Exploring Unification Theology Edited by M. Darrol Bryant and Susan Hodges

The Unification Movement And Christian Traditions

Dr. Richardson: Darrol has suggested that we talk about the relationship of Unification theology to the Christian tradition. I would like to make a suggestion. The theoretical question, it seems to me, is this: should one evaluate the things we're hearing today under Christology or ecclesiology? That's the question. I suppose one could argue the matter either way. Now, my inclination is to think that what we're dealing with here is not Christology, but ecclesiology. That is, we're dealing with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, not the doctrine of Christ. Why is that the case? Because, essentially, what we're hearing is a theory about the organization of a visible community, and that's very much associated with categories of end-time and perfection which are traditionally Holy Spirit categories. I can see that to some extent this matter runs over into Christology, too. But, to put it another way, if one is asked to make a theological evaluation of the movement, I think that the fairest thing to do would be to think about it first of all under the doctrine of the Spirit, the doctrine of the Church. Thus we should think first about the communal aspect of it and not move immediately to talk about the figure of Rev. Moon and to whether he is or isn't a Christ figure, partly because, as Farley says, the Christological category is actually a secondary category. The important category is Adam, the New Adam.

My own theological reflection is something like this. I'm inclined to think that this group is within the Christian tradition. Unification theology is helping us in developing the doctrine of the Spirit in the Church, a kind of nineteenth and twentieth century problem tied up with the problem of eschatology. Speaking from a more orthodox perspective, the focus on the doctrine of the Spirit in the Church has always resulted in a certain inattention to, deformation of, its Christology. I would even grant this as a kind of historical point. But Unification's whole doctrine of creation is pretty orthodox. If you think of all the things said today, you'll remember that we didn't talk about Christology very much at all. We talked about the doctrine of creation and about the doctrine of the Church. We jumped over Christology in order to talk about these two things. Now that's my view of the matter. While I don't think the Unification Church is orthodox, I don't think they're un orthodox either. The reason why they're not unorthodox is be cause there are many undeveloped issues concerning the relation ship between Christology and ecclesiology.

Dr. Vander Goot: But you said nothing about the contents of their ecclesiology or the contents of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. You're judging the system quite abstractly in terms of certain formal structures: how the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is related to the doctrine of the Church, and how the doctrine of the Church is related to the doctrine of creation. And judged on that level, it seems to me you couldn't say it's either orthodox or unorthodox. In other words, it seems to me you have to engage in a rather abstract theological analysis to answer the question of whether or not Unification is within the orthodox tradition or not.

Dr. Bryant: Let's not resolve this whole question before various participants have spoken on it. It seems to me that the question of Unification and its relation to the Christian tradition is an open question. It can be evaluated in a number of different ways. I think it would be interesting to see the different ways in which the various participants here would begin to approach that question.

Dr. Klaaren: It strikes me that it's goofy to pursue the question of Unification being orthodox or nonorthodox in relation to the Christian tradition. In the first place, things are orthodox or not orthodox in relation to what's true. The truth that comes from God is not first of all in relation to the tradition. Secondly, we run into problems when we talk, as Christians, about the Unification movement as orthodox or not with reference to the Christian tradition. There are many Christian traditions. I mean, what Christian theologian today thinks solely in terms of the Christian tradition? He's always grappling with many Christian traditions. And one of the most interesting things about the Unification movement is that they immediately take all the traditions and put them all together. (laughter)

Dr. Bryant: Let's move beyond the formal kind of analysis and see if anyone has anything to say. I guess I'll begin. One of the things that interests me about this group is that I see them as offering a particular specification and interpretation of a mystery of the Christian faith: the mystery of the resurrection of the body. And quite contrary to some of the other opinions that have been expressed here, I'm intrigued by the explicitly "sexual" interpretation both of the Fall and the restoration. I see the Unification interpretation as an attempt to answer a question that is an open question within the Christian tradition. What do we mean by "the resurrection of the body?" This is a question that the Christian tradition has dealt with, a question that is included in the lexicon of Christian theological issues. Here in Unification's idea of the "physical restoration" we have a very specific answer to that question.

Rev. Calitis: Are you referring to St. Paul's statement that in Christ we shall all have spiritual bodies, and saying that the Unification Church specifies what that body is?

Dr. Bryant: No, not a spiritual body, but the "resurrected body." In the New Testament, that idea is related to Jesus as the first fruit of redemption. In the story of the resurrection appearances, the New Testament talks about Jesus having a resurrected body, a transformed body for which there were no analogues. One element of New Testament theology is the belief that Jesus is the first fruit of the resurrection of the whole Creation. What we have here is a proposal about a timetable for the whole divine economy: a proposal about a way to understand this general "resurrection of the body" that is one of the characteristics, or one of the signs, of the dawning of the Kingdom of God.

