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“In the beginning, God…”
Most of our ancestors, for the better part of three millennia, have believed in God. Most people still do. But for several centuries, though, there have been doubters. In response to the doubters, there have been attempts to prove the existence of God.
In this series of essays, we will examine the response to these doubters in the divine philosophy of Abdu’l-Baha, born in Persia in 1844 and deceased in the Holy Land in 1921. For an intellectual context in which to consider these arguments, other proofs will be cited here, some of them ancient, and some more recent. We will consider the proofs of God in the Baha’i teachings, and explore their logical and scientific veracity, too.
People are divided into two sections, one which is satisfied with the knowledge of the attributes of divinity, and the other which strives to establish the existence of divinity, and be informed of the fundamental principles of divine philosophy. – Star of the West, Volume 4, p. 62.
This answer points to two temperaments, one satisfied with a belief in a Supreme Being, and the other demanding proof. Those who demand proof usually believe in a more modern status quo, the status quo of scientific consensus and sensory experience:
The materialist comes to the conclusion that life in other words means composition; that wherever we find single elements combined in aggregate form there we behold the phenomena of organic life; that every organic composition is organic life. Now if life means composition of elements then the materialist may come to the conclusion of the non-necessity of a creator; for composition is all there is to it, and that is accomplished by adhesion or cohesion. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 423.
Proofs of the existence of God speak to three specific audiences: those who strive “to establish the existence of divinity, and be informed of the fundamental principles of divine philosophy,” those who are already convinced of the existence of God and wish to establish this existence on firm and enduring philosophical foundations; and those who reject the existence of God unless convinced otherwise.
In the Baha’i teachings, we find three varieties of proofs for the existence of God—”rational” (logical, scientific) proofs; “scriptural proofs from the Old and New Testaments or the Koran;” and “spiritual proofs.” There are also sensory and scientific proofs for the existence of God, and the first essays in this series deal with those proofs.
In these essays, we won’t address the scriptural proofs of the existence of God, because they are already known to believers in religion, rejected by unbelievers, and hence of lesser significance and effect.
While few people regard the intellect as an absolutely infallible source of truth, in the case of proofs for the existence of God it seems to be the best suited to contemporary human beings. Abdu’l-Baha says: “These are rational proofs; in this age the peoples of the world need the arguments of reason.”
However, those who already feel illumined with the Divine Light have no need of rational proofs:
…if the eye of inner vision be opened, a hundred thousand clear proofs will be seen. Thus, when man feels the indwelling spirit, he is in no need of arguments for its existence; but for those who are deprived of the grace of the spirit, it is necessary to set forth external arguments. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, p. 7.
Baha’is believe that God exists—but they also believe in reason, logic and the power of the human mind to discover the realities of life:
Thank God that He has given you such a power through which you can comprehend these divine mysteries. Reflect deeply, ponder carefully, think minutely, and then the doors of knowledge shall be opened unto you. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 4, p. 64.
…the mind proveth the existence of an unseen Reality that embraceth all beings, and that existeth and revealeth itself in all stages, the essence whereof is beyond the grasp of the mind. The merciful outpourings of that Divine Essence, however, are vouchsafed unto all beings and it is incumbent upon man to ponder in his heart upon the effusions of the Divine Grace, the soul (of man) being counted as one (sign of it), rather than upon the Divine Essence itself. This is the utmost limit of human understanding. – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablet to Auguste Forel.
In this series of essays, we’ll focus on reason, logic and the power of the human mind to unearth the true realities of the Creator.