The Baha'i Faith:
Putting Darkness For Light
By Steve Lagoon
"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter" (Isaiah 5:20). After an extensive study, the above words of Isaiah the prophet seem to me a most appropriate description of Baha'i religion.
This may seem a most harsh way to begin a treatment of a faith that prides itself on its commitment to peace, unity, and the love of God. It is certainly true that many of the goals and principles of Bahaism are noble, and that its adherents are sincere people.
Nonetheless, the overall teachings of Bahaism are antithetical to biblical Christianity. Virtually every important teaching of Christianity is denied by Bahaism. Therefore, Christians need to be aware of this growing threat to the souls of mankind, and how to defend the truth against deceptions of the Baha'i religion.
The Baha'i faith publishes an introductory magazine which provides much helpful background information including the following:
"The Baha'i Faith is today among the fastest-growing religions. With more than five million followers, who reside in virtually every nation on earth, it is the second-most widespread faith, surpassing every religion but Christianity in its geographic reach." (The Baha'is: A Profile of the Baha'i Faith and its Worldwide Community [magazine format]. Baha'i International Community, Baha'i World Centre, Haifa, Israel, 2005, p. 5, hereafter Profile).
Some basic Baha'i principles:
*The Oneness of humankind
*The equality of women and men
*Full racial integration
*The harmony of science and religion
*The adoption of a universal auxiliary Language
*The creation of a world commonwealth of nations that will keep peace through collective security
Other important beliefs are:
*That there is only one God
*That all of the world's religions represent one changeless, eternal faith
*That the purpose of life on earth is to develop ourselves spiritually, in preparation for an everlasting existence hereafter (Profile, Back cover).
The foregoing information is from The Baha'is: A Profile of the Baha'i Faith and its Worldwide Community [magazine format]. Baha'i International Community, Baha'i World Centre, Haifa, Israel, 2005
Historical Roots of Bahaism
John Boykin gives a good summary of the beginnings of Bahaism:
"The Baha'i Faith developed in the nineteenth century in Iran, then known as Persia. It is named after its prophet, Baha'u'llah, whose title in Arabic means 'Glory of God.' Like most Iranians for the past 1300 years, its founders and early converts were all Shi'ite Muslims. Of the twelve men Shi'ites recognize as legitimate successors to Muhammad, the last was Imam Mahdi. A recluse, Imam Mahdi communicated with his followers through spokesman called Babs ('gates"). Ever since communication from him ceased in A.D. 941, devout Shi'ites have awaited his return as a conquering messiah.
In 1844 a twenty-four-year-old Persian wool merchant took the title Bab [Mirza' Ali Muhammad 1819-1850] and began to preach . . . [and] claimed to be a prophet greater than Muhammad. . . Muslim leaders. . . soon locked him in jail, where he spent most of his six-year ministry. The Bab's followers, called Babis, staged several insurrections, mainly in 1848-50. The Persian government suppressed the Babi uprisings with unbridled cruelty. Finally, in an effort to kill the movement at its source, they executed the Bab in 1850.
After his death the Babi community turned for spiritual leadership to twenty-year-old Subh-i-Ezel [Mirza Yahya], whom the Bab had named as his successor. Subh-i-Ezel was poorly suited for leadership, so practical administrative responsibilities fell to his older half-brother, Baha'u'llah [Mirza Husayn 'Ali 1817-1892]. . . The Bab had taught that a prophet even greater than himself would one day appear. In 1863 Baha'u'llah declared that he was that prophet. Most Babis accepted Baha'u'llah's claim and shifted their devotion from the Bab to him. They became known as Baha'is. The rest, unable to reconcile Baha'u'llah's claim with the Bab's appointment of Subh-i-Ezel as his successor, remained loyal to Subh-i-Ezel. The two factions clashed violently. . . in 1868, the civil authorities intervened. They sent Subh-i-Ezel to a prison in Cyprus and Baha'u'llah to a prison at Akka, now in Israel. Every word Baha'u'llah uttered was scrupulously recorded. He dictated over one hundred books and tablets. His book of laws, the Kitab-I-Aqdas ('Most Holy Book'), is considered his 'most weighty and sacred' work. . . Baha'u'llah had appointed his eldest son, Abdu'l Baha [Abbass Effendi 1844-1921], to succeed him. Though he did not claim to be a manifestation of God like his father, he did assume sole authority to interpret Baha'u'llah's teachings. He claimed infallibility for his interpretations. . . Abdu'l-Baha was primarily responsible for spreading the Baha'i faith outside the Middle East. He died in 1921, leaving his Oxford-educated grandson, Shoghi Effendi [1897-1957], as Guardian of the Faith. Shoghi Effendi died in 1957 and, in violation of Baha'i law, left no will. He had no appointed successor. Six years later the first Baha'i universal House of Justice was elected. Among Baha'is this nine-person board is held to be infallible and governs Baha'i affairs today from their world headquarters in Haifa, Israel" (John Boykin, The Baha'i Faith in A Guide to Cults & New Religions (Ronald Enroth Ed.). Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 1983, pp. 26-27, hereafter "Boykin").
Baha'is often emphasize the amount of persecution they faced at the beginning of their history. But two points should be kept in mind in this regard. First, most of the worse persecution was directed at the Babis.
Second, the basic belief of both the Babis and the Baha'is is the eventual overthrow of present governments. As Boykin stated above, the Babis were involved in several insurrections against the government, which puts the "persecution" in a different light. Since the leaders of Bahaism had been Babis, it is understandable that the Persian government would seek to control Bahaism as well.
