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

Critical Reflections On Unification Eschatology - M. Darrol Bryant

At the outset I want to make a couple of things clear. This paper is not a finished statement. I rather understand it as a response to the conversations we had at the Unification Theological Seminary in the middle of February and to my admittedly limited reading of the Divine Principle. Its aim, therefore, is to further a dialogue already begun.

Eschatology within the Christian traditions has a checkered, diverse, underground, and ambiguous history. While Biblical scholars have recently reminded us of the centrality of the preaching of the Kingdom in the early Christian communities, the history of this notion within the Christian traditions is very uneven. In the credal affirmations of the faith, the matter is tersely stated: "I believe in... the Resurrection of the Body and the Life Everlasting" [Apostles' Creed], or "And I look for the Resurrection of the dead, and the Life of the World to come" [Nicene Creed]. Although such affirmations are common to most of the Christian traditions, the precise interpretation of these affirmations is diverse, even contradictory. These affirmations are understood in a variety of ways within the Christian traditions: they are sometimes spiritualized, while others give them an immanental or existential interpretation.

Unlike Trinitarian and Christological doctrines, there are, to my knowledge, no "formulas" or "rules" that are widely considered normative in the development of eschatological doctrine. Yet throughout the history of the Christian traditions eschatology has had -- and continues to have -- a powerful, though unpredictable influence upon the theologies and practices of communities of faith. Many different movements and groups have emerged around a particular interpretation of the eschatological elements of Christian faith.

Hence I consider eschatological doctrine as the most fluid, open and indefinite aspect of Christian faith. We have few agreed-upon criteria for the evaluation or even consideration of theological proposals concerning the Last Things. In my judgment this is not accidental. Surely the "postponement of the parousia" had a profound impact upon the Christian community, so that the only affirmation that seemed possible was the general one indicated above: a statement of belief in the Resurrection of the Body and the Life of the World to come.

The matter is not quite so confusing if one asks how the Risen Christ is present to Christian communities and to the world. Here we can distinguish at least four traditions: (a) The Catholic tradition offers a sacramental answer: the Risen Christ is present in the sacraments, in His Body the Church, and in the World as a mystery; (b) The Reformed and Lutheran traditions believe that the Risen Christ is present in the preaching of the Word and in the world through our neighbor (Lutheran) or through the obedient exercise of our vocation (Calvinist); (c) The Anabaptist / Communalist tradition believes that the Risen Christ is present in the life of the separated community and not in "the world;" and (d) The Pietist / Personalist tradition believes that the Risen Christ is present in the hearts of believers and through them, in the world. However, these paradigms are not particularly helpful in relation to Unification eschatology which appears to return to a more "literal" belief in the Kingdom of God on earth. Moreover, it is not the question of the "Risen Lord Jesus Christ" which is at stake in Unification eschatology, but rather the question of the Messiah of the Second Coming who is not necessarily to be identified with the person of Jesus.

Thus it seems to me that Unification eschatology is in some respects dependent upon a new revelation, a "new truth" that is not to be found, at least explicitly, within the Christian traditions or in their normative sources. Yet at the same time, Unification eschatology does purport to fulfill and complete the belief in a Coming Kingdom which is found in Christianity.

These comments are not meant to be provocative, but simply to attempt to situate the question of eschatology within the Christian traditions and within Unification belief. Nor am I insisting that Unification eschatology cannot be considered a species of Christian eschatology -- indeed Unification belief has many and obvious connections with millennial movements that have been a part of the Christian underground throughout history, and particularly millennial movements of nineteenth-century America. Furthermore, there is considerable evidence within the Divine Principle that its eschatology should be understood in Christian terms. I understand the Divine Principle to be offering an eschatology based partly on a reinterpretation of certain Biblical texts and ideas and partly on a new revelation. As it says in the Divine Principle:

With the fullness of time, God has sent His messenger to resolve the fundamental questions of life and the universe. His name is Sun Myung Moon.... he came in contact with many saints in Paradise and with Jesus, and thus brought into light all the heavenly secrets through his communion with God. [16]

When one turns to the examination of the eschatology of the Divine Principle one must be aware of these two sources for its articulation. We shall return to this.

