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Religion

What’s the Difference Between a Christian and a Baha’i?

David Langness | Updated Jun 1, 2021

PART 5 IN SERIES Changing My Religion

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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David Langness | Jun 1, 2021

PART 5 IN SERIES Changing My Religion

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

I grew up a Christian, and then I became a Baha'i.

So when I met Mary the other day, and learned she had started to walk that same path, I wanted to share some of my own experiences and thoughts with her. I didn’t get much of an opportunity — we only talked for fifteen minutes or so. She told me that she really loved the spiritual feeling she gets when she says Baha'i prayers and reads the Baha'i writings — but I also learned that she has some trepidation about leaving the familiar religious culture she grew up in. She worries about how her family might react. “I have an enormous amount of anxiety about this,” she said.

Her anxiety might diminish, I suspect, when she understands the difference between a Christian and a Baha'i. Abdu'l-Baha, the son of the prophet and founder of the Baha'i Faith, Baha'u'llah, said:

"The difference between a Christian and a Baha’i, therefore, is this: There was a former springtime, and there is a springtime now. No other difference exists because the foundations are the same. Whoever acts completely in accordance with the teachings of Christ is a Baha’i. The purpose is the essential meaning of Christian, not the mere word. The purpose is the sun itself and not the dawning points. For though the sun is one sun, its dawning points are many. We must not adore the dawning points but worship the sun. We must adore the reality of religion and not blindly cling to the appellation Christianity. The Sun of Reality must be worshiped and followed. We must seek the fragrance of the rose from whatever bush it is blooming--whether oriental or western. Be seekers of light, no matter from which lantern it shines forth. Be not lovers of the lantern."

RELATED: Who is Christ to Baha'is?

Being a Christian, after all, doesn’t mean belonging to a particular church or wearing a cross or just professing a belief or claiming to be “born again” — it means following Christ. Simply, a Christian tries to emulate the life and the teachings of Christ: love, kindness, mercy, altruism, selflessness, humility, peace. Those central Christian teachings come directly from Christ’s shining virtues and attributes. From a Baha’i perspective, those teachings, at their core, all represent one unified spiritual truth:

"If Christians of all denominations and divisions should investigate reality, the foundations of Christ will unite them. No enmity or hatred will remain, for they will all be under the one guidance of reality itself. Likewise, in the wider field if all the existing religious systems will turn away from ancestral imitations and investigate reality, seeking the real meanings of the Holy Books, they will unite and agree upon the same foundation, reality itself."

This fundamental, core principle of the Baha'i Faith — the essential unity and harmony of religion — can set us free from the old divisions and prejudices. Humanity no longer needs to separate itself into opposing camps determined by which prophet they follow. What harm could this bring? In a world so filled with disorder and disunity, it could only bring us more acceptance, more love and more peace. Abdu'l-Baha wrote:

Investigating-religions"If we investigate the religions to discover the principles underlying their foundations we will find they agree, for the fundamental reality of them is one and not multiple. By this means the religionists of the world will reach their point of unity and reconciliation. They will ascertain the truth that the purpose of religion is the acquisition of praiseworthy virtues, betterment of morals, spiritual development of mankind, the real life and divine bestowals. All the prophets have been the promoters of these principles; none of them has been the promoter of corruption, vice or evil. They have summoned mankind to all good. They have united people in the love of God, invited them to the religions of the unity of mankind and exhorted them to amity and agreement. For example, we mention Abraham and Moses. By this mention we do not mean the limitation implied in the mere names but intend the virtues which these names embody. When we say "Abraham" we mean thereby a Manifestation of divine guidance, a center of human virtues, a source of heavenly bestowals to mankind, a dawning-point of divine inspiration and perfections. These perfections and graces are not limited to names and boundaries. When we find these virtues, qualities and attributes in any personality, we recognize the same reality shining from within and bow in acknowledgment of the Abrahamic perfections. Similarly we acknowledge and adore the beauty of Moses. Some souls were lovers of the name Abraham, loving the lantern instead of the light and when they saw this same light shining from another lantern they were so attached to the former lantern that they did not recognize its later appearance and illumination. Therefore those who were attached and held tenaciously to the name Abraham were deprived when the Abrahamic virtues reappeared in Moses. Similarly the Jews were believers in His Holiness Moses, awaiting the coming of the Messiah. The virtues and perfections of Moses became apparent in His Holiness Jesus Christ most effulgently but the Jews held to the name Moses, not adoring the virtues and perfections manifest in him. Had they been adoring these virtues and seeking these perfections they would assuredly have believed in His Holiness Jesus Christ when the same virtues and perfections shone in him. If we are lovers of the light we adore it in whatever lamp it may become manifest but if we love the lamp itself and the light is transferred to another lamp we will neither accept nor sanction it. Therefore we must follow and adore the virtues revealed in the messengers of God whether in Abraham, Moses, Jesus or other prophets but we must not adhere to and adore the lamp."

