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Old 03-16-2016, 10:53 AM   #121
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In my understanding what Baha'I Faith teaches is, only if Messengers of God and His chosen ones interprete and explain the Words of God, then it can be Gauranteed that their interpretations is correct. We must never take the interpretations of scholars as infallible.

Essencially, in my understanding, Baha'I Faith teaches that the Words of God can have many different meanings other than their outward meanings.
So, for example, if Scriptures says 'Holy Spirit' and 'Angel Gabraeel', the true understanding of these Terms can only come from God's Own words and His prophets may explain these things according to the level of understanding of people of their time.

The Baha'I Scriptures repeatedly reminds that, The verses of God are two kinds: literal, and symbolic. But did the Scriptures of the past say: here is a literal verse, and here is a symbolic verse? No! The verses were sent down, but which verses are to be taken literal, and which verses are to be interpreted symbolically was not explicitly separated one by one. So, the question is how do we know 'Angel Gabraeel' is a symbol or it is a literal fact? Did the Prophets say, the verses about Angel Gabraeel are to be taken literally?
 
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Old 03-16-2016, 11:06 AM   #122
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In my understanding what Baha'I Faith teaches is, only if Messengers of God and His chosen ones interprete and explain the Words of God, then it can be Gauranteed that their interpretations is correct.
I fully subscribe to that. Indeed, God's words are deliberately "tricky" sometimes, and only Prophets can unveil some secret meanings and hidden truths.
 
Old 03-16-2016, 11:45 AM   #123
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I fully subscribe to that. Indeed, God's words are deliberately "tricky" sometimes, and only Prophets can unveil some secret meanings and hidden truths.
Why is it tricky delibrately?
 
Old 03-16-2016, 12:01 PM   #124
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The Words are subtle. They act like crystals reflecting a ray of light. Sometimes, only one facet of it is exposed, and we are supposed to only grasp that facet, but as our comprehension grow, we see all of the crystal, and a new persective is found within.
 
Old 03-16-2016, 12:26 PM   #125
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Hi Paul! I am certainly well, and continuously content. I hope the same for you.

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Originally Posted by Niblo View Post
You appear to be under the impression that we are merely ‘debating semantics’, as though that were an undesirable practice. Semantics is the study of the meanings of words and phrases in language. In the field of theology, precision of language and clarity of meaning are essential; otherwise we might end up believing that pigs can fly; or that humans are not truly human; or that a man can change his essential nature merely by adopting a fanciful nom de plume.
I certainly agree that theologians have given semantics great weight throughout history, and I certainly acknowledge that a deeper comprehension of semantics leads to better critical thinking and a more scholarly understanding of texts. However, when it comes to Scripture, I believe that the Word transcends the limitations of just the outward meaning. As Investigate Truth pointed out, this is essential to a Baha'i approach. Jesus said that those with eyes to see and ears to hear would understand Him, while the Pharisees insisted His teachings were blasphemy to the meanings of the Hebrew texts. The Qur'an itself warns us about the ambiguous and explicit meanings of the Word of God. So while I am aware that great nuance and meaning can be learned from Scripture by being very specific and particular about the words chosen, I am also cautious about allowing one school of though to limit the possible meanings of a verse. Afterall, we are taking the Word of God, something that we cannot comprehend, and reading it as converted into the words of men, which will ever be less comprehensive or precise.

As for the importance of semantics outside of scriptural analyses, I am personally of the opinion that the importance of semantics varies from context to context. It is the implications of the text for that particular audience in that particular time and place that matters. Thus, in a scholarly discussion, using precise words is very important, whereas discussing faith with a high school dropout would involve imprecise words that convey the concept more generally.

To quote Shoghi Effendi,
Quote:
'THE Revelation proclaimed by Bahá'u'lláh, His followers believe, is divine in origin, all-embracing in scope, broad in its outlook, scientific in its method, humanitarian in its principles and dynamic in the influence it exerts on the hearts and minds of men. The mission of the Founder of their Faith, they conceive it to be to proclaim that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is continuous and progressive, that the Founders of all past religions, though different in the non-essential aspects of their teachings, "abide in the same Tabernacle, soar in the same heaven, are seated upon the same throne, utter the same speech and proclaim the same Faith."'

