Continuing my discussion with Mike Carrano who styles himself and founder of a spiritual concept which supposedly harmonizes the world’s religions (at least his favorite ones) on the Baha’i Faith, the resurrection, apostolic authority—infallibility, canonicity, the Gospel of Thomas, and much more.
Continuing my discussion with Mike Carrano who styles himself and founder of a spiritual concept which supposedly harmonizes the world’s religions (at least his favorite ones) on the Baha’i Faith, the resurrection, apostolic authority—infallibility, canonicity, the Gospel of Thomas, and much more. Thus, the discussion turned into a good example of who to do Christian apologetics (which when all are posted you will be able to find here).
For details, see my book An Independent Investigation of the Baha’i Faith
Picking up from part 1, Mike Carrano replied thusly (and he will end up claiming that the resurrection was physical and also not physical):
Do you want me to address the errors in your views in this? I’ll attack one at a time – beginning with number 1.
First you say,
“For example, you believe that “Christ’s resurrection was experienced by his disciples as a mystical vision of his Glorified Body” which is simply erroneous. Please understand that Baha’ism HAS TO believe something like this because if Jesus resurrected bodily, as the New Testaments attests time and again, then it would be impossible that Baha’u’llah is the second coming of Christ—this is why your religion portrays itself as tolerant, etc., but rejects this key point of Christian theology.”
The Baha’i DO believe that Christ resurrected bodily. We believe this has several different levels of meaning. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says:—
Know that the return of Christ for a second time doth not mean what the people believe, but rather signifieth the One promised to come after Him. He shall come with the Kingdom of God and His Power which hath surrounded the world. This dominion is in the world of hearts and spirits, and not in that of matter; for the material world is not comparable to a single wing of a fly, in the sight of the Lord, wert thou of those who know! Verily Christ came with His Kingdom from the beginning which hath no beginning, and will come with His Kingdom to the eternity of eternities, inasmuch as in this sense “Christ” is an expression of the Divine Reality, the simple Essence and heavenly Entity, which hath no beginning nor ending. It hath appearance, arising, manifestation and setting in each of the cycles.
CARM -Matthew Slick [apparently, Mike is quoting Matt here]
1. Yes, he was Elijah (Matthew 11:13-14) – “For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14″And if you care to accept it, he himself is Elijah, who was to come.”
2. No, he was not Elijah (John 1:19-21) – “And this is the witness of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 And he confessed, and did not deny, and he confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
The teaching of reincarnation is against the Old Testament.
Therefore, Jesus was not teaching that John the Baptist was Elijah reincarnated. So, what did Jesus mean when He said that John the Baptist was Elijah? We see in Malachi 4:5 this prophecy, “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.” Jesus is referring to the prophecy concerning Elijah. We see that the com-ing of Elijah was in the spirit of Elijah, which is so stated in Luke 1:13-17. The context is when Zecharias, John’s father-to-be, was performing his priestly duties in the temple (Luke 1:8ff). An angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias and said,
“Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 14″And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15″For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother’s womb. 16″And he will turn back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. 17″And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord,” (Luke 1:13-17).
Similarly, Abdul Baha in Some Answered Questions affirms this interpretation when writing:
“But let us return to our original theme. In the Holy Books and Sacred Scrip-tures there is mention of a ‘return’, but the ignorant have failed to grasp its meaning and have imagined it to refer to reincarnation. For what the Prophets of God meant by ‘return’ is not the return of the essence but of the attributes; it is not the return of The Manifestation Himself but of His perfections.
“In the Gospel it is said that John the son of Zacharias is Elijah. By these words is not meant the return of the rational soul of the personality of Elijah in the body of John, but rather that the perfections and attributes of Elijah be-came plain and manifest to him.”
So, we see that John the Baptist was in the spirit of Elijah but not actually Elijah reincarnated.
And what are we to say of Christ’s Resurrection?
Bart Erhman wrote in How Jesus Became God, “What is certain is that the earliest followers of Jesus believed that Jesus had come back to life, in the body, and that this was a body that had real bodily characteristics: it could be seen and touched and it had a voice that could be heard.”