This Baha’i teaching of religious evolution parallels the scientific discoveries related to how living organisms evolve. Just as each living thing evolves in a system, so does religion — which must continue to grow, develop and emerge from its former structures into adaptive new ones.

RELATED: Was Jesus God?

So if you’re investigating the Baha’i Faith, and you’re worried about leaving behind past beliefs, you can set those worries aside. When you become a Baha’i, you don’t abandon your former Faith — you fulfill its prophetic promise.

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Comments

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  • Robert Taylor
    Dec 1, 2019
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    I have studied some of multiple religions, and while I am by no means an expert on Baha’i, as I understand it, the divergence between Baha’i and Christianity is the same as difference between Christianity and all other religions. Most religions espouse the same moral code, but Christian doctrine clearly teaches that human kind is originally sinful since its fall, and that no amount of good deeds or spiritual enlightenment can atone for man’s sins. It teaches that Jesus uniquely came from God (or was the Son of God), and that only through believing that Jesus’s death and blood on ...the cross has the power to atone for the sins of humanity can one be “saved” or return to oneness with the Father. So Christianity Baha’i are not reconcilable.
    Read more...
    • Jun 1, 2021
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      Original Sin, Christ's exclusivity, the Atonement & the primacy of Christ's person over His teachings are not supported by Scripture. Where doctrine conflicts with Christ's teaching, some churches have invented reasons His teaching was nullified by HIs sacrifice.
      As to Christ’s uniqueness: The Bible testifies to the progressive revelation of religion—a foundational Baha'i principle. Christ makes it clear He is the Prophet like Moses promised in Deut. 18:15 & says "another Advocate" will come after Him. He speaks with the Pharisees about marriage, teaching that God’s Anointed teach according to our changing capacity.
      What Christ & Baha'u'llah teach is ...in accord & there’s no reason to reconcile it with doctrine we invented.
      Read more...
    • Larry Copling
      Feb 17, 2020
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      Some would respond that what Christianity WAS originally, before what became the Roman Catholic Church crushed it's Essene "competition" in the early Christian era, are two different things. What the Master originally taught was much more mystical, than the edited narrative created by church fathers. Christ came to save us from IGNORANCE, not sin. The Roman church NEEDED us to need them. What the Master originally taught was very much in line with what the Baha'i Faith teaches today.
  • Lory Gustafson
    Oct 30, 2019
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    "We must adore the reality of religion and not blindly cling to the appellation Christianity." The word "appellation" means name, title. I in no way feel that I am "blindly clinging" to a name - that being Christian. Instead I am truly relieved to be attached to Jesus, the Man for all times, the gospel, the truth of which resonates still. I was in the years as a Baha'i indeed blindly clinging to the name - Baha'i.
  • Pauline Mwila
    Mar 25, 2018
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    Listening to the comments.By the way, am a proud Bahai.
  • Brad Crawford
    Mar 25, 2018
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    It is clear that all the ancient religions have been overcome by traditions of men. There is no coming back from that, the Religion must be renewed by a Divine Prophet or it will have no lasting effect in the individual, social,and spiritual life of humanity. This renewal must also be based upon truth, for falsehood neither creates nor sustains anything. The Long Obligatory Prayer revealed by Bahá’u’lláh is enough of a testimony in itself to proclaim the teachings,beliefs,and respect we have for all the former Prophets and Their Testimonies,as well as proclaim the truth of Bahá’u’lláh’s own Station. If ...this were not true, no lasting benefit would come from His teachings.The more an individual explores the message,the more truth is revealed.
    Read more...
  • Bobby Apini
    Mar 4, 2018
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    No . Bahai Faith is the back bone of Christianity , because of Christ there is Baha'i Faith so I believe in Baha"u"llah teaching and mentioned by Christ in the times of Christ .
    • jack Price
      Jun 1, 2021
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      Well I read the Bible for over 30 years would you please tell me where Jesus Christ mentioned Bahaillah
    • Ecrof Zob
      May 3, 2020
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      Jesus Christ is the backbone of Christianity. Not the other way around. Not words said by people in history, but the Word revealing Himself to His people in a special way.
  • Valeriebeth Shaw
    Nov 12, 2017
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    The words of Abdu'l Baha are crystal clear and do not even need the very thoughtful elucidation provided in this article. Those who argue have unfortunately missed the point. I would like to encourage them to reread, paying particular attention to the metaphor of the sun and its many dawnings. People cling to names because they symbolize physical forms which are easily understood in concrete terms. Evolution occurs in all spheres, including thought, and many are still at a stage where thought is concrete. When human thought has evolved to a point where metaphor is understood at a young age, ...by everyone, these arguments will no longer be proposed as attachment to names will no longer occur, and we will be ready for the next Manifestation.
