Conversion of the Soul

lunamoth

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Dear Friends,

Rather than derail yet another thread I figured I should start a new thread to ask my question about a paragraph from One Common Faith (a recent statement issued by the UHJ to Baha'is).

However central the ideal of the oneness of religion unquestionably is, therefore, the task of sharing Bahá'u'lláh's message is obviously not an interfaith project. While the mind seeks intellectual certainty, what the soul longs for is the attainment of certitude. Such inner conviction is the ultimate goal of all spiritual seeking, regardless of how rapid or gradual the process may be. For the soul, the experience of conversion is not an extraneous or incidental feature of the exploration of religious truth, but the pivotal issue that must eventually be addressed. There is no ambiguity about Bahá'u'lláh's words on the subject and there can be none in the minds of those who seek to serve Him: "Verily I say, this is the Day in which mankind can behold the Face, and hear the Voice, of the Promised One. The Call of God hath been raised, and the light of His countenance hath been lifted up upon men. It behoveth every man to blot out the trace of every idle word from the tablet of his heart, and to gaze, with an open and unbiased mind, on the signs of His Revelation, the proofs of His Mission, and the tokens of His glory."64

How do you interpret this paragraph, and especially the sentence I highlighted in blue about conversion of the soul. I really do not fault the Baha'i Faith for being triumphalistic as Christianity and Islam also are. I just keep thinking of this paragraph because I've seen it stated several times in this forum that the Baha'i Faith is not out to convert anyone. You won't believe I'm going to say this, but don't you think that the Baha'i Faith really should be out to convert people, especially in light of the paragraph above (just not here at CR :) )?

Just curious,
lunamoth
 
lunamoth said:
Dear Friends,

Rather than derail yet another thread I figured I should start a new thread to ask my question about a paragraph from One Common Faith (a recent statement issued by the UHJ to Baha'is).



How do you interpret this paragraph, and especially the sentence I highlighted in blue about conversion of the soul. I really do not fault the Baha'i Faith for being triumphalistic as Christianity and Islam also are. I just keep thinking of this paragraph because I've seen it stated several times in this forum that the Baha'i Faith is not out to convert anyone. You won't believe I'm going to say this, but don't you think that the Baha'i Faith really should be out to convert people, especially in light of the paragraph above (just not here at CR :) )?

Just curious,
lunamoth

If one reads the paragraph in its context, I think the referral of "conversion" is to the conversion of the soul from doubt to certitude whether intellectual or spiritual. I believe this is a very specific use of the word "conversion" and has nothing to do with the term "religious conversion" which every one thinks of first in this reference.

"De-rail" whatever you like, dear Luna, I do not find your derailments disturbing. They almost always result in an interesting exchange.

Regards,
Scott
 
lunamoth said:
I just keep thinking of this paragraph because I've seen it stated several times in this forum that the Baha'i Faith is not out to convert anyone. You won't believe I'm going to say this, but don't you think that the Baha'i Faith really should be out to convert people, especially in light of the paragraph above (just not here at CR :) )?

Just curious,
lunamoth

The Baha'i Faith, and Baha'is, certainly intend to grow, both numerically and in depth with all the ramifications that can result such as a country where the dominant religion is Baha'i.

But coersion in belief, whether by social norms, intellectual argument, political pressure, whatever, is what Baha'is don't do - and at the same time, that place in the mind, heart and soul is much about what all followers of truth of whatever religion are bound to, ascending with, without dismissing, the religion God provides for it to make its way with though the hands of men seek any other use to it.

As much as we make our up our own mind, heart and soul's choices and path we have to allow the holy space for each mind, heart and soul it's own choices and path. But repercussions abide, however much we seek to avoid them.
 
Popeyesays said:
If one reads the paragraph in its context, I think the referral of "conversion" is to the conversion of the soul from doubt to certitude whether intellectual or spiritual. I believe this is a very specific use of the word "conversion" and has nothing to do with the term "religious conversion" which every one thinks of first in this reference.

"De-rail" whatever you like, dear Luna, I do not find your derailments disturbing. They almost always result in an interesting exchange.

Regards,
Scott

Hi Scott, As usual thank you for your patience with my questions. I also enjoy the exchange, even if it might get a bit hot sometimes. :) It's good to know that it's not just the "nice" questions that are welcome, but also the more critical ones. I appreciate it that you treat my posts with respect and myself as a real person who grapples with these things.

For further understanding, what is the soul gaining certitude of in this conversion?

peace,
lunamoth
 
smkolins said:
The Baha'i Faith, and Baha'is, certainly intend to grow, both numerically and in depth with all the ramifications that can result such as a country where the dominant religion is Baha'i.

But coersion in belief, whether by social norms, intellectual argument, political pressure, whatever, is what Baha'is don't do - and at the same time, that place in the mind, heart and soul is much about what all followers of truth of whatever religion are bound to, ascending with, without dismissing, the religion God provides for it to make its way with though the hands of men seek any other use to it.

