Shincheonji Church of Jesus – Cult of Christianity

Shincheonji, Shinjonchi, and its many front groups

Official name: Shincheonji, Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (SCJ). Commonly referred to as Shincheonji, but the name is sometimes spelled without the ‘e’ — Shinchonji.

Different spellings of the name are due to different ways of transcribing Korean words and terms into English.

In Korean, Shincheonji means “new heaven and earth”.

Other names related to this movement: Mannam Volunteer Association/Mannam International Youth Coalition (MIYC), International Peace Youth Group (IPYG)/Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), Parachristo, Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (SCJ), Zion International Bible Study, and possibly many more.

Shincheonji’s Deceptive Recruitment Practices

Mainstream Christian churches in South Korea and around the world consider Shincheonji to be a heretical movement. In other words, Shincheonji’s doctrines and practices contradict those of the Bible. That places the movement firmly outside the boundaries of the Christian faith.

Members do their best to recruit followers among Christians. They infiltrate Christian churches and movements, and pose as Christians themselves.

It is therefore no wonder that churches around the world warn against Shincheonji’s deceptive recruiment practices.

Hundreds of British churches, including some of the UK’s largest congregations, have been warned against possible infiltration by a group accused of being a “cult” promoting “control and deception”.

The Church of England has issued a formal alert to almost 500 parishes in London about the activities of the group known as Parachristo.

The organisation, a registered charity, runs Bible study courses at an anonymous industrial unit under a Botox clinic and a personal training company in London Docklands.

But it is understood to be linked to a controversial South Korean group known as Shinchonji (SCJ) — or the “New Heaven and New Earth” church (NHNE) — whose founder Man-Hee Lee is referred to as God’s “advocate”.

It is claimed that some of those who become involved gradually withdraw from friends and family and actively lie about their real lives […]

The Church of England has issued a formal alert to almost 500 parishes in London about the activities of the group known as Parachristo.

The organisation, a registered charity, runs Bible study courses at an anonymous industrial unit under a Botox clinic and a personal training company in London Docklands.

But it is understood to be linked to a controversial South Korean group known as Shinchonji (SCJ) — or the “New Heaven and New Earth” church (NHNE) — whose founder Man-Hee Lee is referred to as God’s “advocate”.

It is claimed that some of those who become involved gradually withdraw from friends and family and actively lie about their real lives […]

A companion article notes:

Organisers insist Parachristo exists solely to help “understand the Bible more deeply”. […]

Former attendees of Parachristo study groups have claimed that existing members effectively pose as new students.

Shinchonji teaching documents seen by The Telegraph instructs these “maintainers” to “arouse curiosity” of newcomers and “try to be close to each other until the student relies on you fully”.

They are told to “take notes of the conversation with the student” and report back to the group leader.

Lee Man-hee, self-appointed ‘Messiah’

The Shincheonji Church of Jesus is headed by founder, leader, and self-appointed ‘Messiah,’ Lee Man-hee. His name is sometimes written as Man-Hee Lee, Lee Man-Hee or Manhee Lee.

Lee’s grandfather says that he saw a radiant light shine upon Lee’s mother when her son was born. He therefore named him Man Hee, meaning ‘complete and perfect light’ in Korean.

Man-hee later claimed that while he was in the midst of prayer, a huge star came down and a bright heavenly figure appeared. The figure introduced himself as Jesus and anointed him.

Lee Man-hee founded Shincheonji in 1984.

Followers refer to him as “Chairman Lee,” or “the chairman.” In the church’s literature Man-hee is called, “the promised pastor,” “the one who overcomes” or “the advocate.” 

He is viewed as God’s “promised pastor” who holds the key to avoid impending judgement. Followers in fact believe that Lee Man-hee is the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Reportedly the church teaches that Lee Man-hee is the angel referred to in Revelation 22:16:

“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to attest these things to you for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright Morning Star.”

