Bahai Faith - Issues

BAHA'IS AND RELIGIOUS UNITY

The third Baha'i argument against Christianity that I wish to address is the claim that Baha'ism must be God's true religion for this age because, unlike Christianity, it has not suffered any schisms. One Baha'i writer takes this so far as to proclaim boldly that "there are not Baha'i sects. There never can be."21

There are two problems with this argument: (1) It rests on a false premise — Baha'ism has in fact suffered divisions. (2) The conclusion does not follow — an undivided religion is not necessarily the true religion.

Division in Baha'ism

First, the fact is that Baha'ism has suffered several divisions, from its early days to the present. One group, known as the Free Baha'is, has published a book denouncing Shoghi Effendi (who took over leadership of the Baha'i World Faith after Baha'u'llah's son 'Abdu'l-Baha died).22 Another group, the Orthodox Baha'i Faith, was formed after Shoghi Effendi died, and recognizes Jason Remey as Effendi's successor.23 Yet another group, Baha'is Under the Provision of the Covenant (BUPC), is led by Montana chiropractor Dr. Leland Jensen. Though it has "Baha'i" in its name, it is not endorsed or recognized by the main body "as a legitimate Baha'i organization."24 As Vernon Elvin Johnson concludes in his Baylor University dissertation on the history of Baha'ism, "obvious schism has occurred in the Baha'i religion, for various factions each claiming to belong to the Baha'i religion have existed in the course of the faith's history."25

Some Baha'is may be tempted to counter that anyone who breaks off from the Baha'i World Faith is automatically not a Baha'i and therefore no schism has really occurred. Such an argument is circular in nature and commits what Antony Flew calls the "no-true-Scotsman" fallacy ("No Scotsman would do such a thing....Well, no true Scotsman would").26 As Johnson points out, the Catholic and Mormon churches have used similar reasoning to defend their claim to be the one true church27 (although the Catholic church no longer tends to take such an exclusive stance).

Division and Truth

Second, it simply does not follow that a religion that is undivided must be the true religion, or that a religion that is divided cannot be the true religion. For the Baha'i argument to be persuasive it must be shown, and not simply assumed, that the true religion must be unified organizationally. This is not a biblical teaching: unity of the faith is presented in the Bible as a goal for the church to reach, not a prerequisite for the church to be God's people (Eph. 4:11-16).

Since on independent grounds we know that Christianity is true (for example, the evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus,28 which Baha'is deny29), we may justifiably conclude that organizational unity is not a requirement for a religion to be true. The argument can be stated more formally as follows:

1. Either the true religion is unified or it is not.

2. Christianity is the true religion and it is not unified.

3. Therefore, the true religion is not unified.

The truth of Christianity is independent of whether its adherents congregate under the same organizational banner. Its truth depends rather on the truth of the Bible's teachings concerning the person, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is not to deny that Christians have an obligation to exhibit unity and love as a testimony to the world of the truth of Jesus Christ (John 13:34-35; 17:21-23). To our shame we confess that although Christianity is true, Christians have not always been true to Christ. Nevertheless, this does not alter the fact that Jesus Christ is the only Savior from sin and God's last word to man prior to the consummation of history (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Heb. 1:1-3; 13:8). On this basis Christianity stands vindicated as true and Baha'ism stands condemned as a rejection of God's truth as revealed in Jesus Christ.