Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Catechumen's Journey from Hinduism

This is a very long read but well worth your time. Anjali is our newly illumined catechumen whose baptism video I posted earlier. What has always fascinated me about her is that she grew up as a Hindu and so her journey into Eastern Orthodoxy was quite different from those of us who came to it through the many Western Protestant and Catholic paths. I was surprised to learn as I read this that she had also journeyed through the Baha'i faith. Her insights gained from that experience remind me a lot of how Mormons seem to see themselves as well. I love to be in bible study with Anjali because I find her insights so valuable. Here she has offered this beautiful testimony of how she arrived at Eastern Orthodoxy and allowed me to publish it so all of you can read it too. I hope you find it as fascinating and wonderful as I have! It was originally composed, I think, as a post to an Orthodox forum to which she belongs.


In a nutshell: I was born and raised Hindu, then was Baha’i for 5 years (2002-2007) before becoming Christian and finding the Orthodox church.

How exactly did this happen? Well, as a Hindu, what I learned about other religions were that there are many paths up the same spiritual mountain to reach God. Maybe even the belief that the differences argued about between different religions are like the blind men in a room with an elephant, each feeling a different part and jumping to a different conclusion about what it is - each accurately describing in his own way what one aspect of the elephant was like, but unable to see the whole, and so thinking the others were wrong. So I didn't really care that other religions said different things on certain subjects, I just followed "my" way that I inherited from my family and culture. I believed there was great wisdom in it, and assumed that other religions probably also had great wisdom in them. I became interested in reading about other religions as a hobby - and loved seeing that the core spiritual teachings/messages seemed similar - about love, prayer, detachment, and renunciation of self. It should be noted I wasn't reading about hardcore theology of various religions - I was reading the writings of various spiritual masters, mystical works, mythology, stuff like that. I had no urge to look deeper into this mystery of how there were all these different religions, or of looking more closely at the differences; I thought it was a waste of time, foolish. One thing I didn't realize though, was that that whole blind men and elephant analogy? It assumes that no particular religion truly has an understanding of God - well, I understood that, but it didn't really bother me. It never occurred to me that possibly one of the religions actually sees the whole elephant, rather than only seeing a part. The idea was that it didn't matter - you didn't need to understand the elephant as an elephant to get to God, in fact maybe it was humanly impossible anyway, for people to conceive of these things. It never occurred to me that God might have ever approached us with a very particular way that He wanted us to approach Him, rather my focus was on our imperfect selves trying to reach towards God.

Then I came across the Baha'i Faith - it claimed to reveal the elephant itself, saying that in the past, people were only ready to be exposed to whatever particular part God saw was fit at the time. So all the previous religions were chapters in one book, leading up to this chapter called the Baha'i Faith that reveals the unity of all religions. But not in a mysterious way - it sought to provide distinct proofs for this. This is what finally made me start looking analytically and critically at all the world religions, including the Baha'i Faith, to see how God's web of different religions were really and truly connected. This was key - until I started being more demanding, I was undiscerning in my happiness to just accept all religions as they were, like different flavors of ice cream. I enjoyed what flowed; I ignored what clashed, figuring it was just to be expected, realistically. Different people will see through different lenses. But as a Baha'i, I was told that if I looked really hard, I would see that all the different religions really were one, and furthermore that all of them awaited a Messianic figure whom Baha'is believed to have come in the person of Baha'u'llah in the 19th century, founder of the Baha'i Faith. This fascinated me - and both to better educate myself and also to be able to teach members of other religions about the Baha'i Faith, I started studying.

Now rather than leaving it all up to mystery, I said the Baha'i faith had specific explanations as to how all the religions are different paths to one God, right? This was critical - in the Hindu mindset, I would never had tools/measuring sticks that I expected to actually work in this undertaking, so I would never seriously have undertaken it, or would not have had a way of disproving/testing/evaluating any of these beliefs about religions being essentially equal. At best, I would have prayed like Sri Ramakrishna, who claims that Jesus, Mohammed, and other figures came to him when he prayed, and so he believed whomever you prayed to, God would come to you in that form - he experienced that, so he believed that, never thinking maybe it was a delusion. As Orthodox monks say, you can have delusions, or you can even have demons that approach you as angels of light! Anyway, back to the story. The Baha'i Faith stated that all the different religions have the same, unchanging, essential, ethical and spiritual teachings about God and soul and our purpose, but have different social teachings about externals, or even about things like marriage - these changing teachings are meant to suit the particular people/culture/time to whom the religion is brought by a Prophet/Manifestation. However, sometimes even the unchanging spiritual teachings are lost or corrupted over time, and that also explains for some of the differences. We could only tell what was right by measuring it against Baha'u'llah's explanation of all that was true and false, for he had come to restore truth. This starts a nice and neat process of circular thinking for determining what was true and what was false in all the various world religions, to make them all match the Baha'i Faith. It can be used to explain away anything, to make night appear to be day - in fact, Baha'u'llah even says that you mustn't question the Prophet/Manifestation, that you should even accept that day is night if he tells you that. Then he also says we must be independent investigators of truth, listening to no one - all these contradictions, but everyone denies they are contradictory, believing all these paradoxes are true in some mysterious spiritually wise way.

Well. So there I was, studying along, when I hit on just one event that could not be explained away by Baha'i cleverness. The Resurrection. Here at last, was the only and most effective measuring stick of truth, to sort through the claims of religions unity. The Baha'i Faith, Islam, and Christianity clearly taught different things about who Jesus was. Well, the Baha'i Faith claimed to be able to reconcile these differences, but it was too contrary to all evidence. Christians claimed that Jesus was God, was the Son of God, and all this stuff about a trinity, which really I had no idea what they were talking about. They claimed this resurrection, which made no sense to me - not that I didn't believe Jesus couldn't rise from the dead if he were God, but I had no idea what possible relevance that could have, since I didn't know/understand about the Fall, sin, the Final Resurrection - I assumed these were all myths, with no more relevant deep meaning than a fairy tale, except maybe metaphorical spiritual meanings. I wasn't even interested, because I never understood what importance that event should have to me. No Christian had ever explained that to me - they'd just say crazy stuff like, "I've been washed in the blood of the Lamb, and now I'm saved! Jesus died for your sins! Don't you want to be saved?" then they'd paint portraits of Hell - it all made zero sense to me, just as though someone said, "My red balloon popped and then candy canes fell out of the sky, your rabbit is winking at me, doesn't all this make you want to buy a new Nissan??" I am not exaggerating - this nutshell "Gospel message" makes absolutely no sense to a non-Christian, no real meaningful sense, anyway. You just have no idea what they are so excited about - so Jesus rose from the dead, big whoop, so what? Good for him, but....so what? He healed people...he was loving, kind, innocent, born of a virgin, sinless.... so what? I didn't even grow up with same concept of sin as Christians do, so "sinless" vs. "sinner" didn't mean the same things to me as to a Christian anyway. In other words, we lacked the same language/doctrine/context, so the whole message was being lost in translation. The same things happen when Americans decide they are interested in Hindu things - I am always suspicious when I hear people throwing around words like karma and dharma, etc. Do they really understand what they are talking about? It also makes me suspicious that I here more Americans talking about tantric sex and other exotic things, whereas the Indian Hindus I knew were just taught to be devoted to God and pray and go to the temple. Sex was a taboo topic, maybe too taboo. Anyway, the point of this tangent is, I always felt very misunderstood by Christians who had these wild orgy type images of what it must be like for my family to be Hindu, and I felt almost equally misunderstood by Westerners who rejected their Christian upbringing to come to Hinduism thinking along similar lines.

Getting back to the story: Since I didn't have a firm grasp on what Christians were saying, it was easy to let other religions explain it to me. Hindus told me that Christ was an avatar just like any other Hindu avatar, or that Christ was actually a great yogi who had achieved self-realization. Indeed, when I read the Gospels as Hindu, that’s exactly how it came across when I was left to interpret things myself (so much for sola scriptura). The Baha'i Faith stated that Jesus was a Prophet/Manifestation, just like Mohammed and Baha'u'llah, Moses, Abraham, Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, Adam (I knew nothing about the Old Testament, so I had no idea that the specific way in which these figures were being likened to each other was highly dubious). He was born of a virgin, he was killed by crucifixion, but he was not physically resurrected. Some Baha'is are shocked to learn that it is in Baha'i scripture that there was NO physical resurrection or appearance to the disciples at all - most Baha'is think nothing is said about this subject other than if it happened, it wasn't significant anyway, what mattered was a "spiritual" resurrection of the dejected disciples, who after 3 days regained their faith and bravery and went out to teach the Gospel. I found it in scripture - NO physical resurrection. Mohammed taught that Jesus was not even crucified - how could a prophet of God be given a shameful death? No, he wasn't crucified at all, God took him up to heaven instead, and someone else was crucified in his place and made to appear to be him, tricking all who viewed it. And yet, if they were tricked to think it was Jesus, why are they being chastised by God for believing it was Jesus? That question is not answered, and yet this frightening Jesus is waiting till the end times to return and break all the crosses, judge all the Christians for believing in it, and to proclaim Islam as the true religion after all. In fact, Mohammed teaches that Jesus was a Muslim. Okay, this was getting too bizarre even for me, with my ability to rationalize any contradiction thanks to Baha’i mental gymnastics skills. Baha'u'llah said that Mohammed meant that Jesus' spirit could never be crucified, only his body - but I really felt that Mohammed meant exactly what he adamantly said.... so that made the first crack in my faith in Baha'u'llah's teachings. Also, the Baha'i Faith sought to explain the true meaning of the trinity, whereas Mohammed ranted about the trinity concept being a huge mistake - and described a false understanding of it to boot. So this stuff wasn't adding up.


To make it even more shocking, I started reading about evidence for Christ's resurrection - not only did I feel there was more evidence supporting this event than we have for other events which we take for granted as being historically true, from reading the Gospels and knowing the horrible deaths these apostles underwent, it became very clear to me that they really believed in a physical resurrection, and they were dying for something more than this “be nice to each other” message. The Baha'i explanation was that superstitions arose about the nature of Christ and his resurrection, whether it was shortly after Christ's death or as later belief, which caused people to re-interpret these historical happenings, to give a false interpretation of the Bible. Paul himself is quoted by Baha'is as evidence against the physical resurrection of Jesus or anybody else for that matter. I've even heard a Baha'i quote the story about doubting Thomas as evidence against the resurrection - pointing out that though Thomas asked to place his fingers into he wounds, when Christ appeared and offered, it doesn't state that Thomas actually DID.... the implication being that Jesus was not truly physically present and that had Thomas tried, he wouldn’t have managed to touch the wounds - guess Jesus just outsmarted him! Probably the only reason he “tricked” him was because (as with the rest of Christ's ministry, as described by the Baha'i faith) miracles were necessary for these backwards people. But later prophets, like Mohammed and Baha'u'llah, didn't give miracles, not because they didn't have power, but because people were supposed to be more mature than that. :-P

Anyway, the trouble is, as some Baha'is were forgetting, according to Baha'i scripture, there was no physical resurrection or reappearance of the material form of Jesus at all whatsoever. So the real, official Baha’I explanation is simply that the resurrection only means that the disciples regained their faith and courage after 3 days to go out and proclaim the Gospel. It was thus a “spiritual resurrection”. The Gospel (according to Baha'is) was simply Christ's spiritual teachings of how to lead a good life and to love God, and that he himself was a Prophet/Manifestation, so better listen up. And any tales of any other type of resurrection or Gospel were the result of later misinterpretations. However, Baha'u'llah states that the Bible is not corrupted; rather it is wrongly interpreted (unlike Muslims, who believe the Bible text has been corrupted itself - another difference between Baha'is and Muslims, despite Baha’i claims that both religions are one). So basically, the Gospels are supposed to be full of allegory, including the story of the resurrection. Here's the thing though, there are glitches. For example, Baha’is believe the virgin birth actually happened (Muslims believe this too). The healing/feeding miracles – Baha’is say some happened, but they should always be understood in a spiritual sense, since that is what is important, not these material things, of course! (Muslims just believe Jesus was granted the ability of miracles by God). The resurrection of Christ though – this miracle is flat out denied. Why is this the only miracle that is taboo to both Muslims and Baha'is? I wanted to know - why would all the other miracles be okay to believe, but not the resurrection? Also, if the Baha'i teaching that the New Testament is mainly allegory and spiritual teachings, not literal at all.... well, why did it read so matter-of-factly? It doesn't read like a mystical, symbolic work at all - it is very direct, simple, and to the point. I simply couldn’t believe that it was not intended to mean exactly what it said - and that the earliest martyrs did not believe in this resurrection - in fact, based on my research, the resurrection seemed to have been the most important part of the story, not relegated to the back-burner behind Christ's spiritual teachings, the way Baha'is would have it. If it were a false belief, what kind of God would corrupt the teachings so quickly? What would be the point? And back again to the question - what is the big deal about this resurrection? Why is everyone seeming fixated on this one crucial point that can't be agreed on, that simply must be denied by both Muslim and Baha'i scripture? I mean, he's already being born from a virgin, so what if he also rose from the dead?

This is what really made me start to feel suspicious that maybe the Gospel was more than the good news that this great Prophet named Jesus had come along to tell everyone to love each other and to love God. Not to belittle that message, but there was more to the story. I didn't know what that whole message was, but I decided I ought to find out what all this ranting and raving about the resurrection was all about and why I should care.

By this point I had already seen all the holes poked into the Baha'i Faith, so I officially resigned from the Baha'i Faith on July 7, 2007, and became a "Christian" by default. I know that is really weird, but that's exactly how it happened! I guess I labeled myself Christian, but I didn't know really what the Gospel was about - just that there was this guy Jesus who seemed to have been born of a virgin and died and then lived, and everyone was excited about it. It wasn't a religious experience or even a true understanding, so I don't know if I was really a Christian. I do know that I don't think any of this would have happened if a Christian friend of mine hadn't prayed for me at that time - seemed like I was lost in my happy web of delusion until after he prayed for me and it all came crashing down. So that gave me faith in this religion too. Basically, for the past year since resigning from the Baha’i Faith, I've just been studying. I wanted to find out what the original teachings of the apostles were, and what Jesus really meant to say to us, since this entire journey had made me keenly aware of the issue of corrupted teachings versus true teachings. And lo and behold, it turns out there were tons of books written by scholars ever since that event happened, trying to sort all of this out. I was glad the books were there, but I was even more confused – if this Resurrection was supposed to be so important, how could people have lost the original message of what it meant and what Jesus really wanted us to believe, what the apostles really taught? Why were people today still looking to uncover the original church of Biblical times (“based on the latest research!”) – I mean, how in the heck could they have lost that information if it was so important? How could they go around getting everyone (myself included) all riled up about worried about this, and then not be able to tell us what we needed to know about it?

At the time, I only had access to Protestant books, and they certainly helped some, but they still left me feeling that a lot was unexplained or random or didn't make sense. I didn't really start to understand the "Good News" until I was led to the Orthodox Church just this past April, on Good Friday. I was loaned the book "The Orthodox Church", and the rest was pretty much history - it convinced me that not only was the original faith of the apostles uncorrupted, that in that same line of reasoning/faith, the ancient church was still alive - and almost as proof, that book finally made the Gospel start to make sense to me! I definitely believed in the importance of the Holy Tradition - I never understood the sola scriptura thing I was reading in the Protestant Books - they didn't seem to realize there were large gaps in what they considered to be simple teachings/knowledge, because they were all interpreting according to some mysterious code that I hadn't been exposed to, but claiming it was just all "written in the Bible". Having read the New Testament first as a Hindu and then as a Baha'i, I knew firsthand that there are all kinds of different ways to sincerely misinterpret scripture. So I was grateful to finally come to a church that had the holy tradition guided by the Holy Spirit to explain things. Also, to know what we don't know too. My experience with the Baha'i faith and investigation into corruptions, etc., had built up my faith in what these earliest Christian people taught.... and I didn't understand why Protestants couldn't have this same faith? They lacked faith, and called it true faith. I didn't believe their idea that the church was corrupted until the first Protestants showed up.... it reminded me of the Baha'i way of thinking, a lack of faith, a hole which is later stopped up with creations/hopes/interpretations of one's own, all under the false pretense of "true knowledge" and "faith", when really they seem to be weaving a web of their own liking, without even realizing it. An unconscious denial of the power of the Holy Spirit, to either think the Holy Spirit has checked out, is too mysterious to know His workings, or to reduce His workings to only babbling, despite Jesus' promise to send the Holy Spirit who would lead to all truth, these seem like strange beliefs for people who really have faith in Christ and the Bible to believe.

Another thing I noticed that the few times I went to a Protestant non-denominational church prior to finding the Orthodox church, while I liked the sermons and I learned to like some of the songs, it distinctly felt like a memorial service for Christ. Well, he did say, "do this in remembrance of me", so that's exactly what it felt like...and the communion seemed really random. Like, well, this was the eccentric thing that Christ wanted us to do, so let's do it! I don't think the members of the church thought it was eccentric, but really - with no other meaning than the symbolic one, it just all seemed kind or strange to me - like some antiquated practice that withstood the test of time, the bread and wine eventually transformed to a cracker the size of a cheezit and a shot of grape juice, the same way the gladiatorial displays in the Roman coliseum have maybe been transformed into modern day football games in stadiums. I am not saying this at all to laugh about it or to make fun - I wasn't amused, I was just mystified, but willing to go along with it and figuring this was just the way it was. At the Orthodox church, it wasn't like a memorial service for someone who had passed on to the next world, it was worship - worship the way Hindus worship, truly believing that God was present, singing to God, not about him, not singing to ourselves, not singing for fellowship, not worshiping his idea, but actually presenting worship as a sacrifice within the presence of God. - and not being casual in his presence, but having a sense of holiness and respect - not because people wanted to be goody-two-shoes, but because if you actually believe that God is present, you'll be alert, rather than coming up with excuses about how God shouldn't care about this or that or the other, but naturally wanting to do your best in the presence of God out of love and respect and acknowledgment of his holiness. I don't know...I guess I felt like, as much as I liked the Protestant church (the minister was great!), I felt they were talking about something, about learning about something, whereas at the Orthodox Church actually had it present. I also instinctively felt that the Orthodox Church housed the wisdom of elders, whereas the Protestant church housed the rebellious self-confidence of a teenager. Also, whereas when I was growing up, I felt that Western Christians just looked down on Hindus as being completely wrong and ignorant, I felt the Orthodox church revealed the true way of worship, the true reaching out to God, that Hindus had been trying to do. It makes me think of what Paul said when he was in...Athens? That there was this idol of the unknown God, that they Greeks already tried to worship, well Paul was here to finally teach them who this God was, in the same way I feel that Christianity has brought to light what Hindus have tried to do from times before the Christ the Light came to earth, if that makes much sense? So maybe Hindus do in the dark what Christians do in the light? While fumbling and some wrong perceptions can be experienced, learned, and propagate even more of such wrong teachings in the dark, once you turn the light on, you realize - wait a minute! I thought I knew how this whole room was set up and how everything worked, but in reality, now I see it is different! Some is the same, but now I can go about things the way they were intended. Now, I no longer hold an elephant's trunk thinking it's a snake and once in a while wondering what else there is to it - now the lights are on, and I can see that wow! There is an elephant in the room! Such is the differing result of humans striving for truth in our spiritual darkness, vs. what happens when God himself bringing us the truth with his light.