The church also believes that Revelation 7:2 refers to South Korea (East) and to Lee Man-Hee (angel):

Then I saw another angel, who had the seal of the living God rise up from the east. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were empowered[a] to harm the earth and the sea:

According Shincheonji’s promotional literature Lee Man-hee is the only person who can testify to the mysteries of the Book of Revelation — which he claims already has been fulfilled. Man-hee is also said to teach that the world has already ended, and that we are currently living in the afterlife.

Sincheonji, a cult of Christianity

Shincheonji Church of Jesus denies the biblical teaching that people are saved by faith in Jesus Christ — and not by works.

The church also denies the doctrine of the Trinity.

That means Shincheonji’s teachings contradict several of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Therefore, theologically Sincheonji is a cult of Christianity

Sociologically Shincheonji has many cult-like characteristics as well.

By the way, in his book The Creation of Heaven and Earth, Lee Man-hee declares, “anyone who opposes Shincheonji is evil.”

Note the difference between sociological and theological definitions of the term ‘cult.’

Read about it at our companion website, CultDefinition.com

World Peace… and Deception

Churches and Christians around the world have warned against the deceptive recruitment practices of Shincheonji members. Members often do not reveal that they are promoting Shincheonji. They offer Bible studies and services under various names.

Like similar cults, Shincheonji claims it promotes world peace — but its deceptive nature tends to backfire, like it did when the cult organized the World Alliance of Religions Peace Summit (WARP).

From 17-19 September 2014 Shincheonji organised their SCJ 6th National Olympiad. It is the major event for SCJ which they hold every four years, and it coincides with Lee’s birthday.[3] On this occasion, they also invited many international guests who all believed they were attending a secular “World Peace Summit”. As the two events took place simultaneously and in the same venue, it led to significant confusion and embarrassment for international guests who had been misled.
Source: Wikipedia (no date. This text at one time was published under the heading, ‘Controversial Issues,’ but that entire section has disappeared.)

Here’s one blogger’s experience at a similar event: “We thought we were going to a world peace festival…turned out to be a religious cult sort of thing.”

Shincheonji: Who are they? What do they believe in? Why problematic?

Former Shincheonji member Stella Kang operates a website in which she explains how and why the church’s teachings contradict those of the Bible.

Shincheonji and the COVID-19 Coronavirus

This year the Shincheonji church has been in the news primarily as a super-spreader source of the coronavirus in South Korea.

About this article

This information about Shincheonji Church of Jesus was formerly posted at our companion website, Religion News Blog. It was published there on December 12, 2016.

We intend to add more resources shortly. Therefore the article is better suited to Apologetics Index.

Research Resources on Shincheonji

Note: for the time being, these resources are listed in no particular order

  • Shincheonji Aware Website by a former member.
    “They do not reveal themselves until much later, and we do not want you to blindly follow them until it is too late. We want to warn you so that you know what you are going after and judge for yourself more objectively about this group, not just listening to them only. We will share with you what happened to us, why we left this group, why this group can be problematic and dangerous, as well as how they approach you and how you will know your Bible Study is of this group.”
    Has a good section on how and why the teachings of Shincheonji clash with those of the Bible.
  • My experience with Shincheonji, by Breanna Jennings — an English teacher in South Korea. See also her video and the follow-up.
  • What is Shincheonji? Is it a cult? An entry on GotQuestions.org, where questions are answered from a mainstream Christian perspective.
  • Christian Analysis of Shincheonji’s Movement
    “This blog is for people who have doubts about a religious movement in South Korea called Shincheonji (SCJ), a church that conducts many Bible studies online. We are Christians who believe we must be careful about leaders who claim to be final prophets with secret knowledge of Jesus’ return to earth (Mt. 7:15, Mt. 24:4,5, I Jn. 4:1, I Tim. 4:1). Our purpose is not to unkindly attack SCJ (or sincere SCJ members), but help others carefully test their fruit.”
  • The Shincheoji Religious Movement – A Critical Evaluation, [PDF] a Thesis by Young San Kim.
  • CultNews101 has a collection of archived news articles on Shincheonji

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About This Article

Category: Shincheonji


First published (or major update) on Monday, August 31, 2020 Central European Time (CET).
Last minor update: Tuesday, September 1, 2020 at 10:52 AM CET   

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