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

The Kingdom of Heaven - Lloyd Eby

The concept of the Kingdom of God on earth as a grounding for a social theology and practice goes back at least as far as Walter Rauschenbusch, and probably to Augustine and beyond. As Rauschenbusch wrote in Christianizing the Social Order.

... Christ's conception of the Kingdom of God came to me as a new revelation... I found that this new conception of the purpose of Christianity was strangely satisfying. It responded to all the old and all the new elements of my religious life. The saving of the lost, the teaching of the young, the pastoral care of the poor and frail, the quickening of starved intellects, the study of the Bible, church union, political reform, the reorganization of the industrial system, international peace -- it was all covered by the one aim of the Reign of God on earth, (p. 93)

This insight or motif dominated and inspired all of Rauschenbusch's subsequent writing, teaching, and work.

Within the past two decades another similar appropriation of the Kingdom of God motif has been made by the so-called liberation theologians of Latin America. The liberation theologians are, of course, a diverse group, and it may be a mistake to treat them collectively without differentiation, but I believe we can safely and accurately say that they have many things in common, and that we can give a general description of liberation theology that applies more-or-less accurately to the liberation theology movement as a whole.

In Part I of this paper I will present a paradigmatic development of liberation theology, relying primarily on the work of Gustavo Gutierrez. In Part II, I will present a reply to liberation theology based on Unificationism, and I will try to show that Unificationism is a theology of liberation par excellence.

Part I

Probably the most thorough, reflective, and well-known liberation theologian is the Peruvian Catholic, Gustavo Gutierrez. In his A Theology of Liberation he identifies or emphasizes three levels of meaning of the process of liberation: (a) liberation as opposed to development; the aspiration of oppressed peoples and economic and social groups to escape the oppression of the wealthy nations and oppressive classes; (b) liberation as an understanding of history in which man assumes conscious responsibility for his own destiny, leading to "the creation of a new man and a qualitatively different society;" and (c) liberation as the transformation of man through the encounter with Jesus Christ: "Christ the savior liberates man from sin, which is the ultimate root of all disruption of friendship and of all injustice and oppression. Christ makes man truly free, that is to say, he enables man to live in communion with him; and this is the basis for all human brotherhood." (pp. 36, 37)

For Gutierrez and liberation theologians in general, there is a close link between salvation and justice. The growing Kingdom of God is the arena in which justice and liberation occurs. Liberation is simultaneously personal, historical and soteriological, but the historical moment or movement is the important precondition of the others. Liberation theology replaces the traditional Catholic "natural law" ethic with the dynamic of "liberation," operating in history.

Gutierrez, and Latin American liberation theologians in general to some degree or other, employ three weapons of implementing their program. These three are Marxism, socialism, and utopianism. From Marxism these liberation theologies take the notions of class struggle and class oppression, coupled with alienation, and a notion of history as energized and moved forward by a struggle between the oppressors and the oppressed. God and Christ are seen as identifying with the oppressed.

The solution to the economic difficulties of Latin America, and the Third World and other economically disadvantaged (poor) people in general, is seen in socialism. An economic revolution that destroys the bonds of capitalism of the landowners, and of the powerful nations and corporations of the North (especially the United States and the multinational corporations) is seen as necessary, and socialism, especially a socialism indigenous to a particular country or region, is taken to be the desired alternative to the status quo. Without this break with the economic (and attendant political and religious) status quo, there is no liberation (and hence no salvation).

Utopianism interpreted positively provides a vision for radical change. Utopia "leads to an authentic and scientific knowledge of reality and to a praxis that transforms what exists." Three elements characterize the notion of utopia as Gutierrez develops it: its relation to historical reality, its verification in praxis, and its rational nature. In terms of history there is a denunciation of the existing order and an annunciation of what is not yet. The stage between denunciation and annunciation is the time for building, which can be achieved only in the praxis. Finally, utopia belongs in the rational order; it is neither opposed to nor outside of science (pp. 232-239).

When he speaks of sin, Gutierrez says that it is not only an impediment to salvation in the afterlife, but:

... a historical reality, it is a breach of the communion of men with each other, it is a turning in of man on himself which manifests itself in a multifaceted withdrawal from others. And because sin is a personal and social intrahistorical reality, a part of the daily events of human life, it is also, and above all, an obstacle to life's reaching the fullness we call salvation (p. 152).

