From the Editor

Welcome to the first issue of the Journal of Unification Studies. The launching of this publication realizes a long-sought dream of the faculty at the Unification Theological Seminary, to provide a journal which can be a forum for investigations into Unification theology, philosophy and practice. It also marks a new level of maturity for the community of Unificationist and Unification-related scholars and intellectuals. Even though the Unification Church (now the FFWPU) is only 43 years old, its tradition of theological reflection has already gone through substantial development to reach the moment when this journal could be launched.

It is in itself exceptional that a new religion, still bathed in the white-hot heat of continuing revelation by its living founder, could have consolidated a tradition of theological reflection. It is far more frequent for a religious movement to pass through the death of the founder, followed by a considerable period of simple remembrance and re-presentations of the founder’s words, before any substantive theological thinking would arise. St. Paul, for example, did not begin his distinctive theological work until some fifteen years after Jesus’ passing. Perusals of the histories of Islam, the Latter-Day Saints and Christian Science show a similar pattern of theological silence in deference to the unchallenged authority of their living founders.

Unificationism, on the other hand, was graced from its early days with two pioneering thinkers who produced substantial work in philosophy and theology. I am referring first to the late Dr. Sang Hun Lee, author of Essentials of Unification Thought (1992) and The End of Communism (1985),[1] who developed both Unification Thought as a philosophical system and the theory of Victory Over Communism, a thorough and trenchant treatment of Marxist-Leninist philosophy and political theory. The pioneering Unificationist theologian was Dr. Young Oon Kim, the first Professor of Theology at the Unification Theological Seminary and author of Unification Theology (1980) and Unification Theology and Christian Thought (1975).[2]  Like St. Paul, Dr. Kim was a missionary whose work in America required a cultural translation. The work of these elders marked the first stage of Unification theological and philosophical reflection and set the tradition for their students, some of whom are published in this issue.

The second stage in the development of Unification theology began with the founding of the Unification Theological Seminary in 1975. Soon afterwards, the seminary became the site of ecumenical conversations with Christian scholars and ministers from diverse denominations. Out of the give-and-take of these discussions, dozens of academic theologians gained insight into Unification theology and a cadre of Unificationist students gained proficiency in apologetic theology. A number of these conversations were published, notably Exploring Unification Theology (1978) and Evangelical-Unification Dialogue (1979).[3] Several of the non-Unificationist participants in these conversations published articles in such volumes as: A Time for Consideration: A Scholarly Appraisal of the Unification Church (1978) and Ten Theologians Respond to the Unification Church (1981).[4]

As these discussions became more frequent, they led to the creation of the New Ecumenical Research Association (New ERA) in 1980, and later the International Religious Foundation (IRF) in 1983, as institutional supports for expanded dialogues, both ecumenical and interreligious. The conferences sponsored by these organizations became the locus for Unificationist theological reflection during this second stage. In books such as God: The Contemporary Discussion (1982), Hermeneutics and Horizons (1982), The Family and the Unification Church (1983), Restoring the Kingdom (1984) and Society and Original Sin (1985),[5] articles by Unificationists and non-Unificationists treating a variety of theological and social topics stood side-by-side. Moreover, in a symposium on Unification Thought published as The Establishment of a New Culture and Unification Thought (1991),[6] Unificationists stood toe-to-toe with distinguished professors of philosophy and social theory.

On entering the third and current phase, investigation into Unificationist theological, philosophical and social thought should stand on its own ground. While the tenor of past conferences promoted mainly theological apologetics, contemporary Unificationist reflection should include systematic, critical and constructive works. It should embrace reflection and investigation into the wide variety of activities through which Unificationists seek to fulfill their callings, whether in the fields of religion and philosophy or more widely in the humanities and the arts. This phase opened with a collection of Unificationist essays, Unification Theology in Comparative Perspectives (1988), and has continued with the recently published Explorations in Unificationism (1997).[7] Now, with the inauguration of the Journal of Unification Studies, this reflection has a permanent home.

Two articles in this first issue deal with the lingering stigma still attached to the Unification Church and Reverend Moon, in spite of numerous indications that in 1997 the church is finally achieving mainstream status in American society.[8]

Thomas Ward and Frederick Swarts correct an inexcusable oversight in the current crop of histories of the Cold War period, which have passed over in silence Reverend Moon’s considerable efforts spent in the fight against communism. In a careful and balanced presentation, Ward and Swarts do not attempt to prove the rather difficult claim that Reverend Moon’s work was decisive in the defeat of communism. Limiting themselves to facts which have objective support, their thesis is more modestly put:

[Reverend Moon’s] activities comprised a broad spectrum which spanned the domains of politics, religion, the media, academia and grassroots activism. Yet, for whatever reason, Reverend Moon has been disregarded in existing histories purporting to identify contributors to the fall of Soviet communism, whereas other less prominent actors often appear center stage.

