Unification Theology

by Young Oon Kim

A Theology Of History

Agreeing with the Judeo-Christian heritage, Unification theology affirms that history moves toward a positive goal. According to the Bible, God created Adam and Eve to be the True Parents of mankind. If they had continued in fellowship with God and resisted the temptation of Lucifer, their descendants would have dwelt in the ideal kingdom of heaven on earth, symbolized in Genesis by the garden of Eden. God's purpose for mankind therefore is that every individual live a useful and joyous life and that our whole world be filled with righteousness, harmony and peace.

Despite all of man's foolishness, injustice and selfish pleasure seeking, God is still determined to realize His original purpose of creation. Regardless of our sins, God's love remains steadfast. Hence He has been directing the course of history in order to restore man and nature to their pristine state. 20

The Bible records the labor God has exerted for the redemption of mankind. In the Old Testament we read how God chose and used the Hebrew patriarchs and prophets to lay a foundation for a messianic age of righteousness, piety and peace for all mankind. As we have seen, the Jewish apocalyptic literature represents a cry of hope arising out of a situation of widespread despair. In that spirit Jesus preached the imminent advent of the kingdom. Yet because of religious narrow-mindedness and partisan arrogance, the Messiah was nailed to a cross. God's plan for man's restoration had to be prolonged until Jesus' work could be brought to completion in a future age. According to the New Testament, God's purpose for mankind will only be fully realized when this world is transformed into the kingdom of heaven.

However, many Fundamentalists insist that the consummation of 21 history cannot occur until the existing world is completely destroyed.

In other words, they insist upon a literal interpretation of the apocalyptic prophecies in the Scriptures. Hence, in the Last Days the sun will be darkened, the moon will no longer give light, stars will fall from heaven and the earth will be entirely consumed in fire (Matt. 24:29, II Pt. 3: 10). According to this view, God has to destroy our world to make room for a new earth and new heaven where His sovereignty will be respected.

Fundamentalists, however, ignore the symbolic nature of the apocalyptic literature. It should be quite obvious to everyone that such writings as Daniel and Revelation are not to be interpreted literally. For example, when Daniel speaks of a he-goat with a prominent horn between its eyes, he is not talking about an animal but is symbolizing the Macedonian empire of Alexander the Great (8:5, 21). Or when Revelation describes a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and upon her head a crown of twelve stars, we are not expected to think of an actual person (12:1). To comprehend the message of apocalyptic, one must understand that it was intentionally written in a symbolic language which has to be decoded. Thus, Biblical expressions about the Last Days and the end of the world have to be interpreted with care.

To explain these terms literally would deny the Biblical faith in a God of victorious love. If heaven and earth must be destroyed, then God's ideal of creation would be totally nullified. If God's purpose for this earth can never be fulfilled, He cannot be truly almighty. For God to be forced to bum up His creation means that He was either unwise to have formed such a world in the first place or that man through his disobedience and sin can permanently frustrate God's purpose. Neither of these alternatives can be reconciled with the Christian doctrine of God.

When Jesus referred to the end of the world he meant the end of Satan's sovereignty. 22 As the Messiah, Jesus was expected to inaugurate a new age for mankind, ending Satanic domination by fulfilling the Jewish Scriptures and bringing an end to the Old Testament Age. Because this was not fully accomplished by Jesus in his earthly ministry, his disciples looked forward to the Second Advent in which God's rule would be manifested in power. Hence, in the New Testament, the end of the world is identified with the Second Coming of Christ. When Christ comes again, he will fulfill both the Old Testament of Judaism and the New Testament of Christianity with the new revelation of His Word. The new Christ will also subjugate Satan and end this world by destroying the sovereignty of evil and restoring God's original sovereignty of goodness.

All apocalypses agree that the End-time will be heralded by startling signs of moral decay, social disintegration and religious decline. That is, the ordinary sources of moral and spiritual enlightenment will no longer shine brightly. In this symbolic sense, the sun will be darkened and the moon will be hidden behind the clouds.

Is not this our present condition? If we read correctly the signs of the times, are we not already at the end of our age? Therefore, should we not be on the lookout for the return of Christ and the birth of the long-delayed messianic age?

Apocalyptic prophets have always warned that the End-time would include God's final judgment. What did they mean by the idea of the Last Judgment? According to Unification theology, since Adam's fall, evil has been aggressively expanding and good has largely remained on the defensive. In order for God to fulfill His purpose of creation it is necessary to reverse this process. To inaugurate the New Age, the Messiah must take the offensive. When God obtains a foothold on this earth for His kingdom, the forces of righteousness will be able to rise to dominance and the power of evil will begin to decline.

In the apocalyptic scheme, the Final Judgment marks the crossing point when good takes the offensive and the forces of Satan begin to retreat. Thus, the Last Judgment represents a time when the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats and the farmer separates the wheat from the tares. Then at last in this crucial separation of good from evil, God's side will begin to wage successful warfare against the satanic principality of this world.

How can evil be defeated permanently? Only by eradicating the roots of evil in human nature. Only by removing the original sin of man from which all particular acts of wickedness flow. Thus, the Messiah's chief work is to destroy original sin because at that point Satan has his firm grip on all men.

