Hermeneutics and The Shape of the Future - Edited by Frank K. Flinn

Biblical Hermeneutics in Divine Principle: The Context of Confucianism - Andrew M. Wilson

The Unification Church is a new expression of Christianity coming out of the context of the culture and religious traditions of the Far East. Korea is a deeply Confucian country, and Rev. Moon is said to have studied the Confucian classics in his childhood.1 It would therefore be surprising if much of Rev. Moon's theology was not framed by his Confucian cultural milieu. As a Christian doing Biblical exegesis, Rev. Moon apparently used elements of a Confucian world view in constructing his hermeneutic. These are used in many creative ways that might seem new to a Western mentality, but would seem natural to anyone from the Orient.2 This paper is a result of two interests: one, to elucidate the presuppositions for the use of scripture in Unification theology that could clarify its hermeneutic, and two, to apply the tools of higher criticism to Divine Principle to delineate its Sitz im Leben and the traditions from which it draws. These two concerns are of course related because Divine Principle is itself a work illuminating the Bible.

But first, it will be helpful to make a preliminary remark about the assertion that Divine Principle contains a new revelation, since the work of the higher critic, who seeks to identify the sources and historical conditions behind sacred literature, is often seen as threatening to the theological status of the literature as divine revelation tor the community of faith. Divine Principle holds that it contains a portion of the "Completed Testament Word" (Divine Principle pp. 16, 233)3 the "new truth" that will lead humankind into a perfected relationship to God and a unified society of peace and brotherhood under God. To analyze Divine Principle into a mere confluence of Christianity with Eastern culture, neither of which has achieved the lofty goal of unification, would seem to contradict its very proclamation. We have an analogous situation in the New Testament: though it proclaims salvation through the lordship of Jesus Christ, many of the teachings of Jesus hardly differ from ideas current in Judaism of the period, either in ethical content or eschatological hope.

Several approaches to this problem may be put forward. One may seek the propositional content of the revelation in those concepts in Divine Principle that differ from the Christian or Confucian traditions, e.g., the four position foundation, the exposition of the fall of man, or the heart of God. One might thus seek to distinguish a "core" of revelation within the Divine Principle text. This approach would be similar to the New Testament scholar who might see Jesus' love ethic or redemption through the cross, or the doctrine of the incarnation as the core of the New Testament revelation, differentiating it from the truths of Judaism.

Another approach views revelation not as a series of propositions, but as a word whose purpose is to bring its recipient into a new relationship to God. The text as a whole, with its new concepts together with its inheritance from the past, addresses the reader in an existential encounter that opens up a new life. In this sense, even though the New Testament brings few teachings that are not found in the Old Testament, it is a new revelation because it brings a personal relationship to Christ, forgiveness of sins, and a relationship to God which is qualitatively different from the experience of God in normative Judaism. Similarly, in Unification theology the believer becomes a "true child" of God knowing the heart of God, and able to form a family, a society, and ultimately a world based on the love of God. Though the hope of this perfected relationship with God and of God's peaceable kingdom on earth is nothing foreign to the Jewish and Christian scriptures the revelation in Divine Principle is asserted to be new because it empowers us to attain that perfection and that kingdom in the here and now.

As a third understanding of revelation, one may see the interaction of Christianity with the truths of the Orient as an occasion for a new manifestation of truth. According to the Principle, every God-centered interaction of two individuals creates a base for divine energy and the new creative work of God, as for example, the conception of a child from the love of parents (Divine Principle pp. 28-32). In this case, the interaction of Christianity with the traditions of the Orient creates the occasion for the vertical revelation of new truth, so that the whole Principle is greater than the sum of its parts.

Though this is not the place for an exhaustive discussion of revelation, any of these approaches can provide a context for the tasks of biblical criticism. As a revelation, Principle nevertheless came to be expressed in the particular context of the confluence of the Christian tradition with the religious traditions of Korea. The critical task of analyzing these older traditions need not detract from its uniqueness and revelatory quality.

What follows is a tentative exercise to surmise what might be the connections of Divine Principle to Confucianism, or more precisely, to the Neo-Confucian culture of Rev. Moon's Korea. The connections here will be broad and thematic. To determine the more precise confluence of Confucian, as well as Christian and Buddhist, ideas in the development of Rev. Moon's thought would require word studies, an intimate knowledge of Korean culture, and a source-critical analysis of Divine Principle. All these remain topics for further research.

The Original Principle and Neo-Confucian Principle

Principle is one; its manifestations are many. -- Ch'eng Yi4

In Neo-Confucian thought, there is one unitary principle, li of heaven and earth and human life. This principle can be understood both by the investigation of nature and by the introspective rediscovery of the original nature of the self. Principle is thus both the metaphysical law operative throughout the natural order and the natural disposition of human beings expressed in ethical actions. The sage finds principle by the investigation of things, and he realizes the principle in himself by conforming his life to the principle.

