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Facilitating Spiritual Joy:
Workshop on Christianity

by Ted Brownstein

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Chapter 2

Facilitating Spiritual Joy

Part II

Defining the Purpose and Path of Dialogue

Note how one Bahá'í writer explains the process of dialogue:

Dialogue generally involves a collective process or a conversation, a two-way communication or a reciprocal process in which two or more parties holding significantly different beliefs endeavor to express to dialogue partners what they mean and to learn from each other in the process. But dialogue is more that just an exchange of views and has come to mean a personal process of refining the beliefs and values of one's own faith vis-à-vis the insights that one has gleaned from others.

Three goals of dialogue are (1) to know oneself more profoundly, just as one learns more about one's native land as a result of living abroad; (2) to know the other more authentically; and (3) to live ever more fully, a process described as "mutual transformation." Furthermore, a sharp distinction should be made between dialogue and "evangelistic witness." While the later aims at conversion, the former does not. The goal is rather mutual understanding, appreciation and transformation. (Adapted from Seena Fazel, "Interreligious Dialogue and the Bahá'í Faith: Some Preliminary Observations, Revisioning the Sacred: New Perspectives on Bahá'í theology. Studies in Bábi and Bahá'í Religions vol. 8 (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1997).

Dialogue by its nature is much less confrontational than "evangelistic witness." Since it respects the views of all participants, the atmosphere is congenial and no ones' views are undermined or attacked. Each individual is responsible for what they learn from other participants and for the shaping of their own faith.

Topic for discussion:
1. What is dialogue?
2. What are the benefits of dialogue?
3. What are the differences between dialogue and "evangelistic witness"?
4. Is engaging in dialogue easier or harder than "witnessing"?

Following the Example of the Master

"Let us too bear in mind the example which our beloved Master has clearly set before us. Wise and tactful in His approach, wakeful and attentive in His early intercourse, broad and liberal in all His public utterances, cautious and gradual in the unfolding of the essential verities of the Cause, passionate in His appeal yet sober in argument, confident in tone, unswerving in conviction, dignified in His manners--such were the distinguishing features of our Beloved's noble presentation of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh." (Shoghi Effendi in Unfolding Destiny, p. 35)

Put the following phrases, which Shoghi Effendi used to describe Abdu'l-Bahá's method of teaching, into your own words and explain the importance of each.

"wakeful and attentive" ________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________


"broad and liberal" ____________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________


"cautious and gradual" ________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________


"passionate" ___________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________


"noble presentation" ___________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

Brief History of Christianity

Christianity is a faith centered on the person and teachings of Jesus Christ. To Christians, Jesus of Nazareth was the Promised One of God whose coming was foretold in the prophecies of the Hebrew Bible. Jesus walked the land of Israel and taught publicly. After his death, his twelve disciples carried on the work. The Apostle Paul was instrumental in bringing the message of Christ to Asia Minor and Europe. Thereafter, Christianity quickly spread through the Mediterranean world. In the 4th century, it became the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Christians have a long history of dividing into rival groups. Numerous sects sprang up during the second and third centuries, notably the Gnostics, the Arians and the Athenasians. In the fourth century efforts were made to establish unity by the Roman emperor Constantine. This resulted in the formation of the Catholic (from the Greek word Katholikos, meaning "universal.") Church. Bishops debated differences of belief at Church Councils, such as the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, and produced statements of belief, called creeds, that sought to settle doctrinal disputes and to unite the various factions.

During the 11th century, when all of Europe became Christianized, this main church divided into a Latin (Western European) and a Greek (Byzantine or Orthodox) branch over disputes about the role of the Roman Pope and church governance.

The Western church was in turn divided during the Reformation of the 16th century into the Roman Catholic church and a large number of smaller Protestant churches: Lutheran, Anglican, Calvinist, etc. These divisions centered around differences of opinion about the authority of the Pope, the Catholic Church's policy of granting dispensation for sins in exchange for monetary contributions, the role of faith versus works in salvation and the role of the Bible. Since that time sectarian divisions have continued and multiplied. There are now approximately 2,000 distinct Christian denominations worldwide.

Main Christian Denominations
Adapted From Grolier's Multimedia Encyclopedia

Roman Catholic Church, (1 billion members) the largest of the Christian churches, although present in all parts of the world, is identified as Roman because of its historical roots in Rome and because of the importance it attaches to the worldwide ministry of the bishop of Rome, the pope.

