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Unity in the Community?

I learned this week about a religion of which I wasn't previously aware.  It is called Bahá'í Faith.  Practicing members are called Bahá'ís.  The founder of the religion chose the name Baha’u’llah (Glory of God) though was born Mírzá Ḥusayn-`Alí Núrí.  If you have trouble reading all that, you're not alone.  The religion was born out of Persia (now Iran) in the mid-nineteenth century and as such all the names are Persian.

I'll be exploring here what they claim to believe and will follow it up with what I think about those beliefs.  However, I do want it known that this isn't an attempt to smear a religion.  It's an analysis of a set of beliefs.  We do analysis to make sure that what we believe is actually truth.  The inherent quality of any belief is that it is something one believes to be true.  So, it's not about belief, but rather about truth.

The beliefs held by Bahá'ís are:
  • About God
    • There is only one omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful) God.
    • Despite the different major religions (Judiasm, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc) differing concepts and names of God, they are actually all one in the same God.
    • God is ultimately unknowable.
  • About Religion's Founders
    • Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad were all "Manifestations of God" sent to reveal the attributes and will of God appropriate for their time.
    • Baha’u’llah is the most recent "Manifestation of God".
    • The previous prophets are no less valid or respected, but Bahá'u'lláh's revelation supercedes them in that it is the most recent and most relevant for our time.
  • About Human Nature and the Soul
    • Humans have eternal souls that animate our bodies.  This distinguishes us from animals.
    • The soul is where our character and conscience is found.
  • About Sin and Evil
    • Any concept of "original sin" or doctrine that teaches humans have an intrinsically evil nature is rejected.
    • There is no Satan or devil or evil force of any kind.
  • About the Purpose of Life
    • For each individual to develop the spiritual and moral qualities that lie at the core of his or her nature.
  •  About the Afterlife
    • At physical death the soul is separated from the body it begins a spiritual journey towards God through many planes of existence.
    • A soul is either moving towards or away from God.
    • There is no final "place" or destination to which the soul will reside.
    • The details of the afterlife remain a mystery.
  • About other Religions
    • One of the fundamental doctrines of the Bahá'í Faith is the unity of the world's great religions. This does not mean that all religions are the same, but that there is only one true religion and all of the Messengers of God have progressively revealed its nature.
    • Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Báb, and Baha’u’llah are the progressive Messengers, in this order.  Religious revelation will continue in the future in this manner.
    • Unity, harmony and respect between the world's existing religions is emphasized.
  • About Creation
    • The universe is eternal.  It has no beginning and no end.  It has been with God since the "Great First Cause".
    • All things that experience composition will eventually experience decomposition.
    • 'Man' has always existed with God, but not in its current form.  "Gradually it passed through various conditions and different shapes, until it attained this form and beauty, this perfection, grace and loveliness."
The reason I post all of this is to educate you in case you need to know what these people believe if you encounter one.  Jodi and I recently read in our Grant Beach Neighborhood Association newsletter that the Baha'i Community of Springfield will be hosting an observance of "Race Unity Day" at our neighborhood park next month.  This prompted my dig into their beliefs and their origins.

As a practicing Christian, I found it necessary to learn about their faith so that I can be more prepared to address their beliefs in any upcoming discussions that I may be involved in.  One of the things that the Christian church, in general, has failed at miserably in recent years is training its adherents about other religions and how best to address them to share the truth of the Gospel.  It's evident that Jesus and the Apostles knew quite well about other religions of their day.  We see in the Gospels how Jesus addressed different crowds differently.  This style is also clearly seen in the letters to the different churches emphasizing different aspects of the same truth.  They knew how to address their audience not from a memorized unchanging one-size-fits-all speech, but from an understanding of their audience, a genuine love for their audience, and a willingness to be used of God to speak to their audience.  God provided the words.  So shall we be equipped if we are willing to make the effort.

