Nothing — 09 May 2016
Conversation with a Baha’i Believer

It is quite possible that you are not very familiar with the Baha’i faith. It is considered a world religion, though one of the newest and smallest. While their numbers are not that large, the influence they wield is quite out of proportion to their numbers. They have managed to embed themselves as an influential Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) within the United Nations.

In February and March of this year (2016), a Baha’i believer read one of the articles on the MarketFaith Ministries website about the Baha’i faith. With that, he wrote and we began a dialog about the nature of faith and our beliefs.

As it turns out, Baha’i is a hybrid belief system. That is, it incorporates beliefs from multiple worldview systems as the basis for its own beliefs. Thus, as with every other hybrid system, it contains internal contradictions which cannot be reconciled.

Unless you live in particular locations where the Baha’i faith is prominent, it is somewhat unlikely that you will have much occasion to interact with a Baha’i believer. But the value of reading this conversation lies beyond merely gaining a greater understanding of Baha’i itself. The internal problems which exist in Baha’i are similar to those that exist in all hybrid systems (for example: New Age, Unitarian Universalism, Scientology, Unification Church, Christian Science, and others). Thus, while certain specifics will be different in the various hybrid belief systems, the overall problems which are evident in Baha’i are much the same as what you will find as you interact with believers of other hybrid belief systems.

Just a note on the format of this conversation. There are a couple of places where Stephen inserted quotes from my responses, then replied to them. Because of the way he did that, I had to resort to different ways of making note of that. In some cases I italicized his remarks. In other cases I expressed the differences using quotation marks. In still other cases, where I felt his depiction was clear enough, I did not make any special delineations at all. Just be aware of this fact as you read so as not to become confused as to who is saying what.

While this conversation is a bit long, it is my hope that you will not only find it interesting and informative, but will also gain additional knowledge about Baha’i (and hybrid belief systems in general), and a greater grasp of how to use worldview concepts as a means of separating true from false beliefs.

February 1, 2016
Superb summary! Very well done. The last two paragraphs, accordingly, don’t seem to fit, nor do they, in my opinion, correctly reflect Christian theology.

February 1
I’m not sure I know what article you are referring to.

February 1

The Gospel According to Seals and Crofts – Baha’i

February 1
Okay. And what is it about the last 2 paragraphs that you think does not correctly reflect Christian theology?

February 1
Hi Freddy:

Here is my thinking:

Christian theology holds that there is only one God, not multiple gods. And Christ mirrors forth God as the Son, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. This means that for all people, there is only one God.

So, suppose that someone is Jewish and lived before Christ came. Because the God of the Jews is the God of Christ, they are one and the same God. The only difference is that the Jews didn’t have access to the Son (presumably, only a partial measure of the Holy Spirit). So, it is incorrect to say that the Jewish God is not God of Christ.

Now, ancient Christian theologians also extended the idea that divine Greek philosophers who taught about God – while not being privileged to have access to God through Jesus Christ, still had partial knowledge of God.

If this is correct, and you tell me if you agree, it is incorrect in this case to say, as you do, that “claims that all religions are from God, yet each of the religions it claims came from God exclude one another.” Most clearly, according to the Divine theologians and with regards to Judaism and Greek divine philosophy, that’s not true.

So, with respect to your last paragraph – and I apologize for this is your thinking of 5 years ago – the religion of the Jews and the divine philosophers, while not fully informed by the Son and the Holy Spirit, still had elements of truth to it.

True? Not! BTW, let me say again that your summary of the Baha’I teachings and history is excellent. Not sure, though, that my knowledge of theological thinking is interesting to you to follow up on.

Stephen

February 1
Stephen,

There is only one God, and he is a Trinitarian being. When you say “Christ mirrors forth God as the Son, the Father, and the Holy Spirit,” I’m not sure if you are trying to propose a non-Trinitarian concept of God or something else.

I’m also not quite clear what you are trying to say regarding the Jew’s access to the Son and the Holy Spirit. God’s revelation of himself is, certainly, progressive over the course of biblical history. Of course the Jewish God is the same God revealed in the New Testament. By the same token, non-Christian Jews do not have the full revelation because they reject the New Testament revelation. But the fact that the same God is revealed in both the Old and New Testament is rather irrelevant. Anyone, not just Jews, who rejects Christ’s atoning death on their behalf falls outside of God’s saving grace. (Of course, in dealing with the Jews, we are necessarily speaking in generalizations which are way too broad to be fully meaningful, as many Jews see their Jewishness only in cultural terms, and others don’t believe in God at all.)

In any case, the amount of people’s access to God is not dependent on the time period in which they lived, or the particular understanding they have of God, as you seem to be suggesting. A relationship with God is based solely on an individual’s interaction with the finished work of Jesus Christ and their acceptance of that. Salvation is based on the work of God, not the understanding of man.

One of the things you don’t seem to be grasping is the worldview concepts I express in the article. When I say that various claims exclude one another, it cannot be any other way. For instance, God cannot be personal and impersonal at the same time; God cannot be Trinitarian and Unitarian at the same time; God cannot be One Being and Many Beings at the same time.

These various points of view literally contradict one another. So, a religion such as Baha’i which attempts to hybridize worldview beliefs from many systems into one, is automatically internally contradictory.

Also, having “elements of truth” is not sufficient for salvation, based on biblical theology, if the elements that are not truth take a person outside the essentials of the Christian faith (which is clearly the case when it comes to Judaism, Baha’i, and any form of ancient Greek philosophy). Salvation was accomplished based on the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and is only found there.

I hope this addresses the things you were expressing. There were several things that you were not totally clear about. If this seems to be missing some of your points, you are free to clarify your thinking if you like.

Blessings,
Freddy

February 1
Hi Freddy:

Thanks for taking the time to answer! Please feel free to forgo answering if you are busy.

You write “There is only one God, and he is a Trinitarian being”. Of course, as you know, this idea is a theological one and not directly found in scripture. It is the idea of Christian theologians influence by Greek thinking (concepts of the logos, etc.) officially adapted in the First Council of Nicaea and firmed up at following Council of Constantinople. And there are some who think this means that God is multiple, not single. I disagree. That kind of thinking, in my opinion, shows how easy it is to (be) confused by talking about the differences between the revealer of revelation – the Son – and God. It is, if you will, a conflation of different worldview concepts, the Jewish and the Greek. Not surprisingly, many great theologians have tried to explain it. Combining apparently different points of view – the “simplicity” of God and the multiplicity of God – they say it makes sense.

The one that convinces me is what Gregory of Nyssa said, which is that the idea that there were three Gods in one is an incorrect view because God is “unique, simple (lacking any sort of parts, composition, or differing intrinsic aspects), and therefore incomprehensible (we can’t grasp all truths about God, or any truths about God’s essential nature) and ineffable (such that no human concept applies literally to it).” In other words, in trying to understand Christ’s station, we should be aware that it is above our own comprehension. In a similar way, Augustine rejects views that the trinity implies that God is not about one God. So did medieval theologians like Augustine and Scotus. [The quote is from Dale Tuggy, “Trinity”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/trinity].

So what does this mean about Jewish access to God? Your view is that it is the atoning death of Jesus which is the central issue: But the fact that the same God is revealed in both the Old and New Testament is rather irrelevant. Anyone, not just Jews, who rejects Christ’s atoning death on their behalf falls outside of God’s saving grace.”)

Can I assume that you mean that only through Christ do people achieve salvation? The problem is that someone who lived before Christ or never heard of Christ couldn’t be saved, which seems to contradict the belief that God is just and fair. This is a time-honored argument and I’m sure you’ve heard it many times before.

Then you say something which perhaps you should say a bit better: “One of the things you don’t seem to be grasping is the worldview concepts I express in the article. When I say that various claims exclude one another, it cannot be any other way. For instance, God cannot be personal and impersonal at the same time; God cannot be Trinitarian and Unitarian at the same time; God cannot be One Being and Many Beings at the same time. These various points of view literally contradict one another..”

Of course, you contradict a number of the greatest theologians of all Christendom in claiming this, including Gregory Nyssa and a good many others. God is simple and one – and God can be described as a Trinity. And, of course, you violate the laws of logic and physics. As is well known, things can be many different things simultaneously. An orange can be both red and yellow at the same time – because, of course, orange color is a commbination of red or yellow. So, you probably you had better say that some kinds of claims are mutually contradictory. And then, to be logical you have to prove them to be mutually contradictory. (Even that can be hard. Electrons are both waves and particles, things which many people think mutually contradictory.) This is the stuff of theology.

About the Baha’i Faith, you say “So, a religion such as Baha’i which attempts to hybridize worldview beliefs from many systems into one, is automatically internally contradictory.” But this doesn’t follow just because you believe things to be a hybridized worldview. (And, I’m sure that you know that Baha’is believe that the Baha’i Faith is a revelation from God.) And of course, much modern knowledge – including all of the sciences and all of the theologies – draw from many different “worldview beliefs”. Christianity is widely thought to be a marriage of the revelation of God through Jesus Christ propagated to the whole world with the help of Hellenistic thought, science, and philosophy. Just because it has what some people think of as “hybridized worldviews” doesn’t mean that Christ is not the Lord and Savior.

You probably get my point. Just believing something to be so doesn’t make it so.

You finish by writing: Also, having “elements of truth” is not sufficient for salvation, based on biblical theology, if the elements that are not truth take a person outside the essentials of the Christian faith (which is clearly the case when it comes to Judaism, Baha’i, and any form of ancient Greek philosophy). Salvation was accomplished based on the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and is only found there.

But what if a religion such as the Baha’i Faith takes a person more deeply into salvation? Then, of course, you would accept it as valid, wouldn’t you?

Thanks for bearing me out. Reply only if you think it fruitful.

Stephen

February 2
Stephen,

While I appreciate the civil tone of your remarks, I don’t appreciate the way that you are being coy about your beliefs and the “gotcha” approach of your engagement. I have mentioned in every one of my replies to you that much of what you are saying is not clear to me because many of your comments could have more than one meaning depending on where you are coming from. As you express your thoughts, I am thinking, “Okay, is he a Oneness Pentecostal? Is he a Jehovah’s Witness? Or perhaps he is actually a follower of Baha’i (or something else). This guessing game does not allow me to answer you with anything more than generalities. If you are going to continue this, I would appreciate you being a little more straightforward. This gamesmanship is not becoming and makes me think engaging you is a waste of my time.

As far as the generalities:
1. Your argument about the illogic of the Trinity is based on its own illogical foundation. You seem, at some points, to believe in an eternal God, yet you make your argument as if God is confined to the material universe. If the laws of nature apply to the person of God, you are right. But if the existence of eternity actually does transcend the material universe, then God is not bound by the laws of nature and the concept of Trinity certainly is viable. Your argument is pretty much the same as those who argue miracles are impossible because they go against the laws of nature.

2. Your presumption that Christianity is “widely thought to be a marriage of the revelation of God through Jesus Christ propagated to the whole world with the help of Hellenistic thought, science, and philosophy” is simply not true. Widely thought in your circle of influence, perhaps, but not so in general, and certainly not demonstrable in any objective sense.

3. Your appeal to the theological interpretations of various theologians as opposed to looking to the Bible to interpret Christian theology is a non-starter. Anyone can come up with a list of people who believe just about any strange belief you want to mention. The ultimate standard for understanding truth is the Bible, not various theologians.

4. You obviously don’t understand the concept of worldview, nor the meaning of hybridization of worldview beliefs. The very idea that a religion that is internally contradictory could take a person more deeply into salvation is false on its face. You speak of logic then use an argument that turns logic on its head.

I don’t mean this to be offensive, but it is really difficult to engage you beyond what I have done based on what you have told me so far.

Hope you have a terrific day.

Blessings,
Freddy

February 2
Hi Freddy:

Thanks for your time and interest on this topic, and I appreciate your attempting to engage, but I don’t see any benefits in continuing the conversation. Let me know if you disagree or want to continue.

Stephen

February 2
Actually, you are the one who seems unwilling to engage. If you are not even willing to be honest about your beliefs, you are right, it is pointless.

February 2
I’m willing to engage if you really want. But no more insults, Ok? I’m a Ph.D physicist and a long time Baha’i.

Stephen

February 2
I do appreciate the clarification. I’m sorry you took what I wrote as an insult. I was not intending an insult at all. I was simply trying to understand what you were talking about as you were being cryptic and making assumptions I had no way to interpret.

I do, though, stand by my assessment of your previous assertions. You are promoting a belief which is so full of internal contradictions that it is impossible for it to be true. In a previous post I indicated some of the contradictions you postulated. All religions can’t be true because different ones posit beliefs about God which literally contradict one another. You are free to believe what you wish, but to believe what you have asserted you have to put aside logic and reason.

Blessings,
Freddy

February 3
Hi Freddy:

I think you are a young fellow, and not well-versed in logic, science, theology, philosophy, that kind of thing. So we can talk about these things.

But let’s talk systematically, not randomly and unsupported by scripture. I suggest the following – let’s talk about worldviews and then let’s talk about the Baha’i Faith and your view that there are logical contradictions. It’s two very interesting topics.

I’m guessing that your thinking on worldview’s is inspired by James Sire’s interesting and well-written book – The Universe Next Door – published by InterVarsity. But we also might want to look at other thinkers about worldviews as introduced in Wikipedia – either Christian Worldview or the more general World View.

Currently, my favorite definition of worldview is by a Belgian secular group (search for Diederik Aerts et al, Worldviews: from fragmentation to integration on the web):

A world view is a coherent collection of concepts and theorems that must allow us to construct a global image of the world, and in this way to understand as many elements of our experience as possible.