As much as we make our up our own mind, heart and soul's choices and path we have to allow the holy space for each mind, heart and soul it's own choices and path. But repercussions abide, however much we seek to avoid them.

Hi Steven,

Thank you for your reply to my question. I think what I am trying to understand here is the distinction between what Baha'is do under the catagory of teaching and what a Christian calls evangelizing, spreading the good news of the gospel. Do you see any difference? Certainly neither the average teaching Baha'i or an evangelizing Christian feels that they are trying to coerce or force a belief upon someone. And some Baha'is, like some Christians, tend to use teaching practices that are more heavy handed and direct than others. Online I've met a number of Baha'i who use much more assertive, even aggressive, teaching approaches than most of the Baha'is I know in person. Perhaps it is because of the relative anonimity of the internet, people are bolder.

peace,
lunamoth
 
lunamoth said:
Hi Scott, As usual thank you for your patience with my questions. I also enjoy the exchange, even if it might get a bit hot sometimes. :) It's good to know that it's not just the "nice" questions that are welcome, but also the more critical ones. I appreciate it that you treat my posts with respect and myself as a real person who grapples with these things.

For further understanding, what is the soul gaining certitude of in this conversion?

peace,
lunamoth

"Certitude" is a key concept in the Faith. As you know, its the title of one of Baha`u'llah's first works,

A Christian can find certitude according to Abdu'l Baha:
"Thou didst begin thy letter with a blessed phrase, saying: 'I am a Christian.' O would that all were truly Christian! It 30 is easy to be a Christian on the tongue, but hard to be a true one. Today some five hundred million souls are Christian, but the real Christian is very rare: he is that soul from whose comely face there shineth the splendour of Christ, and who showeth forth the perfections of the Kingdom; this is a matter of great moment, for to be a Christian is to embody every excellence there is. I hope that thou, too, shalt become a true Christian. Praise thou God that at last, through the divine teachings, thou hast obtained both sight and insight to the highest degree, and hast become firmly rooted in certitude and faith. It is my hope that others as well will achieve illumined eyes and hearing ears, and attain to everlasting life: that these many rivers, each flowing along in diverse and separated beds, will find their way back to the circumambient sea, and merge together and rise up in a single wave of surging oneness; that the unity of truth, through the power of God, will make these illusory differences to vanish away."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 29)

and
"Ponder thou upon the Spirit [1]: because He was the focal centre of spiritual power, the wellspring of divine bounties, although at the beginning He gathered unto Himself only a very few souls, later on He was able, because of that all-subduing power that He had, to unite within the sheltering Tabernacle of Christendom all the differing sects. Compare the present with the past, and see how great is the difference; thus canst thou arrive at truth and certitude."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 63)

You've probably redad them before, but here are the opening words of the Kitab'i Iqan:
"IN THE NAME OF OUR LORD,
THE EXALTED, THE MOST HIGH.
No man shall attain the shores of the ocean of true understanding except he be detached from all that is in heaven and on earth. Sanctify your souls, O ye peoples of the world, that haply ye may attain that station which God hath destined for you and enter thus the tabernacle which, according to the dispensations of Providence, hath been raised in the firmament of the Bayan.
THE essence of these words is this: they that tread the path of faith, they that thirst for the wine of certitude, must cleanse themselves of all that is earthly -- their ears from idle talk, their minds from vain imaginings, their hearts from worldly affections, their eyes from that which perisheth. They should put their trust in God, and, holding fast unto Him, follow in His way. Then will they be made worthy of the effulgent glories of the sun of divine knowledge and understanding, and become the recipients of a grace that is infinite and unseen, inasmuch as man can never hope to attain unto the knowledge of the All-Glorious, can never quaff from the stream of divine knowledge 4 and wisdom, can never enter the abode of immortality, nor partake of the cup of divine nearness and favour, unless and until he ceases to regard the words and deeds of mortal men as a standard for the true understanding and recognition of God and His Prophets."
(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 3)

Regards,
Scott
 
Popeyesays said:
"Certitude" is a key concept in the Faith. As you know, its the title of one of Baha`u'llah's first works,

A Christian can find certitude according to Abdu'l Baha:
"Thou didst begin thy letter with a blessed phrase, saying: 'I am a Christian.' O would that all were truly Christian! It 30 is easy to be a Christian on the tongue, but hard to be a true one. Today some five hundred million souls are Christian, but the real Christian is very rare: he is that soul from whose comely face there shineth the splendour of Christ, and who showeth forth the perfections of the Kingdom; this is a matter of great moment, for to be a Christian is to embody every excellence there is. I hope that thou, too, shalt become a true Christian. Praise thou God that at last, through the divine teachings, thou hast obtained both sight and insight to the highest degree, and hast become firmly rooted in certitude and faith. It is my hope that others as well will achieve illumined eyes and hearing ears, and attain to everlasting life: that these many rivers, each flowing along in diverse and separated beds, will find their way back to the circumambient sea, and merge together and rise up in a single wave of surging oneness; that the unity of truth, through the power of God, will make these illusory differences to vanish away."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 29)

and
"Ponder thou upon the Spirit [1]: because He was the focal centre of spiritual power, the wellspring of divine bounties, although at the beginning He gathered unto Himself only a very few souls, later on He was able, because of that all-subduing power that He had, to unite within the sheltering Tabernacle of Christendom all the differing sects. Compare the present with the past, and see how great is the difference; thus canst thou arrive at truth and certitude."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 63)

