God in the Bahá'í Faith

The Bahá'í view of God is essentially monotheistic. God is the imperishable, uncreated being who is the source of all existence.[1] He is described as "a personal God, unknowable, inaccessible, the source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and almighty".[2][3] Though transcendent and inaccessible directly, his image is reflected in his creation. The purpose of creation is for the created to have the capacity to know and love its creator.[4] God communicates his will and purpose to humanity through intermediaries, known as Manifestations of God, who are the prophets and messengers that have founded religions from prehistoric times up to the present day.[5]

Greatest Name
The Greatest Name is a Bahá'í symbol for God. It is the calligraphic rendering of Arabic text Arabic: يا بهاء الأبهى‎, translated as O Glory of the All Glorious.

God

The Bahá'í teachings state that there is only one God and that his essence is absolutely inaccessible from the physical realm of existence and that, therefore, his reality is completely unknowable. Thus, all of humanity's conceptions of God which have been derived throughout history are mere manifestations of the human mind and not at all reflective of the nature of God's essence. While God's essence is inaccessible, a subordinate form of knowledge is available by way of mediation by divine messengers, known as Manifestations of God. The Manifestations of God reflect divine attributes, which are creations of God made for the purpose of spiritual enlightenment, onto the physical plane of existence.[6] All physical beings reflect at least one of these attributes, and the human soul can potentially reflect all of them.[7] Shoghi Effendi, the head of the Bahá'í Faith in the first half of the 20th century, described God as inaccessible, omniscient, almighty, personal, and rational, and rejected pantheistic, anthropomorphic and incarnationist beliefs.[2]

Oneness of God

Although human cultures and religions differ on their conceptions of God and his nature, Bahá'ís believe they nevertheless refer to one and the same Being. The differences, instead of being regarded as irreconcilable constructs of mutually exclusive cultures, are seen as purposefully reflective of the varying needs of the societies in which the divine messages were revealed.[8] No single faith, and associated conception of God, is thus considered essentially superior to another from the viewpoint of its original social context; however, more recent religions may teach a more advanced conception of God as called for by the changing needs of local, regional or global civilization. Bahá'ís thus regard the world's religions as chapters in the history of one single faith, revealed by God's Manifestations progressively and in stages.[9] Bahá'u'lláh writes on this subject:

All-praise to the unity of God, and all-honour to Him, the sovereign Lord, the incomparable and all-glorious Ruler of the universe, Who, out of utter nothingness, hath created the reality of all things, Who, from naught, hath brought into being the most refined and subtle elements of His creation, and Who, rescuing His creatures from the abasement of remoteness and the perils of ultimate extinction, hath received them into His kingdom of incorruptible glory. Nothing short of His all-encompassing grace, His all-pervading mercy, could have possibly achieved it.[10][11]

Knowledge of God

The Bahá'í teachings state that God is too great for humans to create an accurate conception of. In the Bahá'í understanding, the attributes attributed to God, such as All-Powerful and All-Loving are derived from limited human experiences of power and love. Bahá'u'lláh taught that the knowledge of God is limited to those attributes and qualities which are perceptible to us, and thus direct knowledge of God is not possible. Furthermore, Bahá'u'lláh states that knowledge of the attributes of God is revealed to humanity through his messengers.[12]

So perfect and comprehensive is His creation that no mind or heart, however keen or pure, can ever grasp the nature of the most insignificant of His creatures; much less fathom the mystery of Him Who is the Day Star of Truth, Who is the invisible and unknowable Essence...[13][14]

As our knowledge of things, even of created and limited things, is knowledge of their qualities and not of their essence, how is it possible to comprehend in its essence the Divine Reality, which is unlimited? ... Knowing God, therefore, means the comprehension and the knowledge of His attributes, and not of His Reality. This knowledge of the attributes is also proportioned.

Personal God

While the Bahá'í writings teach of a personal god who is a being with a personality (including the capacity to reason and to feel love), they clearly state that this does not imply a human or physical form.[2] Shoghi Effendi writes:

What is meant by personal God is a God Who is conscious of His creation, Who has a Mind, a Will, a Purpose, and not, as many scientists and materialists believe, an unconscious and determined force operating in the universe. Such conception of the Divine Being, as the Supreme and ever present Reality in the world, is not anthropomorphic, for it transcends all human limitations and forms, and does by no means attempt to define the essence of Divinity which is obviously beyond any human comprehension. To say that God is a personal Reality does not mean that He has a physical form, or does in any way resemble a human being. To entertain such belief would be sheer blasphemy.[15][16]

The Bahá'í teachings state that one can develop a closer relationship with God through prayer, meditation, study of the holy writings, and service to humanity.[17] `Abdu'l-Bahá writes

