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Old 07-17-2016, 03:31 PM   #1
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The Progression of the Cause of Christ

Hello! I'm not totally sure where this topic would best belong, but this forum seemed a suitable enough place. I apologize in advance because I can already feel that this is going to be a big one! Let's begin!

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman famously said, "To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant." In my experience, this was true. As soon as I peered behind the curtain of the Reformation, I found 1500 years of Christian history--Catholic history--of which I had been almost entirely unaware. It was my study of Church history that carried me into Catholicism, and I have been continually digging deeper into the development of the Church and her doctrines. Often that digging has validated the claims of the institutional church, and occasionally it made them a little less certain. Naturally, then, I am very interested in gaining a comprehensive understanding of the Baha'i Faith's perspective on the growth and evolution of Christianity. Having read The Book of Certitude and the first two parts of Some Answered Questions, I have some ideas and questions about the subject and I'd like to run them by this community. I thought it better to put together all my thoughts under one heading rather than making several interrelated threads. I don't expect any individual to try to tackle every point on their own, but perhaps together we can address them all.

1. "The Author of the Gospel"
In The Book of Certitude, Bahá'u'lláh calls Christ "the Author of the Gospel." And He further confirms (against the claims of Muslims, I believe) that the "genuine text of the heavenly Gospel" remains with the Christians. Of course, Christ Himself authored no text, and the books of the New Testament were not written until decades after Christ's life.

Am I then correct in considering this title a spiritual one rather than a material one? If the Gospels are inspired of God, and they all testify to the life, mission, and teachings of Christ Jesus, then is not Jesus in a spiritual sense their author? It is necessary, I think, to see in these words a certain distinction between the Gospel, Christ's original teachings, and the written Gospels, but this distinction shouldn't be exaggerated to the point of denying Bahá'u'lláh's clear endorsement of the Christian scriptures.

This is perhaps a simple question, but I think that it could be a stumbling block for a historically-minded Christian who is too quickly investigating the claims of Bahá'u'lláh.

2. The Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John
This point is more of a brief aside than full question or comment. At first glance, I thought that, given how frequently the Gospel of Mark is cited by Baha'is in discussions of the resurrection, this earliest Gospel might be taken to be the most authentic. Yet after further reading, it seems the Gospel of John, the latest and perhaps the most mystical of the Gospels, was frequently explained and interpreted by Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, so much so in fact that Shoghi Effendi said, "As many times passages in the Gospel of St. John are quoted we may assume that it is his Gospel and much of it accurate."

It seems to me that from the Baha'i perspective it is not as simple as preferring the earliest texts over the later ones, correct? There is no verse by verse, or even book by book, list of accurate and authentic biblical texts.


3. Constantine, Arius, and the Exaltation of Christ's Cause
This point and the ones that follow are my real interests here. In Some Answered Questions, 'Abdu'l-Bahá seems to identify the reign of Emperor Constantine, the codification of Christian orthodoxy, and the establishment of Christendom as the zenith of Christ's dispensation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 'Abdu'l-Bahá
...Christ, alone and single-handed, raised the banner of peace and amity—a feat that the combined forces of all the mighty governments of the world are unable to accomplish. Consider how numerous are the divers governments and peoples—such as Italy, France, Germany, Russia, England, and the like—who have been gathered together under the same canopy! The point is that the advent of Christ brought about fellowship among these differing peoples. Indeed, some among the peoples who believed in Christ were so closely united as to offer up their life and substance for one another. Such was the case until the days of Constantine, through whom the Cause of Christ was exalted. After a time, however, and as a result of differing motives, divisions broke out again among them. Our meaning is that Christ united these nations, but after a long while the governments caused the resurgence of discord.

The main point is that Christ accomplished what all the kings of the earth were powerless to achieve. He united differing nations and changed ancient customs. Consider what great differences existed between Romans, Greeks, Syrians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Israelites, as well as other peoples of Europe. Christ abolished these differences and became the cause of concord among these peoples. Although after a long while the governments disrupted this unity, Christ had indeed accomplished His task.
This is fascinating, and I've spent a lot of time pouring over these words. 'Abdu'l-Bahá seems to be indicating that Christ was given to mankind for two purposes. The first is Christ's spiritual and moral mission: the example of His life, His self-sacrifice, the Beatitudes, etc. This work is fully accomplished in the person of Christ Jesus, and it stands as ever-relevant to humanity. Yet in the passage above, we see a second mission that is material, historically-specific and even political. The religion instituted by Christ seems to have been oriented not only to the spiritual growth of all mankind but also to the unification of Europe in particular and the establishment, however briefly, of one government and, more importantly and more enduringly, of one faith for all Europeans. (This mission also includes, it seems, all the peoples near the Mediterranean.)

I don't mean to suggest that 'Abdu'l-Bahá is sanctifying the Roman Empire or even that he is giving personal praise to Constantine. His concern seems to lie instead with the bringing together of diverse peoples into one moral and social order. Rome and its emperor are means to that higher end, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá places all the credit for that accomplishment firmly at the feet of Christ Jesus.

There are several issues this brings up for me, but I have put them aside for the sake of keeping this post somewhat manageable. The one topic I wish to pursue is this: The passage above, when read alongside 'Abdu'l-Bahá's condemnation of Arius for "Covenant-breaking and dissension," makes it clear that the social cohesion of Christians far outranks the accuracy of Christian doctrine. The Universal House of Justice explains that Arius merited scorn for breaking the established peace of the Church; it seems that his sin was not in his theology (although the UHJ suggests that it was problematic as well), but rather it was in his stubborn resistance to the emerging trinitarian consensus.

Perhaps, then, Baha'is have a way of affirming the orthodox conviction that the Trinity is the "central mystery" of the Christian faith. Regardless of whether or not trinitarian language can be re-purposed to describe the Baha'i understanding of God, the doctrine as Christians define it is substantially incorrect from the Baha'i perspective. Yet 'Abdu'l-Bahá's words lead me to suggest that the doctrine--whatever its substance--served the providential purpose of unifying the Church and, through her, the peoples of Europe and the wider Christian world. Could we not say, then, that this doctrine was central to fulfillment of Christ's Cause and that God in His great wisdom saw fit to use even such a thing as this "illogical proposition" as an anchor for Christ's Covenant?

I'm not sure how comfortable I am with this idea. Should truth be sacrificed for unity? But then again, I can see how it is not so simple as a choice between unity and the truth. It must be recognized that both Arius and the orthodox bishops were developing doctrines far beyond anything uttered by either Christ and His Apostles; it is pure revisionism to say that either Christ or the early believer professed the exact contents of the Nicene Creed. It's incorrect, then, to imagine that God preferred heresy over schism or vice versa. Both sides of the controversy were trying to be faithful to what they had received, but only one proclamation was favored to be the one that would unite the European peoples. Why God elected one over the other is still a mystery to my mind, but regardless by the time the Prophet Muhummad arrived the trinitarian doctrine seems to have served its purpose and received correction.

I know there's a lot here! I hope I've written clearly enough for us all to discuss.
(I've made a few light edits.)

Augustine

Last edited by Augustine; 07-17-2016 at 06:06 PM.
 
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Old 07-17-2016, 04:12 PM   #2
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Hello Augustine,

I read your post quickly. What i can offer, may seem to be a different direction of your discussion.

In Bahai view God has appointed a term for every People, when Its term comes, a Manifestation of God appears to renew the Religion of God.
This is fully explained by Bahaullah in Book of Iqan.

What this means is, for example Jews Term was about 1700 years, from Moses to Jesus. Christians Term was 600 years, from Jesus to Muhammad. The term of People of Muhammad, was 1000 years.

By the end of the term, the Light of Religion of God fades, and that is why, God causes the Light to appear again, by causing a Manifestation to appear, when the End of a People comes.
 
