Hermeneutics and The Shape of the Future - Edited by Frank K. Flinn
This paper consists of propositions that might appear in the christological part of a regular course in Christian systematic theology, interwoven with comments prompted by the prospect of dialogue about and with Unification treatment of the same themes. It is essentially a first draft, tentative and anticipatory in mood.
1. The notion of a "christ," broadly taken, has many parallels in human experience, e.g., the avatars of Vishnu, the Jain tirthankaras, the bodhisattvas and buddhas, the Jewish messiahs such as Shabbatai Zebi, the Muslim mahdis, modern figures like Baha'u'llah and Meher Baba, and political saviors like Che or Khomeini. The list could go on and on. Wherever a decisive historical instrument of providence (of the liberation and fulfillment of history) is awaited or affirmed, there we have messianic thinking, at least in a general sense.
Comment. In this wide perspective, clearly the Unification movement would invite christological analysis, even if no explicit messianic title had been associated, definitely or contingently, with the Rev. Moon.
2. Thus the functional meaning of "christ" is not something freakish or rare. Humans have -- or they are expecting -- their christs and their lords. To communicate Jesus, or someone else, as Christ and Lord is not so much a matter of addressing an empty space in human existence as it is a matter of claiming a prepared space, or contesting a preempted one.
Comment. Insofar as the claim that is or might be made for the Rev. Moon that he is the Lord or Christ who previously came in Jesus, Unification christology would take the form of both claiming a prepared space and -- over against an already "realized" eschatology -- contesting a preempted one. It would figure that such a christology (as indeed any christology) might be welcomed by some as yearned-for glad tidings and hostilely resisted by others as a threat.
3. The center of historic Christian faith is the conviction, amid the rivalry of many gods and lords (I Corinthians 8:5), that "Jesus is Lord" (Romans 10:9, I Corinthians 12:3) or that the Christ is Jesus (normatively, definitively) or that God (our Ultimate Concern, the Primordial Creator, the foundational power of being) is specifically the God who loves and calls us to love as Jesus loved.
Comment. A basic question would be whether Unificationism shares this axial conviction. Somewhat different attitudes toward it seem to exist in the church. Ostensibly Unificationism does share the conviction, so far as it affirms Jesus as the Christ and accepts his authority. Ostensibly it does not, so far as it relativizes Jesus' authority by positing a more definitive subsequent revelation -- unless this subsequent revelation should really be what mainstream Christianity has envisaged as the return of Christ. In terms of what we have so far said, this issue does not yet readily "compute." Parsing it and construing how theology might deal with it is the overall problem before us.
4. In the course of Christian thought there have arisen three main themes or problem areas in the interpretation of Christ: (i) how Christ is known, (ii) who Christ is, and (iii) what Christ does.
Comment. This threefold division, which as formal schema would apply to any messianically structured faith, is, of course, also to be found in Unification thought.
5. The first theme has generated particularly acute problems since the development of critical historiography and its application to the biblical record. A popular way of posing these problems has been to ask about the relation of the "Christ of faith" and the "Jesus of history." More recently, many of the same problems have been refocused within the framework of hermeneutics, the theory of interpretation. In the earlier Christian centuries, the continuity of Christ with a putatively reconstructible Jesus was not so explicitly problematic, though from its beginnings Christianity did struggle with the relation between the "living Christ" and the witness to Jesus that came to be preserved in the canonical scriptures.
Comment. The beginnings of Unificationism were unsophisticated regarding the problems posed by modern historiography and hermeneutics. Though exegetically bold and insightful -- and sometimes pointedly responding to the "modern intellect" -- Divine Principle is largely oblivious to the technical literature in which such problems have been defined and redefined by generations of liberal scholarship. However, the Unification movement has entered an extremely interesting phase of encountering modern critical theology. This began with Dr. Young Oon Kim and has greatly expanded through the Barrytown Seminary and its graduates. While the results of the encounter are not strictly predictable, it would not be surprising to see a recapitulation of what has happened in modern theology uberhaupt polarization into "fundamentalist" and "modernistic" wings, with a mediating center.
This may be delayed, however, since under the impact of the "living Christ" (or Holy Spirit) reflective issues tend to remain dormant. As long as Unificationism is dominated by such an experience -- concentrated in the person of the founder and mediated through a coterie of apostolic leaders -- direct divine authority may obviate historical and hermeneutical methodology. Meanwhile, depending on the perceived stratus of Rev. Moon and Divine Principle, the movement may become more and more detached from the Christian mainstream, as have Mormonism and Christian Science.
But is it clear what kind and degree of authority the Unification Church actually attributes to Rev. Moon and Divine Principle? An apodictic plenary authority? Obviously not, so far as the printed book Divine Principle is concerned. It is clearly subject to both revision and supplementation. And it is said to be as yet unresolved (for many followers at least) whether Rev. Moon is in fact Lord of the Second Advent. Is this to say it is yet unsettled whether his authority is certain?
6. For purposes of analysis three Christs may be distinguished: (i) the original Jesus, (ii) the biblical picture of this original Jesus, and (iii) the living contemporary presence of this Jesus as the Christ. It is the upshot of the theological tradition -- in, through, and with continual tension among these three moments or elements -- to insist that all three belong to the wholeness of Jesus as the Christ, or of the Christ whom we know, or knew, as Jesus.
Comment. The fact that Unification theology also posits these three elements and their consistency establishes with mainstream Christianity, notwithstanding all differences, crucial rudiments of a common hermeneutical arena. In spite of the absence of critical apparatus, Divine Principle, in inferentially constructing its view of various passages, posits the actual biblical history behind the record. While not "afraid to remove old traditional concepts," it assumes both the veracity of the text (sometimes literally, sometimes symbolically, as is reasonable) and the factual referentiality of the text -- that is to say, it assumes both the biblical and the real historical Christ, without a sense of any hiatus between them. And, of course, in the third place, it adduces the living Christ or Holy Spirit, this third element being for it the hermeneutical fulcrum.
