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!