September 1, 2022

A Catholic Reply to the Commentary on Verses of John by Abdu’l-Bahá

by Interfaith

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”
(John 16:7-15 KJV).

The reply is deemed necessary because of the following accusation (author’s text in colour):
The concourse of the Gospel have presently fallen lost in the wilderness of error and purblindness and thus have considered as naught these assertions of the Gospel which are explicitly clear and without allusiveness.

Thus they (Christians) say that the purpose of the above verses is the descent of the Holy Spirit, the descent that occurred after the ascension of His holiness Christ upon the disciples

Having opened thus, its incumbent upon the author to explain the ‘error’ fallen into, and what assertions made in the Gospel that are considered ‘as naught’.

Firstly. He sayeth: He shall not come unless I go away. This utterance indicates that He, the Spirit, the Comforter was not there at the time of Christ and that He would come afterwards. But the Holy Spirit was inseparably and always co-existing with Christ.

This is part of His farewell discourse (John 13-17), and should be read in that context. By so doing, apparent contradictions are made clear.

Christ refers to himself as ‘going away’ numerous times (eg 13:36) yet elsewhere says “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you.” (eg 14:18).
Throughout this discourse, Christ is talking about His mission, and it is in the context of His mission that Scripture talks of Christ’s coming and going (the Hebrew Scriptures speak in the same way of God and the Spirit of God) and it should be understood in that sense.
This introduces the mission of the Holy Spirit “whom the Father will send in my name” (14:26) to continue the mission initiated by Christ according to the Will of the Father.

So there would otherwise be no meaning to the saying: He shall not come unless I go away.
When viewed in the context of a mission discourse, the meaning becomes clear. The Father wills, the Son works, the Spirit perfects – but Father, Son and Spirit are One, and in that transcendent sense are ever immanently present in and to the world, but here Christ is talking about unfolding events.

Now consider further … Could it be the case that …
There’s much conjecture, but no substance to this section … it’s an opinion.

Thus it has become clear and proven from those blessed Johannine verses that after the Beauty of Jesus another Honoured Soul and Great Beauty will appear …
Closer examination of the text will clearly show that the paraclete of whom Christ speaks is not ‘another soul’, He is spirit – so this an erroneous statement.

Whose training will be even greater than the education imparted by Christ, the Spirit of God.
Well Scripture makes no reference of ‘training’, and again, what do those ‘blessed Johannine verses’ actually say of the mission of the Paraclete?
“And I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever. The spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, nor knoweth him: but you shall know him; because he shall abide with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you. Yet a little while: and the world seeth me no more. But you see me: because I live, and you shall live. In that day you shall know, that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (14:16-20 my emphasis)
It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who ‘reveals’ the Son and the Father. St Paul understood this: “And because you are sons, God hath sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying: Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:6 and the same is expressed in Romans 8:15).

“But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you.” (14:26)

“But when the Paraclete cometh, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me.” (15:26)

The mission of the Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, is the same as the Son’s, and is a continuation of the Son’s. In that sense it cannot be ‘greater’ because the mission of Christ is universal salvation, ordained by God, so cannot be surpassed.

In a contingent sense the works may well be greater (cf John 14:12), but obviously then in a quantitative sense, not qualitative.

Thirdly He said: That Comforter will not speak from Himself. That means He shall be aided by the hosts of divine Revelation.
Here, clearly, the importance of context as a guard against error. Before that, it needs saying that the Holy Spirit needs no ‘assistance’ in His mission. There is no reference to ‘the hosts of divine revelation’.

The text:
I have yet many things to say to you: but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak; and the things that are to come, he shall shew you. He shall glorify me; because he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it to you. All things whatsoever the Father hath, are mine. Therefore I said, that he shall receive of mine, and shew it to you. (16:12-15)
He shall speak not of Himself, but of Christ: ‘because he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it to you’ and, as ‘All things whatsoever the Father hath, are mine’ then the Father has given to the Son, and the Son (in this context) to the Holy Spirit. Context because the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, and the mission of the Spirit is the mission of the Son, according to the Will of the Father.

The text explains itself without the need to evoke Consider again, how clear it is. This means that that Comforting Spirit is a Person.
According to the understanding of ‘Person’ in the context of the Trinity, yes.

Who wilt be inspired with heavenly Inspirations and be the Repository of Lordly Revelations.
The Spirit of God inspires, but is not Himself inspired, which supposes an inspirer.

Further, the Holy Spirit doth not have ears with which to hear.
A frankly risible statement. The use of anthropomorphic analogy is redolent throughout Scriptures, as it is in the Baha’i writings, so a somewhat specious comment.


Let’s be clear: I do not offer this as an apologia for the Doctrine of the Trinity, simply I have shown how that doctrine accords with the text, and as an objection to that doctrine, i have shown the document fails to make its case, and fails significantly and substantially.

(Discussion in ‘Theology‘ started by Thomas 28/08/2022)

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