Talking With Members of the Baha’i Faith | John Ankerberg Show

Talking With Members of the Baha’i Faith

By: John Ankerberg Show
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By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©1999
Baha’is have an interpretation of Christianity that is inconsistent with the facts of history,

biblical theology and comparative religion. They may feel justified in their views because
they have the support of “higher critical” scholarship, not realizing that the biased
premises, methods and conclusions of such scholarship also does not have the support of
the facts of history and theology.

Clearly, Baha’is have an interpretation of Christianity that is inconsistent with the facts of
history, biblical theology and comparative religion. They may feel justified in their views
because they have the support of “higher critical” scholarship, not realizing that the biased
premises, methods and conclusions of such scholarship also does not have the support of
the facts of history and theology. Several books demonstrate why this is true, such as our
The Facts on False View of Jesus: Knowing the Truth about the Jesus Seminar; Dr. Gleason
Archer’s A Survey of Old Testament Introduction; Josh McDowell’s More Evidence That
Demands a Verdict and Gundry and Johnson’s Tensions in Contemporary Theology (Revised
Edition).

So one good approach for discussion with a Baha’i concerning Christianity is to show the
person why the New Testament is reliable historically and textually. (See F. F. Bruce’s The
New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?; John Warwick Montgomery’s History and
Christianity; Norman Geisler’s Inerrancy and Rene Pache, The Inspiration and Authority of
Scripture). It should also be shown why the Apostle Paul could not have perverted Jesus’
teachings and did not borrow his ideas from the pagan mystery religions. (See J. Gresham
Machen’s The Origin of Paul’s Religion and John Wenham’s Christ and the Bible.)

Baha’is who truly believe in an “independent investigation of the truth” should, by the data,
concede the bankruptcy of higher criticism and the truth of biblical reliability. As we have
seen, if the Bible is accepted as historically reliable, it is easy to prove that it does not agree
with Baha’i teachings and that the Apostle Paul did not invent the Jesus of the Gospels. Of
course, all this presupposes that we interpret the Bible literally; that is, normally. In that
Baha’is have never once justified their non-literal approach to the Bible, the standard
method of interpreting it must be conceded. At this point, a decision can be pressed based
on the following question: if the Christian interpretation of the Bible is accurate, how can
the Baha’i faith constitute a divine revelation when it has rejected something so important
and witnessed against one of God’s revelations? If Baha’is follow this reasoning logically,
they must conclude Baha’i is not a divine revelation. And if only Jesus has ever risen from
the dead, one would have to assume His religion was the true one.

True Christianity and the Baha’i faith cannot, then, be part of One Truth; at least one
teaching must be wrong. The Baha’i has a choice between a man who claimed to be a
prophet of God without offering any evidence, Baha’u’llah, or a person who claimed to be
God incarnate and provided evidence of this by resurrecting physically from the dead.
Further, can a Baha’i in good conscience really compare men like the Bab and Baha’u’llah
(especially in light of Miller’s findings) to the Jesus Christ of the New Testament? Are they
proud of either their syncretistic endeavors or the biased writings of their apologists? Since
Baha’is claim consistently to respect history and reason, isn’t it the Baha’i religion itself that
is an embarrassment?

Baha’is often have a strong emotional investment in the Baha’i ideals—world peace,
brotherhood, racial equality and so on, which is all very good. The problem is they do not
want to see these ideals “lost” by an “independent investigation of the truth” that would
undermine the very organization promoting them. In effect, if emotion holds sway over
reason, they will be unwilling to undertake an unbiased personal look at both sides of the
question concerning a normal reading of the New Testament documents and the
relationship between Baha’i and original Christianity. At this point one must assist
members to understand that truth found late is better than truth not found at all. If an
independent investigation of the truth leads them to reject Baha’i, then the ideal still stands
even if the religion espousing it does not. This exchange is not something bad if it leads to
genuine truth. It might be appropriate to assist their independent investigation—not with a
Bible study only but with a weekly study about the Bible or hermeneutics. They could study
one Bible topic or chapter for a week (or month) along with discussion of one chapter a
week in, for instance, F. F. Bruce’s The New Testament Documents, or McDowell’s More than
a Carpenter or a simple text on Bible interpretation. A discussion of additional supporting
evidence could be included, as in the less exhaustive chapters in McDowell’s Evidence That
Demands a Verdict or our Ready with an Answer. As their trust in the “integrity” of the
Baha’i position weakens, it can perhaps be replaced with a growing trust in Jesus’ words.

