by Young Oon Kim
Sun Myung Moon And Revelation
Reverend Sun Myung Moon's claim to have received new revelation has aroused considerable controversy. What do we mean by new revelation? How is it related to the received revelation of the Judeo-Christian tradition? Does Reverend Moon's Divine Principle represent an interpretation of the Bible, an addition to it, or a radical departure from Christian scripture?
To answer these questions we should reexamine specific Old Testament and New Testament examples of revelatory experiences. From a study of the Bible we learn that encounters with the supernatural take various forms: visions, prophetic dreams, speaking in tongues, faith healings, miraculous events. Next we discover that these parapsychological happenings serve more than one purpose. Some -- like Abraham's call to leave home, Moses' vision of the burning bush and Jesus' baptismal experience -- are crucial events in God's central redemptive plan. Others are less important by comparison, having merely individual rather than indispensable significance for the restoration of mankind. Hence Christians would not put on the same level the Pentecost experience of the apostolic church and an appearance of the Virgin Mary at Fatima or the vision of St. Francis which turned him from a soldier's life to that of a mendicant friar.
Especially important, according to the Bible, were the occasions when God spoke to Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Jesus and Paul. To use the classification of a contemporary theologian, these could be called "primordial revelations. 21 Each of these cases of divine-human encounter has distinctive features, but what they have in common should be noted. To every one of these Biblical personages, the word of the Lord involved a specific mission. Each was called personally to fulfill a crucial part of God's overall plan. In every case the special vocation was related to the purpose of God.
Moreover, the revelatory experience required a human response. In the Biblical tradition, the most important kinds of revelation are always related to a moment of decision. Revelation and response are inextricably connected. In Moses' case, he spoke with God on Mt. Sinai, received the Torah, and was commissioned to unify his people for their occupation of the Promised Land. In Jesus' case, once he heard God's words, "Thou art my beloved son," he was challenged to proclaim the coming of the kingdom.
Reverend Moon's revelation should be interpreted in that light. As he explains, while still a teenager he received a vision of Jesus who asked him to complete the task of establishing the kingdom of God on earth. Thus, his revelatory experience involved a mission of the utmost significance. His response can be compared to that of Isaiah: "Here am I; send me."
The next several years were spent pondering the full implications of his response. As Jesus grew up in a land permeated with eschatological expectancy, so did Reverend Moon. The north Korean milieu at that time greatly resembled the environment of first century Palestine. As Roman soldiers occupied Palestine, Japanese soldiers occupied Korea. As the pious Jews meditated on the apocalyptic prophecies of the Old Testament, the oppressed Korean Christians longed for the dawn of -the messianic age. During Reverend Moon's youth and early manhood, little groups of Christians studied the book of Revelation and tearfully prayed for the advent of the long-awaited Messiah. Several who possessed unusual psychic gifts predicted that these were the Last Days and Korea would have a special role to play in the coming of God's New Age. More than one of these Christian seers announced that Christ would appear in their own land. We should not overlook the charged charismatic atmosphere which stimulated, supported and encouraged Reverend Moon's growth in spiritual maturity. As Jesus' message and mission cannot be fully understood apart from the time in which he lived, neither can one understand Reverend Moon apart from his Korean environment.
However, many Christians find it difficult to accept the possibility that God's new revelation could originate in Korea. Some may be blinded by racist prejudice against Asians. Many more are so accustomed to thinking of Christianity as a Western faith that they remain completely unaware of the vitality of that religion in other parts of the world. Then, among Fundamentalist Protestants, events in Israel are thought to be of primary importance as signs of the coming messianic age.
According to the Biblical precedents we cannot limit the place or person to whom God can reveal His message. As Barth stressed, God is always sovereign, which implies complete freedom on His part. He therefore chooses whom He wills. "How odd of God to choose the Jews!" says a poet. At a time when the world had great empires like the Egyptian and Babylonian, God selected the Jews to be an instrument to fulfill His purpose. Then, at a subsequent period He commissioned a prince in the Pharaoh's palace to lead the Hebrews from slavery. In another time, God selected a shepherd boy to become the new king of Israel. Still later, not a high priest or noted rabbi but a carpenter's son from little Nazareth was anointed to carry out the messianic role. From the Biblical record, we learn that God reveals Himself in unexpected ways. With that background in mind, one should not be astounded if a Korean feels called by God to announce the coming of God's kingdom on earth.
Another pertinent clue to contemporary revelationmodernbe discovered in the Biblical tradition. When someone is chosen to carry out God's special will and he fails, his role is given to another. Let me cite three examples. Moses is unable to enter the Promised Land and his mission is turned over to Joshuabe discovered in the Biblical tradition. When someone is chosen to carry out God's special will and he fails, his role is given to another. Let me cite three examples. Moses is unable to enter the Promised Land and his mission is turned over to Joshuamoderng Saul fails and his throne is given to David. In New Testament times, Jesus is rejected by the religious authorities of his land, so the apostle Paul is commissioned to look at the Gentile world for the right place to plant the Christian faith. As a g Saul fails and his throne is given to David. In New Testament times, Jesus is rejected by the religious authorities of his land, so the apostle Paul is commissioned to look at the Gentile world for the right place to plant the Christian faith. As a modern Jewish scholar (Franz Rosenzweig) explains, the function of Christianity is to enable the Star of David to shine brightly in the wider Gentile environment. 22 For various reasons what Judaism could not do became a solemn mission transferred to the Christian church.
