Our world consists of a multiplicity of religions that introduce us to a multiplicity of gods. Christians should not be the least bit surprised by this because the apostle Paul stated in I Corinthians 8:5 that there are many gods, even though he classified them as “so-called gods”, or in other words, ‘false gods’. Many of these false gods in the world of religions can be instantly identified as such including Allah in Islam or Osiris in ancient Egyptian pagan religions. Other false gods, however, often slip under the radar of both non-Christians and non-discerning Christians rather easily and are grossly mistaken to be the Christian God of the Bible. Walter Martin, the father of counter-cults ministries, described this as “the Kingdom of the Cults”,
An example of such a god who can be passed off as the Christian God of the Bible is Jehovah god of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jehovah god is defined by Jehovah’s Witnesses as beginningless and they quote from Psalm 90:2 to substantiate that claim (Reasoning from the Scriptures, p. 148). Also, Jehovah god is called the creator and designer of the universe and all forms of life, both material and immaterial (Reasoning from the Scriptures, p. 84). In spite of these rightful claims by Jehovah’s Witnesses concerning God, there are some stark differences between the God of the Christian faith and Jehovah god of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In this article we will, from Jehovah’s Witnesses own materials, identify the key teachings about Jehovah god. The topics which will be covered are (1. The nature of Jehovah god. (2. The attributes of Jehovah god. (3. The name of Jehovah god and its Salvific Power. In additional articles, we’ll deal with each of these three topics and compare them to Christian teaching and biblically and logically refute the Jehovah’s Witnesses false ideas of who God is.
The Nature of Jehovah god.
According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jehovah god is an immaterial spirit being. (Reasoning from the Scriptures, p. 147) Furthermore, they teach that there is only one God, but this god is not a triune or tri-personal being. Jehovah’s Witnesses vigorously reject the doctrine of the Trinity and label it as a false doctrine which was derived from Egyptian pagan thought, which made its way into the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E.
Historian Will Durant observed: “Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. . . . From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity.” And in the book Egyptian Religion, Siegfried Morenznotes: “The trinity was a major preoccupation of Egyptian theologians . . . Three gods arecombined and treated as a single being, addressed in the singular. In this way the spiritual forceof Egyptian religion shows a direct link with Christian theology.”
Thus, in Alexandria, Egypt, churchmen of the late third and early fourth centuries, such as Athanasius, reflected this influence as they formulated ideas that led to the Trinity. Their owninfluence spread, so that Morenz considers “Alexandrian theology as the intermediary betweenthe Egyptian religious heritage and Christianity.” (Should you Believe in the Trinity: How Did the Trinity Doctrine Develop? https://www.jw.org/en/library/books/Should-You-Believe-in-the-Trinity/How-Did-the-Trinity-Doctrine-Develop/. Accessed 29 November 2021.)
A simple and to the point argument made by Jehovah’s Witnesses against the doctrine of the Trinity is that the word “trinity” does not appear in the Bible ( You can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, p. 39) This argument, however, is followed up with “proof texts” to show that God is not triune, but supreme over Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The following are such “proof texts” from their New World Translation, followed by their interpretation and reasoning for the interpretation:
2. John 14:28: “You heard that I said to you, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I am.” “ THE Bible’s position is clear. Not only is Almighty God, Jehovah, a personality separate from Jesus but He is at all times his superior. Jesus is always presented as separate and lesser, a humble servant of God. That is why the Bible plainly says that “the head of the Christ is God” in the same way that “the head of every man is the Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) And this is why Jesus himself said: “The Father is greater than I.”—John 14:28, RS, Catholic edition.” (Should you Believe in the Trinity: Is God Always Superior to Jesus? https://www.jw.org/en/library/books/Should-You-Believe-in-the-Trinity/Is-God-Always-Superior-to-Jesus/ Accessed 29 November 2021.)
5. Acts 2:32: “God resurrected this Jesus, and of this we are all witnesses.” “Thus, the Almighty God and Jesus are clearly two separate persons.” (You can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth: God–Who is He? p.39.)
Before moving on it is important to know that according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jehovah god is supreme over the Holy Spirit because they do not identify Him as a person, but merely as god’s active force (Reasoning from the Scriptures, p. 380). Due to this understanding of who the Holy Spirit is, the claim of God having a triune nature is nullified.
The Attributes of Jehovah god
In the book You can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, Jehovah’s Witnesses describe Jehovah god as an intelligent creator with great power (p. 36). This description exalts Jehovah god as a magnificently and highly intelligent being who abounds with great power which he did put on display when Jehovah god created the heavens and the earth and all that’s within them. Jehovah god is also described as eternal who had no beginning of existence ( Draw Close to Jehovah, p. 12).
Interestingly though, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jehovah god is not omnipresent (everywhere present). In the section entitled Bible Questions Answered, Jehovah’s Witnesses explain their anti-omnipresence stance as following:
“God is able to see everything and to act anywhere he chooses. (Proverbs 15:3; Hebrews 4:13) However, the Bible does not teach that God is omnipresent—that is, present everywhere, in all things. Instead, it shows that he is a person and that he resides in a dwelling place.” (Bible Questions Answered: Is God Everywhere, Omnipresent? https://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/questions/god-omnipresent/ Accessed 29 November 2021.)
So according to them, Jehovah god can see everything, but not because he is omnipresent. Not only is Jehovah god not omnipresent, but he resides in a dwelling place: the spirit realm.(Bible Questions Answered: Is God Everywhere, Omnipresent? https://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/questions/god-omnipresent/ Accessed 29 November 2021.) This means then that, unlike the God of Christianity, Jehovah god is not spaceless (not limited to a spatial location), but is limited to a spatial location: the spirit realm; the heavens. In their own words, “God dwells neither on the earth nor elsewhere in the physical universe.” (Bible Questions Answered: Is God Everywhere, Omnipresent? https://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/questions/god-omnipresent/ Accessed 29 November 2021.)
The name of Jehovah god and its Salvific Power
No stronger emphasis is placed by Jehovah’s Witnesses than it’s placed on the doctrine of the divine and personal name of god: Jehovah. The logic behind such a heavy emphasis on knowing the name of god, Jehovah, is “if you want someone to get to know you, what might you do? Would you not tell the person your name? Does God have a name?” (What does the Bible Really Teach? p.12) According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jehovah god has littered the pages of Scripture with his name; approximately 7,000 times to be exact (You can Live Forever in Paradise Earth, p. 41). So why do you not see the name Jehovah littered throughout your translation of the Bible? This is due to later Bible translators removing the name Jehovah with either “God” or “Lord” in all capital letters. (Bible Questions Answered: Who is Jehovah? https://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/questions/who-is-jehovah/ Accessed 29 November 2021.)
You may ask, “why do Jehovah’s Witnesses place such strong emphasis on us knowing the name of their god? It’s not like one’s salvation depends on it. Right?” Well to the surprise of some of you, yes, for Jehovah’s Witnesses, knowing and using the name of Jehovah is critical to theirs and your salvation. In The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom in 1997 article entitled Salvation—What It Really Means, Jehovah’s Witness hold no punches about the essential link between salvation and the divine name of Jehovah, “Have you been taught to use God’s name, Jehovah? If not, your salvation is in jeopardy, for “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved”!—Acts 2:21;compare Joel 2:32.” Furthermore, if you do not use the name Jehovah, you cannot have a relationship with him, “So the only way anyone can come near to God and have a personal relationship with him is by knowing him by his name, Yahweh, or Jehovah, andby learning to use that name respectfully in worshiping him” ( The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom—1982). Thus, knowing and using the name Jehovah as god’s name is as vital for one’s salvation as oxygen is vital for human life.
Jehovah god has been Identified
As you can see (especially if you are a Christian), the Jehovah god of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is quite different from the God of biblical Christianity. As we have learned, Jehovah god is not a tri-personal or triune Being, but appears to be purely monotheistic in nature. Also, we learned that Jehovah god, while he’s a god of great power and intelligence, Jehovah god is not omnipresent, but is spatially limited to the spirit realm; the heavens. Lastly, we learned from Jehovah’s Witnesses that it is vitally important to know and use the divine name of Jehovah because our salvation and relationship with him depends on it. As mentioned at the beginning, the next three articles will biblically and logically examine the god of the Jehovah’s Witnesses as it’s been outlined: (1. The nature of Jehovah god. (2. The attributes of Jehovah god. (3. The name of Jehovah god and its Salvific Power. It is my hope and prayer you will follow along on this brief journey concerning Jehovah god of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Since the time of the late Dr. Walter Martin ( father of Counter-Cult apologetics), the ministry of Apologetics, particularly Christian Apologetics, had grown rapidly in leaps and bounds, but exploded after the death of Dr. Walter Martin in 1989. Apologetics found a home in various areas of studies ranging from theology to philosophy through which numerous apologists from numerous specialties and expertise ascended onto the scene. Renowned apologists such as William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, Ron Rhodes, Norman Geisler, and many others have made a major impact on the study and ministry of Christian apologetics like no other time in the history of the Christian Church.
Presently, apologetics is primarily promoted and practiced in the field of philosophy; particularly the philosophy of religion. Counteracting postmodernism/atheism’s rejection of the existence of God using philosophical arguments like the Kalam Cosmological argument, the Teleological argument, the Ontological argument, or the Moral argument as well as debunking moral relativism which, on the ethical side of philosophical apologetics, is quite challenging, seems to be the topical focus today. While it is important to deal with issues brought forth by atheists who are responsible for the steady increase (10% in the United States in 20211) of those who do not identify with any religion in the United States, there is still an area of apologetics that has been everything short of abandoned: counter-cult apologetics/cult apologetics. We must return to the ministry of counter-cult apologetics.
Before moving ahead however, the term ‘cult’ must first be defined. Dr. Walter Martin defined a cult as follows:
“By the term cult I mean nothing derogatory to any group so classified. A cult, as I define it, is any religious group which differs significantly in one or more respects as to belief orpractice from those religious groups which are regarded as the normative expressions of religion in our total culture.”2
In the case of Christianity, there are several cults that seek to identify with historic Christianity: Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the prosperity gospel/Word of Faith movement, and Oneness Pentecostalism, just to name a few. How exactly are they considered cults in light of Dr. Walter
Martin’s definition of a cult? These groups deny or depart from one or more of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith such as the dual nature of Jesus Christ (Christ as fully God and fully human- better known as the incarnation), the Triune nature of God, salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone apart from works, the existence of an afterlife (Heaven and Hell), the divine inspiration of the bible, etc. A denial or departure from any of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith will categorically place one outside the gates of Christianity and even on the wrong side of God relationally. This is serious business, but it seems far too many in the field of apologetics are not treating it as such.
Knowing now that a “Christian” cult is a group that denies or departs from one or more of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, what exactly is apologetics? Apologetics is defending and proclaiming the truth of the Christian faith. In I Peter 3:15 we are told to, “… sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” In Greek, the word for “defense” is apologia where we get our word apologetics.
Counter-cult apologetics is polemic in nature. The function of polemics, according to Dr. Norman Geisler, is to “argue against heresies within Christianity.”3 Unfortunately the polemic nature of apologetics is virtually absent today due to its head on confrontational approach as exhibited in the counter-cult ministry of Dr. Walter Martin. In order to do effective counter-cult
ministry, an apologist must be bold and willing to expose false doctrine biblically; even at the expense of being labeled “divisive” or “intolerant”.
