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Selected Topics of Comparison in Christianity and the Baha'i Faith

by Peter Mazal

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Chapter 1

"The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak"

Christian and Bahá'í doctrines of moral development — A Comparison


1. The Moral Domain

A theory of moral development tries to explain where moral values come from, how they are being acquired, and how they can be best put into practice, enabling human beings to become "moral beings", both individually and socially.

R. Murray Thomas has provided a valuable framework for comparing and evaluating different theories of moral development, both secular and religious, which will be used here in part as the basic structure for the intended comparison.[1]

The moral domain of each theory encompasses certain "objects" that need to be identified. Typically, moral values focus on human relationships and determine proper individual and social conduct. In the case of religious theories, the relationship between humans and their Creator is an essential part of the moral domain as well. Sometimes, the context is extended further and includes guidelines to deal also with animals, plants, and the environment in general.

In Christianity, the relationships to God and to one's fellow human beings are being regarded as equally important and closely connected. When asked, which of the laws was the most important, Jesus quoted Moses, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind".[2] He than added, that there was a second law, equally important, again referring to Mosaic law, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself".[3]

On another occasion, Jesus had already greatly expanded the concept of the "neighbour" to include one's enemies as well,[4] and so it could be postulated that a proper Christian ethical perspective would be universal, inclusive and non-discriminatory.

Although Christ had emphatically raised the call for universal love, his adherents have not yet been able (or willing) to overcome the barriers of religious, racial, social, and gender prejudices.[5]

Partly, this phenomenon could be explained with the dichotomous world-view, characteristic for a world, traversing the childhood and youth stages of social and spiritual evolution.[6]

Characteristic of the collective age of immaturity is a polaric, dualistic perspective. 'Abdu'l-Bahá explains how "in all religious teachings of the past the human world has been represented as divided into two parts: one known as the people of the Book of God, or the pure tree, and the other the people of infidelity and error, or the evil tree".[7] The challenge today consists in overcoming the pattern of such a polaric and exclusive thinking, and to give way to an integral, inclusive perspective.

Consequently, in the Bahá'í Writings we find the concept of universal love more explicitly expressed: "You must manifest complete love and affection toward all mankind. Do not exalt yourselves above others, but consider all as your equals, recognizing them as the servants of one God. Know that God is compassionate toward all; therefore, love all from the depths of your hearts, prefer all religionists before yourselves, be filled with love for every race, and be kind toward the people of all nationalities".[8]

As in Christianity, this concept of universal love is based on and motivated by the love of God. It is even asserted, that "love of God, and consequently of men, is the essential foundation of every religion".[9]

Focussing on our common origin, on God's love towards all His creatures, and on His divine trust (spiritual qualities) placed in all of us, we can easier overcome feelings of antipathy towards others, that naturally arouse on the human level because of perceived differences and short-comings.[10]

As part of an extended view of the moral domain, we will now briefly look at the relationship towards animals and the environment in both belief-systems.

Animals have never played a great role in the moral domain of Christianity (with the notable exception of Francis of Assisi). Following Roman Law, which only distinguishes between persons and objects, animals have been regarded as objects and treated according to their level of utility. Only recently it has been acknowledged, that animals, at least high-developed mammals, are capable of feeling emotions, such as pain, fear, and pleasure. Consequently, modern interpretations of Christian ethics, regarding the treatment of animals, focus more on the values of responsibility, caring, and the concept of being trustees of God rather than rulers and exploiters.[11]

Admonitions to treat animals responsibly and moderately are scattered throughout the Bible (especially the Torah), such as their right to rest on the Sabbath,[12] not to inflict unnecessary pain on them,[13] or provide relief when they are over-burdened.[14] The attempt to highlight these admonitions, to give them "paradigmatic meaning", [15] is praiseworthy. However, these arguments have not yet played a major role in current ethical discussions about animal rights, animal experiments (for the cosmetic industry), mass breeding of animals in "factories", or genetic manipulation.

The situation is similar with regards to the environment - no explicit guidelines for ecologically correct behaviour can be concretely deduced from the Bible. Moral theologists today, in the light of so many symptoms of an environmental crisis, call for an expanded concept of the "Golden Rule", to include the non-human aspects of creation as well.[16] God's instruction for humanity to "have dominion ... over all the earth" and "subdue it"[17] should be likened to the attitude of a just king towards his subjects or a loving shepherd towards his flock. Such an attitude would imply feelings of love, compassion and caring, rather than greed, aloofness and exploitation.[18]

Last but not least, the attempts to improve the ecological situation of our planet can be based on Paul's assurance, that the whole of creation will be saved and renewed in the times to come.[19]

With regards to the eating of animals, theologians draw attention to the fact, that originally human diet consisted of seed-containing plants, fruits and nuts.[20] In the times of Noah, it became lawful to eat animals as well.[21]

Certain food restrictions (consumption of meat of strangled or sacrificed animals, or of meat still containing blood) were cancelled in the early Christian community[22] and Paul exhorted his fellow believers to be tolerant towards each other: "For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him".[23] Some Christians (and Jews) believe that in the peaceful future to come, the 'Golden Age', no meat will be eaten anymore.[24]

In the Bahá'í Faith, there are no restrictions concerning food. 'Abdu'l-Bahá points out, that human teeth were not designed to eat meat (which provides an interesting parallel to the original human diet, according to the book of Genesis), and consequently, we could live healthily on a vegetarian based diet.

However, this matter is left to the conscience (and constitution) of the individual.[25] Nevertheless, there are indications in the Bahá'í Writings, that the eating of meat will decrease and eventually stop.[26] This trend will be based on the findings of a science of nutrition, still in its early stage of development, but also on an increasing sense of compassion.[27]

To facilitate such a process of aquiring a more refined sense of compassion towards animals, 'Abdu'l-Bahá recommends that children should be entrusted with pets, so that they can learn to take responsibility for them. The main underlying reason is precisely the recognition of the fact that animals share with humans the capacity for feelings. Unlike humans however, they are unable to verbalize their emotions and appeal for just treatment. Their fate is determined by our good will and they depend on our care and protection.[28]

With regards to the environment, Bahá'u'lláh emphatically reiterates the Biblical concept of nature, being the "will" and "creation" of God.[29]

Equally, God's command for humanity to "subdue the earth" has not been abrogated,[30] in spite of having misused this trust so badly. But exploitation of the earth's resources is not a recent phenomenon, although its impact on a global basis is certainly more dramatic than ever before.

Already in the Old Testament, we find the warning of the prophet Isaiah, directed against the king of Babylon, foretelling his fall, because he has ruined the land and enslaved his people.[31] But the prophet does not only provide a vision of doom, he also offers one of hope. The prospect for nature is to recover[32], the prospect for the people is to be able to return to the City of God, to Zion.[33]

Babylon and Zion are used throughout the Hebrew and Christian Bible (Revelation of John) as spiritual images, archetypal in nature - counterpoles of selfishness, presumptiousness, and exploitation vs. a life in harmony with spiritual principles.[34]

The moral lesson, that we can learn, according to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, is that "allegiance to the essential foundation of the divine religions is ever the cause of development and progress, whereas the abandonment and beclouding of that essential reality through blind imitations and adherence to dogmatic beliefs are the causes of a nation's debasement and degradation".[35]

As this example shows, environmental issues are closely connected to man's moral attitude, and this legitimizes an extended view of the moral domain.

