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What’s the trouble with most dogmatic religious creeds? They tend to be political compromises, attempts to weld together two different views.
Athanasius, Apollinaris, and Cyril, the Alexandrian camp in early Christian history, championed the view that the Logos was essentially God and therefore could not be divided. They held that the divinity of Logos was compromised if Logos was seen as other than one; and that any limitations of Jesus as Logos were only a function of being incarnate in human form and not really attributable to Logos. Further, they argued, to have two natures would make Jesus at war with himself. Thus, to this group, it was important to state that Jesus was one substance. Theodore of Mopsuestia and Nestorius (who later became bishop of Constantinople) led the Antiochene camp. They held that Logos incarnate cannot be God in the proper sense because he (Jesus) suffered. Further, they saw that we need a human model of salvation in Jesus and to make him divine compromised this. Therefore, to satisfy this group, the resulting creed said that Jesus had two natures.
Does this make sense? Maurice Wells, the aforementioned Christian theologian, responds:
…when one is asked to believe something which one cannot even spell out at all in intelligible terms, it is right to stop and push the questioning one stage further back. Are we sure that the concept of an incarnate being, one who is both fully God and fully man, is after all, an intelligible concept? – The Myth of God Incarnate, p.5.
Another Christian theologian, Francis Young, continues:
Does Christian faith have to be tied to a Christological position which was never very satisfactory and certainly determined by a particular cultural environment? – ibid, p. 29.
Against this backdrop of controversy, let’s discuss the Baha’i position on incarnation and manifestation. To begin with, Baha’is decline, as countless Christians before have, to believe that the one, transcendent, unchangeable, eternal, God, can somehow be incarnate. This necessarily follows out of the definition of an unchangeable God. Baha’u’llah states:
Know thou of a certainty that the Unseen can in no wise incarnate His Essence and reveal it unto men. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 49.
and in another place:
To every discerning and illumined heart it is evident that God, the unknowable Essence, the divine Being, is immensely exalted beyond every human attribute, such as corporeal existence, ascent and descent, egress and regress. – The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 98.
The Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi, summarizes:
Indeed the God Who could so incarnate His own reality would, in the light of the teachings of Baha’u’llah, cease immediately to be God. So crude and fantastic a theory of Divine incarnation is as far removed from, and incompatible with, the essentials of Baha’i belief as are the no less inadmissible pantheistic and anthropomorphic conceptions of God both of which the utterances of Baha’u’llah emphatically repudiate and the fallacy of which they expose.” – The World Order of Baha’u’llah, pp. 112-113.
To Baha’is and to most Christians, whatever we may conceive of as being the Creator is nothing more than our limited human conception. To imagine a Supreme Being in a mortal frame, no matter how exalted, is to create for God a limiting and restricting form. Further, as soon as we imagine God in a form, we can imagine something greater that is formless. The real Creator will thus always be beyond our conceptions, no matter how hard we try. Even if we were to allow that the Creator could incarnate His Essence, that which we would see would still be constrained by the limitations of our minds. Even if there were to be an incarnation of divinity, we would be unable to perceive it.
Let not the things of the body obscure the celestial light of the spirit, so that, by the Divine Bounty, you may enter with the children of God into His Eternal Kingdom. This is my prayer for you all. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 44.