KOREA OF MY HEART
Athanasius Yoo, M.D., B.D., Korea:
Why I Became An Eastern Orthodox Christian
JOURNEY TO ORTHODOXY
My long pilgrimage to the Mother Church has been completed. As I think back over the long road of this pilgrimage, I become filled with deep emotion. For by the grace of God, I, a stray sheep, have found the lovely bosom of the Good Shepherd, the true body of Christ, – the One, Holy Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Therefore, it is my conviction that my humble retrospections should in nowise come to naught to those who are outside of the true Church of Christ.
I am a Korean and a medical doctor by profession. My father was an Elder of the Presbyterian Church in Korea and my mother a very devout deaconess of same. Consequently I was brought up in an unusually religious atmosphere.
My mother hoped that I would become a minister of the Presbyterian Church. But I had no interest in that profession because the example of the Protestant ministers at that time was much too superficial and did not impress me as being Christian at all. And so I entered medicine instead, finished medical school and began practicing in Seoul, Korea. I continued my medical practice until the unconditional surrender of the Japanese Empire. The fall of Japanese imperialism, and the subsequent independence of Korea, impressed me greatly with the frailty of life and of the world.
After a period of sincere prayer and meditation, I decided to dedicate myself to the ministry. I entered the Presbyterian Theological School in Seoul, Korea … with deep conviction and fervent faith for my newly chosen profession. Soon after, however, I was confronted with the malignant teaching of higher biblical criticism and of rationalistic modernistic doctrine. The evil shadow of Harnack and Deissmann, the poisonous sabotage of the Tubingen School, the narcotic abomination of Schleichermacher and Rutschul dominated the School. The revival of twentieth century Arianism and Nestorianism was promoted and the so-called “social Gospel” emphasized. Moreover, the Second Coming of Christ and the doctrine of everlasting life were counted as convictions of the ignorant. Had I not entered this Theological School, I probably would have kept my peace of mind. But once I had learned the false theology of this school, I lost my peace of mind. Indeed, I found it impossible to accept these heretical Protestant teachings without going against my conscience and good faith.
As a result, I began to look for more conservative Protestant teachings in order to find consolation . . . but I could not find any. With deep unrest and despair, I began reading some Roman Catholic theological books and my interest in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church concerning the Virginity of the Virgin Mary, the Apostolic Succession, and Transubstantiation, was greatly aroused. However, because of the lack of books, my reading in Roman Catholic doctrine was limited. In the meantime, I continued my theological studies at the Presbyterian seminary and after my graduation from there was advised to be ordained. But I refused ordination because I now felt that the ministry of the Protestant Church lacked Apostolic Succession and was therefore null and void.
After much thought and hesitation, I finally became a Roman Catholic in 1950. Up until this time I had no contact whatsoever with the Orthodox Church.
Upon studying Roman Catholic doctrine, however, I found many false teachings in it also. Those that bothered me especially were the following:
1.The withdrawal of the cup from the laity during Communion.
2.The Doctrine of the Infallibility of the Pope.
3.The Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
4.The Doctrine of Purgatory.
5.The Doctrine of Indulgences.
6.The universal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome.
7.The exclusive Latinity in the Mass and in other services.
If I refused to accept the above doctrines, I would be under anathema. And so I remained in a state of confusion. In order to resolve the problems I had about the Roman doctrine, I began studying the writings of the Church Fathers. These along with scholastic theology, I read for a long time. My conclusion from all these studies was that the Roman Catholic Church, too, had gone astray as had the Protestant. In doubt, despair, and agony, I decided to go to the United States in order to escape my doctrinal troubles. I arrived in the United States in 1955.
In the United States, I studied advanced medical science and also continued my theological studies. For the first time I was given the opportunity to read into Eastern Orthodox theology. Up until this time I had had no contact with Orthodox Christians or with any Orthodox Church. Thanks be to God, however, for He led me by His Holy Spirit to the primitive, conservative, and most pure and virgin faith of Christianity! For I discovered that in the Orthodox Church, Christianity with all its richness and essence was to be found. In the bosom of the Orthodox Church, my despaired soul found a resting place, a heavenly harbor! With great joy and hope, I decided to become an Orthodox Christian about a year ago. At first I hesitated to make a hasty decision for fear of disgracing myself by frequent changes of denominations. But gradually I became convinced of the validity of Orthodoxy.
By the Grace of God, I was convinced that I must serve Him through the priesthood of the Orthodox Church. And so I began following the way of the Cross, willing to sacrifice anything. Through the kindness of His Eminence, Archbishop Michael and His Grace, Bishop Athenagoras of Elaia, I was given permission to study Orthodox theology at the Holy Cross Orthodox Theological School in Brookline, Massachusetts, in preparation for the priesthood. My desire is to return to Korea as a medical-priest missionary after my ordination into the Orthodox Church, and join the Orthodox mission which already exists in Seoul, Korea.