Baha’i Faith – Program 1

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. Walter Martin, Mary Kay Radpour, James Mock; ©1983
Is Jesus just one of several manifestations of divine beings? What he just for his time, but not for our time?


Tonight on the John Ankerberg Show you will hear representatives of the Baha’i faith and the Christian faith discuss what are the truth claims of their respective beliefs and what is the evidence for those claims. Our first guest representing the Baha’i faith is Mrs. Mary Kay Radpour, a member of the Baha’i Spiritual Assemblies in Atlanta, Baltimore County and Chairman of the Chattanooga Assembly. She is a frequent lecturer and teacher at Baha’i schools nationwide and has served as trainer and seminar leader for the National Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States. Our second guest is Mr. James Mock. He is a national representative of the Baha’i faith from the Baha’i National Center of Wilmette, Illinois. Our third guest, representing Orthodox Christian belief, is Dr. Walter Martin, author of the well-known Kingdom of The Cults and director of the Christian Research Institute. We invite you to listen to the evidence during this next half hour.

What Do the Baha’i Believe about Jesus?

John Ankerberg: Welcome tonight. We’re going to be comparing Christianity and the Baha’i faith, and we have some very nice folks with us tonight. We welcome all of you. And Mary, I’d like to come to you first of all if you’ll let me. The main goal of the Baha’i faith, as I understand – I’d like you to correct me if I’m wrong – is to unify all religions, peoples, and nations under one banner. Is that correct?
Mary Kay Radpour: The establishment of the “oneness” of mankind is the goal of the Baha’i faith.
Ankerberg: Alright. And would you say that it’s true that Jesus was only one of nine manifestations of the divine being that appeared, and He was just for His era, just to illuminate His era, and today Baha’u’llah is the source of revelation?
Radpour: I can’t answer that question with a “yes” or “no,” John. The Baha’i faith teaches a great reverence for the Christ and, therefore, would not regard Him ever as only one of many. He has a special station. We Baha’is do believe that the Baha’i faith is the fulfillment of the Christian revelation.
Ankerberg: Okay. I’ve got a little quote here from the official Baha’i publication, “The Star of the West.” See if this goes along with what you’re saying: “The revelation of Jesus was for His own dispensation, that of the Son, and now it is no longer the point of guidance to the world. Baha’is must be severed from all and everything that is past.”
Radpour: That’s true.
Ankerberg: Okay. And then if I can go on, Jim, maybe I could come to you, and it would be this: these folks that have been manifestations down through history, and I think that they are Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Confucius, Christ, Muhammad, Krishna and then Baha’u’llah. Is that correct?
James Mock: Well, we have never,… we do not consider Confucius as a messenger of God, no. But basically, yes, those are the line.
Ankerberg: Okay. Now as I understand it, you correct me if I’m wrong, they are all supposed to have spoken with one voice about God and that’s why we can unify them or that’s why you’re trying to unify them. Is that correct?
Mock: Well, we believe that the Baha’i faith comes from Christianity and the other religions such as Christianity came from Judaism. We don’t see it as a blending. We’re not trying to blend the religions together. The Baha’i faith is an independent religion and we believe that it is the fulfillment of all of the religions of the past.
Ankerberg: Okay. In what way is it a fulfillment of Christianity?
Mock: Well, Christ talked about His Second Coming. He said that He would come again and He spoke about a millennium of peace that would occur upon His return. What we believe is that the Baha’u’llah is that spiritual return of Christ.
Ankerberg: Okay. Now, I think that’s based on what? John 14, where Jesus was saying those words. Is that correct?
Mock: Well, it’s based on many things in the Bible. There are three major prophecies which Jesus made about His coming, which we believe have been fulfilled. And we believe the Baha’u’llah. ..see, we don’t separate Baha’u’llah-Christ.
Ankerberg: Can you tell me what those are that Jesus said?
Mock: Yes. In Matthew 24:14-15, He gave two major prophecies. He gave one that the Gospel would be preached around the world and if you look at the history of that time period, the British and Foreign Bible Societies had made many statements feeling that that prophecy had been fulfilled at that time.
