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

Unification and Traditional Christology: An Unresolved Relationship -- Durwood Foster

In the effort now gaining momentum1 to understand and respond to the fresh theological energy of the Unification movement, Christological issues obviously have a pivotal role. Divine Principle states that the most important questions of all fell within this area.2 This would necessarily be so in the broad sense of "Christ" standing for the axial event or person on which any religion is grounded, but it is particularly the case with respect to an intensely messianic movement such as Unificationism. Moreover, standing as it does on its own historic norm of Jesus as the Christ, the mainstream Christian tradition naturally focuses its assessment of any new religious movement in Christological terms, as we have seen in provisional pronouncements upon Unification belief by committees of the National Council of Churches and the Association of Theological Schools. Since Sun Myung Moon launched his mission expressly to unify world Christianity,3 it is inevitable that the most sensitive flash points of discussion would arise within the interpretation of Christ.

In, through and under an immense variegation of terminology and conceptual detail, "Christ," in general, stands for the decisive means by which the purpose of the world is rectified and fulfilled. In historic Christianity as well as in Unification teaching, this decisive means is envisaged in two primary instantiations: (a) the coming of the Christ in First Century Palestine, and (b) his expected return to consummate history. While the dialectical relation between the two instantiations is at the heart of any living Christology attention within our present space shall be addressed to the first, the Christ who has already come, This is not to deny that the most arresting claims of Unificationism arise with respect to the second, that is, the returning Christ.4 Such claims, however, are couched in terms that fundamentally depend upon the Unification understanding of the Christ as the historical Jesus, particularly what he left undone. Hence any responsible effort to comprehend and critically evaluate Unification messianic themes must join discussion at the level of the biblical and classical Christological data, as we now undertake to do.

1. The Humanity of Christ

One of the most deep-seated principles of Unification theology generally is its clear and emphatic recognition that "the providence of restoration cannot be fulfilled by God's power done, but... is to be fulfilled by man's joint action with God."5 It should be underscored what a notably Christological principle this is, In spite of obscurations that have occurred in the classical theological tradition (viz. the virtual theoretical annulment at some points of a real human participation in the salvific process -- as has been tellingly analyzed in our time by Process Theology), it is elemental to the very notion of Christ that the setting free and making whole of the world is a divine and human action. In its widest peripheries this action intends to engage all of us and perhaps all creatures whatever, but its inner core, its definitive paradigm, is the Christ per se. "Christ" means, in other words, God incarnate, God enhistoricized, God enhumanized, God with us (Immanuel). In its very essence it is the anthropic notion, and the dearer it becomes the more firmly both its terms -- the divine and the human -- are articulated. On the foundational witness of the Gospels, such an articulation was achieved in the climactic orthodox formula of full humanity inseparably as well as unconfusedly united with full deity in Christ's person. It was lucidly upheld, to cite another shining example, by St. Anselm in his exposition of Christ's work, in which the question "Why God-man?" (Cur Deus-homo?) cannot be answered except by seeing the integral role of both deity and humanity in the creative and restorative process. In spite of the firm anchorage of this truth in the great landmarks of classical tradition, most scholars would accept D.M. Baillie's judgment6 that it was a special service of the nineteenth century search for the original Jesus to bring an "end to Docetism" and thus vindicate radical humanity as Christologically axiomatic. Assessed along this line, Unification Christology gets high marks for its categorical affirmation of human soteriological responsibility in indefeasible give and take with God's. At the christic center of soteriology this means a theologically healthy predisposition in behalf of Christ's unimpeachable humanity.

2, The Deity of Christ

On the other side of the basic christic formula the situation is less dear, and yet there are in Unificationism propitious elements for a strong thematization also of Christ's deity. As a cardinal premise of such thematization, Unification commitment to a radical God-centeredness is unequivocal. In emphatic opposition to communism as well as the secularist "death of God" strain in recent theology, this continues to be a main plank in the Moonie platform.7 Nor has there been, in general terms, any failure in Unificationism to apply God centeredness to the salvific process, On the contrary, it has been insistently maintained that God is the world's Creator and Restorer in incommensurably greater degree than humanity, whose (indeed real!) "portion of responsibility" is itself grounded in divine will and nature. This determinative theistic note is conspicuous also in the existential religious witness of Moonies. Such a theistic frame of reference is surely pertinent in assessing the broad Christological intentionality of Unificationism, even if it does not ipso facto insure congruence with the orthodox model of Christ's person, at least not immediately or objectively.

