The Baha’i Faith-Part 9
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2002|
|As we complete our look at The Baha’i Faith, the authors give tips on how to talk with members of this group.|
The Baha’i Faith—Part Nine
THEOLOGY—Jesus Christ, continued
Members of The Baha’i Faith deny that Jesus is the Christ. Referring to John 8:58, where Jesus declares His eternalness, George Townshend states, “Believers know that He [Jesus] spoke not of the individual Jesus but of the Eternal Christ. The Christ… which spoke through Jesus… had not confined its energies, its appearances, its utterances to the Hebrews alone.” In other words, “the Christ” is kind of a universal divine Spirit that speaks through all religions. But the Bible clearly states: “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ” (1 John 2:22).
Baha’is also deny Christ’s physical resurrection and ascension. Abdu’l-Baha argued that, “The resurrections of the Divine Manifestations are not of the body… likewise, His [Jesus’] ascension to heaven is a spiritual and not material ascension.” In essence, despite claims to the contrary, Baha’is believe Baha’u’llah was better than Jesus—much better.
But a Baha’i view of Christ is not what we get from reading the Bible. The importance of Jesus and His words cannot be underestimated. Those who claim to believe in Him should listen carefully to what he says:
- Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matthew 24:35) God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24)
- For not even the Father judges any one, but He has given all judgment to the Son, in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. (John 5:22-23 NAS)
- Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:23 NAS)
- Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” (John 14:23-24 NAS)
Perhaps Baha’is should also listen carefully to Baha’u’llah when he speaks of Jesus that ”whatsoever hath proceeded after his blameless, his truth-speaking, trustworthy mouth, can never be altered….”Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith (Wilmette, IL: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1976), pp. 60-61; cf. pp. 15, 49, 51, 62, 72, 20.
Nevertheless, Jesus had absolute faith in a literal reading of the Old Testament (Matthew 19:4-5; John 5:47; 17:17), which Baha’i denies, and He emphatically denied people’s ability to self-perfect or save themselves (John 6:29, 47, 63), which Baha’i affirms. According to the Bible, Jesus Christ is not some special creature whom God chose to dimly manifest His unknown being. He is God Himself: “for in Christ all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). He is above all rule and authority:
- Which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:20-21 NAS)
- “Thou has put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. (Hebrews 2:8 NAS)
- One day every person will bow and worship Him:
- Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11 NAS)
Indeed, no greater wisdom can be found anywhere than in Jesus, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). His relevance and reign was not for a temporal age, but forever:
- …to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Ephesians 1:10)
- …according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 5:11)
- …because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:24-25)
- The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)
For conservative, staunchly monotheistic Jews to say such things of a mere “man” is either utter blasphemy or absolute truth. Jesus’ Jewish disciples conceded the latter for the following reasons:
1. Christ claimed to be God and performed attesting miracles, the quantity and quality of which have never been duplicated throughout history (John 5:18; 10:30-33; 19:7).
2. He resurrected Himself from the dead to prove His claims (John 2:19; cf. Matthew 27-28; Mark 16; Luke 24; Acts 2:24; Romans 4:24).
3. The Jews could turn to their divinely inspired Old Testament and see that the Messiah was to be God (Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2; cf. Matthew 22:43-46) not a Baha’i-type manifestation, and that Jesus had fulfilled Old Testament messianic prophecy in detail (as we documented in The Case for Jesus the Messiah).
This is why the Jewish authors of the New Testament told the world that Jesus Christ is the radiance of His [God’s] glory [cf. Colossians 1:15,24] and the exact representation [Gk. charakter] of His nature and that He upholds all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). The Greek word charakter denies the Baha’i assertion that the “essence” of God cannot become incarnate. It means literally the “exact reproduction” and is a stronger word than “image,” as in 2 Corinthians 4:4 and Colossians 1:15. As noted biblical scholar F. F. Bruce says in his Hebrews commentary (on Hebrews 1:3), “The substance of God [Gk. hypostasis] is really in Christ, Who is its impress, its exact representation [charakter] and embodiment. What God essentially is is made manifest in Christ.”