Ankerberg: But why underneath the Baha’i? In other words, how does that, what Jesus said, is that fulfilled underneath the Baha’i?
Mock: Well, Jesus said He would come again and in Revelation 3, He said, “I will come,” and He talks about His followers, “and they will be called by my new name.” We believe that new name is Baha’i, which means “follower of the light.” And the word Baha’u’llah is an Arabic word which means “the glory of God.”
Ankerberg: Is Baha’u’llah then the reincarnation of Christ or the manifestation of Christ again?
Mock: Yes, the return of Christ.
Ankerberg: Okay. Dr. Martin, we want to come to you on this. As a Christian scholar, in reading those verses, you understand what the Baha’i are trying to accomplish. From a Christian point of view, do you agree or disagree?
Walter Martin: Well, I have to disagree from a Christian perspective, because this is a misapplication of New Testament terms by the Baha’is. I’m sure that their motive is pure in that they really believe that there has been an evolution ending, of course, finally, in Baha’u’llah. But this is not the New Testament theology. It simply won’t fit the context. For instance, he quoted the book of Revelation chapter 3. Go back two chapters, book of Revelation 1:7: “Behold he is coming with clouds and every eye shall see him, and those also who pierced him….” Nobody pierced Baha’u’llah. He didn’t die on the cross for anybody and he wasn’t resurrected from the dead. Jesus Christ was and that was uniquely the Son of God.
So, from a Christian perspective, analyzing Baha’iism, we would say that Christ is the manifestation of God in the flesh – “I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the Father but through me” [John 14:6]. And when Abdu’l-Baha, who is the son of Baha’u’llah, maintained that he was supplying the world with revelation from that time on, that Baha’u’llah was the final primal point of the divine manifestation, this negated the uniqueness of Jesus Christ because the Lord Jesus is not one of many equally good ways, an aspect of the truth or a part of the life. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He claimed to be God Himself in human flesh [Luke 22:69-70; 1 Tim. 3:16]. And Jesus Christ according to Scripture, is the same yesterday, today, and forever [Heb. 13:8]. So, we have a distinct difference from the Baha’is in that they are moving forward with manifestations of the Christ – “Christ” meaning “The Anointed,” that’s all it means. I think there is a very grave warning here for us when we start talking this way, even with the best motivation.
Ankerberg: Jim, why don’t you respond to that.
Mock: Yes. I think where you’re talking about the misuse of terms and things, Christian theology differs depending on the denomination that you’re discussing, and views of Christ. Unitarians, for example, do not believe that Jesus Christ resurrected physically. See, there’s no difference. We do not see a difference between Christ as being one of many and Baha’u’llah. We view them as the same. Again, if you would like to go back to the proof in chapter….
Ankerberg: Well, let’s stick on that. Is He the same, Walter?
Martin: No, you’re not going to have an equation at this juncture. For instance, Jim just mentioned the fact of Unitarians. There is a fundamental difference here. Unitarians have never been classified as Christians. They have always denied the Trinity and the Deity of Christ. Now if you go back into the history of the denominations and the creeds of Christendom – Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox – you go back all the way through the history of the creeds and back to the New Testament time, you find a continuous chain of affirmations. You always have the affirmation of Christ as God in human flesh. You always have the affirmation that Christ died on the cross and shed His blood for our sins. You always have the affirmation that He was resurrected bodily from the grave. Now, you have had heresies down through ages which deny these things, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is such a thing as historic Christianity. And Baha’ism….
Ankerberg: You’ve got the Apostle’s Creed that, I think, is accepted by Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Greek Orthodox.
Mock: I agree, but how do you define a “Christian?” I’ve always defined a “Christian” as someone who believes in Christ. And we, as Baha’is, believe in Christ and the Unitarians believe in Christ.
Ankerberg: Okay, if we were to stop and say a person who believes in Christ then the Baha’i would be one who would be a follower of Baha’u’llah. Is that correct?
Mock: Yes.
Ankerberg: Alright. How would you then, keeping both your definition of your [Martin’s] leader and your leader [Mock’s], how would those two leaders differentiate themselves? What is the difference? What would be the evidence, I guess, for students that are watching that don’t have any religious background and are saying, “Why should I go your way or why should I go your way?” “Why your man, why your man?”
