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


Dagfinn Aslid: I see, then, the strength of our hermeneutic more in its flexibility and in its ability to transform tradition and adapt it to today. I would like to make a remark by way of response to Lorine Getz who brought up Jung. Jung was my John the Baptist, so to speak. I came as a Jungian to the Unification Church in Sweden. On the level of content or dogma we would not agree with the Jungian dualism, but in method and approach I think we have much in common with Jung. And, like Jung, we are, I wouldn't say unorthodox, but a-orthodox in the sense that the true Unificationist would be open to an open-ended canon.

Klaus Lindner: In Dakin’s categories I would qualify more as an egghead. This means that I have to try to come to terms more with the hard realities of historical scholarship and deal for example with the specific points of Divine Principle historiography.

Frederick Sontag: Klaus, I am trying to figure out who your enemy is. You are accused of taking an Old Testament typology or whatever word you want to use and imposing it on the New Testament. Who accuses you of that?

Klaus Lindner: Some professors at Harvard.

Frederick Sontag: I don't. It is all right with me if you want to divide history that way. (laughter) I think you give the most telling example when you say that this fits in well with liberal Protestant historians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This is the milieu in which the thought grew up and that seems to me to be quite acceptable. But it seems to me that the key issue in your paper is when you say that the purpose of restoration history can be fulfilled only if the Messiah who is anointed by God is also received by the people. That seems to me a novelty. It seems to me important and absolutely central to Unification thought, but I don't quite see where that occurs in any other historical tradition. I can't think of another instance where the periods would be divided in this way because of the rejection by the people. At least it is not so in Christianity. There is the faithlessness of the people in the Old Testament. In that sense I can see that perhaps this idea draws on slightly more Old Testament notions, but I cannot really see that Christianity has ever said that Jesus' purpose was dependent on his reception. He was despised and rejected. We all sing that and it is true, but I think the reversal at that point is absolutely central to what you are trying to say and actually informs the total reading of history which you do.

Klaus Lindner: I totally agree with you, but that point has to do more with eschatology than with the objective facts of history that I was interested in in this paper.

Frederick Sontag: What are the objective facts of history?

Klaus Lindner: Important dates and things like that. It is very nice of you to agree that the dates that Divine Principle uses are the important ones in church history but there is not universal agreement about that.

Frederick Sontag: You do use the graduate student poise and you are an egghead (laughter), but you really can't get off the hook quite that easily to say that it is a question of eschatology. Because the whole reading of history that you give is occasioned by acceptance or rejection of God's entrance into history. I think that is crucial. It leads to an eschatology because of your reading of history. If it were not that way, had the people received him, had the entrance into Jerusalem remained triumphal, you would have a different history. I don't see why you separate those two; this seems to me absolutely crucial to your periodization of history. Would you agree that if it weren't for the crucial notion of being received by the people you would not view history the way you do?

Klaus Lindner: Sure, there would be no history of Christianity either, but that is precisely what I said. One of the ideas that I injected in that paper was the idea that in some way Unification historiography is similar to certain ideas of reincarnation, that if you don't fulfill the goal of life in this earthly life then you repeat this life over again and you have to make the decision over again at the important parts of your life. Therefore the history of Christianity repeats the important decisions that have been made in the history of Judaism.

Frank Flinn: I have two comments. I really liked your paper, Klaus. I would like to see you go back to the tree of life imagery, the Joachimite version of the tree of life and rhetoric and early Christian historiography and see if one can uncover fully this motif of periodizing history. What is the status of that motif in post-canonical context and how did people perceive themselves in relation to the canon when they were doing this type of periodization? That is a totally unexamined question. You have demonstrated clearly, too, that this happened as late as our own time.

My answer to the nominalists is that the nominalists make a distinction between facts and values. The nominalists say that it is only serial facts that constitute history. Yet the nominalists are imposing this as a value judgment. It is a normative value judgment to say that there are only facts and it is only the values that establish what the facts are. Nominalism is waiting for this great construct of history to happen that they claim by methodology can't happen. Nominalism always falls into their own historicism, which exempts itself from the criteria it applies to every other kind of interpretation of history.

Anthony Guerra: I wanted to take up the question that Fred Sontag just raised, whether or not the periodization of history which Klaus has outlined is based upon our particular reading of the mission of Jesus. Klaus' assertion (with which Fred agreed) that these kinds of periodizations were like something going on in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries would indicate that it isn't. At least that it is not necessary to have that particular reading of the mission of Jesus in order to have these particular periods. That seems to me rather obvious and therefore I would agree with Klaus in looking at the periods themselves. If we want to talk about the rejection of Jesus, I think we should do that, but that is perhaps for tonight when we get back to the question of christology.