(Shoghi Effendi, Appreciations of the Baha'i Faith) emphasis added
Also, thank you for sharing that quote from Gems of Divine Mysteries. In it, we indeed see how Baha'u'llah describes the Prophets that manifest/display God's Light for the world in His own words.

Regarding Gabriel, I simply have not reached my own opinion regarding whether the archangel exists as a distinct being from other supernatural beings, or if he is a symbolic figure for an incomprehensible mystery. I am still learning a lot about the theologies of Islam, and how Gabriel is addressed in all the religious texts. I am open to any possibility regarding his essential nature, simply because I do not know what interpretation of his appearances I should trust as authoritative.

When I asked if you ever thought they shared a body, I meant to begin a thought exercise, though I now think I am ill equipped to pull it off. Suffice to say, it has occurred to me that Muhammad is reputed to have received The Qur'an by Gabriel, and that when He spoke to the Muslims it was because He was compelled to speak. In a relative sense, I see it as true that Muhammad's physical body became Gabriel's, and His voice became the voice of Gabriel. So while we can discuss them as seperate agents that never shared bodies, I can also see them as being connected and having shared a lot. And when I asked if they could read each other, what I meant was to ask if you believed that they had a spiritual sense or awareness of each other. Could Gabriel sense Muhammad's emotions or thoughts? Did Muhammad feel the presence of Gabriel on a spiritual/supernatural level? Or was Muhammad's experience purely sensory by the five senses, and was Gabriel unaware of anything except God's instructions and the visible actions of the Prophet? Personally, when I envision the scene, I imagine that Muhammad felt a great spiritual presence, and was aware of Gabriel on a level incomparable to that of two animals sensing each other. As a spiritual being myself (by which I mean I am a soul that has a body and not the other way around), I believe I have experienced an awareness of other spiritual beings, and been able to sense things for which I do not have words. I believe this would be true of Gabriel and Muhammad, but that words could not have conveyed the experience to His followers.

As for the 'Ahmad' discussion, I don't doubt that Muslims ever thought of the title "Ahmad" as giving Muhammad a divine station. I do believe that the word does have a greater significance than most Muslims are aware of, and I only believe this because the Baha'i Writings have implicated it. This belief is not contingent on Muslims having ever shared it.

Regarding your charge that I have committed "Doublethink," and am promoting two mutually exclusive ideas by saying Baha'u'llah was human and yet he is not, I defer to GoaForce's assessments thus far. I accept that Baha'u'llah can be both human and not human because

A - I believe that there is more than one meaning of the word "human," such as the animal/physical human and the spiritual soul of humanity, and

B - Because I don't think that any of these scriptures are the absolute Truth! They are only a partial Revelation of the Truth, and there is much more to be revealed ahead. Part if the Truth is true knowledge regarding the essential nature of humanity, and I don't think anyone on this earth knows what that is.

So in honesty, I don't hold to these contradictory concepts as "beliefs," but I accept them both as relative truths, depending on context. I don't "believe" I know the Truth regarding this matter at all. Thus, it is not really doublethink, but merely my way of expressing my humility before Absolute Truth and acknowledging that I lack access to it at present. It is similar to how a Christian can believe in the Trinity, except that I don't insist on my perspective being correct. It is merely the best approximation of the truth I can manage at this time.


You asked me, "Is this what it takes to be a Baha’i (in the context of our conversation)?" This is what it takes to be me right now. I do not set standards for what defines a believer in Baha'u'llah. For that, see Shoghi Effendi's statement above.
 
Old 03-16-2016, 12:31 PM   #126
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Originally Posted by GoaForce View Post
Doublethinking is the product of unclear ideas, or of an unclear mind. Here I tend to agree with Niblo that if that edgy concept of Manifestation is not completely mastered (I myself struggle with that concept), the danger of a doublethinking (id est : intellectual misconstruction) is real.
I fully admit that my ideas are unclear and my mind is unclear. I also am shameless in not apologizing for it

As for a danger, I think it is only dangerous to have a wrong religious conception of scripture if you project that into the world and expect others to agree with it. I find that practice wholly problematic, and personally prefer everyone go on their own spiritual journey and discovery of the Truth.

Last edited by Neal; 03-16-2016 at 12:33 PM.
 
Old 03-16-2016, 12:33 PM   #127
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Regarding Gabriel, I simply have not reached my own opinion regarding whether the archangel exists as a distinct being from other supernatural beings, or if he is a symbolic figure for an incomprehensible mystery.
These two views are not mutually exclusive you know.