Divine Principle is the title of the English translation of the book whose Korean title is Woun-li Kang-lon5 which literally means "Discussion of the Original Principle." The term "original principle," woun-li, is usually translated into English as "Divine Principle" or just "Principle," both when used by itself and in such terms as "Principle(s) of Creation," chang-jo woun-li, and "Principle(s) of Restoration,"/w£-£«z woun-li.6 This is a new term, distinct in meaning and content from the Neo-Confucian principle, but containing the same character //', showing its etymological relationship to the Neo-Confucian term. Though it has a distinct content, Original Principle is functionally a principle in the Neo-Confucian sense. It is a unitary principle by which God operates in creating and maintaining the cosmos and in relating to human persons and by which people should live.

Neo-Confucianism understands "principle" as a metaphysical principle of a static, unchanging creation. There is no development within the principle; history is eternal or cyclical. The ancients were admired as most faithful to the principle -- theirs was a long lost golden age.7 However, the metaphysics in the Bible is rather relational and dynamic. God, the unchanging center of biblical faith, whose purpose is the salvation of humanity and the establishment of his kingdom, operates historically through a covenant with individuals and peoples. Covenant theology is a principle within history moving from promise to fulfillment. God sought to bless man at the creation (Genesis 1:28) and made covenants with Noah, with Abraham and later with the people of Israel at Sinai. That covenant was renewed after the Exile by a new Exodus (Isaiah 43:16-19) and the reading of the law by Ezra (Nehemiah 8). Christianity established a new covenant through the blood of Christ (Matthew 26:28, I Corinthians 11:25).

In Divine Principle, the Neo-Confucian principle of the natural order and the biblical covenant in the historical order are subsumed in the Original Principle. Covenant is related back to creation. The historical activity of God is predicated on the creative activity of God because the principles of God's historical work of salvation are derived from the eternal Original Principle manifest in God's original work of creation. Salvation equals restoration equals re-creation (Divine Principle pp. 104, 222). God's work of salvation means re-creating each person to the point where he can fulfill the Original Principle by which he was created. The end of God's activity in history, the eschatological reign of God, is identical with the intended state of humankind at the creation, the potential golden age in Eden before the fall. History is seen as beginning with the fall from the Garden of Eden, paralleling the Confucian deterioration from the golden age, and continuing through several cyclical attempts to restore Eden culminating with the coming of the Messiah. Covenant is therefore the biblical expression of the historical manifestation of development of the God-man relationship within the unchanging Original Principle.

Not only is the Original Principle formally a type of Neo-Confucian principle (li), but also the way of knowing the Original Principle bears certain resemblances to the Confucian way of knowing, but with some important distinctions.

In Confucianism, where principle pervades both the world of nature and the universe of human life, comprehending the principle is inseparable from the investigation of things (taken broadly to include both physical and human activity).8 But Unification theology's stress on the fallen state of human life makes any such natural law theology questionable. Instead, the Bible, as the record of God's efforts to restore fallen humankind, becomes the chief source to be investigated on several points.

First, it is a record of the work of God to save humankind through concrete expressions of the Original Principle, and especially, it records the life and teachings of the one man who was truly the incarnation of the Original Principle,9 who lived the Principle, and taught the Principle (though it was recorded unsystematically): Jesus of Nazareth. The hermeneutic of investigation is God's activities in the Bible rather than human activities in the natural world.

Second, the Bible is a repository of truth, a "textbook teaching the truth" (Divine Principle pp. 9, 131), and Divine Principle declares its continuity with the truths expressed in the Bible. Many biblical themes, e.g., the sovereignty and parenthood of God, God's active providence in history, God's ethical demands for justice, purity, and faithfulness, the Messianic hope, are reasserted in Divine Principle. Truth is asserted to be absolute and unchanging, not to be replaced, but rather explained and clarified. This idea of the continuity of truth is also an element of Confucianism: "I have transmitted what was taught to me without making up anything of my own. I have been faithful to and loved the Ancients..." (Analects 7:1) Divine Principle, like the Bible, is a textbook teaching the truth, and accords to the Bible an independent witness to the truth to which they both point.

But of course, Divine Principle must reinterpret the biblical word to fit the contemporary situation, and many biblical ideas are customs of former times rather than universal truths. The hermeneutical problem, shared by all interpreters, is how to judge which words in the Bible express universal truth and which refer only to the particulars of a dead civilization. Even in Divine Principle, the answers are not always clear. W e no longer practice polygamy or levirate marriages, but are the biblical condemnations of adultery expressive of a universal truth? Holy war was a biblical institution for establishing God's sovereignty over a territory; we too seek to establish God's dominion on earth; shall we engage in holy war? The Confucian tradition, as we shall see, informs the manner in which Unification theology handles some of these questions.

