Rev. Moon’s Unrecognized Influences on Christian Theology


By Andrew Wilson

WilsonAlthough members and friends of the Unification Church recognize the awesome significance of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, what about his importance for those who do not believe –specifically to conventionally-minded Christians? While some enlightened Christians have learned to love and appreciate his church as a new and uniquely Asian manifestation of the Christian faith, or his works on behalf of interreligious unity or anticommunism, for the most part Christians have been dismissive of him.

Yet in fact, Rev. Moon has been influencing Christianity quietly and unbeknownst to them through some of the new teachings he shared with the world in the Divine Principle. I say “indirectly” because often the causality is not determined. Perhaps Rev. Moon was an early proponent of certain teachings that were already in the zeitgeist of the late 20th century. Or perhaps God, in seeking to plough the field for Rev. Moon, moved to open Christianity’s theological horizons so it would be receptive to his proclamation. After all, God is the Source of truth, even the truths revealed by Rev. Moon. Suffice it to say that the theological landscape of Christianity in the early 21st century is quite different from what it was in the early 20th century, and many of those differences are congruent with Rev. Moon’s teachings.

Let me share five such instances:

1. The suffering of God

Dr. Chang Shik Yang observed, Rev. Moon “plainly teaches about God’s sorrowful situation… after His children’s fall and their expulsion from Eden, God the Father became the God of sorrow and grief, who every day sheds countless tears and emits mournful sighs.”

Traditional Christians have long held that God is impassible, standing outside the suffering and misery of human life. Yet today many Christians have revised their theology to include the idea that God suffers. Japanese Christian theologian Kazoh Kitamori, professor at Tokyo Union Theological Seminary, wrote of this in The Theology of the Pain of God, which was published in 1946, just one year after Rev. Moon began his public ministry. This idea influenced the internationally famous theologian Jürgen Moltmann in his book the Theology of Hope. More recently, Terence Fretheim, a major biblical theologian, wrote The Suffering of God: An Old Testament Perspective (1984), in which he speaks at length about God’s vulnerability because of His covenant relationship with humankind. Interestingly, this book was well received in America, with little controversy.

2. Qualifying God’s omnipotence and omniscience

The Divine Principle upholds the principle of the human “portion of responsibility, with which even God does not interfere.” This qualifies God’s omnipotence and omniscience, because “God’s purpose of creation can be realized only when human beings complete their portion of responsibility.” In contrast, traditional Christian theology holds to God’s absolute omnipotence and absolute omniscience: God is responsible for everything and knows in advance the choices that human beings will make in the future. This is especially stressed in Calvinism with its doctrine of double predestination: God predestines people before they are born either to heaven and others to hell, and He knows which way they will turn.

However, recently in Evangelical Christian circles, the movement called Open Theism has arisen, which takes a position quite close to that of Divine Principle. Open Theism is the belief that God does not exercise meticulous control of the universe but leaves it “open” for humans to make significant choices, in free will, that impact their relationships with God and others. This means that God has not predetermined the future. Nor does God know everything that will happen in the future. This allows God to be surprised, and even delighted, by what human beings do out of love. Since God is most essentially love, God designed the created world such that human beings would give Him delight by what they do, in freedom. Proponents of Open Theism include Clark Pinnock and John Sanders, who wrote The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God, which won a Book of the Year award in 1995.

These contemporary Christian thinkers draw their strength from the way God is depicted in the Bible, where He is often portrayed as disappointed with human choices. However, while the Bible has been around for thousands of years, Open Theism only developed after Rev. Moon wrote and proclaimed the Divine Principle.

3. God as Heavenly Mother as well as Heavenly Father

Jesus prayed to God as his Father, and traditional Christian belief is nearly unanimous in calling God, Father (There is, however, a suppressed or hidden teaching about Mother God in Mormonism). In contrast, the Principle of Creation teaches that God has dual characteristics of masculinity and femininity. This is based on the scriptural teaching that the image of God is both male and female (Gen. 1:27). Accordingly, the full embodiment of God on earth requires not just a male Christ but a couple — True Parents — who are to fulfill God’s ideal for Adam and Eve as the substantial being of God.

To underline this teaching, just prior to Foundation Day, Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon declared on January 7, 2013 that we should refer to God not as Heavenly Father but as “Heavenly Parent.” The word “parent” in Korean is bumo, “father-mother.”

