The Bahá'í Faith and Christianity
God, the Creator of the universe, is all-knowing, all-loving and all-merciful. Just as the physical sun shines on the world, so the light of God is shed upon all Creation.
Throughout the ages, God has sent Divine Messengers known as Manifestations of God—among them Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, and, in more recent times, the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh—to cultivate humanity’s spiritual, intellectual and moral capacities. Following the coming of a Manifestation of God extraordinary progress occurs in the world. Reaching to the roots of human motivation and spiritual purpose, His teachings awaken in whole populations capacities to contribute to the advancement and elevation of the humanity.
“As to the position of Christianity, let it be stated without any hesitation or equivocation that its divine origin is unconditionally acknowledged, that the Sonship and Divinity of Jesus Christ are fearlessly asserted, that the divine inspiration of the Gospel is fully recognized, that the reality of the mystery of the Immaculacy of the Virgin Mary is confessed, and the primacy of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, is upheld and defended.
The Founder of the Christian Faith is designated by Bahá'u'lláh as the ‘Spirit of God,’ is proclaimed as the One Who ‘appeared out of the breath of the Holy Ghost,’ and is even extolled as the ‘Essence of the Spirit.’ His mother is described as ‘that veiled and immortal, that most beauteous, countenance,’ and the station of her Son eulogized as a ‘station which hath been exalted above the imaginings of all that dwell on earth,’ whilst Peter is recognized as one whom God has caused ‘the mysteries of wisdom and of utterance to flow out of his mouth.’
‘Know thou,’ Bahá'u'lláh has moreover testified, ‘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. Its evidences, as witnessed in all the peoples of the earth, are now manifest before thee. The deepest wisdom which the sages have uttered, the profoundest learning which any mind hath unfolded, the arts which the ablest hands have produced, the influence exerted by the most potent of rulers, are but manifestations of the quickening power released by His transcendent, His all-pervasive and resplendent Spirit. We testify that when He came into the world, He shed the splendor of His glory upon all created things. Through Him the leper recovered from the leprosy of perversity and ignorance. Through Him the unchaste and wayward were healed. Through His power, born of Almighty God, the eyes of the blind were opened and the soul of the sinner sanctified.... He it is Who purified the world. Blessed is the man who, with a face beaming with light, hath turned towards Him.’” — Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 109
Learn more in this series of articles that touches on subjects like the Rapture, Armageddon, the anti-Christ, and the return of Christ.
Read more in this collection of pages concerning the relationship between God and humanity, the Manifestations of God, and the role of religion in human progress.
Other brief reflections on this subject
The afterlife: With respect to the afterlife, the Bahá'í teachings confirm that the human soul retains its individuality and consciousness after death, and is able to associate with other souls that are drawn together by love. Bahá'u'lláh states: "The soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel." He further explains: "Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure."
Satan: In the Bahá'í sacred writings terms such as the "Satan of self" and the "Evil One" can be found. For example, the Bahá'í teachings state: "The attributes of God are love and mercy; the attribute of Satan is hate. Therefore, he who is merciful and kind to his fellowmen is manifesting the divine attribute, and he who is hating and hostile toward a fellow creature is satanic. God is absolute love, even as Jesus Christ has declared, and Satan is utter hatred. Wherever love is witnessed, know that there is a manifestation of God's mercy; whenever you meet hatred and enmity, know that these are the evidences and attributes of Satan."
These references to "Satan," however, are understood to be symbolic references not to an objective evil force but to the lower nature of human beings. Bahá'u'lláh states: "Know verily that Knowledge is of two kinds: Divine and Satanic. The one welleth out from the fountain of divine inspiration; the other is but a reflection of vain and obscure thoughts. The source of the former is God Himself; the motive-force of the latter the whisperings of selfish desire." The Bahá'í teachings explain that "God has never created an evil spirit; all such ideas and nomenclature are symbols expressing the mere human or earthly nature of man."
Salvation: Bahá'ís believe that passages such as John 3:16 and John 14:6 indeed affirm that salvation is attained through acceptance of Christ. But each of the world's major religious traditions offer passages similar to those found in the Book of John; passages which have been used to claim the uniqueness and finality of the various faiths, but in reality affirm that "the way" is to follow the Word of God and to surrender to the Will that emanates from that Word. For Bahá'ís, the references to the "Son" and to "I" in John is a reference to the eternal Logos. Hence, this is a basis for recognizing that all of the great religious Teachers spoke as the voice of God.
