02 December 2008

Politics and Change

With the presidency of Barack Obama, being hailed by many as a kind of savior, it is time again to revisit the Baha'i teachings on politics and social change. About every four years in the United States, society gets ripped apart, hundreds of millions of dollars get poured into a bottomless pit, everyone rediscovers that our electoral college was made for horse and buggy days, and Baha'is revisit Shoghi Effendi's letters compiled in World Order of Baha'u'llah.


In a letter to Thornton Chase Abdu'l-Baha clearly obliged Baha'is to vote and "take part in the affairs of the republic" of the United States, and encouraged to be obedient to the laws and administration of the republic. Shoghi Effendi later mentioned that voting is a right but not obligatory in cases where the voter feels that they cannot "exercise that right intelligently and with understanding."


Shoghi Effendi further wrote that such voting and participation should never endorse partisan politics, and becoming involved in partisanship is strictly prohibited, to such an extent that if the act of voting requires registration or endorsement of a political party, it should be avoided. Within the Baha'i election process campaigns, debates, nominations, and parties are all strictly avoided and anyone participating in such actions would be disqualified from voting or holding office.

That Baha'is entirely reject these bastions of Western democracy -- the campaign, the candidate, etc. -- is the subject of some confusion from the general public. How could a system work without the soul-grinding competition of adversaries? Our current politics are based on opposition and the only alternative seems to be dictatorship. Within that question lies the key: the Baha'i system is fundamentally different, based on cooperation. The forces current in the world are disintegrating, while the Baha'i system is integrating.

Today, the democratic process by which we elect our government is entrenched in fallacies regarding the hypothetical need for nominations, candidates, electioneering, and solicitation. Without a dramatic and fundamental change it is impossible to imagine how the democratic culture will rid itself of the cynicism, apathy, division, and corruption that have become prevalent in party politics.

The Baha'i International Community published the following in a 1995 statement to the UN,
"The standard of truth seeking that the consultative process demands is far beyond the patterns of negotiation and compromise that tend to characterize the present-day discussion of human affairs. It cannot be achieved--indeed, its attainment is severely handicapped--by the culture of protest that is another widely prevailing feature of contemporary society. Debate, propaganda, the adversarial method, the entire apparatus of partisanship that have long been such familiar features of collective action are all fundamentally harmful to its purpose: that is, arriving at a consensus about the truth of a given situation and the wisest choice of action among the options open at any given moment."
The System

If anyone doubts that elections can work without nominations, they should see the Baha'i model. Several million Baha'is in the world elect their representatives yearly at the local and national levels. Each Baha'i may vote in two elections annually; in one election every individual in the locality over the age of 21 votes for 9 names, and the 9 members with the most votes are elected to the Local Spiritual Assembly, in the other election a few localities are grouped into an electoral unit, everyone casts a single vote, and the person with the most votes goes on to a national convention, which elects the 9-member National Spiritual Assembly in a similar manner that the local assembly is elected. Every 5 years each member of every National Spiritual Assembly around the world casts 9 votes for members of the Universal House of Justice, an international body and the highest institution of the Faith. In large countries, such as the US, there are 9-member regional councils elected with the members of all Local Spiritual Assemblies in the region casting votes.

The Universal House of Justice appoints individuals to the position of Continental Counselor, a role that has about 80 appointees in the world. Each Counselor then appoints Auxiliaries with smaller jurisdictions, who in turn appoint assistants to work in the localities. There is thus an entire elected and appointed order. The elected hold authority only as a body, not individually, and the appointed hold no authority at all. At each level of election, the voter is potentially personally familiar with the elected, and nowhere in the process are there any nominations, parties, candidates, or debates.