Unification eschatology is, as it should be, clearly linked to the doctrine of creation. Unification eschatology answers the question of how: how the process of restoration effects and completes the purposes of God intended in creation. This linkage of the doctrines of creation and consummation is characteristic of a fully articulated and internally consistent theological position. As such Unification eschatology satisfies two requirements of an adequate theological position: first, it satisfies the formal requirement of internal consistency and secondly, it provides the community of faith with an orientation which links their present activity in the world with the questions of ultimate origins and destiny.

There are three elements articulated in the Christian creeds which provide the starting point for a closer examination of the relationship of Unification eschatology to the Christian traditions. We have already mentioned "the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come." I would also add the belief in Christ as the "one who shall come to judge the quick and the dead." In my judgment these three elements constitute the heart of the Christian faith concerning the Last Things. Taken together, they constitute a mystery: that is, Christians affirm "a judgment," a "resurrection of the body," and a "life to come," but they don't know how these beliefs are related, or precisely what they mean. As a "mystery" the question of the Last Things is open to a variety of interpretations and specifications. Indeed, one of the on-going tasks of theology is to meditate and reflect upon these beliefs so that our understanding may be deepened and our joy increased. Early on, most of the Christian tradition abandoned the attempt to impose a timetable on these beliefs or to specify a geography in which they would be realized. However, the "underground" of the Christian tradition did continue to offer very specific interpretations of these mysteries, complete with timetables, identification of the eschatological personages, and descriptions of the landscape of the coming Kingdom of God.1 The Divine Principle is connected with that underground tradition.

No negative judgment is implied in relating Unification eschatology with so-called "underground" Christianity. Rather, it seems to me that Unification eschatology raises a number of important theological issues which the more mainline Christian traditions have either ignored or set aside. Unification eschatology challenges theology to think again about the questions of "the resurrection of the body" and "the life of the world to come," and thereby enters a sphere of much discussion in contemporary Christian theology.2

What, then, is Unification eschatology? As I indicated above, it is the completion and fulfillment of the doctrine of creation. Central to Unification eschatological doctrine are the paired notions of "The Second Advent of the Messiah" and "Resurrection." In the Unification theology these doctrines are the "engines" for the realization of the Kingdom of God on earth. Their connection with and divergence from the Christian traditions are important. Let us look at each of these notions separately.

The notion of the Second Advent of the Messiah is integral to Unification eschatology. The first advent of the Messiah was the coming of Jesus who effects "spiritual restoration." The full intention of God was the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, but due to the non-acceptance of Jesus by the community of Israel, the mission was only half-successful. The Second Advent, therefore, completes this process of restoration by effecting a "physical restoration." The present age is understood as the "Last Days." According to Unification eschatology, we stand on the brink of a New Age, a time in which the Kingdom of God on earth can be achieved.

While Unification eschatology picks up themes central to the Biblical literature, it understands them in a novel way. If one takes for example the Book of Revelations on this question, then it is rather clear that the coming Lord who is anticipated there is the Lord Jesus. Rev. 22:20 says "Come Lord Jesus." Yet at the same time it must be acknowledged that the differentiation made in Unification thought between the Messianic office and the person of Jesus is not without precedent. Thus one can argue that the notion of the Second Advent is simultaneously continuous and discontinuous with a conventional understanding of the Second Advent in the Christian traditions. Moreover, it is important to distinguish Unification eschatology from the more fundamentalist eschatologies. Unification eschatology is not a literalist reading of the prophetic books of either the Old or New Testament. For example, the notion of the Last Days is not understood in an apocalyptic or literal-minded way, but rather in a cultural way. In the Last Days the previous ages of "formation" and "growth" are brought to "perfection." Hence Unification "thought presents a view of the Last Days which denies neither the world nor history, but rather sees the world and history brought into a new configuration. The world and history are to be "God-centered."