Samuel Wilson stated that:
"The Babis looked for their immediate triumph over all existing powers, culminating in the universal establishment of the true faith and the reign of God's saints on earth. . . The 'Bayan,' the chief book of the Bab, anticipates the time when the shah's government shall be superceded by a Babi state, which shall prevail in Persia. It gives laws for this Babi state. . . Babism, therefore, was a political as well as religious movement" (Samuel Graham Wilson. Bahaism and Its Claims. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1915, pp. 134-135, hereafter 'Wilson')
Not only did the government have to worry about insurrection at the hands of the Babis and the Baha'is, but as Boykin also pointed out, the Persian government had their hands full keeping a lid on the fighting between the two factions who fought for the control of the Babis after the death of the Bab, which lead to the government sending Baha'u'llah and his half-brother Mirza Yahya (who followers became known as Azalis) into exile.
Will the real manifestation please stand up!
Boykin correctly pointed out that the Bab had appointed Mirza Yahya as his successor. Baha'u'llah essentially stole control of the movement from his brother, despite the fact that the Bab, the very manifestation of God (in their view) had appointed Mirza Yahya. The Baha'i explanation of this is as ingenious as it is sinister. They claim that the Bab only appointed Mirza Yahya publicly as a rouse or cover for Baha'u'llah. That is, the Bab actually appointed Baha'u'llah as his successor, but publicly put forward Mirza Yahya in the event of persecution. Wilson states it thus:
"We have seen that Subh-i-Azal, the half-brother of Baha'u'llah, was appointed by the Bab as his successor. According to Abdul Baha, this appointment was a dishonest subterfuge on the part of Baha, arranged by him through secret correspondence with the Bab, in order that Baha might be relieved of danger and persecution and be protected from interference. . . This account shows the low ideas of honour and truthfulness in the minds of Baha and Abdul Baha" (Wilson, p. 204).
Wilson (Wilson, p. 204) also quoted from Abul Fazl's account of the same event in his book 'Baha'i Proofs,' p. 52, in which Fazl "states the position of the 'Traveler's Narrative":
"The Bab and Baha Ullah, after consulting together, made Azal appear as the Bab's successor. In this manner they preserved Baha Ullah from interference."
Fazl's testimony is important because he is quoted as an authority in Baha'i literature. For example, see J.E. Esslemont, Baha'u'llah and the New Era. Wilmette, IL.: Baha'i Books, 1923, Revised edition 1970, 1976, 1978 edition, p. 113, hereafter Esslemont).
Another authority that Wilson quotes (Wilson, p. 204-205) is Professor Edward G. Browne who is frequently quoted in Baha'i literature, particularly because of his description of a meeting he had with Baha'u'llah, and his friendship with Abdul-Baha. For example, see The Baha'is: A Profile of the Baha'i Faith and its Worldwide Community [magazine format]. Baha'i International Community, Baha'i World Centre, Haifa, Israel, 2005, pp. 21, 57.
Wilson's note quoting Professor Browne is thus:
"The Baha'is are impaled on the other horn of the dilemma also, for, as Professor Browne says ('Mirza Jani ['s History]', p. xxxiii.) 'The difficulty lies in the fact that Subh-i-Azal consistently refused to recognize Baha's claim, so that the Baha'i is driven to make the assumption that the Bab, who is acknowledged to be divinely inspired and gifted with divine knowledge and prescience, deliberately chose to succeed him one who was destined to be the 'point of darkness,' or chief opponent, of 'Him whom God should manifest'" (Wilson, 204).
There are problems as a result of the foregoing. First, it shows that Baha'u'llah's half-brother, Mirza Yahya rather than Baha'u'llah was the one chosen by the Bab to be his successor. Also, it shows that Baha'u'llah was dishonest, a strange activity for a manifestation of God. Finally, whenever, we read Baha'i literature that quotes the Bab as speaking of "Him who God will manifest, it is not Baha'u'llah whom he had in mind..
Incidentally, the same Professor Browne that is regularly appealed to as a source by Baha'is, reported about the regular use of opium by the early Baha'is:
"All present were Babis (Baha'is) and we sat sipping our tea and whiffing opium. We sat talking late and smoking opium. The wildest ascriptions of deity to Baha were made when intoxicated with wine and opium" (Wilson, p. 215).
What do Baha'is believe?
At this point, we will do well to compare the beliefs of the Baha'i religion with those of biblical Christianity. We begin by looking at the doctrine of Scripture and authority.
Scripture and Authority
For the Christian, the Bible (Old and New Testament) is the only authoritative Scripture. Christians do not recognize the holy books of other religions, and reject the idea that they are inspired of God.
Baha'is claim to accept the holy books of all the major religions of the world. They assert that each book was the authoritative Scripture for its era, but that all of them are superceded by the Scriptures of the Baha'is. These Scriptures are most fully seen in the writings of Baha'u'llah. Further, Abdul-Baha is believed to be the inspired interpreter of the works of Baha'u'llah. Finally, the authority for Baha'is moved from Abdul-Baha to his grandson Shoghi Effendi, who had the title of the "Guardian of the Faith." After the death of Shoghi Effendi in 1957, it would be six years until the Universal House of Justice was established. Baha'is believe the Universal House of Justice is infallible in its official pronouncements.
Immediately, three major problems strike the mind of a Christian. One, we cannot accept the untenable notion that God would inspire such divergent ideas in different holy books (Monotheism/polytheism). Two, we cannot accept any ideas that contradicts what God has already revealed in the Bible (Jesus is Almighty God in the Bible/ Jesus is not Almighty God for Baha'is). Third, we cannot believe that Baha'is prophets are inspired of God when they contradict each other (Polygamy accepted and practiced by Baha'u'llah/ Polygamy condemned by Abdul-Baha). Let us look at each of these a bit closer.
How can we believe the Baha'i claim that the Scriptures and beliefs of all the major religions of the world are in essential agreement? I reproduce a chart from Francis Beckwith to illustrate this:
"God and the Major World Religious Leaders
Moses God is personal. Strict, uncompromising monotheism
Krishna Polytheistic, but ultimately pantheistic and impersonal.
Zoroaster Two Supreme Beings. Philosophical dualism
Buddha God not relevant. Essentially agnostic.
Jesus Christ God is personal, able to beget a son. Strict, uncompromising monotheism."