While I think the stereotypical attitude of some Christians about Hinduism being totally corrupt and demonic and awful is unrealistic, I have, now that I am beginning to finally understand some of Christianity (thanks again, to the Orthodox church), I am starting to see troubling things that I had been blind to before. I came across a series of articles, which point out some fundamental differences which may have seemed irrelevant to me before becoming Christian, harmless when I first became Christian by default, and now are starting to seem troubling in a very real way. I don't know if I agree 100% with the articles, but they bring up some good points.

Right now, I am still overwhelmed by trying to learn and participate as much as I can as a catechumen - it's all very recent, after I attended the EO church for the first time on Good Friday, I became a catechumen on Pentecost - so it's all happening very fast. But eventually, I would like to write about Hinduism and the Baha'i Faith from an Orthodox perspective. Particularly the Baha'i Faith - I have even kept the core books of the Baha'i faith, some which are hard to come by actually, so that in the future I'll have them as reference. If you're at all interested in discussing more about this, the youngest of the world's religions, a messianic one where the founder claims to be the Return of Christ, I'm planning on adding a thread about it in the OC group "Battling Christian cults".

I feel very lucky to have been brought to the Orthodox Church. I feel lucky that it all happened so quickly once I became Christian, involving little effort on my own part, whereas others have searched many years as Christians before finding it. I feel convinced that it was definitely beyond my doing - I'm still amazed by it all. It has really made me believe in the power of sincere prayer in bringing others to Christ. Though I don’t feel ready to adequately bring anyone else to Christ right now, I firmly believe in praying for that to happen, praying really does have an effect that no amount of talking/reasoning can do. I would never have come on my own I think, despite all the arguments I encountered - I really believe it was because my friend prayed for me, and God brought it about. Until then, I was very happily lost in illusions with a nimble way to deflect anything a Christian might have said to me, to stay steeped in my beautiful cocoon, and a very hip one, at that - one that seemed very attractive on many sides. God had to wake me up to make me realize that beauty and wishful thinking are not the same as truth, which is even more beautiful (and terrible!) than someone lost in his or her illusions can even begin to imagine. There is so much wrapped up inside of Christianity that you really don't suspect from the little flyers people hand out on street corners:-) At least that's how it seems now that I feel I am being guided in the Orthodox way.

I know this was a really long-winded and winding story, but I hope that reading it will remind you again to pray for others to come to Christ, pray that God will lift them above the many, many layers of illusion and denial that keep them from Him, even those who might sincerely think that they do believe in Him when they really don’t. That’s the state that I was in when I was Hindu and Baha’i. I was more interested in my concepts of Him than in what He wanted me to believe. Also I hope that this account may have brought some points to mind that will help you become an even better teacher of the Gospel when you are approaching someone who comes from a completely non-Christian background. To not only bring them to Christ in a meaningful way, but to also bring them to the Orthodox church, because I truly believe that Eastern Orthodox Christianity is so incredible and can have a much stronger impact on a person (particularly of Eastern background perhaps?), whereas the Western approach to Christianity may just leave them wanting and wondering and thirsting still. This is a big generalization, but I worry that the Protestant or Catholic way of spreading the Gospel can do more harm than good, driving people away from Christ, whereas the Orthodox can bring healing and joy and understanding, drawing people towards Christ. Of course what do I know, I may be totally (or at least partially) wrong about this, but it’s a thought worth considering.

59 comments:

Jnorm888 said...

I wish her many years! I always wondered where she went. She was no longer on Orthodox Circle, but I'm happy to know that she was Baptized!!!


I wish her many years!!!




JNORM888

Anonymous said...

Don't automatically accept the Orthodox Church claims for itself that, as you put it:

"not only was the original faith of the apostles uncorrupted, that in that same line of reasoning/faith, the ancient church was still alive ... a church that had the holy tradition guided by the Holy Spirit to explain things."

Church history is a lot messier than the Orthodox Church claims it to have been and/or converts to Orthodoxy are taught. A number of Protestant inquirers into, or converts to, Orthodoxy have found after additional study that the early church was much more diverse in its beliefs and practices, and the belief/claim that the so-called "Apostolic tradition" has supposedly been "faithfully preserved and transmitted in and by the Orthodox Church" is based on a measure of wishful thinking and selective reading and use of the sources.

Mishkin Berteig said...

Wow! Very interesting story. I am a Baha'i and it is fascinating to hear this story. I will say that I have not done the same research as the author, but I have done different research. I have studied Christianity and Islam at a college level as well as a fair amount of self-study after leaving school. The concerns raised here about the Baha'i Faith are understandable, but miss some very important concepts that are pretty hard to deny. The most important is the standard for judging false prophets... namely by their fruits.

If we use this standard in a naive fashion, then we have to discard all founders of all religions, Christ included. The fruits of His Coming of course were an incredible reformation in the affairs of humanity, but also have led to many wars and abuses. This is one of several justifications for atheists.

In your continued search for truth, I would like to offer to you that you practice applying this standard, that you shall know Them by their fruits, and honestly apply that to the teachings of Christ. Once you feel you have a good understanding of that, I encourage you to return to the other Faiths you have discarded: Hinduism, the Baha'i Faith, and even re-examine Islam. I know you will reach an even deeper level of insight when you do this.

Anjali said...

Dear Mishkin,

I understand that you think I have not judged rightly, and that my present level of understanding isn't that deep, and that I have "discarded" the other faiths - because that's exactly how I would have viewed it as a Baha'i. See, I can still put on my "Baha'i viewing glasses":-) Here are a few points I wanted to make in response:

a) We should certainly judge prophets by their fruits - but what fruits? Baha'is have one set of standards for this which would seem very good - outwardly. But in totality, they are insufficient - the one major factor without which a prophet cannot be considerd to be bearing good fruit is to uphold true teachings about God. Mohammed and the Bab and Baha'u'llah have all completely twisted the teachings about God and about Jesus that the earliest Christians were taught. Any other good works, signs and wonders, beauty, etc are nothing without it - like milk mixed with poison. I know this sounds harsh, but I absolutely believe this.

As for Hinduism and other ancient faiths pre-dating Christ - I have not "discarded" them, I believe Christ fulfills them - basically, every way in which Baha'u'llah claims to be a fulfillment, I believe that is already found in Christ and the Christian faith. Later faiths are attempts to detract from that. And so, it is possible for Baha'u'llah to have been quite an amazing figure, and yet not allied with Christ at all - I really believe he was taken by a strong delusion, and that Mohammed was visited by a demon, not an angel.

Anjali said...

Dear Anonymous....

If church history looks too messy for us to be able to tell much of anything...that is where faith in the Holy Spirit comes into play. How to view all that "diversity" and tell whether it is a mix of heresy and true doctrine, or whether nothing was really ironed out, or maybe we can pick and choose, or maybe a lot of it doesn't matter, to not be able to decide on this leaves you with nothing....I choose to have faith in the Holy Spirit, and trust that as I continue to study, I will just love the Orthodox chruch more and more:-)

Besides, the proof is sometimes in the pudding - though I decided I would commit myself to whatever I found to be true, regardless of my personal preferences, for anyone to ask me to consider leaving the Orthodox church would be like leaving the palace of God to wander in the neighboring forests! I have a taste of the Kingdom of God here, turning to anything else would be like giving up wine for water, to be wandering in a desert, or a lost little boat, praying for God to keep guiding me, instead of living in God's own house, or traveling on His own ship. I'd be giving up the most precious thing in the world because of somebody else's lack of faith....I know it sounds nuts, but it is just as though I had a beautiful rose in my hand and someone were trying to tell me to chuck it because I cant be sure that it is really a rose! With that said, I will indeed keep doing my research of course, because I have a natural drive for that sort of thing:-)

Stacia said...

Anjali, thank you for sharing your story. It's fascinating to hear about your experiences with and perspective on these different religions. I am a Christian, but I have many Baha'i friends, and I have been making an effort recently to learn more about the Baha'i Faith. I would be very interested in hearing more of your thoughts on this religion, but I checked out the OC page and was disappointed to find that it is not open to people outside of the Orthodox Church. Is there any other way that we could dialogue about this?

Anjali said...

Stacia, I'm actually not on Orthodox Circle anymore, but I'd love to stay in touch with you via email or facebook:-) Maybe Mary can figure out how we can do that privately?

Priscilla said...

Thanks, Anjali, for sharing your story. I'm an ex-Baha'i Christian myself and I relate strongly to much of what you describe (and also not much to some, as I am in the Episcopal Church rather than the Orthodox). I liked particularly your description of how you felt the Eucharist differed at the Orthodox Church. Loved it, actually. In that way I am more orthodox.

I think my own departure from the Baha'i Faith had a lot to do with my long illness and the Baha'i thing about the body not really being important—the body-spirit dualism. So I also relate to what you said about that and resurrection, etc.

My own beliefs about other faiths, though, are more pluralistic than yours, I think. The Christ of the Gospels does not to me seem particularly concerned with doctrinal uniformity or getting everybody in one group. But I acknowledge the integrity in your approach as well. (Though I think I have a kinder view of Islam.)

Anyway, my best to you and your host on this blog. Perhaps I will contact you on Facebook too.

Priscilla

Anjali said...

Priscilla, nice to meet you:-) It would be really interesting to hear your conversion story too.

I wanted to comment on having a "kinder" view towards Islam - well, I wanted to speak more about it because I want to clarify: it's not that I don't think there is any good in Islam or other faiths, or that I think unkindly about them. But for me, truth isn't about "kindness", so kindness vs. cruelty doesn't come into play. I am not disrespectful or unkind to Muslims, even though my opinions definitely differ from theirs.

Mohammed himself was almost scared out of his wits by his experiences with the "angel" and didn't know what came over him, an angel or a demon. It was a relative who convinced him that it was an angel, so he came to believe that it was an angel. I personally, based on the description of the encounters, based on the teachings concerning Christ which emerged from the encounters, and based on Christian teachings on experiences with angels vs. demons, believe that it was a demon. I don't think disagreeing on this means I have unkind beliefs - I disagree with Muslim belief concerning the nature of that supernatural being, just as Muslims disagree with me about the supernatural nature of Jesus Christ. I don't think they are being unkind in that, we have just drawn different conclusions.

Take care:-)

Anonymous said...

Interesting to read about Anjali's conversion to Orthodox Christianity. As a fellow spiritual traveler, I would like to better understand your statement, "As for Hinduism and other ancient faiths pre-dating Christ - I have not "discarded" them, I believe Christ fulfills them - basically, every way in which Baha'u'llah claims to be a fulfillment, I believe that is already found in Christ and the Christian faith.

How is Christ the fulfilment of the Hindu tradition? As someone born in the Hindu tradition, I still don't get, what is so special about Jesus's resurrection as you experienced it in the Eastern Orthodox Church as different from other Christian sects? Why does it feel different to you from the hundreds of miracles that is commonplace in Indian epics and puranas? Regards.

Anjali said...

Dear fellow spiritual traveler,

Well you are definitely right in not seeing it spelled out in this blog post – I actually originally wrote this to respond to Orthodox Christians who were curious about my religious background, so I think I’ve left a lot out with the assumption they already understood it – plus I was trying to make it short, since you can already see how long it is :-)

Well, in the beginning, the resurrection made no difference to me – especially because of all of the miraculous/supernatural phenomena I had heard concerning various Hindu yogis and the Hindu myths as well. That was one of the reasons why I never cared when Christians talked about the resurrection – a) Hinduism had its own miracles; b) why would I care if someone else (Hindu or not) had a miracle anyway, it had no effect on me; c) why would I care about a bodily resurrection anyway, since as Hindu I viewed the body as a source of bondage. The first time I realized Christians wanted to rise from the dead in new bodies, I was revolted by the idea. I thought it sounded like some very primitive fairy tale idea compared to Hindu concepts of the body, birth, and death. In any case, I figured Jesus was an enlightened yogi-type figure or maybe even an avatar, that maybe he was just misunderstood. As a Hindu, I read the Gospels and thought it was about Vedanta. And I know there are Hindu gurus who have written volumes about the Gospels from this perspective.

For these reasons, I didn’t see Jesus as unique, and in some ways, less sophisticated than his Hindu counterparts. In the course of reading Hindu myths, I had grown accustomed to the idea of oral traditions changing, different versions of myths being handed down, of the essentially important message having more to do with symbolic meanings and metaphysical issues, not necessarily the outward details of these stories. I assumed the same had happened with Jesus. And I certainly noticed certain universal themes, the idea of God coming to earth to save his people reminded me of the avatars of Vishnu.

What got me more interested in Jesus was when I realized that we actually have quite a bit written about him with an effort to preserve what historically happened, not just to convey various spiritual messages. Despite what people say about how little we know, we know more about him than the true historical figure of Krishna. And as I began reading more about Judaism and the earliest Christians, I became convinced that these people were genuinely trying their hardest to preserve their sacred scripture without mistake, and that they were intending to preserve the history, not taking the freedom to change details to reveal a new moral story – and not basing everything on mystical experiences and visions either (thought some of that is in there too, of course).

I really overlooked Judaism and Christianity when I explored religions earlier, because they seemed kind of boring to me. Their were some miracles, but for the most part, it was a lot of history, and it didn’t seem as interesting, exotic, or spiritually enlightening (boy was I wrong about that part!) as the myths and writings of other religions. But I now began to really respect the uniqueness of that endeavor, I realized there was something different happening here. I could read these writings and really get a look at historical people in historic places, it was more concretely based in historical reality than, say, the story of Ganesh losing his tusk. Instead of thinking it was just boring, I began to really respect this and get curious. Various other books piqued my interest in the Biblical basis for the Big Bang theory, the archeological evidence supporting the historicity of various Biblical figures, the written documents concerning Jesus himself by non-Christians. I began thinking – well, if Jesus was an avatar or powerful figure like this, maybe I should start looking more deeply at this. Even if Krishna were an avatar too, Jesus seemed much closer in history and more concretely accessible through research. So I kept reading more, trying to understand Jewish beliefs and culture at the time of Jesus, and what his teachings would have meant at the time.

This is where I began to realize that there was a whole story here that was unknown to me as a Hindu. I began to learn about the Judeo-Christian metastory for all of humanity. I used to think that the Old Testament really only concerned Jewish people, just as Hindu creation myths seemed to be so entrenched in India – meaning we hear about the origin of the Ganga, the founding of the caste system, things that are very Indian. I never imagined as a Hindu that all people really originiated in this way, then spread out and lost their Hindu belief system, as that was never a part of our mythology. But in the Old Testament, I found a (proposed) history for all of us – not just the Jews….combined with all the other ideas I was having that I have described above, I felt that if I were to believe any of these stories, this one was the one I trusted the most. The story of creation and the Fall, and the promise to send a Savior – yes, it was similar to Hindu concepts of an avatar, but to me it seemed it was in keeping to what St Paul talks about when he says that people have written in them, innately, a knowledge of God. To me, what the rishis were seeing, as well as the myths of avatars – the myth of this savior type that can be found in various cultures – was the innate seed planted by God within the human soul, for us to be able to recognize our need for Christ. And when Jesus came, unlike many similar figures, he emphasized the crucial importance of his followers traveling to the ends of the earth to bring tidings of his coming so that everyone could be saved, restored to God. As with all things, there is a concrete urgency on the practical, earthly, level - this is all on a very real level, it's not just happening on a mythological level or in some Jungian way, if that makes sense?

I know I’m still not going into enough detail to really iron these thoughts out, but you can see how long this is already getting! The way Eastern Orthodoxy came to be very useful for me – I simply did not understand the way others were describing salvation and sin and justification – the Eastern Orthodox emphasis on theosis was similar to the Hindu idea of Self-realization, further demonstrating to me that the rishis were truly “on to something”, as it were. It just made a lot of sense, whereas the Western perspective seemed really random to me. Also, I didn’t understand how Adam’s fall led to all of us having fallen nature, and I didn’t unerstand how Jesus’ victory spelled victory for the rest of us, until I read “On the Incarnation” by St. Athanasius. If I had just read that book from the start, it would have saved me a lot of confusion. It was also Eastern Orthodoxy that finally made me understand that Christianity was actually very unique in the importance it places on the body, the idea that a human is both body and soul together, not one without the other. I used to think this was backwards, until I realized that the body is way too amazing of a thing to pass off as just a cage – I realized I was actually insulting the work of God by not realizing it’s incredible importance to the state of being a human. I also learned that this was not a primitive belief at all – in fact, it was the opposite – it was very novel compared to the Hindu and Platonic notions that the body and soul were separate, and that the soul was what we truly were, the body just a cage…

I know I am leaving this kind of vague by simply referring to another book, but again, I see this message is getting lengthy. I think to truly address your question, I'd have to give a really solid catechism, actually! In a way, I think your question, as simple as it sounded, really struck at the core of my spiritual journey, and I don’t know how I can write it out briefly or quickly – it would have to encompass all of the books I read, the experiences I had, the thoughts and feelings I mulled through….I wish I could write it more clearly and in greater detail, but that would end up being a book, I think! I’ve been meaning to try to tackle this very thing….but I haven’t really had the time to sit down and do it, and I feel I realize more and more everyday, making it kind of overwhelming to write about it in a way to do it justice…

Anjali said...

p.s. I have to ask everyone to excuse my typos - I am rather lazy about re-reading for mistakes and correcting them:-P

Jnorm888 said...

Anonymous,

I happily disagree. No one said we were perfect. But we are Authentic.

It took me 10 years to convert to E.O. .....I was waiting on the sidelines....watching. So I disagree.....your cynicism leads nowhere....it's no different from Restorationism and modern Rationalism.


It doesn't matter how messy Church History is. The Church still stands for she made it through.




JNORM888

Anonymous said...

Anjali,

Thanks for taking the time to go over your process of conversion. I still don't get it from your explanation. As I see it, theodesis and a number of other things in the Eastern Orthodox Sampradayam appealed to you strongly enough to take Yesu as your Ishta-deivam and perhaps the rich rituals of the tradition make it meaningful enough for you. I wish you well in your quest. Regards.

Anjali said...

Yeah, to understand it (not necessarily agree with it) you'd have to do some searching and reading of your own, that's why I listed some of those books.