2. Sources of Evidence

The main source of evidence for the various Christian denominations is the Bible, consisting of the "Old Testament"[36], and the "New Testament".[37]

Less important, and only selectively used, are the writings of the "Church Fathers" (early Christian scholars, most notably St. Augustine) and later scholars (above all, Thomas Aquinas, with his monumental work "Summa Theologica").

The Catholic Church also includes the Papal decrees (formulating binding beliefs, the "dogmas") into the canon of "primary literature" and pays respect to many other Papal writings (such as the Encyclicas, with non-binding character, written for guidance, admonition, and edification).

There is at least one Christian sect, the Mormons, who regard another text (the "Book of Mormon") as Holy Scripture besides the Bible.

In the Bahá'í Faith, the Writings of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh are regarded as holy (divinely inspired), but the canon of primary literature includes also the writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and of Shoghi Effendi.[38] The letters of the Universal House of Justice provide a valuable source for moral guidance as well, but fall into a different category.[39]

"Investigative techniques" are used to approach and understand the various "sources of evidence". Thomas basically distinguishes between "divine inspiration" and a "scientific approach".[40]

Whilst the latter is subject to falsification and verification, and to a constant process of evaluation and refinement, proponents of the first take the truth of "revelation" as granted and absolute.

The problem of course is, that divine "truth" still depends on human interpretation, and how diverse such understanding can be, is amply demonstrated by the belief-systems of the various Christian sects and denominations.

In the Bahá'í Faith, the coherence of the community is safeguarded by the "Covenant",[41] but certainly there is a variety of individual beliefs and preferences, that ideally can all unfold under the umbrella of "Unity in Diversity".

The Bahá'í Faith also introduces the concept of `the relativity of religious truth'. It explains that "Divine Revelation is a continuous and progressive progress", the different religious teachings being "but facets of one truth", with "complementary functions", differing only in the "nonessential aspects of their doctrines" and that "their missions represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society".[42]

Ignoring this scheme of inter-connectedness, clinging on to obsolete, divisive orthodox doctrines, is one of the main causes for the state of confusion that the world is in.[43]

Within Christianity, there is a wide spectrum of opinions regarding the authenticity of the Bible, and, consequently, the degree of divine inspiration. Fundamentalist Christians take every word for true and literal, others take a more liberal approach, allowing different (historic and symbolic) interpretations. Many appreciate the wisdom and beauty of Christ's teachings, but are uncertain about their status (whether they come from a divine source and are infallible, or are mere expressions of human wisdom, with the risk of containing possible errors).[44]

Catholics have always relied on the sermons and interpretations by the priest. Until the time of Reformation, no translation into a modern language was available, and the majority of people did not speak Latin. Protestants used the Bible (Luther's German translation) extensively in their criticism of the corruptive state of the Catholic Church, and the counter-reaction was suspicion of anyone reading the Bible privately. Consequently, independent Bible study became somehow a Protestant domain (the first Catholic translation appeared only hundred years after Luther's work), and was discouraged as late as in 1897 by Pope Leo XIII.

A change came with the Second Vatican Council (1965), which expressed the hope that the Word of God will provide new motivation for the spiritual life. But centuries of Church authorities' suspicion of the private use of the Bible seems still to linger in the collective memory of the people. Bible reading is a recent and still marginal phenomenon among Catholics.[45]

In the Bahá'í Faith, great emphasis is placed on both inspirational reading[46] and a thorough study of the Holy Writings. Studying the Writings in depth is encouraged from different angles:

  • It helps to develop an increasing understanding of mystical truths: "Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths".[47]
  • It corresponds with the principle of "Independent Investigation of Truth": "I urge them to study profoundly the revealed utterances of Bahá'u'lláh and the discourses of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and not to rely unduly on the representation and interpretation of the Teachings given by Bahá'í speakers and teachers".[48]
  • It facilitates the success in teaching: "To deepen in the Cause means to read the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and the Master so thoroughly as to be able to give it to others in its pure form".[49]
  • It provides vision and a sense of purpose: " [T]he more you study the Cause and its teachings the more you will realize what a mission it has to give to this world at this time".[50]
  • It helps to understand better the preceding religions: "The one who ponders over that book [Iqan] and grasps its full significance will obtain a clear insight into the old scriptures".[51]
  • And, above all, it provides the impetus for moral behaviour: "To study the principles, and to try to live according to them, are, therefore, the two essential mediums through which you can ensure the development and progress of your inner spiritual life and of your outer existence as well".[52]
  • "It behoveth us one and all to recite day and night both the Persian and Arabic Hidden Words, to pray fervently and supplicate tearfully that we may be enabled to conduct ourselves in accordance with these divine counsels. These holy Words have not been revealed to be heard but to be practiced."[53]

Personal interpretation is welcomed and encouraged. It is "considered the fruit of man's rational power and conducive to a better understanding of the teachings ...". One important condition qualifies this statement, which continues: "...provided that no disputes or arguments arise among the friends and the individual himself understands and makes it clear that his views are merely his own".[54]

The freedom of thought and expression should be balanced with humility and tolerance, in order to avoid heated and unproductive arguments, or even worse, "dissension and strife".[55]

3. The Nature of Personality

An important issue to start with, is the question whether we are born intrinsically good or evil.

The Catholic Church has developed the doctrine of the original sin. The fall of Adam and Eve, their disobedience against God, has been inherited to the generations that followed. Consequently, children are born sinful and salvation can only be obtained through baptism and belief in Christ. Other Christian denominations, which do not subscribe literally to this doctrine, would still view human beings as naturally being inclined towards evil. Moral education therefore aims at overcoming one's sinful nature, of battling against temptations, with the help of promises of reward (Heaven), respectively threats of punishment (Hell).

The Bahá'í Writings affirm that humans are being born noble[56] and refute a literal interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve, on which the doctrine of original sin is based, as "unreasonable and evidently wrong"[57]. A symbolic interpretation instead is provided, explaining that it is not sin per se, but "attachment of the soul and spirit to the human world", that is being inherited, preventing humans from attaining "essential spirituality".[58]

This earthly attachment it is, symbolized by the snake in the Bible, referred to in the Bahá'í Writings as "ego", as "animal", "physical", "material", "lower", "insistent" and "satanic" self/nature, metaphorically equated with a "prison", a "tomb", a "sheath", a "veil", "fire" and "dust", that we have to struggle against, and try to subdue, in order to manifest our "true", "higher" or "spiritual" self/nature.