Societies, as well as individuals, have always contemplated deep questions relating to their being and becoming, and to the being and becoming of the world. The configuration of answers to these questions forms their world view.

The(y) conclude that In earlier societies, the role that we now are giving to world views was fulfilled by views of totality of a religious nature, or by secularised forms of it. Today, many traditional world views are in tatters. Existing systems of orientation will have to incorporate a vast amount of new information about the nature of reality, and integrate this information in one way or another. Therefore, it should prove fruitful to investigate how world views or fragments of these views still circulate in our culture.

This captures some of the reasons why I’m interested in the topic – there is a dire need for spiritual progress to balance out the corrosive materialism so strong in this country and around the world. As a physicist living and working in Silicon Valley that has read widely in history and about ideas, I’m acutely aware of the crisis as well as of the waning strength of the evangelical groups that once were the pride of this country. As someone who lived and worked in Japan for more than 10 years and whose close family members are all Japanese, I am also well aware that there are worldviews with many different features than American ones. Recently, my brother-in-law passed away, so I was privileged to experience the 49 days of mourning of Japanese Buddhism with my family. (BTW, I’m from New Mexico where I grew up on a college campus in a primarily Hispanic town, so two more worldviews – secular humanism and Latin Catholicism.)

As for the Baha’i Faith, the following authoritative epistle expresses well its world view:

Believe thou in God, and keep thine eyes fixed upon the exalted Kingdom … . Be thou severed from this world, and reborn through the sweet scents of holiness that blow from the realm of the All-Highest. Be thou a summoner to love, and be thou kind to all the human race.

Love thou the children of men and share in their sorrows. Be thou of those who foster peace. Offer thy friendship, be worthy of trust. Be thou a balm to every sore, be thou a medicine for every ill. Bind thou the souls together. Recite thou the verses of guidance. Be engaged in the worship of thy Lord, and rise up to lead the people aright.

Stephen

February 3
Stephen,

I think it is very interesting that you accused me of insulting you, then you turn right around and insult me. First of all, it is quite likely that I am older than you. Education wise, I have a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the largest Christian seminary in the world. I am not some ignorant kid who does not know what I am talking about. Beyond that, I spent nearly 17 years overseas in two different countries working hand in hand with the nationals there. I lived life with them and learned their languages. I served as a Christian missionary in Japan for nearly 12 years, and, following that, in the former Soviet Republic of Latvia for 5. In those positions, an essential part of my job was to understand the worldviews of the people I was working with in order to communicate the Christian message to them.

Since you originally saw my article on Baha’i on my ministry website, you could have already known that, but, obviously, you didn’t care to check it out. If you had checked further, you would also have discovered that the entire work of MarketFaith Ministries is focused on training Christians about worldview. In addition to the hundreds of articles on the website, I have authored numerous books on the topic. I do know what I am talking about on this subject.

The biggest problem with your discussion of worldview has to do with not seeming to understand the basic principles and how worldview beliefs actually play out in life. It is not enough to know a simple definition. The fact that worldview beliefs exist does not help you grasp how different worldview systems interact with each other. A worldview is, literally, a way to understand reality. If you have two (or more) conflicting worldview systems, they cannot both be true.

I find it rather interesting that you find my article accurate, then turn right around and, literally, dismiss the Christian faith. I thought Baha’i was, somehow, supposed to absorb all religions into a single utopian belief system. One of the first things you did was condemn a Trinitarian view of God (the most prominent by far of Christian understanding) in favor of an Islamic Unitarian view. That is not accepting Christianity! It is dismissing it as not true. That is not, it seems to me, a very Baha’i approach. But you can’t help it. That is because Baha’i is based on a worldview position that contradicts the Christian faith. BTW, you have to do the same thing with every other religion, as well. EVERY belief system in existence has a line that cannot be crossed and it still be a part of that system. It is true for my Christian faith and is true for Baha’i. It is simply impossible to combine the beliefs of all religions to form a unified belief that is not internally contradictory (which is exactly what Baha’i tries to do).

February 3
Freddy:

Apologies if they are due, but you simply haven’t engaged in an intellectual discussion – there is simply no back and forth. Lacking that, it is hard to see you as interested in discussion. You SIMPLY don’t engage. You seem singularly uninterested in worldviews except to make claims – without any explanation of the reasoning for those claims and with no grounding in scripture – that you are right and somehow, without even knowing what you are saying, I’m supposed to agree. That is no way to row a boat.

And you completely don’t understand conjectures in theological arguments. If you want a discussion, pick a topic – one topic – and we will talk about it, I promise. Please choose just one.

Stephen

PS I am 65, how old are you?

February 3
I’m 63. You got me. :-)

How do you consider that my previous explanations are not engagement? I’m not sure what kind of back and forth you are looking for. You made a truth claim about how my view of Christianity was wrong, didn’t explain upon what basis you were making that claim, then went off spouting alternative approaches to theology without any kind of justification as to why those alternatives have any credibility. You simply assumed that they were valid because you expressed them. You seem to think that just any truth claim that anyone wants to make is true. That’s really good Postmodernism, but logically it makes no sense whatsoever. I presume that you actually believe what the Baha’i faith teaches, and I have not only told you I don’t believe it, but given a pretty good explanation as to why. That seems to me to be a back and forth. I do understand conjectures, but I am more interested in understanding truth (reality) than I am in making conjectures based on …. well, whatever it is that you are basing your conjectures upon. If you are going to make or propose conjectures, then you must justify why they represent truth.

I should pick a topic? I thought we were talking about what is true. Your first contact with me was an assertion that what I had written was not true. I defended myself and expressed the problems with Baha’i using worldview concepts. I did that to demonstrate the internal contradictions inherent in Baha’i.

You seem to not want to talk about that. But more importantly, you don’t seem to really grasp the concept of worldview beliefs. Christianity is not a worldview. Baha’i is not a worldview.

Those are belief systems built on the foundation of particular worldview presuppositions. (This is the very basis of Sire’s explanation of the topic. When you brought him up, I really thought you were saying you understood what he had written.) You have to know the foundations before you can understand the outward expressions. The Christian faith is solidly a theistic belief. Baha’i hybridizes beliefs from, supposedly, all religions – which means that it must try to incorporate concepts which contradict one another. It is simply impossible.

There is a reason I haven’t used Scripture to defend my position. The reason is, you don’t believe what the Bible teaches. So why would that have any credibility with you? You quoting Baha’i Scriptures certainly doesn’t have any credibility with me. Rather, I went straight for the big picture to demonstrate that what you are asserting simply cannot be true (doesn’t reflect reality).

Again, I am not saying this to be mean. Reality is structured in some actual way and the Christian faith is the only one that explains it. Baha’i simply does not – cannot. Whether you agree or not is your own choice, but it doesn’t change reality.

So, there is my “one topic” – the logical impossibility of Baha’i beliefs being true. Hope this helps.

Blessings,
Freddy

February 4
Hi Freddy:

Thanks! I would like latter to reply in depth with respect to the focus topic, but want to read your argument in more detail and sum up your suppositions and pre-suppositions. For now, I would like to advance the argument.

Briefly, the focus question is “the logical impossibility of Baha’i beliefs being true.” Briefly, the answer is that if the Baha’i Faith is the result of a revelation from God, then it is logically possible that it is true. And, of course, all the religions of the world have expected such a revelation.

Now, keep in mind a characteristic of logic – the truth of a logical operation is in the logic. Here, the statement is that Baha’i beliefs can be true overall if they are the result of a revelation from God and if we assume that individuals holding the beliefs accurately reflect that revelation. Agreed?

It is another and differing question as to whether or not a revelation from God has occurred – whether or not a new Jerusalem has ascended. Agreed?

Your elder by two years,
Stephen

February 4
Stephen,

If a revelation is actually from God, then it is more than logically possible, it is true. The problem with Baha’i is that it proposes that God changed the very nature of reality every time he instituted a new religion. That is illogical.

All logic is built upon its worldview presuppositions, and a hybrid belief system like Baha’i falls apart because it is built upon internally contradictory beliefs.

Hope that is clear.

Blessings,
Freddy

February 4
So you answered my question! Yes, it is logically possible.

Shall we talk about your second point next? Just to start the ball rolling, I will have to admit that I don’t have the slightest idea what you are talking about, and I’ve been a Baha’i for some 42 years, studying and reading the Writings.

So let’s go step by step. And I’m guessing that you are either responding to some flowery language – classical Persian verse is famously rich in its inventiveness – or are responding to a rather mundane use of the term new – as in a ‘new day’ or perhaps the imagery of the advent of spring – for example, in the flowering of the cherry trees sweeping up into the gardens and parks of Kyoto and Tokyo where ‘all things are made new’ and we celebrate the coming spring.

Let me know what you are thinking here and why it seems illogical. Is a revelation of God supposed to somehow not renew the spiritual life of the children of men?

Stephen

February 4
Actually, Stephen, I am not referring to anything as superficial as the flowery language of any particular text. I am talking about the way various religions conceive of how reality is actually organized. I believe I can explain more simply what I mean by beginning with a couple of sentences from my article about Baha’i that you approved of earlier. I said:

Baha’is are monotheistic and believe in one God who sends messengers, which they refer to as “manifestations of God.” Through these messengers, God restates his purpose and will in every age. The teachings of these manifestations are considered a revelation from God. Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ, and Muhammad are believed to have been manifestations of God for their various eras.

When you look at some of the different “manifestations,” they come from completely different worldviews with, literally, contradictory beliefs about how reality exists. For instance:
1. Abraham and Moses were monotheists who conceived of God as he is revealed in the Old Testament of the Bible – a God who is personal. Their view of the material universe was that it was objectively real and a purposeful creation of this personal God.

2. Krishna and Buddha believed and taught a worldview system which is pantheistic/monistic. They believed in a transcendent reality which is impersonal, and a material reality which is illusory. This is so incompatible with the views of Abraham and Moses that is makes it impossible to reconcile these beliefs in any way.

3. Zoroastrianism, depending on who you read, seems to hold to a type of pantheism with an attendant belief that there is also a creator God. In any event, this is a very different view of reality than any of the others above, and contradicts them all.

4. Christ was revealed to be God in the flesh – not a manifestation, but God himself who purposefully came to earth for the sole purpose of becoming an atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Biblical theology teaches that he did this so human beings could the enter into a personal relationship with God. They are able to do that by making a personal decision to enter that relationship by repentance and belief. Biblical theology is decidedly Trinitarian.

5. Mohammed was considered a prophet of God, and the God he proposed was Unitarian and so transcendent that he cannot be known in any way that can be considered personal. Salvation for Muslims is based completely on “following the rules of the religion” and people cannot know how well they did until they reach eternity.

The only way to reconcile these beliefs into a single system is to totally ignore what the religions themselves teach, and cherry pick little pieces, out of context, where there might be some commonality. As human beings are human beings no matter what they believe, people from different faiths are going to have certain common experiences and feelings. But experiences and feelings do not determine truth. Even people who are committed Atheists will have certain common experiences and feelings with deeply religious people. Again, this is not evidence that Atheists know anything about spiritual truth, only that they are human beings.

I hope this clears things up for you a little. Again, since you earlier made such a big deal about appreciating worldview concepts, I remain surprised as how you seem to be having difficulty seeing how different worldview presuppositions literally contradict one another and cannot be reconciled within a single system. I am very interested to hear how you reconcile these.

Blessings,
Freddy

February 5
Hi Freddy:

In my opinion, this is a really very important and very good question, maybe the most important of all. If the God of Abraham, Moses and Jesus has once again sent a revelation, those who truly seek after the truth will ‘enhale its fragrance’ even it is shrouded and veiled by the clouds of error and miscomprehension.

There are many strands in your reply, and several of them fascinate me. For example, with regards to worldviews, I’m very concerned that you have adopted a post-modernist perspective which assumes that there is no common underlying reality to the points of view referred to – but I want to look closer at what you say.

But for now, can we consider your statement that “The only way to reconcile these beliefs into a single system is to totally ignore what the religions themselves teach.” This is a commonly held point of view – maybe even the crux of your argument. Suffice it to say that there are both commonalities and differences between the great revealed religions of the world, each of which has come into being in different parts of the world and in different eras. And, of course, they each proclaim their continuity with earlier religions and prophecy new revelations and religions to come. For example, the Christian scripture makes it clear that Christ is fulfilling the revelations and guidance of both Abraham and of Moses, and talks of a time when Christ will return. Islam fully endorses that perspective, seeing Islam as fully compatible with Christian teachings, and also talking about a time when Christ will return.

In addition, each religion has developed different threads – Islam, for example, broke into Shiah and Sunni sects early on – and leaders of these threads have often emphasized the differences, not the similarities. Satanic, no? If you look only at the differences – and don’t try to understand why they are there – it is as seeing through a glass darkly. It, obviously, is hardly conducive to seeing the greater thread – the thread of the God’s continuing guidance to mankind. So, a more correct statement would be “The only way to hold that the diverse religions are irreconcilable is to totally ignore what the religions themselves teach.” But of course, that is my opinion.

What does the Baha’i Faith teach? Here is an authoritative statement from Shoghi Effendi, the head of the Faith from 1921 to 1957:

The Revelation proclaimed by Bahá’u’lláh, His followers believe, is divine in origin, all embracing in scope, broad in its outlook, scientific in its method, humanitarian in its principles and dynamic in the influence it exerts on the hearts and minds of men. The mission of the Founder of their Faith, they conceive to be to proclaim that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is continuous and progressive, that the Founders of all past religions, though different in the non-essential aspects of their teachings, ‘abide in the same Tabernacle, soar in the same heaven, are seated upon the same throne, utter the same speech and proclaim the same Faith.