Baha’is, like all people, are aware of their limitations. So even Baha’u’llah can be quoted, but
used in a Christian context: “It is the waywardness of the heart that removeth it far from
God and condemneth it to remoteness from him.”[1] The Baha’i God declares, “The best
beloved of all things in My sight is Justice.”[2] “Waywardness of heart” and its solution could
lead to a discussion of sin and its remedy. “Justice” could lead to a discussion of Baha’i
syncretism, or to a discussion of whether divine justice is avoidable. Do Baha’is honestly
believe that they can perfect themselves, or that a holy God can forgive them without
judgment of their sins? Do they understand the severity of God’s justice and the immensity
of human sin before Him, that God is so holy that it required the tortured death of His Son?
Further, does the Baha’i member believe in his heart he or she can attain to any of the
following?

  1. knowledge of God
  2. love of God
  3. faith
  4. philanthropic deeds
  5. self-sacrifice
  6. severance from the world
  7. living in the utmost state of sanctity and holiness

But this is what they must attain: “Unless he acquires these forces and attains to these
requirements he will surely be deprived of the life that is eternal.”[3] But how can Baha’is
attain knowledge and love of God when their God is inherently self-contradictory?

How much simpler, yet more profound, is the Gospel, in which eternal life comes by simple
faith in Jesus Christ, who said: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only
Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). That
Gospel also has power to transform a life for righteous living, as it has done for two
millennia.

On the other hand, if Baha’is reject an “independent investigation of the truth” how can they
claim to be good Baha’is? If they understand the dictionary definition of “independent” and
follow accepted principles of independent investigation (such as objective assessment of
the evidence), they will be required to reject Baha’i religion.

Here is another point of possible dialogue. Baha’is believe that Christians have rejected God.
They decry the fact that the prophets, especially Baha’u’llah, have not been accepted by
Christians. Baha’u’llah stressed, “Whoso turneth away from them, hath turned away from
God, and whoso disbelieveth in them, hath disbelieved in God.”[4] Let us accept the argument
for a moment. Christians deny Baha’u’llah. But Baha’is also teach, “If we deny one of the
Manifestations of God we deny all.”[5] Now, the truth is that Baha’is deny Christ. If we are
fair, we must be willing to accept that. Therefore, they deny Baha’u’llah. Only illogical
reasoning or a biased refusal to accept the integrity of the Gospels can change this
conclusion.

Jesus claimed that His words were relevant for all time (Matt. 24:35), and He said, “No man
comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). If His words are relevant today, then neither
followers of Baha’u’llah, nor one who is a Christian, can accept Baha’u’llah without denying
Jesus. And to deny one prophet is to deny all, which must also be to deny Baha’u’llah.
Baha’is own doctrine thus forces them to deny Baha’u’llah. Since they will not see this on
their own, it could be pointed out to them.

Their only solution to this dilemma is to deny Christ’s words as being His own. However,
then they are no longer engaging in “independent investigation of truth,” as they have no
historical or factual basis on which to discount the Gospels.

It is not that we oppose the right of the Baha’is to believe in and propagate a new religion to
which we disagree. It is their disregard for the proven teachings of other religions that is
difficult to accept in light of their support for ideals such as tolerance and “independent
investigation of the truth.” Let them truly engage in this, and see if they can remain Baha’is.