The third element -- the living Christ -- seems clearly decisive for Unificationism inasmuch as the latter has made its way so far, not primarily by critical erudition, but by virtue of fresh religious inspiration. It has been the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (italics added). Rev. Moon, even if not yet fully certified as Christ redivivus, is supposed to have been in direct touch with the ascended Jesus. It would be germane in this connection for Unification thought to thematize precisely how it does understand the cognitive processes of Rev. Moon. Is his knowledge believed to be grounded at least partly in prodigious study or in a continuous special bond with God? In sporadic supervention of the Spirit over otherwise normally human mental operations? In impartations through seance-like experiences from Jesus and others in the heavenly world? Or, as seems inferable from the variety of data, in a medley of such ways? Phenomenologists of religion must very much hope that someday Rev. Moon himself will give us a careful publicly accessible deposition on this matter.
In any event, with the living Christ element so hermeneutically pivotal, it is surprising how much detailed attention is given in Divine Principle to biblical-historical argumentation. One might think the Rev. Moon would reveal everything by edict, or like the authors of the occult lives of Jesus. Instead there is a massive (albeit critically undocumented) effort at historical persuasion, by a persuader who purports to reason for the most part inductively from the exegetical data. The patent care to have the Bible agree with Divine Principle expresses an apparent commitment to the integrity -- in some sense -- of the three Christs: original, biblical, and living. But in what sense?
7. So far as concerns the Christian mainstream one might, on the one hand, state the relation between the three Christs thus: that the original Jesus becomes decisive for faith insofar as he is witnessed to as the biblical Christ, and the biblical Christ becomes decisive insofar as he is manifest to the community of faith as our contemporary and coming Savior and Lord.
Comment. Unificationism is clearly in accord with this formulation, which amounts in fact to the decisive hermeneutical principle that the present epiphany of Christ is determinative for the other two Christs. "To know Christ is to know his benefits" (Melanchthon) -- that is, to experience his saving reality here and now. "Christ" means the agency, the process or the person in and through which or whom the divine realm is established as fulfillment of history. Thus, whoever becomes manifest as the unifier of humankind under God is ipso facto Christ. The contemporary christic epiphany thus involved becomes the interpretive key to assessing scripture and its underlying history. Luther's principle, was Christum treibet, with Christ now understood as contemporaneous, selects and illuminates the data. This resonates with (indeed, it sparks) that trend of general hermeneutics, from Schleiermacher and Dilthey to Heidegger and Ricouer, in which Geschichte annuls Historie, the textual-factual submits as material cause to the finality of present existence which comprehends and validates it. This is what Barth attempted to repudiate as "Cartesianism" and Gogarten called the "triumph of subjectivism" in modern thought.
8. On the other hand, in the Christian mainstream, the obverse of the foregoing proposition (#7) has also obtained, viz., the manifestation of Christ in the present (i.e., the claim to be such, to be the instrument of the Holy Spirit) has been tested by conformation to the biblical, and the biblical (were any hiatus between the two acknowledged) by conformation to the original historical Christ. "No one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says 'Jesus be cursed I " (I Corinthians 12:3)
Comment. From the earliest times there was insistence upon the conformability of the testimonium internum spiritus sancti (as this erupted, e.g., with great dynamism in such phenomena as Montanism and later the Schwarmer) to the apostolic witness and then to the biblical picture of Christ which became its repository. Only with the rise of modern historiography was it feasible to envisage the original Jesus as offering, in principle, another touchstone, alongside or prior to the biblical witness -- a development which inevitably relativized the latter, opening the way for what Barth wanted to oppose as "Cartesianism" or "subjectivism." Over the feasibility and application of this other touchstone, Christendom has tended to bifurcare into fundamentalism, which refused to submit the biblical norm to "higher criticism," and liberalism, which affirmed such criticism without limitation. Such was the state of affairs two generations ago. Since then the historiographical hermeneutical discussion has greatly complexified, with fundamentalism (while eschewing its old nametag in favor of "evangelicalism") increasingly accepting modes of higher criticism -- as did also Roman Catholicism -- and liberalism increasingly recognizing in and under such criticism profound methodological problems. The situation today, in foundational theory, is volatile, with old alignments in extensive disarray. Even so, one may still say that for mainstream Christianity generally it is a salient principle that the living Christ (or the coming Christ or the Holy Spirit) is to be tested by the biblical and historical Christ(s), whether or not these be regarded as structurally homogeneous, as in fundamentalism, or as critically disparate, as in liberalism. A paramount recent enactment of this principle was the emergence of the Barmen Declaration to oppose the Nazi christ -- the appeal to what Tillich called the "great Kairos" (Jesus as the Christ) over against the seductive power of the present kairos. But is there any established protocol by which testing of current christic candidates by the biblical-historical Christ must or might be systematically carried out? Obviously the dividedness of Christendom severely beclouds and impedes the very idea of such a program in general. In any event, theologians today seem quite unresolved about such matters, not just among but within themselves. Nonetheless, such testing presumably would involve comparing the newly claimed messianic epiphany with the concrete features of the historical-biblical Christ, e.g., his righteous love, his humility and poverty, his healing forgiveness, his unreserved trust in God and zeal for God's realm, his being for others, especially for the sick, deprived, oppressed, and lost, his open-hearted universalism, his via cruris, and the liberating, whole-making grace manifest in the power of his resurrection. In such comparison a merely quantitative calculus would be as unsuitable as it would be in the act of falling in love. Nor could it be forgotten that one of the striking features of the historical-biblical Christ is his contrariety to messianic expectations. There is a sense in which the Christ is, by definition, not the one whom the preexisting definitions expect.
