The “insuperable wall” between Heaven and Earth

My commentary on the Letter to the World’s Religious Leaders is drawing to a close. I’ll just do one or two posts on the topic after this one. Right now I would like to make a comment on one sentence in paragraph 20:

Together with the crumbling of barriers separating peoples, our age is witnessing the dissolution of the once insuperable wall that the past assumed would forever separate the life of Heaven from the life of Earth.

I’m confused as to what this means. Who in the past assumed there was an insuperable wall between the life of Heaven and the life of Earth? This notion is foreign to Christianity.

Perhaps a Christian could say that after the Fall of Adam, there was a wall between Heaven and Earth, presented allegorically by an angel with a flaming sword keeping people out of Eden. But that wall was destroyed by Christ. Christ’s coming into the world and redeeming the world reestablished the link between Heaven and Earth that had been impaired (a more accurate term than “insuperably” blocked) by the Fall. Ever since the events of Christ’s life, there has been a continuous and unbroken link between Heaven and Earth.

There are many ways in which this is manifested in the Catholic belief system. For example, we have the veneration of saints. When we pray to saints (who we believe to be in heaven), we are assuming there is no “wall” between us and them. We are all, those who have died and those still on the earth, part of the same Church, and therefore linked through Christ to each other.

Another example of how Catholics don’t believe (and never have believed) there to be a wall separating Heaven and Earth are what are called sacramentals. These are objects used for religious purposes that have been blessed, so they have a special spiritual potency. Holy water, rosaries, and crucifixes are examples of sacramentals. We believe that when a priest blesses a sacramental, grace from God is infused into that object. Certainly we would not believe that if we thought there was a “wall” separating Heaven and Earth.

Cardinal Arinze celebrating the EucharistThe most important way, for Catholics, in which Heaven and Earth meet is the Eucharist. When we go to Mass on Sunday (or any day of the week), what we essentially do is engage in a long, communal prayer. The culmination of this prayer is the Eucharist, when bread and wine are offered to God, and God changes them into the Body and Blood of Christ. So when we consume the Eucharist, we are literally eating God.

There is no possibility a Catholic who believes in the teachings of the Church would imagine there is a wall separating Heaven from Earth. And these are ancient teachings and practices, long predating the inception of the Baha’i Faith.

That said, why does the Universal House of Justice say that “the past” (whoever that refers to) assumed there was an insuperable wall separating the life of Heaven from the life of Earth? Perhaps they mean that religious life was seen as strictly separate from mundane life. But anyone with even a cursory knowledge of history prior to, say, 1750 will know that such a separation was the rare exception rather than the rule. It is only those of us unfortunate enough to live in the long shadow of the “Enlightenment” who are prone to such a fallacy.

Later in the same paragraph the Universal House of Justice says,

As the age-old promise of a world animated by principles of justice slowly takes on the character of a realistic goal, meeting the needs of the soul and those of society will increasingly be seen as reciprocal aspects of a mature spiritual life.

What are the needs of society, as distinct from the needs of the soul? I don’t even know how to respond to this, because I’m not really sure what the UHJ is talking about. Are they saying religious leaders of the past took no concern for social problems like poverty or social, political or legal injustice? That would be patently absurd. I can’t bring myself to believe the members of the UHJ would be so obtuse as to make that claim, especially in a letter addressed to the modern successors of those religious leaders. But what did they then mean by the statement?

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15 Responses

  1. In Catholic religious classes, when we spoke of the return of Christ, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, it took on an otherworldly aspect. There was a sense that this was somehow ethereal, ghost-like, with angels abounding. It meant not this earth, but some higher, rarified earth suffused with something spiritual. I think that here the House of Justice is saying that the Kingdom of God on earth promised by Isaiah and by Jesus Christ, will be on this earth, this very earth. This world will be so transformed by the Revelation of Baha’u’llah – the people will grow, and the world will be reorganized — so that it reflects the realm of heaven. The reason that such emphasis is placed on the Covenant, and on the institutions in the Baha’i Faith is that they are the seeds of this future Kingdom, the instruments of divine justice. True unity is not some sappy, sentimental, amoral, feel-good, Kumbaya-singing lovefest. It is the unity Jesus spoke of when He said His followers would be known by their love. This unity is inspired by the Holy Spirit; it is a foretaste of heaven. It is tasted only by the believers, who commit themselves to a godly life. This is an instance of the binding power of the Word of God. The Word of God has another power — the power to divide, and this power is symbolized by a sword. “I came not to bring peace, but a sword” is in no way a summons to conflict, or a scriptural basis for human fighting. It is a statement of a very important spiritual principle — that the Word of God divides the believers from the enemies of the Truth. In some instances, it even divides father from son, mother from daughter, as Christ said. This “sword” is the sword in the mouth of the returned Messiah promised in the 1st chapter of John’s Revelation– the Word of God He utters.