Old 07-17-2016, 05:36 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InvestigateTruth View Post
Hello Augustine,

I read your post quickly. What i can offer, may seem to be a different direction of your discussion.

In Bahai view God has appointed a term for every People, when Its term comes, a Manifestation of God appears to renew the Religion of God.
This is fully explained by Bahaullah in Book of Iqan.

What this means is, for example Jews Term was about 1700 years, from Moses to Jesus. Christians Term was 600 years, from Jesus to Muhammad. The term of People of Muhammad, was 1000 years.

By the end of the term, the Light of Religion of God fades, and that is why, God causes the Light to appear again, by causing a Manifestation to appear, when the End of a People comes.
InvestigateTruth, thank you for your quick response! I appreciate it very much.

I have read the Kitáb-i-Íqán recently, and I'm still digesting it, but I think I understand the concept that of which you're speaking.

My interest here is discerning the movement and workings of God in the Christian dispensation from a Baha'i perspective. The Jewish Scriptures and subsequently the New Testament clearly set forth the designs of God for that people. Likewise Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá have explained the divine plan at work among the Muslims in their age: confirming the succession of Imams, revealing the relationship of the Turkish and Persian Empires to divine prophecy, etc. Yet concerning the Christian age, I have found very little.

'Abdu'l-Bahá says that the Christ's Cause is exalted in the fourth century, halfway through the Christian era. There are three hundred years of history on either side of this date that I am seeking to understand. (And of course, there are 1400 years of Christian history besides, but those ages unfold in a different dispensation according to the Baha'i perspective.)

Thank you again!
 
Old 07-17-2016, 05:54 PM   #4
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Lots of food for thought. I'll try to answer later on. Your thoughts are really interesting.

gnat
 
Old 07-18-2016, 07:18 AM   #5
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1. "The Author of the Gospel" would be "spiritual" rather than "material". In the sense that he "authored" the Word of God in bringing it to the world.

As for the question of it being "genuine", for Muslims there is, rather, two possible views. One view is that the original teachings of the Gospel have been lost to corruption, and on the opposite end, essentially, the Gospels are viewed in about the same class as Hadiths, potentially true writings written about a Prophet. And of course there are Muslims whose beliefs fall somewhere within that spectrum.

Quote:
It is necessary, I think, to see in these words a certain distinction between the Gospel, Christ's original teachings, and the written Gospels, but this distinction shouldn't be exaggerated to the point of denying Bahá'u'lláh's clear endorsement of the Christian scriptures.
This is pretty much the case. From what I understand is that the Baha'i view is that the scriptures, perhaps, are not 100% accurate, but that what was recorded in them was sufficient for the dispensation of the time.

2. Baha'is tend to view the Gospels in the same way we view the Islamic Hadiths.

Quote:
It seems to me that from the Baha'i perspective it is not as simple as preferring the earliest texts over the later ones, correct?
Correct. First, as I noted above, we don't necessarily view the Gospels as being 100% accurate, but that they were sufficiently accurate for the revelation of that time period. Baha'is generally believe a Gospel verse (or a Hadith for that matter) is guaranteed to be accurate if it has been quoted by a Prophet. Everything else is potentially true, and can be weighted by the individual believer.

3. My answer to the third might be a little biased, as a former self-styled "Arian Christian" along my path of learning.

But from my readings of 'Abdu'l-Baha on the topic of Arius, and my readings of the UHJ's statements of the matter, from what I can tell, this is how we as Baha'is view the matter:

Arius was not wrong in his teachings, nor was he wrong in his opposition to Homoousian Christology, or even in voicing his opinions. His sin was after the First Council of Nicaea, in leading his followers into schism. The violence he caused in his schism, the many fights and struggles between Trinitarian and Arian Christians over the course of three hundred years between Nicaea and the demise of the last Arian Christians in North Africa at the hands of the Church around 600 AD.

In Baha'i view, the violence, strife, and division was not justified in the truth (in Baha'i view) of Arius' position against Homoousion.

Constantine, on the other hand, was a great force for Unity within the Roman Empire. He legalized Christianity (and seldom mentioned, but all other persecuted religions were legalized as well). He mandated that Christians should observe the pagan Venerable Day of the Sun, which is why Christians now observe Sabbath on the Sunday, and mandated that Jews, Christians, and Pagans should celebrate Passover, the Resurrection of Jesus, and the Pagan spring celebration on the same day. Additionally, he mandated that Christian sects get together and iron out all their differences.

While potentially heavy-handed in his methods, and ultimately leading Christians in the Roman Empire to embrace a belief we Baha'is don't believe was correct, it did alleviate the religious strife, causing Christians and Pagans to worship together and on the same days, which brought about the end of the religious strife suffered in Rome and brought a new sense of inter-religious cohesion and Unity.

Quote:
the unification of Europe in particular and the establishment, however briefly, of one government and, more importantly and more enduringly, of one faith for all Europeans. (This mission also includes, it seems, all the peoples near the Mediterranean.)
I would disagree here, albeit slightly. The Unification of the many sects and religions of the nation of Rome (including North Africa), I would agree. As for "Europe" as it is modernly understood, I would disagree. Some of Europe was not brought to Christianity in the same ways as Constantine. I'd disagree that the acts of war and division in, say, the Massacre of Verden or the Baltic Crusades were the intended political effects in Christ's message. So I'd say less about European Unity, more about Roman Unity.

Quote:
I'm not sure how comfortable I am with this idea. Should truth be sacrificed for unity?
It is a difficult question, at least at first. No one likes the idea of sacrificing truth for any purpose. I am reminded of a specific religious sect (I will leave it unnamed) that I once investigated, being a religion geek. The scriptures I read in that sect were unlike anything I had read before. They all seemed off, filled with anachronisms and speaking of prophecies in words that, frankly, I've not ever seen used in the prophetic language of any other Faith I've looked into. At the end of the day, it seemed like these scriptures were invented in an age far later than what was claimed, especially due to the anarchonisms within them. But this sect, the odd thing was, a lot of what they were teaching seemed to be good teachings. They taught upon this likely-falsified scripture things I've seen confirmed in other religions, things containing truth, and things that make the world a better place. Since then, I've had a thought stuck in my head: "Can a falsehood be a force for good??"

Aside from that, I think looking at the history of (almost) every revealed religion would reveal that sometimes truth is better left concealed than revealed. Imagine if God had placed Jesus in the city of Ur at the time of Abraham, in place of Abraham, to reveal the same truths he was set to reveal thousands of years later. With the state of Ur at the time, I would imagine the martyrdom of Jesus would have happened a LOT faster, he would have attracted less disciples, and he would largely have been forgotten. As much as Jesus challenged the Pharisees and their beliefs, the amount of challenge he would have presented to the polytheistic, idolators at Ur would be far greater, polytheists who drove out Abraham for mere profession of monotheism.

If the truth brought by Abraham was too much for the people of Ur, I think, it is hard to see how the truth of Jesus would have helped them. It is hard to see them ever accepting those truths.

We know that there are truths that God waited to tell humanity. As Baha'is and Christians here we trust that God is the most knowledgeable. Therefore, it would seem logical to me that God judged and weighted that the new truths presented by Jesus was not something he could reveal until early AD.

If mankind could best be served by knowing ALL the truth that God has to give us all at once. If such a thing was viable, I wonder why we'd ever have needed more than a single prophet.

Last edited by Walrus; 07-18-2016 at 07:21 AM.
 
Old 07-18-2016, 08:06 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Augustine View Post
InvestigateTruth, thank you for your quick response! I appreciate it very much.

I have read the Kitáb-i-Íqán recently, and I'm still digesting it, but I think I understand the concept that of which you're speaking.

