Question of Ethics

Oct 2019
33
Vrindavan
Dear Baha'i community,

a topic that has already been discussed in a discussion between Baha'i and Christianity, I would like to put to debate here, perhaps there will be some resourceful connoisseurs of the matter.

Most religions see themselves as timeless. They describe a certain image of man and assign a certain dignity to man based on their writings. Human dignity is timeless and religions have defended this human dignity against all temporal developments.

On the other hand, there is the belief in progress. This belief in progress assumes that man must always follow the newest. There is no place left for a constant ethics and a permanent image of man. The image of man and thus also the question of dignity and ethics must be discussed again and again if one follows the protagonists of these convictions.

In practical terms, this can mean that people are pushed into dignitylessness if that is the current notion of dignity.

I see this problem in the progressive revelation of God. It is no longer the quality and the question whether there was a highest ethical revelation that counts, but only the progression. According to this thinking a prophet could come and say that handicapped people have no right to life anymore. Since there is no longer any central ethics, but always the current prophet defines ethics, people would have to give up their humanistic-ethical understanding if they followed the idea of progressive revelation. Then no reference to Baha'u'llah or Christ would help, since their teachings would ultimately be abolished.

How does the Baha'i religion solve this moral dilemma?

Siddhanta
 
Apr 2011
1,090
Hyrule
How does the Baha'i religion solve this moral dilemma?

Siddhanta
Have you presented a moral dilemma?

Most religions see themselves as timeless. They describe a certain image of man and assign a certain dignity to man based on their writings. Human dignity is timeless and religions have defended this human dignity against all temporal developments.
The Baha'i Faith is timeless. "This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future," wrote Baha'u'llah.

On the other hand, there is the belief in progress. This belief in progress assumes that man must always follow the newest. There is no place left for a constant ethics and a permanent image of man. The image of man and thus also the question of dignity and ethics must be discussed again and again if one follows the protagonists of these convictions.
Even Christianity has its own "progressive" revelation. For example, Jesus prohibits divorce (Mark 10.1-16) and makes an appeal to the Law of creation as proof (Gen 1.27, 2.24). He believed he had the authority to challenge and correct the Law of Moses by restoring it to the original Law of creation, implying he held it above Mosaic Torah (and thus "one-up" the position of traditional Jews), a position that not only upset the apple cart of the everyday Sadducee who believed the Law was fixed, but it led to conflicts with Pharisaical oral Law too (Mark 10.5-6; Matt 5.32; Luke 16.18; Deut 24.1-4). Another example is slavery. Few Christians support slavery today. Many American slave owners characterized abolitionists as emotional and sentimental in the light of their interpretation of Christian texts.

The Church Fathers Clement and Irenaeus both believed in progressive revelation throughout history.

Every prophecy, before its accomplishment, is enigma and contradiction for men (ainigma esti kai antilogia). But when came the moment that the prediction was accomplished, it found its correct interpretation. This is why the Law, when read by the Jews in our times, is similar to a myth (muthôi eoiken), since they do not possess what is the explanation of it all, namely the coming of the Son of God as a man.”
-Irenaeus​
"The action of the Savior on us is immediate, and comes through the presence, hidden until then under the riddle of prophecy. He who has shown the prophecies through direct vision, has manifested the coming of this presence, advancing from so far towards full light. He has really ‘detached’ and brought to their end the oracles of the divine scheme by revealing the sense of the symbols."​
-Clement​
"The oracles, or prophetic riddles, which appear here in all their power, are the deepest religious truths of mankind. They were revealed by God to the Hebrews (and first expressed by Moses) in a cryptic way. They were then borrowed, or rather stolen, by the pagans— but this was no doubt a felix culpa of sorts, since it permitted the propagation of truth, albeit distorted to some extent, among the gentiles. It thus prepared them in a way for the future acknowledgment of Christ. Yet, although philosophers claim to reveal the hidden sense of these riddles, and the Jews read the Bible as if they understand it, only the Christians can possess a total knowledge of this truth at its highest level. Indeed, the philosophia barbarum of the Christians, so despised by the Hellenic intellectuals, is the only true philosophy."​
-Guy Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom


I see this problem in the progressive revelation of God. It is no longer the quality and the question whether there was a highest ethical revelation that counts, but only the progression. According to this thinking a prophet could come and say that handicapped people have no right to life anymore. Since there is no longer any central ethics, but always the current prophet defines ethics, people would have to give up their humanistic-ethical understanding if they followed the idea of progressive revelation. Then no reference to Baha'u'llah or Christ would help, since their teachings would ultimately be abolished.
The source of religious ethics under progressive revelation is love and understanding. Note Abdu'l-Baha's distinction between the "Holy of Holies" and the "Holy City":

"Among the people of true knowledge, the Holy of Holies refers to the essence of the religion of God and His true teachings, which have remained unchanged throughout all the prophetic Dispensations, as was explained previously, while Jerusalem encompasses the reality of the religion of God, which is the Holy of Holies, as well as all the laws, mutual relationships, rites, and material ordinances, which constitute the city. That is why it is called the heavenly Jerusalem. Briefly, in the course of the Dispensation of the Sun of Truth, the lights of God will shine forth with the utmost splendour, and thus the essence of the divine teachings will be realized in the world of being, the darkness of ignorance and folly will be dispelled, the world will become another world, spiritual illumination will encompass all, and hence the Holy of Holies will appear."
-Abdu'l-Baha, SAQ​
"Briefly, what is meant by the term 'Holy of Holies' is that spiritual law which can never be changed or abrogated, and what is meant by the 'Holy City' is the material law which may indeed be abrogated . . ."​
-Abdu'l-Baha, SAQ​
"The religion of God consists of two parts: One is the very foundation and belongs to the spiritual realm; that is, it pertains to spiritual virtues and divine qualities. This part suffers neither change nor alteration: It is the Holy of Holies, which constitutes the essence of the religion of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Christ, Muḥammad, the Báb, and Bahá’u’lláh, and which will endure throughout all the prophetic Dispensations. It will never be abrogated, for it consists in spiritual rather than material truth. It is faith, knowledge, certitude, justice, piety, high-mindedness, trustworthiness, love of God, and charity. It is mercy to the poor, assistance to the oppressed, generosity to the needy, and upliftment of the fallen. It is purity, detachment, humility, forbearance, patience, and constancy. These are divine qualities. These commandments will never be abrogated, but will remain in force and effect for all eternity. These human virtues are renewed in every Dispensation; for at the close of each Dispensation the spirit of the law of God, which consists in the human virtues, vanishes in substance and persists only in form. "
-Abdu'l-Baha, SAQ​
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Trailblazer
Oct 2019
33
Vrindavan
Have you presented a moral dilemma?
Hello ahanu,

I'll try to describe it a little more precisely:
If we have a religion X that assumes that its prophet is the highest ethical revelation, then from this position it can evaluate all subsequent philosophies or revelators. One's own ethics becomes the highest standard of evaluation because it is considered the ultimate binding one.

If we have a religion Y that assumes that in its prophet there is a temporary revelation that is cancelled out by the next prophet, then it relativizes its own ethical positions. A new prophet could completely abolish these ethics.

Let us take an example:
If a religion has recognized that people should not kill, then it means for religion X that this requirement is unconditional and eternal.
For religion Y, it can mean that the knowledge that you should not kill is annulled by a next prophet.

The Baha'i Faith is timeless. "This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future," wrote Baha'u'llah.
That's what Baha'u'llah says. And the next prophet says that this statement was temporary and has been repealed. Perhaps the next prophet will extend the death penalty even further and introduce corporal punishment again. See what problem I mean?

Even Christianity has its own "progressive" revelation. For example, Jesus prohibits divorce (Mark 10.1-16) and makes an appeal to the Law of creation as proof (Gen 1.27, 2.24). He believed he had the authority to challenge and correct the Law of Moses by restoring it to the original Law of creation, implying he held it above Mosaic Torah (and thus "one-up" the position of traditional Jews), a position that not only upset the apple cart of the everyday Sadducee who believed the Law was fixed, but it led to conflicts with Pharisaical oral Law too (Mark 10.5-6; Matt 5.32; Luke 16.18; Deut 24.1-4). Another example is slavery. Few Christians support slavery today. Many American slave owners characterized abolitionists as emotional and sentimental in the light of their interpretation of Christian texts.
What you're describing is without a doubt correct. In Islam there was also this idea of a progressive revelation. New suras would replace the older ones. This is the big discussion about Islam when the peaceful Suras are the older ones and the warlike ones the newer ones. That is why some people say that Islam cannot be reconciled with modern society because the war Suras have replaced the peaceful ones. As you can see, this is exactly the same problem. Pure progressivity is not sufficient, there must be an unchangeable standard of value, which is not changeable, but reaches beyond the prophet.
 
