|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©1999|
| Baha’is have no solution to the problem of sin. Baha’i forgiveness of sin and salvation rests
upon personal merit and law-keeping. From a biblical perspective, there is little or no understanding of the human impossibility of keeping God’s law or the holy wrath of God against sin.
Salvation by Works
Baha’u’llah reputedly “ascended in ‘Akka in 1892, His Revelation completed, His Mission fulfilled.” Baha’is rejoice that their greatest Manifestation had fulfilled his mission. But like the followers of Sun Myung Moon, they will teach Christians that Jesus Christ did not fulfill His mission, because His mission was never as Christians interpreted it. God intended Jesus only to be one of many Manifestations, but not a divine Savior. When Christians teach about Christ’s death atoning for the world’s sin (1 John 2:2), this is something Jesus never intended to do, never could do and never did do.
Thus, as far as the Baha’i concept of salvation is concerned, Baha’is have no solution to the problem of sin. Baha’i forgiveness of sin and salvation rests upon personal merit and law-keeping. From a biblical perspective, there is little or no understanding of the human impossibility of keeping God’s law or the holy wrath of God against sin. Udo Schaefer, in his rejection of “Paul’s” doctrine of justification by faith alone, never deals with the key issues of how one logically achieves a right standing before God and forgiveness of sins when one is a sinner who cannot keep the Law. Note, for example, the following statement by Schaefer glorifying the merits of the Law as a means of salvation. Faith is said to be powerless because Baha’i “is a religion of the Law”:
Belief alone has no power to bring salvation. That demands responsive action, forthe greater the effort, the more faithfully will man “reflect the glory of the names and attributes of God”.... The Baha’i Faith is a religion of the Law.... For “the essence of faith is fewness of words and abundance of deeds.” From the Law man discovers what he owes God. And only in striving to fulfil the Law does he come into the right relationship with God.
Schaefer digs the grave deeper by declaring that the Law must be kept inwardly as well as outwardly, and that it is thus logically impossible for an individual to know that he or she is saved:
But the Law is not satisfied by being literally fulfilled, by a mere external legality; it demands to be carried out from inner devotion: “Walk in My statutes for love of Me.”... No believer can be sure of God’s acceptance of his works and aware of his state in God’s eyes: “He [the true believer] should forgive the sinful, and never despise his low estate, for none knoweth what his own end shall be.”... In view of the fact that every man falls short of the demands of the Law and thereby falls into sin, what happens about the “Justification” before God? The answer is that justification does not take place—no one is just except God—because, as explained, the purpose of the Law is not to justify the individual before God, but to make him holy in carrying it out. God’s forgiveness goes to the man who strives with all his might and with all his heart to obey the demands of the Law.... In the Qur’an, too, we are assured: “If you avoid the great sins, which are forbidden to you, We will cover your smaller sins and lead you in honour into Paradise.”
Clearly, however, the Bible rejects the Baha’i view of salvation through law-keeping:
I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. (John 6:47)
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. (Rom.3:28)
Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. (Gal. 2:16)
All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” (Gal. 3:10)
…he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5)
Baha’i stresses salvation by works because it has no other means of salvation. It denies the mediatorial atonement of Christ (1 John 2:2), seeing such “sacrifice” as a “service characteristic” of the prophets, and even of the prophet’s disciples. Note Baha’u’llah’s teaching:
That which thou hast heard concerning Abraham, the Friend of the All-Merciful, isthe truth, and no doubt is there about it. The Voice of God commanded Him to offer up Ishmael [sic; this is the Muslim teaching] as a sacrifice.... The purpose of God, moreover, was to sacrifice him as a ransom for the sins and iniquities of all the peoples of the earth. This same honor, Jesus, the Son of Mary, besought the one true God, exalted be His name and glory, to confer upon Him. For the same reason was Husayn offered up as a sacrifice by Muhammad, the Apostle of God.
That this “ransom” is not literal is evident from the emphasis upon works-salvation as wellas from the Baha’i denial of Christian teaching generally. Thus Sabet informs us: “For theBaha’is it would make no difference to the station of Christ... if He had not been crucifiedbut had [died]... by stoning or a normal death.... The Baha’is cannot conceive of a Deity who prescribes for man an unconditional love of neighbour and enemy, but who is Himself unable to forgive unless He has had ‘satisfaction’… through the blood of His son.”
In a similar vein, Udo Schaefer’s approach is typical of the Baha’i approach to biblical theology generally. Using the biased “insights” of higher critical methods and liberal theologians, he tells us that we cannot really say anything certain about Jesus, and this obviously includes anything about the atonement. Sabet tells us just what we might expect: that such higher critical theology “is bringing results irreconcilable with the Church’s teaching positions but remarkably in accord with the teachings of the Baha’i Faith.” (In The Facts on False Views of Jesus, we refuted higher critical methods, showing their historical and theological deficiency.) Nevertheless, in a teaching reminiscent of the Holy Order of Mans and Unity, Baha’u’llah did teach that Christ’s death somehow “infused” the creation with spiritual energy: “a fresh capacity was infused into all created things.” But no more.