You've probably redad them before, but here are the opening words of the Kitab'i Iqan:
"IN THE NAME OF OUR LORD,
THE EXALTED, THE MOST HIGH.
No man shall attain the shores of the ocean of true understanding except he be detached from all that is in heaven and on earth. Sanctify your souls, O ye peoples of the world, that haply ye may attain that station which God hath destined for you and enter thus the tabernacle which, according to the dispensations of Providence, hath been raised in the firmament of the Bayan.
THE essence of these words is this: they that tread the path of faith, they that thirst for the wine of certitude, must cleanse themselves of all that is earthly -- their ears from idle talk, their minds from vain imaginings, their hearts from worldly affections, their eyes from that which perisheth. They should put their trust in God, and, holding fast unto Him, follow in His way. Then will they be made worthy of the effulgent glories of the sun of divine knowledge and understanding, and become the recipients of a grace that is infinite and unseen, inasmuch as man can never hope to attain unto the knowledge of the All-Glorious, can never quaff from the stream of divine knowledge 4 and wisdom, can never enter the abode of immortality, nor partake of the cup of divine nearness and favour, unless and until he ceases to regard the words and deeds of mortal men as a standard for the true understanding and recognition of God and His Prophets."
(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 3)

Regards,
Scott

Hi Scott, thank you for the beautiful quotes. Oh yes I agree, am overwhelmed by, the loftiness of our calling and goal either as a Christian or a Baha'i. Jesus also calls us to be like him, and said that nothing less than leaving everything and following Him is the goal.

But what I keep wondering, then, is if it is perfectly acceptable in Baha'i theology for one to remain a Christian, rather than declare as a Baha'i, what is the document One Common Faith asking Baha'is to do or understand? Why do Baha'is teach Christians (or Muslims or Buddhists or anyone who follows a "recognized" religion)?

Why can't we be Christian-Baha'is, Muslim-Baha'is etc. as Abdul Baha said. Whenever this quote of his is brought up (often by a Baha'i disillusioned by the Administrative Order), it is brushed off as non-authoritative and all the quotes about the authority of the UHJ and AO are brought up. Again, these are contradictory messages in the writings.

There just seems to be a gulf between the triumphalistic nature of the Faith, the very active teaching efforts by Baha'is and this seeming disinterest in converting anyone. According to your quotes above the certitude (faith) is in Baha'u'llah as a Manifestation of God, "replacing" Christ in a sense. So, if the conversion of the soul is to its certitude of Baha'u'llah's Station, how is this different from a religious conversion?

peace,
lunamoth
 
lunamoth said:
Hi Scott, thank you for the beautiful quotes. Oh yes I agree, am overwhelmed by, the loftiness of our calling and goal either as a Christian or a Baha'i. Jesus also calls us to be like him, and said that nothing less than leaving everything and following Him is the goal.

But what I keep wondering, then, is if it is perfectly acceptable in Baha'i theology for one to remain a Christian, rather than declare as a Baha'i, what is the document One Common Faith asking Baha'is to do or understand? Why do Baha'is teach Christians (or Muslims or Buddhists or anyone who follows a "recognized" religion)?

Why can't we be Christian-Baha'is, Muslim-Baha'is etc. as Abdul Baha said. Whenever this quote of his is brought up (often by a Baha'i disillusioned by the Administrative Order), it is brushed off as non-authoritative and all the quotes about the authority of the UHJ and AO are brought up. Again, these are contradictory messages in the writings.

There just seems to be a gulf between the triumphalistic nature of the Faith, the very active teaching efforts by Baha'is and this seeming disinterest in converting anyone. According to your quotes above the certitude (faith) is in Baha'u'llah as a Manifestation of God, "replacing" Christ in a sense. So, if the conversion of the soul is to its certitude of Baha'u'llah's Station, how is this different from a religious conversion?

