My personal reflections on this blog take inspiration from the Bahá’í teachings.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Baha'u'llah: God-sent quickener of mankind

This article arises from a discussion that I have been having with Paul S. Pruett on his blog, "Pensees".

Paul,

Your most recent comment is very direct in raising the issue as to the Baha'i Faith being "the true religion" in the eyes of its followers. The implicit question is whether the Baha'is see their religion as the best or only path to salvation.

It must be admitted that one does not choose to be a follower of Baha'u'llah because of finding His teachings merely rather pleasant and congenial. Much more than this, in the eyes of His followers, Baha'u'llah is the defining Figure of a new age in the spiritual and social evolution of mankind, that began with His appearance in the nineteenth century. So yes, in such terms salvation today does depend ultimately on our turning towards Baha'u'llah. But His wisdom is of the unseen Kingdom far beyond mortal ken, and His salvation is of a breadth that encompasses everyone and affirms the salvation that the followers of all religions find in their own faiths. It deplores religious fanaticism and the anathematizing of others based on theological disagreements. It acknowledges the power for good that continues to be channelled through other religions. It upholds the absolute independance of God who saves (and judges) whom He will in accordance with a person's inner character rather than outward appearances.

The Baha'i teachings also deeply revere individual freedom of conscience. In matters of faith, everyone must have unrestricted freedom to decide with their own minds and hearts as to what they believe.

"Convictions and ideas are within the scope of the comprehension of the King of kings, not of kings; and soul and conscience are between the fingers of control of the Lord of hearts, not of His servants."

('Abdu'l-Baha)
The summons issued by Baha'u'llah with Divine authority is for the world in the fullness of time to become united in one common faith, and it was His mission to establish that faith, which has a Covenant, laws and institutions that comprise "the Ark of eternal salvation" for the peoples of the earth. Spiritually, then, the quintessence of faith in this day is to believe in Baha'u'llah and to live accordingly. On the other hand, this does not imply a binary choice between declaring one's faith in Baha'u'llah or facing the fires of eternal damnation. In this sense, there is no thin but impervious line of separation that can be stated in some simple formula, between those who are acceptable and not acceptable in God's sight. Rather, there is a range of responses to Him, and even the smallest of positive responses does not go unnoticed and unrewarded.

"To 'get to heaven' as you say is dependent on two things -- faith in the Manifestation of God in His Day, in other words in this Age in Baha'u'llah; and good deeds, in other words living to the best of our ability a noble life and doing unto others as we would be done by. But we must always remember that our existence and everything we have or ever will have is dependent upon the Mercy of God and His Bounty, and therefore He can accept into His heaven, which is really nearness to Him, even the lowliest if He pleases. We always have the hope of receiving His Mercy if we reach out for it."

(Shoghi Effendi)
"Concerning your question whether a soul can receive knowledge of the Truth in the world beyond. Such a knowledge is surely possible, and is but a sign of the loving Mercy of the Almighty. We can, through our prayers, help every soul to gradually attain this high station, even if it has failed to reach it in this world. The progress of the soul does not come to an end with death. It rather starts along a new line. Baha'u'llah teaches that great far- reaching possibilities await the soul in the other world. Spiritual progress in that realm is infinite, and no man, while on this earth, can visualize its full power and extent."

(Shoghi Effendi)

You wrote at an earlier stage in the discussion:

"I am asking the question that a lost soul might ask —- one who does not know the demands of your God but knows enough about himself to realize he is in need of something. I am asking the question, 'What must he do to be saved?'"

The question asked by this lost soul brings to mind these words of Baha'u'llah:

"What 'oppression' is more grievous than that a soul seeking the truth, and wishing to attain unto the knowledge of God, should know not where to go for it and from whom to seek it? For opinions have sorely differed, and the ways unto the attainment of God have multiplied."

Baha'u'llah offers liberation to the soul who is oppressed by this confused state of affairs, through the guidance that He gives as the Manifestation of God for this age. This pure and authentic guidance cuts like a bright light through the gloom of conflicting "opinions" and "ways unto the attainment of God" that have "multiplied" through the idle speculations and fruitless philosophies dreamed up by fallible human beings.

Throughout past ages, God has always given guidance to mankind through His Prophets:

"Moreover He hath in every age and cycle, in conformity with His transcendent wisdom, sent forth a divine Messenger to revive the dispirited and despondent souls with the living waters of His utterance, One Who is indeed the Expounder, the true Interpreter, inasmuch as man is unable to comprehend that which hath streamed forth from the Pen of Glory and is recorded in His heavenly Books."

