Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Could Marriage Save Your Soul: 2

Definition of Salvation:
    1. Preservation or deliverance from destruction, difficulty, or evil.
    2. A source, means, or cause of such preservation or deliverance.
  1. Deliverance from the power or penalty of sin; redemption.
    1. The agent or means that brings about such deliverance.
In a previous post I posed the question, "Could marriage save your soul?" One approach to this question is to consider what "salvation" means in Baha'i thought. Based on my exploration of Baha'i scripture there are at least two ways of understanding salvation. The first way is the one that is usually associated with this concept, a personal spiritual state of knowing (recognition) and loving (obedience) God. The opening paragraph of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, The Most Holy Book in Baha'i scripture captures the essence of the requirements of personal salvation:

"The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation. Whoso achieveth this duty hath attained unto all good; and whoso is deprived thereof hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed. It behoveth every one who reacheth this most sublime station, this summit of transcendent glory, to observe every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. These twin duties are inseparable. Neither is acceptable without the other. Thus hath it been decreed by Him Who is the Source of Divine inspiration." (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 19)

Abdu'l-Baha elaborates on the meaning of this verse from the Aqdas:

Question. -- It is said in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas "...whoso is deprived thereof, hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed." What is the meaning of this verse?

Answer. -- This blessed verse means that the foundation of success and salvation is the knowledge of God, and that the results of the knowledge of God are the good actions which are the fruits of faith.

If man has not this knowledge, he will be separated from God, and when this separation exists, good actions have not complete effect. This verse does not mean that the souls separated from God are equal, whether they perform good or bad actions. It signifies only that the foundation is to know God, and the good actions result from this knowledge. Nevertheless, it is certain that between the good, the sinners and the wicked who are veiled from God there is a difference. For the veiled one who has good principles and character deserves the pardon of God, while he who is a sinner, and has bad qualities and character, is deprived of the bounties and blessings of God. Herein lies the difference. Therefore, the blessed verse means that good actions alone, without the knowledge of God, cannot be the cause of eternal salvation, everlasting success, and prosperity, and entrance into the Kingdom of God. (Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 238)

A second way that salvation is presented in Baha'i scripture could be referred to as "universal" or "social" salvation. Baha'u'llah states:

"O Thou Who art the Lord of Lords! I testify that Thou art the Lord of all creation, and the Educator of all beings, visible and invisible. I bear witness that Thy power hath encompassed the entire universe, and that the hosts of the earth can never dismay Thee, nor can the dominion of all peoples and nations deter Thee from executing Thy purpose. I confess that Thou hast no desire except the regeneration of the whole world, and the establishment of the unity of its peoples, and the salvation of all them that dwell therein."

And 'Abdu'l-Baha tells us that:

"If ye will follow earnestly the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, ye shall indeed become the light of the world, the soul for the body of the world, the comfort and help for humanity, and the source of salvation for the whole universe. Strive therefore, with heart and soul, to follow the precepts of the Blessed Perfection, and rest assured that if ye succeed in living the life he marks out for you, Eternal Life and everlasting joy in the Heavenly Kingdom will be yours, and celestial sustenance will be sent to strengthen you all your days." (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 113)

Finally, Shoghi Effendi associates salvation with world unity:

"The flames which His Divine justice have kindled cleanse an unregenerate humanity, and fuse its discordant, its warring elements as no other agency can cleanse or fuse them. It is not only a retributory and destructive fire, but a disciplinary and creative process, whose aim is the salvation, through unification, of the entire planet." (Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 116)

While marriage probably facilitates personal salvation, it is this universal or social salvation that I find more interesting to ponder. In the prayer I cited where Baha'u'llah refers to marriage as a "fortress for well-being and salvation", He prefaces that metaphor with this statement:

"And when He desired to manifest grace and beneficence to men, and to set the world in order..."

It is the potential for marriage to contribute to world order that I think is one way of understanding it as a means for attaining salvation. So perhaps my question, "Could marriage save your soul?", should be rephrased as "Could marriage save the world?" I think the answer is yes. The next question is "how". I'll address the how in my next post.

Readers weigh in, how do you think that marriage may contribute to social salvation?