At present, Divine Principle stops short of the full traditional affirmation of christic divinity as that was established at Nicaea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon.8 A pivotal formulation of its view is that while Jesus "may well be called God," because he exemplified individual human perfection, "he can by no means be God himself9" This is typologically a "low" Christology of the Antiochean type, as opposed to the "high" one of Alexandrian tradition. In the former, Christ's humanity is substantive and his divinity adjectival; he is the divine man, that is to say, the perfectly God-related or God-indwelt man. In the Alexandrian tradition on the other hand, there is an obverse focus, The humanity is adjectival and the divinity substantive; Christ is the incarnate or enhumaned God. Chalcedon's achievement was to synthesize Antioch and Alexandria, not in logical explanation but nonetheless in faithful affirmation. Unificationism so far does not espouse this synthesis, even though both sides of the dialectic underlying it come to expression in Divine Principle. The latter can aver that it "does not deny the attitude of faith held by many Christians that Jesus is God, since it is true that a perfected man is one body with God."10 This phraseology of the unity of "body" has per se much to recommend it, harmonizing not only with a prime image like Colossians 2:9 11 but also with the pervasive biblical feel for body -- not to speak of its analogical suggestiveness in terms of modem physics and ontology. But though ostensibly saving the phenomenon of the New Testament witness to Christ (on this, its deific side) Divine Principle's mode of predication seems unmistakably intended in the Antiochean sense of Paul of Samosata and dynamic monarchianism, rather than of Nicene and Chalcedonian orthodoxy. What clinches this is the express denial that Christ can be God himself (tantamount prima facie to negating the Nicene homoousios, the "very God of very God"), While it can be said that fulfilled humanity "attains" and "possesses" deity, "feeling exactly what God feels and knowing God's will,"12 the Christological mode of union one must judge to be construed morally or functionally rather than ontologically. Christ, who is rightly seen to be fully human, while flawlessly united with divine purpose, does not really share divine nature as Chalcedon affirms in the idea of the hypostatic or personal union.

Do we confront here, then a basic antithesis between Unificationism and classical Christian orthodoxy? Before jumping to this conclusion, a number of considerations invite attention.

One concerns the overall situation in contemporary theology. Beyond Christendom's multifarious long standing divisions and irrespective of ecumenical progress, it is a commonplace that since mid-century there has occurred a further bewildering break up of theological cohesion. Christology particularly is "up for grabs." Jesus Christ is more or less incontestably the norm of Christian faith, but there is sorely lacking consensus as to what the Christ norm means. The World Council of Churches itself operates under a banner ("Jesus Christ as God and Savior") which in the eyes of many theologians is dubiously orthodox, omitting as it does to register the categorical humanhood of Christ. Mindful of the recent ruckus over Kung and Schillebeeckx, our question here would be whether there remains enough conceptual unison in mainstream theology -- outside, let us say, the Roman magisterium -- to render a credible judgment as to the orthodoxy of the Unification construal of Christ's person. It does not settle this question simply to ascertain literal disparity between the classical creeds and Divine Principle. Only for fundamentalism would that be the case. Mainstream theologians have long recognized that a kind of historical parallax -- a basic displacement in conceptual position -- must be reckoned with in any attempt to state what Nicaea and Chalcedon mean for us today. This is the premise and hermeneutical task of all constructive work in theology and Christology.

One might ask in this whole connection whether Unificationism appears to be any less orthodox regarding Christ's divinity than, for example, such a notable mainstream theologian as Pad Tillich. There is probably no major constructive theologian of modern times at whom the charge of heresy has not been hurled, and certainly Tillich has been so indicted. Nevertheless his reputation is unassailable as one of the "greats" among this century's systematic expositors of historic Christian faith. It was, of course, crucial to the figure Tillich cut in theology that he always evinced a will to stand in the orthodox tradition, that is to say, in what he took to be its authentic depth -- wherefrom he mounted sharp criticism against the pervasive distortions he saw in current would-be versions of the tradition. Does Unificationism similarly manifest a will to valid orthodoxy as the implicit reference of its reforming and unifying zeal? There is evidence in Divine Principle that this is so -- not only generally in the appeal to biblical authority, but with Christological specificity, for example, in not wanting to deny (as cited just above) "the attitude of faith of many Christians that Jesus is God," i.e., the banner of the World Council of Churches. Comparing further, Tillich's theology is also patently Antiochean. Jesus is the Christ inasmuch as he is essential or true humanity under the conditions of existence.13 For Tillich it is synonymous to speak also of Jesus' God-manhood since essential humanness ipso facto embodies a normative God-relationship; where ideal human being is posited so, relationally, is God too. Pad of Samosata could readily have agreed with this. It is likewise quite parallel to Divine Principle's language about Jesus' or anyone's (though till now Jesus was in fact the sole case) perfect humanity being "one body" with God and thus in a manner of speaking God.