Frederick Sontag: I have a question for Dagfinn. Dagfinn, you have been close to process theology and so on at Claremont. You say that God is here understood as the author of constant newness. Now that is language fight out of process theology. There are certain interesting parallels. I said this a long time ago and John Cobb nearly fell off his chair, but there are really rather interesting parallels between you and process thought, though I think here you are changing it a little. Personally, I happen to like it for allowing the novelty of change into the process, but I confess I don't think I really see that much of it in Divine Principle. Now there is the contingency that the history doesn't have to come out a certain way, but I get much more the feeling of a kind of constant purpose reasserting itself than I do of the creative newness which the process people like to stress.

Dagfinn Aslid: It is a different kind of newness because the process people don't have the concept of evil that we do. They don't have a view of radical evil. Our concept of newness is God's innovation, God's portion of responsibility, in our language, in initiating new dispensations when old ones wear out so to speak. That is often where we see the inability of humans to change their hermeneutics. I think there are very clear traces of this when you consider how the Old Testament, and to a lesser extent the New, came to be canonized. You see the text reapplied to new situations, the Babylonian exile for instance, and the new type of theology that evolved in that situation which isn't the same but a parallel.

Frank Flinn: I see the typologization in Divine Principle as a brake against what I call the fanaticism of the future. You have to read the typologies both forward and backward. Typologization puts a brake on any radical futurism. Perhaps one can talk about a normative type of typology.

Darrol Bryant: I would just like to put another question on the table, one that is related to the question that Professor Sontag raised and also that Frank raised. Frank said it in terms of the motif and Fred in terms of the telos. Why is it crucial in Divine Principle to organize history in this way? In other words what is at stake in the periodization? It is not simply the disagreement between the nominalists and realists about this question. Why would you argue even beyond that debate that it is critical to understand history as a history of periods or, to say it in more theological language, why is it critical to understand history as a history of dispensations?

Andrew Wilson: In relation to what Dagfinn said, I feel that in Divine Principle there has to be a limit to the playfulness of God.

Dagfinn Aslid: An egghead!

Andrew Wilson: I mean we don't go around changing our numbers from 21 to 13 for example, and we can't conceive of a principle with equivocal meanings or historical periods. One of the best things in Dakin’s paper is where he says that history has a purpose to help show us a way of life, which I agree with a hundred percent. I think that is something that is missing in both these presentations, namely, that we understand history so that we can understand our own way of life because there is a correspondence between one's personal life history and the life histories of family, society, nation, and world. That is why there is that wonderful chapter in Divine Principle on the history of the providence and "I." That tome is one of the most inspiring and critical little sections of Divine Principle. If I want to understand my life course in terms of history, or if Rev. Moon wants to understand how he is going to work in the providence, then there have to be some kind of criteria by which he can understand what that providence is. I don't think that either of you have said what the hermeneutic is and I think that is a very similar question to the one which Darrol just raised.

Dagfinn Aslid: First of all I think you are perfectly right in pointing out the precaution. It is not my intention to use the muse for academic license. We often see what happens with those who get disenchanted with the rigorous Apollonian type of education that percolates through in graduate school. What happens is a complete abandonment of that for a more Dionysian type and that is not what I am advocating.

That brings me to the second point, the motif, the telos for why we do make typologies. I treat this in my paper somewhat. I call this historical existentialism, very close to your concern. It is treated in Divine Principle in the history and "I" section. It is a history which is less concerned with explicating history for its own sake and more concerned to have history inform our daily life. Now that is not the full answer.

Klaus Lindner: I hinted at your question, Darrol, already in the last part of my paper, namely, that the Divine Principle explanation of history wants to explain successes and failures of God's providence in history, and part of Unification historiography, as Andy said, is that you learn from successes and failures in history. In my paper I didn't stress that too much because I don't think that you really read history with that hermeneutic to come up objectively with those parallels. You have raised another question. I think it is important to understand those periods in order to understand, for one thing, why we don't have the kingdom of heaven, why the purpose of Christianity is not fulfilled, precisely because at different periods of history mistakes have been made and mistakes have been repeated. This shows that God is active in history but also that human beings have to respond.

Anthony Guerra: One of the reasons for taking these parallels seriously and seeing if there is in fact some kind of historical grounds for asserting them is this: the periods are telling us when the end-time is and how to know what period of history we are in. If it is an end-time, then it is very important that we as the children of God fulfill our responsibilities. Periodization gives the notion, which Fred rightly pointed out, that one has to respond to the will of God and that the will of God gets expressed in particular forms in given rimes of history. Then it is important to know what time of history we are in. That is the whole argument of Herb Richardson, that if we know that we are in the time of Jesus, for instance, then we know the type of what was wrong there so we can reverse it in order to accomplish restoration. If the process of restoration is the reversal of past failures we need to know for which failures we are responsible.