There is no nutshell way that I can explain a change of direction that is very profound for me and rooted in many, many reasons....I can point in the direction I took, the various stops I made, but that is not the same as taking the journey oneself. It makes me sad that on the surface it would seem to be a very superficial to some, but I think that if in one line something had to be summed up, you've done a good job of summing it up! For me, I believed the "Eastern Orthodox Sampradayam" appealed to me so much because I had the most confidence in it being true/real, and the icing on the cake is that I do find it deeply meaningful. But as to WHY I found it the most true/real....that's the meat and potatoes, and that's where one would have to journey through it on their own to really understand the appeal...or maybe that's the Hindu in me talking:-) I remember reading about gurus saying that they can only point someone in a direction for their spiritual journey, they can't walk it for them - I agree that everyone has their own journey they have to live through. I wish you well on yours too:-)

Anjali said...

Just to clarify, I was referring to the the books and posts I made here: http://thoughtsfromtheothersideofthemountain.blogspot.com/2009/01/from-hindu-to-orthodox-conversation.html

magda said...

Anjali, thank you for writing all this out. (And Mairs, thank you for posting it.) I'm late in commenting because it looked very long—I'm glad I bookmarked it until I had time to read the whole thing.

Peace be with you. (I'm five years Orthodox today.)

Reader John Simmons said...

Anjali,

May God bless your journey - you are not the first one to make it! You can read other stories here:
http://strannik.com/watchful_gate/node/4

I would like your permission to cross=post your story there as well.

I believe that what you said about Hinduism is largely correct, although if you read "The Guru's The Young Man and Elder Paisios" you will find that there is also a "dark side", which you were apparently blessed not to experience. However, you can expect some resistance to your spiritual growth as you grow - see "The Spiritual Life" by St. Theophan the Recluse which has a good practical explanation of this.

In Christ,

John

Anjali said...

Dear Reader John,

I wouldn't mind at all - and thank you for sharing the link to your website! I will definitely be frequenting it and reading the various articles. The book suggestions look very interesting also.

Sincerely,
Anjali

vvz said...

Anjali,

thank you very much for sharing your story. I wouldn't say that it is amazing (just an usual God's miracle, one of many :-)) but it is definitely very enlightening.

God grant you many years!

Anonymous said...

Hi Anjali,

I dont understand one thing. Bahai faith clearly teaches ,that Religion is ONE and God is ONE and there is no question you leave one Religion and follow other Religion.I wish you should read all the Holy scriptures again and you might find that there are no differences in Religion.

Anjali said...

Well, Anonymous, I think it's no surprise that this would be confusing. The Baha'i Faith does indeed teach the Oneness of Religion. However, despite the most sophisticated of Baha'i angles of "unity within diversity", it is simply not there unless if you choose to simply ignore/explain away all of the differences (which is what the Baha'i Faith does). The question is, will you accept all of that on faith (many choose to do so), or will you look into it yourself and decide, based on what you find, is this truth, or wishful thinking? Am I believing it because it truly seems that way, based on in-depth understanding of these religions, not just a superficial understanding - or am I accepting it because I think it's beautiful, what I think would make sense despite evidence to the contrary, will I just believe it because Baha'u'llah says so?

I find superficial understanding of religion is the only way one can believe this. When I learned more in-depth about world religions, then went back to Baha'i writings concerning them, I was appalled by how ignorant the Baha'i writings were concerning other religions. And when I thought back on what formerly Christian Baha'is would share of their understanding of Christianity, I was saddened that they could have been Christian at one time and have such poor understanding of Christian doctrine. I am sure it is the same with Baha'is of other religious backgrounds too. It's one thing to choose a religion because you want to - another to pretend that all the other religions support it without question!

I can reassure you that I do continue to research the scriptures of other religions, and instead of finding unity as you suggest, the more and more obvious it becomes that they are very different, irreconcilably so if try to take any one of them as truth. The only way to "reconcile" them is to do surgery on them, to warp them at their core, or to ignore large aspects. I once heard a Zoroastrian explain to Baha'is what she felt Baha'is were doing to her religion and why she found it offensive - though her comments were too vulgar to repeat here or anywhere else! At the time, as a Baha'i, I thought she was failing to see the light...now, I understand what she was saying. I don't agree with hostility against Baha'is, but I do think their claims, though well-worth investigating, are only held up by a foundation of selective, wishful thinking, a determination to believe despite contrary evidence. Faith is not a bad thing, you just have to be careful what you decide to place it in. That's up to each individual, of course, how they make their own determination.

Mishkin Berteig said...

Anjali,

I'm just wondering if you could be specific about these differences that would "warp them at their core" to try and reconcile. Baha'u'llah talks about only a very few things that are common, and points out that most things are teachings and aspects of religion that are _not_ universal. For example, He teaches that there is One Creator, that a Return is expected, that there is life after death, that we are created in God's image...

What are these supposed fundamental differences? I've studied several world religions including Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, and as far as I can tell these basic ideas/ideals are present in all of them.

Mishkin.

Anjali said...

Well Mishkin,

You yourself point out a contradiction here – you accept that only very few aspects could be considered universal (and truly, the Baha’I understanding of those concepts are actually quite different from the understanding found in other religions once you dive deeper than semantics), and state that most aspects are NOT universal. Then I’m not sure why you need to ask me to give you concrete examples of the many fundamental differences? Sounds like you have them before your eyes, you just aren’t focusing on them in a relevant way.

Let’s just say that “one God, life after death, being created in the image of God, and a Return” are similarities. This is seriously vague – it is too vague to be able to say the fundamentals of those religions are the same. If what you seek is an extremely general view of things, that might suffice. But if you want to actually dive into a religion, to understand, love, and obey a God who actually tends to be VERY specific as is demonstrated in how he even created the universe and all that is within it, you need to be more specific. The only way to wave away the plethora of differences existing even within those similarities is to ignore, take out of context, radically re-interpret, or condemn as corrupt, the specifics – and contrary to many Baha’is opinions, these specifics of these, like, major concepts about God, life after death, the purpose of life, and all the how’s and why’s linking them form the hearts of those religions. It isn’t just about a check of list of a vague concept, explained whichever way, sufficing. If they are understood in very different ways, then they are not fundamentally the same – actually, that means they are fundamentally different.

I am sorry but, I don’t have time to type out a comparison of the essential specific beliefs of all the various world religions right now, especially as you yourself having studied them should be able to recall that there is a reason why you originally studied them in separate books or even classes – that is because they are different. Those differences are important, they are essential to those religions/traditions/paths. If anyone states that they aren’t, what is really being demonstrated is that those differences are not important to that person.

Mishkin Berteig said...

Anjali,

Thank you for your thoughtful reply. You said:

Those differences are important, they are essential to those religions/traditions/paths. If anyone states that they aren’t, what is really being demonstrated is that those differences are not important to that person.

What if just the opposite is true: that if anyone states that those differences are important, all that really demonstrates is that those differences are important to that person. From all you have said, this is an equally plausible explanation. What if it is God that thinks the differences are unimportant. What if they were important at one time, in one context, but now they are no longer important. Wouldn't you find exactly the same behavior? People focusing on the differences to the detriment of the essential message. Is this not what happened to the Jewish people upon the advent of Christ?

Mishkin.

Anjali said...

Mishkin, if what you are saying is maybe you are right and I am wrong, and there is no way to tell the difference....well, I never argued that people would all agree with me. All it means is that we choose to believe in different religions. To me this a moot point. To quote Baha'u'llah himself: "Such academic pursuits as begin and end in words alone have never been and will never be of any worth."

As for "isn't that what happened to the Jews". Yikes. See, as a Baha'i, that's what I was told, and since I didn't know any better, I thought - hey, that sounds right! But actually, that's not what happened with the Jews. Maybe in a vague sense, yes, the Messiah wasn't what they expected. But that is the understatement of the year. The reasons Jews rejected Jesus are more substantial than the Baha'i explanation of why Jews rejected Jesus - the Baha'i understanding of it is an insult to both Jews and Jesus both. It is a deep denial of who Jesus claimed to be and the work He claimed to do, and the Jewish rejection of these very claims and work. I'll give you a hint, it is not, as 'Abdu'l-Baha said, that Jesus was just claiming to be another prophet, and that all the prophets were the Word of God, and really he only abrogated a couple of laws that were outdated from a sociocultural perspective anyway, and nothing else was being changed at its very core....

I wish I could give you the theological lesson which I'm sure you are going to ask for next, but I'm not going to have time for a conversation that would do it justice. If you want to learn more in-depth, you're going to have to do your own homework - check out the books I mentioned in one of the blog posts here or, better yet, find your nearest Orthodox priest and ask! I am by no means the authority on these things, so if you truly want to investigate, start looking to more in-depth resources than my blog post (no offense to dear Mary's wonderful blog:-)

Anjali said...

Here are a few links to consider as well:

http://www.arabicbible.com/christian/bahai_faith.htm

http://obadiah1317.wordpress.com/2007/10/23/the-contradictions-of-the-bahai-faith/

http://home.insightbb.com/~howdybud/Fireside/

Anjali said...

Mishkin, one point that came to mind in response to your post...the "what if"'s and "wouldn't then"s....specifically regards to what if God doesn't care about the differences. The perspective that we have as Orthodox Christians is that we were told to hold fast to the teachings of our faith, and not to entertain speculation or conjecture. This is how numerous heresies were put down. The Baha'i Faith proposes so much contradiction of traditional Christian teachings and radical reinterpretation of scripture to obliterate Christian understanding that it requires you to do away with the core of Orthodox Christian teaching. Refer to the books I listed to see the numerous reasons how this is so.

These are the truths that Christians have believed since ancient times - what kind of God would later turn around and say - you know, none of that really mattered? I'm not talking about social teachings here, but specific concepts about who God, human nature, our purpose, the afterlife, which are extremely different than those proposed by most other religions, especially Baha'i, which were meant to be understood as they are, not re-interpreted into vagaries. One specific example would be the eternal importance of a human body to the human being, waiting to be resurrected - this was not some primitive idea being espoused prior to Christians understanding an "enlightened" view that the soul is all that matters, the body is a temporary vehicle of sorts. Christians knew about this other Platonic idea, they consciously disagreed with it because of that they were taught and shown by Jesus Christ Himself. It wasn't an allegory. This is only one of many examples of what is important to Orthodox Christian faith. Early Christians died for these beliefs. A God who turns around and basically claims the people have been following false ideas all along, then says, none of that mattered, is basically a schizophrenic God. And when He turns around and blames people for being simple-minded for holding fast to their beliefs, it makes Him even more dubious. For example, to believe that Mohammed was needed after Jesus, that Islam is somehow more evolved - it is to completely deny (or most likely, be ignorant of) what Jesus stood for, the way of life He taught, Who He said He was, and the incredible work that He accomplished both on the cross and when He rose again from His tomb. If nothing else, read "On the Incarnation" to get a better understanding of this. It is online: http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/history/ath-inc.htm

Baha'is would say that these things can be re-interpreted, but actually, it was these specific things that Christ said needed to be understood, accepted, and obeyed for the salvation of the soul. He told people to watch out for the coming of false prophets, not to go looking when someone said "Christ has returned", because the way it will happen, no one will have to go looking for it. As for returning as "a thief in the night", look at the scripture - it concerns WHEN Christ will come, not HOW - when? unexpectedly. But how? Like a lightening bolt flashes across the sky.

So in a nutshell:

Basically, when someone shows up and says, what if, what if, wouldn't...with all this speculation with regards to religious beliefs and practices that are rooted in ancient times, faithfully preserved (not corrupted, as Baha'is try to assume), there's no reason for the faithful to entertain these speculations. If questions arise as to "what if this, then wouldn't this be an equally plausible explanation", the burden of proof is upon the person speculating, not on the Church, whose very existance bears its own proof. So in my opinion, no, your ideas are not equally plausible. Because you do no have historical evidence for your ideas, all you have to rely on are speculations - that's like wind beating on a house built on a foundation of stone, trying to sway it.

Martijn Rep said...

Dear Anjali,

I have great respect for your readiness to go in so much depth to explain your conversion to Orthodox Christianity. As it happens, good friends of us are converted orthodox Christians. You triggered a response in me with this post – hope you’ll forgive my intrusion!

I'm sure you know that conversion always involves mind and heart. The heart is sacred. Love for one's faith, however, as you rightly say, can seduce the mind to confirm that the choice was the most rational thing to do. You accuse Baha’is of falling into this trap, when you make this truly remarkable statement on the Baha’i Faith:

"I find superficial understanding of religion is the only way one can believe this … I was appalled by how ignorant the Baha'i writings were concerning other religions. And when I thought back on what formerly Christian Baha'is would share of their understanding of Christianity, I was saddened that they could have been Christian at one time and have such poor understanding of Christian doctrine. I am sure it is the same with Baha'is of other religious backgrounds too. It's one thing to choose a religion because you want to - another to pretend that all the other religions support it without question!"

Yes, once a religion is accepted one looks at other religions from that (new) perspective, as you know and have experienced. To go on and say that to be (or to remain) a Baha’i necessarily entails “superficial understanding” and that “their claims … are only held up by a foundation of selective, wishful thinking, a determination to believe despite contrary evidence” is, to me, a sign of being carried away.

Are you really unaware of the intellectual work done by Baha’is that is not unlike efforts to understand the Old Testament on the basis of a New One by Christian converts from paganism and the study of the implications of the teachings of Christ on the meaning of the Torah for a Jew who accepted Christ as his Saviour? Is interpretation of the Old Testament by learned Christians or Jews really without its own (apparent) contradictions?

Have only the Orthodox Christians been ‘rational’ or ‘impartial’ enough to have retained the only correct interpretation of Books and of History? Have they been uniquely, divinely guided? While all others have been unhappily misled by their emotional attachments and historical accident? From my perspective, that seems quite far-fetched. To single out one tradition as ‘authentic’ and ‘historical’ and all others as (devilish?) deviations is quite a claim. Are you saying that the very age of your tradition is an argument for its validity?

You say: “The Baha'i Faith proposes so much contradiction of traditional Christian teachings and radical reinterpretation of scripture to obliterate Christian understanding that it requires you to do away with the core of Orthodox Christian teaching.”

What is that core, and how do you think Baha’is survive (spiritually) without that core? Or are they doomed like the Muslims? Are there signs of this?

You say: “These are the truths that Christians have believed since ancient times - what kind of God would later turn around and say - you know, none of that really mattered?”

What kind of God would leave most of the world without His Presence, Guidance and Salvation until he came as the Son? What kind of God would, even after the Resurrection, allow most of Christianity go astray (Western Christians and the like), allow the devil to seduce Muhammad to mislead millions of innocent people and keep the pure faith alive only in a few countries in Eastern Europe Western Asia? Were all the others insincere, too stubborn?

You say: “A God who turns around and basically claims the people have been following false ideas all along, then says, none of that mattered, is basically a schizophrenic God. And when He turns around and blames people for being simple-minded for holding fast to their beliefs, it makes Him even more dubious.”

Isn’t it God’s responsibility to educate us as our Father? Isn’t that what Christ did? How is that dubious?

Anjali said...

M: Dear Anjali,

I have great respect for your readiness to go in so much depth to explain your conversion to Orthodox Christianity. As it happens, good friends of us are converted orthodox Christians. You triggered a response in me with this post – hope you’ll forgive my intrusion!

A: It is funny you use the word “intrusion” ☺ The blogosphere is everyone’s turf, but there is one thing I have been wondering – how so many Baha’is have ended up here at my friend’s blog? I know it has been cross-posted at some Orthodox Christian sites, but how is it traveling around among Baha’is? It must be a very small electronic world.

M: I'm sure you know that conversion always involves mind and heart. The heart is sacred. Love for one's faith, however, as you rightly say, can seduce the mind to confirm that the choice was the most rational thing to do. You accuse Baha’is of falling into this trap, when you make this truly remarkable statement on the Baha’i Faith:

"I find superficial understanding of religion is the only way one can believe this … I was appalled by how ignorant the Baha’i writings were concerning other religions. And when I thought back on what formerly Christian Baha’is would share of their understanding of Christianity, I was saddened that they could have been Christian at one time and have such poor understanding of Christian doctrine. I am sure it is the same with Baha’is of other religious backgrounds too. It's one thing to choose a religion because you want to - another to pretend that all the other religions support it without question!"

Yes, once a religion is accepted one looks at other religions from that (new) perspective, as you know and have experienced. To go on and say that to be (or to remain) a Baha’i necessarily entails “superficial understanding” and that “their claims … are only held up by a foundation of selective, wishful thinking, a determination to believe despite contrary evidence” is, to me, a sign of being carried away.

Are you really unaware of the intellectual work done by Baha’is that is not unlike efforts to understand the Old Testament on the basis of a New One by Christian converts from paganism and the study of the implications of the teachings of Christ on the meaning of the Torah for a Jew who accepted Christ as his Saviour? Is interpretation of the Old Testament by learned Christians or Jews really without its own (apparent) contradictions?


Have only the Orthodox Christians been ‘rational’ or ‘impartial’ enough to have retained the only correct interpretation of Books and of History? Have they been uniquely, divinely guided? While all others have been unhappily misled by their emotional attachments and historical accident? From my perspective, that seems quite far-fetched. To single out one tradition as ‘authentic’ and ‘historical’ and all others as (devilish?) deviations is quite a claim. Are you saying that the very age of your tradition is an argument for its validity?

A: I am very well aware of these efforts by Baha’is – these were the works I was obsessed with, being an amateur comparative religion buff myself. I found they just did not hold up – I was not convinced. The way that this differs from Orthodox interpretation is that we believe our church is guided by the Holy Spirit – therefore it isn’t about being solely a “rational” process. It isn’t just about sitting down and making up intellectual theories and ideas based on human philosophizing. Yes, we do believe the Orthodox Church – the one church that existed even before the bishop of Rome split off and founded a new tradition, was guided by the Holy Spirit from its inception, and that the Holy Spirit has not decided to simply abandon the church. We do not believe you can be certain of being guided by the Holy Spirit outside of the Orthodox church – at least, that is my understanding of the Orthodox view. If it seems far-fetched to you, you lack faith in the power and love of the Holy Spirit toward’s the body of Christ as it has existed since the Church’s inception. It is not about “age” – it is about faithfulness and love of Christ for His church. God exists outside of time, it isn’t about “oldest” being best – paganism is far older than Orthodoxy.

M: You say: “The Baha’i Faith proposes so much contradiction of traditional Christian teachings and radical reinterpretation of scripture to obliterate Christian understanding that it requires you to do away with the core of Orthodox Christian teaching.”

What is that core, and how do you think Baha’is survive (spiritually) without that core? Or are they doomed like the Muslims? Are there signs of this?