Martin: Well, the Messiah in the Old Testament according to Daniel was to die for the sins of the people, not for Himself [Dan. 9:26]. Isaiah portrays Him as the suffering servant of the Lord [Isa. 53]. You get to the New Testament and Jesus Christ fulfills every single one of these prophecies and dies for the sins of the world. Then the Scripture says He rose again from the dead, “according to the Scriptures” [1 Cor 15:1-4]. In other words, if somebody comes along, whether it’s Baha’u’llah, or whoever it might be, and makes a claim to being the manifestation of God, he runs squarely into the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 24, which you initially quoted: “Many will come in my name saying, I am the Anointed One. They shall deceive many.” [Matt. 24:5] And He said, “There shall arise false Christs and false prophets. They shall deceive….” [Matt. 24:24] Well, what was the deception? To claim to be the Lord Jesus Christ. To claim to be the manifestation of God. And this, I think, is what separates Baha’ism, classically, from Orthodox Christianity. Christianity says, “Christ is God in human flesh” exclusively; Baha’ism says, “No, Baha’u’llah is that second coming of Christ,” which, of course, historically has not occurred.
Ankerberg: Mary?
Radpour: Well, I would like to just remark that I think that throughout Christian history there has always been… the nature of Christ has been an issue which was difficult to understand and difficult to grasp; hence, the heresies, hence, the Council of Nicaea, hence, the discussions. Who is this Lord? Is He man? Is He God? How do we understand this mystery which is the Christ?
Ankerberg: We’re going to have to take a break. We’re going to come back, and I think that, you know, if Jesus Himself doesn’t know, then we’re “up the creek.” I think we ought to go to the primary documents and ask Him what He thought about Himself just like the prophet over here. And we’ll do that when we come right back.

Ankerberg: Okay, we’re back and we’re coming to the question of, Who did Jesus actually Himself say that He was in the primary documents? Then I would like to ask the same, Who did the prophet say that he was in comparison? Walter?
Martin: Well, I think your problem is that Mary raised, a very important issue. There is a mystery concerning the nature of God. If we could understand how God was God, we’d be God. So, obviously, there is an element of faith where we have to reach out by faith and we must depend upon Divine revelation. So we go to the self-revelation of Christ Himself. The heretics that she refers to down through the ages that have caused the problem were not doing so on the basis of the text of Scripture, they were doing it on the basis of the fact that they rejected the text and went on to some other revelation which they had received. Jesus claimed for Himself nothing less than being God in human flesh.
Ankerberg: Document it please. Where does He say it?
Martin: Well, in John 8:56-58, when He was talking with the Jews. He said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day coming. He saw it. He was glad.” And the Jews said, “You’re not 50 years old yet. You have seen Abraham?” He said, “I’ll tell you something. Before Abraham sprang into existence, I Am the Eternal God.” He used the divine name: “ehyeh asher ehyeh – Yahweh, the Eternal One.” Well, the minute He said that the Jews reached for stones. They were going to kill Him. And Jesus said, “Many good works have I done among you. For which of these would you stone me?” And they said, “For your good works we do not stone you, but for blasphemy, that you, a man, make yourself God” [John 10:32-33].
Ankerberg: Okay. Jim, would you agree that that’s a solid statement in the primary documents about Jesus’ nature?
Mock: I think He elaborates in other passages about Himself also. There are numerous passages where Jesus says that He has come speaking for the Father. And again in John 14:28, Jesus says, “For my Father is greater than I.” Now that makes a clear distinction between God, the Father, and Jesus, the Son.
Ankerberg: Okay, would you like to comment? Does that knock Him out of the ball game?
Martin: No, as a matter of fact, if you look at the word “greater” in the text there, it is a term of position. When Jesus entered the world, He came a little lower than the angels; He came as a human being; He was bearing our form. He said, “My Father, your father; my God, your God.” He spoke of God as His Father because He was truly a human being. But saying, “My Father is greater than I,” is not saying, “My Father is better than I. “Better” is the term of nature. “Greater” is the term of position. And the Father’s position when Jesus was on earth was greater. But Jesus said all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father [John 5:23]. He made no bones about the fact with the Jews in John 8. He said, “Listen, you are of your father the devil. The lusts of your father you will do” [John 8:44]. And then He told them why they were of their father the devil, because they rejected Him for whom He said He was. That was the important thing.
