Jeong, Myeong-seok (정명석) is the controversial leader of a new religious movement generally known as Providence. His Korean name is not중뮹석, as the variant Romanization (1) of his name Jung, Myung Seok would suggest, but 정명석. His Western name is Joshua Jeong, or, using the older Romanization, Joshua Jung. He is also known as Seon Saeng Nim (선생님), the Korean word for teacher, as R for Rabbi, the Hebrew word for teacher, or as Pastor Joshua. The following testimony was written before Jeong, Myeong-seok faced trial in Korea so if any details seem out date please understand the chronological context.
Jeong, Myeong-seok has been accused of sexual abuse in South Korea, China, and Japan. He has also been referred to as “false Messiah” and “international fugitive.”
First, where the rape charges are concerned, I cannot say it any better than an answer (2) in the faq section of providencetrial.com (3).
“To those who are familiar with the details of the allegations, there appears to be a consistent pattern that has emerged: the gathering of anonymous “victims” together in a public news conference in order to present allegations of rape. Only after the sensational details from the unknown victims have been reported by tabloid news media are any of the police agencies notified. The result is that there is no victim accountability, for when a victim’s identity remains unknown even to the police there can be never be a true investigation and the number of potential victims becomes limitless. A situation such as this provides no means for a fair trail; the news networks have already broadcast to the viewing public the sensational details of a crime for which no witnesses or evidence has ever been presented.”
Need I say more?
The Word for This Time Period
I find it perfectly believable that his word is the word for this time period. Families, which make up the basic structure of our society, are falling apart left and right. Sex, which used to be the cement holding a marriage together, now is its solvent (“one woman for the rest of my life – unimaginable”). More and more children grow up in split families with disastrous consequences. So it is not unreasonable to believe that the impetus of God’s course correction for our present society would focus on the family, and on sex. And it is precisely because this is where our modern world has most dramatically veered off course, that Seon Saeng Nim’s teachings are so counter-cultural and so difficult to follow.
But the harsh and uncompromising nature of his word makes it convincing that Providence is a religion that does not promulgate an image of God which we created in our own minds. It is easy to fall into the trap to cherry-pick sections of the Bible we like, and from that create a fictional image of God based on how much we understand, and then only attribute characteristics to Him that agree with the way we would prefer Him to be. This pretty much means we ignore the Old Testament because we do not like the way God is portrayed. In fact, Jeong-Myeong-seok’s teachings are the most compatible with both the Old and the New Testament of any denomination I am familiar with.
At the time of Jesus, a man could divorce a woman just by giving her a certificate of divorce (4). Jesus strongly rebuked that behavior and insisted on the indissolubility of marriage (5). In order for a person to get divorced in California, all that is needed is a checkmark next to “irreconcilable differences,” and that is the end of it, no further questions asked. The only difference to the time of Jesus is that both men and women are now allowed to give each other a certificate of divorce. This is not a minor accomplishment, but in terms of indissolubility of marriage, nothing was added. So we are right back there where we started from. 2000 years of Christianity have made no difference.
Another reason teacher Joshua’s word is so credible is its source. Jeong, Myeong-seok is a mystic. He spent 20 years in the mountains praying and fasting and never went to seminary. Mystics first appeared in the Fourth Century. The Church at that time had become a church of thinkers, not doers. Philosophizing about theology became more important than following Jesus and living a Christian life. The direct response to that were “confessors,” “ascetics,” and “mystics.” They went out into the desert as hermits in order to experience God by way of fasting and praying. Their emphasis was an experiential, rather than an academic understanding of God. Out of this grew the monastic movement (6).
Mystics were widely misunderstood and very suspect to the official church Mystics only became recognized for what they accomplished after they were safely dead (7). It is not surprising that the incredible insights into the meanings of Biblical passages that Seon Saeng Nim gave us came from a mystic and not a theologian. Mystics are not experts in theology, they are what Maxwell Maltz, in his seminal book on psycho-cybernetics, calls “inperts.” (8) Maxwell Maltz continues that all major breakthroughs in science came from “inperts.” They are not bound by their knowledge to only think inside of the box. It can be very much expected that God would reveal major course corrections through mystical “inperts.”
There is a natural resistance to course corrections. People do not like it. People did not like what Isaiah had to say (he was sawed in half), and they certainly did not like Jesus’s word. So, opposition is to be expected. In fact, if there was no opposition, something would be wrong.
That the opposition would target their allegations where it could inflict the most pain in terms of discrediting Seon Saeng Nim’s teachings is also not surprising (what a coincidence!). If the allegation had been that Seon Saeng Nim was a pick-pocket at Wol Myeong Dong, it would have been more believable. People do not like to have all their basic assumptions questioned, that is why most of the prophets were killed … We do not even have to go back that far: A reporter once asked Edison: “Everybody knows that there is no future in electric light. Why do you insist on continuing your experiments after you have already failed 5000 times?” To this Edison replied: “I have not failed 5000 times, I have successfully identified 5000 ways that do not work.” Or, just think of how much Sigmund Freud was ridiculed for his theories on child sexuality, not to even speak of Copernicus and Galileo …
It is surprising to see how hard it is for some people to believe that Mun, Seon-myeong (문선명) of the Unification Church and Jeong, Myeong-seok (정명석) of Providence could have developed similar teachings independently. There seems to be a real danger that we will witness another Newton versus Leibniz controversy. The argument on who should be considered the inventor of calculus engulfed the scientific communities in England and Europe for a long time, and as a result both sides suffered. There is now general agreement that both men invented calculus independently, Leibniz in 1685, 10 years after Newton, but Leibniz published his work 20 years before Newton did (9).