If Baha’is were truly pro-Islam, would Muslims kill them as heretics? It is a horrendous sin
to kill a brother in the faith according to the Qur’an, although it is right to kill heretics.
Likewise, if Baha’is were truly pro-Christian, would Christians everywhere reject their
claims concerning Christianity?

One might also ask a Baha’i believer to place himself or herself in the position of a Christian,
that they may more easily see the problem their approach presents. For example, on their
own terms Baha’is accept the Gospels as teaching Baha’i truths, but they reject the Pauline
Epistles as distortions of Jesus’ teachings, even though from day one Paul’s writings were
believed to have been divinely inspired, as Peter testified (2 Pet. 3:15-16). In other words,
they are merely refuting their contrived gross distortion of Christianity. Would Baha’is be
content if Christians accepted only their Aqdas, The Most Holy Book, and distorted it to
teach Christian doctrine and then rejected the rest of their holy scriptures as spurious?
Would this be fair? If we were to approach the Baha’i faith in the same way Baha’is
approach Christianity, would it not be easy for Christians to simply disregard other Baha’i
scriptures as “perversions” of the original Aqdas and then misrepresent the Baha’i religion
as teaching Christianity through citing only the Aqdas?

If Baha’is would not permit such an approach by a Christian, how then can Baha’is accept it
for themselves? Indeed, isn’t it also true that if we were to accept only the Aqdas and
interpret it properly (literally), that a far more critical and grimmer picture of Baha’i could
then be painted?[6] Would Baha’is be pleased if Christians accepted their Aqdas literally and
ignored their other scripture, forcing Baha’ism into the mold of an antiquated religion? So,
if Christians have respected the Baha’i faith by declaring its doctrines correctly, why can’t
Baha’is grant Christians the same courtesy?

Because Baha’i is a religion that denies the truth and ignores an independent investigation
of the truth, we would, first, simply urge Baha’i’s to listen once more to their own prophets:
Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness, progress and
success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul…. You must live and act with
the utmost truthfulness… let truthfulness and courtesy be your adorning. Be fair to
yourselves and to others that the evidences of Justice may be revealed through your deeds
among our faithful servants.”[7]

In light of this emphasis on the vital importance of truth, we have two questions. First, why
do ‘Abdu’l-Baha and the Baha’i prophets subvert the truth by misquoting the Bible by
changing its words[8] or by deletion? For example, ‘Abdu’l-Baha leaves out the third clause of
John 1:1, and quotes the verse only as declaring, “In the beginning was the Word and the
Word was with God.” Why is “and the Word was God” deleted?[9] If he was infallible, as he
claimed, why did he misquote the Bible by carelessness?[10] Or was it deliberately
misquoted? Was ‘Abdu’l-Baha truthful, and if not, what are the implications? As Gloria Faizi
correctly warned: “It would be foolish, of course, to accept anyone as God’s Mouthpiece on
earth without being absolutely sure of his station.”[11]

The second question relative to the importance of truth is this: are not all spiritual truths
eternal? Baha’is divide each prophet’s revelation into two parts: the essential and eternal,
and the non-essential and temporal.[12] All religions teach key doctrines that they claim as
essential and eternal. But Baha’i ignores these claims of the other religions and argues that
the central doctrines of other religions are really just peripheral. On what logical, historical
or other basis does Baha’i “reinvent” the vital teachings of other religions as “nonessential
and temporal”? Would Baha’is ever permit such a distortion to be implemented upon their
own revelation, so that all their essential and eternal truths become non-essential and
temporal throwaways? If they did, could they remain Baha’is?

