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Gnosticagape

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Hello to all,

My name is Chris and I am a seeker. I am presently Christian but am interested in ecuminism.

Do Baha'is endorce ecuminism?

Cheers Chris
 
Gnosticagape said:
Hello to all,

My name is Chris and I am a seeker. I am presently Christian but am interested in ecuminism.

Do Baha'is endorce ecuminism?

Cheers Chris

Hi Chris,

Welcome!

I had to look it up to see what it was for sure. ;)

"Ecumenism is a movement that seeks to achieve unity among all religions through cooperation and the fostering of greater mutual understanding. Mosts humanists have little to complain about where ecumenism is concerned, as the ecumenical process is inherently one that dispels fanaticism and that, at its best, attempts to arrive at the truth through a careful weighing of contending viewpoints. This is, of course, one of the methods of arriving at the truth advocated by Humanism as well." http://www.progressiveliving.org/ecumenism_defined.htm

"The experience of the Bahá’í community may be seen as an example of this enlarging unity. It is a community of some three to four million people drawn from many nations, cultures, classes and creeds, engaged in a wide range of activities serving the spiritual, social and economic needs of the peoples of many lands. It is a single social organism, representative of the diversity of the human family, conducting its affairs through a system of commonly accepted consultative principles, and cherishing equally all the great outpourings of divine guidance in human history. Its existence is yet another convincing proof of the practicality of its Founder’s vision of a united world, another evidence that humanity can live as one global society, equal to whatever challenges its coming of age may entail. If the Bahá’í experience can contribute in whatever measure to reinforcing hope in the unity of the human race, we are happy to offer it as a model for study. " The Promise of World Peace, p 15


The Baha'i Faith believes that there is really only one religion, the religion of God, brought in successive stages throughout history, to assist in creating an ever advancing civilization. We believe that the differences that arise are a result of the changing requirements of each age. The spiritual principles remain consistent, but the social requirements differ according to the needs of the age in which they appear. Baha'i's are active in interfaith dialogue around the world, seeking to unite those of different religions under the banner of one human family.

Baha'i's also believe in importance of independent investigation of truth.

I hope that is helpful.

Have a great day!

Loving Greetings, Amy


 
Thank you for your welcome Amy,

I noticed the Ocean library reference here and downloaded it. What a resource!

I'll see what doors will open when I knock.

It is Matthew Fox and John Hick that I turn to for an example of Christian ecuminism. John Hick has a site where he posts talks and papers of his I found this interesting one today:

http://www.johnhick.org.uk/article11.shtml

He examines inclusivism in religion, exclusivism and finally pluralism.

Here are some quotes:

"The subject of the relationship between the religions is extremely important, even more so today than in the past. For centuries almost every war between the nations has involved religion, not as its primary cause, but as a validating and intensifying factor. However I am going to treat religious diversity now as a topic in the philosophy of religion, although in the course of doing so it will emerge that some conceptions of this relationship are much more easily exploited to justify and encourage war and exploitation than others."

"Why is this a philosophical problem? Each religion is accustomed to think of itself as either the one and only true faith, or at least the truest and best. Must not the situation, then, simply be that one of them is right and the rest wrong, either absolutely or only relatively wrong?"


"Today, to insist on the unique superiority of your own faith is to be part of the problem. For how can there be stable peace between rival absolutes? In the words of the Catholic theologian Hans Kung, 'There will be no peace among the peoples of this world without peace among the world religions'. And I would add that there will be no real peace among the world religions so long as each thinks of itself as uniquely superior to all the others. Dialogue between the faiths must continue on an ever increasing scale. But the only stable and enduring basis for peace will come about when dialogue leads to a mutual acceptance of the world religions as different but equally valid relationships to the ultimate reality."

Do Baha'is believe that other religions are equally valid even today?

Cheers Chris
 
Gnosticagape said:
Thank you for your welcome Amy,

I add my welcome as well!

Gnosticagape said:
It is Matthew Fox and John Hick that I turn to for an example of Christian ecuminism. John Hick has a site where he posts talks and papers of his I found this interesting one today:

I would say Baha'is take a rather dim view of denominations, in general; that they are a fragmentation of the singular truth of a religion, a product of human issues rather than divine, in part a symptom of the practical ineffectual realities underneath those religions (when viewed as human endevours rather than divine bestowals) and sapping their vitality with "in house" disputes.