Now there are in Tillich's system complementary elements which in significant degree make up for what might otherwise be assessed -- in the specific thematization just adduced -- as a serious Christological shortage.14 These further elements, like additional particles in another ring of the atom, can be and are seen by many as, so to speak, balancing out the evidence of Tillich's orthodox Christian identity, Pivotal in this regard are his trinitarianism, his profound doctrine of sin, and on the basis of these his incamational thrust.15 Essential God-humanhood, or the potentiality of ideal human life (which into itself as a kind of crowning matrix subsumes all finite potentiality), is equivalent to the Logos or second trinitarian persona. This essentiality or potentiality or Logos becomes incarnate when undistortedly instantiated as an existing human being -- an event which, given the measure of the human plight, can only be a miracle of grace. Tillich never resolves the conceptual problems implicit here of so-called subordinationism in the Trinity and of differentiating the divine and human in Christ. But who would claim that anywhere in the tradition these problems have been altogether resolved? The point is simply that the affirmative role played in his thought by such elements greatly helps (in spite of his fairly numerous detractors) to credential Tillich as a mainstream theologian. They show in him a right minded fides implicita even though this may lack adequate Christological explicitation. Would it be too much to claim that a similar situation obtains with respect to most, if not all, individual theologians? Are they not as individuals, if not one-sidedly Antiochean in Christology, then (like Karl Barth) one-sidedly Alexandrian, wherewith their larger orthodoxy, if such can indeed be imputed, is then made out by their attitudinal orientation and such further complementary elements as we have alluded to?

If in any case we now ask whether there are corresponding complementary elements in Unification teaching, the answer is that there are but these so far are not fully developed in terms especially of their Christological implications. Noteworthy are (a) the intuition of the gravity of the human problem -- a very important source, let it be recalled, in Anselm's derivation of the need for the God-man, (b) the envisagement of a superhuman power opposing restoration -- a large factor in the so-called "classical" (Aden) view of Christ's work and its correlative Christology, and (c) an affinity for the biblical theme of divine providence in history -- which, while congenial to narrational process modes of thought, tends to weight Christological reflection against simplistic kinds of Ebionism and Adoptionism and toward a stress on divine involvement.

Divine Principle also has a brief section on the Trinity in which the notion of Logos is adduced and we are told, in a way intriguingly suggestive of Schleiermacher, that "Jesus and the Holy Spirit become one body centered on God."16 This points promisingly in the direction of a doctrine of what is called the "economic" Trinity (the Trinity as historically and salvifically effectuated), but regarding the so-called "immanent" or internal Trinity there is a problem. To use Tillich again as a contrasting example, his fundamental ontology -- aligned with Hegel and Western tradition -- finds immanent trinitarianism spontaneously congenial; the inmost dialectic of God's life (the dynamic of being-itself) is triadic. Hence there is a convenient mutuality in Tillich of economic and immanent Trinity; the two symbolic constellations seem at least prima facie to be mutually supportive. But Divine Principle's fundamental ontology initially is arranged in such terms as the "fourfold position" and the "dual essentialities." Crassly put, we are primordially confronted with 4 and 2, rather than with 3, There is so far lacking, so far as I am aware, a thorough systematic mediation between these prime concepts (owing much, as they do, to such Chinese conceptual roots as the yin-yang motif) and classical Western trinitarianism. Such mediation is certainly not impossible; indeed, the present time is a kairos in which it particularly beckons. As it proceeds there figures to be a generative enrichment in Christological conceptuality -- Unificationist and otherwise.

