Evangelical - Unification Dialogue
Rod Sawatsky: I think that we should spend half an hour talking to each other about this kind of dialogue experience. We don't want to discuss the theological issues as such, but rather what this kind of experience means to us. Richard is going to start us off, and then maybe some of you can chime in, as you will.
Richard Quebedeaux: Some of you may not realize that I am a very passionate person, (laughter) I'm a Calvinist, but I've got to read you something from John Wesley, because I really like this. It's from a little thing he wrote called, "What Are the Distinguishing Marks of a Methodist?" What really is a Methodist anyway? It reads: The distinguishing marks of a Methodist are not his opinions of any sort. His assenting to this or that scheme of religion, his embracing any particular set of notions, his espousing the judgment of one man or of another, are all quite wide of the point...
Nor, lastly, is he distinguished by laying the whole stress of religion on any single part of it... By salvation he means holiness of heart and life. And this he affirms to spring from true faith alone. Can even a nominal Christian deny it?...
... A Methodist is one who has "the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him;"...
And while he thus always exercises his love to God, by praying without ceasing, rejoicing evermore, and in every thing giving thanks, this commandment is written in his heart, "That he who loveth God, love his brother also." And he accordingly loves his neighbor as himself; he loves every man as his own soul. His heart is full of love to all mankind, to every child of "the Father of the spirits of all flesh." That a man is not personally known to him, is no bar to his love; no, nor that he is known to be such as he approves not, that he repays hatred for his good will. For he "loves his enemies;" yea, and the enemies of God, "the evil and the unthankful."...
The love of God has purified his heart from all revengeful passions, from envy, malice, and wrath, from every unkind temper or malign affection. It hath cleansed him from pride and haughtiness of spirit, whereof alone cometh contention. And he hath now "put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering:" so that he "forebears and forgives, if he had a quarrel against any; even as God in Christ hath forgiven him."...
By consequence, whatsoever he doeth, it is all to the glory of God. In all his employments of every kind, he not only aims at this (which is implied in having a single eye), but actually attains it...
... He thinks, speaks, and lives, according to the method laid down in the revelation of Jesus Christ. His soul is renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and in all true holiness...
... And I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that we be in no wise divided among ourselves. Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thine? I ask no farther question. If it be, give me thy hand. For opinions, or terms, let us not destroy the work of God. Dost thou love and serve God? It is enough. I give thee the right hand of fellowship1...
I think that's the most powerful ecumenical statement I've ever seen.
There is one other thing that I hope for all Evangelicals; I've been thinking about this for years. We Evangelicals must recognize that no matter how convinced we are that we have the truth, biblically speaking, no one is promised all of the truth in this life. We see through a glass darkly. Others: Catholics, liberal Protestants, and maybe I should say Moonies, too, may have as much to teach the Evangelicals as we them. God is the ultimate judge of all our theologies, and Jesus has commanded us to love everyone whether Liberal, Evangelical, Moonie, atheist -- even our enemies. As an Evangelical -- now I speak only for myself -- I really have lacked in love. Let me tell you what you Unification people have taught me and how you have affected me. Eight months ago, I wanted to pretend that you didn't exist. I got sick and tired of walking across the Cal Berkeley campus and Telegraph Avenue and having people walk up to me with those "glaring eyes," wanting to walk with me all the way across campus. It was a very un-Christian attitude on my part. I really wanted to treat you as non-persons; not that I hated you, but I just wished you weren't there. Then I met one of you -- which is always the key -- who was a very persuasive person and very "non-Moonie" in my stereotype. He was auditing a class I was teaching in the G.T.U. and he knew I had a new book in press, so he said, "Why don't you go back to Barrytown and lecture on your new book?" I said, "That's interesting," and he said, "O.K., I'll arrange it." So he arranged it, yet I really didn't want to go because I thought, "Oh, God, how boring." (laughter) But I had to go meet Bill Bright in Washington, D.C, and it was nice to get my way paid, (laughter) So I thought, I'd go and spend a few boring days in Barrytown, and then I'd have my way paid to the East Coast. Besides, it wouldn't be all that much work. So I came here expecting to be terribly bored. I never really cared about your theology because it's hard to get me interested in anything. I get bored rather easily.
