by Young Oon Kim
Significance Of The Family
In the twentieth century, Protestant doctrines of man have stressed human relatedness and responsibility. An individual becomes a mature person through his connections with others. No one can really exist by himself or for himself. Men are social creatures. They are born into a society and are molded by their group. Process theology and liberation theology stress this social dimension of man. Both oppose a purely individualistic interpretation of human nature. Who we are and what we do depend upon our involvement in group life and activities.
Neo-orthodoxy emphasized the responsible nature of man. We have obligations toward each other and even more significantly toward God. When Bonhoeffer was in prison awaiting execution for his anti-Nazi activities, he composed a poem about the Christian doctrine of man. "Who am IT' he asked. Was he the alleged criminal who remained calm and firm in spite of confinement? Was he the one who "talked freely" to his captors, as his jailers thought? Or was he the restless, angry and weary person he felt himself to be? Ultimately none of these things. More than anything else, he belonged to God. "Whoever I am, I am thine, 0 God," he confessed. 40 A Christian recognizes that he owes loyalty to God. Since God created man, man is morally obligated to serve Him.
Brunner's theology of the divine-human encounter was also constructed upon recognition of our basic responsibilities. 41 God created us to carry out His will. Thus, He challenges us to accept His sovereignty. He makes us decide for or against Him. To have faith means to pledge fidelity to God, to set aside our egotism and become obedient to His holy will. Because we are human, we are called upon to accept our obligations to God and our fellow-men.
Unification theology takes into account man's relatedness and responsibility by using the family as a model. For Divine Principle the God-centered family represents the best example of how God works in history. God creates men and women to seek togetherness. Their union leads to biological regeneration, personal fulfillment and social progress. As a base of four positions, to use the Unification theology term, the family ties which bind together God, husband, wife and children prove the fundamental pattern for all worthwhile forms of human relatedness. Hence, Divine Principle shows the family-centered foundation for the coming divine kingdom. An ideal society can be erected once a truly God-centered family comes into being.
How does the family synthesize the facts of human relatedness and responsibility? As individuals, we live and grow in the matrix of a family. Our parents teach us what it means to be worthwhile persons. We grow in wisdom and stature under their guidance. From them we learn how to love and respond. Therefore, the responses we make to our family environment have a decisive impact upon the personal maturation of our children. "Like father, like son" or "Like mother, like daughter," we say. When parents live according to God's standard, their children will respect, obey them and follow their example. God originates the family structure, making it an instrument for the realization of His parental love and authority. But nearly as important are the responses we make to our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and children. Only if these kinship relationships are positive and creative is it possible to manifest the full give and take of love with God and our fellowmen. 42
The family is also the chief place for learning our social responsibilities. We come to accept our duty to God in most cases as a result of our respect for our parents and obedience to their commands. We also learn how to relate to society by our experiences in relating to every member of our family circle. Except in rare cases, men's natural sense of responsibility develops and flowers or is stunted by their family environment in the first half dozen years of life. For this reason, the God-centered family provides the most important base of four positions for personal regeneration and social reconstruction. 43
Nevertheless, a four position foundation does exist on the individual level too. By centering his life on God, every person is enabled to experience creative give and take between his body and spirit. He is also granted the ability to coordinate and harmonize his reason and his emotional life. Once an individual integrates his body and spirit, his reason and heart, his life become productive, useful and happy. On the other hand, without the direction and stability provided by devoting their life to God, men and women become tragic victims of frustration, boredom and depression. As one of the Old Testament proverbs points out, "Without a vision the people perish " A God-centered person is therefore purposive, energetic, idealistic and helpful, since he has a vision of God's presence and goal.
When two God-centered people unite in marriage they lay the foundation for a God-centered family. God-centered families make it possible to have a God-centered society. As their influence expands, the way is prepared for God-centered nations and a God-centered world. Hence, Unification theology stresses the importance of the individual and family as stepping stones to the realization of the good of the whole. As God becomes able to exercise His direct sovereignty of love over individuals and families, the pioneer work is accomplished for His direct dominion over all creation.
As many have noticed, there are obvious resemblances between Unification theology's family-centered ethic and Confucian morality. But let me impress upon you the fact that Reverend Moon did not consciously set out to create a syncretistic combination of Confucianism and Christianity. In Korea, Confucian teachings are a normal part of the traditional cultural milieu. Possibly as a result of this fact, Reverend Moon was able to recognize an aspect of the Biblical revelation often overlooked in the Christian West, because of the predominantly individualistic nature of Protestantism and the church-centeredness of Catholicism. In any case, Unification theology's family-centeredness does throw new light upon the Judeo-Christian doctrine of man.
Confucian teachings can greatly assist us in our efforts to produce a new Christianity suited to this age. A family-centered ethic avoids the extremes of both individualism and collectivist statism. By studying carefully the message of Master Kung, we may be able to correct the weaknesses of two rival Western philosophies which have produced self-centered libertinism on one hand and ruthless dehumanization on the other.
According to Confucianism, a valid personal and social ethic must be based upon an understanding of the pivotal role of the family. In Confucian ethics the nature of man involves five Great Relations: those between ruler and his subjects, father and son, husband and wife, elder brother and younger brother, friend and friend. What do all of these relationships have in common? In Confucius' mind, to relate successfully in any of these different ways it is necessary to practice jen. Jen has been translated in many ways, but one of the best definitions is "human heartedness" To live like a human being is to rise above the behavior of wild animals. It means to treat all men humanely. Jen prompts us to live for the welfare of society rather than be solely interested in private happiness or selfish pleasures. Jen grows out of the fundamental law of reciprocity. Since we have to live with others, we should learn how to treat everybody benevolently. To quote Confucius' golden rule: "Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself."
