The Bahá’í Faith and Christianity
"As to the position of Christianity, let it be stated without any hesitation or equivocation that its divine origin is unconditionally acknowledged, that the Sonship and Divinity of Jesus Christ are fearlessly asserted, that the divine inspiration of the Gospel is fully recognized, that the reality of the mystery of the Immaculacy of the Virgin Mary is confessed, and the primacy of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, is upheld and defended.
"The Founder of the Christian Faith is designated by Baha'u'llah as the "Spirit of God," is proclaimed as the One Who "appeared out of the breath of the Holy Ghost," and is even extolled as the "Essence of the Spirit." His mother isdescribed as "that veiled and immortal, that most beauteous, countenance," and the station of her Son eulogized as a "station which hath been exalted above the imaginings of all that dwell on earth," whilst Peter is recognized as one whom God has caused "the mysteries of wisdom and of utterance to flow out of his mouth."
Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 109
With respect to the afterlife, the Baha'i teachings confirm that the human soul retains its individuality and consciousness after death, and is able to associate with other souls that are drawn together by love. Baha'u'llah states: "The soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel." He further explains: "Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure."
In the Baha'i sacred writings terms such as the "Satan of self" and the "Evil One" can be found. For example, the Baha'i teachings state: "The attributes of God are love and mercy; the attribute of Satan is hate. Therefore, he who is merciful and kind to his fellow men is manifesting the divine attribute, and he who is hating and hostile toward a fellow creature is satanic. God is absolute love, even as Jesus Christ has declared, and Satan is utter hatred. Wherever love is witnessed, know that there is a manifestation of God's mercy; whenever you meet hatred and enmity, know that these are the evidences and attributes of Satan."
These references to "Satan," however, are understood to be symbolic references not to an objective evil force but to the lower nature of human beings. Baha'u'llah states: "Know verily that Knowledge is of two kinds: Divine and Satanic. The one welleth out from the fountain of divine inspiration; the other is but a reflection of vain and obscure thoughts. The source of the former is God Himself; the motive-force of the latter the whisperings of selfish desire." The Baha'i teachings explain that "God has never created an evil spirit; all such ideas and nomenclature are symbols expressing the mere human or earthly nature of man."
Baha'is believe that passages such as John 3:16 and John 14:6 indeed affirm that salvation is attained through acceptance of Christ. But each of the world's major religious traditions offer passages similar to those found inthe Book of John; passages which have been used to claim the uniqueness and finality of the various faiths, but in reality affirm that "the way" is to follow the Word of God and to surrender to the Will that emanates from that Word. For Baha'is, the references to the "Son" and to "I" in John is a reference to the eternal Logos. Hence, this is a basis for recognizing that all of the great religious Teachers spoke as the voice of God.
Christ also says that "before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). Thus, the reality of Christ existed before the man Jesus of Nazareth. Christ was the "I AM" (Exodus 3:14) of the Burning Bush, the Incarnation of the Word of God. Therefore, "the way" is the path to God that opens before us by turning to His Word. The Baha'i teachings clearly affirm that the path of salvation lies in turning to the Word of God. The Baha'i sacred texts emphatically proclaim "the Sonship and Divinity ofJesus Christ."
The sacrifice of Jesus
Baha'u'llah declared that the sacrifice of Jesus was indeed extraordinary, for it was through that sacrifice that Jesus "purified the world." Baha'u'llah says that those who failed to accept Christ deprived themselves of "beholding the face of God." The Baha'i writings affirm that Christ "left nothing unfinished or incomplete." But of course Jesus knew that humankind's response to His mission and sacrifice would not be adequate and so He prophesied that He would return: "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." (John 16:12).
Speaking in tongues
The following passage from the Baha'i Writings provides perspective on the matter of speaking in tongues. "The disciples of Christ taught His Faith with the language of the Kingdom. That language conformeth to all languages, for it consisteth of celestial meanings and divine mysteries. For the one who becometh conversant with that language the realities and secrets of creation stand unveiled before him. Divine truths are common to all languages. The Holy Spirit, therefore, taught the disciples the language of the Kingdom, and they thus were able to converse with the people of all nations. Whenever they spoke to those of other nations of the world, it was as if they conversed in theirtongues."