Finally, Baha’is either misunderstand or ignore the biblical concept of spiritual rebirth (regeneration), reinterpreting it to “confirm” Baha’i doctrine. Thus Baha’u’llah says being “born again” is belief in the Manifestations, and a Baha’i book for children, God and His Messengers, under the section “The Message of Jesus,” declares: “So that’s what being born again means. It means your spirit comes to know God because of His Messengers.... That’s why it’s so important to try hard in this world. Because if you try hard here, and are loving and good, you will be born again and go to heaven one day, where you will be closer to God, and will even see His beautiful Messengers.”
Again, Baha’is may claim “tolerance” and “non-finality” even for their own religion, but in fact they are intolerant and absolutist. If people want the truth, at least for the next thousand years or so, they must listen to Baha’u’llah. As Baha’u’llah gushed over the greatness of his own person: “Empty thyself of all learning, that thou mayest partake of My knowledge.... Blind thine eyes, that is, to all save My beauty; stop thine ears to all save My word; empty thyself of all learning save the knowledge of Me.... Seek none other than Me.... quaff the stream of mystic holiness from My sugar-shedding lips.”
Man, Sin, the Fall
In Baha’i, all men are “sons of the Supreme Being,” capable of perfecting themselves. ‘Abdu’l-Baha said that “all the souls are created according to the nature of God and all are in the state of purity at the times of their births.” Thus for Baha’is there is no original sin. Sabet claims, “Original sin in its present sense and content did not become dogma until the sixteenth century.” Udo Schaefer maintains that the biblical Fall is merely an allegory and the idea of original sin a “corruption” by the Apostle Paul. Sabet does at least acknowledge the reason for the Baha’i rejection of scriptural teaching when he admits that Baha’is “could never accept the logic of the doctrine of original sin, which would make all men sinners, including saints and prophets.” But this is exactly the teaching of Jesus and the Bible (Matt. 7:20-23; Rom. 3; 5:12-19). Which biblical prophet—or prophet of any religion—was without sin?
Reminiscent of Gnosticism, the Baha’i teaching declares that man has a pure and perfect spiritual nature, but that the physical nature “is the source of all imperfection.” Biblically, however, man’s physical being is fallen, but it is not the source of “all imperfection.” The source of all imperfection is man’s inner being, as Christ taught (Mark 7:20-23). Man’s whole nature is corrupted—mind, emotions, will and so on. Thus people sin, because their innermost nature is sinful, and therefore all are sinners.
Baha’is believe that all of man’s imperfections can eventually “be transformed into human perfections.” If man is born perfect and only “learns” sin, he can “unlearn” it and regain original perfection. This explains why Baha’i teaches that people need no Savior. Udo Schaefer tells us, “Jesus too knows nothing of the total corruption of man.” If true, this would mean Jesus died on the Cross for nothing.
The Baha’i believes in a personal immortality based on good works, with rewards for the faithful. Beyond that, little appears to be said. Nevertheless, what is said is once again difficult to reconcile with the Baha’i acceptance of all religions and its religious tolerance. For instance, Baha’i strongly reject reincarnation, which is accepted by hundreds of millions of Hindus and Buddhists, and they also reject the Christian concept of heaven and hell. Heaven and hell are more conditions of positive and negative actions, not places. “For the Baha’is, hell signifies remoteness from God, and heaven, nearness to Him.” “Hell,” perhaps, would constitute a very slow progression toward God; “heaven” would involve a rapid progression towards God. While hell as a place sometimes seems to be referred to by Baha’u’llah, it is often denied by Baha’is, probably because Baha’u’llah characteristically spoke of it symbolically, as he did of heaven. “Heaven and Hell: These are not places. Heaven is knowing about God and doing what He wants. Hell is not knowing about God or not doing what He wants. A person who is happy and is obeying God is in heaven. A person is in hell when he dislikes others or himself, or is always unhappy.”
Baha’is also offer a “second chance” for salvation after death. Prayer for the dead is recommended and specific prayers are offered. The living can pray for the dead, and when the living die they can continue to pray for those dead who are less advanced spiritually, so that “they can make progress.” The dead can also progress by means of their own prayers, especially if a Manifestation prays for them.
Whether people should look forward to death, or fear it, is uncertain. Thus, some teachings indicate that death will be “better” for almost all and worse for some. But generally speaking, everyone will progress at some point after death. Also, a kind of mediumistic view of development after death is taught. However, the Christian doctrine of bodily resurrection tends to be rejected.