But of the bonifide religions (Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, etc.,) the Baha'i Faith scriptures I believe hold forth an affirmation no other scripture can match. Examples abound :

"The songs which which the bird of thine heart had uttered in its great love for its friends have reached their ears, and moved Me to answer thy questions, and reveal to thee such secrets as I am allowed to unfold. In thine esteemed letter thou hadst inquired which of the Prophets of God should be regarded as superior to others. Know thou assuredly that the essence of all the Prophets of God is one and the same. Their unity is absolute. God, the Creator, saith: There is no distinction whatsoever among the Bearers of My Message. They all have but one purpose; their secret is the same secret. To prefer one in honor to another, to exalt certain ones above the rest, is in no wise to be permitted. Every true Prophet hath regarded His Message as fundamentally the same as the Revelation of every other Prophet gone before Him. If any man, therefore, should fail to comprehend this truth, and should consequently indulge in vain and unseemly language, no one whose sight is keen and whose understanding is enlightened would ever allow such idle talk to cause him to waver in his belief."

"These sanctified Mirrors, these Day Springs of ancient glory, are, one and all, the Exponents on earth of Him Who is the central Orb of the universe, its Essence and ultimate Purpose. From Him proceed their knowledge and power; from Him is derived their sovereignty. The beauty of their countenance is but a reflection of His image, and their revelation a sign of His deathless glory. They are the Treasuries of Divine knowledge, and the Repositories of celestial wisdom. Through them is transmitted a grace that is infinite, and by them is revealed the Light that can never fade…. These Tabernacles of Holiness, these Primal Mirrors which reflect the light of unfading glory, are but expressions of Him Who is the Invisible of the Invisibles. By the revelation of these Gems of Divine virtue all the names and attributes of God, such as knowledge and power, sovereignty and dominion, mercy and wisdom, glory, bounty, and grace, are made manifest.
These attributes of God are not, and have never been, vouchsafed specially unto certain Prophets, and withheld from others. Nay, all the Prophets of God, His well-favored, His holy and chosen Messengers are, without exception, the bearers of His names, and the embodiments of His attributes. They only differ in the intensity of their revelation, and the comparative potency of their light. Even as He hath revealed: “Some of the Apostles We have caused to excel the others.”"

These are a tiny portion of the quotes refering to such themes as "the Prophets". And on this last theme where one might suppose that there is some difference among the prophets - that their revelation intensity varies - note elsewhere:

" O SON OF BEAUTY ! By My spirit and by My favor! By My mercy and by My beauty! All that I have revealed unto thee with the tongue of power, and have written for thee with the pen of might, hath been in accordance with thy capacity and understanding, not with My state and the melody of My voice."

So the variation has at least as much to do how well we are listening as anything else.

Gnosticagape said:
Do Baha'is believe that other religions are equally valid even today?

We do not view the religions has being happenstance members of history or the present. They are related, and those relationships have implications and substance. But they are not simply superceders in history. Any proper understanding of one religion really depends, in the context of understanding the Revelations, on understanding others. There is no Scripture which does not refer to some theme or idea from another Scripture - and I am not speaking of mearly covering the same idea from another point of view. I mean correction. The Qur'an speaks specifically to some Christian ideas. The New Testament speaks specifically to some Jewish ideas. Buddhism speaks specifically to some Hindu ideas. And so on it goes into the depths of history. Christ really was the fullfillment of some of Jewish prophecies. Muhammad was so of some Christian prophecies. And so on and on.

It is not a matter of differing forms of the truth needing to get along because of some hoped for common acceptance of some virtues. It is a matter of realizing that the whole history of humanity and religion has been about the singular process of moving humanity onward in a relationship with God, with a circumstance of partial appreciations of each revelation that God is time and again advancing past our failings, in light of our achievements, until the next Prophet, in a never ending divine bestowal of Prophets, will guide us onward to the next great outpouring.

The specific stage Baha'u'llah, as the Revelator of the Baha'i Faith, is called to address has been referred to as the maturation of humanity, of signalizing what we call the Most Great Peace and which must be presaged with the Lesser Peace we are in now, when governments will find fewer reasons for war and more reasons for mutual protection (at least compared bygone ages when wars were play things of tyrants as much as anything else.) Eventually a world civilization will be established, with unheard of advances, and respect for its citizens, and diversity, while at once rooting out prejudices and insanities taken as traditions people today are still struggling to explain as appropriate norms.

Back to your question a bit - every religion, every scripture, can speak to the heart today, each of them can bestow light upon light so yes, each is respected as a path of illumination to the heart and mind and eye and soul. But in other ways various details were ment for other ages and times, often superceded by specific details in other religions (like whether divorce is appropriate under any circumstances or not, whether animal sacrifice or veneration is appropriate....)