New World Order

The Baha'i system, however, is not merely the mechanisms of election. The system is divine in origin, it is through authority stemming from Baha'u'llah as a Manifestation of God that humanity will unite and the system will flourish. Shoghi Effendi powerfully confirmed the impotency of statesmanship and the uniquely divine character of the Baha'i system in the following extract from a letter of 1931,
"Humanity, whether viewed in the light of man's individual conduct or in the existing relationships between organized communities and nations, has, alas, strayed too far and suffered too great a decline to be redeemed through the unaided efforts of the best among its recognized rulers and statesmen -- however disinterested their motives, however concerted their action, however unsparing in their zeal and devotion to its cause. No scheme which the calculations of the highest statesmanship may yet devise; no doctrine which the most distinguished exponents of economic theory may hope to advance; no principle which the most ardent of moralists may strive to inculcate, can provide, in the last resort, adequate foundations upon which the future of a distracted world can be built. No appeal for mutual tolerance which the worldly-wise might raise, however compelling and insistent, can calm its passions or help restore its vigor. Nor would any general scheme of mere organized international cooperation, in whatever sphere of human activity, however ingenious in conception, or extensive in scope, succeed in removing the root cause of the evil that has so rudely upset the equilibrium of present-day society. Not even, I venture to assert, would the very act of devising the machinery required for the political and economic unification of the world -- a principle that has been increasingly advocated in recent times -- provide in itself the antidote against the poison that is steadily undermining the vigor of organized peoples and nations. What else, might we not confidently affirm, but the unreserved acceptance of the Divine Program enunciated, with such simplicity and force as far back as sixty years ago, by Baha'u'llah, embodying in its essentials God's divinely appointed scheme for the unification of mankind in this age, coupled with an indomitable conviction in the unfailing efficacy of each and all of its provisions, is eventually capable of withstanding the forces of internal disintegration which, if unchecked, must needs continue to eat into the vitals of a despairing society. It is towards this goal -- the goal of a new World Order, Divine in origin, all-embracing in scope, equitable in principle, challenging in its features -- that a harassed humanity must strive."
The Plan

With this knowledge and understanding of our current system, do not be fooled into putting an ounce of energy into the current debates. Do not pick sides, criticize, or put your backing behind a candidate. Regardless of the speech, intentions, or ideas of any candidate for office, they must work in a crumbling system. The noblest, most experienced captain, if put on a rotting ship will still sink at sea. Meanwhile, Baha'is are building a new ship. Baha'u'llah describes a period of lesser peace that will come from pragmatism, in which wars are restrained out of self interest. We have already entered that period. The "Most Great Peace", the "Dawn of Knowledge", will come through the penetration of the teachings of Baha'u'llah into society. It is towards that goal that Baha'is devote their energy, under the direction of multi-year plans set out by the Universal House of Justice.

31 August 2008

Genesis, Evolution, and Aliens

The Baha'i Faith, claiming to be God's most recent message to humanity, is not just another in a series. It represents the culmination of a six-thousand year cycle of Prophets, and the transition into a new universal cycle. While the religion is now in its infancy, taking a broad view of where it falls in history provides a humbling experience to any believer, while an even broader view of the universe stirs up an unparalleled sense of awe.

As traditional religion devolves into an irrational superstition, and a strictly materialistic ideology begins to dominate society, the Baha'i Faith teaches the harmony of science and religion. True religion and science must agree, because the truth is one.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
(Gen 1:1)
A key to understanding the books of Moses is what Baha'is call progresive revelation: that religious truth is relative to the time of revelation. The people of the time of Moses were obsessed with spiritism and idol worship, with the spiritual and intellectual capacity of today's children. `Abdu'l-Baha said,
"Moses established laws and ordinances; these gave life to the people of Israel, and led them to the highest possible degree of civilization at that period."
(Some Answered Questions, p. 14)
In this context the stories of Genesis - and other creation myths - are interpreted as spiritual allegories, in a way that outwardly satisfied people's curiosity of history, while inwardly describing spiritual truths that uplifted society. The common understanding at the time was of the world as an island continent on a flat disc with infinite water, surrounded by a dome with stars embedded in its surface. A modern understanding of how the world developed was not only impossible but unnecessary at the time. The account of Genesis had the advantage of conveying the essential spiritual truths about humanity's development with broad symbolism, and avoided the detail that was beyond the capacity to understand. `Abdu'l-Baha said,
"Moses taught that the world was brought into existence in the six days of creation. This is an allegory, a symbolic form of the ancient truth that the world evolved gradually... We thus have a progressive process of creation, and not a one-time happening. Moses' days of creation represent time spans of millions of years."
(Science and Religion, p. 90)
As humanity has progressed with a new capacity to understand its environment, the Baha'i teachings reveal new truths about the world. Baha'u'llah teaches that the physical universe is without beginning or end, and confirms the scientists who claim that the earth developed over millions and billions of years. Yet similar to Moses, Baha'u'llah's teachings focus on the spiritual development of society and the control of one's lower nature.

