Moon’s Unification Church—What Does It Believe?
SHE is attractive, young, and pleasant in manner. She stands quite close as she literally buttonholes a man by slowly pinning a flower to his coat lapel. Attaching the slightly faded flower, she requests a donation for it, explaining that the money will assist a youth group. The smiling girl appears to be quite sincere.
She is typical of young people often seen at busy airports and shopping plazas in North America. Neither cold weather nor the icy response of most people seems to deter these young people, members of the Unification Church. Perhaps you know them by their media nickname, the “Moonies.”
Who are the “Moonies”? Press reports about the Unification Church have tended to highlight charges of weekend brainwashing sessions and slave labor. The political and financial problems of the Church have also made headlines, especially since Sun Myung Moon, the Church’s founder, was convicted of tax fraud. Moon’s mass marriage of 2,075 couples also made headline news.
But what do you know about the beliefs of the Unification Church? What is motivating the Church’s small army of apparently idealistic youths? Why are they willing to give up college and careers to follow Sun Myung Moon? What is he promising them?
Who Is Sun Myung Moon?
Sun Myung Moon (“Shining Sun and Moon”) is a Korean in his sixties. Though reared as a Presbyterian, when a teenager he began to have visions that led to the formation of the Unification Church in 1954.
“I met Jesus personally,” says Moon in his book Christianity in Crisis: New Hope, “and I received a revelation through which I learned that God’s grief is great. His heart is broken. Today God is working ceaselessly for the ultimate salvation of all mankind. He needs His champion to succeed in this work.”
Moon acknowledges that this may sound disrespectful of God. “So far in Christianity,” he said in a speech a few years ago, “we placed God so high up in heaven, and pushed man so low in hell, that there has been an uncrossable gap between them.” While Moon’s conception of God is not what is found in the Bible, it will be familiar to students of Eastern religions. “Man is the visible form of God, and God is the invisible form of man,” he said in that speech. “Man is incarnate God. . . . Man shares the same value as God and is just as important as God.”
Unification of world religions is seen by Moon as a first step toward world salvation, so it is not surprising that he interprets Christianity in ways that make it appear to harmonize with other religions. For example, his chief theological textbook, Divine Principle, says that “the Lord of the Second Advent, who comes as the central figure of Christianity, will also play the role of Buddha, whom Buddhists believe will come again.”
While most Christians look to a heavenly Messiah, Divine Principle states that the Christ must be “born in the flesh on the earth at the Second Advent.” The coming Messiah of whom Moon speaks is not the Jesus Christ of the Bible, but someone else, a man born somewhere on earth in our century. Where? “The nation of the East where Christ will come again would be none other than Korea,” says Divine Principle. Moon’s followers come to believe that he himself is the promised Messiah, or, as he puts it, the “Lord of the Second Advent.”
What does a member of the Unification Church believe when Church doctrine appears to contradict the Bible? “We must realize that Biblical words are a means of expressing the truth and are not the truth itself,” says Divine Principle. “The New Testament was given as a textbook for the teaching of truth to the people of 2,000 years ago, people whose spiritual and intellectual standard was very low, compared to that of today. . . . Today the truth must appear with a higher standard and with a scientific method of expression in order to enable intelligent modern man to understand it.” According to Moon, “the disciples of Jesus . . . followed what they felt spiritually in their hearts.” Moon’s followers are encouraged to do likewise. “We should not be attached to conventional ideas but should at all costs find the new truth,” says Divine Principle.
Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
“I am Jim,” said the neatly attired stock analyst. “I came searching answers to my problems and the world’s.” Jim was attending a “weekend workshop” sponsored by the Unification Church. A lot of young people are like Jim. They want to know why the world is full of suffering and evil. They want to know if life really has a purpose. They want to find out what will become of our polluted, war-threatened earth. Sun Myung Moon offers plausible-sounding answers to these questions.
Why is the world full of evil and suffering? Because Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden. “The foundation for the evil history of man was laid,” says Moon, “and Satan was established as the ruler of this world. . . . and now our world is rampant with killing, lying, and stealing.”
What does the future hold for our earth? Moon’s answer is appealing. God is not going to burn up the earth, as some religionists claim. “It is not the universe, but man who has committed sin,” he notes. “The Bible therefore says, ‘A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.’”
Since we are living in the “last days,” soon “all men will be made new through their True Parents. All will be made capable of bringing sinless children into the world. . . . The kingdom of heaven on earth will then begin.” How heartwarming! An earth full of perfect, sinless people, “the kingdom of heaven on earth.” No wonder idealistic young persons like Jim are touched by the message of the Unification Church! But how is such a world to be attained?