`Abdu’l-Baha, son of Baha’u’llah, the prophet-founder of the Baha’i, described the oneness of religion in the following way in a church in Philadelphia in 1912:

Bahá’u’lláh promulgated the fundamental oneness of religion. He taught that reality is one and not multiple, that it underlies all divine precepts and that the foundations of the religions are, therefore, the same. Certain forms and imitations have gradually arisen. As these vary, they cause differences among religionists. If we set aside these imitations and seek the fundamental reality underlying our beliefs, we reach a basis of agreement because it is one and not multiple.

Got to run! I’ll try to look at worldview issues later.

Stephen

February 5
Stephen,

Pretty fascinating that you are looking at my point of view as coming from a Postmodernist point of view. Since my worldview foundation is based on absolutes, that is impossible. I do believe that there is an underlying reality to every belief system, and that underlying reality is revealed (specifically, revealed in the Bible). And it is that reason, and not because of some postmodernist relativism, that I have made the comments I have.

One of the absolutes that is clear in the Bible is that God is the same “yesterday, today, and tomorrow.” In other words, the idea that he would give a revelation which is contrary to a previous revelation is absurd. It is not a matter of previous revelations being true for one generation and a different one for another. It is a matter of the biblical revelation being true and the teachings of Baha’i being false. If you truly believe Baha’i teachings are true, then you have no choice but to affirm that the teachings of the Bible are false. They literally contradict one another.

Indeed, Christ did fulfill the prophesy from the Old Testament. But that is very different from what you are asserting. Abraham and Moses were not special manifestations from God as Baha’i teaches. They were normal human beings who were especially used by God because of their obedience to him. Jesus Christ was also not a manifestation of God as envisioned in Baha’i. He was the only God who incarnated himself in human flesh. And how you think this can have any connection with Krishna and the Buddha is totally beyond me. There is nothing in a Hindu or Buddhist understanding of reality which is even remotely correspondent with biblical faith. Your (Baha’is) attempt to reconcile these faiths is simply absurd on its face.

Your quote from Shoghi Effendi itself holds numerous internal contradictions.
1. It proclaims an authoritative revelation from some objectively real God. That works if there is such a thing as an objectively real God. But Buddhism and Hinduism do not believe that is true. Where, then, did the Buddha and Krishna get their revelation?
2. Where is the scientific method Baha’i uses to justify revelation?
3. How is it that Effendi claims that religious truth is relative using an absolute truth claim?
4. The claim that differences are “non-essential” is absurd, as those differences occur at a worldview level which are, by definition, contradictory.

In your quote from Bahá’u’lláh, there is also a very serious problem. The claim is that there is a fundamental oneness of religion and that the Baha’i faith represents that oneness. But the truth is, rather than unify religions, Baha’i has done nothing more than create an new religion which has divided people even more. As I said before, EVERY belief system in existence has a line around it which cannot be crossed and one still remain in that system. That is true with Baha’i, as well. You can’t believe Baha’i and believe in the truth of any other religious system. It is simply impossible. The cause of “differences between religionists” is not because forms and limitations have arisen, it is because the fundamental beliefs of the different religions literally contradict one another.

Hope all is well.
Blessings,
Freddy

February 5
Lot of things here. Want to pick just one that I should engage with?

February 5
Everything I said is in response to your last post. How can I pick one when you are the originator of the content?

February 5
I could just comment paragraph by paragraph? Should I do that?

February 5
It’s your response. You get to do it any way you want.

February 10
Hi Freddy:

My apologies for the delay in answering!

Perhaps I can summarize the gist of our discussion as follows. The Baha’i Faith says that all the divine religions of the world – by this meaning Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and now the Baha’i Faith – are the manifestations of one great processes of the spiritual development of humanity. Underlying the differences that appear to separate them is an essential unity – they are all from God. The differences in the teachings of the different religions are due to the exigencies and the understandings of the times, and the differences we see now – even within a tradition – are due to man-made interpretations, political intrigue, and responses to other social and economic factors.

An interesting way in the Baha’i Writings is to talk about the lamp and the light or the sun and its dawning places. Do not worship the lamp, but regard the light, do not worship the dawning place of the sun of truth, but the sun of truth itself, regardless of its dawning place. Here is how `Abdu’l-Baha – in the United States in 1912 – put it:

The difference between a Christian and a Baha’i, therefore, is this: There was a former springtime, and there is a springtime now. No other difference exists because the foundations are the same. Whoever acts completely in accordance with the teachings of Christ is a Baha’i. The purpose is the essential meaning of Christian, not the mere word. The purpose is the sun itself and not the dawning points. For though the sun is one sun, its dawning points are many. We must not adore the dawning points but worship the sun. We must adore the reality of religion and not blindly cling to the appellation Christianity. The Sun of Reality must be worshiped and followed. We must seek the fragrance of the rose from whatever bush it is blooming–whether oriental or western. Be seekers of light, no matter from which lantern it shines forth. Be not lovers of the lantern. –

In contrast, you argue is that there are logical reasons why this cannot be, one of the important ones being conflicting worldviews associated with the different religions.

Let me pick up the discussion. I’m putting my comments in red (italics) below the various paragraphs.

You write. “Pretty fascinating that you are looking at my point of view as coming from a Postmodernist point of view. Since my worldview foundation is based on absolutes, that is impossible. I do believe that there is an underlying reality to every belief system, and that underlying reality is revealed (specifically, revealed in the Bible). And it is that reason, and not because of some postmodernist relativism, that I have made the comments I have.”

I’m not thinking that your view is a postmodernist perspective, but that it is has similarities to that of the postmodernists. Postmodernists – at least the radical postmodernists – tend to think that everybody’s worldview is untethered to reality, just a social construct. I think it is fair to say that your perspective is that a sound Christian worldview, correctly based on absolutes, is true, whereas the worldviews of religions other than Judaism are just social constructs.

There are important things to learn from post-modernism provided one doesn’t go to extremes. A Christian worldview, for example, is based on understandings of Christ’s words – and all human and institution understanding is finite, not absolute. And what we know of Christ’s words is based on a transmission chain from His teachings in Aramaic as remembered by the earliest Christians, then through translations into Greek a generation or so after His death, then through codifications developed by sometimes diverse and competing early Christian communities (for example, the traditionalists in Jerusalem versus Paul, and later via various esoteric gnostic traditions), then through doctrines and preaching by teachers both highly competent and wanly mediocre, and then through various powerful doctrines and theologies, some of which contradict each other and over which wars and great feuds were waged, until finally they developed into the many competing understandings we have today. And you know all of this. What this means is that our worldviews, even though based on the absolute truth, is not absolute, rather conditioned. Indeed, the same is true for the worldviews current in the other great traditions of the world. In short, all of these worldviews of the different religions of the past are a mix of the truths taught by their founders, and human interpretation and faulty understanding.

You write. “One of the absolutes that is clear in the Bible is that God is the same “yesterday, today, and tomorrow.” In other words, the idea that he would give a revelation which is contrary to a previous revelation is absurd. It is not a matter of previous revelations being true for one generation and a different one for another. It is a matter of the biblical revelation being true and the teachings of Baha’i being false. If you truly believe Baha’i teachings are true, then you have no choice but to affirm that the teachings of the Bible are false. They literally contradict one another.”

According to the Baha’i Faith, God is the ‘same, yesterday, and tomorrow’. Also according to the Baha’i teachings, the biblical revelation is true. In the same way, the teachings of Moses, although seemingly confined to the tribe of Israel, do not contradict the teachings of Christ. The differences of understanding between the times of Moses and that of Christ may make it seem that they are different – and of course, many believe they are different – but this is about the limitations of the observer than the truth of the matter. There are indeed ‘veils,’ there are indeed ‘clouds.’

In grade school, I learned adding and subtracting, in middle school, algebra and geometry, in high school, calculus, in college partial differential equations, statistics, and symbolic logic. It is not that the these courses in mathematics were contradictory, rather it is that the student is building on the lessons learned before and his or her receptivity has been enlarged so as to be able to grasp even fuller truths. In the same way, the teachings of Moses prepared the way for the coming of Christ. Yes, some Jewish thinkers claimed that the Jewish worldview didn’t allow for the expansion of the teachings of the One God to all the other tribes of the peoples of the world, but that claim was due to their limitations, not the teachings of Moses.

You write. “Indeed, Christ did fulfill the prophesy from the Old Testament. But that is very different from what you are asserting. Abraham and Moses were not special manifestations from God as Baha’i teaches. They were normal human beings who were especially used by God because of their obedience to him. Jesus Christ was also not a manifestation of God as envisioned in Baha’i. He was the only God who incarnated himself in human flesh. And how you think this can have any connection with Krishna and the Buddha is totally beyond me. There is nothing in a Hindu or Buddhist understanding of reality which is even remotely correspondent with biblical faith. Your (Baha’is) attempt to reconcile these faiths is simply absurd on its face.

If we assume that worldview are necessarily exclusive, your discussion makes sense. And there are worldviews that hold to exactly to as you say. And even though the ethical and moral principles that Buddhism and Hinduism teach are nearly identical to that of Christianity, their teachings about the nature of supreme reality seem distinctly different.

But a study of the religions that includes issues where they are similar, not only how they are different, shows surprising similarities. Hinduism, for example, postulates that all the diverse Gods of the Hindu pantheon are all faces of the one true God. And Buddhism, which cut the Gordian knot of that tangle of gods, practices, asceticism and assorted wierdnesses of ancient Indian traditions – says that ultimate reality is far beyond the pantheon of those tribal, mountain, and various other kinds of gods and only to be found mirrored in the teachings and through the person of the Buddha. But, Buddhism is still a religion and monastic tradition of 2,500 years ago and both Buddhism and Hinduism are entangled in the folk religions of India and China and elsewhere, now only providing a very dim light. But that doesn’t mean that the light wasn’t once strong or that it is not of divine origins.

The Baha’i writings provide a powerful way to think about the Trinity, an illustration of what it means to think of Christ as God incarnate. Consider the sun. If the sun is reflected in a perfectly clean mirror, one free from all dross, then we can equally say that we see the sun when we look at the mirror, or that we see the reflection of the light of the sun in the mirror. Consider the station of Christ, who said that “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” In the teachings of Christ, the divine light of God is clear and abundantly evident. If we say that Christ is like a divine mirror reflecting the light of God, we are most certainly correct. Equally, if we say that Christ is the light of God, we are correct. And finally, if we say the Christ is the divine spirit, we are similarly correct.”

You write. “Your quote from Shoghi Effendi itself holds numerous internal contradictions.”

1. “It proclaims an authoritative revelation from some objectively real God. That works if there is such a thing as an objectively real God. But Buddhism and Hinduism do not believe that is true. Where, then, did the Buddha and Krishna get their revelation?”

Modern Hinduism, since about 1500 years ago, does believe that there is an objectively real god. Popular Hinduism tends to ignore or forget that. Buddhism, with its via negative approach teaches that there is a reality beyond the diversity of phenomena which is the reality of Buddha. It is beyond words and ideas and theories. It is the only ‘real’ reality. And the teachings of Buddha and is his divine guidance are the way to reach that reality. And remember, much of the Buddha’s teachings have been lost.

2. “Where is the scientific method Baha’i uses to justify revelation?
The Baha’i is “scientific in its method” meaning that it bases its activities and even the process of understanding revealed truths, on methods that are both scientific in the narrow sense (i.e., understanding through implementation) and the wider older sense, i.e, a broader rational, logical mindset that develops individual spiritually in keeping with divine commandments.

3. “How is it that Effendi claims that religious truth is relative using an absolute truth claim?”
Because our understanding is finite and cannot contain God, our knowledge of God is always ‘relative’ compared to the objective reality of God. Our understanding can – and does – grow. Now, we see through a glass darkly. Then we shall see more clearly. So, what can be revealed through words is always tempered by the understanding of the receiver, and we tend to get wedded to our limited understanding. So, as the process of learning about God has unlimited horizons, we need to recognize the finiteness of our understanding – it is relative.

4. “The claim that differences are “non-essential” is absurd, as those differences occur at a worldview level which are, by definition, contradictory.”

Worldviews are, I think, social constructs, a mix of the true and the misconceived and of customary understanding. They are not by definition contradictory. The worldview of the Newtonian physicist, for example, does not contradict that of a student of general relativity, even though their paradigms are different. The two worldview thus described overlap. So, the worldview argument is not a strong one.

You write. “In your quote from Bahá’u’lláh, there is also a very serious problem. The claim is that there is a fundamental oneness of religion and that the Baha’i faith represents that oneness. But the truth is, rather than unify religions, Baha’i has done nothing more than create an new religion which has divided people even more. As I said before, EVERY belief system in existence has a line around it which cannot be crossed and one still remain in that system. That is true with Baha’i, as well. You can’t believe Baha’i and believe in the truth of any other religious system.”

The Baha’i Faith is indeed a new religion, and its avowed purpose is to unite people. Its record of uniting people is extraordinary and unblemished, and has been widely acknowledged as such, even sometimes by those who want to exterminate us. Consider, for example, the Baha’i Lotus temple in New Delhi, know visited by more people than the Taj Mahal. The government of India has praised the temple as one of the only places in India where believers of all backgrounds can gather together and pray and worship, and has been given to taking dignitaries of visiting countries, including China, to visit there.