On the nature of creation and existence, `Abdu'l-Baha says,
"If we could imagine a time when no beings existed, this imagination would be the denial of the Divinity of God. Moreover, absolute non-existence cannot become existence. If the beings were absolutely non-existent, existence would not have come into being."
Accordingly, the story of Adam and Eve contains "divine mysteries and universal meanings, and it is capable of marvelous explanations," but is simply a symbol, and cannot be reasonably imagined as a historical account.


On the origin of humans, Baha'u'llah similarly confirms biological development of humans over millions of years in different forms. He also taught that the human species was always distinct from the animal kingdom in potentiality. Although there is some debate in interpretation, `Abdu'l-Baha seems to suggest that humans have a unique line of descent to some seed-like form, with ancestry separate from animals.

Some of the most striking and direct comments on evolution come from `Abdu'l-Baha, where he says that man's existence on the earth has developed over a long time. He says,
"Between man and the ape, however, there is one link missing, and to the present time scientists have not been able to discover it...
"The philosophers of the Orient in reply to those of the western world say: Let us suppose that the human anatomy was primordially different from its present form, that it was gradually transformed from one stage to another until it attained its present likeness, that at one time it was similar to a fish, later an invertebrate and finally human. This anatomical evolution or progression does not alter or affect the statement that the development of man was always human in type and biological in progression. For the human embryo when examined microscopically is at first a mere germ or worm. Gradually as it develops it shows certain divisions; rudiments of hands and feet appear--that is to say, an upper and a lower part are distinguishable. Afterward it undergoes certain distinct changes until it reaches its actual human form and is born into this world. But at all times, even when the embryo resembled a worm, it was human in potentiality and character, not animal. The forms assumed by the human embryo in its successive changes do not prove that it is animal in its essential character. Throughout this progression there has been a transference of type, a conservation of species or kind. Realizing this we may acknowledge the fact that at one time man was an inmate of the sea, at another period an invertebrate, then a vertebrate and finally a human being standing erect... Therefore, in the protoplasm, man is man. Conservation of species demands it.
"The lost link of Darwinian theory is itself a proof that man is not an animal. How is it possible to have all the links present and that important link absent? Its absence is an indication that man has never been an animal. It will never be found."
(Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 358-359)
This statement was delivered in a speech in 1912. These ideas brought harmony to the diverging forces of science and religion at the time. What you might call the Baha'i position on the debate over evolution and religion is distinctly different from the atheistic view of purposelessness and also at variance with young-earth creationists. If `Abdu'l-Baha is correct about human evolution, then humans came about through natural laws, but different forces than currently assumed.  


The rational soul, according to Baha'u'llah, gives humans an intelligence that makes discoveries and penetrates the reality of things. Animals and humans share the same physical powers, but an animal cannot evolve the intellectual powers of humans, who have the freewill to overcome the animalistic nature of the body.

