Argument for the need for and practice of academic defense of the Bahá'í Faith.
Delivered to the Apologetics Panel, Association of Bahá'í Studies annual conference, Seattle, September 2 2001.
A Personal Vision
- My vision of a credible and effective Bahá'í apologetics bases itself
on the following statements from Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá.
- "If any man were to arise to defend, in his writings, the Cause of God
against its assailants, such a man, however inconsiderable his share, shall be
so honored in the world to come that the Concourse on high would envy his
glory." (Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, CLIV p.330)
- "Teach ye the Cause of God, O people of Bahá, for God hath
prescribed unto every one the duty of proclaiming His Message, and regardeth it
as the most meritorious of all deeds." (- Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings,
- "Arise [,] to further My Cause, and to exalt My Word amongst men."
(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, LXXI, p.137)
- "... in this age the peoples of the world need the arguments of
('Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 7; see also
Gleanings, CVI, p.213 about the "needs of the age ye live in".
- "Every subject presented to a thoughtful audience must be supported
by rational proofs and logical arguments." (Abdu'l-Bahá, Foundations
of World Unity, p.86 ). We must do so in light of "the rational faculty with
which God hath endowed the essence of man." (Bahá'u'lláh,
- "This [the previous argument] is a spiritual proof, but one which we
cannot at the beginning put forth for the benefit of the materialists. First
we must speak of the logical proofs, afterward the spiritual proofs."
(Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p.197; italics added).
- "If it [the previous explanation] were otherwise, the foundations of the
Religion of God would rest upon an illogical proposition which the mind could
never conceive, and how can the mind be forced to believe a thing which it
cannot conceive?" (Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p.115)
- In general terms, I would, therefore, define Bahá'í apologetics as
the application of reason to explicate and, thereby, teach the Bahá'í Writings
in such a way as to reveal their rational foundations and character, to show
that faith in Bahá'u'lláh's revelation is a reasonable response to the problems
of the contemporary world, and to defend the Bahá'í Faith against attacks on
its principles, teachings and practices.
- In other words, the first task of a apologetics is the rational
demonstration of the reasonability of the truths God has revealed through
Bahá'u'lláh, i.e. to show to the greatest degree possible the rational basis
for belief in Bahá'u'lláh's dispensation and that commitment to Bahá'u'lláh's
Dispensation is a rational and adequate choice in the 21st Century.
3.1) A rational apologetics does not do away with faith or with the need for
personal, existential choices and commitment. Rather, it prepares the
intellectual ground from which faith and other personal ways of knowing can
grow and flourish. It puts our spiritual life on a rational basis without
limiting it to the powers of human reason.
3.1) In this regard the first goal of apologetics is faith i.e. to
clear away undue intellectual obstacles to faith and prepare people for the
existential moment at which they may choose to receive or submit themselves to
the spirit of faith.
3.2) However, as Abdu'l-Bahá writes: "First we must speak of the logical
proofs, afterward the spiritual proofs." (Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions,
3.3) Apologetics must show that faith is not blind belief but is the
culmination of the full exercise of humankind's essential nature as "the
rational soul". (Abdu'l-Bahá,. Some Answered Questions, p.15, which identifies
the rational soul and the "human reality." )
- The second task of a rational apologetics is protection, i.e. to
protect the Faith by ensuring that its history, practices, organization,
teachings, goals and modus operandi are understood and portrayed accurately
and reasonably and do not become the victims of foes and factions.
4.1) In this regard, the second goal of apologetics is justice, i.e.
accuracy and fairness in presentation and assessment of the Faith in the
4.1.2) This function is best carried out by (a) assessing whether or not the
information used is factually correct and complete; (b) examining and, if
necessary, challenging, the validity of implicit assumptions and underlying
Weltanschauungen; (c) revealing biases and hidden agendas in the misuse of
language, imagery and propaganda and rhetorical devices; (d) examining the
methodologies of gathering, assessing and evaluating data and (e) examining the
logical validity of arguments made.
- The third task of a rational apologetics is relevance, i.e.,
apologetics must use Bahá'u'lláh's revelation (a) to provide rational and
positive answers to the great questions
that have always haunted human beings and (b) to explicate the Writings anew as
humankind makes advances in various fields. Apologetics must ever devise new
ways of explicating the truths revealed by Bahá'u'lláh.
5.1) In this regard the task of a rational apologetics is pedagogical, i.e.
effective teaching. The Bahá'í Faith must be shown to have personal and
social relevance to times in which we live
5.2) Individuals have always asked certain question for which humans need
answers to live up to their best potential: the problem of evil; the origin of
the universe; the nature of reality; God' our human nature and identity;
survival after death; fate and destiny; miracles; guilt, sin and expiation; the
self and other and so on.