Baha'is have a postive bias I would content. Rather than encountering another religion or scripture as an uncomfortable moment to seak some manner of priority above, Baha'is seek to delve into the scripture to find it's truth and it's relationship to other religions and history and the present, often finding what we call "the same eternal truths".
 
Gnosticagape said:
Hello to all,

My name is Chris and I am a seeker.

I offer these references to whole books for the seeker:

"In this journey the seeker reacheth a stage wherein he seeth all created things wandering distracted in search of the Friend. How many a Jacob will he see, hunting after his Joseph; he will behold many a lover, hasting to seek the Beloved, he will witness a world of desiring ones searching after the One Desired. At every moment he findeth a weighty matter, in every hour he becometh aware of a mystery; for he hath taken his heart away from both worlds, and set out for the Ka‘bih of the Beloved. At every step, aid from the Invisible Realm will attend him and the heat of his search will grow."

"But, O brother, when a true seeker determineth to take the step of search in the path leading to the knowledge of the Ancient of Days, he must, before all else, cleanse and purify his heart, which is the seat of the revelation of the inner mysteries of God, from the obscuring dust of all acquired knowledge, and the allusions of the embodiments of satanic fancy. He must purge his breast, which is the sanctuary of the abiding love of the Beloved, of every defilement, and sanctify his soul from all that pertaineth to water and clay, from all shadowy and ephemeral attachments. He must so cleanse his heart that no remnant of either love or hate may linger therein, lest that love blindly incline him to error, or that hate repel him away from the truth. Even as thou dost witness in this day how most of the people, because of such love and hate, are bereft of the immortal Face, have strayed far from the Embodiments of the divine mysteries, and, shepherdless, are roaming through the wilderness of oblivion and error. That seeker must at all times put his trust in God, must renounce the peoples of the earth, detach himself from the world of dust, and cleave unto Him Who is the Lord of Lords. He must never seek to exalt himself above any one, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vainglory, must cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence, and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smouldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endure a century."
 
Greetings, Agape; welcome to the neighborhood! :)

In addition to what you've seen above, there's this from the Baha'i scriptures:

"There can be no doubt whatever that the peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source, and are the subjects of one God. The difference between the ordinances under which they abide should be attributed to the varying requirements and exigencies of the age in which they were revealed. All of them, except a few which are the outcome of human perversity, were ordained of God, and are a reflection of His Will and Purpose. Arise and, armed with the power of faith, shatter to pieces the gods of your vain imaginings, the sowers of dissension amongst you. Cleave unto that which draweth you together and uniteth you."

(Gleanings, page 217)

Best,

Bruce
 
All major religions have a Divine Origin:

Welcome Gnosticagape!

Gnosticagape wrote:

Do Baha'is believe that other religions are equally valid even today?

My reply:

I think so and especially in a spiritual sense. We see them spiritually as the same religion and having the same Divine Origin..

We also appreciate the historical context they were revealed in and what they contributed.

We don't practise all the ordinances though of the former religions believing that many of these have been abrogated.

Baha'u'llah taught that the Gospel was not corrupted as to text as some believe but that the interpretations were corrupted over time.

The scriptures of the earlier religions are also respected and sometimes read in our services. And in our Writings you will find that the Baha'u'llah and Abdul-Baha refer to both the Bibical and Qur'anic verses.

You will also find Baha'is serving in many local inter-faith councils as well as at international conferences like the World Parliament of Religions last year in Barcelona, Spain.

- Art :)
 
Re: All major religions have a Divine Origin:

Thank you for all your reponses!

I have been reading some of the resources on Ocean. I thought I should begin with the Baha'i prophets words to get a better picture of what Baha'i beliefs are.

I started with Baha'u'llah's proclaimation.

In the introduction Baha'u'llah is quoted as saying:

"We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations; yet they deem Us a stirrer up of strife and sedition worthy of bondage and banishment.... That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled -- what harm is there in this?..."

(Baha'u'llah, The Proclamation of Baha'u'llah)

Although I agree quite strongly with Baha'u'llah's goal of brotherhood and unity, His desire to see religious diversity end and all of humanity as "one in faith" are incompatable with this goal though.

Do Baha'is believe that all humanity should convert to the Baha'i Faith as Baha'u'llah states in the above?

Cheers Chris
 
An end to religious prejudice and strife:

Thanks you Chris for your note!

Chris wrote:

Although I agree quite strongly with Baha'u'llah's goal of brotherhood and unity, His desire to see religious diversity end and all of humanity as "one in faith" are incompatable with this goal though.

Do Baha'is believe that all humanity should convert to the Baha'i Faith as Baha'u'llah states in the above?

