Unification News for November 1998
Why Christ Came and Why He Must Come Again
Volume 3 - Part 1
As the Divine Principle sections on "The Creation" and "The Fall of Man" have explained, God originally created man and woman in His image. They were intended individually to grow to full emotional, intellectual and spiritual maturity, and on this basis form families that could fully embody and express God's love. Such families would then be the well-spring of God's love for larger levels--the society, nation and world.
The first couple chosen to achieve this ideal, however, the Biblical characters Adam and Eve, failed to do so. Their fall occurred through an unprincipled expression of love between Eve and the archangel Lucifer, and between Eve and Adam. With the loss of love at the beginning of history, all humanity has since suffered the deprivation of love. For Divine Principle the original separation from God's love has thwarted the realization of the divine ideal and has given rise to the tremendous pain and suffering that make up the record of human history.
History on the Horizon
Divine Principle explains that, beginning with the tragic separation of humankind from its Creator, God has sought to restore men and women to their original state, no longer crippled by the catastrophic events involving the first human couple. God wishes to elevate us to the status of His True Children and to lead us to live in love, justice, and brotherhood.
To realize this stage, prophets and holy men have appeared, directed by God, at various points in history. The coming of men such as Abraham and Moses, Buddha and Confucius, St. Francis and Martin Luther expresses God's redemptive activity in human society. However, the central manifestation of God's work was the advent of Jesus of Nazareth. For Divine Principle, Jesus was the man anointed by God as His Son to realize the original ideal on earth. He came in Adam's place to restore the lost Garden of Eden--the Kingdom of God on earth.
The New Testament offers an inspired and beautiful account of the life of Jesus and has served as the very well-spring of the Christian faith. Over recent decades, however, the New Testament--and, indeed, the entire Bible--has come to be understood in very different terms than has been the case in centuries past.
The critical catalyst in this change has been the advent of modern biblical scholarship, particularly as it has been focused on the four Gospels. While as devotional material the Gospel accounts are awesome, it is now widely considered that as historical documents they fail to provide reliable data on the human Jesus and his actual teachings.
The problem as most scholars see it is that the writers of the Gospels--writing anywhere from thirty to seventy years after the death of Jesus and writing with their own purposes in mind--freely embellished earlier oral and written reports that up to then had been the sources of information on the life of Jesus.
In the words of Father Raymond Brown, of New York's Union Theological Seminary: "Primarily the Gospels tell us how each evangelist conceived of and presented Jesus to a Christian community in the last third of the first century. . . they offer only limited means for reconstructing the ministry and message of the historical Jesus."
Recognizing such realities has led to extensive re-examinations of the life of Jesus. In recent decades, scholars have looked again at the Gospel accounts, questioning orthodox understandings and expressing radical dissatisfactions with traditional thinking about the Son of Man. The very fact of the volume and intensity of debate on this issue points to the problematic nature of the traditional New Testament picture of him.
Hero, prophet or zealot?
The arguments presented by different theologians have ranged over a broad spectrum. A pivotal book in this debate was written by none other than the famed Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who, among his other great accomplishments, was a highly regarded theologian.
In his Quest for the Historical Jesus, Schweitzer demolished a number of his predecessors' views of Jesus and advanced his own understanding of Jesus as an apocalyptic hero. He sees Jesus as believing in the imminent, supernatural appearance of the Kingdom of God, complete with the subjugation of all evil forces.
In Schweitzer's view, at one point in his ministry Jesus expects the arrival of this Kingdom even before the next harvest. Only when his hopes are dashed does Jesus start thinking of the cross. Schweitzer concludes that Jesus finally went to the cross believing that this act would precipitate the apocalyptic arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth.
In The Prophet from Nazareth, on the other hand, Professor Morton Enslin argues that Jesus must be understood simply as a man fulfilling a prophetic role. Enslin argues that the later Church paid tribute to the Nazarene Carpenter by bestowing him with such titles as Christ, Son of god and Lord, but that his original disciples thought of him simply as "a prophet mighty in deed and word." (Luke 24:19). Indeed, for Enslin, this is all Jesus thought himself to be.
Another view of Jesus is presented by England's S.G.F. Brandon, of the University of Manchester. For Dr. Brandon, Jesus was a Zealot, striving for the political overthrow of the Roman tyranny. Jesus' primary interest was political, and this is why he was ultimately crucified. According to this view, a careful reading between the lines indicates the authors of the Gospels "rewrote early Christian history in order to remove Roman suspicions concerning the Church."
Such is a partial view of the debate on the life of Jesus. Many opinions have been offered, but many questions remain. As Brandon's theories indicate, even extreme views have gained a hearing.
In the opinion of many people--both theologians and laymen--the Divine Principle has shed a very helpful and clarifying light on some of the vexing problems surrounding Jesus. As a revelation received by Reverend Moon through his spiritual communication with God and Jesus, the Principle has the advantage of being able to penetrate the New Testament ambiguities and present a clear understanding of Jesus and his mission--one that has profound implications for the contemporary church and one that will help Christianity complete the spiritual revolution begun two thousand years ago.
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