This practice on God's part in the past has significant implications for our doctrine of revelation. Having considered past history, we can make the following conclusion: in carrying out His central purpose for creation, God will appear in a new place and anoint a different individual to the messianic office once occupied by Jesus. However, two possible misunderstandings of this idea must be avoided. First, it does not mean that God will never appear to comfort, advise or inspire believers other than in the new place chosen for His central purpose. On the contrary, one can expect numerous supernatural phenomena in many parts of the world to open our eyes to the advent of the messianic age. Secondly, this does not in any way detract from the historic mission of Jesus. A new Messiah is called to continue Jesus' work which he longs so deeply to see realized. God has not changed His mind because conventional Christianity has declined. He has not decided to abandon the present followers of Jesus and go off in a totally new direction. Not at all. God's present plans actually reinforce, revitalize and extend the purpose to which every Christian denomination is deeply committed. God's New Age and new revelation represent His answer to the millions of Christians who daily pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
God can provide new revelation only in a place which has been prepared. In Israel's case, God took centuries to cultivate the hearts of the people. No land had ever been so spiritually nourished as Israel was by the successive ministries of the great canonical prophets. From Abraham onward, the Israelites were constantly reminded of the principles of justice, mercy and peace upon which God could inspire the building of a beneficent social order. Especially in the Deuteronomic legislation, the exalted prophetic principles were applied to the concrete problems of society. Very important also were the numerous trials to which the Hebrews were subjected in order to help them experience God's heart.
Somewhat the same sort of thorough preparation occurred in the Graeco-Roman world prior to St. Paul's apostolate to the Gentiles. Because of the conquests and cultural activities of Alexander the Great, there was created a more or less unified civilization from the borders of India to Spain. Roman soldiers subsequently provided protection from foreign aggressors and maintained internal security. The empire of the Caesars ordinarily governed far more justly and with greater respect for local traditions than anything men had previously known, at least on such an immense scale. Greek and Roman philosophers prepared a moral and intellectual foundation for Christianity. Since all the educated and commercial classes could speak some Greek, Gospels and Epistles written in that language could be understood by sizeable numbers of people in Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, the Balkans and western Europe. Furthermore, the Romans had constructed a network of good roads which missionaries could use as they spread the Christian message. Religiously, too, the Mediterranean world was ready for the Gospel. The atmosphere was permeated with mystical longings, and many actively sought divine light from strange places.
As these were determinative factors enabling God to reveal Himself in the Old Testament and New Testament periods, one can assume that similar conditions in our day could produce the same kind of divine activity. History never repeats itself exactly. Nevertheless, as Toynbee and others have pointed out, there are ages which are roughly parallel and exhibit similar characteristics. As God has already used Israel, the Graeco-Roman world and western Europe to carry out special activities concerning the dispensational course of history, one can reasonably expect Him to look elsewhere to proclaim new revelation for our age. At least subconsciously, many people may recognize this fact. Hence, today there seems to be a remarkable amount of interest in the faiths of other lands.
Our age has witnessed the growing relatedness of all nations and cultures around the world. Modern men live for the first time in a single global village. If God has some special word for our time, it cannot be restricted nationally, racially, culturally or even religiously. Politically we are all internationalists. Racially we have to accept the distinctive values of every ethnic group. Gone forever is the Western-oriented and white-dominated culture of the last three centuries, as Third World theologians insist. In matters of faith, too, the false barriers between Christians and so-called heathens are being tom down.
Many social scientists report that the future belongs to the vast masses of Asia. Europe has dramatically declined in influence since 1945. If the United States still represents the dominant military, economic and political power today, American foreign policy has increasingly shifted away from Europe and towards the Far East. There is always an intimate connection between man's earthly concerns and God's future plans, for He is the sovereign Lord of history.
Religiously too the modern world has turned to the East for guidance and illumination. In a period when the established churches have suffered disastrous reverses, hundreds of thousands of people whose parents were Christians have been attracted to Asian faiths. Many of the most sensitive and spiritual youth on our college campuses are now being inspired by Indian Vedanta or bhakti yoga, Chinese Taoism and Japanese Buddhism-especially Zen.
In such a situation, Korea has a unique religious heritage. For 1500 years it was devoutly Buddhist. For 500 years it was molded by the Confucian ethic. Then, in the 20th century Korea produced a strong, growing and remarkably dynamic Christianity. If God seeks a land prepared for the type of new revelation our world needs, Korea possesses obvious advantages.