I know of no case where it has divided people even more and many, many cases where it has done just the opposite. Keep in mind that the Baha’is don’t engage in conflict or politics, but education and also, teaching that religions shouldn’t fight. The challenge facing society is to escape from religion being a source of conflict, which it, overall generally, is these days. The track record of the Baha’is is quite the opposite. For example, in Iran, it united Muslims, Christian, Jews, and Zorastrians. There is case after case of this. Yes, the Baha’is are frequently attacked and killed, but they don’t retaliate. And this is very well known.

You write. “It is simply impossible. The cause of “differences between religionists” is not because forms and limitations have arisen, it is because the fundamental beliefs of the different religions literally contradict one another.”

Obviously, in the multitudinous different sects of Christianity, all holding to the teachings of Christ, huge and oftentimes deadly and lethal “differences between religionists” have arisen and still are current. If it can happen in Christianity, it can happen outside of Christianity.

Would love to discuss more. My regrettable period of silence doesn’t express loss of interest, rather the press of affairs and the desire to be cogent.

Stephen

February 10
Stephen,

The timing is no problem at all. I recognize the time constraints which come into play.

I understand the claim of Baha’i that all the divine religions of the world are the manifestations of one great process. What I am saying is that your claim is simply not true. What evidence do you have of its truth other than that your religion teaches it? The answer is nothing. The underlying differences which are evident in the different religions do not comprise an essential unity. The teachings and the goals of each of the different religions are completely different. Any attempt to combine them simply does not make any logical sense whatsoever. The foundations are not the same in spite of your assertion to the contrary – nor are the goals.

I completely understand your attempt to combine the religions and the metaphors you are using to try and justify it. But your metaphors simply do not hold up. Your attempt to paint the teachings of the various religions as the sun and the expressions of them as mere appellations is simply not true. As I said above, the very goals of the various religions Baha’i points to are mutually exclusive. To combine them as you are want to do, you have to take everything out of context. That is simply not an acceptable hermeneutic. The same is true with your mirror metaphor. In the Christian faith, Christ is not a reflection of God, nor does he reflect God. He IS God. Your metaphor simply does not reflect (no pun intended) the teachings of the Christian faith.

One of the serious problems you seem to have is that you are confusing worldviews with belief systems. A worldview is a way of understanding reality on a macro scale (There are only four.). Belief systems are the various expressions of the 4 worldview categories. Because of your confusion on this, a whole lot of your argumentation simply does not hold up. Belief systems can be social constructs, but worldviews cannot. The arguments you make using this idea don’t hold up because you a mixing definitions.

Your characterization of the Christian faith as similar in character to Postmodernism is about as strange an argument as I have ever heard. Your contention that because we don’t have infinite knowledge, that our knowledge is thus “conditioned,” is just strange. The Christian faith teaches that we can know God because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If that teaching of the Bible is not true, then there is no way to have faith in anything else the Bible teaches. And if that is the reason one can’t have faith in what the Bible teaches, that same principle applies to the teaching of Baha’i, as well. It is your assertions that come close to Postmodernism in this case, not mine.

One of the very serious problems you run into is that you make a truth claim about what is right about all of the different religions of the past. But why those claims and not others? By your method, you cherry pick the teachings you want to accept as truth and dismiss the things you don’t want to accept. Why those? In your case, the claim of revelation simply doesn’t hold up. If God objectively exists and he revealed one thing in one era and an entirely different view of reality in another era …. Sorry, that just does not hold up. This is not a matter of adding one truth to another. It is a matter of dismissing previous “revelations” and asserting a completely different (and contradictory) one.

I must disagree that the ethical and moral principles of Hinduism and Buddhism are nearly identical to that of Christianity – not even close. You are simply in error on that. Additionally, your characterization of Hinduism and Buddhism is simply historically wrong. Buddhism was a reform movement out of Hinduism. Both are pantheistic/monistic in nature and do not even acknowledge a personal understanding of God. The various gods that are expressed in many forms of Hinduism are hybridizations of earlier animistic traditions. Much of Hinduism has done what Baha’i has done, only the hybridization is with Animism and Pantheism rather than with various incompatible forms of Theism. Your assertion that Hindu and Buddhist teachings express divine guidance and show how to reach reality simply cannot be backed up. That is a made up construct which has nothing to demonstrate it is true.

Baha’i is not scientific in its method. As a scientist, I don’t know how you can even say that with a straight face. Science requires repeatable experimental verification. “Understanding through implementation” has nothing to do with anything in science – and really doesn’t even make sense.

I do not disagree that Baha’i is a new religion, nor do I dispute the purpose of its existence. What I dispute is that it is true. A few anecdotal examples of Baha’is not fighting against persecutors does not make it true. In spite of your attempts to reconcile the internal contradictions within Baha’i, you have not done so. The contradictions still exist. Beyond that, you have brought up other issues (such as the lack of being able to demonstrate why Baha’i can possibly be true) which do not help your point.

The only evidence for the truth of Baha’i is that its founders say it is true. That is it! It is simply not believable.

Jesus Christ, on the other hand, really did come to earth as God in the flesh, lived a life which qualified him to become the atoning sacrifice for the sin of mankind, died on the cross as that sacrifice, and rose from the dead as a means of overcoming sin and death. Those who repent of their sin and ask God’s forgiveness will receive it and enter into a personal relationship with God. That is reality.

Blessings,
Freddy

February 11
Hi Freddy:

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to field your tough questions.

You write: I understand the claim of Baha’i that all the divine religions of the world are the manifestations of one great process. What I am saying is that your claim is simply not true. What evidence do you have of its truth other than that your religion teaches it? The answer is nothing. The underlying differences which are evident in the different religions do not comprise an essential unity. The teachings and the goals of each of the different religions are completely different. Any attempt to combine them simply does not make any logical sense whatsoever. The foundations are not the same in spite of your assertion to the contrary – nor are the goals.

The evidence that the divine religions of the world are part of one process are several, some of them logical, some of them based on revelation. One of the logical ones is based on recognizing that God is good to all of His people, guiding the people of India and China as well as those of the Mediterranean. Another logical one is the similarity of all the religions – they all point to spiritual development as the central core of what it means to be truly human and they all educate humanity, preparing it for the next stage both of their lives and that of their societies. Similarly, there are strong overlaps in concepts in much of what they teach – the important of prayer and worship – for example. There are other logical proofs as well.

Another sort of evidence is based on revelation. All the religious traditions of the world promise that their founder will return, saying both that they will return as the same person and as a different person (yes, confusing if you look at the lamp, but not if you look at the light). Judaism and Christianity make prophecies about when this will happen. For example, in the similar way that Jewish prophecy foretold of the coming of Christ, they foretell the coming for Baha’u’llah.

Perhaps the great testimony is the revelation of God. Failing in recognition of that revelation, understandably one lacks the bounty of the understanding that it confers.

I completely understand your attempt to combine the religions and the metaphors you are using to try and justify it. But your metaphors simply do not hold up. Your attempt to paint the teachings of the various religions as the sun and the expressions of them as mere appellations is simply not true. As I said above, the very goals of the various religions Baha’i points to are mutually exclusive. To combine them as you are want to do, you have to take everything out of context. That is simply not an acceptable hermeneutic. The same is true with your mirror metaphor. In the Christian faith, Christ is not a reflection of God, nor does he reflect God. He IS God. Your metaphor simply does not reflect (no pun intended) the teachings of the Christian faith.

The point, I thought, was the Trinity. Yes, He IS God, but the Son and Spirit too (I almost said the Sun :>).

One of the serious problems you seem to have is that you are confusing worldviews with belief systems. A worldview is a way of understanding reality on a macro scale (There are only four.). Belief systems are the various expressions of the 4 worldview categories. Because of your confusion on this, a whole lot of your argumentation simply does not hold up. Belief systems can be social constructs, but worldviews cannot. The arguments you make using this idea doesn’t hold up because you a mixing definitions.

I think you have your own take on this, and I am afraid I neither understand it nor do I see the logic in it. To my knowledge, Christ didn’t talk about worldviews, which doesn’t mean you can’t. But let’s face it, you’re are in theologically innovative territory here – and much of the Christian world is on a different page.

Your characterization of the Christian faith as similar in character to Postmodernism is about as strange an argument as I have ever heard. Your contention that because we don’t have infinite knowledge, that our knowledge is thus “conditioned,” is just strange. The Christian faith teaches that we can know God because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If that teaching of the Bible is not true, then there is no way to have faith in anything else the Bible teaches. And if that is the reason one can’t have faith in what the Bible teaches, that same principle applies to the teaching of Baha’i, as well. It is your assertions that come close to Postmodernism in this case, not mine.

I didn’t say that the “Christian faith [is] similar in character to Postmodernism”, and you would be mistaken to believe that I did. And of course I didn’t say that we can’t know God. This is not tricky ground unless you insist that you have absolute knowledge, in which case you run the risk of confusing yourself with Christ.

One of the very serious problems you run into is that you make a truth claim about what is right about all of the different religions of the past. But why those claims and not others? By your method, you cherry pick the teachings you want to accept as truth and dismiss the things you don’t want to accept. Why those? In your case, the claim of revelation simply doesn’t hold up. If God objectively exists and he revealed one thing in one era and an entirely different view of reality in another era …. Sorry, that just does not hold up. This is not a matter of adding one truth to another. It is a matter of dismissing previous “revelations” and asserting a completely different (and contradictory) one.

There is only so much space to write in an e-mail text, yet the topic is large and a paragraph or two is unlikely to do it justice. There are innumerable books on the topic not just for each religion, but for each sect in each religion. For example, I’m now reading about Zen in Japan and China, and the topic is lengthy and huge with a vast literature. But how can I convey or summarize what I’m learning – both the good and the mistakes of the tradition – if you are willfully interested in seeing only the divergences?

I must disagree that the ethical and moral principles of Hinduism and Buddhism are nearly identical to that of Christianity – not even close. You are simply in error on that. Additionally, your characterization of Hinduism and Buddhism is simply historically wrong. Buddhism was a reform movement out of Hinduism. Both are pantheistic/monistic in nature and do not even acknowledge a personal understanding of God. The various gods that are expressed in many forms of Hinduism are hybridizations of earlier animistic traditions.

There are indeed strong moral and ethical principles in Hinduism and Buddhism and considerable overlap with that of Christianity. We can explore them if you like. Yes, Buddhism was born out of Hinduism in the same way that Christianity was born out of Judaism, but both are independent world religions, not reformist sects. One very fascinating issue, though, is how “high” Hinduism became nearly monotheistic because of Buddhism. Yes, Hinduism earlier had both animistic and shamanistic features – of course – but so did the Israelite religion in its early stages when its priesthood seemed to think Yahweh was only one among many tribal Gods.

Much of Hinduism has done what Baha’i has done, only the hybridization is with Animism and Pantheism rather than with various incompatible forms of Theism.

Your assertion that Hindu and Buddhist teachings express divine guidance and show how to reach reality simply cannot be backed up. That is a made up construct which has nothing to demonstrate it is true.

The truth is, the origins of Hinduism are lost in prehistory, much as is the background to Abraham. So, there is much that can’t be known. But the later traditions of Hinduism, especially its classical period 300 CE to 1000 CE, is well known. Hindu philosophers were often of great capacity. But Buddhism – and the Buddha – has a history that is much better known and it is very clear that the Buddha was a historical figure, one of immense and continuing influence. If you think of God as an object, yes, his teachings will contradict your understanding. But, if you think of God as a direction towards which we must go, then it indeed does make sense. That said, I understand very well the challenge of these ideas that these great religions are source of light.

Baha’i is not scientific in its method. As a scientist, I don’t know how you can even say that with a straight face. Science requires repeatable experimental verification. “Understanding through implementation” has nothing to do with anything in science – and really doesn’t even make sense.

Maybe I spoke in shorthand. First of all, the oneness of science and religion is a central principle of the Baha’I Faith, and it is certainly true that we are constantly admonished by our elected leadership to be scientific in our method. But, let me elaborate a bit on my shorthand. Suppose that a physicist – Einstein comes to mind – invents a great theory, say, relativity, or, say quantum mechanics. No physicist would accept those theories as true without seeing experimental proofs – so the first “understanding through implementation” is by tests of the theory to prove that it is not nonsensical, but rather valid. One tries to implement the theory to be able to test it. Ask me if this isn’t clear.

Now, scientists, once they have a valid theory, especially one as far reaching as relativity or quantum mechanics, then want to understand the theory in detail, and only way to do that is to apply it – to implement it – in a very thorough-going way. The result of the scientific community’s ‘understanding through implementation’ of relativity is our understanding of the immensity and age of the universe – of our cosmos. The result of the scientific community’s ‘understanding through implementation’ of quantum mechanics is the much of the modern technology since 1900 – radio, TV, electronics, chemistry, materials, the internet, semiconductors, and the computer I’m typing on.

For early Christian, the sincere among theme strove to implement the Teachings of Christ, to put them in practice. Only after turning the other cheek and actually being humble before God can you fully understand the extraordinary significance of what He said. Few realized that an extraordinary vital civilization would be built on Christ’s teaching – the teachings are not for individual salvation alone – but when they implemented the teachings they stopped seeing through a glass darkly. So “understanding through implementation” is not only the very essence of science (Ok, Ok, I’m an experimentalist) but part of the astounding influence of the revelation of God through Jesus Christ.

I do not disagree that Baha’i is a new religion, nor do I dispute the purpose of its existence. What I dispute is that it is true. A few anecdotal examples of Baha’is not fighting against persecutors does not make it true. In spite of your attempts to reconcile the internal contradictions within Baha’i, you have not done so. The contradictions still exist. Beyond that, you have brought up other issues (such as the lack of being able to demonstrate why Baha’i can possibly be true) which do not help your point. The only evidence for the truth of Baha’i is that its founders say it is true. That is it! It is simply not believable. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, really did come to earth as God in the flesh, lived a life which qualified him to become the atoning sacrifice for the sin of mankind, died on the cross as that sacrifice, and rose from the dead as a means of overcoming sin and death. Those who repent of their sin and ask God’s forgiveness will receive it and enter into a personal relationship with God. That is reality.

