Sources in 'Second Coming Christ Controversy' Face Scrutiny

Christianity Today writer retracts and removes a Facebook post alleging 'Second Coming Christ' confession, saying his statement was 'largely based on indirect and not direct information.'

Sam Kyung Chae
Sam Kyung Chae

Sam Kyung Chae: 'Cult Fabricator' and 'Heretic'

Another one of Christianity Today's main sources is a Christian leader in Korea named Sam Kyung Chae, whose statements have been called "unreliable" by many evangelical leaders in Korea, including the Christian Council of Korea. Chae once served as vice chair of CCK's heresy committee during the investigations against Jang but was ousted by CCK in 2010 because he was found to hold heretical theological beliefs. A year later, Chae was branded the "worst heretic" in the history of the Korean church in a statement signed by CCK and 50 member denominations, including Hap-Dong, the largest Christian denomination in Korea, for his unorthodox beliefs in Tritheism and Jesus' birth, which he says was made possible by Mary's menstrual blood.

(Corroboration can be found in the following documents: CCK Investigation Report on Sam Kyung Chae:  English Version  Korean Version)

In total, accusations initiated by Chae against Jang have been cleared four times following investigations by CCK. CCK concluded in two separate reviews that Jang had no relationship with the Unification Church, and in another two investigations Jang was cleared of allegations related to the Second Coming Christ. Chae, despite being vice chair of the CCK heresy committee, failed to find any evidence of heresy in all his investigations, and subsequent re-investigations, against Jang.

According to CT, critics say Jang was involved in the Unification Church and taught Unification theology at Sung Hwa Theological Seminary in Korea. Phil Bay, a spokesperson for Holy Bible Society, where Jang currently serves as president, firmly rejected those claims. In a statement released to CP, Bay said Jang never taught Unification theology or at a seminary run by Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. "It would have been impossible that Dr. Jang taught Unification theology in 1989," said Bay. "In 1989, Sung Hwa Theological Seminary was a Methodist seminary." Bay said that CT was made aware of the distortions of facts made by its sources, but the writers intentionally omitted HBS's response.

For example, he said that HBS pointed out that quotes attributed to Jang in the News N Joy article were highly distorted and taken out of context. "It's hard not to question the objectivity of Christianity Today when it relies on News N Joy, a pro-North Korean newspaper, as a source in making this claim," said Bay. The fact that Dr. Jang was the general secretary, and later president, of one of the founding Presbyterian denominations of CCK confirms his orthodoxy, added Bay.

(Corroboration can be found in the following documents: Public Statement of The Heresy Investigation Committee of the CCK:  English Version  Korean VersionPublic Statement of CCK:  English Version   Korean Version)

The CCK also issued statements to CP refuting the statements made by Chae in the CT article. Chae claims that the "executive committees of a general assembly" rejected the CCK report. CCK said this claim is totally untrue. "Rev. Jang is not a heretic," said the Rev. Jae Chul Hong, CCK president, in July 2012 at the General Assembly of the CCK in U.S. "It's over.... It was clearly declared during the terms of six previous presidents that it's completely over." CCK provided CP with documents verifying that the president and the general secretary of the General Assembly have made public statements affirming the CCK report that cleared Jang of suspicion after four investigations. The CCK general assembly, in its GA annual report, said all suspicions raised by Chae have been totally cleared as groundless.

CCK also rejected Chae's claim that over 20 denominations have broken away from CCK and formed a new body, the Communion of Churches in Korea (CCIK), which plans to conduct its own investigation on Jang. "No denominations have left the CCK over this issue. If that were so, we would have less denominations, but there are still 71 denominations in our membership," said CCK in a statement to CP. "We're puzzled as to why Christianity Today is discrediting the CCK decision into this matter and giving credence to Chae's claims," the largest Korean Protestant body added. "Perhaps this is because CT did not gain enough in-depth insight into Chae's gravely heretical beliefs--including the conception of Jesus through Mary's menstrual blood. These are detrimental to the basics of Christian faith. We encourage Christianity Today to look at the results of the CCK investigation."

Ken Smith
Ken Smith

Anonymous Sources

CT cited several anonymous sources from U.S. and China but noted that they provided evidence that they once held "senior positions" in organizations, ministries, or businesses associated with Olivet. In East Asia, all of the sources who have come out publicly in the past have been discredited. In response to CT's use of anonymous sources, Bay of Holy Bible Society asked, "How can we respond to faceless people?" "In Matthew 18:15-17, it says if a brother makes a fault, tell it to the Church. And when David Jang went before the church council, the allegations were found unsubstantiated," he said. "Why are they hiding instead of bringing this before the Church?"