As already said, it is clear that the Unification Church proposes in some sense to accord not only with Proposition 7 but also with Proposition 8; hence the energetic attempt to demonstrate that Rev. Moon's emergence fulfills biblical predictions. Divine Principle's apologetic attention to the letter of scriptural apocalyptic is more pertinent to the evangelical (or older fundamentalist) than to the liberal sphere of discourse. On the other hand, the description of the crisis of modernity is relevant to the liberal as well as evangelical mentality and also to vast numbers alienated from traditional churches. The historical-biblical Christ is or is supposed to be the one who breaks down the dividing walls of hostility and unifies world history under God, judging and transforming in the process the failures (among others) of his own would-be followers. This idea or normative affirmation, one view of the sorely felt disunities of our world -- within Christendom, among religions, among sciences and between science and religion, between the secular and the spiritual, between races and sexes, between communism and democracy -- becomes eschatological. The biblical Christ who came as Jesus, construes as a role, a pledge, the mystery of God's purpose through the ages, calls out for fulfillment, grasping the consciousness of Sun Myung Moon as his own most vocation. Correspondingly, the program of Rev. Moon essays to explain and thus confirm itself in the format of biblical history.
Regarding the actual or potential conformation of the Rev. Moon to Jesus as the Christ, a mixed impression emerges prima facie. There is in the founder of Unificationism an inspiring forcefulness of heart and mind dedicated with seemingly unswerving confidence and sagacious practical insight to uniting humanity under God. This may, in principle, plausibly be construed as continuous with, or the reinstantiation of, the biblical-historical Christ. On the other hand, what about the disparities that seem to exist in poverty and opulence, in the figure of the lonely suffering servant over against the acclaimed leader of a flourishing movement? To be sure, Unification theology cites great mental and physical suffering earlier endured by Rev. Moon for his mission's sake, while biblical imagery depicts the once-humiliated Christ returning in glory. So the matter is more complex than many take it at first blush. How about the special concern of Jesus for the poor and the oppressed? It has been doubted whether Rev. Moon was notably aware of, or his message very relevant to, the plight of the third world or, in general, the concerns of liberation theology including its feminist version. This is an open question. Some have the same doubts about Jesus! At any rate, Unification thought is very biblical in not separating the religious from the socio-political (though to identify them would also be extremely dubious); and there are impressive evidences of response to the "wretched of the earth." Moreover, the protean nature of the Unification movement is such that if liberation theology, for example, expresses an as yet unincorporated element that might be valid, steps are taken to arrange dialogue and enable assimilation. Is this kind of absorbent openness messianically undignified? There is a strand of christological sensibility that feels so, as witness the efforts to bedeck the historical Jesus with a priori omniscience. Certainly a superficial syncretism will sink in its own confusion. But on the other hand there are unmistakable indications that Jesus was a receptive person whose vision even of his own mission was enlarged by others (cf. the exchange with the Syro-Phoenician woman, Matthew 15:21-28). Again in such respects we see that the comparative issue is far from simple, especially if on guard against a priggish absolutizing of one's own conception of how Christ would return.
For the outsider, comparison with Jesus is all the more difficult because there is not yet what we might call a Unification "New Testament" that would present a canonical personal image of Rev. Moon. Divine Principle is a kind of Unification "Old Testament" (granted that in a further sense the Christian Bible is also this), leading up to the Second Advent but breaking off there. Elements of a "Moonie" gospel tradition are forming inchoately (the anecdotes, the "Master Speaks" teachings, etc.), but these have not yet coalesced on anything parallel to the biblical picture of Jesus as the Christ. Perhaps they could not yet have done so. At least it is difficult to imagine the conclusion of such a process during the earthly lifetime of its subject. There is a sense in which only death can render us whole in history's eye.
In any event our considerations so far are qualitative. Supposing they should indicate significant conformation between Rev. Moon (as the living, returning Christ) and the predecessor Christ who was Jesus, what about the quantitative dimension? Has the Rev. Moon, any more than Jesus in the first century, impacted the world extensively in an eschatologically transformative way? Will he? It may have been easier to think so in the movement's earlier phases, and becomes more problematic as years elapse. Ironically, it was because Jesus, who was personally an unambiguous exemplar of God's reign, failed to change history in the large that his second coming became necessary. Will Unificationism conceive a return for Rev. Moon as the culminating moment if a gradual permeation is not achieved during his lifetime? Or will some hold, as Christian "realized eschatology" does now of Jesus, that he has already accomplished for history all that is required of the Christ and that he remains in spiritual communion with us as the Living Lord? This kind of question does, to be sure, jump the gun. For clearly, even though he is sixty years old, Rev. Moon and his church are working today very hopefully and industriously to bring off the eschaton soon, God willing. My intuition, based on the last section of Divine Principle, was that the public epiphany of the Advent was foreseen for Korea, 1980; but this has now been postponed. Who knows what dramatic developments the next few years will offer, or how much closer the pattern of Sun Myung Moon's life may come to that of Jesus?
Whatever substantive considerations might be broached in comparing Rev. Moon with Jesus, modern philosophy of religion makes us aware that any such undertaking confronts a great thicket of ideological issues. We are snagged on the thorns of this thicket in all the various dialogues going on today -- Jewish-Christian, Christian-Buddhist, Christian-Marxist, etc. To come to believe, or to disbelieve, in a christ, or in a decisive new revelation, or in a governing perspective of any kind, is a matter of conversion, a leap of faith, a determinative "blik." It is not simply or merely or even mainly a linear rational process like deductive and inductive argument, though most of us would probably maintain that reasoning may and ought to play a significant role within it. W e must acknowledge that a methodology of comparative christology -- the inner core of comparative theology -- in spite of anticipations throughout history remains extremely inchoate. The fact that we come to the Bahamas to join in conversation shows, I trust, that we do not regard the methodological challenge as hopeless. Indeed, it is the experience of some of us at least that, however lacking the theory of it may be and even if prestigious hermeneuts tell us it cannot be happening, significant comparative insights do occur and people are changed by such meetings as ours here.
