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


Darrol Bryant: There are two sets of material that we are covering today, one dealing with the question of God, the other dealing with the whole topic of christology. I did indicate that we were going to group these all together, but we won't do that. This morning we will focus on Lloyd's presentation concerning the Unification understanding of God and after the break we will have Durwood and Jonathan make some remarks about their papers on christology.

Lloyd Eby: What I have tried to do in my paper is present, as best I understand it from my point of view, what I take to be some of the underlying metaphysical, ontological, and philosophical points of the Unification understanding of God and then say something about what some of the implications of these are.

I also wish to comment on a point Fred Sontag made yesterday. I see Unificationism as inherently optimistic but not naively so, because in any given case, one never knows whether that given case is going to turn out the right or felicitous way or not. In the long run one does know that it will, and though one can't specify what the long run is, of course, Unificationism would claim that in the long run the ideal, the kingdom of heaven or whatever one wishes to call it, will be accomplished because the divine intentionality is focused on the accomplishment of that ideal.

Darrol Bryant: I have trouble with the last question. If it is the case that one has this confidence in the ultimate outcome of things, but all evidence along the way seems to be pointing in the other direction, you even allowed that every sort of particular decision may be the wrong decision or something like that, yet you are still confident of the outcome. That is not a strong argument to say the least. It seems to me to be sheer foolishness to argue that way.

Lloyd Eby: I don't think so, because as a logical principle no finite number of failures shows ultimate failure. So the claim here is that the process will in fact go on until in fact it succeeds -- however long it takes.

Andrew Wilson: Pragmatically it is a good concept, because it means that each person will work his hardest. You can't just sit back and wait for God to do it. On the other hand it gives people the confidence that the inevitable historical end will come, somewhat like the Marxist notion.

Durwood Foster: Lloyd's position on this seems to be very much that of Nels Ferre, who holds that God will persist in the effort to redeem us all until, by the law of averages, that effort succeeds. In your last paragraph I suppose that you mean that God will persist rather than prevail.

Lloyd Eby: Right, that is what I mean.

Durwood Foster: Because God has not yet prevailed, at least not in that sense. But one still wonders, in view of the enormous freedom you seem to allow to creaturely rebellion along the way, whether Unification thought does not qualify human freedom in any way. I wonder if you really mean that there is nothing at all like what the traditionists call divine judgment from the Unification perspective. In the traditional view a human being incurs penalty when there is deviation from God's will. This is a way of limiting or controlling in some way the range of rebellious freedom. Also in the tradition it is very clearly taught that in the end God will put Satan under the divine feet. So it isn't left up to human beings necessarily to overcome Satan. Human beings do have responsibility. As I have said in a number of connections, I think that is a very strong point in Unification theology, but nevertheless God is in there pitching too. It is clear that this happens also in your view; for example, God does send the Messiah, for one. But nevertheless you do seem to allow rebellious creatures an enormous range of freedom. If that is the case, one wonders, in spite of this business of the law of averages predicting that the billionth time around maybe redemption will occur, whether there can be any hope that it will. Given that Satan was clever enough and powerful enough to perpetrate what he did originally, how is such potent ingenuity ever going to be sealed off or how is some kind of ultimate victory going to be achieved that we can rely upon. There seems to be a kind of instability, an uncertainty eschatologically at that point.

James Deotis Roberts: The question that bothers me in Unification thought is about the nature and attributes of God. To talk about what God does and how he acts and so forth at this point ought to stem from some understanding of who or what God is in himself and I don't see that coming forth. This would have something to do with what the providence of God working out in history would be like. For example, Durwood uses the process model of God which is like the agape motif in traditional belief. He combines process and agape so that he knows that God is love. He looks for the ultimate redemption of everyone because that love will not let man go. All will eventually be saved. So we know that this is consistent with what God will do about evil and that redemption is consistent with this understanding of God. Thus the question seems to me to be the foundation of the system.

Lloyd Eby: I think you are right. It is quite correct that I have not stressed that point in what I have written. As I would understand it, the Unification claim would be that the essential nature of God is God's heart, a heart of love. Because of his heart of love God will persist in his salvific work until man makes the necessary response. Persistence is guaranteed by God's nature.

Lonnie Kliever: There were times in the paper where it seemed to me you were arguing for a theory of internal relations between God and the creation and that there are other times in the paper where you are disavowing a theory of internal relations. For example, you seem to be defending a theory of internal relations when you argue that no separations can be made. However, when you argue for the non-materiality of God you are disavowing a theory of internal relations. The same holds when you affirm the radical freedom of man. But when you affirm the final and radical sovereignty of God you revert to the kind of relational ontology and metaphor that you are working with. Implied is a theory of internal relations. It seems to me that that is a fundamental problem that is not articulated clearly in the paper.