Orthodox churches (between 100 and 200 million members) are a fellowship of administratively independent regional or national churches, united in faith, sacraments, and canonical discipline, each enjoying the right to elect its own head and its bishops. Traditionally, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul) is recognized as the "first among equal" Orthodox bishops. Other orthodox church leaders include the patriarch of Russia; the archbishop of Cyprus; the archbishop of Greece and the archbishop of North America. The Orthodox Churches split with the Roman Catholic Church in 1054 AD over dispute about Church leadership.

The Church of England or Anglican Communion or Episcopal Church (27 million members) in its modern form, dates from the English Reformation of the 16th century, when royal supremacy was established and the authority of the pope repudiated. With the advent of British colonization, the Church of England established churches on every continent and achieved international importance.

Protestantism is a movement in Western Christianity whose adherents reject the notion that divine authority is channeled through one particular human institution or person such as the Roman Catholic pope. Protestants look elsewhere for the authority of their faith. Most of them stress the Bible--the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament--as the source and the norm of their teaching. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians also stress the authority of the Bible, but they also look to tradition, and, in the case of Catholics, to the pope as a source of authority.

Lutheran Church (70 million members) is the branch of Protestantism that generally follows the teachings of the 16th-century reformer Martin Luther. Luther is famous for posting his 95 theses (points of disagreement with the Catholics) on the door of the castle church at Wittenberg on Oct. 31, 1517. His theses dealt principally with the corruption in the Roman Catholic church and his message of salvation by faith alone. The Lutheran movement diffused after 1517 from Saxony through many other German territories into Scandinavia. In the 18th century it spread to America and, thereafter, into many nations of the world.

Fundamentalism is a term popularly used to describe strict adherence to Christian doctrines based on a literal interpretation of the Bible. This usage derives from a late-19th- and early-20th-century transdenominational Protestant movement that opposed the accommodation of Christian doctrine to modern scientific theory and philosophy. Many Baptists, most Pentecostals and many smaller denominations are fundamentalists. With some differences among themselves, fundamentalists insist on belief in the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth and divinity of Jesus Christ, the vicarious and atoning character of his death, his bodily resurrection, and his second coming as the irreducible minimum of authentic Christianity. This minimum was reflected in such early declarations as the 14-point creed of the Niagara Bible Conference of 1878.

Baptist Churches (35 million members) form one of the largest Protestant denominations. The following distinguish the Baptists from other Protestant communions: (1) their insistence on baptism of adult believers only; (2) their concern for freedom of speech and conscience and for freedom from interference by any civil or ecclesiastical authority; (3) the primacy they seek to give to Scripture in matters of faith, doctrine, and morals; and (4) the authority they give to the congregation in church affairs.

Pentecostal Churches, (over 25 million) a worldwide Protestant movement that originated in the 19th-century United States, takes its name from the Christian feast of Pentecost, which celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. Pentecostalism emphasizes a postconversion experience of spiritual purification and empowering for Christian witness, entry into which is signaled by utterance in unknown tongues.

Mormons (7.7 million members) is the common name given to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) .Two-thirds of the church's membership is in the United States, especially in Utah, where its chief administrative body is located. Members are also found in many other countries, particularly in Latin America. The LDS Church as found by Joseph Smith in Fayette, N.Y., in 1830. Earlier he reported having visions of God and other heavenly beings in which he was told that he would be the instrument to establish the restored Christian church. The Book of Mormon, which is considered an addition to the Bible, tells the history of God's people and the ancient appearance of Christ in America.

Jehovah's Witnesses (5 million members) are a society of Christians who preach door to door and actively promote home study of the Bible. They expect an early end to the present world system in a "great tribulation" from God that will soon rid the earth of suffering and restore the earth to its original Garden of Eden-like condition. Because they claim citizenship in the Kingdom of God, they refuse to salute any flag, serve in any army or vote. The modern movement was organized in Pennsylvania during the 1870s by Charles Taze Russell. They deny the Trinity and the existence of a literal hellfire.