Tempting as it may be, to regard this concept of a higher and lower self as a dualistic one, we are cautioned not to do so. The metaphoric distinction is one of function or manifestation, not of identity.[59]

Christian Theologians are divided over the question, whether heart, soul, spirit, and mind are different components/aspects of our inner reality, or merely synonyms, describing this inner reality from different perspectives. The Bible does not provide much clarity on such psychological issues. Statements like "thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength",[60] or "I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless",[61] seem to imply a distinction. In other passages the terms "heart", "soul" and "spirit" seem to be used interchangeably.[62]

Difficulties of interpretation arise, because such statements were never intended to provide an anthropological or psychological description, rather they are religious sentiments, moral exhortations and spiritual images. Further ambiguity derives from the problem of various translations.[63]

In the Bahá'í Writings, numerous passages deal with the inner human reality, and shed a lot more light on the subject. Besides references, which list these faculties only in passing, like in the Bible,[64] we find texts that go into great detail and provide the reservoir for a Bahá'í inspired psychology to evolve.[65]

Based on such passages, Jordan identifies the twin capacities of "loving and knowing" as the ones, which "constitute the basic nature of human potential" and sees in their development the goal of "becoming your true self".[66] Consequently, he defines a spiritual person as one "who knows and loves God, and who is committed to the struggle of developing these knowing and loving capacities for service to humanity".[67]

Implicit in this definition is the third main power of the human soul, the faculty of free will, that expresses itself in commitment, struggling, and service. It is this third element, that Danesh adds explicitly to a triade model of "knowledge, love and will".[68] He develops this model further, by correlating these three main human powers with three primary human concerns (Self, Relationships, and Time). Moreover, each section contains three hierarchical levels of development, thus arriving at a fairly complex model of the human soul, strongly being based on the Bahá'í Writings.

For McLean, the Bahá'í Writings provide "a divine anthropology", a necessary bridge between psychology and religion, by coinciding with many insights of modern psychology, and by reviving, clarifying, and developing the concepts of `spirit', `soul' and `God'.[69]

One such `clarification', or `re-definition', concerns the concept of personality.[70] Usually, `individuality' and `personality' are interchangable terms. The differences in personality, our specific character traits, attitudes and behaviour patterns, are the expression of our individuality.

'Abdu'l-Bahá however, distinguishes two kinds of personality: the God-given attributes, an unchangeable set of qualities, in the state of potentiality, as opposed to the actualization of this `spiritual heritage', acquired in the course of our lives, which entail both vices and virtues.[71]

This definition reconciles the apparent contradiction between the Biblical concept of man, being created in the image of God, and the actual outcome, often not resembling such a noble state.

It also emphasizes our responsibility (and of those who are in charge of our education), to refine and develop those original virtues, "in the same way that the beauty of the statue is a refinement of the original marble".[72]

4. Moral versus Immoral

Each theory offers guidelines (moral values), which help us to decide whether a thought or act is moral or immoral. Thomas proposes that moral values can be represented as principles or conditions. Principles are "unqualified statements of belief",[73] which means that their application to daily life is not modified by any personal or exterior factor, such as quality of character, moral conscience, or social versus personal determinism. Such factors (conditions) usually affect the application of moral principles, and need to be identified, when assessing a theory's version of moral development.

Thomas gives as examples of principles the Ten Commandments, but contradicts himself, when he says, "rarely, if ever, does anyone apply a moral principle in an identical manner in all situations".[74] Situations, that can even neutralize some of the Ten Commandments, are known as `moral dilemmas', when two (or more) moral principles clash.

I would like to illustrate this point with a fictitious (but realistic) example: A Christian was hiding a Jew during the time of Hitler's regime. When asked, if he knew about this Jew's whereabouts, he denied, thereby saving this person's life. Only by violating one of the Commandments (not to lie), he could remain faithful to the higher maxime of preserving human life.

Moral dilemmas can only be solved, if we accept the notion of a hierarchy of values (principles). The way out of the dilemma lies in breaking a (relatively) less important principle, in order to remain loyal to a higher one.[75]

To establish a hierarchy of values is necessary, but not sufficient. In the example given above, the Christian may have hidden the Jew out of an ulterior motive (greed, for example - the Jew promised him a large amount of money if he survived). Clearly, the moral quality of such an act would have been much less, even though the outcome (the person's survival) was the same. We can therefore conclude, that one of the most important conditions is the moral intention, the inner motivation, with which an action is carried out.[76]

Obviously, we cannot look into another person's heart, to assess the moral intention of their deeds. This is one of the reasons, why both Christ and Bahá'u'lláh have emphatically discouraged us from judging somebody else. We can only judge ourselves, and are exhorted to do so.[77]

Another important differentiation that is often made, is to distinguish between individual and collective ethics. Whether or not (respectively, in which cases) such a distinction is justified, has often been a controversial issue in the religious history of mankind. The most important example (with the most dramatic consequences) is certainly the question, whether it is legitimate to kill (not on an individual basis, as every religion forbids murder, but on a collective basis, as in the case of war).

The early Christians took Christ's admonition, to refrain from violence, as "unqualified statement of belief".[78] All the prominent Church Fathers of the second and third century condemned any act of violence and made no difference between individual crimes (murder) and collective killing (war).[79] Soldiers, who converted to Christianity, were allowed to remain in the army, but Christians, who wanted to become soldiers, were threatened with excommunication.[80]

All this changed, when Emperor Constantine started to favour Christianity. Moral values, that have held the Christian community together for 300 years, were turned upside down, when the Church gained power and aligned with politics. The strict anti-militarism and pacifism of the early Church turned into active participation in the expansion of the Roman (now Christian) Empire. The Christian community was glad that the era of persecution was over, and that they found themselves on the winning side.[81]

Around 350, Church Teacher Basilius recommends that, at least, soldiers "with their unclean hand should refrain from communion for three years", but his contemporary, the patriarch Athanasius, already postulates, that "Murder is not allowed. But in wars it is both legal and praiseworthy, to kill enemies". Augustine formulates the theory of a "just war", in which case it is legitimate to "take revenge for injustice". And it can be safely said that "just wars" have been fought ever since.
Despite Christ's admonition, to leave the judgement of good and evil to God (on the Day of Judgement)[82], the Catholic Church has massacred millions of "heretics", who posed a danger to the doctrine and life-style of the "official" church.[83] It has been said, that "from Augustine goes a straight line to the Albigensian Wars, the Inquisition, the condemnations of Huss and Servet, the martyrs of the Reformation and of the religious wars".[84]The list could be extended easily, but the point is clear. Theologians throughout the centuries have tried very hard to justify this dramatic paradigm shift from the original concept of pacifism to a militant religionism.[85] Most of the arguments are weak and unconvincing, and some are even based on false premises.[86]

Other moral issues, that have experienced a radical re-definition over the course of centuries, include the question of poverty vs. wealth,[87] the status of women,[88] and the issue of celibacy.[89]

In the Bahá'í Faith, the concept of religiously motivated war and, in a wider context, any activities aiming at discriminating the followers of other religions have been categorically denounced.[90]

However, the Bahá'í Faith does not advocate an absolute pacifistic position. Bahá'ís are advised to serve in the civic sector of society rather than do active army service, but not everywhere such alternatives exist. In such a case, the principle of loyalty to the government would overrule the concept of strict pacifism.[91]

Even in a future era of global peace, when war will be internationally outlawed, occasional outbursts of violence of one country against another cannot be excluded. It is precisely for this reason, that Bahá'u'lláh foresees the installation of an international army, ready to rise unanimously against any aggressor, who threatens to destabilize a peaceful and united world society.[92]

5. Good and Bad Development

From an objective point of view, this distinction seems to be straightforward. Good moral development refers to a person's character "changing in a way that more closely approximates a particular theory's conception of desired morality", whereas the opposite development "signifies thought and action that depart from the path of desired morality". [93] Thomas suggests, that "regression, retrogression, deviance, backsliding, or deterioration" stand for bad moral development.