While much more can be said about the theology of the Baha’i religion, we will close that discussion at this point.
Talking with Members
Baha’is believe that Christians have rejected God. They decry the fact that the prophets, especially Baha’u’llah, have not been accepted by Christians. Baha’u’llah stressed, “Whoso turneth away from them, hath turned away from God, and whoso disbelieveth in them, hath disbelieved in God.” Let us accept the argument for a moment. Christians deny Baha’u’llah. But Baha’is also teach, “If we deny one of the Manifestations of God we deny all.” Now, the truth is that Baha’is deny Christ. If we are fair, we must be willing to accept that. Therefore, they deny Baha’u’llah. Only illogical reasoning or a biased refusal to accept the integrity of the Gospels can change this conclusion.
Jesus claimed that His words were relevant for all time (Matthew 24:35), and He said, “No man comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). If His words are relevant today, then neither followers of Baha’u’llah, nor one who is a Christian can accept Baha’u’llah without denying Jesus. And to deny one prophet is to deny all, which must also be to deny Baha’u’llah. Baha’is own doctrine thus forces them to deny Baha’u’llah. Since they will not see this on their own, it could be pointed out to them.
Their only solution to this dilemma is to deny Christ’s words as being His own. However, then they are no longer engaging in “independent investigation of truth,” as they have no historical or factual basis on which to discount the Gospels.
It is not that we oppose the right of the Baha’is to believe in and propagate a new religion to which we disagree. It is their disregard for the proven teachings of other religions that is difficult to accept in light of their support for ideals such as tolerance and “independent investigation of the truth.” Let them truly engage in this, and see if they can remain Baha’is.
One might also ask a Baha’i believer to place himself or herself in the position of a Christian, that they may more easily see the problem their approach presents. For example, on their own terms Baha’is accept the Gospels as teaching Baha’i truths, but they reject the Pauline Epistles as distortions of Jesus’ teachings, even though from day one Paul’s writings were believed to have been divinely inspired, as Peter testified (2 Peter 3:15-16). In other words, they are merely refuting their contrived gross distortion of Christianity. Would Baha’is be content if Christians accepted only their Aqdas, The Most Holy Book, and distorted it to teach Christian doctrine and then rejected the rest of their holy scriptures as spurious? Would this be fair? If we were to approach The Baha’i Faith in the same way Baha’is approach Christianity, would it not be easy for Christians to simply disregard other Baha’i scriptures as “perversions” of the original Aqdas and then misrepresent the Baha’i religion as teaching Christianity through citing only the Aqdas?
If Baha’is would not permit such an approach by a Christian, how then can Baha’is accept it for themselves? Indeed, isn’t it also true that if we were to accept only the Aqdas and interpret it properly (literally), that a far more critical and grimmer picture of Baha’i could then be painted? Would Baha’is be pleased if Christians accepted their Aqdas literally and ignored their other scripture, forcing Baha’iism into the mold of an antiquated religion? So, if Christians have respected The Baha’i Faith by declaring its doctrines correctly, why can’t Baha’is grant Christians the same courtesy?
Because Baha’i is a religion that denies the truth and ignores an independent investigation of the truth, we would, first, simply urge Baha’is to listen once more to their own prophets: “Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness, progress and success in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul…. You must live and act with the utmost truthfulness… let truthfulness and courtesy be your adorning. Be fair to yourselves and to others that the evidences of Justice may be revealed through your deeds among our faithful servants.”
In light of this emphasis on the vital importance of truth, we have two questions. First, why do ‘Abdu’l-Baha and the Baha’i prophets subvert the truth by misquoting the Bible by changing its words or by deletion? For example, ‘Abdu’l-Baha leaves out the third clause of John 1:1, and quotes the verse only as declaring “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God.” Why is “and the Word was God” deleted? If he was infallible, as he claimed, why did he misquote the Bible by carelessness? Or was it deliberately misquoted? Was ‘Abdu’l-Baha truthful, and if not, what are the implications? As Gloria Faizi correctly warned: “It would be foolish, of course, to accept anyone as God’s Mouthpiece on earth without being absolutely sure of his station.”
