What Abdul-Baha said on theology . . .

Ahanu

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While reading in the "A look at the Kalama Sutra" thread, I was thinking about a few words Abdul-Baha said to fellow Baha'is. He said:
"Praise be to God that you are seeking Light. It behooves you to manifest Light; to express in word and deed the pure teachings of . . . Christ. To the proud we must be humble, He said; to the humble, compassionate; to the ignorant ones be as a student before his master; to the sinful ones be as the greatest sinner of all. To the poor be a benefactor; to the orphan, a father; to the aged, a son. Take guidance, not from leaders of sectarian theology but from the Sermon on the Mount. Seek no earthly reward, nay, rather, accept calamities in His service as His first disciples did."
A Look at the Kalama Sutta

To me, the words can be broken down into this:

"Praise be to God that you are seeking Light. It behooves you to manifest Light; to express in word and deed the pure teachings of . . . Christ."

Notice that Abdul-Baha mentions the "pure teachings of Christ." Now, we must learn what the pure teachings of Christ are.

"To the proud we must be humble, He said; to the humble, compassionate; to the ignorant ones be as a student before his master; to the sinful ones be as the greatest sinner of all. To the poor be a benefactor; to the orphan, a father; to the aged, a son. Take guidance, not from leaders of sectarian theology but from the Sermon on the Mount. Seek no earthly reward, nay, rather, accept calamities in His service as His first disciples did."

I love the way Abdul-Baha puts it here. All of these pure teachings of Christ can be summed up in the sermon on the mount. Also, all of these teachings are taught by example, and must produce some kind of fruit.

So when a Baha'i is about to discuss theology with Christians, like Baptists, do you, as a Baha'i, think it is best to remain silent on theological matters? Suddenly, I just came upon the realization that sometimes I put too much emphasis on what we believe.
 
Ahanuwrote:

So when a Baha'i is about to discuss theology with Christians, like Baptists, do you, as a Baha'i, think it is best to remain silent on theological matters? Suddenly, I just came upon the realization that sometimes I put too much emphasis on what we believe.

My comment:

I think it depends on who are discussing with.. Sometimes people will asert their dogmatic beliefs of course..and what I have done is simply provide the Baha'i version usually say provided by Abdul-Baha in Some Answered Questions.:

Bah' Reference Library - Some Answered Questions

I try to avoid though argumentation and ebate style as that only encourages oppositional feelings.. So sometiems will offer a general question or agree with the person on sdme level..

- Art
 
I think it depends on who are discussing with.. Sometimes people will asert their dogmatic beliefs of course..and what I have done is simply provide the Baha'i version usually say provided by Abdul-Baha in Some Answered Questions.:

From what your saying, if someone comes at you with their belief system, then you will give them the Baha'i version. I don't know. I'm starting to question my approach. One of my first times sharing the Baha'i Faith with someone is with my cousin, who has a masters degree in religion. He is a minister and has his own church. Basically we did not agree, but had a wonderful discussion that did get a little argumentative. He made me angry in the end by saying that the Baha'i Faith is a false religion, and then he wanted to pray for me (lol). BTW, I offered him a chance to read the Baha'i scriptures, but he was not interested.

After arguing with a couple of more people on theological matters, I decided just to share SAQ with them. For example, I just shared that book with a friend a couple of weeks ago. I think I get a warmer response doing this. So then when people ask, "What is a Baha'i?" I simply respond by saying, "One who loves the world and humankind." Afterwards, Christians begin asking about how Baha'is see Jesus. You see, that is where it gets complicated. At that point in the conversation, I only want to talk about something else, because most likely the traditions about Jesus that they are taught in Church will not match up with the Baha'i version of Jesus. I have long been thinking of a better way to explain it. Rather than getting trapped in the maze of trinity and resurrection topics, my thought is to point out the sermon on the mount whenever the Jesus Question is purposed, and just leave it at that.
 
If I may I have a friend who likes to ask, "Is this a conversation or a conversion?"

This seems to be the issue in your discussion and where the rubber meets the road between Baha'i, Chistians, Muslims and Atheists, the point that when discussion of each others beliefs is not enough, but conversion is requred. Jews, Hindu's, Taoists, Buddhists etc. all seem content in thier beliefs and allowing others their beliefs.

There was a line in "Henry Poole is here" Where Henry tells a lady who is trying to get him to believe that he figured it out, that if she could get him (henry) to believe that it would assist in validating her belief.

To me, that is a lot of what conversion is about, each says they want to 'save' the other but what it really stems from is a lack of faith, and a need for others to validate their beliefs through conversion, a notch in their belt as it were.
 