One evidence of this power is contemplation and reflection, as described by `Abdu'l-Baha,
"It is clear that when man is thinking, it is as though he were consulting with some other person. With whom is he consulting? It is evident that it is another reality or one aside from this body with whom he enters into consultation when he thinks, 'Shall I do this work or not?' 'What will be the result of my doing this?' ... And then that reality in man communicates its opinion to him concerning the point at issue. Therefore that reality in man is clearly and obviously other than his body, an ego with which man enters into consultation and whose opinion man seeks."
(Foundations of World Unity, p. 109)
Origins of Life

Humans developed on earth over millions of years, alongside plants and animals. A question then arises: how did it all get here? After all, the story of Genesis came to satisfy the most fundamental controversy. Even with a childish understanding of the world around them, the nomadic followers of Moses could see that they came from their parents, who came from their grandparents, etc. The story of Adam explained the first seed of life, by a literal account six thousand years ago. This question is where the worlds of science and religion collide.

Most scientific theories about the origins of life propose a spontaneous creation of simple molecules in high levels of energy. Another theory proposes that the seeds of life came to earth on meteorites. In other words, the potential for life is either inherent in the planet, or the seeds of life are so prevalent that they permeate the universe, the latter theory appropriately called panspermia. Either way, the implications are incredibly profound. This situation still lacks an impulse to the universe, which, according to Baha'u'llah, is a mystery that can never be fully comprehended. `Abdu'l-Baha elaborates on the idea of creation,
"No Divinity can be conceived as separate from creation, for otherwise it would be like imagining an empire without a people... So, likewise, if we say there was a time when God had no creation or created beings, a time when there were no recipients of His bounties and that His names and attributes had not been manifested, this would be equivalent to a complete denial of Divinity, for it would mean that Divinity is accidental. To explain it still more clearly, if we think that fifty thousand years ago or one hundred thousand years ago there was no creation, that there were then no worlds, no human beings, no animals, this thought of ours would mean that previous to that period there was no Divinity... It is, therefore, evident that inasmuch as the reality of Divinity is without a beginning, creation is also without a beginning. This is as clear as the sun. When we contemplate this vast machinery of omnipresent power, perceive this illimitable space and its innumerable worlds, it will become evident to us that the lifetime of this infinite creation is more than six thousand years."
(Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 470)
As well as a timeless creation, the universe is also described as having no end.


The issue of extraterrestrial life is inextricably bound up with the subject of creation and evolution. Baha'u'llah made a dramatic statement about life in the universe,
"The learned men, that have fixed at several thousand years the life of this earth, have failed, throughout the long period of their observation, to consider either the number or the age of the other planets. Consider, moreover, the manifold divergencies that have resulted from the theories propounded by these men. Know thou that every fixed star hath its own planets, and every planet its own creatures, whose number no man can compute."
(Gleanings, p. 163)
It was over a century after Baha'u'llah's writing this that science confirmed the nebular hypothesis, which states that the formation of planets is a natural part of star formation. As previously described, if life on earth developed inherently or externally, it is a logical conclusion that the same potential for life exists everywhere in the universe. Clearly, though, life as we understand it could not survive to the same extent on Jupiter, with clouds of ammonia. `Abdu'l-Baha taught that life develops on other planets according to the environment (note: this is unauthenticated), 
"The earth has its inhabitants, the water and the air contain many living beings and all the elements have their nature spirits, then how is it possible to conceive that these stupendous stellar bodies are not inhabited? Verily, they are peopled, but let it be known that the dwellers accord with the elements of their respective spheres. These living beings do not have states of consciousness like unto those who live on the surface of this globe: the power of adaptation and environment moulds their bodies and states of consciousness, just as our bodies and minds are suited to our planet. For example, we have birds that live in the air, those that live on the earth and those that live in the sea... The components of the sun differ from those of this earth, for there are certain light and life-giving elements radiating from the sun. Exactly the same elements may exist in two bodies, but in varying quantities. For instance, there is fire and air in water, but the allotted measure is small in proportion. They have discovered that there is a great quantity of radium in the sun; the same element is found on the earth, but in a much smaller degree. Beings who inhabit those distant luminous bodies are attuned to the elements that have gone into their composition of their respective spheres."
(Divine Philosophy, pp. 114-115)
The nature of extraterrestrial life remains elusive, but it's clear that there are creatures in the universe that have similar intellectual powers and spiritual perception that humans have on earth. Given the infinite time span of the universe, it's obvious that other planets have gone through a similar process of evolution with Manifestations of God guiding them through various stages of unity until a universal cycle culminates in a planet-wide unity, which is the transition to a new era, a new universal spiritual cycle of the planet. Other planets have progressed past that cycle into further cycles that are beyond the dimmest comprehension of humans at this time.