What can one say, then, about the hermeneutics of conversion -- of comparative christological suasion? Let me venture some ancillary observations.
i. Christological hermeneutics presupposes some measure of radical openness or receptivity, since it questions, by definition, the most axiomatic principles of one's faith or world view, including, of course, one's own hermeneutic.
ii. It presupposes and employs diverse conceptional filters and ratiocinative behaviors, a web of pre-understanding and procedural habit which both facilitates and hampers and is variously malleable.
iii. It is implemented (one hopes) by dialogue, which is potentiated by being together in more than merely intellectual ways.
iv. It involves personal witness, which is enhanced by "life stories."
v. It is mediated by affective states dependent usually (as in iii.) on social contextualization.
vi. Given a field offeree generated by such conditions, it seems to work somewhat like quantum mechanics: not by exactly traceable linear causation (= logical progression) but by serendipitous jumps ("aha" experiences, Ramsey's "penny dropping," etc.) unpredictable for the discrete individual. But unlike quantum mechanics (which is statistically verifiable) christological hermeneutics does not seem to produce, even in retrospect, a result that is publicly demonstrable. It is not even clear that this would change if everyone alive were converted to one single christ. Thus, so long as history lasts, christology rests on faith, though it does characteristically envisage an ultimate corroboration.
The Unification Church is doing a great deal to promote the dynamics of dialogue, including dialogical christology. It would be disappointing if the rudimentary science of christological hermeneutics should not be considerably informed by the experience.
9. In mainstream Christian tradition the interaction of Propositions 7 and 8 produces a reciprocating hermeneutics in which, with shifts of emphasis from time to time and theologian to theologian, the main interpretive thrust is now forward from the biblical-historical to the present-future, and then again backward from the present-future to the biblical-historical Christ(s). However, the "game" of orthodox christological interpretation calls for play to be always concurrently underway both up and down the field.
Comment. While Unification thought cannot a priori be said to break the rules of this game, since it ostensibly intends to read the present from the past as well as vice versa, nevertheless the weight of Unification interpretation appears to be inordinately determined by the present. Its appeal to and construction of biblical history has been launched by and large without either the apparatus of critical scholarship or Auseinandersetzung with the collegium of mainstream theology. Because it is emphatically a "theology of the Holy Spirit" (as Barth used this phrase to describe Schleiermacher and then American theology), there is now a burden of proof upon Unificationism to demonstrate its biblical-historical credibility. Perhaps the crucial way this demonstration can be mounted is the successful assimilation by Unification scholar-theologians of the most sophisticated biblical erudition and theology of the day. As we know, this is now being undertaken. Needless to say, the outcome will not be evident for a while.
As for would-be Christian orthodoxy, the question is equally pertinent whether it is authentically open to the present-future incursion of Christ. Is its hermeneutics a genuinely Christian Zirkel des Verstehens (Gadamer)? Or is it looking only backward and inward, and not outward and forward? Far too much so according to recent radical assessments from within the Christian household (theology of hope, liberation, etc.). Therefore the Unification Church and the "new religious movements" in general at least raise pressing questions about the credibility of any kind of Christian confessionalism that would simply rest upon the Bible and the creeds. What makes Unificationism particularly interesting in this respect is that it presses its case with a provocative use of the elementals of Christian tradition itself.
10. The original Jesus is not to be identified with the figure of Jesus reconstructible by critical historiography. Here we must notice an ambiguity in the phrase "the historical Jesus." It can mean the actual reality of Jesus as he originally was in his life on earth. But it can also mean the reality of Jesus as this can be ascertained by critical historiography. These two meanings would be the same only if historiography possessed data adequate for reconstructing Jesus' life and its objectifying method could cope with those aspects of Jesus that are uniquely decisive for faith. But it is the consensus of contemporary scholarship that neither of these conditions obtains. Therefore the "historical Jesus" of historiographical reconstruction is not to be equated with the original Jesus whom faith affirms.
Comment. Unification theology would presumably have no quarrel with this. O n the contrary, one might think the state of affairs so described could be used to defend approaches to history and to Jesus that ignore, as Divine Principle largely does, the apparatus of critical scholarship. Certainly we have had in mainstream seminaries in recent decades many students who were inclined to ignore biblical criticism because they felt its objectifying methodology could not yield decisive theological help. They have listened more eagerly to what Swami Muktananda or Ram Dass might have to say about Jesus.
11. Nevertheless, neither can the original Jesus whom faith affirms be separated from the work of critical historiography. For the affirmation of Christ's historical reality implies, though it cannot be derived from, the historiographical plausibility of those aspects of the biblical picture which may in principle, i.e., in terms of adequate data and valid method, become objects of research. Thus, for instance, the current discussion of Jesus' probable attitude toward revolutionary violence is not a matter of indifference to faith. In keeping with its radical historicality, Christianity regards historiography not merely as a discipline to which it must stand open, but as one from which it expects and receives clarification of its most essential concern.
Comment. For Christian tradition in general it has been a test of inestimable importance whether it could withstand the corrosive acids of modernity with intellectual openness and honesty. Schleiermacher, the father of liberal theology and of modern Christian hermeneutics, pledged his lifework to the compatibility of objective science and Christian faith. Hermeneutically this meant for him that the unique insights of faith ate always to be appropriated and interpreted in and through the universals of reason. Faith -- and centrally faith in the historical Christ -- transcends the deliverances of rational method, but without violating its structure. Thus the Christian hermeneut (ideally) masters all the philological and historical data according to the modes of publicly accessible science, and then, using these as categorically respected media, interprets the singular miracle of Christ which is never reducible to them. In other words, the Christ of faith is both immanent within and also transcends the Jesus who is the rightful object of historical research.
As already remarked, in its initial phase Unification theology did not participate in the forum of modern critical historiography. Now, however, it has begun to, as young Unificationists pursue doctorates in Old and Ne w Testament at leading academic centers. The boldness of the movement in promulgating this entry into the milieu of modern academia is remarkable (paralleled on a wider scale by the annual International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences). In principle, it obviously tends to confirm the universal intentionality of the movement, while at the same time it may precipitate severe strains in Unification self-understanding.
12. Besides epistemology the other two major thematic areas generated in historical christology (who Christ is and what he does) have generally been referred to under the rubrics Person and Work of Christ. It is a commonplace of modern theology to stress the interdependence of these two. By definition, who Christ is is inseparable from what he (or she) does. Notwithstanding this, however, a relative distinction in line with theological tradition is useful for purposes of analysis; it exposes certain issues that the Christian mainstream has deemed vital.