Likewise, the Unification doctrine of the resurrection gives evidence of a complex and subtle theological principle at work. Resurrection, according to the Divine Principle, does not mean "the restoration of... once corrupted and decomposed physical bodies to their original state" [170] but rather "resurrection means to return to the Heavenly lineage through Christ, leaving the death of the Satanic lineage caused by the Fall of Adam." [171] This doctrine of resurrection is intimately related to the Unification notion of the Fall, a Fall which is transmitted "biologically." Thus Unification eschatology includes a solution to the problem of the Fall: a solution that adds to the "spiritual notion" of resurrection which is characteristic of the Christian traditions. That solution is, to me, highly ingenious and interesting: namely, a physical restoration which presumably will allow those so resurrected to produce sinless children.

Thus the notion of the Kingdom of God on earth is crucially linked to the mystery of the resurrection of the body. This resurrection is not postponed or supernaturalized, but is made a real possibility of these Last Days. Here, it seems to me, is an eschatology with a difference. One of the problems with other eschatologies that looked for the Kingdom of God on earth is this: where would the people come from who could populate a Kingdom of peace, unity, love, etc.? Without some mysterious transformation of man's bodily being, the hope for the transformation on the earth always seems to be exceedingly dubious. Unification eschatology, on the other hand, ties its belief in the Kingdom of God on earth to a notion of physical restoration, an interpretation of the doctrine of the resurrection of the body such that the attainment of "new bodily being" is coterminous with the idea of the Kingdom of God on earth. We read in the Divine Principle that

The age in which the sinful world under Satanic sovereignty is transformed into the ideal world of creation under God's sovereignty is called the "Last Days" and means the age in which Hell on earth is transformed into the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. [111-112]

The Kingdom of Heaven on earth will not, however, be attained without conflict and struggle. The whole of human history is a prologue for the Last Days, yet each age has a distinctive role in preparing for these Last Days. For example, the "preparation period for the. Second Advent of the Messiah is the four-hundred-year period from the Religious Reformation of 1517 to the end of World War I in 1918." [449] (This quotation is characteristic of the assurance with which the historical drama is interpreted in the Divine Principle, a self-assurance characteristic of eschatological literature in general. See for example Jonathan Edwards, History of the Work of Redemption.) This preparation period leads to our present situation of crisis. According to the Divine Principle, the upshot of this crisis is that

the history of evil sovereignty centering on Satan will end with the appearance of the Lord of the Second Advent, and the history of evil sovereignty will be changed into the history of good sovereignty centered on God. Therefore, Satan at this time will put up his last struggle. [476]

It is difficult to know how to take some of these claims: symbolically, typologically, literally, historically, theologically? Nevertheless, it is clear that we find in the Divine Principle an astonishing specificity in its timetable for the eschaton. Such a tendency always threatens to turn eschatology -- the theology of our destiny -- into a blueprint for a proximate historical future.

In addition to this timetable of the Divine Economy, we find in the Divine Principle a clear identification of the major forces involved in this eschatological drama. The typology of the Cain-type or the "Satanic side" and the Abel-type or the "Heavenly side" is radically concretized and historicized. The forces of good and evil enter into a final and decisive conflict: the "Third World War." This war is inevitable although the mode of conflict -- arms or ideologies -- is not. Here the Divine Principle identifies, at one level, the "Satanic" and "Heavenly" forces with Communism and Democracy. However, it is during this period, our period, that there "must appear a new truth." [492] This "new truth" will be opposed to "dialectical materialism" [492] and

when this new truth establishes a victorious basis in the democratic world and further subjugates the communist ideology, the one world under this one truth will finally be realized. [492]

The detail and concreteness of Unification eschatology at this

point is astounding and is reminiscent of the apocalyptic visions that have characterized other movements and groups in the Christian traditions. The upshot of this conflict is that

the victory of the Heavenly side in these three World Wars will finally enable the realization of the ideal world originally designed at the creation, which God has tried to fulfill through the long, long period of history since the fall of man, by completely restoring through indemnity all the foundations for the providence of restoration. [496]