    You ask, what are the needs of society as distinct from the needs of the soul. I am a lawyer, and I have heard many times, defense lawyers asking juries to exercise mercy and forgiveness of the criminal acts of the accused. If the words of Jesus were the sole basis for the organization of society, that’s exactly what judges and juries would do. Individuals would turn the other cheek, and so would societies. If a nation is bombed on its East coast, it would turn the other coast. That is, if society tries to organize itself based on the words of Christ, it seeks to know what is the appropriate principle in all of its social dealings — commerce, punishment, peace, defense, monetary policy, scientific matters, social welfare, etc. Jesus did not address these matters; He addressed the individual soul. Baha’u’llah did address these, as Isaiah and Jesus promised He would. You can read the guidance of God to heads of state in the book “Tablets of Baha’u’llah Revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas” and in “The Summons of the Lord of Hosts” both at http://reference.bahai.org . These show the will of God to heads of state. Because, again, heads of state cannot organize the functions of government around the verses of the guidance of Jesus Christ. He says to give everything away, to forgive all injustices, to expose yourself to further injustices, to never hurt a person even if he hurts you, to do good to those who harm you. That’s magnificent guidance to individuals; and suicide if accepted as social policy by nations. Nations cannot organize on the basis of forgiveness; only on the basis of justice. Jesus promised the coming of Baha’u’llah. Read His Writings.

  2. Another example of the expression of the Word of God in social policy is found here:
    http://www.bic.org/statements-and-reports/
    Brent

  3. In Catholic religious classes, when we spoke of the return of Christ, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, it took on an otherworldly aspect. There was a sense that this was somehow ethereal, ghost-like, with angels abounding. It meant not this earth, but some higher, rarified earth suffused with something spiritual.

    Somehow there was a miscommunication in your education. Either your instructors didn’t understand the Catholic faith, or you misunderstood your instructors. I encourage you to read what the Church teaches about this.

    In Catholicism, there can’t be a wall between heaven and earth. That’s impossible. When we receive the Eucharist, we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. At Mass we are in the presence of the angels and saints in heaven worshipping the Father. We are present at the eternal act of love between the Father and the Son. The whole point of the Incarnation was to join the human and divine worlds. And the UHJ says we think there’s a wall? What are they talking about?

    I think that here the House of Justice is saying that the Kingdom of God on earth promised by Isaiah and by Jesus Christ, will be on this earth, this very earth.

    That’s also what the Church teaches.

    You ask, what are the needs of society as distinct from the needs of the soul. I am a lawyer, and I have heard many times, defense lawyers asking juries to exercise mercy and forgiveness of the criminal acts of the accused. If the words of Jesus were the sole basis for the organization of society, that’s exactly what judges and juries would do. Individuals would turn the other cheek, and so would societies.

    You misunderstand what I was getting at. What I meant was, If Christianity talks about the needs of the soul, by logical necessity it must also speak to the needs of society. The two cannot be separated. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the Catholic Church has always had teachings relevant to governments, and not just to individuals, and that you can’t have one without the other. The UHJ is ignorant if it thinks this is a novel concept.

    Because, again, heads of state cannot organize the functions of government around the verses of the guidance of Jesus Christ. He says to give everything away, to forgive all injustices, to expose yourself to further injustices, to never hurt a person even if he hurts you, to do good to those who harm you. That’s magnificent guidance to individuals; and suicide if accepted as social policy by nations.

    The seminaries you attended did you a grave disservice. From your comments it appears you are unaware of Catholic just war theory.

  4. The House does not say that any of the revealed Faiths teaches that there is a wall between heaven and earth; it says the opposite, in the sentence following the passage you quote: “The scriptures of all religions have always taught the believer to see in service to others not only a moral duty, but an avenue for the soul’s own approach to God.”
    http://tinyurl.com/religious-leaders
    The House continues, that the oneness of humanity is causing the human race to see that spiritualizing society and making it reflect divine attributes, is a reciprocal part of the individual soul’s striving for closeness to God.