(Francis Beckwith, Baha'i. Minneapolis, MN.: Bethany House Publishers, 1985, p. 17, hereafter, Beckwith).
Beckwith summed up the chart by saying:
"Though Shoghi Effendi has said that the manifestations disagree on 'non-essential aspects of their doctrine,' it would stretch credibility to the limit to suppose that the nature of God is one of these non-essential aspects. God cannot be impersonal, personal. Transcendent, polytheistic, pantheistic. Monotheistic, able to beget, not able to beget. Relevant, and irrelevant all at the same time" (Beckwith, p. 18).
Shoghi Effendi represents the idea that all religions are essentially the same:
"The fundamental principle enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh, the followers of His Faith firmly believe, is that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is a continuous and progressive process, that all the great religions of the world are divine in origin, that their basic principles are in complete harmony, that their aims and purposes are one and the same, that their teachings are but facets of one truth, that their functions are complementary, that they differ only in the nonessential aspects of their doctrines, and that their missions represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society" (Shoghi Effendi, "The Faith of Bahá'u'lláh" in World Order, Vol. 7, No. 2 (1972-73), p. 7).
Beckwith's chart show the impossibility that "all the great religions of the world are divine in origin, that their basic principles are in complete harmony." It is grossly unfair for Baha'i apologists to reinterpret the world's religions in such a way as to make it appear there is basic agreement among them. This is done my denying the essential teachings that are unique to each faith. This is clearly done with Christianity, in that all its most important teachings are denied by Baha'is. It is sheer dishonesty to say that the world's religions "differ only in the nonessential aspects of their doctrines." How can what a religion teaches about God or salvation be rendered "a nonessential aspect"?
The Baha'i Faith and other religions
While on the surface, Baha'is are open and accepting of other religion, in reality, and ultimately they are the very opposite. Baha'is believe that Baha'u'llah is the only messenger for today, and that all other religions have been superceded by Bahaism.
"In order to find truth . . . and open mind is essential . . . that we imagine ourselves to be right and everybody else wrong is the greatest obstacle in the path to unity" (Universal Peace: More than an End to War).
It is difficult to understand how Baha'is can make the above statement when they believe they are the only true religion on the face of the planet!
In Theology proper, for the Christian, there is only one God asserting a strong monotheism. The Baha'i faith also asserts monotheism. It strongly denies the existence of more than one God. Yet, this God is not well defined. Wilson description is too the point:
"The teaching of Bahaism regarding God is hard to grasp, because it oscillates between Theism and Pantheism" (Wilson, 88).
The charge of pantheism seems well founded. Bahaism teaches that the Holy Spirit is a separate entity from God, yet is 'itself" eternal. Further, it teaches that all of "creation," the universe itself is eternal, in that it is forever proceeding from God.
"Baha'u'llah teaches that the universe is without beginning in time. It is a perpetual emanation from the Great First Cause. The Creator always had His creation and always will have . . . Abdul-Baha says . . . this endless universe, had no beginning" (Esslemont, 208-209).
Since Bahaism affirms the eternality of the universe, it is forced into two possible conclusions. One, that the universe is a part of God (pantheism). If the charge of pantheism is denied, then you are left with the idea that the universe is a separate entity from God that nonetheless is eternal (some sort of dualism).
Similar to Islam, from which it sprang, Bahaism believes that God is unknowable, and can only be known indirectly through his manifestations. While Baha'is reverence Baha'u'llah as the manifestation of God for this age, they do not worship him. Worship belongs to God alone.
Christianity teaches that God can be known, and in fact, salvation depends upon knowing him. John 17: 3 says: "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." Martin sums up the Baha'i attitude about God:
"For the average Baha'i God is an impersonal force, a being devoid of personality" (Martin, Walter R. The Rise of the Cults. Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 1955, 1957 edition, p. 119, Hereafter Martin, Rise of Cults)
Christians believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. The Bible affirms that while there is only one God, he exists in a tri-personal way. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each distinct personalities in relation to each other, yet share the nature and essence of the one being of God.
Baha'is reject the Trinity. In Walter Martin's classic work Kingdom of the Cults, he relates an interview with a Baha'i teacher. I will quote the exchange relating to the Trinity:
"Question: Do you in Bahaism believe in the Holy Trinity? Answer: If by the Trinity you mean the Christian concept that the three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are all the one God, the answer is no. . . We cannot accept the idea that God is both three and one and find this foreign to the Bible which Christianity claims as its source" (Martin, Walter R. The Kingdom of the Cults. Minneapolis, MN.: Bethany House Publishers, 1965, 1985 edition, p. 273-274, hereafter Martin, Kingdom).
In a brochure called "Christianity and the Baha'i Faith, we find the following:
"What about the Trinity? Baha'is believe that 'the essential oneness of Father, Son and Spirit had many meanings and constitutes the foundation of Christianity . . . Here is one way to understand the Trinity: The Bible compares God to the astronomical sun, and Christ to its reflected image. The Holy Spirit, in this analogy, is the light shining in and through the mirror. Thus the Trinity means the Father is the Divine Essence, the Holy Spirit is the Divine Light, and Christ is the Divine Reflection. From one point of view, these three are the same; from another, they are distinct" (Christianity and the Baha'i Faith: Frequently Asked Questions. Knoxville, TN.: Stonehaven Press, 1999, hereafter Christianity).
For those who complain about the difficulty in understanding the Trinity, this explanation does not seem an improvement. Further, it is a complete redefinition which bears no resemblance to the biblical teaching concerning the nature of God.
The very fact that Baha'is deny that Jesus is Almighty God illustrates their rejection of the Trinity.
