Orthodox -- Unification Dialogue -- Constantine N. Tsirpanlis Editor 1981


Stephen Henkin: Dr. Matczak, you said that the main problem or stumbling block to understanding Unification thought and Christian thought generally is the misunderstanding of terms in which the thought is expressed. Would you say a lot of Churches view their terms as being as sacred as their theology? Would you say there is difficulty here in overcoming the problem?

Dr. Matczak: Yes, I see the problem but at the same time, I would not say that the terminology has to be changed. Terminology is used in the Unification Church in such a way that it can be applied to non-Christian religions too. Non-Christian religions will understand this terminology. The sources have to be read very carefully and have to be related, one statement to the other statements, to try to find the true meaning of the position. What I warn against is reading without any effort to understand what a group really means when it uses this term or another term.

Unidentified speaker: You briefly mentioned that Jesus Christ had free will. Would you comment further on that?

Dr. Matczak: The whole idea that Jesus had free will is connected to the idea of the personality of Jesus, who Jesus was. Christian tradition maintains that Jesus was God and man together. His free will was a free will as God has free will due to His Divine nature, and his free will was free will as man has free will due to his human nature, so I maintain there were two wills, two free wills in Jesus' personality. Because Jesus had no original sin, there was no fight between them. Jesus' humanity was necessary. In the Unification position, in order that restoration take place, indemnity has to be paid. Due to the humanity and free will of Jesus, He could pay indemnity. If He had no free will, then He could not pay indemnity. Consequently, by His Crucifixion, He could pay indemnity. Unification accepts the value of the cross as it is explained by Christianity. Unification clearly states that it accepts the value of the cross; it does not diminish any value of the cross as it is explained by Christianity. Consequently, it has to accept the concept of free will, too. Clear, or not?

Dr. Tsirpanlis: This point is very important, that Jesus willingly accepted the Crucifixion, and willingly died. He was not forced by God, His Father to die for us. This is an extremely important point which has sometimes been overlooked by traditional theology and which, of course, Unification makes, perhaps better in philosophical terms than in theological. But sometimes philosophy, you see, helps us to understand theology more clearly than theology itself. (Laughter) I cannot refrain from repeating myself. Philosophy was and is the "therapenis tes theologias," which means the handmaid of theology, and sometimes we have to take refuge in philosophy in order to understand theology better and more clearly. Now, I would say that this is an extremely important and central aspect of salvation -- Jesus willingly accepted the cross and His death, willingly, not unwillingly. "Eli-Eli lama sabachtani" is sometimes interpreted that Jesus was abandoned by His Father and was in utter despair and hopeless. I think it is doubtful that Jesus Himself used these words, because this expression "Eli-Eli lama sabachtani" is the only Hebrew expression of Christ in the New Testament, which creates great suspicion of interpolation or later addition to the New Testament. Who knows? In any case, even if this expression is the original expression of Jesus Christ, this does not mean that Jesus was not God Himself, or Christ. It means, however, that as a human being He felt totally abandoned at that moment of the highest torture. Certainly as God, He could not feel abandoned.

Dr. Matczak: Just one point of clarification. Jesus was not God Himself. Unification sources are correct in this matter, and it is an important point, because there is the objection that Unification makes the statement that Jesus was not God Himself. He certainly was not God Himself. Why? Because Jesus was God and man, and therefore not God. Who is God Himself? God Himself is the Trinity -- that is, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit -- Jesus was not God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He was only God's Son, so it was only the Second Person of the Trinity which was Incarnated. Therefore He was not God Himself, but was God in the sense that He had Divine nature -- this explanation I think is extremely important; otherwise you have a problem.

Dr. Tsirpanlis: Still, according to Eastern Christianity and the entire Christian tradition, Jesus, Dr. Matczak, was God Himself. Jesus Christ was God Himself, because in the trinitarian theology of the early Church, you cannot say that Jesus did not have the totality of trinitarian Divinity. According to Saint Paul, also, the totality of Divinity dwelled in Jesus Himself. Jesus embodied the totality of Godhood (Col. 2:9). The Trinity in Eastern Christian thought and theology is numerically triune, but essentially is one, God. God the Father, Jesus the Son, and Holy Spirit pre-existed together as one essence but in three hypostaseis. They became three only because of the nature of human numerical distinction. This arises because of the different functions of Jesus and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father, and Jesus is begotten, or generated eternally from the Father. So, from the point of view of creation, God is the Trinity, but God is one always, from eternity to eternity. Therefore, as I see it, Jesus Christ who died and was resurrected for my personal salvation and for your personal salvation, is God Himself, not only the Second Person of Trinity, because as I said, each person in the Trinity operates separately only in a functional distinction which creates a numerical distinction. But each person of the Holy Trinity embodies and incorporates the totality of Godhood and of Divinity. The Son incorporates the Father and the Holy Spirit. So therefore Jesus Christ cannot be characterized as only perfected man, nor only as morally perfect, but also God Himself. He must be believed so.