Work in the field of counter-cult ministries seems to have diminished. When one thinks about counter-cult apologetics, fewer and fewer names come to mind. There is Sandra Tanner and her hard and faithful work in ministering to those in Mormonism and likewise Robert Bowman who has done significant work in the field of cult apologetics. Ron Rhodes, author of Reasoning from the Scriptures series which covers the doctrines and practices of Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Masons, Islam, and Roman Catholicism, is also a notable mention. His work has blessed me greatly in my study and work amongst the cults and I’ll be forever thankful to the Lord for it and him especially.
The question now is: where are our counter-cult apologists and ministries for today and for the future? From my observations, as one who considers himself a counter-cult apologist, the landscape is very quiet and the waters are motionless as Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the prosperity gospel/Word of Faith teachers continue undisturbed. Where are the watchmen who are supposed to be on the wall calling out false doctrine for the sake of protecting the health and stability of the Christian Church? The need for counter-cult apologists is needed just as much now as in the days of Dr. Walter Martin. Family members, co-workers, friends, and others are still being trapped into false brands of Christianity that are leading them down a hell-bound path of idolatry and other lies concerning the Christian faith.
Let’s look at some disturbing statistics for a moment. According to the Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Newsroom, there are approximately 16,565,036 Mormons, 399 missions, 30,940 congregations, and 167 temples in the entire world.4 9,419,307 Mormons, 173 missions, 18,256
congregations, and 110 temples are in the United States alone!5Is there a need for counter-cult apologetics and evangelism among the Mormons? I think so!
More disturbing statistics show that in the entire world, there are approximately 8,695,808 Jehovah’s Witnesses with a total of 120,387 congregations6. In the United States alone there are approximately 1,242,976 members and 12,355 congregations!7Is there a need for counter-cult apologetics among the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Indeed there is.
Finally, let’s look at what is considered the booming growth of Pentecostalism-Charismatics. While Pentecostalism and Charismatics are not all bad, there are plenty of the bad in both camps to raise great concern. In Pentecostal circles there are the Oneness Pentecostals who deny the doctrine of the Trinity and salvation in Christ alone by faith. Oneness Pentecostals holds to Modalism which teaches that Jesus manifested himself as the Father in Creation, Jesus himself in redemption, and the Holy Spirit in the Church today.8The booming growth of this brand of Pentecostal Christianity should cause great concern in the Christian Church; especially among our leaders, theologians, and apologists. According to Dr. Ed Stetzer in a 2014 interview with Christianity Today, “When I meet with Pentecostal leaders, they’re strategizing about where to plant a church. They break out the maps and determine where they need to focus their attention. Never mind there are already six churches in a 10-block community. To them, there’s not a Spirit-filled church in that community until they plant one. So they are often avid planters, not just in their own area, but also around the world.”9
In addition to concerns over the rapid growth in Oneness Pentecostalism, there is the ever-increasing concern with the doctrinal and theological compromise within much of the Church of God in Christ denomination where Bishop J. Drew Sheard presides. The Word of Faith theology, espousing New Age Metaphysical doctrines such as positive confession and the
like, has gained a strong foothold in this denomination throughout the United States. This compromise with positive confession came to a crescendo When the former presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake invited Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas to speak at COGIC 110th Holy Convocation in 2017. Joel Osteen preached his usual positive confession-laden message barely referencing the bible for his topic. You can go on YouTube to hear his entire message for yourself. As you can see, counter-cult apologetics is needed even amongst those who have been known to be doctrinally sound when it comes to the essential teachings of Christianity.
On the other side of this two-headed coin we have the charismatic movement which, under the guise of Christianity, has espoused some of the most blasphemous and heretical doctrines; such doctrines as: Jesus atoning for our sins in hell, the denial of the sovereignty of God (God needs our permission via prayer to operate in the earth), the little gods doctrines (Christians are little gods), etc. In times past, these doctrines were confronted and exposed biblically by Dr. Walter
Martin, D.R. McConnel, Hank Hanegraaf, and others, but today there seems to be an uncomfortable silence in the face of such teaching. One exception is Justin Peters who has devoted a great deal of his time and resources to exposing these teachers and teachings through his seminar which originally was entitled “A Call to Discernment”, but is currently entitled “Clouds without Water.” For the sake of those we love and know who are trapped in the prosperity gospel/Word of Faith movement, we must not remain silent. Being silent will not make them go away. Our silence will only embolden those who teach such errors.
So what will we do? Will we continue, whether intentionally and unintentionally, to ignore what Dr. Walter Martin called “The Kingdom of the Cults” or will we take the necessary time to know what we as Christians believe and why? Not knowing what we as Christians believe and why is the major problem that leaves many Christians vulnerable to the deception of the cults. Walter
Martin once said that, “Within the theological structure of the cults there is considerable truth,all of which, it might be added, is drawn from biblical sources, but so diluted with human erroras to be more deadly than complete falsehood.”10 The Christian who is ignorant of the essential
doctrines of the Christian faith are easy prey for the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other cultists to deceive and carry away. The only way to counteract their attacks is to know your bible and be ready to challenge their teaching in the light of Scripture. To be an effective witness to those you know and love in the cults, you must first know what you believe and why as a Christian and then know what they believe and why for the purpose of productive dialogue.
Thus, we must return to the ministry of counter-cult apologetics like in the days of old; which honestly was not that long ago. It is of urgency that we again increase in this area of apologetic and evangelistic ministry. The vast majority of the world is still religious despite the growing number of those who do not identify with a particular religion or religion at all. Jesus paints for us a tragic picture of judgement day when those who thought they knew and followed Jesus get the unpleasant surprise of finding out they weren’t. In Matthew 7: 21-23 we read, “Not everyonewho says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Yourname, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’And then I willdeclare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ This will be the tragic fate of those in the cults. We must return to counter-cult apologetics.
On January 23, 2021, the internationally recognized comedian Steve Harvey posted a video on his YouTube page which created quite a stir among Christians and a sense of delight among religious and spiritual inclusivists. Steve Harvey, recording his video from United Arab Emirates, a majority Muslim Persian Gulf nation where Islam is the official religion, made the bold claim that “There’s no one way to Heaven, no one way to paradise.” Steve Harvey went even further, comparing the so-called multiple pathways to heaven with a television with 800 channels:
“It’s like television; now there’s [sic] over 800 channels on cable, and they’re all pretty entertaining. So I’m pretty sure that to get to Heaven, there’s got to be more than one route. Because somebody watching another channel or taking another channel than you, they’re still getting entertained, and they’re probably still getting to Heaven.” (YouTube)
While I sincerely do not see the parallel between a television with 800 entertaining channels and their being multiple pathways to God, what is clear is that Steve Harvey is ‘pretty sure’ there are many roads to what one calls god.
As rightly expected, many Christians bum rushed social media to refute Steve Harvey’s claim by quoting such biblical passages such as John 14:6 where Jesus told his disciples in unabashed fashion, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (NKJV) Orthodox Christians strongly believe this because it came from the mouth of God incarnate (God in the flesh), so there is no reason to doubt what Jesus boldly said. Steve Harvey’s assertion, however, necessitates a deeper inquiry.
Universalism and Inclusivism
What Steve Harvey is ascribing to is none other than the age-old heresy of Universalism. Universalism, according to Britannica, is “the belief in the salvation of all souls.” This means that no matter what religion you are (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc.), you will go to heaven when you die. Universalists reject the idea of a god who would exclude any human being from going to heaven, and they especially and rigorously reject the biblical teaching that those who reject Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will spend eternity separated from God in the terrible torments of hell. Universalists cannot (or will not) reconcile the idea of a loving God and the existence of hell. The justice of God seems to be absent from Universalist thinking. Universalism solely focuses on the unconditional love of God.
Inclusivism, on the other hand, according to Lexico, is “The practice of trying to incorporate diverse or unreconciled elements into a single system.” In the case of religion, inclusivists seek to unite religions together under one religious umbrella, in spite of irreconcilable differences theologically and philosophically. This approach to religious diversity inescapably leads to Universalism.
Now that we have a working knowledge of Universalism/Inclusivism, a deeper inquiry into Steve Harvey’s assertion that there are many pathways to God can begin. I will set out to show first that Universalism/Inclusivism is logically and practically impossible and exclusivism is the Modus Operandi of every known religion with no exceptions. Secondly, that in reality, Universalism/Inclusivism is in fact exclusivist in nature, and finally, that while Steve Harvey talks good inclusion rhetoric; he is actually an exclusivist himself.
Universalism/Inclusivism: Logically and Practically Impossible
While the thought of Inclusivism seems noble and the thought of the possibility of such unity among religions as emotionally moving and heartfelt, sadly this is logically and practically impossible; here’s why. Every religion known to humanity is philosophically and theologically exclusive. Furthermore, they contradict each other in such areas as God, sin and humanity, and the afterlife. Contradictory statements cannot be true. For instance, certain religions believe that God is a Uni-personal Being. That is to say that God is one person. This is true of both Islam and Judaism. On the other hand, there are religions which are polytheistic in their view of god. In this case, polytheists believe in the existence of many gods. This includes Hinduism and Mormonism. In the case of the majority in Buddhism, they do not believe in the existence of any kind of gods. They’re atheist! In the case of Christianity, however, God is viewed as a Triune/ Tri-personal Being; one God who exists as three co-eternal and co-existing persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The contradictory ideas about God are glaring!
In the case of sin, humanity and salvation, every religion–with the exception of Christianity–holds to the idea that humanity is basically good by nature. In Christianity, humanity is born with a sin nature due to the moral and spiritual fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen.3; Romans 5:12). Due to this reality, Jesus Christ came to die on the cross and by His blood atoned for our sins (John 3:16; Col. 1:14, 19-20; I Peter 1:18-19). In other religions, such as Islam and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they teach that doing good works and following their respective religion’s teachings will hopefully (not certainly) grant entrance into paradise with God. Again, we see contradictions in the understanding of sin and humanity.
Even the idea of an afterlife has contradictory responses from every religion. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism believe in the existence of heaven and hell. Buddhism, however, believes in rebirths or what is commonly called reincarnation. The goal of Indian religions such as Buddhism is to attain Moksha, which is the liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. Thus, when a person dies, they die and cease to exist. Once more we see clear contradictions among different religions concerning the afterlife.
Overall, one can see that it is logically impossible for all roads to lead to heaven when the various roads actually lead us in various and contradictory directions and those roads will not ultimately get us to the same place. Especially in the case of Buddhism where there is no heaven or afterlife existence to look forward to. Furthermore, Universalism/Inclusivism is practically impossible because each religion has contradictory answers about who God is, sin, humanity and salvation, and what the afterlife will be like. This is so because each religion by nature is exclusive. Each religion believes they have the correct answers about reality (existence), the nature of humanity (anthropology), The Divine (God), and what happens after death (afterlife), and they believe that those religions whose answers are contrary to theirs is wrong. It’s that simple. Yes, it is true there is common ground religions share concerning what’s morally right and what’s morally wrong (ethics), but this alone is not enough to conclude that all roads lead to heaven. Subjects such as God, existence, sin, humanity, and salvation, and the afterlife are crucial topics of discussion and there is clearly no consensus shared among the various religions of the world about these subjects of vital significance.
Thus, this means that either one of the religions is the one true religion and the other religions are false or in the most perplexing case, all the religions of the world are wrong and we are left with either Agnosticism or Atheism; which neither one will lead us to any kind of an afterlife since one worldview is not sure if there is such a thing (Agnosticism) and the other outright denies such a thing (Atheism). Nevertheless, no matter from what angle a person approaches this, in the end all roads do not lead to heaven since they all theologically and philosophically contradict each other. Furthermore, each religion theologically and logically is exclusive because they believe that they alone hold the truth in the palm of their hands and the others don’t. Exclusivism is the Modus Operandi of the religions of the world.