Jun 2014
1,096
Wisconsin
I think this is best answered with the concept of "first principles", or the core principles upon which the system of ethics can be built around. If a system of ethics has such first principles, then the ethics derived from the core principles can be updated and changed without compromising the core principles of the ethical system.

Most ethical systems have a set of first principles. Those that don't are, well, arbitrary and basically useless.

The conditions of the world are constantly changing, and with that change rules within an ethical system can even come to contradict their core principles, and so an ethics system should ideally be able to change as to always be ultimately derived from those first principles.

You can see this concept in practice in constitutional systems of government, where the laws are the ethical codes, and the constitution represents the first principles of that ethical system.

For a (very simplistic) example lets say we build an ethical code around a simple first principle: "Your health as a human being should always be maximized." Of course, I don't think such a thing SHOULD be used as a first principle for an ethical system, but it will work as an example :p . For sake of an example, let's set the year back to 1700.

Based on our first principle, we'll derive a system of ethics dictating what should be eaten, what should not, how much of each thing should be eaten, how much exercise one should do, and what sorts of exercise one should do.

However, as time goes on to the year 2000, technology improves, and the kind of jobs people do change with that change in technology. As a result, people are less active in their work life. Suddenly the ethics we derived back in 1700 are in contradiction with the first principles. People now are eating too much and getting to little exercise. In order to reaffirm the first principles of our fitness-based moral system, we need to recreate the ethical system.

If we made our ethical system "timeless", as you term it, then this ethical system, while leading to peak physical fitness in the year 1700, will lead to obesity in the year 2000.

If we make our ethical system "progressive", we can re-derive the ethical system from the first principle, and peak fitness is ensured regardless of era.

I'd say under the Baha'i understanding, our first principles our timeless, the ethics are progressive. The laws, ethics, and morals may change, but the underlying reason and purpose of those laws, ethics, and morals do not.

I could maybe go into more detail on what I think the first principles of the Baha'i ethical system are, but that will take a little more research time than I have available at the moment.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Trailblazer
Oct 2019
33
Vrindavan
I understand that point. You have also well described what the original discussion was about the revelations of Christianity and Baha'i. I would like to discuss your system for clarification:

For a Christian, the revelation of Jesus Christ represents this original First Principle. Because Jesus Christ is this unchangeable First Principle, from which all concrete moral and ethical decisions and adaptations are derived, and in this sense it is the "highest revelation", it remains for the Christian reference to all other norms:

Therefore, in the first letter to the Thessalonians it says, "Do not quench the Spirit! Do not despise prophetic speeches! Test all things and keep the good!

Not the law, but Christ is the yardstick for the believer. Christians adhere to the first principle, from which the further derivations and concrete norms are derived. Therefore it is not plausible for Christians to abandon this First Principle.

For Christians, Christ is precisely this first principle, not the bearer of concrete, temporal norms. On the contrary, the Epistle to the Romans says that the knowledge of sin came through the law. Man realizes that he always lags behind his possibilities, but is accepted by God precisely in this weakness.
 
Jul 2017
483
Olympia, WA, USA
I see this problem in the progressive revelation of God. It is no longer the quality and the question whether there was a highest ethical revelation that counts, but only the progression. According to this thinking a prophet could come and say that handicapped people have no right to life anymore. Since there is no longer any central ethics, but always the current prophet defines ethics, people would have to give up their humanistic-ethical understanding if they followed the idea of progressive revelation. Then no reference to Baha'u'llah or Christ would help, since their teachings would ultimately be abolished.

How does the Baha'i religion solve this moral dilemma?
It is not a Baha’i belief that there is a “highest” ethical revelation, there is just the continuing revelation from God to man over time and all revelations of God are ethical. As Abdu’l-Baha said, spiritual truth is eternal and it will never be abrogated; it is faith, knowledge, certitude, justice, piety, righteousness, trustworthiness, love of God, benevolence, purity, detachment, humility, meekness, patience and constancy.