(Baha'u'llah)

You suggested that if the Manifestations of God are all bringers of the Divine message, it seems to be a contradictory message, or ineffectual, since it does not sink in and has to be repeated.

God constantly repeats His message, not because of any inadequacy on the part of the chosen Messengers, but because (1) human beings, often "unable to comprehend that which hath streamed forth from the Pen of Glory", tend to misinterpret the Divine Message, so corrections are needed and (2) God releases, as time goes by, an increasing measure of Divine knowledge, which brings ever nearer the establishment of His Kingdom on earth.

In our own age, God has not been silent; He has not abandoned His creatures. More than this, we live in a momentous age when Divine grace has been poured out more copiously than ever before.

"The Revelation which, from time immemorial, hath been acclaimed as the Purpose and Promise of all the Prophets of God, and the most cherished Desire of His Messengers, hath now, by virtue of the pervasive Will of the Almighty and at His irresistible bidding, been revealed unto men. The advent of such a Revelation hath been heralded in all the sacred Scriptures. Behold how, notwithstanding such an announcement, mankind hath strayed from its path and shut out itself from its glory."

(Baha'u'llah)

The world is in turmoil because God is bringing about a great transformation in its affairs. Baha'u'llah is the herald of that transformation. The severe difficulties the world faces arise from its having paid little heed to Baha'u'llah. Hell exists, even on earth, wherever the Word of God is shut out. Paradise draws near, where His Word is heard and obeyed.

You are right then, in a sense, when you observe that for a Baha'i, "... the bottom line for salvation is that you believe that Baha'i is the true religion and you must see everything through its lens and practice its doctrines." However, you are also right in another sense when you suggest alternatively that "the Baha'i[s] are ... very liberal in their theology". The "liberal" aspect in Baha'i theology arises from belief that all religions together essentially comprise a single religion and all mankind are under the guidance and protection of one God. The Baha'is do not consider themselves inherently more enlightened as individuals than the followers of other religions, nor do we disregard the spiritual insights offered by others, nor assume that our neighbours of different faiths are destined upon their deaths for the fires of hell. Yet our very "liberalism" rests on the authority of Baha'u'llah, so it is a liberalism in vision, attitudes, and world-view, and not with regard to fundamental principles. The Manifestation of God is in our eyes infallible. We are staunch in upholding this rather unfashionable idea.

The Baha'i teachings do not overlook the differences between religions, but rather explain the reasons for such differences, correct errors that have been introduced by theologians over the course of centuries, and provide keys that resolve apparent contradictions. An example of reconciling contradictions concerns the difference that you allude to between the Muslim and Christian beliefs about Jesus' crucifixion. An authoritative statement of the Baha'i position on this is as follows: "The crucifixion as recounted in the New Testament is correct. The meaning of the Qur'anic version is that the spirit of Christ was not Crucified. There is no conflict between the two."

Contradictions often appear when things are understood on the wrong level. For example, among the Jews there was a widespread expectation that the Messiah would be a king. When He appeared amongst them as a man of humble background, those who thought this way, mocked Him. A crown of thorns was placed upon His head, which in spiritual terms was a crown of glory.

The resolution to the misunderstanding current amongst the people of those times is that Christ's kingdom was not of this world.

A great many of the misunderstandings in religion arise from a literal interpretation of statements that are intended symbolically and spiritually.

Obviously your other point about differences between Christian and Islamic beliefs on salvation raises a much more complex subject. You wrote: "Christianity teaches that you don't earn salvation; you depend upon the atonement of Jesus, who is God incarnate. Islam seems to teach that your good works (such as adhering to the 5 Pillars) must outweigh your bad."

Let's explore these apparent polarities of "faith" and "works". Asking whether salvation is attained through faith or by good deeds is a bit like asking whether light is comprised of waves or particles. The answer is, "both". And depending which aspect you focus on, you might be misled into thinking it is either one or the other.

The concept of "salvation" refers to being saved from the condition of alienation from God that is suffered by man in his "natural", unredeemed, state. In this state we are under the control of the biological urges of our bodily nature, and of various egotistical self-seeking drives. This condition is the opposite of Godliness. All the attributes of goodness, all the virtues, are from God. To be lacking in virtue, then, is to be far from God. To become virtuous is to become nearer to God. Nearness is likeness. "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (Jesus)

"O thou who art attracted to the Kingdom of God! Every soul seeketh an object and cherisheth a desire, and day and night striveth to attain his aim. One craveth riches, another thirsteth for glory and still another yearneth for fame, for art, for prosperity and the like. Yet finally all are doomed to loss and disappointment. One and all they leave behind them all that is theirs and empty-handed hasten to the realm beyond, and all their labours shall be in vain. To dust they shall all return, denuded, depressed, disheartened and in utter despair.