Universalists/Inclusivists are actually Exclusivists
Universalism/Inclusivism as we have already seen makes the theological claim that everyone will be saved; regardless of one’s religious and philosophical convictions. Thus, they call on everyone from all the religions of the world to come together under the banner of religious unity. It is a call to inclusion. Inclusion, according to Dictionary.com, means “the act of including.” In other words, inclusivism seeks to include all and to exclude none. Religious inclusivism seeks to include all religions under the banner of religious unity, and excluding none; for to do so would be the opposite of inclusivism.
In light of this understanding of religious inclusivism, an important question must be asked: Do inclusivists include or exclude exclusivists from their call to inclusivism? Logically speaking, religious inclusivists, like the Universalists, and exclusivists, like Christians, cannot co-exist harmoniously because religious inclusivists include all religious roads to heaven while Christians claim that the Jesus of the Christian faith is the only way to heaven (John 14:6). So since the goal of religious inclusivism and is to unite like-minded inclusivists, it is only logical to conclude that religious inclusivists must exclude exclusivists like Christians who do not share in their inclusion agenda. For religious inclusivists to invite religious exclusivists to join their cause would be a recipe for disaster. Therefore, religious inclusivists are not really religious inclusivists, but rather they are actually religious exclusivists, since they must exclude religious exclusivists from their cause. So since religious inclusivists are religiously exclusivists about religious exclusivists, then religious inclusivists can no longer be considered religious inclusivists.
Steve Harvey the Exclusivist
Now that the factual realization has been established that there is actually no such thing as a religious inclusivist or a Universalist for that matter, then we must rightfully conclude that comedian Steve Harvey is not a Universalist/Inclusivist, but is himself an exclusivist. Wow! Isn’t that funny?! In his own words, Steve Harvey excludes the possibility of there being only one way to heaven. Remember, Steve Harvey said, “There’s no one way to Heaven, no one way to paradise.” That is an exclusive claim. He is excluding the belief of there being only one way to heaven. Thus, Steve Harvey is an exclusivist who excludes anyone who is not on board with religious inclusivism and Universalism.
It is sad that comedian Steve Harvey has chosen to embrace Universalism/Inclusivism. It is sad because I believe Steve Harvey knows better than this. Why? Because his mother was a devoted Christian woman. According to Steve Harvey, his mother instilled godly principles in him and his siblings. I think I can rightly assume that from the lips of his mother Steve Harvey heard the wondrous gospel of Jesus Christ who came from heaven to earth to die a criminal’s death on the cross for our sins; even though He committed no sin (II Corinthians 5:21). He heard from the lips of his mother that three days later after Jesus death on the cross, He rose triumphantly from the dead conquering sin and death. From those same precious lips Steve Harvey heard his mother tell him what he needed to do in order to be saved from sin and hell and that only Jesus could do so.
Mr. Steve Harvey, only Jesus could dare to proclaim, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus backed up His exclusive claim by not only dying on the cross for the sins of humanity (which includes you), but by rising bodily from the dead and victoriously and boldly asking “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”(I Corinthians 15:55) Mr. Steve Harvey, Jesus Christ now has the undeniable right to make that claim; both as the risen Savior of all humanity and as God Himself in human flesh. Jesus Himself said in John 5:22-23, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”
Do you claim to honor God the Father? If you do, you must also honor God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Otherwise you do not honor the God who has committed all judgment to His Son. One day, Jesus will be your judge on Judgement Day. Are you ready to meet your God? I and every Christian are praying that you will turn from your sins and make Jesus the Lord and Savior of your life before death takes you from this earth to a Christless eternity in the torments of hell.
“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24, as spoken by Jesus Himself)
Those who are well acquainted with the kingdom of the cults are very much aware that every cult organization contradicts one or more of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. The essential doctrines of the Christian faith that are most often and intentionally under attack are: the deity of Jesus, the atonement, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the triune nature of God, justification by faith, and the authority of the Bible. In the case of the Jehovah’s Witnesses this would also include the personhood of the Holy Spirit.
According to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the Holy Spirit is not a person, as historic Christianity has always taught, but a force. The online glossary of the Jehovah’s Witnesses website defines the Holy Spirit as:
“The invisible energizing force that God puts into action to accomplish his will. It is holy because it comes from Jehovah, who is clean and righteous to the highest degree, and because it is God’s means to accomplish what is holy.”1
In other words, the Holy Spirit is simply “God’s active force.”2 But is this true? Does the Bible and reason lead to a belief in the impersonal nature of the Holy Spirit? This article will investigate the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ claim of the impersonal nature of the Holy Spirit and see if it can biblically and logically hold its ground. Better yet, let’s also see if their claim can hold its ground in the face of their own Bible translation: The New World Translation. If the New World Translation, alongside our Holy Bible, affirms the personhood of the Holy Spirit, then the Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrine of the impersonal nature of the Holy Spirit collapses under its own weight.
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ first argument against the personhood of the Holy Spirit, which they would also consider to be their strongest argument against the personhood of the Holy Spirit is that the Holy Spirit “is spoken of as ‘filling people’, they can be ‘baptized’ with it; and they can be ‘anointed’ with it. None of these expressions would be appropriate if the Holy Spirit were a person” 3 Unfortunately, this anonymous writer failed to explain why the use ofthese expressions are inappropriate if the Holy Spirit is a person. We are expected to assume the writer has made a rational case against the personhood of the Holy Spirit, however, that will not suffice. Further elaboration is required in order to establish a sound case against the personal nature of the Holy Spirit.
Why isn’t it possible for the Holy Spirit, as a person, to perform acts such as filling, baptizing, and anointing individual believers with Himself? In Christianity, the Holy Spirit is omnipresent (everywhere present) due to His very nature being God. God is omnipresent, and since the Holy Spirit is by nature God, then the Holy Spirit is omnipresent. It is therefore not a problem for the Holy Spirit, as a person, to perform acts of filling, baptizing, and anointing individual believers with Himself since the Holy Spirit is not spatially limited (i.e. a physical body).
Interestingly, the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not seem to take in consideration that even Jehovah (God) also fills all things, but yet is Himself a person. In Ephesians 4:6b God is …”who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (NKJV Bible) In this verse we are told by the apostle Paul that God is in all believers in Jesus Christ. How? Through the Holy Spirit who is by very nature God. Even the New World Translation attests to this, “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (NWT) How is it possible for Jehovah God to be in all (believers) and yet be a person? Could it be because Jehovah God is simultaneously a person and omnipresent? Of course it is. Thus, the Holy Spirit, who can perform the acts of filling, baptizing, and anointing individual believers is also simultaneously a person and omnipresent.
Another argument Jehovah’s Witnesses use against the personhood of the Holy Spirit is the personification argument. This argument posited by the Jehovah’s Witnesses states that when we read in the Bible of the Holy Spirit “speaking”, “hearing”, “bearing witness”, “teaching” or being called our “helper”, these are mere personifications; not to be taken literally. 4 Granted, it is true that the Bible does use personifications in certain instances. For example, Luke 7:35 speaks of wisdom having children, “But wisdom is justified by all her children.” Obviously, wisdom cannot bear children because wisdom is just a word, not a person. Another example is Romans 5:14, 21 which speaks of sin, death, and grace reigning. Again, it is obvious that sin, death, and grace are not personal entities, only words. Can this argument, therefore, rationally stand its ground? Three traits that can be ascribed to persons are the ability to: speak, teach, and bear witness.
In Acts 13:2 we read, “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Jehovah’s Witnesses will argue that in cases where the Holy Spirit is said to be speaking, this “was done through angels or humans.”5 In this verse, however, it is not the case. The subject is the Holy Spirit and the action performed by the subject is the action of speaking. Nothing in this verse tells us the act of speaking was done through either an angel or human. The Holy Spirit spoke to certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen (verse 1). After the time of prayer and fasting, these prophets and teachers obeyed the Holy Spirit’s command and laid hands on Barnabas and Saul (Paul), prayed for them and sent them on their way (verse 3). Therefore, since there was no mediator to convey the message to set aside Paul and Barnabas for the assigned mission work, we can rationally conclude that the Holy Spirit spoke directly to the prophets and teachers. This is only possible if the Holy Spirit is a person.
In John 14:26 it states, “ But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” In the New World Translation it basically says the same thing, “But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you.” (NWT)
So what comes with being able to teach? To be able to teach, one must: a. have a mind; b. have knowledge which require a mind; and c. have the ability to intelligently communicate knowledge. Can an impersonal entity, such as a force, possess mind, knowledge, and communication skills? No, absolutely not, but a person can. In the New World Translation, Jesus states, “….that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you.” demonstrating that human persons have minds. In order to be able to bring any teaching of knowledge back to one’s remembrance, one must have a mind in order to do so. Hence, only persons have minds which can and do possess knowledge and thus can teach. The Holy Spirit is able to teach–which requires a mind and knowledge–therefore, the Holy Spirit must be a person.
Lastly, in the New World Translation, John 15:26 states, “ When the helper comes that I will send you from the Father, the spirit of the truth, which comes from the Father, that one will bear witness about me” What is it to bear witness of someone? To bear witness is to affirm or ascribe to a person’s character or philosophy of life as is the case of the Holy Spirit concerning Jesus here in John 15:26. Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit will bear witness to His (Jesus) character and teachings.
Can a force bear witness of anyone? No, but a person can. In Exodus 20:16 of the Ten Commandments, it says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Who is being commanded not to bear false witness against their neighbor? Human persons. Human persons are commanded not to bear false witness against their fellow human person. Only persons have the ability to either bear true or false witness against their neighbor; which indicates that a person can be either moral or immoral. To bear true witness is moral and to bear false witness is immoral. What kind of witness does the Holy Spirit bears about Jesus? The Holy Spirit bears true witness to the person and teachings of Jesus Christ because the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. (John 16:13) Since the Holy Spirit truthfully bears witness to the person and teachings of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is not only a person, but a moral person, and not just a moral person, but a perfectly moral person because the Holy Spirit is God and God is the only one who is morally perfect.
The final argument that Jehovah’s Witnesses use in opposition to the personhood of the Holy Spirit is that since the Holy Spirit does not have a personal name, then the Holy Spirit is not a person. They indirectly imply this argument by saying, “the Holy Scriptures tell us the personal name of the Father–Jehovah. They inform us that the Son is Jesus Christ. But nowhere in the Scriptures is a personal name applied to the Holy Spirit.” 6 First off, a much needed correction is to be made: Jesus Christ is not His personal name. Jesus is His personal name and Christ means “anointed one” or “Messiah”. Thus, the personal name of the Son of God is Jesus, who is the Messiah. With that said, let us continue.
Is this argument set forth by the Jehovah’s Witnesses rational and thus, valid? No, this argument is actually irrational because it implies that personhood does not exist unless one has a personal name and that is just not the case. In actuality, this form of reasoning runs into a lot of problems and absurdities. Think about it. How many people do you know have given personal names to things like animals and cars? Clara may call her dog Rex and Bill may call his car Betsy, but is Rex the dog and Betsy the car now considered persons because they possess personal names? Of course not. That would be absurd!
Being a person entails more than just having a personal name. Descriptively, a person is one who has mind, will, and emotions. The Holy Spirit has a mind (Romans 8:27), will (I Corinth. 12:11), and emotions (Eph. 4:30). An impersonal force– whether active or not–does not and cannot possess the personal qualities of mind, will, and emotions. These personal qualities are only reserved and possessed by personal beings.