In support of this thesis, the authors have amassed a wealth of data, backed up by extensive citations, to show that Reverend Moon’s investments in the media, e.g., The Washington Times, programs of ideological education such as CAUSA and IFVOC, and face-to-face diplomacy with communist leaders, each had significant impact on the course of the Cold War. This is the first definitive study of Reverend Moon’s substantial accomplishments in this area.

Jonathan Wells reviews the National Council of Churches Faith and Order Commission’s 1977 “study document” critiquing the theology of the Unification Church. It amounted to a smear of the church and its founder, inasmuch as its authors refused to accept repeated offers for consultation with Unificationist theologians or even with objective scholars familiar with Unification theology. The NCC continues to distribute the Critique, even though it violated a cardinal principle of ecumenical relations, that all groups be accepted and evaluated according to their own self-understanding. In a thorough analysis of the claims of the NCC Critique, Wells points out its many misrepresentations of the Divine Principle. Contrary the Critique’s conclusion that “the claims of the Unification Church to Christian identity cannot be recognized,” Wells argues point by point that the Divine Principle’s understanding of Trinity, Christology, and the saving work of Christ can well be construed as within the normative traditions of Christian theology. Undoubtedly, the issues surrounding the Unification Church’s Christian identity need further clarification; this could be possible in the context of respectful ecumenical relations between the Unification Church and the NCC. A constructive step in that direction would be for the NCC to withdraw its Critique and publish a letter of retraction.

In light of the bowdlerized theology of the NCC Critique, it is fitting that Robert Price has written an article dissecting one reason why traditional Christians are uncomfortable with new indigenous expressions of Christianity and why they so often cast them outside the pale of orthodoxy. Christian missions, of course, have planted the seeds of faith in many lands and among many cultures. But these same missionaries are scandalized when some of their seeds sprout into indigenous movements which translate Christianity into the idiom of another culture. Churches like the Kimbanguists of Zaire, the Latter-Day Saints of North America, the Taiping rebels of China or the Unification Church born in Korea have taken the powerful Christian idea of Incarnation seriously and claimed their own leader the mantle of prophet, apostle, brother of Christ, or even Messiah. Why do they cause offense? asks Price. He compares these new Christian movements to the first Christians who labored to translate Judaic messianic concepts into the cultural world of Hellenism. They, too, struggled mightily with the question of the what, who and how of Incarnation. Biblical scholars have uncovered the seeds of these diverse expressions of Christianity in the New Testament itself, but the church could not bear with them, and so restricted the limits of orthodoxy. Thus, for Western Christians who regard the historic Hellenistic formulations of the Church as normative, and who do not wish to admit that some of their own cherished doctrines were never absolute but rather also the result of a cultural translation, these movements present a fundamental challenge to Christian identity.

Mature philosophical reflection often finds valuable insights in other traditions, which can illuminate the understanding of one’s own position. Keisuke Noda looks at the problem of how a person comes to understand truth. He finds in Unification philosophy a thread common to the Western philosophers Husserl and Nietzsche as well as to Zen Buddhism, that true understanding is far different from grasping conceptual knowledge. True understanding is to embody the truth in one’s being. Noda’s article elucidates why the Divine Principle is so difficult to understand: to truly know the Word of God, we have to embody the Word in our thinking, feeling and behavior. It is to realize the fullness of one’s being, what the Divine Principle calls an “individual embodiment of truth.” Here is a strong critique of the materialist epistemological presuppositions of Western culture and a rich resource for our own deeper apprehension of the Word.

Laurent Guyénot gives us a tour de force of biblical scholarship to make the case for the Divine Principle’s view that John the Baptist’s failure to support Jesus was a decisive blow to his ministry. Such scholarly investigation is necessary if the Divine Principle’s assertions about the relationship between John and Jesus are to find any support in the world of biblical studies, which relies on the historical-critical method. Guyénot’s approach is in line with a paper of Anthony Guerra,[9] who showed that historical criticism supports the Unification position that the crucifixion of Jesus was not the will of God; a point of agreement explicitly affirmed by Marcus Borg, who noted, “Unification’s claim that Jesus’ intention was not to die for the sins of the world is historically correct.”[10]

The essay by Yoshihiko Masuda draws together a number of social themes to delineate the shape of the realized eschatology unfolding in our time. Few topics for Unificationists have been more mysterious and open to misunderstanding than what form the future world will take. Masuda has brought clarity to this issue by pointing to the unfolding trend in all areas of social relations in the 1990s, away from the old paradigms of dependence and independence towards a new paradigm of interdependence. In line with Unificationism’s emphasis on the family, he identifies as a primary locus of this new paradigm the growing awareness of the feminist movement, which has begun of late to abandon the model of the independent, assertive self-realized woman in favor of woman in a warm and loving mutual relationship with her husband. Moreover, in line with Unificationism’s teaching that the final war to usher in the Kingdom has been the struggle between democracy and communism, Masuda argues that communist ideology’s promotion of the conflictual paradigm had been the chief obstacle to recognizing the value of interdependent relationships. Reverend Moon’s leadership in the struggle against communism (see Ward and Swarts’s paper) is thus directly linked to his teaching that interdependent relations characterized by true love are to bloom in the Kingdom.[11]