Quote:
I fully admit that my ideas are unclear and my mind is unclear. I also am shameless in not apologizing for it
Don't be sorry bro, it's OK
 
Old 03-16-2016, 12:46 PM   #128
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To justify my contentment with my apparent doublethoughts, I share these quotes:

Quote:
it is He who has sent this Scripture down to you [Prophet]. Some of its verses are definite in meaning-these are the cornerstone of the Scripture -and others are ambiguous. The perverse at heart eagerly pursue the ambiguities in their attempt to make trouble and to pin down a specific meaning of their own: only God knows the true meaning. Those firmly grounded in knowledge say, 'We believe in it: it is all from our Lord'-only those with real perception will take heed—

(The Qur'an (Haleem tr), 3:7)

It is now incumbent upon them who are endowed with a hearing ear and a seeing eye to ponder these sublime words, in each of which the oceans of inner meaning and explanation are hidden, that haply the words uttered by Him Who is the Lord of Revelation may enable His servants to attain, with the utmost joy and radiance, unto the Supreme Goal and Most Sublime Summit -- the dawning-place of this Voice.

(Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 147)

The whole duty of man in this Day is to attain that share of the flood of grace which God poureth forth for him. Let none, therefore, consider the largeness or smallness of the receptacle. The portion of some might lie in the palm of a man's hand, the portion of others might fill a cup, and of others even a gallon-measure.


(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 8)

The fundamental principle enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh, the followers of His Faith firmly believe, is that Religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is a continuous and progressive process, that all the great religions of the world are divine in origin, that their basic principles are in complete harmony, that their aims and purposes are one and the same, that their teachings are but facets of one truth, that their functions are complementary, that they differ only in the non-essential aspects of their doctrines and that their missions represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society.

(Shoghi Effendi, Summary Statement - 1947, Special UN Committee on Palestine)
 
Old 03-16-2016, 12:50 PM   #129
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These two views are not mutually exclusive you know.
Of course, but I go so far as to not even declare whether Gabriel or the Maid of God that Baha'u'llah saw were distinct agents from the Primal Will that manifests in the Prophets. It is one of the mysteries I am exploring in the Writings currently, and until I feel that one truth is definitely superior to other possible truths, I keep all options on the table.
 
Old 03-16-2016, 01:00 PM   #130
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Originally Posted by GoaForce View Post
The Words are subtle. They act like crystals reflecting a ray of light. Sometimes, only one facet of it is exposed, and we are supposed to only grasp that facet, but as our comprehension grow, we see all of the crystal, and a new persective is found within.
Yes, that is true.

I also believe, by these verses God creates Light and Darkness.

The verses are designed to guide and misguide. Through them both light and darness is created.
 
Old 03-16-2016, 01:14 PM   #131
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I also believe, by these verses God creates Light and Darkness.

The verses are designed to guide and misguide. Through them both light and darness is created.
Yes. It's a bayanic statement as well.
 
Old 03-23-2016, 07:58 AM   #132
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Hello Neal.

Sorry for the delay. I trust you are well and happy.

You write: ‘I accept that Baha'u'llah can be both human and not human because I believe that there is more than one meaning of the word "human," such as the animal/physical human and the spiritual soul of humanity, and because I don't think that any of these scriptures are the absolute Truth!’

We are agreed (I think!) that a human being is composed of a physical body and a spirit soul.

It is certainly true that some people exhibit more of their ‘animal’ nature than their spiritual; nevertheless, they remain Homo sapiens; no less human than the greatest saint. To imagine that sinner and saint are different types of human – not by virtue of their behaviour, but by their very nature – would not make sense.

You may be familiar with the ‘law of non-contradiction’; as described by Aristotle: ‘For the same thing to be present and not be present at the same time in the same subject, and according to the same, is impossible.’ (Metaphysics 4.3; 1005b).

The law of non-contradiction can be expressed simply: ‘A cannot be both B and non-B at the same time.’ A person cannot be both human and not human at one and the same time. It is not logically possible.

It is said that the Beloved can do anything He chooses; but this is not correct. He cannot break the law of non-contradiction. He cannot create a square-circle, or make a statement that is both true and false. The Beloved is eternal, and so cannot will Himself out of existence. The Beloved is omniscient, and so cannot be ignorant of anything; He is infinite justice, as so cannot be unjust. Since He is the greatest of all Beings He cannot swear by anyone other than Himself.