One emphasis of Gutierrez is universal salvation. This leads to the question of the presence of the Lord, and to the religious significance of man's acts in history. One is turned to consideration of this world, and sees the afterlife as the transformation and fulfillment of the present life, and not the "true life," as it was often seen to be in previous notions of salvation.

Gutierrez says that the Bible establishes a close link between creation and salvation, and states that "the link is based on the historical and liberating experience of the Exodus" (p. 153). He says that the Bible deals with creation not to satisfy philosophic concerns about the origin of the world, but as part of the salvific process; not as a stage previous to salvation, but as creation with an end in mind. Creation and salvation are thus the initiation point and continuation of history, of the human struggle, and of the work of God (Yahweh). Political liberation, of the people of Israel, and, by extension, of the oppressed of today, is the active self-creation of man. The liberation of Israel from Egypt in the Exodus was a political event, and the Exodus experience is paradigmatic, remaining vital and contemporary due to similar historical experiences which the People of God undergo.

A second important Biblical theme leading to the same conclusion, according to Gutierrez, is eschatological promise. This theme appears throughout the Bible; the proclamation of the Kingdom of God is the annunciatory theme of both the Old Testament prophets as well as of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the writers of the New Testament. What is characteristic of this message is that what is to come "cannot be under stood as the continuation of what went before" (Gutierrez quotes Von Rad). The New Testament, however, changed the interpretation of the Old Testament texts by spiritualizing them, raising the promises from the "temporal," "earthly" or "carnal" level to a "spiritual" one. But Gutierrez resists that spiritualizing. He says, "If by 'present life' one understands only 'present spiritual life,' one does not have an accurate understanding of eschatology." The prophets announce peace, but peace requires justice, and peace, justice and love are not private or only internal, they are "social realities, implying a historical liberation" (p. 167). But we must not be misled: although the eschatological promises are being fulfilled through history, they cannot be completely identified with any one or another social reality; they go beyond and open up new and unsuspected possibilities. "The complete encounter with the Lord will mark an end to history, but it will take place in history" (p. 168).

Gutierrez is probably the most thorough of the liberation theologians, but most of the others would subscribe (with varying degrees of emphasis) to what Gutierrez has been represented above as saying. There has been an expansion of liberation themes in North America as Latin American liberation theology has encountered, fertilized, and joined forces with Black theology and feminist theology. Latin American liberation theology seems generally, however, to be more closely allied with Marxism and with political revolution than has been Black and feminist theology (with various exceptions).

Part II

In one of his speeches Rev. Moon proclaimed:

Our goal is to liberate the human heart from under Satan and liberate our Heavenly Father, God, who has been suffering so long. That is our goal. (Vol. II, p. 36, #941)

On many occasions he has said similar things. For example:

You will liberate our God by yourselves. Restoration will be completed when these sons and daughters restore this condition and liberate our God. (II, 38, #17)

And on another occasion:

We are the ones who can assure God His happiness, His joy, His peace. We are going to liberate the heart of God and His anguish and sorrow. By doing so, we are liberating all mankind and its burden and sorrow. Finally we can push the entire Satanic world out of this world. (II, 39, #21)

At Madison Square Garden in 1974 he stated:

Before we cry out for our salvation, let us cry out for the fulfillment of God's will. We must liberate God from His sorrow, His grief. When we have solved God's problem, man's problem will be solved automatically. (II, 44, #41)

But lest anyone think that Unificationism holds that God can be liberated without solving human sin, Rev. Moon said in 1976:

Our goal is to forge ahead to win the salvation of the world. We are proclaiming the liberation of God. We will liberate God from His sorrow. That is our goal. No matter how many years it takes, humanity is destined to accomplish this goal. It is not just by our choice. It is our destiny. There is no other way. Unless humanity is liberated from sin, then God cannot be liberated. (II, 48, #56,57)

The liberation of God and of mankind and the world are inextricably linked. Neither can be accomplished without the other.

