A Critical Look at the Baha’i Faith – Part 1
By: John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©1999|
|In this two-part article we will briefly examine: (1) the Baha’i approach to other religions; (2) the absence of the personal requirements Baha’i demands for the Manifestations; (3) anachronistic Baha’i scriptures; (4) the Miller analysis of the Baha’i faith; (5) moral concerns; (6) some Baha’i errors; and (7) failed prophecy and Baha’i misuse of Christian prophecy.|
In this two-part article we will briefly examine: (1) the Baha’i approach to other religions; (2) the absence of the personal requirements Baha’i demands for the Manifestations; (3) anachronistic Baha’i scriptures; (4) the Miller analysis of the Baha’i faith; (5) moral concerns; (6) some Baha’i errors; and (7) failed prophecy and Baha’i misuse of Christian prophecy.
The Baha’i Approach to Other Religions
Udo Schaefer tells us that his rejection of historic Christianity was not based on science (presumably meaning facts) but on his own faith in the truth of Baha’u’llah’s claim that all religions are one. Assuming the truth of this, religions must then contain “no essential contradictions,” “for God does not contradict Himself.” The truth is that every religion in the world conflicts with every other religion.
In his article, “Baha’i-Christian Dialogue” in the Christian Research Journal, Dr. Francis J. Beckwith makes a good point here, which will introduce our discussion of the Baha’i approach to comparative religion:
The fact that the various alleged manifestations of God represented God in contradictory ways implies either that manifestations of God can contradict one another or that God’s own nature is contradictory. If manifestations are allowed to contradict one another, then there is no way to separate false manifestations from true ones or to discover if any of them really speak for the true and living God…. If, on the other hand, God’s own nature is said to be contradictory, that is, that God is both one God and many gods, that God is both able and not able to have a son, personal and impersonal, etc., then the Baha’i concept of God is reduced to meaninglessness. 
Consider just several discrepancies between the teachings of the Baha’i World Faith and the teachings of other religions (see chart).
|The Teachings of Baha’i World Faith||The Teachings of Other Religions|
|Opposes reincarnation||Hindus, Buddhists, others teach reincarnation.|
|Man is not one essence with God. There is no final mystical merger with God. ||Hinduism believes man is God inwardly and finally merges with God mystically.|
|Numerous religious duties in the Aqdas oppose Muslim/Qur’anic beliefs. ||Islam rejects such religious duties. Muslims view Bahai’s as heretics, hence Bahai’s admittedly keep very low profiles in Islamic nations. As Chouleur notes, “Bahai’s have to make themselves invisible in most Muslim states.” |
|Monotheistic, unitarian.||Buddhism is atheistic (Hinayana) or polytheistic (Mahayana). Christianity is monotheistic and Trinitarian.|
|Accepts Baha’u’llah as a prophet of God.||Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity reject him as a prophet of God.|
|Continuing prophets.||Islam teaches Muhammad was the seal of the prophets and the final prophet.|
|Islam, etc., perverted divine revelation. “The people of the Qur’an have perverted [misinterpreted] the text of God’s holy Book.”  (The same argument is used for other religions.)||Orthodox Muslims disagree, as do orthodox members of all non-Baha’i faiths.|
|Christ has returned as Baha’u’llah. ||Christians believe Christ has yet to return.|
The problem for Baha’i World Faith is clear. How can Baha’is retain credibility for their claim to accept and honor other religions? The only way Baha’is can “successfully” defend their syncretism is through a subjective, mystical approach to other scriptures, or through emphasis on a monistic religious experience to the exclusion of scriptural study, or by attempting to unite all religions merely upon surface or common characteristics (generally vague ideas on love, worship, God and so on).
To illustrate further, there are irresolvable theological problems in attempting this kind of religious syncretism. For example, how can the concepts of God in the “Religious Founders’ Concepts of God” chart ever be reconciled?
|Krishna||Polytheistic; pantheistic; Hinduism ultimately adopts a monistic/impersonal ultimate reality.|
|Zoroaster||Dualistic; two supreme beings (one good and one evil).|
|Confucius||Polytheistic; but gods are secondary in importance to ultimate reality.|
|Buddha||A supreme God is irrelevant; the gods are also; modern Buddhism is, variously, polytheistic or humanistic.|
|Jesus||Monotheistic, personal, Trinitarian, God has a Son who reveals God perfectly.|
|Muhammad||Monotheistic, personal, Unitarian, God has no Son.|
|The Bab/Baha’u’llah||Ineffable, unknowable.|
Even when we compare Baha’i with just one other religion, Christianity, the problems are still insurmountable.