Christ also says that "before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). Thus, the reality of Christ existed before the man Jesus of Nazareth. Christ was the "I AM" (Exodus 3:14) of the Burning Bush, the Incarnation of the Word of God. Therefore, "the way" is the path to God that opens before us by turning to His Word. The Bahá'í teachings clearly affirm that the path of salvation lies in turning to the Word of God. The Bahá'í sacred texts emphatically proclaim "the Sonship and Divinity of Jesus Christ."
The sacrifice of Jesus: Bahá'u'lláh declared that the sacrifice of Jesus was indeed extraordinary, for it was through that sacrifice that Jesus "purified the world." Bahá'u'lláh says that those who failed to accept Christ deprived themselves of "beholding the face of God." The Bahá'í writings affirm that Christ "left nothing unfinished or incomplete." But of course Jesus knew that humankind's response to His mission and sacrifice would not be adequate and so He prophesied that He would return: "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." (John 16:12).
Speaking in tongues: The following passage from the Bahá'í writings provides perspective on the matter of speaking in tongues. "The disciples of Christ taught His Faith with the language of the Kingdom. That language conformeth to all languages, for it consisteth of celestial meanings and divine mysteries. For the one who becometh conversant with that language the realities and secrets of creation stand unveiled before him. Divine truths are common to all languages. The Holy Spirit, therefore, taught the disciples the language of the Kingdom, and they thus were able to converse with the people of all nations. Whenever they spoke to those of other nations of the world, it was as if they conversed in their tongues."
Sin: With regard to sin, the following is found in Bahá'u'lláh's Book of Laws: "Should anyone be afflicted by a sin, it behoveth him to repent thereof and return unto his Lord. He, verily, granteth forgiveness unto whomsoever He willeth..."
Additional passages indicate the redemptive character of the Word of God--that despite the failings and transgressions of human beings we are the recipients of God's grace. Bahá'u'lláh states, "We, verily, have come for your sakes, and have borne the misfortunes of the world for your salvation." And, "Fix your gaze upon Him Who is the Temple of God amongst men. He, in truth, hath offered up His life as a ransom for the redemption of the world." "Thus have We recounted unto you the tales of the one true God, and sent down unto you the things He had preordained, that haply ye may ask forgiveness of Him, may return unto Him, may truly repent, may realize your misdeeds, may shake off your slumber, may be roused from your heedlessness, may atone for the things that have escaped you, and be of them that do good. Let him who will, acknowledge the truth of My words; and as to him that willeth not, let him turn aside. My sole duty is to remind you of your failure in duty towards the Cause of God, if perchance ye may be of them that heed My warning. Wherefore, hearken ye unto My speech, and return ye to God and repent, that He, through His grace, may have mercy upon you, may wash away your sins, and forgive your trespasses. The greatness of His mercy surpasseth the fury of His wrath, and His grace encompasseth all who have been called into being and been clothed with the robe of life, be they of the past or of the future."
Judgement Day: With respect to judgement in the afterlife, the Bahá'í teachings explain that this earthly life is concerned with acquiring spiritual capacities and virtues because such capacities are necessary for our progress in the next world. Thus, to turn away from the guidance and love of God's law, is not only to deprive oneself of the opportunity for spiritual growth and advancement, but is to deny the very Divine Purpose.
Bahá'u'lláh states: "The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High."
That our actions are judged is not in doubt. Bahá'u'lláh warns, "Think not the deeds ye have committed have been blotted from My sight. By My beauty! All your doings hath My Pen graven with open characters upon tablets of chrysolite." And: "The mirror of His knowledge reflecteth, with complete distinctness, precision and fidelity, the doings of all men."
For this reason, we must always beseech God to bestow upon us His forgiveness and grace. The following is found in one of the daily prayers recited by Bahá'ís: "...O Thou the Lord of the Throne on high and of earth below! I implore Thee by the signs of Thy Kingdom and the mysteries of Thy Dominion to do with Thy loved ones as becometh Thy bounty, O Lord of all being, and is worthy of Thy grace, O King of the seen and the unseen!" And in another passage: "Praise be to Thee, O Concealer of the sins of the weak and helpless! Magnified be Thy name, O Thou that forgivest the heedless ones that trespass against Thee!"