peace,
lunamoth

Well, in clear text the writings say that to deny ONE Prophet or ONE Book is to deny Them all. This does not mean that one can be at the same time a Christian and a Baha`i, because if one obeys the dictate of most Christian sects then one must deny Muhammed, but Baha`u'llah says one cannot deny Muhammed and believe in either Jesus or Baha`u'llah. Shoghi Effendi clarified the issue in the 1940's:
""Concerning membership in non-Bahá'í religious associations, the Guardian wishes to re-emphasize the general principle already laid down in his communications to your Assembly and also to the individual believers that no Bahá'í who wishes to be a whole hearted and sincere upholder of the distinguishing principles of the Cause can accept full membership in any non-Bahá'í ecclesiastical organization. For such an act would necessarily imply only a partial acceptance of the Teachings and Laws of the Faith, and an incomplete recognition of its independent status, and would thus be tantamount to an act of disloyalty to the verities it enshrines. For it is only too obvious that in most of its fundamental assumptions the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh is completely at variance with outworn creeds, ceremonies, and institutions. To be a Bahá'í and at the same time accept membership in another religious body is simply an act of contradiction that no sincere and logically-minded person can possibly 65 accept. To follow Bahá'u'lláh does not mean accepting some of His teachings and rejecting the rest. Allegiance to His Cause must be uncompromising and whole-hearted. During the days of the Master the Cause was still in a stage that made such an open and sharp disassociation between it and other religious organizations, and particularly the Muslim Faith not only inadvisable but practically impossible to establish. But since His passing, events throughout the Bahá'í World and particularly in Egypt where the Muslim religious courts have formally testified to the independent character of the Faith, have developed to a point that have made such an assertion of the independence of the Cause not only highly desirable but absolutely essential.""
(Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 65)

Regards,
Scott
 
Popeyesays said:
Well, in clear text the writings say that to deny ONE Prophet or ONE Book is to deny Them all. This does not mean that one can be at the same time a Christian and a Baha`i, because if one obeys the dictate of most Christian sects then one must deny Muhammed, but Baha`u'llah says one cannot deny Muhammed and believe in either Jesus or Baha`u'llah. Shoghi Effendi clarified the issue in the 1940's:...
Regards,
Scott

OK, so this actually is in agreement with the perspective from the Christian (or any other religion) side as well. Much of the theology and some of the practical applications are incompatible, so you can't really hybridize them. But, personally, and as I've said before, I see a lot of Christ in Baha'u'llah's writings and I would never deny there is virtue and goodness there. How does it fit with Christianity, I honestly do not know. I am a Christian but I am a Baha'i in the sense discussed by Abdul Baha in at least some of his talks, and in the sense I've heard my Baha'i friends use casually. Of course, by Baha'u'llah's criteria above I am most unworthy of either appellation.

However, do you have any comments about my other questions above?

peace,
lunamoth
 
lunamoth said:
OK, so this actually is in agreement with the perspective from the Christian (or any other religion) side as well. Much of the theology and some of the practical applications are incompatible, so you can't really hybridize them. But, personally, and as I've said before, I see a lot of Christ in Baha'u'llah's writings and I would never deny there is virtue and goodness there. How does it fit with Christianity, I honestly do not know. I am a Christian but I am a Baha'i in the sense discussed by Abdul Baha in at least some of his talks, and in the sense I've heard my Baha'i friends use casually. Of course, by Baha'u'llah's criteria above I am most unworthy of either appellation.

However, do you have any comments about my other questions above?

peace,
lunamoth

Dear Luna,

To the best of my knowledge there has been ONE perfect Baha`i, and that was Abdu'l Baha. That you, or I, or anyone falls short of perfection in that estate is not a sin in itself. To quit trying is a sin of omission, perhaps, but the attainment of "certitude of the soul" is a process, and we will not leave this life in a state of perfect certitude.
I don't want to keep throwing quotes, but the words of Baha`u'llah and Abdu'l Baha are ever so much more concise than I can manage, not to mention far more eloquent.
"XXXVII. Blessed is the man that hath acknowledged his belief in God and in His signs, and recognized that "He shall not be asked of His doings." Such a recognition hath been made by God the ornament of every belief, and its very foundation. Upon it must depend the acceptance of every goodly deed. 87 Fasten your eyes upon it, that haply the whisperings of the rebellious may not cause you to slip.
Were He to decree as lawful the thing which from time immemorial had been forbidden, and forbid that which had, at all times, been regarded as lawful, to none is given the right to question His authority. Whoso will hesitate, though it be for less than a moment, should be regarded as a transgressor.
Whoso hath not recognized this sublime and fundamental verity, and hath failed to attain this most exalted station, the winds of doubt will agitate him, and the sayings of the infidels will distract his soul. He that hath acknowledged this principle will be endowed with the most perfect constancy. All honor to this all-glorious station, the remembrance of which adorneth every exalted Tablet. Such is the teaching which God bestoweth on you, a teaching that will deliver you from all manner of doubt and perplexity, and enable you to attain unto salvation in both this world and in the next. He, verily, is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Bountiful."
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 87)

This discussion we are having is in the Baha`i reference "teaching". I do not think it to be proselytizing, and it certainly has not been at my instigation, nor have you been an unwilling participant in the dialogue. I do not ever expect my words to "convert" anyone, nor should they. If a person asks me a question about my faith, I endeavor to answer it as best I may, give them some idea of what the Creative word might be, and wait for the next question. The seeker is looking, if he finds what he seeks in the words of the writings, he has not converted, he has discovered.