In order to understand Baha'i teaching on the Godhead, it is necessary to understand their view of the 'Manifestations,' which they define as follows:
"The Manifestations represent a level of existence intermediate between God and humanity" (From "Baha'i Topics, Who Are the Prophets? At http://info.bahai.org/article-1-4-0-3.html)
"The great prophets of God, his chosen Messengers, who appear in every age. The Manifestations of God are not God descended to earth but are perfect reflections of his attributes, just as a mirror reflects the sun but is not the sun itself. All the Manifestations have the same spirit, although their outward forms are different, and they manifest different attributes of God relevant to the needs and circumstances of the age in which they appear. They differ only in the intensity of their revelation and the comparative potency of their light. The Baha'i writings identify several Manifestations, among them, Abraham, Noah, Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, Christ, Muhammad, the Bab and Baha'u'llah" (Baha'u'llah. Mona Vale NSW, Australia.: Baha'i Publications Australia, 1991, p. 80, hereafter Baha'u'llah).
Important in the above quote is that "All the Manifestations have the same spirit." This raises the question; what is this spirit? Is it personal? If so, how could both Baha'u'llah and the Bab, who lived at the same time, both be this same person? If this "spirit" is impersonal, then how can it be maintained that Baha'u'llah is the same person or the return of Jesus Christ?
In their tract, "The Glory of Christ," Bahaism states:
"In terms of human identity, these mirrors are distinct, having different human bodies and souls. But they are the same divine spirit, for they manifest the one eternal Christ" (The Glory of Christ: A Baha'i Testimony. Knoxville, TN.: Stonehaven Press, 1997).
Again, if all the manifestations are "the same divine spirit." How could both the Bab and Baha'u'llah, who were contemporaries both, be that one person?
"The Manifestation then, is not simply an ordinary person whom God chooses at some point in His natural lifetime to be His messenger. Rather, the Manifestation is a special Being, having a unique relationship to God and sent by Him from the spiritual world as an instrument of divine revelation. Even though the individual soul of the Manifestation had a phenomenal beginning, it nevertheless existed in the spiritual world prior to physical birth in this life. The immortal souls of ordinary men, on the other hand, have no such preexistence, but come into existence at the moment of human conception. Of the preexistence of the souls of the Manifestations, said: 'The Prophets, unlike us, are pre-existent. The soul of Christ existed in the spiritual world before His birth in this world. We cannot imagine what that world is like, so words are inadequate to picture His state of being.'" ("Baha'i Topics, Who Are the Prophets? At http://info.bahai.org/article-1-4-0-3.html).
From this passage, we further see that the Baha'is teach that the manifestations pre-existed their life on earth. So we wonder; did this spirit leave Muhammad, dwell in "the spiritual world," then enter into Baha'u'llah (who was born two years before the Bab), and then at the Bab's birth split into two 'persons'?
As has already been alluded to, Bahaism rejects the biblical teaching that Jesus Christ is Almighty God. Instead Bahaism teaches that Jesus was a manifestation of God. These manifestations (Moses, Muhammad, Baha'u'llah) are not Almighty God, but rather are human beings in whom the Holy Spirit dwells in, in a unique way.
Further, Bahaism teaches that Baha'u'llah is the return of Jesus Christ.
"Christ once more is knocking at the doors of our hearts . . . Baha'is believe the new name of Christ is Baha'u'llah . . . He fulfills Christ's own promise to return . . . He is the return of the one spiritual Christ&emdash;that pre-existent Word or Logos who is the same 'the same yesterday, and today, and forever . . . Baha'is are in reality Christians of the second coming" (Secret of the Second Coming: Christ's Glorious Return, Knoxville, TN.: Stonehaven Press, 1998, hereafter 'Secret')
The Bible clearly refuted this notion. The book of Acts leaves us this record:
"After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven'" (Acts 1:9-11).
The prophet Zechariah gives more detail on Christ's return:
"Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south" (Zechariah 14:3-4).
Jesus ascended to heaven in the same physical body in which he walked the earth, and it is that resurrected body he now has in heaven, and is the one he will return in. The real Jesus will have the marks of the nail prints in his hands and feet.
Jesus himself said:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:1-3).
Jesus did not say, "I will return in the form of another," or "I will send another in my name." He said, "I will come back." He warned that others would falsely claim to be him, but that we should not be tricked by them:
"At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christ's and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect&emdash;if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.
"So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man" (Matthew 24:23-27).
In his Olivet Discourse, Jesus went on to outline the events of his coming which include the judgment of the nations and the setting up of his kingdom over the earth (Matthew 25:31-46).
Why should I believe the blasphemous claim that Baha'u'llah is Christ? The real Jesus had a miraculous birth, healed the sick, walked on the water, and raised the dead. Baha'u'llah did none of these. Above all, Jesus predicted his own resurrection. Baha'u'llah is dead and buried; Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ever lives!
Not only does Bahaism reject the deity of Christ, but it also denies his bodily resurrection from the dead. Esslemont relates:
"An important part of the Bab's teaching is His explanation of the terms Resurrection . . . By the resurrection is meant, He said, the appearance of a new manifestation of the Sun of Truth. The raising of the dead means the spiritual awakening of those who are asleep in the graves of ignorance" (Esslemont, 34).
A recent tract addresses the resurrection of Christ:
"Do Baha'is believe Christ rose from the dead? Yes, most definitely. Baha'i texts describe Jesus as 'risen from the dead' (SWA 162); as the 'risen Christ' (MA 255) whose disciples 'saw Christ living, helping and protecting them' (SAQ 1067) after His physical form 'was crucified and vanished' (TAB 193). Resurrection is thus 'the consciousness that came to His disciples, grieving over His death, of His living reality; it was not a physical thing but a spiritual realization . . . This figurative language means that the Risen Christ, though not physical, is both more real and infinitely more powerful than any material entity . . . Many Bible verses show, however, that Christ relinquished His earthly body after the 'day's of His flesh; (Heb. 5:7), and that-though able at will to resume one-He now customarily manifests Himself in other ways" (Christianity).
The foregoing makes clear the Baha'i rejection of the true and biblical resurrection of Christ. It also shows some dishonesty, in that they begin by claiming to affirm the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but then proceed to redefine the meaning of resurrection to a cultic understanding.