Ankerberg: Okay, if we have Jesus claiming to be God in flesh, who does the prophet say that he is?
Mock: Well, he says that He is the return of Christ, that same incarnated spirit. And again I still have to differ with you though because there are many other passages where Jesus specifies that “I speak not for myself, but for the Father who sent me.” He makes it very clear in numerous passages that He is the channel to bring God’s message. He says that He speaks what He hears, making two distinct entities – a Father and a Son.
Ankerberg: Okay…
Radpour: And the point that I wanted to make earlier is simply that, that when you look at the whole body of the revelation of Christ there are these two seemingly contradictory positions that, “I speak on the behalf of the Father” and yet “I am the way, I am the Life, I am the Truth.” Baha’u’llah speaks with exactly those same two voices. And he goes further and explains it and says that he speaks with one voice, which is the voice of the man of the 19th century, born in Persia, writing these books, and he speaks with the other voice which is the voice of God where he says, “I am that I am.”
Ankerberg: Okay, we get down to the thing of proof. Who are we going to believe because we’ve got two different positions at this point and they’re exclusive. They’re not inclusive. So we’ve got to decide. Now it seems like the Christians are saying at this point that Jesus gave proof via the resurrection from the dead. Would that be correct, Walter?
Martin: Yes, and also He said, “If you don’t believe me for the words that I speak to you, believe me for the works that I perform” [John 10:37-38]. He performed miraculous things. Now in Baha’i theology, they do not recognize the miraculous healings of Jesus’ actual physical healings anymore than they recognize His bodily resuscitation from the dead. They’re talking about spiritual healing and talking about spiritual death.
Mock: I disagree.
Radpour: I think, Dr. Martin, you’ve misunderstood. The Baha’i teachings don’t deny that Christ performed miracles. They say that they are irrelevant to His significance. They say that if you are, for instance, a sick man, and you go to a doctor and you want to know if that doctor can cure you, if the doctor flies around the room to demonstrate his powers, it may be exciting, it may be interesting, but it doesn’t prove that he’s going to cure your illness. The point in, of course, the miracles is that they were proofs to the people who saw them, who experienced them. The Baha’i faith doesn’t deny, in fact, Baha’u’llah in his lifetime performed many miracles which were written down by his followers. He took that book of the miracles; he put them in the river to wash away the ink, and he said, “The miracles which I perform which you will remember are the miracles I will perform in the hearts of men.” The Baha’i message is intended to affirm these miracles that the Christ performed. After all, we can go down to the corner drugstore and see a magician who can do something that will fool you and fool me. Those are not proofs of anything. The real proof of the Christ is that He transformed the hearts and the souls of men.
Ankerberg: Another way of looking at it, too, Mary, would be the fact of, if Baha’u’llah is the reincarnation of Christ, why did the message change about man’s nature and the answer to man’s problem; namely, that man is a sinner, estranged from God, and he needs the death of Christ on the cross to forgive him of that sin, to put him in right-standing.
Radpour: That message has not changed with Baha’u’llah.
Ankerberg: Is that what he’s preaching?
Radpour: That’s exactly what he’s preaching, and, in fact, if you’d like I…
Ankerberg: That man is forgiven by the atonement of Christ on the cross?
Radpour: That’s right. Exactly that.
Ankerberg: And there’s no other salvation but in Christ?
Mock: Well, see, you’re still making that distinction between Christ and Baha’u’llah.
Ankerberg: Well, I’m making… to what Jesus Himself said, and if it didn’t change, I’d like to know that.