As to triumphalism, the Manifestations are the self-same Spirit come back to the world, and the acceptance of one is because one recognizes that prence in the words of the writings, not my words. So, I think I do not proselytize, but I do try to teach when someone shows curiosity, if their curiosity is satisfied with one question, that's all I will answer.

As teaching within such a forum as this, well we are all here out of curiosity, and asking questions is scratching the itch, but I did not cause the itch in the first place, did I?

Regards,
Scott
 
I think it's fair to say that most organised religions are involved in some degree of proselytising - after all, spirituality is a profound human experience, and whether it's simply through sheer enthusiasm, or a conscious will, it seems fairly normal to wish to express that feeling of personal profundity with others others, and invite them to share in it.
 
I said:
I think it's fair to say that most organised religions are involved in some degree of proselytising - after all, spirituality is a profound human experience, and whether it's simply through sheer enthusiasm, or a conscious will, it seems fairly normal to wish to express that feeling of personal profundity with others others, and invite them to share in it.

Oh, I absolutely agree with this point, I, Brian. I think the motivation is noble/pure and the action (of teaching/evangelism) is a natural expression of the love we have for God/the More. Here and elsewhere on the forum I expect and enjoy that expression, even when we all have different ideas of what It Is.

peace,
lunamoth
 
Hi Scott,

I am not trying to antagonize here, and I am not trying to accuse you or any Baha'i of some kind of nefarious activity in your teaching of the Baha'i Faith on this forum. I am trying to explore the meaning of that paragraph from One Common Faith, and trying to understand the intent of that document. My understanding is that it is a rallying cry to Baha'is reminding them that it is their calling to evangelize/promulgate the Faith. I think the clear meaning is that the goal of teaching is indeed converting, or assisting in the conversion if you prefer, of people to the Baha'i Faith. And, I think you have used a lot of words to avoid saying this. Why?

Proselytization is the attempt to convert, sometimes by inducement or coersion. It's a pretty large grey area trying to define what, exactly, is inducement or coersion. When JWs or Latter Day Saints go door to door are they proselytizing? When missionaries provide food and healthcare are they proselytizing? Your statement, paraphrasing the Baha'i writings:"...in clear text the writings say that to deny ONE Prophet or ONE Book is to deny Them all. " might be construed as a kind of coersion, similar to a Christian saying "Jesus is the only way and if you do not follow Him you will burn in hell, but those are not my words, they are God's words." Of course, this depends upon the sensitivity of the listener, but most non-Christians do not like being told they are condemned to hell. But, anyway, I'll concede that Baha'is are not intentionally trying to coerce others. So I'll stick to the term conversion.

Popeyesays said:
Dear Luna,

To the best of my knowledge there has been ONE perfect Baha`i, and that was Abdu'l Baha. That you, or I, or anyone falls short of perfection in that estate is not a sin in itself. To quit trying is a sin of omission, perhaps, but the attainment of "certitude of the soul" is a process, and we will not leave this life in a state of perfect certitude.
I agree that we all fall short, and the process of trying is going to be a lot messier for some of us than for others.

I don't want to keep throwing quotes, but the words of Baha`u'llah and Abdu'l Baha are ever so much more concise than I can manage, not to mention far more eloquent.

The problem in using these quotes, and I think this is often where we go to odds in our exchanges, is that these quotes have so much in them I often dont' really know what you are trying to say. Or perhaps I do understand what you are trying to tell me: instead of you condemning me you are saying that God is condemning me.
"XXXVII. Blessed is the man that hath acknowledged his belief in God and in His signs, and recognized that "He shall not be asked of His doings." Such a recognition hath been made by God the ornament of every belief, and its very foundation. Upon it must depend the acceptance of every goodly deed. 87 Fasten your eyes upon it, that haply the whisperings of the rebellious may not cause you to slip.
OK, so are you saying that I am the rebellious one who is trying to make you slip? I am not trying to challenge your faith or say that the Baha'i Faith is bad (I am pluralistic and believe that it's all part of God's plan one way or another).

Were He to decree as lawful the thing which from time immemorial had been forbidden, and forbid that which had, at all times, been regarded as lawful, to none is given the right to question His authority. Whoso will hesitate, though it be for less than a moment, should be regarded as a transgressor. Whoso hath not recognized this sublime and fundamental verity, and hath failed to attain this most exalted station, the winds of doubt will agitate him, and the sayings of the infidels will distract his soul.
Well, you've chosen to quote to me some pretty strong scripture about failing to accept Baha'u'llah's station.