So I came here and wasn't bored at all -- not one minute -- and to think that Stillson Judah, who's been working on me for a year, was right! You people are very interesting. The truth of what he'd been trying to say to me about you people started to become clear to me. I do have a passion against injustice. I left here feeling very, very bad about what I consider the media's unjust treatment of you. But it was really more than that, because I found something here that I've never found anywhere, and I've had a lot of experience with Christian groups and other religious groups. There was a phrase, I think, in Sontag's book that said he thought that you were the nicest people he'd ever met. Now, I looked at that and said: big deal! We all have people that we can say that about. But it's true. More importantly, I have never seen a place where agape is worked out so well. That is quite an admission since I've had a lot of experience, and I'm very critical and very skeptical. What I mean by agape is the kind of genuine hospitality and concern that really comes across here.
Secondly, I'm really impressed because, as an Evangelical, I've spoken a lot about trying to do something about justice in our society but I personally haven't done much. Like a lot of other people, I talk a lot. But I have always been concerned that we Evangelical believers do something about our beliefs: that we put our faith into action in terms of the suffering world. I see that you're trying to do that. Theologically and intellectually, I think you're wrong. I cannot accept your doctrines intellectually, but emotionally I feel you're right, which is kind of a paradox. I'm very glad I'm not in the position to judge, because I do think that when we meet our Maker, we're going to be surprised by who else is there! (laughter)
Seriously, I am extremely impressed by your openness. I have always felt that one of the marks of a mature Christian is the ability to be self-critical, and even beyond that, the ability to laugh at oneself. Your seminary here must be unique in the world. I've never seen another seminary that would allow, much less recruit faculty on the basis of who's the best they can get, without worrying that a given faculty person might perhaps destroy the faith of a student. You're not afraid to be opposed, to have dialogue, even with people you strongly disagree with. According to my information, there are few conservatives in liberal seminaries and in conservative seminaries, there are no liberals. But you're not afraid to have people of different kinds of faith, and that really impresses me. In conclusion, I could say that I have always been a person who has appreciated the Christian command to love everybody, but I've not been able to do it, by a long shot. I love my friends, but I don't love most other people, and I know that's not right; but you challenge me. I really do love you, not because I feel I have to, but because I think you deserve all of our love. And even though you may be heretics-let God make that decision -- I am really glad you're around, and I think that the world's going to be a better place because of your presence here.
Jonathan Wells: I doubt if I can match that, but I will say a few things from the Unification side. A few years ago, when many of us here joined the Unification church, we came from all kinds of strange backgrounds -- Christian, atheist, agnostic, neo-Buddhist, Hindu, etc. When I joined the church and went out on the street and witnessed to people about the Divine Principle, I was totally unprepared for the Evangelical onslaught that I got. Quite frankly, I think it's a common experience for Unification church members to develop a very deep resentment toward Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. I can remember an afternoon in Burlington, Vermont, when I had a little portable blackboard set up on a street corner, and I was lecturing on the Divine Principle. A crowd of young people gathered and some of them were Evangelicals and some of them were communists. The Evangelicals had their objections to what I was saying, and the communists had their objections. And by the time they finished mocking and persecuting me, the Evangelicals and the communists were embracing each other in their mutual hatred of me. And I was just trying to teach people about God. This is why our members quite commonly distrust Evangelicals. Of course, not all Evangelicals do this, but I just want you to know that this does occur. So when Richard set up this conference, my first reaction was gladness that I wasn't going to be in on this one. But I began to get interested in the idea when I read Richard's book, The Worldly Evangelicals. As I read the book, I realized that actually I had a lot of respect for the people Richard was writing about; in fact, I admired and loved them. I ended up asking to be part of this conference. I looked forward to it. For me it has been a real eye-opener, and I feel like I've grown a lot in Christian love.