Dr. Sawatsky: It is more than a timetable for the resurrection. We're moving here into a millennium that finds resurrection in others besides Jesus.

Dr. Bryant: Yes, of course. But the question for the Christian tradition is: what does the resurrection of the body mean? In the Christian tradition we affirm that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and that he gets a "new body." In the New Testament we read about his having a body that walks through walls, etc. I would understand that as a Christian mystery. We affirm the resurrection, but we don't know how it is to be accomplished. This is, I think, a very characteristic Christian theological move. In the New Testament, Jesus' resurrection is related to an eschatological notion of this being one of the manifestations, the first fruit, of the Kingdom. In Unification theology we have a specific kind of interpretation of this mystery. The fact that Unification theology offers an interpretation of a Christian mystery relates it to all Christian traditions.

Dr. Klaaren: But in the Christian traditions we find the resurrected reality of Jesus' presence understood in different ways. Catholics say that the resurrected Jesus is present in the sacramental system and in the Mass. Mainline Protestants say that the reality of the resurrected Jesus is present most pointedly in the preaching of the Word. And a couple of Mennonite Brethern that I know say that the reality of the resurrected Jesus is present in their very own group when they gather together. They would say that when two of us or three of us are gathered in the name of Jesus, He is here. So here are three differently believed and practiced ways of specifying the reality of the resurrected Jesus. The role of a Christian theologian is to deal with the manyness of that reality. I don't know much about the Unification Church yet, but it seems to me that they are trying to put together a whole lot of things, to integrate a number of traditions. Now whether or not Unification theology gets to the point of specifying a mystery in a satisfactory way, I don't know.

Dr. Bryant: I'm not denying other specifications of this mystery. I'm saying that this is one way in which Unification theology is related to the Christian tradition. Like these other traditions, it offers a specific interpretation of a particular doctrinal issue. And that doesn't mean that any of the others are false or that this one's true. I'm giving a general answer to the question about the relationship of this movement to the Christian tradition. This would be one element of my answer to that question.

Dr. Sawatsky: I think that what we have here is a definition of the phrase from the Lord's Prayer: "Thy Kingdom come, on Earth as it is in Heaven." The gathering together in Jesus' name of the Mennonites, the preaching of the Word of the Lutherans, etc., are but signs of this Coming, or pointers in the direction of the ultimate millennium that is to dawn. It seems to me that it is within this context that one needs to understand what's happening here with Unification. In Unification theology we have a specificity about what that millennium is going to be, of what it's going to be in terms of the new order, the new people, the perfection which goes even beyond the Christ. Mormonism has a similar notion. I'd like to know more about the geography of this Kingdom, of this millennium. Where is the New Jerusalem? I think that this has all kinds of implications for social and political ethics, world affairs, and so on.

Rev. Calitis: Could I pursue the point previous to the question of geography? You, Darrol, said that in Unification theology there's a kind of specificity that the Lutherans for example either haven't had or have avoided in relation to belief in the resurrection of the body. It is true that the Lutheran tradition has always put the resurrection at a distance. The belief in justification by faith really pushes away and spiritualizes the idea of the "resurrection of the body." In the Lutheran tradition we make a virtue of the problem, and say there's an advantage to not specifying in this way because in fact the end time isn't here. We say that you can't jump too fast to specificity because this cuts down on the spiritual possibilities. What we're really doing in this life is expanding the spiritual possibilities of our relationship to God rather than narrowing down the options.

Dr. Sawatsky: In my tradition -- Mennonite -- I can see all kinds of similarities with the Unification Church in its concern for specificity and concreteness. We want specificity. We want to see that restored community. And if we don't see that community, we're copping out.

Rev. Calitis: Well of course, and that's the power of it. I mean anyone who can point a finger at the community and say "there it is" has a tremendous advantage. Whereas Lutherans don't know where the Kingdom is! (laughter)

And the other question, somewhat linked to that is: where is the physical regeneration, or where does it occur? It occurs in Jesus, who is God and man. Jesus is the physical fact, the incarnation being the one instance where the injury occasioned by sin is overcome.

Dr. Clark: How can Unification theology be orthodox if it hasn't a Christology that's in any way in keeping with what all Christians were supposed to think after the fourth century?