This occasions the further observation that Unification Christology is obviously still (religionsgeschichtlich) very young and inchoate, or to emphasize the positive, it is just now undergoing vigorous evolution. It is not inconceivable that the express negation of Christ's deity might be annulled; for it could be argued already on Unificationist grounds that this element, which flies in the face of Nicaea and Chalcedon, is gratuitous. Rev. Moon is still speaking, and one hears there is much esoterica which outside interpreters (like myself) have not seen. Moreover, a corps of able younger theologians are devotedly at work parsing and reconceptualizing the emerging parameters of Unification Christology. They are doing this in intense give and take with biblical, classical, and current models. It is not predictable, really, what may become of the trinitarian and other rudiments -- the Logos motif, the accent of providence, the doctrine of deranged human nature and of Satan as superhuman evil to be overcome -- which potentially conspire to generate a strong Christology on the divine as well as the human side. The Unification doctrine of Christ's person, from where it is now, can either diverge more widely from the Christian mainstream or move into dearer synthesis with it.

Which way Unificationism moves will be greatly influenced by the interplay of its own fundamental theological attitude of faith-disposition with those it encounters in the Christian mainstream. If the original Unification thrust, as most definitively given so far in Divine Principle, congeals into an anti-Nicene and anti-Chalcedonian slant, then the gap with the mainstream will widen. But if the classical heritage is appropriated in the spirit of positive demythologization or reinterpretation -- the stance, for example, of Tillich, but also of all creative mediating theologians -- then Unificationists will find themselves, at least at many points, collaborating in the common enterprise of contemporary ecumenical theology. Standing with the classical Christian tradition is, prior to one's specific conceptual lineaments, a choice of existential orientation. At present it seems, in view of the energetic program of advance study and dialogue being undertaken from within Unification theology, that there exists in the latter a potent disposition toward alliance and resynthesize with the Christian heritage. Also crucial, however, will be the response(s) coming from the other side -- from the mainstream tradition. If it is a response dominated by aloofness and defensive rejection, this will exacerbate antithesis and tend to objectify Unification Christology into heresy by defining it as such. If on the other hand, the would-be heirs of biblical and classical Christian faith respond with humility and openness, glad for any opportunity to witness to Christ, seeking with whoever will the truth in love, they may -- while hopefully enlarging their own vision -- significantly facilitate a kind of reconversion of Unification Christology into resonance with the ecumenical mainstream.

3. The Work of Christ and its Incompletion

Yet we may be thinking too fractionally when we envisage an orthodoxizing of Unification Christology without having fully pondered the wider soteriological setting, According to the well-known maxim of Melanchthon, "to know Christ is to know his benefits"; the doctrine of Christ's person cannot be separated from the understanding of his work. However well otherwise disposed to christic orthodoxy, Unificationism could still be unable to harmonize with mainstream Christology what has generally been taken as Divine Principle's view of the failure of Jesus. For the classical thematization of Christ developed as a conceptual doxology to Jesus and his achievement. It was not intended as a hypothetical formula stating what must be conjoint divine-human pivot of salvific process, which might then be applied to the Christ yet to come. Classical Christology emerged rather as a functional ensemble of religious language saying something ultimate about a particular man's life, death, and resurrection. Its communicative intelligibility was and is the same as its faith-validity, namely, its witness that God with Jesus has accomplished our salvation, When something substantively corresponding to that is experienced and believed, classical Christology -- demythologized and reinterpreted but still itself -- remains viable and necessary. On the other hand, when the experience of Jesus as Savior is lacking or severely diminished, the intentionality of Nicaea and Chalcedon becomes otiose and false,

Of course these generalizations cannot offhand yield definite results in our present discussion, because they require qualification in two directions. In one, the fact must be weighed that biblical Christian tradition does not say simply and only that the Christ as Jesus has already accomplished salvation. In spite of the theological position known as "realized eschatology," the dear thrust of the tradition is that some part of the salvific process remains unfulfilled, so that Christ must return to consummate his work. In the other direction, Unificationism does not say simply and only that Jesus failed. On the contrary, there are salient respects in which Divine Principle affirms his achievement. Thus we have in the abstract a possible congruence between the two sets of variables: orthodoxy holds Jesus (a) did succeed, and yet (b) not entirely; Unificationism holds he (x) did not entirely, and yet (y) did succeed. The sums of the pairs of variables are in some way "y." They both add up to what is respectively construed as the full salvation of the world. But how decisive is the proportional difference between the anterior and posterior terms -- between the first and the second instantiations of Christ?