My interest here is discerning the movement and workings of God in the Christian dispensation from a Baha'i perspective. The Jewish Scriptures and subsequently the New Testament clearly set forth the designs of God for that people. Likewise Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá have explained the divine plan at work among the Muslims in their age: confirming the succession of Imams, revealing the relationship of the Turkish and Persian Empires to divine prophecy, etc. Yet concerning the Christian age, I have found very little.

'Abdu'l-Bahá says that the Christ's Cause is exalted in the fourth century, halfway through the Christian era. There are three hundred years of history on either side of this date that I am seeking to understand. (And of course, there are 1400 years of Christian history besides, but those ages unfold in a different dispensation according to the Baha'i perspective.)

Thank you again!
Actually there are many writings and quote from Abdulbaha, regarding the accuracy and validity of Bible.

I used to spend alot of time on this subject.
Based on my studies, essencially there is no contradiction between Quran and Bible in Bahai view, and the differences are only due to misinterpretations, and in fact Bahai Scriptures has reconciled these differences by offering the proper interpretations.
So, in Bahai view, Bible is Truth.

I also spent quite some time, and in my view, some of the saints and early believer during the first or second centuries had the same interpretation that Bahais have with regards to some of the fundamental concepts such as Trinity.
 
Old 07-18-2016, 01:36 PM   #7
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The last sentence of your post is telling. By the time of Mohammed, the trinitarian doctrine had served it's purpose and underwent correction
 
Old 07-18-2016, 07:01 PM   #8
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Thanks to everyone for the continued response!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Walrus View Post
As for the question of it being "genuine", for Muslims there is, rather, two possible views. One view is that the original teachings of the Gospel have been lost to corruption, and on the opposite end, essentially, the Gospels are viewed in about the same class as Hadiths, potentially true writings written about a Prophet. And of course there are Muslims whose beliefs fall somewhere within that spectrum...

2. Baha'is tend to view the Gospels in the same way we view the Islamic Hadiths.
This is tremendously helpful. Thank you!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Walrus
3. My answer to the third might be a little biased, as a former self-styled "Arian Christian" along my path of learning.

But from my readings of 'Abdu'l-Baha on the topic of Arius, and my readings of the UHJ's statements of the matter, from what I can tell, this is how we as Baha'is view the matter:

Arius was not wrong in his teachings, nor was he wrong in his opposition to Homoousian Christology, or even in voicing his opinions. His sin was after the First Council of Nicaea, in leading his followers into schism. The violence he caused in his schism, the many fights and struggles between Trinitarian and Arian Christians over the course of three hundred years between Nicaea and the demise of the last Arian Christians in North Africa at the hands of the Church around 600 AD.

In Baha'i view, the violence, strife, and division was not justified in the truth (in Baha'i view) of Arius' position against Homoousion.
I can't help to reflect on how messy the emergence of Christian orthodoxy was. With the rise and fall of each emperor, Trinitarianism and Arianism moved in and out of favor. From region to region, local hierarchies defended their own understanding and tradition. Violence and strife was seen on both sides. With all that going on, it just seems so odd to point the finger at this man, who by all accounts was closer to the truth than his rivals, and lay upon him the charge of schism. I mean I understand such a charge from the Orthodox Fathers, but not from the present vantage point. Still, I'll continue to think on it.

Quote:
Constantine, on the other hand, was a great force for Unity within the Roman Empire. He legalized Christianity (and seldom mentioned, but all other persecuted religions were legalized as well). He mandated that Christians should observe the pagan Venerable Day of the Sun, which is why Christians now observe Sabbath on the Sunday, and mandated that Jews, Christians, and Pagans should celebrate Passover, the Resurrection of Jesus, and the Pagan spring celebration on the same day. Additionally, he mandated that Christian sects get together and iron out all their differences.

While potentially heavy-handed in his methods, and ultimately leading Christians in the Roman Empire to embrace a belief we Baha'is don't believe was correct, it did alleviate the religious strife, causing Christians and Pagans to worship together and on the same days, which brought about the end of the religious strife suffered in Rome and brought a new sense of inter-religious cohesion and Unity.
Very interesting. I'm not sure exactly how accurate all of this is however. When it comes to worshiping on Sunday, Christians had adopted this practice long before Constantine's law establishing the day as the day of rest for the Empire. That said, this idea of Constantine as the secular ruler accomplishing divine ends reminds me of the honors paid to Cyrus the Great in the Hebrew Scriptures.


Quote:
I would disagree here, albeit slightly. The Unification of the many sects and religions of the nation of Rome (including North Africa), I would agree. As for "Europe" as it is modernly understood, I would disagree. Some of Europe was not brought to Christianity in the same ways as Constantine. I'd disagree that the acts of war and division in, say, the Massacre of Verden or the Baltic Crusades were the intended political effects in Christ's message. So I'd say less about European Unity, more about Roman Unity.
This point is very well made! My use of "Europe" should have been more careful. Although the cultural bridges between "Italy, France, Germany, Russia, England, and the like" suggest that Rome's unity bore fruit long after Rome's age had passed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Walrus
...We know that there are truths that God waited to tell humanity. As Baha'is and Christians here we trust that God is the most knowledgeable. Therefore, it would seem logical to me that God judged and weighted that the new truths presented by Jesus was not something he could reveal until early AD.

If mankind could best be served by knowing ALL the truth that God has to give us all at once. If such a thing was viable, I wonder why we'd ever have needed more than a single prophet.
Another wonderful point!

Quote:
Originally Posted by InvestigateTruth View Post
Actually there are many writings and quote from Abdulbaha, regarding the accuracy and validity of Bible.

I used to spend alot of time on this subject.
Based on my studies, essencially there is no contradiction between Quran and Bible in Bahai view, and the differences are only due to misinterpretations, and in fact Bahai Scriptures has reconciled these differences by offering the proper interpretations.
So, in Bahai view, Bible is Truth.

I also spent quite some time, and in my view, some of the saints and early believer during the first or second centuries had the same interpretation that Bahais have with regards to some of the fundamental concepts such as Trinity.
Thank you again, InvestigateTruth. If you ever have the interest or the time to send me some links regarding the early believers, I'd sure be grateful!
 
Old 07-19-2016, 04:31 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Augustine View Post
Should truth be sacrificed for unity? But then again, I can see how it is not so simple as a choice between unity and the truth.

Abdu'l-Baha always stressed unity; he wrote the following:

"Endeavor ye as much as possible that differences may not arise in the affairs; let not every insignificant matter become the cause of disagreement. If such conditions exist the end will be complete dispersion. The believers and maid-servants of the Merciful must all consider how to produce harmony, so that the unity of the human world may be realized, not that every wholly unimportant subject become conducive to differences of opinion."

"It is my hope that the friends and the maid-servants of America become united on all subjects and not disagree at all. If they agree upon a subject, even though it be wrong, it is better than to disagree and be in the right, for this difference will produce the demolition of the divine foundation. Though one of the parties may be in the right and they disagree that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs, but if they agree and both parties are in the wrong, as it is in unity the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right."

-Abdu'l-Baha, BWF, p 411
 
Old 07-19-2016, 08:28 AM   #10
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Some of the sources I can post quickly:

The document called 1 Clement, a letter from the Roman congregation to that at Corinth uses the language of the biblical book of Hebrews to portray Jesus as the reflection of God's splendor, the "mirror" of "God's... transcendent face"
Source: Jesus Mirror of God

"Through Him let us look steadfastly unto the heights of the heavens; through Him we behold as in a mirror His faultless and most excellent
visage...." 1Clem 36:2
Source: First Clement: Clement of Rome

Also:

the great theologian Origen (185-254 C.E.), citing the Book of Wisdom, called Christ 'the spotless mirror' of God's workings (Origen, On First Principles 26).
Source: Jesus the spotless mirror

St. Basil also explains the commandments that Jesus received by " the reflexion of an object in a mirror"
Trinity - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

These early Christian got their belief from the verses of Bible that describe Jesus as a Mirror and as Image of God, such as 2 cori 3-18:

"and we all, with unvailed face, the glory of the Lord beholding in a mirror, to the same image are being transformed, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."