Dr. Richardson: First of all, it isn't quite clear to me that they don't. That is, they would say that the Divine Principle is still developing and that their Christology is very much focused in terms of the question of ecclesiology. That's what I think. But I don't want to belabor this point. If I were to argue the matter I'd put it this way: I'd say that the Unification Church is a kind of American millennialist, social gospel religion. Now the American millennialist social gospel tradition played down the deity of Jesus, the doctrine of two natures and all those fourth century notions, and instead spoke about Jesus as a man who was trying to fulfill God's purposes for creation. The preaching of the Kingdom of God, relating directly to the prophetic tradition, spoke about a salvation taking place on earth. They saw that the work of Jesus was to establish the Kingdom. That's Rauschenbusch, right? Christology is transformed into ecclesiology. The work of the church is building the Kingdom of God on earth. Now, what I see is that you read Walter Rauschenbusch, and you've got the theology for the Unification Church. That's of course an amusing overstatement. (laughter) But really, the heart of Unification theology is American social gospel.

Dr. Vander Goot: You're always thinking abstractly, in terms of common structures. But you have got to look at the content.

Dr. Richardson: Oh, the content. Listen, the content of our entire discussion this morning is about the Church in terms of building Christian families which is right there in Horace Bushnell and is right there, by the way, in Michigan, and is right there at the heart of your Dutch Reformed uncle who said that the whole of the Ten Commandments is summarized in one: "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery." (much laughter)

Dr. Vander Goot: You could start from there too, because you could take one element from the Christian theological content and say, "Look, it's present here; it plays a central ordering role here, as it does in other forms of Christian theology." But if you take the Unification orientation as a total system, then it seems to me not even problematic for the Unification people to say that this is not orthodox. Are they even concerned about this question? I think it's a goofy question.

Dr. Richardson: But the question has been asked and I have made these points just for that reason. It isn't a goofy question; it's a very practical question. If I were an historian of religions I would look at the Unification Movement and I would say, well, it looks very much like the Mormons, and it looks very much like the American, liberal, social gospel movement, and it looks very much like certain things in the Great Awakening, and it has connections with the Shaker community and Oneida community. I'm not saying there's perfect overlap, but it's related to these. It's related to the millennialist tradition. What is the practical purpose of saying this? Well, after all, one wants to say this because, to come down to gut level, the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches has attacked the Unification Church as not a Christian group, as not at all related to the Christian tradition. That attack is part of the general strategy to say that Unification is not even a religion at all: it's a cult, and these people are not entitled to religious freedom.

Dr. Vander Goot: But then, the strategy is wrong. Unification might not be part of the Christian tradition, but who can persecute it for that?

Dr. Richardson: Oh, well, then, Henry, on that point, I must say I have enough theological sophistication to find it very amusing that the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches can suddenly jump around waving Chalcedon in the face of the Unification Church, saying they're bad, bad people. For years we've been hearing that you can't believe in Chalcedon. The duplicity and audacity of this move by the Faith and Order Commission is incredible.

Dr. Vander Goot: In a sense, I love it, because if you could just get the National Council of Churches to type its own members by the criteria by which it judges the Unification Church, we might save the Christian tradition, (laughter)

Dr. Sawatsky: You're really talking about the control that the liberal religious establishment has on North American society. That's the problem, it seems to me. There's an attempt to identify a particular Christian Protestant orientation with religion and with Americans. That's the issue.

Dr. Vander Goot: I think that's right on a practical level. And I would oppose that. But at a strictly theological level, it's no problem for me to say that Unification theology is unorthodox.

Dr. Bryant: You mean it's not Christian Reformed? What do you mean?

Dr. Vander Goot: Well, that's a caricature. I don't see why it's problematical to say that something is not orthodox. That doesn't mean that the conversation ends; that doesn't mean that you can't continue to have contact with another person; that doesn't mean anything like that at all. I'm just making distinctions. The Christian tradition is something, but it's not everything. For example, in the Christian tradition it is not possible to believe that God made the world out of pre-existent matter. Nor is it possible within the Christian tradition to say that evil is one side of God. Or to say that from eternity there coexist two principles, one good, one evil. These are not possibilities within the Christian tradition. You've just got to make certain discriminations.