We join together for the liberation of the world and the liberation of mankind, but that's not all. We are gathered together to liberate the heart of Jesus and of God himself. (II, 48, #58)

The liberation theme is central to Unificationism. Unificationism, however, has a much more complex understanding of liberation than does any liberation theology. In the Unification view, liberation is not confined to any specific class or color of people; all of humankind and most of all God needs liberation.

From the Unification perspective, Gutierrez was quite correct in noting that the Bible begins with creation, and that creation is connected with salvation. In the Unification view, however, the intervening parts of the Old Testament, namely the Fall, and all the course of Divine providential history leading up to and beyond the Exodus are paradigmatic. The Fall was an historic event; its occurrence makes salvation necessary. Unless we understand the origin of sin, its precise etiology, and the precise Divine providence or prescription for its elimination and solution, we cannot work knowingly toward bringing about the Kingdom of Heaven.

Unification theology has three major divisions: the Principle of Creation, the Fall, and the Principle of Restoration. According to the Unification view, creation would naturally and more-or-less effortlessly have resulted in the Kingdom of Heaven (or Kingdom of God -- the terms are interchangeable) had the Fall not occurred. The Principle of Restoration (or Salvation or Liberation -- again the terms, as used in Unification theology, have nearly identical meanings) was the Principle instituted by God after the Fall to re-create humankind, liberate them from sin, and restore them to God, to one another, and to their true humanity.

The fundamental relationship between God and humankind is the Father-son, or parent-child relation; the first man and woman, Adam and Eve were the son and daughter of God, and should have grown to maturity, when they would have produced offspring that would in turn have also been sons and daughters of God. The growth to maturity of Adam and Eve -- and the process of restoration of human beings to the Kingdom of Heaven -- has three movements, corresponding to what Unificationism calls the Three Great Blessings: the first is perfection of individuality, the second is perfection of the family (husband and wife, giving birth to children), and the third is the perfection of human interaction with all things of creation (the material and spiritual worlds).

Perfection does not mean lack of error, but maturity and completion of love. Individual perfection means maturity of love between the individual and God. Family perfection means that love between husband and wife becomes inviolable, patterned on and centered on the Divine love. This love results in children, and since children are born with the characteristics of their parents, the children of such a family would be born into the divine lineage, having the ability and propensity to grow to perfection themselves. Since all of mankind should be as one extended family, in such circumstances the love and harmony of the divine family would extend to all of humankind, and from all of humankind to all of creation.

All this failed to occur. Unificationism takes the Biblical account of the Fall to be an historical event, involving the original man and woman, who are taken to be historical individuals, and the archangel Lucifer, who became Satan. God is understood as having created for love and in order to have a recipient and sharer of His love. In the Fall, Adam and Eve united in love centered not on God, but on Satan: Satan usurped the position of God and became the father, as it were, of the human race. Both God and mankind were thus thrust into bondage; God because He lost His children, and mankind because it lost God, lost the grounding and source of love and its ability to give and receive love, and lost its true humanity because it took on the characteristics of its false father Satan -- the characteristics of lust, greed, selfishness, violence and hatred -- in the interchange. All of mankind since the Fall has existed under these shadows. The task of liberation, then, is the task of freeing both God and mankind from the devastation of the Fall. This means that mankind needs rebirth into the Divine lineage, and this rebirth can be accomplished only by True Parents, i.e. a couple sent by God as True Man and True Woman to replace the sinful Adam and Eve, and through whom all mankind can be reborn.

The task of restoration/salvation/liberation is a historical task, and began with Adam's family. Again, in Unificationism, the central characters of the Old Testament -- Adam, Cain, Abel, Noah, Ham, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, their wives and children, and so on -- are understood as being genuine historical persons, as well as paradigmatic characters.

Sin disrupted all relationships -- the vertical relationships with God as well as relationships between husband and wife, sister and brother, family and family, class and class, nation and nation, and so on. Human beings were partly responsible in the beginning for their perfection -- their historical development, if you please -- and they remain partly responsible in the Providence of Restoration. It is God's task to send the Messiah, but people must exercise their responsibility in completing certain historical conditions so that salvation/liberation can be brought about. The two paradigmatic movements in liberation are the development of faith and the restoration of unity through harmonization. Faith restores the relation of love with God. Harmonization restores relationship with others -- spouse, sisters, brothers, opposing tribes or nations, opposing classes, and so on. Unificationism speaks of this harmonization as restoration of the Cain-Abel relationship.