With regard to sin, the following is found in Baha'u'llah's Book of Laws: "Should anyone be afflicted by a sin, it behoveth him to repent thereof and return unto his Lord. He, verily, granteth forgiveness unto whomsoever He willeth..."
Additional passages indicate the redemptive character of the Word of God--that despite the failings and transgressionsof human beings we are the recipients of God's grace. Baha'u'llah states, "We, verily, have come for your sakes, and have borne the misfortunes of the world for your salvation." And, "Fix your gaze upon Him Who is the Temple of God amongst men. He, in truth, hath offered up His life as a ransom for the redemption of the world." "Thus have We recounted unto you the tales of the one true God, and sent down unto you the things He had preordained, that haply ye may ask forgiveness of Him, may return unto Him, may truly repent, may realize your misdeeds, may shake off your slumber, may be roused from your heedlessness, may atone for the things that have escaped you, and be of them that do good. Let him who will, acknowledge the truth of My words; and as to him that willeth not, let him turn aside. My sole duty is to remind you of your failure in duty towards the Cause of God, if perchance ye may be of them that heed Mywarning. Wherefore, hearken ye unto My speech, and return ye to God and repent, that He, through His grace, may have mercy upon you, may wash away your sins, and forgive your trespasses. The greatness of His mercy surpasseth the fury of His wrath, and His grace encompasseth all who have been called into being and been clothed with the robe of life, be they of the past or of the future."
With respect to judgment in the afterlife, the Baha'i teachings explain that this earthly life is concerned with acquiring spiritual capacities and virtues because such capacities are necessary for our progress in the next world. Thus, to turn away from the guidance and love of God's law, is not only to deprive oneself of the opportunity for spiritual growth and advancement, but is to deny the very Divine Purpose.
Baha'u'llah states: "The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High."
That our actions are judged is not in doubt. Baha'u'llah warns, "Think not the deeds ye have committed have been blotted from My sight. By My beauty! All your doings hath My Pen graven with open characters upon tablets of chrysolite." And: "The mirror of His knowledge reflecteth, with complete distinctness, precision and fidelity, the doings of all men."
For this reason, we must always beseech God to bestow upon us His forgiveness and grace. The following is found in one of the daily prayers recited by Baha'is: "...O Thou the Lord of the Throne on high and of earth below! I implore Thee by the signs of Thy Kingdom and the mysteries of Thy Dominion to do with Thy loved ones as becometh Thy bounty, O Lord of all being, and is worthy of Thy grace, O King of the seen and the unseen!" And in another passage: "Praise be toThee, O Concealer of the sins of the weak and helpless! Magnified be Thy name, O Thou that forgivest the heedless ones that trespass against Thee!"
The End of the World or a New Cycle?
Recently, the topic of “The End of the World” has once again arisen as the center point of many discussions. This is being driven largely by all of the turbulence that is taking place on the world scene today. From turmoil in the Middle East, to waves of refugees crossing national borders, to the devastation of millions by the AIDS virus we see the signs foretold in the Bible and all of the Holy Books regarding “the end times”.
And yet each of those same Holy Books proclaims a time in the future when mankind will flourish. In one of the few prayers that is attributed to Jesus Christ, He said: "Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven". Then, of course, there is the famous passage in the Old Testament, Book of Isaiah, promising a time when the peoples of the earth will "beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift sword against nation neither shall they learn war anymore".
These two ideas, one of the destruction or end of the world and the other of a time of world peace seem to be in direct conflict with one another. How can this be?