Lloyd Eby: I grant you that the problem is not articulated as clearly as it needs to be. I wish to argue for a theory of internal relations, but I would also wish to say that the nature of God is to be parent and creative; the nature of man is also to be parent and creative. That implies some kind of limitation to what the internal relations are. Namely, you are a parent of your child so therefore there is a kind of internal relation between you and your child, but in the process of maturation the child has to in some sense become a unique individual apart from you.

Durwood Foster: I can appreciate the tension and wanting to work with the tension. This may be a point where the metaphors of parent and child stretch ontologies of internal relationality beyond coherence. But I appreciate the desire to maintain a theory of internal relations and yet do justice to the intuitive experiental tension within that. I commend you in your search for that.

Frank Flinn: The following is a problem for me. On the one hand, there is this tendency in Unification -- not necessarily in Divine Principle but in Unification -- which can be seen as a drive toward a historicist theodicy in the Hegelian sense. Within this mode of thinking one is compelled to explicate the origin of good out of evil. Yet, on the other hand, I have this nagging doubt that one of the problems we have as philosophers but more so as theologians is the inexplicability of radical evil. I don't see any easy resolution of that. One reason why I ultimately reject Hegel is that he could look at evil things happening and see God's providence in them. I myself cannot see through the veil between good and evil or see war as healthy. Hegel says wars are healthy for the internal union of a nation. The problem with asserting optimism is that you resort to necessity to explain radical evil. I can't do that.

Lloyd Eby: I agree that this is an enormous problem. It is an extremely difficult one to solve. Let me state my faith first of all. I think the problem can be solved. I do have a number of things to say about it. Whether those are a successful solution or not, I don't know. I think this problem will also come up in terms of the discussion about society. Perhaps it is even more appropriate there. It seems to me that the Unification account of the origin of evil would want to say that the set of circumstances and the set of underlying things which make evil possible are inherent in creation. It would want to deny however that evil has to result from that. It would want to say, for example, that the existence of love in an immature man and woman means that love has the potential of being misused. Granted that, it doesn't follow that it necessarily must be misused. Therefore, if that can be rectified, then the claim would be that once you've got a mature parent you are in a better position than if you had no parent at all, roughly speaking.

Frederick Sontag: I really want to come back to the same problem. Maybe we can work on it and get an answer. Let me try one thing and next a little different notion. It seems to me that you are caught because you have limited God's power. You say that God's gift of co-creativity means that man remains inviolable. Therefore you have limited the divine power. No w other theologians would probably point out that process thought has done the same thing, but the tradition, almost to a man, maintained the divine power so that God is able to accomplish his purpose. You have limited this. Most process thought remains relatively optimistic like you, but they are related to modern times and to the enlightenment. They see some kind of optimism tied to the human scene, to the progressive evolutionary view. I don't see that you feel that way.

Two things seem strange here. One, if you do treat the problem as though God can keep trying, it becomes a little like Russian roulette as to when he is going to strike. I don't read Divine Principle that way. It seems to me that you are backing off from the specific statements which indicate that a breakthrough is about to come. You have many statements by Rev. Moon on this subject.

But let me focus on another issue which is more metaphysical. Why is it that, if God gave man the gift of freedom, he is nor able to retract it? It would seem to me that the God who gave freedom could also retract it. That is a difficult metaphysical position. Are you going to argue the other way, which some process thought does, namely, that God is simply one part of the process?

Lorine Getz: I want to pursue the question of evil as well. To some degree at least, parts of the theory are not very far from Jung's concept of evil. The psychological model that Jung would use would be to see Jesus and Satan as counter faces and good and evil as the split within the divine. That is not the language that you use but it would be a plausible explanation. It is rather unique that you want to hold that Satan ultimately will be redeemed. That is a reunification kind of thing. My question about that is, exactly what kind of evil is it? A lot of your language seems to say that evil is essentially relational and not a kind of concrete entity. Yet you want to talk about people who are essentially evil which is I think what I heard when you were talking about Cain and Abel. So it seems to me a question of what exactly is evil and where is it located.

David Kelly: I want to make almost exactly the same point but from a different tradition than the Jungian tradition or the Thomistic tradition. I think that Fred Sontag is right. Divine Principle is generally an optimistic work, using that term in a loose rather than absolute sense. But it is progressive and your ontology is relational. If you want to tie those two things together you might take a look at the possibility of defining evil as absence of substance, or evil as negation. You can say that evil is a negation of relationship. It would seem more generally in harmony with your approach not to talk about inherent evil or essential evil. You have other languages that would do better than that. That would tie in with your general approach to this.