A: The Core: The Nicene Creed

1. I Believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;

2. and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-Begotten, begotten of the Father before all worlds,

3. Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten not made; of one essence with the Father; by Whom all things were made.

4. Who, for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and was made man;

5. And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried;

6. The third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; And ascended into heaven, and sits at the right side of the Father;

7. And he shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; Whose Kingdom shall have no end.

8. And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life,

9. Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, Who spoke by the prophets.

10. And I believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

11. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins;

12. I look for the resurrection of the dead and the Life of the world to come. Amen.

To find out what this meant to those Christians, read “On the Incarnation” by St. Athanasius. Read other works by Apostolic Fathers.

As for your next question, I personally did not find spiritual life within the Baha’i Faith. Obviously, I must have survived spiritually as a Baha’i, but I think it was like an ungerminated seed. I didn’t know the difference until I found the Orthodox church that I felt I was really being “grown” spiritually, like a seed being tended to grow into a tree. I did not experience spirituality at Baha’i meetings or Feasts. Ruhi Circles didn’t do it for me – they taught all good values, but I did not grow closer to God. I struggled with this and asked Baha’i friends, and kept trying. There were ideals, plans, workshops, committee meetings, events, lots of wonderful things and efforts – but I felt farther from God, no matter how much I tried to pray using the Baha’i prayers, God seemed like an intellectual exercise I could not grow close to as a Baha’i, nor was I able to grow close to Baha’u’llah - I felt closer to God as a Hindu. And actually, after I found the Orthodox church, I distinctly felt that I was again praying to the same God I would pray to as a child, I was just given the means to get to know Him more vividly and concretely. You know, I have read accounts by Muslim converts to Christianity say in effect the same thing, that they did not have a personal relationship with God as Muslims as they found as Christians. I am not denying that there are mystics in love with God in various traditions, including Islam, and I am not denying that God loves them – I am just telling you that I find much more spirituality, love, and relationship – with others and with God – in my Orthodox church than I ever did as a Baha’i. There are very loving, spiritual Baha’is I have met, but they are loving, spiritual people regardless of religion. One of the ones I am thinking of was a former Muslim – there’s no doubt he loves God, but I think it exists inherently within him.



M: You say: “These are the truths that Christians have believed since ancient times - what kind of God would later turn around and say - you know, none of that really mattered?”

What kind of God would leave most of the world without His Presence, Guidance and Salvation until he came as the Son? What kind of God would, even after the Resurrection, allow most of Christianity go astray (Western Christians and the like), allow the devil to seduce Muhammad to mislead millions of innocent people and keep the pure faith alive only in a few countries in Eastern Europe Western Asia? Were all the others insincere, too stubborn?

A: To answer these questions, we need to go back to a few points I have made above. God exists beyond present, past, and future. The time from the Fall to the Nativity might seem long to us but are one and the same to Him. Think of the millions of years that it took before the universe was ready for our beautiful planet to reach the state in which we could live on it. It doesn’t change the beautiful, loving intention He had for our existence. One day for Him can be like a thousand years for us, as it says in the Bible. We also read in the Romans that God has written in men’s hearts – God has not abandoned people. This is apparent in the Old Testament where God speaks even to those outside of Israel. I believe it is very apparent in the many places and religions where we see, as though implanted within the human subconscious – the idea of a hero, a sacrifice, a resurrection, a falling away, a reunion with God. Baha’is say this is because people are awaiting Baha’u’llah. I believe it is because they were waiting for Christ in even a subconscious way. Baha’u’llah tries to usurp that seat in the human heart/soul. The people who lived before Christ were preached to during the time Jesus was dead and in Hades, God did not abandon them. As for how people who have never heard of Christ are judged, when we discussed this during our Bible study of Romans, our priest explained that God judges by the law He has written into each human heart. As He wants to be known personally and wants to heal and minister to us directly, He tells us to go out and preach and spread the Gospel. As I mentioned before, I believe the God I was praying to when I was Hindu (though I must say, I prayed to one God, not the deities most Hindus probably pray to) was indeed the same God I now pray to – He is just drawing me in closer, welcoming me into His home, allowing me to become a family member, an adopted daughter as Christ is the Only Begotton Son. And furthermore, though He ascended unto Heaven, He still has not abandoned us. Not only is He alive, we also participate in the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. When we are involved in the Orthodox mysteries, the liturgy, baptism, or even the various events of the liturgical year, we are not just remembering, we are actually re-participating in Christ’s life and death and resurrection. This is my newbie understanding, anyhow. So He has not just left us behind to await His Return.

As for God “allowing most of Christianity to go astray” – when we say that Jesus Christ conquered evil and devil, we mean that the final outcome has already been determined. That doesn’t mean that evil does not still exist and wreak havoc here on earth until that final day that it is bound. We are still creatures of free will – we are not robots to be controlled. Schisms can happen – heresies can happen, and obviously, they do. We still live in a fallen world with all kinds of temptations. It can be a spiritually dangerous world just as the wilderness is a physically dangerous place. A fallen world isn’t like a refereed game where there are time outs, points added up, rules and penalities being enforced, anymore than living in a jungle is. This is why Orthodox – or Christians in general, I would say, who hold to Orthodox Christian beliefs (I mean Orthodox in a broader sense here) feel so adamant about holding tightly to their beliefs and not having them watered down, not being pulled away from our life-boat. The dangers of falling into “devilish” hands is very real – whether that seems fair or not. This world is not the Kingdom of Heaven. But when people are judged, they will be judged by a God of perfect Justice and Mercy. Another thing that comes to mind here is how my priest tells us that God places a higher priority on perfect love than perfect obedience, or perfect knowledge, I would think. But make no mistake, that final judge will be Jesus Christ, whether people believe it or not – He is the door we have to pass through, whether we know that or not, whether we like it or agree with it or not.

M: You say: “A God who turns around and basically claims the people have been following false ideas all along, then says, none of that mattered, is basically a schizophrenic God. And when He turns around and blames people for being simple-minded for holding fast to their beliefs, it makes Him even more dubious.”

Isn’t it God’s responsibility to educate us as our Father? Isn’t that what Christ did? How is that dubious?

A: It is what Christ did, and that is why he gave us the Holy Spirit to guide his Body on Earth and hasn’t abandoned us to grow endlessly corrupt and in need of new “Manifestations” from time to time, or new denominations either, for that matter. There is nothing dubious about it in my mind, actually.

Martijn Rep said...

Dear Anjali,

Thank you for kind, and in depth, response. I felt invited to respond again and won’t call it an intrusion this time ☺

A: It is funny you use the word “intrusion” ☺ The blogosphere is everyone’s turf, but there is one thing I have been wondering – how so many Baha’is have ended up here at my friend’s blog? I know it has been cross-posted at some Orthodox Christian sites, but how is it traveling around among Baha’is? It must be a very small electronic world.

Your story was posted on a very thoughtful site of a Catholic convert from the Baha’i Faith ;-)

A: I am very well aware of these efforts by Baha’is – these were the works I was obsessed with, being an amateur comparative religion buff myself. I found they just did not hold up – I was not convinced. The way that this differs from Orthodox interpretation is that we believe our church is guided by the Holy Spirit – therefore it isn’t about being solely a “rational” process.

M: Belief in guidance of the Holy Spirit is common between many Faiths, including the Baha’i Faith as you are undoubtedly aware of. So I don’t see the difference there between Orthodox Christianity and Baha’I Faith. I guess what you’re saying is that you did not experience it in the Baha’i community and only felt ‘rationality’ (or an attempt at it)?

A: It isn’t just about sitting down and making up intellectual theories and ideas based on human philosophizing.

M: Indeed it is not. I am actually amazed that you appear to feel/see the Baha’i Faith as “making up intellectual theories based on human philosophizing”. The core of the Baha’i Faith is that the Central Figures of the Baha’I Faith (comparable for Baha’is to Christ, the Apostles, the Church Fathers) were divinely guided and not ‘making up theories’. All other Baha’is do of course speculate and philosophize in a human effort to understand or apply the Teachings, similar I guess to what Christians do in relation to the Bible and their sacred Tradition.

A: Yes, we do believe the Orthodox Church – the one church that existed even before the bishop of Rome split off and founded a new tradition, was guided by the Holy Spirit from its inception, and that the Holy Spirit has not decided to simply abandon the church.

M: Are you saying the Holy Spirit stayed with the Orthodox Church but abandonded the Roman Church and all other Christian churches? Is there a rational basis for this? If it is based your personal experience I will not argue with it. If objectively true, it will of course be revealed for all to see in due time, since the difference of being guided by the Holy Spirit and not being guided should become quite obvious. Are there signs of this already?

A: We do not believe you can be certain of being guided by the Holy Spirit outside of the Orthodox church – at least, that is my understanding of the Orthodox view. If it seems far-fetched to you, you lack faith in the power and love of the Holy Spirit toward’s the body of Christ as it has existed since the Church’s inception.

M: What faith can exist except for faith in the power and love of the Holy Spirit? The speculative part, and (as far as I can see) irrational part is that that power and love is uniquely directed to “the body of Christ” which you, if I understand you well, declare as identical with the Orthodox Church.

(Martijn said before: What is that core, and how do you think Baha’is survive (spiritually) without that core? Or are they doomed like the Muslims? Are there signs of this?)
A: The Core: The Nicene Creed

M: I presume then that you believe that the Nicene Creed arose from Divine Guidance and is therefore the pure core. Is there a rational basis for this? Is that obvious from the historical process underlying the emergence of the Nicene Creed? I am sure you agree that the Nicene Creed is not part of the Bible but a selection from and interpretation of the Bible that was somehow agreed upon by learned Christians at that time.

A: As for your next question, I personally did not find spiritual life within the Baha’i Faith. Obviously, I must have survived spiritually as a Baha’i, but I think it was like an ungerminated seed. I didn’t know the difference until I found the Orthodox church that I felt I was really being “grown” spiritually, like a seed being tended to grow into a tree. I did not experience spirituality at Baha’i meetings or Feasts. Ruhi Circles didn’t do it for me – they taught all good values, but I did not grow closer to God.

M: I cannot argue with this. If that is your experience, you made a good choice to follow your heart and join the Orthodox Christian Church. Still, it is another thing to rationalize this and say that, objectively, the Holy Spirit guides the Orthodox Church but not the Baha’i community. My experience, and that of many others as I’m sure you know, is very different from yours, sometimes even the opposite.

A: There are very loving, spiritual Baha’is I have met, but they are loving, spiritual people regardless of religion. One of the ones I am thinking of was a former Muslim – there’s no doubt he loves God, but I think it exists inherently within him.

M: By taking the position that the Baha’i-Faith is not and cannot be divinely guided, it seems you *must* conclude that the love and spirituality that you did find among Baha’is (thank God ;-)) must have come from something else than the Baha’i writings, from someone else than Baha’ullah. Honestly, I don’t think the Baha’i-Faith would even exist without the love of Baha’ullah and His writings - it has survived and spread only through immense and loving sacrifice, like the faith in Christ.

A: I believe it is very apparent in the many places and religions where we see, as though implanted within the human subconscious – the idea of a hero, a sacrifice, a resurrection, a falling away, a reunion with God. Baha’is say this is because people are awaiting Baha’u’llah. I believe it is because they were waiting for Christ in even a subconscious way. Baha’u’llah tries to usurp that seat in the human heart/soul.

M: That is quite a claim: “Baha’ullah tries to usurp that seat [from Christ] in the human heart/soul”. Suppose Baha’ullah is really just a human being who got carried away and is fundamentally different from Christ (your position). Baha’ullah has then apparently actually succeeded in “usurping the seat of Christ” in the hearts of some people who then call themselves Baha’is. That should then have some really negative result, should it not? How can we distinguish the presence of Baha’ullah, the presumed pretender, from the presence of Christ, the real One, in somebody’s heart? The difference should be quite obvious.

A: … But make no mistake, that final judge will be Jesus Christ, whether people believe it or not – He is the door we have to pass through, whether we know that or not, whether we like it or agree with it or not.

M: This makes perfect sense, also from a Bahá’í point of view ☺

[Anjali wrote earlier: “A God who turns around and basically claims the people have been following false ideas all along, then says, none of that mattered, is basically a schizophrenic God. And when He turns around and blames people for being simple-minded for holding fast to their beliefs, it makes Him even more dubious.”
Martijn responded: Isn’t it God’s responsibility to educate us as our Father? Isn’t that what Christ did? How is that dubious?]

A: It is what Christ did, and that is why he gave us the Holy Spirit to guide his Body on Earth and hasn’t abandoned us to grow endlessly corrupt and in need of new “Manifestations” from time to time, or new denominations either, for that matter. There is nothing dubious about it in my mind, actually.

M: It looks like you didn’t see my point. It seems to me you say it *did* make sense for God to educate people through Christ, to take away their misunderstandings regarding previous Revelations and Prophecies, and put them on the right path. But the idea of God doing that again some 1850 years later is ‘schizophrenic’ or ‘dubious’ because there still was one church that clung to the true teachings while all others went astray? It is only dubious when one accepts that point of view, but objectively, the very idea that God reveals Himself repeatedly to guide people again to the truth and take away misunderstandings that have accumulated can hardly be called ‘schizophrenic’ in itself.

Warmest greetings.

Anjali said...

M: Belief in guidance of the Holy Spirit is common between many Faiths, including the Baha’i Faith as you are undoubtedly aware of. So I don’t see the difference there between Orthodox Christianity and Baha’I Faith. I guess what you’re saying is that you did not experience it in the Baha’i community and only felt ‘rationality’ (or an attempt at it)?

A: The belief in the guidance of the Holy Spirit is certainly not common between many Faiths. I am speaking here of the Holy Spirit, known as one member of the Holy Trinity, a Person in His own right, as understood by Christians. I never learned of this divine Person as Hindu, the Buddha did not speak of Him. The Baha’I Faith and Islam clearly do not know this Person truly, they just create a description/role for Him that is not the same as Christians have known. The “Comforter” spoken of by Jesus was this Holy Spirit, not Mohammed or Baha’u’llah, as I have heard Muslims and Baha’is maintain. The Holy Spirit is not some kind of vague “spiritual mojo” that flows around to which anything/everything can be attributed. The guidance given by the Holy Spirit, bringing all knowledge to the Body of Christ, is completely refuted through radical reinterpretation by Baha’is. That alone is proof that Baha’is do not know the Holy Spirit and are not guided by Him, regardless of how much they want to believe that they do and they are. Out of all the Baha’I reading and deepening I did, there was never an introduction to the Holy Spirit as the Person known in the Church. As for what Muslims think of the Trinity, check out the Qur’an – Mohammed was confused and offended by the concept of the Trinity.


M: Indeed it is not. I am actually amazed that you appear to feel/see the Baha’i Faith as “making up intellectual theories based on human philosophizing”. The core of the Baha’i Faith is that the Central Figures of the Baha’I Faith (comparable for Baha’is to Christ, the Apostles, the Church Fathers) were divinely guided and not ‘making up theories’. All other Baha’is do of course speculate and philosophize in a human effort to understand or apply the Teachings, similar I guess to what Christians do in relation to the Bible and their sacred Tradition.

A: I did not say that the Baha’I faith was based solely on making up intellectual theories and human philosophizing. I was making a direct response to your own (incorrect) assumption that I was unaware of “all the intellectual work done by Baha’is”. I think it is quite obvious that Baha’u’llah was receiving some type of relevation at least part of the time – we just completely disagree about the supernatural source. It was definitely not the Holy Spirit.



A: Yes, we do believe the Orthodox Church – the one church that existed even before the bishop of Rome split off and founded a new tradition, was guided by the Holy Spirit from its inception, and that the Holy Spirit has not decided to simply abandon the church.

M: Are you saying the Holy Spirit stayed with the Orthodox Church but abandoned the Roman Church and all other Christian churches? Is there a rational basis for this? If it is based your personal experience I will not argue with it. If objectively true, it will of course be revealed for all to see in due time, since the difference of being guided by the Holy Spirit and not being guided should become quite obvious. Are there signs of this already?

A: You’ve made quite a leap here. When groups of people create heretical ideas and break away from the Orthodox church, the Holy Spirit, which lives in the Church, does not abandon them – THEY abandon the Church in which the Holy Spirit resides. When one person, say, working in a company, proposes a new concept, which everyone else at the company disagrees with and has never known to be true, then that one individual decides to leave that company - would you say that the company abandoned that person or that that person decided to leave that company? Or would you say that that single person was as much the company as the rest of the company, so when that person left, it was the same as though the company split? Or furthermore, that that person actually WAS the company, and therefore when he left that the Company left and the others were left stranded? If that person claimed that he "fired" that whole company, would that even make rational sense, or would it make more sense that he actually himself resigned, or was even booted for his beliefs? Don’t place blame on God for what humans do and accuse the Holy Spirit for abandoning anyone, just as any rational person would not blame the company because one person decided to leave. They did break away from what God intended to be whole, one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, in accordance with the Nicene Creed they all had believed in. Just as Baha'is believe no true Baha'i can exist outside of the governance of the UHJ, the Orthodox Church believes we can only have the fullness of our Christian Faith within the Holy Orthodox Church, as it was the original body and bride of Christ.



Are the other churches completely bereft of the Holy Spirit? I don’t know – that’s a question for God whether the Holy Spirit still goes to them at certain times. But when such groups create heretical ideas in contradiction to Holy Tradition as was previously revealed by the Holy Spirit, when they create entirely new doctrines and concepts, guidance by the Holy Spirit is dubious at best. The differences are quite obvious actually, just compare Catholic vs. Protestant vs. Orthodox churches in their belief about the role of the Pope, the station of the virgin Mary and her conception, the role of the Holy Spirit and from Whom He proceeds – though these sound like intellectual ideas, they trickle down into the heart of these churches and flavor them. If you are interested, there are volumes written on these subjects. I’m afraid you asked this question thinking the differences would be like crumbs, when really the repercussions have been enormous.

M: What faith can exist except for faith in the power and love of the Holy Spirit? The speculative part, and (as far as I can see) irrational part is that that power and love is uniquely directed to “the body of Christ” which you, if I understand you well, declare as identical with the Orthodox Church.

A: As I stated before, members of other religions do not believe in or know the Holy Spirit - even if post-Christian religions try to believe they do, the fact that they deny the core of Christian believe as revealed by the Holy Spirit betrays the fallacy of their claims. All manner of faith can exist for things other than the Holy Spirit! Look around you and see all the foolish things people place their faith in! It didn’t just grind to a halt with the Golden Calf. While your statement might sound sweet to naive ears it is slippery nonsense!


M: I presume then that you believe that the Nicene Creed arose from Divine Guidance and is therefore the pure core. Is there a rational basis for this? Is that obvious from the historical process underlying the emergence of the Nicene Creed? I am sure you agree that the Nicene Creed is not part of the Bible but a selection from and interpretation of the Bible that was somehow agreed upon by learned Christians at that time.