This was not her own invention; she was reaffirming what her husband Rev. Moon had been teaching since the very beginning of his ministry. In 1951 he wrote in Wolli Wonbon:

A couple represents Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. Spouses stand as object partners who are extremely precious to each other. Therefore, they should respect and attend each other on behalf of Heavenly Father and Mother. (Wolli Wonbon, manuscript, p. 368)

What is interesting is that after the Moons’ Holy Wedding in 1960 which established this messianic reality in both genders, mainstream Christians began to explore God’s femininity as well. Beginning in the 1970s Christian feminists, including Phyllis Trible, Elisabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza and Mary Daly, began to speak out about this ignored dimension of God and about God’s manifestation in the lives of Her daughters as well as His sons. The late UTS professor Young Oon Kim recognized these Christians as grasping an essential truth, writing in Unification Theology (1980): “As theologian Mary Daly insists, modern theism must go Beyond God the Father.”

Theologians at EG

Rev. Moon meets with theologians at East Garden in 1979.

4. God’s ideal is marriage and family, not the celibate life

For 2,000 years Christianity has upheld the special value of celibacy as the lifestyle most closely following the way of Christ. Yet Rev. and Mrs. Moon proclaim that in a Blessed Marriage God is more fully present than to a celibate monk or nun. They confronted the Catholic Church on this issue when in 2001 they blessed Emmanuel Milingo, a Roman Catholic archbishop from Zambia, with a Korean woman, Maria Sung. This created an international sensation that rocked the Catholic world. For a time, Milingo separated from his wife in obedience to Church authorities, but in 2006 he rejoined her and began campaigning for a married priesthood, forming an advocacy organization “Married Priests Now!”

Yet even apart from Milingo, voices within the Catholic Church have been growing ever more insistent that it drop its celibacy rule and allow a married priesthood. Since 1960 an increasing number of priests and nuns have forsaken the vow of celibacy and marrying, even though it meant stepping down from their priestly office. Many of these devout men and women of God do not view their decision as a fall from grace but rather a positive step on their journey of faith. Today, many high-ranking Catholic leaders question whether this practice should continue. Even Pope John Paul II said in 1993 that celibacy “does not belong to the essence of priesthood.” Recently, Pope Francis remarked that celibacy “is a matter of discipline, not of faith. It can change.”

5. Jesus was supposed to marry

One of Rev. Moon’s most controversial teachings about Jesus Christ was that he was supposed to marry and raise a family. In his speeches, Rev. Moon spoke about Jesus’ intended bride as John the Baptist’s sister. For traditional Christians this seems blasphemous. Yet in the Christian cultural world of North America, millions of people now believe that Jesus may well have been married to Mary Magdalene, on the strength of Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code (2003), and the popular movie (2006) of the same name. Today numerous Christians are at least open to the possibility.

Rev. Moon anticipated this development more than 50 years earlier. In Wolli Wonbon, he wrote that after Jesus’ family was unable to arrange his marriage to John the Baptist’s sister, Jesus in fact conducted a secondary course to find his bride through a relationship with Mary Magdalene. His intention was to restore Mary Magdalene from a position of fallen Eve and partner of an archangelic figure to restored Eve and partner of Jesus:

Mary Magdalene… was someone whom Judas Iscariot had feelings for, but at the same time she was absolutely obedient to Jesus and would do as he willed. Jesus… gave Mary Magdalene to Judas Iscariot to be his wife, in order that she would represent Eve in the position of Satan’s wife. Then he began the dispensation by choosing her, Judas’ wife, to be the one representative Eve whom Adam takes back.  (Wolli Wonbon, manuscript, p. 243)

Even Dan Brown does not make the connection between Mary Magdalene and Judas Iscariot, but Rev. Moon does, and he states that Judas’ unresolved feelings of jealousy over Mary Magdalene were his primary motive for betraying Jesus.

This is not to say that Rev. Moon teaches that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were husband and wife. But their relationship existed, and occurred within a providential context to restore Eve, a wife for Jesus. Rev. Moon is clear that God intended Jesus to marry and that he and his wife would become the new Adam and Eve. And this is precisely what Rev. Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han Moon, became.

These five of Rev. Moon’s theological insights have made an impact on the Christian world. The Christian church, which held basically to the same consistent beliefs for nearly 2,000 years, is now in a time of unprecedented theological ferment, and Rev. Moon’s teachings are at the cusp of those changes.♦

Adapted from “Significance of Reverend Sun Myung Moon for Christianity,” Journal of Unification Studies 15 (2014). The entire 2014 issue is now available online.