Ancient Palestine provided a special place for God to launch His plan for world restoration, in part because of its strategic geo-political location. Israel was a nation situated at the crossroads of three continents. In a somewhat similar fashion Korea is strategically located. Historically, it served as a bridge between the Chinese mainland and Japan. In our day, Korea has been on the frontier separating the Communist world from its opponents. As Tillich often said, the most creative and challenging possibilities occur in a boundary situation. 23 Why then should we be surprised if such a place turns out to be the suitable spot for God to announce a new revelation?
Next we must look briefly at the relationship between Reverend Moon's teachings and the Biblical tradition. This crucial topic has been widely misinterpreted. What precisely is the connection between the Biblical revelation and Reverend Moon's Divine Principle? Are its teachings within the broad stream of the Judeo-Christian tradition or do they represent a radical break with it?
Christian readers of the Divine Principle will immediately recognize the Biblical language and basic scriptural concepts in the book. The Divine Principle speaks of such traditional Christian doctrines as the creation, the fall, original sin, Old Testament and New Testament salvation history, the Messialiship of Jesus and the eschatological consummation of history. Reverend Moon treats God's redemptive work primarily in terms of the history of Israel and the Christian church.
On all of the basic points which are usually employed to distinguish the Judeo-Christian revelation from others, Divine Principle accepts the Biblical ideology: God is the creator, so the material world is good rather than evil. There is no radical dualism between man's flesh and spirit. God is personal rather than impersonal, a loving Father and not simply the metaphysical Absolute. Time is real and meaningful rather than illusory. Earthly relationships are worthwhile; family life and man's social responsibilities are of intrinsic concern to God as well as ourselves. Finally, history is interpreted as linear rather than cyclical, since God acts in history to accomplish His goal for creation. In all these affirmations, Divine Principle expounds the basic Biblical viewpoint.
What then is the relationship between the new revelation and the old? First, let us look at Divine Principle as a reaffirmation and clarification of the Biblical revelation. In this connection it may be helpful to modernre it with a standard treatise in systematic theology. For example, how does Divine Principle compare with Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion? Like the Institutes, Divine Principle treats the major doctrines of the Chrire it with a standard treatise in systematic theology. For example, how does Divine Principle compare with Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion? Like the Institutes, Divine Principle treats the major doctrines of the Chrimodern faith. When we read the Institutes, we note that Calvin disagrees with earlier Christians about the interpretation of certain key Biblical doctrines. A similar observation can be made about Divine Principle. Like Calvin and unlike some faith. When we read the Institutes, we note that Calvin disagrees with earlier Christians about the interpretation of certain key Biblical doctrines. A similar observation can be made about Divine Principle. Like Calvin and unlike some modern theologians, Divine Principle accepts the Biblical account of Adam and Eve as well as the eschatological hope for a kingdom of God on earth. Unlike Calvin but like some theologians, Divine Principle accepts the Biblical account of Adam and Eve as well as the eschatological hope for a kingdom of God on earth. Unlike Calvin but like some modern theologians, Divine Principle denies the Augustinian doctrine of predestination and interprets the resurrection of Jesus spiritually rather than physically. As students of the history of dogma know, Christians have given varied interpretations of every major doctrine of the Christian faith. From that standpoint, there is no fundamental difference between Divine Principle and any other systematic explication of Christian doctrine.
This comparison of Divine Principle and Calvin's Institutes is important for two reasons. Religious seekers are positively impressed when Divine Principle is described as a new revelation. However, many others react negatively to such a claim. For some, an alleged new revelation is immediately considered something "occult"-that is, fantastic and completely irrational. For others, particularly those who are already active in church or synagogue, the phrase "new revelation" suggests a replacement of the beliefs which they hold dear. In both cases, the negative connotations of the claim to revelation keep people from serious consideration of the contents of Divine Principle.
There is, of course, a basic difference between Divine Principle and the Institutes. As I shall explain in this book, the key points of Unificationist doctrine represent major innovations from the standpoint of the fundamentalist Christianity which was dominant in Korea when Reverend Moon grew up. In the light of the fact that he is not a theologian in the technical sense, his proclamation of such profound truths has had a revolutionary and sensational effect because they are so radically different from conventional Protestant and Catholic tenets.
This is also true among the liberal Christians because Reverend Moon's message is for them equally controversial.
What do we mean when we say that Divine Principle is inspired? We believe that God revealed to Reverend Moon the fundamental core of his teaching. This has been illustrated and elaborated upon as a result of conversations with his early disciples. Therefore the book contains both the heart of Divine Principle which is revealed and materials illustrating it.
In conclusion, let me ask, What was it about the New Testament which caused it to be called revelation? The answer, it seems to me, can be found in the first Epistle of John:
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes ... that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you ... (I John 1:1-3).
If Reverend Moon's teachings contain a special message from God for these times, it is because they are based upon a personal religious experience which enables others to receive the Word of life.
21 Macquarrie, Principles of Christian Theology (1977), p.8.
22 E Rosenzweig, The Star of Redemption (1971).
23 This idea was so important in Tillich's thinking that he entitled his autobiography On the Boundary.
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