Unification Theology

by Young Oon Kim

The Need For Leadership

According to Divine Principle, the one who is going to carry on the ministry of the second advent will be a man as Jesus was. As it states, "it is absolutely incomprehensible to the intellect of modern men that the Lord would come on the clouds." 28 Most theologians, many thoughtful Christians in the larger denominations and the tens of millions today who are alienated from traditional Christianity in the West find incredible the Fundamentalist notion that Jesus bodily ascended to a physical heaven where he has been living for 2000 years and from which he will float down to earth on the clouds. 29 That sort of faith has not been preached in many denominations for at least a century. Few theologians bother to mention such a quaint notion and fewer still would waste time trying to defend it. Consequently, Roman Catholics have been advised by Vatican theologians that belief in the 30 physical return of Jesus is not required of the faithful.

However, most Christians who give up the obsolete notion that Jesus is coming back are inclined to ignore the lasting value of the millennial. hope. Liberals, for instance, replaced hope in the coming Christ with faith in the ever present Christ spirit. Christ is always with us, guiding and inspiring men of goodwill. He works in and through his new Body, the Church. Christ is especially present when the Eucharist is celebrated, sacramentalist churchmen declare. In the case of evangelistic Protestants, they insist that Christ is forever knocking at the door of the human heart because he wants to reside forever in the individual believer's twice-born soul.

While modern theology has removed one big obstacle to acceptance of the Unificationist view, it seems to have put two in its place. First, there is the common assertion that the kingdom of God can never be realized in history. Reinhold Niebuhr, for example, persuasively argued that the kingdom represents a transcendent goal beyond earthly attainment. 31 Admittedly, Niebuhr's theology was built upon disillusionment with the numerous utopian schemes of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Yet he justified his "tamed cynicism" in terms of Lutheran doctrine. Luther taught that there is no way for a society or an individual to be perfected under earthly conditions. Even Christians must recognize that their justification is by sheer faith. They remain simultaneously both justified and sinners. Through grace alone, God ignores man's sinfulness and through His mercy grants him pardon. This teaching, Niebuhr believed, is a very realistic evaluation of human nature and destiny.

Was Luther correct? We must understand that his doctrine grew out of conditions in 16th century Christendom. What he rebelled against was the official doctrine that the medieval Church represented the earthly kingdom of Christ and that the papacy was the visible embodiment of God's will. That idea was very difficult to believe, so he countered it with the teaching of salvation by faith alone.

But what have been the social consequences of this Lutheran thesis? There have been at least three:

1) faith is limited to one's personal relationship to God;
2) society comes to have no positive value, for the most that the family, state and law can do is serve as a dike holding back the raging waters of universal depravity;
3) Christians should therefore passively accept existing social institutions rather than get involved in the hopeless task of improving them. 32

Fortunately, Calvinists have instinctively rebelled against such quietist social conservatism. In Geneva, Calvin was determined to found a Christian commonwealth. His later disciples, the Puritans, were equally convinced that Christ's kingdom could be established in Great Britain or New England. 33 In the 20th century the same buoyant faith was reaffirmed, first by the Social Gospel Christians prior to World War I and then by the theologians of hope after World War II. Hence there is a foundation already prepared to some extent for the Divine Principle announcement that God's kingdom can be realized here and now.

This modern "theology of the world," to use the Catholic term, nevertheless puts a second stumbling block in way of acceptance of Divine Principle. Why? By assuming that realization of the kingdom can be accomplished in our time without a Messiah. All we have to do is apply the teachings of Jesus to the political and economic life of our times.

Liberationist theologians especially understand how fruitful Christian dialogue can be with Marxists, because both are committed to a coming utopia. What Christians call the kingdom, Marxists describe as the classless society which will guarantee peace, justice, dignity and security for all men. Such theologians rightly see that both Christians and Marxists are dedicated exponents of the Principle of Hope. They also correctly assess the this-worldly implications of an apocalyptic faith. 34

Yet the communists far more than the revolutionary Christians recognize the crucial significance of a central figure in inaugurating the New Age. 35 We cannot create a messianic age without the inspiration, direction and push of a Messiah. Our contemporary world already has the technological skill, financial resources and trained manpower to build a new society based upon the ideals of "coexistence, co-prosperity and common cause." All we lack is an inspiring God anointed person to give us leadership.

28 Divine Principle, p. 500.

29 The Anglican priest and theologian Paul Badham shows how incredible the common Patristic proofs for Jesus' physical resurrection and return have become in our day. (Christian Beliefs about Life after Death, 1976, pp. 47-64).

30 Mentioned by 0. Cullmann in Christ and Time (1964), p. 147 and G. C. Berkouwer, The Return of Christ (1972), p. 146.

31 R. Niebuhr, Nature and Destiny of Man (1964 ed.), vol. 11, pp. 86-87.

32 This does not deny the innovative and liberating message of the young Luther. However, after the Reformer allied himself with the German princes, he tended to become a supporter of ultra-conservative nationalism. Barth's comments on the way 20th century Lutheranism aided the Kaiser and Hitler should not be overlooked.

33 Cf. H.R. Niebuhr, The Kingdom of God in America (1937) and J. H. Nichols, Democracy and the Churches (1961).

34 A. Fierro, The Militant Gospel (1977).

35 Where would Marxism today be without its reliance on the leadership of Lenin, Stalin and Mao?

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