Baha'u'llah is a creature of Allāh (Subḥānahu ūta'āla). The Beloved cannot do anything that contradicts His nature; He cannot do anything that is logically impossible, therefore Baha'u'llah cannot have been created (or fashioned) to be both human and not human at one and the same time.

Your statement: ‘I don't think that any of these scriptures are the absolute Truth!’ is intriguing.

I define truth as that which accords with fact or with reality. Certainly, not all of Scripture accords with reality. Scripture contains both myth and parable. These are used to convey religious truths, but the events they portray are not necessarily true.

All truth claims are absolutely exclusive. When a statement is true, then by definition, it excludes everything else that opposes it. For example, if the statement, ‘Niblo has white hair, is a father and is a Welshman’ is true, then that statement excludes opposing conceptions of what Niblo is. He is not bald; he is not a female; he is not childless; (above all) he is not English.

Truth is objective not subjective. That is to say, truth exists outside of us. Our opinions concerning a statement or idea do not make them true or false. Any idea that truth is anything other than objective will ultimately lead to a logical contradiction, and is therefore impossible.

Consider this statement: ‘God exists’.

We first have to decide whether or not this statement is really true. Does it, in fact, correspond to reality? If it does not, then no further discussion is necessary. We seem to agree (you and I) that the statement ‘God exists’ is indeed true; and so we can proceed.

Is the statement ‘God exists’ an absolute truth; or a relative truth? If it is a relative truth, then God can first exist; then not exist; then exist again, and so on according to circumstance; to opinion; to fancy. In this respect the Beloved is no more real than Father Christmas or the Tooth Fairy.

If the statement ‘God exists’ is an absolute truth; then the claim that religious truths are not absolute falls. It is for you to decide which of these truths (absolute or relative) can safely be applied to the statement: ‘God exists’.

Here’s another statement: The Beloved has made Himself known through the Prophets.

If this statement is true, then it must of necessity be absolute, otherwise it can be true today, but false tomorrow.

Shoghi Effendi writes: ‘The fundamental principle enunciated by Baha’u’llah, the followers of His Faith firmly believe, is that Religious truth is not absolute but relative…’ (Summary Statement – 1947; Special UN Committee on Palestine); and again: ‘The Revelation proclaimed by Baha’u’llah, His followers believe, is divine in origin, all-embracing in scope, broad in its outlook, scientific in its method, humanitarian in its principles and dynamic in the influence it exerts on the hearts and minds of men. The mission of the Founder of their Faith, they conceive it to be to proclaim that religious truth is not absolute but relative….’ (Summary Statement – The World Religion; page 1).

Jack McLean writes: ‘The Baha’i teaching on relativity dates back to the prophetic insights in the nineteenth century of the founders of the Bahá'í faith. The teaching is thus grounded in revelation, rather than speculation, and gives it the authority of scripture, and ensures it a lasting place in Bahá'í theology.’ (Article: ‘The Relative View’; 2007).

The statements: ‘The Baha’i teaching on relativity is the result of a ‘prophetic insights’; ‘Baha’i teaching is grounded in revelation, rather than speculation’; and ‘Religious truth is not absolute’ are either true or false.

If these statements are indeed true then they must, of necessity, be absolute, otherwise they can be true today, but false tomorrow.

The claim that religious truth is relative rests on three statements that are absolute. It follows, therefore, that the claim is false.

You write: ‘In a relative sense, I see it as true that Muhammad's physical body became Gabriel's, and his voice became the voice of Gabriel.’

An angel is pure spirit, and as such does not have a body. As you know, there are incidents recounted in Scripture wherein angels have taken on human appearance. These appearances never imply incarnation. No angel ever was or ever will be a human being. No human being ever was or will become an angel.

That angels are created beings, and not the spirits of departed or glorified human beings, is confirmed by the Psalmist: ‘Alleluia! Praise Yahweh from the heavens, praise Him in the heights. Praise Him, all His angels, praise Him, all His host! Praise Him, sun and moon, praise Him, all shining stars, praise Him, highest heavens, praise Him, waters above the heavens. Let them praise the name of Yahweh at whose command they were created; He established them for ever and ever by an unchanging decree.’ (Psalm 28: 1-6).