Another use of the Bible is as a record of the lives of people who, as God's chosen champions, sought to accomplish his will. We are urged to study their lives carefully and to model our own lives on the faithful element of theirs. Indeed, it is by experiencing their trials and victories, and by realizing the correspondences between these biblical figures and ourselves, that we can most fully grasp the Principle in our lives (Divine Principle pp. 237-38, 251, 261, 283, 338-42, 370-71). This use of the Bible, to connect personally with its people of faith, is no doubt influenced by the Confucian emphasis on self-cultivation as patterning one's life after the sages of the past. Confucius in his Analects constantly points to illustrious predecessors like the Duke of Chou, Yao, and Shun. Truth and action} are not separated in either Confucian or Unification thought; hence the (truth of God is best understood in the actions of his champions. In this-' way, the Bible can be a source for interpreting one's concrete life experiences in terms of the Original Principle.

Self-cultivation begins with the life of the individual, and here also Unification theology shares with Confucianism a unity of truth and ethics, of knowledge and praxis.10 An exclusively intellectual apprehension of truth is inadequate; rather a well-ordered personality and a pure heart must be the ground for true knowledge. Chu Hsi taught: "The mind is not like a side door which can be enlarged by force. We must eliminate the obstructions of selfish desires, and then it will be pure and clear and able to know all." (Chu Tzu ch'uan-shu 44:13a)

Similarly, Divine Principle urges us to investigate and purify our own lives. Every person has an original nature within, though it is often obscured in the fallen state. By striving to live according to the will of God, by prayer, and by sacrificial service to others, we can uncover our original selves. The more we uncover and purify our original selves, the clearer becomes our grasp of the Original Principle. Hence each person \> must do his or her own part in order to come to true knowledge. It is not/ enough to believe a dogmatic teaching.

The Five Relations

There are five relations of utmost importance under Heaven... between prince and minister, between father and son, between husband and wife, between elder and younger brothers and between friends. (Doctrine of the Mean XX, 8)

Confucianism stresses the five relations as the primary context for all human life. Persons are, above all, social beings, related to one another through the order set up by the five relations.11 Divine Principle basically agrees with this view of life, and considers the greatest joy to come from the relationships that are shared with others, particularly in the family. The values most stressed in Divine Principle are not traits of /the individual person, such as intelligence, creativity, sensitivity, a warm disposition, etc., so highly valued in the West. Instead they are the virtues of true relations with others, such as loyalty to God, fidelity between husband and wife, parental love for children and filial piety toward parents (Divine Principle p. 48-9).

The stress on family, so often depreciated in our secular Western climate, was shared by the people of the Old Testament. Early missionaries to Korea have even commented on the striking similarities between the lifestyle of Koreans and that of the biblical Hebrews.12 As in the Orient, the Hebrews saw themselves primarily in terms of their family roles. Children were expected to respect and care for their parents (Exodus 20:12, 21:15, Deuteronomy 27:16). Sexual mores were tightly regulated with the ideal of preserving family stability.13 The chief duty and joy of parents was to have prosperous offspring; this was the blessing which God promised through the patriarchal narratives. In a similar vein, Mencius said: "There are three things that are unfilial, and the worst of them is to have no posterity." (Mencius IV, i, xxvi)

The many genealogical lists in the Bible also testify to the importance of the family in Old Testament times for the individual's identity and social role. Hence the family orientation of Divine Principle may be appropriated for illuminating life in biblical times.

Divine Principle views each Old Testament personage in terms of the five relations. It speaks not only of Adam and Eve but of Adam's family, not only of Noah but of Noah's family, not only of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as independent patriarchs but of Abraham's family. Moses' mission is constantly related to the problems of his people's lack of loyalty. The roles of Saul and Samuel are seen ideally as that of a king and his sage advisor. In the stories of Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob, and the Northern and Southern kingdoms, the theme of the relationship between elder and younger brothers becomes paradigmatic for the Principle of Restoration.

Viewing these biblical personages in terms of these relations also clarifies Divine Principle's moral judgments on their behavior. Jacob for many Western commentators is a sly and slippery fellow, whose greatest asset was the cunning by which he deceives first Esau and then Laban.14 But Divine Principle sees Jacob as a virtuous man, whose filial piety, first to his mother and later in his yearning to return home in spite of his brother's wrath, is commendable. He deserves the praise which scripture gives him. Another passage whose meaning is clarified by this perspective is that on the sin of Ha m (Genesis 9:20-27). Though the Bible is ambiguous, since Canaan, not Ham, is cursed, from the viewpoint of the five relations it is Ham's unfilial conduct towards his father that is at issue. Not appreciating all his father had done in saving their family, he made light of him by being ashamed of his nakedness. Western commentators might easily overlook the kind of filial respect for parents that comes naturally to someone from an Oriental culture, and which must have also been the view of the Old Testament writers.