Olivet had made me angry; and I absolutely wanted the bad things I found to be worse than they were; and I absolutely wanted the good things I found to not be as good as they were. I wanted to include any incriminating information I turned up, even if I thought it wasn't likely to be true; and I wanted to leave out anything that tended to exonerate them.... In brief, I wanted to be right, and I was willing to go to rather inappropriate lengths to convince others that Olivet was in the wrong. Worse than anything else, though, was the realization that I tended to do this with more frequency than I was happy to admit.-Ken Smith, written in a Sept. 25 blog post

Notably, the co-author for the CT article in question, Ken Smith, admitted that his "Olivet insiders" or anonymous sources did not directly hear that an Olivet University official had confessed a belief that Jang is the Second Coming Christ. "Ken Smith made false claims on Facebook about Andrew Lin informed by two so-called 'insiders,' which he later had to retract because they were based on hearsay," said Nathanael Tran, dean of administration of Olivet University. "My strong suspicion is that these are the same people being relied on for indirect information about the U.S. people's 'confessions' in the article."

Ken Smith's Email to Andrew Lin's Lawyer:

This is in response to your communication on July 20, 2012, requesting that I remove a Facebook post I made on April 19th regarding a supposed confession concerning David Jang made by Andrew Lin. I made that statement in good faith, relying upon what two different sources in the organization had told me. However, upon further consultation, I have been made aware of further details regarding how they came to that particular belief. It appears to me that whatever reasons they had for this belief, what they reported to me was nevertheless largely based on indirect and not direct information. Because my statement did not include this significant caveat - I was unaware of it at the time - upon the advice of my attorney, I have removed that particular Facebook post.

Ken Smith

CT alleges that anonymity was granted because the publication "found evidence" that its "sources could face retaliation" for speaking to the magazine about the issue. The magazine did not substantiate "evidence" of possible retaliation, and there has not been evidence of retaliation towards those speaking against Jang and groups allegedly tied to him in cases from East Asia.

(Update) Since the publication of its article, CT has issued a significant correction regarding the belief in David Jang as the Second Coming Christ by one of its anonymous sources. The corrected version says the opposite of the original version.

Original Version:

"In fact, the same member did come to that conclusion and acknowledged that for a time, he too believed that Jang was the Second Coming Christ."

New Version:

"In fact, the same member said that although he never believed or confessed that David Jang was the Second Coming Christ, he did for a time believe it was possible that Jang was a 'key eschatological figure.'"

Jang's Controversy? A Misnomer

The CT article does not quote any sources that claim Jang himself taught or claims he is the Second Coming Christ. Jang has repeatedly confessed his belief in Jesus Christ as his Savior and through which his sins are forgiven.

Jang's statement of faith as published in Christian Today Korea:

"By the grace of Jesus Christ, I accepted Jesus as my one and only Savior, and since I was forgiven of my sins, I have never abandoned faith in Jesus Christ. Also, I have never preached any other gospel other than that of Jesus Christ. Furthermore I have never taught that I am Christ."

"One thing is clear, everyone agrees that Dr. Jang never taught nor claimed that he was the Second Coming Christ," said the Rev. Anthony Chiu, stated clerk of Evangelical Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in America (EAPCA) in a statement to CP. Chiu, a Chinese-American pastor who has been studying the issue in East Asia, continued, "Yet, his accusers claim the followers believe this about him. How could this be possible? I have yet to hear a credible explanation."

He added, "Another problem is, if someone says he believes in the victory of the cross and Savior Jesus Christ, how can anyone else say he doesn't believe this? Likewise, if someone says he didn't confess that Jang is the Second Coming, then how can someone else say he did? That is going against that person's freedom of conscience and fundamental human rights. How can someone tell you what you believe or don't believe?"

A Message From the Editors of The Christian Post:

Despite the serious allegations made against Dr. David Jang, Olivet University, The Christian Post, and various other named groups implicated in the Christianity Today article, the editors of The Christian Post want to confirm their commitment as brothers in Christ to all of the Christian organizations involved, including Christianity Today.

An editor of The Christian Post recently travelled to Chicago to meet with Christianity Today editors prior to the publishing of CT's allegations. In the discussions, CP editors sought to explain the dynamics of Asian church controversies and to bring biblical clarity.