Sun Myung Moon has a unique answer to the often-posed question: How is God’s kingdom to be established? “Marriage,” he says, “is the most important means of establishing God’s kingdom on earth.” In fact, Moon continues, if Jesus had been allowed to marry, “the sinless state of God’s kingdom could have been a reality for the last 2,000 years.” Moon is quite emphatic on the subject. “Jesus was denied the opportunity to take a bride in the position of restored Eve, and to establish the first God-centered heavenly family. Instead, the people of Israel nailed him to the cross.”
Was Jesus a Failure?
According to Moon, when Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me” (Matthew 26:39), it was because “Jesus wanted to live and fulfill his mission” of getting married and raising a family. Since Jesus’ mission was not fulfilled, another Messiah must come in our time to get married, raise the perfect family and help mankind reach perfection.
Of course, serious Bible students will object that such ideas are nowhere to be found in God’s Word, but that is no problem for Sun Myung Moon. “You may again want to ask me, ‘With what authority do you say these things?’” he says. “I spoke with Jesus Christ in the spirit world.”
‘Even if an Angel out of Heaven . . .’
Most of the young people who join the Unification Church have only superficial knowledge of Christianity. The fact that Moon’s unbiblical ideas are so easy for these youths to accept speaks poorly for the religious training they had at home.
But back in the first century, to persons who had been instructed in true Christianity, the apostle Paul wrote: “Even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as good news something beyond what we declared to you as good news, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8) Although the Unification Church discusses basic Christian doctrines such as the Messiahship of Jesus and a second coming, does it understand these doctrines in the way the apostle Paul understood them and as set out in the Bible? Does it teach the same “good news” as found in the Bible? Consider what Moon teaches about one of the central doctrines of Christianity.
Death of Jesus Christ in Prophecy
“The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Here, in Jesus’ own words, was a key part of his mission—to give his perfect life as a ransom sacrifice for the sinful descendants of Adam. Jesus never spoke of raising a perfect family and gradually taking over the world. Does Moon accept this?
“Right now I am making a bold declaration,” said Sun Myung Moon to a crowd gathered in New Orleans, Louisiana. “Jesus did not come to die. . . . If God had wanted His son to be crucified, He did not need 4,000 years to prepare the chosen people. He would have done better to send Jesus to a tribe of barbarians, where he could have been killed even faster. . . . Jesus died on the cross, not of his own will, not of the will of God, but by the will of men.”
Perhaps you are already pondering the question, If God did not purpose that Jesus die a sacrificial death, why does the Bible contain well-known prophecies about his death, such as the one at Isaiah, chapter 53? “I am aware of those prophecies,” Moon said. “We must know that there are dual lines of prophecy in the Bible. One group prophesies Jesus’ rejection and death; the others, such as Isaiah, Chapters 9, 11, and Isa 60, prophesy the glorious ministry of Jesus when the people accepted him as the Son of God. . . . Since God did not know how man would respond to His providence for the Messiah, He had no choice but to predict two contradictory results—dual prophecies, each possible depending on man’s actions.”
What is this? Almighty God unable to predict how men would respond to the Messiah? To the contrary, God says: “So my word that goes forth from my mouth will prove to be. It will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.”—Isaiah 55:11.
Clearly, in order for all of God’s prophecies to be fulfilled, the Messiah must be rejected in his first appearance, and gloriously triumphant upon his return. As Daniel 7:13, 14 makes clear, his triumphant return is not as a man on earth, but as a powerful spirit creature, able to approach Jehovah God, the Ancient of Days, directly in his heavenly court.
But the Unification Church does not accept the Bible’s clear testimony on this matter, because they prefer to believe in a fleshly Messiah who will raise a family on earth. To justify such doctrines, Moon denies God’s ability to predict the future. He preaches a weak God, one ‘of no greater value than man.’ He even goes so far as to say: “In a way God fears man, and Satan fears man also—because of man’s ability to betray.” This “God” of whom Moon speaks is certainly not Jehovah, the Almighty God, whose grand promises are recorded in the Bible!
“Restoration Through Indemnity”
Some statements of the Unification Church appear to show an appreciation for Jesus’ sacrificial death. “Did the sacrifice on the cross then come to naught?” asks Divine Purpose. “Not at all (John 3:16). If it had, Christian history could not have existed.” Nevertheless, “redemption by the cross has been unable to remove our original sin . . . salvation through . . . the cross is spiritual only.” What does that mean? “If Jesus had not been crucified . . . he would have accomplished the providence of salvation both spiritually and physically. He would have established the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.”