1. Describe and discuss the beliefs of the main religious groups in your local area.





Biblical & Bahá'í Texts on Salvation

Personal salvation is a central concern for many Christians and will undoubtedly be a theme that will come up repeatedly in dialogues with Christians. It makes sense therefore for Bahá'ís to have a clear understanding of just what the Bible, especially the New Testament, says about the requirements for salvation and also what various Church creeds have added to those requirements. This section sets out the Biblical position. Subsequent sections will explore the creeds.

Bahá'í beliefs are fully in harmony with Bible teachings. Therefore Bahá'ís can whole-wholeheartedly affirm and agree with much of what Christians say. However, often it necessary to give further explanation of Bahá'í beliefs so that a Christian seeker does not walk away with a wrong impression. A wonderful way to dialogue with Christians may be called "Affirm and Explain." First, affirm Bahá'í agreement with the text of the Bible and then explain the way it is understood in the light of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation.


Affirm that Christ Brings Spiritual Life
Bible quote:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Bahá'í quotes:
Christ is the cause of the spiritual life of man, and with regard to the spirit, His was the spiritual fatherhood... Adam is the cause of man's physical life; but the Reality of Christ--that is to say, the Word of God--is the cause of spiritual life. (Some Answered Questions, p. 119)

Christ, Who is the Word of God, sacrificed Himself... Christ's intention was to represent and promote a Cause which was to educate the human world...a Cause which was antagonistic to all the people of the world and all the nations and kingdoms-- meant that He would be killed and crucified, so Christ in proclaiming His mission sacrificed His life. He regarded the cross as a throne, the wound as a balm, the poison as honey and sugar... He perished in body so as to quicken others by the spirit. (Some Answered Questions, p. 120-121)

1. What does John 3:16 say is necessary for salvation?

____________________________________________________________________________________

2. Identify the phrases from the Bahá'ís quote that show agreement with John 3:16.

____________________________________________________________________________________


Affirm that Salvation is Impossible Without Jesus
Bible quotes:
Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must get saved. (Peter's words in Acts 4:12)

Bahá'í quote:
The supreme love and unity is witnessed in the divine Manifestations. Among Them unity is indissoluble, changeless, eternal and everlasting. Each One is expressive and representative of all. If we deny One of the Manifestations of God, we deny all. (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 208)

1. What is salvation requirement is specified in these verses?

___________________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________________


2. Can Bahá'ís agree with Christians that salvation is impossible without faith in Christ? How so?

___________________________________________________________________________________


Explain that the Word of God is Older and More Widespread than Christianity

In the beginning was the Word... and the Word became flesh (Jesus) and dwelt among us. (John 1:1, 14)

The Bible clearly teaches that the Word of God is ancient, much older than the Christian religion. When the Prophet Micah wrote about Christ's birth in Bethlehem, he shows that Christ has been repeatedly "going forth" to mankind throughout history.

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me, the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old. (Micah 5:2)



The Bible teaches and Bahá'ís believe that the Word of God has been active throughout human history, dealing with all the inhabitants of the earth.

That was the true Light, that gives light to every man coming into the world. (John 1:9)

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. (Titus 2:11)

Thus the Bible shows that God's message of salvation has not been limited to just one portion of the earth or to just the last 2,000 years. It is universal and has appeared to all peoples at all times. The Bahá'í writings concur.

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. Men at all times and under all conditions stand in need of one to exhort them, guide them and to instruct and teach them. Therefore He hath sent forth His Messengers, His Prophets and chosen ones that they might acquaint the people with the divine purpose underlying the revelation of Books and the raising up of Messengers, and that everyone may become aware of the trust of God which is latent in the reality of every soul. (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 161)

Worksheet for Teaching by Using Questions on Specific Texts

Fill out the following worksheet based on John 1:1 & 14; Titus 2:11 or Micah 5:2.

1. Identify two or three teaching points you want to make about the verse:

_________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________


2. Select key phrases from the verse which support your teaching points.

_________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________

3. Memorize those key phrases.

4. Create questions based on the text that lead the seeker to understand the points you want to make:

_________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________


5. Write out the answers to your questions.

_________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________


6. On the reverse side of this sheet, create a dialogue between a Bahá'í teacher and a seeker based on the above questions and answers. Allow students the opportunity to present their answers and their dialogue to the class.
Focusing, Leading and Dialogue Questions

This exercise will examine three distinct types of questions based on their use in teaching. They may be called focusing, leading and dialogue questions.

