Unity In Diversity - Essays in religion by members of the faculty of the Unification Theological Seminary - Edited by Henry O. Thompson - 1984

Unification Christology -- Jonathan Wells

The primary purpose of this essay is to provide an exposition of Unification Christology. In theory, such an exposition could be presented without any reference at all to traditional views; but since Christology is a central topic in most discussions between Unificationists and traditional Christians, some comparisons are in order. Of particular interest is the question of whether Unification Christology is consistent with Christian orthodoxy, so my secondary purpose is to address that issue.

Christological discussions invariably raise a host of epistemological and hermeneutical questions. For example: How can one arrive at knowledge of the "true" Jesus, given only the biblical text and the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit? Ho w did the original Christians come to their conclusions about Jesus; would witnesses of the Second Coming arrive at their conclusions in the same way? To what extent does any theological position, traditional or modern, grow out of scripture; and to what extent does it interpret scripture from the perspective of unscriptural presuppositions? How can one test the validity of a text which claims to contain revelations from God? Such questions are fundamentally important, but they are not the topic of this paper, and I will largely ignore them here.

Likewise, I will not dwell on specifically trinitarian issues, i.e., those which deal with the relation between the divine in Christ and the divine in the Father. Although it seems to me that Unification theology affirms that the divinity manifested in Christ is "equal" (to use Pelikan's terminology1) "with the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth," and therefore that it avoids Arian heresy, this is a trinitarian question which is beyond the scope of this paper.2 Instead, I will confine myself primarily to specifically Christological issues, i.e., those which deal with the relation between the divine in Christ and the human in Christ.3

The question of norms also deserves some introductory comment. Determining what is normatively "Christian" is, to put it mildly, a complex problem. The history of Christian doctrine reveals that the arguments of heretics have often been just as scriptural as the arguments of orthodox believers, so the New Testament alone is not sufficient to establish Christian orthodoxy. On the other hand, the same history, with its theological disputes and denominational schisms, points out the danger of confusing particular theological positions with "Christianness" in general. It seems to me that the best solution is to rely on the doctrinal statements of the ecumenical councils, in conjunction with the Old and New Testaments. Christologically this means primarily a reliance on the Definition of Chalcedon. Needless to say, this proposal is not a perfect solution, since the Definition of Chalcedon has been rejected or ignored by some who consider themselves Christian, and since its interpretation is itself something of a problem. Nevertheless, we have to start our discussion somewhere.

Finally, in this paper I will assume that the normative text for Unification doctrine is Divine Principle (New York: HSA-UWC, 1973), which presupposes the authority of the Old and New Testaments. The use of Divine Principle as a norm is questionable, since Unification doctrine is still undergoing development, and no single text has been officially identified as the permanent and sufficient standard. However, Divine Principle is the most comprehensive text available in English, and I believe that it offers the best starting-point for our discussion.

I will begin my exposition with Unification anthropology, and will then proceed to discuss the person and work of Christ, the Unification view of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and the Christological implications of the Unification view of Rev. and Mrs. Moon. I will then argue that Unification Christology falls within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy in its description of Jesus Christ, and that Christian orthodoxy does not exclude or proscribe the less traditional aspects of Unification Christology.

Unification Anthropology

According to Divine Principle, human beings were created to be the "perfect object for God's joy." God's joy is "produced in the same manner" as ours; and just as we experience the greatest joy when the object of our love reflects the best aspects of our own nature on as many levels as possible, so "God feels joy when He feels His original character and form objectively through the stimulation derived from His substantial object."4 (Although Unification theology explicitly affirms that God has both masculine and feminine characteristics,5 it follows traditional usage in referring to God as "He." For convenience, I will follow that usage in this paper.) Therefore, we were created in God's image and likeness (Genesis 1:26), reflecting on God's dual characteristics (which include internal character and external form, masculinity and femininity, and positivity and negativity, but not evil). However, in order to reflect God's nature fully, human beings must "inherit God's creatorship and participate in His work of creation." Thus, before creating human beings in His image God created the world in their image, so that they could exercise a god-like "dominion over all creation" as God's children.6