However, from a subjective perspective, the issue of moral development becomes more complex. Both religions provide the insight, that each person has been equipped with different talents and capacities.[94]
Any comparison becomes problematic, considering the fact, that people who seem to be very highly morally advanced, may have been endowed with more "talents" than others, their "receptacle" may be larger, but they have not (yet) developed their potential to the extent possible. Whereas others may appear to be less morally developed, but may already have tried much harder to fulfill their potential.

The keyword is "striving" - Shoghi Effendi confirms, that "[t]he harder you strive to attain your goal, the greater will be the confirmations of Bahá'u'lláh, and the more certain you can feel to attain success", whereas "a quick and rapidly-won success is not always the best and the most lasting."[95]

Both religions confirm the influence of "Satan", who hinders and sabotages the continuous moral development of people. In Christianity, the "devil" is personalized and regarded as external force, entering the souls of people and tempting them. In the Bahá'í Faith, the allegoric nature of "Satan" is explained, referring to the lower nature of man.[96]

But even if we postulate, for argument's sake, the existence of an external satanic force, such an assumption would not justify the notion of being a helpless victim. Tempting as it may be, to blame "Satan" for one's shortcomings and failures to advance morally, we find no evidence for such conclusions in the Bible. What we do find, are exhortations to be vigilant and prayerful, and other guidelines to guard ourselves against and ward off any negative influence.[97]

We also find the promise that we will never be tempted beyond our capacities, in other words, we could always find ways and means to defeat such negative forces.[98]

Moral development can be seen as a constant struggle between the lower ("satanic") and the higher ("heavenly") aspects of Self. Occasional "backsliding" seems to be inevitable, and I would hesitate to label this already as "bad moral development".[99] If "backsliding" turns into a gradual process of "deterioration", if less and less energy in "striving" to overcome one's weaknesses is invested, or even if a prolonged phase of stagnation in the process of developping moral qualities can be witnessed, we may with more justification speak of a phase of "bad moral development".[100]

The Catholic Church has, over the centuries, implanted a lot of guilt-feelings into the hearts of her adherents, when they failed to live up to the high ideals of their religion. In my view, it is important to accept the struggle of our dual nature, as outlined above, as a natural consequence of our human design. This is not to say to treat shortcomings lightly and not to try to overcome them. This is to say that the nurturing of guilt-feelings impedes this process of transformation, it has a discouraging effect, as we are inclined to perceive of ourselves as 'bad', 'unworthy', and incapable of improvement.

It may be comforting to realize that we are not alone in this struggle for becoming better human beings, and in the frustrating failure to translate our belief into action. Even prominent figures, like the apostles Peter and Paul, struggled and slipped occasionally, as the New Testament reveals.[101]

The difficulty of this perennial struggle is also acknowledged in the Bahá'í Writings. 'Abdu'l-Bahá provides an illuminating analogy in comparing the process of spiritual transformation to the four lunar phases:
Know thou, verily, the brilliant realities and sanctified spirits are likened to a shining crescent. It has one face turned toward the Sun of Truth, and another face opposite to the contingent world. The journey of this crescent in the heaven of the universe ends in (becoming) a full moon. That is, that face of it which is turned toward the divine world becomes also opposite to the contingent world, and by this, both its merciful and spiritual, as well as contingent, perfections become complete.[102]

McLean observes, how, during the first two stages, the "soul's earthward face, however, is still in shadow, indicating the persistence of old habits and darker mental predispositions". Only gradually, not in clear-cut stages, the soul becomes more illumined "with the consistent and patient practice of spiritual virtues expressed in a life of service", and finally reflects fully "the light of the sun", a station that has been reffered to as that of a "true believer".[103]

This process is really the work of a lifetime, and even beyond, as the Bahá'í Writings indicate:
Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. [104]

However, progress in the next world is not dependent on our volition anymore, but rather on prayers and intercessions of other people, of good works performed in our name, and, of course, on the bounty of God.[105]

Even if the general Christian concept of the next world is more static, intercession and prayers for the dead are still known and used. This practice would be useless, if the souls would not profit by those means and develop further, closer to God.[106]

Conclusion

It has been the purpose of this paper to show how remarkably alike the concept of moral development in both Christianity and the Bahá'í Faith is. Even if in Christianity, due to the lack of a unifying source of authoritative interpretation, a variety of theological opinions exist, a close reading of the original sources reveal a fundamental spiritual compatibility with the Bahá'í Writings. In all the areas discussed, the moral domain, the nature of personality, the concept of morality and the development of the soul, we find similar guidelines that can help believers to advance spiritually and to work for the betterment of both their individual selves and their environment. Concentrating on these similarities, rather than on theological differences, would also be conducive to the process of interfaith dialogue, and to the eventual development of a global ethical system.

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Danesh, H.B. The Psychology of Spirituality. Manotick, Ont.: Nine Pines Publ., 1994.
Deepening. A Compilation on the Importance of Deepening our Understanding and Knowledge of the Faith. Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 1983.
Deschner, Karlheinz. Abermals krähte der Hahn. Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1979 [1962].
Fischer, Udo. Linker Jesus, Rechte Kirche. Wien-Klosterneuburg: Edition Va Bene, 1994.
Franzen, August. Kleine Kirchengeschichte. 5th ed. Freiburg/B.: Herder, 1975 [1965]. Gebser, Jean. Ursprung und Gegenwart. München: Hugendubel, 1973. Grundy, Julia M. Ten Days in the Light of Akka. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1979.
Häring, Bernhard. Frei in Christus: Moraltheologie für die Praxis des christlichen Lebens. Vol.3. Freiburg/B.: Herder, 1989 [1981].
Jordan, Daniel C. Becoming your true self. London: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1993.
Khoury, Theodor, and Hünemann, Peter, eds. Wer ist mein Nächster? Die Antwort der Weltreligionen. Freiburg/B.: Herder, 1988.
Lights of Guidance. Compiled by Helen Bassett Hornby. 4th rev. ed. New Delhi: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1996 [1983].
McLean, J.A. Dimensions in Spirituality. Oxford: George Ronald, 1994. Thomas, R. Murray, Moral Development Theories - Secular and Religious. A Comparative Study. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997.
Schilling, Otto. Grundriss der Moraltheologie. 2nd ed. Freiburg/B.: Herder, 1949 [1948].
Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1990.
—— God Passes By. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1974.
—— Living the Life. Ipswich, Suffolk: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1984.
—— The Promised Day is Come. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1996.
—— Unfolding Destiny. London: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1981.
—— World Order of Bahá'u'lláh. Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1991.
Smith, Peter. The Babi and Bahá'í Religions. From messianic Shi'ism to a world religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Stoeckle, Bernhard, ed. Wörterbuch der ökologischen Ethik: Die Verantwortung des Christen für den Bestand der Schöpfung. Freiburg/B.: Herder, 1986.
The Universal House of Justice. The Promise of World Peace. Oxford: Oneworld Publ., 1990.