At this point it must be emphasized that this denial of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ strikes at the heart of the Christian faith. Baha'is may claim that they support the essential teachings of the Christian faith, but its denial of the resurrection of Christ displays the hollowness of that claim.
It would by like a doctor saying to a patient, "I will not touch any essential part of your body, I am only going to remove your brain and heart!" Indeed, the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ is at the heart of Christianity. The apostle Paul put it this way:
"And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:17).
For Christians, the Holy Spirit is Almighty God, the third person of the Trinity. But Bahaism defines the Holy Spirit as:
"The Entity that acts as an intermediary between God and his manifestations. This link is similar to the rays of the sun by which energy is transmitted to the planets" (Baha'u'llah, 78).
So, for Bahaism, the Holy Spirit is some kind of "entity" between God and mankind that the manifestations of God possess rather than God himself. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is a separate person from the Word (Jesus). Baha'i writings seem to equate the two and deny their distinct personalities.
For instance, Abdul Baha stated:
"When Christ appeared, twenty centuries ago, although the Jews were eagerly awaiting his coming . . . yet when the Sun of Truth dawned, they denied Him . . . and eventually crucified that divine Spirit, the Word of God" (Esslemont, J. E. Baha'u'llah and the New Era. Wilmette, IL.: Baha'i Books, 1923, Revised edition 1970, 1976, 1978 edition, p. 19).
So Bahaism rejects the Biblical truth that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each distinct person within the Godhead, and replaces it with vague and confusing ideas.
Wilson reports that Abdul-Baha denied the reality of Christ's miracles:
"The miracles of Christ were spiritual teachings, not literal" (Wilson, 103).
"Baha'u'llah and Abdul-Baha regard the descriptions of Heaven and Hell given in some of the older religious writings as symbolic like the Biblical story of the Creation, and not as literally true" (Esslemont, 195).
So, the biblical account of creation is not, according to Bahaism, "literally true." Esslemont also stated:
"On the other hand, who amongst our religious teachers would still declare . . . that the world was made in six days, or that the description of the plagues in Egypt as given in the Book of Exodus is literally true, or that the sun stood still in the heavens (that is, that the earth stopped its rotation) to let Joshua pursue his enemies . . . Such beliefs may still be repeated in form, but who accepts them in their literal sense . . . The religious world owes a debt of gratitude to the men of science who helped to tear such worn-out creeds and dogmas to tatters and allowed the truth to step forth free" (Esslemont, 205).
Sin and evil
Bahaism does not deny the reality of evil and sin, but definitely attaches meanings to the terms that are unbiblical, and which serve to downplay their true significance.
For instance, they deny the existence of the class of beings the Bible calls angels whether good or evil, affirming only the existence of God, mankind, and the Holy Spirit.
"Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá taught that there are no levels of being other than the three discussed above: human beings, the Manifestations, and God. There is no hierarchy of demons, angels, and archangels. Insofar as these terms have any significant meaning, they are seen as symbolic of varying stages of human development, imperfection being demonic and spirituality being angelic" (web article, "Baha'i Topics, Who Are the Prophets?, http://info.bahai.org./article-1-4-0-3.html).
So, for Baha'is there is no personal and real Devil.
"Of his temptation it says, 'the devil signifies the human nature of Christ, through which He was tempted" (Wilson, 103).
"This brings us to the Bahá'í concept of the relationship between good and evil in man. `Abdu'l-Bahá describes it thus: In creation there is no evil, all is good. Certain qualities and natures innate in some men and apparently blameworthy are not so in reality . . . The Bahá'í Faith does not therefore accept the concept of 'original sin' or any related doctrine which considers that people are basically evil or have intrinsically evil elements in their nature. All the forces and faculties within us are God-given and thus potentially beneficial to our spiritual development. In the same way, the Bahá'í teachings deny the existence of Satan, a devil, or an 'evil force.' Evil, it is explained, is the absence of good; darkness is the absence of light; cold is the absence of heat. Just as the sun is the unique source of all life in a , so ultimately is there only one force or power in the universe, the force we call God.
However, if a person, through his own God-given free will, turns away from this force or fails to make the necessary effort to develop his spiritual capacities, the result is imperfection. Both within the individual and in society, there will be what one might term "." These dark spots are imperfections, and `Abdu'l-Bahá has said that "evil is imperfection." (Baha'i Topics, On Good and Evil, "http://info.bahai.org/article-1-4-0-9.html").
It can be seen that the Baha'i view of sin and evil is quite unbiblical. Rather than seeing mankind as guilty sinners who have violated God's Law, and who are in need of the saving work of Christ, they see mankind as basically good, but in need of working toward their own perfection.
Heaven, Hell, and the Afterlife
In this scenario, there is no biblical hell that unsaved sinners go to for eternity. Rather, mankind is on a journey to God. Hell is simply redefined.
"Baha'u'llah and Abdul-Baha regard the descriptions of Heaven and Hell given in some of the older religious writings as symbolic like the Biblical story of the Creation, and not as literally true. According to Them, Heaven is the state of perfection, and Hell that of imperfection . . . It is even possible that the condition of those who have died in sin and unbelief may become changed . . . Therefore in that world also they can make progress" (Esslemont, 195-196).
In another place, they state:
"The soul does not die; it endures everlastingly. When the human body dies, the soul is freed from ties with the physical body and the surrounding physical world and begins its progress through the spiritual world. Bahá'ís understand the spiritual world to be a timeless and placeless extension of our own universe--and not some physically remote or removed place" (From Heaven and Hell: A Baha'i View of Life After Death http://info.bahai.org/article-1-4-5-2.html).
"The body will not be needed in the next stage of our development, and we discard it on leaving this life as a traveler discards the vehicle which has taken him to his destination" (Faizi, Gloria, The Baha'i Faith: An introduction, Baha'i Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India, 1971, 1992, p. 60).
Salvation, in the Baha'i system is simply progressing spiritually, both now and in the afterlife.