So the Mirror analogy that is found in Bahai Scriptures, are also found in early Christianity.

Last edited by InvestigateTruth; 07-19-2016 at 08:31 AM.
 
Old 07-19-2016, 04:36 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh View Post
Abdu'l-Baha always stressed unity; he wrote the following...

"It is my hope that the friends and the maid-servants of America become united on all subjects and not disagree at all. If they agree upon a subject, even though it be wrong, it is better than to disagree and be in the right, for this difference will produce the demolition of the divine foundation. Though one of the parties may be in the right and they disagree that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs, but if they agree and both parties are in the wrong, as it is in unity the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right."

-Abdu'l-Baha, BWF, p 411
Josh, thank you so much! Reading these words of 'Abdu'l-Baha really helps me make sense of things. It's not truth or unity; it's unity as a safeguard and assurance of truth.

Quote:
Originally Posted by InvestigateTruth View Post
Some of the sources I can post quickly...

So the Mirror analogy that is found in Bahai Scriptures, are also found in early Christianity.
InvestigateTruth, thank you for going the extra mile! I'm eager to go to the source texts and really dig into these quotes.
 
Old 07-19-2016, 08:38 PM   #12
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Thank you for being open to individual Baha’i perspectives on the topic of "The Progression of the Cause of Christ". The Writings of Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha, and the explanations of Shoghi Effendi are of course the best Resources to turn to as these set the Baha'i standard for developing our individual and institutional understandings and interpretations.

Recently, I did come across some information on early Christianity and thought I would offer it for your interest (see link):

True Prophets, the Early Years of Faith and Ebionite Christianity

Keep us "posted". LR
 
Old 07-21-2016, 03:54 AM   #13
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author of the Gospel

This question arose on Planet Bahai, 24 March 2010, in relation to Baha’u’llah’s reference, in the Kitab-i Iqan, page 150 to “Moses, the Revealer of the Pentateuch, and Jesus, the Author of the Gospel.”

The Pentateuch includes an account of Moses’ death, and the four Gospels were written decades after Jesus’ lifetime. So what’s going on here?
_____

The Persian text does not say “the writer of the Gospels” but rather [the
Saahib/master of the Evangel]. Saahib is also used in the sense of
“characterised by”, for example, in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf
Baha’u’llah says that [every saahib of justice and fairness will give ear
to this concept], which Shoghi Effendi translates “Every just and
fair-minded person will bear witness unto this…”

Similarly, Moses is called the saahib-e Torah, translated as the Revealer
of the Pentateuch. It could be less elegantly translated as Moses the one
characterised by Torah/Law.

Both Moses and Jesus are relatively common names. There is for example at
least one Moses in the Quran who is not the Moses of the Torah, but Moses
a Jewish Rabbi (in the Surah of the Cave). There are said to be at least
two Davids in the Quran: one who invented iron working and the other the
king of Israel. So part of the point here is that Baha’u’llah makes clear
he is talking about THAT Moses and THAT Jesus and not any other, and yet,
he says, their opponents at widely different times are treated by the
Quran as identical to the opponents of Muhammad, centuries later.
 
Old 07-21-2016, 04:10 AM   #14
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Gospel of John

Quote:
Originally Posted by Augustine View Post
Shoghi Effendi said, "As many times passages in the Gospel of St. John are quoted we may assume that it is his Gospel and much of it accurate."
This letter is written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, to an individual believer. For Bahais who take a text critical approach, distinguishing between the levels of authority and authenticity of texts, the letter is indicative but does not establish a "Bahai Teaching." Personally (having studied Greek and NT at University), I do not believe that the Gospel of John is written by John the disciple of Christ. The evidence is against it. I do however regard it as the most useful of the Gospels for some purposes, not as a historical document of the ministry of Christ, but as an early and pure reflection of the implications of the teaching of Christ, by a generation that had largely freed themselves from mistaken assumptions that the earliest disciples superimposed on the teachings of Christ.

When Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha quote Persian poets, as Baha'u'llah in particular does, this does not mean that those poets were inspired prophets when they wrote the words. They might have had some sort of inspiration, but we can't know that. It also doesn't mean that the ascribed author is the real author (false ascriptions are common in Persian classical poetry), or that the form used is the one the author originally used. Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha use words that are part of Persian/Arabic: those words were not "authentic scripture" when they first appeared in the language, they became authentic scripture when Baha'u'llah or Abdu'l-Baha used them, and in the context they used them - not generally. Similarly, poets, and other sources, are quoted because their works are part of the language: it is simply a higher level of aggregation of meanings, words made more specific and with more associations because they are grouped in a known pattern. If Baha'u'llah had known Shakespeare, he might have quoted "A rose by any other name" and by those 6 words referred to what comes before and after them in the play, and included extra connotations: the high value of artistry and of the tradition of free art and humane broad thought with which Shakespeare is associated. He didn't quote Shakespeare, but he does quote Sa'di and Hafez and other Persian poets, with the same effect. The Manifestation (or any writer or speaker) does not communicate in a new language, starting from scratch. He communicates through materials that are available: a vocabulary, idioms, literary and religious sources, historical incidents that will be familiar to his audience and so on. If one of the sources is not historically authentic (from its claimed source) or one of the historical incidents proves to be unhistoric, this does not detract from the new message that is being conveyed, using those materials. An example of Baha'u'llah referring to historical 'fact' known to his readers, but actually wrong, is discussed by Juan Cole in his paper 'Problems of Chronology in Baha'u'llah's Tablet of Wisdom.' http://www.h-net.org/~bahai/diglib/articles/A- E/cole/chrono/chrono.htm

I don't think it is reasonable to suppose that, when Baha'u'llah tells his reader which gospel or book he is referring to, he intends to tell us that the attributed author really is the author. Suppose Baha'u'llah had inspired knowledge that the author was really Joshua of Alexandria (a fictional figure). If he wrote, "in the Gospel of Joshua of Alexandria it is recorded, "When the comforter is come..." -- that would be no use at all to his audience. If they want to check their Bibles, they have to look up the Gospel called the Gospel of John. The Manifestation has to use the knowledge, forms, sources available to his hearers and readers - that does not mean that all the knowledge he refers to is correct! Certainly, when something is quoted by Baha'u'llah, it is absolutely authentic Bahai scripture. The way this secretary's letter is formulated, it sounds as if it means "what has been quoted by Bahá'u'lláh and the Master must be [historically] authentic [Christian scripture]. I don't suppose there's any way of knowing whether that was what Shoghi Effendi intended when he instructed his secretary to reply (he generally didn't dictate replies, so such letters are in the secretary's words, not his own). But that's the way it looks, and I don't think it's tenable.
 
Old 07-21-2016, 04:25 AM   #15
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two simultaneous processes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Augustine View Post
'Abdu'l-Bahá seems to be indicating that Christ was given to mankind for two purposes. The first is Christ's spiritual and moral mission: the example of His life, His self-sacrifice, the Beatitudes, etc. This work is fully accomplished in the person of Christ Jesus, and it stands as ever-relevant to humanity. Yet in the passage above, we see a second mission that is material, historically-specific and even political.
According to Bahai teachings, religion has a two-fold mission, and all the prophets have a two-fold mission. Abdu'l-Baha writes for example:
Quote:
"O ye concourse of the Kingdom of Abha! Two calls to success and prosperity are being raised from the heights of the happiness of mankind, awakening the slumbering, granting sight to the blind, causing the heedless to become mindful, bestowing hearing upon the deaf, unloosing the tongue of the mute and resuscitating the dead.

