Re: O.K. Now what?

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Posted by Brett Zamir ( on July 31, 2002 at 08:27:48:

In Reply to: Re: O.K. Now what? posted by Darrick Evenson on July 30, 2002 at 22:15:40:

Dear Darrick,

Thank you for bringing up the importance of teaching Christians the proofs of the Baha'i Faith.

'Abdu'l-Baha indeed emphasizes time and again the need for Baha'is to study them, yet unfortunately, as you allude to, many Baha'is do not heed these warnings.

Here are just a few of the Writings which speak to this need:

ăThe Sacred Books are full of allusions to this new dispensation. In the Book of ęqán, Baháâuâlláh gives the key-note and explains some of the outstanding passages hoping that the friends will continue to study the Sacred Books by themselves and unfold the mysteries found therein." (On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Pearls of Wisdom, p. 65)

"It is imperative to acquire the knowledge of divine proofs and evidences, and to acquaint oneself with convincing testimonies which demonstrate the revelation of Godâs resplendent Light. The study group thou didst organize hath imparted much joy and happiness to the heart of ÎAbduâl-Bahá. Thou must exert much effort and show forth perseverance and constancy that, God willing, through the reviving breaths of His mercy, souls may be so educated as to become like radiant candles shining in the assemblage of divine knowledge and understanding. This matter is highly important. It is binding on everyone and must be regarded as an obligation." ('Abduâl-Bahá, from a newly translated Tablet, Pearls of Wisdom : The Importance of Deepening Our Knowledge and Understanding of the Faith , p. 21)

"Unless you do obtain such a firm hold you will never be able to teach others and render real service to the promulgation of the Faith. Of special importance is the Book of the ęqán..." (On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Compilation of Compilations, vol. 1, p. 215)

There are many, many more of these (also in encouraging us to teach these proofs to youth).

We Baha'is, perhaps because of our unwillingness to commit to the depth of study required to really come to a point where one can engage meaningfully with those set on the proofs, often rationalize away this need to study the proofs. If the above quotations were not clear enough, the following addresses this excuse head on:

ăIf their [the believersâ] task is to be confined to good conduct and advice, nothing will be accomplished. They must speak out, expound the proofs, set forth clear arguments, draw irrefutable conclusions establishing the truth of the manifestation of the Sun of Reality.ä (ÎAbduâl-Bahá, The Individual and Teaching p. 11, no. 22 (quoted on p. 204 Teaching, the Crown of Immortal Glory))

A sad consequence of this inactivity of the believers on this front (besides the continuing religious strife throughout the world which could otherwise be averted by the diffusion of such proofs), is that many Baha'is seem to condescend to devout Christians who are understandably tied up in misunderstandings of their Scripture. It is not always easy to reconcile metaphorical interpretations with the admitted need to also obey the letter (Shoghi Effendi confirms this is indeed necessary, at least for the clear laws (as opposed to metaphorical passages), when he says: "In the Cause we cannot divorce the letter from the spirit of the words. As Baháâuâlláh says we should take the outward significance and super-impose upon it the inner. Either without the other is wrong and defective.ä (On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Pearls of Wisdom, p. 74))

Baha'u'llah confirms that it is NOT easy to understand the real meaning of the Scriptures when He says, not that it was solely man's fault for misunderstanding the Scriptures, but also that GOD was deliberately testing man with this difficulty: "And now ponder in thy heart the commotion which God stirreth up. Reflect upon the strange and manifold trials with which He doth test His servants." (Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 55) Shoghi Effendi confirms this difficulty in his description of what the Kitab-i-Iqan achieves: "cites and elucidates the allegorical passages of the New Testament, the abstruse verses of the Qur'án, and the cryptic Muhammadan traditions WHICH HAVE BRED those age-long misunderstandings, doubts and animosities that have sundered and kept apart the followers of the world's leading religious systems" (emphasis added).

If the metaphorical meanings were so obvious and their meaning was not "sealed" until the time of the end as the Bible prophesies, why otherwise would humanity have failed to resolve this on its own without Baha'u'llah? Clearly, we are all in need of these teachings, and should not consider ourselves superior to our Christians, etc. who are deprived of this further guidance from God as to the meaning of their Scriptures. Rather, Baha'is should admire Christians for recognizing its truth, despite the lack of further clarification provided by Baha'u'llah. We might not have been so astute to recognize its truth without the Baha'i Faith.

This is not to say that Christians, Muslims, etc. are not wholly unaccountable for their literal interpretations and opposition to reconciliation, but it is to say that we as Baha'is should be more sympathetic (rather than condescending) to their position, and as Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha demonstrated, find the patience (and interest--for which is, as the Writings state, there is "no greater pleasure") to study and expound the proofs for the benefit of these believers.

In many ways, it is perhaps our best use of resources, to direct our teachings to those who already have some belief: "Whenever you teach in Yazd you should first speak to those interested in the lives and history of the prophets of the past, and then, little by little, discuss this Revelation with them.ä (in Furœtan, ÎA. Stories of Baháâuâlláh, quoted in Teaching, the Crown of Immortal Glory, p. 149). The past religions were intended to prepare us for the Baha'i Faith, not hinder us from it, so from among religionists of prior religions, we should be able to find a good number of virtuous and potentially dedicated souls.

I think this is all somewhat confirmed by the following statement as well: ""...the fundamental purpose of all religions--including our own--is to bring man nearer to God, and to change his character, which is of the utmost importance. Too much emphasis is often laid on the social and economic aspects of the Teachings; but the moral aspect cannot be overemphasized." (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, September 6, 1946: Baha'i Youth, p. 8)

I think one reason why we Baha'is may fail to see the importance of the proofs is because many in Western analytical thinking find it easy to accept the logical metaphorical meanings and also find it difficult to see the fact that it is a Beneficient GOD also deliberately testing us rather than just mankind failing. Of course the end result which perhaps only God can wholly see is indeed beneficent, but this is not always easy for people to accept (from whatever background). We can also see this in the people who find it difficult to reconcile there being a Beneficent God amidst all the other kinds of suffering God permits. This, however, is a different topic--one which deals with the need for testing, and the love and enchantment separation brings, etc.)

However, as to the point of a physical resurrection, though the topic is a sensitive one, and one perhaps unwise to deal with immediately with our Christian brothers and sisters, it is clear from the authoritative Baha'i Writings, that we do NOT accept a belief in a physical resurrection. (I will provide them in another post.)


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