To say that Muhammad (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam)’s voice became the voice of Gabriel is true only in the sense that he (Muhammad) spoke the words he had been given to speak; and spoke them exactly. Certainly the two were connected; in as much as they shared a common purpose. They were a team, so to speak.

You ask if Muhammad and Gabriel could ‘read’ each other; if Gabriel could: ‘Sense Muhammad's emotions or thoughts?’

We can only speculate. Angels are intelligent beings. While they cannot ‘read minds’ in the way you seem to suggest they are probably capable of discerning emotions.

You ask if the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam): ‘Felt the presence of Gabriel on a spiritual/supernatural level?’ Or was his experience ‘purely sensory by the five senses, and was Gabriel unaware of anything except God's instructions and the visible actions of the Prophet?’

According to the Sunni tradition, the appearance of Gabriel surprised and frightened Muhammad. According to Shia accounts, Muhammad was not at all surprised or frightened; behaving as though the angel was expected.

I have no idea what Gabriel was aware of; other than the presence of Muhammad and the task in hand.

You write: ‘Personally, when I envision the scene, I imagine that Muhammad felt a great spiritual presence, and was aware of Gabriel on a level incomparable to that of two animals sensing each other. As a spiritual being myself (by which I mean I am a soul that has a body and not the other way around), I believe I have experienced an awareness of other spiritual beings, and been able to sense things for which I do not have words. I believe this would be true of Gabriel and Muhammad, but that words could not have conveyed the experience to His followers.’

I would say that your ‘vision’ of the scene is at least as valid as anyone else’s; since none of us were there at the time, or are in any position to contradict you.

Have a great weekend, and very best regards.

Paul.

Last edited by Niblo; 03-23-2016 at 10:33 AM.
 
Old 03-23-2016, 10:37 AM   #133
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Hello Paul! I'm glad to have you continue this conversation. This has been one of the most satisfying and fruitful theological dialogues I have aver been a part of. Thank you for taking the time to continue to respond!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Niblo View Post
It is certainly true that some people exhibit more of their ‘animal’ nature than their spiritual; nevertheless, they remain Homo sapiens; no less human than the greatest saint. To imagine that sinner and saint are different types of human – not by virtue of their behaviour, but by their very nature – would not make sense.
I disagree, but only in one sense. Nature, as I understand it, has two meanings:

1.
the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations.

2.
the basic or inherent features of something, especially when seen as characteristic of it.

When we consider the nature of man in terms of his material components, I believe that every sinner and saint are just as human. But when we consider the inherent features of a "sinner" and a "saint," which are distinct ideal concepts, I believe we speak not of Nature in the material sense, but of the distinguishing features found in either a "sinner" or a "saint." Thus, a saint and a sinner can be seen as fundamentally different in nature. In this way, there are different types and degrees of "humanity," and when one distinguishes between them one does not make a fundamental contradiction, and therefore, I would posit, does not violate the 'law of non-contradiction.'

Quote:
Originally Posted by Niblo View Post
Baha'u'llah is a creature of Allāh (Subḥānahu ūta'āla). The Beloved cannot do anything that contradicts His nature; He cannot do anything that is logically impossible, therefore Baha'u'llah cannot have been created (or fashioned) to be both human and not human at one and the same time.
He can, because he is human according to the laws of Nature, but he is more than a standard human in the ideal/divine sense. (Please note that I have not settled on a clear definition of 'ideal' or 'divine,' merely that I distinguish this type of nature from the material and non-divine Nature.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Niblo View Post
I define truth as that which accords with fact or with reality. Certainly, not all of Scripture accords with reality. Scripture contains both myth and parable. These are used to convey religious truths, but the events they portray are not necessarily true.
I agree that scripture is used to convey religious truths, but the events they portray are not necessarily true. I also agree that truth accords with fact or with reality, though I personally believe that as with musical harmony, as one's ear improves, the precision with which one detects dissonance improves. For a child, a perfectly harmonious note is not needed, but with a trained musician with a fine ear, an exact pitch is expected. God could, of course, choose to reveal a perfect pitch with no need to later refine it, but to do so would require a perfect instrument. Humanity has grown through the ages like a child into adulthood, or preadolescence. Muhammad was God's instrument for mankind at a younger stage. Was the message delivered absolutely perfect, or perfect for the needs of the time? Did God create Muhammad as perfect instrument for His message? Or would an angel or other superhuman being have been required to provide the perfect Scripture? Would mankind's untrained ear be able to appreciate it if God did send a perfect, absolute message Truth? These questions do not lead to conclusions on their own, but they do, in my mind, open the parameters of discussion beyond the limits set by Scriptures revealed for a past age of humanity. Thus, I believe that religious truth can be accepted as relative truth. And relative truth need not be exclusive.

