Baha'i hell, Christian hell

Discussion in 'Baha'i' started by Seeker_of_truth, Aug 7, 2007.

  1. Seeker_of_truth

    Seeker_of_truth New Member

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    From what i understand the Christian view on hell is eternal, while in the Baha'i Faith it is possible to progress closer to God. Why is it that the views on hell are different in these two faiths?

    -Seeker
     
  2. arthra

    arthra Baha'i

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    Good question... Some believe hell is an actual place and is eternal.

    I think as Baha'is we believe that "hell" is being distant from God but that God in His grace and mercy can forgive us...

    Hell and hell fire are words that you'll find in the Baha'i Writings but they are more often about the hellfire of denying God or His Manifestations and so are spiritual conditions so we don't accept this as a condition that is eternal or that it is located somewhere as say maybe Dante portrayed..

    - Art :)
     
  3. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    If I can pop in from the Catholic perspective, the 'eternity' of hell is a huge question ... and it would seem most 'Christian' ideas are informed more by sentiment than by philosophy or theology — in fact it would appear that many delight in the idea of the sinner being punished, rather than the idea of the sinner being forgiven.

    The late Pope John Paul II said: "The images of hell that Sacred Scripture presents to us must be correctly interpreted. They show the complete frustration and emptiness of life without God. Rather than a place, Hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy."

    It is fundamental to Catholic teaching that the damned are in hell because they choose to be there:
    "This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called 'hell'."
    CCC 1033 (my italics)

    Thomas
     
  4. arthra

    arthra Baha'i

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    Thanks Thomas for your input...! And welcome to the Baha'i Forum at CR.

    I think there are areas of agreement on your quotes and the Baha'i views on the subject.

    Here is a synopsis of the Baha'i position on the after-life:

    The Bahá'í religion states that the soul is immortal, continuing to exist after the death of the body. The soul, according to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, has the powers of imagination, thought, comprehension, and memory. Bahá'í scripture states that it consists of divine attributes, and a major purpose of life is to develop and express these attributes. Such development, the achievement of faith in God's latest Manifestation, and one's deeds, together define one's spiritual state after death. The next world is seen as a numberless series of spiritual planes or kingdoms, rising ever closer to God. The Bahá'í religion does not believe in a literal heaven or hell, but sees heaven and hell as referring to the soul's spiritual proximity to or distance from God. It also rejects reincarnation, believing instead in the endless advancement and progress of the soul from one plane of existence to another.

    Source:

    A Resource Guide for Baha'i Studies--bibliography
     
  5. Seeker_of_truth

    Seeker_of_truth New Member

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    So why is it that these two great Faiths similar in origin have two different views of the afterlife?
     
  6. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Actually a huge question, but from the Catholic perspective, let me give you a couple of views. I am not refuting, nor pressing, any view ... simply pointing out where (I think) we differ.

    The Bahá'í religion states that the soul is immortal, continuing to exist after the death of the body.
    The RC ('we' — as long as one accepts I speak not as an authorised spokesperson for the Catholic Church) believe the soul is created, and therefore do not adhere to the idea of the pre-existence of souls. We believe that anything created is sustained by that which created it, and therefore is not necessarily immortal. Also the soul is corruptible, therefore it can theoretically become corrupt to the point of its dissolution. The soul can be sustained eternally by the will of God, but is not eternal according to its own nature.


    The soul, according to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, has the powers of imagination, thought, comprehension, and memory. Bahá'í scripture states that it consists of divine attributes, and a major purpose of life is to develop and express these attributes.

    We believe the soul is triform, being, consciousness and will. Any divine attribute the soul holds is a gift of the Divine (charism), and is not endemic to the nature of the soul. Man is created in the likeness and image of his Creator, but he does not share in the Divine Nature of his Creator by nature, but rather by grace. His big mistake was in assuming that what was given him by grace was his by nature ... so what was given was withdrawn, so that he could learn the truth of things, and not accuse the Father of deceiving him ... also, of course, simple justice. You can't claim what's not yours.


    The next world is seen as a numberless series of spiritual planes or kingdoms, rising ever closer to God.

    In short I would say again we see a triform nature: Heaven (the beatific vision) at one end, extinction at the other, and the space in between. Whether these are separate as planes or kingdoms we would hold a reserve. We prefer the idea of 'near' and 'far' ... but there is area for discussion, if we consider the 'many mansions' of Christian Scripture.


    The Bahá'í religion does not believe in a literal heaven or hell, but sees heaven and hell as referring to the soul's spiritual proximity to or distance from God.

    So do we. We believe in these states 'literally' (as real), but not always as they are portrayed in literature ... if that makes sense ... lately I've wondered why we opted for the GrecoEgyptian view, rather than the simplicity of the Gehenna analogy (a rubbish tip). I think because early scholars didn't know that Gehenna was a place outisde Jerusalem ... in that sense hell is to be discarded, to have no place nor part in the scheme of things.


