Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Resurrection: Baha'i and Christianity - Written by Guest Blogger Donald Schellberg

I watched a you-tube video of a debate between some fellow Baha'is and representatives of the triforce ministries. Although, the Baha'is handled themselves well, it was like watching the Iranian national soccer team challenge the Dallas Cowboys to an American football game hosted in Dallas. The debate was solely focused on Christian orthodoxy, the physical resurrection of Jesus and his physical second coming. As the Baha'is explained their view that Baha'ullah was the second coming of the Christ Spirit, the pastor countered with the passage from John:

"The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you."

and from Acts:

"And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."

The pastor had a point, Baha'ullah did not come with the wounds of Christ nor did he come in a cloud. Like all other religious figures in the history of mankind, He came from a physical place (Iran). I went back to my Bible to find other quotes regarding the second coming and I found the following:

1. It shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people... and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name. (Isaiah)

2. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

3. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. (Mathew)

4. And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. (Revelation)

5. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. (Revelation)

So even though the Pastor was correct in the passages of John he seemed to be incorrect in the other passages. The Jews have already returned to Israel, which makes sense to Baha'is because Baha'ullah was sent there by the Ottoman Empire in 1868, well before the Zionist movement. The quotes from Mathew seem to indicate that some kind of discernment is needed to discern the true Prophet from the false Prophet. If it were as simple as just waiting for Jesus to descend upon a cloud, no discernment is really necessary. The lightning coming from the west(this is actually the reverse of the weather patterns, in Israel storms follow the jet stream) also seems to contradict the part of descending from above. This, however, is fulfilled by Baha'ullah who was born in Iran, the west, and was exiled by Persia and the Ottoman empire to Palestine, the east. The quotes from Revelation also support Baha'ullah's claim, He came with a new name and he was like unto the Son of God, or in my view, He was Christ like.

So, all in all, both sides were somewhat correct but neither were they perfect because there are contradictions that have to resolved through some sort of interpretation and analysis. As a Baha'i, I come back to Acts and Jesus descending from the cloud. This clearly shuts the door on any future Prophets of God, Mohammad or Baha'ullah, unless there is some other explanation of this pretty straight-forward verse. I really don't have any, other than the author was trying to convey a spiritual reality in the form of a parable. In this case the clouds represent the obstacles of recognizing the divinity of Christ, the fact that he came from a known, inconsequential place, that he did not fulfill Jewish expectations of a political Messiah, that he died, in their eyes, a shameful death reserved for criminals. At the time of Jesus' crucifixion he really didn't seem Godlike. For the first one hundred years after his crucifixion, his followers barely numbered in the thousands, and yet such a small and inconsequential Jewish sect became the largest religion on the face of the earth whose followers number in the billions. Perhaps the idea of the supreme spiritual power of Christ masked in a cloak of physicality is not so far-fetched after all.

Donald Schellberg Bio:I was born in 1951.  When I was 3 I was one of the last people in the US to contract polio.  I was hospitalized for 1 year, for intense physical therapy because I was paralyzed until age 4.  I grew up in an affluent neighborhood of Long Island, my father was not a church going man, but my mother was a fairly religious Irish Catholic.  I became a member of the Baha'i Faith when I was 20 because of my belief of the essential oneness of all faiths.  When I was 25 years old I went to Panama to work on several Baha'i projects, the most notable of which was Radio Baha'i in Chiriqui which was the first organization to broadcast radio programs in the Guaymie language.  I returned to the United States in 1994 where I have worked as a software engineer until the present time.  In 2012 I had open heart surgery to fix a leaky mitral valve (a condition caused by a disease I caught in Panama) but  I have made a complete recovery.  I have three college age children, Melanie, Christopher, and Stephanie.  I tend to be a non literalist when studying religious faiths and am attracted to the mystical side.  I believe the physical world is a dim reflection of the spiritual.


Sheima said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your story. I admire your faith and belief in the unity of humankind.

Pqtrick Connors said...

Perhaps this prophet was a sort of incarnation of christ. Maybe such a thing was edited out of the bible. The gnostic christains believed in reincarnation. This is retorical but maybe.

Pqtrick Connors said...

Perhaps this prophet was a sort of incarnation of christ. Maybe such a thing was edited out of the bible. The gnostic christains believed in reincarnation. This is retorical but maybe.

Pqtrick Connors said...

Perhaps this prophet was a sort of incarnation of christ. Maybe such a thing was edited out of the bible. The gnostic christains believed in reincarnation. This is retorical but maybe.

Donald Schellberg said...

Patrick, Baha'is don't believe in reincarnation per se, but rather the return of the qualities of a form. For example, there is a tomato plant that grew spontaneously in my garden. In one way it is the same type of plant that grew there last year but it is not the same plant. Baha'u'llah is not the return of the personality of Christ, but rather those qualities that characteriza a Prophet. He is a distinct personality but with similar Attributes and Qualities.

Jan said...

I am curious to know if B Hai faith would allow association with members who are not in their religious group?

Donald Schellberg said...

Jan, Yes we welcome all people. Some people participate for years in Baha'i activities without becoming a Baha'i. The Baha'i Faith has no clergy and guidance is done through democratically elected assemblies. Every community where there are nine or more adult Baha'is elect a Local Spiritual Assembly, every year Baha'is throughout a country elect the nine members of the National Spiritual Assembly. Every 5 years members of all National Spiritual Assemblies gather to elect the world governing body located in Haifa, Israel, the Universal House of Justice. To participate in the administrative activities (i.e. elections), one must be a Baha'i, all other activities are open to all people.