    “Today, the progressive restructuring of society gives this familiar teaching new dimensions of meaning. As the age-old promise of a world animated by principles of justice slowly takes on the character of a realistic goal, meeting the needs of the soul and those of society will increasingly be seen as reciprocal aspects of a mature spiritual life.”

    May I request that when you direct me to read about one or another principle, you suggest a source for it.

    There is a big difference between the Church having a just war doctrine, and the Church providing a path to world peace. My point was not what the Church teaches; but what one finds in the words of Christ Himself, to guide heads of state. In the Catholic expression of the just war doctrine, it must refer back to the Old Testament for some of its guidance to nations. The New Testament does not address heads of state; it was not designed to. It addresses the individual, and promises a future revelation that will establish world peace and justice.

    While Catholics make statements on various issues — slavery, the conduct of war, etc., my point is that the New Testament itself does not address these. Christ could have, and He certainly would have condemned slavery, and could have added more to the establishment of peace than the few statements, mostly of a pacifist nature, which He stated. But God recognizes, as does even the newest schoolteacher, that you cannot do everything at one time. Just as human beings must be gradually educated, so must the human race itself. This is why there is a succession of Manifestations of God, each bringing the world closer to what Baha’is call world order, or the Most Great Peace, promised in the Scripture as the Kingdom of God on earth.

    Yes, the guidance of the soul impacts on society. My point is, that’s not enough. Inner peace is not sufficient to establish world peace. Specific guidance is needed in world affairs. Jesus promised that it would come; now it has.

    Brent

  5. My point was not what the Church teaches; but what one finds in the words of Christ Himself, to guide heads of state.

    The distinction you’re making makes no sense.

    The significance of Christ is that he is God and became a human being. This is called the Incarnation (i.e. the in-flesh-ment). This joins our human nature with God. The Incarnation is necessary to our salvation.

    Christ established the Church as the living embodiment of his presence on earth. The Church is an extension of Christ’s Incarnation. We participate in Christ’s nature by participating in the Church.

    So when you say that Christ is not quoted as discussing just war theory in the New Testament, you make a point that might sound very convincing to a Baha’i or to an undeepened Catholic. But to a deepened Catholic, your point is meaningless.

    When Christ says that the Church is his bride, that isn’t just talk. He means it. The bridegroom and the bride share in all things. They become one flesh. What belongs to the bridegroom belongs to the bride, and vice versa. We do not follow someone who left the earth 2,000 years ago. We follow someone who is here with us, and will always abide with us.

  6. Dear Jonah:
    As you have requested dialogue with Baha’is, I’m dialoguing.

    Surely you would agree that the New Testament is the foundation of anything the Church says. The Church is not itself capable of divine revelation. My point is that the New Testament was revealed for an earlier stage in the development of the human race. In both the OT and NT there are *promises* of a united human race, but not a path to getting there. Often in the encyclicals the Pope must rely on quotations not only from the Epistles, and the Old Testament, but from philosophers and Church fathers. The point is that the words of Christ, though they promise a time of renewal and a new Revelation from God, do not themselves address the needs of society today. In “Pacem in Terris” there is a dearth of citations from the New Testament, demonstrating my point — that God has renewed the New Testament, that the promised new Revelation with more detailed guidance has come.

    Here are several of the ideas presented in that Encyclical which do not have antecedents in the Gospel:

    That order which should prevail amongst men
    Freedom to pursue the truth
    Accuracy in reporting of public events
    Freedom of expression
    Right to a good education
    Private property
    Equality of social classes

    The following are quotations from that Encyclical which do not have guidance in the Gospel on which to base these principles:

    “The fact that he is a citizen of a particular State does not deprive him of membership in the human family, nor of citizenship in that universal society, the common, world-wide fellowship of men.”

    “Women are gaining an increasing awareness of their natural dignity. Far from being content with a purely passive role or allowing themselves to be regarded as a kind of instrument, they are demanding both in domestic and in public life the rights and duties which belong to them as human persons.”

    “Since all peoples have either attained political independence or are on the way to attaining it, soon no nation will rule over another and none will be subject to an alien power.”

