- Jun 2014
I do not think the whole of Jesus' Revelation makes up the first principles of Christianity. Take, for example, the verses in which he deconstructs the laws to explain the principles behind them: "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?" or "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[c] will be subject to judgment."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.
In other words abstaining from work on the Sabbath is not the first principle behind Jewish sabbatical laws according to Jesus. Likewise a prohibition on murder isn't even a first principle to Jesus, rather, the hatred behind that murder is the first principle that informs the law against murder.
Because of verses like these, Christians typically realize that there are first principles behind what Jesus is saying, his teachings are not necessarily first principles in and of themselves. IE: Jesus' teachings about charity informs that the first principle behind charity is not for the sake of charity itself, nor even the help to others the charity can bring, but is about self-sacrifice as a principle. This is not available from the direct text of Jesus' law, but is obvious through the subtext and parallel of what he said.
Next, a person is not really a first principle. A person can be an example of first principles, but the principles exist independently and outside of the person, since a principle is a PURELY conceptual entity, and exists only as a concept. Thus, we can't say that Jesus himself is the first principle of Christianity, though we can say his recorded actions, words, and laws are representative of those first principles (we could also say his actions and words, if we had personal knowledge of such, though no one still living does).
Now to address some of your further posts:
I cannot address this point without delving into a rather controversial statement, even controversial to some Baha'is, though there is scriptural basis in MANY religions to support it.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,
This statement being "Creation and mankind are perfect."
This being the logical consequence of the idea of a perfect creator. There cannot be a flaw in the creation of something deemed perfect, and therefore, to accept belief in a perfect creator one must also accept that all of that perfect beings creations are also perfect.
The only way around accepting the world as imperfect would be to assert the creator is imperfect (which I have counterarguments to as well, but I don't think they'll be necessary here) or to assert that the creator was imperfect at the time of creation, but is perfect now (a belief that is exceedingly rare, I've only seen a handful of people ever suggest it).
Of note, it ONLY completely contradicts the idea that people can repent IF you believe there is no postmortem spiritual advancement. If we cannot possibly advance past the state we are in when we die, there is a problem. But for belief systems, such as the Baha'i Faith, where spiritual progress continues after death, there is no inherent contradiction.want the introduction of the death penalty or the branding of criminals ? It completely contradicts the idea that people can turn back.
I touched on it earlier, but Jesus makes it clear that the first principle behind the prohibition of murder is not the act itself, but in the emotional state of the murderer. So there is no first principle contradiction in a Christian or Baha'i execution of a murderer, unless the executioner harbors hatred towards the executed.Why would God want "Thou shalt not kill" to be relativized by wanting the death penalty for people himself?
As for the greater question of "why allow the death penalty at all?" let's delve into the first principles of religion.
At an admittedly incredibly simplistic level, since I don't really have the time to go really deep into the concept, most religions have two basic first principles.
1) Preserving and ensuring the survival of humanity.
2) Facilitating the spiritual development of the individual.
Though, of note, not all religions and sects have the first principle, notably the Manichean religion and the Quakers.
The Baha'i law proscribing either death or imprisonment to a murderer is an extension of #1. For the sake of humanity's continued survival, those who would kill other humans need to be either removed or contained, I think we can agree.
I think the ideal is imprisonment rather than death, especially given that sometimes the wrong person can be blamed or framed for a crime. However, we must acknowledge that not all cultures on this world have the luxury of avoiding the death penalty.
Imprisoning someone for life is very, very expensive. Killing them is not (court cases and legal bureaucracy AROUND killing them may be greater in developed countries, of course). If a serial murderer is found in a pre-industrial, famine-stricken village, would you insist that the villagers imprison, feed, clothe, and guard the murderer to life, regardless of the strain on a starving community?
I would argue that, for times or places where technology has not lead to the immense wealth and prosperity enjoyed in developed and even some developing nations in the current era, the death penalty is a necessity for the good of society, and the ability to imprison, rather than kill, murderers is a luxury that the wealth of the modern era has given to us. Certainly, it is a great thing when we don't have to kill someone convicted of murder, but it's not a thing every society can afford quite yet.
And, of course, it is always a possibility that the wrong person is convicted for a crime. But would you rather a pre-industrial community be forced to shoulder the burden of feeding, clothing, and guarding every convicted murderer for the rest of that person's life on the mere possibility that they may be innocent?
If a community can afford such a thing, clearly they should imprison for this reason alone. But if they can't afford it, the best option still seems like allowing the death penalty, rather than taking food and resources from an impoverished community to ensure the life of a convicted man.
If this is true, that is a terrible reason to not support the oppression of a group. It seems to imply that the unjust oppression would be JUST FINE with the "many Christians" you describe, as long as the oppression didn't lead to death. This is almost certainly not your intent, but I'd at least hope any solidarity with the Baha'i community is founded on an ethical position that extends further than simple distaste for killing.Many Christian countries support the Baha'i because they reject the death penalty.