Restoration of the so-called Cain-Abel relationship needs to take place before liberation can be achieved, but it is the key to liberation. Whenever two human entities achieve unification centered on love and the Divine ideal, liberation is accomplished. To speak of liberation in terms of class conflict, as Marxists and liberationists do, seriously misrepresents liberation. Class conflict is the opposite of liberation but harmonization and unification of different classes is an example of true liberation.

Liberation must be achieved on every level. I quoted above several instances in which Rev. Moon spoke of liberating God -- I know of no so-called liberation theologian who recognizes or speaks of God's bondage, but in Unificationism the bondage of God is the most serious bondage of all. In addition, there must be personal or individual liberation, family liberation, liberation from racism and racial hatred and intolerance, liberation of tribes, liberation of social and economic affairs, liberation of nations, and finally liberation of the whole world and God. Even Satan must finally be saved or restored so that he can be free of sin and give and receive love in a Divine manner and according to the Divine provision.

Unification praxis attends to liberation within its developing historical and eschatological unfolding. The key to family restoration is in Divine Marriage, effected through the True Parents. In this marriage, the love relationship between husband and wife is effected, centered on God through the True Parents. Since the Original Sin was a relationship of love between man and woman centered on Satan and Satanic desires, and since the fundamental desire of God in creating was having the Divine family, the institution of Divine marriage (called 'the Blessing' in popular Unification terminology) is the key to the solution of Original Sin, and the necessary precondition of all other liberation. The key to racial liberation is also found here -- through Divine marriages between persons of different races.

Liberation in the social arena -- classes, nations, and world liberation -- comes in practice through Cain-Abel harmonization. This liberation does not come through violence but through sacrificial love. Violence is of Satan and whoever tries to achieve liberation through violence is taking the course of evil. Concerning wealth and poverty, Rev. Moon has said:

You should love the world in such a way that you would want to have God bless a prosperous country all the more, and you would pray to God that He bless the nation to such an extent that this nation would be the leading nation of the world: "I want to see You being joyful over this prosperous country, after having poured out all the blessings You have concentrated on this nation." On the other hand, if you see a miserable people, an underprivileged and underdeveloped nation, then you should feel the zeal swelling up in your heart to make that nation see the sunshine someday. You should want to help elevate the standard of living in that nation, because you hate to see Father in anguish over that nation... (I, 270, #13)

Unificationism is not insensitive to or unknowing of or uncaring about economic and political degradation and evil. It does not, however, accept the Marxist analysis of the origin of these evils, or its prescription for them. One of the most innovative and intriguing proposals recently made by Reverend Moon is for building a global highway, starting in Asia and connecting mainland China through North Korea and South Korea and then by bridge or underwater tunnel to Japan. The western leg of the highway would traverse Asia and connect with Europe and Africa. By extending the highway northward from Asia it could connect North America through Alaska (again by bridge or tunnel) and move south from North America into South America, finally linking all the major continents of the globe. The highway, as proposed, would be a mile-wide free-trade and free-flow zone, within which would be built hotels, shops, airports and so on. Travel and trade would be unrestricted.

This proposal may seem bizarre or naive at first glance, but on reflection it is much less bizarre and naive than proposals for violent revolution, as intended solutions to economic and political oppression. Violence leads only to further violence and resentment, and the skills needed for successful violent revolution are practically useless in subsequent nation and society-building. But a global free-trade and free-movement system would allow a great migration and intermingling of peoples and cultures and economies. Furthermore the skills of harmonization and construction that would be necessary in planning, financing, and constructing such a global system are precisely the skills needed for global harmony, well-being, and social and economic advancement. If a cadre of young and enthusiastic people forms around this project, and if more and more people from more and more countries come to support it and work for it, then indeed a global harmonization heretofore unseen and unforeseen could begin.

