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Religion

The Way, the Truth, the Life

Maya Bohnhoff | Jun 11, 2016

PART 3 IN SERIES The Silent God

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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Maya Bohnhoff | Jun 11, 2016

PART 3 IN SERIES The Silent God

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

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuses you, even Moses, in whom you trust. For had you believed Moses, you would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall you believe my words? – John 5: 45-47.

As a Christian, it always seemed clear to me that Judaism and Christianity were progressively revealed phases of the same basic faith. A number of Biblical passages allude to this. One, Hebrews 1:1-3, says:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…

Another, in Acts 3:20-22, quotes the apostle Peter:

…that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you.’

This passage is especially important, because it establishes that Christ’s disciples understood him to be “the Prophet like me” that Moses prophesied. Peter is, in fact, quoting from the book of Deuteronomy, using Moses’ words.

This defines the essence of progressive revelation.

If Judaism and Christianity are the same faith in the eyes of God, doesn’t it seem reasonable that the faiths taught by Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Muhammad and Baha’u’llah are also progressively revealed stages in the same Faith?

I submit that this is how the God who Christ reveals in the Gospels works. The God of Christ is a Father who loves ALL of His children, not just a favored few. Jesus states that God would not feed, clothe and educate only one child and let the others starve, naked and ignorant. So, it stands to reason that if God has sent us prophets ”since the world began,” He would have sent some of those prophets to His children all over that world. He would have sent a Krishna and a Buddha to India, a Zoroaster to Persia, a Muhammad to the Arab peoples, etc.

Christian theologians hold that God made some “provision” for all the souls who never knew Moses or Jesus. Baha’is believe that He did it in the same way He provided for the Jews—by sending a prophet to teach His Word.

This leads me to the second question my correspondent fielded from his Christian friend: “Jesus says he is the only way to know the Father, so how can there be any other way?”

We have come full circle to his first question about how seemingly disparate religions can be one.

The Bible establishes that God revealed His religion progressively according to the capacity of the audience. It establishes that Moses and Jesus taught the same Faith, but to people of different capacities at different times. So, here’s the question that follows: If Jesus is the only way forever, then were the Jews deceived in following Moses?

Most Christians would reject this idea. They understand that Moses was different than other prophets as spelled out clearly in the Old Testament:

…if there be a prophet among you, I Jehovah will make myself known unto him in a vision, I will speak with him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so; he is faithful in all my house: with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even manifestly, and not in dark speeches; and the form of Jehovah shall he behold… – Numbers 12: 6-8.

And the Lord spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaks unto his friend. – Exodus 33:11.

Jews venerated Moses as the only one among men who had seen God’s ”form.” Jesus claims this same distinction, as recorded in John 6:45-47:

It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that has heard, and has learned of the Father, comes unto me. Not that any man has seen the Father, save he which is of God, he has seen the Father.

In this passage and others, Jesus claims that—like Moses—he has seen God face to face. Like Moses, he speaks with God’s authority. Was it any wonder he so greatly angered the Pharisees?

So, let’s assume that God would want to teach His other children—the non-Jews living elsewhere in the world. Would He not send them messengers, prophets like Moses and Jesus? Let’s say He did. If Moses and Jesus aren’t in competition, then why would we think these other prophets would be?

Not surprisingly, every one of these Messengers has used a similar means of expressing their relationship to God and man. 

I am the Way, and the Master who watches in silence; thy friend and thy shelter, and thy abode of peace.  I am the beginning and the middle and the end of all things; their seed of Eternity, their Treasure supreme. – Krishna, Bhagavad Gita 9:16-18.

This indeed is the Way—there is no other—for the purification of one’s vision. Follow this Way. I have taught you the Way… making the effort is your affair. – Gautama Buddha, Dhammapada vs. 274-276.

I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by Me. If you really knew Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him. – Jesus Christ, John 14:6-7. 

This is the way of thy Lord, leading straight: We have detailed the signs for those who receive admonition.  For them will be a home of peace in the presence of their Lord: He will be their friend, because they practised (righteousness). – Muhammad, Quran, Surih 6:126-127.

…He hath manifested unto men the Day Stars of His divine guidance, the Symbols of His divine unity, and hath ordained the knowledge of these sanctified Beings to be identical with the knowledge of His own Self.  Whoso recognizeth Them hath recognized God.  Whoso hearkeneth unto Their call, hath hearkened unto the voice of God, and whoso testifieth to the truth of Their revelation, hath testified to the truth of God Himself…. Every one of them is the Way of God that connecteth this world with the realms above….  They are the Manifestations of God amidst men, the evidences of His Truth, and the signs of His glory. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 49-50.

So, yes, all these faiths can be one, and all of them can be right—just as the faith that Abraham, Joseph, Moses and Jesus taught was one.

Next: Learning Christ’s New Name

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Comments

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  • Lorenzo Stride
    Jun 18, 2016
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    Dear Maya, for quite some time now, having been brought up as Christian, I have battled with Jesus being the only way. This is written and explained with such clarity. Thank you for sharing. Lorenzo Stride
  • Steve Eaton
    Jun 16, 2016
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    Thank you, Maya,
    I guess the verses you quoted show me that the time frame, not in John 14:6 itself, is actually more restricted than I was aware of. Especially with the change of "world" to "age", Jesus' dispensation
    period seems very compatible with our "progressive revelation". Maybe many Christians could accept that, were it not for the other features of His mission that they wrongly assume are unique for all time, like divine incarnation and physical resurrection .
  • Ryan Cain
    Jun 12, 2016
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    Bookmarking this to share with any friends that have questions about the Unity of religion
  • Steve Eaton
    Jun 11, 2016
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    I have only just raced over your article for right now, but think I strongly agree with all you are saying.
    It has been beyond me how Christians can put so much trust in one reading of such a pivotal verse as John 14:6, one that really seems at least as fundamental to their faith as the Resurrection, when it states no time frame, explicitly, at all!
    • Jun 13, 2016
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      Actually, Jesus gives a time frame when He instructs His disciples to go out and teach the faith. " Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
      He also says" "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As ...long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:4-5)
      And of course, John 14:6 itself is one sentence in a larger context, for Christ adds, "If you really knew Me, you would know My Father, as well." And that begs us to observe the behavior of Jesus, who taught all comers, no matter where they hailed from and who used a Samaritan to teach His Jewish audience whom they were supposed to love.
      And that brings us back to Matthew 7 in which Jesus reveals the nature of God as being a Parent who loves, feeds, clothes, and educates all of His children, not just a few. So, yes, over and against all contextual evidence to the contrary, that one sentence is used to establish the exclusive claim of Jesus of Nazareth to divine revelation—which may be why in translating the verse about the end of the age I cited above, King James had his translators substitute the word "world" for "age" (eon). It's a mistranslation that the New King James Bible and other more recent versions have corrected.
      Read more...
  • Nancy Dinnigan
    Jun 11, 2016
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    Very well written. Thanks for this short collection of quotations that make the point abundantly clear!
  • Julie Love Jahanpour
    Jun 11, 2016
    -
    This is an incredible article Maya. Thanks be to God for enabling such a talent.
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