When I look at America today, I see a lot of dying churches and a lot of people dying spiritually, and a lot of militant activists who hate God; except maybe for the Unification church, the only group that seems to be doing a whole lot about it is the Evangelicals, and I think it's great. I think that's what it's going to take to save this world. I think your theology is wrong. I think you'd do better to read the Divine Principle and realize that Christ is coming in the flesh again. But I know you're not going to walk out of here with that opinion. At least -- and this will have to suffice -- I feel a real bond of common purpose, of working to bring people to God. And, as Richard said, I think when we finally do meet God, all of us are going to be surprised. I expect to be. God's always surprising me. So I'm really glad you came, and I want to thank you on behalf of everybody here.
Warren Lewis: I'm a little bit surprised at what I am about to say. This isn't what I rehearsed at all. I doubt I can get through it and keep my dignity. Surely you have noticed that an awful lot of what I've had to say was motivated by a very deep bitterness. One of the reasons for that bitterness is that I'm a church historian. I know the history of the church so well that I hate, with Christ's passion, what you Evangelicals stand for. I hate what you've done to one another through history and what a lot of your people would be willing to do to these Moonies right now. Evangelicals have done it to me in my personal history, as they sat there in their smugness with their scriptural proof-texts and lowered their axes, and said, "I love you personally, brother Lewis, but I don't agree with your doctrine; so get the hell out of my church." Frankly, I just don't trust you to walk out of this room and treat these people honorably. Members of the Unification church have been interviewed by all three major networks, French TV, Time and Newsweek; they are met with smiling faces and then are stabbed in the back as the editors fix it to suit themselves. I am deeply bitter. I'm not bitter because I am a Moonie, which I am not, and never will become one, but because I just see it all happening again. I could provide you more historical examples than you want to hear. Consider this patchwork unity that you talked about. Have you forgotten, Brother Baptist, that these Presbyterians and Lutherans conspired to drown you and your wife in the 16th century? And that was after they got through burning one another at the stake. As Evangelist Spurgeon said, "The only reason we Baptists have never persecuted anybody is because we've never been bigger than anybody." So now the Moonies take their turn to be the new kid on the block, and everybody gangs up against them. Persecution doesn't prove their theology, right or wrong; it's just that old human thing over and over again. Philosophically, I suppose I shouldn't be so bitter. It's just that it is in the name of the Prince of Peace that we keep doing it. It's the greatest argument against the existence of God I know. So, what I'm doing is asking you, because I'm a Christian, to pray for me, and forgive me for how much I hate you, for what you've done to one another, and for what I have done to other people in the name of the Bible, and in Jesus' name. The only way I know to exorcise this is to confess it. [long silence]
Rod Sawatsky: Would anybody like to make any comments?
Johnny Sonneborn: Jesus taught us to pray for our faults, to be forgiven as we forgive other people. Once we know that, and do it, then we will be forgiven.
Nora Spurgin: I'll just say one last thing regarding this conference. At some point during the conference, I felt that what I believed and felt was too precious to share with you. I wasn't trying to evade your questions. When I walked home, the biblical phrase "throwing pearls before swine" -- pardon the expression -- it kept running through my mind. I often felt my faith wouldn't or couldn't be appreciated by someone who did not have the same convictions. But then I realized that you must feel the same way. We are intellectualizing about Jesus and His work, and you must feel as though you, too, are throwing your pearls before swine. I hope that we can come to the end of the conference with at least an appreciation of each other, not necessarily believing what each other believes, but with a real appreciation for each other's beliefs. I hope we will feel that we are sharing some deeply meaningful parts of one another's hearts. Each of us has a faith that's very, very deep and precious. So I want you to know that I appreciate your convictions and what you're doing. I also apologize for those many times when we didn't do justice to what you were feeling.
Paul Eshleman: I was sharing briefly with someone else this afternoon about what my reaction is going to be after leaving here. I think it speaks to the things that Warren has raised. I will go back, and since three thousand Campus Crusade staff know that I've been here, the issue will be, "My goodness, you went to Barrytown, and you got out?" Who knows what they'll say? I want you to know what my conclusions will be and what I'll say to them. First of all, I would say I believe that there are some Unification church members who know and love Jesus Christ and are Christians. I would also say that there are numbers who aren't. I believe beyond that, that Unification doctrine is all screwed up. But I can't be any more condemning of Moonies whose doctrine I think is all screwed up than I am of the Presbyterians in my church who don't believe in the virgin birth.
