Ten Theologians Respond to the Unification Church - Edited by Herbert Richardson 1981

Horace Bushnell and the Unification Movement: A Comparison of Theologies - Thomas McGowan

One task of an emerging theology like that of the Unification Church is to appreciate the theological heritage which it shares with others and to avoid the arrogance of claiming that its ideas have somehow come forth full blown and absolutely novel. What I intend to do in this paper is to point out that some of the principal beliefs of Unification theology are at least quite compatible with the theology set forth in the nineteenth century by Horace Bushnell. It is not my purpose to show any direct or indirect link between Bushnell and Sun Myung Moon, but only to note the resonance of certain ideas. Of course, there are also many dissimilarities between Bushnell and Unification theology, but each gives explanations of certain key doctrines which are remarkably congenial to one another. I will illustrate this in six areas: original sin and its effects, the salvific role of Jesus, the place of sacrifice in redemption, the power of religious nurture, the tension between grace and freedom, and the shape of the future church.

1. Original Sin and Its Effects

Unification thought interprets the Genesis story of the Fall in terms of acts of illicit love, first between the serpent-Satan-Lucifer figure and Eve and later between Eve and Adam. For Adam and Eve it was not the sex act itself which was sinful, but rather the premature use of the act. Although God had intended to establish a perfect relationship with a mature Adam and Eve and to bless them with children in a sinless world, the sins of Satan and the primal parents disordered this ideal society. What Unificationists call a "blood relationship" with Satan was established and is passed down through the generations. What should have become a human family centered on God was frustrated and became one centered on Satan, Instead of the "Three Blessings" promised by God -- individual perfection in personal maturity, social perfection in the family, and ecological perfection in dominion over the cosmos -- mankind inherited the evil tendencies of Satan.

Like the Unificationists, Bushnell saw immaturity as the primary cause of sin, A person is born, he said, into a "condition privative," which is a moral state "inchoate or incomplete, lacking something not yet reached, which is necessary to the probable rejection of evil."1 It is not ignorance of the law that leads to sin, he explained, but rather the need to verify the meaning of right and wrong through experience, much the same way as a child will touch fire because the knowledge of its ill effects has not yet been drilled into him by the process of experience,

Bushnell claimed that Adam, representing all mankind, manifested such a "condition privative" because he, as a man who had "just begun to be"2 was not able to understand all the consequences of choosing evil nor had he sufficient practice in obeying the law. In addition, and this is very similar to the interpretation given by Unification theology, Bushnell related Adam's sin to his inexperience in dealing with what he called "malign powers."3 Since a "just begun to be" Adam had no experience in recognizing and resisting the demonic forces, Bushnell concluded that he would be vulnerable at first to the temptations presented to him. Not that this lack of experiential knowledge took away guilt, Bushnell hastened to add, since a notional or theoretical knowledge of the law is sufficient to place us under obligation to it.

Sin for Bushnell introduced discord into what would otherwise be the harmony of nature. The true story of sin, he said, is that "man turns God's world into a hell of misdirection."4 This profound reality of disorder produces ill effects in the individual, in society, and in the physical world, much in the same way as sin negated the "Three Blessings" in Unification theology.

The individual is affected because sin causes a "breach of his internal harmony"5 which leads his will, judgment, and even his body into revolt, one against the other. Society is also affected because humanity is an organic whole, Bushnell asserted, and once disorder has been introduced into its very nature, it cannot propagate itself in any way that is unmarred. He explained that under the "physiological terms of propagation, society falls or goes down as a unit, and evil becomes in a sense organic in the earth."6 Since there are moral connections between all people, it follows that the effects of sin are not shut up within the individual but are passed down through the human race. "If we are units," Bushnell wrote, "so also are we a race, and the race is one -- one family, an organic whole; such that the fall of the head involves the fall of all the members."7 When Adam sinned he originated evil effects which have disordered all succeeding generations. Under this doctrine of the headship of Adam, Bushnell saw expressed the social interaction of man's existence and the propagation of sin as family follows family. Once the society of families was infected with sin, it moved inexorably ahead, propagating evil as it propagated itself. Finally, the physical world, the third area affected by sin becomes in Bushnell's words a "realm of deformity and abortion," a universe "groaning with the discords of sin and keeping company with it in the guilty pains of its apostasy."8