5.3) Societies have always had to wrestle with certain questions necessary to
peace, order and good government: the balance of powers between individuals and
society; the nature of social good; the purpose of government; the legitimacy
of rule; the nature and limits of national sovereignty and so on.
- An effective apologetics must build on rationality because the laws of
reason are what God has chosen to reveal throughout creation as well as in the
rational soul which is the essence of man. These laws are also universally
followed in the practice of daily life even if they are not always accepted at
the verbalized theoretical level. Thus, rationality forms the broadest possible
base on which to build a Bahá'í apologetics.
6.1) While there are, undoubtedly, other ways to approach apologetics, we must
remember that truth is one. (See Paris Talks, 121, 128, 129; Promulgation of
Universal Peace, 63, 454; Abdu'l-Bahá in London, 62, 67,92)
6.2) Therefore, all approaches to Bahá'í apologetics will be united insofar as
they must demonstrate the truth and acceptability of the same divinely revealed
Teachings and authoritative interpretations.
6.2.1) In other words, all approaches to apologetics are different paths up the
same mountain and are, therefore, ultimately reconcilable with each other as
complementary and compatible in a rational way. Because truth is one, there can
be, ultimately, no conflict between different approaches to apologetics.
6.3) We must not be mislead by Abdu'l-Bahá's distinction between logical and
spiritual proofs. These two types of proof are not opposed to each other. Even
the spiritual proofs presented by Abdu'l-Bahá use reason to advance their
arguments. The two differ on the nature of the premises used
6.3.1) The difference is that spiritual proofs (theology) begin
with revealed truth and works deductively to explicate what such truth
implies for our lives, whereas apologetics , which begins from the
acceptance of the laws of reason as God chose to reveal them through creation
and, by the science of reasoning, works *to* the truths revealed by the
Manifestations of God. .
6.3.2) Apologetics differs from theology insofar as in theology, the descending
arc, works *from* revelation and apologetics, the ascending ark, works
- I believe that the strongest foundation on which to base - but not limit - a
specifically Bahá'í apologetics is the philosophy explicitly embedded in the
Writings. This philosophy is compatible with the tradition is built on the work
of Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, St. Thomas Aquinas and Avicenna and which is
still growing today.
7.1) This suggestion is based on the fact that the Writings make full use
of this philosophical tradition as seen, for example, in the terminology used -
essence, act, potency, form, matter, rational soul, existence, final, formal,
material and efficient causes, existence. It is also present in the
emanationist metaphysics and the use of
many of the arguments found in the Writings which were originally developed in
7.2) Because this long tradition is intellectually robust, (2500 years
old and still very much alive), is capable of further development in the
modern world, is based on common human experience, and, is highly flexible
and adaptable, it serves as a strong basis for a modern Bahá'í apologetics
able to meet the intellectual challenges of the foreseeable future.
- Apologetics is reasonable, and can, therefore, be a *science* because
it follows the laws of logic and reason that God has made manifest in
creation and which are universally used by all practicing scientists.
8.1) It is not an experimental / predictive science, but, like paleontology,
anatomy, applied mathematics and cosmology among others, it is a descriptive /
hermeneutical science whose statements can be tested for adequacy in describing
- Because it is reasonable, apologetics knows the proper uses and limits of
unaided reason; it neither exaggerates nor unduly limits the power of human
reason left to its own resources.
9.1) Like the Bahá'í Writings, my vision of a Bahá'í apologetics espouses a
moderate rationalism, i.e. it realizes that reason can know some things with
certainty (not all things as extreme rationalists believe; nor nothing as
skeptics claim) and that there is a point at which the intellect requires the
light of faith to function and to advance to higher levels of
9.2.1) In this moderate rationalist/realist world-view,
reason requires the assistance of the Holy Spirit to achieve its full natural
and supernatural capabilities.
9.2.2) Apologetics is also scholarship because it can and should use the
techniques of scholarship in its quest to understand, present and defend the
- However, on the grounds of rational analysis, apologetics rejects
the materialist assumptions of much contemporary scholarship and, on the
basis of rational demonstration, accepts the existence of other
non-material aspects of reality, as well as a Creator who plays a role in
Ian Kluge is a poet, playwright and independent scholar who lives in Prince
George, British Columbia, Canada. He and his wife Kirsti have four children. He
works as a part-time teacher. His plays have been performed in Vancouver,
Victoria, Prince George and numerous smaller communities throughout the north.
Hs most recent plays are "The Gender Wars Trilogy" ("Medea: The Bitch is Back";
"Jason: Semen and Victory" and "Showdown at Sunion"). He is recognized
specialist in the poetry and philosophy of Conrad Aiken and maintains a web
journal on this author. His two most recent books of poetry are "For the Lord
of the Crimson Ark" and "Elegies". He is currently working on a logical
analysis of Nagarjuna's "Mula" and "Vigra".