He that hath acknowledged this principle will be endowed with the most perfect constancy. All honor to this all-glorious station, the remembrance of which adorneth every exalted Tablet. Such is the teaching which God bestoweth on you, a teaching that will deliver you from all manner of doubt and perplexity, and enable you to attain unto salvation in both this world and in the next. He, verily, is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Bountiful."
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 87)
Really, this is very much like the example I gave above. You've more or less told me that I am in/going to hell. Do you wonder then why I get agitated in these conversations?

This discussion we are having is in the Baha`i reference "teaching". I do not think it to be proselytizing, and it certainly has not been at my instigation, nor have you been an unwilling participant in the dialogue. I do not ever expect my words to "convert" anyone, nor should they. If a person asks me a question about my faith, I endeavor to answer it as best I may, give them some idea of what the Creative word might be, and wait for the next question. The seeker is looking, if he finds what he seeks in the words of the writings, he has not converted, he has discovered.

But why must this conversation be put into a box called teaching or a box called proselytizing or a box called evangelism? I'd like to know what you think. Getting to know each other as humans, rather than as representatives of our respective religions, is going to take us closer to peace, don't you think?

As to triumphalism, the Manifestations are the self-same Spirit come back to the world, and the acceptance of one is because one recognizes that prence in the words of the writings, not my words. So, I think I do not proselytize, but I do try to teach when someone shows curiosity, if their curiosity is satisfied with one question, that's all I will answer.
I understand the reason Baha'is use quotes and respect that. I've taken Ruhi courses. :) And much of the writings are beautiful and stir the heart. You are quoting specifically because you wish others to be attracted to the Baha'i Faith.

As teaching within such a forum as this, well we are all here out of curiosity, and asking questions is scratching the itch, but I did not cause the itch in the first place, did I?
I am not complaining at all about this conversation, or any conversation in the Baha'i forum, or the majority of the posts by Baha'is elsewhere. I'm not really even complaining (at this time :) ) about those posts by Baha'is that I think are a blatant attempt to witness or convert. I guess what I am addressing is the tendency of Baha'is to say that they do not seek to convert others to the Baha'i Faith, when in fact that is very much the objective of teaching, regardless of the source of the itch. Semantics aside, why deny this?

Scott, please know that I feel warmly toward you and the other Baha'i members here. I've worded some of the above rather strongly, but it is in matching the strong words you've used with me, not from a desire to argue. We can drop this if you wish. I think we've both made our points.

peace,
lunamoth
 
I think I need to break this into separate issues.
Quote:
"XXXVII. Blessed is the man that hath acknowledged his belief in God and in His signs, and recognized that "He shall not be asked of His doings." Such a recognition hath been made by God the ornament of every belief, and its very foundation. Upon it must depend the acceptance of every goodly deed. 87 Fasten your eyes upon it, that haply the whisperings of the rebellious may not cause you to slip.
Luna:
OK, so are you saying that I am the rebellious one who is trying to make you slip? I am not trying to challenge your faith or say that the Baha'i Faith is bad (I am pluralistic and believe that it's all part of God's plan one way or another).

in reply:


Do you ask God to be responsible for explaining Himself to you? As far as I am concerned you recognized God and His signs, and submit that you are not capable of questioning the actions of God. When I come to judgement, I am responsible for me. You cannot "make me slip". When you come to judgement, I cannot make YOU slip. Salvation is not the issue between you and I or Christians and Baha`i's. We are all responsible individually and our good and bad deeds will be accounted to us to the "weight of a mustard seed" (as the Qur'an says), but at the same time we will have the protection of God's grace and mercy which are also infinite.

In this sense, it seems to me that Christians are far more "triumphalist" than Baha`i's could ever be. Please consider that an "aside", something said in passing because it just occured to me.

Luna:
"I understand the reason Baha'is use quotes and respect that. I've taken Ruhi courses. :) And much of the writings are beautiful and stir the heart. You are quoting specifically because you wish others to be attracted to the Baha'i Faith."

in reply:
I quote because my words can be in error. I am responsible for doing the best I can to understand those words. An individual who asks me a question deserves the right to make his own decisions about the actual words of the Prophet. I may give someone information which I have misunderstood or am in outright error. That's why I depend on accompanying what I might say with the "source" material at the same time. I respect that my understanding may be flawed and the person who asks may be capable of greater understanding than I.