Focusing questions direct the seeker's attention to a particular key word or phrase in a quote. For example, if you were discussing Titus 2:11 with a friend. First read the quote. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." You might ask, "According to this verse who receives God's grace? This would be a focusing question because its purpose is to focus the seeker's attention on the phrase "all men".

Leading questions help the seeker reason on the quote and leads them to the teaching point that will help them see the Bahá'í perspective. For example, again concerning Titus 2:11, you might ask, "Is salvation limited to people from just one part of the world or is it restricted to those who lived after Christ?" This question is designed to lead your listener to the conclusion that that salvation has been available to mankind in all times and all places.

Focusing and leading questions are teaching tools that aid us to get our point across. In contrast to simply explaining Bahá'í views they help the seeker to see the logic behind what Bahá'u'lláh taught.

Questions for dialogue are genuine requests for information. They are listening tools in contrast to teaching tools. When we don't know what the seeker believes about a topic, we can ask them directly. Thus we might say, "The Bible says that the grace of God has appeared to all men. Yet many millions in China, Africa and America never heard about Jesus Christ during their life times. How do you believe that the grace of God appeared to them?" Then be prepared to listen and to ask follow up questions to get a clear understanding of their beliefs.

Exercise: Mark each of the following F for focusing question, L for leading question, D for dialogue question. Do not answer the questions, rather determine what type of questions they are. There is not always one correct answer. Some of these questions may be combined types with a dual purpose. (Answer the first three questions as a group and the remainder individually. Then discuss the answers.)

1. What does salvation mean to you? _____

2. According to Titus 2:11, what has appeared to all men? ____

3. Could people who lived before Christ receive God's grace? ____

4. What does the grace of God bring? ____

5. How could people living in Tahiti 500 years before Christ gain salvation? ____

6. Would it make sense for God to condemn people if they never had the opportunity to hear God's word or to learn about salvation? ____

7. Bahá'ís believe that God has made a covenant with mankind to never leave them without divine instruction. So the Chinese, Indians and Islanders, all peoples in whatever age they lived, were all recipients of God's Word. What do you believe about that? _____

8. According to Titus 2:11, who are denied the opportunity to hear the Word of Salvation? _____

9. If you agree that God's Word appeared to all peoples in ancient times, how did that work? Did God send prophets to every nation and people? _____

10. What do Baptists believe happens to all the people who lived before Christ? Are they all condemned to hell? _____

11. Would it be just for God to bring a person into existence and give them life but fail to give them an opportunity to know and worship Him? _____



Opening Conversations with Dialogue

One of the simplest and most effective ways to open conversations with people is by asking questions to find out what they believe.

Bahá'í: Did you see that article in the paper today about the situation in Kosovo?
Friend: Yes, it is awful how inhuman people can be.
Bahá'í: The sad thing is that much of the problem centers around differences of religion.
Friend: That's true all around the world; Ireland, Israel, India.
Bahá'í: (to her himself, whispered to the side: "I could start talking about the Unity of Religions now and how Abdu'l-Bahá taught that religions should unite rather than divide, but I think I'll find out more about my friend's beliefs first...)

Bahá'í (to friend): I know what you mean. Do you mind if I ask what religion you are?
Friend: I'm Baptist.
Bahá'í: Baptists are pretty serious about the Bible, aren't they?
Friend: Oh, yes, we have Bible studies are my Church several times a week.
Bahá'í: I've been taking a class on the Bible, myself. We've been studying various denominations and what they believe. Do you mind if I ask you a question?
Friend: No, sure. Go ahead.
Bahá'í: Why do you think there are so many different Churches and why can't they get along better? What about the Catholics and Protestants, etc?
Friend: People just have different opinions and interpretations of the Bible, I guess.
Bahá'í: Do you feel that belief correct doctrine is the basis for salvation? Can't people be saved even if they have different understandings of the Bible?
Friend: Salvation is based on repentance and faith in the blood of Christ.
Bahá'í: Yes, salvation is based on faith, not perfect knowledge. Even if people are mistaken about some of their beliefs, I believe that God will forgive them as long as they have faith.
Friend: That's a very interesting thought. If everyone felt like that it would put an end to a lot of fighting and arguing.
Bahá'í: Yes! People are divided up in too many different ways. By religion, race, nationality and so forth. Have you seen this booklet, Uniting the Human Family?
Friend: No!
Bahá'í: I was reading this last night and found a quote I really like. (Turn to picture from page 8.) Notice how Bahá'u'lláh taught that peoples of all races and religions should set aside their differences and love one another. Would you like to look through this booklet?
Friend: Sure!
Bahá'í: Here. Let me know what you think.