Furthermore, this line of reasoning also creates an unpleasant moral conflict for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jehovah’s Witnesses are ardently pro-life and thus opposes abortion; which is a wonderful thing. The moral conflict for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, comes into play when applying their line of reasoning concerning personal name equaling personhood to the issue of abortion. The problem is as follows:
If one is not a person unless they have a personal name, then abortion becomes perfectly justifiable. Why? because an unborn baby does not possess a legal personal name. This personal name is not legalized until the baby is born and the personal name is printed on the birth certificate. Parents can and do name their unborn babies in advance all the time, but that personal name is useless and therefore meaningless until the baby is born and the personal name is printed on the birth certificate. Abortion would be perfectly justifiable until the baby is born and named, if we were to apply the Jehovah’s Witnesses line of reasoning concerning personal name equaling personhood. This would of course be morally horrific and I’m sure Jehovah’s Witnesses would agree. So if we cannot apply this line of reasoning to abortion (and we shouldn’t), then there is no rational reason to apply this line of reasoning when it applies to the argument opposing the personhood of the Holy Spirit. It is not a rational or realistic argument against the personhood of the Holy Spirit and it therefore should be undoubtedly rejected.
The Holy Spirit is a Person
We can conclude that the Holy Spirit is indeed a person. Through the testimony of the Bible and sound reason, there should be no doubt that the Holy Spirit consists of the traits and attributes of personhood. Unlike a force, the Holy Spirit–like any other person–has a mind, which gives Him the ability to speak and teach. He (the Holy Spirit) has a will, which gives Him the ability to willfully choose to set aside people for ministry work. The Holy Spirit has emotions and can be grieved, which only a person can express.
Despite the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ claim of the Bible using personified language, when it comes to the Holy Spirit speaking, teaching, and bearing witness, we have seen this to be an irrational position to take. Both our Bible and the Jehovah’s Witness bible–the New World Translation–along with the tools of logic and rationality shows that this is not and cannot be personified language, but literal language which articulates that the Holy Spirit is in fact a person, and not a force.
We have seen that even though the Holy Spirit fills, baptize, and anoint believers of Jesus Christ, He (the Holy Spirit) can still be a person because God, as a person, also fills believers with Himself. This is affirmed both in our Bible and the New World Translation. Unfortunately, the Jehovah’s Witnesses fail to give an explanation of why these expressions of actions by the Holy Spirit are deemed inappropriate. They seem to assume we will just mindlessly accept their presupposition without question; but thinking individuals like us cannot allow these claims to go unquestioned. We require them to clarify their claim in order to better understand the argument they are setting forth.
Finally, we have seen that it is logically absurd and even morally dangerous to argue that the Holy Spirit is not a person due to Him lacking a personal name. We saw how absurd it was because no one would say a dog named Rex or a car named Betsy is a person due to it having a personal name. Further, we saw how this line of reasoning puts the Jehovah’s Witnesses in a moral dilemma. If reasoned that one is not a person until they have a personal name, then abortion becomes justifiable since a baby does not legally receive their personal name until the baby is born. Thus, termination of the baby in the mother’s womb would not be wrong. Jehovah’s Witnesses would find this to be horrific since they are pro-life.
The Holy Spirit is a person. He is by very nature God Himself as the third person of the Holy Trinity. He is, as God is, omnipresent, omniscience, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the bible and because of Him we have the blessing of reading about the person and ways of God. He seals us as Christians for the day of redemption. (Eph. 4:30) He gives us spiritual gifts as He wills for service in the church; locally and worldwide (I Corinth. 12:4-11) and so much more. This is the person: The Holy Spirit of God.
Let us remember that every worldview-not just Christianity’s-must give an explanation or an answer for evil and suffering…this is not just a problem distinctive to Christianity. It will not do for the challenger just to raise the question. This problem of evil is one to which we all must offer an answer, regardless of the belief system to which we subscribe—Ravi Zacharias1
Evil has been a subject matter long discussed and debated. Dialogues and deliberations concerning evil have ranged across all academic and non-academic platforms. Various explanations of the origin, function, and even the reality of evil has formulated many religious, philosophical, and theological ideas. Of course, not all of these explanations about the problem of evil are in agreement, but in fact contradict one another; yet they each vie for your mind. As human beings we know (at least we should know) contradictory truth claims cannot all be equally true. Either all of the truth claims are false, or one of the truth claims is in fact true. Never have and never will contradictory truth claims be equally true.
As we are bombarded daily with a smorgasbord of ideas about what evil is (and isn’t), how do we decide which view of evil is in fact true? Remember in my last blog The Necessity of Truth, truth was defined as that which corresponds with reality. Using this working definition of truth, what view or understanding of evil best fits everyday reality? This question must be approached objectively in order to arrive at an accurate answer. It is my hope one will do so in order to accurately interpret the immoral behaviors of the world in which we live.
Evil in a Maze of Definitions
Normally when a person thinks of the word evil, one’s mind think of an act which is considered evil; whether it be murder, rape, theft, etc. How many, however, actually think about what evil itself actually is apart from any act of evil? To be absolutely honest, most don’t think that deeply about evil. We simply condemn an act of evil and keep it moving, but this way of approaching the topic of evil is not good enough. Anybody with a sound mind from any worldview can condemn an evil act, but how do those of differing worldviews interpret those evil acts? These various interpretations of an evil act are grounded in how that particular worldview defines evil. Let’s look at some definitions for evil.
According to the second largest religion in the world, Islam teaches “that whatever takes a person away from God, and thus incurs His anger is evil.” (Good and Evil in Islam) So evil is that which incurs the anger of Allah (God), but how can we know what actions incurs the anger of Allah? The answer is that we can’t know because “The Qur’an clearly states that God is the only authority in defining good and evil.” (Good and Evil in Islam) Hence, Sura 2: 216 says,
“Fighting has been enjoined upon you while it is hateful to you. But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.
Yes, it is true that people can hate something that is good for their all-around well-being (God) and love something that is bad for their all-around well-being (drugs), but is it true we cannot know what those good and evil behaviors are apart from Allah? No, this is not true and any non-Muslim would reject this claim; whether they are religious or not. If, according to the Islamic definition of evil, only Allah knows what is evil and one can’t know for themselves what behaviors incur the anger of Allah apart from Allah, then one cannot truly know what evil is. Thus, the Islamic definition of evil is insufficient.
At first glance, the topic of Buddhism and the problem of evil can seem pretty complex, but the deeper one studies this topic, the clearer things begin to get. The Buddha, Gautama Buddha, is quoted as saying the following about what evil is,
“What is evil? Killing is evil, lying is evil, slandering is evil, abuse is evil, gossip is evil, envy is evil, hatred is evil, to cling to false doctrine is evil; all these things are evil. And what is the root of evil? Desire is the root of evil, illusion is the root of evil.”
First, the Buddha answers the question of what is evil by giving us a list of behaviors which one would agree are in fact evil: killing, lying, slandering, abuse, gossip, envy, hatred, and false doctrine. Then the Buddha asks a follow-up question: What is the root of evil? Gautama Buddha’s answer: Desire and illusion. The Buddha gives us this answer because according to Buddhist ethics, desire and illusion are what brings about suffering. Deep within our minds we crave or desire things which we think will satisfy us and “…this thirst or craving takes different forms: craving for the objects of the senses, for existence and non-existence.”2
Consequently, our desire for these things and more give us the illusion that they can bring about our satisfaction, but in actuality “It is the cause of suffering because it can never be finally satisfied.”3 In other words, according to Buddhism, desire is evil because it leaves us with the illusion that obtaining our desire for things like objects of the senses will bring about satisfaction when in reality it won’t. It’s just an illusion and is therefore evil since such satisfaction is not obtainable. Thus, we are left with a “… mind that is unhealthy, harmful, based on ignorance, and resulting in suffering.” (Good, Evil, and Beyond)
So is desire the root of evil? No, it is not. There are plenty of desires which are not evil. Even in Buddhism there are desires which Buddhists have, though they wouldn’t dare admit it. For example, is not becoming a monk a desire? Otherwise, what would motivate a Buddhist to become one? The logical answer is desire. One other example: Why should a Buddhist be concerned about reaching nirvana? Is it not because a Buddhist desires to break free from the continuous cycles of rebirths (reincarnation)? Of course it is. So then, the Buddhist understanding of evil is not only insufficient, but unlivable as well.
New Age Movement
Perhaps one unexpected addition to this discussion about evil is the New Age Movement, but like any other worldview, the New Age Movement has its own view about what evil is. In New Age thought, good and evil are relative. This means that New Agers do not believe that there is such a thing as moral principles or moral laws which humans must abide by. There are no moral absolutes. There is no clear cut category of which behaviors are good and which behaviors are evil. This is known as moral relativism.
At the core of New Age ethics is love. Love, according to New Age thought “is something like a Force in that it is basically neither good nor evil.By love they do not mean a voluntary act of compassion for another individual.”4 Love instead is an impersonal binding force which brings all people and things together.5 Thus, love is “…the energy which makes humanity one.”6 It is only on a lower level of existence where there is a distinction between good and evil, yet still there are no moral absolutes, but only voluntary acts.
Famous actress and high profile New Age representative Shirely MacLaine was clear about her moral relativism. She stated unabashedly in her book Dancing in the Light that “We are not under the Law of God. We are the Law of God. We are God.”7 In other words, since we are God, we are a law unto ourselves and “until mankind realizes there is, in truth, no good, and there is, in truth, no evil, there will be no peace.”8 My question here is: Is it true that there is no good and there is no evil? Is MacLaine making an absolute truth statement about the non-existence of good and evil? If not, her statement is relative, and therefore meaningless.
As we have seen, the New Age Movement is in no position to give us a definition for evil, since they reject the existence of evil, as well as good. Morality is relative. New Agers like Shirely MacLaine, however, contradict their own moral relativism. Is it good not to be under the Law of God? Is it good to be God ourselves? Instead, could it be evil to claim to be God? Is it true that there is no good and evil? To answer either yes or no to any of these questions will affirm the reality of absolute truth. The only way for a New Ager to avoid this problem and maintain relativism is to remain speechless and letter-less for a lifetime.
So can Christianity give us a solid definition and understanding of evil? Christianity’s definition and understanding of evil is given and explained both philosophically and theologically. Let’s start with the philosophical definition of evil. Christian philosophers and apologists define evil as the absence of good. They argue that evil is not a stand-alone substance or entity in the same way good is. An illustration of this argument is found in the nature of light and darkness. Light is a stand-alone substance. Light cannot be diminished by anything; especially as it pertains to light from the sun. A cloudy day does not diminish the light from the sun and plunges us into total darkness; we may not see the sun rays from the sun, but we still continue to experience the light coming from the sun.
On the other hand, however, darkness like what we experience at night does not remain regardless of atmospheric changes. When the sun appears in the morning, does the darkness of the night remain? No, it doesn’t remain. The darkness is diminished by the light of the sun. When the sun goes down in the evening, the darkness appears again. The existence of and non-existence of darkness is determined by the presence or lack of presence of the sun.
In a similar way, like darkness, evil does not stand alone in the way good stands alone. Just like darkness indicates to us that there is a lack or deprivation of light, so evil indicates to us that there is a lack or deprivation of good. Darkness is not a deprivation of light, for to say that it is to imply that darkness is a stand-alone substance, which clearly isn’t the case. Evil is not a stand-alone entity either like good is. This is so because good and goodness flows from the very nature of God. Good is a stand-alone substance since its existence is contingent upon God. Evil on the other hand does not flow from the nature of God for “… in Him is no darkness at all.” (I John 1:5) Hence, evil is not a stand-alone substance since it has no object of contingency.