So, therefore, I come to you to say, and not flippantly, Warren, that I do love you, and I want you to know that. At the same time, I think it's become very clear to me why in the Evangelical world there have been so many bitter attacks on the Unification church. It's simply because nobody has ever taught an Evangelical how to deal with a person who seems to be cutting the heart out of everything that we Evangelicals believe. An Evangelical can feel much more compassion for a prostitute who is having trouble with faith, or a drug addict, or a drunk, than for somebody who says something that would indicate that Christ is less than God, that He didn't quite do everything that He should have done. It's like saying that everything your whole life stands for isn't good enough and it's not really true and it's not enough. If that's what you're giving your whole life for and working twenty-four hours a day for and you have left everything to follow Christ, and somebody tells you that; and if you've poured your life into a number of people, and someone comes and tries to lead them away, you're heartbroken and you don't respond with God's love in those situations. I think one of the great lessons that all Evangelicals need to learn is simply that God has commanded us to love in every situation, no matter what. I think there's another role that I must play as a leader in Campus Crusade for Christ. I have a responsibility for those God has placed under my leadership. And so I must say I don't believe that what the Unification church teaches is biblical. In my role as a leader, I warn, as the apostles warned those with whom they were, not to pay attention to certain teachings. But, you see, I think that's something different from backstabbing. That's what I go away from this conference with, the prayer that I can communicate.
Lloyd Howell: I hope that people in Campus Crusade can listen to or talk with us. That has been a problem. Their faith is solid and so is ours. Part of the problem has been an unwillingness on both sides to talk. We just built walls which excluded each other and God. You could recommend that people in Campus Crusade talk to us and not just see us as zombies.
Paul Eshleman: That's going to be a challenge on the street level. Maybe I should say that I've seen your camp -- come see mine.
Lloyd Howell: We have a lot to change, too, and repent about. We have to love in every situation also. I can say that I haven't and I repent for that.
Joseph Hopkins: Well, Warren has asked that we pray for him. I would like to ask that we pray for each other and pray together before we part.
Rod Sawatsky: That's a very good suggestion. I was going to suggest that myself unless somebody else has something they'd like to add.
Virgil Cruz: I have appreciated very much the summing up that we've all done. In addition to drawing those kinds of conclusions from the conference, I think I also operate on a person-to-person basis. I've talked with a number of you while I've been here. I guess I've talked mostly with Dan and Pat and Jonathan and others and that's meant an awful lot to me. People are the thing. It's been really great to know you. When I put a face on something, I put names with that face, and it changes the whole thing for me. I don't accept your doctrine -- I hope I've made that clear (laughter) -- but I want you to know that I accept vow, and I can also say that I love you.
Dan Davies: I'd like to say one thing. I won't be happy until every one in the Unification movement has the experience of Christian love you have. I've been working for that.
Roy Carlisle: As an editor, I usually get the last word. I don't know if I will tonight, but I do have to tell you that when I first shared my testimony, I said that I came because the only thing I'd ever seen was hundreds of pages of anti-Moonie material. Hence, I felt led to be here to observe and to increase my own sense of understanding in order to maintain my integrity as an editor. I know I'm going to be challenged in the months to come. I want you to know that I have come away from this event with a new awareness of your human and spiritual vitality and integrity. My prayer is that as a person and in my role as an editor I will be faithful to God. I hope that I can maintain that sense of responsibility and fairness in my job. It's a responsibility that I live with twenty-four hours a day, because a book, frankly, can change lives in a way that almost nothing else can. So that's a weight and responsibility -- and I'm grateful for what you've meant to me. I thank you for it.
Rod Sawatsky: When we went around introducing ourselves, I said I was neither liberal, nor Evangelical, nor Moonie. I guess I'm probably still there; Warren and I share that in common. I still also believe that in terms of the future of the church -- despite all that Warren has said, and also as a student of the church -- I put a great deal of faith in the evangelical movement. This confidence has been reconfirmed here because of the new dynamics and new life which are obviously emanating from some leaders in the evangelical movement. At the same time, I also see some new light and new life, coming from the Unification movement. I hope the Evangelicals can take that seriously, and, as well, that Unificationists can take seriously the strengths of the Evangelicals. I think the Evangelicals have much to teach Unification, and since Unification thought is in process, there may be some coming together down the road.