Footnotes

[1] Thomas, Moral Development Theories - Secular and Religious. A Comparative Study.
Thomas asserts that "a multifaceted, balanced understanding of any moral-development theory is gained from learning the theory's answer to a comprehensive set of questions" (p. 2) and he provides such a set, consisting of twelve "Guide Questions" (The Moral Domain, Moral vs. Immoral, Good/Bad Development, Sources of Evidence, Moral-Development Reality, Moral Human Nature, Length of Development, Personality Structure, Directions, Processes, and Stages, Causal Factors, Individual Differences, Nomenclature, Popularity).

As a next step, he selected eight criteria, by which each theory's adequacy can be evaluated, judging to what extent they are understandable, explanatory, practical, verifiable, adaptable, fertile, lasting, and self-satisfying.

For a detailed overview and explanation of the `12 Guide Questions' and the `8 Evaluation Criteria', see Thomas, Moral Development Theories, chapter 1.

[2] Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37.

[3] Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39.

[4] See Matt. 5:38-48.

[5] It is remarkable, how often the Catholic Church found excuses to flagrantly violate Christ's truly universal and inclusive message of love. Christian groups with conflicting views were persecuted as "heretics", Jews were discriminated and periodically persecuted, women were burnt as "witches", scientists faced enmity and opposition, indigenous peoples were forcefully converted, and "Holy Wars" were conducted against the "heathens" (i.e. Muslims, with a more distinct monotheistic belief system than Christians themselves).

[6] For the concept of social and spiritual evolution, see for example, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 439, or Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pp.165 and 202; see also the concept of evolving structures of consciousness in the philosophy of Jean Gebser, Ursprung und Gegenwart (Origin and Present).

[7] 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 454

[8] Ibid., p. 453.

See also 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Will and Testament, p. 14: "Consort with all the peoples, kindreds and religions of the world with the utmost truthfulness, uprightness, faithfulness, kindliness, good-will and friendliness, that all the world of being may be filled with the holy ecstasy of the grace of Baha, that ignorance, enmity, hate and rancor may vanish from the world and the darkness of estrangement amidst the peoples and kindreds of the world may give way to the Light of Unity".

[9] Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life, p. 21.

[10] "Love the creatures for the sake of God and not for themselves. You will never become angry or impatient if you love them for the sake of God. Humanity is not perfect. There are imperfections in every human being, and you will always become unhappy if you look toward the people themselves. But if you look toward God, you will love them and be kind to them, for the world of God is the world of perfection and complete mercy" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 93).

[11] See Hilpert, Entry on `Tier' (Animal), in Woerterbuch der oekologischen Ethik (Dictionary of Ecological Ethics), pp. 122-27.

[12] Ex. 20:10; 23:12.

[13] Deut. 25:4.

[14] Ex. 23:5.

[15] Hilpert, p. 124.

[16] Beutter, Entry on `Umwelt' (Environment), in Woerterbuch der oekologischen Ethik, p. 137.

[17] Gen. 1:26-28.

[18] See Brunner, Entry on `Schoepfung' (Creation), in Woerterbuch der oekologischen Ethik, p. 115.

[19] "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility,
not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its
bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Romans 8:18-21).

[20] Gen.1:29.

[21] Gen. 9:3.

[22] See Rom. 14:14.

[23] Rom. 14:2-3.

[24] See Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:25.

[25] "All the teeth of man are made for eating fruit, cereals, and vegetables...But eating meat is not forbidden or unlawful, nay, the point is this, that it is possible for man to live without eating meat and still be strong. Meat is nourishing and containeth the elements of herbs, seeds, and fruits; therefore sometimes it is essential for the sick and for the rehabilitation of health. There is no objection in the Law of God to the eating of meat if it is required" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Health and Healing, p. 463).

"In regard to the question as to whether people ought to kill animals for food or not, there is no explicit statement in the Bahá'í Sacred Scriptures (as far as I know) in favour or against it. It is certain, however, that if man can live on a purely vegetarian diet and thus avoid killing animals, it would be much preferable. This is, however, a very controversial question and the Bahá'ís are free to express their views on it" (Shoghi Effendi, quoted in Lights of Guidance, p. 297).

[26] "[M]an's food is intended to be grain and not meat. When mankind is more fully developed, the eating of meat will gradually cease" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.171).

"The time will come when meat will no longer be eaten. Medical science is only in its infancy, yet it has shown that our natural diet is that which grows out of the ground. The people will gradually develop up to the condition of this natural food." ('Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted in Julia M. Grundy, Ten Days in the Light of Akka, pp. 8-9).

[27] "Truly, the killing of animals and the eating of their meat is somewhat contrary to pity and compassion, and if one can content oneself with cereals, fruit, oil and nuts, ... it would undoubtedly be better and more pleasing" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted in Lights of Guidance, p. 296).

[28] "Briefly, it is not only their fellow human beings that the beloved of God must treat with mercy and compassion, rather must they show forth the utmost loving-kindness to every living creature. For in all physical respects, and where the animal spirit is concerned, the selfsame feelings are shared by animal and man... And yet in truth, what difference is there when it cometh to physical sensations? The feelings are one and the same, whether ye inflict pain on man or on beast. There is no difference here whatever. And indeed ye do worse to harm an animal, for man hath a language, he can lodge a complaint...But the hapless beast is mute....Therefore is it essential that ye show forth the utmost consideration to the animal, and that ye be even kinder to him than to your fellow man. Train your children from their earliest days to be infinitely tender and loving to animals. If an animal be sick, let the children try to heal it, if it be hungry, let them feed it, if thirsty, let them quench its thirst, if weary, let them see that it rests" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, pp. 158-159).

[29] "Say: Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God's Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world. It is a dispensation of Providence ordained by the Ordainer, the All-Wise. Were anyone to affirm that it is the Will of God as manifested in the world of being, no one should question this assertion. It is endowed with a power whose reality men of learning fail to grasp. Indeed a man of insight can perceive naught therein save the effulgent splendour of Our Name, the Creator. Say: This is an existence which knoweth no decay, and Nature itself is lost in bewilderment before its revelations, its compelling evidences and its effulgent glory which have encompassed the universe" (Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 142).