Finally, putting comparative religion aside for the most part, even Baha’i claims relative to itself are problematic.
The Absence of the Personal Requirements Baha’i Demands for the Manifestations
We even discover irreconcilable difficulties when we examine the alleged attributes of the Manifestations and the denial of the attributes in history by those very Manifestations. For example, the Baha’i faith claims that all the Manifestations fit the following requirements, most of which are given in George Townshend’s Promise of All Ages (1974). These requirements are that the Manifestations will:
- Be sinless
- Be uneducated, with no status
- Fulfill prophecy and foretell their successor
- Maintain a very high ethical standard
- Bring harmony among men
- Have a self-validating truth based on their character
However, even a cursory examination of the Manifestations, whether they number six, eight, nine, ten or fourteen (as they have been numbered throughout Baha’i history) fail to fulfill the above criteria. For example:
- Only Jesus was sinless; all other Manifestations admitted to their sin (for example, Adam, Moses, Mohammad, Abraham, Buddha, Confucius, etc.).
- Neither Moses nor Confucius were uneducated or without status.
- Neither Krishna, Muhammad nor Buddha maintained a particularly high ethical standard in conduct or philosophy. Moses committed murder and Abraham sometimes lacked faith and committed adultery with Hagar.
- Jesus foretold no successor; indeed considered sequentially in history none of the Manifestations ever prophesied their specific historic successor. Nor, as claimed, have any of them accepted the teachings of their alleged predecessor, Baha’u’llah included.
- None brought true harmony among men, even among their own followers. Jesus specifically prophesied He would bring great division (Matt. 10:34-37).
- As a whole, the Manifestations self-validating truth can hardly be based on their character and teachings, when apart from Jesus, they are morally flawed or contradictory.
The simple fact is that the historic manifestations do not qualify as divine manifestations, even according to Baha’i precepts.
|Manifestations:||Nine or more non-divine Manifestations of God to date, who accomplish God’s will progressively in larger and larger increments.||One (divine) Manifestation who accomplished God’s will and purpose “once for all” (Heb. 9)|
|God:||God is unknowable: monotheistic/Unitarian.||God is knowable: monotheistic/trinitarian|
|Salvation:||Salvation is by works and belief in the Manifestations. No repentance from sin or new birth is needed.||Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone; repentance from sin and regeneration are vital.|
|Revelation:||Progressive revelation—each Manifestation reveals God more perfectly. The “Word of God” is syncretistic.||Perfect (inerrant) and final revelation; Christ alone perfectly revealed God; the Word of God is found in the Bible alone, normally interpreted.|
|The person and work of Jesus Christ:|| Denies biblical Christology (Christ is not the monogenes of God; Christ is not God).
Spiritualizes or ignores the atonement
No physical resurrection and second coming. Christ is One with other manifestations
| Christ is the monogenes (John 3:16; 18) of God and God incarnate.
Christ’s atonement was the propitiation for the world’s sin.
Christ Himself resurrected physically, and He will return again. He is unique.
|Miracles:||Rejects the miraculous.||Accepts the miraculous.|
|Not a new religion.||A new religion|
|Independent investigation of truth.||Authoritarian.|
|Tolerant of other religions||Intolerant.|
|Stresses reason.||Irrational in its syncretism.|
|Believes in Christ.||Denies Christ.|
Anachronistic Baha’i Scripture
The scriptures of the Baha’i faith present serious problems for the faithful who believe in science, reason and progressive revelation. Indeed, in light of the “divine” requirements expressed in the Baha’i Bible, the Most Holy Book (The Al-Kitab-al Aqdas), written by Baha’u’llah, one can but wonder whether Baha’u’llah would look with favor or scorn upon most Baha’is today, for they do not abide by its divinely authoritative teachings. The Aqdas is, as Miller notes, a divine revelation more relevant to the middle ages than to the twenty-first century. For the greater part it comprises a restatement of the Bab’s Bayan, which Baha’u’llah, strangely, forbade others to read. It embodies few of the major principles for which Baha’is are known today.