"But, praised be the Lord, thou art engaged in that which secureth for thee a gain that shall eternally endure; and that is naught but thine attraction to the Kingdom of God, thy faith, and thy knowledge, the enlightenment of thine heart, and thine earnest endeavour to promote the Divine Teachings.

"Verily this gift is imperishable and this wealth is a treasure from on high!"

('Abdu'l-Baha)

"For the life of the flesh is common to both men and animals, whereas the life of the spirit is possessed only by the pure in heart who have quaffed from the ocean of faith and partaken of the fruit of certitude. This life knoweth no death, and this existence is crowned by immortality. Even as it hath been said: 'He who is a true believer liveth both in this world and in the world to come.'"

(Baha'u'llah)


How do we draw nearer to God, acquiring "Divine" qualities and virtues? This is impossible without faith. So faith is the first step, and steadfastness in faith is required throughout the journey. For it is a journey, not a one-time event. To be "born again" into the light of belief is to embark on a new stage; it is not the end of the road.

As the Qur'an says, "Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, 'We believe,' and that they will not be tested?" Jesus' parable of the sower makes the same point. Not all the seed that is cast on the soil of the human heart by the Word of God germinates; and not all that germinates grows long enough to become a shrub; and not all that grows into a shrub survives to become a tree. Along the way, when tested by the heat of the sun or by harsh winds, faith can wither and die. What keeps it alive to the end? Well, action is required, such as prayer, study of the Word and reflection upon it, fellowship with other believers, and service to humanity. Always, faith and action are intertwined.

"Let the flame of the love of God burn brightly within your radiant hearts. Feed it with the oil of Divine guidance, and protect it within the shelter of your constancy. Guard it within the globe of trust and detachment from all else but God, so that the evil whisperings of the ungodly may not extinguish its light."

(Baha'u'llah)

"Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints..."

(St. Paul)

Islam emphasises practicing the five pillars for the same reason that Christians say grace before meals, attend Church on Sundays, give to charity, recite creeds and confessions of faith in their worship services, and endeavour to treat others with love and compassion. These acts give structure to the life of faith, individually and collectively, and keep faith alive.

So far as I understand, the doctrine that faith and action are closely intertwined is taught by Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, various branches of Protestantism, and by Islam, as well as the Baha'i Faith. If there are differences to be identified on the theology of faith and works, the differences within Christianity are probably greater than any differences there may be between, say, Catholic, Islamic, and Baha'i views. Therefore, the core ideas behind the doctrines of salvation do not markedly distinguish Christianity from Islam or the Baha'i Faith.

If the journey of faith is perilous, how can we pursue it with confidence? The key to this is that faith denotes trust in God. So long as we trust in Him, we shall remain safe. Trustworthiness itself is of God, so God can be trusted. "In Him let the trusting trust." (Baha'u'llah)

The misfortunes of life can undermine our faith if we let this happen, for we might begin to say, "I trusted God, but He let me down".

"Blessed is the man that hath acknowledged his belief in God and in His signs, and recognized that 'He shall not be asked of His doings.' Such a recognition hath been made by God the ornament of every belief, and its very foundation. Upon it must depend the acceptance of every goodly deed."

(Baha'u'llah)

The phrase, "He shall not be asked of His doings" has many implications, one of which is that we should welcome the misfortunes of life as gifts from God in disguise. This attitude preserves faith. As St. Paul said, "For them who believe, all things work together for good."

It is our response to God's grace, revealed through His Prophets and Messengers, that saves us, in the Baha'i view.

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."

(St. Paul)


"We are cognizant of thy righteous deeds, though they shall avail thee nothing; for the whole object of such righteousness is but recognition of God, thy Lord, and undoubted faith in the Words revealed by Him."

(The Bab)


"It is evident that the loftiest mansions in the Realm of Immortality have been ordained as the habitation of them that have truly believed in God and in His signs."

(Baha'u'llah)

What does it mean, to "truly believe in God and in His signs"?