A Biblical response to Baha'i beliefs:
  • About God
    • There is one God represented in three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
    • The belief that all religions worship the same God only reveals the believer's ignorance of other religions.  The world's religions are contradictory and cannot be one in the same.  Logically, they can all be wrong, but they can't all be right.
    • "19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse."  Romans 1:19-20  God has made Himself known to the extent that He can be known by a finite creation.
  • About Religion's Founders
    • Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad all gave depictions of God.  Only Abraham's, Moses', and Jesus' are reconcilable.  The others' are contradictory to each other and to the Biblical depiction.
    • "Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many."  Matthew 24:4-5  Here's a link to a list of people claiming to be the returned Christ.  This shows that Bahá'u'lláh is one of many making such claims.  Jesus warned of men making such claims, so the test is whether or not these men fit the biblical profile of the returning Messiah, of which Bahá'u'lláh doesn't even come remotely close.
    • I'm amused at the self-refuting statement here.  One can't say that a previous messenger is no less valid and immediately follow that with the statement that the contradictory message of the most recent messenger supersedes that of its predecessor due to relevance.  For example: Bob tells you 10 years ago that oranges are good for you.  Then yesterday, Steve tells you that they are, in fact, bad for you yet also says that Bob was right.  Unless, of course, oranges have changed over the course of the last ten years and both Bob and Steve were right in their time.  However, the "Messengers of God" are not talking about oranges, they're talking about the record of the story of creation, the fall of man, the redemption of man, and the nature of God.  It's self-defeating to claim that two contradictory accounts of these subjects can both be valid.
  • About Human Nature and the Soul
    • I didn't find in my brief search anything that I disagreed with on this subject.
  • About Sin and Evil
    • Any honest parent can attest to the tendency towards evil found in humans.  Our children are prime examples of this, though they are not held on the same level of accountability for their actions.  It's ridiculously apparent that doing good is not in our nature, but rather selfish ambition and self-preservation is.
    • A denial to believe in a reality doesn't change reality.  It just denies it.  The Bible clearly speaks of an evil force and gives it a name and a personality.  Jesus dealt with him as a reality.  For all the respect that Baha'i's claim to give Jesus, they sure do make Him out to be a liar a lot.
  • About the Purpose of Life
    • To develop moral qualities?  For what?  Their stated "purpose" is just a moving target.
  •  About the Afterlife
    • "through many planes of existence" is contradictory to the Bible.
    • "A soul is either moving towards or away from God."  I would agree with this while we are on this earth, though not after our physical deaths.  The Bible talks about a judgement of our lives on earth with a just decision being made not a continued existence of learning.
    • The Bible speaks a LOT about two places of final destination, heaven and hell.  One is in the presence of God and the other where His presence is not.  Again, the denial of this is contradictory to the biblical account and Baha'i's thus believe that God has given us two somehow valid yet contradictory accounts of the afterlife.  That's one strange god that they believe in.
    • "The details of the afterlife remain a mystery."  Translation: If I get backed into an illogical corner I can just cling to the "mysteriousness" of it all.
  • About other Religions
    • "This does not mean that all religions are the same, but that there is only one true religion and all of the Messengers of God have progressively revealed its nature."  I agree with this statement right up until "and all the Messengers...".  They're right that there is only one truth.  In looking at a simplified version of their claim in the latter third of the statement above, we can see that they believe Jesus and Muhammad both to have revealed the nature of truth.  Jesus stated that He is the Way and no one will come to the Father but by Him.  Muhammad states that Jesus was merely a man and that we need no mediator to God.  So, Baha'i's believe that God would tell us one thing and then contradict Himself later, and not once but multiple times throughout all of recorded history.
    • "Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Báb, and Baha’u’llah are the progressive Messengers..."  Bahai's believe in the God of Contradiction.
    • "Unity, harmony and respect between the world's existing religions is emphasized."  They claim to accomplish this by requiring converts to first acknowledge that all the religions are the same.  So, how long can unity, harmony and respect last when based on a lie?
  • About Creation
    • The creation story isn't poetic.  It's not an exaggeration. It's not allegorical.  God is not an author of fiction.  Contradicting it, and worse, elevating man to God's infinite status, is not recommended.
    • "All things that experience composition will eventually experience decomposition."  Yes, from dust to dust.  The result of sin is death and all of creation groans from it while it waits to be fully restored and reconciled to God.  Thus, everything will deteriorate in the meantime.  Though, Baha'i's assume the uniformatarian viewpoint and think that creation never fell from perfect in the first place thus denying it will ever be reconciled and thus assuming that God created imperfection that will remain imperfect for eternity.
    • 'Man' has always existed with God, but not in its current form.  "Gradually it passed through various conditions and different shapes, until it attained this form and beauty, this perfection, grace and loveliness."  While this seems to provide a way of unification to the evolutionary viewpoint, it fails miserably to be reconciled to the biblical one.
In summary, Baha'is strive to be reconciled to man with a mission to bring unity, peace, and equality to the world.  In their attempt, they refuse to focus their efforts on reconciliation with the God of the Bible.  They deny the Gospel and thus Jesus.  They choose to worship a man instead.  And, just as Jesus warned us (in Matthew 24:4-5) many will be deceived.  Make sure you are not one counted among them.  And, more than that, if you are not, see to it that you can effectively share the Gospel with those who are.

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