It is in the midst of this period of conflict and victory that the Lord of the Second Advent appears. Indeed, the timing is insistent: "The Lord of the Second Advent must come between 1917 and 1930." [Study Guide, II, 119] The Lord of the Second Advent, according to the Divine Principle, will "be born on the earth as the King of Kings, and... will realize the Kingdom of God on earth." [509] As indicated earlier, the Lord of the Second Advent completes the restoration. He makes

... the whole of mankind become one body with him by engrafting them to him both spiritually and physically, he must make them be come perfect both spiritually and physically... [511]

The identity of this figure is not disclosed in the Divine Principle, although his continuity with the Christ is affirmed. According to the Divine Principle,

Jesus by restoring the Kingdom of God on earth, should have be come the True Parent of restored mankind and the King of the Kingdom on earth. Nevertheless, he failed to fulfill this will due to the faithlessness of the people; he died on the cross, promising the Lord would come again later and surely fulfill it. Consequently, at the Second Advent, he must realize the Kingdom of God on earth as intended at Jesus' coming and become the True Parent of mankind and the King of the Kingdom as well. [511]

The temporal specificity of Unification eschatology is matched by its geographical specificity. The Divine Principle names Korea as the central location for the unfolding of the eschatological drama. This is argued typologically: Korea is understood to be the New Israel.

To my mind, this very specific geography and timetable raise major questions and criticisms. Surely the idea of Korea as the New Israel runs the danger of special pleading for the nation that gives rise to the Unification Movement. Moreover, the appeal of the Unification vision of the future becomes compromised by the very specificity of its eschatological timetable and landscape: is Unification eschatology vitiated if these details are incorrect? Furthermore, this excessive concretizing or immanentizing of the eschatological vision courts the twin dangers of literal-mindedness and fanaticism. If the Divine Economy is known with such detail, how is it possible to engage in dialogue with other communities? Why would one need to enter into discussion if the mind of God has been disclosed with such precision?

Yet -- and this is the puzzle for me -- these extremes do not characterize the Unification people that I have met. Earlier I indicated that eschatology has a twofold function: as part of a theological whole and as a way of orienting a community in time by relating the present to the questions of ultimate origins and destiny. On the second point -- eschatology as the orientation of the community of faith in the present -- I am impressed by what I have seen. The central image, unification, remains clear and unconfused by the details of this rather too specific eschatological landscape and timetable. Unification eschatology seems to have organized the energies of this community of faith as I have seen it in a commendable way. What I sense at the Unification Seminary is a community open to dialogue, a community with a sense of mission, direction and purpose but without fanaticism, a community in which the longed for consummation of the divine intention is anticipated in admirable forms of community life. However, the connection between what I see and much of what I read in the Divine Principle remains, for me, a puzzle.

In its articulated form, Unification eschatology is open to at least three kinds of criticism. First, is Unification eschatology an adequate reading of the Christian eschatological tradition? Although Unification is partly dependent on a "new revelation," it

does claim to complete Christianity. Many, if not most, of its interpretations of the Biblical materials are open to question. And this is where the problem of the "new truth" comes in. Is there any way in which to resolve such disagreement between historical-critical interpretation of Scripture and Scripture read in the light of this "new revelation?" Moreover, Unification eschatology challenges the Christian communities to rethink the belief in the "Kingdom of God on earth." What does Unification theology mean by the "Kingdom of God on earth?" Is it a visible Kingdom?

Second, is Unification eschatology essentially Manichean? That is to say, does not Unification eschatology end in an unwarranted, or at least questionable, identification of the forces of good with democracy and the forces of evil with Communism? It is this aspect of Unification eschatology which I find most suspect. The reasons for that suspicion involve a judgment about the fundamental ambiguity of all historical phenomena, so that one must always temper one's reading of historical forces with a strong dose of self-criticism. I am not saying that we make no attempt to "read the times," but rather that any reading of the times must acknowledge that the final differentiation of the meaning of historical events is a divine, not human, prerogative, even if the human differentiation claims to rest on divine revelation.