Dr. Andrew Wilson is Professor of Scriptural Studies at UTS and Barrytown College. He edited World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts.

Photo at top: Rev. Sun Myung Moon speaking at IIFWP’s (UPF) “Now is God’s Time” rally in New York, June 2005.

19 thoughts on “Rev. Moon’s Unrecognized Influences on Christian Theology

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  1. Timely, but needs to go further, IMO. Perhaps, even beyond “the cusp” – to discussions of a time beyond “personality-based” religion? And what of his “unrecognized influence” on other religion(s) as well as philosophy, etc.?

  2. Thanks for the article, Dr. Wilson. I have taken the liberty to translate it into Italian, and many brothers and sisters have appreciated it.

  3. Many thanks, Dr. Wilson. I think over time True Parents’ contribution will manifest and many of their teachings which may presently seem strange, and indeed blasphemous, will be mainstream. It is our duty and responsibility to plant TP’s teachings in whatever area of human endeavor we find ourselves in: they will be contested and even rejected, but that’s okay. One just has to reflect on Jesus’s teaching: they were viewed as blasphemous in his lifetime, but over time have changed the world; so it will be with TP’s teachings. Once again, thanks for the contribution.

  4. Dr. Wilson, a brilliant and much needed summation. This essay should be used by those seeking to explain the import of Rev. Moon to their intended “Tribes.” Perhaps two other prescient themes of Rev. Moon’s ministry may have been part of the Zeitgeist and became cultural norms. First, interracial marriage was rare in the United States until after 1960. 55 years later, marriages between whites and blacks are extremely common. Second, America started to look at the supernatural world with a pronounced fascination after 1960. During the 1960s we had Casper the Ghost and the TV series Bewitched. But the 1970’s saw an explosion of films and shows exploring the supernatural. In the 1980s we got movies such as Ghost and Ghostbusters, TV series such as Touched by an Angel and numerous other products of entertainment culture.

  5. It’s rather unfortunate that this article does not mention Ms. Song Do Kim, who came up with the original Principle in April 1923. Ms. Kim taught all the main points of Divine Principle: the sexual fall, the rejection of Jesus, the broken heart of God, and Jesus return to Korea in a physical body, all two decades before Sun Myung Moon picked up on her ideas.

  6. Graham, you are right. Ms. Kim (let’s honor her with “Rev. Kim”) was given many revelations in line with the Principle as part of God’s preparation for the advent of True Parents. True Mother speaks of her time in that church as a young girl by Daemonim’s side, and also in the Inside Womb Church, where many of the traditions of attendance that our church follows to this day were practiced. Recalling these spiritual churches shows how God specially prepared the way for the Lord.

    However, to my knowledge this preparation was washed away in the violence and hatred of those times, and only survived in the Unification Church, which memorializes what they did. As such, it was mainly part of the special preparation for the True Parents than part of the wider transformation of worldwide Christian thought.

    1. Thanks. That’s an interesting insight. I value the contribution of the early groups as well. I recently scanned the Korean versions of Rev. Beak-mun Kim’s two main texts to PDF and as I was handling the actual books I felt a spiritual connection to the man and his heart. Same with Rev. Yong-do Lee who influenced Father tremendously as a young man. They had — I don’t know how to express it — a strong desire and commitment to understanding God with great sincerity. I think I’m trying to capture the feeling they felt (which is similar to Jesus’ strong desire to bring about God’s world on the earth). It’s this kind of inner motivation or empowerment, or connection to what is real that can motivate us to go beyond ourselves.

  7. Dr. Wilson, I was so glad to read your letter. Just a week ago I had the opportunity to share some of the DP with some very strong Christians, and they kept saying, “When are you going to get to something that is different in your faith than ours.” I was so surprised how much Christianity has changed in many of its teachings. Of course different denominations are surely influenced more or less, but I almost didn’t know how to share DP since they seemed to already know and agree with so many details, and with those verses to back it up!

  8. Amazing. Maybe it is time to proclaim that Rev. Moon was a Christian ahead of his time and that we have been at the center of how Christianity developed in the last 50 years.

  9. Great article Andrew. Thank you.

    Also central to the teaching of the Divine Principle was the understanding that Jesus was a man who had perfected his love and came to show mankind the potential that lies within each one of us. Hence “you too must be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect”. Unificationism taught that the central failure of Christianity was to deify Jesus after his death. The belief in the Trinity and Jesus as God is still so intrinsic to Christian doctrine today and I see little sign of this changing.