The one is the call of civilization, of the progress of the material world. ... It compriseth the laws, regulations, arts and sciences through which the world of humanity hath developed; laws and regulations which are the outcome of lofty ideals and the result of sound minds ... The propagator and executive power of this call is just government.

The other is the soul-stirring call of God, Whose spiritual teachings are safeguards of the everlasting glory, the eternal happiness and illumination of the world of humanity, and cause attributes of mercy to be revealed in the human world and the life beyond.

This second call is founded upon the instructions and exhortations of the Lord and the admonitions and altruistic emotions belonging to the realm of morality which, like unto a brilliant light, brighten and illumine the lamp of the realities of mankind. Its penetrative power is the Word of God.

However, until material achievements, physical accomplishments and human virtues are reinforced by spiritual perfections, luminous qualities and characteristics of mercy, no fruit or result shall issue therefrom, nor will the happiness of the world of humanity, which is the ultimate aim, be attained. ... (Much more to read, see Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 286)
And Shoghi Effendi describes the two processes:

Quote:
Indeed if we would read aright the signs of the times, and appraise correctly the significances of contemporaneous events that are impelling forward both the American Bahá'í Community and the nation of which it forms a part on the road leading them to their ultimate destiny, we cannot fail to perceive the workings of two simultaneous processes...

One of these processes is associated with the mission of the American Bahá'í Community, the other with the destiny of the American nation. The one serves directly the interests of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, the other promotes indirectly the [different] institutions that are to be associated with the establishment of His World Order. The first process ... will be consummated through the emergence of the Bahá'í World Commonwealth in the Golden Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation.

The other process dates back to the outbreak of the first World War that threw the great republic of the West into the vortex of the first stage of a world upheaval. It received its initial impetus through the formulation of President Wilson's Fourteen Points, ... It assumed a definite outline through the birth of the United Nations at the San Francisco Conference. ... It must, ... lead, through a series of victories and reverses, to the political unification of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, to the emergence of a world government and the establishment of the Lesser Peace, as foretold by Bahá'u'lláh and foreshadowed by the Prophet Isaiah. It must, in the end, culminate in the unfurling of the banner of the Most Great Peace, in the Golden Age of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh.
(extracts from Citadel of Faith, p. 32)
 
Old 07-22-2016, 02:21 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sen McGlinn View Post
According to Bahai teachings, religion has a two-fold mission, and all the prophets have a two-fold mission. Abdu'l-Baha writes for example:


And Shoghi Effendi describes the two processes:

In Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council taught something similar with regards to the binary nature of religion in the divine plan:


Quote:
Constituted Lord by his resurrection and given all authority in heaven and on earth (Acts 2:36; Mt. 28: 18) Christ is now at work in the hearts of men by the power of his Spirit; not only does he arouse in them a desire for the world to come but he quickens, purifies, and strengthens the generous aspirations of mankind to make life more humane and conquer the earth for this purpose...

...Christ left to his followers a pledge of this hope and food for the journey in the sacrament of faith, in which natural elements, the fruits of man's cultivation, are changed into the glorified Body and Blood, a supper of brotherly fellowship and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.

Far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come. That is why, although we must be careful to distinguish earthly progress clearly from the increase of the kingdom of Christ, such progress is of vital concern to the kingdom of God, insofar as it can contribute to the better ordering of human society.

Christ, who is at work in the world through His Holy Spirit, arouses humankind in two ways with a (1) "desire" for the immaterial goods of the world to come, such as our beatification and (2) the "generous aspirations" we have to improve life on this earth through the "fruits" of our cultivation - i.e. social ordering, law, the sciences, education, art etc.

Pope St. John Paul II further explained this concept in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio:


http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-pa...is-missio.html



Quote:
The Spirit Is Present and Active in Every Time and Place

28. The Spirit manifests himself in a special way in the Church and in her members. Nevertheless, his presence and activity are universal, limited neither by space nor time.35 The Second Vatican Council recalls that the Spirit is at work in the heart of every person, through the "seeds of the Word," to be found in human initiatives-including religious ones-and in mankind's efforts to attain truth, goodness and God himself.36

The Spirit offers the human race" the light and strength to respond to its highest calling
"; through the Spirit, "mankind attains in faith to the contemplation and savoring of the mystery of God's design"; indeed, "we are obliged to hold that the Holy Spirit offers everyone the possibility of sharing in the Paschal Mystery in a manner known to God."37 The Church "is aware that humanity is being continually stirred by the Spirit of God and can therefore never be completely indifferent to the problems of religion" and that "people will always...want to know what meaning to give their life, their activity and their death."38 The Spirit, therefore, is at the very source of man's existential and religious questioning, a questioning which is occasioned not only by contingent situations but by the very structure of his being.39

The Spirit's presence and activity affect not only the individuals but also society and history, peoples, cultures and religions. Indeed, the Spirit is at the origin of the noble ideals and undertakings which benefit humanity on its journey through history: "The Spirit of God with marvelous foresight directs the course of the ages and renews the face of the earth."40 The risen Christ "is now at work in human hearts through the strength of his Spirit, not only instilling a desire for the world to come but also thereby animating, purifying and reinforcing the noble aspirations which drive the human family to make its life one that is more human and to direct the whole earth to this end."41 Again, it is the Spirit who sows the "seeds of the Word" present in various customs and cultures, preparing them for full maturity in Christ.42

29. Thus the Spirit, who "blows where he wills" (cf. Jn 3:8), who "was already at work in the world before Christ was glorified,"43 and who "has filled the world,...holds all things together [and] knows what is said" (Wis 1:7), leads us to broaden our vision in order to ponder his activity in every time and place.44 I have repeatedly called this fact to mind, and it has guided me in my meetings with a wide variety of peoples. The Church's relationship with other religions is dictated by a twofold respect: "Respect for man in his quest for answers to the deepest questions of his life, and respect for the action of the Spirit in man."45 Excluding any mistaken interpretation, the interreligious meeting held in Assisi was meant to confirm my conviction that "every authentic prayer is prompted by the Holy Spirit, who is mysteriously present in every human heart."46

Last edited by Yeshua; 07-22-2016 at 02:34 PM.
 
Old 07-22-2016, 03:08 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Walrus View Post
Constantine, on the other hand, was a great force for Unity within the Roman Empire. He legalized Christianity (and seldom mentioned, but all other persecuted religions were legalized as well). He mandated that Christians should observe the pagan Venerable Day of the Sun, which is why Christians now observe Sabbath on the Sunday, and mandated that Jews, Christians, and Pagans should celebrate Passover, the Resurrection of Jesus, and the Pagan spring celebration on the same day. Additionally, he mandated that Christian sects get together and iron out all their differences.

While potentially heavy-handed in his methods, and ultimately leading Christians in the Roman Empire to embrace a belief we Baha'is don't believe was correct, it did alleviate the religious strife, causing Christians and Pagans to worship together and on the same days, which brought about the end of the religious strife suffered in Rome and brought a new sense of inter-religious cohesion and Unity.
Hi Walrus,

You raise an interesting viewpoint here and I concur with your overall assessment of Constantine's reign, although I also would question your assertion that Christians worship on Sunday due to the agency of a Roman emperor: Sunday is attested as the day of worship for Christians as early as the writings of the church father St. Justin Martyr at the start of the second century AD.

That aside, Constantine was indeed a force of unity and peace. He brought to a close a series of catastrophic civil wars, insurrections and political unrest that had crippled the Roman Empire throughout the Third Century, leading ultimately to a devastating war after the death of Diocletian among his three successors among whom he had divided the territorial holdings of the Empire.

