Monday, January 26, 2009

Many Paths to Paradise

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, my favorite source of social science on religion in America, has news on a recent study regarding beliefs about salvation. Check it out:

"A majority of all American Christians (52%) think that at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life. Indeed, among Christians who believe many religions can lead to eternal life, 80% name at least one non-Christian faith that can do so. These are among the key findings of a national survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life from July 31-Aug. 10, 2008, among 2,905 adults.

Figure 1The survey is designed as a follow-up to the Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in 2007, which reported that most Americans who claim a religious affiliation take a non-exclusivist view of salvation, with seven-in-ten saying that many religions can lead to eternal life while less than one-quarter say theirs is the one, true faith leading to eternal life. But what exactly do these respondents have in mind when they agree that “many religions can lead to eternal life?” Is this primarily an example of most Christians (who account for nearly 80% of the U.S. adult population) acknowledging that some Christian denominations and churches besides their own can lead to eternal life? Or are most people interpreting “many religions” more broadly, to include non-Christian faiths?

The new survey asks those who say many religions can lead to eternal life whether or not they think a series of specific religions (including Judaism, Islam and Hinduism) can lead to eternal life, as well as whether they think atheists or people who have no religious faith can achieve eternal life. The findings confirm that most people who say many religions can lead to eternal life take the view that even non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal salvation. Indeed, among Christians who say that many religions can lead to eternal life (65% of all Christians), the vast majority (80%) cite an example of at least one non-Christian religion that can lead to salvation, and fully six-in-ten (61%) name two or more non-Christian religions. Even among white evangelical Protestants, nearly three-quarters (72%) of those who say many religions can lead to eternal life name at least one non-Christian religion that can lead to salvation." (Read the whole report here)

I'm reminded of commentary in a letter addressed by the Universal House of Justice to the World's Religious Leaders:

"...Bahá'ís see in the struggle of diverse religions to draw closer together a response to the Divine Will for a human race that is entering on its collective maturity. The members of our community will continue to assist in every way we can. We owe it to our partners in this common effort, however, to state clearly our conviction that interfaith discourse, if it is to contribute meaningfully to healing the ills that afflict a desperate humanity, must now address honestly and without further evasion the implications of the over-arching truth that called the movement into being: that God is one and that, beyond all diversity of cultural expression and human interpretation, religion is likewise one."
(The Universal House of Justice, 2002 April, To the World's Religious Leaders, p. 5)

It may be that the trend identified in the above study offers a glimmer of the emerging consciousness of the truth that "God is one and that, beyond all diversity of cultural expression and human interpretation, religion is likewise one." If so, it is an encouraging sign.


  1. Very encouraging sign!!

    In my blog, some of the most understanding people are the Christians, even when my post is rather "mainstream" Baha'i...

    ~ Alex from Our Evolution

  2. Phillipe,

    I spent much of this morning getting caught up on your blog, and I am blown away, as usual, by both the content and the quality of your writing! I've missed reading it during my hiatus from daily online access. And you are a dad now, congratulations to you and your lovely wife! Douglass Ali Copeland is simply adorable!

  3. Anonymous6:06 PM

    I read your post, I also saw that those pew research findings but had quite the opposite reaction than you. I was shocked and dissapointed that so many Christians think that there are other ways to eternal life than through Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, saying that there are other paths to eternal life other than through Jesus makes a mockery of the fact that Christ was crucified for our sins, so that we may all eternal life. I don't think that these people that are claiming to be Christians, are truly Christians, or born again Christians, as Christ said to Nicodemus in John 3:5-7 "Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'"

    I challenge most people who claim they are Christians, do you read the bible? Do you follow Christ? Do you believe the Christ was God? Or are you a Christian because you go to church every Sunday, or becuase your parents were???

    If we read the bible, we understand that there is no other way to Heaven except through God, and the only way to get to God is through the Son (Jesus Christ). While I think that your Bahai religion is great in the aspect that you do good works, this is no way to get to Heaven, your good works alone to not get you to eternal life, nor does just having a belief in or praying to God. You have to believe in the Son, and by God grace we saved, not by our good works or fleshly workings. John 3:5-7
    Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

    I think this pretty much sums it all up

    Matthew 7:13-23

    "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide [is] the gate and broad [is] the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.
    Because [fn] narrow [is] the gate and difficult [is] the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
    "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
    You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?
    Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
    A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor [can] a bad tree bear good fruit.
    Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
    Therefore by their fruits you will know them. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
    Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'
    And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

    God bless, and I hope that you come to know Jesus, he has truly been a blessing in my life, my personal relationship with Christ is something know man can take from me.

    Congrats on the birth of your son.


  4. Dear Josh,
    Where should I begin? Or should I leave you to your peace?

  5. Anonymous10:58 AM

    Please do. Please tell me where God said in the bible that there are many paths to enlightenment...


  6. Ah Mark, I sense the coming of a long quote war that would take up more bandwidth than Phillipe has available on his site! But it's all good, and for the Glory of God!