Lloyd Eby: Let me say something about some of the issues. In terms of Fred's point about the gift of freedom, I have forgotten what I said. Did I say God gives freedom to man? If so, that is perhaps an infelicitious way of putting it. God shares his creativity and his parenthood with man.

Frederick Sontag: Does he have to?

Lloyd Eby: Yes, in order to be a parent you have to have children, you can't be a parent otherwise.

Frederick Sontag: You can remain celibate.

Lloyd Eby: Then you are not a parent.

Frederick Sontag: True, does he have that power?

Lloyd Eby: Maybe so, but once you are a parent, then you can't rescind it.

Frederick Sontag: Why not? I have the power to give; I have the power to take away. I let Herb speak!

Lloyd Eby: Of course but that is not parentage. You are not Herb's parent, (laughter)

Herbert Richardson: I recently divorced my daughter! (laughter)

Lloyd Eby: This is ridiculous! By saying that Cain and Abel are evil I want to deny the claim which some people make about Unificationism that in the Cain/Abel model we are asserting that one is good and the other evil. That I deny. If you don't like the language of saying that one is inherently or essentially evil, I'll grant the linguistic point. On the question whether sin is a substance or a relationship, clearly Unificationism is claiming that sin is a relationship. It is a distortion of relationship. Cain and Abel and everyone else have that distorted relationship. Evil is the negation of the proper relationship with God.

Jonathan Wells: Regarding "inherent evil:" Divine Principle claims that no person, not even Lucifer, is essentially evil. By "inherently evil," Lloyd just means that they both had fallen nature. The creation per se is not inherently evil.

On the question of God's power, it seems to me that most Christians would grant that God cannot sin, and yet they would want to say that God is free and omnipotent. Aquinas claimed that God cannot change the past, that God cannot make a square circle or do what is self-contradictory. So mainstream Christianity has always acknowledged certain limits on God's power. All that is being claimed here is that God became a parent. I am willing to grant the point that God didn't have to become a parent; he wasn't compelled to create the world. Bur having become a parent and having granted freedom to his children, if he then acts as though they weren't free, he is doing something contradictory; or if he withdraws that without which his children cannot be his children, in effect he is giving up on the effort to accomplish his purpose. Divine Principle (following Isaiah) claims that God having once purposed to do something will do it. And so in this sense God is not free to withdraw the freedom he has granted us.

Frederick Sontag: Ho w is he going to do it?

Jonathan Wells: That is a good question, but that is not the one I am addressing. My last point is about the negation concept of evil. I find Augustine's and Aquinas' idea of evil as negation inadequate. Auschwitz is not just a lack of goodness. Divine Principle seems to me to have a better concept of evil, in that evil consists not only in the disruption of a relationship with God but also in the establishment of a relationship with Satan. Since relationship is ontological in Unification, the relationship with Satan has a force of its own, it is a misdirected relationship and not just a sort of falling away from God.

Anthony Guerra: I am going to make two points. The first point addresses the basis for optimism in Divine Principle. I agree with Fred Sontag that the Principle talks about there being kaironic moments in history -- Jacob, Moses, Jesus, these are victories. It is precisely on the basis of those victories that we say we now have hope that the final victory can be accomplished. There has not been just a history of defeats. I refer to the time that Jacob receives the name Israel, that means victory. There have been actual breakthroughs. And secondly, there seems to be uncertainty about the final victory in eschatological time. The way the uncertainty is removed is through the Lord of the Second Advent, who, working in cooperation with Jesus, finally defeats Satan in the world. Once that defeat is accomplished the way is opened for individuals in society to make relationships as brothers and sisters so that finally we can realize the kingdom of heaven.

Andrew Wilson: On the question of theodicy, there are different kinds of evil. Certain kinds of evil are judgments of God and one can see within them a good purpose, for example, the exile of Israel in Babylon as a way of helping them to pay indemnity so that the foundation for the Messiah could be laid. But there are other kinds of evil that have no redeeming value and are just radically evil, such as Auschwitz and the fall of man itself. All they have done is increase the suffering of human beings and the suffering of God. So I don't think Divine Principle would assert a Hegelian type of theodicy which saw good in evil action.