“These divine qualities, these eternal commandments, will never be abolished; nay, they will last and remain established for ever and ever. These virtues of humanity will be renewed in each of the different cycles; for at the end of every cycle the spiritual Law of God—that is to say, the human virtues—disappears, and only the form subsists.” Some Answered Questions, p. 47

In the following passage, changeless Faith of God means that the eternal spiritual verities do not change over time.

“Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths. Take heed that ye do not vacillate in your determination to embrace the truth of this Cause—a Cause through which the potentialities of the might of God have been revealed, and His sovereignty established. With faces beaming with joy, hasten ye unto Him. This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future. Let him that seeketh, attain it; and as to him that hath refused to seek it—verily, God is Self-Sufficient, above any need of His creatures.” Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 136

However, religious truth is progressive and it needs to suit the needs of the times we live in. This refers to the essential message of the Prophet, such as the oneness of God, the oneness of religion and the oneness of mankind for the Baha’i Faith.

“And now concerning thy question regarding the nature of religion. Know thou that they who are truly wise have likened the world unto the human temple. As the body of man needeth a garment to clothe it, so the body of mankind must needs be adorned with the mantle of justice and wisdom. Its robe is the Revelation vouchsafed unto it by God. Whenever this robe hath fulfilled its purpose, the Almighty will assuredly renew it. For every age requireth a fresh measure of the light of God. Every Divine Revelation hath been sent down in a manner that befitted the circumstances of the age in which it hath appeared.” Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 81

“The Purpose of the one true God, exalted be His glory, in revealing Himself unto men is to lay bare those gems that lie hidden within the mine of their true and inmost selves. That the divers communions of the earth, and the manifold systems of religious belief, should never be allowed to foster the feelings of animosity among men, is, in this Day, of the essence of the Faith of God and His Religion. These principles and laws, these firmly-established and mighty systems, have proceeded from one Source, and are the rays of one Light. That they differ one from another is to be attributed to the varying requirements of the ages in which they were promulgated.”
Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 287-288


That means that the Laws of God have to change with the times.

“The second part of the Religion of God, which refers to the material world, and which comprises fasting, prayer, forms of worship, marriage and divorce, the abolition of slavery, legal processes, transactions, indemnities for murder, violence, theft and injuries—this part of the Law of God, which refers to material things, is modified and altered in each prophetic cycle in accordance with the necessities of the times.” Some Answered Questions, p. 48

The current Prophet defines the social teachings and Laws for the current times. According to Baha’i teachings, the assumption has to be made that if a new Prophet brings a new revelation that Prophet was sent by God, so whatever he revealed is identical with the Will of God. We might not agree with the Prophet, such as the Laws about sex allowed only within marriage between a man and his wife, but if we argue with it that is as much as saying we think we know more than God about what is moral and what is in the best interest of humanity collectively.
 
Oct 2019
33
Vrindavan
It is not a Baha’i belief that there is a “highest” ethical revelation
The Bahai Letters of October 1960, Issue 2, state that the Bahái religion is not a Gnostic, but a "social-ethical" religion. You say that the Baha'i do not believe in the highest ethical revelation. But then the Baha'i religion is not an ethical religion, but only a religion of the law, which closes itself not only to the insight into the highest ethics, but also to the insight into the will of God.

The problem is that without a constant ethical First Principle to stay in terms here, you cannot judge whether a person is really a prophet.

Why should God, who knows about the imperfection of his creation, about the imperfection of his children, about the imperfection of his children in the question of cognitive ability, about the imperfection of his children regarding his own actions, guilt and insight, want the introduction of the death penalty or the branding of criminals ? It completely contradicts the idea that people can turn back.
Why would God want "Thou shalt not kill" to be relativized by wanting the death penalty for people himself?

In Iran, many Baha'i are facing the death penalty. Many Christian countries support the Baha'i because they reject the death penalty. Especially in the Christian communities the consternation is great that a so-called "God state" wants to kill people. This rejection has to do with ethical values that man had insight into.

Iran justifies the death penalty in these concrete cases with the fact that the Baha'i endanger the state. According to the Kitab-I-Aqdas, the death penalty is admissible on the same grounds - it is also written in the Kitab-I-Aqdas that people who have been unlawfully sentenced to death are certainly compensated thousands of times in heaven. So if people were to follow Baha'i standards and not their ethical conscience, they would have no problem at all with Iran carrying out these death sentences.