2. Jesus Christ

In Unification theology the perfected Adam or the Christ is the one who has attained the full purpose of creation and assumes therefore "the divine value of God" has "an existence unique in the whole universe," and indeed is "the substantial encapsulation of the entire cosmos."9 To a degree Unification theology allows Jesus to be called this perfected man but it warns against identifying him with God.10 The main role for Jesus seems to be that of messiah, whom Unificationists define as the one who is to bring about the ideal family and the Kingdom of God. Jesus, however, was not able to accomplish this physical regeneration of the human race and provided only a "spiritual salvation" through his crucifixion and resurrection. Since Jesus and the Holy Spirit accomplished only the mission of spiritual "true parents," it is the Unification expectation that another messiah is needed to form the human family in a proper relationship with God.11

Although Bushnell would most likely have had great difficulty with the interpretation of the messianic office as one of marriage and parenting, he would have been quite sympathetic with the Unification hope of a human society in friendship with God, Like the Unificationists, Bushnell saw the essence of sin in alienation from God. He maintained that human therapy could not approach the core of the problem of sin, even though it might mitigate the most flagrant manifestations of injustice, Since a sinful human race is incapable of entering upon a proper relationship with God, what is needed is the discovery of God's presence in the world and his openness to holy community with mankind. Bushnell saw this revelation in Jesus Christ, who manifested God to mankind and offers again the reality of union with the divine.

Bushnell's was a high christology, summarized in his emphatic claim that "the pre-incarnate Son of the Father is the incarnate Son of Man,"12 For him Jesus Christ broke the organic force of evil by entering the world and "bringing into human history and incorporating in it as such, that which is Divine."13 The incarnation raised humanity in this life to a new position which it could not have attained without the coming of the eternal God-man. The incarnation was not an adjustment in the plan of God, but the fulfillment of creation by the revelation of God's presence in the world as the source of holiness. Bushnell interpreted the atonement, therefore, in terms not of payment for guilt but of mankind's being "formed to Christ" and "divinized" by meeting God in Christ. It was the restoration of that community with God which mankind had originally enjoyed but which had been lost by sin. In order for humanity to be able to respond to God's invitation to fellowship, it was first necessary, Bushnell argued, that mankind be raised to the divine because "it is only in the pure divine that God can have complacence and hold communion "14 Unlike Unification theology, therefore, Bushnell saw more at stake than a reorientation of the human community through new "true parents," For him it was essential that mankind be offered the chance of divinization and consequently of true community with God through the revelation of the incarnate Son of God.

3. Indemnity and Sacrifice

When Unification theology interprets the function of suffering in his work of the restoration, it starts by rejecting the idea that Jesus' death on the cross was part of God's original plan of salvation. The mission of Jesus was not to suffer and die but to reestablish the ideal family. When Jesus had been abandoned, Unificationists say, "God had to pay the price for the sinful lack of faith of the Israelites and dl mankind by giving the life of his only son to Satan as a ransom." Jesus' death became the price for the redemption of mankind, but it was in his resurrection that "God opened up a way of spiritual salvation," Although the "physical selves of mankind are still subject to satanic invasion," their "spirit" can attain salvation.15 The Unification theory is that though Jesus intended the complete salvation of mankind, he was frustrated and succeeded by his death and resurrection in saving mankind only in the spirit world. One noteworthy aspect of the doctrine is that it starts with a passable God who endures the death of Jesus.