You say that "Truth is objective not subjective." I agree that Truth with a capital T is most assuredly objective, otherwise it falls outside our very notion of what Truth is. I simply do not accept that we have ever had access to the whole and unabridged absolute Truth. That form of Truth does exist outside of us, as you say, but it also exists outside of our domain. It belongs to Allah and Allah alone. What we are able to receive is a manifestation, a glimmering, of that Truth, in the form of relative religious truths.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Niblo View Post
Consider this statement: ‘God exists’.

We first have to decide whether or not this statement is really true. Does it, in fact, correspond to reality? If it does not, then no further discussion is necessary. We seem to agree (you and I) that the statement ‘God exists’ is indeed true; and so we can proceed.
You posit that the claim "God exists" must be an absolute truth and not a relative one. Yet, even this statement can be considered a relative truth. I have encountered many a wise theist who is able to argue that there is a God, and yet God does not exist, as well as anti-theists that are able to soundly argue that God simply does not exist. Both parties manage this by defining the framework by which they approach the discussion. In this case, it all has to do with the semantics they use with the words "God" and "exist." Their arguments are sound, but only within the context of the framework that they set out at the beginning of the discussion. Thus, depending on the definitions that the parties agree to before having the discussion, the parties may change whether they would conclude that God exists, does not exist, or is unclear whether He exists, all while fundamentally disagreeing in their beliefs whether there is a God.

Indeed, I believe that one of the major obstacles to unifying the theologies of the world is that we have not all agreed upon a definition of our terms, and we are unlikely to do so in the near future since the foundational texts for our diverse philosophies vary in their own use of language.

This is why I can believe that religious truth is relative truth, and yet also agree with you, depending on how we define our terms, that God does exist, and that this is an absolute truth. But only if our use of language is 100% compatible for the sake of the discussion. I believe that absolute truth is not relative, but that it is ideal and can only be approached, and never grasped, by religious texts.


Quote:
The statements: ‘The Baha’i teaching on relativity is the result of a ‘prophetic insights’; ‘Baha’i teaching is grounded in revelation, rather than speculation’; and ‘Religious truth is not absolute’ are either true or false.
I agree, though of course since these are all "Religious truths," they are only relatively true or false, as defined by the Baha'i Faith's definitions, and not, as you insist, absolutely true or false. Of course, this is assuming that Jack McLean's statements are correct, but I believe they are.

Quote:
The claim that religious truth is relative rests on three statements that are absolute. It follows, therefore, that the claim is false.
I simply disagree. They are not absolute statements, and that they do not contradict. Correct me if I am wrong, but you seem to interpret that "revelation" and "from the prophets" implies absolute authority and therefore absolute truth in their nature (see definition #2 of 'nature.'). This interpretation is exactly what Shoghi Effendi and I are precluding. From a Baha'i theological perspective, your interpretation of our scripture is fundamentally incorrect.

I believe that this disagreement between us, regarding whether Revelation must be absolutely true or can be accepted faithfully as relatively true, is where we fundamentally disagree. That is, we may have pinpointed one of the key obstacles to our theologies aligning. What do you think?

Last edited by Neal; 03-23-2016 at 10:51 AM.
 
Old 03-23-2016, 12:22 PM   #134
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Hello Neal.

You’re very kind. The feelings are mutual.

I struggle to see how the saint and the sinner can be ‘different in nature’ (fundamentally or otherwise). I would say that it is more a difference in behaviour. If it is, as you claim, a difference in nature then we would have to say that humans (all humans) are possessed of two natures – one sinful one saintly. I say this because we are all of us saints and sinners to some degree.

I wrote that Baha'u'llah is a creature of Allāh (Subḥānahu ūta'āla); and that since the Beloved cannot do anything that contradicts His Nature He cannot do anything that is logically impossible. To create a being (Baha'u'llah) that is both human and not human at one and the same time is a logical impossibility.