It is interesting to note that the Kitab-I-Aqdas states that people who would be "unjustly" punished to death would be compensated in other worlds. So the revelator already seems to be aware that people come to misjudgments and are not able to speak objectively right. How then can one really believe that the demand for the introduction of the death penalty would be a divine instruction?

It is to be assumed that a God who knows that his children cannot objectively speak justice can never want his commandment "Thou shalt not kill" to be suspended. Jurisprudence must always be directed to the inadequacy of man. We can see thousands of times in the world that harsher punishments do not lead to ethical development and improved society.
 
Last edited:
Aug 2019
73
Berlin
Good questions Siddhanta, I would still like to add some further considerations to the discussion that might help in understanding the whole.

The basic misunderstanding seems to be the assumption that the next Manifestation of God cancels the complete revelation of the previous Manifestation. Baha'u'llah speaks of a progressive revelation, that is, the next manifestation must be in a clear sequence to the current manifestation. As the revelations progress in time, there is a portion of revelation that changes while there is an eternal portion. There is an interaction between the two, for the changing part realizes the eternal part and is therefore changing because society changes. This eternal portion includes what Christians encounter in Jesus Christ, the divine reality. Jesus Christ is, according to the Christian view, wholly God and wholly man. Christians meet God in Jesus Christ. What Christians understand as the law that has been superseded is the outdated cultural, changeable part. Christians turn to Jesus Christ and overcome outdated cultural structures.

At the same time Jesus Christ spoke into time and expressed things that are no longer valid today. So he said that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Consequently, all people who do not belong to the House of Israel could reject the message of Jesus. When Christians say that Jesus Christ is God, they proclaim that they met God in Jesus Christ. The reality behind Jesus Christ is the eternal part, the First Principle, from which the concrete legal norms for modern times arise. This First Principle is not the historical Jesus, but the proclaimed Christ. However, this proclaiming Christ is Bahaullah, who was sent not only "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel", but also not only to the Arab tribes that Mohammad united, but to all people.

Let us become more concrete.

Take the example of the death penalty. Until autumn 2018 the Vatican has admitted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that societies have the right to resort to the death penalty if necessary, if this is necessary for the protection of the citizens and there is no other possibility to get hold of a perpetrator. Only in autumn 2018 the Pope deleted this passage and positioned himself against the death penalty, because Christianity believes in the dignity of man independent of his deeds and today it also has other possibilities to protect society permanently against such perpetrators. The revelation of Baha'u'llah also describes the possibility of life imprisonment in addition to the death penalty. This means that there is the greatest possible scope for the enactment of legal norms. The fact that a life imprisonment is possible for perpetrators shows the mercy of God.

Another example is divorce. Moses allowed divorce, if you believe the Scriptures, it is because of people's hard-heartedness. Jesus prohibited divorce. Is this merciful in individual cases? Today there are many discussions in the churches as to why divorce might be permissible and they all go back to the Mosaic argument: when people are cold-hearted or completely divided. We also have a time when marriage is not an inevitability for social survival. This would be a situation where Bah'u'llah has issued a rule for time and replaced the norm of Jesus. The basis of divorce is mercy.

The misunderstanding probably lies in the fact that progressive revelation of God does not mean that the whole revelation is abolished. On the contrary, the experience of God through the manifestations of God is identical for believers and the eternal portion remains unchangeable. Nor can a coming manifestation change this eternal portion, for the eternal portion is part of the eternal religion. The variable portion is the cultural formation of the eternal religion and adapts.

Perhaps these thoughts are helpful for discussion.
 
Jul 2017
483
Olympia, WA, USA
The Bahai Letters of October 1960, Issue 2, state that the Bahái religion is not a Gnostic, but a "social-ethical" religion. You say that the Baha'i do not believe in the highest ethical revelation. But then the Baha'i religion is not an ethical religion, but only a religion of the law, which closes itself not only to the insight into the highest ethics, but also to the insight into the will of God.

The problem is that without a constant ethical First Principle to stay in terms here, you cannot judge whether a person is really a prophet.
I was making some guesses at what you meant by an ethical revelation. Without knowing what you mean by “ethical First Principle” I would only be guessing so it would be difficult to respond as to why that would help one judge whether a person is really a Prophet.

Why do you think the law closes itself not only to the insight into the highest ethics, but also to the insight into the will of God? Yes, the Baha’i Faith is a religion of Law but it is about morality, love, justice, equity and so much more.