Constantine re-united, pacified and re-constituted the Roman Empire; becoming the first 'Caesar' since Diocletian to reign over the entirety of the Empire. He also pivoted its capital to Byzantium on the Bosphorus, which after his own death was re-named Constantinople in his honour. This 'Eastern' half of the Empire survived the collapse of the Western half in the fifth century, continuing to thrive for another millennium as a major player and great power in international relations, until the Turks conquered the city in the 15th century. Mehmed II, the Ottoman Caliph, declared himself the successor to the Roman Emperors and not without justification: Byzantium had been New Rome and the direct continuation of the legal identity of the Empire.

So, in other words, Constantine enabled the Empire - which had been close to collapse in the crisis of the third century before his reign - to survive into nearly modernity, lasting until 1453 and 1922 if one does consider the Ottoman Empire to be its 'Islamic' successor. Note that the Caliphs never changed the name of their capital. It remained 'Constantinople' throughout the entire Ottoman era, only becoming Istanbul when the Caliphate was disbanded. The Ottoman Sultans saw themselves as the legal heirs to the Caesars, to Constantine.

As you correctly infer, Constantine declared - for the first and indeed last time - true religious liberty for all sects throughout the Roman Empire, not merely Christianity. In the Edict of Milan he stated:

"No man should be denied leave of attaching himself to the rites of the Christians, or to whatever other religion his mind directed him, that thus the supreme Divinity, to whose worship we freely devote ourselves, might continue to vouchsafe His favour and beneficence to us"

See:


Quote:
"Constantine fostered an atmosphere of religious liberty … Since it favored all religions equally, the edict expressed a policy of religious liberty, not toleration...All should try to share the benefits of their religious understanding with others, but no one should force his or her truth upon another. … (for according to Constantine)..."it is one thing acting with free will to enter into contest for immortality, another to compel others to do so by force through the fear of punishment. No one should greatly trouble another, rather, everyone should follow what his soul prefers"...This edict is a paradigmatic statement of concord. … Since Constantine hopes that common fellowship and the persuasion "of those who believe" will lead everyone freely to choose (what he called) the straight path, he indicates his wish that religious unity will ultimately evolve."

- Elizabeth DePalma Digeser, in The making of a Christian Empire: Lactantius & Rome

Quote:
"In principle he (Constantine) treated religion as a matter of choice and conscience, an arena free of state meddling...Liberis mentibus — "With Free minds" — all are to worship their Gods. It is a remarkable policy, an unexpected one, since it would have been natural for a ruler after his conversion to Christianity to shift all the previous relations. … Most of the apologists who defended the Church in the early centuries advocated freedom of religion...the latin rhetor Lactantius developed a theological arguement for religious freedom. Lactantius was close enough to Constantine later to serve as tutor to the emperor's sons, and his influence is evident in many ways in Constantine's own writings. …He (Lactantius) asked those who believed in compulsion of religion: "What good can you do, then, if you defile the body but cannot break the will?" It is a surprisingly modern statement, arguing, that religious freedom is the "first freedom", rooted in the very nature of religious life as an exercise of free will...Under Constantine's policy of concord, the Church was flooded with new converts, not through coercion but by force of Imperial example...Eventually, Christian Emperors abandoned Constantinian religious policy... Constantine favoured the Church but gave serious attention to protecting the rights of non-Christians. One cannot help but muse how European history would have been different if Christians had had the patience to let Constantine's original settlement alone."

- Peter J. Leithart, in Defending Constantine : The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom (2010)
He was extremely tolerant. Indeed the maxim of his reign was Liberis Mentibus "With Free Minds": affirming that "With Free minds all are to worship their Gods", quoted in Defending Constantine : The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom (2010) by Peter J. Leithart.

From his private letters, we can see that his concern - above all - was for 'concord' and 'brotherliness' among his subjects:

Quote:
"This is certainly the Will of the Supreme God, who is the Author of this world and its Father, (through whose goodness we enjoy life, look up to heaven, and rejoice in the society of our fellow-men), that the whole human race should agree together and be joined in a certain affectionate union by, as it were, a mutual embrace... Let us...my Brothers, follow after the things that are ours, let us walk in the way of the Commandments, let us by good actions keep the Divine Precepts, let us free our life from errors and with the help of the mercy of God, let us direct it along the right path"

- Letter of Constantine to the Numidian Bishops (330)

Quote:
"How pleasing to the wise and intelligent portion of mankind is the concord which exists among you! And I myself, brethren, am disposed to love you with an enduring affection, inspired both by religion, and by your own manner of life and zeal on my behalf. It is by the exercise of right understanding and sound discretion, that we are enabled really to enjoy our blessings...Indeed, amongst brethren, whom the selfsame disposition to walk in the ways of truth and righteousness promises, through the favor of God, to register among his pure and holy family, what can be more honorable than gladly to acquiesce in the prosperity of all men?...O holy faith, who givest us in our Saviour's words and precepts a model, as it were, of what our life should be, how hardly wouldst thou thyself resist the sins of men, were it not that thou refusest to subserve the purposes of gain! In my own judgment, he whose first object is the maintenance of peace, seems to be superior to Victory herself; and where a right and honorable course lies open to one's choice, surely no one would hesitate to adopt it. I ask then, brethren, why do we so decide as to inflict an injury on others by our choice? Why do we covet those objects which will destroy the credit of our own reputation?...Lastly, in accordance with your usual sound judgment, do ye exhibit a becoming diligence in selecting the person of whom you stand in need, carefully avoiding all factious and tumultuous clamor; for such clamor is always wrong, and from the collision of discordant elements both sparks and flame will arise. I protest, as I desire to please God and you, and to enjoy a happiness commensurate with your kind wishes, that I love you, and the quiet haven of your gentleness, now that you have cast from you that which defiled, and received in its place at once sound morality and concord, firmly planting in the vessel the sacred standard, and guided, as one may say, by a helm of iron in your course onward to the light of heaven."

- Letter of Constantine to the Antiochians (332)

Quote:
"By keeping the Divine faith, I am made a partaker of the light of truth: guided by the light of truth, I advance in the knowledge of the Divine faith. Hence it is that, as my actions themselves evince, I profess the most holy religion; and this worship I declare to be that which teaches me deeper acquaintance with the most holy God; aided by whose Divine power, beginning from the very borders of the ocean, I have aroused each nation of the world in succession to a well-grounded hope of security; so that those which, groaning in servitude to the most cruel tyrants and yielding to the pressure of their daily sufferings, had well nigh been utterly destroyed, have been restored through my agency to a far happier state. This God I confess that I hold in unceasing honor and remembrance; this God I delight to contemplate with pure and guileless thoughts in the height of his glory. THIS God I invoke with bended knees"

- Letter of Constantine to Sapor, King of the Persians (333)

Abdu'l-Baha hails Constantine as the "protagonist of Christianity".

It would appear that every Dispensation has such an imperial 'protagonist'.

For Zoroastrianism, it was King Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid Empire:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrus_the_Great


Quote:
Cyrus II of Persia (Old Persian: KUURUUSHA[4] Kūruš; New Persian: کوروش Kurosh  ; c. 600 or 576 – 530 BC),[5] commonly known as Cyrus the Great [6] (Persian: کوروش بزرگ‎‎, Kourosh-e-Bozorg) and also called Cyrus the Elder by the Greeks, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire.[7] Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East,[7] expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much of Central Asia and the Caucasus. From the Mediterranean Sea and Hellespont in the west to the Indus River in the east, Cyrus the Great created the largest empire the world had yet seen...