A: It is apparent from your own words "somehow agreed upon by learned Christians" reveals you do not know how, so let's go into it. You will realize the process is not only rational, those who have faith understand that it was promised by Jesus Christ Himself! What happened when Jesus appeared again to His followers after the resurrection but before the ascension? He promised that there were many things He had to tell them but he could not. He needed to return to the Father so that the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth (the Holy Spirit - though this is denied by Baha'is and Muslims alike) could descend upon them and bring them to All-truth (the fullness of Faith revealed by the Holy Spirit in the Church through both her Bible and Holy Tradition - again, denied by Baha'is who believe this "All-truth" is the Baha'i Faith brought by Baha'u'llah). What happened when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Christians? They received revelation. They travelled around spreading the Gospel - not just the good news they learned from Jesus' mouth during his earthly ministry, but also what was revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. And where they went, new Christians were born, and they began to meet for worship and to practice their faith and to take take communion with the body and blood of Christ.



Was everything these apostles said written down? Of course not. Did they even intend for everything they wrote to later be collected into a Bible? Doesn't seem like it, based on how specific and directed the Epistles are. It also is highly unlikely, as these apostles travelled far and wide, preaching the whole way, only writing down in part. For example, St. Paul might live in one region for 6 months preaching. None of that is recorded at the time. Later he leaves, then sends a letter back to that town, addressing questions he has received, or touching back on some of the points he has made. Such letters are later gathered into the Bible - but it certainly does not mean that the traditions he passed to them orally outside of those letters were not to be preserved! In fact, he orders them not to to let go of the traditions they have received whether by letter or by mouth from him. How were these teachings preserved? Through continued practice and application in these ancient churches.



This leads to my next point: how in the world did we get the Bible? How did Christians agree on what would be included and excluded from the Bible? Before we jump to the idea that the Bible alone holds authority, well, based on what authority was the Bible itself compiled? None other than Holy Tradition! That which had been faithfully practiced and preserved as the Christian faith by these many churches by power of the Holy Spirit, no matter how scattered far and wide these churches were, was the measuring stick for determining what would be included in the Bible and as "official" Christian teaching and beliefs. As the growth of Christianity was basically planted, watered, grown, and tended to by these ancient churches who believed the same core teachings which they had been entrusted with, the only real times that "official" teaching was delineated was in the face of novel ideas and teachings. A council would be called, and new ideas were measured against traditional ideas that had been faithfully preserved in the Church. If these ideas were in conflict with Holy Tradition, they were labelled heresies. On the other hand, the traditional ideas were held up as true Christian beliefs. There can be a temptation for historians to misinterpret this as being the "creation" of official tradition, when in fact, what was alread in existance as tradition was now being clearly held up for what it was - it was not being newly minted or created out of convenience, it was simply now being delineated in greater clarity. This process yielded the wording of the Nicene Creed as we know it today - but the doctrines taught in this core truth of Christianity, was not "made up" or "decided" at a Council "by learned Christian men" - it contained the traditional understanding already living inside of the Church among both its clergy and ordinary members since its inception.



As for the Bible - the way that some books were included and others excluded from the New Testament were based not only on authorship, but on how their contents measured up to the Christian faith as preserved in Holy Tradition. And still, the Bible is only one part of the Holy Tradition, the written part. The practiced tradition, or orally preserved tradition, is just as Holy. For people to state that they can only rely on the written part as being preserved and the rest of it must not have really happened and must have been made up is the same as someone telling me that the historical events and traditions that my own family has preserved are not "real" because no one ever recorded, them, we only have them because we have always practiced them as they were handed down from generation to generation. For people to state that the practice of communion and what it really meant, the method of baptims, the practice of crossing oneself, were not recorded in the Epistles and so are not truly Christian is absurd, despite the fact that we now have these practices because they have been faithfully handed down from generation to generation.



Now Baha'is will step in saying that no tradition is ever preserved this well, it ends up being corrupted. Baha'is compare the preservation of the holiest of holy teachings by saints an scribes and seers of religions the world over to the futility of a child's game of "telephone" where the message is inevitably corrupted. The Buddha? Oh right - he was a Manifestation who taught the Oneness of God - but too bad, his followers have twisted his teachings and now all his original teachings have been lost! At first glance, this theory seems logical. But really think about it. Don't undestimate the ability of disciplined monks, ascetics, clergy, and the ordinary faithful of any religion to preserve vast amounts of sacred knowledge and practice if they intend to, if they devote their entire lives to this very transmission. For someone to actually believe that the world's religions teachings have been carelessly and hopelessly lost is quite as insulting as it is naive - and some might say, convenient, to the Baha'i perspective anyway.




M: I cannot argue with this. If that is your experience, you made a good choice to follow your heart and join the Orthodox Christian Church. Still, it is another thing to rationalize this and say that, objectively, the Holy Spirit guides the Orthodox Church but not the Baha’i community. My experience, and that of many others as I’m sure you know, is very different from yours, sometimes even the opposite.


A: I'm sorry to have to point this out, but there you go again making a giant, unsupported, leap of illogic. I did not rationalize anything in order to say that I left the Baha'i Faith to join the Orthodox church because that's where the Holy Spirit is. I didn't even know what the Holy Spirit really was when I left the Baha'i Faith, thanks to the miniscule, vague references made by the Central Figures to whatever they imagined the Holy Spirit to be. I also had never heard of the Orthodox Church when I left the Baha'i Faith. To say that I merely rationalized it as I looked back over my shoulder is a cheap shot that lands in the outfield. I didn't even have a proper understanding of who Jesus Christ Himself was, thanks to the Bahai Faith! I think it is quite matter-of-fact that the Baha'is are not engaged with the Holy Spirit. They can claim it until they are blue in the face - the truth is, saying you are doesn't mean that you really are. Baha'is deny the Holy Spirit and the true nature of Jesus Christ Himself, and of the Father Himself - the entire Trinity. To Baha'is, the Trinity can be reduced to the sun and a mirror and a ray of light. Not so to Christians. And Muslims have other beliefs entirely of the Trinity. Suffice it to say, we are not all talking about the same God/Trinity, let alone the Holy Spirit!


A: There are very loving, spiritual Baha’is I have met, but they are loving, spiritual people regardless of religion. One of the ones I am thinking of was a former Muslim – there’s no doubt he loves God, but I think it exists inherently within him.

M: By taking the position that the Baha’i-Faith is not and cannot be divinely guided, it seems you *must* conclude that the love and spirituality that you did find among Baha’is (thank God ;-)) must have come from something else than the Baha’i writings, from someone else than Baha’ullah. Honestly, I don’t think the Baha’i-Faith would even exist without the love of Baha’ullah and His writings - it has survived and spread only through immense and loving sacrifice, like the faith in Christ.


A: Love and spirituality (well, I should take that word back because it is so vague - I would replace it with the phrase "interest in God and godly things") can be found among many people. We are all made in the image of God, we are icons of Christ - regardless of religion or lack of religion, and that can certainly shine through. We are all one big family - It isn't only the Baha'is that believe in One God, One Faith, and One Human Race - this was at the heart of the Christian Faith almost 2000 years earlier :-) No doubt the Baha'i teachings have survived and spread through loving sacrifice - the Baha'i martyrs even today are proof of this.


M: That is quite a claim: “Baha’ullah tries to usurp that seat [from Christ] in the human heart/soul”. Suppose Baha’ullah is really just a human being who got carried away and is fundamentally different from Christ (your position). Baha’ullah has then apparently actually succeeded in “usurping the seat of Christ” in the hearts of some people who then call themselves Baha’is. That should then have some really negative result, should it not? How can we distinguish the presence of Baha’ullah, the presumed pretender, from the presence of Christ, the real One, in somebody’s heart? The difference should be quite obvious.


A: I do indeed agree that Baha'u'llah has usurped this seat in the hearts of those who become Baha'i. Jesus predicted this would happen even among the most learned and elite. The negative result is that they have been deprived of their true Lord and Savior Jesus Christ- they have been deprived of God, and there's nothing else to be desired in this world than God. That is all that the devil seeks to deprive people of, ultimately. And to fool so many people, his disguise must be quite convincing and subtle. However, God sees through these things, and God sees what is in people's hearts; then the people will be divided accordingly by Christ when He returns to Judge.


A: … But make no mistake, that final judge will be Jesus Christ, whether people believe it or not – He is the door we have to pass through, whether we know that or not, whether we like it or agree with it or not.

M: This makes perfect sense, also from a Bahá’í point of view ☺

A: I have to say - when I was Baha'i, I thought I understood that too. I am not blaming you, I am saying I understand why you think you get it, but I'm telling you, you don't....I've been there. I swear I'm not trying to be patronizing, though I know it's impossible for me to sound otherwise from your perspective. I've now had several Baha'is come to this blog, assuming I just didn't understand the Baha'i Faith well enough, I overlooked this, that, or the other, and that's why I don't get it. I have to tell you, and I'm not trying to be rude, but, among the Baha'is who have come here and who raised objections when I first left the Baha'i faith, not a single original thought that I had not already read, understood, or considered prior to leaving the faith has been raised. People seem to assume I just wasn't "deepened"....but in all honesty - I didn't SEEK to leave the Baha'i Faith, I sought to be a great defender of it. It was great until I truly decided to dive deeper and deeper in search of those pearls. It didn't hold up. For all the arguements and points people try to helpfully point out, all I have to say is - been there, done that, "investigated it", don't even want the T-shirt. Actually, I now just want to live in this beautiful palace of my Father that I have found. The mansion of Baha'u'llah ended up being made of smoke and mirrors.

M: It looks like you didn’t see my point. It seems to me you say it *did* make sense for God to educate people through Christ, to take away their misunderstandings regarding previous Revelations and Prophecies, and put them on the right path. But the idea of God doing that again some 1850 years later is ‘schizophrenic’ or ‘dubious’ because there still was one church that clung to the true teachings while all others went astray? It is only dubious when one accepts that point of view, but objectively, the very idea that God reveals Himself repeatedly to guide people again to the truth and take away misunderstandings that have accumulated can hardly be called ‘schizophrenic’ in itself.

A: I see - I wrote that wrong. I should check for typos and errors, I usually am on borrowed time when responding to posts though. It's kind of embarassing to think that this blog is being cross-posted with all these mistakes in it! :-P What I meant to convey was that a God who accuses the faithful of every religion of following the wrong beliefs, even blaming them for not coming to accept the new/corrected beliefs of a new Manifestation, seems like a Schizophrenic God. If these people do all just lose the original teachings, then yes, they need to be corrected. But in the case of Christianty, it was driven home to me that the very earliest and most important teachings at the heart of the faith were considerd to be false corruptions according to Baha'i understanding. To me, that made no sense. In that case, the people were never taught the proper thing in the first place. A Baha'i can say - well, they just lost the true teaching extremely quickly, then had to wait around for Mohammed to show up. I just ain't buying it - it's too convenient. These people, these martyrs, making their loving sacrifices, were devoted to preserving their faith. The teachings spread far and wide, despite threats of persecution. I have absolute faith that the Holy Spirit was not promised in vain to them to lead them to all truth. Out of my respect for other religions and the basic abilities of monks, clergy, and faithful, I strongly believe that they are capable of preserving their teachings as well, regardless of their religion. A God who continually tells people they are wrong, follow this new Manifestation - Baha'is believe this is the work of a divine educator, coming to bring people to a clearer understanding. I believe it is the confusion planted by a Great Deceiver, who gets the ultimate laugh by then blaming the people themselves for their confusion. I understand that Baha'is disagree with me on this point - I am just presenting the conclusions that I myself drew.

Well, as usual, that was intense! I apologize if it seemed overly intense, or unfriendly at all - it is not intended that way, just speaking my mind, shooting from the hip, no time to go back and edit :-)

Martijn Rep said...

Martijn wrote:

Dear Anjali,

Wow, we seem have triggered each other into pouring out our hearts and brains. Thanks for the engagement - I am learning. I’ll try to stay focused on the learning process and will respond again - apparently hadn’t had enough as yet ☺

A: The belief in the guidance of the Holy Spirit is certainly not common between many Faiths. I am speaking here of the Holy Spirit, known as one member of the Holy Trinity, a Person in His own right, as understood by Christians. … The Baha’I Faith and Islam clearly do not know this Person truly, they just create a description/role for Him that is not the same as Christians have known … The guidance given by the Holy Spirit, bringing all knowledge to the Body of Christ, is completely refuted through radical reinterpretation by Baha’is. That alone is proof that Baha’is do not know the Holy Spirit and are not guided by Him, regardless of how much they want to believe that they do and they are.

M: This is illuminating. Those outside the church may think they believe in the Holy Spirit, but in fact they don’t because they don’t see Her (Him?) as a Person and Member of the Trinity.

A: Out of all the Baha’I reading and deepening I did, there was never an introduction to the Holy Spirit as the Person known in the Church.

M: I agree, the Holy Spirit appears in different images in the Baha’i writings (and in the Bible) but probably not as “the Person known in the Church”.

A: As for what Muslims think of the Trinity, check out the Qur’an – Mohammed was confused and offended by the concept of the Trinity.

M: I don’t know about confused, but offended, perhaps yes (like Jews) because the concept of the Trinity appears to violate the unity of God. But hey, the Christian Trinity is a hard concept to grasp, isn’t it? One God in three ‘Persons’ but still One? A Russian Orthodox friend of mine told me that the beauty and strength of the Trinity lies in its mystery, and Muhammad failed to see that and ‘returned’ to pre-Christian concepts. And like you say we have to rely on the oral tradition here, because the concept of the Trinity is not so apparent in the Bible.

A: I did not say that the Baha’i faith was based solely on making up intellectual theories and human philosophizing. I was making a direct response to your own (incorrect) assumption that I was unaware of “all the intellectual work done by Baha’is”. I think it is quite obvious that Baha’u’llah was receiving some type of revelation at least part of the time – we just completely disagree about the supernatural source. It was definitely not the Holy Spirit.

M: OK I am still learning. So you believe there are various supernatural sources, the Holy Spirit being ‘just’ one of them. Can a person nowadays (still) be ‘visited’ by the Holy Spirit? How does a visit by the Holy Spirit differ from a visit by another supernatural source? For oneself, but also from the effect it has on a person other than ourselves?

[M wrote earlier: Are you saying the Holy Spirit stayed with the Orthodox Church but abandoned the Roman Church and all other Christian churches? Is there a rational basis for this? If it is based your personal experience I will not argue with it. If objectively true, it will of course be revealed for all to see in due time, since the difference of being guided by the Holy Spirit and not being guided should become quite obvious. Are there signs of this already?]

A: You’ve made quite a leap here. When groups of people create heretical ideas and break away from the Orthodox church, the Holy Spirit, which lives in the Church, does not abandon them – THEY abandon the Church in which the Holy Spirit resides … Don’t place blame on God for what humans do and accuse the Holy Spirit for abandoning anyone, just as any rational person would not blame [a] company because one person decided to leave.

M: Yes I can see what you mean. But what about the next generations? Don’t they have an ‘unfair’ disadvantage in getting to know the Holy Spirit in comparison to those who grew up in the body of Christ? How does God or the Holy Spirit guide them back to the body of Christ?

A: They did break away from what God intended to be whole, one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, in accordance with the Nicene Creed they all had believed in.

M: I will have to take on faith that all Christians had believed in the Nicene Creed. It does make sense that the majority in Nicea agreed on it.

A: Just as Baha'is believe no true Baha'i can exist outside of the governance of the UHJ, the Orthodox Church believes we can only have the fullness of our Christian Faith within the Holy Orthodox Church, as it was the original body and bride of Christ.

M: Good comparison, makes it clear for me.

A: Are the other churches completely bereft of the Holy Spirit? I don’t know – that’s a question for God whether the Holy Spirit still goes to them at certain times. But when such groups create heretical ideas in contradiction to Holy Tradition as was previously revealed by the Holy Spirit, when they create entirely new doctrines and concepts, guidance by the Holy Spirit is dubious at best.

M: So the best proof of being guided by the Holy Spirit is adherence to the Nicene Creed and Tradition of the Orthodox Church? For an outsider, this would not be sufficient. How can one see, from the ‘outside’, that the Orthodox Church is guided by the greatest of Spirits and all other churches and faiths by lesser, competing spirits or even the devil himself? The difference should be enormous. Like you say: “the repercussions have been enormous.”

A: As I stated before, members of other religions do not believe in or know the Holy Spirit - even if post-Christian religions try to believe they do, the fact that they deny the core of Christian believe as revealed by the Holy Spirit betrays the fallacy of their claims.

M: OK, what you are saying is that non-Christians do not share the mental image of the Holy Spirit as a Person and Part of the Christian Trinity. So they should not claim they believe in the same ‘entity’. They are in fact confusing everybody by claiming they believe in the same Holy Spirit as the Christians do. Is that what you mean when you say: “While your statement might sound sweet to naive ears it is slippery nonsense!” ?
So you say, in other words, that everyone makes up a false mental image of God and/or the Holy Spirit, calling it by different names and ‘seeing’ different manifestations – and only the mental image of the ‘Trinity’ Holy Spirit is the true one because it was revealed by the Holy Spirit herself? I feel like I am going around in a circle. Can we truly claim to ‘know’ the Holy Spirit when we have captured here in a mental image and claim her for ourselves? This I don’t believe, although I do believe she is really out there, guiding us with infinite love and patience.

A: It is apparent from your own words "somehow agreed upon by learned Christians" reveals you do not know how, so let's go into it. You will realize the process is not only rational, those who have faith understand that it was promised by Jesus Christ Himself!

M: I appreciate that and am grateful for you explanation (if other readers have had the stamina to follow this or have somehow ended up here, see above for Anjali’s explanation)

A: Now Baha'is will step in saying that no tradition is ever preserved this well, it ends up being corrupted. Baha'is compare the preservation of the holiest of holy teachings by saints an scribes and seers of religions the world over to the futility of a child's game of "telephone" where the message is inevitably corrupted. The Buddha? Oh right - he was a Manifestation who taught the Oneness of God - but too bad, his followers have twisted his teachings and now all his original teachings have been lost! At first glance, this theory seems logical. But really think about it. Don't undestimate the ability of disciplined monks, ascetics, clergy, and the ordinary faithful of any religion to preserve vast amounts of sacred knowledge and practice if they intend to, if they devote their entire lives to this very transmission. For someone to actually believe that the world's religions teachings have been carelessly and hopelessly lost is quite as insulting as it is naive - and some might say, convenient, to the Baha'i perspective anyway.