According to Bahaism, in order to make "spiritual progress" one must follow the messenger for today, Baha'u'llah:
"In the final analysis, heaven can be seen partly as a state of nearness to God; hell is a state of remoteness from God. Each state follows as a natural consequence of individual efforts, or the lack thereof, to develop spiritually. The key to spiritual progress is to follow the path outlined by the Manifestations of God" (Heaven and Hell: A Baha'i View of Life After Death http://info.bahai.org/article-1-4-5-2.html).
So, not only do Baha'is advocate a works-based system of salvation, but they must be the works commanded by the "manifestation of God" for today which they claim is Baha'u'llah.
Note also this similar statement by Baha'i writer Gloria Faizi:
"If we wish for spiritual health, it is necessary first to recognize the Messenger of God and then to obey His instructions" (Faizi, Gloria, The Baha'i Faith: An introduction, Baha'i Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India, 1971, 1992, pp. 61-62).
So, in this Baha'i view, Christians then do not enjoy "spiritual health" since we do not recognize Baha'u'llah.
This contradicts the clear biblical teaching that we must believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ in this life, or we cannot go to heaven (John 3:5; Acts 4:12, 16:31, 1 Corinthian 15:1-4). Further, if we die in unbelief, we cannot escape the everlasting judgment of God. Hebrews 9:27 says, "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment."
Jesus said in John 14:6 "I am the Way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Baha'is have heard this so many times that they have developed a couple of ways of responding to it. In a tract based on this verse (John 14:6) they take the approach that Baha'u'llah actually is Jesus Christ. I have shown this idea to be untenable in the section above on Jesus Christ.
The other answer you might here is this; "Yes, Jesus was the way to God in his "era,' but now it is the 'era' of Baha'u'llah. This is also clearly refuted by Jesus claim that he himself will return to earth, and that he would be "with you always, unto the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
Bahaism and Christianity
So how does Bahaism really view Christianity? Well if you want to be recognized as a Baha'i, you must leave the Christian Church.
"If we abandon these timeworn blind imitations and investigate reality, all of
us will be unified" (Baha'i: Teachings For The New World Order, Compiled by Mouhebat Sobhani, Waldorf Enterprises, New York, USA, 1992, p. 6).
Also, Baha'u'llah taught that when the Universal House of Justice takes control of the government of the world, all other religions will be suppressed. He said that:
"Diversity of religion should cease" (Faizi, Gloria, The Baha'i Faith: An introduction, Baha'i Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India, 1971, 1992, p. 16).
Baha'u'llah also said:
"That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common faith" (Ibid, p. 50).
The Baha'i goal is not to promote a diversity of religions, but the elimination of all save Bahaism itself.
"When you join a Baha'i assembly, you are required to withdraw from membership in any church or religious organization. You cannot be a Baha'i and a member of a Christian Church at the same time" (Petersen, William J. Those Curious New Cults. New Canaan, CT.: Keats Publishing, Pivot Edition, 1975, p. 216).
One tract is very pernicious in its attempt to lure unsuspecting Christians into its fold:
"No matter what Christian denomination you belong to, you will find you have much in common with Baha'is . . . With all of that in common, you might be even more surprised at how little we disagree. In fact, you might find that you have more beliefs in common with Baha'is than you do with some other Christians! So relax. Baha'is may have a strange sounding name, but we still love and worship the same God you do" (Do You Belong to one of the churches that agrees with the Baha'i Faith?).
In a personal letter to me, one Baha'i stated:
"Dear Steve, First I want again to emphasize to you that the Baha'is are no threat to Christians or the followers of any other religion. We believe in their prophets and respect their beliefs" (personal letter on file).
We have seen that Baha'is reject nearly every important belief of Christians, and claim that Bahaism is the only way to God. How then can they make such misleading claims
Is Bahaism Unified
One often hears Baha'is claim that they are a unified religion in distinction from other religions. We should, however, remember the historical roots of Bahaism. The Shi'ites are a sect of Islam. The Shaykhis are a sect of Shi'ites. Out of the Shaykhis came the Bab and the Babis. Out of the Babis came two new sects; the Azals lead by Mirza Yahya, and the Baha'is, lead by Mirza Yahya's half-brother Baha'u'llah.
Researcher David Barrett's comment is to the point:
"There was also factionalism after Baha'u'llah's death, with Abdul-Baha's half-brother Mirza Muhammad Ali claiming to be the legitimate successor. Baha'is often say that unlike every other religion the Baha'i Faith does not have any offshoots or sects. In fact, there have been several" (Barrett, David V. The New Believers. London: Xassell & Co, 2001, p.246).
Barrett then goes on to lay out the historical record regarding all the factions and battles for control throughout the history of the BahaiI Faith.
The Equality of Women
Baha'is proclaim their strong support for the equality of women. For instance:
"Women: unambiguous equality. For the first time in history, the Founder of a major world religion has explicitly stated that women and men are equal." (Profile, p. 29).
As was noted earlier, one of the basic Baha'i principles is "the equality of women and men" (Profile, back cover).
In another place they state:
"In this Revelation of Baha'u'llah, the women go neck and neck with the men. In no movement will they be left behind. Their rights with man are equal in degree. They will enter all the administrative branches of politics. They will attain in all such a degree as will be considered the very highest station of the world of humanity and will take part in all affairs" (The Baha'i Faith and Family Life).
The same Profile (p. 29) shows a graph of the involvement of women on the Baha'i governing bodies which ranges from around 15 to 45 percent. It also shows a picture of one of these "Baha'i National Assemblies" with several women in place.
But the picture painted is somewhat misleading. What is not stated is that women are specifically prohibited from serving on the highest governing body of Bahaism, the Universal House of Justice. For instance, in the Profile (p. 51), there is a picture of the members of the first Universal House of Justice that was elected in 1963. One is immediately struck by the fact that all the members are men. This is not an anomaly, but the established practice of Bahaism. The Baha'i Reference Library thus states:
"It has been elucidated in the writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi that, while the membership of the Universal House of Justice is confined to men, both women and men are eligible for election to Secondary and Local Houses of Justice (currently designated as National and Local Spiritual Assemblies)" (Baha'i Reference Library, Kitab-I-Aqdas , comment on law 52, http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/KA/ka-97.html, see also Wilson, p. 175-176).