It is beyond question that Baha'u'llah is human ‘according to the laws of Nature’ (your words). The problem is, that even if we were able to settle on a clear definition of your ‘ideal’ or ‘divine’ nature we would still be faced with a violation of the law of non-contradiction; thus:

‘Baha'u'llah is both human, according to the laws of Nature (that is, fully human), and “more than a standard human in the ideal/divine sense” (however we define this) at one and the same time.’

Perhaps the only way around this particular dilemma is to say that Baha'u'llah was fully human – and nothing more – immediately before he received revelation; but that he ceased to be fully human at the moment of revelation, and became instead this (as yet undefined) something else – and nothing less.

This would take you out of the frying pan that is the law of non-contradiction and into the fire!

When I said that truth is objective not subjective I was referring to truth with a small ‘t’. It bore the capital merely because it was the first word in my sentence!

I agree that we do not have access to the ‘whole and unabridged absolute Truth’ (or even to the common or garden truths). My point is that truth is not dependent on our understanding or acceptance of it.

When I say that God exists I mean that He exists whether or not we believe it (assuming, of course, that the statement ‘God exists’ is true in the first place. If it is not true, then no amount of wishing and hoping can make it so).

The statement: ‘God exists’ must be absolute; either an absolute truth or an absolute lie. His existence (or nonexistence) does not depend on our ability to argue; or on the language we speak; or on the era we happen to live in; or on whether or not we are clever or stupid. He either is, or He is not.

This is hard for us to accept. It is hard because we love to be in control of everything. The very idea that God’s existence does not depend on us is tough to swallow.

Absolute truth is absolute no matter what we think.

Here’s a statement: ‘Baha'u'llah is a Manifestation of God’.

What makes this statement true, or false, is not what you or I think (if that were the case it would be both true and false at one and the same time!). What make it true or false is whether or not it accords with reality. Either way (true or false) the statement is absolute; in that its essential nature (its truth or falsehood) is fixed.


I wrote: ‘The statements “The Baha’i teaching on relativity is the result of a ‘prophetic insight”; “Baha’i teaching is grounded in revelation, rather than speculation”; and “Religious truth is not absolute” are either true or false; (and that) if these statements are indeed true then they must must, of necessity, be absolute, otherwise they can be true today, but false tomorrow.

You write: ‘Correct me if I am wrong, but you seem to interpret that "revelation" and "from the prophets" implies absolute authority and therefore absolute truth in their nature’

You stand corrected!

Allow me to take just one of these statements to illustrate my point: ‘The Baha’i teaching on relativity is the result of a prophetic insight’.

If this statement accords with reality (is true) then it must be absolute. If it accords with reality, then it is quite independent of our beliefs or opinions. If it is true today, then it will always be true. Conversely, if it is false then it will always be false.

Time for bed.

Have a great weekend, and very best regards.

Paul.

Last edited by Niblo; 03-23-2016 at 12:24 PM.
 
Old 03-23-2016, 12:45 PM   #135
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neal View Post
Hello Paul! I'm glad to have you continue this conversation. This has been one of the most satisfying and fruitful theological dialogues I have aver been a part of. Thank you for taking the time to continue to respond!



I disagree, but only in one sense. Nature, as I understand it, has two meanings:

1.
the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations.

2.
the basic or inherent features of something, especially when seen as characteristic of it.

When we consider the nature of man in terms of his material components, I believe that every sinner and saint are just as human. But when we consider the inherent features of a "sinner" and a "saint," which are distinct ideal concepts, I believe we speak not of Nature in the material sense, but of the distinguishing features found in either a "sinner" or a "saint." Thus, a saint and a sinner can be seen as fundamentally different in nature. In this way, there are different types and degrees of "humanity," and when one distinguishes between them one does not make a fundamental contradiction, and therefore, I would posit, does not violate the 'law of non-contradiction.'



He can, because he is human according to the laws of Nature, but he is more than a standard human in the ideal/divine sense. (Please note that I have not settled on a clear definition of 'ideal' or 'divine,' merely that I distinguish this type of nature from the material and non-divine Nature.)



