By Tyler Hendricks
Dr. Tyler Hendricks (UTS Class of 1978) is adjunct professor of ministry at Unification Theological Seminary, host of True Parents Way website, and a member of the Cheon Il Guk Academy. He served in leadership roles with IOWC, Ocean Church, American CARP, the International Religious Foundation, and HSA New England Region before becoming President of the Unification Church of America (1995-2000) and of Unification Theological Seminary (2000-10). His podcasts, videos and articles appear regularly on True Parents Way.
Rev. Sun Myung Moon spoke on both sides of many matters.
He considered God to appear as Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, but addressed Him only as Heavenly Father.
He referred to himself and his wife, Hak Ja Han Moon, as being free from original sin and as having original sin.
Father Moon consistently proclaimed that the wholesale success of his movement was imminent and yet spoke as if successive 40 year courses were inevitable.
He referred to Mother Moon as queen of the universe and as hopeless without him.
Through database searches of Rev. Moon’s speeches, Unificationist scholar Dr. Jin Choon Kim found numerous examples of divergent statements. On some topics, Father Moon’s words are 100% consistent. On others the divergence is 95% to 5%, 80% to 20%, and as much as 50%-50%.
Rev. Moon’s words provide plenty of citations to justify the claims of any number of sects to be his sole orthodox successors and to excommunicate those who choose to follow his words that justify the opposite position.
The Introduction to Exposition of Divine Principle states this exact dynamic provided justification for Christians to divide into hundreds of denominations. “Divergent interpretations of such symbolic and metaphorical Bible verses have inevitably led to the division of Christianity into denominations.” (p. 11) It provides both an analysis and a solution to this problem.
Analysis of the Problem
One, scriptures are susceptible to diverse interpretations. In the Bible, the cause Exposition of Divine Principle points to is that it is written in parables and symbols which can be interpreted in different ways. Father Moon’s words also are susceptible to diverse interpretations.
Two, “Spiritual mediums are often confused and fall into conflict among themselves, because the levels of the spirit world with which they are in communication and the content of the revelations they receive differ. Although spiritually perceptive people are in contact with the same spirit world, because their circumstances and positions vary and their character, intellect and spirituality are at different levels, they will perceive the spirit world in different ways. These differences give rise to conflicts among them. (p. 142) Substitute “Unificationist spiritualists” and this statement applies well to our movement’s history and present status.
Three, “People who contribute to the providence of restoration usually are responsible for only a part of the providence. Focusing only on their vertical relationship with God, they are often not sensitive to their proper horizontal relationship with other spiritually attuned people. Strife can break out among them, as each thinks that the Will of God which he serves is different from that which the others are serving.” (p. 142) Substitute, “True Children” or “devoted disciples” and this statement applies well to our movement’s history and present status.
Exposition of Divine Principle does not place blame on those conflicting individuals or groups. It is in large part inevitable. With respect to spiritualists, “Their conflicts are aggravated when each of them receives the revelation that he is the best. Yet God offers such encouragement to spur each on to do his very best in carrying out his particular mission within the greater providence. God also gives such revelations because each is, in truth, the one best suited for his respective area of mission.” (pp. 142-43)
With respect to those called to leadership, “To accomplish the providence of restoration in a short period of time, God apportions different missions to numerous individuals and relates to each of them independently. It is thus virtually inevitable that conflicts break out among spiritually sensitive people.” (p. 143)
Solution to the Problem
The solution, according to the Divine Principle, is a new truth.
With respect to ambiguous scriptures, “The new truth, for which we long, should provide plain answers. …Only with the aid of the new truth, with its clear explanations, can we bring about Christian unity.” (p. 11)
With respect to leadership roles, “At the end of history, God will provide them with the new truth. The new truth will help them understand that the unique missions with which each has been entrusted are all for the sake of the same ultimate purpose of God. It will guide them to cooperate with each other and work in harmony to accomplish the greater purpose of the providence of restoration.” (p. 12)
Universal comprehension of the truth will bring harmony: “Only then will they be able to overcome the confusion stemming from past horizontal conflicts. Only then can each arrive at the fulfillment of his individual path of faith and bring forth its beautiful fruits.” (p. 143)
Exposition of Divine Principle actually attributes to this new truth a God-like status: “[I]n order for God’s providence of salvation to be completely fulfilled, this new truth should first elevate the idealism of the democratic world to a new level, then use it to assimilate materialism, and finally bring humanity into a new world. This truth must be able to embrace all historical religions, ideologies and philosophies and bring complete unity among them.” (p. 8)
All this, plus: Unite all people as to the meaning of the Bible, reconcile religion and science, “lead fallen people to block the ways of the evil mind and to pursue the goals of the original mind, enabling them to attain goodness,” (p. 7), “reveal the Heart of God” (p. 8), provide the light under which “all those who have struggled over the long course of history to dispel the darkness of ignorance will gather,” form one God-centered family, open “a new historical era …wherein people simply will not commit sins,” (p. 9) and “guide fallen human beings to return to their original state.” (p. 10)
Divine Principle calls us to repent and to seek this new truth: “In this era, all spiritually gifted people should cease their stubborn insistence that they alone have been serving the Will of God. They should search out the higher and more comprehensive words of truth which can help them correctly understand their positions and the true nature of their providential missions.” (p. 143)
It then states where they will find it: “God has sent one person to this earth to resolve the fundamental problems of human life and the universe. His name is Sun Myung Moon. …Through intimate spiritual communion with God and by meeting with Jesus and many saints in Paradise, he brought to light all the secrets of Heaven. The words presented in these pages are only a portion of this truth.” (p. 12)
And now, lo and behold, we find that Rev. Moon’s words themselves are ambiguous on crucial points!