Comment. Unification theology seems not to make systematic use of this distinction. Rather, Christ's person is subsumed under or into his work or office, i.e., his historical role as unifier of humankind under God. This is the kind of christology that is generally called "low," as contrasted with a "high" christology that magnifies Christ's person. A low christology correlates with the feasibility of construing different human individuals as the bearer of the christ-role or christ-identity.
13. Turning next, then, to the doctrine of Christ's person, we note initially that there are in the Bible many representations of who Jesus is: rabbi, prophet, shepherd, priest, king, lamb of God, Son of God, Son of man, and so on. All of these contribute nuances of the whole meaning. Among such titles or designations, that of "Christ" (messiah, God's anointed) is, of course, pre-eminent. It expresses the historical agent through who m God's reign or realm (the aim of history) is being decisively prepared, announced, and realized. It stands for the decisive conjoint action of God and humanity in history.
Comment. Unification theology agrees generally that "Christ" stands for the decisive conjoint action of God and humanity in history. However, it sees (at least) two principal individuals as comprising the human side of the formula: Jesus and Rev. Moon.
In Christian tradition there is considerable precedent for envisaging various instantiations of Christ other than the supreme one that occurs in Jesus. Isaiah 45:1, for example, ascribes a messianic role to Cyrus; and I Corinthians 10:4 envisages as Christ the rock that gave forth water in the wilderness. Later, and especially in recent theology, the notion is increasingly widely adopted of fragmentary anticipations of Jesus as the Christ. To be sure, the otherness of such instantiations of Christ is thought of as very much a qualified otherness, as is posited in the idea of anticipation. But there is in the very concept of Christ a basic two foldness: the uniting of two ontologically distinct realities. There is on the one hand a universal meaning (or value or reality -- let us say simply one's climactic universal referent or symbol), and on the other hand a particular finite agent through whom this universal is concretely instantiated. The first element, the universal, is variously named: "logos," "way," "truth," "life," "righteousness," "love," and finally "God."
The central Christian conviction has been that this universal, however best named, is supremely instantiated in the particular human life of Jesus. This is not to say it is instantiated only in him, though a few Christian theologians may at points have appeared to assert this, engendering a kind of christological exclusivism that is not consistent with the thrust of the Christian mainstream. Today a rising chorus of theological utterance increasingly vindicates the authentic biblical-Christian view that Jesus is the decisive and normative but not by any means the only enactment of the Christ reality in human history (not to speak of cosmic history).
Thus the Christian theological tradition could readily entertain the view the Rev. Moon might be an instantiation of the christic process.
However, as already considered above (Part I), traditional Christianity proposes to test other christic instantiations by the norm of Jesus. This is true of the "little christs" Luther saw all followers of Jesus summoned to be, of the outstanding exemplars of christness that we have in such persons as Mother Teresa and anonymously, in Gandhi, and also, as we discussed, in the Second Advent of Christ himself (or herself, for "Christ," strictly speaking, is not perse a male designation anymore than "God" is). Now, as we said, this has not meant that other christic instantiations will be Xerox copies of Jesus. On the contrary, since part of Jesus' very normativeness is his openness to creativity in truth and love, it figures that other Chris figures throughout history will enrich in their unique ways the whole saving economy of God. The "Lord of the Second Advent" would, to be sure, stand on a higher plane than the "little christs" of whom Luther spoke as well as (to stay for the moment with this semantics) the "bigger" ones, the special saints like Martin Luther King, Jr., or, among the anonymous, Gautama. The returning Christ would be, by definition, commensurate with Jesus himself. In authority, in fact, he (or she) would supersede Jesus if first of all, validated as identical in christness with Jesus.
In the theological tradition the issues involved here have never, so far as I know, been thoroughly unpacked, at least not in a way that gained wide prevalence. However, it is clear that Christian faith has intended to affirm, in spite of recognizing other (anticipatory and fragmentary) christic instantiations, a unique bond between the christic process and the person of Jesus. This is the so-called "finality of Jesus Christ." To take a recent expositional example, for Tillich in the axial moment of the Resurrection "the concrete picture of Jesus of Nazareth became indissolubly united with the reality of the New Being [ = salvation}... so that he is present wherever the New Being is present" (Systematic Theology. II, 157). Functionally the same point was achieved by the traditional position that the hypostatic union fulfilled in the incarnation constitutes ^permanent assumption by God the Son of the humanity of Jesus, not just humanity per se. This is also the patent intentionality of the creedal affirmation that the ascended Jesus Christ sits at God's right hand and shall come to judge the quick and the dead. Accordingly, Christian pious language may address Jesus in prayer as though he is God and paraphrase the Holy Spirit's indwelling as Jesus in one's heart, while theological conceptualization has struggled, never totally successfully, with such themes as the communicatio idiomatum and the ubiquity of Jesus as implied in his definitive christness.
In Unification theology it appears that the bond between Jesus and Christ may be severely loosened -- as it would need to be, of course, to make room for a different human personage as Lord of the Second Advent. The bond is not totally abrogated since, as seen above, historical continuity is posited between the first and the second advent. Also the ascended Jesus in some way commissions Rev. Moon and through seance-like experiences remains in close touch with him. But such connections are patently weaker than the ontic (or, as we might more strongly put it, synthetic ontological) bond with which, as Tillich says, Jesus and the power of Ne w Being were "indissolubly united" in the mainstream Christian conception.
14. In the development of Christian doctrine, the intuition of Jesus' significance is elaborated through the dual emphasis upon the reality of God in him and the unimpaired reality of his historical humanness. Rooted in the Ne w Testament witness, this fundamental double affirmation about Jesus reaches climactic articulation in the fourth and fifth centuries (Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, Chalcedonian Definition). This articulation, although conditioned, as modern theology well knows, by the conceptual limits of Greek antiquity, has held its place through the centuries as a revered symbol of Christian orthodoxy. It continues to be a common standard of the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Ecumenical Protestant (WCC), and Evangelical communities.
Comment -- or Question: What is the posture of the Unification Church toward Nicaea and Chalcedon? Dr. Young Oon Kim likens them to "moss covered gravestones over a very dead past." But is this the view of all Unificationists? One would gather not.