It seems strange that while women are considered equal in marriage, can serve on local and secondary levels of Baha'i governing bodies, yet they are prohibited from serving on the Universal House of Justice.
Another disturbing fact of Baha'i history is the question of polygamy. The record of Scripture and history regarding polygamy is clear. It is not a happy place for women who live in it. The Bible never displays it in a positive light, but rather in a negative one.
A passage from Baha'u'llah lays down the rule for marriage. A man is not to take more than two wives, and does better by taking only one. Baha'u'llah said:
"God hath prescribed matrimony unto you. Beware that ye take not unto yourselves more wives than two. Whoso contenteth himself with a single partner from among the maidservants of God, both he and she shall live in tranquility"(Baha'u'llah, Kitab-I-Aqdas, No 63, ).
Now, certainly a limit of two wives is better than the four that Islam allows. But the biblical ideal is one man and one woman. Baha'is today do not interpret this passage to allow for polygamy, and do not practice it themselves. They have reinterpreted it in such away that actually changes the intent of their own prophet. Here is their explanation:
"While the text of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas appears to permit bigamy, Bahá'u'lláh counsels that tranquility and contentment derive from monogamy. In another Tablet, He underlines the importance of the individual's acting in such a way as to "bring comfort to himself and to his partner". 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the authorized Interpreter of the Bahá'í Writings, states that in the text of the Aqdas monogamy is in effect enjoined. He elaborates this theme in a number of Tablets, including the following: 'Know thou that polygamy is not permitted under the law of God, for contentment with one wife hath been clearly stipulated. Taking a second wife is made dependent upon equity and justice being upheld between the two wives, under all conditions. However, observance of justice and equity towards two wives is utterly impossible. The fact that bigamy has been made dependent upon an impossible condition is clear proof of its absolute prohibition. Therefore it is not permissible for a man to have more than one wife.'
Polygamy is a very ancient practice among the majority of humanity. The introduction of monogamy has been only gradually accomplished by the Manifestations of God. Jesus, for example, did not prohibit polygamy, but abolished divorce except in the case of fornication; Muhammad limited the number of wives to four, but making plurality of wives contingent on justice, and reintroducing permission for divorce; Bahá'u'lláh, Who was revealing His Teachings in the milieu of a Muslim society, introduced the question of monogamy gradually in accordance with the principles of wisdom and the progressive unfoldment of His purpose. The fact that He left His followers with an infallible Interpreter of His Writings enabled Him to outwardly permit two wives in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas but uphold a condition that enabled 'Abdu'l-Bahá to elucidate later that the intention of the law was to enforce monogamy" (The foregoing is the Baha'i explanation of Kitab-I-Aqdas No 63, note 89, at web address, http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/KA/ka-106.html).
It is utterly dishonest for Abdul-Baha to reinterpret the clear statement of his father, Baha'u'llah on this matter. It seems deceptive for Abdul-Baha and other Baha'i apologists to make no mention of the fact that Baha'u'llah himself had two wives, and perhaps a third. Samuel Wilson lays out the historical record:
"Baha Ullah, like Mohammed, surpassed his own law. He had three wives, or two wives and a concubine. Baha'i writers generally omit this information in describing his life and character" (Wilson, p. 159).
One wonders which 'prophet' to listen to. Baha'u'llah who gave the law that a man can have two wives, as he himself did, or Abdul-Baha who gave the law that a man can have only one wife. If Abdul-Baha was correct in saying that it is impossible to treat two wives with equal justice, then he is saying that his father, Baha'u'llah, the supreme manifestation, practiced injustice in his taking multiply wives.
Finally, I am unconvinced by the following claim by Abdul-Baha which seems inconsistent with history and human nature:
"So it will come to pass that when women participate fully and equally in the affairs of the world, when they enter confidently and capably the great arena of laws and politics, war will cease." -- 'Abdu'l-Bahá (as quoted by Martha L Schweitz, Bahá'í Law and Principle: Creating Legal and Institutional Structures for Gender Equality).
The Short Era of the Bab
It is my opinion that the Bab believed he would be viewed as the manifestation for a period of centuries rather than a decade or two. It is indeed strange to think of the Bab receiving the Bayan, a major revelation for the ordering of mankind, that would never be implemented, and quickly superceded by the 'era' of Baha'u'llah.
"The Bayán, the Mother Book of the Bábí Dispensation, is the title given by the Báb to His Book of Laws, and it is also applied to the entire body of His Writings. The Persian Bayán is the major doctrinal work and principal repository of the laws ordained by the Báb. The Arabic Bayán is parallel in content but smaller and less weighty. When describing the Persian Bayán in God Passes By Shoghi Effendi indicated that it should be regarded 'primarily as a eulogy of the Promised One rather than as a code of laws and ordinances designed to be a permanent guide to future generations'" (from Baha'i Website).
One wonders how Baha'is would feel if a teacher arises, claiming to be the new manifestation to supercede Baha'u'llah.
War and Government
Bahaism strongly affirms the desire for world peace and unity. Certainly, this is a laudable goal. But their solution to the problems of hatred and war are naïve and utopian because they fail to face squarely the problem of human sin. Since Baha'is are big supporters of a one-world government, one wonders why they do not have much to say in support of the United Nations. The reason for this is that Bahaism teaches that its own "Universal House of Justice" will be the agency to bring about world Peace (or as Baha'is call it the Most Great Peace or Covenant). Amazingly, Baha'is believe that one day, the Universal House of Justice will rule all the governments of the World. In the meantime, they are to be good citizens of their own country, while they strive to implement the laws of Baha'u'llah.
"The administrative Order of Baha'u'llah is destined to evolve into the Baha'i World Commonwealth which is both in theory and in practice, not only unique in the entire history of political institutions" (Baha'i: Teachings For The New World Order, Compiled by Mouhebat Sobhani, Waldorf Enterprises, New York, USA, 1992, p. 55).