"Indemnity" is the category under which Unification theology most systematically considers the place of sacrifice in the plan of restoration, Indemnity means that certain conditions must be met in order for something or someone to be restored to a position which has been lost. So it is that the human race, which has broken its original relationship to God, must restore the foundations on which to build a new relationship. What Unificationists call an "indemnity condition" achieves the restoration of a lost state by reversing the process which led to the loss in the first place. Sometimes the indemnity which is paid is equal to the loss ("eye for an eye"), sometimes it is less (faith yields abundant results), and sometimes it is more (the Israelites' wandering in the desert was extended from forty days to forty years because of their infidelity).16 The whole human race must perform certain "indemnity conditions" before the messiah can be received and the Kingdom established. So also must individual Unificationists do "indemnity conditions" in order to restore proper human and divine relationships, These conditions include periods of prayer, fasting, and sacrifice,

Sacrifice also played a central role in Bushnell's theology, and like the Unificationists he too rejected the view that "the bleeding," as he called it, was the end of the incarnation instead of the reestablishment of community between God and mankind. For Bushnell, sin was humanity's failure to maintain friendship with God. The crucifixion, then, was not the object of Jesus' ministry, but the "bad fortune" his reconciling work was bound to encounter.17 The true purpose of Jesus' death was to sensitize mankind to its isolation and to bring it again into friendship with God.

Bushnell rejected the unsophisticated idea of a direct substitution of pain for pain in such a way that "God accepts one evil in place of the other, and being satisfied in this manner, is able to justify or pardon."18 Besides being basically unfair, he claimed, this teaching left no room for God's necessary participation in suffering. As he wrote, "The frown, then if it be said to be of God, is quite as truly on God. The expression of justice or abhorrence is made by sufferings that are endured, not out of the circle of divine government, but in it."19 God suffers in order to make evil "what it is not; to recover and heal it."20 Sacrifice, or what the Unificationists might call indemnity, is the offering of "one's ease and even one's personal comfort and pleasure to the endurance of wickedness, in order to.., subdue it."21 The return to the true relationship which existed prior to sin demands this kind of personal participation in suffering in order to break the spirit of alienation or sin in the world. If God were simply to "forgive and forget," there could be no true friendship because there could be no true basis of relationship. For God to be free for friendship with sinful humanity, explained Bushnell, he had to identify with sinners through suffering. The recovery of friendship is worked out "by the transforming powers of sacrifice," he wrote in words which Unificationists might not be surprised to find in Divine Principle, and "the whole plan centers in this one principle, that the suffering side of character has a power of its own, superior, in some respects, to the most active endeavors."22

Before true forgiveness of sins and reconciliation can happen, a change must take place in God as the wronged party. All love, whether in God or in mankind, is bound up with suffering, claimed Bushnell, and he saw Christ's vicarious sacrifice as a revelation of God's loving and therefore suffering nature. In imagery similar to the Unificationists' metaphor of God's "heart," Bushnell called this "a revelation in time of just that love that had been struggling always in God's bosom; watching wearily for the world and with inward groanings unheard by mortal ears."23

Bushnell comes closest to the Unification idea of indemnity when he analyzed the doctrine of forgiveness of sins not in terms of forgetting sin or of substituting for the sinner, but rather of breaking the hold of sin in history and returning creation to an originally pristine condition. What sin had done in history had to be undone. Christ had come, Bushnell said, not to obtain forgiveness of sin, but rather "to make sin itself let go of the sinner, and so deliver him inwardly that he shall be dear of it." The achievement of this god requires, he explained, "an almost recomposition of the man; the removal of dl his breakage, and disorder, and derangement, and the crystallization over again of dl his shattered affinities, in God's own harmony and law.24 Both Unificationists and Bushnell agree that this breaking down of sin and rebuilding of true humanity takes place cumulatively in history, growing and working over the centuries towards ultimate perfection. Unificationists have a predilection for charting history in elaborate schema of providential ages, and they see the final stages of restoration as now upon us in terms of a second advent of the messiah. Bushnell would not have accepted the need for a messiah after Jesus, but his ideas about the sanctifying effects of the power of Christ when it penetrates all aspects of society and the world could be preached comfortably by any Unificationist. As he described this power, "It penetrates more and more visibly our sentiments, opinions, law, sciences, inventions, modes of commerce, advancing, as it were, by the slow measured step of centuries, to a complete dominion over the race."25