The Trouble with Translation
To deal with this, I drew upon my experience copy-editing rough translations of Rev. Moon’s words. I served in this capacity from 1983 when I was invited to redact Father Moon’s teachings into a short book to be sent to Christian clergy during the Danbury course. The book was God’s Warning to the World. I edited the first volume and Dr. Andrew Wilson did the second.
Over the following decades I copy-edited dozens of Rev. Moon’s public speeches and, as part of teams, the 1996 edition of Exposition of Divine Principle and, most recently, the three volumes of the Heavenly Scriptures.
In that work, I dealt with so many ambiguous passages. In fact, every sentence was a puzzle, and some were downright incomprehensible. Moreover, I found contradictions among sentences in the same paragraph.
Most problems were solved by organizing sentences into simple subject-verb-object order. And now we get into the nature of the Korean language.
I don’t speak Korean, but know its syntax is opposite to the basic order of English. Syntax governs the way the mind works. English speakers think in terms of who did what to whom? What are you saying to me? For Korean, it’s “What? You don’t understand that?”
In Korean syntax, the verb comes at the end; there are no prepositions. Is it one of a kind (“the”), or one of many (“a”)? It’s not clear! Singular and plural in Korean are ambiguous, gender is unclear, verb tense is ambiguous or unstated, whether a verb is active or passive is unclear, subject partners go unstated (the reader is assumed to know without being told) and, most importantly, subject-object relations are ambiguous. Something happened, but who caused it, and whom was affected by it? In all these things, the reader is assumed to grasp intuitively.
English does not work that way. It is an exact, “scientific” language. Everything has to be clear; nothing left up for grabs — at least that’s its aspiration. It is legalistic. Whereas this, whereas that, clause number one, clause number two, because of this, therefore, we conclude this. Korean is a language that trusts the heart of the listener to grasp what you mean.
A Theological Perspective
Now, add to this the fact Father Moon is speaking about intangibles, about spiritual things, things that happened eons ago, things that are too complex and sensitive to talk about explicitly. And at a rapid-fire pace, with a northern dialect, and to different audiences at different times for different purposes, sometimes addressed to specific persons, sometimes applicable to all humankind.
Add the fact that the philosophical foundation of Divine Principle is relationship, reciprocity. English is linear. A did B to C. Therefore, C did D to A. The essential reality is A’s existence and A’s action upon C, which has its own existence. The usual analogy is that of one billiard ball hitting another. In Divine Principle, one does not separate subject and object partners. A and C do not exist independently. The essential reality is the relationship they have with each other. The analogy would be that of one billiard ball hitting the entire rack. No one knows where any particular ball is going to end up.
So the reader and the text — in this case Father Moon’s words — are not independent existences. The essential reality is their relationship. This, of course, is Kantian. The meaning is in the relationship. Don’t just look at sentences or clauses; look at the entire paragraph, the entire speech, the year, the decade, the whole providence.
Now how do I sort this out? Let me give an example.
I came upon a sentence in a rough translation of a Korean essay on chapter four of the Exposition of Divine Principle, “The Messiah: His Advent and the Purpose of His Second Coming.” It read something like: “The Messiah is the king who spills the oil.” I thought, “What is the author talking about?” Then I recalled the first sentence of the Divine Principle’s chapter four, which reads: “The word ‘Messiah’ in Hebrew means the “anointed one.” So I rendered that sentence, “The word messiah means the ‘anointed one,’ signifying a king.”
Reflecting on this, it struck me that the author had used a translator who did not know the Bible, in which anointing takes place by pouring oil. It struck me that in Korean, perhaps going back to Chinese ideographs, anointing must convey an image of pouring, or spilling, oil. And so the translator, unfamiliar with the Bible, had no recourse but to translate the Korean literally. The text ended up not with a Messiah who casts a fire on the earth, but who spills oil on it.