    Read more...
    • Ecrof Zob
      May 3, 2020
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      If you ask me, Baha’i is a philosophy, not a religion. Unless one worships wisdom of men.
  • Valeriebeth Shaw
    Nov 12, 2017
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    What does this mean? Can you please proofread and edit to make certain your words communicate exactly what you want them to? Please keep it simple so readers can understand.
    • Victor John Powell
      Mar 25, 2018
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      I agree. All if not Bahá’í writing go on and on. Which makes one wonder are they saying anything important ? Bahaullah writings are very cleR and to the point. So, what is it with some Baha’is that believe the more you say is right ? “Less is more”. Coming Baha’is let’s get it together and stop long dragged out explanation on what is a clear and simple message...Da!
  • Sharaf Guna
    Oct 26, 2017
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    " We must adore the reality of religion and not blindly cling to the appellation Christianity." And 1000 years from now the same shall apply Baha'is as well right? Technically it should right? Well if blindly cling to the Baha'i teachings in a 1000 years to come then we are not adoring the reality of religion, isn't that right?
    • Jun 1, 2021
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      Faith should never be blind, which is why Christ taught logic and Baha'u'llah made the independent investigation of reality and truth a primary teaching. He clearly says that we worship the Light of God, not the lamp it comes in and if, when the next Manifestation of God appears after 1000 years or so, we would be wrong to cling to the person of Baha'u'llah and be blind to the fulfillment of His teachings.
      It's not specific Baha'i laws that are eternal, but the spiritual principles of God's Faith, which is changeless. It is our perception that changes along ...with the social teachings required in each age.
      Read more...
    • LaTonya Davis
      Oct 28, 2017
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      No. We are to adore the reality of the Divine forevermore. People and time change but even as we get closer to the unknown end, the Divine remains the same. "God of the Jews AND Gentiles." Therefore no "new" manifested person or religion is necessary. Anything else or one is superficial.
  • Cindy Varieur
    Jul 24, 2017
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    You said; "Being a Christian, after all, doesn’t mean belonging to a particular church or wearing a cross or just professing a belief or claiming to be “born again”—it means following Christ. Simply, a Christian tries to emulate the life and the teachings of Christ: love, kindness, mercy, altruism, selflessness, humility, peace."
    However, according to Jesus, we cannot "emulate" His life or teachings--it is only by abiding that HE produces such fruit. An apple tree does not "try" to produce apples, it simply produces apples as its roots remain connected to the life-source. I do ...not need another "religion" to sit at the feet of my precious Lord and savior. Honoring Jesus is to keep my eyes on Him alone, not a new label.
    Read more...
    • Jun 1, 2021
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      Also, Christ's words about figs and thistles are specifically related to how we can tell a true prophet from a false one. This would seem to indicate we will be called upon to make that distinction for we will be faced with both.
    • Jun 1, 2021
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      "He who overcomes… I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God.… And I will write on him My new name." -- Rev. 3:12
      Just as Jesus was not literally Moses, but a Prophet like Moses promised to us by God (Deut. 18:15), Baha'u'llah is the same Divine Spirit with a new name. When I kept my eyes on Christ, He led me to Baha'u'llah.
      Christ repeatedly teaches how God wants us to behave. Primacy goes to a teaching that we love God with our entire being and our ...neighbor as ourself. Christ says "Do this, and you shall live" (Luke 10). Pressed further, He tells a Parable(the Good Samaritan) concluding: "Go and DO likewise." These instructions answer a key question: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"
      Read more...
    • Rachael Marie
      May 3, 2020
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      Ok I'm confused. The Bible is all about emulating his teachings, if you refer to his life emulation of dying and rising or the fruit as in the saving of humanity I understand that point. I don't think this is about labels as much as wisdom and kindness can be taught by many teachers and thus can be followed in that way (thus still following Jesus in the way of kindness).
  • Lynne Cartwright
    Jun 17, 2017
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    My very recently late husband upon recognising and accepting the Word of God for today also recognised and embraced the Reality of Christ for the first time. Prior to accepting the Teachings of the Bab and Bahaullah my husband had been an arthiest.
    " And the Day of the Lord will come as a Thief in the Night;; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burnt up".
    II Peter ...iii, 10
    Read more...
    • Jun 1, 2021
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      Lynne, my husband had a similar path to God. He was agnostic on a good day :) and an atheist in other moments. He likes to say that Christ proved Baha'u'llah to him and Baha'u'llah proved Christ.
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