Dr. Matczak: Thank you, Dr. Tsirpanlis. We have a clear example here of how theologians can differ among themselves, and this is what really happened in the history of Christianity. (Laughter) This is one of the differences which we have had in Christianity, and these differences, found in the Christological discussions of the fourth century, continued and continue right now. What is the Holy Trinity? I agree with Dr. Tsirpanlis entirely that Jesus had the whole Divinity because the three Persons of God have the same nature. Jesus has the same nature but He does not have the same personality as the Father and as the Holy Spirit. In what does His personality consist? This is precisely discussed in Christianity, and it is accepted by many Christians, though not all, that His personality consists in hypostasis: in other words, in the distinction of relationship. These relationships are substantiated and there are substantial differences in the Persons of the Trinity. What does it mean? It is finally a mystery. We do not understand it. Yet I think that Unification explains these things quite well. I do not mean that it solves the mystery here but that it explains these things, I think, better than the philosophy of Christianity as we know it today -- namely, the philosophy that is based on Aristotle and Plato and the Fathers of the Church. I think that the traditional explanation is weaker than the explanation in the Unification position, which is not based on Aristotle's philosophy, and I think this is the novelty and advantage of the Unification approach to the whole problem. If we have more time for another discussion, we can enter into who God is, and we can discuss this further. Thank you, Dr. Tsirpanlis.

Dr. Cavarnos: I would like to say, with regard to the question of Christ's free will in the Crucifixion, that this is sufficiently clear in the Eastern Orthodox teaching. There is no doubt about that.

Unidentified speaker: Jesus, the man, understood God's will -- He would know that if He did not go to the cross He would cause more hurt to God; so He, being a rational being, would have to choose the cross. Therefore, he did not have free will.

Dr. Matczak: No, Jesus knew that God would want Him to die; therefore, He prayed in Gethsemane that the cup of suffering be taken away from Him, and God could have changed His wishes. But God's wish was not any kind of an order, so that free will still remains. God has many wishes, and if we do not follow these wishes, this does not necessarily mean that we are against God's will. We are against God's will if we are given a command, if we have an order, like Adam and Eve, who had an order not to commit the sin. That was an order, not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; therefore, they committed sin. But in Jesus' case there was, rather, the wish of God, so there is no denial of the free will of Jesus to make this choice for whatever reason -- if He wanted to please God, or whatever.

Stephen Henkin: Dr. Matczak, you said our theology could help unite Christians with the Jewish people. Could you expand on that a little?

Dr. Matczak: Yes. I think the basis for this unity is precisely the Unification concept of the kingdom of God on this earth -- this is the basis, and the fact that other Christians often explain Jesus as the Messiah who restores the spiritual kingdom but not this world. Precisely what Jewish people are expecting is that there will be a new kingdom of God on this earth -- there will really be a kingdom of God on this earth, and the Messiah will bring this kingdom. I think Unification is maneuvering to fit this all together, and the Christian position and the Jewish position fit very well in the Unification position. Christianity focuses mainly on individual salvation. For Unification, salvation for man is consequent, rather, on the kingdom of God on this earth. The Second Coming in this sense is essential for Unification theology, and also there is good basis here for unifying Christianity and Judaism.

Stephen Henkin: I really feel Dr. Matczak presented a very clear view of our position. I was wondering if you, Mr. Mavadones, could offer an Orthodox viewpoint in this discussion.

Mr. Mavadones: I am sitting up here when I should perhaps be sitting down there with you people. I was reading somewhere -- one book is the Arc in Geometry -- that the experts in different fields are specializing so much that the ultimate decision as to what is value rests with amateurs. So we, being the amateurs, perhaps have the final say on this thing. (Laughter) The discussions back and forth call to mind some comments I'd like to make later on in reference to the Eastern Church point of view, and that is that you see in Eastern Orthodox Churches a plethora of mosaics and paintings and icons which typify beliefs, and these icons are more or less the visual form of the written word. Besides this, today we're encountering the spoken representation of what you would see in an Orthodox Church. So there are two matrices for what is being explained, and seeing this might be one way that we can work at these things.