In considering Moses, Divine Principle focuses upon the relationship of God's representative to others. While some contemporary theologies, notably liberation theology, would focus narrowly on the Exodus-event, Divine Principle views the Exodus as only the beginning of the longer relationship between Moses as God's representative and law-giver and the people of the twelve tribes, whose chronic murmuring and lack of loyalty delayed their entrance into Canaan. The grace of God at the Red Sea and Sinai could not find completion until the entire congregation could unite with God's representatives in Moses, the Tabernacle, and Joshua. The hermeneutic in Divine Principle thus leads to the consideration of the Exodus-Conquest as an indivisible unit, much as it was intended by the authors of the Hexateuch and the older Song of the Sea (Exodus 15) in ancient Israel. The account of the Hexateuch and the theology of Divine Principle converge in their reasons for the delays on the way.

Similarly, sensitivity to the relationship between a leader and his followers informs Divine Principle's handling of the gospels. The dispute between Jesus and John the Baptist, a small matter to the evangelists, becomes a major concern since it bears directly on Jesus' efforts to find loyal followers. In contrast, the miracles of Jesus, which occupy so much space in the gospel narratives, have relatively little effect on increasing the loyalty of Jesus' following. Hence their importance is downplayed in Divine Principle.

However, the witness of the Bible runs in direct conflict with one of the five relations -- that between elder and younger brother. God consistently chooses the younger brother and wills that the elder serve the younger throughout the narratives in Genesis. This surprising fact, as contrary to prevailing Israelite customs as to Confucian values, cannot be ignored by Divine Principle, and it is the biblical pattern, not the Confucian ethic, that becomes normative. The biblical record informs Divine Principle that there must be a fundamental flaw in the traditional family as long as people are fallen and self-centered. The reversal of the elder and younger brothers, critiquing an institution as central to Unification and Confucian thought as the family, becomes a core concept of the principle of restoration of the ideal family. We see here that the word of scripture is allowed to challenge Confucian principles in the Unification hermeneutic.

Filial Piety and the Parenthood of God

The application of filial piety, the most central of the five relations, as a hermeneutic for scripture has far-reaching consequences for theology and piety. Jesus called God his Father; to see God as our Father means that our position and obligation is to be filial sons and daughters to our Heavenly Parent. Thus when Christianity came to China, Matteo Ricci was quick to identify God with the Lord of Heaven,15 to whom we owe filial service: "... men know their parents, but do not know that the Lord of Heaven is the parent of all. Men know that a nation must have a rightful ruler, but do not know that the Lord who alone governs Heaven is the rightful ruler of all. A man who does not serve his parents cannot be a (true) son; a man who does not know the rightful ruler cannot be a (true) minister; a man who does not serve the Lord of Heaven cannot be a (true) man."16

Divine Principle concurs with Ricci, and this has several implications True daughters and sons of filial piety know their parents' heart hence we should know our Heavenly Parent's situation, God's wishes and undertakings through the centuries, so that we can understand our Parent's desire for us. The Bible is the historical record of God's dealings with us, his children. "Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the Lord alone did lead him." (Deuteronomy 32:11-12) "Sons have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me..." (Isaiah 1:2)

For this reason, Divine Principle requires a biblically grounded faith. Additionally, knowing God's historical situation requires that the providential events of the Christian era also be understood. God has continued to strive to lead his children through the last two thousand years. In this, Divine Principle recovers an Old Testament concern for the significance of the entire sweep of sacred history.

A filial son or daughter's obligation to parents only begins with a knowledge of their situation. Filial piety involves rescuing parents from their suffering, caring for them in their poverty, and fulfilling their desires: "Filial piety is seen in the skillful carrying out of the wishes of our forefathers, and the skillful carrying forward of their undertakings." (Doctrine of the Mean XIX, 2)

Divine Principle understands the heart of God to be suffering with the pain of his children's sufferings and with their bondage to sin.17 We find this sensitivity to God's grieving heart occasionally in the Bible (Genesis 6:6, Hosea 11:1-9, Matthew 23:37), but in Confucianism the sensitive heart of the parent or ruler is a key concept. Mencius said: "All men have this heart, that when they see another man suffer, they suffer, too. The ancient kings had this heart: when they saw men suffer, they suffered, too. Therefore, the former kings ran a government that, when it saw men suffer, it suffered, too... it's not human not to have a heart that sympathizes with pain." (Mencius II, i, vi)

This Confucian ideal of pen, or compassion for others, becomes in Divine Principle an attribute of God, the parent par excellence. When we know of God's suffering in the Bible and share in the agony of God's situation in our contemporary world, we are moved by compassion to strive to ease our Heavenly Parent's heart. Ultimately, the desire of God is the ideal world; all his sons and daughters should make that their purpose as well. Specifically, Rev. Moon has understood his mission in this light. H e strives to comfort the suffering of God and to carry forward God's will to achieve a world of love and peace.