15. Thus it is the faith of the Christian church that Jesus the Christ is both fully human and fully God. The task of grasping, proclaiming, and serving this revolutionary redemptive truth is the unending challenge and reward of Christian existence. Let it be acknowledged that till now it has not been grasped, it has not been proclaimed, it has not been served with that fullness which it promises and to which it summons. The "omega point" (Teilhard) is ahead of us, the word is "press on" (Philippians 3:12), and the prayer "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20). Comment. Thus the authentic Christian attitude is perceptive, futural, eschatologically charged, as Moltmann et al, have stressed. But its hope and prayer are for the return of Jesus. The Unification Church, on the other hand, does not pray, does it, that Jesus return?
16. The presence or being or act of God in Jesus Christ is of one substance of essential identity (homoousios) with the parental God of primordial transcendence, as well as with God immanent and active as Holy Spirit, God as the Word (Logos) is eternally intent (Philo's logos endiathetos) on the creative-redemptive deed of grace and truth that comes to temporal fruition in Jesus as the Christ (Philo's logosprophorikos). Thus Jesus, while not "analytically" (Whitehead: "primordially") God, becomes^ the normative Christ "synthetically" (Whitehead: "consequently") united with God. Jesus as the Christ is co-opted or "essentialized" (Tillich) into union with the own most being of the triune God, so that God becomes and remains indefeasibly the God we know in Jesus Christ.
Comment. It is not clear that in Unification theology either Jesus or the Lord of the Second Advent becomes or remains essential to the parental God. The connections are not thought ontologically but rather in terms of divine plan or providence and human success in cooperating therewith. The sensibility of the classical christological mainstream found such connections, as in Ebionism and Nestorianism, too loose.
However, the Unification slant in these matters, recalling as it does the historical mentality of the Bible, would (other things being equal) presumably deserve the approval of that rather large company in modern theology who distrust the ontologization of biblical narrative. Moreover, as I have remarked elsewhere (in the Virgin Islands' colloquy), the Unification envisagement of providence as subtending a genuinely free human cooperation is theologically highly commendable. It has been difficult tor classical theological ontologization to allow for human responsibility. Only rather belatedly has there been undertaken (notably in process thought) a thoroughgoing revision, for the sake of history and freedom, of fundamental ontology itself. Conceivably Unification christology could participate constructively in the ferment now evolving along these lines in the general theological forum. There may thus emerge an increasing ontological thematization to undergird the moral-historical schema that presently characterizes Unification christology.
17. In struggling with and against heresy to formulate its classical dogma, mainstream Christianity:
i. rejected any version of the faith that would (like Arianism) make God in Christ less than the ultimate God.
Comment. So far Unificationism seems to have an even lower christology than Arianism.
ii. rejected any version that would (like Apollinarianism) compartmentalize and thus restrict the enhumanization of God.
Comment. Unification christology would, I judge, at present be quite unsympathetic to Apollinarianism. Tentatively at least one of its strengths appears to be an uncompromising envisagement of the humanity of the Christ figure. Perhaps this is because Rev. Moon is still among us as patently human -- and no superior degree of ontological deity could fittingly be attributed to his forerunner Jesus. Do the quasi-supernatural powers that sometimes one hears attributed to Rev. Moon point toward a path along which, at a certain stage, compromises like Apollinarianism emerge as options? At any rate, so far, the public image of Rev. Moon has -- compared, say, to a contemporary like Sai Baba -- been strikingly devoid of the supernaturalistic. One wonders: are there in the esoteric tradition accounts of healings, nature miracles, supernatural cognitive manifestations, etc.?
iii. rejected any version that would (like Nestorianism) posit a second (human) personal center alongside the one divine-human person.
Comment. As already noted, Unification theology apparently does not ontologically unify the Christ role with its human enactment -- at least not in the case of Jesus. This would recapitulate what was seen, by the classical mainstream, as the failing of Nestorianism. Ironically, modern liberal christology in general might be indicted for the same failing (as Kiing and Schillebeeckx seem lately to have been).
iv. rejected any version that (like Eutychianism and anhypostasia) would threaten to annul the reality of the humanity within the christic union.
Comment. What was said under "ii" would also apply here. Unification theology definitely ascribes to the Christ a human hypostasis, but in a way that differs -- in a Nestorian direction -- from the mainstream principally informed by Leontius' enhypostasia. In the latter the real human individuality of Christ is constituted in and through the union with God, so that, as Chalcedon says, the distinction of the natures is nor annulled by the union but eternally preserved "without division" or "separation" as well as also "without confusion" and "without change" of one into the other.
As mainstream christology took centuries to evolve its rather baroque structure, Unification christology, as it moves beyond its initial phases, may or may not recapitulate various patterns in the classical development, since some of these were preponderantly influenced by antique conceptuality and some more so by the subject itself.
18. In the more recent efforts to formulate Christ's deity, and with it a concept of his person, there is a pervasive shift from "substantive thinking" to dynamic conceptual images, to "process modes of thought" (Loomer).
Comment. For example, as in Cobb and many Whiteheadians, Christ is the creative transformation engendered by the freely appropriated ingression of the divine telos. This trend is seriously resisted, as is shown by the official impeachment of Kiing's (not fundamentally dissimilar) view. A situation results in which future directions in chrisrology generally are very much "up for grabs," and in which at some points Unification theology and Protestant-Catholic liberalism may be more (modally or abstractly) congenial to each other than either is to the classical Christian standpoint. The next years and decades, christologically speaking, should be very engrossing.
19. Among the ways that the saving activity of Christ may be represented, the traditional distinction of the three "offices" -- prophet, priest, king -- is still useful.
Comment. Unification theology broadly exemplifies these distinctions. Christ (i) reveals, (ii) accomplishes expiation and purification (takes away guilt and sin), and (iii) in some sense at least, is intended to rule. Each of these is a genus under which Unification interpretation of Christ may be construed.
20. The prophetic activity centers in the communication of God's will, which is accomplished not only by verbal utterances of the Christ, but by deeds and attitudes of the enfleshed Word.
