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TAGS: Christianity; God; Interfaith dialogue; Lawh-i-Ahmad (Tablet of Ahmad (Persian)); Martin Luther; Protestantism
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Abstract:
Comparison of the theologies of Baha'u'llah's Tablet of Ahmad (Persian) and early Protestantism.
Notes:
Written for the Wilmette Institute

Wrathful God of Martin Luther and Baha'u'llah:
Tablet of Ahmad-i-Farsi and Martin Luther (A comparison)

by Roberta Law

1998-04
Introduction

During a study of the Tablet of Ahmad-i-Farsi one encounters a long-suffering, merciful God. However at one point Bahaullah writes: "...the rod with which I can chastise the wicked is grievous, and their fierceness of Mine anger against them terrible." (Gleanings CLIIII, 325) Others, Martin Luther, for example, have spoken and written about the nature of God. The God of Martin Luther and Bahaullah differ in many respects and yet are similiar in several respects.

The Idea of God in the writings of Martin Luther

- God the "unspeakable"

To Martin Luther, originator of the Protestant religion, God is an "unspeakable being"(Armstrong 248). He means that one can never communicate the nature of God through speech.

- God is near

He also writes about God that He is nearer to all creatures than they are to themselves.

-The consequences of unbelief

The real sin, for him, was unbelief in God. He wrote: "Nothing justifies except faith and nothing makes sinful except unbelief." Good works could not shorten a person's destined time in hell, as was believed by the people of his time. Good works followed from belief, but belief was first and most important.

- God incarnate

Martin Luther wrote: "God has found a way that His own divine essence can be completely in all creatures, and in every one especially, deeper, more internally, more present than the creature is to itself and at the same time nowhere and cannot be comprehended by anyone, so that He embraces all things and is within them. God is at the same time in every piece of sand totally and nevertheless in all, above all and out of all creatures."(Armstrong 248) He is, therefore, maintaining that God has found a way to be in and above His creatures at the same time.

- God the wrathful

"Luther's God,"says Armstrong, "was characterized by his wrath. None of the saints, prophets or psalmists had been able to endure this divine anger. It was no good simply trying 'to do one's best.' Because God was eternal and omnipotent, 'his fury or wrath toward self-satisfied sinners is also immeasurable and infinite.' (Luther quoted by Armostrong, 276)

- God's Manifestation

Luther writes that Christ is God because divine effects come from him. He writes that in Christ the Logos has become flesh. (Armstrong 249) P.Tillich, writing about Luther, expressed it this way: "Man cannot stand the naked Absolute; he is driven to despair. For this reason God has given Christ." (Tillich 251) The very subtle distinction of Manifestation and God is confusing rather than clear. The ancient Christian problem of the nature of Christ is, then, resolved by Luther as identification.

The Idea of God in the Writings of Bahaullah

- God the unknowable

God, writes Bahaullah, is unknowable except through His attributes demonstrated by the lives and words of His Messengers. Bahaullah writes: "Exalted, immeasurably exalted, art Thou above the strivings of mortal man to unravel Thy mystery, describe Thy glory, or even to hint at the nature of Thine Essence...Far, far from Thy glory be what mortal man can affirm of Thee, or attribute unto Thee...There is none other God buy Thee, the Inaccessible, the Omnipotent, the Omniscient, the Holy of Holies.S (Gleanings I)

- God is near

He also writes: "This most great, this fathomless and surging Ocean is near, astonishingly near, unto you. Behold it is closer to you than your life-vein." (Gleanings CLIII) Thus God (here His Revelation or Holy Spirit) is both beyond conceptualization, yet also very close.

- God above man

Unlike Martin Luther Bahaullah maintains that God's Own Self or Essence, does not descend into His creatures. The world is an illusion. Reality is invisible. Mankind only experiences the reflection of reality. He writes: "The world is like the vapor in a desert, which the thirsty dreameth to be water and st riveth after it with all his might, until when he cometh unto it, he findeth it to be mere illusion."(Gl.CLIII) However, reality itself is available to man's experience when he listens to the Revelation. "Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes...You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, an d to obtain aportion of their sustaining grace." (GL. CLIII)

- The Consequences of Unbelief.

Bahaullah does affirm the idea of Martin Luther that unbelief is the deepest sin. He writes: "Know thou for a certainty that whoso disbelieveth in God is neither trustworthy nor truthful. This, indeed, is the truth, the undoubted truth. He that acteth treacherously towards God will, also, act treacherously towards his king. Nothing whatever can deter such a man from evil, nothing can hinder him from betraying his neighbor, nothing can induce him to walk uprightly."(GL CXIII, pg.232) Even more clearly Bahaullah writes: "The first duty prescribed by God...is recognition of Him Who is the Day Spring of His Revelation. Whoso achieveth this duty hath attained unto all god; and whoso is deprived thereof, hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed." (GL CLV)

- God's wrath

In many places Bahaullah speaks of the wrath of God. He writes: "He, verily, is the fiercest of avengers."(GLXVI, pg. 130) Yet He assures mankind that "The greatness of His mercy surpasseth the fury of His wrath, and His grace encompasseth all who have been called into being and been clothed with the robe of life."(GL 130) The example of Bahaullah and Ahmad demonstrate this idea that God's mercy is greater than His fury. Bahaullah bore with his companion, Ahmad, through the days of his treachery in Baghdad, took him with Him to Instanbul and finally expelled him from His presence in Adrianople. He showed mercy, patience and forbearance, but finally, as a logical consequence of Ahmad's own behavior, expelled him. Thus, God's wrath is withheld, as a token of mercy, but not forever.

- God's Manifestation.

With the eye of Bahaullah can see that "divine effects"mentioned by Luther come from Christ not because He is God, but because He is a channel of God's Word, i.e., a "Manifestation"of the spirit. The Logos, according to Bahaullah, has been manifested in a person who is at the same time flesh and a channel of the Holy Spirt. This is the way that God has chosen to communicate with and educate the human race. Bahaullah calls this Holy Spirit by many names. Some examples from the Tablet of Ahmad-i-Farsi are: the shoreless ocean, the musk-laden fragrance, pearls, light, flame, mercy, radiance, undying First Primal Word of God, and knowledge of your own self.

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