Please Help Us Keep These Thousands of Blog Posts Growing and Free for All
Delve into the interplay between Christian Evangelism and the Baha’i Faith. Uncover shared spiritual principles, unique characteristics, and the dialogue between these two world religions. Whether you’re a scholar, a believer, or a curious reader, this article illuminates the mutual respect and understanding at the heart of interfaith conversations.
The Baha’i Faith and Its Pursuit of Global Unity
Emerging as an independent faith rather than a sect of Islam, the Baha’i religion is a derivative of the Babi religion. Originating in Persia (present-day Iran) in 1844, the Babi religion was a sect that branched off from Shia Islam. The founder of the Babi faith was Mirza Ali Mohammad of Shiraz, who declared himself as the Babi or “the Gate” and the Imam-Mahdi, a rightly guided leader from Muhammad’s lineage. His revolutionary religious stance led to his execution by Persian authorities in 1850.
In 1863, Mirza Hoseyn Ali Nuri, a notable Babi, announced himself as “He whom God will make manifest,” as foretold by the Babi. Adopting the name Baha’u’llah, which translates to “Glory of God,” he established a new faith known as the Baha’i religion.
After being exiled from Persia, Baha’u’llah was ultimately imprisoned in Acco (now Acre, Israel). There, he penned his major work, al-Kitab al-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book), and expounded the Baha’i faith into a comprehensive doctrine. Following Baha’u’llah’s death, the faith’s leadership was succeeded by his son, Abdul Baha, then his great-grandson, Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, and in 1963, the elected administrative body, the Universal House of Justice.
Baha’is profess that God revealed Himself through “Divine Manifestations” including Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, the Babi, and Baha’u’llah. They believe these messengers were sent to guide humanity through an evolving process. The appearance of the Babi marked a new epoch for humanity, they say, and his message offers the most complete revelation of God’s will, serving as a potent tool for achieving global unity.
Baha’is uphold the belief that all major religions are divine in origin, and their fundamental principles are in perfect harmony, with differences existing only in the non-essential aspects of their doctrines. They affirm the oneness of God, the immortality of the soul, and the evolution of humanity in biological, spiritual, and social terms. However, they reject widely accepted ideas such as the existence of angels, the Christian concept of the Trinity, Hinduism’s teachings on reincarnation, and the Christian doctrine of the Fall and redemption through Christ’s sacrifice.
Major Baha’i principles include the brotherhood of all humans and the equality of women. Baha’is adhere to monogamy and offer daily prayers from a selection of three prayers revealed by Baha’u’llah. They also observe a fast from sunrise to sunset during the Baha’i month of ‘Ala, which corresponds with March.
While the Baha’i faith lacks a clergy or many defined rituals, anyone who expresses faith in Baha’u’llah and embraces his teachings can become a member. They gather for worship on the first day of every Baha’i month.
Baha’is view themselves as charged with the spiritual transformation of the world, spreading their faith through dialogues, personal conduct, involvement in community projects, and informational campaigns. They adhere strictly to the laws of their residing country, engage in non-political voting, and favor noncombatant duties in the military, although they aren’t conscientious objectors.
As a missionary religion, the Baha’i faith has experienced significant growth recently, with estimated adherents nearing 8 million worldwide, while the actual number of adults formally enrolled in the faith is just over 4.3 million.
According to Christianity, Jesus Christ, as proclaimed in 1 Timothy 2:5-6, is the “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.” The Baha’i belief that Baha’u’llah is the latest in a line of divine manifestations contradicts this Christian doctrine, implying a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of who Jesus Christ is according to the Scriptures.
Moreover, the Christian belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and part of the Holy Trinity fundamentally contradicts the Baha’i rejection of the Trinity. Christianity, as established in Matthew 28:19, teaches the existence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as distinct persons within the Godhead, an idea entirely alien to Baha’i doctrine.
The Baha’i faith also asserts the unity of all religions, suggesting that they all derive from the same divine source and are merely different expressions of the same truth. While this sentiment may seem admirable, it poses a considerable theological conflict when placed under the lens of the Scriptures. According to 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Christians are urged not to form partnerships with non-believers, symbolically represented as darkness, and reminded that “we are the temple of the living God.” The concept of unity among all religions conflicts with the unique claim Christianity has on truth and the instructions given to believers.
From a doctrinal perspective, the Baha’i rejection of the Christian understanding of original sin and redemption through Jesus Christ further widens the theological divide between the two faiths. According to Romans 5:12, sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and through sin, death. This sin is only atoned for by the blood of Jesus Christ, as indicated in Matthew 20:28. This atonement is integral to Christian doctrine, setting it apart from the Baha’i teachings.
On a practical level, the Baha’i faith and Christianity share some common values, such as the pursuit of unity and peace, respect for human rights, and the practice of prayer. However, these shared values do not bridge the significant theological differences that exist between the two faiths.
Moreover, the Baha’i faith encourages obedience to the laws of the country of residence and abstaining from political participation. In contrast, the Bible, particularly in the books of the prophets, is replete with exhortations to social justice, care for the marginalized, and prophetic critique of rulers and nations. In this regard, the Christian mandate to be “salt and light” in the world (Matthew 5:13-16) may often call for active engagement with social and political realities.
Furthermore, the Baha’i faith lacks the ritualistic and sacramental aspects of Christian worship, such as baptism and communion, which are cornerstones of Christian practice as commanded by Christ himself (Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
In conclusion, while the Baha’i faith and Christianity may share some common moral and ethical values, they differ significantly in their theological and doctrinal stances. As a Bible scholar, it is crucial to ground our understanding of faith in the Scriptures’ truths, recognizing the distinctiveness of Christianity’s claims about God, Christ, salvation, and the nature of truth itself. The Baha’i faith, while promoting peace and unity, fundamentally diverges from the unique revelation of God in Christ as taught in Christianity, as reflected in the doctrines of the Trinity, the nature of Christ, the notion of sin, and the means of salvation. As believers, our task is to continue in the faith, rooted and built up in Christ, and to discern all things in light of His Word (Colossians 2:6-8).