If Jesus’ sacrifice does not suffice to save men fully, then how is one to be saved? The Unification Church has developed an elaborate doctrine of atonement, called “restoration through indemnity.” “Man, who lost the original position or status endowed at the creation, must set up certain necessary conditions in order to restore himself,” says Divine Principle. (Italics ours)
The idea that men must atone for their own sins is very popular in the Orient, where the Unification Church got started. But does it agree with the Bible? “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” wrote the apostle Paul, “and it is as a free gift that they are being declared righteous by his undeserved kindness through the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus. For we reckon that a man is declared righteous by faith apart from works of law.” (Romans 3:23, 24, 28) By their zealous fund raising, members of the Unification Church may feel that they are atoning for their sins, but their “works” cannot save them. The Jews thought they could prove themselves righteous by works of the Mosaic law, but Jesus said they were still ‘slaves of sin.’ How could they be free? “If you remain in my word,” Jesus said, “you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-34) The Unification Church has clearly gone beyond Jesus’ words. Its members remain slaves to sin, despite all their works.
Influence of “Spirit Men”
Moon’s doctrine of indemnity applies to dead persons as well as the living. He teaches that dead “spirit men” wish to participate in the good works of his followers. How do the “dead” do this? Answers Divine Principle: “The spirit men pour out spiritual fire on earthly men, give them the power to heal diseases, and help them do many mighty works. More than that, they enable earthly men to see many facts in the spirit world in a state of trance, give them the gift of prophecy, and inspire them spiritually. Through such activities, substituting for the Holy Spirit, they cooperate with earthly men to fulfill the will of God.”
This is a dangerous doctrine! Why? Because the dead are unconscious, incapable of working along with living men. The Bible clearly states: “There is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol [the grave], the place to which you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) Who, then, are the ones causing Moon’s disciples to prophesy and to do “many mighty works”?
“Whether there are gifts of prophesying, they will be done away with; whether there are tongues, they will cease,” says the Bible. (1 Corinthians 13:8) Miraculous spiritual gifts ceased with the death of the apostles and those who received such gifts through the laying on of the hands of the apostles. God would not contradict his Word by inspiring such gifts now. Regarding the times we live in, Jesus warned clearly that “many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”—Matthew 7:22, 23.
Those are strong words, and members of the Unification Church should take them to heart. The “spirit men” they are involved with cannot be the dead, nor can they be from God. Since they are inspiring precisely the activity that Jesus warned against, such spirit forces can only be from God’s enemy, the original deceiver, Satan the Devil. They can only be demons, wicked spirits who have been misleading and abusing gullible men for thousands of years. To invite demon possession in the naive belief that you are cooperating with “spirit men” is a grave error.
Indeed, Divine Principle frankly admits that some of these “spirit men” are evil and may torment Moon’s followers, saying that if a disciple “gladly endures the torment given by the evil spirit man, . . . he can set up a condition of indemnity for his own sin and that of his ancestors.” In other words, Moon’s followers are taught that spirit possession and torment can atone for past sins!
With such doctrines and practices in the Unification Church, no wonder its members sometimes may appear to have a glassy-eyed look about them, as has often been commented on by observers. In some cases, doubtless, exhaustion or a poor diet may be the cause, but many of these young people could very well be undergoing demonic harassment. What a tragedy! Nor is it surprising that ex-members frequently report severe mental and emotional problems for months after leaving the Church. A study in Science Digest reports: “Former cult members complained of disorientation and of ‘floating’ in and out of altered states; of recurrent nightmares, hallucinations and delusions; of instances of bewildering or unnerving ‘psychic’ phenomena.”
What Kind of Prophet?
No one is questioning the sincerity of Moon’s disciples, but the fact is that they are in grave danger. By allowing Sun Myung Moon to convince them that they need not base their beliefs on the Bible, they have been seriously misled. Pitifully, they have been put at the mercy of ruthless demonic forces.
The Unification Church is right when it says that we are in the “last days,” and that God’s kingdom will soon rule over an earth full of happy, obedient people. This is a wonderful hope. But another part of the sign of the “last days” is that “false Christs and false prophets will arise and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones.” (Matthew 24:24) What kind of ‘Christ’ and ‘prophet’ is Sun Myung Moon? The facts speak for themselves.