    “With respect to States themselves, Our predecessors have constantly taught, and We wish to lend the weight of Our own authority to their teaching, that nations are the subjects of reciprocal rights and duties. Their relationships, therefore, must likewise be harmonized in accordance with the dictates of truth, justice, willing cooperation, and freedom. The same law of nature that governs the life and conduct of individuals must also regulate the relations of political communities with one another.”

    “Hence justice, right reason, and the recognition of man’s dignity cry out insistently for a cessation to the arms race. The stock-piles of armaments which have been built up in various countries must be reduced all round and simultaneously by the parties concerned. ”

    Are the principles as stated in that Encyclical, correct? Yes. However, they lack specificity, and therefore, such Encyclicals lack spiritual leadership. The Church is not lacking in *moral* leadership — because the New Testament possesses that guidance. However, the Church cannot lead in these other areas, because Jesus did not Himself address them, and the Church cannot spread the fabric of Christ’s words, far enough to cover the needs of today. The wine will not fit into the old wine-skin. Rather, each of these is addressed by God in the new Word of God that has come down in the Baha’i Revelation.

    Attempting to apply the verses of the New Testament, which address themselves to the proper guidance of individual humans, to the needs of nations, results in statement like this from Pacem in Terris:

    “But this requires that the fundamental principles upon which peace is based in today’s world be replaced by an altogether different one, namely, the realization that true and lasting peace among nations cannot consist in the possession of an equal supply of armaments but only in mutual trust. And We are confident that this can be achieved, for it is a thing which not only is dictated by common sense, but is in itself most desirable and most fruitful of good.”

    The Church here says that nations should establish world peace based on trust. Even in domestic civil society, we do not have order based on trust. Order is based on law and justice, and law enforcement. This was not the message of Christ. His is not a message emphasizing justice, His message emphasizes mercy and love — upon which societies cannot be based. *Individual* relations can and should be based on His words. Social relations among the institutions of society and the individuals who comprise it, cannot be.

    The inability of the Church to lead in today’s world, because it is not following the Revelation Christ promised 2000 years ago, is perhaps best shown in this passage from Pacem in Terris:

    “Today the universal common good presents us with problems which are world-wide in their dimensions; problems, therefore, which cannot be solved except by a public authority with power, organization and means co-extensive with these problems, and with a world-wide sphere of activity. Consequently the moral order itself demands the establishment of some such general form of public authority.”

    That’s right on target, absolutely correct. And the Church leaves it there, “some such general form”. However, in the Baha’i Revelation, specificity is given.

    The above sections I have cited, and this last statement, demonstrate that the Baha’i Revelation has permeated the minds of people of common sense and good will. Now how to get there? We must turn to Baha’u’llah as Christ’s return, in order to get more detailed guidance. God has sent the guidance that is lacking in this Encyclical. It is found here
    http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/TB/
    and also at
    http colon slash slash reference.bahai.org/en/t/uhj/PWP/
    and here
    http colon slash slash reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/PUP/

    This guidance, promised as the “New Jerusalem” which has “the glory of God” (Rev. 21) fulfills the promises made by Jesus and the Prophets of Israel.

    Brent

  7. Dear Jonah,

    You wrote:

    “Christ established the Church as the living embodiment of his presence on earth. The Church is an extension of Christ’s Incarnation. We participate in Christ’s nature by participating in the Church …

    When Christ says that the Church is his bride, that isn’t just talk. He means it. The bridegroom and the bride share in all things. They become one flesh. What belongs to the bridegroom belongs to the bride, and vice versa. We do not follow someone who left the earth 2,000 years ago. We follow someone who is here with us, and will always abide with us.”

    What I understand from this is: God incarnated in Christ and then in His Church (His ‘bride’). So the Church is God incarnate and the voice of the Church (the Pope) is the voice of God. No need therefore to refer to 2000 year old Scripture to look for divine guidance.

    Im my understanding this is similar to the Baha’i concept of the (lesser) Covenant, in which divine authority is now attributed to the Universal House of Justice.

    The key to (intellectual) acceptance of present-day Catholicism would then be the understanding that the present organisation called the Catholic Church is the true ‘bride’ or ‘body of Christ’. How does one reach such an understanding?

    Orthodox Christians (among whom are very dear friends of mine) also view their church as the Body of Christ. Is Christ’s body divided or are non-catholic ‘churches’ not really part of Christ’s body?

    Warmest greetings, Martijn

  8. Brent, I don’t have time to address all of your points at once. Even if I did, my comment would be so long that no one would read it. (When people read things online they typically read short things and skim or skip over long things.) If I don’t address something you bring up, you can bring it up again, but let’s try to handle these complex topics one piece at a time.