Christian Beliefs and Creeds

Creeds are a summary of essential Christian teachings. They were devised at various times in the history of the Church as tools against heresy. True believers were expected to affirm the truth of the creeds and thus to be identified as loyal Christians. Those who failed to affirm the creeds were considered heretics and apostates. Modern, individual Christians may vary as to their familiarity with these creeds and their personal understanding of them. Nevertheless the creeds represent the traditional statements of belief of the Catholic and many Protestant Churches.

Apostle's Creed

The Apostle's Creed is the most popular creed in Western churches, both Protestant and Catholic, but it is relatively unknown in Eastern churches. Legend has it that the Apostles composed it; however, this is false. It was merely a creed that was used by the early Christians and passed down by word of mouth.

It initially appeared in the second century to refute the teachings of Marcion. Marcion held mystical beliefs about Christ and the nature of man that were viewed as contrary to the central teachings of the Church. Therefore, the Apostle's Creed was a re-statement of those central beliefs that Church leaders felt were vital. It was written down when there was no longer danger of it falling into the wrong hands.

Now, it reads as follows:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. (Amen)

1. List the teachings of the Apostle's Creed.
a)
b)
c)
d)
e)
f)
g)


Selections from the Athanasian Creed

Definition of the Trinity:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith; .Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son and such is the Holy Spirit.

The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Spirit uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensibles, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty; And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; And yet they are not three Gods, but one God....

So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

1. In your own words, describe what most Christian Churches teach about the Trinity.

____________________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________________





Bahá'í Concept of the Trinity
Adapted From 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Explanation in Some Answered Questions

Question. -- What is the meaning of the Trinity, of the Three Persons in One?

Answer. -- The Divine Reality is purified and sanctified from the understanding of human beings and can never be imagined by the people of wisdom and of intelligence. That Lordly Reality cannot be divided into parts; for division and multiplicity are properties of creatures which are contingent existences.

God is pure perfection, and creatures are but imperfections. For God to descend into the conditions of existence would be the greatest of imperfections; on the contrary, when the Word of God is made flesh, His appearance is like the reflection of the sun in a clear, pure, polished mirror. That reflection is the Manifestation of God in creation. All the creatures are evident signs of God, like the earthly beings upon all of which the rays of the sun shine. But upon the plains, the mountains, the trees and fruits, only a portion of the light shines, through which they become visible, and are reared, and attain to the object of their existence.

The Manifestation of God is the Perfect Man. He is in the condition of a clear mirror in which the Sun of Reality becomes visible and manifest with all its qualities and perfections. So the Reality of Christ was a clear and polished mirror of the greatest purity and fineness. The Sun of Reality, the Essence of Divinity, reflected itself in this mirror and manifested its light and heat in it; but from the exaltation of its holiness, and the heaven of its sanctity, the Sun did not descend to dwell and abide in the mirror. No, it continues to subsist in its exaltation and sublimity, while appearing and becoming manifest in the mirror in beauty and perfection.

Now if we say that we have seen the Sun in two mirrors-- one the Christ and one the Holy Spirit--that is to say, that we have seen three Suns, one in heaven and the two others on the earth, we speak truly. And if we say that there is one Sun, and it is pure singleness, and has no partner and equal, we again speak truly.

The Holy Spirit is the Bounty of God which becomes visible and evident in the Reality of Christ. The Sonship station is the heart of Christ, and the Holy Spirit is the station of the spirit of Christ. Hence it has become certain and proved that the Essence of Divinity is absolutely unique and has no equal, no likeness, no equivalent.

This is the signification of the Three Persons of the Trinity. If it were otherwise, the foundations of the Religion of God would rest upon an illogical proposition which the mind could never conceive, and how can the mind be forced to believe a thing which it cannot conceive? A thing cannot be grasped by the intelligence except when it is clothed in an intelligible form; otherwise, it is but an effort of the imagination.

It has now become clear, from this explanation, what is the meaning of the Three Persons of the Trinity. The Oneness of God is also proved. (Some Answered Questions, p. 113-115)
Exercises
Based on the above reading fill in the blanks and answer the following questions.