I’m guessing that now and then you have an apprehension of a shiver that there is indeed a great and might truth here, and I urge you to heed that apprehension.

Stephen

February 13
Stephen,

Rather than try to respond to you paragraph by paragraph, I have tried to organize by topic. While it follows much the same flow as your previous post, it also allowed me to consolidate certain things. It has taken me a little longer to do this, but I hope it makes my comments easier to follow.

About logic:
Your logic in asserting that the various religions of the world are part of one process is only logical if you are looking at it through the lens of Baha’i. It is not logical if you look at it through a different belief lens. Every belief system is built upon a particular set of presuppositions out of which the logic flows that supports that system. I understand the logic you are using to make your points, but I am not sure you really understand mine. As such, I have tried to incorporate some of that in my responses.

As for revelation, it also can only provide a valid argument if the revelation is true. Up until now, you have made assertions, but have not demonstrated how or why the beliefs you have asserted can be true. The problem you, in particular, run into, is that the contradictions between the various belief systems Baha’i is built upon literally contradict each other in many places and cannot be reconciled without cherry picking which beliefs you will accept and which you will reject – and you have no objective basis for making that determination.

About worldview:
Your response only demonstrates that you, indeed, don’t understand what I am talking about when it comes to the topic of worldview. It has nothing to do with theological interpretation, rather with understanding and organizing the presuppositions of belief systems. I have written extensively on my website about worldview, and you might find it useful to get up to speed a little on this topic.

About Postmodernism:
If my response about how Christianity has similarities to Postmodernism does not seem to get your point, then your explanation is going right by me. If you feel that is important, perhaps you need to clarify that a little.

About knowing the truth of a belief system:
I think it is a good thing to understand as much as one can about various belief systems. I, myself, teach a college course on World Religions. But you seem to miss my point regarding the contradictions between various religions. You have accused me of being only interested in the divergences, but how is that different than you only being interested in the similarities.

But it is not really the differences that interest me. What you continue to miss is that there are literal contradictions between the beliefs of different belief systems which cannot be reconciled. The only way to reconcile them is to ignore what you don’t like. So, in doing that, who gets to choose “what is good and what are mistakes?” All you have done is cherry pick ideas based on some subjective sense of morality that you (Baha’i) have personally decided upon.

About the overlap of moral and ethical principles:
Your assessment of Hinduism and Buddhism is based on a false foundation. Buddhism is atheistic. And to suggest Hinduism nearly became monotheistic because of Buddhism simply can’t be supported. In fact, there is no single monolithic expression of Hinduism. What both Hinduism and Buddhism do have in common is a belief that ultimate reality is an impersonal life force, and that material reality is an illusion than cannot ultimately be known via the intellect. Both also believe that the operation of ultimate reality is based on karma – an impersonal force that directs history in a mechanical fashion. There is no room for a personal God who is capable of any sort of propositional revelation. Any overlap of moral and ethical principles between Christianity and those Far Eastern religions have absolutely nothing to do with a common revelatory source.

About the development of religion:
Your characterization of Israelite history is completely wrong. The original beliefs about God were monotheistic, not Animistic (or more technically Mana). The original truth was revealed by God to Adam and Eve, and various prophets, and was passed down over the generations. The devolution of religion in general to Animistic and other forms was a perversion of the original. The concept of an evolution from a more primitive form to higher forms is a naturalistic presupposition which simply cannot be demonstrated to be true. As for ancient Israel, the devolution of religion to incorporate tribal gods was a perversion of the original revelation, not an evolution from many gods to belief in one.

About the nature and purpose of God:
God is neither an object nor a “direction towards which we must go.” He is a person who has revealed himself and called us to enter into a personal relationship with him. To make that happen, though, our sin problem must be resolved – which he provided for based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The determination as to whether or not that becomes a reality in an individual’s life is based on a personal decision to receive it. There is no other way to solve the sin problem. No other religion, including Baha’i, deals with that problem. God’s ultimate purpose is not for individuals to achieve a particular moral or ethical goal, or to transform human society into some kind of utopia. Rather, is it for each person to know him in a personal relationship.

About science:
Okay, I understand your explanation about science, but don’t think the comparison is particularly helpful – in fact it seems to me to muddy the water. You are conflating two completely different kinds of understanding into one. Material and spiritual understanding cannot be dealt with in the same way. The fact we have the capability to achieve understanding (in a generic sense) does not mean that the understanding is correct. It can be empirically tested in the material universe, but not in the spiritual. There, we have to, by faith, accept it. It is a fact that many people find various kinds of fulfillment in virtually every religious tradition. But finding personal fulfillment is not equivalent to something being true. The fact of apparent “understanding” is not decisive. Many people believe (and think they understand) things that are not true.

About Truth:
Actually, I do not have any kind of apprehension of a shiver that what you have said might represent truth. When you advocate for beliefs which are internally contradictory, it has the opposite effect on me – that what you are asserting cannot possibly be true.

When testing for truth about God, one must, on one level, interact with what we can experience as physical beings who live in a physical universe. Thus, our feelings, various personal experiences, and logic come into play. But none of these are ultimately decisive. Feelings can be manipulated, personal experiences of different people can lead to different conclusions, and logic is, ultimately, based on the presuppositions of the belief system being asserted (so, what is logical in one systems may be completely illogical in another).

So there must be something else that comes into play, as well. And there is. God objectively and propositionally revealed himself in history. The ultimate expression of that is seen in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When he died on the cross as a substitutionary atonement for the sins of man, it was an actual sacrifice that God accepted to deal with the sin problem of humanity. But that sacrifice is not automatically applied to every human – only to those who want it and are willing to receive Christ. There is nothing in Baha’i, or any other religion, that solves the sin problem. The attempt of Baha’i to coopt Christianity into its hybridized religious expression simply is not real. In doing that, all it does is attempt to cherry pick certain ethical principles while leaving out the very core of the faith. The ethical principles of the Christian faith are only moral expressions of the character of God. In Christianity, moral expressions don’t lead to a relationship with God. They are simply an outward expression of our objectively real personal relationship with him. Until you get that, you will not get Christianity.

Hope this helps clear up some things.

Blessings,
Freddy

February 13
Looks great! I’ll respond later.

Currently, I’m writing a paper that addresses the need for a new cosmology consistent with the findings of modern science (my scholarly focus – as opposed to what put food on the table – is science and religion and I live in Mountain View, CA, home town of Google and the birthplace of Silicon Valley). Cosmologies and worldviews are closely related, so read “worldview” where I write “cosmology” and you will see how I’m thinking. This is aimed at the modern tech/academic crowd where it turns out that the topic is proving increasingly productive for dialogue on spiritual matters.

(Overview of the paper)
Astronomy, physical cosmology, and evolution are – in many ways – the modern expressions of the same impulse that drove our ancestors towards a fascination with the cosmos and enthralled them with creation myths and stories. That impulse – common to spirituality, religion, and science alike – is likely the source of the extraordinary reverence paid to thinkers like Newton, Darwin, and Einstein and continues to fire the passion and dedication of many scientists and of untold millions of people around the world. The extraordinary – and often sublime – visions and stories that these scientists have created have become the grand creation narratives of our age, telling us how the cosmos was created, how our world came to be, how we were created, and even our place in the universe. These grand narratives and sublime visions have replaced, have elbowed aside, and have outmoded most of the traditional cultural religious and cosmological worldviews that are heritage from the past.

But modern cosmologies emphasize the materialistic philosophical perspectives of the 18th and 19th century ascendancy of science and the accompanying decline of religion, and consequently lack much of the balance and the broader frame of reference that characterizes many of the older views. Ancient perspectives that harmonized the physical and the material dimensions of life are downplayed or even proscribed and the material dimensions of our existence are foregrounded and exaggerated. Instead of considering the purposes of life, modern cosmologies emphasize the magnificence of what we see in the sky. The highest aspects of reality – divinity, our unique capacity for spiritual growths – are ushered out of the picture, and creation is portrayed as mindlessly mechanistic. Instead of the synchronicity of the physical and the spiritual aspects of reality – as, for example, in the yin-yang philosophies of eastern Asia – the physical aspects alone are emphasized. Indeed, modern cosmologies tend to portray all processes as material processes, all problems as material problems, and all solutions as material solutions.

The old cosmologies, beyond a doubt, are outmoded. Modern science has revolutionized and overturned our understanding of the physical world, expanded our view of the physical universe, and created powerful new material technologies that have transformed the way that we live. These advances have undermined much – if not most – of the metaphysical basis of past cosmological systems. But a new cosmology – one that balances the dynamics of material progress with the need for spiritual growth in individuals and in societies – has not yet arisen to replace those that have been discarded. The need for such a cosmology is clear – one needs only think of the damage being done to the environment, or the rampant warfare around the globe, or to consider the inequalities in education, opportunity, and wealth and their disabling effects on peoples, nations, and societies – to see that clearly. The rise of the environmental movement is just one example among many of a recognition of the need for reassessing material paradigms – mainly a legacy of the past – that still dominate modern mainstream thinking.

In this paper, we ask if the Bahá´í Writings can provide the basis for a cosmology that addresses the need for a balance between the physical and the spiritual aspect of the world and its inhabitants. Towards that end, we review some of the ways that the Bahá´í Writings look at central issues relating to metaphysics and cosmology and provide what we hope is a succinct and useful summary of those Writings that can serve as a kind of preliminary version of a Bahá´í cosmology.

Stephen

February 14
Stephen,

(In the second sentence of the 2nd paragraph, it seems that you must mean “harmonized the physical and spiritual dimensions” rather than “physical and material.” If I am wrong on that, I would be interested in hearing your distinction between physical and material.)

Interesting topic. In a big picture sense, we are in agreement about how Naturalism has become the dominant worldview perspective in American culture and that it is simply incapable of explaining all of reality as it purports to do. We both agree that there is an objectively real material and spiritual element of reality. Where we disagree regards the nature of that reality (and probably also the significance of the influence Naturalism has had on the advancement of science). I think that the discussion on our different views of the nature of ultimate reality is where our regular conversation is going.

Hope all is well.
Blessings,
Freddy

February 14
Yes, yes. And actually yes. (For some reason, I keep on misspeaking the point in the 2nd paragraph.)

Be patient with me on my reply – I want to do it justice, but lots of other things are on my plate.

Stephen

February 14
Don’t feel any pressure. I also have a life and I completely understand.
Blessings,
Freddy

February 22
Hi Freddy:

I’m starting to work on the reply – I’ve been hung up on a work presentation. But I’ve also been working hard on the cosmology paper – the one a sent a short extract from last time where I talk about the need to balance the material and spiritual aspects of reality. Over the last few days, I’ve updated my section on worldview.

I include it below. [This explanation does not directly relate to our conversation, but does give additional insights into the mindset of a Baha’i believer.]

Also, could you send me links to your website where you summarize your worldview thinking?

Stephen
………………………………………
A cosmology – a metaphysical and cosmological worldview – describes the structure of the universe and characterizes its beginnings, its ends, its purposes, and our roles in it.[1] Like a myth, it serves as a powerful mental organizing tool – a picture of the world – for individuals, communities, cultures, and nations. Cosmologies can play a major role in defining goals and identifying worthwhile aims and ends.

A worldview is the same as – or very similar to – a cosmology, but less focused on the structure of the universe. Aerts et al, in Worldviews: from fragmentation to integration, describes it as a coherent collection of concepts and theorems that must allow us to construct a global image of the world, and in this way to understand as many elements of our experience as possible.” [2] Aerts et al consider it to be based on universally asked questions:

Societies, as well as individuals, have always contemplated deep questions relating to their being and becoming, and to the being and becoming of the world. The configuration of answers to these questions forms their world view. …

Hence, a world view is a system of co-ordinates or a frame of reference in which everything presented to us by our diverse experiences can be placed. It is a symbolic system of representation that allows us to integrate everything we know about the world and ourselves into a global picture, one that illuminates reality as it is presented to us within a certain culture.[3]

No era or culture can be characterized by a single cosmology or be considered as having a single worldview – there is always a diversity of perspectives – but a historical period or a cultural era can still be usefully characterized as having as set of basic worldview features. Consider, for example, Chinese thought 2,300 years ago when concepts like dao, yin, yang, and qi fundamental to Chinese metaphysics gained prominence. According to these concepts, all things are … interconnected and constantly changing. They arise spontaneously from an ultimate source (most often called dao, the way) that resists objectification but is immanent in the world and accessible to cultivated people. Vitality and growth is the very nature of existence, and nature exhibits consistent patterns that can be observed and followed, in particular patterns of cycles and interaction between polar forces (such as yin and yang).[4]

This yinyang cosmology, and the closely associated “five phases” (wuxing) perspectives that emerged in the same time period, evoke a continuity and an overlap between the natural world and the heavenly worlds. They provide a way to characterize the dynamics of natural and social processes and provide guidelines for harmonizing relationships in family, social, economic, and government spheres. And they provide guidelines for individual self-cultivation. To this day, it underlies Chinese philosophy and religion – the three teachings of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism.