Reza Aslan confirms the same.
The Pauline reference most commonly cited as proof that Jesus rose physically from the grave comes from his letter to the Corinthians, where he writes:
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that He was seen of Cephas [Peter], then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, He was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all He was seen of me also, as one born out of due time.” -1 Corinthians 15:38
Abdul Baha wrote,
“You have written concerning the meeting of His Highness Christ after the crucifixion and that some of the apostles perceived Him but did not recognize Him; but that they did recognize Him after the breaking of bread.
Know you that the Messianic Spirit and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is always manifest, but capacity and ability (to receive it) is more in some and less in others. After the crucifixion the apostles had not in the beginning the capacity and ability of witnessing the Messianic reality. For they were agitated. But when they found firmness and steadfastness, their inner sight became opened, and they saw the reality of the Messiah as manifest. For the body of Christ was crucified and vanished, but the Spirit of Christ is always pouring upon the contingent world, and is manifest before the insight of the people of assurance.” -Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas”, Vol. 1 (Chicago: Bahá’í Publishing Society), p. 193-194.
This is affirmed by Paul himself in Acts 9:3-9, where even for him “The Messianic Spirit” is “manifest, but the capacity and ability (to receive it is more in some and less and others.”
“And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.”
In fact, Abdul Baha confirms this, writing:
“The Cause of Christ was like a lifeless body; and when after three days the disciples became assured and steadfast, and began to serve the Cause of Christ, and resolved to spread the divine teachings, putting His counsels into practice, and arising to serve Him, the Reality of Christ became resplendent and His bounty appeared; His religion found life; His teachings and His admonitions became evident and visible. In other words, the Cause of Christ was like a lifeless body until the life and the bounty of the Holy Spirit surrounded it.” -Some Answered Questions”, rev. ed. (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1984),
This seems to contradict the outward and evident teachings of the church. Yet The Corinthians once asked Paul about the resurrection, and he affirmed precisely this understanding. He wrote:
“But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed His own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
He continues to say (v. 44): “It is sown a natural body as an animal body, it is raised as a spiritual body.”
With this description in mind, how can we believe some “saw” the resurrection of the physical body of Christ some days after Jesus’ crucifixion? Tom Tae-Seale, In author-ized Baha’i scholar by the Universal House of Justice says, “We may respond with Paul, ‘how foolish!’ The body with which God clothed Jesus at the very moment of his release from his physical body, with all its pain and limitations, was, we may safely assume, far more glorious than his physical body. With this and much more Biblical evidence in mind, we can easily understand that the resurrection Paul preached was a spiritual resurrection.” As Paul says in Galatians 2:20,
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is nolonger I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
With this in mind, let us return to St. Paul’s statement in I Corinthians 15:50-54, which reads:
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’
From this it is clear that, even in Christian thought, it is the spiritual that is vital and eternal, not the material. The ways in which Christian theologians have interpreted and understood these teachings vary, but the essential elements are in accord both with Bahá’í teaching and with the accounts that we read in the New Testament. Paul himself confirms this in Romans 6:6-7 when writing,
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should nolonger be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” -Romans 6:6-7
In short, we have a clearer understanding of the meaning of the resurrection. The res-urrection was a spiritual experience which included phenomenological encounters with Christ in visionary states such as the one Paul experienced on the road to Damascus, and these experiences, which were due to faith in Christ, induced a spiritual state with-in the believers that had the effect of spiritually resurrecting them into a new spiritual body: the body of a believing community, as followers of Christ.
For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have one function, so we, though many, are one in Christ, and individually members of one another. [Romans 12.5.
.” St. Theresa of Avila wrote,
“Christ has no body but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Yours are the feet which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands which Christ blesses the world.”
Abdul Baha wrote,
“You have asked me two questions: “That if the same spirit is manifest in all the Manifestations and Prophets, then what is the distinction or difference between Christ (or rather Jesus) and the other Prophets; also [what is the difference] between Father and Son?”
“Figuratively speaking, the Father is the center of the brain and the Son is the center of the heart; the rest of the Prophets are members and parts. – Tablets of Abdul-Baha, pp. 103.