1. So the Reality of _______________ was a clear and polished ____________ of the greatest purity. The ______ of Reality reflected itself in this mirror and manifested its __________ and heat in it; but from the exaltation of its holiness, and the ______________ of its sanctity, the Sun did not ____________ to dwell and __________ in
the mirror. The Holy Spirit is the ______________ of God which becomes ______________
and evident in the ______________ of ____________.

Now if we say that we have seen the Sun in ______________________- one the
____________ and one the Holy ____________ --that is to say, that we have seen three
Suns, ______ in heaven and the ______ others on the earth, we speak truly. And if we
say that there is one _______, and it is pure singleness, and has no partner and equal,
we again speak __________.


2. What is the Sun of Reality? _____________________________________________________

3. Where is the Sun? ______________________________________________________________

4. How is God seen on earth? ______________________________________________________

5. What two mirrors reflect the glory of the sun? ____________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________________

6. How many "suns" can we see? ___________________________________________________

7. How many suns are there? ______________________________________________________

8. Express Abdu'l-Bahá's explanation of the Trinity in your words.

____________________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________________



Bible Verse Review
Match the verses in the left-hand column to the phrases in the right-hand column.

1. John 16:12-13


A. I am the way and the truth and the life
2. Revelation 3:12


B. He will guide you into all truth.
3. Titus 2:11


C. New name
4. Ezekiel 43:4


D. Test the spirits to identify false prophets.
5. Isaiah 35:1-2


E. Carmel shall see the Glory of the LORD.
6. Matthew 7:15-20


F. Throne of God to be established in Elam.
7. John 1:14


G. You will know them by their fruits.
8. Jeremiah 49:38


H. The Word became flesh.
9. 1 John 4:1-4


I. Grace of God has appeared to all men.


10. John 14:6

J. Glory of God will come from the east.



The Resurrection of Christ
Adapted From 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Explanation in Some Answered Questions

Question.--What is the meaning of Christ's resurrection after three days?

Answer.--The resurrections of the Divine Manifestations are not of the body. All Their states, Their conditions, Their acts, the things They have established, Their teachings, Their expressions, Their parables and Their instructions have a spiritual and divine signification, and have no connection with material things. For example, there is the subject of Christ's coming from heaven: it is clearly stated in many places in the Gospel that the Son of man came from heaven, He is in heaven, and He will go to heaven. So in chapter 6, verse 38, of the Gospel of John it is written: "For I came down from heaven"; and also in verse 42 we find: "And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?" Also in John, chapter 3, verse 13: "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven."

Observe that it is said, "The Son of man is in heaven," while at that time Christ was on earth. Notice also that it is said that Christ came from heaven, though He came from the womb of Mary, and His body was born of Mary. It is clear, then, that when it is said that the Son of man is come from heaven, this has not an outward but an inward signification; it is a spiritual, not a material, fact. The meaning is that though, apparently, Christ was born from the womb of Mary, in reality He came from heaven, from the center of the Sun of Reality, from the Divine World, and the Spiritual Kingdom. And as it has become evident that Christ came from the spiritual heaven of the Divine Kingdom, therefore, His disappearance under the earth for three days has an inner signification and is not an outward fact. In the same way, His resurrection from the interior of the earth is also symbolical; it is a spiritual and divine fact, and not material; and likewise His ascension to heaven is a spiritual and not material ascension.

Beside these explanations, it has been established and proved by science that the visible heaven is a limitless area, void and empty, where innumerable stars and planets revolve.

Therefore, we say that the meaning of Christ's resurrection is as follows: the disciples were troubled and agitated after the martyrdom of Christ. The Reality of Christ, which signifies His teachings, His bounties, His perfections and His spiritual power, was hidden and concealed for two or three days after His martyrdom, and was not resplendent and manifest. No, rather it was lost, for the believers were few in number and were troubled and agitated. The Cause of Christ was like a lifeless body; and when after three days the disciples became assured and steadfast, and began to serve the Cause of Christ, and resolved to spread the divine teachings, putting His counsels into practice, and arising to serve Him, the Reality of Christ became resplendent and His bounty appeared; His religion found life; His teachings and His admonitions became evident and visible. In other words, the Cause of Christ was like a lifeless body until the life and the bounty of the Holy Spirit surrounded it.

