May 6, 2009

Responding to a Baha'i

Today, instead of our usual Ask Anything Wednesday, I wanted to briefly interact with someone who commented on my recent blog post Visiting the Bahá’í House of Worship. He wrote the following:

Dear John,
I enjoyed your article and appreciate that you presented the Bahá’í beliefs accurately from your viewpoint. I just want to testify to you that good Christians can and do become Bahá’ís without losing Christ. The early, and modern, Jews were also accused of abandoning the Jewish faith when they embraced Christ. They in fact were embracing the purpose of the Jewish Faith as you know. This example shows how “traditional” views and doctrines may become a barrier to accepting God’s Messiah or Manifestation. One has to return to the Bible itself and understand God’s methods in the past.

Why did the Jews reject Christ? They knew their scriptures, prophecies and promises very well. Their Messiah was expected to “sit on the throne of David,” vanquish the enemies of the Jews, be a descendent of David and bring world peace. The prophet Elijah was also expected to return and prepare the way. By taking these prophecies “literally,” they missed their Messiah. Was John the Baptist the return of Elijah? Jesus said that he was.

The return of Christ in the Person of Bahá’u’lláh can be understood using the same analogy. This alone doesn’t prove that He was Christ returned, but it opens the door to a new way of investigating the Bible concerning this most important subject. I am from a Christian background and am a first generation American Bahá’í. I would be happy to dialogue with you concerning the Biblical evidence that Bahá’u’lláh is genuine.


Harlan, I want to thank you for your kind words as well as your interest in discussing the question “Who is Christ?” A more important question cannot be asked!

However, you’ve already shown your guiding authority in interpreting Scripture: Bahá’u’lláh. How do you know that we should see as symbolic the biblical teaching of Christ as God incarnate? How do you know that Christ’s return was fulfilled in Bahá’u’lláh? It’s by first accepting Bahá’u’lláh’s claim to be a true prophet of God. You must read Scripture with him as an already existing authority to understand the Bible in a way that fits with your beliefs. You’ve “stacked the deck,” finding Bahá’u’lláh where you expect and want him to be.

Christians interpret the Bible differently. We seek to understand the Scriptures in their grammatical and historical context to determine the original meaning of the text. This isn’t a question of Jew (OT literal) vs. Christian (OT symbolic/NT literal) vs. Bahá’í (OT and NT symbolic) way of understanding Scripture as you suggest. Rather, it’s a question of how we properly interpret the Bible. In theological terms, it’s the study of hermeneutics. Until you and I can come to an agreement on how we’re supposed to interpret the Bible, a discussion of specific texts would yield little fruit.

It’s exactly at this point that you’re merely making an assertion about interpreting Scripture symbolically because of your commitment to Bahá’u’lláh. I ask you to come to the Bible asking what God has revealed through what the writers of Scripture themselves intended to say. If you do so, then you will open yourself to God’s truth that directs us to the God-man, Jesus Christ, and His redeeming work.

Good Christians cannot and will not become Bahá’ís without losing Christ. Christ cannot be demoted to the level of human prophets. He is the prophet, as well as priest and king. All other true prophets direct us to Him. Bahá’u’lláh was a false prophet. I pray that you will recognize this fact and believe in the One who reconciles us with our Creator.