Filial piety and jen (compassion) are humanistic values in Confucianism which, when applied to scripture as ways of understanding human relationships to God, make for a more intimate sort of piety in which God becomes intensely personal. As with the discussion of Principle, we can see that the form of Confucian thought is retained, but its object is shifted from natural human relations to relations with the deity. Confucianism by itself is non-theistic, but as the source of a hermeneutic for scripture, objective to the biblical word, it brings out a synthesis that is theistic and, I would maintain, Christian. The ethic of filial piety draws out the biblical doctrine of God as father. Predictably, shifting the ultimate subject of filial piety from the natural parents to God as parent has created tensions between faith and family affiliation.18

The Root and the Ends

A basic interpretive principle for Unification theology is that a thing is understood according to both the nature of its origins and its intended purpose. This is a concept deeply rooted in the Confucian tradition. Things have their root and their completion. Affairs have their end and their beginning. To know what is first and what is last will lead near to what is taught in The Great Learning: "The ancients who wished to make illustrious virtue throughout the empire first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts..." (3-4)

Generally, there exists in Confucian philosophy a sense that things have their roots, develop, and bear fruit, so that the root of a thing determines its subsequent expression. The root of the individual begins in his mind and heart, and from that point his own actions, his family relations, and his role in society will result. Each of these levels: individual, family, society, nation, world, must be realized sequentially. Each greater level will be only as sound as the foundation of the lesser level allows.

Thus, for Divine Principle the development of the individual's faith in God, the foundation of faith, precedes the establishment of harmonious interpersonal relationships, the foundation of substance. Then, only when the family is established, can work at the level of society bear fruit. Divine Principle therefore devotes a full chapter to the series of family narratives in Genesis, which are relatively insignificant for many Christian theologies, because of this stress on the godly family as the root for the people of God. Similarly, Unification ethics gives priority to personal and family ethics as the precondition for justice in the larger society.

We can also find this orientation to roots in the frequent typologies in Divine Principle, e.g., the twelve disciples of Jesus are rooted in the twelve tribes of Israel, which originated from the twelve sons of Jacob and the twelve generations from Noah to Jacob. We can find it in the numerological principles in the discussion of providential time-identity, where a certain time period, such as the four hundred years from the Reformation to the coming of the Lord of the Second Advent, is seen as rooted in a four hundred year period from the reform of Ezra to the coming of Jesus. This in turn is rooted in earlier periods of forty: the forty years wandering in the wilderness under Moses, the forty-day spy mission, Moses' forty-day fast, etc. (Divine Principle pp. 383-87, 397-98, 402). We can find it in a historiography that sees the roots of democracy in the "Abel-type view of life" that began with the Reformation and ultimately in Hebraic thought, and the roots of communism in the "Cain-type view of life" that began with the Renaissance and the revival of Hellenism (Divine Principle pp. 459-63). We can find it in the depiction of the fall of man, in which the root of all human sinfulness is located in a corruption of the original love of the first human ancestors (Divine Principle pp. 75, 83-91). We can also find it in the understanding of the Last Days, when the new age will begin as but a small movement within a larger culture ignorant of the time, which will eventually expand to fill the earth (Divine Principle pp. 133-36).

Using this context, Divine Principle interprets the rock at Rephidim to be the root of the tablets of stone, and hence of the Tabernacle, in that complex series of events that make up Moses' course (Divine Principle pp. 312-16, 319, 325-27). Extending this image to Jesus' identification of himself with the Temple, this meant that the rock was symbolically the Christ, the substantiation of the Temple and the tablets of stone. Is it surprising that Paul came up with a similar exegesis? (I Corinthians 10:4). The hermeneutic in Divine Principle leads to a richness of allegorical and typological interconnections which were understood in the world view of first century Israel, but which positivistic Western hermeneutics, with its emphasis on the discreteness and historicity of events, has lost.

The other half of this interpretive principle is that a thing must be understood according to its ultimate purpose. The Principle is even more thoroughgoing than most Confucian thinkers in asserting that each level is only harmonized and fulfilled when it exists for the larger purpose. That the individual finds meaning when he serves his family is a commonplace in Oriental thought, but the Principle insists that the family will find its harmony and value in serving the community, that the community should similarly serve the nation, that nations will ultimately find their prosperity when they sacrifice for the sake of the world, and that the world will find true peace only when it is fully dedicated to God. Principle applies the Christian ethic of self-sacrifice systematically to all levels of social existence. Though Confucianists and Christians both have the theological framework to understand sacrifice, they often fall short in practice when faced with the challenge of going beyond the national level to solve world problems. In the ultimate sense the purpose of history is determined by the will of God the creator, so that the root (the purpose of creation) and the ends (the eschatological kingdom of God) are one. Just as Jesus Christ is the alpha and omega, eschatology is grounded in the perfection of creation.