My reply:

What Baha'u'llah was talking about I think was not the end of diversity of religions as such but the end of strife and prejudices that have beleaguered the human race for centuries. There are very strong and deep hatreds of peoples of other religions evident today and yuo see it occasionally manifested in such palces as Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine, Pakistan/India and so on... this is what Baha'u'llah is addressing ...not that there will be no more religions in the future.

One of the things though that I've noted is that one way peoples of these various religions end their strife is when they become Baha'is... So I've seen Christians, Jews, Moslems, Sikhs and Hindus on becoming Baha'i working together and building the foundations of world peace.

But this does not come about by force or coercion but by the dawn of truth in mens' hearts over time.

Baha'is also are forbidden to proselytize their religion. We only teach our Faith to those who ask about it or try to answer questions as we are doing here.

There is a Baha'i expression called "unity in diversity" so we love diversity and variegated flowers in the gaden of humanity.

Thanks for your note Chris!

- Art
:)
 
Re: An end to religious prejudice and strife:

Hi Art,

In doing a search under teaching on Ocean I came across a Baha'i concept called ' entry by troops'. When I did a further search on 'entry by troops' I came apon a letter by Baha'i church leaders:

"The Faith advances, not at a uniform rate of growth, but in vast surges, precipitated by the alternation of crisis and victory. In a passage written on 18 July 1953, in the early months of the Ten Year Crusade, Shoghi Effendi, referring to the vital need to ensure through the teaching work a "steady flow" of "fresh recruits to the slowly yet steadily advancing army of the Lord of Hosts", stated that this flow would "presage and hasten the advent of the day which, as prophesied by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, will witness the entry by troops of peoples of divers nations and races into the Bahá'í world". This day the Bahá'í world has already seen in Africa, the Pacific, in Asia and in Latin America, and this process of entry by troops must, in the present plan, be augmented and spread to other countries for, as the Guardian stated in this same letter, it "will be the prelude to that long-awaited hour when a mass conversion on the part of these same nations and races, and as a direct result of a chain of events, momentous and possibly catastrophic in nature, and which cannot as yet be even dimly visualized, will suddenly revolutionize the fortunes of the Faith, derange the equilibrium of the world, and reinforce a thousandfold the numerical strength as well as the material power and the spiritual authority of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh". This is the time for which we must now prepare ourselves; this is the hour whose coming it is our task to hasten."
(The Universal House of Justice, A Wider Horizon, Selected Letters 1983-1992, p. 53)

I wonder after reading this letter if the "mass conversion" ( entry by troops ) of the people of the world is compatible with "unity in diversity".

If "unity in diversity" is the goal why is "mass conversion" seen as being so important by Baha'i religious leaders?

Also the emphasis on apocalypticism in this letter is not one bit different than Christian and other religious fundamentalist fixation on end of the world thinking. Although the Baha'i Faith claims to be different than Christianity and Islam it seems to be the same in more than one way.

Do Baha'is believe in the end of the world as it is portrayed in Revelations?

Cheers Chris
 
Unity in diversity and the future:

Hi again my good friend Chris!

Keep reading in that Ocean material because it has an ocean of material from the Baha'i Writings!

Chris wrote:

I wonder after reading this letter if the "mass conversion" ( entry by troops ) of the people of the world is compatible with "unity in diversity".

If "unity in diversity" is the goal why is "mass conversion" seen as being so important by Baha'i religious leaders?

My reply:

From our standpoint Chris the appreciation of "unity in diversity" as a value is something that comes about from knowing more about other peoples and appreciating their unique characteristics... this is a quality you will generally not find among those who tend to be xenophobic.

As I mentioned earlier you will find that Baha'is are usually represented on Inetr-faith Councils and international conferences encouraging greater understanding among the followers of the great religions.

"Entry by troops" is a kind "watch word" of a campaign that was initiated by the Guardian and later by the Universal House of Justice to encourage Baha'is to think in large terms. We have goals that are set by our Institutions to achieve in the area of Baha'i life, example and in teaching.

Chris wrote:

Also the emphasis on apocalypticism in this letter is not one bit different than Christian and other religious fundamentalist fixation on end of the world thinking. Although the Baha'i Faith claims to be different than Christianity and Islam it seems to be the same in more than one way.

Reply:

I'm assuming by apocalypticism you may be referring to the words reading

"a chain of events, momentous and possibly catastrophic in nature, and which cannot as yet be even dimly visualized, will suddenly revolutionize the fortunes of the Faith, derange the equilibrium of the world, and reinforce a thousandfold the numerical strength as well as the material power and the spiritual authority of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh"

I think some of the writings of the Guardian do have that apocalyptic flavor you mention and along with that there is also a prophetic quality. He wrote many of his letters prior to the events of the Great Depression and the Second World War and a few years thereafter. If we step and consider how far we've progressed in the past sixty years or so in science, technology and international communications these are some of the directions alluded to in the Guardian's writings!