Medieval Christian philosopher Augustine in his classic work Confessions spoke in depth about evil not being a stand-alone substance like good is a stand-alone substance. Augustine said,
“So then, if they are deprived of all good, they will be nothing at all. Therefore, as long as they exist, they are good. Accordingly, whatever things exist are good, and the evil into whose origins I was inquiring is not a substance, for if it were a substance, it would be good.”9
In other words, any existing thing or substance is good for it comes from God; for good flows from His nature. Evil has no substance and is the deprivation of good, thus it is nothing at all. Augustine’s own pronouncement on evil, “For you evil does not exist at all…”10 Evil then, according to Christian philosophy, is the deprivation of good. Now we must attempt to link this philosophical definition of evil with the biblical/theological definition of evil. If done, then Christianity has the proper definition of evil which accurately corresponds with everyday reality.
According to the Bible in I John 3:4, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” “Wait a minute!” one may say, “this verse is talking about sin, not evil.” True, but interestingly, sin is a synonym for evil. Since this is so, the verse can be read as following “…for evil is the transgression [breaking] of the law.” [Emphasis mine] The Greek word here for sin is parabasis. Parabasis, according to the Moody Handbook of Theology, means “overstepping, transgression.”11 Therefore, sin (evil) is the overstepping of God’s Law. We overstep or break God’s Law by failing to do what is good according to what God’s standard of good is.
God’s Law says, “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13) To murder is to bring about the death of a human being, which results in the deprivation of life. Life is good, but the deprivation of life is evil. God’s Law also said, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16)To lie to someone is to deprive them of the truth. Truth is good, but the deprivation of truth is evil.
Do you see the connection between the philosophical definition of evil as presented by Christian philosophers like Augustine and the biblical/theological definition of evil? Furthermore, the definition of evil given by Christianity does in fact correspond with reality. In light of the acts of racial injustices that are taking place in the United States, we know from this that justice is good, but its deprivation (injustice) is evil. Racial equality is good, but its deprivation (racism) is evil. Therefore, Christianity has the precise definition of evil for it perfectly corresponds with the reality we experience daily.
Who Puts Evil in its Proper Place
In conclusion, we have examined some definitions for evil as given by Islam, Buddhism, the New Age Movement, and Christianity. Islam told us evil is that which incurs Allah’s anger, but then tells us we cannot know what is good and evil apart from the knowledge of Allah. Humans, however, can and do know what behaviors are good and evil apart from a divine being.
Buddhism teaches that desire and craving are evil for they bring about the illusion that we’ll obtain satisfaction from those things we desire and crave, when in actuality they won’t and that is evil. The problem is, however, Buddhist do express desires such as being monks and/or reaching nirvana. Otherwise why pursue these things?
In the New Age Movement, we are taught that good and evil are relative, for there are no objective moral values. Is it good to not be under the Law of God as Shirely MacLaine said? Is it good or evil to say we are gods? As we have come to realize, objective and absolute moral truth claims cannot be avoided.
Finally, in Christianity we learn that evil by definition is the deprivation of good. Also, evil is the transgression of the Law of God, which is the deprivation of keeping and honoring God’s Law. It is with Christianity that we find the precise definition of evil for it corresponds with our everyday experience of evil; both from without and from within. Through the Christian worldview we can know what evil is and there is no need to look any further than Christianity. Through the lenses of the Christian faith evil is put in its proper place.
(1) Ravi Zacharias, Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2007), p.182.
(2) Rupert Gethin, The Foundations of Buddhism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p.70.
(3) Ibid., p. 70.
(4) J. Yutaka Amano & Norman Geisler, The Infiltration of the New Age (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1989), p. 137.
(5) Ibid., p. 137.
(6) Benjamin Creme, The Reappearance of the Christ and the Masters of Wisdom (North Hollywood, Calif.: Tara Center, 1980), 123.
(7) Shirley MacLaine, Dancing in the Light (New York: Bantam, 1985), p. 247.
(8) Ibid., p. 342.
(9) Augustine, Confessions (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 124-25.
(10) Ibid., p. 125.
(11) Paul P. Enns, Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody Press, 1989), p. 310.
Peace if possible, truth at all cost–Martin Luther
Since the beginning of creation, truth has been under attack by ardent opposition. God (the Creator of all things) has no equal and shares His glory with no one (Isaiah 40:25; 42:8), yet Lucifer, In Isaiah 14:12-14, egotistically sought equality with God his Creator and was evicted out of heaven. Even after being evicted from heaven, Lucifer (Satan) continued his attacks against truth in the Garden of Eden. God commanded Adam in Genesis 2:15-17, not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or else he would surely die. Satan however, (the Father of lies-John 8:44) sowed seeds of doubt in the mind of Eve by telling Eve, “…You surely will not die. For God knows that on the day you eat of it your eyes will be open and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5) Adam and Eve believed the lie of Satan and partook of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Just as Lucifer (Satan) was evicted from heaven for coveting equality with God, even so, God also evicted Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden for falsely believing the same thing and, as a result, sin permeates all of humanity.
The necessity of truth is paramount especially in our day and age. During a time in our society where subjectivism and relativism have gained prominence, more than ever before, the Christian church must rise to the challenge of proclaiming the truth, which emanates from the very essence and nature of the Triune God. Tragically however, while the truth is proclaimed and taught within the Christian community amongst one another, there are not nearly enough Believers proclaiming and teaching the truth outside the Church community. Do we fear the objections we may receive if we proclaim the truth to those of different worldviews? We as Christians must not fear, but speak the truth in love to those across religious and philosophical landscapes. The question is: How much do we as Christian value truth? Do we really know what truth is and its impact on us and the Christian worldview? This article seeks to answer these questions for the purpose of cultivating a renewed love for truth and the Author of truth. If achieved, we can, with confidence, rise up with boldness and counter any truth claim that raises its ugly head against the knowledge of God. (II Corinthians 10:4-5)
What is Truth?
The question of “What is truth?” has been asked throughout history. During the trial of Jesus before Pontus Pilate, Pilate asked Jesus if He was a king. Jesus answered him, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37) “Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) Too often this response to Jesus’ claim is overlooked by the average Christian, but warrants our undivided attention. Unfortunately Pilate failed to stick around to hear the answer.
What exactly is truth? Jesus answers this in John 17:17, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” According to Jesus, God’s word is truth and since Jesus bears witness to God’s truth (John 18:37), we can be certain that God’s word is truth. “Wait!” says the Skeptic, “Just because Jesus said so, doesn’t necessarily mean it is so. What about the truth claims of other worldviews and religions? What makes your worldview and religion so exclusive?” In order to answer these objections raised by Skeptics, we must dig deeper in further defining what truth is.
Most philosophers define truth as, “That which corresponds to or adequately expresses what is real.”1 In other words, truth is that which corresponds with reality. For example: All single people are unmarried. This is a true statement about single people which corresponds with reality. There isn’t any such thing as a single married person. There may be married individuals who live like they’re single, but in reality he/she is still married. A biblical example of the definition of truth is as follows:
“For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (II Timothy 3:3-4)
Is it not true that all these sinful character traits correspond with reality? Do you know of anyone who holds grudges easily? Do you know someone who goes into a fit of rage easily? Or do you know someone at work who constantly speaks negatively of their co-worker or boss? If we are honest with ourselves, we all know individuals who fit several of these traits. Since there are people who have one or more of these sinful character traits, then the truth claim of II Timothy 3:3-4 is in fact true. It corresponds to reality we can observe; even within ourselves.
As Christians, we can answer with confidence the objections of skeptic friends that the reason Jesus could declare that God’s word is truth is because His truth in fact corresponds with the everyday reality in which we live. When the Bible speaks concerning the moral depravity of humanity as well as many other claims, they are found to be true because they correspond with reality. In a nutshell: If a truth claim corresponds to the reality in which we live, it is true and is therefore the truth. If a truth claim does not correspond to the reality in which we live, it is false and is therefore not the truth.
Truth or Consequences
The Christian church has failed to see the necessity of truth and the consequences of that failure (upholding and defending the truth of God’s word) have been visible for all to see. While there has been a small remnant of Christians throughout history who have upheld and defended the historic truths of the Christian faith, the majority has failed to see the urgency to do so. As a result, Postmodernism, Religious Pluralism, and a vast sea of world religions, cult organizations, etc. which comes against Christianity has emerged with their own truths in an attempt to pull people away from the truth of God’s word; especially the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many within the Christian church today, sadly, are still silent to oppose opposing worldviews vie for the heart, mind, and soul of non-Christians as well as those within the church.
As a person who has spent much time dedicated to apologetics and evangelism among those in world religions and cult organizations, I’m troubled and grieved to see so little missionary work done among those in these groups. As a result, many within the church fall away and enjoin themselves to religions like Islam and Buddhism or cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science or the Heath, Wealth, and Prosperity movement (Word of Faith movement). Even worse, pastors and leaders have allowed false doctrines (false truth claims) to infiltrate their local churches.
One example of this infiltration is the false doctrine of the Heath, Wealth, and Prosperity movement (Word of Faith movement) into the Church of God in Christ. COGIC leaders from the top on down have embraced and taught its members that they can create reality with their words. The Bible states, “Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, when the Lord has not commanded it? (Lamentations 3:37) This truth claim of creating reality with your words originated from the New Age Movement, not in the Bible, yet the presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ, Charles E. Blake has embraced such WOF teachers such as Fredrick K.C. Price, whose truth claim concerning Christ’s atonement is blasphemous! Concerning Christ’s atonement for sin, Fred Price stated:
“Do you think that the punishment for our sin was to die on a cross? If that were the case, the two thieves could have paid your price. No, the punishment was to go into hell itself and to serve time in hell separated from God . . . Satan and all the demons of hell thought that they had Him bound. And they threw a net over Jesus and they dragged Him down to the very pit of hell itself to serve our sentence.” (Ever Increasing Faith Messenger [June 1980]) yet he was a guest speaker at Bishop Charles Blake’s Inaugural Celebration Banquet in Memphis 2009.
Why would the presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ have a preacher who teaches a doctrine of atonement that clearly contradicts the very words of Jesus Himself: “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. (John 19:30) There is no scriptural evidence of Jesus going to hell to atone for the sins of humanity.
In addition to the above mentioned, Joel Osteen was also invited by Blake to speak at the 2017 COGIC 110th Holy Convocation. According to Osteen, “We have to conceive it on the inside before we’re ever going to receive it on the outside.” (Your Best Life Now, chapter 1) This truth claim also stems from the New Age movement, not from the Bible. Tragically, the epistemic fall of the Church of God in Christ is a grim example of what Christian philosopher Douglas Groothuis calls Truth Decay. Truth decay, whether purposeful or nonpurposeful, is where truth is exchanged for falsity. Truth decay is the consequence the Christian church faces for not recognizing the extreme seriousness for the necessity of truth. Such a turn from or neglect of the necessity of truth can cause the fall of an entire denomination like that of the Church of God in Christ.