I agree that scripture is used to convey religious truths, but the events they portray are not necessarily true. I also agree that truth accords with fact or with reality, though I personally believe that as with musical harmony, as one's ear improves, the precision with which one detects dissonance improves. For a child, a perfectly harmonious note is not needed, but with a trained musician with a fine ear, an exact pitch is expected. God could, of course, choose to reveal a perfect pitch with no need to later refine it, but to do so would require a perfect instrument. Humanity has grown through the ages like a child into adulthood, or preadolescence. Muhammad was God's instrument for mankind at a younger stage. Was the message delivered absolutely perfect, or perfect for the needs of the time? Did God create Muhammad as perfect instrument for His message? Or would an angel or other superhuman being have been required to provide the perfect Scripture? Would mankind's untrained ear be able to appreciate it if God did send a perfect, absolute message Truth? These questions do not lead to conclusions on their own, but they do, in my mind, open the parameters of discussion beyond the limits set by Scriptures revealed for a past age of humanity. Thus, I believe that religious truth can be accepted as relative truth. And relative truth need not be exclusive.

You say that "Truth is objective not subjective." I agree that Truth with a capital T is most assuredly objective, otherwise it falls outside our very notion of what Truth is. I simply do not accept that we have ever had access to the whole and unabridged absolute Truth. That form of Truth does exist outside of us, as you say, but it also exists outside of our domain. It belongs to Allah and Allah alone. What we are able to receive is a manifestation, a glimmering, of that Truth, in the form of relative religious truths.



You posit that the claim "God exists" must be an absolute truth and not a relative one. Yet, even this statement can be considered a relative truth. I have encountered many a wise theist who is able to argue that there is a God, and yet God does not exist, as well as anti-theists that are able to soundly argue that God simply does not exist. Both parties manage this by defining the framework by which they approach the discussion. In this case, it all has to do with the semantics they use with the words "God" and "exist." Their arguments are sound, but only within the context of the framework that they set out at the beginning of the discussion. Thus, depending on the definitions that the parties agree to before having the discussion, the parties may change whether they would conclude that God exists, does not exist, or is unclear whether He exists, all while fundamentally disagreeing in their beliefs whether there is a God.

Indeed, I believe that one of the major obstacles to unifying the theologies of the world is that we have not all agreed upon a definition of our terms, and we are unlikely to do so in the near future since the foundational texts for our diverse philosophies vary in their own use of language.

This is why I can believe that religious truth is relative truth, and yet also agree with you, depending on how we define our terms, that God does exist, and that this is an absolute truth. But only if our use of language is 100% compatible for the sake of the discussion. I believe that absolute truth is not relative, but that it is ideal and can only be approached, and never grasped, by religious texts.




I agree, though of course since these are all "Religious truths," they are only relatively true or false, as defined by the Baha'i Faith's definitions, and not, as you insist, absolutely true or false. Of course, this is assuming that Jack McLean's statements are correct, but I believe they are.



I simply disagree. They are not absolute statements, and that they do not contradict. Correct me if I am wrong, but you seem to interpret that "revelation" and "from the prophets" implies absolute authority and therefore absolute truth in their nature (see definition #2 of 'nature.'). This interpretation is exactly what Shoghi Effendi and I are precluding. From a Baha'i theological perspective, your interpretation of our scripture is fundamentally incorrect.

I believe that this disagreement between us, regarding whether Revelation must be absolutely true or can be accepted faithfully as relatively true, is where we fundamentally disagree. That is, we may have pinpointed one of the key obstacles to our theologies aligning. What do you think?
In my understanding, Baha'I Scriptures teaches, that the Nature of Saints and Sinners are the same.

But Messengers of God are Not saints!

All people have two parts: their material body, and Soul.

The Messengers of God also have a material body and Soul.

Their natural body, is the same as regular man.
Their Soul however, has a different nature than regular human.
Their soul is created in a way that, they are not effected by worldly matters. There is no change in them. They neither get a better person, nor they get a worst person. Their knowledge does not change. Their conduct does not change. They do not trun from being sinner to innocent or vice versa.
 
Old 03-23-2016, 02:08 PM   #136
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I was referring to sinners and saints as ideal concepts, whether they distinctly exist in a plane of reality or not. My primary purpose was to address how two seemingly contradictory statements can be true due to the relative nature of truth as expressed in human language.

I am going to remain silent for the time being regarding the nature (definition #2) of the Soul of the Manifestation according to Baha'i Writings, as I do not feel confident in my own personal comprehension of the nature of their Souls as described in the Writings. I am not sure if my prior understanding that I gave in this thread is heretical or simply underdeveloped, nor am I presently content with any other shorthand explanation for the nature of their Souls.

Last edited by Neal; 03-23-2016 at 02:26 PM.
 
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