The reigning psychological theories of moral development as expounded by Piaget and Kohlberg are discussed by Jennifer Tanabe, who then points out their major weakness: they postulate that moral development arises solely from intellectual structures within the individuals, independent of social and familial context. Recent research indicates, however, that moral development is inextricably linked with family and cultural norms. In this context, Tanabe presents the family model of moral development advocated by Unification Thought. In a careful and detailed analysis, she demonstrates that the Unification Thought model explains more about the stages of human development, particularly in the stages of adolescence and adulthood, than do the structural models of Piaget and Kohlberg. It also generates testable hypotheses which seem to fit the empirical data. This paper will be of particular value to character educators and psychologists who want a theoretical foundation for Unificationism’s apparently common-sense ideas about the centrality of the family.

At the launching of the Journal of Unification Studies, it is fitting that we remember Isaac Newton’s phrase, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” First of all we thank the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, without whose dedication to truth none of the insights in this journal would be possible. We also are deeply appreciative of Dr. David S. C. Kim, the first president of the Unification Theological Seminary, whose enthusiastic advocacy of academic ecumenism helped fuel the advance of Unification theology, particularly during the conference phase of its development. Gratitude is also due to the many scholars and intellectuals, of the faculty at UTS and elsewhere, who over the years have added their insights to the discourse on Unification theology. Mention has already been made of our debt to Drs. Sang Hun Lee and Young Oon Kim. Dr. Lee passed to the other side on March 22, 1997, and we dedicate this first issue to his memory.



[1] Sang Hun Lee, Essentials of Unification Thought: The Head-Wing Thought (Tokyo: Unification Thought Institute, 1992); The End of Communism (Tokyo: Unification Thought Institute, 1985.

[2] Young Oon Kim, Unification Theology (New York: HSA-UWC, 1980); Unification Theology and Christian Thought (New York: Golden Gate Publishing Co., 1975).

[3] M. Darrol Bryant and Susan Hodges, eds., Exploring Unification Theology (Barrytown, NY: Unification Theological Seminary, 1978); Richard Quebedeaux and Rodney Sawatsky, eds., Evangelical-Unification Dialogue (New York: Rose of Sharon Press, 1979).

[4] M. Darrol Bryant and Herbert W. Richardson, eds., A Time for Consideration: A Scholarly Appraisal of the Unification Church (New York: Edwin Mellen, 1978); Herbert Richardson, ed., Ten Theologians Respond to the Unification Church (New York: Rose of Sharon Press, 1981).

[5] Frederick Sontag and M. Darrol Bryant, eds., God: The Contemporary Discussion (New York: Rose of Sharon Press, 1982); Frank K. Flinn, ed., Hermeneutics and Horizons (New York: Rose of Sharon Press, 1982); Gene G. James, ed., The Family and the Unification Church (New York: Rose of Sharon Press, 1983); Deane William Ferme, ed., Restoring the Kingdom (New York: Paragon House, 1984); Durwood Foster and Paul Mojzes, eds., Society and Original Sin (New York: Paragon House, 1985).

[6] The Establishment of a New Culture and Unification Thought (Tokyo: Unification Thought Institute, 1991).

[7] Anthony Guerra, ed., Unification Theology in Comparative Perspectives (New York: Unification Theological Seminary, 1988); Theodore T. Shimmyo and David A. Carlson, eds., Explorations in Unificationism (New York: HSA-UWC, 1997).

[8] See “Gated Religions,” The Christian Century, April 16, 1997, p. 382, in which it is stated that the Unification Church has “achieved mainstream status.” Also indicative is support for the 1997 World Culture and Sports Festival from thousands of church leaders and the city of Washington, D.C.

[9] Anthony J. Guerra, “The Will of God and the Crucifixion of Jesus,” Unification Theology in Comparative Perspectives, pp. 87-103.

[10] Marcus Borg, “The Historical Jesus and Unification Theology: An Appraisal and Critique,” in Frank K. Flinn, ed., Christology: The Center and the Periphery, God the Contemporary Discussion Series (New York: Paragon House, 1989), p. 125.

[11] According to the Divine Principle, the “messianic kingdom [is] built on the principles of interdependence, mutual prosperity and universally shared values.” Exposition of the Divine Principle (New York: HSA-UWC, 1996), p. 344.