Such is the meaning of the resurrection of Christ, and this was a true resurrection. But as the clergy have neither understood the meaning of the Gospels nor comprehended the symbols, therefore, it has been said that religion is in contradiction to science, and science in opposition to religion, as, for example, this subject of the ascension of Christ with an elemental body to the visible heaven is contrary to the science of mathematics. But when the truth of this subject becomes clear, and the symbol is explained, science in no way contradicts it; but, on the contrary, science and the intelligence affirm it.

Exercises
1. Based on Abdu'l-Bahá's explanation of Christ's resurrection, fill in the blanks.

It is said that Christ came from ______________, though He came from the ________ of Mary. When it is said that the Christ is come from heaven, this has not an ______________ but an ____________ signification; it is a __________________, not a material, fact. The meaning is that though, apparently, Christ was ________ from the womb of Mary, in reality He came from ______________, from the ____________ World.

Therefore, we say that the ______________ of Christ's ________________________ is as follows: The Reality of Christ, which signifies His __________________, His bounties, His ______________________ and His spiritual power, was hidden and __________________ for two or three days after His __________________, and was not resplendent and manifest. For the believers were ______ in number and were ________________ and ________________. The Cause of Christ was like a ________________ body; and when after three days the disciples became ______________ and steadfast, and began to __________ the Cause of Christ, the ______________ of Christ became ______________________; His religion found ________.

Such is the meaning of the __________________________ of Christ, and this was a ________ resurrection.



Meaning of Resurrection in the Bible

Many Christians believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ. They say that Christ was put to death on the cross. He lay in the tomb for three days and then his body was raised to life again. For the next forty days, he appeared to the disciples on several occasions as recorded in the Gospel of John (chapters 20 and 21). Finally, he ascended to heaven in a cloud and sat down at the right hand of God's throne to await Judgment Day. (Acts 1; Psalms 110; Acts 2:22-36) When Christ returns, the dead are raised and judged. (2 Timothy 4:1)

The Bible uses the term "resurrection" in two ways. 1) Resurrection refers to the continuation of life after death. The burial of the body is compared to planting a seed which then grows and is given spiritual life. 2) The spiritual awakening that comes with actively living by the teachings of God. This regard to life after death, note the New Testament's explanation.

Someone will say, "How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?"... So also is the resurrection from the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body... Now I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 15:35, 42-44, 50)

Thus for Christians, denying the resurrection of the dead is the same as denying life after death.

If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. (I Corinthians 15:17-19)

In view of the meaning that Christians attach to resurrection, Bahá'ís need to be careful in their explanation of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings. In the sense of life after death, Bahá'ís believe in a literal resurrection. If we say that we do not believe in a literal resurrection we may give the wrong impression for Bahá'u'lláh clearly taught that life literally continues in the next world.

The second meaning the Bible gives to "resurrection" refers to a spiritual reawakening. This is the symbolic resurrection. Those who are heedless of spiritual things are spiritually dead. When they turn their hearts to the glory of God, they are given a new life which is compared to being raised from the dead. Christian baptism, being dipped under the water, is compared to death and burial of the old self. Coming up out of the water is compared to spiritual rebirth.

As many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4)

This concept of symbolic resurrection is used throughout the Bible. The prophet Ezekiel lived while Israel was in exile in Babylon. It was as if the nation were dead. He had a vision of the restoration of Israel that compares the restoration to a mass resurrection.

In vision, Ezekiel sees a valley of dry bones. He sees the bones come to life as their bodies regain sinew, flesh, skin and breath. God explains the meaning of the vision as follows:

These bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, `Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!' Therefore prophesy and say to them, `Thus says the LORD God, "Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves and bring you into the land of Israel."' (Ezekiel 37:11-12)

In this case, exiled Israel was without hope. It was as if they were dead, dry bones. God gave them hope and renewed spiritual life, just as if dry bones were transformed into living bodies.


Exercises

In your own words, explain the two meanings of resurrection in the Bible.

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The Rapture and the Spiritual Resurrection
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul describes how the believers become united with the LORD at the time of His return. We read:

"For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

"For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.... "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober." (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:6)

How are these words meant to be understood? Conservative Christians generally believe that upon Christ's return the living believers will bodily ascend to heaven. According to this view, millions of believers who have died during the centuries while faithfully awaiting the LORD'S return will be raised from the dead in mass and ascend into the clouds to meet the LORD. Sometime later, the living believers will follow.

