Re: For Brett - more questions.


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Posted by Brett Zamir (12.248.114.98) on August 14, 2002 at 14:58:58:

In Reply to: Re: For Brett - more questions. posted by Marie on August 14, 2002 at 06:53:27:

"Then you are telling me that what appears to be a contradiction is my own inability to see the harmony between (what appear to be) contradictions. That is a question:"

Yes, but not just you of course... :)

As to apparent contradictions, perhaps the following may be useful:

"In considering the whole field of divinely conferred "infallibility" one must be careful to avoid the literal understanding and petty-mindedness that has so often characterised discussions of this matter in the Christian world. The Manifestation of God (and, to a lesser degree, 'Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi,) has to convey tremendous concepts covering the whole field of human life and activity to people whose present knowledge and degree of understanding are far below His. He must use the limited medium of human language against the limited and often erroneous background of His audience's traditional knowledge and current understanding to raise them to a wholly new level of awareness and behaviour. It is a human tendency, against which the Manifestation warns us, to measure His statements against the inaccurate standard of the acquired knowledge of mankind. We tend to take them and place them within one or other of the existing categories of human philosophy or science while, in reality, they transcend these and will, if properly understood, open new and vast horizons to our understanding." (On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, at http://bahai-library.org/uhj/infallibility.abdulbaha.html )

"We must take the teachings as a great, balanced whole, not seek out and oppose to each other two strong statements that have different meanings; somewhere in between, there are links uniting the two. That is what makes our Faith so flexible and well balanced. For instance there are calamities for testing and for punishment--there are also accidents, plain cause and effect!" (On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 19 March 1946)

A letter on behalf of the Universal House of Justice also points out the following:

"The elucidations of both 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi and the clarifications provided by the Universal House of Justice are often not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of a subject but were written as responses to specific queries of believers.

"In attempting to resolve a seeming contradiction between two statements, it is often illuminating to consider each statement in the context in which it appears. It is also important to consider the reliability of the translations. With the obvious exception of translations of the Guardian, early translations may be inaccurate and misleading.

"In order to deepen one's understanding of a complex subject it is necessary to take into account a wide range of statements."


Also in reference to context, there is the following:

We must never take one sentence in the Teachings and isolate it from the rest...š (From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, October 4, 1950: Spiritualism, Psychic Phenomena and Related Subjects a compilation from the Universal House of Justice, February 14, 1973 to National Spiritual Assemblies quoted in Lights of Guidance , vol. III, p. 513-4, no. 1734)

(although I guess I'm doing that here by only quoting one sentence!) :)


"I confess that it is an impossibility for me to perform the kind of in-depth research and scholarship you demonstrate."

Reading about 9 pages a day covers all of the translated Writings in a few years.

Most of my work is quite easy since we have such tools as the internet to rely on once we have a basic familiarity with the texts--though of course real understanding is something we can never claim to attain to.

Also, real scholarship also often goes into study of other sources as well (e.g., historical documents, etc.), and although it is not as reliable as the Word of God, it may be provide some further perspective/context.

"But your last paragraph may be dogmatic rather than factual, Faith, not reason, which is acceptable."

I'm not sure which paragraph you're referring to.

"The Christian view of „turn the other cheekš seems to coincide with the Buddhist and Hindu views of non-violence. Whereas Judaic Law, Muslim Law and Baha‚i Law, under certain circumstances, provide for the death penalty. Since we are to accept all the Prophets, how does one reconcile the differences, slight or profound, between the Prophets."

Well, it is a good point that we do have to, in some sense, reconcile the various religions' teachings with each other, although as you may be aware, we believe that certain social laws change with the times (and this also assumes we can be certain what the actual teachings of the past religions were--since the Baha'i Writings state that we can only be fully certain as to the authenticity of the Qur'án as far as past religious scriptures go, except to the degree that our Central Figures have endorsed the authenticity of segments of other Scriptures such as the Bible).

As to this issue, though, I think Christ's injunction to "turn the other cheek" is a reference to personal behavior rather than what the government should do. Rather, He said to "render unto Caesar", thus implying a distinction of function. And although this is not authentic text, I think the following indicates why Christ did not elaborate on social principles such as what the laws of the community should be toward murderers for example:

"I have been asked this question: In the Gospels one finds only spiritual directions, not particular directions for conduct as in the old testament. How is this?

"The teachings of Christ covered a period of three years; the dispensation of Moses lasted forty years. After Moses led the people of Israel from the land of bondage, he found it necessary to inaugurate certain physical rules to show them how to live. In the lifetime of Christ only a small group gathered around him. After his declaration, his mission lasted but three years; there was neither time nor occasion for a complete code of laws. The essential thing is the spiritual law ų the outer material law is of small moment, because material life has natural laws to protect it, but humanity lacks spiritual education and needs instruction on the divine qualities. Christ gave this great foundation, as did Mohammed, the Bab and BAHA'O'LLAH. They are all one. There is no difference in their teachings. When we come to kind actions and to striving for the highest ideals of humanity, these things remain the same in all ages, in all countries and in all tongues.

"The sun is always the sun. According to the position of the earth we receive its radiation differently." (Attributed to Abdu'l-Bahá, 'Abdu'l-Bahá on Divine Philosophy, pp. 67-68)

I think it should be pointed out that Baha'is believe that capital punishment should be left open as an option to society, not that it is necessarily the best course of action. I seem to remember 'Abdu'l-Bahá referring to enlightened nations considering abolishing it, though I'm sorry I don't know where I may have read that.

"Which is to introduce another dimension to my question - First, I still - even if incorrectly - see contradictions within the Holy Writings, but can deal with them. But now, turn your attention to the differences between the Words of the other Prophets, preceding Baha‚u‚llah. And I am not simply referring to capital punishment. The list of contradictions is endless. Reconcile that, please."

Again, I'd emphasize that we don't always know what the prior Prophets really taught and that many social laws change with the times.

As to specific questions, I think many of these you will certainly be able to come to on your own through further study. I would particularly recommend picking up a copy of "Lights of Guidance" since it offers in an accessible format explicit interpretations which deal with a great variety of issues.

However, I'm sure we would all be happy to try our best to assist you or anyone with any specific questions people may have which a reading of the texts does not make apparent.

We all can benefit from the guiding light of consultation with our fellow believers or seekers, so I thank you for raising the questions.

best wishes,
Brett



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