In order to "qualify" for such a role, human beings must first fulfill their "portion of responsibility," which consists of establishing a "four position foundation" with mind and body centered on God. This is accomplished during a period of growth by directing one's love toward God until a state of "perfection" is reached. In Unification theology, "perfection" does not imply absolute infallibility, but refers to a complete "union with God's heart," in which limitations and mistakes are possible, but sin and evil are not (cf. Augustine's non posse peccare). A "perfect" individual is one who "feels all that God feels, as if God's feelings were hi (or her) own. Consequently, he (or she) cannot do anything which would cause God grief," and thus would never sin.7 Yet perfection is not merely relational, since Unification ontology is based on relationality. The "reciprocal base" formed by the "give and take action" of mind and body, which is initiated and sustained by God's "Universal Prime Energy," produces a "foundation of existence in an individual self." The four-position foundation thus constitutes existence, and a perfected individual is ontologically united with God.8 Just as the body is "the substantial object to the invisible mind, which it resembles," so a perfected individual is "the substantial object to the invisible God, taking after His image," and is said to be "one body with God." Such a person becomes the "temple" of God, assumes "deity," and acquires the "divine value of God."9

However, perfected individuality is not enough. Divine Principle interprets Genesis 1:26-28 to mean that individual perfection is only the first of the "three great blessings" which God wants all human beings to fulfill. Once an individual has reached perfect unity with God's heart, the second blessing is to marry and raise sinless children. A God-centered family then becomes the foundation for a God-centered society, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, in which people would "not perform any act which would hurt their neighbors, because the whole society would experience the same feeling toward those in trouble as God would feel in His grief over them."10 The third blessing is to exercise God-centered "dominion" over the creation, such that perfected people would "subdue" the natural world "through highly developed science" and establish "an extremely pleasant social environment on earth." The fulfillment of all three blessings would represent the realization of the ideal of creation," and would "return joy to God."11

God's ideal should have been realized in the family of Adam and Eve, our first human ancestors. However, Adam and Eve failed to fulfill their responsibility to direct their love toward God during their growth period (cf. Irenaeus' claim that Adam and Eve fell before reaching maturity). They lost faith, violated God's commandment, and fell into an illicit love relationship centered on the archangel, Lucifer, who thereby became Satan. Instead of forming a four-position foundation centered on God, they formed one centered on Satan, becoming ontologically united with him. Their children were thus, in a sense, children of Satan rather than of God; and Divine Principle calls this familial relationship, inherited by all the descendants of Adam and Eve, "original sin."12 Since fallen people are born into this relationship with Satan, they cannot eliminate original sin by themselves. Only Christ can accomplish that task.

The Person and Work of Christ

Since the fall proceeded from Lucifer and Eve to Adam, salvation begins with a new "Adam," reversing the process. Christ comes as the "perfected Adam," the sinless man who succeeds where Adam failed (cf. Irenaeus' "recapitulation").13 As "perfected Adam," Christ is ontologically united with God, and all of the predicates applied above to perfected individuals can be applied to him. Thus, Christ is "one body with God," the "temple of God's constant abode," and "the incarnation of the Word."14 Therefore, Christ "may well be called God." Nevertheless, "he can by no means be God Himself," since the relationship between God and the human nature of Christ "can be compared to that between the mind and the body," and "the body can by no means be the mind itself."15 It seems to me that the Unification view of the work of Christ can best be understood as (1) the fulfillment and (2) the restoration of the three great blessings. In other words, Christ comes (1) to realize in his own person and family the ideal of creation which should have been realized in the first human family; and (2) to provide a way to eliminate original sin and its consequences for the descendants of Adam and Eve. Although the following schema does not appear in Divine Principle, it seems to me to be a helpful summary of the Unification view of the work of Christ.

The Work of Christ

(I) Fulfillment

(II) Restoration

1. First Blessing: To Achieve individual perfection.

To eliminate original sin in fallen individuals.

2. Second Blessing: To establish a God-centered family which becomes the foundation for a god-centered society (the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth).

To eliminate Satan's dominion in human society (manifested as immorality, atheistic Communism, etc.)

3. Third Blessing: To establish a God-centered dominion over the creation (manifested as scientific progress and economic well-being).

To eliminate suffering due to ignorance, misapplied technology, and economic abuses.

Since I.1 is a prerequisite for I.2 and I.3, and since II. is in every case dependent on I., the work of Christ is inseparable from the person of Christ. Nevertheless, it should be noted that upon fulfillment of I.2 the messianic office is assumed by a couple, the "True Parents." Just as God's image is both masculine and feminine (Genesis 1:27), and just as Adam and Eve together should have fulfilled the three great blessings, so the work of Christ needs to be completed by a True Father and a True Mother who can give birth to sinless children as well as re-birth to the descendants of Adam and Eve.16

However, fallen people cannot be saved unless they fulfill their portion of responsibility, which is to establish a "foundation to receive the Messiah." Only by having faith in the Messiah and by uniting with him completely can fallen people be separated from Satan, cleansed of original sin, and re-born into God's lineage.17 Thus, Unification soteriology is consistent with the relational emphasis of Unification ontology and Christology. Since a four-position foundation centered on Satan constitutes original sin, our salvation requires the establishment of a four-position foundation centered on the True Parents, who themselves have established a four-position foundation centered on God. As more and more people follow the True Parents and fulfill the three great blessings, the work of Christ will be shared by more and more "true parents," until sin and evil are finally eliminated from the world and God's ideal is established.