This kind of orientation towards ultimate ends and eschatology is the basis for Divine Principle s understanding of history. The periodizations of both Old Testament history and Christian history can only be constructed based on a view of development towards the historical fulfillment of the reign of God on earth. Thus Klaus Lindner19 has shown that Divine Principle's periodization of Christian history is in accord with the views of nineteenth century liberal Protestant scholars who also saw the purpose of history as the progressive transformation of the world into a world of God's sovereignty. It does not fit with the periodizations in Catholic histories which interpret events according to the growth of the institutions of the church, nor with twentieth-century nominalist histories that reject any hypothesis of a ideological purpose as "unscientific." Similarly, Divine Principles view of history is in substantial accord with that of Old Testament writers such as the Yahwist and the Deuteronomistic historian, who saw in history the unfolding of God's promised kingdom in Israel.

The Role of the King and the Mandate of Heaven

The corollary to the preceding concept of the root as prior to and the basis of greater things is that the conduct of the government has an effect on the welfare of the nation. A typical Confucian statement in this regard is the following by Mencius: "When the prince is committed to the common good, everyone else is committed to the common good." (Mencius IV, ii, v)

A king should be a moral exemplar, who by practical measures of good government and by his example can teach people to live up to high standards. The Confucian tradition makes use of the concept of the "Mandate of Heaven," that when a dynasty ceases to rule justly. Heaven will remove it and replace it with a new one. Heaven's decrees were announced by signs and portents,20 for when the king, as Heaven's representative, was out of step with the order of the universe, discord would be manifest in nature. It is by the king's leadership that society prospers or suffers, but the king rules at the sufferance of Heaven, who will support just rulers but cast off tyrants.

Divine Principle assumes a similar view regarding the monarchies of ancient Israel. Like the Deuteronomistic historian, Confucian historians believed that the religious or moral behavior of the king was more important than his success in battle or his personal wealth. Hence Divine Principle takes the judgment of the kings of Israel and Judah in I and II Kings at face value. It also shares the analysis of prophets like Isaiah, who condemned as futile clever alliances and expediencies at the expense of trusting in God and doing justice.21 (Isaiah 30:1-2,15, 31:1-5; Hosea 7:8-13).

In the Old Testament, two ideologies of covenant and election stand side by side. One sees covenant as a conditional contract between the community and God. If the contract is broken, God may cast off that community and choose another. This conditional covenant runs from Sinai through the prophetic denunciations of the various corrupt dynasties in the Northern kingdom, and finally to the Christian doctrine of a new, spiritual Israel which supplanted the recalcitrant Jews. The other idea is of an unconditional covenant, of a promise by God to Israel that can never be annulled. This so-called "Davidic covenant" centered in Jerusalem as God's eternal dwelling-place and in the house of David as God's chosen dynasty. Despite exile and many corrupt kings, the hope for the Anointed One (Messiah) and the righteous kingdom has persisted into Christian eschatology, still focusing on a scion of David and on Jerusalem. We would expect the Confucian notion of the Mandate of Heaven to predispose Unification theology to the former ideology, and that is indeed the case. Though the promise and will of God for the salvation of all is unconditional, a specific providential role need not necessarily remain attached to any particular person or group. Only persons who fulfill the responsibility to which they were chosen can remain God's elect; otherwise God will choose others to fulfill his will (Divine Principle pp. 199-203). This conditionality is an important self-critical principle in Unification theology, as in Confucianism, and should disabuse us of the idea that the chosen status of any nation or church is not conditional and liable to judgment.

Interesting applications of the notion of the Mandate of Heaven to the Bible are found in Divine Principle's exegesis of Noah's ark and of Abraham's sacrifice (Genesis 15). The emperor in China was considered to correspond in his personal world to the cosmos in miniature. He was a "father and mother to the people."22 Divine Principle makes a similar point in its view of the human as the microcosm of the universe (Divine Principle pp. 38-39, 57-59). Noah's ark, then, is the cosmos in miniature. Noah, by his faith, preserved the cosmos intact (Divine Principle pp. 252f.), but by Ham's sin it was invaded by Satan. Similarly, Abraham, as the one man chosen to begin the dispensation to save the entire world (Genesis 12:3) and to restore the failure of Noah's family, has his sacrifice explained as symbolizing the cosmos (Divine Principle pp. 265-71). The failure to subject one part of the sacrifice to the symbolic cutting of good from evil can thus be interpreted as a mistake; one part of the cosmos is left unpurified. W e can also surmise, using the theory of portents, that the evil signs which followed the offering (Genesis 15:11-13) meant that it had been carried out unacceptably.