Comment. Unificationism unmistakably finds this congenial. At such points, as noted in Part I, the outside commentator feels the need for a Unification "New Testament" creating a publicly fixed canonical image of Rev. Moon.
21. The content of Christ's teaching and communicative action forms an ellipse determined by two foci (Ritschl): (a) God's reconciling love for the sinner, and (b) responsible vocation in the arriving realm of God.
Comment. Unification theology agrees. Characteristically, though, it does not seem aware of how definitely and adequately this content is, for normal Christian faith, made available through Jesus -- so that, for Unificationism, the latter focus particularly (vocation in the kingdom) has to be provided by the returning Christ. This corresponds to a grievously widespread failure of empirical Christianity to be normal Christianity. Ecclesia semper reformanda! In particular, the imperative summons of Jesus to transforming ethical action in the world has been obscured and compromised -- indeed by a misuse of the reconciling indicative, generating the ethos of what Bonheoffer called "cheap grace," which, however, leads in turn to the cynicism and emptiness and then to the renewed fanaticisms of modern Western society. In this situation Unificationism, seen as a reform movement, clearly possesses corrective vitamins. But, of course, its self-image goes well beyond that of a reform movement.
22. The priestly activity of Christ centers in his representation of humanity before God whereby is established the fundamental condition upon which reconciliation takes place. This happens in that through his active and passive obedience Christ fulfills (decisively and intensively, though not yet extensively) and thus vindicates the divine intention for the world, achieving an objective atonement for sin through his costly obedience (beheld supremely in the Cross) which makes good, in principle, humankind's moral deficit -- though what Christ does for us does not cancel God's claim on our own obedience.
Comment. Unification theology resonates generally with these themes. One of its conspicuous strengths is the emphasis upon the necessity, in a moral universe, of what it calls "indemnity" and the establishment of ethical-covenantal foundations (both in "faith" and in "substance") within the providential concourse of history.
However, within these kinds of resonances with theological tradition, a decisive difference seems to occur in the estimate accorded Jesus' sacrifice, as further discussed below under atonement theory.
23. The ruling activity of Christ is his enduring agency in love's judgment and transformation of all creation now and at history's end. It is one of the principal meanings of his Resurrection/Ascension. "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me." (Matthew 28: 18b)
Comment. Because Unification theology emphasizes, concerning the First Advent, what it failed to accomplish, there is bound to be a conspicuous difference from mainstream Christianity's sense of Christ's kingship. For Unification theology the king has not yet been crowned. Does this manifest itself, as one might suppose, in diminishment or total lapse of the mood of Easter triumph -- from the beginning the most characteristic festival expression of Christianity? (Christmas, too, which in our era tends to rival or surpass Easter as a Christian festival, one would surmise is preserved in Unification praxis only diminuendo, for reasons already suggested.)
Of course, according to the Unification message, it is God's plan that the Lord shall reign, and that his dominion is imminent. Indeed, with the church it may already have begun. Does this sense of messianic expectancy and dawning realization supplant the (relative) loss of Christmas and Easter?
It is true, of course, that the New Testament and Christian mainstream -- at least for the most part -- does not understand Christ's victory to be completed in every sense by his death, resurrection, and ascension. In decisive respects his work is "finished" (John 19:30), his sacrifice is a "full, perfect, and sufficient oblation for the sins of the whole world." Nevertheless, to consummate God's reign he will come again. There is, in the consciousness expressed by this thought (granted even in most versions of "realized" eschatology) a sense in the mainstream tradition, too, of something still lacking. But, in contrast to Unification theology, the lack is not seen as a qualitative or intensive one; it does not pertain to Jesus' life per se. It is quantitative or extensive, pertaining to the appropriation of Jesus' saving work by the world at large. Accordingly, when the Christ returns, it will not be to mount a fresh attempt or repair previous failure but to judge the quick and the dead and to usher in the kingdom. The notion of Armageddon does register a different note, but even here the final battle is not fought by Christ. There is irreducible variety in the kaleidoscope of Christian eschatologies, but the prevailing view of the interim between the first and second advents is that of a grace period, in which the new covenant in Christ is offered to all creation for responsible appropriation. The christic process continues, but it is the setting free and making whole of the world according to the paradigm normatively enacted in Jesus as the Christ.
In the millennial stream of Christian thought Christ's coming again has been conceived as initiating an extended intra-historical period ("1000 years") prior to the end of history. In non-millennial tradition the final return of Christ occurs simply as the abrogation of time and/or its transition into eternity. Various mediating conceptions have evolved, showing by and large (though eschatology remains always a volatile theological theme) that the Christian mainstream affirms Jesus' rule both as already inaugurated in some decisive ways and yet to come in others. It is inaugurated in that he is at God's right hand, the victor in principle (= in beginning and with power) over Saran, and Lord in fact, if still ambiguously and fragmentarily, of his confessing and anonymous flock. It is yet to come in unambiguous fullness throughout time and space.
Millennialism, within whose spectrum Unification eschatology seems clearly to fall, is an antidote to quietism. It energizes Christian expectancy with its sense of imminence. Demythologized, it represents the truth that decisive change in the circumstances of history is integral to the Christian hope and program. It opposes the static view that every historical moment is equidistant from eternity, as well as the gradualism that subsides into monotony. On the other hand, as a form of utopianism, it is apt (so far as it gains power) to perpetrate the abuses of absolutism as well as be the forerunner of cynical disappointment.
24. Parallel to and partly interwoven with the scheme of the three offices, interpretation of Christ's work has taken the form of certain "types of atonement theory," of which it has become customary to distinguish principally three: the classical (or mixed), the Anselmic (or objective), and the Abelardian (or subjective).
Comment. Unification theology seems to have adopted, or to have developed parallels to, the various established thematizations of the work of Christ.
25. The "classical" theory is "mixed" in that it cannot be construed simply as either objective or subjective in mode. It includes two main subtypes:
i. the physical theory, in which the problem is that human nature (physis) has been vitiated by the fall, whence it must be restored, which Christ accomplishes by assuming it, infusing it with new being, and thus providing it with a fresh uncorrupted start in lieu of the deviance and pollution inherited from our human progenitors.