    Josh, thank you for your sincerity and commitment to being of service to God. We Baha'is believe and serve the same God, the God of Abraham (father of all of the Holy Messengers), Moses and Jesus. My personal view of the Baha'i perspective of the Almighty is that God reaffirms His Love, Grace and Bounty progressively throughout the ages through his Messengers, who manifest His Words and Commandments for spiritual uplifting of all mankind. The spiritual teachings have remained the same throughout the ages, which is in essence, love God,your fellow man and woman, and yourself.

    The social teachings for each age has changed because the needs of mankind have been different over the years. Other Baha'is can elaborate on that concept more, but God has been unfolding His Divine Plan ever since Adam recognized that there is One God, not many gods who reflect human behaviors and frailties. During mankind's infancy, our ancestors were very much ego-centric, just like infants and toddlers. Now we know that we must learn about God through His Messengers so that we can allow His Light to shine through us, and be of service to others.

    This doesn't answer your direct question, of course. But I just wanted to provide a wider context for possible discussion. Please understand that we fervently believe that there is only one God. We love and worship the same God of the Old and New Testament, and loving words of Jesus gave salvation, mercy, hope and comfort to those who, at the time of His Appearance on earth, were disheartened by the perverse application of the Pentateuch, and those who were enslaved by the nonsensical oracles and proclamations of the pagan priesthood.

    With that, I'm tagging Mark and going home. But of course, not before leaving this quote, which might (or might not) start a discussion:

    In the Gospel of John, in speaking of the Promised One Who was to come after Christ, it is said in chapter 16, verses 12, 13: "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak."

    Now consider carefully that from these words, "for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak," it is clear that the Spirit of truth is embodied in a Man Who has individuality, Who has ears to hear and a tongue to speak. In the same way the name "Spirit of God" is used in relation to Christ, as you speak of a light, meaning both the light and the lamp.  

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 108)

  7. Very interesting - are you going to use this for a paper or part of your research?

  8. Your question has startled and gave me the shivers, Allison. I have been reading selections from the Baha'i Writings and the Bible, and ideas have coalescing in my mind. There's nothing concrete yet, but I've been pondering about returning to graduate school and doing a hybrid study of contemporary American literature and modern theology with a concentration on Baha'i Writings and Christianity.

    I can't help but wonder if God is giving me a nudge in that direction, and you were the means of which His Will for me is revealed. One never knows how God will convey His Will and Divine Plan.

    At any rate, our friend Phillipe should be able to give me some tips on how to survive a PH.d. program, if I choose to take that route. The thought of doing a doctoral program at 51 years old is pretty daunting, though. I'm going pray, meditate and sleep on it. Thank you for your assistance, Allison!

  9. Angela, you can totally do it. It's exciting to consider taking on something that would really stretch you, so keep us posted!

    Phillipe, are you using this this data for some part of your program?

  10. Anonymous12:42 PM

    Thanks Angela, unfortunately, your interpretation of John 16:12-13 is not correct. You say that there is a "promised one" that will come after Christ. Christ is referring to the Holy Spirit not a man that will come after Christ. Because the only thing that is following Christ is Christ, he is the alpha and the omega. Christ was speaking to his apostles, what he says primarily applies to the apostles. The Holy Spirits ministry to them was threefold, 1. He would guide them into all thruth 2. He would tell them of the future 3. He would help them glorify Christ. Jesus' words were fulfilled in the apostles preachings and writings. THe Holy Spirit guided the apostles by revealing to them not only the truths embodied in Jesus' life and death, but also the glorious future of all believers. The apostles, in turn, wrote it down in the New Testament, which glorifies-that is, reveals-Jesus Christ. the word BEAR means "to carry a burden" and is used later of Christ carrying the cross.

    In other words, there were truths they could not understand or handle until the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost.

    You see, you cannot add to God's grace, and that is what saves us, not our actions or good works, you can't add to what God already gave you for free. You can't tack on extra rules to be saved to "get to paradise" as you put it. I hope you understand.

    As per adding works on to the bible or prophecy. Have you read The Revelation of Jesus Christ? I am pretty sure that is God's final word on what is to come. As it is said in the bible, Take heed that no one deceives you, for many wil come in My name saying "I am he Christ," and will deceive many." Matthew 24:4-5

    I pray for your salvation.


  11. I didn't write that, Josh. It was a quote from the book, "Some Answered Questions" by Abdu'l-Baha. And thank you for your prayers. We all need them.

  12. Thanks everyone for their contributions. Josh you are welcome to share your comments on this blog and I also welcome your prayers. Your remarks represent fairly common responses to the Baha'i Faith from some Christians but they are unlikely to convince myself or any other Baha'i that our view of the Bible is wrong. This is part of why I'm not interested in engaging you about them.

    Take care.

  13. Anonymous3:51 PM

    thanks Phillipe, I understand your position. Sometimes it is easier to keep quiet about our beliefs than to get into discussions about them. But as a true born again believer in Christ and in the bible, I cannot. I am actually told by Christ to go and teach the word, it was the great commission.

    I am curious, perhaps you can share with me your beliefs in Christ, was he profit or God?

    To me, saying that my God is the same god of islam, or other religion puts there gods on a level with God, they are not the same as my God, the Lord God of Israel. It is false belief that we all worship the same God, we do not.

    Angela, sorry, let me correct myself. The book you quoted is wrong in it's interpretation.