    It’s therefore important that, as Unificationists, we remember this and resist any temptation over time to “Christianize” our own understanding of the True Parents.

  10. Dr. Wilson, thank you for the article. Very interesting. When will the Wolli Wonbon be made available?

  11. Very good source material for witnessing, thank you!

    Even though Christian theology is changing still there is a gap to this world. Thanks to UT we have a great link to explain many details of DP in a constructive and reasonable way. In recent times it (UT) is not so much mentioned anymore in spite of its brilliant elucidation on the theory of history etc.

    Is there a reason for this?

  12. Christians also lack a comprehensive, systematic doctrine of creation. Their interpretations of the fall of man, resurrection and the method of Christ’s second coming are not suitable for the intellect of modern man. They are ignorant of the way Heaven works in history in saving humanity, and do not know the providential significance of history in the post-Jesus era.

    The Divine Principle elucidates the Bible, corrects erroneous Christian theology and goes beyond the Bible. It is an entirely new Universe.

  13. Thank you for translating and releasing segments of Wolli Wonbon. That having been said, I foresee complications if the teaching on Mary Magdalene is published, if it teaches (reveals? [that’s another question!]) that beyond Jesus restoring her, he was hoping to marry her. The (unidentified) committee(s) who authored later Divine Principle texts wrote, “Parents who have original sin cannot give birth to good children who do not have original sin.…a father alone cannot give birth to children. (EDP 169)” Applying this to the above-mentioned teaching on Mary Magdalene, she would have to have been born without original sin –- that is, as the only begotten daughter of God. Now, although the actual only begotten daughter of God was an innocent virgin when she married the Lamb, if the great sinner Mary Magdalene was at that time the only begotten daughter of God, it is possible that her sins might be forgiven before her marriage to Jesus.

    I am very curious to learn the contents of Wolli Wonbon and am excited at the prospect. However, I am wary of being accused of wasting my time studying the Old Testament, New Testament, and Completed Testament, which, according to a charitable interpretation of a recent directive, should be used only in outreach.

    1. Thank you, Dr. Wilson, for a resourceful article. This is a good question regarding Mary Magdalene. How would Jesus alone restore her to be an only begotten daughter of God?

  14. Here are some additional forbears of points in Rev. Moon’s teaching, followed by a reference on the passibility of God.

    1. In 1903, Harry E. Fosdick, in a sermon at the Riverside Church (American Baptist Convention and Congregationalist) discussed God’s portion of responsibility and man’s portion. He suggested that God’s portion be signified by 95% and man’s by 5%.

    2. Our sister, Mary Cheney, in a term paper for a class I was teaching at the Unification Theological Seminary, showed that a leading 19th century Hartford theologian, Horace Bushnell, stated many of the points in DP.

    1+2: Together these two men participated in what I like to think of as New England Theology. One may speculate that the contents of this theology reached the Pyeongyang district of Korea, and were mentioned in the Presbyterian congregation attended by Rev. Moon when he was a child.

    3. In 1938, Rev. Fosdick published A Guide to Understanding the Bible.The book traces the evolution of six ideas — God, man, right and wrong, suffering, fellowship with God, and immortality — through the centuries over which the various books of the Bible were written. For example, God is shown to be increasingly intimate with human beings, from “the mouth of God” talking in Genesis through the still small voice to being accessible in the Holy of Holies where one person could see God at one moment each year, through God’s fully indwelling Jesus of Nazareth, and through the teaching in the Epistles that each Christian is a temple of God. The hermeneutic of progressive revelation in this book foreshadows that of Rev. Moon. (Even Jesus is shown, in his argument against divorce, to have asserted progressive revelation)

    On the passibility of God, I refer you to my scholarly essay, “God, Suffering, and Hope: a Unificationist View” in the anthology Unity in Diversity, ed. Henry O. Thompson (Rose of Sharon Press). In it there is at least one additional Christian theologian of that time teaching God’s passibility. The essay is lengthy, and to compensate for that there is a running stream of italicized encapsulating content and designed to be able to be read very rapidly. Along the way, there is good material on branch topics, including the nature of pain, alienation, and activity of spirit persons influencing persons on earth. Unificationism is mentioned only in the concluding section describing life in a society that realizes God’s ideal for his creation.

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