4. Religious Nurture in the Family

Clearly, there is in Unification theology a doctrine of development. As Divine Principle says, "...everything made in the beginning was meant to be perfected through a certain period of time."26 In order for a creature to be completed, it must advance in orderly fashion through the three stages of formation, growth, and perfection. The symbol in Unification thought for the desired god of this process is the "four position foundation," in which God is the ultimate unifying center for all of creation. In terms of men and women, therefore, the whole point of the fall is simply that the human race has failed to go through the three stages and to establish a truly God centered set of relationships, Adam and Eve sinned by assuming the rights of perfected creatures while still in an immature stage of development. If, however, a mature Adam and Eve had become husband and wife, had children, and centered their society on God, then the whole universe would have become what Divine Principle calls a "spherical movement of unified purpose,"27 The stage of formation would have been achieved in individual maturation, growth in the establishment of the family, and perfection in the act of taking dominion over all things.

The Unification belief is that this process has broken down precisely at the point of the development of the family Instead of blessed families populating God's kingdom with sinless children, the fallen world can only achieve defective families producing sinful generations. The restoration of the ideal family is at the heart of the Unification movement, therefore, and it is the reason why Unificationists believe in the need for a second coming of the messiah. In Unification thought Jesus intended to be the completed Adam by marrying, forming the ideal family, and beginning the true generation of God's people. Since Jesus was not able to accomplish this, it is the Unification belief that a second coming of the messiah is necessary so that the total salvation intended by God will be achieved in an ever expanding network of God centered families,

Bushnell also saw salvation in terms of nurture and especially nurture within the family. He reacted against the emphasis on individualism which lost sight of humanity's relational character, and he concentrated instead on the need for social experience of Christ. Revivalism was the usual answer to the question of salvation in the New England churches of Bushnell's time, This method of salvation stressed sudden commitment to the gospel, rather than the route of nurture. At the heart of revivalism was the belief that natural men and women could not grow in grace without first being reborn. This rebirth was seen as a vivid but private experience in which the individual turned to God. Conversion was overwhelming, transforming, ecstatic, but most of all, it was without mediation -- no family, congregation, minister, or ritual stood between the convert and God. For the revivalist, people are not physically born into the church nor do they grow in piety, but they enter through a direct act of God.

Bushnell disagreed with the revivalist theology, especially over the issue of children, since it seemed to stipulate that children should grow up in sin so that they could eventually in one dramatic experience of conversion, choose Christ and be saved. Nurture had taken a morbid and dangerous turn, he said, when children were taught to regard themselves as sinners rather than as Christians. A scheme based entirely on conversion "gives a most ungenial and forlorn aspect to the family," he noted, and "it makes the church a mere gathering in of adult atoms, to be increased only by the gathering in of other and more numerous adult atoms."28 Such an individualistic approach to religion was at odds with Bushnell's social view of the Christian life. Since the spiritual life was for him a process of growth in friendship with God, he had to look for an economy of salvation which spoke to the issue of social nurture instead of private conversion.

One vehicle which Bushnell placed at the center of this nurturing process is the family. For him the family is not an aggregate of individuals but the primary social unit whose members are so deeply involved in mutual actions and attitudes that the child is inevitably formed by its power over character. The family is indeed like an organism, Bushnell claimed, because of the powerful psychological and physical bonds among the members. The effect of these forces is organic, since the family members are so locked together that they "take a common character, accept the same delusions, practice the same sins, and ought, I believe, to be sanctified by a common grace,"29 A Christian family can therefore configure the child to Christ even before the child could possibly choose Christ for himself or herself,

Like most contemporary developmental psychologists, Bushnell identified stages of growth in childhood. He saw two such stages, "the age of impressions" and "the age of tuitional influences," or, as he also named them, "the age of existence in the will of the parent" and "the age of will and personal choice in the child."30 He believed that in the first stage, the pre-language years, "more is done to effect, or fix, the moral and religious character of children... than in dl the instruction and discipline of their minority afterward."31 Language itself has no meaning until the seminal impressions coming from the life of experience give it an interpretation. Therefore, the child must first have some kind of experience of God before he or she can give any meaning to the word "God," Since the meaning of language must originate in impression derived from experience, Bushnell concluded that it is an error for theology to hold that nothing religious can be done for a child until the child is old enough to be taught by means of language.