Let’s consider together what we know. While the Holy books of old were certainly inspired by God and contain the truth beyond question, the problem lies in our errors of interpretation. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, Jesus Christ spoke in parables and often those to whom he spoke found his parables hard to understand. In fact, the Bible and all of the other holy books are replete with commentary about how the teachings of the Prophets were often abstruse so that hearts could be tested and true believers attracted. Further, Christ spoke in an old Judaic tongue known as Aramaic, which was traditionally an oral language. Many generations later these teachings were written down for the first time in Greek and ultimately we have a variety of English translations which various groups use today. In light of these facts we understand that it may be possible to hold an interpretation of what the Prophets said that doesn’t match what they meant.
It is interesting that in the middle of the 19th Century there was a groundswell of Adventist movements taking place around the world in anticipation of the coming of a new revelation from God as promised in all former faiths. While most came away from that time in disappointment assuming that the new revelation did not appear, the Bahá'ís saw their expectations fulfilled. The Baha'i Faith, the youngest of the world religions was born in the middle of the 19th Century when it’s Prophet-Founder, Baha'u'llah Who claimed to be the Promised One anticipated by all of the world’s religions appeared. Baha’u’llah explains the phenomenon of "the end times" and "the birth of a new cycle" in detail. He revealed over 100 volumes of Writings during His 40-year ministry.
From the Baha'i perspective, mankind has spent thousands of years in a cycle which is now antiquated. It ended in the middle of the 19th Century with the proclamation of Baha'u'llah to be the Messenger of God for this age. One of the principles of the Baha'i Faith is that each individual must be encouraged to investigate truth for him or herself. So this is not a claim that anyone could be expected to thoughtlessly embrace. On the other hand, it is such a monumental claim that the investigation of the possibility of its truth should be compelling.
The Baha'i Faith teaches that a new cycle or era began in the middle of the last century. The previous cycle was referred to as the Prophetic Cycle. During this cycle the various religions of the world taught of a time in the future that would see the coming of the day of God when His Kingdom would be ushered in. The new cycle is referred to as the Cycle of Fulfillment or the Cycle of Light. It is a time when the prophecies of old, particularly with regard to the coming of thi sgreat new age are to be fulfilled.
The challenge is to be able to step back and perceive the truth of this concept. After all, it has taken ages upon ages for us to come to the place that we are. Now, here we are at this particular and very infinitesimal place in time and we do not "see" the wonders of the new world. In fact, what we can most easily discern at this moment are the horrors of our age. Historians the world over agree that the century that just ended, the 20th century was the most chaotic and destructive century that mankind has ever experienced. The events of the 20th and in the first few years of the 21st century appear to be consonant with the signs that each of the Holy Books proclaim will accompany "the end times". But as just indicated, what is meant by the ‘end times’ is not the physical ending of the world but rather an intense period of pain, chaos and confusion. Like the brief moments preceding a birth.
If we look closely there are other wonderful signs that quietly tell of a grand future, a time of global peace and brotherhood. Bahá’u’lláh’s most fundamental teaching is this - all religions have come from one source and Movements toward racial unity, rights for women, rights for children, the establishment of global standards for human rights such as the right of every soul to an education, the development of common currencies, the establishment of the United Nations, collective efforts on the part of many nations toward environmental cooperation, trade exchange, the use of the internet and other forms of quick communications, all of these, bode well for the ultimate establishment of the 'Kingdom of God'on earth as it is in heaven.
"This is a new cycle of human power. All the horizons of the world are luminous, and the world will become indeed as a garden and a paradise. It is the hour of unity of the sons of men and of the drawing together of all races and all classes. You are loosed from ancient superstitions which have kept men ignorant, destroying the foundation of true humanity.
The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and of the fundamental oneness of religion. War shall cease between nations, and by the will of God the Most Great Peace shall come; the world will be seen as a new world, and all men will live as brothers."
The Baha'i Writings make it clear, as do the texts of all of the Holy Books that in this new cycle, out of the chaos and confusion of our times a new day, one of collective hope and peace will be born. The Universal House of Justice, the elected world governing body of the Baha'i community, in a statement issued on world peace, wrote:
"World peace is not only possible but inevitable".
* Gleanings From The Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, page 86