Like filial piety, Confucian principles of kingship are transferred in Unification theology to the religious sphere, to the individual's relationship to God. While in Confucianism access to Heaven's Mandate was mainly the privilege of the emperor, Divine Principle's application of this idea to Abraham shows that every person of faith has such a mandate. Every man and woman is a microcosm of the cosmos. The cosmos revolves around and responds to the actions and feelings of each person. This is a transformation of Confucian concepts to the theocentric perspective of the Bible, where kingship is exercised by God and human kings are his surrogates. In Unification piety, the hymn Tan Shim Ga speaks of undying loyalty to God and his will, but it was originally written as a poem about a subject's devotion to his king by the Korean poet Chong Mong-ju (13 37-1392).23 Patriotism and nationalism are relativized to the higher value of the zeal for the universal will of God.

Therefore, Divine Principle does not accept Confucian political philosophy as the ideal for contemporary or future political society. Monarchy is specifically judged as having failed to bring social justice and harmony both within ancient Israel and in the Christian era, and revolutions to democratic social and political forms are praised as in line with the will of God (Divine Principle pp. 424, 429-30, 441-6). Confucianism by itself in both China and Korea had failed to produce a just society. Instead it had stultified to the point where the five relations became the ideological justification for an oppressive hierarchical system of castes and the oppression of women.24 The coming society is seen as a democratic socialist world community of people whose hearts and sensitivities have matured to the point where they will see the common good as their self-interest and highest desire. At the same time, the humaneness of Confucian values can be recovered and made to work if they are centered on God; i.e., when the parties in each of the five relations understand their responsibilities to each other before God, and fulfill them with love.

Concluding Comments

We have investigated several concepts from Neo-Confucian teaching that permeate Korean culture and have exerted hermeneutical influence on the interpretation of scripture in Divine Principle. We have omitted the Neo-Confucian doctrine of the Supreme Ultimate and yin-yang, whose obvious connection to the Unification doctrine of God has been described by S. Matczak.25 There may very well be other concepts from Confucian culture relevant to the interpretation of scripture that have not been treated by this study; indeed this paper is but a precursor to a whole area of research in Chinese philology, history of Korean religion, and higher criticism of the texts of the Unification Church.

Rev. Moon has been called "the Tertullian of the Orient... who accomplished for the first time in a thoroughly consistent fashion the 'acute Orientalization of the Christian gospel."26 This statement brackets the question of revelation, but for our purposes it expresses an important aspect of Rev. Moon's thought. By developing a biblical exegesis based on Oriental philosophy, Rev. Moon has made a great contribution to the indigenization of Christianity in East Asia. Divine Principle is an honest indigenization because it not only expresses the biblical message in Confucian terms, but also allows the Bible to address and critique Confucian life and values. The study of Divine Principle should be able to enhance and broaden a Western person's view of the Bible. We have already mentioned that certain of the insights from a hermeneutic drawn in part from Confucian culture are closer to the sensibilities of the biblical world view than our modern individualistic world view allows. At the very least, Divine Principle can sensitize us to parochial Western presuppositions which can limit our understanding of the Bible. Moreover, in an age when many Western people are attracted to the values of the East because of a lack in our own culture, Divine Principle may be teaching the particular understanding of the biblical word which will give new meaning to the Christian faith for the West.


1 Principle of Creation, Vol. I of The Divine Principle Home Study Course (New York: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1979), p. ii. Korean Confucianism is dominated by the orthodoxy of the school of Chu Hsi and usually ignores the idealist school of Wang Yang Ming of the legalist school which were part of the spectrum of Chinese Confucianism. The narrowness of the Korean orthodoxy simplifies the task of this paper.

2 Confucianism is only one of the sources of Rev. Moon's thought. Herbert W. Richardson in "A Brief Outline of Unification Theology" and Frank K. Flinn in "Unification Hermeneutics and Christian Theology," in A Time for Consideration, ed. M. Darrol Bryant and Herbert W Richardson (Toronto: Mellen, 1978), pp. 133-40, 151-56, have examined his Calvinist and Wesleyan roots. Sebastian A. Matczak in "God in Unification Philosophy and the Christian Tradition" has described the Neo-Confucian origins of the Unification doctrine of God, and Warren H. Lewis in "Hero with the Thousand-and-First Face" has traced an aspect of Rev. Moon's self-understanding of his mission to Korean shamanism, also in A Time far Consideration, pp. 222f, 277-86.

3 All references to Divine Principle are to the second edition (Washington: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1973); hereafter cited as Divine Principle.