Now in terms of expanding what Andy was saying, there is another dimension in which Divine Principle tries to explicate the meaning of history. If you look at Divine Principle closely, at the end of each section you find a concluding section which is entitled the lesson to be learned from the course of Adam, etc. The sections are moralistic. It seems to me that Dagfinn is concentrating in his paper on those lessons. That would be more appropriate to him, whereas what Klaus is doing is concentrating on the objective facticity of these parallels. They are doing two things which I think are complementary but need to be brought together in order to get at the significance of doing this at all.

Darrol Bryant: Well, the point of my question is to encourage you in the task of articulating what Divine Principle is about in these sections because I myself think that these are among the most important sections of Divine Principle. My parallel here is the kind of work that you find in a person like Rosenstock-Huessy -- for whom some of you know I have a great deal of affection -- in his great work Out of Revolution: The Autobiography of Western Man. Certainly this is a historical work that contemporary historians would reject out of hand just as I think contemporary historians would reject Divine Principle out of hand. But it is an instructive parallel in that in Rosenstock-Huessy it is fairly clear what he is doing in rewriting the whole history of western culture in this eight hundred page book. He tells us explicitly that he is a man who served in the first world war and had in the trenches of Verdun a certain vision. That vision was a vision of the unity of the human race. There is a parallel to what you have in Unification. Rosenstock-Huessy said that in order for us to move into the third millennium in which the project of that millennium is to attain the unity of the human race it is necessary for us to re-signify or re-understand the entire preceding two millennia so we can overcome the kind of divisiveness that comes from thinking about our own, in this case national, histories which are pitted against one another. He recommends seeing them as contributing streams to the creation of a more unified race in which different nations, different types, and different peoples make their unique contribution.

When I read Divine Principle, I was inclined to see something like what you find in St. Augustine's De Civitate Dei and more recently in the work of Jonathan Edward's History of the Work of Redemption. It is a type of theology that is very much out of fashion. Just recognize and acknowledge that. Yet I don't think it is possible to give an account of Divine Principle in terms of contemporary historiography or even process theology. Not that that is the only thing in your paper. They are both traditions which are essentially hostile to the kind of history of God that Divine Principle is interested in writing.

Andrew Wilson: For me one of the chief didactic functions of the parallels in particular is to demonstrate that God indeed acts according to a plan in history. The fact that Klaus has been able to make some kind of a case for the reality of the historical periods within Christianity without reference to the Old Testament and that they have an independent validity strengthens the case of Divine Principle. These historical parallels are some kind of evidence that God is indeed working in this way. When I met the church and I heard the lecture on the providential periods the effect it had on me was that it told me that we have a God who acts according to a plan in history. As Tony said, we are oriented in a particular point in history which is the last days and we can understand in history the working out of these various relationships between nations and so on.

Frederick Sontag: Andy, I think that is a two-edged sword. You had better be careful when you grab it because Klaus' premise is that history does not have to be split in any particular way. What Klaus is saying and what you are agreeing to is nothing that we can object to. These historical periods aren't a total invention of yours but the mere fact that they are conceivable certainly doesn't give them great validity. They don't get great validity unless you get the other notion that this is in fact the way God has acted. That is absolutely crucial. Therefore you can't treat it as a kind of matter of convenience as does Oberman. If you do that you have got yourself cut the other way because you are saying that there isn't any decisive way that history has to be done and you don't want to say that. The whole meaning of Divine Principle, as I understand it, is that you have discovered the principle upon which God has been operating in relation to mankind to achieve his purpose. Either this is the way he operated or you had better get yourself a new book.

Frank Flinn: For the benefit of those who haven't had Oberman's course, he comes in and makes an announcement about the arbitrariness of the periods and then he proceeds to periodize like mad, insisting all the while that his periods are the right ones. If you are going to speak in terms of history you are going to commit yourself to a kind of rhetoric. That is inevitable. Furthermore, you are going to commit yourself to history as story and stories necessarily have parts, so that there is no such thing as "factual" history, i.e., one thing after another ad infinitum. We are talking as if we can live in hermeneutical vacuums and we can't if we want to tell the story. I think that periodization will fall out of any person's way of telling the story. The real question is, are there better periodizations or worse periodizations? I have to think that Divine Principle is rather exciting here. 

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