M: Well taken. But you in turn may underestimate the ease with which misunderstandings arise and are perpetuated, even by devote and disciplined followers. Just look at the many creation stories and legends that have been passed on as literally true for many generations. I guess it is a matter of trust, or faith, in an unbroken chain of uncorrupted body of oral teachings, much as, to take just an example, the Jews did and do in their tradition.

[M wrote earlier: I cannot argue with this. If that is your experience, you made a good choice to follow your heart and join the Orthodox Christian Church. Still, it is another thing to rationalize this and say that, objectively, the Holy Spirit guides the Orthodox Church but not the Baha’i community. My experience, and that of many others as I’m sure you know, is very different from yours, sometimes even the opposite.]

A: I'm sorry to have to point this out, but there you go again making a giant, unsupported, leap of illogic. I did not rationalize anything in order to say that I left the Baha'i Faith to join the Orthodox church because that's where the Holy Spirit is. I didn't even know what the Holy Spirit really was when I left the Baha'i Faith, thanks to the miniscule, vague references made by the Central Figures to whatever they imagined the Holy Spirit to be. I also had never heard of the Orthodox Church when I left the Baha'i Faith. To say that I merely rationalized it as I looked back over my shoulder is a cheap shot that lands in the outfield. I didn't even have a proper understanding of who Jesus Christ Himself was, thanks to the Bahai Faith!

M: I was not referring to concept of the Holy Spirit, but to spirituality, which you wrote you did not feel (enough) in the Bahai community but did experience in the Orthodox Church. I seems to me (correct me if I’m wrong) that you equal spirituality as an experience with the Christian concept of the Holy Spirit. That’s what I meant with rationalizing.

A: I think it is quite matter-of-fact that the Baha'is are not engaged with the Holy Spirit. They can claim it until they are blue in the face - the truth is, saying you are doesn't mean that you really are. Baha'is deny the Holy Spirit and the true nature of Jesus Christ Himself, and of the Father Himself - the entire Trinity. To Baha'is, the Trinity can be reduced to the sun and a mirror and a ray of light. Not so to Christians. And Muslims have other beliefs entirely of the Trinity. Suffice it to say, we are not all talking about the same God/Trinity, let alone the Holy Spirit!

M: This is the heart of the matter, isn’t it? Yes, the mental images differ, I fully agree. But we live in the same physical and spiritual world. Is being loved and guided by the Holy Spirit truly dependent on the mental image that we have of Her?

A: Love and spirituality (well, I should take that word back because it is so vague - I would replace it with the phrase "interest in God and godly things") can be found among many people.

M: Well, “interest in God and godly things” sounds rather intellectual. To me love and spirituality are more action-oriented and related to sacrifice and the practice of virtues.

A: We are all made in the image of God, we are icons of Christ - regardless of religion or lack of religion, and that can certainly shine through.

M: Well said ☺

A: We are all one big family - It isn't only the Baha'is that believe in One God, One Faith, and One Human Race - this was at the heart of the Christian Faith almost 2000 years earlier :-) No doubt the Baha'i teachings have survived and spread through loving sacrifice - the Baha'i martyrs even today are proof of this.

M: Well said again!

A: I do indeed agree that Baha'u'llah has usurped this seat in the hearts of those who become Baha'i. Jesus predicted this would happen even among the most learned and elite. The negative result is that they have been deprived of their true Lord and Savior Jesus Christ- they have been deprived of God, and there's nothing else to be desired in this world than God.

M: They have, perhaps, another mental image of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, of the Trinity. But if they would really have been “deprived of their true Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and “lost the one desire in the world”, this should have dramatic consequences. Is the devil so “convincing and subtle” that even the effects of his usurping the throne of the human heart has the same effect as Christ Himself, so subtle that the person herself and those who love her do not even see or feel the difference? How, then, are we to distinguish between God and the devil? By the measuring stick of the Nicene Creed alone? Is Christ truly going to judge people by the mental image they have of Him or their membership of the Orthodox Church?

[A wrote earlier: … But make no mistake, that final judge will be Jesus Christ, whether people believe it or not – He is the door we have to pass through, whether we know that or not, whether we like it or agree with it or not.]
[M then responded: This makes perfect sense, also from a Bahá’í point of view ☺]

A: I have to say - when I was Baha'i, I thought I understood that too. I am not blaming you, I am saying I understand why you think you get it, but I'm telling you, you don't....I've been there. … I didn't SEEK to leave the Baha'i Faith, I sought to be a great defender of it. It was great until I truly decided to dive deeper and deeper in search of those pearls.

M: How was it great?

A: It didn't hold up. For all the arguments and points people try to helpfully point out, all I have to say is - been there, done that, "investigated it", don't even want the T-shirt. Actually, I now just want to live in this beautiful palace of my Father that I have found. The mansion of Baha'u'llah ended up being made of smoke and mirrors.

M: I can understand and respect that. Don’t you leave the beautiful palace of your Father.

[M wrote earlier: It looks like you didn’t see my point. It seems to me you say it *did* make sense for God to educate people through Christ, to take away their misunderstandings regarding previous Revelations and Prophecies, and put them on the right path. But the idea of God doing that again some 1850 years later is ‘schizophrenic’ or ‘dubious’ because there still was one church that clung to the true teachings while all others went astray? It is only dubious when one accepts that point of view, but objectively, the very idea that God reveals Himself repeatedly to guide people again to the truth and take away misunderstandings that have accumulated can hardly be called ‘schizophrenic’ in itself.]

A: I see - I wrote that wrong. I should check for typos and errors, I usually am on borrowed time when responding to posts though. It's kind of embarassing to think that this blog is being cross-posted with all these mistakes in it! :-P

M: It was not an embarrassing mistake at all ☺

A: What I meant to convey was that a God who accuses the faithful of every religion of following the wrong beliefs, even blaming them for not coming to accept the new/corrected beliefs of a new Manifestation, seems like a Schizophrenic God. If these people do all just lose the original teachings, then yes, they need to be corrected. But in the case of Christianty, it was driven home to me that the very earliest and most important teachings at the heart of the faith were considered to be false corruptions according to Baha'i understanding.

M: I learned now how important the oral tradition is to the Orthodox Church next to the Bible, and see where the pain is. Not necessarily illogic, but at least an apparent insult to the integrity of a tradition held dearly. I see that very well.

A: A God who continually tells people they are wrong, follow this new Manifestation - Baha'is believe this is the work of a divine educator, coming to bring people to a clearer understanding. I believe it is the confusion planted by a Great Deceiver, who gets the ultimate laugh by then blaming the people themselves for their confusion. I understand that Baha'is disagree with me on this point - I am just presenting the conclusions that I myself drew.

M: I hadn’t realized, before our exchange, that the devil (as a supernatural spirit) plays such an important role in Christian thought, also in the Orthodox Church. Yes, that is very different from Baha’i teachings, in which Satan is basically equal to the ‘insistent self’ – the ego.

A: Well, as usual, that was intense! I apologize if it seemed overly intense, or unfriendly at all - it is not intended that way, just speaking my mind, shooting from the hip, no time to go back and edit :-)

M: Intense, yes, and I thank you for that because I learn a lot. Unfriendly? No, I don’t feel that at all. I hope I didn’t tire or frustrate you too much as yet another of those bahais who ‘argue’ with you ;-)

Peace, and may you always remain close to your Father

Martijn

Anjali said...

M: This is illuminating. Those outside the church may think they believe in the Holy Spirit, but in fact they don’t because they don’t see Her (Him?) as a Person and Member of the Trinity.


A: No....that is not an accurate reflection of what I wrote. You've overly simplified/reduced it, might want to re-read it...



M: I agree, the Holy Spirit appears in different images in the Baha’i writings (and in the Bible) but probably not as “the Person known in the Church”.


A: Again, no. It is not simply to do with imagery - again I'm afraid you've oversimplified/reduced it.



M: hey, the Christian Trinity is a hard concept to grasp, isn’t it? One God in three ‘Persons’ but still One? A Russian Orthodox friend of mine told me that the beauty and strength of the Trinity lies in its mystery, and Muhammad failed to see that and ‘returned’ to pre-Christian concepts. And like you say we have to rely on the oral tradition here, because the concept of the Trinity is not so apparent in the Bible.


A: Mohammed, as a supposed Manifestation of God, has no legitimate excuse for grossly misunderstanding the Trinity in that capacity. His understanding of it also differs from that of Baha'u'llah.



M: OK I am still learning. So you believe there are various supernatural sources, the Holy Spirit being ‘just’ one of them. Can a person nowadays (still) be ‘visited’ by the Holy Spirit? How does a visit by the Holy Spirit differ from a visit by another supernatural source? For oneself, but also from the effect it has on a person other than ourselves?


A: Just as there is a God, there is also a devil - a person can be visited by either. It can be very difficult for a person to determine which, as demons can even appear as angels of light and have fooled inexperienced monastics. The best answer for this would come from a priest or a monk. One certainty is that the Holy Spirit would never deny Jesus Christ as He has been understood by Christians since the time of Christ and the day of Pentecost. Demons have even called Jesus Christ the Son of God though, because of course they know Him to be the true Lord. (Knowing about Christ and abiding in him are different things.) So I would think the motivation and intentions and effects - leading a person towards or away from Jesus Christ (Jesus the person, not just Jesus the concept), would also be a tell-tale sign.



M: But what about the next generations? Don’t they have an ‘unfair’ disadvantage in getting to know the Holy Spirit in comparison to those who grew up in the body of Christ? How does God or the Holy Spirit guide them back to the body of Christ?


A: As I mentioned in a previous post - this fallen world is not the seat of fairness, it's a spiritual and physical jungle. As I have also said, we are judged by a God of perfect Justice and Mercy, so we have Faith that he will tend to those He will tend to - I've also heard a bishop say that only God knows who is "invisibly" within the body of Christ. Meanwhile, Christians stay faithful and keep spreading the Gospel and have faith in God. After all, children may not be aware of these doctrinal differences, but they can still enter the Kingdom of God. The thief on the cross did not know of doctrine, he just places his faith in Christ as Lord and Savior and he was saved.



M: Good comparison (UHJ), makes it clear for me.


A: Okay, than I'll try to work with that comparison. Say there is an "Orthodox Baha'i". They are always serving humanity, they are spreading teachings of Baha'u'llah, they have their own LSA and feasts. Yet you and I both know, they are not truly Baha'i. I hope my saying this does not anger any Baha'is who may be reading this and disagree, but this seemed fairly clear to me as a Baha'i, that the administrative order was an essential part of the Baha'i Fause, you can't just divorce yourself form the UHJ and the Guardianship (Shoghi Effendi) and still truly be Baha'i. Maybe that person has only denied one part of the teachings, but it is an essential part, in doing so they deny the authoritative system set in place by Baha'u'llah to continue to guide the Baha'i faith, so they are no longer within Baha'u'llah's fold, they are no longer truly followers of Baha'u'llah either. In this sense, I think the Baha'is actually have an more rigid view of membership in the "body" of the Baha'i Faith than Orthodox Christians have towards the body of Christ. But, similarly - we believe that Christ, the Head of the church in heaven, established us, the body of Christ here on earth, with the Holy Spirit to ensure we grow properly as his church, despite what ups and downs, twists and turns, we may face. Break away from that body, and only God knows what His relationship will be with those who have broken away. God and Jesus Christ can be turned to by anyone with faith. But will the Holy Spirit guide them as they think? Whether a person is claiming some new doctrine, or barking like a dog, and attributing that to the Holy spirit, saying it is so doesn't necessarily make it so.



M: So the best proof of being guided by the Holy Spirit is adherence to the Nicene Creed and Tradition of the Orthodox Church? For an outsider, this would not be sufficient. How can one see, from the ‘outside’, that the Orthodox Church is guided by the greatest of Spirits and all other churches and faiths by lesser, competing spirits or even the devil himself? The difference should be enormous. Like you say: “the repercussions have been enormous.”


A: The safest way is to abide within Christ and the fullness of Christian Faith as a member of the Orthodox Church. We were promised the Holy Spirit by Christ. We don't try to speculate on wherever else the Holy Spirit might extend. Other churches are not necessarily guided by evil spirits (though some certainly are). We just don't automatically accept new doctrines proposed by other churches as having been guided by the Holy Spirit. An example would be the infallibility of the Pope. Or to take a liberal Protestant view, the idea that perhaps Jesus wasn't really God. Or as I stated before, speaking in tongues. Yes the differences are enormous - sometimes. And other times, not so enormous. I went to a non-denominational Protestant church once where the pastor said he basically agreed with all the essential doctrines upheld by the Orthodox Church, In fact, more and more Protestant clergy are becoming Orthodox in the US.



M: OK, what you are saying is that non-Christians do not share the mental image of the Holy Spirit as a Person and Part of the Christian Trinity. So they should not claim they believe in the same ‘entity’. They are in fact confusing everybody by claiming they believe in the same Holy Spirit as the Christians do. Is that what you mean when you say: “While your statement might sound sweet to naive ears it is slippery nonsense!” ?
So you say, in other words, that everyone makes up a false mental image of God and/or the Holy Spirit, calling it by different names and ‘seeing’ different manifestations – and only the mental image of the ‘Trinity’ Holy Spirit is the true one because it was revealed by the Holy Spirit herself? I feel like I am going around in a circle. Can we truly claim to ‘know’ the Holy Spirit when we have captured here in a mental image and claim her for ourselves? This I don’t believe, although I do believe she is really out there, guiding us with infinite love and patience.


A: No, that is not what I said. You over-simplified. It is not about a mental image or false image or different manifestations. You are going in circles, actually, but that's okay. I remember going in circles when I was Baha'i and first trying to understand all of this. It was radically outside of the Baha'i Box, even though as a Baha'i, I thought my box was outside of "the box". Perhaps go back and re-read my post. Though honestly, I think the only way you can start to understand is to really do your research to understand Christianity and have a radically different understanding from that given to you in the Bahai Faith. In other words - completely forget any interpretation of Christianity that you have learned from Baha'is or from 'Abdu'l-Baha himself. The only way I escaped my cocoon - I call it that because that's exactly what it seemed like when I emerged from it - was through the help of prayer from others. Then suddenly it was like I had woken up rom a dream-state to a new clear world, like I had emerged from being underwater to see the world around me in a completely different way.


M: I was not referring to concept of the Holy Spirit, but to spirituality, which you wrote you did not feel (enough) in the Bahai community but did experience in the Orthodox Church. I seems to me (correct me if I’m wrong) that you equal spirituality as an experience with the Christian concept of the Holy Spirit. That’s what I meant with rationalizing.


A: No....I dont equate spirituality with experience of the Holy Spirit. I just personally did not find spiritual richness in the Baha'i Faith. I found the tools did not yield much fruit in me or help me draw me closer to God during the time I was Baha'i. I actually started noticing negative effects - what other Baha'is might have considered "teaching skills" were what I began to realize were mental gymnastics, semantic games, a certain slyness, and lack of genuineness, all masked by a naive, optimistic, righteous, and determined coat of denial. A classic example would be approaching a member of another religion as though I were seeking to understand, as though he/she were the teacher and I was the student, secretly looking for a foothold or places to prod.



M: This is the heart of the matter, isn’t it? Yes, the mental images differ, I fully agree. But we live in the same physical and spiritual world. Is being loved and guided by the Holy Spirit truly dependent on the mental image that we have of Her?


A: Ai....I don't mean to repeat this over and over, but as I have stated above...No. I'm not talking about mental images. Go back and re-read the old post. I stated it as simply and directly as I could.



M: They have, perhaps, another mental image of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, of the Trinity. But if they would really have been “deprived of their true Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and “lost the one desire in the world”, this should have dramatic consequences. Is the devil so “convincing and subtle” that even the effects of his usurping the throne of the human heart has the same effect as Christ Himself, so subtle that the person herself and those who love her do not even see or feel the difference? How, then, are we to distinguish between God and the devil? By the measuring stick of the Nicene Creed alone? Is Christ truly going to judge people by the mental image they have of Him or their membership of the Orthodox Church?


A: Again, strongly disagree here. I am not interested in mental images of God. Honestly, I think Baha'is are more interested in mental images and metaphors for that matter. Devout Christians that I have encountered are not interested in mental images, but in reality. As for your question - what about athiests? There are many noble, virtuous athiests and agnostics in the world, yet they are not saved. God does not just want us to be nice people. If we intend to enter the Kindom of Heaven, we enter through faith in and faithfulness to Christ. It is not as though Christians are the nicest people because they are praying to Christ - we are sinners like anyone else. It is through Christ's work that we are brought to heaven, through union with Christ. The devil can let a person grow as mean or as charitable as he/she likes...the only thing the person needs to be deprived of is Christ to be lost. Not even the measuring stick of the Nicene Creed - Christ said there are many so-called Christians that he will even turn away, saying He never knew them. He is interested in them knowing the reality, not mental images. It isn't just about knowing the Nicene Creed (remember that thief?) - it's about abiding in Christ. The demons know doctrine better than any of us, they even call Christ the Son of God. It is entirely possible to even acknowledge the station of Christ and still not abide in Him.

On a personal note, I did indeed feel a very different effect in my heart as a Baha'i than as a Christian though - when I left the Baha'i faith, it was like a quiet serpent had slithered out of my heart and a bag had been lifted off of my head, and I felt free. I've also experienced much more by way of spiritual effort and growth as a very young Christian thus far than I did as a Baha'i. In my experience as a Baha'i, the efforts were futile, like tilling sand with a stick, or trying to get water froma mirage; whereas as a Christian, I am in a fertile field with all the right tools and rain and seeds and wisdom to rely on and to God to guide me.



M: How was it (Baha'i) great?


A: I wrote about this in the original posting - look above - waaaay above, the original post.


M: I hadn’t realized, before our exchange, that the devil (as a supernatural spirit) plays such an important role in Christian thought, also in the Orthodox Church. Yes, that is very different from Baha’i teachings, in which Satan is basically equal to the ‘insistent self’ – the ego.


A: Yes the Devil plays a much larger role in the Christian world view than the Baha'i world view. Actually, there was one Baha'i book that was tackles this somewhat, it is called "The Metropolis of Satan". I still don't think it conveys the Christian view of work of the Devil in the world, but it's not attempting. Just saying though, much of the Christian view of Jesus, the human plight, good, evil, and salvation, cannot be understood without a Christian understanding of God, the Devil and the Fall. The Christian understanding of these things is very different from 'Abdu'l-Baha'is understanding of them. Satan's work resulted in the fallen ego/insistent self you are referring to, but it is only one part of the picture. This again is a topic that I think an inquirer should bring up with a priest for a more in-depth conversation.

Take care,
Anjali

Anjali said...