The third level of criticism involves the relationship of typology and history. Can one move from typological constructs, e.g., Cain-type and Abel-type, to specific historical movements? I find such moves laden with difficulties. How, for example, can such ideal-types be adequately related to the real-types of history? Does not the Cain-Abel typology point to a fundamental conflict that runs through every historical person, institution or movement rather than between historical persons, institutions and events?

These criticisms return us to the three elements that characterize Christian eschatology, at least in the Creeds, namely, the world to come, the resurrection of the body, and the Last Judgment. Unification eschatology omits any discussion of the Last Judgment. It appears that the Last Judgment has been immanentized and historicized. Hence, the Judgment is not left as a divine prerogative at the end of time, but is taken into time as the prerogative of those who know the Divine Will in detail. This is, I believe, a dangerous mistake. Yet at the same time, Unification eschatology offers an interpretation of the "resurrection of the body" and the "world to come" which I find both challenging and worthy of consideration.

Finally, I believe that the eschatology found in the Divine Principle needs to be developed in a more careful way. For example, the last entry in the Divine Principle concerns the "One World and One Language." I find this to contain an instructive confusion, namely, the tendency to identify the One World which is longed for with a world in which everyone speaks the same language. The Unification notion of unification is much richer than that and needs to be articulated in a way which will overcome this confusion. The meaning of "unification" as it is exhibited in this community is much closer to the Pentecost experience: all spoke in their own tongues and were understood by each other. Isn't that the eschatological end we seek?

Discussion IV

Dr. Clark: I think your point about the omission of any discussion of the Last Judgment is very interesting and well taken, and I would like to hear the Unification response.

Jonathan Wells: Well, I'll tell you this: every Sunday morning at five o'clock, we get up and have a service, where we pledge our lives to God, and in our pledge, we talk about judgment.

Dr. Bryant: Is that a kind of credal statement? Something you repeat every Sunday morning?

Jonathan Wells: Right. The whole spirit of it is that we reaffirm our commitment to creating the ideal world and the ideal family, and the Last Judgment is cast in these terms: "I will follow our Father's pattern and charge (this is pretty militant) bravely forward into the enemy camp until I have judged them completely with the weapons with which he has been defeating the enemy Satan for me throughout the course of history by (now, here's the judgment) sowing sweat for earth, tears for man, and blood for heaven (my blood) as a servant, but with a father's heart, in order to restore God's children and the universe." This is the key, I think, to the Unification attitude, "sowing sweat for earth, tears for man, and blood for heaven, as a servant, but with a Father's heart." That's the judgment. By that standard, the world is judged.

Dr. Bryant: Well, I think that's pretty much my point, especially as you read the first sentence: that you extend the Father's judgment in the world.

Dr. Sawatsky: Is that an interpretation of what you find in the New Testament, namely, that Christ's presence is already the judgment? That's what I take your creed to be saying: the possibility of new life is automatically expressed in the judgment on the state of affairs as they are.

Jonathan Wells: It's self-judgment, really. It seems to be characteristic of Unification theology that you don't end up at a point where some group or other of the human race is unredeemable. I think Unification theology would want to say that there is a way that everyone can be saved.

Dr. Sawatsky: Is Unification universalist?

Tom Selover: I think that's right. There's not a sense that some make it, others don't and that's it.

Dr. Sawatsky: Right, but there's no prescription as to how this takes place for those who've already died.

Dr. Bryant: I would like to get the story straight here. Is there a doctrine of universal salvation?

Farley Jones: We don't envision an eternal damnation, but we envision that all mankind will ultimately be restored. For some this won't happen till after they've entered the spirit world, but growth is possible in the spirit world.

Dr. Bryant: Why, then, would you be so concerned about the Communists or any other group that would seem to be opposed to you? Isn't it just a matter of time for them to be restored?