Luna:
"I am not trying to antagonize here, and I am not trying to accuse you or any Baha'i of some kind of nefarious activity in your teaching of the Baha'i Faith on this forum. I am trying to explore the meaning of that paragraph from One Common Faith, and trying to understand the intent of that document. My understanding is that it is a rallying cry to Baha'is reminding them that it is their calling to evangelize/promulgate the Faith. I think the clear meaning is that the goal of teaching is indeed converting, or assisting in the conversion if you prefer, of people to the Baha'i Faith. And, I think you have used a lot of words to avoid saying this. Why? "

in reply:
I have avoided saying what I never intended saying at all. You can not attribute the motivation to me, if it does not exist within me.
"Evangelize" and "Promulgate" are not entirely synonymous, in fact they are not even synonyms at all in my thesaurus. Promulgate: 1 : to make known by open declaration : [size=-1]PROCLAIM[/size]
2 a : to make known or public the terms of (a proposed law) b : to put (a law) into action or force

I don't have to define evangelize, I am sure. To my faith promulgation is allowed, but evangelizing (proselytizing) is not. However, I would point out that proclamation (promulgation) is not "teaching" by Baha`i standards. An entry in the classified phone book for the Baha`i Faith is promulgation, but it is not evangelizing. In the distinction between proclamation and teaching I would point out that proclamation is to the public, and teaching is between individuals. This forum may muddle the distinction a bit, but it is still evident to me.

Luna:
"Really, this is very much like the example I gave above. You've more or less told me that I am in/going to hell. Do you wonder then why I get agitated in these conversations? "

Do you believe in God? I think you do. Do you accept Jesus, Moses> I believe you do. Do you think that Muhammed and Baha`u'llah are from God whether you agree with what the faith says specifically or not? I think you probably do. Why should I worry about you going to hell, when there is no hell? We are all recipients of God's grace and judgement. I have no concern for you in that regard, nor have I ever said you caused me concern in that regard. At any rate, the quote says: "Blessed is the man , , , " It does not say "Saved is the man . . . ." Why is the "man" blessed? Because he has intellectual certainty and spiritual certitude - which brings us back to the original question of the topic.

As to you wanting to antagonize? I certainly do not feel that way. You have expressed your hopes, fears, questions, discomforts honestly in every way. Doing so never antagonizes.

Regards,
Scott
 
Dear Scott, Thank you for your replies to my questions. This exchange really does help my thinking. I'm glad to hear that you were not quoting to condemn me.

I think that the teaching the Baha'i Faith and evangelsim in Christianity are not really very different at all. Both are proclaiming the good news that God loves us. And neither is effectively done by quoting scripture. I think that evangelism is first and formeost loving each other to the best of our ability and assuring others, sharing the good news, that God loves them. "Do not be afraid, for I am with you."

I'll return but for now I have to run.

peace,
lunamoth
 
lunamoth said:
Dear Scott, Thank you for your replies to my questions. This exchange really does help my thinking. I'm glad to hear that you were not quoting to condemn me.

I think that the teaching the Baha'i Faith and evangelsim in Christianity are not really very different at all. Both are proclaiming the good news that God loves us. And neither is effectively done by quoting scripture. I think that evangelism is first and formeost loving each other to the best of our ability and assuring others, sharing the good news, that God loves them. "Do not be afraid, for I am with you."

I'll return but for now I have to run.

peace,
lunamoth

I am pushing sixty up close, Lyna. I have know for a long time that the quickest way to set one;s thought in order are to write them down, So, I too, find help for my thinking in both my answers and your comments. Symbiosis is a wonderful thing.

Scott
 
lunamoth said:
Hi Steven,

Thank you for your reply to my question. I think what I am trying to understand here is the distinction between what Baha'is do under the catagory of teaching and what a Christian calls evangelizing, spreading the good news of the gospel. Do you see any difference? Certainly neither the average teaching Baha'i or an evangelizing Christian feels that they are trying to coerce or force a belief upon someone. And some Baha'is, like some Christians, tend to use teaching practices that are more heavy handed and direct than others. Online I've met a number of Baha'i who use much more assertive, even aggressive, teaching approaches than most of the Baha'is I know in person. Perhaps it is because of the relative anonimity of the internet, people are bolder.

peace,
lunamoth

I would say that they key difference is the context of the effort, and the influence brought to bear on individuals from their religion. "Christians" and "Baha'i" are titles we may like to use as if we know pretty exactly what they mean. I speaking beyond individual differences. But I think there are subtantial differences - "Christians" includes subtantial institutionalizations which do not and cannot agree, who's practices of spreading the good news are framed by world views and interpritations of the scriptures which do not allow for eachother, whatever the truth may be. Comparatively, being a Baha'i has a far narrower focus of teachings and interpritations to influence individual action.

So while individuals are of course diverse in their efforts and choices, the standards promulgated by their specific religion do differ and they would affect the choices. The various fragments of Christianity would not be indestinguishable influences on the standards and choices they would make.
 
I said:
I think it's fair to say that most organised religions are involved in some degree of proselytising - after all, spirituality is a profound human experience, and whether it's simply through sheer enthusiasm, or a conscious will, it seems fairly normal to wish to express that feeling of personal profundity with others others, and invite them to share in it.

But there are substantial differences acting as norms in religions. For example, missionary work among Christians almost certainly means a home community is directly supporting a traveler in other lands to bring their own denomination's influence to another land. Baha'is almost never do such things. The Baha'i norm, which we call pioneering, specifically does not rely as a norm on a home community paying the way of the travelor to distant lands.