Dr. Matczak: I agree on this. I think this is very well said.

Unidentified speaker: I would like to ask Dr. Matczak to explain more about the Unification view of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Matczak: Unification uses three terms: Jesus, Christ, and Lord of the Second Coming. When they talk about the Second Coming, they use the terms Lord of the Second Coming and Christ. Divine Principle avoids the term "Jesus" when speaking explicitly about the Second Coming. When it speaks about the first coming of Jesus and spiritual restoration, it uses the term Jesus. Consequently, it opens the door that this Second Coming can be achieved by perhaps another Lord, not necessarily Jesus; perhaps it can be also explained that Jesus Himself will come at the Second Coming.

Unidentified speaker: Yes, but in the Acts of the Apostles, when Christ ascended into Heaven, the angel tells them "This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11) This is the same person. Also, if we explain the name Jesus, it means "savior," and Christ means "the one anointed," which means that the savior has been appointed or anointed by God to save the people.

Dr. Matczak: Right, for Christianity at large there is no problem, no question that Jesus and the Christ are the same.

Unidentified speaker: I would like to point to something else. Did you say that in the Unification position, it is not certain if Jesus was God? I understand Saint Paul to say that He is. Saint Paul says that in Him was the fullness of Divinity. He says that God was in Christ reconciling the world.

Dr. Matczak: Sure, I do not deny this. I accept that Jesus was God, if we understand it correctly. If we understand Jesus is God Himself, it means that the Holy Trinity was Jesus. Then we are in trouble with the Roman Catholic Church, of course. In this sense we have a problem, but not otherwise. Jesus was God; He had the Divine nature. Therefore, He is a mystery -- how to explain that He was God, had Divine nature, and was not the Holy Spirit, and could be a man -- we have a mystery here, and a problem, a theological problem in the reconciliation of these things.

Unidentified speaker: Some Christians emphasize that Jesus is God because it is their theological position that God, who is infinite and supreme, was offended by what Adam and Eve did, and that only a person who is infinite and supreme can atone for that sin. From the Unification point of view, we can say that persons who reach perfection have that value to God. In Unification theology there is no need for Jesus to be God.

Dr. Matczak: Excellent point. This point touches really the heart of the problem of Jesus. Why does He have to be God and why does He have to be man? What is the Unification position with regard to these things?

The Catholic position is that the offense made by Adam and Eve to God was an infinite offense because this offense involved God, and God is infinite. Consequently, to repair, to give indemnity, there had to be repayment for this damage. Now man, by his very nature, is finite -- then men, as finite beings, can give only finite satisfaction to God. In order that man give the kind of infinite satisfaction to God, human nature has to be assumed by Divinity. In this way, a human being becomes one person with God, one person having two different natures. Jesus, as the man, died on the cross, and as man, he offered satisfaction to God, but His person was a Divine Person. Consequently the value of the reparation which Jesus offered to God was of infinite value. This position agrees quite well with the Unification position. It says clearly in Divine Principle that the indemnity necessary for salvation can be paid only by Jesus. And how by Jesus? Jesus has to be without original sin and so on.

Unidentified speaker: Dr. Matczak, the offense that Adam and Eve committed against God was of finite value, because they're finite. God could take it as finite, or as infinite, but in the process of restoration, it's setting up the same situation, so it has to be man who restores the situation.

Dr. Matczak: You can defend this position that the sin was of finite value, but theologians so far assert that it was of infinite value. Most theologians understand offense from the point of view of the person who is offended, and not from the point of view of the offender, and the Person who was offended was God. Adam and Eve's disobedience was conscious, not unconscious. Then this offense was infinite. That's the standard position. You can make a new theology in our time, and you'll be famous if you succeed.

Unidentified speaker: Dr. Matczak, you said that God was offended. I'm not a theologian, but as a parent, I don't feel offended when my child disobeys. If anything, I feel that my child offends himself, not that I'm offended. I don't think that God was infinitely offended.

