November 20, 2006

Christian Faith and Bahai

There are many good things to admire about Bahai, a religion that sprang up around 1844 in present-day Iran. So much so that many of its converts come from the ranks of ostensible Christians. One of the main claims of Bahai is that it builds on the doctrines of the prior, major religions including Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. They refer to this cumulative effect as 'progressive revelation'... an expression similar to one used in the Christian faith, but having quite a different meaning. Do the claims of Bahai really hold up to Biblical scrutiny? Here are my own thoughts, having associated with informed Bahais.

To begin with, the claim of progressive revelation itself is essentially contradictory. Since the major historical religions differ markedly among themselves on certain fundamental issues (eg. reincarnation) then how could a later religion represent an accumulation of their collective wisdom? Bahais like to find as many points of agreement among the world faiths as they can-- and yes, there are many, as one would expect-- but at the same time, they overlook the often grating differences among the creeds in order to support their claim of 'essential unity of religions.' Certainly, the Christian creed does not acknowledge progressive revelation in the Bahai sense. Jesus stated 'I am the way, the truth, and the light,' and the New Testament elaborates on his pivotal role in history as the ultimate redeemer of humankind. There are no later Messiahs or incarnations of God expressed in Christian scripture.

As regards society, Bahai holds that on a collective basis, human consciousness is evolving, progressing in a positive direction towards ultimate 'god-awareness.' They believe that after sufficient disasters, mankind will come to see the folly of bad choices and will consequently make the decision to adopt the principles of Bahai. This belief, while comforting to them, simply flies against the statements of Christian scripture... not to mention the plain evidence of our planetary history! Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John all wrote that we are born with the inherent tendency of selfishness-- to do evil. This predisposition may be an unavoidable consequence of free will... without which we would be mere robots. It's like a genetic flaw that we are powerless to eliminate. History amply demonstrates the truth of this assertion. The 20th century, despite hyperbolic technical achievements including landing men on the moon, was the bloodiest century in recorded history. There is simply no veracity to the naive belief that our race is morally improving; in fact, quite the opposite is the inescapable conclusion of a disinterested examination of history. What Christianity asserts is that Jesus Christ is our only hope for the future. The solution to our self-destructiveness is not within us-- it is in our Lord and savior, Jesus, who will ultimately rescue us from our own waywardness.

In keeping with their belief in the progress of human consciousness, Bahais have made representations to the UN urging more resolutions and action in the sphere of religious freedom. On the surface this appears laudable; yet it demonstrates a naive faith in human bureaucratic mechanisms to accomplish what only God's Spirit can effect-- namely, a change in the human heart. In fifty years, the UN has made a few brave attempts to define universal morality, and merely tentative efforts at actively promoting and achieving those goals. Despite any of its efforts, virtually every member of the UN continues to violate even basic human rights every day. As Christianity teaches, the human race is incapable of pulling itself up to Godly levels of morality; it can only come from the gracious act of God towards us.

Although Bahai states a belief in one God, and even believes in His Holy Spirit, the creed does not believe in the existence of Satan (the Devil). They hold that evil is what happens when you remove good, as darkness is the absence of light. It is an outlook that is shared by many modern (eg. New Age) philosophers and religions. But, does it hold up to the evidence of 'demon possession' and other satanic manifestations? When thus pressed, some Bahais will claim that such phenomena are really due to mental disorders. That might explain some cases, but by no means covers all. Where do some people get the ideas that motivate them to commit heinous crimes? Is it purely self-generated? Where do some get the knowledge and powers they need to accomplish some of the worst atrocities? If there is a personal force for good, whom we call God; can't there be an opposing, entity of evil? Since freewill is an essential ingredient for expressions of genuine love from created beings, then even the angels (whose existence Bahai acknowledges) have the option of rebellion. That the most powerful such being chose to exercise that option and became Satan ('the opposer') is not much of a mental stretch. That this creature prefers that humans not recognize his reality is also an easy conclusion.

After examining the teachings of Bahai, the clear conclusion a Christian must reach is that Bahai, for all its surface attractiveness, is yet another instrument of deception for the souls of humanity. 

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