Perhaps the Baha’is have some house-cleaning to attend to? If the Baha’i faith is to continue
to claim that it treats other scriptures and religions fairly, it should undertake that housecleaning
as a matter of some urgency. Further, in light of our analysis in this chapter,
Baha’is should clearly reconsider ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s assessment that “religion must be in
harmony with science and reason. If it does not conform to science and reconcile with
reason it is superstition.”[13] In his Portals to Freedom, Howard Ives, a Unitarian ministerconvert
to Baha’i, also quoted Abdu’l-Baha as stating, “If religion is opposed to reason and
science, faith is impossible” and, “It were better to have no religion than a religion which
did not conform to reason.” He also prided himself on the fact that “the first principle under
which the consistent Baha’i thinker acts is ‘the independent investigation of truth.’”[14]

The simple fact is that Baha’i approach to religion is opposed to reason. By its own
principles, then, the Baha’i World Faith stands condemned as superstition and it would be
better for Baha’is to have no religion.

Finally, we would urge Baha’is to listen to the words of Jesus, as their own prophet
Baha’u’llah told them to. “If you reflect upon the essential teachings of Jesus you will realize
that they are the light of the world. Nobody can question their truth. They are the very
source of life and the cause of happiness to the human race.”[15] Here are some of the
essential teachings of Jesus, and as Baha’u’llah said, “Nobody can question their truth”:

You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a
king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify
to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father
except through me.” (John 14:6)

As the Apostle John declared:

No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the
Father also. (1 John 2:23)

We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the
testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son
of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made
him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about
his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his
Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have
life. (1 John 5:9-13)

We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. (1 John 2:3)
In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He
who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who
loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to
him. (John 14:20-21 NAS)

If Baha’is truly wish to know God and be known by God, they need to listen more carefully
to the words of Jesus and truly perform “an independent investigation of the truth.” As their
own prophet said, “God has bestowed upon man the gift of mind in order that he may
weight every fact or truth presented to him and adjudge it to be reasonable.”[16]

Scripture Contrasts

The process of His creation that had no beginning and can have no end.[17] Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, in all their vast array. (Gen. 2:1; cf. 2:2-3, 1:1)
This universe has no beginning.[18] In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen. 1:1)
The Greatest name, Baha’u’llah.[19] Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9-11 NAS)
The Church gave pride of place not to his [Jesus’] faith but to a faith in him which he had not preached.[20] For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me…. This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He had sent. (John 5:46; 6:29, see context NAS)
So we can say that there must be a Mediator between God and man, and this is none other than the Holy Spirit.[21] For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time. (1 Tim. 2:3-4 NAS)
All of you were created from water and you will return to the earth.[22] The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Gen. 2:7)


NOTES

  1. Shoghi Effendi, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah (Wilmette, IL: Bahia Publishing Trust, 1976), p.
    186.
  2. Ibid., p. viii.
  3. Mable Hyde Pain, The Divine Art of Living (Wilmette, IL: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1974), p. 19.
  4. Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith (Wilmette, IL: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1976), p. 21.
  5. Pain, p. 114, citing ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions (Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1930), p. 269.
  6. See Huschmand Sabet, The Heavens Are Cleft Asunder (Oxford, England: George Ronald Publishing, 1975), p.
    120.
  7. Pain, pp. 78-79.
  8. Abdu’l-Baha, Christ’s Promise Fulfilled (Wilmette, IL: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1978), p. 30.
  9. Ibid., p. 58.
  10. Ibid., pp. 61, 17.
  11. Gloria Faizi, The Baha’i Faith: An Introduction (Wilmette, IL: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1978), p. 37.
  12. J. E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era (Wilmette, IL: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1970), p. 125.
  13. Baha’i World Faith, p. 247.
  14. Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom (Oxford, England: George Ronald, 1983), pp. 171-172.
  15. Baha’i World Faith, p. 250.
  16. Ives, Portals to Freedom, p. 172.
  17. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 61.
  18. ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Christ’s Promise Fulfilled, p. 67.
  19. Ibid., p. 54.
  20. Sabet, p. 114.
  21. Pain, p. 43.
  22. Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book), Elder-Miller, trans. (London: Royal Asiatic Society Oriental Translation Fund, NS, 1961), p. 63.

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