"The Baha'i Administrative Order, as it expands and consolidates itself, will come to be regarded not only as the nucleus but as the very pattern of the New World Order, destined to embrace, in the fullness of time, the whole of mankind" (Faizi, Gloria, The Baha'i Faith: An introduction, Baha'i Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India, 1971, 1992, p. 96).
As to war, the idea is that all the governments of the world would limit their military power, and only use force to stop and aggressive nation.
"The fundamental principle underlying this solemn Pact should be so fixed that if any government later violate any one of its provisions, all the governments on the earth should arise to reduce it to utter submission, nay the human race as a whole should resolve, with every power at its disposal, to destroy that government" (Baha'i: Teachings For The New World Order, Compiled by Mouhebat Sobhani, Waldorf Enterprises, New York, USA, 1992, p. 4).
They also say:
"In like manner, the size of the armaments of every Government should be strictly limited" (Baha'i: Teachings For The New World Order, Compiled by Mouhebat Sobhani, Waldorf Enterprises, New York, USA, 1992, p. 4).
Now, the immediate question arises; What if someone fails to comply with these limits? Well, of course, the answer is more war!
I am not sure how this is an improvement on today, in that their so-called solution to war is a world war!
One thing seems clear; the Universal House of Justice will not likely be a big supporter of liberty. Baha'u'llah said:
"We find some men desiring liberty, and priding themselves therein, such men are in the depths of ignorance. Liberty must, in the end, lead to sedition" (Faizi, Gloria, The Baha'i Faith: An introduction, Baha'i Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India, 1971, 1992, p. 68).
Interestingly, "Baha'is do not take part, directly or indirectly, in partisan politics of any kind" (Baha'i).
Baha'is have an interesting view of economics that does not wipe out private property, but regulates the extremes of poverty and wealth:
"The rich will enjoy the privilege of this new economic condition as well as the poor, for owing to certain provisions and restrictions they will not be able to accumulate so much as to be burdened by its management, while the poor will be relieved from the stress of want and misery" (Baha'i: Teachings For The New World Order, Compiled by Mouhebat Sobhani, Waldorf Enterprises, New York, USA, 1992, p. 9).
One wonders how it will be decided how much money is too much or too little. That the Universal House of Justice will have control of the economic systems of the world is a chilling thought indeed.
"In these Houses of Worship, readings are taken from all the Sacred Scriptures of the world. As there are no priests in the Baha'i Faith, the programme of readings is arranged by a committee and carried out by ordinary men and women. No one gives a sermon or conducts any form of ceremony or ritual. Lectures, discussions, or study classes on the Baha'i Faith and other religions must take place elsewhere because the House of Worship is reserved for prayer and meditation" (Faizi, Gloria, The Baha'i Faith: An introduction, Baha'i Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India, 1971, 1992, p. 115).
"There are many references in the Bahá'í Writings which prohibit the use of wine and other intoxicating drinks and which describe the deleterious effect of such intoxicants on the individual" (Note 144 commenting on Kitab-I-Aqdas no. 119, http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/KA/ka-161.html).
"Bahá'u'lláh confirms the injunction in the Arabic Bayán regarding the renewal, every nineteen years, of the furnishings of one's home, provided one is able to do so. 'Abdu'l-Bahá relates this ordinance to the promotion of refinement and cleanliness. He explains that the purpose of the law is that one should change those furnishings that become old, lose their lustre and provoke repugnance. It does not apply to such things as rare or treasured articles, antiques or jewellery" (Note 166 commenting on Kitab 151, http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/KA/ka-183.html).
"Unto everyone hath been enjoined the writing of a will" (Kitab-I-Aqdas, no. 109).
Though this is law for all Baha'is, the Guardian of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi, did not leave a will.
"Shoghi Effendi died in 1957 and, in violation of Baha'i law, left no will. He had no appointed successor" (Boykin, p. 27).
When I asked a Baha'i leader about this, I was told that Shoghi Effendi had "nothing," and hence, there was no reason to have a will. This explanations may satisfy a "true believer,' but seems to be a far fetched excuse to the uninitiated.
"In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi it is stated: No matter how devoted and fine the love may be between people of the same sex, to let it find expression in sexual acts is wrong. To say that it is ideal is no excuse. Immorality of every sort is really forbidden by Bahá'u'lláh, and homosexual relationships He looks upon as such, besides being against nature. To be afflicted this way is a great burden to a conscientious soul. But through the advice and help of doctors, through a strong and determined effort, and through prayer, a soul can overcome this handicap.
Bahá'u'lláh makes provision for the Universal House of Justice to determine, according to the degree of the offence, penalties for adultery and sodomy (Q and A 49)" (Note 134, commenting on Kitab-I-Aqdas no 107, http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/KA/ka-151.html).
Prayer for the Dead?
"For the Departed. (The Prayer for the dead is to be used for Baha'is over the age of fifteen. It is the only Baha'i obligatory prayer which is to be recited in congregation" (Baha'i: Teachings For The New World Order, Compiled by Mouhebat Sobhani, Waldorf Enterprises, New York, USA, 1992, p. 42).
"Healing by Nonmaterial Means. He teaches that there are also many methods of healing without material means . . . Of another form of mental healing 'Abdul-Baha writes that it results:--from the entire concentration of the mind of a strong person upon a sick person, when the latter expects with all of his concentrated faith that a cure will be effected from the spiritual power of the strong person, to such an extant that there will be a cordial connection between the strong person and the invalid . . . From the effect of these mental impressions an excitement of the nerves is produced, and this impression and this excitement of the nerves will become the cause of the recovery of the sick person.&emdash;Some Answered Questions" (Esslemont, J. E. Baha'u'llah and the New Era. Wilmette, IL.: Baha'i Books, 1923, Revised edition 1970, 1976, 1978 edition, p. 117-118).
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