[30] "All creation is made subject to the laws of nature, but man has been able to conquer these laws ... to man God has given such wonderful power that he can guide, control and overcome nature ... man can govern nature ... man has been created master of nature, how foolish it is of him to become her slave" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pp. 122-123).

[31] "They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to
tremble, that did shake kingdoms; That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not
the house of his prisoners?" (Isaiah 14:16-17).

[32] " The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing. Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars
of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us" (Isaiah 14: 7-8)

[33] "Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and
none shall be alone in his appointed times. What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the LORD
hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it" (Isaiah 14:31-32).

[34] Peter Newman discusses these two images in more detail, with regards to ecology, in his essay "Our Environment - Past, Present and Future", in The Environment. Our Common Heritage.

[35] 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 363.
See also ibid., p.407, and Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 78.

[36] This term is used, from a Christian point of view, to refer to the Jewish Bible. The original Jewish Bible consisted of 24 books (certain books were put together and counted as one - counting each book separately, it would come up to 39 books).
In 300 B.C., Jews in the Greek Exile translated the Bible into Greek ("Septuaginta"), and added 7 more books to the canon (46 books total). The Catholics (in 382 C.E.) and the Orthodox (in 692 C.E.) accepted this compilation, whereas the Protestants do not include those additional 7 books in their Bible translations (thus having only 39 books).

[37] The New Testament consists of 27 books, namely the 4 Gospels (lit. "glad tidings"), portraying the ministry of Christ, the Acts (recounting the ministry of the Apostles), 14 letters of Paul and 7 letters by other Apostles, giving guidance to the early Christian communities, and the Revelation of John (attributed to St. John, the Evangelist), a mystic visionary work, about the fate of the world, the battle between Good and Evil ("Armageddon"), and the ultimate victory ("New Jerusalem"). Those 27 books were selected and translated into Latin in the 4th century; other documents (such as the Gnostic Gospels) were discarded ("Apocrypha", extra-biblical collections of texts - this term applies both for Hebrew and Christian texts).

[38] The Bahá'í Holy Writings are too numerous to be listed here in detail; what follows, is a very brief presentation of the most important texts; for a comprehensive list of Bahá'í Writings, available in English, see Peter Smith, The Babi and Bahá'í Religions, pp. 229-35.

Among the major works of Bahá'u'lláh are the Most Holy Book (Kitab-i-Aqdas), containing the laws of the new dispensation; the Book of Certitude (Kitab-i-Iqan), the major doctrinal work of the Faith, The Hidden Words, "jewel-like thoughts cast out of the mind of the Manifestation of God to admonish and counsel men" (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 456); The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys, his major mystical treatises; and the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas.

Some Answered Questions
, a collection of authenticated table-talks, can be considered as most important work of 'Abdu'l-Bahá (See Shoghi Effendi, The Importance of Deepening, pp. 26-8, 37); Paris Talks and Promulgation of Universal Peace are further, albeit less authoritative collections of talks given by 'Abdu'l-Bahá (see Universal House of Justice, quoted in Lights of Guidance, p.439).

[39] Shoghi Effendi wrote a condensed history of the first century of the Bahá'í Faith (God Passes By), and several extensive, book-like letters, like The Advent of Divine Justice, The Promised Day is Come and a collection of letters, The World-Order of Bahá'u'lláh, among which 'The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh' is of invaluable theological importance, claryfying the station of the Central Figures of the Faith.

The estimated figures for the total number of individual tablets are as follows: Bahá'u'lláh, 7,160 tablets archived, 15,000 total estimated to have been written; 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 15,549 tablets archived, 30,800 total estimated to have been written; Shoghi Effendi, 16,370 letters archived, 30,100 total estimated to have been written (Bahá'í Archives: Preserving and Safeguarding the Sacred Texts," in 'Andalíb magazine, 12.48 (Fall 1993).

"It must always be remembered that authoritative interpretation of the Teachings was, after 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the exclusive right of the Guardian, and fell within the 'sacred and prescribed domain' of the Guardianship, and therefore the Universal House of Justice cannot and will not infringe upon that domain" (Lights of Guidance, p. 312).

[40] Thomas, Moral Development Theories, p. 10.

[41] The Covenant regulates the question of authorized successorship and deals with the issues of interpretation (conferred upon 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, respectively), and legislation (The Universal House of Justice, instituted by Bahá'u'lláh).

[42] Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, rm 5.

[43] The Universal House of Justice addresses this issue in a message to the "peoples of the world", written in 1985, in commemoration of the UN International Year of Peace: "Those who have held blindly and selfishly to their particular orthodoxies, who have imposed on their votaries erroneous and conflicting interpretations of the pronouncements of the Prophets of God, bear heavy responsibility ... Had humanity seen the Educators of its collective childhood in their true character, as agents of one civilizing process, it would no doubt have reaped incalculably greater benefits from the cumulative effects of their successive missions. This, alas, it failed to do."

[44] One "error" that many Christians attribute to Christ, was his expectation to return soon, i.e., within the life-time of his followers (see Matt. 10:23; 16:28; 24:34).

[45] For the historic information of this paragraph see Fischer, Linker Jesus, Rechte Kirche (Leftwing Jesus, Rightwing Church), pp. 123-4.

[46] The term "inspirational reading" is used here to refer to the obligation of reading in the Writings twice a day (mornings and evenings). "[T]o read a single verse with joy and radiance" is preferable to reading " with lassitude all the Holy Books of God" - we should "lighten" and "uplift" our souls, not "weary them and weigh them down" (Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 73).

[47] Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 85.

[48] Shoghi Effendi, The Importance of Deepening, p. 19.

[]49 Ibid., p. 24.

[50] Ibid., p. 24.

[51] Ibid., p. 25.
See also the numerous explanations of 'Abdu'l-Bahá on Christian subjects and Shoghi Effendi's mandate to reconciliate the followers of the other religions (for example, The Promised Day Is Come, p. 107).

[52] Ibid., p. 30.

[53] 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Importance of Deepening, p. 9.

[54] Universal House of Justice , cited in Lights of Guidance, pp. 312-3.

[55] "Nothing whatever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than dissension and strife, contention, estrangement and apathy, among the loved ones of God" (Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 9).

[56] See Hidden Words, Arabic # 13 and # 22.

[57] 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 120 (Chapter 29). The main point, that 'Abdu'l-Bahá makes in this talk is, that even the Prophets of God would, "without committing any sin or fault, but simply because they are the posterity of Adam, have become without reason guilty sinners, and until the day of the sacrifice of Christ were held captive in hell in painful torment".

[58] Ibid., p. 123 (Chapter 30).

[59] "According to the Bahá'í conception, the soul of man, or in other words his inner spiritual self or reality, is not dualistic. There is no such thing, as the Zoroastrians believe, as a double reality in man, a definite higher self and a lower self. These two tendencies for good or evil are but manifestations of a single reality or self. The latter is capable of development in either way. All depends fundamentally on the training or education which man receives. Human nature is made up of possibilities both for good and evil. True religion can enable it to soar in the highest realm of the spirit, while its absence can, as we already witness around us, cause it to fall to the lowest depths of degradation and misery." Shoghi Effendi, quoted in Lights of Guidance, p. 208 (#698).