Unificationism teaches that Jesus was divinely sent (a motif counting toward his deity) to bring about the restoration and fulfillment of creation. Now the aim of creation according to Divine Principle embraces the distinct levels of (i) individual perfection, (ii)founding a God-centered family, and (iii) actualizing world dominion, i.e., establishing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.17 Jesus, while attaining the first of these and thus entitled, as noted above, to be regarded as "one body with God," was prevented from accomplishing the latter two. He did not marry and procreate, nor did he establish God's realm throughout the earth. Thus, in a nutshell, it might appear that two-thirds of the messianic task is still outstanding, waiting to be completed by the second christic instantiation.

This arithmetic would be misleading, however, for Unificationism holds that when frustrated in his primary mission Jesus picked up, as it were, an alternative mission also provided by divine providence -- that of dying for the sins of the world. "We can never deny," says Divine Principle, "the magnitude of redemption by the cross."18 It seems in fact that the indemnity rendered by Christ's death, though mainly represented as a back-up plan on God's part, was quite necessary to the salvific process. We are told that "Jesus, who came as the second Adam... had to serve and honor God from the position of being abandoned by him, in order to be able to restore mankind from the bosom of Satan to that of God" and that "herein lies the complex reason that God had to forsake Jesus when he was crucified."19 Since Divine Principle elsewhere claims novel revelatory insight that Jesus did not come into the world to die -- a matter on which it thinks all Christians till now were mistaken,20 there is a strain upon coherency at this point. But this not unusual situation in Christology does show in any event, more of an ambivalence than might first meet the eye in the Unification thematization of Christ's work. Insofar as the passage just quoted is given weight -- and there is a more than negligible line of thought supporting it in Divine Principle -- how can it be said that Jesus failed?

One might therefore speak of the tradition as, indeed, like Divine Principle, recognizing with respect to Jesus two wills and providences of God, one subtending the plenary establishment of the kingdom and the other entailing sacrificial self-offering as exacted by the obduracy of evil which provisionally thwarts the first providence. The first might be said to be willed by God primordially but nonetheless contingently since there is the component of human response. The second we could say to be willed consequently, in view of the fact of human sin and guilt that actually arises,24 Historically this would be the infra-lapsarian position, to which the Unification view is dearly akin. However, instead of construing the phases of divine will in temporal sequence, theological tradition has in the main integrated them logically as a complex providential unity, in effect opting for a kind of dialectical supra-lapsarianism. This avoids a bifurcation of divine intentionality which Christian consciousness has increasingly tended to find abhorrent, In the last analysis, both infra- and supra-lapsarianism express something essential in the Christian self-consciousness, as both are likewise transcended by the aporias of eternity and time and grace and freedom. Here, as at other points, what might appear to be an impasse between Unificationism and tradition can also be seen as an unresolved struggle within both.

But if Divine Principle is not as novel as it assumes on Jesus' destiny of the cross, it does diverge sharply from tradition in assigning major responsibility for Jesus' failure to John the Baptist. "Since the time of Jesus till the present," we are told, "no one has been able to reveal this heavenly secret."25 What now makes the insight possible is said to be an abandonment of the fear "to remove old traditional concepts," enabling a more accurate reconstruction from the biblical data, which is corroborated by occult communication.26 Yet, whatever hermeneutics might make of the methodology, it is not out of line with mode m research into the Baptist to conclude that there was, far more than the received stereotype would suggest, a complex tension between his movement and that of Jesus. In a broad sense, therefore, Divine Principle can hardly be gainsaid in theorizing that John failed to prepare the way of Christ in the measure that he might have. Not only is this historically plausible, it also accords with the theological insight that the "Christ event" is perforce more inclusive than Jesus in isolation.27 Thus what constituted the event as itself, what caused it to succeed so far as it did succeed or fail if it did fail, was undoubtedly in appreciable degree John the Baptist. We can recognize here once more a healthy tendency in Divine Principle to envisage in the salvific process a genuine human contingency, one rightly seen to be inevitably social even at its nucleus. The work of Christ, concentrated decisively in Jesus, nevertheless involves in preparation, execution, and extension -- and certainly in fruition and frustration -- what perhaps finally is the whole company of history. Patently, as types of the rest of us, it engages those dramatis personae who are center stage with the main protagonist.