Dr. Tsirpanlis: As a matter of fact, Dr. Matczak's position is Roman Catholic legalism. What you propose is beautiful -- I was expecting and waiting for such a statement. Now we must make a clear distinction here between Western theology and Eastern mysticism -- Western legal salvation and Eastern mystical salvation. The Western legal approach is exactly what Dr. Matczak has so eloquently explained -- that is to say, the idea of offense and satisfaction, which goes back to Saint Augustine and through Augustine to Saint Anselm. However, the Eastern mystical concept, the Eastern theology of salvation has been quite overlooked during the entire discussion. As I mentioned, the Eastern concept of salvation or of the fall is not an offense to God's justice -- far from it. It is basically the corruption of the image of God in us, which resulted in spiritual and physical death. What is the original cause in Eastern Christian thought of the sin? Self-centered love; the egomaniac insanity or egomaniac schizophrenia of Adam and Eve who listened to Lucifer's tempting idea -- "We will be equal to God or above God -- even above God." Symbolically, Eve tasted this fruit, whatever the fruit was -- this is symbolic. But then, this is Adam and Eve's fall, not an offense against God's justice.

The corruption of the image of God resulted in spiritual and physical death, because we know from Genesis (2:17) that God said to Adam and Eve, "... for in the day that you eat of it you shall die." Why didn't God simply say "you will die"? But instead He said "thanato apothaneisthe," which in the Greek translation of Hebrew means physical death, not only spiritual death. Now this result of the fall of Adam and Eve is the embodiment, the personification of satan, because satan is the embodiment of death. Satan is the symbol, the personification of darkness, of death. Adam and Eve and their posterity could not redeem themselves from this natural result, death -- physical death, and, yes, spiritual death also, because of the corruption of the image of God. Therefore, God Himself had to defeat satan. Jesus, as God Himself, or the Second Person of the Trinity, or the Son of God, defeated death or satan potentially. Actually it is up to us to defeat satan, using Jesus' foundation. Therefore, the redemptive work of God assumes cosmological significance, cosmic significance, a battle between God, the Divinity and eternal life, and satan, the embodiment of death, and corruption, and destruction. Beyond the fall, you see this battle between Divinity and sinfulness, life and death, temporality and eternity. Now this is the deepest significance of the fall. Christ is God Himself, he died as Divinized humanity. He died, but not as God; but he had to be God, because death itself, satan himself, could not be defeated by any posterity of Adam and Eve, since we are all fallen, according to Paul, (Rom. 5:12). In other words, we inherited sinfulness as a result of the original sin -- death, physical and spiritual death, but Jesus comes as eternal life to redeem us from death. We still die, as bodies, but really our death is not the same death as the death of non-Christians. To Christians, death is just a temporary separation of soul and body.

Dr. Matczak: That's very interesting. Thank you.

Dr. Cavarnos: I concur. The chief point of what has just been said was put forth in my talk when I said at the very beginning that God became man in order that man might become God. I mean the whole emphasis is on salvation rather than in satisfying God's feeling of having been, so to speak, disappointed or saddened by man's actions. I think the emphasis should be placed on the Incarnation as a positive thing -- God seeking to save His own creature, man, who cannot save himself from his fallen state with his own unaided efforts. Eastern Orthodoxy emphasizes precisely this.

Dr. Matczak: Just one word. This is a very good problem -- it requires much further discussion, and we don't have too much time for discussion. Personally, I, myself, agree with the idea that it is very difficult to prove that man's offense was infinite. Personally, I agree. But that's not the position of the majority of Catholic theologians or Protestant theologians. There are all kinds of opinions. There are theologians who have said that the Christ would have come, that Jesus would have been Incarnated, whether man sinned or did not sin. Such a position is not in agreement with, say, the Unification position, but such an opinion exists. This is a point for further serious discussion. Thank you.

Patricia Gleason: Mr. Mavadones has a comment, and then I think that will have to be the last comment before we go to lunch.

Mr. Mavadones: As you might guess, my comment is on art. I'm interested in art and things of that sort. In the Eastern Church, the icons and iconographical things are a visual representation of reality. And you have a nice counterpoint to the discussion we've been having in that in the eastern end of the church near the altar you will find Christ's mother, the Virgin Mary -- she has Christ in her bosom, in a circle, representing Him as Incarnate. In the western end of the church you find the Virgin Mary -- she died her physical death, and Christ in return now has her soul in his bosom. You have a kind of a counterpoint like that. So this gives you some idea of the Eastern point of view. Another thing is splitting hairs quite well and dancing on the head of a pin, but in the Eastern Church they have the large altar screen and veils in back of this -- no matter how much we see, there is always something we cannot explain and understand -- no matter how much we split and how well we do with the microscopes, there's still something there we have to leave to faith on any point. 

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