Dr. Richardson: All the things you've offered are categories drawn from the doctrine of creation. You define Christianity in terms of orthodox statements concerning the doctrine of creation. Somebody else would define the Christian tradition in terms of orthodox statements concerning Christology. Now what I find so interesting is that within the Unification movement theological questions are more open than they are for you. I agree with you that whether they're orthodox or not shouldn't be decisive of their fate. But what I can't accept is the insistence on "orthodoxy" or confessional definitiveness in relation to eschatology and to the big questions that the Christian tradition doesn't yet have answers for. So in a sense, the orthodoxy or unorthodoxy of Unification theology can't be adjudicated yet because certain theological work has to be done within the Christian tradition as a whole. When you have a Lutheran view of the Kingdom, and a Mennonite view of the Kingdom and an Edwardian view of the Kingdom, and a Catholic view of the Kingdom that are all uncertain, and when we don't know if we believe in a Pope, or Presbyteries, or this or that, then it seems to me that the whole question of the form of Christian life in the Kingdom and what the Kingdom is to be is completely open to discussion within the Christian tradition. You would agree there, wouldn't you?

Dr. Vander Goot: I certainly would with respect to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the doctrine of the Last Days where there's great latitude.

Dr. Clark: I'd like to reply to Herb on the Christology question. That part about Liberal Protestants is clearly wrong. You can change the language; people in the nineteenth or twentieth century aren't necessarily going to affirm the doctrine in the same language as the Council of Chalcedon. But can you have anyone arguing that Jesus failed, as I understand these people do, and still count them within the Christian tradition? Can you be a Christian and say Jesus failed?

Dr. Richardson: Listen, that is just not right. Lutherans, for example, would say Jesus failed and that it is in his failure that we see the deeper purpose of God.

Rev. Calitis: Wait! Isn't the Lutheran position that we are justified by the death of Christ on the Cross? Admittedly, that's paradoxical, but the crucifixion is a "success."

Dr. Richardson: Unification theology holds that Jesus succeeded in just that sense. I don't understand why everyone gets so excited about the idea that Jesus failed. I've talked with many different groups of Christians. They all agree that the precise sense in which the Unification Church teaches Jesus failed is precisely what the Christian churches teach, namely, that the purpose of Jesus was to establish the Kingdom of God on earth at the time of His ministry and that purpose was not realized. Henry, was or wasn't that His purpose?

Dr. Vander Goot: Yes, and He did fulfill His purpose.

Dr. Richardson: How did He do it?

Dr. Vander Goot: He died His death on the Cross. He accomplished our justification.

Dr. Richardson: But the justification of believers and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth are two different things.

Dr. Vander Goot: Not for Luther. This is where you are not acknowledging the fine points of theological interpretation.

Dr. Richardson: Is this the view that you hold, Henry?

Dr. Vander Goot: Yes. I'd say this for myself, too.

Dr. Richardson: Well, okay. I would say that it's perfectly alright to say that; but then what is the purpose of the Second Coming to which Paul and all the early Christians looked for ward? And isn't that Second Coming related to something more that is going to be done by the Christ?

Dr. Vander Goot: You can't talk about the fact that the Kingdom is not completely accomplished as a failure.

Lynn Kim: In the Unification movement, we never ever say Jesus failed. That's put on us from outside.

Dr. Bryant: What's the Unification view?

Lynn Kim: The Unification view is that Jesus came with a mission to fulfill, but that mission wasn't completed. That's what necessitates the Second Coming. We don't ever talk of Jesus as a failure.

Dr. Clark: But you do have a new messianic figure in Rev. Moon. Now, you're not saying Rev. Moon is a new incarnation of Jesus, are you? Is that what you're saying?

Dr. Bryant: Before someone answers that, can I make a proposal? I think this might help us in our difficulty about the question of what would constitute an orthodox Christology. I think the question of Christology is complex, very complex. It involves a range of things, many of which are open to dispute and can be articulated in a number of different ways. I would take it that there would be only one thing that one would have to say to be a part of the orthodox tradition, and that is that "Jesus is true man and true God."

Jonathan Wells: That's exactly what the Unification Church teaches.

Dr. Bryant: Other aspects of Christology are disputed. W e know that there are different Christologies within the Christian tradition. The only thing one must hold, I think, to be orthodox -- and that is simply as a guide, a rule to be observed in our reflection upon the person of Jesus -- is the formula "true man, true God." But what its implications are for various aspects of Christological doctrine, is an open question. That would be my view. So I would

allow that Unification could be within the orthodox tradition of Christology if it affirms Jesus as true man and true God.

Dr. Sawatsky: But clarify this. I take it that the Unification Church says that Jesus is true God and true man. So at that level Unification is within the Christian tradition. But what about the level of piety and practice? For example, do you pray to Jesus?

Lloyd Eby: I pray to God.

Dr. Sawatsky: But do you pray to Jesus?

Lokesh Mazumdar: Well, in the sense that I can pray to the spirit world in general, I might be able to talk to Jesus; but I don't know if I could call that prayer.

