and Reformed church members, both liberals and conservatives combined, in the United States.

There are more evangelical Korean Presbyterians than all evangelical Presbyterian and Reformed church members combined in the United States, the Netherlands, Canada, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England. Each of the two largest Korean Presbyterian denominations is more than five times the size of the combined total membership of every NAPARC denomination, and more than six times the size of the PCA, and that's in a country which is about one-sixth the population of the United States.

Obviously there's a lot of diversity within that large group of Korean churches.

Typical Korean Presbyterian churches look in many ways like New School Presbyterians in late 1800s America, before liberalism hit but after confessionalism had taken a back seat in many Presbyterian churches. Looking at a typical Korean Presbyterian church is not unlike looking at a typical American Presbyterian church during the First or Second Great Awakening, including all the problems, of which lack of catechesis is by far the most serious and has led to lots of other problems.

It's very easy to point out problems in Korean church life. However, many (not all) of those problems were brought to Korea by Presbyterian missionaries from the West, and we need to blame ourselves first. We're kidding ourselves if we think that American Presbyterian missionaries of the late 1800s or early 1900s looked like the Orthodox Presbyterian Church -- they most definitely did **NOT** -- and the simple fact of the matter is that with the exception of the Hanshin Presbyterians (the collaborators with the Japanese), Korean Presbyterians generally remained orthodox at the same time that American Presbyterians were descending into outright heresy and wickedness.

None of this is minimizing the problems to which Jaewon is quite correctly alluding. The typical Korean Presbyterian church does not look very much like the conservative United Reformed congregation he's attending now in Grand Rapids. My point is that Koreans faithfully learned their lessons from Western missionaries, not all of those lessons were good, and it's largely **OUR** fault that our missionaries gave them something considerably less than the full-orbed Reformed faith.

We all have a great deal we can and should do to improve our churches, and focusing on how much more we need to do is always a good thing.

Please accept my apologies, Jaewon, if I have seemed overly critical. I love to see Koreans who desire to learn more about the Reformed faith. This is intended to be helpful, not hurtful, to you and others who want to learn more about the Korean church.

In any event, if you check your library and you have very many Puritan works in Korean translation, there's a good chance that "Ahn Boheon" or "Ahn Boheon Paksanim" (my wife) will be listed as the translator of something you already have in your library. If so, I probably had at least a small part to play in helping get it into your library, and depending on the book and the level of complication of 1600s and 1700s English, may have had a lot more to do with it. Also, Spurgeon's "Morning and Evening" devotionals, Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" and items by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John McArthur, and Joel Beeke are among the more modern projects with which I've been involved.


Puritan Board Freshman
My point is that Koreans faithfully learned their lessons from Western missionaries, not all of those lessons were good, and it's largely **OUR** fault that our missionaries gave them something considerably less than the full-orbed Reformed faith.

Mr. Maurina, thank you so much for clarifying that. Yes, Korean churches never really received the full-orbed Reformed faith in the first place though along the way, there were people like Yoon-sun Park and Hyeong-ryong Park who tried their best to introduce the full-orbed Reformed faith to the churches in Korea. Yet now there is a small number of churches that are confessionally reformed/presbyterian, and there is an interest among Korean lay Christians to learn doctrines and read more good books (like those of puritans ;)). I thank God for that and pray that Korean churches would be continually reforming in light of God's word. Again, thank you for enriching this thread with your explanation.


Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you, Jaewon.

Church history is messy. Any fair reading of the chaos attendant unto the First Great Awakening, and the considerable lengths to which men like Edwards, Whitefield, and others had to go in addressing abuses caused by disruption of church government, by men who possessed zeal without wisdom (Davenport, for example), and by false teachers coming in to exploit the heightened spiritual awareness, and then the outright opposition those problems generated among both sincerely concerned pastors and spiritually dead leaders like Chancey, will give us a precedent by which to evaluate the current Korean revival.

Patience is, I believe, in order.

That is especially true because many of the problems of the Korean church were caused by failures of our own Western missionaries to teach the whole counsel of God.

Church history teaches us that when one nation is unfaithful to the Lord, He raises up another group, often one which would have been totally unexpected and which possessed no power of its own, and then makes His power manifest through human weakness. The growth of the Korean church has been so dramatic that it's quite likely people a generation or two from now will assume most Calvinists are Korean, just like people a generation or so ago assumed that the Dutch churches were the predominant manifestation of conservative Calvinism.

However, if we don't realize the problems in the Korean church world, we risk an uncritical acceptance of the very problems that Edward and Whitefield had to fight during the First Great Awakening. The parallels are very clear, and that's mostly good, but that doesn't mean there aren't problems and some of them are very serious.
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