Grace versus “Eun-Hae”

January 9, 2011

Grace is an amazing concept.  It means giving something to someone who does not deserve the gift. In relation to God’s salvific grace, it means God giving us his son to die for our sins so that we may have eternal life.  There is a brother at my old church who hates using the word grace for any other meaning, even with qualifiers attached at the front.  He dislikes the use of terms such as “common grace” or “cheap grace.”  While i disagree with him (after all, “mickey mouse” means something totally different from just a “mouse”), I do sympathize with his position.  If our understanding of “common grace” prevents us from or distorts our view of “grace,” then we have indeed lost something of supreme value.

Which brings me to the Korean word for grace: “eun-hae.”  This word is misused in so many different ways.  When you come back from a retreat, for example, they ask you “Eun-Hae mon-ee bat-ah-suh?” which means “Did you receive a lot of grace?”  What they are actually asking you is “Did you have a subjective emotional experience of God moving in you?”

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not against emotions.  Emotions will come and good uses can be made of them when they do.  But if they are used as a barometer of our spiritual health, then our spirit will be bound as a slave to our physical health.  Our bodies become masters of our souls.  But the reality is the exact opposite, for we are not bodies that have souls.  We are souls; we have a body.

My dad talked to me about his experience praying for his sister who has cancer and how we was comforted and received “eun-hae.” I thank God that he has come this far in his spiritual journey.  But to him, grace is still about receiving this emotional comfort; the ultimate goal of our prayers are for earthly ends.  My father loves his sister dearly and cries and prays for her, and yet he does not realize how small his prayers are for her.  He talks in terms of receiving this comfort while flitting around God who gives them.  He takes the gifts but does not acknowledge the Giver.  He prays to a theistic, non-personal God, who somehow revealed himself through the bible.  Perhaps he has not read enough bible to realize how untenable this position is.  Great is the allure of intellectual snobbery in cynicism.  Only in theism can people pretend to be more intellectual with “I don’t know” rather than “I know.”

So the source of this problem of “eun-hae” are theological in nature.  In my dad’s case, he thought that God is an impersonal entity who exists for the primary purpose of aiding us live a good life here on earth.  This is akin to mistaking that the Bible is basically about us, and not about God.  We do not want to hear God’s purpose and His agenda; we rather want God to go with our own agendas and purposes.  The cure is to return to good theology of who God is.

Good theology may not be the cure to every spiritual ill; but it is the only cure for bad theology.


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