Anyone who reads the Aqdas will recognize how antiquated it is. Yet this is the Baha’i Bible, the most important text of all. In his will, ‘Abdu’l-Baha declared that to it “everyone must turn,” and this was also a reflection of his father’s sentiment. Indeed, so important is this alleged divine revelation that it is the text upon which the “theocratic” millennium will be based, wherein Baha’is will rule the world. Its provisions “must remain inviolate for no less than a thousand years, and whose system will embrace the entire planet.”  In other words, this book will remain binding well into the 29th century.
One can appreciate the dilemma here. Is a “medieval” “scripture” truly authoritative for the next eight or nine centuries, or was Baha’u’llah simply wrong? If the latter, he cannot be a prophet. But if it is authoritative, why do not even Baha’is practice its precepts, as “commanded by God”? For example, “worship for the dead” (emphasis added); intricate inheritance laws (to children 9/42 or 540/2520; to teachers 3/42 or 180/2520 and so on),  regulations for daily worship, regulations for fasting, punishments for criminals (the branding of third-offense thieves; payment of $21 for committing adultery; the burning of arsonists; use of capital punishment; required marriage (to one or two wives; Baha’u’llah had three). Do Baha’is wash their hands every day, then their face, then sit facing God and say ninety-five times, “God is most Splendid”?
Yet these are all laws by which Baha’is are to be living. But do Baha’is believe these laws? Do they live by them? If not, why not? Are they not God’s commandments? Can Baha’u’llah be believed in anything if not in all things?
Baha’is respond by claiming that the time “has not yet come” for the laws of the Aqdas to be put into effect. But a reading of the Aqdas indicates that Baha’u’llah expected his people to abide by the Aqdas for at least a thousand years. “Perform the stipulations and ordinances of God. Then keep them as you keep your eyes.” One wonders why Baha’u’llah, the most superior Manifestation of God to date, would write a book containing so many laws and regulations if not to have his people obey them? Of course, if the Baha’i community began following the commands of the Aqdas, it would have to abandon its modern “progressive” reputation. Thus, the fact that Baha’is do not obey the commands of God’s Manifestations would seem to indicate they do not believe that such writings are truly authoritative. Our conclusion must be either that the Aqdas is outdated or that it is not a divine revelation. It would seem difficult for Baha’is to expect others to accept their Bible as divine if the community of believers does not treat it as such.
‘The Miller Analysis
The Miller text should, if at all possible, be read in its unabridged entirety, as it comprises a devastating and, to our way of thinking, fatal evaluation for the Baha’i community. Miller’s unabridged edition is one of the few places where one can find an unbiased translation of the Aqdas. With our space limitations here, however, we can at best scratch the surface of this text. To begin, Dr. Miller ends his analysis with a relevant criticism of the Baha’i World Faith and its claim to represent a valid religion for the world and its future:
With its lack of clarity in its doctrine of God; with its legalism which characterizes its Most Holy Book; with its prescription in this Book of practices long since outdated; with the inadequacy of its treatment of sin and of its provision for the cure of evil in man; with the vagueness of its teaching about life after death; with the gross failure of its founders to exemplify among their own families the love they so strongly advocated—with these and other defects which are manifest in its history, can the Baha’i World Faith be an adequate religion for the world for today, and for the millennium to come? Only one answer is possible, and that is decidedly negative.
Miller discusses many interesting points, some of which we reproduce in abbreviated fashion and others which were pointed out in the section “Critique of Baha’i History.”
1. The Bab expected to be the true Manifestation for at least 1511 years. Again, this is one reason why not all Bahai’s accepted Baha’u’llah as the next manifestation.The Bab had said that the next prophet would abrogate his laws (as each one is free to do), but if, in retrospect, the Bab was wrong about the next prophet and Baha’u’llah was the legitimate successor, how could he himself be a legitimate prophet?
2. Why has the Bab’s Bayan been kept from the laity? Is it due to the fact that much of it is “of almost inconceivable incomprehensibility”? Or is it because its laws that were not abrogated by Baha’u’llah must then still be in effect and ruling Baha’is find them difficult to believe, let alone implement? 
3. Shoghi Effendi (not a prophet but supposedly an infallible interpreter of Baha’u’llah) clearly contradicts the teaching of Baha’u’llah.Also, Baha’u’llah declared that only the prophet had infallibility, so how then did ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi and others claim it for themselves? 