Therefore, we learn that nearness to God is possible through devotion to Him, through entrance into the Kingdom and service to humanity; it is attained by unity with mankind and through loving-kindness to all; it is dependent upon investigation of truth, acquisition of praiseworthy virtues, service in the cause of universal peace and personal sanctification.[18][19]

Manifestations of God

Bahá'ís believe that God expresses his will at all times and in many ways, and specifically through a series of divine messengers referred to as Manifestations of God or sometimes divine educators.[20] In revealing God's will, these Manifestations establish religion in the world. Since the Bahá'í teachings state that God is too great for humans to ever comprehend or to create more than a limited conception of, the Bahá'í scripture instead focuses on the created divine virtues and attributes which are described in the teachings of the Manifestations.[21] Examples of divine attributes described in Bahá'í scripture include Almighty, All-Powerful, All-loving, All-Merciful, Most-Compassionate, All-Glorious. The Manifestations of God are analogous to divine mirrors which reflect God's created attributes and thus reveal aspects of God without being incarnations of God's essence. It is through these divine educators that humans can approach God, and through them God brings divine revelation and law.[22]

Names of God

The Bahá'í scriptures often refer to God by various titles and attributes, such as Almighty, All-Powerful, All-Wise, Incomparable, Gracious, Helper, All-Glorious, Omniscient and All-Loving.[23][24] Baha'is believe the greatest of all the names of God is "All-Glorious" or Bahá in Arabic. Bahá is the root word of the following names and phrases: the greeting Alláh-u-Abhá (God is the All-Glorious), the invocation Yá Bahá'u'l-Abhá (O Thou Glory of the Most Glorious), Bahá'u'lláh (The Glory of God), and Bahá'i (Follower of the All-Glorious). These are expressed in Arabic regardless of the language in use (see Bahá'í symbols).[25] Apart from these names, God is addressed in the local language, for example Ishwar in Hindi, Dieu in French and Dios in Spanish. Bahá'ís believe Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, is the "complete incarnation of the names and attributes of God".[26]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Hatcher 1985, p. 74
  2. ^ a b c Smith 2008, p. 106
  3. ^ Effendi 1944, p. 139
  4. ^ Smith 2008, p. 111
  5. ^ Smith 2008, pp. 107–108
  6. ^ Hatcher 1985, pp. 123–126
  7. ^ Saiedi 2008, pp. 163–180
  8. ^ "Bahá'í Faith". Britannica Micropaedia. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica. 2005. p. 797. ISBN 1-59339-236-2.
  9. ^ Smith 2000, pp. 276–277
  10. ^ Hatcher 1985, pp. 74–75
  11. ^ Bahá'u'lláh 1976, pp. 64–65
  12. ^ Adamson 2007, pp. 186–188
  13. ^ Momen 1988
  14. ^ Bahá'u'lláh 1976, pp. 60–64
  15. ^ McLean & Lee 1997, p. 67,78
  16. ^ From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, April 21, 1939. published in Hornby, Helen, ed. (1983). Lights of Guidance: A Bahá'í Reference File. Bahá'í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India. ISBN 81-85091-46-3.
  17. ^ Smith 2008, pp. 117–118
  18. ^ Hayes 2006, p. 54
  19. ^ `Abdu'l-Bahá 1982, p. 148
  20. ^ Hutter, Manfred (2005). "Bahā'īs". In Lindsay Jones (ed.). Encyclopedia of Religion. 2 (2nd ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. pp. 737–740. ISBN 0-02-865733-0.
  21. ^ Cole 1982, pp. 1–38
  22. ^ Hatcher 1985, pp. 115–123
  23. ^ Adamson, Hugh C. (2007). Historical dictionary of the Bahá'í Faith. Metuchen, N.J: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-5096-6.
  24. ^ Smith 2000, pp. 164–165
  25. ^ Smith, Peter (2000). "greatest name". A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. pp. 167–168. ISBN 1-85168-184-1.
  26. ^ McLean, Jack; Lee, Anthony A. (1997), Revisioning the Sacred: New Perspectives on a Baha'i Theology, Kalimat Press, p. 66, ISBN 0-933770-96-0

Bibliography

Further reading

External links

Jehovah

Jehovah () is a Latinization of the Hebrew יְהֹוָה, one vocalization of the Tetragrammaton יהוה (YHWH), the proper name of the God of Israel in the Hebrew Bible and one of the seven names of God in Judaism.

The consensus among scholars is that the historical vocalization of the Tetragrammaton at the time of the redaction of the Torah (6th century BCE) is most likely Yahweh. The historical vocalization was lost because in Second Temple Judaism, during the 3rd to 2nd centuries BCE, the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton came to be avoided, being substituted with Adonai ("my Lord"). The Hebrew vowel points of Adonai were added to the Tetragrammaton by the Masoretes, and the resulting form was transliterated around the 12th century as Yehowah. The derived forms Iehouah and Jehovah first appeared in the 16th century.