Do you know who invented the automobile? The British think the inventor was from Britain, the French are convinced that the inventor was French, and the Germans believe that he was German. I am from Germany, so to me the inventor of the gasoline powered automobile is Karl Friedrich Benz (like in Daimler Benz).
Similarity in revelation does not mean equality. Probably the most important characteristic of all Christian Churches is, by definition, the focus on Jesus Christ. Everything in Providence revolves around Jesus. The Unification Church believes Jesus was a failure and he is barely mentioned (10).
If that is not enough of a difference, I do not know what would be.
Jeong, Myeong-seok (정명석) did not respond to the charges first leveled against him in Korea, but instead fled to China. This might appear to be good cause for us to dispense with our usual conviction “Innocent until proven guilty.” But before reaching a rash judgment let us consider the following three points:
There are many examples of miscarriage of justice in the history of humanity. How many people were executed in the United States and post-mortem found innocent? Great Britain, the country with the oldest and probably most reputable criminal justice system has terrible incidences of miscarriage of justice. The Guilford Four, dramatized in the movie “In the Name of the Father,” maybe the most famous example (11). After a media feeding frenzy it is pretty much impossible to guarantee a fair trial, everybody has already made up their mind. That is why important trials get moved to another location for the defendant to at least have the benefit of a “fairer” trail. Now enter Korea. To insure a fair trial after the media pretty much decided whether somebody is guilty or not, the trial would have to be moved outside of the country. That, unfortunately, is impossible.
Heads of state are routinely granted immunity so they have enough time running the country rather than fighting off frivolous lawsuits filed by political opponents. In the best case scenario, fighting off charges against him made by unscrupulous detractors would have been a full-time job for Pastor Joshua for a long time.
Jeong, Myeong-seok spent the first twenty years of his life in the mountains praying and fasting (recall from the previous discussion that he is what is commonly known as a mystic). He would have certainly surrendered to the authorities had he felt that that was what God called him to do.
I am in no position to second-guess Seon Saeng Nim’s decision.
Secrecy in Providence
New people in Providence are not routinely taught everything there is to know about Providence. They have to learn the 30 lessons first, and pretty much in the right order, to really understand what Providence is all about and what it attempts to do, in other words, … you have to find out for yourself, just as in therapy. Everybody who has ever visited a therapist realizes that advice given by a therapist in the form of “This is what you need to do, 1), 2), and 3)” is worthless.
Is it fraudulent that the therapist keeps charging you money for more and more consecutive sessions even though he or she might have known since the first meeting exactly what you needed to do to get out of the rut?
Is it fraudulent for a movie theater to charge you $10.- and then not even tell you what the outcome of the movie is? Don’t you have a right to know? Don’t you especially have a right to know before you put down your money? Nobody likes “spoilers.” They are despised because they rob you of the experience.
Everybody who wants to learn statistics properly is first taught probability theory, then the student learns about probability distributions, and finally he or she finds out how these probability distributions can be used for statistical inference. This is bottom-up education – you learn how the formulas are derived before you apply them. A top-down statistics class just gives you the formulas and lets you plug in the numbers. “Statisticians” graduating from that class tend to make a lot of mistakes.
So in Providence you are taught Bible interpretation from the bottom up, and not from the top down. In a way, this is the complete opposite of indoctrination since you are constantly challenged to find out for yourself and to realize for yourself. Nobody gives you the answers ahead of time.
Jeong, Myeong-seok as Central Figure
A central figure is the main person through which God works in a particular time period. Noah, Abraham and Moses were central figures in the Old Testament, as were all the prophets. In the New Testament period the central figures were Jesus, Augustine, Luther and Calvin. Central figures are usually charged by God to implement badly needed course corrections.
Whether Jeong, Myeong-seok is a central figure is subject to debate. Different people have different opinions. Personally, I am certain that Jeong, Myeong-seok is a central figure beyond a shadow of a doubt. The step from traditional Christianity (Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox) to Providence is too dramatic, his insights too profound for there to be any room for doubt.
I was raised Roman-Catholic. So I was never told that Jesus would come back on the clouds. The Catholic belief is that the Second Coming of the Lord will occur at the end of the world, a cataclysmic event just as Jesus coming back on the clouds (12). We would not have to worry about missing the event, just as the Jewish people believed they could not miss the coming of their Messiah. Jesus surprised them once, but the next time it will be different? I cannot be that stupid anymore!
Am I going to go back to believe that the most important event in God’s history with humanity, the Fall, happened because Adam and Eve ate the wrong apple? Or am I going back to ponder hundreds of different interpretations of the Fall, each one designed to support the particular theologian’s pet-theory?
Could I entertain the thought that at the end of the world all the dead will rise from their graves and that the earth will resemble scenes in the movie The Night of the Living Dead?
At one point science and theology will have to converge. They describe the same reality. Providence’s theology is the most compatible with modern science that I am aware of. If Providence had been around at the time of Charles Darwin, he would have continued to be a devout Christian.
Am I going to go back to traditional Christianity where people place so little priority on understanding the Word of God that they do not even take notes during the homily or sermon?
When seen from a historical perspective, none of the arguments and charges brought forth against Jeong, Myeong-seok (정명석) are very surprising. Indeed, they were to be expected.
We do not live in a deterministic world. Nothing is impossible, except for us to avoid death and taxes. But the probability that Jeong, Myeong-seok’s revelations did not come from God is so small that I am not willing to take my chances.
I am a transportation engineer by profession having received my Ph.D. in Transportation Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. I do not have any particular mission or title in Providence, I am just a regular member.