    It also rejects reincarnation ...

    So do we.


    ... believing instead in the endless advancement and progress of the soul from one plane of existence to another.


    If we treat death as 'passing through the veil', then we do not see it necessarily as passing to another veiled state, but rather passing beyond the idea of veils as such towards the real, so we do not hold the existence of intermediate states between man and God.

    That the soul might continue to 'grow', 'learn', 'experience' is another matter — God is Infinite, so the journey into the bosom of the Father is an eternal journey, and that's still not long enough! But nothing 'changes' in the sense of a 'plane of existence' with its determinations, limitations and, presumably, veils.

    In fact Christianity speculates just two veils — the one being the immediate eschatalogical state we're discussing now, the other being the general resurrection at the end of time.

    Another speculation is that not all souls are 'conscious' between now and then, in the afterlife. The saints talk about those who 'sleep in Christ'.

    And again, the soul is not all that being human is or means, so a 'disembodied soul' is incomplete and imperfect ... hence the idea of the resurrection of the flesh ... although what form that will take, we have only inklings ... but the general idea is that if 'man' was such a pleasing thing to God, then there will be a place for him at the end, and not just his soul.

    As you can see, we're very close in some places, and we're far apart in others, but to say precisely either way might involve a vast debate on technical terms and ideas.

    Thomas
     
  7. arthra

    arthra Baha'i

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    Thanks for your comments Thomas..

    We Baha'is also believe that life begins at conception so you can add that to your information about Baha'i Faith.

    I'd rather not pursue this however as an argument. It's more important I think to see where we agree and work from there I think than have polarized discussions... maybe you will want to open a comparative religion thread on this to see what others think.

    There is much more than the little synopsis I supplied above so if you're really interested in the Baha'i view of the after -life or the soul you can find much more material elsewhere such as Baha'i Academic Research Library at

    Bahá'í Academics Resource Library

    And thanks again for posting here!

    - Art:)
     
  8. arthra

    arthra Baha'i

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    Actually Thomas as you can read there are similarities... Spiritually, as you know the teachings of the Manifestations are more similar...while the external ordinances are different.

    - Art:)
     
  9. Seeker_of_truth

    Seeker_of_truth New Member

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    Does anybody have an answer to the question?
     
  10. arthra

    arthra Baha'i

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    I think the reply above was that spiritually the teachings of the Manifestations are similar... What can arise later especially in religions that have split into various denominations is a variety of theologies... So among Christians today depending on who you ask you could get various responses about heaven and hell ...Some Christians believe in a literal hell and others believe it is more a Spiritual condition like the Baha'is. I'm inclined of course to accept the Baha'i view on the subject and there may be a thousand variations depending on who you ask..

    - Art:)
     
  11. Seeker_of_truth

    Seeker_of_truth New Member

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    It is confusing to me why the Bible suggests that punishment is eternal (2 Thes. 1:8-10, Jude 1:7, Luke 16:24, Matt. 25:30,46) while the revelation of Baha'u'llah says the opposite. Why is the idea of a "temporary hell" so to speak or the idea that others can pray for people in "hell" to help them get closer to God alien to a common Christian?
     
  12. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Thomas answered from a Catholic perspective, which is pretty 'common' if you mean common to many Christians. As you can see it has similarities to the Baha'i view. The Calivinist view of eternal hell in flames, no prayer for the dead, all or none kind of thing, is not the prevalent view in Christianity, although at times in the US it sure can seem that way.
     
  13. Seeker_of_truth

    Seeker_of_truth New Member

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    Yeah you're right. I've got only 18 some odd years in this plane of existence i haven't experienced all i could. :rolleyes:
     
  14. arthra

    arthra Baha'i

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    A lot of that depends I think on interpretation ... Some early church fathers like Origen who was very well received held that hell was not eternal so again it depends on which Christians you refer to. For Baha'is the revelation of Baha'u'llah clarifies these issues in a way for us that is not just a theological view.

    - Art
     
  15. BruceDLimber

    BruceDLimber Baha'i

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    Hi, Seeker!

    It should be remembered that religious revelation is progressive over time.

    Just as a two-year-old is told "Stay out of the street!" and a five-year-old is told "Look both ways before crossing," so today's scriptures explain things like the afterlife in more detail than earlier dispensations did.

    IOV this is quite acceptable, and indeed, to be expected!

    Best, :)

    Bruce
     
  16. Popeyesays

    Popeyesays New Member

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    Actually, we believe in p[raying for the advancement of the souls of those who have passed on. We also believe that they pray for us.

