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The Baha’i teachings say that religion progresses along with humanity, and that all religions are one in essence. And if we take a look at the writings of other religions, and the way their teachings complemented each other, we can see proof of this statement.
“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” – John 16:12-13 King James Version (KJV)
Why could we “not bear it now” in the early era of Christianity? Who was the “Spirit of Truth”?
When Christ came to the world, most people were not able to read or write. Communication from one town to another took a long time, and education was for a privileged few. Because not many people actually saw Jesus or heard Him and were not able to read, they relied on the Apostles, priests and word of mouth to be informed of the teachings of Jesus.
Paper was invented around 100 BC in China. It took many years before the rest of the world acquired it. The printing press was not invented yet and people had to write and make copies of books by hand. The Old Testament of the Bible was not available for most people. The New Testament was not put together until three or four hundred years after Jesus. People were more barbaric. Hanging people on a cross was very cruel, and there were many other forms of torture and killing.
When Muhammad came in the Middle East around the year 622 AD, some girl babies were buried alive. People were greatly divided. Muhammad united many warring peoples in a new, kinder, more loving way of life. The sciences were greatly increased by his wisdom and teachings.
Since then, many changes have occurred in the past two thousand years. Today most people have some form of education; the world is working towards education for everyone. There are newspapers, books, telephones, radios, televisions, computers, and the internet available in most of the world. We can travel anywhere in less than a day. Knowledge of the science of the human mind and body increases daily. Our knowledge of the universe is astounding. People can get information from the internet in minutes.
Can we “bear it” now, this new knowledge about God and mankind? The Baha’i teachings say that we can.
Religion is the outer expression of the divine reality. Therefore it must be living, vitalized, moving and progressive. If it be without motion and non-progressive it is without the divine life; it is dead. The divine institutes are continuously active and evolutionary; therefore the revelation of them must be progressive and continuous. All things are subject to re-formation. This is a century of life and renewal. Sciences and arts, industry and invention have been reformed. Law and ethics have been reconstituted, reorganized. The world of thought has been regenerated. Sciences of former ages and philosophies of the past are useless today. Present exigencies demand new methods of solution; world problems are without precedent. Old ideas and modes of thought are fast becoming obsolete. Ancient laws and archaic ethical systems will not meet the requirements of modern conditions, for this is clearly the century of a new life, the century of the revelation of the reality and therefore the greatest of all centuries. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 224.
The religions are like grades in school. What children learned in kindergarten and elementary school is built on in the higher grades. The knowledge gained from Abraham, Moses, Christ, Muhammad, the Buddha, Zoroaster and Krishna is expanded by the revelations of the Bab and Baha’u’llah.
The knowledge brought to us by Baha’u’llah and with the help of his son, Abdu’l-Baha, has greatly increased our ability to bear God’s Word.
Baha’u’llah has enlightened us with many teachings and proclaimed that the spirits of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Gautama the Buddha, Zoroaster and Krishna are the same. There really is only one religion that has manifested itself in many ways over the years. When Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and Omega,” he meant that he was the return of Abraham, Moses and all the other great enlighteners sent by God to man. All the Manifestations from God have the same spirit and bring us what we need to know for the era in which we live.
The Bearers of the Trust of God are made manifest unto the peoples of the earth as the Exponents of a new Cause and the Revealers of a new Message. Inasmuch as these Birds of the celestial Throne are all sent down from the heaven of the Will of God, and as they all arise to proclaim His irresistible Faith, they, therefore, are regarded as one soul and the same person. For they all drink from the one Cup of the love of God, and all partake of the fruit of the same Tree of Oneness. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 50.