Now if something like this is consistent with Divine Principle's insight into the role of the Baptist, it is only fair to ask if it is not likewise the witness of the classical Christian mainstream. Does not the latter also say that the flawless input to God's realm of Jesus' own will and effort was and still is conditioned positively and negatively by all the vicissitudes and characters of the human drama? The work of Christ thus is complete (= perfect) in Jesus and incomplete wherever else we look. But if so the question would be: why pick out the Baptist so egregiously? What about Judas, or Mary, or Peter, or oneself? A vivid insight can be forfeited if overdrawn. This is not to deny that Divine Principle, with its frequent flashes of historical intuition, can make us more sharply aware of a lack of coordination between John and Jesus. But the fundamental principle of the human "portion of responsibility," anchored in the Christ's own real humanity and distributed through the whole web of his interpersonal relations, would be obfuscated by individuated scapegoating. The tradition itself incurs this danger in its stereotype of Judas. To the Baptist, without precluding the ambiguity research divulges, it still attributed the predominant image of witness. Would it be too much to suggest that, with a kind of synthetic or integral -- as opposed to the more differential calculus -- of Divine Principle, the classical witness shows here again a tendency to take up provisional failure into paradoxical victory -- a dialectic historically concretized in the key moments of Cross and Resurrection? John, for all the blemishes of his own martyrdom, addresses the summed-up human question to Jesus (Matt. 11:3) and becomes a saint -- a specially honored cooperator in the complete and incomplete work of Christ.

4, The Resurrection of Christ

From even so cursory a treatment of our subject as here undertaken we can hardly disengage without touching finally upon the Resurrection in its own right. Methodologically this is awkward, since we set out under the limitation of addressing the first as distinguished from the second instantiation of Christ, But the distinction between these instantiations -- in spite of its plausibility and necessity -- is in the Christian mainstream bridged and modified, if not blurred and annulled, precisely by the Resurrection, Besides, if in general theological forum Christology is, as we said, "up for grabs," this is a fortiori true of the conceptualizing of the Resurrection, Nevertheless, in looking back to the first epiphany of Christ, we seem at least prima facie to confront in the theme of Jesus' rising from the grave perhaps the most blatant of all the differences between Unificationist and mainstream interpretation. For it is a commonplace of mode m scholarship that, however the event of Resurrection may or may not be understood, it -- or at least belief in it -- was absolutely crucial to the birth of Christianity. But Unificationism, on the other hand, though it does envisage his spirit in paradise, appears not to predicate resurrection of Jesus at all.28

In the tradition the Resurrection of Jesus means (i) that his kingdom-inaugurating mission, mediated now through the Holy Spirit or Living Christ, continues in spite of and in fact by virtue of the Cross, looking ahead to his return at the end of the present evil age; (ii) that the person of Jesus is validated (raised to God's right hand) as enduring norm of the christic and salvific process; and (iii) that there is in what God does with the Cross a triumph over the negativity of sin and death. Let us compare these points sequentially with Unification teaching.

Obviously nothing is more basic to Unificationism than the teaching that Jesus' failure to found the kingdom in the First Century does not amount to permanent defeat for God. The mission continues, structured now by a rather elaborate scheme of providential episodes (which give meaning to intervening history), but expedited by the Holy Spirit and the Living Christ.29 At the end of the present age the second christic instantiation will establish the kingdom on earth. How, then, does this differ from the mainstream view? One idea put forward by Divine Principle is that the intervening work, between the first and second epiphanies of Christ, is spiritual only; wherefore physical renewal must await the procreative input of the Lord (and Lady) of the Second Advent. Yet it is also acknowledged, as Christian tradition would certainly maintain, that "spiritual changes... sanctify the human body... transforming it... to the temple where God may dwell."30 And it also appears that the incorporation of persons into the unified family of the Second Advent is not construed in any literally genetic way, but rather volitionally and spiritually -- though this certainly has its communal, institutional, and material aspects. But how then, in principle, does this differ from the mainstream?

