Armed

I like Devon Gundry’s song and video very much. I love Mr. Gundry’s voice, and Justin Baldoni’s directing and all the actors are fantastic. I agree with all the Baha’is out there who have heaped praise on the video. The first time I watched it, though, something seemed off, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I’ve been thinking about it, but I’d like to get some feedback.

Why is so much stress put on the religious affiliation of the characters? This isn’t just an old couple, this is a Jewish old couple. And the Jewishness is important. Same with the military wife’s Christianness and the homeless man’s Muslimness. It’s as if the director is saying, “Hey, look! She’s a Christian! He’s a Muslim!” The video doesn’t just portray people experiencing grief and pain. The video portrays a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim experiencing grief and pain. Why? And then why do they all recite Baha’u’llah’s words?

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“The faith which does not reject any peoples’ customs”

The Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, the Vatican department in charge of missionary work, gave the following instructions to Catholic missionaries in 1659 on how to deal with the cultures they were to encounter in the Far East:

Put no obstacles in their way; and for no reason whatever should you persuade these people to change their rites, customs, and ways of life, unless these are obviously opposed to religion and good morals. For what is more absurd than to bring France or Spain or Italy or any other part of Europe into China? It is not these that you should bring but the faith which does not spurn or reject any peoples’ rites and customs, unless they are depraved, but on the contrary tries to keep them … Admire and praise what deserves to be respected.

Progressive unifications?

I have a question about this passage in The Promised Day Is Come, pages 117-118:

This will indeed be the fitting climax of that process of integration which, starting with the family, the smallest unit in the scale of human organization, must, after having called successively into being the tribe, the city-state, and the nation, continue to operate until it culminates in the unification of the whole world, the final object and the crowning glory of human evolution on this planet.

Does each specific stage correspond exactly to a specific Manifestation? Did one Manifestation bring about the unification of families, and a later one of tribes, and so on? And if so, which Manifestation is responsible for which stage?

Oneness of shepherd, oneness of sheep

Continuing the theme begun in the last post, I’m responding to this quote from Shoghi Effendi, which represents a very common misconception among Baha’is:

Nowhere in the Gospels do we find any reference to the unity of nations or the unification of mankind as a whole. When Jesus spoke to those around Him, He addressed them primarily as individuals rather than as component parts of one universal, indivisible entity.

Rather than put together a lot of Bible quotes in one post, I’m posting a little bit at a time of passages from throughout the Bible. This post looks at the Gospel of John, chapters 10 and 11. I suggest you read them in their entirety – or better yet, read the entire Gospel. It won’t take that long, only a couple of hours. Go ahead; I’ll wait.

Done? Okay, let’s look at a few verses more closely, starting with chapter 10. This is the Good Shepherd discourse, where he says he is the shepherd and his sheep know his voice.

I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Notice how he uses the metaphors of the flock and the sheepfold. Christians aren’t individual sheep. They are members of something larger – the universal flock. He doesn’t just save each sheep one by one. He gathers his sheep together.

Now look at chapter 11. Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead…

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to kill him.

Did you catch that last part? Jesus was going to gather into one the dispersed children of God.

‘Nuff said.

But just in case it isn’t, I’ll continue posting passages from the Bible on this theme. One cannot read a single verse in isolation. Just as the various passages of the Bible were written in a larger context, so must they be read in a larger context. When it comes to the New Testament, you can’t really appreciate it unless you have the Old Testament background. You also need the New Testament letters and apocalypse to get a contemporaneous context for what is being said in the Gospels. So this series of posts will look at the whole Bible, since that is the only way to correct Shoghi Effendi’s misinformation.

Ephesians and the unity of mankind

Many Baha’is believe that Christianity is a message of individual salvation while the Baha’i Faith is about the salvation of the human race. This is a false contrast, based on a misunderstanding of Christianity. The post will be the first in a series intended to refute this notion.

In a comment to the post Shoghi Effendi and Christian Authority, Mr. Poirier quoted a passage from Shoghi Effendi’s The Promised Day Is Come, p. 119:

The Revelation associated with the Faith of Jesus Christ focused attention primarily on the redemption of the individual and the molding of his conduct, and stressed, as its central theme, the necessity of inculcating a high standard of morality and discipline into man, as the fundamental unit in human society. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find any reference to the unity of nations or the unification of mankind as a whole. When Jesus spoke to those around Him, He addressed them primarily as individuals rather than as component parts of one universal, indivisible entity.

Only by reading the New Testament as a whole (along with some notable sections of the Old Testament) can you see the magnitude of how way off Shoghi Effendi is. Since I can’t quote all of that on this blog, what I will do in this and subsequent posts in this series, God willing, is to point out a few passages here and there.