    Brent wrote:
    Surely you would agree that the New Testament is the foundation of anything the Church says. The Church is not itself capable of divine revelation. My point is that the New Testament was revealed for an earlier stage in the development of the human race.

    You and I have a fundamentally different idea of what the New Testament is for. In the Baha’i Faith, the Manifestation delivers a revelation in the form of a set of words, which then constitute the religion’s doctrines.

    In Catholicism, the New Testament is a written witness of the event of Christ and formation of the People of God. Christ is the revelation. Christ did not speak God’s revelation to mankind. He was God’s revelation to mankind.

    So our doctrines, while they have to be consistent with the New Testament, don’t have to be in the New Testament. Our doctrines arise from the nature of God as revealed in Christ. Basically what we know about Christ is what’s in the Bible. That’s why the Bible’s important. But once we know who Christ is, every doctrine that logically follows from his nature is mandatory for us, regardless of whether it is actually written in the Bible.

    We also believe that certain truths are available to us without being revealed. Any human being, regardless of his culture or religion, can understand these truths either through exercise of his reason or through observation of the natural world. (Human reason and the natural world are creations of God, and are therefore expressions of God’s nature.) This is called natural law.

    Regarding the papal encyclical Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII based his comments on natural law. You don’t need a special revelation from God to tell you that the arms race was a bad idea, or that world-wide problems require world-wide solutions. All you need is your own God-given faculty of reason.

  9. Martijn Rep wrote:
    What I understand from this is: God incarnated in Christ and then in His Church (His ‘bride’).

    God incarnated in Christ, but not in the Church. Those people who have a relationship with God (i.e. the Church), partake in God’s divinity vicariously. So the Church is not God, rather the Church participates in the life of God.

    So the Church is God incarnate and the voice of the Church (the Pope) is the voice of God.

    The Pope is not the voice of God. Emphatically not. This is a common misconception about Catholic doctrine.

    The Church is not God incarnate, but she is the conduit through which God acts in the world, and through which humans experience God. (Non-Christians can experience God, but they do so through the Church, though they don’t know it.)

    In some ways the Church (as Catholics understand her) is the Catholic equivalent of the Manifestation (as Baha’is understand him). But in other ways they are different.

    Many people, when they think of “the Church”, think of the hierarchy of priests and bishops. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the interface between God and the human race.

    Im my understanding this is similar to the Baha’i concept of the (lesser) Covenant, in which divine authority is now attributed to the Universal House of Justice.

    Yes, there are some similarities there, but also some differences. But the analogy is apt in my conversation with Mr. Poirier. When he says the only teachings that count in Christianity are what are explicitly found in the New Testament, that is like someone saying you can ignore Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi and just read Baha’u’llah. Saying that actually disobeys Baha’u’llah, because he instituted the Covenant. We Catholics believe that if you just follow the New Testament and ignore the 2,000 years of Catholic Tradition, you’re disobeying Christ.

    The key to (intellectual) acceptance of present-day Catholicism would then be the understanding that the present organisation called the Catholic Church is the true ‘bride’ or ‘body of Christ’. How does one reach such an understanding?

    What do you mean? You mean on what basis do we believe that? That’s a big topic, but I’ll start on it by answering your next question.

    Orthodox Christians (among whom are very dear friends of mine) also view their church as the Body of Christ. Is Christ’s body divided or are non-catholic ‘churches’ not really part of Christ’s body?

    Orthodox Christians are part of the same Church as Catholics and all other Christians. That’s what we believe anyway.

    Wherever the Sacraments are, there is the visible Church. The Orthodox Sacraments are the same as ours. The Sacrament of Baptism is also present among the Protestants, so again they are part of the Church.

    There is, and can only be, one Church. You can’t have two Churches any more than you can have two Christs. It’s just that the Church is present in varying degrees among different people.

    One simplified (perhaps simplistic) way to think of the Church is as a set of concentric circles. The Catholic Church is in the center. The Orthodox are the closest to the center. Then the Lutherans and Anglicans. Then the Methodists, Presbyterians, evangelicals, and other Protestants. Then the Jews. Then the other non-Christians. They’re all part of the one Church in some form or fashion.