We Baha'is would also suggest that many of the apocalyptic verses in the Book of Revelation and other verses found in the Gospels are to be appreciated but not in the literal sense that some Christians would have it. So while there is a similarity in tone of prophecy and apocalypticism it most often varies from that of some of the literalist interpretations.

Chris wrote:

Do Baha'is believe in the end of the world as it is portrayed in Revelations?

Reply:

Our view of the Book of Revelation is that some of the events described there have taken place in the Middle East and are more related to some of the crises in Islamic history after the appearance of Prophet Muhammad such as the rise of the Umayyad Caliphate. We also believe that references referring to 1260 relate to the year 1260 AH in the Moslem calendar. But there isn't enough space here to really do that subject justice.

But all this is not framed in the terms of the well known tel-evangelists or with the emotional qualities associated with them.

____________________________

Chris I know one of the issues you've raised is how Baha'is relate to religious pluralism so wanted to refer you to an essay on that topic:

http://bahai-library.com/?file=fazel_encyclopedia_religious_pluralism

Good questions Chris!

In friendship,

- Art
:)
 
Re: Unity in diversity and the future:

Dear Art,

Thank you for your thoughtful response.

I will check out the link you gave me on pluralism.

I will as well check out Ocean some more.

For people interested in a Christian view of ecumenism I recommend Matthew Fox's 'Many Rivers One Well'. He doesn't mention the Baha'i Faith for some reason.

Fox's concept of deep ecuminism supersedes the religious tendancy to missionary zeal and the desire of people to convert others to their own religion which ever it may be.

If the current trend holds true it is Islam that has a far greater chance of becoming the dominant religion in the world as Islam's growth rate far exceeds the growth rate of all other religions Christianity included.

Cheers Chris
 
Hope for the future:

Gnosticagape said:
Dear Art,

Thank you for your thoughtful response.

I will check out the link you gave me on pluralism.

I will as well check out Ocean some more.

For people interested in a Christian view of ecumenism I recommend Matthew Fox's 'Many Rivers One Well'. He doesn't mention the Baha'i Faith for some reason.

Fox's concept of deep ecuminism supersedes the religious tendancy to missionary zeal and the desire of people to convert others to their own religion which ever it may be.

If the current trend holds true it is Islam that has a far greater chance of becoming the dominant religion in the world as Islam's growth rate far exceeds the growth rate of all other religions Christianity included.

Cheers Chris

And thanks for the questions Chris!

just an aside....I think "missionary zeal" isn't restricted to religious people as I've seen some pretty zealous missionaries among the non-religious.

But the important thing I think that I've found in working in inter-faith circles is that we really do have more in common than most people think especially when we can agree on social goals and what's good for the community.

And most of the Baha'is I know aren't really that worried about whether there will be more Muslims or Christians in the future...their respective growth rates is not of that much concern. I also think Baha'is can also offer some unique perspectives in future dialogues between Christians and Muslims.

We do have though a very long range view of the future into the millenia ahead and that view is very optimistic indeed for humanity on the planet.

In friendship,

- Art
:)
 
Re: An end to religious prejudice and strife:

Gnosticagape said:
If "unity in diversity" is the goal why is "mass conversion" seen as being so important by Baha'i religious leaders?

While Art's feedback is right on, I would elaborate a bit.

Every religion has gone through a period of sudden growth. The Baha'i Faith antcipates this process - that's all.

Gnosticagape said:
Also the emphasis on apocalypticism in this letter is not one bit different than Christian and other religious fundamentalist fixation on end of the world thinking. Although the Baha'i Faith claims to be different than Christianity and Islam it seems to be the same in more than one way.

Do Baha'is believe in the end of the world as it is portrayed in Revelations?

Baha'is take the Bible as scripture and seriously, but this has no pre-emptive acceptance of what it means to any of the multitude of denominations of Christianity. We've had threads on the topic recently in here and in the monotheism areas. We didn't speak directly to the apocalyptic form itself though as you ask (though some of the aspects, as Art mentioned, we view as history related to the early times of Islam at the hands of the first dynasty of the rulers of Islam, the Ummayyad (not to be confused with the Revelation of God through Muhammad.))