Confucianism teaches that the lessons of respect, loyalty and compassion learned in the family atmosphere are of value in society as a whole. It personalizes and deepens the ties which bind men together to advance the common good. Thus, filial piety undergirds a stable, just and peaceful social order.
Confucianism has special merit today because it uses the family as a model for society at large. 44 In the West, people often speak of the "machinery" of government as if the nation is regulated impersonally, almost mechanically. Or they refer to the "business" of government, as though society was a purely commercial matter, merely collecting and spending money. Isn't it better to see society as an extended family? This concept implies that we should treat all men with the affection, care and honor with which we treat our kinsmen. To look at society from this perspective, say the Confucianists, will prepare the way for the Great Commonwealth (ta tung), a state of world-wide harmony and happiness. For this reason, there is merit in recognizing the similarities between Unification theology and Confucian wisdom.
However, there are two fundamental differences between Unification theology and Confucianism. Because it is based upon the Biblical heritage, Divine Principle is God-centered rather than man-centered, as is usually the case with Confucian humanism. 45 Unlike most forms of Confucianism, Unificationists believe that man's goal is not simply family prosperity but the fulfillment of God's will. Through all of our relations with other people we learn of God's love and practice it, thus increasing His joy in the maximum variety of ways. In the model of the family we see how God works to realize His blueprint for creation. That same pattern applies to man's wider relationships in the clan, tribe, nation and global society.
In the second place, Unification theology differs from Confucianism by interpreting God's plan for mankind in terms of Adam and Eve's purpose. They were created to provide the base for the God-centered family. They were to be true parents for a righteous mankind. Hence, if God's original purpose for creation is to be actualized, it is necessary for a new Adam and Eve to play a central role as God's representatives.
Of course, Confucianism is not the only system of ethics besides Unification thought which holds the importance of the family. Every society, anthropologists have discovered, recognizes that group stability and solidarity depend upon positive family relationships. Roman moralists like Seneca stressed the value of a husband's loyalty, a wife's affection and children's respect for their parents. 46 Copying the Hellenistic teachers and preachers of his time, St. Paul almost always inserted a "household code" of ethics in his letters to the churches in which married couples were admonished to serve each other, and children 47 were told to honor their parents. In Hinduism, one of the four essential stages of human maturation is the experience of marriage and parental responsibility. 48 In this sense, Unification thought simply reaffirms an ideal which all cultures have considered to be based on natural law and 49 nature's God.
Judaism too has stressed the virtues of family life. As rabbinical scholars report, the Jewish people have always been profoundly concerned about stable and productive marriages, 50 not just for the welfare of the husband and wife, but also because the family is supremely important for the survival of Judaism. For many centuries rabbis have extolled closely-knit family life.
By contrast with Confucianism, Judaism and other family-centered faiths, Christianity often considers reconciliation with God to be primarily an individual affair. Faith is defined as a deeply personal encounter with God. As Whitehead wrote, Religion is what man does with his solitariness. Even though this notion is very true, Divine Principle emphasizes that salvation also means the restoration of the family. Kierkegaard realized that the most tragic death of man occurs at the spiritual level. He who does not love and cannot love is dead. Such individuals are really the most selfish and most miserable. Where can they learn how to love except in the family which is the most natural nursery? As a child we receive affection and care from our parents. This love is largely passive or receptive. As one grows and enters in marriage he or she understands the importance of mutual love. When one becomes a parent, love is expressed unconditionally without expecting to be rewarded. Parental love is sacrificial love. Thus a good family, particularly a God-centered family, provides an ideal environment for one to learn the three basic forms of love in a natural way. Hence Divine Principle highlights the centrality of the family: namely, the restoration of love which would fulfill God's purpose of creation. Such teaching appears to be rather novel these days.
40 D. Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (1971), pp. 347-348.
41 E. Brunner, Truth as Encounter (1964), pp. 18-30.
42 For this reason, Catholic theologians describe the family as a crucial manifestation of "natural law" and Lutheran theology treats the family as a mandate or "order" of God's creation.
43 Unification theology is therefore a middle way avoiding Protestant and existentialist individualism as well as secular totalitarian statism.
44 Cf. Julia Ching, Confucianism and Christianity (1977).
45 Cf. Liu Wu-Chi, A Short History of Confucian Philosophy (1955), p. 10.
46 Seneca (d. 75 AD), a contemporary of St - Paul, was the most fashionable moralist of his day and the tutor of Emperor Nero. Cf. M. Hadas, The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca (1958).
47 Cf. Colossians 3:18-21; Ephesians 5:21-6:4.
48 Cf. S. Radhakrishnan, The Hindu View of Life (1975), pp. 59-66.
49 Cf. Declaration of Independence: our liberties come from nature and nature's God. This Enlightenment phrase shows that morals are not merely social customs. Morality is part of nature itself.
50 The Babylonian Talmud states "He who has no wife lives without joy, without blessing and without goodness." Cf. Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971), vol. 6, p. 1171.
Download entire page and pages related to it in ZIP format
Table of Contents