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How do I become Baha’i?
Religion

The 3 Kinds of Faith

David Langness | Jan 12, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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David Langness | Jan 12, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

How many paths are there to God? There are as many paths to God as there are souls on the Earth. – Rumi

Do you have a Faith?

If so, how did you come to believe in it?

I was raised as a Lutheran, left the church voluntarily at 12 years old when I could no longer subscribe to its belief system, then embarked on a spiritual search to find what I truly believed in. When I encountered the Baha’i Faith after a long spiritual search through many different spiritual traditions and systems, I eventually understood it was what I believed, so I became a Baha’i. Then I embarked on another, harder and longer spiritual journey—trying to really become a Baha’i, in deed as well as in name.

For me, then, that means three kinds of faith exist: the inherited kind, which we typically get from our parents and ancestors; the kind that comes from knowing; and the kind that comes from doing. The Baha’i teachings define it this way:

There are three kinds of Faith: first, that which is from tradition and birth. For example: a child is born of Muhammadan parents, he is a Muhammadan. This faith is weak traditional faith: second, that which comes from Knowledge, and is the faith of understanding. This is good, but there is a better, the faith of practice. This is real faith.

We hear there is an invention, we believe it is good; then we come and see it. We hear that there is wealth, we see it; we work hard for it, and become rich ourselves and so help others. We know and we see the Light, we go close to it, are warmed by it, and reflect its rays on others; this is real faith, and thus we receive power to become the eternal sons of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, pp. 64-65.

“Weak traditional faith,” as Abdu’l-Baha defines it, often tends to remain unexplored and unexamined. We simply have it because our parents had it and raised us in it. Like an old, comfortable coat, we inherit it, put it on, and it seems good enough so we leave it on. It doesn’t really matter if it fits or keeps us warm or protects us from the rain—it only matters that it’s familiar.

The Baha’i teachings warn us about that old coat:

No man should follow blindly his ancestors and forefathers. Nay, each must see with his own eyes, hear with his own ears and investigate independently in order that he may find the truth. The religion of forefathers and ancestors is based upon blind imitation. Man should investigate reality. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 25.

So if we take the initiative to shed that coat and look for a new one—a coat that fits, that works, that functions well—we may have to try on several:

Furthermore, know ye that God has created in man the power of reason whereby man is enabled to investigate reality. God has not intended man to blindly imitate his fathers and ancestors. He has endowed him with mind or the faculty of reasoning by the exercise of which he is to investigate and discover the truth; and that which he finds real and true, he must accept. He must not be an imitator or blind follower of any soul. He must not rely implicitly upon the opinion of any man without investigation; nay, each soul must seek intelligently and independently, arriving at a real conclusion and bound only by that reality. – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, pp. 73-74.

After that investigation, it’s up to you, and no one else, to decide on the coat you want. Will the same coat fit you that fits your father or your mother or your friends? Maybe, but not necessarily. You are unique, and there are many paths to the one true God. The Rig Veda says “Truth is one, though the sages know it variously.” The Baha’i teachings agree:

Baha’u’llah continually urges man to free himself from the superstitions and traditions of the past and become an investigator of reality, for it will then be seen that God has revealed his light many times in order to illumine mankind in the path of evolution, in various countries and through many different prophets, masters and sages.

Life must hold as its primary foundation the opportunity of a knowledge of the divine law. The great ones come, primarily, to remind man of this law which remains the same in all ages — immutable, unchangeable, eternal, and which deals with man attaining immortality. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, pp. 8-9.

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