Although Moses did not fail in the Mission entrusted to Him by God, the followers of the religion of Moses, in the majority, rejected Christ when He appeared. The people of that day held to the outward form of the teachings of Moses but were unaware of their true meaning. They looked and looked, but did not see.

Jesus said to them pointedly that if they were true followers of Moses, they would have accepted Him. But only a mere handful did in fact recognize that He was "the Light of the world". The appearance of Jesus, then, was a "Day of Judgement" for the followers of Moses. This is why Jesus said that He brought a sword, that divided brother against brother. Not that he advocated violence, but some accepted Him, and others rejected Him, so His word was like a sword that cut cleanly down the middle, sometimes separating believer from unbeliever within a single family.

"Nothing whatsoever shall, in this Day, be accepted from you, though ye continue to worship and prostrate yourselves before God throughout the eternity of His dominion. For all things are dependent upon His Will, and the worth of all acts is conditioned upon His acceptance and pleasure. The whole universe is but a handful of clay in His grasp. Unless one recognize God and love Him, his cry shall not be heard by God in this Day. This is of the essence of His Faith, did ye but know it."

(Baha'u'llah)


Again, Baha'u'llah warns that pious acts of worship are of no benefit: "Unless one recognize God and love Him".

By "recognize God", Baha'u'llah means, recognize the Manifestation of God for this Day, this being Himself.

The Message of Baha'u'llah, then, is a profoundly challenging message. The appearance of Baha'u'llah is again, a Day of Judgement. More than this, it is the supreme Day of Judgement, the Day foretold in the prophecies of all religions. For the Announcement that God makes through Baha'u'llah marks the end of night and the dawn of the age of light, a light that will steadily rise to its zenith, when the Kingdom of God shall be established on earth. This is the age for the gathering together of all mankind under the shelter of God's Holy law. Indeed, the teachings of Baha'u'llah are the holy city, the new Jerusalem, come down from heaven, foreseen by the author of the Book of Revelation.

The duty of the Baha'is, then, is this:

"Wherefore, O ye beloved of God, offer up thanks that ye have, in the day of the dawning, turned your faces unto the Light of the World and beheld its splendours. Ye have received a share of the light of truth, ye have enjoyed a portion of those blessings that endure forever; and therefore, as a returning of thanks for this bounty, rest ye not for a moment, sit ye not silent, carry to men's ears the glad tidings of the Kingdom, spread far and wide the Word of God."

('Abdu'l-Baha)

The message of Baha'u'llah although a challenging message is also the only real basis for the hope of peace and reconciliation amongst the peoples of the world. We, the human race, have been slow to accept Him and are paying a heavy price for it in bloodshed and chaos that could have been avoided if His message had been heeded by more people sooner. The Baha'i message contains its stern admonishments, but as I mentioned before, it does not ultimately make the sharp distinctions between believer and non-believer that tended to be made in past dispensations. There are many degrees of response to the Message, and to the degree that people respond positively to it, to that degree God's mercies surround us. The worst response, of course, is that of the active opponents who defame Baha'u'llah and persecute His followers, even to the extent of imprisoning them and killing them on account of their belief. A grave responsibility rests upon their heads.

The teachings of the Baha'i Faith are circulating in the body politic and leavening the life of the world, even where they are not identified with their Source.

The Message of Baha'u'llah is that this is the day for the unification of mankind. Those who work for peace and reconciliation are therefore acting in obedience to the Divine command. For this reason, they are not merely "treating the symptom". The very act of working for the unity of mankind attracts divine blessings, for this is what God wants. He wants His creatures to be united and for war to cease.

God's mercy encompasses the whole of mankind. His justice calls to account all mankind.

"I swear by Thy might, O my God! Wert Thou to regard Thy servants according to their deserts in Thy days, they would assuredly merit naught except Thy chastisement and torment. Thou art, however, the One Who is of great bounteousness, Whose grace is immense. Look not down upon them, O my God, with the glance of Thy justice, but rather with the eyes of Thy tender compassions and mercies. Do, then, with them according to what beseemeth Thy generosity and bountiful favor. Potent art Thou to do whatsoever may please Thee. Incomparable art Thou. No God is there beside Thee, the Lord of the throne on high and of earth below, the Ruler of this world and of the world to come. Thou art the God of Bounty, the Ever-Forgiving, the Great Giver, the Most Generous."

