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Logical? Purposeful? Coordinated? Could it be that the Creator actually knew what He was doing, was actually as smart and logical, as kind and loving as we are? What an incredibly neat idea this was for me. After all I had endured in the guise of religion, I began to realize bit by bit how much doubt and confusion I had set aside in some private place, unknown even to my own conscious mind. Now, as I investigated the Baha’i Faith, it all came pouring out.
I had been confronted by my church teachers with a vision of God as Jealous, Wrathful, Vengeful, Capricious, Unpredictable. Especially was this so with the God of the Old Testament—no telling what sort of intervention He would perpetrate over a sometimes minuscule miscue on the part of a people or the foible of one of their leaders. Let Moses tap that rock twice and ziiipp! There goes his one chance to enter the Promised Land. Let Lot’s wife look back just once and ziiipp! She’s a pillar of salt.
I asked myself: What kind of cruel, merciless God would act that way?
On some level I sensed that even I could do a better job of being God than that. After all that Moses had been through, I would have made some young followers carry him on soft cushions to the Promised Land if I thought it would have been a good idea. After all, had not this prophet of God endured capricious rejection on the part of his own people after he had saved them from slavery? Did he not train them for forty years, moving from place to place to teach them about how to construct a just tribal community by practicing it over and over?
Then, of course, I had been told about a God who had come to Earth in the guise of an ordinary man and who, on the eve of his own execution, prayed to himself to be relieved of this onerous sacrifice. Did he know he was about to create havoc, because of his own will to save humankind from the wrath of himself, for what two people had done four thousand years before in the Garden of Eden?
Even more perplexing was that this same God had, in the course of his ministry, said authoritatively: “I say nothing on my own authority but by the authority of him who sent me,” a statement which, when we substitute the antecedents for the pronouns reads: “I have said nothing on my own authority but by the authority of myself.” or, in an even more perplexing formulation of the same statement, “God says nothing on His own authority, but by the authority of God.”
The whole thing made me crazy, and I badly needed to find a reasonable, rational explanation. I found it here:
As to the Holy Manifestations of God, They are the focal points where the signs, tokens and perfections of that sacred, pre-existent Reality appear in all their splendour. They are an eternal grace, a heavenly glory, and on Them dependeth the everlasting life of humankind. To illustrate: the Sun of Truth dwelleth in a sky to which no soul hath any access, and which no mind can reach, and He is far beyond the comprehension of all creatures. Yet the Holy Manifestations of God are even as a looking-glass, burnished and without stain, which gathereth streams of light out of that Sun, and then scattereth the glory over the rest of creation. In that polished surface, the Sun with all Its majesty standeth clearly revealed. Thus, should the mirrored Sun proclaim, ‘I am the Sun!’ this is but truth; and should It cry, ‘I am not the Sun!’ this is the truth as well. And although the Day-Star, with all Its glory, Its beauty, Its perfections, be clearly visible in that mirror without stain, still It hath not come down from Its own lofty station in the realms above, It hath not made Its way into the mirror; rather doth It continue to abide, as It will forever, in the supernal heights of Its own holiness.
And further, all the earth’s creatures require the bounty of the sun, for their very existence is dependent upon solar light and heat. Should they be deprived of the sun, they would be wiped out. This is the being with God, as referred to in the Holy Books: man must be with his Lord.
It is clear, then, that the essential reality of God is revealed in His perfections; and the sun, with its perfections, reflected in a mirror, is a visible thing, an entity clearly expressing the bounty of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 50-51.
Probably the most critical confirmation for me on a purely cerebral level of assessing the accuracy of the Baha’i perspective was exploring its capacity to elucidate and untangle the strands of contention that my university studies had showed world history to be, particularly religious history and philosophical discourse. Finally I had an answer for the Big Question about God—if God exists, why doesn’t He express Himself by intervening in human history?
The answer? Through His prophets, God has done precisely that—but perhaps not in ways we might wish or even fully comprehend. Not even those holy prophets stopped us from doing all the stupid stuff the body politic perpetrated over the course of our brief history.
This answer, even in its most succinct and axiomatic form, worked completely for me. I could figure out the particulars of this theory on my own, and began to do so. I knew it worked, sufficient to explain the wisdom of the manner in which the Creator intervened without literally taking charge of things. Over time, we had to do that ourselves. The coming to Earth of the Kingdom of God would be guided by the prophets, but performed by human hearts and hands. Suffice it to say that I had accepted this theory of human history whole-heartedly, because it worked. At the time, I had only one abiding question left, the answer to which I approached with no small degree of trepidation.
Next: Accepting Muhammad as a Prophet of God
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