Cyrus the Great respected the customs and religions of the lands he conquered.[12] It is said that in universal history, the role of the Achaemenid Empire founded by Cyrus lies in its very successful model for centralized administration and establishing a government working to the advantage and profit of its subjects.[7] In fact, the administration of the empire through satraps and the vital principle of forming a government at Pasargadae were the works of Cyrus.[13] What is sometimes referred to as the Edict of Restoration (actually two edicts) described in the Bible as being made by Cyrus the Great left a lasting legacy on the Jewish religion, where, because of his policies in Babylonia, he is referred to by the Jewish Bible as Messiah (lit. "His anointed one") (Isaiah 45:1),[14] and is the only non-Jew to be called so:[15]


So said the Lord to His anointed one, to Cyrus

— Isaiah 45:1-7

Cyrus the Great is also well recognized for his achievements in human rights, politics, and military strategy, as well as his influence on both Eastern and Western civilizations. Having originated from Persis, roughly corresponding to the modern Iranian province of Fars, Cyrus has played a crucial role in defining the national identity of modern Iran.[16][17][18] Cyrus and, indeed, the Achaemenid influence in the ancient world also extended as far as Athens, where many Athenians adopted aspects of the Achaemenid Persian culture as their own, in a reciprocal cultural exchange.[19]

For Buddhism, it was the Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan Empire:


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashoka


Quote:
Ashoka (IAST: Aśoka; English pronunciation: /əˈʃoʊkə/; died 232 BCE),[4] was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from c. 268 to 232 BCE.[5] One of India's greatest emperors, Ashoka reigned over a realm that stretched from the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan to the modern state of Bangladesh in the east. It covered the entire Indian subcontinent except parts of present-day Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The empire's capital was Pataliputra (in Magadha, present-day Bihar), with provincial capitals at Taxila and Ujjain.

In about 260 BCE, Ashoka waged a bitterly destructive war against the state of Kalinga (modern Odisha).[6] He conquered Kalinga, which none of his ancestors had done.[7] He embraced Buddhism after witnessing the mass deaths of the Kalinga War, which he himself had waged out of a desire for conquest. "Ashoka reflected on the war in Kalinga, which reportedly had resulted in more than 100,000 deaths and 150,000 deportations, ending at around 200,000 deaths."[8] Ashoka converted gradually to Buddhism beginning about 263 BCE.[6] He was later dedicated to the propagation of Buddhism across Asia, and established monuments marking several significant sites in the life of Gautama Buddha. "Ashoka regarded Buddhism as a doctrine that could serve as a cultural foundation for political unity."[9] Ashoka is now remembered as a philanthropic administrator. In the Kalinga edicts, he addresses his people as his "children", and mentions that as a father he desires their good...

According to Indian historian Romila Thapar, Ashoka emphasized respect for all religious teachers
, harmonious relationship between parents and children, teachers and pupils, and employers and employees.[37] Ashoka's religion contained gleanings from all religions. He emphasized on the virtues of Ahimsa, respect to all religious teachers, equal respect for and study of each other's scriptures, and on rational faith

For Islam, it was Abu Muslim al-Khorasani - the general behind the 'Abbasid Revolution' that toppled the corrupt Umayyad Caliphate and replaced it with a more inclusive, multi-ethnic state that resulted in the 'Islamic Golden Age':


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Mu...and_revolution


Quote:
Abu Muslim Abd al-Rahman ibn Muslim Khorasani or al-Khurasani (Arabic: أبو مسلم عبد الرحمن بن مسلم الخراساني‎‎ born 718-19 or 723-27, died in 755),[1] born Vehzādān Pūr-i Vandād Hormoz (Persian: وهزادان پور ونداد هرمزد‎‎), was a general in service of the Abbasid dynasty, who led the Abbasid Revolution that toppled the Umayyad dynasty.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbasid_Revolution


Quote:
The Abbasid Revolution refers to the overthrow of the Umayyad Caliphate (661–750 CE), the second of the four major Caliphates in early Islamic history, by the third, the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258 CE). Coming to power three decades after the death of the Muslim prophet Muhammad and immediately after the Rashidun Caliphate, the Umayyads were a feudal Arab empire ruling over a population which was overwhelmingly non-Arab as well as primarily non-Muslim. Non-Arabs were treated as second class citizens regardless of whether or not they converted to Islam, and this discontent cutting across faiths and ethnicities ultimately led to the Umayyad's overthrow.[1] The Abbasid family claimed to have descended from al-Abbas, an uncle of the Prophet.

The revolution essentially marked the end of the Arab empire and the beginning of a more inclusive, multiethnic state in the Middle East.[2] Remembered as one of the most well-organized revolutions during its period in history, it reoriented the focus of the Muslim world to the east.[3]...

Support for the Abbasid Revolution was an early example of people of different faiths aligning with a common cause. This was due in large part to policies of the Umayyads which were regarded as particularly oppressive to anyone following a faith other than Islam. In 741, the Umayyads decreed that non-Muslims could not serve in government posts.[45] The Abbasids were aware of this discontent, and made efforts to balance both its Muslim character as well as its partially non-Muslim constituency.[46]

Persecution of Zoroastrians was part of state policy during the Umayyad era. Al-Hajjaj allegedly killed all Zoroastrian clergy upon the conquest of east Iranian lands, burning all Zoroastrian literature and destroying most religious buildings.[44] The non-Muslim aristocracy around Merv supported the Abbasids, and thus retained their status as a privileged governing class regardless of religious belief.[13]

Cyrus, Ashoka, Constantine and Abu Muslim were all proponents of religious pluralism while being stoically committed to promoting their own faiths. It seems to be a unifying theme.

We can expect, according to the Baha'i Writings, the "King Who Will Arise" in Baha'u'llah's Dispensation to be cut from the same cloth.

Last edited by Yeshua; 07-22-2016 at 03:19 PM.
 
Old 07-22-2016, 04:55 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Walrus View Post
I would disagree here, albeit slightly. The Unification of the many sects and religions of the nation of Rome (including North Africa), I would agree. As for "Europe" as it is modernly understood, I would disagree. Some of Europe was not brought to Christianity in the same ways as Constantine. I'd disagree that the acts of war and division in, say, the Massacre of Verden or the Baltic Crusades were the intended political effects in Christ's message. So I'd say less about European Unity, more about Roman Unity.
This era was more nuanced than what you describe above.

Its true, the events you mention did lamentably occur. Yet "forced conversion" has always been against the Law of Christ, as understood by the majority of denominations. These were deviations, when zeal for one's faith exacerbated due bounds and led to inhumanity - religious fundamentalism, zealotry. That is not unique to Christianity.

Indeed, you only have to consider a few episodes - largely unknown, unlike the Inquisition for instance - to see a very different image. I'll give you one with the source. It is 866 AD. The story concerns Khan Boris, the Prince of the Bulgars -a nomadic, warrior people of mixed Turkic-Slavic origin. They practised a pagan religion called Tengriism and roamed the steppes around the Sea of Asov, near the Byzantine Empire, with their hordes ofwild horsemen: looting and bounty-hunting.

In 865, Khan Boris had converted to Christianity and baptised many of his tribesmen into the new religion.

A group of boyar, aristocrats among the Bulgars, were not happy with this change of religion - not happy at all. They sought to depose Khan Boris, murder him and reinstate a new Khan who would restore the old faith. And so an uprising began against him.

In response, Khan Boris slaughtered not only the 57 rebellious, pagan boyars but there entire families along with them. The survivors were then tortured to extort confessions of guilt.

In 866 Khan Boris sent a letter to Pope St. Nicholas the Great, asking him a series of questions about Christian faith and morals (since he hadn't even, as of yet, read the Bible). He also inquired about this episode and whether it was moral under 'the Christian law'.

The Pope told him, in no uncertain terms, that this was against divine law and he would have to adopt fresh, civilised and humane tactics from now on if he wanted to remain right with the God he had just baptised himself and much of his people under. The Pope explicitly said that confessions to suspected crime could not be "violently extorted" by means of torture, any form of physical compulsion, that non-combatants could not be killed or made to suffer along with the guilty and that even the guilty rebels who took up arms should be spared, out of Christian clemency, capital punishment and be allowed to live. Moreover, the Pope stressed that pagans could not be forced to embrace the Christian religion - only voluntarily come to it.

