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March 29, 2006

Jesus and Baha'ullah

You might not ever have heard of Baha'ullah; however, back in the before times, this saintly man was very important to me. I considered for a long time whether or not to join the Baha'i faith, and finally decided in the negative because of a logical inconsistency. Baha'i's insist that all revelations of God are indeed revelations of God and they are all paths to God and as such equal, except for Baha'i which is the true path to God. This sort of syncretism appealed to me very much because, as I hope to explain in a later post, in my religious thinking I have always skated around the brink of universalism. However, if all were equally valid, how could one be better than any of the rest; what impetus had I for choosing Baha'ullah over Mohammed or Jesus? (The Catholic Church gets this point exactly right, noting that God has granted to each religion some rays of light, some truth, some of the knowledge of Him, but the fullness of knowledge of Him and salvation lay only in the person of Jesus Christ.)

Anyway, my point wasn't so much to analyze Baha'i as to point out one very concrete realization that was brought home by my assoication with some very good Baha'is. During his lifetime Baha'ullah was "martyred" for his faith, which is a renegade Muslim offshoot (I'm overgeneralizing, and if any Baha'i stop by, please forgive my elision here.) As Muslims don't have a high regard for heretics, he was probably constantly in danger of his life and he was frequently imprisoned. Baha'is would point out to me that Baha'ullah was imprisoned because of the sinfulness of humanity.

I thought about that a lot. Baha'ullah went to prison for my sins. And I contrasted that with Christ died for my sins. With that contrast, I had a new view of the atonement. I was nearly completely unmoved by Baha'ullah's imprisonment. After all, he could have preached elsewhere, gone someplace more hospitable, etc. His martyrdom, which involved very real suffering, was certainly more than I might be willing to bear for the majority of humanity--but months, years, even decades in prison don't begin to convey to me one iota of the sacrifice made even during the trial of Jesus.

While the justice of God may require in some way I don't begin to understand the death of His son. I do understand though that in some deep human way, this sacrifice speaks to me as none other could. The atonement may be required by God, but it is clearly required by the broken, perverse humanity Jesus sought to serve. Jesus was whipped for you sins (even badly), or Jesus went to trial for your sins, or Jesus was imprisoned for your sins simply doesn't speak to me. It is simply a yawn. Jesus died for my sins--THAT gets my attention.

Perhaps I am simply in a minority.

Posted by Steven Riddle at March 29, 2006 7:10 PM

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