(Baha'u'llah)

I accept then, what Martin Luther said about Jesus being the way to salvation:

"Man may forever do as he will, he can never enter heaven unless God takes the first step with his Word, which offers him divine grace and enlightens his heart so as to get upon the right way. This right way, however, is the Lord Jesus Christ. Whoever desires to seek another way, as the great multitudes venture to do by means of their own works, has already missed the right way..."

The authority of Jesus in this context needs to be understood spiritually. Particularly in His own Day and until the coming of Muhammad, Jesus was the representative of God on earth, "the Light of the World". To reject Jesus was to shut out the light. To accept Him was to enter the presence of God. Further, the reality of Jesus is eternal and has never died, and His light continues to shine, still mediating salvation today.

The Manifestations of God are all One and the same in their identity as the Word of God. The inner reality of their being is the Holy Spirit. To believe in Jesus is to believe in Baha'u'llah.

Baha'u'llah is indeed the return of Christ. This is something to ponder, without haste.

The mission of Christ was to save souls. The mission of Baha'u'llah is to save mankind as a whole.

"The Revelation associated with the Faith of Jesus Christ focused attention primarily on the redemption of the individual and the molding of his conduct, and stressed, as its central theme, the necessity of inculcating a high standard of morality and discipline into man, as the fundamental unit in human society. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find any reference to the unity of nations or the unification of mankind as a whole. When Jesus spoke to those around Him, He addressed them primarily as individuals rather than as component parts of one universal, indivisible entity. The whole surface of the earth was as yet unexplored, and the organization of all its peoples and nations as one unit could, consequently, not be envisaged, how much less proclaimed or established. What other interpretation can be given to these words, addressed specifically by Bahá'u'lláh to the followers of the Gospel, in which the fundamental distinction between the Mission of Jesus Christ, concerning primarily the individual, and His own Message, directed more particularly to mankind as a whole, has been definitely established: 'Verily, He [Jesus] said: "Come ye after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men." In this day, however, We say: 'Come ye after Me, that We may make you to become the quickeners of mankind.'""

(Shoghi Effendi)

The seeking soul who accepts Baha'u'llah finds light upon light and a great amount of work to be done in service to the Kingdom of God, conferring joy, both in this world and in the next.

6 comments:

Paul said...

FYI. I've finally gotten around to starting a responding to this. Should have something for you in a day or two.

John Bryden said...

Paul, thank you. I look forward to continuing the dialogue.

Paul said...

John,

There's a whole lot here to untangle. Let me just start by summarizing what I get out of it.

Baha'u'llah is The Man. You're really not getting the point if you don't align your particular religion with his teachings. Anything that contradicts him and each of the other religions simply has to go — it is either human error introduced into the sacred texts or it is a drastic misinterpretation of it.

Faith is important, but it's more of a general faith in the existence of God as Baha'u'llah sees Him. Good deeds are indispensable. However, as long as you are spiritual, religiously tolerant, and are a decent fellow, then you've got nothing much to worry about.

The main emphasis is peace on earth. The afterlife will take care of itself. Heaven and hell are not so cut and dried as the classical monotheistic religions believe. In fact, there's hope for everyone to achieve "heaven" somehow, since death is not the end of the story for spiritual progression. Consequently, the whole idea of judgment and salvation is rather mushy and is moot in the long run.


The main problem for Baha'u'llah is that he tries to build his religion upon the backs of various other religions. In order to do this they each must be denuded of their central doctrines. It's not just a matter of a tweak here and there; we've got to swap out the chassis and engine. In my individual reading of both the Bible and the Qur'an (yes, I own one) I would never have derived the Baha'i theology independently — so radically lost appears to be the message of each Manifestation in these religions.

As a matter of fact, when I first read through the entire Bible I was coming out of a New Age type mindset. I was not yet studied in classical Christian thought. If I had any presuppositions about what I should make of the text it would have been more along Baha'i lines of thought! However, after reading it I came to have a better understanding of why the conservative Christians believed as they did (or at least why they did not believe the New Age twist on their religion). After I later became a Christian (5 years after that), and deepened my knowledge of Christian theology, I discovered that my own interpretations and meditations were but a shadow of what the mainstream church had been thinking all along. I resonate with something G.K. Chesterton observed: He said that after becoming a Christian the theological insights that he flattered himself to think his very own were found to be entirely unoriginal upon further study.

Similar things could be said about the Qur'an by a devout Muslim, and when I review that book I have to agree that they have understood it reasonably well. The basics of Islam seem clear enough to me as an outsider, though there are certainly grounds for confusion over peripherals, like how the religion ought to be led and to be spread.