In conclusion, the necessity to proclaim and defend the truth is of crucial importance for the Christian church. There are numerous opposing worldviews and truth claims which seek to draw converts to themselves. We cannot afford to continue to sit idly by allowing opposing truth claims to go unchallenged. The apostle Paul exhorted us to “Test all things; hold fast what is good”. (I Thess. 5:21) The truth of God’s word is good and it must be used to counter-attack the false truths of our time. In order to proclaim and defend God’s truth, we must diligently seek to study and know it. Laziness is not an option in the pursuit of truth. Let us therefore pursue the truth of God and “Study to shew thyself (oneself) approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (II Timothy 2:15)
Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it–Blaise Pascal
 C. Stephen Evans, PocketDictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), p.118-19
Who holds the key to salvation? Hope, as the picture above rightly shows, is tied to this key called salvation; for there is no hope without salvation. The Greek word for salvation is sōtēria which means to deliver or rescue. In the Bible, salvation is presented in two ways: physical and spiritual. The Old Testament is filled with examples of physical salvation/deliverance; one such example is God’s deliverance of Noah, his family, and some selected animals from the great flood that God brought upon the Earth (Genesis 6-8). Another classic example is of Moses who, by the power and command of God, delivered the children of Israel from the land of Eygpt (Exodus) However, the most overarching message of salvation in the entire Bible is the spiritual salvation of people. Jesus came from Heaven to Earth, born of a virgin to die and atone for the sins of the whole world (I John 2:2). In this blog we will critique both how this key to salvation can be obtained according to the Baha’i Faith and according to the Christian faith and whether the Baha’i Faith or the Christian faith as presented in the Bible is a realistic way of obtaining it.
Baha’is and the Work of Who?
As I presented in my blog Christology of the Baha’i Faith and Christianity: A Comparative Overview, the Baha’i Faith does not believe that the work of Christ–His death on the cross–was satisfactory in accomplishing the work of atoning for the sins of the whole world and making salvation avaliable to all who repent of their sins and believe in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, according to Baha’u’llah, was not an adequate enough solution to the problem of the depravity and sinfulness of humanity. There was yet a need for additional manifestions of God which is ultimately found in the person and teachings of Baha’u’llah. What exactly is the way to salvation according to Baha’u’llah and the Baha’is? It is to obey the Word of God. Maya Bohnhoff, who is a New York Times best selling author and Baha’i disciple attempts to make this point from the Bible using I Peter 1:22-25 & 2:1-3 to teach that obedience to the Word of God is what is necessary to obtain salvation. You read that correctly: salvation is obtained through following the teachings in the Word of God, but which Word of God? The teachings of Baha’u’llah of course since, according to the Baha’is, he is the final manifestion and revelation of God and His teachings .
If you believe that I’m misunderstanding what Bohnhoff is teaching, let’s dig a little deeper into this. In Bohnhoff article Sacrifice and Resurrection, she recalled a Bible study entitled “Cult Night” where her pastor by the name of Dan asked the question, “Wasn’t the message the disciples delivered to their audiences about the blood atonement and the resurrection?” (Sacrifice and Resurrection) Bohnhoff answers this question with a no by saying that the disciples actually taught new disciples according to Matthew 28:20a, “…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” Bohnhoff goes further in her elaborations, “The Gospel says simply that the new believers must love God, believe in the One He sent, and observe His commandments — a message so simple a child could understand it.” (Sacrifice and Resurrection) So we see here that observing the commandments of God are a part of the Gospel message according to Bohnhoff.
Furthermore, Bohnhoff acknowleges that the disciples of Jesus would have told their listening audience about the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, but it would be linked to obedence to the Word of God. (Sacrifice and Resurrection) In concluding her article, Bohnhoff says, “While the disciples spoke of Christ’s sacrifice and the shedding of His precious blood, it was not His blood, but the “pure milk” of His word that they offered to those they taught.” (Sacrifice and Resurrection) Bohnhoff reiterates this point in another article about the same subject where she appeals to John 15:3-17, and afterwards says, “One of the first things Christ Jesus affirms in this passage is that: “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” What is especially significant about this passage is the context: He is in Gethsemane, preparing His disciples for His arrest. He does not speak to them of His sacrifice, His resurrection, or His blood. He doesn’t mention atonement. He doesn’t remind them about baptism or mention the Trinity. Instead, Christ simply lays out clearly and unambiguously what they must do to be His “friends”, to stay connected to Him, to abide in God’s love, and to bear fruit.” (Agent of Salvation) So according to Bohnhoff, Jesus didn’t speak to His disciples about His impending sacrifice, shed blood, or resurrection, but Jesus does teach them that in order to remain His disciples, they must simply abide in Him through the Word of God He taught them. Therefore, it seems safe to conclude that belief in God plus keeping the commandments of God equals the key to salvation.
A critique of the Gospel of the Baha’i Faith
In this section we will do a step by step critique of the Gospel of the Baha’i Faith of how a person can obtain salvation. Bohnhoff, in her article Sacrifice and Resurrection, attempted to answer her pastor’s question of “Wasn’t the message the disciples delivered to their audiences about the blood atonement and the resurrection” by quoting Scriptures from the Bible in order to show that the message which the disciples delivered to their audience was not the blood atonement and resurrection of Jesus, but rather to obey the commandments of God which are able and necessary in order to obtain and keep one’s salvation. Furthermore, according to Bohnhoff, Jesus Himself did not speak to His discipes about His impending sacrifice, shed blood, or resurrection. Instead, Jesus emphasised the need for the disciples to abide in His teachings which Bohnhoff referenced to in John 15:1-4. Is Bohnhoff right or is there a gross case of misinterpretation of Scripture passages going on here? Sadly this is a gross case of misinterpretation of Scripture passages. Let’s first revisit I Peter 1:22-25 and see if the primary message of the Apostle Peter in this chapter was in fact not the blood atonement and resurrection of Jesus from the dead, but keeping the commandments of God.
The proper and correct way for anyone to interpret any Scripture in the Bible is to interpret Scripture with other Scriptures which speak on the same topic. In this case we need to examine all of I Peter 1 in order to see if this claim which Bohnhoff makes is true or not, and not hang our theological claim(s) on just a few passages of Scripture that appear to teach a particular doctrine. To begin, let’s look at the opening verses in I Peter 1, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.” Right out of the gate the Apostle Peter mentions to his believing audience the blood of Jesus Christ. Granted though, however, a Baha’i disciple my say “yes, but it also says for obedience as well as the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” Indeed it says that, but the blood of Jesus is presented as a critical aspect of the believer’s identification as one of God’s elect, but let’s not stop here.
In I Peter 1:3 we read, ” Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, …” In verse 3 the Apostle Peter articulates to his audience that their salvific hope is through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. So far we have seen the Apostle Peter emphasize the blood of Jesus and has articulated to his audience that their salvific hope is through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, not the necessity of keeping the comandments of God for and in order to keep one’s salvation. The Apostle Peter, however, is not yet quite finished.
In verses 18 and 19 the Apostle Peter says, ” knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” The Apostle Peter for the second and final time emphasizes the blood of Jesus Christ and this time focuses on how Jesus’ shed blood redeemes those who place their faith in Christ Jesus, but the Apostle Peter is still not quite done.
The Apostle Peter in verses 20-21 keeps the focus on Jesus (which he has done consistently thus far) and for the last time brings up…yes you guessed it..the resurrection of Jesus, ” He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” Here the Apostle Peter emphasized the truth of God the Father raising Jesus from the dead and because God raised Jesus from the dead we can have faith and salvific hope in Him.
Unlike Bohnhofff’s claim that disciples like the Apostle Peter primarily focused on the necessity of keeping the commandments of God in order to receive and keep their salvation, the truth is that Peter as well as the other disciples did in fact put the soteriological doctrine of the death, shed blood, and resurrection of Jesus at the heart of their message to their audience. So in light of the passages that came before them, how should I Peter 1:22-25 be interpeted? What did the Apostle Peter mean when he said, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth..?” What truth must a believer obey which has the power to purify the soul? The truth of the Gospel which is the truth about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Merely obeying a list of commandments themselves is not enough to purify anyone. Believing in the Gospel message and the One who is the centerpiece and foundation of that message, being born-again, and being indwelt with the Holy Spirit is what makes keeping any commandments possible, but even then one must understand that even after this, our salvation rest in our continual faith in Jesus Christ, not our works, such as keeping the commandments. As Jesus rightly said in John 15:5, ” I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” We can only abide in Christ through His Gospel; not apart from it. Therefore obeying the Word of God and its teaching has no role in how we recieve and keep our salvation. Obeying and keeping the commandments of God and His Word is the result of already having salvation through Jesus Christ.
A Further Response to Bohnhoff
Before closing out this part of Bohnhoff false claim that the disciples of Christ primary message to their audience was to obey and keep the commandments of God, let’s see how the Apostles Paul, John, and the unknown writer of the book of Hebrews emphasized the sacrifice, shed blood, and resurrrection of Jesus. Let’s also examine Bohnhoff’s statement concerning Jesus not mentioning His sacrifice, shed blood, and resurrection to His disciples in the garden of Gethemane, but rathered emphasized what was required in order to be His “friends” and remain connected to Him.
The Apostle Paul to His Audience
Unlike Bohnhoff’s claims previously stated, one is hard pressed to miss the Apostle Paul’s emphasis on Christ’s shed blood, death, and resurrection. Throughout the book of Romans all three aspects of the Gospel are presented to his audience. In the first chapter the Apostle Paul mentions the Gospel as of grave importance. In Romans 1:9, Paul speaks of serving with his spirit “in the gospel of His Son..”. In Romans 1:16 Paul boldly proclaims that he is not ashame of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God to save. In Romans 3:21-26 Paul states that salvation/righteousness is obtained by faith in Jesus Christ and that He made redemption possible by His blood. In Romans 5:9 Paul teaches that Christ disciples are justified by the blood of Jesus and save from the wrath of God through Him. Other passages which the Apostle Paul emphasize the importance of the blood of Jesus include Ephesians 1:7 and 2:13. Regarding the Apostle Paul’s emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus and it’s importance to followers of Jesus Christ, look no further than the entire 15th chapter of I Corinthians. Especially in verses 14-17 which, in a nutshell, teaches that without the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead, our preaching of the Gospel and our own hopes for salvation are futile or in vain. Thus we can see that the death, shed blood, and resurrection of Jesus from the dead was strongly emphasized to his audience.
The Apostle John to His Audience
The Apostle John, who is one of the closet followers of Jesus also emphasized the death, shed blood, and resurrection of Jesus. I John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” The Apostle John at the opening of his letter emphasizes the blood of Christ as that which cleanses us from all sin. In connection to this passage, John in the second chapter and the second verse says, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” In other words, Jesus is the atonement for our sins, done through His shed blood on the cross. This truth is further echoed by John in I John 4:10. Other passages of Scipture where the Apostle John emphasizes the blood of Jesus and its importance includes Revelation 1:5, 5:9, 7:14, and 12:11. Regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Apostle John in Revelation 1:17-18 recounts the words that Jesus Himself said to John as John bowed in dreadful fear of the sight of Jesus, “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” The Apostle John highlights Jesus’ claim to His own resurrection from the dead. Prior to this, John himself declared that Jesus was the firstborn from the dead in verse 5. Thus, the Apostle John did in fact emphasize the resurrection of Jesus as well. Most of them as they came from the mouth of the resurrected Jesus Himself.
The book of Hebrews to its Audience
In the book of Hebrews from chapter 6 to chapter 10 the unknown author goes into great depth and detail about the sacrifice and shed blood of Jesus. Time will not permit us to go into every single detail, but it is unmistakable what and who the emphasis is on here. On your own, take the time to read these chapters for yourselves and you will further see why Bohnhoff is wrong in light of these chapters. Hebrews 2:14 teaches that Christ overcame the devil by His death on the cross. In Hebrews 9:14, we are taught that through the blood of Christ our conscience is cleansed from dead works in order to serve God. So much more could be said here, but in a nutshell, both covenants, old and new, are never initiated without the shedding of blood because “…according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” In other words, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. The good news now is that disciples of Jesus are now able to enter into the presence of God(the Holy of Holies) by the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:19).