Klaus Lindner: I think Fred's point is very well taken. Divine Principle is not in agreement with Enlightenment optimism that sees gradual improvement. The optimism of Unification is based on something that historically has happened already. As for Barth, the integral of the new world would be the new man; and for Divine Principle transcendence has broken in already in Rev. Moon and in the new family. The image of the new world is the new family, therefore the optimism is based precisely on the fact that there is a model of the new world already. Therefore, in some way God has been victorious already. From that point on, a gradual increase can take place and spread. There is optimism in that it is possible to duplicate the model. The basis of optimism is an actual victory of God.

Durwood Foster: A lot has accrued in the interim since I raised my hand. First a comment on the theme of evil which seems to be so fascinating as to be unavoidable. In particular I am thinking of something Andy just said that perhaps represents a kind of difference from the tradition, although I am not sure. I think the tradition generally says that the power and the love of God are able to bring good out of all things, though this is emphatically not to be understood in the Hegelian sense that God engineers or perpetrates the evil in order to produce the good. It must be seen as the miraculous power of God to rectify a situation that goes awry contrary to God's will. This is somewhat different from what Andy said; though maybe, Andy, you would espouse it. I don't know. Romans 8:28 is a great text in which the idea is asserted.

Now a comment about something that emerged along the way. As far as the mainstream tradition is concerned, there is a lot of importance given to what seems to appear as a slight difference between Lloyd and Jonathan. Lloyd seemed to say that the act of God in creating children was a necessary act in which God fulfills the divine nature, which otherwise would remain unfulfilled. Jonathan expressed himself differently by saying that God was not compelled to become a parent, but did so and once having done so had a situation on the divine hands which had now to be dealt with. The difference between you on that point did not seem to matter much to you, but to the tradition it has made a great deal of difference. The tradition has wanted to say God is not compelled aboriginally to create the world. One very important function of that doctrine is the consciousness of grace. One thing that pervades the Christian spirit historically is this tremendous sense of grace that we have received from God, the gift of our being as an act that was not necessary on God's part but was an act of love freely given. Thus, that seemingly inconsequential difference between you two has played an important role in theology.

Herbert Richardson: I would like to explain where I see the real problem between genuine Christianity and pseudo-Christianity. (I think the Unification people ought to be allowed to choose what they want to be.) I would like to argue with them like this. In a series of propositions, some people would interpret Divine Principle as teaching this: Adam and Eve are not created in the image of God but through their growth and through their activities they should gain or achieve the image of God. The image of God means a condition of perfection whose psychological analogue is happiness or beatitude. So we are not created happy. Adam and Eve aren't created happy but they have to grow and exercise their wills and they become happy. Their wills don't possess within them the power of a certain rectitude and happiness. The wills are mutable and unstable and therefore Eve is susceptible to being seduced by Satan. W e can say in this sense then what evil is. It is immaturity and being under the power of Satan. That is a whole theory. If you read the very first sentence in Divine Principle it says, "Everyone without exception is struggling to gain happiness." That is in a sense a description of Adam and Eve in at least one account of Divine Principle.

Now, what is at stake here is the question about the will. In the platonic setting, happiness is the goal of the will. W e are seeking to gain happiness and, as Plato said, once you have attained happiness, you wouldn't want anything anymore. Happiness is understood to be so much the end towards which you were striving that if you ever got it you would never will thereafter. Now, in traditional Christianity Adam and Eve are created in the image of God. They are created perfect and in tune with the will of God. They don't attain the will of God therefore through their willing. This means that they have happiness and rectitude in their nature of perfection right from the very beginning. Because they will and choose out of their happiness and out of their perfection, happiness is not the end towards which they will but it is the foundation of all of their actions. What they will is something else altogether. I might say that in traditional Christianity sin means a falling away, a genuine falling away and loss of the happiness that you had, right? Happiness is actually the capacity, a fully developed capacity, for right action. The fall is throwing away this happiness. That is why the notion of evil being non-being is essentially correct. In traditional Christianity what the gospel says is that God restores happiness to us in Jesus Christ. We can call it righteousness, but God gives us back the gift of the perfection of our wills which is the gift of happiness, beatitude, blessedness, or righteousness. All words that mean the same thing. We have it as the principle of our action rather than the thing that we have to gain. That is the basis for the whole attack on works-righteousness. You don't have through your work to become righteous or get happy because you are given happiness by God. Then there is an ethic that grows out of this. The principle of our action is that we have the happiness that most people are trying to get through their own action. How then should we act? Plato said, one wouldn't act. The Heidelberg Catechism says, no, we act out of gratitude. Because we act out of happiness, we act out of gratitude. It is perfectly clear that people who are happy are not immobilized from action but they are doubly active and doubly effective. I think Christianity is absolutely right. I think that there is a lot within Unification theology that is confused on this point. It is bad psychology and bad theodicy. The gospel says we are given happiness by God and it is a whole different principle of action. Now the question is, what does Divine Principle teach? Well I think it is a little bit unclear. Let me just show you how I think it is unclear. Last summer at the Virgin Islands conference there was a question whether the fall was caused by Satan seducing Eve who was immature. That is what Jonathan said. But Rev. Kwak said, no, Eve was fully responsible; she had the full power to resist Satan.