The warnings of some kind of catastrophe are present in the Baha'i Scriptures. But there is also a sense that living on this planet over the long haul gives time for "big" things to happen. There is an acceptance among some that human knowable history stretches perhaps 10-15 thousand years back although in mythical language. That stretches back to the end of the Ice Age - surely a time of "big" things happening. The United States is young - and much of modern civilization with it. We haven't prepared for 1 in 100 year events, let alone 1 in 500 or 1000 year events and they aren't part of the cultural outlook. But not knowing about them doesn't mean they don't happen.

This view of "big" things happening has almost no connection with the accepted Christian view of the apocalypse because that is all about the fall into chaos of humanity followed by a short period of events which leave evil chained or banished and an unchanging heavenly paradise outspread instead of this earthly realm.

Those closest I think the Baha'i Faith get's to such things is that it is presented that the way humanity is, the whole cultural gestalt, is something prone to change to such an extent that the form of communication, let alone details of language, can leave peoples across such chasms of change unable to to relate to eachother. In a small way the world today of computers and internet and spacecraft is utterly incomprehensible to the world of Galileo. In a sense the Prophet lives in that world which is yet to be and is talking to us from it, using words we can relate to, to help us get there by choice rather than by catastrophe.

So yes, there are specifics about the approaching catastrophe said. Some approach a realm of specificity actually - two analogies of big changes of history are mentioned: America's Civil War as the culmination of the changes required by the Revolutionary War (because the problem of slavery wasn't solved and had to be) and the other is the Fall of the Roman Empire, which compromised everything about society, but through which religion continued to do good. But raised against this catastrophe is the promise of the ultimate achievement of a world civilization, hard won, and wonderful.

This isn't to suppose that in that day and age there wont be challenges and people who "don't get it". There are incredible mysteries that have to be figured out by then, but they do not include an arrival of humanity at a stage where it doesn't reproduce, so that lessons don't need to be learned all over again, fresh and emediate, every day. It's just that we will far more often than we do now. Somehow! And whatever it is that will let us do it, we believe is at least immanent in the Revelation of Baha'u'llah. And when we succeed, we will be humbled that it took so long to arrive, and along the way so many, sinless, were sinned upon.
 
Re: An end to religious prejudice and strife:

Hi Chris,

I see others are doing a nice job of answering your questions, so I just have a couple things to add.

Gnosticagape said:
I wonder after reading this letter if the "mass conversion" ( entry by troops ) of the people of the world is compatible with "unity in diversity".

If "unity in diversity" is the goal why is "mass conversion" seen as being so important by Baha'i religious leaders?

I always cringe when I hear the phrase 'entry by troops' myself, because this is exactly how i would react if i was hearing it from your perspective as well. On the surface it appears almost frightening. But in my view now, it is more along the lines of foreseeing a time when the majority of people in the world realize collectively that all of their conflicting God's are in reality One and the Same God. That God has been educating humanity throughout existence gradually, and that we are finally mature enough to grasp this truth, by accepting this one fact the majority of the world will be Baha'i whether or not they become one in name, because this is the fundamental underlying principle of the Faith. One God, One Human Family, One Unfolding Religion. We can have unity in diversity because we believe that each of these religions are valid in that they show us a glimpse of the Divine. Anything that assists us in striving to make spiritual progress individually is worthwhile.

The reason it is important to Baha'i's is because for the first time in history a prophet/messenger actually gave us an administrative order to go by. Known to us as "A System the Likes of Which Mortal Eyes Have Never Witnessed." All of God's messengers came to educate us, to assist us in expanding our understanding of spiritual matters. But due to the conditions of the ages in which they appeared, spreading the teachings outward was a very slow process. But it was the only process available to them at the time. Messengers of the past did not tell their followers specific details about how to administer their Faith to prevent schism's. Over time people act like people and add dogma and doctrine without really having the authority to do so. The Baha'i Faith is the first religion in history to have written down by the founder of their faith, complete instructions to follow to carry us through the next 1000 years, including a specific chain of command, and spiritual principles with which to conduct all business, for example the Baha'i principle of consultation. In Baha'i consultation, each person has a chance to offer their ideas, but the difference here is when we offer it, we give it as a gift to the group, we detach from it, it does not belong to us, it now belongs to the group to do with as they will. It is really an amazing process and it works remarkably well.

I don't remember if anyone has mentioned that the Baha'i Faith does not have clergy. Each person is responsible for their own spiritual development, we should not believe what another person tells us without investigating for ourselves. The religious leaders in our Faith are not individuals, no one individual has authority over another. We have elected bodies of 9 that administer the Faith at local, National and International levels.