Bushnell saw the family as a divinely constituted organ of regenerative grace. He defended his position not only with the psychological argument that the family is the social group in which the character of the child is formed, but also with the theological one that it is the sacrament of God's grace. He thought it incongruous to suppose that a child is to grow up in sin in order to be converted when he or she comes to the age of maturity. He proposed, on the contrary, "that the child is to grow up a Christian, and never know himself as being otherwise." In this way the child is "to open on the world as one that is spiritually renewed, not remembering the time when he went through a technical experience, but seeming rather to have loved what is good from his earliest years."32 This makes sense, he said, because the times of infancy and childhood are most pliant to good. "How easy it is then, as compared with the stubbornness of adult years, to make all wrong seem odious, all good lovely and desirable."33

In language similar to that used in Unification theology, Bushnell explored the dynamics of both original sin and Christian nurture. He argued that dose examination of the relation between parent and child would reveal laws of organic connection which make it natural to expect that the goodness or depravity of the parent would be propagated in the child. If, on the one hand, sin can be inherited, so also can virtue; one is as much a social product as the other. He wrote that the child is not "set forth as an overgrown man, issued from the Creator's hand to make the tremendous choice, undirected by experience," but is rather "gently inducted, as it were, by choices of parents before his own, into the habit and accepted practice of all holy obedience; growing up in the nurture of their grace, as truly as of their natural affection." And coming very dose to the Unification doctrine of blessed children, Bushnell concluded that "as corruption or depravation is propagated under well-known laws of physiology, what are we to think but that a regenerate life may be also propagated, and that so the Scripture truth of a sanctification from the womb may sometime cease to be a thing remarkable and become a commonly expected fact?"34 God's plan, as interpreted by him, was "to let one generation extend itself into and over another, in the order of grace, just as it does in the order of nature."35

It is most important to realize, Bushnell urged, that the forces at work in the family can be organized for good instead of evil. The Christian economy of salvation should aim to take possession of the organic laws of the family and use them as instruments of regeneration. These laws were intended for the nurture of virtue in the plan of God before the Fall, he argued, so it is only right that Christ reclaim and sanctify them for his own purposes. Again anticipating Unificationist ideas, Bushnell wrote that the family which has been seen only as "an instrument of corruption," is "to be occupied and sanctified by Christ, and become an instrument also of mercy and life." From this it will follow, he continued, "that the seed of faith, applied to households, is to be no absurdity; for it is the privilege and duty of every Christian parent that his children shall come forth into responsible action, as a regenerated stock."36 So great was Bushnell's optimism concerning this work of regenerating the human "stock" that he envisioned a future similar to Unificationist expectations in which "grand consolidations and massings of society will be gathering heavier momentum and a more and more beneficent sway over the conduct and life of individuals." In this future world the Christian family will be the germ of a renewed race. "Good men will be born by nations," he prophesied," -- a nation is a day."37

5. Grace, Law, and "The Principle"

Unification theology sets the stage for its interpretation of the relation between God's will and mankind's freedom when it distinguishes between "indirect" and "direct" dominion. "Indirect" means the way God rules people while they are in an immature state. At this time God can govern only through the mediation of "The Principle." But even the autonomous action of "The Principle" is not enough, since people can realize their perfection only when they fulfill their personal responsibility to observe God's commandments. In the Unification understanding, God's rule is much vaster than mankind's, but the human decision-making factor is a necessary part of the maturation process. "Direct" dominion, on the other hand, means the way God will relate to perfected people in an unmediated fashion by love, or, in a favorite Unification metaphor, the way human beings will become one in "heart" with God.38

Unification thought struggles with the tension between "The Principle" and responsibility, much the same way as orthodox Christian theology struggles with grace and freedom. While on the one hand it sees "The Principle" as God's gift which saves, on the other it tries to preserve at least a small area for human input. Responsibility is an essential characteristic of human nature for Unificationists because it is in free action that humanity participates in creation and comes to assume, like God, a role of direct dominion over the rest of creation. Freedom, says Divine Principle, can exist apart neither from "The Principle," nor from the possibility of some meaningful human role in accomplishing God's purpose of creation.39