This passage is from the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

Therefore, remember that at one time you, Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by those called the circumcision, which is done in the flesh by human hands, were at that time without Christ, alienated from the community of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it.

He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Observe:

As Paul describes it, there were two parts to the human race, the Hebrews and the Gentiles. But that separation is done away in Christ. The cross (i.e. the event of the crucifixion) erases the disunity in the human race and forges a single humanity.

(This is echoed in some other places in Paul’s writings, such as in Galatians, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus, and in Colossians, here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.)

Far from depicting salvation as an individual matter, he portrays the community of believers as a single unit. Notice the metaphors Paul uses in the third paragraph quoted above (i.e. verses 17-22). The Church is a household, both in the sense of a family and in the sense of a building. Other words he uses are structure, temple and dwelling. And in the second paragraph the Church is a single person, with Christ the head.

That is the vision of Christianity: a single body of believers, welded together (or to use Paul’s metaphors here, grafted together and mortared together) into a single community that, as a unit, is saved by Christ and reconciled to God. And this is the Christian vision of mankind’s unity: that we are united through the blood of the cross – united with each other at the same time we are united with God.

Credo

Three weeks ago John made this comment on the thread Shoghi Effendi and Christian Authority:

Given that you are a convert to the Roman Catholic faith I wonder if a good place to start may be the nature of God, of man and of Jesus Christ. As there are many views on these questions among Christians in general, and amongst some Roman Catholics, it would be interesting to explore these questions to see if it is possible for us to arrive at a common understanding about them. If you are interested in pursuing these themes a good start may be for you to outline the nature of the God you believe in, the nature and purpose of man and his relationship with God and the nature and purpose of Jesus Christ in your world view. A more fundamental question is what is the purpose of creation per se.

I’ve been remiss in getting back to this. Haven’t had time for blogging in a while. But now I can take a crack at it.

The easiest way to sum up my belief would be to recite the Nicene Creed. But instead I’ll put my beliefs in my own words.

The nature of God

God is eternal, which means he exists outside of time. He created everything that exists, including time and space. God is a community of persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (called the Trinity).

(Since leaving the Baha’i Faith and becoming Christian, I have fallen out of the habit of capitalizing pronouns when referring to God. Hope that isn’t too distracting.)

The nature and purpose of man and his relationship with God

Man, like all of God’s creatures, are created first and foremost to glorify God. They also reflect the image of God according to their nature. So in man, the love between men reflects the love within the Trinity. When a husband and wife have a child, for example, this is an image of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the love shared by the Father and the Son.

Humans consist of body and soul. The two together make up a human being. So we glorify God and reflect his nature by means of both our body and our soul. That’s why, for example, we perform movements when we worship: have processions, kneel before the Eucharist, etc. We worship God according to our nature, and our nature includes our body.

God calls us to be in relationship with him, and to participate in his work. So when God creates a new person, he includes us in the act (through the marital embrace). When God saves a soul from sin, he includes us in that too (through our teaching, or our companionship, or through sacraments which we humans perform, or whatever God calls us to do).

The nature and purpose of Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ is the link between us and God. I mentioned above that our purpose is to be in relationship with God and to participate in God’s work. Ultimately we are to be with God for eternity. Jesus Christ is how that happens. He brings us into the life of the Trinity.

There’s a line in the liturgy: “May we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” So this is how the link takes place: Christ, who is God, becomes a human being, so that human beings who join themselves to him may share in his divinity.

There’s a lot more I could say about everything I’ve written above, but this is sufficient for now.

“God does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals”

From Lumen Gentium, one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council, promulgated in 1964:

At all times and in every race God has given welcome to whosoever fears Him and does what is right. God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness. He therefore chose the race of Israel as a people unto Himself. With it He set up a covenant. Step by step He taught and prepared this people, making known in its history both Himself and the decree of His will and making it holy unto Himself. All these things, however, were done by way of preparation and as a figure of that new and perfect covenant, which was to be ratified in Christ, and of that fuller revelation which was to be given through the Word of God Himself made flesh.

“Behold the days shall come saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel, and with the house of Judah … I will give my law in their bowels, and I will write it in their heart, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people … For all of them shall know Me, from the least of them even to the greatest, saith the Lord.” Christ instituted this new covenant, the new testament, that is to say, in His Blood, calling together a people made up of Jew and gentile, making them one, not according to the flesh but in the Spirit. This was to be the new People of God. For those who believe in Christ, who are reborn not from a perishable but from an imperishable seed through the word of the living God, not from the flesh but from water and the Holy Spirit, are finally established as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people … who in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God”.