What is the correct meaning of Paul's inspired words? There are official interpretation of the rapture offered in the Bahá'í Writings. However, many of the principles that relate to the spiritual nature of the resurrection seem applicable to a spiritual, rather than a physical, understanding of the rapture.

To test whether the expectation of a bodily ascension to heaven is consistent with the other Biblical references, consider the following questions. Look up and discuss the cited verses as appropriate.


* Are not the dead in Christ already in heaven with the LORD? (2 Corinthians 5:1-8) If they are already in heaven, how can they rise to meet the LORD at his return?


* How can the living ascend to heaven in view of Paul's saying that there can be no resurrection to heavenly life unless the body dies first? (1 Corinthians 15:36)


* How can the living ascend to heaven in view of Paul's words that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God"? (1 Corinthians 15:50)


* What kind of "sleep" is Paul referring to when he says, "Let us not sleep as do others"? Physical sleep or spiritual sleep?


* What two kinds of death does the Bible speak of? (Matthew 8:22)


* What did Jesus mean when He said, "Let the dead bury their dead"? (Matthew 8:22)


* How can an understanding of spiritual death and resurrection help us to understand the rapture? (Romans 6:3-4)


* How can an understanding of what it means to be "born again" help us to understand the rapture? (See next section.)
Being Born Again and Spiritual Transformation

Some Christians call themselves "Born-Again Christians" due to the emphasis they place on the Bible's teaching about "being born again". This emphasis is particularly strong among conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical Christians. The doctrine is based on numerous references in the New Testament, but particularly the Gospel of John, chapter 3, verses 1 through 8. (See also Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:17-24)

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."

Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"

Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'

Jesus' teaching on being born again is strikingly similar to what Bahá'ís call spiritual transformation. Note Bahá'u'lláh's description of the process of spiritual rebirth:

Only when the lamp of search, of earnest striving, of longing desire, of passionate devotion, of fervid love, of rapture, and ecstasy, is kindled within the seeker's heart, and the breeze of His loving-kindness is wafted upon his soul, will the darkness of error be dispelled, the mists of doubts and misgivings be dissipated, and the lights of knowledge and certitude envelop his being. At that hour will the mystic Herald, bearing the joyful tidings of the Spirit, shine forth from the City of God resplendent as the morn, and, through the trumpet-blast of knowledge, will awaken the heart, the soul, and the spirit from the slumber of negligence. Then will the manifold favours and outpouring grace of the holy and everlasting Spirit confer such new life upon the seeker that he will find himself endowed with a new eye, a new ear, a new heart, and a new mind. He will contemplate the manifest signs of the universe, and will penetrate the hidden mysteries of the soul. Gazing with the eye of God, he will perceive within every atom a door that leadeth him to the stations of absolute certitude. He will discover in all things the mysteries of divine Revelation and the evidences of an everlasting manifestation. (The Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 195-196)
Exercise on Being Born Again

1. Fill in the blanks:
There was a man of the Pharisees named __________________. Jesus said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is ________ again, he cannot see the ______________ of God. That which is born of the flesh is __________, and that which is born of the ___________ is ____________. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You ________ be born __________.' "

Only when the _________ of search, of longing ____________, of ____________________ devotion, is ______________ within the seeker's __________ will the darkness of __________ be dispelled, the mists of ____________ and ____________________ be dissipated, and the lights of __________________ and __________________ envelop his being. Then will the manifold ______________ and outpouring __________ of the holy and everlasting ____________ confer such ______ life upon the seeker that he will find himself endowed with a new ______, a new ______, a new ____________, and a new ________.

One who is ________ again gains ______ life. Only the outpouring of the Holy and Everlasting ___________ can confer new ________.

2. Memorize John 3:3.

3. Memorize the following words of Bahá'u'lláh:
The manifold favours and outpouring grace of the holy and everlasting Spirit confer such new life upon the seeker that he will find himself endowed with a new eye, a new ear, a new heart, and a new mind.

4. Identify the similar concepts in these two quotes and the parallel terms that are used in each.
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5. Compare being born again with a spiritual resurrection. What do they have in common?
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6. Compare being born again with the "rapture." What do they have in common?
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