The Adamic cycle began about six thousand years ago, and its supreme Manifestation is Baha'u'llah. The Baha'i cycle will span half a million years, and Manifestations of God will appear about every thousand years during that time.

07 May 2008

A Biblical Case for Baha'u'llah


“The time foreordained unto the peoples and kindreds of the earth is now come. The promise of God, as recorded in the Holy Scriptures, have all been fulfilled. Out of Zion hath gone forth the Law of God, and Jerusalem, and the hills and land thereof, are filled with the glory of His Revelation. Happy is the man that pondereth in his heart that which hath been revealed in the Books of God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. Meditate upon this, O ye beloved of God, and let you ears be attentive unto his Word, so that ye may, by His grace and mercy, drink your fill from the crystal waters of constancy, and become as steadfast and immovable as the mountain in His Cause. – Baha’u’llah

This is quite a remarkable claim made by Baha’u’llah. As a Baha’i I have come to believe that He is the manifestation of God for this age and the return of Jesus Christ foretold in the Bible. Christians have every right to be skeptical of this claim, for there are many warnings of false prophets in the New Testament. This essay is an exploration of Baha’u’llahs claim in light of the biblical writings concerning the nature of Jesus's return, and the reality of false prophets.

The Return of the Jesus

Throughout the Bible, there are many promises that Jesus will return. Probably the most fantastic mention, one that conjures up images of a sudden and awful cataclysmic event is:

"For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be...But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory." Matthew 24:27-30

It is quite a leap of faith to interpret these images literally. If stars literally fell from the sky, the planet would be burned up before they made contact....Luckily for those of us who believe in the laws of physics, there is much biblical evidence that this fantastic image of return is not to be taken literally. Consider the story of Elijah. The Old Testament speaks of the ascension of Elijah, much like the ascension of Jesus, in which he gets taken up into heaven:

"Then it came about as they were going along and talking, that behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven" 2 Kings 2:11

This is an important statement because Elijah was prophesied to return before the coming of the Christ:

"Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord." Malachy 4:5

One of the major stumbling blocks that the Jews had in accepting Jesus as the Christ is that they believed that Elijah would return in same manner in which he was taken up. Jesus addresses this, saying that in fact Elijah did come, but not as they were expecting. Instead John the Baptist was the manifestation of Elijah. It is clear that Jesus’s definition of Isaiah’s return was inherently spiritual:

"And his disciples asked him, saying, 'Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?' And He answered and said, 'Elijah is coming and will restore all things'; but I say to you, that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands. Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Babtist." Matthew 17:19

Spiritual vs. Physical Resurrection

If we are to believe that Jesus physically resurrected and will therefore physically return, why is it that the Jews also believed this even though it wasn’t the case. Could it be that the return of Jesus will also be a spiritual return, manifested in a different physical vessel? Paul the apostle hints at the fact that many of God’s teachings can only be understood using a spiritual lens:

"For to us God revealed them through the spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of a man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of god; for they are fo0lishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." 1 Corinthians 2:10-14

He also clearly lays out the difference between the physical body and the spiritual body, and the relationship that they have with each other. In the first part this statement, he talks about how we must sacrifice our physical selves so that our spiritual selves can be liberated:

"But someone will say, how are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come? You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own...There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another...So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body, if there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”

In the second part, he uses the analogy of the first Adam, who represents the physical self, compared to the last Adam (Christ), who becomes the life giving spirit. He ends the quote by making it very clear that a perishable body cannot inherit the imperishable body; they are two distinctly different things:

"The first Man, Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam(Christ) became a life-giving spirit. However the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven, heavenly. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. And just as we have born the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable." 1Corinthians 15:35-50

This is an unequivocal statement that our physical bodies will not be resurrected, as many Christians believe. They are flesh and blood, perishable; they must be sown like seeds to make way for the tree of the spirit. So than what about Jesus? Was he not resurrected physically? The accounts of him leaving the tomb after the crucifixion and appearing before the disciples are written in a very literal manner:

“And very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen…And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, ‘do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here.” Mark 16:2-6

"Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself, touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have…He said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat? And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them." Luke 24:38-39

By looking only at the previous accounts, it would seem clear that Jesus's resurrection was literal. This interpretation however is inconsistent with Paul’s description of the natural and spiritual body. One could argue that Jesus is the exception when it comes to physical resurrection. However, this is inconsistent with other passages where it is stated that we will be raised in the same manner as Jesus:

"Always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh…Knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you" 2 Corinthians 4:10-14

The appearances of Jesus to his disciples must have been the spiritual body of Jesus. An overpowering spiritual bounty that was so real and amazing that it could only be explained in terms of physical experience, such as touching His wounds and eating with him. Three days after Jesus had been crucified, his body had been sown, the body that his followers had known had disappeared, His spiritual body had been resurrected, and was available to all who sought to abide in the spirit of Jesus, and have that spirit abide in them:

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me." John 15:4

This spirit of Jesus became the spirit of God, and the spirit of love:

"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life". John 6:63

"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:24

"The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." 1 John 4:1

Spiritual Return

If Jesus resurrected spiritually, it seems logical that he would also return spiritually, meaning that the spirit would become manifest in a new human form. He speaks about many different entities who will assist the believers in the final days. The "helper" and the "spirit of truth" seem to refer both to the Holy Spirit which will abide within the believers, as well as a guide who will speak forth and tell of what is to come.

"'And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you.'" John 14:16-17

"When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me." John 15:26

"But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you." John 16:7

"I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you" John 16:12-14

In addition, he also speaks of his own return in which he will speak plainly of the Fath, and the arrival of one with a "new name".

These things I have spoken to you in a figurative language; an hour is coming when I will speak no more to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the father." John 16:25

"He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My 'new name'" Revelation 3:12

False Prophets

Jesus was very clear that there would be many false prophets:

"For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many." Matthew 24:5

He also warned His followers to be skeptical of any rumors of a promised one:

“Then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ,' or 'There He is,' do not believe him. For false christ’s and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. If therefore they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go forth, or, 'Behold, He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them." Matthew 24:23-26

He clearly states that he is the only Christ:

"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me." John 14:6

And his followers assert that Jesus is the only name which can be followed: "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved" Acts 4:12

Peter, who was the foundation of the early church, also admonished the followers to stay clear of false prophets and destructive heresies:

"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves." 2 Peter 2:1

John, another core follower of Jesus, describes the king of false prophets, the Antichrist, and provided the criteria by which to judge:

"Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son." 1 John 2:20

Criteria for Discernment

So how will we know when Jesus does return, how can we avoid being led astray? This is not an easy question. The Bible says that Jesus will come at a time when we do not think he will:

"Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think he will." Matthew 25:42-44

When he comes, it will be like a thief in the night. When do we know when our house has been robbed? We know the morning after the fact. We do not know when Jesus will return. He might already be here:

“For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.” 1 Thessalonians 5:2

Fortunately, the Bible gives ample guidance as to what to look for. We must look to the fruits:

"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they" Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits." Matthew 7:15

So how can we discern a prophet bearing good fruit from a prophet bearing bad fruit? We must test the spirits to see if they are from God. They must bear good fruits, and they must testify that Christ has come in the flesh and is from God:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world" 1 John 4:1-3