Joe Stein: The physical earth, for us, is the sphere of the greatest opportunity for growth. The physical world is the world in which we can fulfill the blessings. So in order to enter into the spiritual world having accomplished the three blessings, we have to realize those three blessings during our physical life on earth. Therefore, the maintenance of religious freedom on the earth in order to allow individuals to develop their relationship with God must be protected within the earthly sphere. So even the concept of resurrection that we have is a concept of resurrection of individuals within the spiritual world, the restoration of their relationship to God within the spiritual world through counterparts, and through their cooperative ministry with individuals who are living on earth. So in this context, to maintain spirituality on earth is very important. Hence a doctrine that is materialistic or atheistic would make it far more difficult for individuals to grow spiritually. This would prolong the restoration process; it would make it more complicated for God to be able to work to restore His Kingdom on earth. So a doctrine such as Communism or an ideology with a materialistic base would create greater difficulties for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth; even though, in time, all things will be restored.

Linda Mitchell: I think there's also a very real belief that we can establish God's Kingdom on earth. Until that Kingdom is established, more and more people will die, and more and more people will suffer, so this is the time when, in fact, God's ultimate ideal can be fulfilled. It is a consequence of our desire to serve other people, to serve all mankind that leads us to want to alleviate that suffering at the earliest possible moment.

Joe Stein: What Linda says is very important. Not only is the suffering of man prolonged, but also the suffering of God. So it's God's longing and man's longing at the same time to see the establishment of God's Kingdom on earth.

Dr. Bryant: I understand that. The point is your assurance in executing God's judgment on earth. You claim to know God's longing and will very precisely about this group or that group, this movement or that movement.

Dr. Sawatsky: I think that's too harsh. In the New Testament the whole discussion of the Advocate is that he will convict or convince the world of sin, judgment and righteousness. That's linked with the activity of his disciples. In fact it is through the activity of the new Israel that that self-judgment of the world is made. Unification's notion of judgment seems to be consistent with that.

Linda Mitchell: I think it is very important to make a distinction here. In the Christian tradition when you're talking about judgment it's related to the question of eternal damnation. But we're talking about the portion of good and evil in the world, we're talking about something that we're working not to destroy, but to change to the side of good. So when Jesus, for example, is damning the Scribes and the Pharisees, and telling them exactly where they stood in terms of a heavenly standard, he didn't mince any words at all. Jesus didn't say, okay, you're going to Hell now, and this is your judgment, but he was setting forth the standard so that they could see where they stood, so that they could change. I think that our judgment of Communism and the way we feel God is working is for that purpose, not for eternal judgment. Hence you can't compare the Last Judgment that you're talking about with our view of Communism or good and evil in the world.

Dr. Bryant: What I'm saying is that, first of all, within the Divine Principle, there is no discussion of the Last Judgment, which would be one of the things that one would expect to see within an eschatology. I'm saying it's not there. I am wondering where this doctrine goes within Unification eschatology? Secondly, it strikes me that one reason that it's not there formally or explicitly is because it gets incorporated into the historical timetable and geography of Unification eschatology as a way of discriminating what is going on in this world at the present time or in these last days. Hence, there's no longer any tension between the present historical situation and an ultimate situation. This, it seems to me, is the point of the Last Judgment within the Christian tradition. Now, that doesn't mean that within the Christian tradition there are not all kinds of judgments of particular groups and movements. Catholics, Lutherans, Dutch Reformed, they all know who the good guys and the bad guys are in terms of the practice of particular communities. But the point is that theologically there's a good reason for not grounding such judgments in the Divine will. And that reason is that you understand that judgment is finally a divine prerogative. It stands at the end of time. We make relative judgments but not ultimate judgments. In the eschatology of the Divine Principle, the doctrine of the Last Judgment isn't there, and it's not there, I suspect, because it's brought into a time in history, our time.

Farley Jones: Our definition of judgment is separation of good from evil. I think we see it as a process that goes on within the individual, in the family, in the nation and in the world, step by step, resulting in the transformation of evil into good. I think that's how we envision it. The ultimate, final goal is, according to our understanding, a final realization of a good world, the Kingdom of God on earth, and elimination of evil.