Jesus to His Audience
Finally, a look at Bohnhoff statement that in the garden of Gethsemane: “He does not speak to them of His sacrifice, His resurrection, or His blood. He doesn’t mention atonement.” But “Instead, Christ simply lays out clearly and unambiguously what they must do to be His “friends”, to stay connected to Him, to abide in God’s love, and to bear fruit.” I’m afraid there is a huge problem with Bohnhoff’s argument. While it is true that Jesus did not mention his sacrifice, shed blood, or resurrection in the garden, Jesus had been mentioning these very things throughout His three years of ministry and taught them to His disciples numerous times as seen in all four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus first taught His disciples about His impending death, burial, and resurrection from the dead, “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” (Matthew 16:21) Jesus would repeat this same claim again in Matthew 17:22 as well. Mark repeats the same claim in his gospel, (Mark 8:31, and 10-32-33). Luke (9:21-22; 44, and 18:31-33) and John (12:27-34 and 2:19-22). Last, but not least, the theme of the Last Supper was about Jesus impending shed blood for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:26-28). Since Jesus over and over again taught His disciples the necessity of His sacrifice, shed blood, and resurrection throughout His three years of ministry, Jesus obviously did not see it necessary to mention it again in the garden of Gethsemane.
The Baha’is Gospel of Work Summarized
In order for a person to receive the key of salvation according to the gospel of the Baha’i Faith, a person must work for it through obeying the laws and commandments of God as dictated by their teacher Baha’u’llah. Baha’is belief that it is possible to obtain salvation through good works and in keeping commandments is due to the fact that they believe that a human being is basically good morally. According to Kenneth E. Bowers who currently serves as a member of the national governing body of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Baha’u’llah did not agree with the Christian church’s doctrine of original sin (Salvation, Miracles, and the Baha’i Teachings). Baha’u’llah, according to Bowers, did not believe that people were born in sin or, in other words, born with a sin nature due to the sin of Adam and Eve against God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) as explained by the Apostle Paul (Romans 5:12). Thus, if humans are born free of sin, then it is possible to keep the commands of God as dictated by Baha’u’llah. Is this true though? Since the Baha’is often appeal to the Bible in an atttempt to validate their doctrines, let’s see what it teaches about our moral condition.
Original Sin, Law, and the Gospel
While Baha’u’llah denies the doctrine of original sin, the reality of it is taught throughout the Bible. As mentioned earlier, the Apostle Paul explained to us that it is through Adam that sin came into the world and is passed on from person to person (Romans 5:12). The way to judge if this is in fact true is to see if it corresponds with our everyday reality. Everyday acts of immorality are before our eyes: murder, lying, adultery, etc. If we rightly acknowledge that there are acts of immorality that happen everyday, then we are acknowledging that morality exist: both good and bad. If we acknowledge the reality or existence of good and bad morality, then there must be a moral law to which to judge what acts are considered moral and which acts are considered immoral. If we acknowledge the existence of a moral law, then we must acknowledge the existence of a moral Law Giver who in essence is the Judge or what is moral and immoral. Not only that, but this Judge must be perfectly impartial in His judgment of what is moral and immoral, and this can only be possible if this Judge is Himself morally perfect. The description of such a Judge can fit none other than God.
Has this perfectly moral and impartial God given a moral law in order to tell us what is morally right and wrong? Yes. Where is it? In the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17 and beyond. Do any of us keep the law perfectly? No, because “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”(Romans 3:23). So if we break a law(s), is it not true that punishment for breaking that law(s) should surely follow? If God is indeed a perfectly good and impartial Judge, then God is just to punish lawbreakers. The punishment, for breaking the moral law of God is Hell. If God simply pardoned a person just because they said they were sorry, God would be unjust for not upholding the moral law and applying the punishment required for violating the law. A morally imperfect earthly judge doesn’t even allow that, so why should we expect the perfectly moral Judge, God, to do so? We can and should expect God to only do what is right (Genesis 18:25).
Since original sin is a reality by evidence of the fact we do commit immoral acts all the time like lying, stealing, murder, adultery, and other sins, and justly deserve to be punish by God for our sins…what is the solution according to the Christian church? The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not come to teach us how to be morally good people (as the Baha’is teach) because we are by nature immoral (Romans 3:10). The key of salvation is found in the Person and work of Jesus. We can be forgiven of our sins and receive the key of salvation and hope through Jesus death, burial, and resurrection. We broke the law of God, but Jesus paid that fine in our place on the cross and it was finalize through His resurrection from the dead. The purpose of the law as explained by the Apostle Paul was to be a schoolmaster or tutor to point us to where salvation is truly found; in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:24). Now when a Christian does good works and seeks to obey God’s commandments, it is because they have salvation through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10). Good works and a desire to live godly and holy are the fruits/results of the salvation a Christian has from Christ (James 2:14-24).
The Key to Salvation and Hope belongs to Jesus
In conclusion, the keys to salvation and hope are only found in the Person and work (death, burial, and resurrection) of Jesus Christ. The Baha’i Faith is wrong in saying that we can obtain the keys of salvation through our own moral efforts. This works oriented gospel message at its surface is no different than the other works oriented gospel messages taught by all the other world religions. In Christianity alone one is taught that the only work necessary for one to receive salvation was done by Jesus Christ on the cross followed by His bodily resurrection from the dead. Salvation is the gift of God which God is ready to give to all who will turn from their sin and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savor, the Son of God who is the only way to God (John 14:6). If you been reading this blog and you’re not a Christian, perhaps your a Baha’i disciple, then strongly consider all that has been said, especially about the Law and the Gospel. It is seriously a matter of Heaven or Hell for eternity.
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. –Romans 10:8-10
In my last blog “Christology of the Baha’i Faith and Christianity: A Comparative Overview”, I began a comparative view of Christianity and the Baha’i Faith teaching about who Jesus Christ is. A comparative view of the nature of Christ held by both faiths was previously done. It showed that Christianity affirms the deity of Christ, which is the teaching of the incarnation; Jesus as God in human flesh. In the Baha’i Faith, however, the Baha’is deny the deity of Christ and hold to the view that Jesus was no greater than any other religious leader. Jesus, in Baha’i Christology, is just a mirrored image of God, but not God Himself. Finally a comparitive view of the work of Christ was examined. Christianity teaches that Jesus came to die on the cross for the sins of humanity in order to meet and fulfill the righteous requirements of God. Three days after Jesus’ death on the cross, Jesus rose bodily from the dead and conquered death so that now Christians have the hope of their own physical resurrection on the Last Day. In Baha’i thought, however, Jesus’ death on the cross was only a temporary solution to the problem of sin. The ultimate solution is found in the person and teachings of Baha’u’llah. As far as the physical resurrection of Christ is concerned, they deny it and say that Jesus rose in a “figurative body.” What really rose from the dead was the faith of Jesus disciples (the Body of Christ), which died with the death of Jesus. In this blog though, we will look more deeply into the nature of Christ as taught by both the Baha’i Faith and Christianity and explain why the Baha’i view of the nature of Christ is problematic and inferior to the Christology of the Christian faith.
Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall
According to Baha’i theology, as presented by Alex Gottdank, who is said to have both a Jewish and Christian background, Jesus merely mirrored the image of God during His time here on Earth. In his article “Is Christ God“, Gottdank attempts to reconcile what appears to be contradictions in the New Testament about the deity and humanity of Christ. Gottdank lays out some scriptural examples of this like the supposed contradiction between John 10:30, “I and the Father are one” and John 14:28, “…for the Father is greater than I.” One more example given by Gottdank is John 14:9, “…Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…” and John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God… which seems also to contradict each other.
So how does Gottdank attempt to reconcile these supposed contradictions between Jesus being divine and human? Gottdank goes over to Colossians 1:15 which reads, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” It is here that Gottdank and the Baha’is present their argument that Jesus just merely reflected the image of God. According to Gottdank, “One simply has to consider how a physical mirror functions to understand Christ’s role as a spiritual mirror or image of God.” (Gottdank, Is Christ God) Gottdank then gives an illustration of how when we see the sun in a mirror, we know the sun is not actually in the mirror itself, but only the reflection of the sun that we see in the mirror. In the same way, according to Gottdank, when people looked at Jesus, they saw the image of God in the Person of Jesus, not God Himself. Gottdank concludes his argument by saying,
“Similarly, if one looks into the spiritual mirror of Christ, one would see God — but would know that God’s image, Christ, is not God Himself but God’s reflection, for God does not descend into the mirror. Instead, His attributes of love, power, omniscience, etc. reflect in the mirror.”(Gottdank, Is Christ God)
Therefore, according to Gottdank, it is impossible for God to be incarnate. God cannot come into the world as a human being just like the sun cannot come into a mirror. While Gottdank does not exactly say so, it is clearly implied by his illustration of the sun and the mirror. Just like it is not possible for the sun to descend into a mirror, it is also impossible for God to descend from Heaven to Earth via the virgin birth into human flesh.
Denial of the Omnipotence of God
In order for the incarnation of God (Jesus Christ) to be impossible, we must completely deny the omnipotence of God; which is exactly what Gottdank and the Baha’i Faith must and is doing in order to hold firmly to their Christology of the nature of Christ. If God is not all-powerful, then Gottdank and the Baha’is have a valid argument against the incarnation of Jesus Christ. If God is all-powerful, however, then it is perfectly possible that God could have came in human flesh, while still remaining God, in the person of Jesus Christ: One Person with two natures simultaneously existing within Himself. In theological terms this is called the Hypostatic Union.
Explanatory Power of the Hypostatic Union
A proper understanding of the Hypostatic Union helps in understanding the supposed contradictions presented by Gottdank. In John 14:9 and John 1:18 we see the Hypostatic Union in full view. Yes, both statements by Jesus are equally true when we view these passages of Scripture through the lenses of the Hypostatic Union: Jesus is one Person with both a divine and a human nature within Himself. Jesus is telling us the truth in John 1:18 that no one has seen God, which is to not have seen God in His full glory. In the Amplified Bible it reads, “No one has seen God [His essence, His divine nature] at any time; the [One and] only begotten God [that is, the unique Son] who is in the intimate presence of the Father, He has explained Him [and interpreted and revealed the awesome wonder of the Father].” So it is true that no human being has ever seen God and God made it known to Moses why in Exodus 33:20, “But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” No human being can behold the unveiled nature of God and live, but one could see God if God is in fact veiled. This was the case in the Person of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. Jesus is God veiled in human flesh and could therefore say in John 14:9,”…Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…” . Jesus throughout His ministry revealed who God was through His teachings, His perfect moral conduct, His miraculious works such as healing people and raising the dead. In light of understanding the Hypostatic union these two passages of Scripture harmonize together perfectly.