Consequently, Boris would have to repent of these sins. He eventually did this by becoming a monk and abandoning power, that is freely giving up his Khananate and abdicating as Khan of the Bulgars. Presumably the Pope's criticism must have weighed heavily on his soul.

Here is Pope St. Nicholas I's actual reply:


Internet History Sourcebooks

Chapter XVII.

Now then, you have told us about how you received the Christian religion by divine clemency and made your entire people be baptized, and how these people, after they had been baptized, rose up unanimously and fiercely against you, claiming that you had not given them a good law and also wishing to kill you and establish another king; and how you, having been readied against them with the help of divine power, conquered them from the greatest to the least and held them captives in your hands, and how all the leaders and magnates along with every one of their children were slaughtered by the sword, though the mediocre and lesser persons suffered no evil. Now you desire to know whether you have contracted any sin on account of those who were deprived of their lives. Clearly what you did not escape without sin nor could have happened without your fault, was that a child who was not privy to their parents' plot nor is proven to have born arms against you, was slaughtered along with the guilty, although innocent. For after the Psalmist said: I shall not go to my seat in the counsel of vanity and with people who do iniquitous deeds, I have hated the gatherings of the wicked and I shall not sit with the impious,[Ps. 25:4-5] he says a little while later in this regard, while praying to the Lordo not destroy my soul with the impious nor my life with the men of blood.[Ps. 25:9] Furthermore, the Lord declares through the prophet Ezechiel, saying:Just as the soul of the father is mine, so, too, the soul of the son: only the soul that has sinned shall perish; [Ez. 18:4]...You also should have acted with greater mildness concerning the parents who were captured, that is, [you should have] spared their lives for the love of the God Who delivered them into your hands. For thus you might be able to say to God withouthesitation in the Lord's prayer:Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.[Mt. 6:12] But you also could have saved those who died while fighting, but you did not permit them to live nor did you wish to save them, and in this you clearly did not act on good advice; for it is written:There shall be judgment without mercy for the person, who does not exercise mercy; [James 2:13]...

Chapter XVIII.

You indicate that you wish to know what you should do concerning those who reject the Christian law...The Church should persuade him like a mother, like a teacher...

Chapter XLI.

Concerning those who refuse to receive the good of Christianity and sacrifice and bend their knees to idols, we can write nothing else to you than that you move them towards the right faith by warnings, exhortations, and reason rather than by force, proving that what they know in vain, is wrong: [cf. Jer. 1:16] namely that, although they are people with capable intellects...Violence should by no means be inflicted upon them to make them believe. For everything which is not voluntary, cannot be good; for it is written: Willingly shall I sacrifice to you, [Ps. 53:8] and again: Make all the commands of my mouth your will, [Ps. 118:108] and again, And by my own will I shall confess to Him.[Ps. 27:7] Indeed, God commands that willing service be performed only by the willing.

Chapter CII.

We have taught above that violence should not be inflicted upon the pagan in order to make him become a Christian.

Chapter LXXXVI.

If a thief or a robber is apprehendedand denies that he is involved, you say that in your country the judge would beat his head with lashes and prick his sides with iron goads until he came up with the truth. Neither divine nor human law allows this practice in any way, since a confession should be spontaneous, not compelled, and should not be elicited with violence but rather proferred voluntarily. But if it just so happens that you find nothing at all which casts the crime upon the one who has suffered, aren't you ashamed and don't yourecognize how impiously you judge? Likewise, if the accused man, after suffering, says that he committed what he did not commit because he is unable to bear such [torture], upon whom, I ask you, will the magnitude of so great an impiety fall if not upon the person who compelled this man to confess these things falsely? Indeed, the person who utters from his mouth what he does not hold in his heart is known not to confess but to speak.[cf. Mt. 12:34] Therefore leave such practices behind and heartily curse the things which you have hitherto done foolishly. Indeed, what fruit shall you have in those practices, of which you are now ashamed.Finally when a free man is caught in a crime, unless he is first found guilty of some wicked deed, he either falls victim to the punishment after being convicted by three witnesses or, if he cannot be convicted, he is absolved after swearing upon the holy Gospel that he did not commit [the crime] whichis laid against him, and from that moment on the matter is at an end, just as the oft-mentioned Apostle, the teacher of the nations, attests, when hesays:an oath for confirmation is an end of all their strife.[Heb. 6:16]...

Far be it from your minds that you, who have acknowledged so pious a God and Lord, now judge so harshly, especially since it is more fitting that, just as hitherto you put people to death with ease, so from now on you should lead those whom you can not to death but to life. For the blessed apostle Paul, who was initially an abusive persecutor and breathed threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord,[cf. Acts 9:1]later sought mercy and, converted by a divine revelation, not only did not impose the death penaltyon anyone but also wished to be anathema for the brethren [cf. Rom. 9:3] and was prepared to spend and be spent most willingly for the souls of the faithful.[cf. II Cor. 12:15]In the same way, after you have been called by the election of God and illuminated by his light, you should no longer desire deaths but should without hesitation recall everyone to the life of the body as well as the soul, when any opportunity is found.[cf. Rom. 7:6] And just as Christ led you back from the eternal death in which you were gripped, to eternal life,so you yourself should attempt to save not only the innocent, but also the guilty from the end of death,according tothe saying of the most wise Solomon:Save those, who are led to death; and do not cease freeing those who are brought totheir destruction. [Prov. 24:11]​

Last edited by Yeshua; 07-23-2016 at 10:02 AM.
 
Old 07-25-2016, 06:56 AM   #19
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From: Wisconsin
Posts: 788
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yeshua View Post
Christians worship on Sunday due to the agency of a Roman emperor: Sunday is attested as the day of worship for Christians as early as the writings of the church father St. Justin Martyr at the start of the second century AD.
Yep. On closer research that seems to be one of those "Things I read a long time ago that I did not have the time at the time to properly fact-check and which stuck in my head as a fact."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yeshua View Post
We can expect, according to the Baha'i Writings, the "King Who Will Arise" in Baha'u'llah's Dispensation to be cut from the same cloth.
A very good observation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yeshua View Post
Yet "forced conversion" has always been against the Law of Christ, as understood by the majority of denominations.
Indeed, and if it was not clear that this sentence above was not my overall point, then I will make it clear now. My basic, overall point was that the entirety of the conversion of Europe was not the intent of the message of Christ, given the nuance involved and the instances where Christendom was on the wrong side of a story of European conversion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yeshua View Post
The story concerns Khan Boris, the Prince of the Bulgars
"Boris Khan", you mean. The title comes after the name. Sorry, I'm a Turkic-name grammar Nazi. :P Just be glad you didn't spell "Chinggis" as "Genghis".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yeshua View Post
They practised a pagan religion called Tengriism.
I'm not sure I would call Tengriism a "pagan" religion. It has always seemed borderline monotheistic to me, with other divine figures existing, but still an overarching acknowledgement of the supremacy of the singular Eternal Blue Sky as sovereign above all else. Sorry, now that's just me as a religion nerd interjecting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yeshua View Post
Khananate
"Khanate", sorry. :P

Overall, nit-pickiness about the proper styling of Turkic monarchs and classification of borderline monotheistic/polytheistic religions aside, I do agree with your point that forced conversions are against the religion of Christ, and it was my overall point to conclude that because such conversions are against the religion of Jesus, and because such conversions were used in various parts of Europe, thus not all of Europe's conversion was the intention of Jesus' message.
 
Old 07-31-2016, 05:08 PM   #20
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Posts: 13
Hello All! I've been away on vacation this past week, and I am so pleased with the posts made in my absence. Thanks to Larry, Sen, Yeshua, and Walrus. You've all made such interesting points!

I feel like I have a whole lot of individual study yet to invest into making sense of this subject, but your collective input has accomplished much. Thank you again!
 
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