Dr. Richardson: I'd like to make two points. The first is, contra Darrol, a kind of a systematic point. If you have a post-millennialist eschatology, by which we mean in traditional Christianity, Jesus comes back after the millennium is established, then we usually do not have a doctrine of the Last Judgment. In post-millennialist eschatologies you don't have a separation of good from evil, you have a victory of good over evil, and the establishment of the Kingdom, so that the historical function of the Last Judgment isn't there. Then the question is, well, what about the people who died before the millennium was established? One has, I think, in Unification theology a very reasonable point, namely, that the people who died before the millennium continue to grow through the continual activity of righteous people. Once you have established the millennium on earth, you'll get righteous action, which will lead to the growth of people in heaven, and so you don't even need a final judgment in that way. Secondly, I would argue that it's a very perceptive, very interesting systematic point, that what happens to the Last Judgment, in a post-millennialist theology, is that it is lost because the function of judgment in a sense belongs to the millennial activity of the Christian community.

I'd like to move the discussion to another area, namely, the matter of historic specificity. I think it's perfectly clear that the longer Christian tradition tended to argue partly on the Augustinian line of no separation of the sheep and goats until the Last Judgment and partly on the basis of a notion of the church as a spiritual organism that can live in any political climate at all. The assumption was that all times and places are pretty much the same. But I think we should relook at this matter. Let me give an example. Last summer I was riding in Europe, going up the road with French signs and suddenly I realized the signs were German. We stopped at the next town, and I walked in and I said, "How come they speak French five miles away and here they speak German?" And the answer of the woman in the drugstore was, "Well in 1368, there was a great battle just outside the town. The French were invading, but we won. That's why everyone here speaks German, and over there they speak French." And if you drive up the road another 100 miles you see the remains of the Roman settlement across Northern Europe, where the Roman walls were, where defensive lines were, and what essentially that meant was that there, behind the Roman walls, you had the development of cities, a degree of cosmopolitanism. You simply had no civilization south of that wall. Now, there are some significant points here. There is a geopolitical or a political dimension to human history. Historically you've only been able to have certain teachings and the Christian Church in certain geographical settings. It was the Roman Empire that made possible the Christian Church. I think we could even say that it is not the case that ideas float freely around the world in the free market of ideas. There are political realms in which the circulation of certain ideas is a possibility, and the other places where that is not possible. It strikes me that there are, in history, and we know this, decisive times, and there are decisive spaces. It seems to me merely consequential that any church that believes that the Kingdom of God is going to be established on earth is going to fight for the importance of that idea in general. Maybe we're not going to agree that this decisive battle line is Korea, but, the general idea of special spaces is, it seems to me, defensible. I think similarly about the question of decisive time. I find it difficult to think that we can't believe that we are in a very decisive period of history. When you think in social, rather than individualistic terms, then of course you have decisive times and spaces.

Dr. Bryant: Right. I agree about that. You noticed, didn't you, that I didn't make any criticism of the notion of the "Last Days?" I even said that they have a pretty good understanding of the Last Days as opposed to the fundamentalists. But I still find the specificity of the eschatology disturbing. For example, statements like the Lord of the Second Advent must be born between 1917 and 1930. I don't think that any faith wants to be tied that specifically to any predictions. Another problem is that there's a failure to make a distinction between prophecy and prediction. In a sense Unification eschatology falls into the trap of modern-day social science: confusing prophecy with predictions of the future. That's not good prophecy.

Mike Jenkins: I think our view of history is very flexible, extremely flexible. Yet, there's a tendency when examining history in the Divine Principle that we want to change a lot of details, to flush out a lot of for instances and examples. But in doing so, you risk losing the point of the whole history. The point of the presentation is to shed light on the possibility that we are living in the time of the Second Advent. That's the whole point of the history. It's not to show that this is all factual, but that there's a general system of parallels or cyclical development, that God's plan is working from the very beginning of the first ancestors to now. In relation to the idea that the Lord of the Second Advent is born between 1917 and 1930, I believe that's true. I believe the Divine Principle is true. But I don't go around saying that this is the only truth. We're presenting this as a possibility. But it remains to be seen whether it's true for other people.

Jonathan Wells: Exactly, I would say that it's actually an advantage to all of us to have this precise chronology. It makes the whole thing very concrete. If it isn't true, then we don't have to wait around for three or four hundred years, (laughter) We'll know in our lifetime.