Comment. Unification theology makes pivotal use of this theme. The shortcoming in the work of Christ Jesus is seen as the failure, occasioned by his untimely death, to marry and generate sinless progeny. Mainstream theology, on the other hand, does not construe Jesus' crucifixion as untimely but rather as (even though abhorrent to divine love) envisaged by redemptive providence. Nor does it perceive his not marrying and not producing physical progeny as precluding or limiting his restoration of human nature by the infusion of new being.
On the other hand, the Unification view that the Lord of the Second Advent should marry and bring forth a new unpolluted progeny appears intrinsically problematical and in fact to be undergoing erosion. Is it still, or was it ever, envisaged that the literal (conjugal) family of the Rev. Moon will be the seminal source of the new humanity? This motif, though chords of it may linger peripherally, does not now appear to be decisive for Unification self-understanding. Is it not rather the unified family of those who are blessed by their moral and spiritual incorporation into the movement (which includes, to be sure, at the apex the union of Rev. and Mrs. Moon) who are expected to overcome the poisonous influences of the old Adam (and old Eve!) and turn the tide of history toward purity under God?
This is not to deny that there is strength in the Unification endorsement of undefiled marriage, sex, and procreation under God. Such a posture is highly compatible with biblical tradition -- especially the Old Testament, but also with Jesus' patent affirmation of marriage.
It helps counteract the negative attitude toward the body and sex that infiltrated Christianity from Gnosticism. However, to absolutize marriage and procreation conflicts with Jesus as well as the ethos of Hebraism. With Kierkegaard one might say that if indeed marriage is the "universal," nevertheless the possibility is biblically very clearly posited of the "ideological suspension" of the universal. One may forego marriage for various innocent reasons, including commitment to a spiritual vocation. In this light, was Jesus' remaining unmarried a flaw in his full "recapitulation" (Irenaeus) of human nature? Or, given his blessing of marriage in general, was it an exemplification of the viability of sacrificial vocation, and a particular provision for those who, for various innocent reasons do not marry and procreate -- showing that they too may enter without shame into the realm of love and righteousness? In any event, Jesus' model has not prevented, but has fully undergirded the beautiful Christian heritage of the home and family. It would be difficult indeed to show that Jesus is to blame for the alarming deterioration of marriage in modern society, though this should not prevent us, either, from appreciating the positive inspiration imparted to many by the marriage of Rev. and Mrs. Moon.
Psychodynamically, it seems likely that a powerful component in the appeal of Rev. Moon is his promise to those who are haplessly adrift in isolated meaninglessness, not only of a communal identity and vocation, but of a stable conjugal union.
ii. The second subtype of the classical atonement theory is the defeat of Satan by Christ, or the breaking of the demonic powers.
Comment. As far as concerns Jesus, Unification theology appears to teach rather that he was partially defeated by Satan, whose demise (or, as we latterly hear, conversion back into the essentially good Lucifer) is thus left over to the Second Advent. From a mainstream perspective, there is a failure here to appreciate the dialectic of the crucifixion, wherein evil, at its worst, is yet taken captive by good. This intuition is graphically expressed in the mythology of the so-called "ransom" theory as well as in the classical tradition of Christian theodicy.
26. The Anselmic or objective theory, seeing the problem as humanity's grievous violation of God's loving intention for the world, perceives the atoning work to consist in Christ's unreserved offering of himself to "satisfy" or fulfill that violated intention (the divine "honor"). This sacrifice, consummated in the Cross but prepared by the whole life of perfect obedience, establishes the condition whereby God's intention for the world (the blessed community which shall inhabit the Divine Realm) is "justified" or vindicated -- i.e., known by God, and hence proclaimed as good news to all who will hear and be part of it, as viable, acceptable and assured in spite of sin. The so-called "penal substitutionary" theory is a readily misinterpreted variable of the objective type which stresses that the suffering of Christ is a punishment for the world's guilt; which it is, but only in the sense that the satisfaction of God's loving intention for the world, because of sin, is terribly costly.
Comment. Unification theology, as already remarked, employs a theory of "indemnification" which appears to be equivalent, at least functionally, to the Anselmic atonement. It is notable too that not only Jesus and the Lord of the Second Advent render indemnity through suffering, but so do all believers. This seems a commendable envisagement of how all are called to share in the saving of the world that is decisively prefigured and grounded in Christ.
On the other hand, let us note here again, in representing the crucifixion as a tragic defeat for Jesus which must be made good by the further work of the Second Advent, Unification theology apparently overlooks the dialectic of the Cross according to which evil itself, borne in utterly obedient faith, becomes the instrument of the saving process. "O felix culpa," expostulated Augustine, "to have merited so great a redemption!" Ignoring this profound dialectic of classical Christianity exposes theology to moralistic dualism. Is there in Divine Principle a tendency toward such dualism? If there were such, a symbol of the intention to overcome it would indeed be the thematization (of which we heard in the Virgin Islands) of Satan's ultimate redemption (rehypostatizing as Lucifer) or apokatastasis.
27. The Abelardian or subjective theory, seeing the problem as guilty humanity's fearful estrangement from God, perceives Christ's work as the manifestation of God's will and heart of forgiving love, which when truly apprehended will transform self-deceiving enmity into responding love and service. This theory, although proposed by Abelard over against Anselm, does not logically exclude the objective theory anymore than Anselm's (as Anselm apparently thought) excludes the classical theory. The three main types rather complement each other, and form a thematic ensemble of enduring worth and stimulus in Christian theology.
Comment. The Cross, which Abelard saw as the supreme manifestation of God's love, is importantly regarded in Divine Principle as an undialectical defeat. Perhaps for this reason it is not so much in that book (which I likened to the "Old Testament" of Unification theology) but rather in what one hears (in occasional snatches!) recounted about Rev. Moon's incandescently suasive "heart of love" (the as yet unwritten Unification "New Testament") that one is most reminded of the Abelardian theory.