“The beginning of all things is the knowledge of God, and the end of all things is strict observance of whatsoever hath been sent down from the empyrean of the Divine Will that pervadeth all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth.” Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 5

“Know verily that the essence of justice and the source thereof are both embodied in the ordinances prescribed by Him Who is the Manifestation of the Self of God amongst men, if ye be of them that recognize this truth. He doth verily incarnate the highest, the infallible standard of justice unto all creation. Were His law to be such as to strike terror into the hearts of all that are in heaven and on earth, that law is naught but manifest justice. The fears and agitation which the revelation of this law provokes in men’s hearts should indeed be likened to the cries of the suckling babe weaned from his mother’s milk, if ye be of them that perceive. Were men to discover the motivating purpose of God’s Revelation, they would assuredly cast away their fears, and, with hearts filled with gratitude, rejoice with exceeding gladness.”
Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 175

“The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Day Spring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation. Whoso achieveth this duty hath attained unto all good; and whoso is deprived thereof, hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed. It behoveth every one who reacheth this most sublime station, this summit of transcendent glory, to observe every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. These twin duties are inseparable. Neither is acceptable without the other. Thus hath it been decreed by Him Who is the Source of Divine inspiration.” Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 330-331


The law is one thing that and that is what differentiates it from Christianity which did away with the law in favor of grace.

“Christ became the end of the Law by virtue of what He did on earth through His sinless life and His sacrifice on the cross. So, the Law no longer has any bearing over us because its demands have been fully met in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ who satisfied the righteous demands of the Law restores us into a pleasing relationship with God and keeps us there. No longer under the penalty of the Law, we now live under the law of grace in the love of God.”​

However, Christianity would also have been a religion of laws if Paul and the Church doctrines had not changed the essential message of Jesus which I consider an utter disgrace because there can never be individual morality or justice in a society without laws.

Matthew 5:17-19 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Why should God, who knows about the imperfection of his creation, about the imperfection of his children, about the imperfection of his children in the question of cognitive ability, about the imperfection of his children regarding his own actions, guilt and insight, want the introduction of the death penalty or the branding of criminals ? It completely contradicts the idea that people can turn back.
Why would God want "Thou shalt not kill" to be relativized by wanting the death penalty for people himself?
I do not think that Thou shalt not kill applies to the death penalty. It applies to unlawful killing.

What Commandment says thou shalt not kill?

Thou shalt not kill
(LXX; οὐ φονεύσεις), You shall not murder (Hebrew: לֹא תִּרְצָח ; lo tirṣaḥ) or You shall not kill (KJV), is a moral imperative included as one of the Ten Commandments in the Torah. The imperative to not kill is in the context of unlawful killing resulting in bloodguilt.
Thou shalt not kill - Wikipedia

Justified killing: due consequence for crime

The Torah and Hebrew Bible made clear distinctions between the shedding of innocent blood versus killing as the due consequence of a crime. A number of sins were considered to be worthy of the death penalty including murder,[14] incest,[15] bearing false witness on a capital charge,[16] adultery,[17] idolatry,[18] bestiality,[19] human sacrifice to pagan gods,[20] cursing a parent,[21] fortune-telling,[22] and other sins.
Thou shalt not kill - Wikipedia
In Iran, many Baha'i are facing the death penalty. Many Christian countries support the Baha'i because they reject the death penalty. Especially in the Christian communities the consternation is great that a so-called "God state" wants to kill people. This rejection has to do with ethical values that man had insight into.
You bring up the word ethical again, do you mean moral? I believe that God sets the standards for morality and they can change in every age, according to what is revealed by a new Manifestation of God in the law He sets forth.
Iran justifies the death penalty in these concrete cases with the fact that the Baha'i endanger the state. According to the Kitab-I-Aqdas, the death penalty is admissible on the same grounds - it is also written in the Kitab-I-Aqdas that people who have been unlawfully sentenced to death are certainly compensated thousands of times in heaven. So if people were to follow Baha'i standards and not their ethical conscience, they would have no problem at all with Iran carrying out these death sentences.
I am sorry but I am not familiar with that law in the Kitab-i-Aqdas that says that death sentences can be carried out for any reason other than murder. Moreover, Baha’u’llah only allowed for the death sentence, but He also permitted life in prison as an alternative, and it is at the discretion of the UHJ which penalty is applied. Of course, we do not live in a Baha’i society so we are enjoined to adhere to the laws of the land in which we live, even if we disagree with them.
It is interesting to note that the Kitab-I-Aqdas states that people who would be "unjustly" punished to death would be compensated in other worlds. So the revelator already seems to be aware that people come to misjudgments and are not able to speak objectively right. How then can one really believe that the demand for the introduction of the death penalty would be a divine instruction?
There is no demand for the death penalty in Baha’i Law as Baha’u’llah also permitted life in prison as an alternative. If Baha’u’llah was a Manifestation of God who represented the Will of God then the Laws He revealed would have to be a divine instruction.
It is to be assumed that a God who knows that his children cannot objectively speak justice can never want his commandment "Thou shalt not kill" to be suspended. Jurisprudence must always be directed to the inadequacy of man. We can see thousands of times in the world that harsher punishments do not lead to ethical development and improved society.
Thou shalt not kill which refers to unlawful killing has not been suspended. The harsh punishments are not intended to lead to ethical development; they are intended to administer justice, punishments that suit the crime for the good of the individuals and the good of society.