As the Final Judgment progresses, a new age will gradually take the place of the old one. Human restoration will occur in two stages.

First, man's heart must be restored to its original state -- Augustine noted that under the curse of Adam, fallen men are "unable not to sin." Thus, only by eradicating the source of sin will we be at last free to do good and re-establish loving communion with God. Secondly, because man's heart is purified, his environment will also be able to be improved.

Unification theology differs rather markedly from three common views. First, it disagrees with those Christians who believe that the kingdom of God can be realized on earth through social reforms and technological improvements alone. This is the fatal weakness of the liberation theologians and social gospel activists. We cannot inaugurate the kingdom by simply abolishing nuclear armaments, enacting civil rights legislation, creating a socialist economy or some other external political reform. Until the corrupting power of original sin is overcome man cannot realize God's plan for creation. We do not turn a pig into a person by transferring it from a pigsty to a penthouse. Restoration or redemption must originate from within. In the second place, Unificationists; disagree with conservative evangelicals who claim that original sin is eradicated through the sacrament of baptism. For one thing, there is no evidence that England in 1830 or Germany in 1910 or Italy in 1960, where nearly all children were baptized, became nations with a just social order. For another, St. Paul, who held a high opinion of baptism, clearly warned baptized Christians that they must still battle the powers of wickedness and were still subject to worldly temptations.

Because of these facts Paul looked forward to a Second Coming of Christ when God would triumph completely. Thirdly, Unification theology is unlike Niebuhr's prophetic realism because he denies that God's will can ever be fully realized under temporal limitations. For him the kingdom remains an "impossible possibility," an ideal toward which we should forever strive without ever expecting to reach it. But such a theory greatly weakens the social thrust of the Christian hope. As Rosemary Ruether points out, Niebuhr's concept of the kingdom erodes social expectation. Most men will stop striving for a goal which they believe is beyond human reach. Thus, Niebuhr's realism results in complacent satisfaction with minimal expectations and indirectly supports the status quo. Unless we believe in the possibility of a real kingdom on earth, we tend to lose confidence in our ability to change our imperfect society. 23 Consequently, Unification thought reaffirms the Christian hope in the realization of God's plan here and now.

In regard to the consummation of history, it is important to note how Divine Principle goes beyond the conventional Christian ideal of individual perfection. For Unification theology it is necessary for the Messiah to form a four position foundation on the family level. Older traditional apocalyptic literature has been either too individualistic or too nationalistic. The former ignores the social dimension of God's ultimate purpose. The latter overlooks the value of the individual and yet is far too narrow when it restricts God's interest to a single nation.

Unificationists avoid such weaknesses by stressing the crucial significance of the God-centered family. Furthermore, by establishing a perfected family the Messiah insures the continuance of the kingdom of God. How is the God-centered individual to perpetuate the perfected estate beyond his own lifetime? History is full of accounts of utopian communities which disappeared or decayed with the passing of the founders. For Unification theology, the claim to have subjugated Satan and eradicated original sin can be shown when God-centered individuals unite in God-centered families to produce God-centered children. That is, the final test of the Messiah's effectiveness can be seen when his own total dedication to God is transmitted to future generations.

Finally, unlike most apocalyptic theologies of history, Divine Principle emphasizes the positive aspects of the End-time. Many apocalypses seem to have been designed to frighten their readers. Even Christian interpreters of the Book of Revelation usually treat the consummation of history in terms of terrifying prophecies of gloom and doom.

By contrast, Unification theology looks at the age to come as a time of fulfilled hope and intense joy. What then are the portents that our times are witnessing the dawn of the messianic age? We should be able to see with our own eyes some clear signs that God is now realizing His purpose of creation.

First, ours is a period of intense spiritual longing. Concurrent with the widespread decline of conventional religion, large numbers of people are seeking a personal experience of communion with God and are waiting with open minds for God to reveal new truths appropriate for our unique time.

Secondly, ours is a time aware of the desperate need for harmony and unity. In many different forms, modern people are seeking international détente, inter-religious understanding, interracial friendship, interdenominational cooperation and intercultural sharing. In spite of major conflicts within and among many nations, nearly everyone agrees that we must somehow learn how to resolve our differences peacefully. 24

Finally, with the astounding scientific and technological advances of our century, man is at last able to exercise effective control over nature. God's third promise to Adam is coming true. Modern man's dominion over creation is within sight.

Can we have hope in our day? Of course-provided we look around us with the eyes of faith. All about us are signs indicating that the old history has reached its consummation and a new day is dawning when God's providential principle of creation will be fulfilled. Even though the snow still covers the ground and the air is chilly, all it takes is the sight of one yellow crocus in blossom to realize that spring is at hand.

20 Divine Principle, pp. 195-203.

21 Cf. C. L. Feinberg, ed., Prophecy and the Seventies (1971); H. Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth (1970).

22 Divine Principle, pp. 111-112.

23 R. Ruether, The Radical Kingdom (1970), p. 202.

24 Cf. the 1974 Terry Lectures at Yale given by the Catholic educator Theodore Hesburgh: The Human Imperative. Those working for a new man and a new earth are creating and very much redeeming the times, he insists. Therefore Christians are inspired to love God by loving men and to build a human community that may also, by God's grace, be a kingdom of God (p. 11).

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