God in the Bahá'í Faith

God in the Bahá'í Faith

Bahá'ís believe in a single, imperishable God, the creator of all things, including all the creatures and forces in the universe. cite encyclopedia | year = 1988 | title = The Bahá'í Faith | encyclopedia = Britannica Book of the Year | publisher = Encyclopaedia Britannica | location = Chicago | id = ISBN 0852294867] God is described as "a personal God, unknowable, inaccessible, the source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and almighty." [cite book|first=Shoghi |last=Effendi |authorlink=Shoghi Effendi |year=1944 |title=God Passes By |publisher=Bahá'í Publishing Trust |location=Wilmette, Illinois, USA
id=ISBN 0877430209 |url=http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/se/GPB/gpb-9.html#gr26 | pages= pp.139
] Though inaccessible directly, God is nevertheless seen as conscious of the events in this world, with a mind, will and purpose. Bahá'ís believe that God expresses this will at all times and in many ways, including through a series of divine messengers referred to as Manifestations of God or sometimes "divine educators".cite encyclopedia
last = Hutter | first = Manfred | editor = Ed. Lindsay Jones | encyclopedia = Encyclopedia of Religion | title = Bahā'īs | edition = 2nd ed. | year = 2005 | publisher = Macmillan Reference USA | volume = 2 | location = Detroit | id = ISBN 0028657330 | pages = p737–740
] In expressing God's intent, these manifestations are seen to establish religion in the world. Bahá'í teachings state that God is too great for humans to fully comprehend, nor to create a complete and accurate image.cite journal | first = Juan | last = Cole | title = The Concept of Manifestation in the Bahá'í Writings| year = 1982 | journal = Bahá'í Studies | volume = monograph 9 | pages = pp. 1–38 | url = http://bahai-library.org/articles/manifestation.html] Bahá'u'lláh often refers to God by titles (e.g. the All-Powerful, or the All-Loving). Bahá'ís believe that this anthropomorphic description of God amounts to Bahá'u'lláh, in his capacity as God's manifestation, abstracting him in language that human beings can comprehend, since direct knowledge of the essence of God is believed impossible.

Although human cultures and religions have different concepts of God and His nature, Bahá'ís believe that such varying views nevertheless refer to a single being. The differences between these religions are attributed to the varying cultural and developmental contexts in which the messages were propagated. Bahá'ís regard the world's major (and many minor) religions as one single faith, revealed by God's manifestations progressively and in stages. No one message, and therefore no one religion can be, according to Bahá'í belief, considered essentially superior to another, though a more recent message may be considered more relevant to humanity's current spiritual, social, and developmental context. Bahá'ís regard most other religions as divinely inspired, though see them as having been superseded by Bahá'u'lláh's more recent revelation; Bahá'u'lláh in many places states that denying the validity of any of the previous legitimate religious founders is equivalent to denying all of them (including himself) and to denying God.

The oneness of God

Bahá'ís believe that there is one supernatural being, God, who has created all the creatures and forces in the universe;God is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfect; and that although people have different concepts of God and His nature, and call Him by different names, everyone is speaking of the same one Being. Bahá'u'lláh writes on this subject:

All-praise to the unity of God, and all-honour to Him, the sovereign Lord, the incomparable and all-glorious Ruler of the universe, Who, out of utter nothingness, hath created the reality of all things, Who, from naught, hath brought into being the most refined and subtle elements of His creation, and Who, rescuing His creatures from the abasement of remoteness and the perils of ultimate extinction, hath received them into His kingdom of incorruptible glory. Nothing short of His all-encompassing grace, His all-pervading mercy, could have possibly achieved it.cite book |author=Bahá'u'lláh |authorlink=Bahá'u'lláh |year=1976 |title=Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh |publisher=Bahá'í Publishing Trust |location=Wilmette, Illinois, USA |id=ISBN 0-87743-187-6 |pages=pp.64-65 | |url=http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/GWB/gwb-27.html#gr1]

The Bahá'í teachings state that God is too great for humans to fully understand Him or to create an image of Him. Even the attributes that Bahá'ís attribute to Him such as the All-Powerful, and the All-Loving are derived from limited human experiences of power, love, or justice. Bahá'u'lláh teaches that knowledge of God is limited to those attributes and qualities which are perceptible to us, and thus direct knowledge of God is not possible. Furthermore Bahá'u'lláh states that the knowledge of the attributes of God is revealed to humanity through the messengers he sends to humanity.

So perfect and comprehensive is His creation that no mind or heart, however keen or pure, can ever grasp the nature of the most insignificant of His creatures; much less fathom the mystery of Him Who is the Day Star of Truth, Who is the invisible and unknowable Essence...cite book |author=Bahá'u'lláh |authorlink=Bahá'u'lláh |year=1976 |title=Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh |publisher=Bahá'í Publishing Trust |location=Wilmette, Illinois, USA |id=ISBN 0-87743-187-6 |pages=pp.60-64 |url=http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/GWB/gwb-26.html#gr3]

As our knowledge of things, even of created and limited things, is knowledge of their qualities and not of their essence, how is it possible to comprehend in its essence the Divine Reality, which is unlimited? ... Knowing God, therefore, means the comprehension and the knowledge of His attributes, and not of His Reality. This knowledge of the attributes is also proportioned to the capacity and power of man; it is not absolute.cite book |author=`Abdu'l-Bahá |authorlink=`Abdu'l-Bahá |origdate=1904-06 |year=1981 |title=Some Answered Questions |publisher=Bahá'í Publishing Trust |location=Wilmette, Illinois, USA |id=ISBN 0-87743-190-6 | pages=pp. 220-21 |url=http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/c/BWF/bwf-31.html#gr2]

At the same time the Bahá'í teachings talk about a personal God who is a personal being with a personality, including the capacity to reason and feel love; the Bahá'í teachings note that the idea of a personal God does not mean that God has a human or physical form. Shoghi Effendi writes:

What is meant by personal God is a God Who is conscious of His creation, Who has a Mind, a Will, a Purpose, and not, as many scientists and materialists believe, an unconscious and determined force operating in the universe. Such conception of the Divine Being, as the Supreme and ever present Reality in the world, is not anthropomorphic, for it transcends all human limitations and forms, and does by no means attempt to define the essence of Divinity which is obviously beyond any human comprehension. To say that God is a personal Reality does not mean that He has a physical form, or does in any way resemble a human being. To entertain such belief would be sheer blasphemy. [From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, April 21, 1939. published in cite book |editor=Hornby, Helen (Ed.) |year=1983 |title=Lights of Guidance: A Bahá'í Reference File |publisher=Bahá'í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India |id=ISBN 81-85091-46-3]

The Bahá'í teachings state that one can get closer to God through prayer, meditation, study of the holy writings, and service. `Abdu'l-Bahá writes

Therefore, we learn that nearness to God is possible through devotion to Him, through entrance into the Kingdom and service to humanity; it is attained by unity with mankind and through loving-kindness to all; it is dependent upon investigation of truth, acquisition of praiseworthy virtues, service in the cause of universal peace and personal sanctification.cite book |author=`Abdu'l-Bahá |authorlink=`Abdu'l-Bahá |origyear=1912 |year=1982 |title=The Promulgation of Universal Peace |edition=Hardcover |publisher=Bahá'í Publishing Trust |location=Wilmette, Illinois, USA |id=ISBN 0-87743-172-8 |url=http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/PUP/ | pages=pp. 148]


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