Bushnell likewise wanted to balance somehow the action of divine grace and human responsibility so that the converting power of God would be preserved alongside the laws of natural development. In language similar to the Unificationists' "direct, indirect" phraseology, he claimed that there is at work a "fixed relation between God's mediate and immediate agency in sods," which values both God's grace and a person's receptivity.40 A person is not completely passive in the work of salvation but must cooperate by being open to the gift of God's life. Although right intent by itself does not save, it is the necessary condition for the power of Christ to be effective.

According to Bushnell, God acts on the receptive person in a two-step program. First of all, he develops in the man or woman a true understanding of law out of the abstract and vague moral principles which are innate in the whole human race. Bushnell felt that it was important to place law properly in the system of God to show that "His world-plan, though comprehending the supernatural, will be an exact and perfect system of order, centered in the eternal unity of reason about His last end.41 He warned that once religion is placed beyond the realm of law, it has already deteriorated into superstition. "Nothing is more certain or dear," he claimed, "than that human sods are made for law, and so for the abode of God." Without law, he said, souls "must freeze and die.42

The second step by which God acts on a person, according to Bushnell, is the gospel, which for him meant the person of Jesus Christ. The function of the law is to give knowledge of sin as an initial stage in the process of training in virtue, but it is in the meeting of Christ that lives are radically changed. Regeneration, he wrote, consists in "being trusting itself to being, and so becoming other and different, by a relation wholly transactional."43 This completion of a person in the transforming relationship with God in Christ is what constituted salvation for Bushnell; it is not a transitory experience but an enduring friendship.

Like Bushnell, Unification theology has a two-step process leading to perfection. The first depends on "The Principle" to mediate God's dominion over creation, and the second involves direct union with God. Where Bushnell wrote "law," Unificationists with little difficulty can read "The Principle," which to them is "the basic active universal law that originates in God and pervades the Creation.44 Unificationists believe that "The Principle," like Bushnell's "law," explains the inner dynamics of God's creation, and so its practice is the way men and women can mature. But as Bushnell looked beyond the "law" to the "gospel," so also does Unification theology look beyond "The Principle" to the "heart" of God. For both Bushnell and Unificationists this second step is a mystical, transforming experience. It makes a person "one in Heart with God," says Unification theology, and allows God to rule directly by love.45

6. The Shape of the Future Church

Unificationists, almost by definition, look forward to the restoration of what they consider to be God's original plan for the unity of all aspects of human life. Since sin has fragmented creation, the new age they hope for will be marked by the integration of what now appear to be discrete entities. In order to help bring about this new age, Unificationists engage in interracial marriages, work for the unity of the sciences and of science and religion, and promote ecumenical dialogues among members of different religions. The ultimate god of this unification process is a one-family world society. When Unificationists speak of the future church, therefore, they really mean a network of ideal families and not a special society of people who have been "called out" from the family. In a sense the "church" will disappear into the world family. For this reason many Unificationists prefer to say they belong to a "movement" rather than to a "church."

Bushnell also developed the ideal of an ecumenical church which would eventually embrace the world, assimilating the insights of all the varied sects in a comprehensive truth. But first of all, he said, language must be seen for what it truly is, not the literal truth but only the representation of truth, He claimed that there were two ages in the history of the church -- a first which sought literal truth in the religious symbols and a second which was comprehensive. In the first age people believed that it was possible to achieve a language which could express exhaustively and for all time an unchanging content of reality They regarded the forms of truth as identical with truth itself and so had no choice "but to live and die by it, and no thought, perhaps, but to make others live and die by it too," Bushnell said this led not only to the controversies of the ancient church but even to those of his own century. In the second age, however, people will consider the beliefs of others and seek the partial truth in each symbol, "Under contrary forms are found common truths, and one form is seen to be the complement of another -- all forms, we may almost say, the complement of all others, 46 Like the Unificationists, he suggested that such an age was, in fact, approaching:

Accordingly, the eyes of men are now being turned, as never before, towards the hope of some new catholic age, where spirit and faith, having gotten their proper realm, dear of adverse possession, shall be able to abide there in God's simple light, to range it in liberty, and fill it with love.47

Bushnell argued that since the human mind is finite it can approach only a small part of the truth at once, or, as he put it, only the "hem of the garment." Each person in ignorance calls the hem the whole garment, It follows that people have created religious sects because of the peculiar grasp of the truth which each one possessed. But a more comprehensive method gives the hope of a wider view of truth by combining the opinions of all people. So it may come about that "after long ages of debate, wherein every part of the hem is brought into view," it will be possible "for any disciple, who will look through the eyes of all, to form to himself some view of it that is broader and more comprehensive."48

Such a comprehending of dl truths reflected in the creeds of history presented for Bushnell the possibility of a new kind of ecumenical church in the future. And if such a church is ever to appear, he argued, where better than in the United States? God has called "all these diverse multitudes, Protestant and Catholic, together, in crossings so various, and a ferment of experience so manifold, that he may wear us into some other and higher and more complete unity than we are able, of ourselves, and by our own wisdom, to settle." The result of all this will be nothing less than "a perfected and comprehensive Christianity," he hoped, which will be "set up here for a sign to all nations."49

Bushnell saw the key to this new society in the separation of church and state decreed by the United States Constitution. Because of this, he said, "superstition is eaten away by the strong acid of liberty, and spiritual despotism flies affrighted from the broken loyalty of the metropolis."50 Although one of the first results of this separation was, in fact, the development of sectarianism, he hoped for the eventual fruition of a radically new union of all religions in Christ. In his vision of this new order, people will look for good in each other rather than in orthodoxy. Likewise, the exchange of opinions "by travel and books, and the intermixture of races and religions" will result in broader views of Christian truth.51 As an effect of these influences, he argued, church and state, which had to be parted in the process of developing freedom, would coalesce again once freedom has been attained, not as church and state any longer, but "in such kind of unity as well-nigh removes the distinction -- the peace and world-wide brotherhood, established under moral ideas, and the eternal truths of God's eternal kingdom."52

Like Unificationists, Bushnell anticipated the emergence of the universal church through the dynamics of the family The church, he said, is not a collection of individuals but a new organism composed of Christian families. It acts to repair the disorder which sin has inflicted on creation and which the laws of nature would otherwise perpetuate. "It's very distinction as a redemptive agency," he wrote, "lies in the fact that it enters into nature, in this regenerative and rigidly supernatural way, to reverse and restore the elapsed condition of sinners."53 The church is not simply a natural society Bushnell insisted, but is indeed the Holy Spirit, who:

...collects families into a common organism, and then, by sanctifying the laws of organic unity in families, extends its quickening power to the generation following, so as to include the future, in dl ages, becomes a body under Christ the head, as the race is a body under Adam the head -- a living body, quickened by him who has life in himself, fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth.54

Bushnell held that such a shift from Adamic to Christed humanity is possible only by the power of God "to prepare the godly seed" and to establish Christianity as "the great populating motherhood of the world."55 His expectation was that a "truly sanctified stock" would ultimately fill the earth, "Not that the bad heritage of depravity will cease," he wrote, "but that the second Adam will get into power with the first, and be entered seminally into the same great process of propagated life."56 This future church will be marked by the disappearance of creeds and catechisms since the people will live in the truth. It will also have solved the apparent antagonism between science and religion, one of the gods of Unificationists. In this future church, "learning and religion, the scholar and the Christian, will not be divided as they have been."57 He foresaw that the church will eventually attain what the prophets had predicted, namely, "a city of God, or it may be many, complete in all grandeur and beauty, and representing fitly the great ideas, and glorious populations, and high creative powers of a universal Christian age."58


Since beginning this paper I have learned that two great-granddaughters of Horace Bushnell are members of the Unification Church. It would be foolish, of course, to conclude that he was some kind of embryonic nineteenth century Unificationist. His high christology alone would be enough to distinguish him from the messianic hopes of the Unificationists. But he would be the first to agree that someone's personality and ideas do bear fruit in later generations. In any case, it seems evident that some of the theological conclusions reached by Bushnell are shared by the theology of the Unification movement.