    Regards,
    Scott
     
  17. Dah-veeth

    Dah-veeth Abeja Maya

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    I love the topic of the afterlife and have read a lot about near death experiences. I personally like to say there are seven heavens... although there are as many unique spiritual levels as there are people, I believe. People with similar "vibes" will be together, I believe.

    "They that are of the same grade and station are fully aware of one another's capacity, character, accomplishments and merits. They that are of a lower grade, however, are incapable of comprehending adequately the station, or of estimating the merits, of those that rank above them. Each shall receive his share from thy Lord. Blessed is the man that hath turned his face towards God, and walked steadfastly in His love, until his soul hath winged its flight unto God, the Sovereign Lord of all, the Most Powerful, the Ever-Forgiving, the All-Merciful." -Baha'u'llah

    I love this topic so much I have to add these two quotes, also:

    "As to Paradise: It is a reality and there can be no doubt about it, and now in this world it is realized through love of Me and My good-pleasure. Whosoever attaineth unto it God will aid him in this world below, and after death He will enable him to gain admittance into Paradise whose vastness is as that of heaven and earth." -Baha'u'llah

    "Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain." -Baha'u'llah

     
  18. Bruno's logic

    Bruno's logic Agnostic/Panthiest

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    Fear is hell but you don't have to live in fear forever.
    God is existence.
    God is eternal.
    God is infinite.
    God is an atom and a universe all at once.
    God is every thought, every action, every memory, every future…
    There’s only one thing existing, and it is God…

    To have experienced existence even for an instant is to have known God….
    If there’s only one thing existing, then there is no other place to come from, no other place to go….
    Hell is the absolute absence of God…. But there is no other existence other than God…
    How can this be?
    These things, worry and fear, hatred and cruelty, are signs that one is lost in the vast existence of space, that is, the one God existing. To exist in fear is to experience an aspect of God that may very well be a hellish place, but this is not, the absolute absence of God. You may feel alone, that all hope is lost, but you’re still here and you're definitely not alone… It's always your choice to either experience fear or to experience love. To continue on with the rest of us, all of us, in this vast heavenly realm that is Gods space, the one infinite existence, is to experience love .

    If you're in hell, look up out of your misery, your guilt, your shame, your fear. The light is all around you, it has always been within you, let your lovelight shine for you are the light of this world. You're missed when you're bound up in the darkness of fear. God is with you even in your most darkest place…. Look for the light.

    Hell is temporary blindness, temporary numbness, and temporary foolishness of your own choosing.

    Lighten up...
    ~G.Bruno
     
  19. Dah-veeth

    Dah-veeth Abeja Maya

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    Baha'is often say heaven is nearness to God and hell is remoteness from God. Another way of saying that is heaven is the love of God and hell is the opposite. Angels love God, and are thus in Paradise, no matter where they are, because God is Omnipresent.

    "Consider, moreover, how frequently doth man become forgetful of his own self, whilst God remaineth, through His all-encompassing knowledge, aware of His creature, and continueth to shed upon him the manifest radiance of His glory. It is evident, therefore, that, in such circumstances, He is closer to him than his own self. He will, indeed, so remain for ever, for, whereas the one true God knoweth all things, perceiveth all things, and comprehendeth all things, mortal man is prone to err, and is ignorant of the mysteries that lie enfolded within him...." -Baha'u'llah


     
  20. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    Howdy Seeker,

    I think your original question might suggest that the two views being compared are fundamentally different or even irreconcilable. I don't know if they are.

    Some views on Karma (e.g., Krishnamurti) focus on the here and now effects of moral causality rather than future incarnations. Maybe some interpretations of Bahai' doctrine are similar to that in terms of emphasis on the immediacy of moral causality and the ongoingness of spiritual progress through ongoing efforts to become closer to G-d.

    Interestingly, though, I had no trouble finding a passage describing the Bahai' idea of Paradise as a place inhabited by the soul in the afterlife: "Whosoever attaineth unto it God will aid him in this world below, and after death He will enable him to gain admittance into Paradise whose vastness is as that of heaven and earth.... Likewise apprehend thou the nature of hell-fire....."
    ~ Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, "Súriy-i-Vafá", p. 189


    I'm certainly no expert on the Bahai' faith, but the above description could be interpreted to suggest that Paradise and the state of Hell Fire are permanent and final end state. So far I have not seen any passage that specifically rules out hell as a permanent and final end state.

    In this context, don't think the Christian view of (heaven and) hell is necessarily irreconcilable with an emphasis on virtue and resultant divine blessings in the here and now. I think it probably is true that the normative view is that the Bible supports the notion of permanence ("eternal damnation"). However, be aware that there is some question about the adequacy/accuracy of translation of the Bible dealing on what it says about "everlasting punishment." Check this out....

    http://www.tentmaker.org/books/asw/Chapter10.html
     

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