"Jehovah" was popularized in the English-speaking world by William Tyndale and other pioneer English Protestant translations such as the Geneva Bible and the King James Version. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states that in order to pronounce the Tetragrammaton "it is necessary to introduce vowels that alter the written and spoken forms of the name", resulting in "Yahweh" or "Jehovah". It also remains in use by the Watchtower Society translators of the New World Translation, and appears in the still-popular translations of the American Standard Version (1901) and the Young's Literal Translation (1862, 1899), but it does not appear in current mainstream English translations, some of which use Yahweh but most continue to use "Lord" or "LORD" to represent same.

Mary Hanford Ford

Mary Hanford Ford (November 1, 1856 – February 2, 1937) was an American lecturer, author, art and literature critic and a leader in the women's suffrage movement. She reached early notoriety in Kansas at the age of 28 and soon left for the Chicago World's Fair. She was taken up by the society ladies of the Chicago area who, impressed with her talks on art and literature at the Fair, helped launch her on a new career, initially in Chicago and then across some States. Along the way she was already published in articles and noticed in suffrage meetings. In addition to work as an art critic and speaker she wrote a number of books, most prominently a trilogy Message of the Mystics. Circa 1900-1902 Ford found the Bahá'í Faith through Sarah Farmer, Green Acre, and Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, and helped form the first community of Bahá'ís in Boston where Louis Bourgeois, future architect of the first Bahá'í House of Worship in the West, then joined the religion. In 1907 Ford went on Bahá'í pilgrimage, in 1910 she started writing Bahá'í books such as The Oriental Rose, and traveled with `Abdu'l-Bahá during some of his journeys in various places in Europe and then America. Ford was blamed for a fiasco among UK suffragists but it was their own violence that got them in trouble. Ford spent the years of World War I in California following the first Bahá'í International Congress at the Panama–Pacific International Exposition, and then moved back to New York where she spent almost the next 20 years. Often she traveled to Europe for some months of the year and during this period introduced the religion to Ugo Giachery, later a prominent Bahá'í. Also in this period she was censored off a radio broadcast, helped develop the religion's community both in meetings she supported and literary efforts, before reducing her travels and speaking engagements in the early 1930s. She died with her daughter by her bedside in 1937.

Monotheism

Monotheism is the belief in one god. A narrower definition of monotheism is the belief in the existence of only one god that created the world, is all-powerful and intervenes in the world.A distinction may be made between exclusive monotheism, and both inclusive monotheism and pluriform (panentheistic) monotheism which, while recognising various distinct gods, postulate some underlying unity.Monotheism is distinguished from henotheism, a religious system in which the believer worships one god without denying that others may worship different gods with equal validity, and monolatrism, the recognition of the existence of many gods but with the consistent worship of only one deity. The term "monolatry" was perhaps first used by Julius Wellhausen.The broader definition of monotheism characterizes the traditions of Bábism, the Bahá'í Faith, Balinese Hinduism, Cao Dai (Caodaiism), Cheondoism (Cheondogyo), Christianity, Deism, Eckankar, Hindu sects such as Shaivism and Vaishnavism, Islam, Judaism, Mandaeism, Rastafari, Seicho no Ie, Sikhism, Tengrism (Tangrism), Tenrikyo (Tenriism), Yazidism, and Zoroastrianism, and elements of pre-monotheistic thought are found in early religions such as Atenism, ancient Chinese religion, and Yahwism.

Outline of the Bahá'í Faith

The following outline is provided as an overview of and a topical guide to the Bahá'í Faith.

Bahá'í Faith – monotheistic religion founded by Bahá'u'lláh in 19th-century Persia, emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind. In the Bahá'í Faith, religious history is seen to have unfolded through a series of divine messengers, each of whom established a religion that was suited to the needs of the time and the capacity of the people. Humanity is understood to be in a process of collective evolution, and the need of the present time is for the gradual establishment of peace, justice and unity on a global scale.

Supreme deity

Supreme deity may refer to:

Creator deity

God

God in Abrahamic religions

Yahweh in Jewish belief

The Trinity in most Christian traditions

Jesus Christ of Nazareth in some other Christian traditions

Allah in Muslim belief

God in the Bahá'í Faith

Waheguru, in Sikhism

Supreme Being

the deity regarded as chief among many, often a sky god or god of sovereignty, such as:

Para Brahman, in Hinduism

Adi Narayana, in Hinduism

Adi Shakthi, in Hinduism

Jupiter (mythology), in the religion of ancient Rome

Pangu, in Chinese folk religion

Tagroa Siria, in Rotuman society

Ukko, in Finnish mythology

Zeus, in ancient Greek religion

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