Or consider the Islamic world sprawled across three continents and the Malay archipelago. Incorporating ancient civilizations – including the oldest we know – and drawing on an extraordinarily rich religious and cultural heritage, it could hardly be expected to have a single worldview. Nevertheless, ruling classes, elite intellectuals, merchants, government leaders, military officers, and religious authorities from Spain to China alike read the Koran in Arabic, a unifying language that made possible a widespread dissemination of idea about law, scholarship, theology, education, and government. Arabic and the unifying perspective of the Koran provided a means and impetus for translations and widespread sharing of important religious, mystical, philosophical, and scientific texts from preceding and surrounding cultures.

Among Islamic inheritances were the Hellenistic, Sassanian, and Indian sciences of astronomy and the cosmos. Motivated by religious requirements for accurate calendars and daily timekeeping, as well as by practical needs for navigation and trade, Islamic thinkers and scientists built the foundations of modern observational astronomy, and along with it the mathematical, optical, and much of the engineering sciences and technologies that made possible the flowering of the modern world. These developments were integrated into a cosmology that saw the cosmos as created by God and bearing witness to His great capacity, as well as showing forth His guidance and sustaining power. The stars, the planets, the moon, the sun, the human intellect with its ability to see and understand, and divine guidance from Moses, Christ, Muhammad (and other prophets) were all components of a worldview that saw the hand of God in all things.[5]

Or contemplate Western Christendom, separated by language, politics, and religious differences from the Greek-speaking peoples of the Eastern Roman Empire and from the Islamic states. Its cosmology was built initially from biblical sources, from Latin culture and philosophy, and from German, Slavic, and Turkic tribal narratives. With the impact of Islamic learning after the 11th century – especially that of Islamic astronomy, mathematics, the sciences, medicine, and the philosophical arts – it evolved into the `medieval´ cosmology that was the starting point for our modern point-of-view. Khursheed, in The Universe Within, captures its salient points:

The medieval universe, so poetically described by Dante, was a universe where humanity’s moral salvation was objectively overlaid onto the physical cosmos. This pre-Copernican universe had the earth at its centre surrounded by the concentric orbits of the moon, the sun and the stars. Heaven was located beyond the ninth celestial orbit, and inner concentric rings within the earth converged on hell. Humanity’s spiritual salvation was mapped onto this cosmology: if a person chose to be a believer, he would rise heavenwards, ascending through the outer celestial rings to abide in blissful peace forever. If he chose to sin, he would take the route down into the earth’s core and be tormented eternally in hell. Medieval cosmology reflected man’s dual nature as half-angel, half-animal, in the intermediate position he occupied in the physical universe. Humanity stood at the boundary between two universes: The angelic universe above him and the animal universe below him. (page 19)

It is this universe, a “rich, multilayered, integrated reality open to divine interaction” that would be replaced by a modern worldview holding the universe to be a “lifeless, autonomous clock-like mechanism closed to any `external´ influence.” (Wegter-McNelly 159)
………………..
[1] A cosmology, according to the New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, is a “system of beliefs that seeks to describe or explain the origin and structure of the universe. A cosmology attempts to establish an ordered, harmonious framework that integrates time, space, the planets, stars, and other celestial phenomena. In so-called primitive societies, cosmologies help explain the relationship of human beings to the rest of the universe and are therefore closely tied to religious beliefs and practices. In modern industrial societies, cosmologies seek to explain the universe through astronomy and mathematics.”
[2] Aerts et al page 8
[3] ibid
[4] Perkins
[5] Dhanani 79, 84

February 22
Stephen,

First, as you requested, some of the links on my website where you can get at deeper look at the concept of worldview.

Let me first suggest that you do the worldview survey (http://www.marketfaith.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Worldview-Survey-by-MarketFaith-Ministries.pdf). I think you will find this interesting and it will serve to clarify some things for you from the beginning.

http://www.marketfaith.org/understanding-worldview – Here are numerous articles here that deal directly with the concept of worldview.

http://www.marketfaith.org/worldview-training-videos – Here you will find several PowerPoint videos which explain the basics of the concept of worldview.

As I read your article, I don’t see anything particularly wrong with your basic definition of a worldview. That said, there does seem to be a serious problem with the way you understand the nature of worldview beliefs and deal with the topic – a deficiency that I have pointed out several times before. You treat worldview as if the beliefs expressed by the various worldview systems are not tethered to anything that is actually real (ie. that there is no such thing as a set of beliefs that represent objective reality, but that people can just pick and choose any belief, and they are all true). That is pretty good Postmodernism, but it is simply not real in any objective sense. What you are proposing is simply not possible. A worldview is, indeed, a way of classifying particular sets of beliefs. But these beliefs are either true or false, and it is impossible for them to be interchangeable, or for one to supplant another as you have suggested. Worldview beliefs from different worldview systems literally contradict one another.

One other thing. Your characterization of the Christian faith is simply not correct. I don’t doubt that there were people who believed the way you have described. But your explanation is about mediaeval Roman Catholic culture (and much of that based on naturalistic presuppositions about the origin of religion), not biblical theology. If you are going to try to characterize what is taught in the Bible based on that paradigm, you will have no credibility with people who genuinely hold a biblical worldview, and who actually read and study the Bible.

Blessings,
Freddy

February 23
Hi Freddy:

Thanks for the references. I’m starting to get a better idea of how you see a worldview – kind of a mutually exclusive, right?

You wrote:
“As I read your article, I don´t see anything particularly wrong with your basic definition of a worldview. That said, there does seem to be a serious problem with the way you understand the nature of worldview beliefs and deal with the topic – a deficiency that I have pointed out several times before. You treat worldview as if the beliefs expressed by the various worldview systems are not tethered to anything that is actually real (ie. that there is no such thing as a set of beliefs that represent objective reality, but that people can just pick and choose any belief, and they are all true).”

I’m reading a pretty good book by a tippy-top historian and authority on religions around the world. His name is Peter Harrison, and the book “The Territories of Science and Religion”. He says something interesting about the kind of radically solipsistic worldview you describe me as having. BTW, its funny that you would describe an experimental physicist like myself as having such a worldview! :>). He is talking about the notoriously cranky and philosophically influential Christian believer named Wittgenstein (Wittgenstein became a Christian during World War I) and the 20th century idea that our ideas are socially constructed. Harrison says something that I think is important to keep in mind: “That is not to say there is no mind-independent reality, but merely that the way in which we conceptualize reality is inevitably influenced by social factors and this is reflected in our language.”

You write:
“That is pretty good Postmodernism, but it is simply not real in any objective sense. What you are proposing is simply not possible. A worldview is, indeed, a way of classifying particular sets of beliefs. But these beliefs are either true or false, and it is impossible for them to be interchangeable or for one to supplant another as you have suggested. Worldview beliefs from different worldview systems literally contradict one another.”

Basically, I think it is not true that they are either true or false – they are rather a combination of true and false. Consider someone who hears about Jesus. At first, he thinks that Jesus is just a miracle worker. True or false? Yes, true, but only partially, because Jesus is much more than a miracle worker. Later, of course, that someone learns much more. But of course, there is always much more to learn, so even the most fully knowledgeable person – or society with a worldview – believes a mixture of true or false. I don’t expect that you doubt this!

I notice that you describe worldviews as being naturalistic, animistic, far eastern, and theistic and mutually exclusive. It’s a very simple way to think about things, I do agree. But is it true? Maybe I can offer a challenge. Can you support this perspective with the Gospel? Given that you recognize Christ as the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, it makes sense to justify discussion of worldviews by scripture, no? Lacking such a justification, you may have to alter your fundamental suppositions, no?

You write:
“One other thing. Your characterization of the Christian faith is simply not correct. I don´t doubt that there were people who believed the way you have described. But your explanation is about mediaeval Roman Catholic culture (and much of that based on naturalistic presuppositions about the origin of religion), not biblical theology. If you are going to try to characterize what is taught in the Bible based on that paradigm, you will have no credibility with people who genuinely hold a biblical worldview, and who actually read and study the Bible.”

Here I think you simply failed to read correctly, or maybe you are not familiar with scholarly discussion. It is indeed a description of medieval Roman Catholic culture, and makes no claims to be a characterization of Christian Faith. In Western Christendom before Luther, it is an accurate, if necessarily limited, picture of what there was.

Stephen

February 27
Stephen,

Actually not “kind of a mutually exclusive,” it is literally mutually exclusive. It cannot be any other way. Why do you think it funny that I would describe you as an experimental physicist in the way I do? I do it because you are trying to describe reality in ways which are contradictory. Physics is necessarily based on natural principles which require experimental verification. But the beliefs you are asserting are not experimental physics and have nothing to do with experimental physics. Your beliefs about faith and religion are based on a hybridized worldview foundation, a part of which assumes that material reality can be known and part which asserts it is illusory, and thus unknowable. Something cannot be knowable and unknowable at the same time. This is the position you are proposing and it simply cannot be true.

As far as the belief that our ideas are socially constructed, who cares what Wittgenstein (or anyone else, for that matter) says. People make up untrue things all the time. Just because someone can invent an idea does not make it true. The idea that social factors influence how we conceptualize reality is also a non-starter. The fact that we don’t know everything does not mean that we cannot know anything. There is such a thing as objective reality, and we know enough of it to live life based on it. Otherwise, why do you even do experimental physics? How would you know that it is even possible for your results to represent reality? Your argument simply doesn’t wash.

Do you think it is possible for gravity to be operative and inoperative on the earth at the same time? Of course not! That kind of physical contradiction is simply impossible. Whether you realize it or not, the beliefs you have proposed (Baha’i) are contradictory to the same magnitude. Your argument about partial truth is not a logical argument. The question is not about what people believe, but what actually exists. It doesn’t matter if a person only knows partially about Jesus. That does not change the fact of who he really was. He is Savior of the world or he is not. The fact that someone doesn’t completely understand that does not change the reality. What you are trying to do is say that the reality is not important, only what individuals understand about it. Again, that is pretty good Postmodernism, but horrible Christian theology (and untenable logic).

You obviously still do not fully understand the concept of worldview. Every worldview is a paradigm for understanding the structure of reality. The Gospel is not an explanation of worldview in general, only an explanation of a biblical worldview. Can you justify physics using biology? Of course not, they don’t relate in that way. They are different subjects altogether. Your entire argument on this topic simply does not make any sense.

Finally, I did not fail to read your discussion correctly and am familiar with scholarly discussion. But there are many different scholarly discussions – many of them based on completely false ideas. The fact that a scholar writes something does not make it true. And there are many so called theologians who work off of false beliefs. The problem is not that I have misunderstood, but that you have put forth arguments which are simply not true. My point was that your discussion of medieval Roman Catholic culture has no relationship to genuine biblical theology. You have yet to state an accurate account of what the Bible actually teaches about the Christian faith.

Hope all is well.
Blessings,
Freddy

February 28
Hi Freddy:

Good to hear from you!

For now, just a quick reply. For some reason, you are consistently misreading what I’m saying. No problem! But please let me correct you, which I do below.

As far as I can tell, we are agreed on lots of things with respect to worldviews. Where I do agree is about the need for some kind of selectivity. Where we do disagree is about their mutually exclusivity – you draw the line differently than I do.

A world where anything goes is not a world for men or women to live in. So, where all kinds of different claims are made about what is true and what is not, there needs to be some decisions about where to draw the line. There has to be an understanding about what is true and what is not. We have to be fortified, so to speak, against those who preach materialistic doctrines, against those who incite sectarian violence, against those who teach superstition, and against those who want to snuff out the light of the divine teachings. The trick, though, is to not draw lines that exclude the truth.

You write:
“Actually not “kind of a mutually exclusive,” it is literally mutually exclusive. It cannot be any other way. Why do you think it funny that I would describe you as an experimental physicist in the way I do? I do it because you are trying to describe reality in ways which are contradictory. Physics is necessarily based on natural principles which require experimental verification. But the beliefs you are asserting are not experimental physics and have nothing to do with experimental physics. Your beliefs about faith and religion are based on a hybridized worldview foundation, a part of which assumes that material reality can be known and part which asserts it is illusory, and thus unknowable. Something cannot be knowable and unknowable at the same time. This is the position you are proposing and it simply cannot be true.”

Putting aside the mutually exclusive discussion, which I’m hoping to take up later, I want to correct you about how I think and how physicists in general think. Every single physicist and capable scientist I know of looks at material reality in terms of what we know and what we don’t know. When exploring a new problem, we always think this way. The more philosophically minded – those who are interested in the philosophy of science, for example – will think long and hard about whether our theories are just “explaining” the appearances – which is what Ptolemaic astronomy did – or explaining reality, which is the current thinking about what Newtonian/Einsteinian physics does. In modern physical cosmology, there are big unknowns: the nature of “dark” matter and energy, for example.

When thinking about ultimate problems, physicists think in a similar way. They ask, is the cause knowable? Or is it unknowable?

In the realm of physics at least, we don’t think we have absolute knowledge. All knowledge is partial and we always look for mistakes in our understanding.

Or to put in another way, most people, at least in the sciences, would disagree with your view that “something cannot be knowable and unknowable at the same time.” There are several ways that something can be knowable and unknowable at the same time. They can either be knowable and unknowable because we currently don’t have full knowledge. They can also be both knowable and unknowable because of proven theory. For example, think about the clockwork picture of the universe. This is the idea that the universe can be described without knowledge of God because we have extremely good physical explanations. Physicist now know that is wrong both because we can’t know the initial states of everything in the universe, and because quantum mechanics say that there are well-defined limits to what we can know and we can’t know everything simultaneously.