In the Unification view, Jesus was not merely an outstanding prophet or saint whom God chose for a special mission. Although Divine Principle neither affirms nor denies the virgin birth of Jesus, it clearly affirms what many Christian theologians have considered to be the principal content of that doctrine, i.e., that Jesus was born as the direct Son of God, without the original sin which all other human beings had inherited from Adam and Eve. Fallen people are of Satan's lineage, but "Jesus came as the Son of God, without original sin, from God's direct lineage," specifically to be the Christ.18

According to Divine Principle, Jesus, as the "second Adam," followed the course Adam should have followed. He obeyed God's will in spite of temptations and became "perfect," in the sense that "he knew God's heart completely and experienced His feeling as if it were his own."19 Having established a four-position foundation centered on God, Jesus was "one body with God," the "incarnation of the Word." All of the predicates applied above to a perfected individual (and thus to Christ) are applied to Jesus.20

Jesus came to save fallen people and to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth as well as in the spirit world.21 To accomplish this task, he did his best to inspire in people the faith to follow him, but he could not compel anyone to do so. It was the responsibility of fallen people "to believe in him whom He (God) has sent (John 6:29)," and to unite with him completely; but people never fully accepted Jesus, and even his closest disciples eventually deserted him in his hour of need. Jesus should have been welcomed and honored, but instead he was rejected and crucified.22

However, the crucifixion was not without salvific value. According to Divine Principle, "we can never deny the magnitude of the grace of redemption by the cross." Although the crucifixion was not God's original plan, it became an alternate plan in the face of disbelief and rejection.23 By rejecting Jesus, the Jewish people abandoned the foundation they had inherited from their faithful ancestors, and placed themselves completely under Satan's dominion; but by voluntarily surrendering his life to Satan on the cross, Jesus "ransomed" those who had rejected him. Thus, Divine Principle explains that God "handed Jesus over to Satan... in order to save the whole of mankind, including the Jewish people, who turned against Jesus, and were now on Satan's side."24 Therefore, the j value of the crucifixion is seen primarily in terms of rescuing those who: rejected Jesus from the consequences of their disbelief.

The resurrection also had salvific value, though in the Unification view the benefits are due less to the resurrection itself than to the subsequent activities of the resurrected Jesus among his followers. Divine Principle interprets the biblical resurrection narratives to mean that Jesus' "spiritual body" appeared to his disciples (cf. I Corinthians 15:44) -- i.e., it was a bodily resurrection but not a physical resurrection. Since even fallen people have spiritual bodies, and since spiritual appearances occurred even in the Old Testament, the significance of Jesus' resurrection goes beyond the mere fact that he appeared to his followers after his death. Jesus had entered a new and higher spiritual realm, and as a "divine spirit" he assumed the position of "spiritual True Father" (with the Holy Spirit in the position of "spiritual True Mother"). Since Jesus had defeated Satan by his sacrifice on the cross, it then became possible for Christian believers to be subsequently re-born spiritually (through the "spiritual True Parents") into "a sphere inviolable by Satan."25

However, the crucifixion had prematurely severed the connection which the incarnation had established between the spiritual realm and the physical realm, so the salvation offered by the resurrected Jesus was only spiritual. Thus, in traditional Christian piety we find the expectation of salvation in the "next life" or the "next world." Furthermore, children are still born with original sin, which indicates that our physical bodies have not been liberated from Satan's dominion. Just as Satan claimed Jesus' earthly self, so he continues to claim our earthly lives; and God's ideal has yet to be established physically on the earth. In preparation for the eventual completion of the work of restoration, the Christianity which Jesus established through his followers became the "second Israel," providing a foundation for the Second Coming.26

Rev. and Mrs. Moon

Divine Principle does not mention Rev. or Mrs. Moon, except to assert in its "General Introduction" that Sun Myung Moon is God's "messenger," sent to "resolve the fundamental questions of life and the universe." The same introduction characterizes Divine Principle itself as a record of "what Sun Myung Moon's disciples have hitherto heard and witnessed."27 Beyond this the book is silent. Therefore, if we take Divine Principle as our normative text for Unification doctrine, there is no Church doctrine which claims messianic status for Rev. or Mrs. Moon.