Now, this humorous example illustrates the problem, and it goes even deeper than the difficulties of translating Korean into English. The fact is even Koreans have a hard time interpreting Rev. Moon’s words. Many times we copy editors would be stumped by a sentence and would go back to a native Korean speaker to find out whether it meant A or B. Sometimes the Korean could resolve it, but sometimes the answer was that the original Korean itself was ambiguous. Digging deeper, sometimes we would resolve the conundrum by discovering a third rendering.
If the problem was that the sentence had no subject, then we would have to look at the paragraph and determine by the context who Father Moon meant to have as the subject. Was it Mother herself? Was it Heavenly Mother? Was it a woman he was speaking to? Was it all women? So much content essential to the English expression had to be deduced by context.
The Mission of the New Truth
Now, what if, in the context, there were apparent contradictions? My rule of thumb was this: Father Moon always speaks the Principle. To apply to the spilled oil example, I knew from the Principle that being the Messiah has nothing literally to do with oil spills. And I know from the Bible that pouring oil is the method of anointing and, from Divine Principle and the Bible, that the Messiah is the anointed one. The translator, knowing neither Principle nor the Bible, translated literally.
I found a universal truism: when I asked myself, “What interpretation here is consistent with the Principle?” and applied it, I found that suddenly the entire paragraph made perfect sense. All the wrinkles were smoothed out. I realized Father always teaches the Principle. That became my rule of thumb. Edit in line with the Divine Principle.
Therefore, to understand Father Moon’s words, we need to interpret them according to the Principle. Here are exemplary principles that help me work through current divergences of interpretation.
One, Principle teaches that the Messiah in his secondary and tertiary course takes the position of John the Baptist. Father Moon said that not only Jesus and he, but also Mother, took the position of John the Baptist. John the Baptist had original sin. Therefore, Jesus, Father and Mother Moon could be said in certain contexts to have had, or to have, original sin, and in other contexts to have had, or to have, no original sin.
Two, Principle teaches that God abandons His beloved ones, tempts them, tests them, and even tries to kill them. (p. 227) Therefore, Father Moon at the hands of God went through six or seven deaths and resurrections, and Mrs. Moon endured chastisement from Rev. Moon.
Three, Principle teaches that what is predestined is contingent upon human actions. For that reason — indeed, to divinize our actions — God makes, through prophets, dual prophecies. If Jesus had established the kingdom on earth in his lifetime, it would have fulfilled prophecy and been predestined. The crucifixion and 2,000 years of suffering also fulfilled prophecy and was predestined. Human beings participate in creating the outcome, which God later calls predestined. So if Christianity had accepted Father Moon in the mid-1940s, his first marriage would have been predestined. The Holy Marriage Blessing in 1960 succeeded, so that — not the first — was predestined.
Four, positions, not persons, are predestined. The position of true man and woman, only begotten sons and daughters of God who come together as True Parents, is predestined and all persons are predestined to fulfill these positions. But when we do so is contingent; it depends upon us fulfilling our portion of responsibility. Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han, I believe, fulfilled their portion of responsibility and therefore are the predestined True Parents, only begotten Son and only begotten Daughter of God. By virtue of that, all people are predestined to take the position of true man and woman, as described above, through them.
Five, once a husband and wife establish oneness in marriage centered on God, no force in the universe can sunder them. To explain this, I give the example of a child’s attitude toward his or her parents. The parents surely will rebuke and punish the child on occasion, in different forms based on their age and disposition. The child will surely think that his or her parents don’t love him or her anymore. This is not the case; in fact, the opposite is true. It is because they love the child that the parents rebuke and punish. The oneness of the parent and child can never be sundered. So too, an observer may think that spouses are at odds with each other, are going different directions, don’t see eye to eye on something. But in fact, the opposite is true. It is because they are one that they can disagree, dispute and take different sides on any number of things. A brittle car will fall apart on a rough road. A strong car can withstand any stresses. There are no stresses in the universe that can sunder spouses from each other in a true marriage.
Without understanding these and more such points of Principle, it can look as if Rev. Moon is contradicting himself. Factions, most notably those led by three of his sons, invariably stand on one side of an apparent contradiction and ignore his words on the other side.
I write this with confidence that the Family Federation led by Mother Moon acknowledges that Father Moon sometimes said one thing, and sometimes another, but that his words always express the Divine Principle. I am confident the Principle resolves all apparent contradictions without excluding the significance of either side. I am confident also in the Principle counsel, that with the aid of the new truth, with its clear explanations, we can bring about Unificationist unity.♦