Explanatory Power of the Trinity
Finally, Gottdank’s failure to reconcile John 10:30 and John 14:28 must be addressed. There is a need to delve a little deeper here in order to explain these supposed contradictions. Once again, both of Jesus’ statements are equally true. Yes, Jesus and the Father are one and yes, the Father is greater than Jesus. As have already been shown earlier in this blog, the Father and the Son (Jesus) are by nature equally divine; they are both by nature God. The question that really needs to be answered is how is the Father greater than Jesus if in fact both are by nature God? It is here that the doctrine of the Trinity is brought into play. The doctrine of the Trinity states that there is one God who exist as three eternal person: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All three persons are equally the same in nature and substance, but different in person and office (position). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equally God in nature, but in person and office they are different. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are their own person individually. Jesus is not the Father and vis versa and neither of them are the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is neither of them. An illustration of the Trinity can perhaps be summed up with an example of a family of three: Father, mother, and child. All three persons share one nature: human. Postionally, however, the Father as the head of the home is greater than his wife and child, and the wife positionally is greater than the child. Neither of the three persons are greater in nature to one another, which is human, but positionally they are in the order given. Likewise positionally the Father is greater than the Son (Jesus), but by no means is the Father greater than Jesus in nature. Both equally have the same exact divine nature. Without the explanatory power of the Trinity, these would be contradictory statements, but with such explanatory power Jesus statements harmonize perfectly.
In conclusion we can confidently declare that Christ is indeed God. Jesus is far more than just a person who “mirrored” or reflected the image of God. Also in light of what has been said and the comparsions which have been made Christologically between Christianity and the Baha’i Faith concerning the nature of God, it is more than safe to say that the Jesus of Christianity is superior to the Jesus of the Baha’i Faith. While Gottdank and the Baha’is attempt to use Scripture to support their idea of Jesus merely being the “mirror” of who God is, they fail to acknowledge and use the whole entire counsel of God. Gottdank and the Baha’is need to study not just John 1:1;14, but also look at verses 2-3 as well. If they did they would see more clearly who the Word is and His equality with God the Father. Perhaps it would help them to read and consider Jesus claim to deity in John 8:58, Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Jesus declared Himself to be the I AM of Exodus 3:14 who is none other than YHWH Himself. Since Christ is God, it makes Jesus mission and work of upmost importance and, for better or worst, has an eternal impact on our lives and existence. In the next blog we will see exactly how true this is.
In the previous blog “The Baha’i Faith and the Delusion of Inclusivism” , I made a logical and theological case for why the Baha’i Faith is wrong when it claims that all religions are basically the same. This was done by looking at how certain doctrines of other religions were contradictory to one another, such as in regard to the nature of God and salvation. I also laid out the undeniable fact that all religions worldwide are exclusive by nature; including the Baha’i Faith. In the up and coming blogs a more indept look into the Christology of the Baha’i Faith will be done and compared to the Christology of the Christian faith to see how differently they really are from one another. While the Baha’i Faith pays lip service to Jesus Christ, the Baha’i Faith has a totally different understanding of who Jesus is. In this week’s blog, a simple comparative breakdown of the Christology of the Christian faith and the Baha’i Faith will be done in regards to the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Nature of Jesus Christ
Throughout the history of Christianity the Christian church has held, without equivocation, to the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christians hold that the Deity of Christ is firmly grounded in the Bible; both in the Old and New Testament. Also Christians, via the Nicene Creed, has expressed this Christology about the Deity of Christ as follows:
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father. Through him all things were made.
To sum it all up in the simplest way possible: Jesus is fully God and fully human in His Person. Jesus is one person with two natures; a human and divine nature. Biblical references to the Deity of Christ (though not exhaustive ) include: Isaiah 7:14, 9:6, John 1:1-3;14, John 8:58, Philppians 2:5-8.
In Christianity the Church teaches from the Bible that Jesus’ primary purpose for coming into the world was to atone for the sins of humanity. This was accomplished on the cross at Calvery. Furthermore, the Bible teaches Christians that three days after Jesus died and was buried in a sealed up tomb, Jesus rose physically from the dead. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart and soul of the gospel message as presented to us by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” Jesus’ shed blood and death on the cross met the perfect righteous requirements of God and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead not only conquered death and gave Christians hope of forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and their own resurrection at the Last Day, but the resurrection of Jesus also put the stamp of authority on who He claimed to be: The Son of God, the Messiah, and God in human flesh.
On the other hand, however, the Baha’is have a totally different view of what the earthly work of Christ was. Know thou that when the Son of Man yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By sacrificing Himself, however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things. . . the unchaste and wayward were healed. . . . the eyes of the blind were opened, and the soul of the sinner sanctified. . . . He it is Who purified the world. Blessed is the man who, with a face beaming with light, hath turned towards Him. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings, p. 85.
The Baha’is also reject the physcial resurrection of Jesus. Instead they hold that Jesus rose in a “figurative body.” What does that mean according to the Baha’is? The Baha’is equate “the body of Christ” with the Christian church which consist of believers: Christians. So then, when Jesus died on the cross, His teachings and life was buried in the broken and disdraughted hearts of His disciples who had come to believe in Him. The disciples lost faith, but on the third day after Christ’s death, they regained their faith. Therefore, according to the Baha’is, the resurrection of Jesus is believed to be spiritual and figurative, not literal.
In conclusion, the Christology of the Baha’i Faith and that of Christianity are vastly different indeed. In the next blog a deeper look into these differences beginning with the Nature of Jesus Christ as understood by both faiths will be achieved. Following that blog, a deeper look into the Work of Christ as taught by both faiths. In both blogs I will aim to demonstrate that those differences are highly sufficent and have serious ramifications to those who hold dearly to the Christology and Soteriology of the Baha’i Faith. Ultimately this demonstration will hopefully cause some in the Baha’i Faith to reevaluate what they believe about Jesus and salvation and why.
The Baha’i Faith prides itself as a religion that is inclusive. In other words, the Baha’i Faith does not claim to be the one true religion as other religions do such as Islam or Christianity. In the Baha’i Faith one can keep the religion of their choice and still be a member of the Baha’i religion. On the Baha’i’s website, visitors to their website are greeted with this:
“Throughout history, God has sent to humanity a series of divine Educators—known as Manifestations of God—whose teachings have provided the basis for the advancement of civilization. These Manifestations have included Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad. Bahá’u’lláh, the latest of these Messengers, explained that the religions of the world come from the same Source and are in essence successive chapters of one religion from God.” (www.bahai.org)
So according to Baha’i these well known religious figures or “divine Educators” has been sent independently over the course of history to reveal to humanity God’s teachings “for the advancement of civilization”. It is in the person of Baha’i’s “prophet” Bahá’u’lláh that it is made known that all these previous messengers and religions are part of the “one religion of God”. Is that true though? Are religions like Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, and especially Christianity, branches from the same tree which Baha’i call the “one religion of God?” I will show theologically and comparatively how it is impossible for the religions of the world along with the Baha’i Faith, to be inclusive.
The Nature of God
In the Baha’i Faith’s theological understanding of God, God is completely unknowable and is a monothiestic Being. Even though Baha’i’s teaches that God is unknowable, yet this unknowable God has progressively revealed himself throughout history through individuals like Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Jesus, etc. Furthermore they teach that God is “the Creator of the universe, is all-knowing, all-loving and all-merciful.” (www.bahai.org/beliefs/god-his-creation/revelation/)
On the surface it seems that Baha’i agree with the three monothiestic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Is that so though? If the god of the Baha’i Faith is in fact all-knowing (omniscience), why do we see contradictions in the description of who God is in the religions of the world? Hindu theology hold to polytheism, which is the belief in the existence of many gods. In some branches of Buddhism it can either be polytheistic or atheistic. Yet in Christianity, God is a triune Being: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if the god of the Baha’i Faith is omniscient, then this god should surely know who he is nature wise. Is this god triune(Christianity)? Is this god polytheistic (Hinduism)? Is this god strictly monothiestic in nature(Islam, Judaism, Baha’i)? They all cannot be true. Either one is correct about the nature of God or none of them are. Two or more contradictory teachings about the nature of God cannot be equally true and therefore calls the god of the Baha’i Faith into question epistemically.
Soteriology (Doctrine of Salvation)
According to Bahá’u’lláh, the messenger of the Baha’i Faith, “[I]s not the object of every Revelation,” He asks, “to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself, both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions?” (Bahá’u’lláh,The Kitab-i-iqan) So salvation according to the Baha’i Faith is both an outer as well as an inner transformation of the entire person. In the Baha’i Faith salvation seems to be focus on an earthly universal transformation of all of humanity. Bahá’u’lláh says that religion is “the chief instrument for the establishment of order in the world, and of tranquillity amongst its peoples.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle of the Son of the Wolf) This is truly a universal and inclusivistic soteriology and is not shared by those of other faiths.
At the heart of every religion on planet Earth is an exclusivistic worldview of itself. Every religion believes that they alone have the one true view about the world and ourselves and strongly believes that those of other faiths has it wrong. In Islam every person must submit themselves to the will of Allah. In Sura 40:67 it reads, “Say, ‘I have been forbidden to worship those whom you call upon beside Allah since there have come unto me clear proofs from my Lord; and I have been commanded to submit myself to the Lord of the worlds.’ This sura teaches that there is no god one should worship other than Allah and to submit to him.
In both Judaism and Christianity, they share the same view on worshipping Yehwah alone. Both readily point to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:3, “you shall not have any gods before me.” Such a command continues to be expounded throughout the entire Bible. Furthermore in Chrisitanity, it becomes even more exclusivistic in the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ boldly claimed to be the only way to God in John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. Jesus death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead three days later backed His claim. Jesus did not shy away from letting people know that they cannot have a relationship with God or even know God until they believed in Him (John 5:23). The Apostle Peter in Acts 4:12 boldly proclaimed that salvation is alone in Jesus Christ, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” In I John 2:23 we read, “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” Christian soteriology makes it clear that there is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ.
Clearly the religions of the world are by nature exclusivistic, not inclusivistic. Interestly enough, even the Baha’i Faith itself is exclusivistic. According to the Baha’is, Bahá’u’lláh is the promised one supposedly foretold by Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and Bahá’u’lláh’s forerunner, the Bab, “”Bahá’u’lláh—the “Glory of God”—is the Promised One foretold by the Báb and all of the Divine Messengers of the past“. This is indeed an excusivistic claim that Bahá’u’lláh is superior to all the above mentioned. Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957) , who was an appointed guardian of the Baha’i Faith in his lifetime definitely gave superior status in his praises to Bahá’u’lláh, “Dominating the entire range of this fascinating spectacle towers the incomparable figure of Bahá’u’lláh, transcendental in His majesty, serene, awe-inspiring, unapproachably glorious.” (The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh) Furthermore Shoghi Effendi refers to Bahá’u’lláh as “the supreme Theophany which means that Bahá’u’lláh was the supreme manifestation of God on Earth. This also is an exclusivistic attitudinal claim as well since it makes Jesus (God incarnate) inferior to Bahá’u’lláh. If this is the case, then we can only conclude that Baha’i Faith is superior to all other religions which is the complete opposite of what it means to be inclusive.
Inclusivism is Impossible
In conclusion, it is completely impossible theologically and comparatively for there to be inclusive union among all religions of the world; including the Baha’i Faith. On theological doctrines like the nature of God and salvation, the religions of the world are obviously different; especially Christianity. Contradictory worldviews cannot all be equally true. Either one of them is right or all of them are wrong. Inclusivism is impossible with the existence of contradictory teaching on such doctrines as salvation, God, Jesus Christ, the afterlife, etc. The fact that the Baha’i Faith exalts Bahá’u’lláh and themselves above all other faiths and their beloved religious figures proves how intolerate and exclusivistic they actually are. Superiority cannot exist in an inclusivistic mindset. So who or what is this “one religion from God”, this tree, which all the branches or world religions stem from? It’s none other than the Baha’i Faith!