Welcome Wil to the Forum!

Again I think it depends who the people are who are conversing and I'd agree it depends on what their agenda is..

I've had a lot of conversations where we don't get very far by simply asserting our beliefs with people who are also very much confirmed in their beliefs..so it's like trying to fill a cup that's already full..It doesn't really work very well.

Basically we're also not to proselytize the Faith ... It's important I think to know when it's unwise to proceed further and just commit them to the care of God.

There are some standard passages to advise us on teaching though and every once and a while it might help to review them:

And further We have said: "Adorn the body of Thy kingdom with the raiment of My name, and arise, then, to teach My Cause.

~ Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 53

If they arise to teach My Cause, they must let the breath of Him Who is the Unconstrained, stir them and must spread it abroad on the earth with high resolve, with minds that are wholly centered in Him, and with hearts that are completely detached from and independent of all things, and with souls that are sanctified from the world and its vanities. It behoveth them to choose as the best provision for their journey reliance upon God, and to clothe themselves with the love of their Lord, the Most Exalted, the All-Glorious. If they do so, their words shall influence their hearers.

~ Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 200


Whoso ariseth among you to teach the Cause of his Lord, let him, before all else, teach his own self, that his speech may attract the hearts of them that hear him.

Unless he teacheth his own self, the words of his mouth will not influence the heart of the seeker.

Take heed, O people, lest ye be of them that give good counsel to others but forget to follow it themselves.

The words of such as these, and beyond the words the realities of all things, and beyond these realities the angels that are nigh unto God, bring against them the accusation of falsehood.

Should such a man ever succeed in influencing any one, this success should be attributed not to him, but rather to the influence of the words of God, as decreed by Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Wise. In the sight of God he is regarded as a lamp that imparteth its light, and yet is all the while being consumed within itself.

~ Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 277
 
If I may I have a friend who likes to ask, "Is this a conversation or a conversion?"

This seems to be the issue in your discussion and where the rubber meets the road between Baha'i, Chistians, Muslims and Atheists, the point that when discussion of each others beliefs is not enough, but conversion is requred. Jews, Hindu's, Taoists, Buddhists etc. all seem content in thier beliefs and allowing others their beliefs.

There was a line in "Henry Poole is here" Where Henry tells a lady who is trying to get him to believe that he figured it out, that if she could get him (henry) to believe that it would assist in validating her belief.

To me, that is a lot of what conversion is about, each says they want to 'save' the other but what it really stems from is a lack of faith, and a need for others to validate their beliefs through conversion, a notch in their belt as it were.

Wil, you list Baha'is in the group of converters. Baha'is can ask, "Did Abdul-Baha go with the conversion or conversation mindset?" The only time that I can recall Abdul-Baha putting a strict importance on teaching theology is when Christian ministers were attacking the Baha'i Faith. Alot of the conversion process involves changing someone elses religious beliefs. Referring to The Brilliant Proof by Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, Abdul-Baha said:
"His Honour Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl has written a treatise answering the criticisms of a London preacher. Each one of you should have a copy. Read, memorize and reflect upon it. Then, when accusations and criticisms are advanced by those unfavourable to the Cause, you will be well armed."

Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Even above Abdul-Baha is not wishing to convert anybody, but employing the theological teachings of the Baha'i Faith as a self-defense tactic. When it comes to talking with people who have never heard of the Baha'i Faith, a strong emphasis on the sermon on the mount by Jesus could be made, not on theology. Perhaps the theological bits are not of primary importance to teach others; Abdul-Baha does not seem to make teaching what we believe to people of other religions of primary importance, only to place importance on the pure teachings (sermon on the mount) of Christ.
 
Poe tae toe, Poe tah toe.

We can call it whatever we want but trying to educate another with the hopeful end result that they see the light and join in your religion is proselytizing/conversion in my book.

And of the Baha'i I've met, this is not low on the agenda.

"and see we honor all religions, and as each had its day and time it was applicable any logical educated person could see that we are the natural progression through the eastern relgions and Abrahamic...."
 
Most religions at least Islam, Christianity, Buddhism have had stages of missionary type interest in reaching other peoples. Baha'i Faith has sent people to various parts of the world to teach the Faith.

Baha'is are obliged to teach their Faith given an opportunity..

We are forbidden though to proselytize which to us means putting undue influence on people.

In Israel Baha'is are forbidden to teach the Faith to the people there..this is a self imposed principle.

In places where it is specifically forbidden to teach Baha'i Faith we have followed the laws and only practised it within the confines provided.. that is we don't meet or have our adminisrtration if it's forbidden by law. Some countries in the Middle East have restrictions and in China.