This implies an independent investigation of truth. This means that we cannot just believe something because our families or friends believe it. We do not want to be of those mentioned in the following verse, who persecuted the prophets just as our fathers might have:

"You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did you fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who have received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it." Acts 7:51-53

A Case for Baha’u’llah

The Baha’is believe that the Spirit of Jesus has returned in the human temple of Baha’u’llah. We do not expect anybody to believe this because we say so, but we do exhort people to independently investigate the truth of Baha’u’llahs claim and to judge him by his fruits. First look at the life of Baha’u’llah, which was defined by selfless love and service in the face of extreme adversity and opposition. Any seeker who would meet Him would be so transformed and humbled by the overpowering spirit and power of His presence, that many would go on to dedicate their lives, and even face martyrdom, to advance the cause of Baha’u’llah.

Second, look at the world community that Baha’u’llah has set up. Every day, Baha’is coming from every corner of the globe arrives on pilgrimage to the Baha’i world center on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel. Throughout the world, the Baha’is are devoted to establishing the kingdom of God on earth, where all peoples, regardless of race, religion, culture, or gender will become united and establish peace on earth described in the Bible:

“In the last days, the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many people’s will come and say, ‘come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may walk in His paths.’ For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, and will render decision for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war.” Isaiah 2:2-4

The Baha’i faith is the first religion in the history of the world that has not broken up into competing sects. Baha’u’llah establish a clear covenant by which the authority is clear, and yet there is room for flexibility and organic growth. In every Baha’ i community with at least 9 members, a local spiritual assembly is elected to guide the community. This election is done by secret ballot, there is no campaigning. People are encouraged to vote in a prayerful manner for those that will best guide their community. No one person has more spiritual authority over anybody else, there is no clergy. The assembly comes to decisions as a body through a process of consultation. This pattern is replicated on a national level, and on a global level. Every 5 years, 9 members are elected by Baha’is from all over the world to serve on the Universal House of Justice. While this body is obligated to follow the guidance explicitly set down by the founders, they are tasked with guiding the world community, and deciding on matters that have not already been revealed.

Third, Baha’u’llah constantly speaks of Jesus as the Son of God, who came to earth to bring salvation to the souls of men. Here is but one of many verses where Baha’u’llah praises Jesus:

“Know though that when the Son of Man yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By sacrificing Himself, however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things…We testify that when He came into the world, He shed the splendor of His glory upon all created things…Through His power, born of Almighty God, the eyes of the blind were opened, and the soul of the sinner sanctified.” –Baha’u’llah

Putting Baha’u’llah’s praises of Jesus within a larger context, he taught a concept called progressive revelation. This means that God has been with humanity at all times, giving guidance through manifestations of God. The core spiritual message is always the same, ancient and eternal:

“It is clear and evident to thee that all the Prophets are the Temples of the Cause of God, Who have appeared clothed in diverse attire. If thou wilt observe with discriminating eyes, thou wilt behold Them all abiding in the same tabernacle, soaring in the same heaven, seated upon the same throne, uttering the same speech, and proclaiming the same Faith.” - Baha’u’llah

Nevertheless, this Spirit of God is revealed using concepts and establishing laws relevant to the culture and evolutionary capacity of the people. Jesus speaks of progressive revelation using the parable of the wineskins:

"And he was telling them a parable: 'No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts in on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But the new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.'" Luke 5:35

Today is the day where the new wine of the spirit is reviving the hearts of humans, recreating the very foundation of civilization. It is not an instant event that is beyond our reach. Instead, we have been given the spiritual tools to build this new civilization ourselves, and thereby realize and manifest our true spiritual self, which mirrors the Spirit of God:

“This is the day in which God’s most excellent favors have been poured out upon men, the Day in which His most mighty grace hath been infused into all created things. It is incumbent upon all the peoples of the world to reconcile their differences, and, with perfect unity and peace, abide beneath the shadow of the Tree of His care and loving kindness…Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead. Verily, thy Lord speaketh the truth, and is the knower of things unseen.” –Baha’u’llah.