Jonathan Wells: It is not that simple.

Herbert Richardson: But Eve had the power to say no to Satan. If Unification teaches that Eve possessed a power of rightness in the will so that there is a genuine fall, a misuse of freedom, then that puts the Unification Church in the traditional camp. If in fact the fall rests on immaturity, then the Unification Church falls in the other camp. The question is where it falls.

Now let's look at the doctrine of redemption. Under the doctrine of redemption happiness is given to us by God and the reason for the happiness is important. The question is, do we have that which Plato calls the end of our act, or in the order of works-righteousness in the beginning of our acts so that we act out of happiness out of a gift, or do we have to attain these as the end of our act? This says something about the quality of the human will? W e can say, how does God save the world? God saves the world by saving the human will so that the human will can save the world. Where does it stand now? I felt that the most helpful point was made by Klaus. The discussion in the entire group has been about two terms, God and man, what God does and what we do. That framework for discussion is totally wrong both from the point of view of traditional Christianity and from the point of view of the Unification Church. Many traditional Christians say, we can do nothing, God can do all, but it doesn't make any difference because God gives us the grace of forgiveness, happiness, and righteousness in Jesus Christ. It is because it is given to us in Jesus Christ that we now receive it with certainty. Provided we just cling to him. We receive it from Christ, give it to Christ, we don't get it ourselves. The doctrine about God in traditional Christianity is not a metaphysical notion. It means that God does it all in Jesus Christ and we receive it from Jesus Christ in whom God has done it perfectly. Insofar as there is any five percent at all in traditional Christianity, it is not our five-percent vis-à-vis God but it is the five-percent of Jesus Christ vis-à-vis God. There is a cooperative action in Jesus vis-à-vis God, which he is capable of because of the perfection of his being but which we are not capable of. We receive it from him in the same way the Unification Church says.

I think Klaus said it absolutely rightly. It is my personal belief that by his sixtieth birthday, yesterday, Rev. Moon had accomplished everything that was necessary for our salvation in a certain order of reality. All that it is necessary for us to do is to receive it from him. W e can now talk about the establishment of institutions and the family and so forth. How would we understand this, but that we receive it from him? Now, nothing in all this theory is about us and God sharing it fifty-fifty. There is nothing in this theory that functions in a Greek modality where what we are seeking is happiness. Seeking happiness is like putting "take" before "give." Everything in the theory of the Unification Church says God gives it to us and then we receive it from him. No w it is a hundred percent give, and it doesn't even come to us directly. It is a hundred percent give in Rev. Moon. W e receive it from him. It seems to me that that whole framework is basically different from the way that we have been talking about it when you put the mediatorship of the messianic office in place. Where do the "Moonies" stand, with me or with Lloyd Eby? (laughter)

Lonnie Kliever: I will try to make my concluding comment brief. It is evoked by much of the discussion this morning. I am a sort of simple-minded person who has trouble following the perorations of theological precedents in history. I like to stay close to images and to stories. Again I am struck by how much of what was said this morning is beside the point. When you explore the image of parenting, the notion that God gives freedom, which he doesn't take away or couldn't take away, doesn't make any sense. Parents give and take all the time and there are times when I take away the present freedom of my children in the name of their future freedom, in the name of love. It just doesn't make any sense to talk about freedom that way. I have had my exchange with Herb and I won't repeat that except to simply say that the image of parenting reflects a notion of human immaturity or growth. That immaturity and growth is the ontological basis for both human freedom and necessity.

I want to make a final comment that may connect with the session to come. The parenting image is a loaded image that has dark recesses -- depths and struggles which lurk beneath the surface of the upper middleclass family where the parent indulges the fantasies and the wishes of the children and where much of what I hear coming through in the conversation this morning is simply nor even dreamed of. Maybe a christology which has a cross at its heart -- which speaks of struggle and sacrifice and maybe even of the father slaying the son -- is a place where we begin to plumb the image of the parent and the child more fully.

Durwood Foster: That is real optimism I would say! (laughter) 

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