Facilitating Spiritual Joy
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" ________________________________________________
"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
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
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.
(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
(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
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.
(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.
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.
(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.
, (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.
(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.
(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
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
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.
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
Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to
the Father except through Me."
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)
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
In the beginning was the Word... and the Word became flesh (Jesus) and dwelt
(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
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. (
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
That was the true Light, that gives light to every man coming into the
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.
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
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,
Worksheet for Teaching by Using Questions on Specific Texts
Fill out the following worksheet based on John 1:1 & 14; Titus 2:11 or
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
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
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
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
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.
Did you see that article in the paper today about
the situation in Kosovo?
Yes, it is awful how inhuman people can be.
The sad thing is that much of the problem centers
around differences of religion.
That's true all around the world; Ireland, Israel, India.
(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...)
(to friend): I know what you mean. Do you mind if I
ask what religion you are?
Baptists are pretty serious about the Bible,
Oh, yes, we have Bible studies are my Church several times a
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?
No, sure. Go ahead.
Why do you think there are so many different
Churches and why can't they get along better? What about the Catholics and
People just have different opinions and interpretations of the
Bible, I guess.
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?
Salvation is based on repentance and faith in the blood of
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.
That's a very interesting thought. If everyone felt like that it
would put an end to a lot of fighting and arguing.
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?
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?
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.
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
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
1. List the teachings of the Apostle's Creed.
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
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
1. In your own words, describe what most Christian Churches teach about the
Bahá'í Concept of the Trinity
Adapted From 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Explanation in Some Answered
Question. -- What is the meaning of the Trinity, of the Three Persons
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
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
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)
Based on the above reading fill in the blanks and answer the
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
Suns, ______ in heaven and the ______ others on the earth, we speak truly. And
say that there is one _______, and it is pure singleness, and has no partner
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
The Resurrection of Christ
1. John 16:12-13
A. I am the way and the truth and the life
B. He will guide you into all truth.
C. New name
D. Test the spirits to identify false prophets.
E. Carmel shall see the Glory of the LORD.
F. Throne of God to be established in Elam.
G. You will know them by their fruits.
H. The Word became flesh.
1 John 4:1-4
Grace of God has appeared to all men.|
10. John 14:6
J. Glory of God will come from the east.
Adapted From 'Abdu'l-Bahá's
Explanation in Some Answered Questions
Question.--What is the meaning of Christ's resurrection after three
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
In your own words, explain the two meanings of resurrection in the Bible.
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
"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
* 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
* 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
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.
5. Compare being born again with a spiritual resurrection. What do they have in
6. Compare being born again with the "rapture." What do they have in common?