Justice hath a mighty force at its command. It is none other than reward and punishment for the deeds of men. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 164)​
By the power of this force the tabernacle of order is established throughout the world, causing the wicked to restrain their natures for fear of punishment. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 164)​
Bounty is giving without desert, and justice is giving what is deserved. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 231)​
Justice is not limited, it is a universal quality. Its operation must be carried out in all classes, from the highest to the lowest. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 159-160)​
Justice must be sacred, and the rights of all the people must be considered. Desire for others only that which you desire for yourselves. Then shall we rejoice in the Sun of Justice, which shines from the Horizon of God. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 159-160)​
The canopy of existence . . . resteth upon the pole of justice, and not of forgiveness, and the life of mankind dependeth on justice and not on forgiveness. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 28)​
If the community and the inheritors of the murdered one were to forgive and return good for evil, the cruel would be continually ill-treating others, and assassinations would continually occur. Vicious people, like wolves, would destroy the sheep of God. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 269)​
Excerpts from: Justice and Punishment
 
  • Like
Reactions: tonyfish58

Jcc

Mar 2013
577
Edwardsville, Illinois, USA
Most religions see themselves as timeless. They describe a certain image of man and assign a certain dignity to man based on their writings. Human dignity is timeless and religions have defended this human dignity against all temporal developments.
Religion, the eternal covenant of God and mankind, is timeless. The dignity of man is also timless. Certain laws and social teachings of religion are not timeless, they are specific to an era, or stage of development of mankind. Changes to the social teachings that come with a new revelation do not erode human dignity, they reinforce it.

On the other hand, there is the belief in progress. This belief in progress assumes that man must always follow the newest. There is no place left for a constant ethics and a permanent image of man. The image of man and thus also the question of dignity and ethics must be discussed again and again if one follows the protagonists of these convictions.

In practical terms, this can mean that people are pushed into dignitylessness if that is the current notion of dignity.
This seems to be a theoretical issue, but not a real issue. It is true that the new teachings bring old social norms into question, but it is because the old social norms limit human dignity, and the new teachings increase it. For instance, slavery, the caste system, subordination of women, treating people of a different race or religion as "unclean". All of these long held social norms, actually reduce human dignity, so they need to be abolished. And God has abolished them through Baha'u'llah.

I see this problem in the progressive revelation of God. It is no longer the quality and the question whether there was a highest ethical revelation that counts, but only the progression. According to this thinking a prophet could come and say that handicapped people have no right to life anymore. Since there is no longer any central ethics, but always the current prophet defines ethics, people would have to give up their humanistic-ethical understanding if they followed the idea of progressive revelation. Then no reference to Baha'u'llah or Christ would help, since their teachings would ultimately be abolished.

How does the Baha'i religion solve this moral dilemma?

Siddhanta
I don't see a dilemma here. If the prophet is true, His teachings are the will of God, and lead to the spiritual, moral and physical advancement of mankind. If the teachings don't lead to spiritual and moral progress, they aren't true. A theoretical prophet that decrees handicapped people should be killed is not a true prophet.

Now, if we try to pick certain teachings out of context and claim that this represents a moral regression from a previous religion, I submit that given the proper context and understanding we will see that there is no regression, and human dignity and morality advance with every new revelation.