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.