But what about in faith and religion? It could be that there are certain correct worldviews – you mention the Biblical one – which are the only correct ones. You say, for example:

“As Christians, if we want to be true to ourselves and to God, we have to come to a place where we are willing to look at what God has given to us in Scripture as the bottom line objective reality that it is. In order to do this, we have to grasp an entirely different worldview perspective – a Biblical one. The ultimate truth about the nature of reality has been propositionally shared with us by God in the Bible. God is an actual person who exists and has revealed himself. And the revelation he has given us is literally true in an objective sense.”

There is truth here. Most theologians, though, hold that many of Christ’s teaching are given in parables, not in philosophical or scientific claims about the nature of reality or objective truths through revelation. Perhaps this is just quibbling. It can be argued that “objective” refers both to spiritual and material reality. It certainly is true that turning to Jesus Christ is to turn to God. But, it is not magic. You still have to think logically. Not everything said in the name of Christ is true. You still have to be discerning. And, you still have to think about how to apply his teachings in the modern world. Accepting Jesus Christ is not a get home free card.

And what if God continues to provide guidance to humanity? What if the line of demarcation is the divine religions, the revealed religions, those that correctly guided mankind? One can argue that this is stretching things too far, or that the other religions – Islam, for example – are an attempt to copy Christianity. Many have been fooled by those claiming to speak the truth.

The Baha’i claim is not that one should accept a hodgepodge of synthesized arguments about various religious interpretations and various tradition, but that God has returned in all of His glory and has revealed the full measure of truth promised so long ago in His covenant with humanity. The proof of this is none other than the Manifestation of God Himself – it is the intensity of His revelation, the fulfillment of countless prayers of countless generations of countless true believers. This is the Day of God, the Day where the Lord is glorified.

In the Book of Isaiah it is written: “Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty.” No man that meditateth upon this verse can fail to recognize the greatness of this Cause, or doubt the exalted character of this Day — the Day of God Himself. This same verse is followed by these words: “And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that Day.” This is the Day which the Pen of the Most High hath glorified in all the holy Scriptures. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 13)

Believe that or not as you may, the choice is yours. But please recognize that the theme and the power of this revelation is immense indeed, and in it truth is discerned from error. It is the fulfillment of Christ’s promise. It is the great theme of our time, and you have touched upon it.

(You say) As far as the belief that our ideas are socially constructed, who cares what Wittgenstein (or anyone else, for that matter) says. People make up untrue things all the time. Just because someone can invent an idea does not make it true. The idea that social factors influence how we conceptualize reality is also a non-starter. The fact that we don´t know everything does not mean that we cannot know anything. There is such a thing as objective reality, and we know enough of it to live life based on it. Otherwise, why do you even do experimental physics? How would you know that it is even possible for your results to represent reality? Your argument simply doesn’t wash.

Here, you seem to be misunderstanding both what I was trying to say and what Wittgenstein said. What I was trying to say that all human descriptions and all human understandings of objective reality – ‘objective reality’ is something that is always there whether we know it or not – is incomplete. That, of course, doesn’t mean that it is not out there independent of us. That is absurd and you rightly acknowledge that. But, it does mean that our knowledge of it is partial and complete. (It’s actually a very straightforward claim, so it should readily gain your assent!)

(You say) “Do you think it is possible for gravity to be operative and inoperative on the earth at the same time? Of course not! That kind of physical contradiction is simply impossible. Whether you realize it or not, the beliefs you have proposed (Baha´i) are contradictory to the same magnitude. Your argument about partial truth is not a logical argument. The question is not about what people believe, but what actually exists. It doesn´t matter if a person only knows partially about Jesus. That does not change the fact of who he really was. He is Savior of the world or he is not. The fact that someone doesn´t completely understand that does not change the reality. What you are trying to do is say that the reality is not important, only what individuals understand about it. Again, that is pretty good Postmodernism, but horrible Christian theology (and untenable logic).”

See above. As far as I can tell, you understand many of these things the same way I do. I am not trying to say “that the reality is not important”. But, what I am trying to say is that “what individuals understand about reality” is a mix of the true and untrue. For example, my understanding – or lack thereof – doesn’t change the nature of God. The fault is in my understanding. Let me know if you don’t agree with this important point – that reality is one thing and that our understanding of it is another. It is an essential point.

(You say) “You obviously still do not fully understand the concept of worldview. Every worldview is a paradigm for understanding the structure of reality. The Gospel is not an explanation of worldview in general, only an explanation of a biblical worldview. Can you justify physics using biology? Of course not, they don´t relate in that way. They are different subjects altogether. Your entire argument on this topic simply does not make any sense.”

I think the point you want to make is that I don’t understand your concept of the mutually exclusive aspects of worldview, right? Obviously, there are many different definitions of worldviews, yours just being one of them. I’ve been pushing you to justify it by Scripture, and admirable exercise, I believe.

(You say) “Finally, I did not fail to read your discussion correctly and am familiar with scholarly discussion. But there are many different scholarly discussions – many of them based on completely false ideas. The fact that a scholar writes something does not make it true. And there are many so called theologians who work off of false beliefs. The problem is not that I have misunderstood, but that you have put forth arguments which are simply not true. My point was that your discussion of medieval Roman Catholic culture has no relationship to genuine biblical theology. You have yet to state an accurate account of what the Bible actually teaches about the Christian faith.”

My feeling is that still misunderstand this. I was not presenting a claim that to an accurate portrayal of genuine biblical theology. Rather, I was trying to portray some aspects of the cosmology of the middle ages. These are two quite different things!!! That clears it up, I trust.

Stephen

March 3
Stephen,

Sorry it took this long to get back with you, but my schedule has been pretty full this week.

You think, for some reason that I am misreading what you are saying. But I understand exactly what you are saying. My response is not a misunderstanding but a disagreement with your very interpretation of how reality is structured. We are operating off of entirely different worldview platforms, and your problem is that you are trying to interpret what I am saying through your own worldview lens, rather than understanding the real meaning of what I am saying.

Indeed, we do draw the line in different places – and that is my point exactly. You seem to think that the line around a belief system is something that human beings are able to determine for themselves. Again, that is very good Postmodernism, but it is impossible Theism. God really does exist as a particular kind of person and human beings don’t get to decide what they want him to be like. He is who he is, and he has revealed that to us in the Bible. There is no other place where it is possible for us to get a picture of what transcendent reality is like. Likewise, the world exists, and operates in a particular way, as well – the way God created it to operate. Once he created the natural universe, it has not changed. Based on your assertions about the nature of reality (because you assert beliefs from contradictory worldview platforms), that magnitude of change would have to be the case. But that simply is not real. God has never changed himself, and he has not changed the nature of reality over time. Whether you agree with what I say about mutual exclusivity or not, it is a fact. The pantheistic beliefs and Theistic beliefs that you insist have been the foundations of reality at different points in history is simply impossible.

I certainly agree with you that “there has to be an understanding about what is true and what is not. We have to be fortified, so to speak, against those who preach materialistic doctrines, against those who incite sectarian violence, against those who teach superstition, and against those who want to snuff out the light of the divine teachings.” However, you are proposing a belief system that determines what that must look like based on an arbitrary standard. In Baha’i, the founders did not begin with a revelation from God, they began with a set of principles that they decided were right, then went back through the teachings of other religions and cherry picked what they believed corresponded with their predetermined theology. And not only have certain beliefs been cherry picked, a massive amount from all the other religions has been left out. That approach to creating a religion is just not real.

Your discussion on what is knowable and not knowable simply misses the point. If Naturalism is true, then whether scientists are able to have knowledge of particular matters is totally beside the point. Based on naturalistic presuppositions, even what is not yet known can be known because it is all based on natural laws which are, at the very least, knowable by experimental science (once technology and scientific knowledge catch up).

On the other hand, if a transcendent reality actually does exist that is outside of the natural universe which is not subject to the natural laws of the universe, then what exists in that transcendence is, literally, unknowable UNLESS someone who lives there (God, for instance) reveals it to us. You simply have not made the distinction between the two realms. We are not discussing what can be known about the material universe, but what can be known of ultimate reality. We can’t know “initial states” because the universe had its origin based on a transcendent power which does not operate by the laws of the material universe. You are asserting that God exists, but all of your descriptions are based on assumptions that all of reality operates based on the physical laws of nature. I reject that and you cannot demonstrate it to be true.

Once again, you don’t understand biblical hermeneutics. Of course many of Christ’s teachings were in parables. But the object of the parables was not some kind of vague philosophical mumbo jumbo. He was teaching objectively real spiritual truths which can be understood.

Also, your point that objective refers to both spiritual and material reality is exactly true. The Christian faith is built on that premise. And the two are not in opposition to one another. Since God created the material universe based on fixed natural laws, science is a legitimate study by which we can learn things about the natural universe. But natural laws do not explain the spiritual nature of God nor the human soul. Human beings are spiritual beings who are housed in a material body, so we live in both arenas. We learn about the material universe by science and we learn about the spiritual based on God’s revelation in the Bible.

I am not sure what you are thinking when you say “Accepting Jesus Christ is not a get home free card.” Salvation in the Christian faith has a beginning point when a person accepts Christ as Savior and Lord. But it continues on through the rest of life based on a changed life which creates in a person’s soul a desire to live in holiness and in relationship with God. Outside of a personal relationship with God based on the death and resurrection of Christ, eternal life is not possible.

You asked, “And what if God continues to provide guidance to humanity?” Well, he does – just not in the way Baha’i teaches. When a person enters into a personal relationship with God, his spirit indwells the believer and interacts personally with the spirit of the believer (which expresses how the relationship operates). There is no need, nor has there ever been a need, for God to give a new religion (or new manifestations) to reveal himself. He has done it completely through the process expressed in the Bible. I do not dispute the words written in Isaiah that you have pointed to, it is just that the reality of the “Cause” and the “Day” are not what is expressed in the teachings of Baha’i. It is what is expressed in the Bible. Baha’i is NOT the fulfillment of Christ’s promise – only Christ is that fulfillment.

Moving on, of course our understanding of objective reality is incomplete. It is impossible for us, who are confined to the material universe, to understand the fullness of transcendent reality (as I have already discussed above). But incomplete knowledge does not necessarily imply insufficient knowledge. God has revealed all that we need to know for our eternal salvation. The fact of incompleteness, in the sense you have spoken of it, is completely inconsequential.

You still don’t seem to grasp what a worldview is. It is not something that you will find in Scripture. It is a paradigm for analyzing different ways that people understand reality. Your request that I show you the concept of worldview in Scripture is like me asking you to show me an explanation of the American political system in your scriptures. They are entirely different subjects. The Bible, as I said before, is an explanation only of a biblical worldview. It doesn’t explain the concept of worldview itself. Your desire to see it justified by scripture is simply a nonsensical request.

As far as the idea of mutual exclusivity, what is mutually exclusive are different worldviews. I gave examples before but here it is again. God can’t exist and not exist at the same time. A human being can’t be a person created in the image of God and exclusively a naturally evolved animal creature at the same time. A person can’t know salvation ONLY by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and by the teachings of Baha’i at the same time. All of these mutually exclude one another.

I sense that you are having a difficult time grasping the very concept of mutual exclusivity because it goes so against the grain of Baha’i teaching. And whether you ever believe that it exists the way I describe it or not, you will never understand what I am saying until you can grasp how what I am saying might possibly be true. I hope our continued discussion is helping you down this road.

Blessings,
Freddy

March 13
Hi Freddy:

Once again, I have the pleasure to reply to you. My week has been a bit full too.

You write:
You think, for some reason that I am misreading what you are saying. But I understand exactly what you are saying. My response is not a misunderstanding but a disagreement with your very interpretation of how reality is structured. We are operating off of entirely different worldview platforms, and your problem is that you are trying to interpret what I am saying through your own worldview lens, rather than understanding the real meaning of what I am saying.

As we draw this discussion to a close, I want to point out that here you address one of your main themes – that different worldviews close people off from understanding each other. But, I do notice that you allow for some flexibility: you can understand me “exactly” but I fail to understand “the real meaning of what you are saying.”

“Indeed, we do draw the line in different places – and that is my point exactly. You seem to think that the line around a belief system is something that human beings are able to determine for themselves. Again, that is very good Postmodernism, but it is impossible Theism. God really does exist as a particular kind of person and human beings don´t get to decide what they want him to be like. He is who he is, and he has revealed that to us in the Bible. There is no other place where it is possible for us to get a picture of what transcendent reality is like. Likewise, the world exists, and operates in a particular way, as well – the way God created it to operate. Once he created the natural universe, it has not changed. Based on your assertions about the nature of reality (because you assert beliefs from contradictory worldview platforms), that magnitude of change would have to be the case. But that simply is not real. God has never changed himself, and he has not changed the nature of reality over time. Whether you agree with what I say about mutual exclusivity or not, it is a fact. The pantheistic beliefs and Theistic beliefs that you insist have been the foundations of reality at different points in history is simply impossible.”

Here indeed, I do differ from your worldview. (By the way, do you avow young earth creationism? That is how I interpret you saying that God has not changed the nature of reality over time.)

Let me see if I can convey a major part of this difference. Along with Paul in first Corinthians, I acknowledge that “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” In short, we grow and learn. As a young child, and can know only little of the love of God. But as an adult, tried by tests and trials, I can much more clearly. So, much as we grow and learn as individuals, we grow and learn as societies. And sometimes, like the Jewish people before the Babylonian exile, our predecessors can believe in many gods. So, knowing this, I cannot automatically condemn people for being ignorant nor claim they are bereft of the right world views for all time, but recognize their need for growth and learning. And in this, I may differ from you.

What does this mean where there are seemingly direct contradiction, as when someone – say, an aggressive atheist – says that scientific worldview directly contradicts a faith-based world view. Well, this is just plain wrong regardless of the atheist thinks. But there are indeed certain types of atheistic worldviews that directly contradict belief in God.