This leads us to address the sense in which Baha’u’llah is the Spiritual Return of Christ. Just as was the case with St. Paul, whom through a vision of The Cosmic Christ found himself Crucified with Christ so that Christ could live through himself as himself, Baha’u’llah’s Annointing as the Father of the Second Coming was similarly proceeded by The Cosmic Christ’s Ultimate Revelation of Itself in Him as Supreme Gnosis so that His Wisdom (Sophia: the Mind of God and the Maid of Heaven) came to Indwell Him. And as was the case with St. Paul, the effect on Mirza Hussain Ali al Nuri was that he would find himself suddenly Crucified with Christ, and then resurrected as Baha’u’llah, thus transfiguring him into the Spiritual Return of Christ, and thus the Father of the Second Coming.
St. Paul says
But we…are being transformed into the same image frm glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. -2 Corinthians 3:18
In this way, Baha’u’llah, the Glory of God, is the SPIRITUAL return of Christ, and the Body of Mirza Hussein Ali Nuri, being indwelt by the Spirit of the Cosmic Christ, is the first among humanity to be wholly restored to Divine Similitude with Christ, and thus is transfigured as the Head of the Body of Christ on Earth, by which was once confined solely to Jesus but has since come to extend into all the faithful.
Christopher Buck, Ph.D, says, “You can see how Baha’is can revere Christ as heart (“the Son is the center of the heart”) and Baha’u’llah as soul.”
In this context we must remember St. Paul’s statement in I Corinthians 15:50-54:
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”
This poses a second question: “Why did Christ explain His second coming with such detail in the book of Revelations if it were all symbolical?”
A letter dated 29 November 1937 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer identifies the fulfilment of Christ’s prophecy of His return — of the coming of the Kingdom of the Father — with the worldwide realization of the sovereignty of Bahá’u’lláh:
“Now as regards the signs that would herald the advent of the new Manifestation; The Guardian wishes you to read over very carefully Bahá’u’lláh’s explanation as recorded in the Iqan. There it is made clear that what is meant by the appearance of the Son of God after the calamitous events preceding His coming is the revelation of His full glory and its recognition and acceptance by the peoples of the world, and not His physical appearance. For Bahá’u’lláh, Whose advent marks the return of the Son in the glory of the Father, has already appeared, and the signs predicted in the Gospel have not yet fully been realized. Their complete fulfilment, however, would mark the beginning of the recognition of His full station by the peoples of the world. Then and only then will His appear.”
In other words, The Second Coming is in two parts:
1) “the revelation of His full glory” and
2) “its recognition and acceptance by the peoples of the world”..
The Baha’i teaching of The Resurrection and the Second Coming fulfills the promise of Christian Esotericism. The Body of Christ which was resurrected is not a physical body, but a spiritual one as Paul believed (Inner Vision of The Christ in Glory which Trans-forms One into a member of his Body) Similarly, Abdul Baha’i confirms Paul’s view when writing that those who were witness to the resurrection perceived Christ as a spiritual vision, saying “But when they found firmness and steadfastness, their inner sight became opened, and they saw the reality of the Messiah as manifest.”
He also says,
‘’Christ was like a seed, and this seed sacrificed its form so that the tree might grow and develop. Although the form of the seed was destroyed, its reality manifested itself, in perfect majesty and beauty, in the outward form of the tree. The station of Christ was that of absolute perfection. Those divine perfections shone even as the sun upon all believing souls, and the outpourings of that light became manifest and resplendent in their realities.’’
Regarding the Second Coming, Abdul Baha has clarified that Jesus is the heart of the second coming – that is, the bodily vessel of the faith that is the lifeblood of all in Whom the soul of Christ, being the spirit of Baha’u’llah, indwells. Christ himself said “I am the light of the world.” In John 9:5, and then in Matthew 5:14 anoints his followers with the same status, saying “You are the light of the world.”, the Baha’i interpretation is, at the very least, scripturally consistent.
Well, Mike makes an (apparently) good (surface level) case. Since I am sure that is enough reading for now, I will post my reply in the next segment.
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