Martijn,

There is one place where I referred you back to the original post that I think I should have clarified. You asked how things were great for a time as I was Baha'i - I don't think I made it very clear in my original post. Basically, it was an excitement and patting on the back that I had come across the one true religion that claimed to reveal the "elephant" itself. Of course, when I concluded it was all wishful thinking, twisting, and delusion, I decided to resign. But another interesting point is that the excitement I experienced from that was distinctly different from the joy I feel in Christianity, another difference I felt within me when I was in the "mansion of smoke and mirrors" vs. the "palace of the Father", as I like to say.

As a Baha'i, the excitement came not only from naivite and the promises of the Faith, but also a sense of cleverness, a patting on the back - it was an ego-massage, despite the fact that there was a disguise of humility. This wasn't true peace of joy, but a feeling of correctness, of having all the answers, and enjoying the cleverness of it. I do feel I have much greater clarity and insight after emerging from it, I really did feel like I was in a cocoon as a Baha'i. So even while reading and deepening and proclaiming Baha'i concepts of evil being of the ego, my ego was kept fed and full. That is not true peace, it is just satiety of the ego. I also read, deepened, and proclaimed the need for striving for virtues, but the actual drive for it was not as strong as it should have been. Meaning, it was there, I thought it was strong, and therefore patted myself on the back for it while kind of jogging along that path.

When I found the Orthodox church, I began to have my first glimpse of true humility, of my own sinfulness, and of the holiness of God - a holiness that surpassed anything conveyed to me as a Baha'i or even a Hindu, the urge to grow spiritually was much fiercer, the sense of utter dependence on God was much clearer, and yet I felt true peace and joy for the first time, not satisfaction. It seemed to me that for all the virtues and concepts proclaimed in the Baha'i Writings and prayers of how we should become and how we should come to know and worship God, spiritual wheels are just spinning, not going anywhere, allowing the opposite to happen, masked by denial. In terms of spiritual growth, it's like sitting in a fake car on a fake set with a giant screen painting of a sunset sky and thinking we're driving off into the sunset, looking around, enjoying the view. All the administrative things get done, all the projects and plans get done, but in the heart - not so much. I don't know if people really notice this as they are kept busy focusing on other Baha'i efforts of administration, teaching, workshops, "deepening", despite all the emphasis in the writings about the importance of prayer and communion with God. Just wasn't happening for me, and I didn't see it happening for Baha'is around me. Perhaps this is why the "spiritual portion" of Feast is so dead. People would always try to place the blame on our own inadequacies - we aren't bringing the "right attitude", we need to bring to it the spirituality, we just are burdened by the inconveniences of a new community not having a community center and meeting in people's living rooms, or we need to be creative to keep things interesting, etc. In contrast, I now am in a very small mission church where we rent a room in a school; we set up and break down every Sunday, some Sundays can't even meet; we've got distractions all over the place thanks to the many little children our parish is blessed with:-); we follow the same liturgy every Sunday; we stand for 2.5 hours through the entire thing; and it is a source of joy for everyone. Instead of getting bored of repetition of the litrugy, I find each time is more wonderful - soothing, peaceful, revealing, meaningful. It works quietly, not dramatically. It doesn't need to involve a guest performance by a visiting Baha'i youth drumming circle to "change things up", keep it interesting. And no one has to be told that "this concludes the spiritual portion of Feast" aftewards when we join to eat, because the spiritual part is never over - neither by statement nor in reality.

There is no doubt in my mind based on my own experience that the Holy Spirit is in our church, whereas what seemed to be squeezed from Baha'i Feast was a blend of ego-satisfaction, determined attempts to have the right attitude, sense of correctness, resignation as a false sense of humility, and/or not knowing anything better, to form the oil on which the "spiritual life" was run in the Baha'i Faith. I tried to "feast" on that and enjoy it, thinking maybe it would be an acquired taste, trying to convince myself, but it just wasn't the real thing.

I am just being honest about my experiences as you have prodded, but I don't want you to feel that I am saying these things in order to be Baha'i-bashing. Frankness is one thing, but my intent is not to bash or degrade other people's religions.

~Anjali

Martijn Rep said...

Dear Anjali,

First of all, I don’t feel at all that you are ‘Bahai-bashing’. I can see you are frankly sharing your experiences and insights and I remain grateful for that. I read your testimony on your experience in the Bahai community. If I may summarize: initial excitement but then, progressively, disappointment and frustration. Too little spiritual upliftment and too little intellectual statisfaction. Initial excitement perhaps due to ego-oriented statisfaction that eroded. Am I correctly summarizing?

I do recognize some of your struggles, some related to having little fixed liturgy or rituals and no clergy, some perhaps with too much focus on intellectualizing or administration. Given that you now feel much better, I am truly happy for you. As for me, I have other experiences as well (dare I call them spiritual? ;-)) that more than compensate for struggles that I have gone through on my path. As you acknowledged, also the Bahai faith has spread through love and sacrifice and I have had the bounty of experiencing some of that and feeling it grow. That said, allow me once more to respond to a few issues.

A: Mohammed, as a supposed Manifestation of God, has no legitimate excuse for grossly misunderstanding the Trinity in that capacity. His understanding of it also differs from that of Baha'u'llah.

M: Mohammad was only ‘misunderstanding’ the Trinity if the Christian view on the Trinity as defined at Nicea was correct. If Mohammad truly was a Manifestation of God than his knowledge was from God and therefore superior even to the early Christians. The only Qur’anic issue with the Trinity that I am aware of is that Jesus as the Son of God in a literal (fleshy) sense or even as God himself (thereby Father and Son at the same time) is rejected. That is no different from the Baha’i view as I know it, although Abdu’l-Baha elaborates and, as you correctly say, proposes a different interpretation of the relationship between God, the Holy Spirit and the Son.

A: Just as there is a God, there is also a devil - a person can be visited by either. It can be very difficult for a person to determine which, as demons can even appear as angels of light and have fooled inexperienced monastics. The best answer for this would come from a priest or a monk.

M: Why would a priest or monk know best? Because they have more experience with being visited by spirits?

A: One certainty is that the Holy Spirit would never deny Jesus Christ as He has been understood by Christians since the time of Christ and the day of Pentecost.

M: OK, so the thing to do is to check if the Spirit that visits you or appears to speak through someone else does not violate the true teachings as have been uniquely preserved in the Christian Orthodox Tradition?

A: Demons have even called Jesus Christ the Son of God though, because of course they know Him to be the true Lord. (Knowing about Christ and abiding in him are different things.). So I would think the motivation and intentions and effects - leading a person towards or away from Jesus Christ (Jesus the person, not just Jesus the concept), would also be a tell-tale sign.

M: With Jesus the person you mean, I presume, as understood within Orthodox Christianity. In other words, if some spirit would inspire someone to believe in anything but the Orthodox creed it cannot be Holy and must be misleading. The focus here is much on what the Holy Spirit inspires one to *believe*. Is it also relevant what someone is inspired to do?

A: The safest way is to abide within Christ and the fullness of Christian Faith as a member of the Orthodox Church. We were promised the Holy Spirit by Christ. We don't try to speculate on wherever else the Holy Spirit might extend.

M: Is abiding within Christ the same as being a member of the Orthodox Church (that Church being His Body – literally?)

A: Other churches are not necessarily guided by evil spirits (though some certainly are). We just don't automatically accept new doctrines proposed by other churches as having been guided by the Holy Spirit.

M: You really drove home the point that the Orthodox Church is the only repository of the original teachings of Jesus and the only home of the Holy Spirit / Christ / God. I will not forget ;-)

A: I went to a non-denominational Protestant church once where the pastor said he basically agreed with all the essential doctrines upheld by the Orthodox Church, In fact, more and more Protestant clergy are becoming Orthodox in the US.

M: If the Orthodox Christian Church is the true home of the Holy Spirit it makes sense that people, especially Christians of other denominations, are attracted to it.

[M said earlier: OK, what you are saying is that non-Christians do not share the mental image of the Holy Spirit as a Person and Part of the Christian Trinity. So they should not claim they believe in the same ‘entity’. They are in fact confusing everybody by claiming they believe in the same Holy Spirit as the Christians do. Is that what you mean when you say: “While your statement might sound sweet to naive ears it is slippery nonsense!” ? So you say, in other words, that everyone makes up a false mental image of God and/or the Holy Spirit, calling it by different names and ‘seeing’ different manifestations – and only the mental image of the ‘Trinity’ Holy Spirit is the true one because it was revealed by the Holy Spirit herself? I feel like I am going around in a circle. Can we truly claim to ‘know’ the Holy Spirit when we have captured here in a mental image and claim her for ourselves? This I don’t believe, although I do believe she is really out there, guiding us with infinite love and patience.]

A: No, that is not what I said. You over-simplified. It is not about a mental image or false image or different manifestations. You are going in circles, actually, but that's okay.

M: No it’s not ☹

A: … honestly, I think the only way you can start to understand is to really do your research to understand Christianity and have a radically different understanding from that given to you in the Bahai Faith. In other words - completely forget any interpretation of Christianity that you have learned from Baha'is or from 'Abdu'l-Baha himself.

M: I feel free to think out of the box. I can be inspired by Christians and Christian imagery. You don’t like me calling the Trinity a mental image, like any other mental image (including Sun-Rays-Mirror) of what our minds will never fully grasp: our Creator and the way He manifests Himself to us. Different images are used in different religions. One can feel more ‘true’, more complete, more beautiful than another, but they are not equal to reality.

A: … I just personally did not find spiritual richness in the Baha'i Faith. I found the tools did not yield much fruit in me or help me draw me closer to God during the time I was Baha'i. I actually started noticing negative effects - what other Baha'is might have considered "teaching skills" were what I began to realize were mental gymnastics, semantic games, a certain slyness, and lack of genuineness, all masked by a naive, optimistic, righteous, and determined coat of denial. A classic example would be approaching a member of another religion as though I were seeking to understand, as though he/she were the teacher and I was the student, secretly looking for a foothold or places to prod.

M: I understand. It sounds awfully depressing. How could such a faith have spread at all? Like a disease?

[M wrote earlier: Is the devil so “convincing and subtle” that even the effects of his usurping the throne of the human heart has the same effect as Christ Himself, so subtle that the person herself and those who love her do not even see or feel the difference? How, then, are we to distinguish between God and the devil? By the measuring stick of the Nicene Creed alone? Is Christ truly going to judge people by the mental image they have of Him or their membership of the Orthodox Church?]

A: Devout Christians that I have encountered are not interested in mental images, but in reality.

M: Yes, images can be very misleading, but we create them for our understanding of reality. Aren’t images used in the Bible, or is the whole Book to be interpreted as literally true?

A: God does not just want us to be nice people. If we intend to enter the Kindom of Heaven, we enter through faith in and faithfulness to Christ. It is not as though Christians are the nicest people because they are praying to Christ - we are sinners like anyone else. It is through Christ's work that we are brought to heaven, through union with Christ … Not even the measuring stick of the Nicene Creed - Christ said there are many so-called Christians that he will even turn away, saying He never knew them. He is interested in them knowing the reality, not mental images. It isn't just about knowing the Nicene Creed (remember that thief?) - it's about abiding in Christ.

M: And how do you know if people ‘know the reality’ or ‘abide in Christ’? What measure do you have if it is not the Nicene Creed? Is acknowledgement of the Nicene Creed (implied by membership of the Orthodox Church) one sure citerion that Jesus will use, and then there is a second selection, when He looks into our Heart?

A: The demons know doctrine better than any of us, they even call Christ the Son of God. It is entirely possible to even acknowledge the station of Christ and still not abide in Him.

M: OK, so we will never really know, will we?

A: On a personal note, I did indeed feel a very different effect in my heart as a Baha'i than as a Christian though - when I left the Baha'i faith, it was like a quiet serpent had slithered out of my heart and a bag had been lifted off of my head, and I felt free. I've also experienced much more by way of spiritual effort and growth as a very young Christian thus far than I did as a Baha'i. In my experience as a Baha'i, the efforts were futile, like tilling sand with a stick, or trying to get water froma mirage; whereas as a Christian, I am in a fertile field with all the right tools and rain and seeds and wisdom to rely on and to God to guide me.

M: You have clearly become happier, that I do not doubt.

A: Yes the Devil plays a much larger role in the Christian world view than the Baha'i world view … Just saying though, much of the Christian view of Jesus, the human plight, good, evil, and salvation, cannot be understood without a Christian understanding of God, the Devil and the Fall. The Christian understanding of these things is very different from 'Abdu'l-Baha'is understanding of them.

M: Yes, definitely. I do see now that perhaps I should have used the word ‘view’ instead of ‘mental image’.

A: Satan's work resulted in the fallen ego/insistent self you are referring to, but it is only one part of the picture. This again is a topic that I think an inquirer should bring up with a priest for a more in-depth conversation.

M: Well, my friend is a deacon now, and we’ll go on holidays together, so plenty of time to consult him ;-)

All the best, Martijn

Anjali said...

M: If I may summarize: initial excitement but then, progressively, disappointment and frustration. Too little spiritual upliftment and too little intellectual statisfaction. Initial excitement perhaps due to ego-oriented statisfaction that eroded. Am I correctly summarizing?

I do recognize some of your struggles, some related to having little fixed liturgy or rituals and no clergy, some perhaps with too much focus on intellectualizing or administration. Given that you now feel much better, I am truly happy for you. As for me, I have other experiences as well (dare I call them spiritual? ;-)) that more than compensate for struggles that I have gone through on my path. As you acknowledged, also the Bahai faith has spread through love and sacrifice and I have had the bounty of experiencing some of that and feeling it grow. That said, allow me once more to respond to a few issues.


A: No, the summarization of how I felt and why I left are not correct. One major point you've left out is that I found it to be a false religion. This is a pattern I am seeing, instead of summarizing, you consistently re-interpret what I have said. Perhaps you are trying to reflect back to me in the only way that you can, immersed in the Baha'i point of view. But I really do not see that you are understanding at all what I am saying. Here's a hint - I am writing exactly what I mean, and it isn't what you are trying to write in summary....



M: Mohammad was only ‘misunderstanding’ the Trinity if the Christian view on the Trinity as defined at Nicea was correct. If Mohammad truly was a Manifestation of God than his knowledge was from God and therefore superior even to the early Christians. The only Qur’anic issue with the Trinity that I am aware of is that Jesus as the Son of God in a literal (fleshy) sense or even as God himself (thereby Father and Son at the same time) is rejected. That is no different from the Baha’i view as I know it, although Abdu’l-Baha elaborates and, as you correctly say, proposes a different interpretation of the relationship between God, the Holy Spirit and the Son.


A: I actually already tried to explain the logic. If the Holy Spirit were truly sent from the Father to guide the Church to *all truth*, the Orthodox doctrines are correct, not corrupted or inferior. Mohammed had a completely different understanding of Christian Trinity than 'Abdu'l-Baha:

"And behold! Allah will say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, 'Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah'?" He will say: "Glory to Thee! Never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, though I know not what in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden. [Qur'an 5:116]

Not only did Mohammed not understand who was even supposed to be in the Trinity, Mohammed also denied the Crucifixion and Resurrection. But I am really repeating myself for no reason here. Go back to earlier posts where I discussed Mohammed and why I could not believe that both He and Jesus and Baha'u'llah could all have been Manifestations as their accounts conflicted too much. If your response is simply "I conclude differently", well, that's fine. I know you think differently, you're still Baha'i.



M: Why would a priest or monk know best? Because they have more experience with being visited by spirits?


A: That is certainly one reason.




M: OK, so the thing to do is to check if the Spirit that visits you or appears to speak through someone else does not violate the true teachings as have been uniquely preserved in the Christian Orthodox Tradition?


A: If you are asking this question, than you haven't absorbed prior discussion we have already had about this.


M: With Jesus the person you mean, I presume, as understood within Orthodox Christianity. In other words, if some spirit would inspire someone to believe in anything but the Orthodox creed it cannot be Holy and must be misleading. The focus here is much on what the Holy Spirit inspires one to *believe*. Is it also relevant what someone is inspired to do?


A: We're talking about the real-deal Jesus here. Not concepts and interpretations. As for the "focus here", the focus here tends to be on whatever you bring up. I never intended to present a full catechism on this blog, and I still do not intend to. If you are truly interested, you need to start doing some thorough reading and praying on your own. I've suggested some books on an earlier post, but an Orthodox priest would be an excellent place to start as well.



M: Is abiding within Christ the same as being a member of the Orthodox Church (that Church being His Body – literally?)


A: Again, another question that you ask which you could answer on your own with some thought on what I have said. I've already answered this.




M: You really drove home the point that the Orthodox Church is the only repository of the original teachings of Jesus and the only home of the Holy Spirit / Christ / God. I will not forget ;-)


A: Wrong again. Many of your statements and questions show me that you are not digesting what I write, do not reflect back on it, and/or reduce or warp the ideas when your reflect back, because I do not agree with your attempts to summarize what I have stated. Forgive me for being suspicious, but I am all too familiar with techniques used by Baha'is to simply hang around, keep conversation going as much as possible with questions thrown repeatedly at different angles not to learn, but just to try to chip away at a person and bring them to "The Faith", since they "know better". This is one of the reasons why I have heard some people refer to the Baha'i Faith as the Amway of religions. If this is at all on your mind, please spare me, I am no longer interested in "the Cause".



M: I feel free to think out of the box. I can be inspired by Christians and Christian imagery. You don’t like me calling the Trinity a mental image, like any other mental image (including Sun-Rays-Mirror) of what our minds will never fully grasp: our Creator and the way He manifests Himself to us. Different images are used in different religions. One can feel more ‘true’, more complete, more beautiful than another, but they are not equal to reality.


A: I'm not telling you you have to - I'm just saying if you really want to understand Christian thought, you're going to have to emerge from the Baha'i cocoon. I can tell you are in it based on the fact that you aren't understanding what I am writing at face value - you reflect it back in a distorted way that I recognize quite well from my old Baha'i days. Believe it or not, regardless of what you have been taught, God is real, has a reality, and it can be approached and known and experienced as that reality, not just "views" or "images". This is the very sad way in which Baha'is rob a person of relationwhip with God.



M: I understand. It sounds awfully depressing. How could such a faith have spread at all? Like a disease?


A: It is interesting that you would ask this about your own chosen religion? It could spread easily among people who see the surface values and think it's nifty, who don't understand the deeper issues that those who have left the Baha'i Faith struggled with, who do not seek harder to find the Lord Jesus Christ rather than God as merely a concept, people who have been misled by false sheperds, people who are satisfied with simply the social and political aspects of the Faith, or among people who have actually been sent a strong delusion by God Himself. Plus a whole lot of great PR. You do realize that an enormous number of people who decide to become Baha'is end up inactive because they stop believing and fail to remove their names from the rolls? Thus the number of Baha'is reported worldwide is quite inflated. I don't think mine was even removed after I sent in my resignation, as I was still kept on their pilgrimage list. Jesus Himself warned that even the most elite would be fooled, so the spreading of ideas or practices is hardly a good measure for their goodness or validity. Narrow is the path.




