The General claims of Baha’i Faith
February 20, 2012 2 Comments
The conception on which Bahaism bases its claim is false. Truth does not grow old, nor is it possible to change the religion with the growth of the race. A universal religion must present truth in a form that will reach men in every stage of civilization, for the reason that in every period of the world since the dawn of history there have been simultaneously men in every stage of intellectual development.—W. A. Shedd in “Miss. Review of the World.”
It (Bahaism) has not enough assurance of personal immortality to satisfy such Western minds as are repelled by the barren and jejune ethical systems of agnostics, positivists, and humanitarians who would give us rules to regulate a life which they have rendered meaningless.—Professor Browne in Phelps’ “Life of Abbas Effendi,” p. xviii.
The essence of being a Bahai is a boundless devotion to the person of the Manifestation and a profound belief that he is divine and of a different order from all other beings.—Professor Browne, Art. “Bab” in Ency. of Religion and Ethics.
The claims of Bahaism are many and varied. They cover a wide range. I will first consider its general claims and of these the most significant.
First of all, Bahais claim that a new religion is needed. All the great religions, they say, were true in their day; not only Moses, Christ, and Mohammed, but Zoroaster, Confucius, and Buddha were Divine Manifestations, and revealed God’s truth. But now the old religions are dead. Abdul Baha says: “The Spirit has passed away from the bodies of the old religions. While the forms of their doctrines remain, the Spirit has fled.” “The principles of the religion of Christ have been forgotten. It is then clear and evident that in the passage of time religions become entirely changed. Therefore they are renewed.”
“There is to-day nothing more than traditions to feed upon…. The world of humanity is in the dark.” One chapter in Thornton Chase’s “The Bahai Revelation” is headed “The Bahai Revelation is needed.” This he argues, stating that Christianity is condemned because after 1900 years it has not been accepted by all people; because it refuses to reject miracles and the blood atonement and will not confine itself to the “principles of Jesus,” as the Brahma Samaj; because it tends to separate peoples, holding itself to be the only religion authorized by God; because people are dwelling in bondage and are no longer satisfied. Tares are many and Baha Ullah must come and uproot them. “The old order of things is passing away,” says Sprague; “people are being tossed about with every wind of doctrine.” “True religion is forgotten,” says Phelps, “or has become a hollow name; faith has waned, men are wandering in the dark.” This decay, they teach, is inevitable and in accord with divine arrangement.
They deny the belief of Christians that Christianity is the permanent religion of humanity; and that of Moslems, that Mohammed was the “seal of the prophets,” and hold that Christianity was succeeded by Islam, Islam by Babism, and Babism by Bahaism. Abdul Baha says: “Time changes all things. Transmutation and change are requirements of life. All religions of God are subject to the same law. They are founded in order to blossom out and develop and fulfill their mission. They reach their zenith and then decline and come to an end.” “A new cycle must begin, for the world needs a new luminary.”
It is not necessary to refute the fundamental fallacy of this first claim, for it is patent that Christianity is alive and growing. Its manifold spiritual activities, its varied and progressive efforts for righteousness and peace among men, for social and moral reforms, its zeal for Missions and their marvellous success, show that Christianity is neither stagnant nor dead. It has a forward triumphant movement. The Church renews its strength from its divine Head; He, alive forevermore, is its Light and its Life.
Bahaism claims to be the divine Revelation in this new cycle—a new Dispensation or Covenant. It disclaims being a new religion, affirming rather that it is a renewal of religion or religion renewed.
One writes: “The Revelation is not a new religion, but the very essence of God’s word as taught by Christ (and Moses and Mohammed), but not perceived by Christians at large” (nor by Jews nor Mohammedans).
Baha’ullah says: “Of the utterances of the prophets of the past we have taken the essence, and in the garment of brevity clothed it.” Abdul Baha says: “The same basis, which was laid by Christ and later on forgotten, has been renewed by Baha Ullah.” “All that is true in all religions will stand; by the new Dispensation, new spirit is infused into these teachings.”
Phelps says: “The body of doctrine which Bahaism teaches is not put forward in any sense or particular as new, but as a unification and synthesis of all other religions.” Of its system of morals the same is true. It is a restatement in unsystematic form of common ethics. It reiterates the second table of the Mosaic Law, and the New Testament principles of brotherly love and unity.
Yet in some of his addresses Abdul Baha names certain principles as new in the Bahai faith, such as universal peace, the unity of humanity, arbitration, compulsory education of both sexes, the harmony of science and religion, the evil of prejudice and fanaticism, need of investigating the truth, etc. Not one of these is new; not one owes its position in the world of thought or activity to the Bahai propaganda. But whether Bahaism claims to be new in its principles or disclaims it, in fact it is a new religion. The disavowals are, no doubt, made for the sake of obtaining easier access to the followers of the old religions, and are only a temporary expediency. In this they are simply following the example of Mohammed, who proclaimed his message to the people of Arabia as the religion of Abraham, and as the same as that of the Law and the Gospels. But it is evident that Bahaism is inconsistent with Christianity, as indeed with Islam. Bahais’ claims, if admitted, would lead to the superseding of Christianity. This will appear when I state its doctrines.
The present attitude of Bahais in maintaining connection with Christian Churches and at the same time worshipping Baha and propagating Bahaism is one of intellectual stultification or of moral blindness. In the same way, in Moslem lands, Bahais conform to the externals of Islam. In the case of the latter the cause of this is often moral obliquity or fear; with deceived Christian brethren it is probably ignorance; by the Bahai propagandist it is allowed from astute policy. It is an intellectual impossibility for one to accept the teachings of Baha Ullah and to be his disciple and at the same time to be an intelligent disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one excludes the other.
Bahaism is a distinct religion. It is not even a sect of Islam. It abrogates and annuls it. Professor Browne says: “As Christianity is a different religion from Judaism, and as Islam is distinct from Christianity, so Bahaism is a separate religion, distinct from Christianity or Islam.” It even superseded and abrogated Babism. The Bab has been relegated to the background, and put into the position of a John the Baptist. His book, the “Bayan,” is long ago neglected to such an extent that Professor Browne had difficulty in obtaining a copy in Persia. Remey says: “Babism fulfilled its purpose, and when this was accomplished in the appearance of Bahaullah, it, as such, ceased to exist.” Mirza Abul Fazl says: Babism “is not the same religion or creed as Bahaism.”