Radpour: This is what Baha’u’llah says about the Christ: “Know thou that when the Son of Man yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By sacrificing himself, however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things. Its evidences as witnessed in all the peoples of the earth are now manifest before thee. The deepest wisdom which the sages have uttered, the profoundest learning which any mind hath unfolded, the arts which the ablest hands have produced, the influence exerted by the most potent of rulers are but manifestations of the quickening power released by his transcendent, his all-pervasive and resplendent spirit.” This affirmation of the power of the sacrifice of the Christ is never denied in the Baha’i teachings, and, in fact, Baha’u’llah goes further and says that the sacrifice which he himself made by spending 40 years of his life in imprisonment as a consequence of the Turks and the Persians who put him there is another way in which that same great spirit has been released into the world.
Ankerberg: Okay. I’d like to come back to you on this, Dr. Martin. And also I think that we ought to comment on the fact of, Who was Jesus talking about when He said the Spirit of Truth would come back? Was it the Holy Spirit in Christian theology, or was it a prophet a thousand years down the pike?
Martin: Well, it was the Holy Spirit who came at the Day of Pentecost, obviously, because Jesus said, “Wait in Jerusalem,” not in Persia, “for the promise of the Father” [Luke 24:49]. And the promise of the Father was the coming of the Spirit upon the church which took place at the Day of Pentecost. Now, the attempt to equate Baha’u’llah with Jesus Christ or with the Christ is Baha’i’s cornerstone, of course, but when the Lord Jesus died historically on the cross, the Scripture says, “one sacrifice for sin forever… and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High” [Heb. 10:12]. So, by Himself, He purged us of our sins. Now if Baha’u’llah – everything hinges upon this – if Baha’u’llah is indeed the Second Coming of Christ, you have no problem. But if, indeed, what you have is a perversion of Christian text – which I think you do have, as I quoted before – you are not dealing with Christ returning at all, because when He returns, the Scripture says, and the whole New Testament is replete with instances like this, He is coming back again. “Every eye will see Him. Those also who pierced Him.” [Rev. 1:7]. It also specifically says, concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, that His return would be a cataclysmic event. “The Lord Jesus shall descend out of heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, who will be punished with everlasting separation from the presence of the Lord” [2 Thess. 1:7-9]. That did not happen with Baha’u’llah, nor did any of the things about the cataclysmic coming of Christ and the apocalyptic nature in New Testament theology happen.
Ankerberg: Jim?
Mock: Well, first I’d like to suggest for all your viewers to investigate what the Baha’i faith says and compare it with what Jesus says in the Bible.
Ankerberg: Well, I think we’re honest in doing that on both sides.
Mock: Oh yes, I agree. I just feel that there are many, many instances in the Bible where there are symbolic meanings to what Christ said. Christ said, “Let the dead bury their dead.” Of course He was being symbolic. John the Baptist said that you should be baptized by fire. Of course that’s symbolic. And we believe that the events around Jesus’ second coming were given in symbolic terms, and that of course we know the books were sealed, as we’re told in Revelation, until the Lamb comes and unseals them. And Baha’u’llah or “the return of Christ,” is the only one that is capable of doing that.
Ankerberg: Well, take Acts 1:11, where this same Jesus that’s ascending into Heaven shall come back in the same manner. How would you symbolize that one?
Mock: Well, that’s… take another example, where Jesus said, telling the Scribes and the Pharisees, that He came from Heaven. Of course, we know at His first coming, He was born of the virgin Mary and He did not come from Heaven. Symbolically He did. And the Bible is replete with examples of symbology….
Ankerberg: Of course, I think you’ve got to realize that Christians would look at that just a little differently, what you just said. How would they look at that, Walter?
Martin: Well, obviously, the Christian concept is that Christ was God in human flesh who became man. So He did come from Heaven. In fact, He tells you in John 8:23 that He did come down from heaven into the world of men. So the virgin birth was God coming into the womb of the virgin, which was a fact of history and of God’s manifestation in the Lord Jesus. But I think it’s very significant, John, that we point out that Christianity rests upon one fact: Jesus Christ’s resurrection from among the dead. If He did not rise from the dead in His own body, as He said He would – He prophesied that: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again” [John 2:19].
Ankerberg: Walter, we’re out of time and we’re going to have to hold on to this until next week, and we want to continue. I hope you folks will join us again next week.

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