M: Yes, images can be very misleading, but we create them for our understanding of reality. Aren’t images used in the Bible, or is the whole Book to be interpreted as literally true?


A: Metaphors are fine for illustration, but when it comes to relationship, you must relate to the reality of a thing, not hiding behind the idea that you can only know God through images you have created. Knowing all about the neighbor next door, or let's say, a celebrity, is not the same as knowing them in person and building a relationship with them. You have an image and understanding of them, but you are not engaged in true relationship. Jesus is known directly, not through metaphor or images. And as I predict this question coming, I'll remind you that Jesus is God, not just reflecting the image of God.



M: And how do you know if people ‘know the reality’ or ‘abide in Christ’? What measure do you have if it is not the Nicene Creed? Is acknowledgement of the Nicene Creed (implied by membership of the Orthodox Church) one sure citerion that Jesus will use, and then there is a second selection, when He looks into our Heart?


A: LOL, what measure do *I* have? Jesus Christ knows this, and it is His right and ability to judge. That is what He precisely what He will do on the Day of Judgement. Perhaps then you can ask Him if he has a prioritized list He keeps in mind, as for me, I'll just focus on having faith, abiding as best I can, worshiping God, and asking for mercy. As for your question on the Creed, I've already answered this a few times now.


A: The demons know doctrine better than any of us, they even call Christ the Son of God. It is entirely possible to even acknowledge the station of Christ and still not abide in Him.

M: OK, so we will never really know, will we?


A: Wrong. I have already stated otherwise earlier.



M: Yes, definitely. I do see now that perhaps I should have used the word ‘view’ instead of ‘mental image’.


A; No - by world view I'm not talking about a mental image of the world. I'm talking about what we consider to be reality. I think you are still thinking of these concepts are working models, sort of like working models we had in science class for atoms and molecules - there were several ways to represent them, but that's all they were, representations for us to work with. We really believe in a reality solid enough that it can't be warped into the views of other religions and be called "the same thing, just different models".



A: Satan's work resulted in the fallen ego/insistent self you are referring to, but it is only one part of the picture. This again is a topic that I think an inquirer should bring up with a priest for a more in-depth conversation.

M: Well, my friend is a deacon now, and we’ll go on holidays together, so plenty of time to consult him ;-)


A: Perhaps my negative experiences make me not the right person to discuss these things with, perhaps your deacon friend would be a much better listening ear. He will certainly have more knowledge and experience than I do! Just look inside of yourself to make sure you are being sincere when you do consult with him, Martijn. I've experienced too much that disturbs me in the Baha'i Faith and community - and I was as guilty as anyone else until I started to back away from it. For example, it is kind of odd that suddenly Baha'i strangers are coming to this blog to keep "learning" (as I mentioned, I found this to be a stealthy teaching tactic among Baha'is, as well as an attempt to also manipulate a person's beliefs and views under the cover of "fellowship" or "learning"). And as Baha'is generally are nice people, I don't think we even truly realized the deceptive spirit at the heart of our efforts.

When I first resigned, all but one of my Baha'i friends abruptly stopped communicating with me period, the only ones left were the "online" Baha'is who were trying to bring me back or prove to me that I was wrong instead of letting me alone, all done with a smiling, "come let us reason together" attitude which would at times degenerate to an impatient "you obviously haven't thought enough about this". The few who actually could just let it alone were in the minority. This also happened to another friend of mine who decided to leave, she is very hurt by the fact that she is shunned now by "real life" Baha'is (I don't know about "virtual" Baha'is). I felt like I almost had my soul and my God stolen from me ontop of everything else, so needless to say, it was all kind of freaky.


In any case, all of this has made me quite wary of all things Baha'i. I will continue to respond to people (within reason) who want to ask me questions, but I would like to put out this disclaimer: The Baha'i chapter in my life is over - I'm not bait in the seeker pool anymore, and I'm not interested in meaningless feats of mental/verbal gymnastics, worship and repentence are more my thing now. Yes, it was an important part of the journey and I still reflect on it from time to time, but I find it much more worthwhile to place my energy and focus into my beautiful present and future with Christ. It would be nice if more people wanted to talk about that :-)

Okay, hopefully that disclaimer is not really necessary, but I needed to put it out there.

All the best to you too, I hope your conversations with your deacon friend will be fruitful :-)

Sincerely,
Anjali

Mishkin Berteig said...

Anjali, Martijn,

I have greatly enjoyed reading your discussion. I feel that I have learned a lot from it. I stepped away from this discussion because I felt I had nothing positive to contribute to it! In particular, I questioned my own motivations for engaging in the discussion.

Anjali, just for interest sake, I want to mention that I found this because on my customized Google news page, I have it bring up articles and blog posts that mention the Baha'i Faith.

Anjali, I did take a look at the references you provided. I read them carefully but honestly I just kept thinking to myself that the authors did not know how to put together a careful, logical argument (not saying that I can either!), and that their understanding of Baha'i Teachings was so different from mine that the points they were trying to make seemed ridiculous.

Anjali, I would like to commend you for your inspiring honesty. It is difficult to change something so fundamental as one's faith... except, of course, when you have found the Truth, as you have! I do not believe that I can "convert" you. And I do sincerely believe that I have learned from you. For example, I was not aware that the Church was the Body of Christ (and please correct me if I still have misunderstood it!)

There is a fundamental question which appears to be at the center of all this, and it is around the Claim of the Orthodox Church. I would not want to put precise words to that Claim, but I believe Anajali has articulated it a number of times so it does not need repeating. That Claim seems to be at odds with the Claim of Baha'u'llah. Certainly, the way that Anjali understands those two Claims they are mutually exclusive and has chosen to reject the Claim of Baha'u'llah. I do not (currently) see those two Claims as necessarily incompatible, and I admit that this is partly because I understand neither fully.

Anyway, I don't plan to say much more there, but I will continue to read any further comments and who knows... maybe something will inspire me to speak up again!

Martijn Rep said...

Dear Anjali

It looks like enough has been said. I hope you can bear with me one more time as I do still have something to get off my chest. It is this: I have not been trying to ‘win you back’, God forbid such a platitude. I have been very far away from the faith myself for years and thank God my friends were respectful and did not ‘try to win me back’.

Yes, as a stranger, I was triggered by your strong defense of the Orthodox Church and strong negative views of the Baha’i Faith after being affiliated with the latter for several years. I felt welcomed by you. I really wanted to understand, and have certainly learned much. When I tried to reflect back to you (‘summarize’) what I understood that you meant, it was because that is my way of checking whether I understood you well. It’s how I learn. Apparently I failed miserably more than once. Believe it or not, I was not trying to confuse, smoke-screen or otherwise use ‘mental tricks’ or anything like that. You did apparently experience at least some of my questions or statements in that way and at times questioned my sincerity. Be that as it may, I have learned from you and am grateful.

God is real, not just a concept or an interpretation, and can be approached and known and experienced as that reality. That, at the very least, is common ground. I may be far away, and you may be very close.

Blessings,

Martijn

Anjali said...

Dear Martijin and Mishkin,

I am sorry that I became suspicious a while into the exchange! As I said, some of my Baha'i past is very troubling to me, unfortunately, and I needed to be honest about how I was starting to get a little worried there. Please forgive me for any awkwardness that may have caused.

I do understand that coming from a non-Christian background (since I did too!) that it can be difficult to understand the nuances of some Orthodox views. Because it is not a reductionist/minimalist type of church, it is difficult to boil down "rules" without explaining important nuances. That is probably why it is difficult for you to reflect back accurately - you were trying your best, meanwhile I was seeing flashing warning signs that you weren't really reflecting back what I had said. Though the differencs may seem slight, if you keep following a trail of thought in a slightly different direction, you can end up quite far from the truth.

Add to all of this, the biggest issue of all - I am a baby Christian, and I don't feel qualified to explain these things. That is why I would prefer for people to follow up their interest by reading some good Orthodox books ("The Orthodox Church" by Bishop Kallistos Ware is excellent) or talking with clergy.

Another reason why I am cautious in my explanations is I want to be sure that people realize what is my opinion vs. what is the view of the Orthodox church. I think it would be all too easy for people to mistakenly assume what I have stated is the ORthodox view, when really I may be saying what little I know or think on a personal level...

For all these reasons (plus the fact that I am trying rather unsuccessfully to limit the amount of time I spend posting messages here:-) I try to explain things once, succinctly, and refer people back when they misunderstand. I don't like to go on and on in depth because I do not feel qualified to do so.

Like I said though, I understand it can genuinely be a little confusing to those who are unfamiliar with the Orthodox Church, so let me try to re-explain a few basics:

My sense is that while the Orthodox do believe we have been faithful to Christ and that Christ has been faithful to us, sending us the Holy Spirit to guide and develop our church and doctrines, we do not lord it over others as a result of us being "smarter", we just feel this way about our church due to our faithfulness to preserving teachings rather than continually changing things or eliminating things. So we believe that our church is as Christ wants it to be. However, that does not automatically mean that other churches are necessarily deprived of the Holy Spirit in some aspects or that others do not commune with Christ or have a saving relationship with Him. I always come back to the thief on the cross who was saved without being baptized into any church, before any church even existed. In this sense, I believe we have a broader view of who may be saved than just the Orthodox.

The fact that we believe the ORthodox church contains the true teachings of Christ does not mean that other churches do not have any true teachings. There are other churches that do indeed have some true teachings of Christ, but the fullness of Christian religion is found in the Orthodox Church (in our opinion). I personally would venture to say that we can find some degree of spiritual truths in various writings of religious figures or philosophers from around the world. But not the whole truth as revealed by Christ. As a Baha'i, you might read the scriptures of other religions while double checking against Baha'i teachings to see what you will come away with. In a similar sense, I would always use the Bible and Holy Tradition as my Golden Standard for truth and wisdom.

One pattern that may be worth noticing - it seems to me thus far that Orthodox are more concerned with knowing what we know about our own church, rather than making up theories on other churches. We know what we know, we don't make up theories on what we don't know. If we do, it may or may not be official teaching. Just because some Orthodox state an opinion doesn't mean that it is dogma. Some Orthodox will strongly feel one way or the other on these things. I personally think there are people in saving relationships with Christ all over the world, regardless of their church affiliation; some Orthodox will strongly disagree. But what we do agree on is that the fullness of Christianity, the church as Christ intended it, is to be found in the Orthodox church, despite our own human failings.

The questions on demons and on the final day of judgement - again, I only state a small amount of what I believe I have read, I do not venture outside of that to speculate or theorize more (as some of your questions may require further explanation) because I feel unqualified to do so. I think many things are a mystery to us, known to God, and we simply approach Christ with the faith of children. But again, many more things are probably known to clergy than to myself, so more in-depth questions would best be posed to clergy.

I hope that maybe I have cleared things up a little - but take it ALL with a grain of salt as I'm a newbie who never expected to be asked so many questions. As I said, I try to answer just the little that I feel confident that I know, and do not like to say much further than that, preferring to simply refer back to what I have already stated, and if further questions are present, send the seeker off to a priest :-)

Take care, and I hope that the Baha'i communities you are in are doing well.

~ Anjali

Anjali said...

A last note: Above, I focused on some confusion I thought I perceived from you concerning the Orthodox Church itself and preservation of doctrine, and membership in the body of Christ, being in communion with Christ. But another pattern of confusion I noticed was around the Holy Spirit - you asked if the effect of the Holy Spirit vs. demons were solely about belief, or if action were also affected. Of course, it could also affect action, or just state of being. For example, I read about a demon appearing to a young monk in the form of an angel - the demonic affect wasn't to make the monk believe differently concerning Christ, rather it was to have a detrimental spiritual affect, making the monk become a slave to spiritual pride.

Thirdly, we only talked about demons, rather than the evil that can come simply from our own egos. Overcoming this problem is a major focus of being Christian, and I would think for most that this struggle would be far more common and challenging than actually encountering a demonic presence.

As you can see, this conversation could probably go on for a very long time - there is just so much to explore if you are interested in learning a little more. But I would like to caution that I think to really understand, you need to spend time to get a real overview so that everything can be understood in context of everything else. I don't think Orthodox Christianity that can be completely summed up in one bulleted list. When I decided to become Orthodox, I felt almost the same as though I were trying to become Chinese or some other ethnicity/culture. Meaning, it is all-embracing, I knew that I was in for a lifetime of learning. It's not the type of thing where you just read a few pages that sum up some beliefs, sign your name, then that's it. It's a whole new world to explore.

Take care,
Anjali

Martijn Rep said...

Dear Anjali,

Thank you for your kind response and further explanation. From a newby Christian, I have learned a lot :-)

All the best,

Martijn

cathy b. said...

I have appreciated this post. I confess I haven't read all of the response and intend to get through it some day (but not promising!). Anjeli I really like the way you think, with a little more rigor than the average Joe. I'd like to chime in that I'm a Christian who was a Baha'i for nine years. I had many of the same disappointments that you describe although I wasn't as systematic in my shift from Baha'i to Christ. I simply stopped believing in Baha'u'llah and withdrew. Some years later Christ drew me to Him. Comparing the two religions is almost like apples and oranges. Using Protestant terms perhaps, but I see the Baha'i experience as works oriented and Christian as more faith involved. While Baha'is depend more on intellectual reasoning, I see my Christian experience as more of a relationship. But I don't think on these differences very often. I only became interested recently because my son wants to marry an Iranian Baha'i and I want to know how much giving my "permission" makes me a participant in my grandchildren not learning about Christ. I notice that the ex-Bahai voices on the 'net are rather few. Maybe because most of us have gotten on with our lives. But I'm grateful to find your voice articulating what I would so like to express. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I was born christian orthodox and I lived in this faith during a time when it was considered a crime against the state, then I became baha'i, now I am agnostic. Your story is touching and I am glad you are re-united with God. But here is a friendly word of caution: a box is a box is a box..... no matter the label. And a personal feeling - if there is a God I think He is laughing hard about everything we call 'reality', 'truth' and so forth...
Wishing you and your blog readers all the best.

Anonymous said...

I will look forward to reading your from 'Hinduism to Baha'i to Christian and back to Baha'i again' thread in the future.

It is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing.

Let the dead bury their dead.

There is a material body, and there is a spiritual body.

These Verses all suggest that 'life' and 'death' must not be understood solely in terms of physical life and death. Jesus' resurrection and ascent to heaven were not physical events. NASA leaves the atmosphere frequently but will never send astronauts to heaven.

Where exactly do you think heaven is? Jesus Christ is alive in heaven, but he didn't get there by floating out of the earth's atmosphere.

Anjali said...
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Anjali said...

Jesus Appears to His Disciples
19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
Jesus Appears to Thomas
24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."

26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

28Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

29Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." ~ John 20:19-29

How do you explain that body as not being physical, that there was not a physical resurrection of Jesus?

Though Paul speaks of a body of corruption vs. incorruption, the natural body vs. the spiritual body, he is not saying that both are not physical. Yes, the spiritual body is physical, as shown by Jesus' appearance to the disciples. The body we know now, a result of the fall, is not the same as the incorruptible body with which we will be resurrected. But both are physical. We will be raised in a spiritual body, one that cannot be corrupted/decayed, as Jesus demonstrated when He rose from the dead - but it is physical - just different from the physical bodies we now have.

By believing this, a Christian is not stating that there is not more to life than the physical body. But rather, Christians do believe the soul is not somehow elevated above the body either - man is BOTH soul and body combined.

**For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.** ~ 2 Timothy 4:3

Anjali said...

"I was born christian orthodox and I lived in this faith during a time when it was considered a crime against the state, then I became baha'i, now I am agnostic. Your story is touching and I am glad you are re-united with God. But here is a friendly word of caution: a box is a box is a box..... no matter the label. And a personal feeling - if there is a God I think He is laughing hard about everything we call 'reality', 'truth' and so forth...
Wishing you and your blog readers all the best."

....And a "personal feeling" is a personal feeling, is a personal feeling :-) Thank you for your well wishes, sorry I am late in replying :-)

Shannon said...

*standing ovation to all participants* I am an Orthodox inquirer with a close Baha'i friend, and googled "baha'i orthodox christianity" and stumbled upon this fascinating discussion. Thank you all so much for the illumination!

Anjali said...

Happy seeking, Shannon! :-)

Gabriela said...
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Gabriela said...
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Gabriela said...

Hi Anjali...I am catholic and I know Jesus since my early years...but I am in love with Him since couple of years ago..He is my savior...I have been looking into bahai faith coz I am in love with a bahai guy...I have been trying to understand it and I respect it...but Jesus already saved me and I am so happy..I love him...I think I don´t need anything else...He fulls my life of love...that´s why to believe in this faith doesn´t make sense to me...but I am agree that there is only one God...and the religion must to be the same for everyone...and I think I am getting into this travel about u talked u did into the religions...but my heart feel complete with Jesus...and I really believed Him...but I would like to talk to you more directly if it is possible...

God bless you...

Gaby

Anjali said...
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Anjali said...

Gabriela,

I am sorry you seem to be in a tough position! I have been in a similar position in the past, so I can relate. If you wanted to send me a private email, Mary has it and could pass it along to you...? I'm not sure how she could do that privately, as I am not familiar with blogs. But I can certainly be a listening ear and answer any questions you might have, here or in private.

It is wonderful to hear of the love you have for Christ, I am still discovering this more and more each day as a relatively new Christian still :-) This love that you have for Him is precious, the peace and love and fulfillment you feel in Him is priceless.

Gaby, just stay true and faithful to the Lord that you love, He will watch out for you! And cling to Whom He truly is, not what others try to revise Him to be. Then everything will work out for the best, that is, unto salvation :-) ~ Anjali

Gabita said...

Anjali...thank you so much for your answer...yes it´s a hard situation...but like u said..I trust God...I know He has the answers and our time is not His time...

I also believe in the power of a sincere prayer..so I ask you for one for me please...God to show me the way to take with this situation...

I don´t know who is Mary?! who can give me ur email?!...I´m very new in this blog thing too :P

God blessing you...

Gaby

Gabita said...

by the way...I am the same person...Gabriela and Gabita...
Regards!

Anjali said...

Mary is my friend from church, this is her blog - she's pretty good about keeping track of the messages :-) We'll see if she comes up with something. The only reason why I'm wary of posting my contact info publicly is because the last time I did this I had this strange guy start privately harassing me about joining his cult, believe it or not! lol :-)

ofgrace said...

Anjali, glory to God for your story! What an encouragement to me (though I'm a convert to Orthodoxy from Protestant Evangelical Christianity, it rings very true to me as well). Many years to you!

Thank you, Mary for posting this. I found it on the "Journey to Orthodoxy" site.