Abdul-Baha talked about "living the life" as a way to teach the Faith

Spreading the Teaching

When asked by an American friend: "Which is the best way to spread the teaching?" he said: "By deeds. This way is open to all, and deeds are understood by all. Join yourselves to those who work for the poor, the weak and the unfortunate; this is greatly to be commended. To teach by words requires the skill of a wise physician. He does not offer help to those who do not want treatment. Do not press help on those who do not need your help. The work of teaching is not for all."

~ Abdu'l-Baha, Abdu'l-Baha in London, p. 98
 
Thanks Wil..

Did you have a comment? I couldn't understand from what you posted.

There's a tension between what we Baha'is call an obligation to teach the Faith and share it with those who are open and proselytizing.

Here it is mentioned :

Bahá'u'lláh, in The Hidden Words, says: "O Son of Dust! The wise are they that speak not unless they obtain a hearing, even as the cup-bearer, who proffereth not his cup till he findeth a seeker, and the lover who crieth not out from the depths of his heart until he gazeth upon the beauty of his beloved . . . ,"

and on page 55 of The Advent of Divine Justice, a letter which is primarily directed towards exhorting the friends to fulfill their responsibilities in teaching the Faith, Shoghi Effendi writes:

"Care, however, should, at all times, be exercised, lest in their eagerness to further the international interests of the Faith they frustrate their purpose, and turn away, through any act that might be misconstrued as an attempt to proselytize and bring undue pressure upon them, those whom they wish to win over to their Cause."

Some Bahá'ís sometimes overstep the proper bounds, but this does not alter the clear principle.

(Compilations, NSA USA - Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities)

I generally find that when it becomes an argument the purpose gets lost sight of..


- Art
 
Poe tae toe, Poe tah toe.

We can call it whatever we want but trying to educate another with the hopeful end result that they see the light and join in your religion is proselytizing/conversion in my book.

And of the Baha'i I've met, this is not low on the agenda.

"and see we honor all religions, and as each had its day and time it was applicable any logical educated person could see that we are the natural progression through the eastern relgions and Abrahamic...."

You need to join our religion, Wil! Christianity is dead. That is what the Baha'is you meet are saying. Yeah, when I first shared the Baha'i Faith, I would say that I was thinking that. I have a perfect quote for this situation. Baha'is "can be the servants of the servants of God." Of course I received this from our new friend, Sen, who has an awesome blog, by the way. The phrase simply means that instead of converting people to the Baha'i Faith, we could help them understand their own religion better.

Foundations for inter-faith sharing                   Sen McGlinn’s blog
 
...Christianity is dead. That is what the Baha'is you meet are saying. Yeah, when I first shared the Baha'i Faith, I would say that I was thinking that....

thanks for the endorsement. When I first became a Bahai, I was just the same: I thought that I as a Bahai had everything to offer Christians and others, and nothing to learn. I learned better over time, and by doing a few courses in Christian theology, taught 50/50 in a Presbyterian theological hall and a Catholic seminary, and a degree in Islamic studies, in which the majority of the students were Muslim. Through that, I was driven back to the Bahai writings to see what they really say, and to thinking more about what had previously seemed obvious, and so came to understand the Bahai teachings about the future of religions better. Through interfaith sharing, I understood Bahai better. So what I am suggesting generally, and in both directions, is just what has worked for me.

I can understand how offensive the typical Bahai attitude is to people of other religions. This is a faith with high conversion rates, especially in younger age groups (beware the certainty of the convert) and quite high exit rates too -- which means that at any one time, only a small proportion of the community have been Bahais, and have been alive, for long enough to learn wisdom and humility. We also lack insitutions of theological training, and have not (yet) developed a tradition of scripture study as a form of devotion and part of daily life. So compared to the older established religions, we have a bigger problem with being misrepresented by our own members who understand very little - and think they know a great deal. It's the nature of the beast, when creating a new religious community on new foundations. I suppose most of the early Christians irritated the hell out of the people around them too. Be patient for a few centuries, and this too shall pass...
(and in the meantime, pleeaase don't throw us to the lions)

~~ Sen McGlinn
 
thanks for the endorsement. When I first became a Bahai, I was just the same: I thought that I as a Bahai had everything to offer Christians and others, and nothing to learn. I learned better over time, and by doing a few courses in Christian theology, taught 50/50 in a Presbyterian theological hall and a Catholic seminary, and a degree in Islamic studies, in which the majority of the students were Muslim. Through that, I was driven back to the Bahai writings to see what they really say, and to thinking more about what had previously seemed obvious, and so came to understand the Bahai teachings about the future of religions better. Through interfaith sharing, I understood Bahai better. So what I am suggesting generally, and in both directions, is just what has worked for me.