Proselytizing is something specifically mentioned and within it's real definition is something Baha'is are not to do - this isn't mere play with words.

"It is true that Baha'u'llah lays on every Baha'i the duty to teach His Faith. At the same time, however, we are forbidden to proselytize, so it is important for all the believers to understand the difference between teaching and proselytizing. It is a significant difference and, in some countries where teaching a religion is permitted, but proselytizing is forbidden, the distinction is made in the law of the land. Proselytizing implies bringing undue pressure to bear upon someone to change his Faith. It is also usually understood to imply the making of threats or the offering of material benefits as an inducement to conversion. In some countries mission schools or hospitals, for all the good they do, are regarded with suspicion and even aversion by the local authorities because they are considered to be material inducements to conversion and hence instruments of proselytization.
LSA Guidelines (USA) (8:31)"
 
Popeyesays said:
To my faith promulgation is allowed, but evangelizing (proselytizing) is not.

From it's strictest sense, promulgation is simply announcing, usually in respect to human legislative issues.

When it comes to religion, any attempt to try and "spread the faith" is oftentimes going to come across as proselytising in nature, even if the original intention is not one of conscious intention.

smkolins said:
It is true that Baha'u'llah lays on every Baha'i the duty to teach His Faith. At the same time, however, we are forbidden to proselytize

This is where the issue seems to be reduced to mere semantics.

When Christians actively try to "teach" their faith to a lay audience, it becomes defined as evangelical - effectively, a specifically Christian form of proselytising.

Proselytising doesn't have to be aggressive - someone of any faith trying to draw attention to it and spread it's teachings is being promotional - proselytising - of that faith, no matter what label is otherwise attached.

2c.
 
I said:
From it's strictest sense, promulgation is simply announcing, usually in respect to human legislative issues.

When it comes to religion, any attempt to try and "spread the faith" is oftentimes going to come across as proselytising in nature, even if the original intention is not one of conscious intention.



This is where the issue seems to be reduced to mere semantics.

When Christians actively try to "teach" their faith to a lay audience, it becomes defined as evangelical - effectively, a specifically Christian form of proselytising.

Proselytising doesn't have to be aggressive - someone of any faith trying to draw attention to it and spread it's teachings is being promotional - proselytising - of that faith, no matter what label is otherwise attached.

2c.

I said:
From it's strictest sense, promulgation is simply announcing, usually in respect to human legislative issues.
I said:
When it comes to religion, any attempt to try and "spread the faith" is oftentimes going to come across as proselytising in nature, even if the original intention is not one of conscious intention.


Words have connotative and denotative meanings. Confusion arises when you try to do both at once.

Proselytize means:



Main Entry: pros·e·ly·tize Pronunciation: 'prä-s(&-)l&-"tIz
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): -tized; -tiz·ing
intransitive senses
1 : to induce someone to convert to one's faith
2 : to recruit someone to join one's party, institution, or cause
transitive senses : to recruit or convert especially to a new faith, institution, or cause


This is the denotation of the word, what it actually means, what it comes to "connote" may be completely different. I offer the example of "cult", this is a word that has become useless because of over=emphasis of its connotation as opposed to its denotation.


I said:
This is where the issue seems to be reduced to mere semantics.
I said:
When Christians actively try to "teach" their faith to a lay audience, it becomes defined as evangelical - effectively, a specifically Christian form of proselytising.

Proselytising doesn't have to be aggressive - someone of any faith trying to draw attention to it and spread it's teachings is being promotional - proselytising - of that faith, no matter what label is otherwise attached.

2c.


Main Entry: evan·ge·lizePronunciation: i-'van-j&-"lIz
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): -lized; -liz·ing
transitive senses
1 : to preach the gospel to
2 : to convert to Christianity
intransitive senses : to preach the gospel
- evan·ge·li·za·tion
-"van-j&-l&-'zA-sh&n/ noun

Even if you extend "gospel" to its original meaning of "good news". Preach and sermonize are pretty much synonymous. The Baha`i Faith does not allow sermons. We have no pulpits and no clergy to deliver them.

1 a : to cause to know something <taught them a trade> b : to cause to know how <is teaching me to drive> c : to accustom to some action or attitude <teach students to think for themselves> d : to cause to know the disagreeable consequences of some action <I'll teach you to come home late>
2
: to guide the studies of
3 : to impart the knowledge of <teach algebra>
4 a : to instruct by precept, example, or experience b : to make known and accepted <experience teaches us our limitations>
5 : to conduct instruction regularly in
<teach school>
intransitive senses : to provide instruction : act as a teacher


There is a substantive difference between "teach" and "evangelize" or "proselytize". Baha`i's "teach", they don't really do the other, despite the perception of some.

Regards,

Scott

 
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