Klaus Lindner: We could pray in the name of Jesus.

Lynn Kim: Jesus taught us to pray "Our Father, Who art in Heaven."

Christa Dabeck: He taught us to pray in His name. Jonathan Wells: Can I tell you word for word what we teach about Jesus? This is in our first basic lecture that we teach to anybody that wants to learn about our movement. When we come to explaining the meaning of the First Blessing, which means individual perfection, we say Jesus was perfect in the sense that He was one with God, which comes straight from the Bible: "I and my Father are one -- you see me, you see the Father."

Dr. Clark: But Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." That's different from saying that Jesus was perfect.

Jonathan Wells: Well, we're defining perfection by that phrase "I and my Father are one." I'm just telling you what I teach in an introductory lecture. Then we say Jesus, a perfect man, has deity. A perfect man is one with God and has deity. There's another term we use.

Tom Selover: You can say that as the body is a reflection of the mind, so Jesus was the "second God." Now, that doesn't mean that He's exactly the same as the first, but that Jesus is God in a very valid and complete sense that's not the same as God the Father, Creator. Jesus is a human being also. So that's the way that we say Jesus is the second God; but He's not God Himself, which means God as Creator.

Jonathan Wells: That's all explanation, though. What I was telling you was word for word the Unification position.

Dr. Clark: It's still coming out somehow Rev. Moon is "more God" than Jesus.

Students in a Chorus: No. No.

Christa Dabeck: You have to understand Jesus in relation to the will of God. Let me explain. Jesus was really completely united with God's will...

Dr. Clark: That's a heresy. If that's your definition of the divinity of Jesus, then it's heresy.

Dr. Richardson: But it's only an early Church historian who would know that, (laughter) Which heresy is that?

Dr. Clark: I mean, any believer can be united with the will of God. So what's the specific difference with Jesus?

Lynn Kim: Which Christian has been perfectly in tune with the will of God?

Dr. Bryant: Hold it. We jumped on Christa and accused her of heresy without hearing her out. She barely got half a sentence out before we told her she was a heretic, (laughter) We don't even have an idea of what it was that she wanted to say.

Christa Dabeck: I wanted to say that each person has, in God's providence, a position, and that God chooses people according to their qualifications for that position. And Jesus' position is to bring people back to God. He united with the will of God in this way. He reached complete oneness with the will of God, which was an understanding of His providence. And you say that there are many Christians who are united with the will of God. But it depends on how you understand the will of God. Jesus had -- and this is what is special about Him -- the knowledge of God's providence and the willingness to fulfill it.

Dr. Clark: That's still not a qualitative difference. I want to hear something that points to a qualitative difference between Jesus and the community of believers. That's the crux of the Christological question.

Lynn Kim: I'm not sure what you want. We say that Jesus was a special creation of God. We say that He was created without original sin. So, He was special.

Dr. Vander Goot: You say that He was created?

Lynn Kim: No, He was begotten, (laughter)

Dr. Richardson: Isn't this funny? Henry is usually attacking me for using Greek categories and now, all of a sudden, he is wrapped up in Greek categories. But seriously, shouldn't we allow people to explore new theological categories? Obviously, the effort here is to find categories which focus not on commonality of nature or substance, but on communion of will. In Unification theology it seems that the focus is on the will as the fundamental matter to be understood. I think that's an interesting enterprise.

Lloyd Eby: I believe that the Divine Principle teaches that not just anybody could have taken the position of the Messiah. He wasn't just a carpenter's son. He was a special creation, created sinless specifically to be the Messiah. But once the Messiah is here every man has the potential for becoming one with the Messiah, one with God and a true child of God.

Jonathan Wells: Wait a minute. I'd like to ask another question. What is the orthodox Christian position on Christology? I studied the Ecumenical councils and I've read the doctrines, but I've also heard about five different versions talking with Christians out on the streets. I'm not sure how to reply to a question about whether or not we are orthodox on Christology because I've heard so many versions of Christology.

Dr. Bryant: Well, I think it is perfectly obvious that we are not going to solve this question today. It is also perfectly clear that when you get a group of Christian theologians together it is hard, if not impossible, to achieve a consensus on what constitutes the main lines of Christian faith, let alone Christian theology. One should, I suppose, be very careful about denying that a group is part of the Christian tradition if it understands itself in relation to that tradition. It is also clear that there are differences of opinion on this matter among Unification people, about specific doctrinal questions. However, it does seem to me that the Divine Principle understands itself in relation to the Christian tradition even though it also understands itself to go beyond the Christian Scriptures at certain points. At this point, however, we have to break for lunch. 

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