Earlier I wrote a little article for Theology Today on the conversations which were held last year, and I concluded in a way which, I think, still holds true for these conversations: Indeed, we found that communication, dialogue if you wish, is something Unification members anticipate with great enthusiasm. Isn't this the better way to respond to a new religion, rather than bringing out all the old techniques out of the Inquisition, under modern guises like deprogramming? Or is the more orthodox Christian church too insecure to listen before reacting in hostility? The process of conversation may well reintroduce the category of heresy as functional in contemporary Christian theology, and it may well force greater clarity on critical issues in modern Christian thought. Conversation with Unification will possibly reconfirm traditional Christianity in its understandings of human nature and human destiny, and reinvigorate the church in its proclamation of the gospel. If so. Rev. Moon may indeed be a providential personage. Maybe not exactly as he foresaw it, but at any rate, as God would have it!2
If there are no other comments, I think that we might pray together. If two or three would like to offer some words, I'll conclude.
Paul Eshleman: Lord, Jesus, You've said that wherever two or three are gathered together in Your name, that You're in their midst, and so we thank You for being present with us this evening. We ask that we might have learned in these last days together how very, very important it is that we love one another, and that truly, all men would know that we are Your disciples, because we do have love for one another. You cause us moment by moment to walk in Your love as we reach out to so many people in this world that have never met you yet, and don't know the living God.
Joseph Hopkins: Father, we thank You for these days together. Thank You for the bonds of love which have been developed among us and between us. We pray that we may learn to be more loving and more tolerant of those who believe differently than we do. Help us to have a genuine love for every person in this room, and to carry that love with us wherever we go. We do pray for Warren, as he requested. You know the hurts he has suffered, and You know the truth of that which he described to us. We confess our sins of intolerance and bigotry, our lack of compassion and understanding for one another. We pray that we may grow in the Christ-like spirit and in the knowledge of Your truth. We thank You for the promise that if we seek after You sincerely, You will reward our search for You and for truth. So bless us all and help us to devote ourselves to loving and serving You and one another, as we seek to grow in the likeness of Christ, and to achieve our common goal of building a better world. This we pray in His name.
Nora Spurgin: My beloved Heavenly Father, Your presence in this room is so beautiful. The love which flows among us, Father, is beautiful. Father, I pray now that this love can flow, can be fluid enough, that You can teach each one of us Your will for our lives, and what You want us to do in terms of leading other people's lives. Thank You.
Jonathan Wells: Dear Heavenly Father, we confess our sinfulness and ignorance before You. We're so sorry that we've been unable to love each other as You've wanted us to. Heavenly Father, every person in this room wants most of all to see Your sovereignty established on this earth, and everyone in this room wants to see Your Son, Jesus Christ, receive the full measure of glory which He was denied 2,000 years ago. He sacrificed His life for us, and we rejected Him. Heavenly Father, please forgive us.
Rod Sawatsky: Our God, we are not sure how to pray together. We're not sure how to pray together because our understandings of Your revelation to us differ. They differ rather widely and the chasms are fairly deep. Yet we know that You area God of love, and that we share that love and are called to share that love. We do not ask for bridges over chasms that are artificial or false, but we do ask for light where there is relative darkness; we do ask for truth; we do ask for the infilling of Your Holy Spirit to guide us; and we do thank You for what we have together, and we know that ultimately the end is Yours. May we be Your servants to Your honor and glory in the way, the best way we can at present know Your will in our own and different ways. Thank You for bringing us together, dismiss us with Thy blessings, send travel mercies to those who go a distance. Be with the students as they write their exams and guide them in their summer activities. We pray these things together in the name of our common Father, our God, Yahweh, Amen.
1 John Wesley, Selections from the Writings of the Rev. John Wesley, compiled by Herbert Welch, Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1942, pp. 292-302.
2 Rodney Sawatsky, "Dialogue with the Moonies," Theology Today. April, 1978, v. 35, no. 1, p. 91.