In the U.S., A Disconnect Between Soteriology and Eschatology

It's important to look at the semantics to fully understand what claims are being made in this argument. In East Asia, the word 再臨主 is used to accuse Jang and those connected to him of not believing in Jesus Christ as their Savior but Jang instead. The term, although loosely translated to English as "Second Coming Christ," cannot be found in the Bible, nor in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean dictionaries. It was created by the Unification Church to describe the group's unique theology that there is a limitation or failure of salvation through Jesus' death on the cross, and that founder Sun Myung Moon is the 再臨主 that will complete Jesus' mission.

再臨主 directly contradicts Scripture, specifically in the first chapter of Acts. "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." - Acts 1:11 NIV

So is this issue about soteriology or eschatology? In East Asia, it was an argument about soteriology, or the doctrine of salvation, because people accused Jang and those with alleged ties to him of Unification-church-like beliefs in which Jang was the 再臨主 and people believed in Jang instead of Jesus Christ. This argument has been debunked by Jang and Christian Today in CCK investigations and criminal court. Chae, Yamaya, and Yeung were three individuals who spearheaded charges in their respective countries that Jang and people allegedly tied to him don't believe in Jesus Christ, but believe instead in 再臨主 theory. The charges have been uniformly discredited, with ample documentation.

In the U.S. the accusations have morphed into an eschatological controversy. No one has been found in Olivet University and among Olivet alumni who believes in 再臨主 theory. Even anonymous sources in CT's article did not dispute Jang's belief in Jesus Christ as the only begotten Son of God. The accusation has been modified so that the argument is not about soteriology but eschatology, or the study of the end time. The U.S. allegation is that implicated individuals and groups believe in Jesus Christ as Savior while at the same time believe that Jang is the Second Coming Christ 再臨主 who will complete Jesus's earthly mission. Believing both is contradictory. Subscribing to 再臨主 theory requires one to believe the cross was a failure. Believing in 再臨主 must replace a belief in the finished work of Christ on the cross, according to theologians. They cannot coexist.

CT has mixed allegations in East Asia with those in the U.S., making it as if the accusers are making the same claim. In East Asia, accusers of Jang tied him to 再臨主 and accused him of not believing in Jesus Christ and the victory of the cross. But in the U.S., accusers acknowledge that Jang and groups tied to him believe in Jesus Christ and his finished work. CT mixes accusers who say Jang believes the failure of the cross and those that say he believes the cross is victory as if they are making the same accusation.

Attempts to use a Unification Church term to attack evangelicals have failed after evidence was shown that the accused do believe in Jesus Christ and the cross as a victory.

The Olivet University statement of faith states that: "the Salvation of lost and sinful man through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith apart from works, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit." It also states that the school believes and teaches the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and no other, will return in power and glory. According to CP's research, Olivet believes in the finished work of Jesus Christ, and that there is no other Gospel and no other way to salvation.

Regarding earthly mission, OU believes and teaches that Jesus is not replaced by someone else, but just as it says in the school's confession of faith that in the last days, when the Gospel is preached until the end of the earth, then Jesus Christ of Nazareth will come back in glory and honor, just as he went up to heaven. "But about that day or hour no one knows (Matthew 24:36)" but "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11).

Anthony Chiu, Evangelical Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in America (EAPCA) stated clerk, recently told CP: "So what exactly is the 'controversy'? There is a clear belief within the soteriology and eschatology. If there has been a dispute, it's about the methodology of biblical interpretation. And this issue doesn't include everyone and is not systemic. It must have been partial and just among a few people who misunderstand."

Chiu went on to say regarding the eternal Gospel and the history lessons, that "although we have already been saved, it's not yet. It's in the interim until Jesus Christ of Nazareth returns."

"But in this period between 'already' and 'not yet,' there are radical groups that believe that rapture is going to happen now, so we needed more balance in the teaching," the North Carolina pastor explained. "We taught that the Kingdom of God grows like a mustard seed grows, to become a big tree. Just as in John 21, we are instructed to feed lambs and shepherd with the love of the Lord."

Chiu explained that among a wide variety of listeners, misunderstandings could possibly arise. But what sparked people's accusations may have been their personal hatred and motivations. But a church is a community of sinners and problems can arise inside the church. "The basics are healthy, not heretical. But people mix it up and make things up," Chiu said. "As it says in 1 Peter 3:15, 'always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.' Although we do this with gentleness and respect, but those who hinder, and fabricate, if anyone does this, that person should repent and apologize."

He concluded here: "We believe our Lord Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, His virgin birth, His sinless human life, His divine miracles, His vicarious and atoning death, His bodily resurrection, His ascension, His mediatorial work, and His Personal return in power and glory."

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