The second question related to the importance of truth is this: are not all spiritual truths eternal? Baha’is divide each prophet’s revelation into two parts: the essential and eternal, and the non-essential and temporal. All religions teach key doctrines that they claim as essential and eternal. But Baha’i ignores these claims of the other religions and argues that the central doctrines of other religions are really just peripheral. On what logical, historical or other basis does Baha’i “reinvent” the vital teachings of other religions as “nonessential and temporal”? Would Baha’is ever permit such a distortion to be implemented upon their own revelation, so that all their essential and eternal truths become non-essential and temporal throwaways? If they did, could they remain Baha’is?
Perhaps the Baha’is have some house-cleaning to attend to? If The Baha’i Faith is to continue to claim that it treats other scriptures and religions fairly, it should undertake that house-cleaning as a matter of some urgency. Further, in light of our analysis, it seems that Baha’is should clearly reconsider ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s assessment that “religion must be in harmony with science and reason. If it does not conform to science and reconcile with reason it is superstition.” In his Portals to Freedom, Howard Ives, a Unitarian minister-convert to Baha’i, also quoted Abdu’l-Baha as stating, “If religion is opposed to reason and science, faith is impossible” and, “It were better to have no religion than a religion which did not conform to reason.” He also prided himself on the fact the ‘’the first principle under which the consistent Baha’i thinker acts is ‘the independent investigation of truth.’”
The simple fact is that the Baha’i approach to religion is opposed in reason. If anything has been demonstrated by our research, that has. By its own principles, then, the Baha’i World Faith stands condemned as superstition and it would be better for Baha’is to have no religion.
Finally, we would urge Baha’is to listen to the words of Jesus, as their own prophet Baha’u’llah told them to. “If you reflect upon the essential teachings of Jesus you will realize that they are the light of the world. Nobody can question their truth. They are the very source of life and the cause of happiness to the human race.” Here are some of the essential teachings of Jesus, and as Baha’u’llah said, “Nobody can question their truth”:
- “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37)
- Jesus answered. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
As the Apostle John declared:
- No who one denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:23)
- We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life: He who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:9-13)
- We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. (1 John 2:3)
- In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him. (John 14:20-21 NAS)
If Baha’is truly wish to know God and be known by God, they need to listen more carefully to the words of Jesus and truly perform “an independent investigation of the truth.” As their own prophet said, “God has bestowed upon man the gift of mind in order that he may weigh every fact or truth presented to him and adjudge it to be reasonable.”
- George Townshend, The Heart of the Gospel (London, England, George Ronald, 1960), p. 80.
- Abdu’l-Baha, Christ’s Promise Fulfilled (Wilmette, IL: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1978), pp. 31-32; Udo Schaefer, The Light Shineth in Darkness (Oxford, England: George Ronald, 1973), p. 78; J. E. Esslemont, Baha’u’lla’h and the New Era (Wilmette, IL: Baha’i Publishing Truest, 1970), p. 222.
- George Townshend, Christ and Baha’u’llah (Oxford, England: George Ronald, 1977), pp. 115, 65, 77; World Order, Fall 1978, p. 16.
- F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, New International Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1973), p. 6)
- Those wishing to learn more may order our series “Baha’i” at www.johnankerberg.org
- Baha’i World Faith, p. 21.
- Mabel Hyde Pain, The Divine Art of Living (Wilmette, IL: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1974), p. 114, citing Some Answered Questions, p. 269.
- See Huschmand Sabat, The Heavens Are Cleft Asunder (Oxford, England: George Ronald, 1975), p. 120.
- Pain, pp. 78-79.
- Christ’s Promise Fulfilled, p. 30.
- Ibid., p. 58.
- Ibid., pp. 61, 17.
- Gloria Faizi, The Baha’i Faith: An Introduction (Wilmette, IL: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1978), p. 37.
- Esslemont, p. 125.
- Baha’i World Faith, p. 247.
- Ives, Portals to Freedom, pp. 171-172.
- Baha’i World Faith, p. 250.
- Ives, Portals to Freedom, p. 172.