A Christian lady with whom I had been corresponding wrote that she had found a major reason why she could not accept the Baha’i teachings. She believed in original sin, but learned from a Baha’i web site that the Baha’i Faith did not. “Somebody is lying,” she said, “and I don’t believe the Bible lies.” I responded with the following letter, edited slightly for this website.
Before responding, may I suggest a softer way of looking at differing viewpoints? When two people, or even two societies, who love and worship the same Lord reach different conclusions about the details of faith, I’m inclined to believe that one or both of them has made an error, not that either of them is a liar. There are, depending on how the count is made, from 6,000 to 25,000 different sects or denominations of Christianity alone, and I don’t believe any one of them is a liar, only that they interpret Scripture differently. They all worship God, the same God that I worship, but they battle each other over details, and often try to drag me or the Baha’i Faith into their battles, to no avail. Perhaps we can agree that there may be disagreement, maybe even error on somebody’s part, without assuming deliberate falsification?
On the subject of original sin, you seem to have made a firm decision to accept the doctrine of many Christian churches. As I understand it, while the term “original sin” is not to be found anywhere in the Bible, the concept is based on Paul’s statement in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 22, in which he says, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” He builds beautifully on that concept in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Romans.
It is on this basis that you seem to feel the Baha’i Faith has deviated from the Bible when we fail to accept the doctrine of original sin. Yet, as far as I’ve been able to determine, that doctrine is not supported by the Bible, not even by Paul, regardless of his analogies. On the contrary, the Bible itself denies the whole concept of original sin.
Here is why I believe that, far from deviating, the Baha’i Faith is more in line with the Bible than those churches on this topic.
God says, in Eze. 18:19-20, “When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”
He continues, in verses 21 and 22, “But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.” This was centuries before the Christ came as Jesus.
The same Apostle Paul who made that statement to the Corinthians points out to the Romans, in Romans 2:6, “(God) will render to every man according to his deeds....”
Also, John wrote in Revelations 20:12, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” He repeats “judged according to their works” in the next verse.
As I know you do, I believe all of these to be true. The important thing is to find what is meant by them. If God Himself, the Apostle Paul, and John the Revelator all say that we are judged by what we do, and it is written so in the Bible, then how can we be judged by what Adam did, as Paul seems to be have said?
Paul solved the mystery almost as soon as he started it. I highly recommend reading all of the context, but here are important verses.
1 Cor:15:22: For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
Put simply, Paul is differentiating between the physical and the spiritual. Paul says he’s referring to Adam as the first physical man, the “father” of all humanity, from whom we inherited “flesh and blood,” and he’s referring to the Risen Christ as the last Adam, the Lord from heaven, a spiritual reality, through Whom we attain spiritual life.
We will all die if we remain earthly, flesh and blood; we will truly live if we follow Christ, leaving the flesh and becoming spiritual. Jesus had said “Let the dead bury the dead.” Paul said, “I die daily.” It appears that death doesn’t always mean physical death. If what Paul meant was to differentiate between being physical and being spiritual, then the interpretation that created the concept of original sin is no longer needed. As far as this goes, it could be true, but it isn’t necessarily so because we have another interpretation, given to us by Paul himself.
Then when we look at what God, and Paul, and John said elsewhere in the Bible, we know that such an interpretation isn’t correct, that the doctrine of original sin is the result of a misunderstanding because we are judged by our deeds. Sin is not inherited. With or without Christ, I am not a sinner because Adam sinned; I am a sinner because I sinned. So says God, and Paul, and John. So says the Bible.
So we don’t get too distracted by Paul’s analogies, Peter gave us some consolation when he wrote of his beloved brother in Christ in 2 Peter 3:15-16, “... in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” Peter knew, for instance, that the Jews remembered God’s formula for salvation, expressed by Ezekiel, and that they were expecting the Messiah for a different reason than what would be understood by those who read Paul’s letters literally.
About his own writings, Paul himself said, earlier in that same letter to the Corinthian church, "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor 2:13-14)
Now, I turn to your question of why would God send Jesus or Baha’u’llah at all, if there is no original sin. Please refer to what God said in Eze. 21-22, quoted above and again below.
“But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.”
Finally, please re-read the following paragraph extracted from that article on the official Baha’i web site to which you directed me:
Bahá'u'lláh repeatedly stressed that only revealed religion can save us from our imperfections. It is because God has sent his Manifestations to show us the path to spiritual development and to touch our hearts with the spirit of God's love that we are able to realize our true potential and make the effort to be united with God. This is the ‘salvation’ that religion brings. It does not save us from the stain of some ‘original sin,’ nor does it protect us from some external evil force or devil. Rather, it delivers us from captivity to our own lower nature, a captivity that breeds private despair and threatens social destruction, and it shows us the path to a deep and satisfying happiness.
Micah prophesied in Micah 5:2, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” God knows that in the centuries that follow each Visitation of the Word we tend to drift away, even unknowingly corrupting His message. Since “corruption cannot inherit incorruption,” He sends a Bearer of the Holy Spirit about every thousand years or so to redirect us back to Him , a Bearer “Whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting.”
God sent Jesus because He loves us and He wished to turn us away from our transgressions and toward Him. God sent Baha’u’llah because He still loves us and He still wishes to turn us away from our transgressions and toward Him, this time in a unified humanity as well as individually. Jesus is my Savior, not because I inherited Adam’s sin, but because I needed to be saved from my own transgressions. My love for Jesus changed my heart to follow His teachings, giving me joy and life. Baha’u’llah is my Lord because He is the spiritual Return of my Savior Who has now given me purpose in life, not just life.
If you're not already a Baha'i,