  10. Well, first of all, not only am I grateful for my Catholic upbringing, but I have Catholic members of my extended family who are first-rate people. That said, and I do not want to hit this issue very hard, but I need to say that I think you have a wildly exaggerated view of the Church, its powers, its authority from Christ, and its record. I grew up Catholic, and I have to say that I felt that I never got one thing from the Eucharist. I think that the whole concept of the Eucharist– which you stated on this blog to be literally eating God– is based on a grievously flawed understanding of the “bread” of which Jesus spoke. The bread of which He spoke was eternal and divine. The notion of the priest converting the bread and wine into Christ’s body; the notion that eating this body brings divine virtue into one’s life; I think are very far from what Christ meant. Jesus spoke of the “leaven” of the Pharisees which He explained meant their hypocrisy. Likewise, the “bread” He gave to His disciples was not ordinary bread; it has to do with His spirit, His divine qualities, entirely spiritual substance. I feel far more substance entering my soul, from the Baha’i meetings where the Scriptures are shared — which you criticized — than I ever did from the Eucharist. But, people differ.

    I received confirmation from Cardinal MacIntyre. He scared the daylights out of us kids during the ceremony. It was anything but spiritual. The tragic literalization of a profound spiritual notion–confirmation of one’s faith–is one more example of man-made doctrines having little to do with the message of Christ. Despite what I feel to be some grievous error promoted by the Church, I recognize it to be a force for good and morality in the world. But as far as a living force in today’s world, I find the full integrity of the Message of Christ in the guidance of the Universal House of Justice, which I believe to be the House of the Lord promised in Isaiah. The Church lacks the guidance from God to bring the human race to that to which it aspires.

  11. And this is based on… what? Your feelings? You don’t like the Catholic beliefs about the Church, the Eucharist and Confirmation because… you just don’t like them? Is that all you’re saying?

  12. I feel that you and I suffer from an inability to communicate with one another. It seems that every exchange is ships passing in the night. You started with an attack on the Universal House of Justice, and view it as an invitation for Baha’is to dialogue. I respond, but whatever I say is misunderstood. It is simply not true to say that I don’t like or love the Catholic church. I have overall positive feelings for it and the nuns and the priests and the devoted Catholics I know. For you to respond to what I said, with asking that question, shows that we’re not able to communicate right now. And you have also expressed to me, that my comments show that you were misunderstood. I’m going to take a step back, and later on take another look. Maybe I will post later. Thank you for the invitation, God bless you and continue to guide you.
    Brent

  13. You started with an attack on the Universal House of Justice, and view it as an invitation for Baha’is to dialogue.

    How are we not dialoguing?

    I respond, but whatever I say is misunderstood. It is simply not true to say that I don’t like or love the Catholic church.

    I didn’t say you don’t like the Church. I said you don’t like our beliefs about the Church, the Eucharist, and Confirmation.

    For you to respond to what I said, with asking that question, shows that we’re not able to communicate right now.

    Your personal feelings can’t serve as the basis for dialogue, because by their nature only you can feel them. That’s why I asked that question in my last comment. If you disagree with what we believe about the Eucharist, or the nature of the Sacraments as visible signs of grace, then explain why. It’s probably going to be based on some underlying philosophical assumptions. Let’s bring those forward. Let’s not mask them in personal statements about how you just get more out of Baha’i meetings, or that you were confirmed by a scary bishop.

  14. Martijn Rep said:
    Im my understanding this is similar to the Baha’i concept of the (lesser) Covenant, in which divine authority is now attributed to the Universal House of Justice.

    The more I think about this, the more I think it’s a good analogy. The Church in Catholicism is much like the lesser Covenant in the Baha’i Faith, if you include the Guardianship.

    The Church is like the Guardian in that she is the authorized interpreter of Christ’s teachings. As times change and new issues come up, the Church has the authority to apply to them the principles revealed by Christ.

  15. Thanks for responding, Jonah

    I see the issue of authority being at the heart of many intellectual ‘battles’, both within and between individuals. Not in a negative sense – I think it is a necessary part of our deepening, our learning process. Authority is pragmatically essential for a community to exist and remain united. In turn, on a deeper level, it is dependent, I believe, on love.

    I understand now that you do not have such a literal view of the Church as I had thought – I stand corrected! So the Sacraments are the key; they determine where the centre of the Circle is – is that a correct conclusion? Or is there something else as well that places the (visible) Catholic Church in the centre? And … why are the Jews of all the non-Christians closest to the centre?

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