1 Horace Bushnell, Nature and the Supernatural (New York: Scribner's, 1858), p. 70.

2 Bushnell, Nature and the Supernatural, p. 71

3 Bushnell, Nature and the Supernatural, p. 80

4 Bushnell, Nature and the Supernatural, p. 109

5 Horace Bushnell, The Spirit in Man (New York: Scribner's, 1903), p. 248.

6 Bushnell, Nature and the Supernatural, p. 123.

7 Horace Bushnell, Christian Nurture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960).

8 Bushnell, Nature and the Supernatural, p. 128.

9 Divine Principle, (Washington: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1973), pp. 206-7.

10 Divine Principle, pp. 210-11

11 Divine Principle, pp. 217-18.

12 Horace Bushnell, Sermons on Living Subjects (New York: Scribner's, 1892), p. 454.

13 Horace Bushnell, God in Christ (New York: Scribner's, 1887), p. 208.

14 Bushnell, The Spirit in Man, p. 49.

15 Chung Hwan Kwak, Outline of the Principle, Level 4 (New York: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1980), p. $9.

16 Outline of the Principle, p. 107.

17 Horace Bushnell, The Vicarious Sacrifice (New York: Scribner's, 1877), p. 90.

18 Bushnell, God in Christ, p. 194,

19 Bushnell, God in Christ, p. 201

20 Horace Bushnell, Sermons for the New Life (New York: Scribner's, 1889). p. 354,

21 Bushnell, Sermons for the New Life, p. 355.

22 Bushnell, Sermons for the New Life, p. 407.

23 Bushnell, The Vicarious Sacrifice, p. 32.

24 Bushnell, The Vicarious Sacrifice, p. 111

25 Bushnell, The Vicarious Sacrifice, p. 164.

26 Divine Principle, p. 52.

27 Divine Principle, p. 39.

28 Horace Bushnell, Building Eras in Religion (New York: Scribner's, 1881), p. 174.

29 Bushnell, Christian Nurture, p. 74.

30 Bushnell, Christian Nurture, p. 199.

31 Bushnell, Christian Nurture, p. 201

32 Bushnell, Christian Nurture, p. 4.

33 Bushnell, Christian Nurture, p. 13.

34 Bushnell, Nature and the Supernatural, pp. 122-23.

35 Bushnell, Christian Nurture, p. 183.

36 Bushnell, Christian Nurture, p. 93-94.

37 Horace Bushnell, Moral Uses of Dark Things (New York: Scribner's, 1893), p. 151

38 Outline of the Principle, pp. 28-30.

39 Divine Principle, pp. 91-92.

40 Bushnell, Christian Nurture, p. 188.

41 Bushnell, Nature and the Supernatural, p. 183,

42 Bushnell, Sermons for the New Life, p. 223.

43 Bushnell, Sermons for the New Life, p. 94.

44 Outline of the Principle, p. 29.

45 Outline of the Principle, pp. 28-29.

46 Bushnell, Building Eras in Religion, p. 391

47 Bushnell, God in Christ, pp. 323-24.

48 Bushnell, building Eras in Religion, p, 393.

49 Bushnell, Building Eras in Religion, p. 104.

50 Horace Bushnell, Work and Play (New York: Scribner's, 1883), p. 164.

51 Bushnell, Work and Play, p. 164.

52 Bushnell, Work and Play, p. 165.

53 Bushnell, Nature and the Supernatural, p. 283.

54 Bushnell, Christian Nurture, p. 94,

55 Bushnell, Christian Nurture, pp. 174-75.

56 Bushnell, Christian Nurture, p. 173.

57 Bushnell, Work and Play, pp. 39-40.

58 Bushnell, Building Eras in Religion, p. 34. 

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