I think perhaps starting with some of Baha'u'llah's writings first would help lay the foundation for what you read in letters from the Universal House of Justice. Perhaps the Hidden Words: http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/HW/ or if you would be interested in a treatise on the history of religion perhaps the Kitab-i-Iqan (The Book of Certitude) http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/KI/

Gnosticagape said:
Also the emphasis on apocalypticism in this letter is not one bit different than Christian and other religious fundamentalist fixation on end of the world thinking. Although the Baha'i Faith claims to be different than Christianity and Islam it seems to be the same in more than one way.

Do Baha'is believe in the end of the world as it is portrayed in Revelations?

Cheers Chris

One major difference is that we do not agree that references to the end of times in Revelations refer to the end of the world, but rather the end of an age. The end of the age of prophecy, and the beginning of the age of fulfillment. The age that will witness the erection of the Kingdom of God on earth.

Baha'i's believe that there are 2 processes going on simultaneously in the world. The old material order of things is crumbling which we see signs of on a daily basis, but at the same time a new Divine Order is emerging amidst the chaos (this is harder to see, but it's there). We believe that everything we do assists one process or the other, but both ultimately will arrive at the same goal of fulfilling God's promise to mankind. Baha'i's choose to focus their efforts towards the latter.

:D I'm sorry, i got a little more long winded than I intended.

Take Care.

-Amy
 
Hi again, Chris! :)

Amy mentioned in passing the "end of the world" passage you asked about.

This is, in fact, a mistranslation of the original Greek! The word used in the original was "eras," which means "world" or "age." And in the Baha'i view, the King James translators picked the wrong term: this in fact refers to the end of the Age (which as already happened)!

And as others also mentioned, we don't go around "converting" people. We think these big changes will come about on their own, one person at a time....

You're correct, BTW, that Islam is the fastest-growing religion overall. But it might also interest you to know that the Baha'i Faith is the fastest-growing religion AMONG THOSE ALREADY ESTABLISHED IN OVER 100 COUNTRIES! (And as you may know, we're also the second most widespread religion in the world, second only to Christianity, with adherents in more places than Islam.)

BTW, if you'd like a better understanding of Baha'i theology, I recommend especially "The Book of Certitude" (aka "Kitab-i-Iqan") and "Some Answered Questions," both of which you'll find in Ocean.

Good hunting, and do keep the questions coming! :)

Bruce
 
Re: An end to religious prejudice and strife:

Dear Amy and Art,

The link you shared with me Art to do with pluralism was interesting in itself but a credit from that paper has led to even more interesting stuff. I do like to surf the net!

I did a search under the M.Momen that is listed as a credit as well as Bahai plus pluralism and came up with the following by Moojan Momen which states his belief that the Baha'i Faith is actually a metareligion but that because "This distortion is caused by the fact that up to now, all of the leaders and intellectuals of the Baha'i community have come from a narrow cultural and intellectual basis (an Iranian-European-North American axis). They have interpreted the Baha'i teachings in accordance with their cultural perspectives and the result is what we see today. "

I have found some other papers by Mr.Momen that are quite interesting as well.

He seems to be quite highly respected as a Baha'i scholar so I'm looking forward to reading more of his insights into the Baha'i Faith.

Cheers Chris

http://bahai-library.com/essays/metareligion.html


[ Momen posted this in response to a discussion on the listserv Talisman in April, 1995. -J.W. ]

...Yes, I believe that there is, for Baha'is, a world beyond pluralism. I have not fully worked out these ideas but I gave a preliminary account of them in an "Is the Baha'i Faith a World Religion?" which I wrote for Senn McGlinn's magazine Soundings. I will try to summarize and develop these thoughts further here.



The Baha'i Faith at present appears as yet another religion, a competitor in the world's religious market place. But I would argue that this is a distortion of its real nature, a result of the present stage in its historical development. This distortion is caused by the fact that up to now, all of the leaders and intellectuals of the Baha'i community have come from a narrow cultural and intellectual basis (an Iranian-European-North American axis). They have interpreted the Baha'i teachings in accordance with their cultural perspectives and the result is what we see today.



The Baha'i Faith is, however, I would argue, in reality, a metareligion. It is not another religion that has come to take the place of the existing religions but rather a way of looking at the religious experience of the whole of humanity. Philip Smith presents an interesting diagramatic view of this in the first issue of the Baha'i Studies Review, a diagram which, unfortunately, due to the limitations of the Internet, I am unable to reproduce here.