Dr. Bryant: I've heard, from others, that "normal eyes" would not be able to see the Kingdom on earth. It seemed that you'd at least have to have the spiritual eyes to see this Kingdom, even when we're living right in the middle of it. I think there's disagreement within the Unification Movement on this point.

Jonathan Wells: I'm sure you'll find differences. But I think there is a lot of specificity in what Rev. Moon himself predicts. I know that when Rev. Moon came five years ago, the movement here was very small, and yet he came and said, "Well, in a couple of years, my name will be a household word all over the United States." (laughter) Most people didn't believe him, and yet, it was true. He constantly does this.

Tom Selover: Yes, but when Rev. Moon points the movement in a particular direction then we unite and go out and do it. The timetable is a possibility, it doesn't unfold mechanically.

Mike Jenkins: We can maybe firmly believe that the Messiah will come between 1917 and 1930, but everything after that depends upon the response of the people.

Linda Mitchell: We believe that it is the case that the Lord of the Second Advent was born between 1917 and 1930. But I think that the Divine Principle, at least as I understand it, is trying to say that we have these historical parallels which allow us to understand how God has been working through history. Given these parallels we can see that it would make sense that the Messiah must come between 1917 and 1930. I think it's important to have this understanding of what we're saying. We're saying that because history has followed this and this course, then we can have this expectation.

Dr. Bryant: But is it history that's followed this pattern? Isn't it the typology that's developed in the Divine Principle that has this pattern? There's a distinction between typology and history. When I read about the period from 1517 to 1918 as a period of preparation, I see it as a device, a typology and not a description of history. On a straight historical plane, we'd have to allow all kinds of qualifications. A typology operates on a different basis.

Dr. Richardson: Aren't you being overly dense? Why the years 1917 to 1930? It's perfectly obvious why. It isn't that Rev. Moon is born in 1920. The explanation is something like this. Given the importance of the year 2000 and realizing that the year 2000 figures from the birth of Jesus, and realizing that there is this three-year discrepancy about the date Jesus is born, then you need a beginning date that fits. You're working very seriously from the figures of Jesus and you understand that the year 2000 has a significance. Now, then, you have the notion of a Messiahship, where there's going to be a central figure who, over the course of a whole life, is going to do a perfect work, and over the course of a whole life, he has to live a life of three score years and ten, a scriptural age. So this central figure has to be at least seventy in the year 2000 or in his seventieth decade. Now, what is the importance of 1930: a man born in 1930 would be at least seventy years old, he'd have to be at least seventy in the year 2000, and he could be no more than eighty, so that's the reason for 1920, and you pick up the other three years because of the uncertainty about Jesus' birth and so you've got 1917 to 1930. Admittedly this is a complex thing. There is much more involved than just picking a date out of the air. You've got the belief in historical cycles, the importance of the year 1000, the notion of the Messiahship, something more than just numerology. Just on the practical level, we know the year 2000 is going to be a critical year. I mean, the year 1000 was, and they didn't have mass media in those days, (laughter) I mean, the year 2000 is going to be a time of cataclysmic historical crises. The messianic and apocalyptic speculation is going to go wild. There's a sense in which one is playing with myth here. And this is the hottest myth in the next twenty years, and if any one of us were developing a preaching program for one of the traditional denominations, we'd want to build it around the year 2000. And then, when you put this in relation to the energy crisis, expanding Marxism, the ecological crisis and so forth and so on, and you begin to speculate about historical, political circumstances in that framework, I think you've got the elements for a great drama, (laughter)

Dr. Bryant: Well, I agree on that level. But the Divine Principle is not simply playing with eschatological myths. These people believe it! (laughter).


All bracketed references are to the Divine Principle (New York: The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1973, 2nd ed.) unless otherwise noted.

1 See for example, Norman Cohn, Pursuit of the Millennium, rev. ed., London: Paladin 1970.

2 Here I have in mind the contemporary discussion of eschatology associated with the theology of hope and liberation theology. 

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