I can understand how offensive the typical Bahai attitude is to people of other religions. This is a faith with high conversion rates, especially in younger age groups (beware the certainty of the convert) and quite high exit rates too -- which means that at any one time, only a small proportion of the community have been Bahais, and have been alive, for long enough to learn wisdom and humility. We also lack insitutions of theological training, and have not (yet) developed a tradition of scripture study as a form of devotion and part of daily life. So compared to the older established religions, we have a bigger problem with being misrepresented by our own members who understand very little - and think they know a great deal. It's the nature of the beast, when creating a new religious community on new foundations. I suppose most of the early Christians irritated the hell out of the people around them too. Be patient for a few centuries, and this too shall pass...
(and in the meantime, pleeaase don't throw us to the lions)

~~ Sen McGlinn


Hi Sen,

Welcome to IO! :)

I recognize your name and read about your disenrollemnt online soon after I left the Baha'i Faith myself. I am curious about what you wrote and why it lead to your disenrollment, although skimming your website it seems that you also do not understand exactly what happened.

Baha'is do seem to be in a challenging place of transition now, as you say, with regards to scholarship and developing theology. I've been learning more about the early years of Christian development and by the time some of the pastoral letters were written it seems like there is an interesting parallel to Baha'i in which the written word becomes authoritative. In spite of the good advice to not get caught up in the contrary winds of doctrine, an orthodox theology was important in defining the expectations and beliefs of the community.

However, with respect to what you said about Baha'is teaching Christians about the Christian religion, well, that does rub the wrong way doesn't it? The resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of Christianity and denied by Baha'i theology. I'm not sure how one can get around that, although I'm very much for focusing on common ground and getting along, different religions working together to help humanity.
 
Thanks Wil..

Did you have a comment? I couldn't understand from what you posted.

- Art

You need to join our religion, Wil!

I suppose most of the early Christians irritated the hell out of the people around them too. Be patient for a few centuries, and this too shall pass...
(and in the meantime, pleeaase don't throw us to the lions)

~~ Sen McGlinn
Namaste and Welcome Sen,

It appears to me Christians still irritate the hell out of folks.

Ahanu, Art,

What I am trying to say is that to me you are prosyletizing while you say you aren't. You don't see it as that, and that is ok, but it is fairly clear to me.

Sen, without a clergy, with only lay speakers, how could one expect different?

Yes, I've looked into Baha'i, but it seems to me an arrogant sort of interfaith. And there are some dogmatic tendencies that aren't up my alley. Not to say Christianity doesn't have its issues, but it is my neighborhood so to speak, I know my way around the streets, know the potholes and am quite comfortable here.
 
Remember this isn't a debate forum guys..

- Art:)

Hi Art,

Debates are allowed in all the forums except the lounge, feedback, and the like. Flaming, personal attacks or attacks on particular religions are not allowed here or any where on the forum.

Brian can clarify if you have further questions about this.

Cheers,
luna
 
Thanks Luna..

I think the comparative studies forum as well as belief and spirituality are the best place though for comparing various religions..

My understanding is that these forums are separated by religion so people can learn more about them.. They are not places to attack the religions:


"Yes, I've looked into Baha'i, but it seems to me an arrogant sort of interfaith."

We've had some issues that went down as you no doubt recall around three years ago or so.

- Art :)
 
"Yes, I've looked into Baha'i, but it seems to me an arrogant sort of interfaith."

- Art :)
Namaste Art,

Bad choice of words on my part. As a religion it seems relatively normal to say my way is the right way or the only way. But what I was referring to is that Baha'i (or my understanding of Baha'i) is that there is a claim of honoring other faiths, an interfaith aspect. Yet as long as one thinks they are better than other faiths, is it truly honoring and truly interfaith?

That was my comment, not that Baha'i is arrogant as a religion that is often a given, acceptable, expected. But as one that claims interfaith it falls short.

I could be completely wrong in all my assesments. Not that my belief doesn't have issues, many Christians if not most have a my way or the highway understanding. The difference as is that I claim interfaith, my religion does not.

Clarification of my misinterpretation is appreciated.
 
My understanding is that these forums are separated by religion so people can learn more about them..

We did originally have a walled-garden approach like you mention, but this was actually dropped a couple of years ago, to allow a more free-flow of discussion.

I don't think we've seen much of a debate at all in this thread - quite mild-mannered discussion, really. :)
 
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