It should be apparent by now, that while it profoundly agrees with liberation theology on many particulars, Unification theology is generally profoundly opposed to the received liberation theologies. This opposition is not because Unificationism favors the status quo -- either racially, politically, or economically -- but because it is opposed to the materialism, the violence, the class hatred, the selfishness, and the narrowness of liberation theology. Liberation theology has been criticized many times in the past, and some of its most thoughtful proponents, such as Jose Miguez Bonino in his Doing Theology in a Revolutionary Situation, have themselves addressed its internal contradictions: I do not think it necessary, therefore, to address those here. Only a theology of sacrificial love and service will break the chain of violence (both institutional and overt), repression, hatred, conflict, and selfishness that has enslaved all the peoples, societies, institutions, and nations of the world.

Although God does indeed identify with the miserable and oppressed and poor of the world, it is a fact of the Fall that all people, regardless of political or economic status, are oppressed by sin. Economic and political oppression are one additional example of an expression of sin. No person is truly human without being reborn through the True Parents, and attempts at salvation through political and economic revolution fail to understand and deal with these deeper expressions of sin.

Unificationism, like received liberation theologies, is an historical, eschatological, and hopeful theology. The Kingdom of God must arrive on earth, in history, as the culmination of sinful history and the beginning of a new order. This is the hope of both God and mankind, and the present age is understood in Unificationism to be the beginning of the new age. Thus, rather than 'Utopia,' which has overtones of the impossible, Unificationism is a theology of present and future realized hope.

As I began this section with quotes from Reverend Moon concerning liberation, I will end it with some things he has said concerning the Kingdom of Heaven:

God's goal of creation is to have man and the world of happiness, that is, the Kingdom of Heaven, reflecting the love and creativity of God, which relate to mind and matter respectively. We know this is true from the fact that man's ideal is actually to seek after such a man and world. (I, 311, #2)

In a 1973 speech on the Kingdom of Heaven, he said:

The Kingdom of Heaven is a place where there is happiness, peace and the ideal. That's not a place where people fight with one another. It's a place where there is no jealousy, no arrogance; it is filled with righteousness, goodness and justice. That must be a place filled with God's grace and ideal. You must know that you are destined to go there and it's a serious matter... There are no such things as jealousy, complaint and other ugly feelings in the Kingdom of God. (I, 313, #6, 7)

Concerning racial harmony:

We have to love men of the north, south, east, west and all directions, and also, white people, yellow people, black people, and all people, then we can go to the highest heaven. From that place the Kingdom can be started. (I, 313, #10)

The Kingdom of God is not something ready-made:

The Kingdom of God on earth, the ideal kingdom, is not a ready-made thing which we can go and get -- but we are making it, establishing it, with our hands. (I, 313, #12)

Concerning discrimination:

There is no discrimination in the Kingdom of Heaven. (I, 314, #17)

On humanity and nature:

What is the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom of God is the place where we live together with God, nature, and men in harmony and peace. The Kingdom of God is the place where we love each other, we love God, we love nature, we love man. (I, 319, #40)

And finally, speaking of the role of the Messianic Couple (True Parents) in bringing about the Kingdom of Heaven, Reverend Moo n declared:

If you and your ancestors and your children become one in love and harmony centering on the True Parents, then the world will easily become the Kingdom of Heaven centering on Divine love. The five races will be united into one... If you carry the will of God and True Parents then even if you die right now you will bring the Kingdom of Heaven. (I, 259, #92)

In this paper I have attempted to present a summary-overview of Latin American liberation theology. I have tried to present that theology as accurately and comprehensively as possible in a short space. Following that, I have presented Unificationism as an alternative liberation program. I have attempted to show the ways in which Unificationism agrees with liberation theology, as well as its profound disagreements. M y stance toward Unificationism has been acceptive and presentational, rather than critical. It is my view that Unificationism does represent the historical, eschatological, hopeful, and even scientific2 Divine prescription for the liberation of God and mankind today.


1. There is, up to the present time, no generally available edition of Reverend Moon's speeches. Some have been collected in a volume called New Hope, and others have been published singly. All the quotations in this paper come from a two-volume edition of excerpts entitled The Way of Tradition (New York: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1980). Citations here are by volume number, page number and excerpt number from that work.

2. This aspect was not treated above, and is only beginning to be explored in the literature.


Bonino, Jose Miguez. Doing Theology in a Revolutionary Situation. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, Confrontation Books, 1975.

Gutierrez, Gustavo. A Theology of Liberation. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1973.

Moon, Sun Myung. The Way of Tradition. NY: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1980. 2 vols. 

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