4 Ch'eng Yi, Erh Ch'eng i-shu 2A:la, translated in Sources of Chinese Tradition, ed. William Theodote de Bary, Wing-tsit Chan, and Button Watson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1960), p. 527.

5 Woun-li is pronounced "wully" rhyming with "gully," since the n assimilates to the following I in Korean.

6 Some papers on Unification theology have used the term "Divine Principle" for this metaphysical term. This is a poor choice of terminology, both because it is a mistranslation from the Korean and because of the resultant confusion with the written text entitled Divine Principle. The translation "Principle" of "Original Principle" is to be preferred. This paper will consistently use the term "Original Principle" for the metaphysical term woun-li to distinguish it from the Neo-Confucian principle. Note also that Chinese characters cannot distinguish between singular and plural.

7 Analects 7:1.

8 Ch'eng Yi, p. 531.

9 Divine Principle, pp. 39, 131, 211. "Principle" and "the Word" are equated on p. 92, but a detailed discussion of the relationship of truth, Original Principle, and It will not be attempted here.

10 In Confucianism, this unity is expressed by the doctrine of tectification of names (Cheng ming); see William McNaughton, ed., The Confucian Vision (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1974), pp. 126-28. The problematic inherent in this unity has been described by Benjamin Schwartz in "Some Polatities in Confucian Thought," in Confucianism in Action, ed. David S. Nivison and Arthur F. Wright (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1959), pp. 50-62.

11 McNaughton, pp. 41-58.

12 Spencer J. Palmer, Korea and Christianity (Seoul: Hollym, 1967), pp. 32-33.

13 For accounts of Hebrew family customs, see Roland de Vaux, Vol. I of Social Institutions. Ancient Israel (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961); Raphael Patai, Sex and Family in the Bible and the Middle East (New York: Doubleday, 1959); and Johannes Pedersen, Israel. Its Life and Culture. Part I (London: Oxford, 1926).

14 Martin Noth, A History of Pentateuchal Traditions, trans. Bernhard W Anderson (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1972), pp. 91-94, 97. Gerhard von Kad, Genesis, trans. John Marks (London: SCM, 1961), pp. 262-63, 272, 275, 293-97.

15 But in Neo-Confucianism, Heaven (Tien) is impersonal (Divine Principle pp. 26-27), and Ricci railed against the school of Chu Hsi as a deviation from the way of Confucius, which he saw as preparation evangelica. Korean Protestantism identified God with the personal monotheistic deity Hananim, rather than Tien, and Divine Principle follows their practice. The personality of Hananim even carried over into the Korean version of Confucianism, but its true locus was in shamanism. See Palmer, pp. 5-8, 16-18. See also David Chung, "Religious Syncretism in Korean Society," Diss. Yale 1959, pp. 144-48, 274-78.

l6 Li Chih-tsao, preface to Matteo Ricci, Tien-hsueh ch'u-han, in Sources of Chinese Tradition, pp. 627f.

17 Divine Principle, pp. 102-3; Young Oon Kim, Unification Theology and Christian Thought (New York: Golden Gate, 1975), pp. 31-5.

18 The conflict between filial piety to one's family and piety to God as the ultimate patent is not new, either in the Biblical tradition (Lk. 8:20-21, 14:26) of in the Orient. When Buddhism was introduced to China, and many new devotees renounced the world to become monks and ceased to support their families or to provide offspring to perpetuate the family line Confucianists accused the Buddhists of being unfilial. The Buddhists replied that their teachings taught the highest form of piety, and that their renunciation would bring salvation to their parents and even to their ancestors of seven generations. That was far more filial, they argued, than merely to attend to their parents' material needs. Today many Unificationists argue similarly, that their work for God will ultimately save their parents as well as the whole world, and so it is the most filial life of all. See Kenneth Ch'en, "Filial Piety in Chinese Buddhism," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 28(1968), 81-97.

19 Klaus Lindner, "The Periods of Christian History in Unification Theology," in this volume.

20 Tung Chung-shu, "Chun-ch'iu fan-lu," in Sources of Chinese Tradition, pp. 186f.

21 This view contrasts with those contemporary schools of historiography that give the economic and social trends of the masses and the movements of great empires priority over the moral orientation and decisions of a nation's leaders. Instead, the chief concern is with the spirit of the nation and its leadership, its vision and faithfulness to its ideals, for these are what mostly determine a nation's fate. Unificationism's analysis of the state of the United States similarly places the nation's vision, idealism, courage, and morality as primary concerns. It is with these weapons, not nuclear missiles or economic muscle, that the United States can prevail in a hostile world.

22 Tung Chung-shu, pp. 178-81.

23 McNaughton, p. 58.

24 Palmer, pp. 37-46.

25 Matczak, pp. 222-23.

26 Lewis, p. 277. 

Table of Contents

Tparents Home

Moon Family Page

Unification Library