Perhaps what we listed as the Resurrection's second traditional meaning is the crucial sticking point. Mainstream Christianity unequivocally posits Jesus as the enduringly normative Christ, whereas Unificationism appears to teach that the Lord of the Second Advent, while filling the same christic office, will be a separate and distinct human individual. Yet here too the seeming antithesis invites careful mediation. On the side of the mainstream, it could hardly be claimed that in theology today there is any conceptual unanimity at all as to how the subjective individuality of Jesus perdures in unison with the christic process. Indeed, there is no one way this was ever settled in tradition either, although a broad consensus has existed and does -- within Catholicism, the World Council, Orthodoxy, and the Evangelical groups -- that the character of Jesus, his personal attributes of sacrificial humility, of righteous and forgiving love, are indefeasibly the marks of Christ. On the side of Unificationism, however, it would not seem to be denied that this is the case, whereupon the question would become whether the putative Lord of the Second Advent does in fact manifest the character in question. A categorical continuity, in any event, is posited between Jesus in the heavenly sphere and the one appointed as the new messiah in that Jesus reportedly calls and commissions and continues to communicate with him. Is this not in fact a symbolic way of expressing his identity or unison with Jesus? Moreover, in Divine Principle's notion of spirit persons being resurrected in those presently living on earth,31 there is a suggestive analogy for the matter in hand, the Lord of the Second Advent could be construed as the Resurrection of Jesus, the delayed parousia, of which the New Testament appearances of the Risen One would then be the prolepsis. Divine Principle does not propose this, partly no doubt because of a different initial tack taken in the elucidation of resurrection which makes it awkwardly inappropriate for Jesus.32 It would be a fairly superficial matter to revise the preclusive definition of resurrection (which in any case wants systematization with other connections within Divine Principle). But a deeper intuition may be at stake. The Unification movement may at bottom not be able to understand and constitute itself in terms of continuing lordship (supreme normativeness) of Jesus Christ. It may -- in answer to the Baptist's question in Matthew 11:3 -- finally turn out to be looking for another. As we suggested in discussing the classical creeds and the work of Christ, that and only that would decide the issue. There are those who say Unificationism is a Christian heresy, just as it says in effect that Christendom will become heresy if it rejects the returning Christ. Heresy (from heredein) means firmly making up the mind. But is this firm deciding already done? Or are we right now still openly on the way to it? Obviously this essay believes there are significant senses, at least, in which the latter is the situation.

The third point of comparison promised above would concern the Resurrection as overcoming the negativity that is epitomized in the Cross: that is, the sway of sin and death -- of injustice, meaninglessness, unlove, the destruction of persons. Both Unificationism and the Christian mainstream affirm this as God's aim and promise, for which the creation still groans and travails (Romans 8:22). Both see it as implemented by the indemnity of Jesus' Cross and the coming of the Spirit, though tradition couples the Spirit with an already witnessed Resurrection while this term is reserved by Unificationism for what will come. The issue is: how able to cope with sin and death is the Christ we know, the Christ of our own most personal witness? And the other side of this is Bonhoeffer's question: who is Christ for us today? Patently we have here a common ball park, even if we stand on relatively different sides. It would patently be as heretical to deny Christ's return as to deny his first epiphany and enduring lordship. Hopefully the dialogical interaction about this can proceed with a fairness, openness and mutual love that the risen and returning Christ, as in Matthew 25, would recognize and own.


1 One has in mind the wide-ranging dialogue being engendered by the Unification Theological Seminary and the Unification Church. The theological initiative of this open-ended program is remarkable. Still in its initial formative phases, Unification theology deliberately seeks to conceptualize and recognize itself in critical give and take with the entire contemporary theological and philosophical spectrum. For representative example of this burgeoning dialogue see Richard Quebedeaux and Rodney Sawatsky, eds., Evangelical-Unification Dialogue (Barrytown, New York: Unification Theological Seminary, Distributed by Rose of Sharon Press, Inc., 1979) and M. Darrol Bryant and A. Durwood Foster, eds., Hermeneutics and Unification Theology (Barrytown, N.Y.: Unification Theological Seminary, Distributed by the Rose of Sharon Press, Inc., 1980).

2 Divine Principle, 5th ed. (Washington: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1977), p. 205.

3 Reverend Moon's organization emerged as the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, As time has gone by, without relinquishing the aim thus posited, the intentionality of the term "unification" has seemed to become increasingly universal, embracing all religions as well as the sphere of the secular.

4 I have dealt preliminarily with interpretive problems involved in these claims in a forthcoming article, "Christology and Hermeneutics, especially regarding Dialogue with Unification Theology," in Frank Flinn, ed., Hermeneutics and Horizons: The Shape of the Future (Barrytown, N.Y.: Unification Theological Seminary, Distributed by Rose of Sharon Press, Inc. 1981).

5 Divine Principle, p. 283.

6 D. M. Baillie, God Was in Christ (Scribner's, 1951), esp. Ch. II.

7 Ignoring this point, many liberals have read Unification anticommunism simply as socio-economic conservatism. The conclusion seems precipitous, though it is true that the movement has yet to elaborate an economics and theory of society.