[60] Mark 12:30.

[61] 1 Thess. 5:23.

[62 ]See Gen. 2:7; Luke 1:47; Rom 1:9; 2 Cor. 2:13 a.o.

[63] For example the "living soul " (King James, Darby), that man became, when God had "breathed into his nostrils the
breath of life" (Gen. 2:7), has been translated with "living being" in other versions (RSV). The original Hebrew word
"nefesch" stands for any living being, filled with the "breath of life" (Hebrew: "ruach"). "Ruach" is usually translated
with "spirit" (see for instance, Gen. 6:17), but also used when describing thoughts or emotions - and thus becoming
synonyms with "mind" and "heart" (For example, 1 Sam. 1:15: "I am a woman of a `sorrowful spirit' (King James,
Darby)/'sorely troubled' (RSV): I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the
LORD"; 1 Kings 1:5: "Why is thy spirit so `sad' (King James)/'sullen' (Darby)/'vexed' (RSV), that thou eatest no
bread?"; Gen. 41:8: "And it came to pass in the morning, that his spirit was troubled" a.o.).

[64] "How much more grievous would it be, were aught else to be mentioned in that Presence, were man's heart, his tongue, his mind, or his soul, to be busied with any one but the Well-Beloved" (Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 55);

[65]"...thou hast, with all thine heart, thy soul and inmost being, busied thyself with the vanities of the world"
(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 226).

See, for example, Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, chapters 80-83, 86; 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, Part 4 (chapters 46-73); Paris Talks, chapters 11, 18, 20, 29, 31, 34, 35, 57.
Among the first books, that correlate the Bahá'í teachings to Psychology and Pedagogy, are Daniel C. Jordan, Becoming your true self; H.B.Danesh, The Psychology of Spirituality; J.A.McLean, Dimensions in Spirituality.
Other Bahá'í authors, notably in German speaking Europe, link Bahá'í ideas to their field of expertise (Erik Blumenthal - Adlerian Psychology; Toni & Theo Schoenacker - Consultation; Nossrat Peseschkian - Family Therapy).

[66] Becoming your true self, pp. 18-19.
The key passage, that Jordan is alluding to, reads as follows: "Having created the world and all that liveth and moveth therein, He, through the direct operation of His unconstrained and sovereign Will, chose to confer upon man the unique distinction and capacity to know Him and to love Him - a capacity that must needs be regarded as the generating impulse and the primary purpose underlying the whole of creation" (Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 65).

[67] Ibid., p. 18

[68] Danesh, The Psychology of Spirituality, p. 63.

[69] McLean, Dimensions in Spirituality, p.162.

[70] Ibid., pp. 169-13.

[71] "Personality is one of two kinds. One is the natural or God-given personality which the Western thinkers call individuality. Individuality is the inner aspect of man which is not subject to change. The second is personality. Personality is the acquired virtues and perfections, with which man is adorned. When the individuality of man, i.e., his God-given natural virtues, is adorned with acquired virtues and perfections then we have character".
'Abdu'l-Bahá, Star of the West, vol. 4, no. 2, p. 38 (quoted in McLean, p. 171).

[72] J.A.McLean, Dimensions in Spirituality, p. 172.

[73] Thomas, Moral Development Theories, p. 6.

[74] Ibid., p. 9.

[75] Christ provided such an example, when he broke the Sabbath, in order to perform a healing miracle (i.e., "to do well"): "And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on
the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall
have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a
man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days" (Matt. 12:10-12).

In the Bahá'í Writings, many times moral principles are worded very strongly; at the same time, they are often balanced
with the concept of a situational ethics: "Consider that the worst of qualities and most odious of attributes, which is the foundation of all evil, is lying. No worse or more blameworthy quality than this can be imagined to exist; it is the destroyer of all human perfections and the cause of innumerable vices. There is no worse characteristic than this; it is the foundation of all evils. Notwithstanding all this, if a doctor consoles a sick man by saying, "Thank God you are better, and there is hope of your recovery," though these words are contrary to the truth, yet they may become the consolation of the patient and the turning point of the illness. This is not blameworthy" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, pp 215-216).

[76] Christ's admonitions not to be proud of one's good deeds and not to seek approvement for them, are a case in point:
"Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and
in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward... And when thou prayest,
thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets,
that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward... Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the
hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto
you, They have their reward" (Matt. 6:2; 6:5; 6:16).

[77] "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be
forgiven...And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own
eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself
beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then
shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye" (Luke 6:37; 6:41-42).

The same notion can be found in the Bahá'í Writings: "If the fire of self overcome you, remember your own faults and
not the faults of My creatures, inasmuch as every one of you knoweth his own self better than he knoweth others"
(Bahá'u'lláh, Hidden Words, Persian # 66); "How couldst thou forget thine own faults and busy thyself with the faults
of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me... Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner.

Shouldst thou transgress this command, accursed wouldst thou be, and to this I bear witness...Know thou of a truth: He
that biddeth men be just and himself committeth iniquity is not of Me, even though he bear My name" (Bahá'u'lláh,
Hidden Words, Arabic # 26 - 28).

[78] "Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (Matt. 26:52).

[79] See Karlheinz Deschner, Abermals kraehte der Hahn (And the cock crew again), pp. 505-6.

Deschner quotes Tertullian, for whom "love for the enemy" was the main command, and who wrote, that with
the disarmament of Peter "the Lord has taken away the sword of every soldier". Cyprian complained, that "the
whole earth is soaked with blood"; he critized the morality of condemning an individual who committed murder, but
regarding "murdering in the name of the state" as "bravery". Origines regarded Isaiah's prophecy of peace
("and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword
against nation, neither shall they learn war any more", Isaiah 2:4) as fulfilled and binding for the Christians.

[80] Ibid., p. 506.

[81] See Fischer, Linker Jesus, Rechte Kirche, pp. 129-32.

In Hellenistic times, wars were fought with the assistance of Gods, and the Roman Church continued this tradition. The "labarum", a banner with the initials of Christ, created as early as 317, was carried in front of the army of the first Christian emperor. The synode of Arelate (314) decided to excommunicate deserting soldiers, whereas 80 years earlier (235), the Roman bishop Hippolyt forbid Christians to become soldiers, and threatened them with excommunication if they disobeyed.

See also Deschner, Abermals kraehte der Hahn, chapter 65.

[82] In the words of Christ, to let the "tares and the wheat grow together until the harvest" (Parable of the good and bad seeds, Matt. 13:24-30).

[83] Many of these groups have attacked the corruption and luxury of the Papal Court (like the "radical Franciscans"), or developped doctrines which, even though opposed to Church doctrine, were equally based on the Bible (like the Arians). In other words, it is not always so clear, whose views were right or wrong, and Christ's warning in the parable mentioned above, not to root up the tares, "lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them", gets an ominous overtone. It is impossible to justify for example the complete extinction of a population, as in the case of the Albigensians in France, which meant the "uprootal" and destruction of the whole Provencialian culture during a 20year crusade in the 13th century.