4. Baha’is, of course, reject Millers’ work. “Anyone who questions the accuracy of the authorized version of Baba-Baha’i history is denounced as an enemy of the Cause of God.”Given this fact, isn’t the Baha’i principle of “independent investigation of truth” then hypocritical? If Baha’is are forbidden to read any translation of the Aqdas by non-Baha’i scholars, if the House of Justice has sole authority to interpret Baha’i scripture, how can the Baha’i member possibly live by his own principles?
5. Miller supplies numerous examples of the moral failure and authoritarianism of Baha’i founders. For example, a quarrel between Baha’u’llah and his brother led to the murder of several people on both sides, and Shoghi Effendi excommunicated his parents and many relatives for disagreeing with his policies. Baha’u’llah’s authoritarianism was evident:  “If He declares water to be wine, or heaven to be earth, or light to be fire, it is true and there is no doubt therein; and no one has the right to oppose Him, or to say ‘why’ or ‘wherefore’…. Verily no account shall be demanded of Him for what He shall do….” 
6. Miller documents numerous errors by “infallible” Baha’i leaders. Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha both engaged in exaggeration, inaccuracies and deception. For example, we are told that the name of Moses had not been heard in Iran before the time of Christ. We are told that Baha’u’llah achieved (past tense) the uniting of all religious faiths in the Orient into a brotherhood of love. We are told that he spent forty years in prison, when he didn’t. 
In light of the sobering facts that Miller brings to light, only a fraction of which has been presented here, one would think that it would be incumbent for every Baha’i to re-evaluate the validity of Baha’i religion. What genuine evidence exists for the truth of the Baha’i faith? Does its founders’ lives reflect a godliness such as that found in the life of Jesus Christ or the Apostle Paul? True, many of the Baha’i ideals are commendable, but are they divinely inspired? Is their ideal of religious unity based on divine revelation or on religious deception?
We cannot stress enough that Baha’is should become independently acquainted with the other side of their history through Dr. Miller’s analysis. If their own research confirms his conclusions, they should, at the least, act in accordance with their individual conscience.
- Udo Schaefer, The Light Shineth in Darkness (Oxford, England: George Ronald, 1973), p. 86.
- Christian Research Journal, Winter/Spring, 1989, p. 2, internet copy.
- World Order, Spring 1978, p. 51.
- Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book), Elder-Miller, trans. (London: Royal Asiatic Society Oriental Translation Fund, NS, 1961), pp. 24-25, 42, 66, etc.
- See “A Look at Islam,” World Order, Spring 1978; cf. Fall 1977, p. 13.
- See “Buddhism and the Baha’i Faith,” World Order, Winter 1971-1972.
- Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-I-Iqan: The Book of Certitude (Wilmette, IL: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1974), p. 87.
- Cf. “Baha’u’llah to the Christians,” World Order, Winter 1966.
- William McLwee Miller, The Baha’i Faith: Its History and Teachings (South Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1974), pp. 142-144.
- Ibid., p. 142, citing Baha’u’llah, ed. H. Holley, The Baha’i Scriptures (New York: Brentane’s 1923), pp. 261, 554.
- Miller, The Baha’i Faith, p. 142, citing Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By (Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1974), p. 213.
- Miller, The Baha’i Faith, Appendix; Aqdas, p. 29.
- Ibid., pp. 40-41.
- Ibid., p. 63.
- The original William Carey Library edition (1974) is currently out of print, although large libraries should carry a copy or an interlibrary loan may be employed.
- Miller, The Baha’i Faith, pp. 357-358.
- Ibid., pp. 54-55; Aqdas, pp. 71-72n.
- Miller, The Baha’i Faith, pp. 49, 159-160.
- Ibid., p.345.
- Aqdas, p. 345.
- Miller, The Baha’i Faith, p. 342.
- Ibid., p. 354.
- Ibid., pp. 357, 423.
- Ibid., p. 140, citing Baha’i Scriptures, pp. 241, 243.
- Miller, The Baha’i Faith, p. 140.
- Ibid., p. 165-166, 225-231, 333.
- Ibid., citing Baha’i Scriptures, 286, 289, 361, 309, 316, 317, 393, 394, 333-336, 351; ‘Abdu’l-Baha, A Traveler’s Narrative (Baha’i Publishing Trust), pp. 156-160.