I cannot believe that several thousand years of human religious experience and knowledge are now all redundant because Baha'u'llah has come. Are the insights produced by the great philosophers and mystics of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism all going to put aside? No, rather I believe that, in the future, people from other cultures, Hindus, Theravada and Mahayana Buddhists, Chinese religionists, and native peoples, will produce their own interpretations and developments of the Baha'i Faith from their own cultural and religious viewpoints. These new views of the Baha'i Faith will, I am sure, be scarcely recognizable to us who know only the Baha'i Faith today. They may in fact possibly be much more recognizably Hindu, Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist, Chinese, and native religionist than what we today call the Baha'i Faith--in the same way that the Baha'i Faith in Iran is recognizably close to Shi`i Islam in ethos, when compared with the Baha'i Faith in America.



Every culture and religion sees the spiritual world in different ways and has its differing emphases on the path to spiritual progress. If, as I have argued in "Relativism: a basis for Baha'i Metaphysics" (SBBR 5), these are all merely different viewpoints on "the Truth", then the Baha'i Faith should embrace them all.



What I see the Baha'i Faith doing is taking the religious traditions of the world and developing these along their own traditional paths of spirituality. What then is the role of the Baha'i Faith? If each religious tradition is going to carry on its own path, is there any point in the advent of the Baha'i Faith? The answer to these questions I would see as being three-fold.



1. There is the matter of eliminating religious conflict and prejuduices, and the unity of humanity under the umbrella of the Covenant. Also, although each tradition will in a sense be developing along its own lines, they will be bound in by ties of loyalty to the Centre of the Covenant, the Universal House of Justice.



2. The Baha'i teaching will act as guidelines to keep the development of these different spiritual paths along the "correct" lines. What I mean by this is that there are certain principles in the Baha'i teachings, such the abolition of priests and other religious professionals, the equal spiritual station of all humanity, the spiritual equality of men and women, etc. These Baha'is principles would act as constraints on the ways in which any particular group could develop. No group would be permitted (by its own members awareness of these Baha'i principles, if nothing else) to develop in ways that contravened these principles.



3. The world-wide Baha'i community would act as a medium in which these different spiritual pathways would become globally available. But much more than this, there would be a cross-fertilization of religious ideas and practices such that, for example, Baha'i mystics from Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic and other backgrounds would meet and discuss their experiences and learn from each other. This cross-fertilization of religious experience will be the basis for the further spiritual evolution of humanity. Needless to say that we are at present completely unable even to hazard a guess as to what form this might take.

Moojan Momen
 
Re: An end to religious prejudice and strife:

Chris,

Thanks for your notes on this topic. Very exciting!

The Faith has had various stages of growth where the American community contributed some of the administrative aspects and there are sure to be other contributions from other communities in the future. I look to to India where some of this can happen as more Baha'is live there than anywhere else... also I also think changes in the middle east in the future could have significant effects on the Faith.

- Art :)
 
Re: An end to religious prejudice and strife:

Gnosticagape said:
Dear Amy and Art,

The link you shared with me Art to do with pluralism was interesting in itself but a credit from that paper has led to even more interesting stuff. I do like to surf the net!... http://bahai-library.com/essays/metareligion.html


[ Momen posted this in response to a discussion on the listserv Talisman in April, 1995. -J.W. ] ...

The Baha'i Faith at present appears as yet another religion, a competitor in the world's religious market place. But I would argue that this is a distortion of its real nature, a result of the present stage in its historical development. This distortion is caused by the fact that up to now, all of the leaders and intellectuals of the Baha'i community have come from a narrow cultural and intellectual basis (an Iranian-European-North American axis). They have interpreted the Baha'i teachings in accordance with their cultural perspectives and the result is what we see today.


While is a respected scholar Moojan Momen, his thoughts are no more than his own.

I can see some of what he says, yet every I also see evidence of what it sounds like isn't present in the above comment. Everyone comes to the Faith from their own background. It is unescapable. Dominant populations of any persuasion will widely present some of those biases. Yet studious and sincere efforts to look towards the Scripture will tend to rid us of those biases, albiet only to the the extent we actually try to follow them.

In some cases I would say that Baha'is have struggled far down that path - farther than what might sound possible given the above statements. For example, recognition of the equality of women and men and among the peoples of the world (noting the preponderance of race in modern thinking.) These concepts are not native to the "Iranian-European-North American axis" and yet they have been causes championed, and involving self-transformation, among Baha'is.

As for religious exclusivism, I would note that no less than Jesus was forced to seperate from Judaism rather not His aim I would suppose, but in rejecting Him, the creative nature of Revelation setup a new mansion, when there was no room in the inn. This isn't to say that's the way it has to be, or always will be. I think we will have a most interesting future as some far stronger than ecumenical feelings forge a united future, diverse and harmonized.
 
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