Now, the Bible would be the surviving record of the "Manifestations" of God (in Moses and Jesus), while the Qur'an would be the record of the Mohammedan Manifestation — these being but two of the historical records of the various Manifestations of God according to Baha'u'llah's teachings. Since these books/religions are each purported to be inspired and founded by God we should expect that there be some fidelity in the understanding and transmission of them. Otherwise, it is a fool's errand on God's part to attempt the "Manifestation" if it is to be spoiled right off the bat.

The problem is that these religions differ in so very many places that I cannot begin to name them all, and I do not mean the kinds of differences that could be attributed to God giving a piece of the truth here and there, or further theological unfolding from past to future; I mean contradictions between theologically parallel grounds. The most notable is at the central points of what they each believe God to be like and what He is looking for in us. Islam, under no uncertain terms, says that Allah is transcendent and has no peers. It insists that Jesus is NOT the co-equal, co-creating Son, and certainly is not a provider of substitutionary atonement. On the other hand, those truths are absolutely indispensable in Christian theology and abundantly supportable from its Scriptures.

To clean up these kinds of irreconcilable differences between these two, and other, religions you have to hack and rework the Holy Scriptures of each and contradict the mainstream historical understandings of them. You must, MUST discount or torture those passages which are contrary to the Baha'i and/or other religions, no matter how counter-intuitive to the text or how little justification there is for doing so, simply because of your prior commitment to Baha'u'llah's preeminence. But the monumental problems of reconciling these other religions with Baha'i and each other is one of the very things that would lead one to suspect that Baha'u'llah was not a divine authority in the first place.

It is to me like talking to one who believes the world is flat because a little voice in his head has told him so. To every evidence to the contrary he simply discounts it as illegitimate science or the twisted interpretation of the data. He cannot accept any argument or clear empirical proof simply because he prefers the warm company of the voice in his head. How, then, can one get him to see that the voice is the one that is in error?

I have, above, summarized what I believe to be one of the primary flaws of Baha'i, so for now I will not get into our miscellaneous doctrinal differences. In the interest of further limiting the scope of my response, let me only answer these two comments you made.

You said: So far as I understand, the doctrine that faith and action are closely intertwined is taught by Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, various branches of Protestantism, and by Islam, as well as the Baha'i Faith. If there are differences to be identified on the theology of faith and works, the differences within Christianity are probably greater than any differences there may be between, say, Catholic, Islamic, and Baha'i views. Therefore, the core ideas behind the doctrines of salvation do not markedly distinguish Christianity from Islam or the Baha'i Faith.

I beg to differ. Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and even most of the fringe sects of Christianity believe that Jesus is divine, did a necessary work for us on the cross, and rose bodily from the dead, and that faith in those truths (among other common beliefs) is the framework upon which all other theology is to be built. While there are greater or lesser differences in the houses built upon this foundation, all other religions you may cite depart from Christianity at the very foundational level. Baha'i affirms only the superficial similarities of the world religions while rejecting their beating hearts.

You said: Baha'u'llah is indeed the return of Christ. This is something to ponder, without haste.

I will give you just four of many reasons why this claim will never fly for a Bible-believing Christian.

1) Since Jesus was bodily raised and ascended into heaven in his eternal and resurrected body, there is no additional human birth possible.

2) When He comes back it is to be in the same manner He left: Ascending directly from heaven in the presence of witnesses.

3) When He comes back it is the end of this age. There will be a cataclysmic judgment of the earth, the general resurrection will occur, and a new heavenly order will be established.

4) Baha'u'llah meets the criteria for being one of the many false Christs of which we are given prophetic warning.

I will forego the scriptural references for these established doctrines until and unless your response requires such an avalanche.

John Bryden said...

Paul, I have a high regard for the commitment, intellectual energy, and persistence in following matters through, behind this post and previous discussion. After I've mulled over your comments for a day or two, I'll get back to you.

Paul said...

Take your time. I always do :)

John Bryden said...

Paul, I'm pondering on whether I can come up with a fresh angle that would make it worthwhile to say more at this stage. It seems most of the main issues at stake have already been broadly surveyed in our discussions so far. I could try circling back on some of the issues at a greater level of detail but this approach could easily become a mere embellished repetition of statements already made. I have an idea for putting up some perspectives on the nature of reality itself, of thought, and of language. This might be the creative angle I'm looking for. As soon as the idea comes together and flows, I will write it up. Thanks again for the mental stimulation of your provocative ideas!