[84] Berkhof, Kirche und Kaiser, quoted in Deschner, p.479 (in my translation).

[85] It should be noted, however, that certain Christian groups, like the Mennonites (16th cent.) and the Quakers (17th cent.) have rejected warfare categorically, and tried to re-connect to the spirit of early Christianity. The Quakers received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1947 (Deschner, p. 514)

[86] With reference to the rejection of war in early Christianity, moral theologists claim that this was because of the dangerous influence of the Emperor's cult in the pagan army, not because of a general rejection of a "just war". This argument can easily be refuted by the fact, that some of the early Christians were not against the profession of soldiery during times of peace, only against participation in wars. The "dangerous influence" of the Emperor's cult would have been effective during times of peace as well. Furthermore, not only participation in wars was forbidden in early Christianity, but any activity, that would have led to the death of a person (self-defense, death penalty, even denunciation, leading to capital punishment).
See Schilling, Moraltheologie, p.430 (for the argument) and Deschner, pp.508-9 (for the counter arguments).

Christ's expulsion of the money-changers out of the temple (John 2:14-17) has been taken as justification for violence, but is is a long way from the "cleansing of the temple" without any bloodshed to the funeral piles of the Inquisition (Deschner, p. 495).
Christ's statement, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword" (Matt.
10:34) was used as excuse as well. It is clear, both from Christ's description of the outcome (not to kill, but to "to set a
man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in
law"), and from a contextual interpretation (see Hebrews 4:12; Rev. 1:16) that this is a metaphoric reference to the
"Word of God", separating believers from unbelievers, and not a proclamation of war. For a comprehensive list of
"excuses" see Deschner, pp. 495-8.

[87] For Christ's repeated admonitions to beware of "the deceitfulness of riches" and to focus on spiritual rather than material wealth, see, for example, Mark 10:21-25; Luke 6:20-24; Matt. 6:19-21; 13:22; 19:23-24.

[88] For Christ's indiscriminatory attirude towards women, see, for example, Matt. 9:20-22; 15:22-28; 26:6-13; Luke 7:19-21; 10:38-42; John 4:6-30; women accompanying and supporting him (Matt. 27:55-56; Mark 15:39-40; Luke 8:2-3); women being chosen first (!) to witness the resurrected Christ and instructed to inform the apostles (Mark 16:1011; Matt. 28:1-10; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18); women as leaders in the early community (Rom. 16:1-6, 12-16; Phil. 1:2; Kol. 4:15; 2 Tim. 4:19-21).

[89] See 1 Tim. 3:4; Titus 1:6.

[90] "The first Glad-Tidings which the Mother Book hath, in this Most Great Revelation, imparted unto all the peoples of the world is that the law of holy war hath been blotted out from the Book" (Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets, p. 21).
"In former religions such ordinances as holy war, destruction of books, the ban on association and companionship with other peoples or on reading certain books had been laid down and affirmed according to the exigencies of the time; however, in this mighty Revelation, in this momentous Announcement, the manifold bestowals and favours of God have overshadowed all men, and from the horizon of the Will of the Ever-Abiding Lord, His infallible decree hath prescribed that which We have set forth above" (Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets, p. 28).

[91] "In connection with your application for exemption from active military service, the Guardian trusts that the authorities will give careful consideration to this matter, and will find it possible to relieve the Bahá'í friends from the necessity of serving in the army in a combatant capacity. Should they, however, refuse to grant such exemption, the believers should unhesitatingly assure them of their unqualified obedience and of their readiness to join and serve in the army in whatever manner the government deems best" (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p.134).

[92] On the societal level, the principle of collective security enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh (see Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CXVII) and elaborated by Shoghi Effendi (see the Guardian's letters in The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh) does not presuppose the abolition of the use of force, but prescribes "a system in which Force is made the servant of Justice", and which provides for the existence of an international peace-keeping force that "will safeguard the organic unity of the whole commonwealth" (Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab-i-Aqdas, Notes, p. 241).

[93] Thomas, Moral Development Theories, p. 9.

[94] In the Bible, this concept is expressed in the parable of the talents (see Matt. 25:14-30).
Bahá'u'lláh uses a similar allegory: "The whole duty of man in this Day is to attain that share of the flood of grace which God poureth forth for him. Let none, therefore, consider the largeness or smallness of the receptacle. The portion of some might lie in the palm of a man's hand, the portion of others might fill a cup, and of others even a gallon-measure" (Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 8).

[95] Shoghi Effendi, quoted in Lights of Guidance, p. 581
It is interesting to note that the word "strive" appears around 380 times in the Bahá'í Writings (mostly in the context of moral development and teaching the Faith).

[96] "...Satan, by which we mean the natural inclinations of the lower nature. This lower nature in man is symbolized as Satan - the evil ego within us, not an evil personality outside" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.287).
See also 'Abdu'l-Bahá's explanation of the Non-Existence of Evil (Some Answered Questions, chapt. 74).

"Regarding your question relative to the condition of those people who are described in the Gospel as being possessed of devils: This should be interpreted figuratively; devil or satan is symbolic of evil and dark forces yielding to temptation" (Shoghi Effendi, quoted in Lights of Guidance, p. 514).

There is at least one indication in the Bible, that would back up an allegoric interpretation of "Satan", as suggested in
the Bahá'í Writings: "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil,
neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed" (James
1:13-14).

[97] "Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak" (Mark 14:38).
See also the exhortation for married couples to balance their spiritual and physical needs (1 Cor. 7:5).
The same concept is expressed by Bahá'u'lláh (Gleanings, p. 106; 107).

[98] "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be
tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it"
(1 Cor.10:13).

[99] Thomas, Moral Development Theories, p. 9.

[100] 'Abdu'l-Bahá defined stagnation as the beginning of a process of deterioration: "You must ever press forward, never standing still; avoid stagnation, the first step to a backward movement, to decay" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 90).

[101] Peter recognizes the true station of Christ and his faith becomes the foundation-stone of Christianity (see Matt. 16:18), only to be addressed as "Satan" a moment later, when he does not want to accept the necessity of Christ's sacrifice (see Matt. 16:21-23). He claims to be prepared to die for Christ (Matt. 26:35), but denies him thrice, when put to the test (Matt. 26:69-75). Other incidents report traits of violence (John 18:10) and dishonesty (see Gal. 2:11-14).

Paul renders a moving description of his soul's struggle against human temptations in his letters to the Romans (Rom. 7:14-25). The topos of the "weak flesh", fighting against the "willing spirit", has already been expressed by Christ (Matt. 26:41), and it may well be, that Paul's reflections are rather philosophical than autobiographical in nature, expounding the concept of man's dual nature.

[102] 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets pp. 108-9; quoted in McLean, Dimensions in Spirituality, p. 88.

[103] McLean, p. 88.

[104] Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, pp. 155-156.

[105] See 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 240 (chapter 66).

[106] See 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pp. 87-88 (chapter 29).
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