8 Young Oon Kim, in her engrossing give and take with modern theology, Unification Theology and Christian Thought (New York: Golden Gate, 1978), p. 142, states that "In an age of theological reconstruction... like our own, Nicasa and Chalcedon look like moss-covered gravestones over a very dead past," Though its view of Christ's person is also sub-Nicene, such a decided negative tone toward classical Christology does not characterize Divine Principle. The less renunciatory mood of the latter, which is quasi-canonical as no other Unification statement is, may encourage the rising generation of Moonie theologians to approach the Christological tradition with a more conciliatory attitude than that evinced in Dr. Kim's book. Cf. Jonathan Wells, "Unification Hermeneutics and Christology," and Anthony Guerra, "The Historical Jesus and Divine Principle," in Flinn.

9 Divine Principle, pp. 210-11

10 Divine Principle, p. 209

11 "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (RSV).

12 Divine Principle, pp. 43,140-41

13 Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, (University of Chicago Press, 1957), III, esp. pp. 138 ff; for further on Tillich, see below.

14 To be sure, some critics of Tillich have, like George Tavard in his Paul Tillich and the Christian Message (New York: Scribner's, 1962), not been willing to accept the proposed compensation. Tavard regards Tillich's literal disparity with Chalcedon as a fatal flaw in his would-be orthodoxy.

15 Perhaps even more decisive is Tillich's dear assertion of the permanent normative bonding through the Resurrection of Jesus as the Christ with the salvific process, the "power of the new being" in Tillichian parlance. I have called attention to this point vis-a-vis Unification theology in my essay in Flinn.

16 Flinn, p, 217

17 Divine Principle, pp. 42-46, passim.

18 Divine Principle, p. 142.

19 Divine Principle, p. 226.

20 Divine Principle, p. 152. A detailed theological analysis of Divine Principle's coherence has to my knowledge not been undertaken.

21 Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus (London: Black, 1910), passim. Divine Principle agrees that the first strategy foundered on the failure (which it blames on John the Baptist) to find requisite faith in Israel, but it does not follow Schweitzer in attributing to Jesus the thought of then compelling the Kingdom through his death.

22 A fine example is William Temple, Nature, Man and God (London: Macmillan, 1938). Also deserving mention is the chess game analogy which goes back at least to William James. God, the master player, continuously shifts strategy to overcome the wiles of those who would thwart the divine goal of salvation.

23 Yet Divine Principle's tendency to prescribe marriage as humanly essential -- by stipulating Adam and Eve rather than Jesus as the original human norm -- is a latent problem in this regard. It tends in spite of everything to undermine the image of Jesus as perfect humanity. Contrastingly, the tradition recognizes and blesses marriage and parenthood as communally integral to human history while not required for the ideal fulfillment of the individual per se.

24 Among recent writers Leslie Weatherhead has proposed distinctions with respect to divine will that broadly correspond with these. Cf. The Will of God (New York: Abingdon, 1944).

25 Divine Principle, p. 163

26 Divine Principle, p. 163,

27 John Knox was particularly effective in making this point. Cf., for example, On the Meaning of Christ (New York: Scribner's, 1947)

28 Divine Principle, Ch. V passim. In view of requirements of the modern intellect (p. 165), which knows the human body is not designed to live forever (p. 168), Divine Principle offers an elucidation of resurrection which in itself is a rather engaging piece of demythologization but which awkwardly results in a determination of the concept (as rest oral from sin) which could not apply to Jesus, whose soul or spirit forfeits its body to Satan and goes to Paradise. To be sure, issues of coherency arise in respect to other passages in Divine Principle. For example, pp. 388-9 speak of Christians "setting up the resurrected Jesus as their object of faith," and of the "40-day resurrection period." Moreover, the view of Jesus' body as captured by Satan (p. 148), which prevents the achievement of the physical kingdom, seems to betray a latent need for the classical meaning of resurrection, Then too it is admitted (p. 172) that restoral of the spirit to God does after all entail spiritual changes, and that thus "in that sense it may be said that the physical body is also resurrected," Additionally there is the intriguing theme of the resurrection of those who have gone to the spirit world as they descend upon and assist, in the last days (primarily), enfleshed persons of the contemporary earth. This will occur in, through and around the messianic return. Divine Principle seems close here to seeing the Lord of the Second Advent as, not just the reactivator of the christic office, but the Resurrection of Jesus. Cf. below.

29 Divine Principle, p. 216f., and Part II, passim.

30 Divine Principle, p. 172.

31 Divine Principle, pp. 187-91

32 See footnote 28, above. 

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