However, it is no secret that most (and perhaps all) Unification Church members believe that Rev. and Mrs. Moon are the instantiation of the True Parents, the new Adam and new Eve, the messianic figures for the present age -- in other words, the Second Coming of Christ. Indeed, I cannot imagine that anyone would long remain a dedicated member of the Unification Church who did not share this conviction in some form. Nevertheless, having laid epistemological issues aside, the relevant point here is not the question of whether Reverend and Mrs. Moon really are the True Parents, but rather the fact that Unificationists regard two living human beings, neither of whom is the historical Jesus of Nazareth, as messianic figures.

Having said that, I must point out that Rev. and Mrs. Moon are not thought of as functioning in isolation from Jesus of Nazareth. Unificationists are familiar with the account of how Jesus Christ appeared to Reverend Moon in 1936 and asked him to complete the work which Jesus had begun 2,000 years before. According to this account, Jesus not only commissioned Reverend Moon in the first place, but has also continued to communicate with him and guide him to the present day. It seems to me that this continuity between Jesus and Rev. Moon is providentially and soteriologically essential in the context of Unification theology, and therefore that it would be incorrect to say that Unificationists see Rev. and Mrs. Moon as competitors to Jesus.

Nevertheless, the question remains: Can a Christology be "Christian" if it is open to the possibility that Rev. and Mrs. Moon might be the Second Coming of Christ?

Is Unification Christology Christian?

Before attempting to answer this question, I would like to establish two points, both of which presuppose that Christian orthodoxy is defined by scripture and the ecumenical creeds:

1. Unification Christology falls within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy in its description of the person and work of Jesus Christ.

2. Christian orthodoxy does not exclude or proscribe the Unification claim that the work of salvation is to be completed by a new incarnation.

On the first point, the Definition of Chalcedon states that Jesus Christ in his divine nature is "homoousion" with the Father, while in his human nature he is "like us in all respects, sin only excepted."28 The two natures are hypostatically (meaning substantially and not just morally or extrinsically) united, unconfused but inseparable.

It seems to me that Divine Principle clearly considers the divine nature of Jesus Christ to be fully divine. The Word which confronts us in Jesus' Christ is not a subordinate demi-god (as in Arianism), but the same God who created the universe. When Divine Principle cautions that Jesus "can by no means be God Himself," just as "the body can by no means be the mind itself," it is merely taking care not to confuse the human and divine natures.29 When Divine Principle "does not deny the attitude of faith held by many Christians that Jesus is God," it is not implying that Jesus' divine nature is divine in name only, but is acknowledging the validity of the communicatio idiomatum which has played such an important role in Christian piety and liturgy.30

As for the human nature of Christ, Divine Principle echoes Chalcedon when it describes the human Jesus as "no different from us except for the fact that he was without original sin."31 Furthermore, in Divine Principle the Logos does not take the place of Jesus' soul, so Unification Christology is not Apollinarian.

Since the four-position foundation is the basis of Unification ontology, it seems to me that Divine Principle affirms the ontological equivalent of a hypostatic union between the divine and human natures of Christ, and avoids falling into the Nestorian error of positing a merely moral union. (It would be unreasonable to suppose that Christian orthodoxy requires us to affirm the Hellenistic metaphysics underlying the creeds.) Furthermore, since "we can never sever the relationship formed when God and perfected man become one body," Unification Christology affirms that the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ are inseparable.32

The objection might be raised that Divine Principle holds an adoptionistic view of Christ, since Jesus had to go through a growth period before reaching perfection. However, Divine Principle does not claim (as the adoptionist heretics did) that Jesus was merely an exceptional man, adopted from the mass of fallen humanity on the basis of his merits. Instead, Jesus was born sinless and was predestined from birth to be the Messiah. If it should be further objected that much of the Christian tradition has held that the hypostatic union was complete from the moment of Jesus' conception, I would answer that this is only one possible interpretation. It is not necessitated by logic or the creeds, since two "hypostases" can become one "hypostasis" through an appropriate process of uniting with each other (cf. the passages in Divine Principle describing how two beings "become one body"33).

As for biblical affirmations, Divine Principle agrees that Jesus will always be the unique "first fruits" (I Corinthians 15:23).34 Furthermore, Jesus laid the only "foundation" for the Second Coming (I Corinthians 3:10-11).35 And the prophecy that "this Jesus... will come in the same way" (Acts 1:11) is fulfilled by the account (mentioned above) of Jesus' appearance to Rev. Moon in 1936.