For some reason – and I can´t figure out why – many people think that different types of thinking demand that there be different fundamental realities. But that is obviously nonsense, and I hope you recognize it as such. That I have a different understanding of quantum mechanics than you says nothing about quantum mechanics. It is always what it is. That you see God as just a person doesn’t change the nature of God the Father. It just means that your focus is not on Him.

You write:
I certainly agree with you that “there has to be an understanding about what is true and what is not. We have to be fortified, so to speak, against those who preach materialistic doctrines, against those who incite sectarian violence, against those who teach superstition, and against those who want to snuff out the light of the divine teachings.”

Nicely true. Then you write:
However, you are proposing a belief system that determines what that must look like based on an arbitrary standard. In Baha´i, the founders did not begin with a revelation from God, they began with a set of principles that they decided were right, then went back through the teachings of other religions and cherry picked what they believed corresponded with their predetermined theology. And not only have certain beliefs been cherry picked, a massive amount from all the other religions has been left out. That approach to creating a religion is just not real.

For anyone at even faintly familiar with the Bahá´í Faith, this is a non-starter. The founder of the Baha´i Faith is Baha´u´llah, and like the announcement of Christ´s coming by St. John the Baptist, he was preceded by an extraordinarily charismatic young man surnamed Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad, known to us as the Bab. A man who had never studied, he was able to defeat the most learned mullahs of the land through his innate knowledge. He even won some of the most learned of the land to his cause. One of the princes of realm urged on him an army and told him to take Tehran, but he refused, saying his faith would be spread by the word, not the sword.

Baha´u´llah was scion of one of wealthiest and most distinguished noble families of Iran, but educated only in the ancient arts of Persian poetry. Here is an interesting bit of info on him:

According to the custom of that time, as the son of an influential government official, Bahá’u’lláh did not receive a formal education. Yet by the time He was fourteen, he became known for His learning. He would converse on any subject and solve any problem presented to him. In large gatherings he would explain intricate religious questions to the ulama (the leading religious figures in Islam), and they listened with great interest.

The books, tablets, poems, and letters He revealed – and there are hundreds of volumes of them – poured out of him so quickly that he had to have specially trained amanuenses to keep up with him. For example, the 200 page Kitab-i-Iqan – meaning the Book of Certitude – was revealed in the course of two days and two nights. And this happened again and again, even when he was in grievous captivity as the Muslim clergy sought to minimize his extraordinary influence.

In the Bahá’í Faith , there is a revelation – a long promised overwhelming world creating revelation – and all else is secondary and subservient to that.

You write:
“Your discussion on what is knowable and not knowable simply misses the point. If Naturalism is true, then whether scientists are able to have knowledge of particular matters is totally beside the point. Based on naturalistic presuppositions, even what is not yet known can be known because it is all based on natural laws which are, at the very least, knowable by experimental science (once technology and scientific knowledge catch up).

On the other hand, if a transcendent reality actually does exist that is outside of the natural universe which is not subject to the natural laws of the universe, then what exists in that transcendence is, literally, unknowable UNLESS someone who lives there (God, for instance) reveals it to us. You simply have not made the distinction between the two realms. We are not discussing what can be known about the material universe, but what can be known of ultimate reality. We can´t know “initial states” because the universe had its origin based on a transcendent power which does not operate by the laws of the material universe. You are asserting that God exists, but all of your descriptions are based on assumptions that all of reality operates based on the physical laws of nature. I reject that and you cannot demonstrate it to be true.”

Not quite sure I´m following this. As a scientist, I certainly believe that natural reality is in complete keeping with spiritually reality and belief in God. And there are many reasons to look for that correspondence – traditional philosophical proofs of the existence of God. But I came to belief in God through years of agonizing search and mystical experience. Yes, once I believed in God, I went back and reasoned through everything – all the objections – stubbornly until I realized there were no logical objections. Maybe you could restate your point.

You write:
“Once again, you don´t understand biblical hermeneutics. Of course many of Christ´s teachings were in parables. But the object of the parables was not some kind of vague philosophical mumbo jumbo. He was teaching objectively real spiritual truths which can be understood.”

I forget the point! Sorry.

“Also, your point that objective refers to both spiritual and material reality is exactly true. The Christian faith is built on that premise. And the two are not in opposition to one another. Since God created the material universe based on fixed natural laws, science is a legitimate study by which we can learn things about the natural universe. But natural laws do not explain the spiritual nature of God nor the human soul. Human beings are spiritual beings who are housed in a material body, so we live in both arenas. We learn about the material universe by science and we learn about the spiritual based on God´s revelation in the Bible.”

Definitely!

“I am not sure what you are thinking when you say “Accepting Jesus Christ is not a get home free card.” Salvation in the Christian faith has a beginning point when a person accepts Christ as Savior and Lord. But it continues on through the rest of life based on a changed life which creates in a person ´s soul a desire to live in holiness and in relationship with God. Outside of a personal relationship with God based on the death and resurrection of Christ, eternal life is not possible.”

Here, I was trying to get at the point that you can´t stop praying, or stop learning, or complimenting your faith by good works. You can´t backslide. What I was trying to get at the idea that worldviews – and the understanding of the people who hold them – are not binary on/off things.

“You asked, ‘And what if God continues to provide guidance to humanity?’ Well, he does – just not in the way Baha´i teaches. When a person enters into a personal relationship with God, his spirit indwells the believer and interacts personally with the spirit of the believer (which expresses how the relationship operates). There is no need, nor has there ever been a need, for God to give a new religion (or new manifestations) to reveal himself. He has done it completely through the process expressed in the Bible. I do not dispute the words written in Isaiah that you have pointed to, it is just that the reality of the “Cause” and the “Day” are not what is expressed in the teachings of Baha´i. It is what is expressed in the Bible. Baha´i is NOT the fulfillment of Christ´s promise – only Christ is that fulfillment.”

It would truly be wonderful and incredible if you were touched by His spirit.

“Moving on, of course our understanding of objective reality is incomplete. It is impossible for us, who are confined to the material universe, to understand the fullness of transcendent reality (as I have already discussed above). But incomplete knowledge does not necessarily imply insufficient knowledge. God has revealed all that we need to know for our eternal salvation. The fact of incompleteness, in the sense you have spoken of it, is completely inconsequential.”

“You still don ´t seem to grasp what a worldview is. It is not something that you will find in Scripture. It is a paradigm for analyzing different ways that people understand reality. Your request that I show you the concept of worldview in Scripture is like me asking you to show me an explanation of the American political system in your scriptures. They are entirely different subjects. The Bible, as I said before, is an explanation only of a biblical worldview. It doesn’t explain the concept of worldview itself. Your desire to see it justified by scripture is simply a nonsensical request.”

I´m sure that you understand this point better than I do: if it is not justified by scripture then it very well might be corruption from some other philosophy or worldview, one antithetical to Scripture. No need for me to belabor this.

“As far as the idea of mutual exclusivity, what is mutually exclusive are different worldviews. I gave examples before but here it is again. God can´t exist and not exist at the same time. A human being can´t be a person created in the image of God and exclusively a naturally evolved animal creature at the same time. A person can´t know salvation ONLY by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and by the teachings of Baha´i at the same time. All of these mutually exclude one another.”

“I sense that you are having a difficult time grasping the very concept of mutual exclusivity because it goes so against the grain of Baha´i teaching. And whether you ever believe that it exists the way I describe it or not, you will never understand what I am saying until you can grasp how what I am saying might possibly be true. I hope our continued discussion is helping you down this road.”

You have always been saying the same thing, haven´t you? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

I´ve been saying “Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.”

Stephen

March 16
Stephen,

Sometimes it gets kind of hard to effectively reply to your questions and comments simply because of the format. This time I am trying a different format.

∙ I don’t affirm or disavow young earth creationism. The Bible is not specific on this and can be interpreted in ways that affirm either.

∙ Your quote of 1 Corinthians 13 is out of context and off topic. It does not address the point you are trying to make. It is about spiritual growth related to love, not about the progress of knowledge or manifestations of God through eras of time. While the principle holds true in many circumstances, you cannot use it the way you have to prove that Baha’i teachings are a progression from previous revelations. If you want to make that case, then you have to do it by demonstrating that the authority source of Baha’i is true. You have assumed it in your replies, but have given no reason why it should be believed over the teachings of the Bible.

∙ There is no such thing as a “scientific worldview.” Science is a methodology, not a belief system. The contrast I made was between Naturalism and Theism, not between Theism and science. Naturalism and Theism do, indeed, contradict one another. One asserts there is no transcendent reality and the other that there is. They cannot both be true. The same thing is true for Christianity and Baha’i. While they both acknowledge transcendent reality, the shape of that reality is fundamentally contradictory. They cannot both be true.

∙ I never said, “God is just a person.” I don’t know where you got that. God is a person, but by person I do not mean human being. Humans are person’s because we were created in the image of God (the original person), not the other way around.

∙ You made a statement about my characterization of Baha’i teaching cherry-picking beliefs from other religions, but then you went on to talk about the history of your religion without ever addressing my point. Let me see if I can explain my point again in a different way.

If I understand correctly, the fundamental teachings of Baha’i include:
1. The oneness of mankind.
2. Independent investigation of truth.
3. The common foundation of all religions.
4. The essential harmony of science and religion.
5. Equality of men and women.
6. Elimination of prejudice of all kinds.
7. Universal compulsory education.
8. A spiritual solution to the economic problem.
9. A universal auxiliary language.
10. Universal peace upheld by a world government.

While there is some overlap with Christian teachings, none of these things relates even remotely to the end purpose of the Christian faith. Things like equality and elimination of prejudice are, certainly, expressions of a life changed by Christ, but they have nothing to do with God’s overall purpose for mankind (which is for God an man to live in a personal relationship with one another). Other things like the common foundation of all religions, universal compulsory education, a universal auxiliary language, and anything to do with a world government have no connection with Christianity whatsoever.

The key to the Christian faith is forgiveness of sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is nothing in Baha’i, that I am aware of, that incorporates this essential.

And besides the purpose of God, the very nature of God, as described by the Bible and by Baha’i teachings is fundamentally different – so different as to be contradictory. That simply cannot be reconciled. They cannot both be true – which makes at least one of them false.

The fact that the Bab and Baha’u’llah were intelligent people says absolutely nothing about the truth of their teachings. I am not really interested in how gifted they were as orators or as writers. What I am interested in you explaining is how the teachings of Baha’i is able to solve the problem of sin in the life of individuals which separates people from God. How does Baha’i overrule the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross and his resurrection from the dead?

∙ What is knowable and unknowable. You made the statement in a previous post that “most people, at least in the sciences, would disagree with (my) view that ‘something cannot be knowable and unknowable at the same time.’” You went on to make an explanation which did not really address that issue. My point is that Naturalism and science are not the same thing. You can’t talk of science and transcendent reality using the same presuppositions about the nature of reality – because science deals ONLY with what exists in the material universe. You can see the hand of God expressed in the natural universe, but you cannot analyze God using science. You seemed, in your previous discussion, to be asserting that this is actually possible.

∙ Related to parables. You made an allusion to the idea that because parables are stories, that they are somehow inferior to scientific inquiry and deeper philosophical explanations. If that is, indeed, what you think, then my point is that you don’t understand the nature of a parable. Each one had a specific point Christ was trying to make to teach people a truth – and the point of the parables can be understood and applied to life. They are not metaphors which can be applied in just any way the reader wants to interpret it.

∙ About the nature of a worldview. In fact, a worldview is binary in the sense that it is either true or false. I don’t think you will understand this point until you make a little more effort at understanding the topic of worldview. Additionally, as I have already stated several times, and have given actual examples of how and why this is true, worldview is not a topic that is justified by or antithetical to Scripture (of any kind). That would be like saying you can justify alphabetical order by scripture. It is a paradigm for understanding belief systems, not a belief system itself. Your desire to have it justified by Scripture is a senseless request.

∙ By quoting John 14:28, if you are trying to imply that Baha’u’llah is Christ returned, that is simply false. The life and teachings of Baha’u’llah in no way fulfill the prophesies in the Bible about the second coming of Christ – not even close.

I hope this format makes it at least a little easier for you to follow the flow. Hope all is well.

Blessings,
Freddy

After this post, I never heard back from Stephen. As in many other cases, there seems to have come a time when he realized that his arguments simply did not hold up logically, and he just stopped responding. It is my prayer, though, that just reading this interaction has helped you grasp more deeply the truth of the Christian faith, as well as the fact that non-Christian belief systems are not truth.

© 2016 Freddy Davis

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(2) Readers Comments

  1. Hi there,

    There are a number of articles here that you might find interesting:

    http://www.bahaibahai.com/eng/index.php/articles

    such as:

    instances where the founder of the Baha’i faith refers to his deniers as pigs and donkeys,

    the beliefs of a Baha’i forerunner about the existence of a city filled with women who impregnate themselves using a penis tree,

    failed prophecies,

    documented instances of violent actions of Baha’i leaders,

    documented instances of Baha’is whitewashing their scripture,

    and Baha’i leaders contradicting their own teachings.

    Have a nice day

    • As a heads-up, I do find the website suggested by the previous post to be interesting, but people ought to be aware of what, exactly, it is. It is an anti-Baha’i website which has been put together by a group of Muslims who want to debunk it. Since Baha’i came out of Islam as a cult, it is natural that they would want to demonstrate its problems, much the same way Christian apologists would treat Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the like. As such, while we would not agree with the faith of the ones who are doing the apologetic, their perspective on Baha’i does have some value for those who are interested in learning more about it.

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