Scripture and the ecumenical creeds are comparatively reticent about the work of Jesus Christ, hence the variety of atonement theories in the Christian tradition (no single one of which can be considered normative for "Christian-ness"). Jesus came "for us and for our salvation," and his work can variously be described as "ransom," "sacrifice," "redemption," etc. This much is clearly affirmed by Divine Principle, and beyond this Christian orthodoxy does not require us to go. The Christian tradition has always affirmed the Second Coming as (in some sense, at least) the completion of the work of Christ.

On the second point, although God was incarnated in Jesus Christ He cannot be limited to Jesus Christ. God is infinite, eternal and omnipresent, while the human nature of Jesus is temporally and spatially finite. The distinction is orthodox, and the tradition has generally recognized that there is infinitely more to God than can be manifested in one human nature. Thus, for Thomas Aquinas the Logos is capable of assuming more than one human nature; and human nature includes body, soul, intellect, will, etc., i.e., all that we moderns generally mean by "human being."36 The distinction between the infinite divine nature and the finite human nature surfaced prominently in the Reformation disputes over the so-called extra Calvinisticum, when the Lutherans attempted to go against the tradition by denying the Logos extra carnem.37 Therefore, it seems clear that Chalcedon does not exclude the possibility that more than one human nature can be hypostatically united with God, and thus that Unification Christology is not unorthodox in its openness to further incarnations.

Given the reticence of normative claims for the work of Christ, and the ambiguities inherent in the variety of Christian eschatologies, it seems to me that nothing in scripture or the ecumenical creeds excludes the possibility that the completion of the work of Christ will involve further incarnation(s). In fact, several passages in Revelation (2:17, 3:12, and 19:12) strongly suggest that Christ will bear a "new name" at his Second Coming.


Based on the two points above, I conclude that Unification Christology affirms, in essence, what scripture and the ecumenical creeds affirm, and refrains from asserting what they proscribe. Therefore, Unification Christology cannot easily be dismissed as heretical, much less as "un-Christian."

Nevertheless, it seems clear that Divine Principle goes significantly beyond the Christian tradition in many of its claims. Unification Christology is not merely a restatement of traditional Christian doctrines, and cannot simply be deduced from them or reduced to them. However, I conclude that Unification Christology is continuous with traditional Christian orthodoxy, in the sense that it is not inconsistent with any claims which are essential to orthodoxy. In other words, a faithful Christian does not need to abandon the essential elements of the traditional revelation in order to become a faithful Unificationist. The transition from being a traditional Christian to being a Unificationist is undoubtedly a conversion of sorts; but I am convinced that it is a conversion which embraces and enlarges the traditional view rather than abandons it.


1. Jaroslav Pelikan, "The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition," in The Christian Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), Vol. I, p. 226.

2. I have dealt with some of the trinitarian issues elsewhere, in "Some Remarks on Trinity and Christology in Unificationism," August, 1981 (unpublished).

3. I am indebted to Pelikan (op. cit., pp. 174-175) for this formulation of the distinction between trinitarian and Christological issues.

4. Divine Principle (New York: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1973), pp. 41-42.

5. Ibid., pp. 45, 55, 77, 82, 97.

6. Ibid., pp. 24-25.

7. Ibid., pp. 43, 140-141.

8. Ibid., pp. 28-39,141,209.

9. Ibid., p. 206.

10. Ibid., pp. 43-44, 101-102.

11. Ibid., pp. 41-45, 100-102.

12. Ibid., pp. 74-75, 83-84, 88.

13. Ibid., pp. 208-209.

14. Ibid., p. 206.

15. Ibid., pp. 210-211.

16. Ibid., pp. 213-218.

17. Ibid,, pp. 110, 147, 228.

18. Ibid., pp. 367-368.

19. Ibid., pp. 140, 212, 214.

20. Ibid., pp. 209-211.

21. Ibid., p. 140.

22. Ibid., pp. 140-147.

23. Ibid., pp. 151-152.

24. Ibid., pp. 183, 359-361.

25. Ibid., pp. 165-171, 212, 360-362.

26. Ibid., pp. 147-149, 364.

27. Ibid., p. 16.

28. John H. Leith, ed., Creeds of the Churches, Revised Edition (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1973), pp. 30-36.

29. Divine Principle, pp. 210-211.

30. Ibid., pp. 209-210.

31. Ibid., p. 212.

32. Ibid., p. 206.

33. Ibid., pp. 31-46.

34. Ibid., p. 213.

35. Ibid., pp. 362-370.

36. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, 3, 7.

37. See E. David Willis, Calvin's Catholic Christology (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1966), pp. 2, 9-10, 74-75, 109-110. Also, Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1978), Vol. 1, pp. 169-171; and Vol. 4, pp. 52, 181. 

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