Is the Universal House of Justice Infallible?

bahai swallow.pngThere is an ongoing debate between Baha’i theologians on the definition of infallibility itself. They can’t arrive at an agreement and the arguments have been flying back and forth for some time. One theological school of thought says that it has something to do with the Arabic word maasum.

But for most people infallibility means that one doesn’t make mistakes, everything one says or decides or does is right.

So for the sake of simplicity, lets go with that definition. Here’s the thing that I just can’t wrap my puny mind around: If someone, or some institution, as the case is in the Baha’i Faith is believed to be infallible, then doesn’t that require a prerequisite of omniscience?

Let me explain.

If I were to ask an infallible person (say, the Pope) or an institution (say, the UHJ) what the air-speed velocity of an unladen African swallow is, wouldn’t they have to know the air-speed velocity of an unladen African swallow before being able to give me an infallible answer?

You might argue and say, “Wait a tick! The Pope and the UHJ are only infallible when it comes to subjects relevant to Roman Catholicism or to the Baha’i Faith. They have nothing to say when it comes to ornithology, therefore they have an automatic ‘Get Out of Jail’ card. So there! Ha.”

ok, fine. Technically you’d be right but I was just making an analogy, I would respond. Try and chillax there, Mr. McNitpickyson.

So getting back to the topic, logic dictates that before one can answer a question or take a position on something in an infallible way… one would require knowledge or information. And lots and lots of it. In fact, if you want to be absolutely right always and without limits, then you would require absolute knowledge, without limits. There’s a word for that: omniscience.

omniscient infallible swallow.png

And even if one doesn’t simply know everything, to be able to be infallible, one would still require knowledge to be able to calculate, analyse and so forth correctly to be able to arrive at an infallible conclusion (that is, know not only how to arrive at it but to recognize the answer) .

But wait, you pipe up from the back: “What if Pope didn’t have to be omniscient to answer, what if the Pope could bend the fabric of space and time and simply reconstitute reality so that the air velocity of an unladen African swallow would be whatever he deemed it to be? What then, huh, smartypants?”

There is only one thing I would object to in that case. Namely that the Pope, nor the UHJ nor any mortal person has such power. There aren’t any omnipotent beings running around. Except for God (and some people don’t even believe He exists). And to my knowlege no one else is claiming to be omnipotent.

Back to square one.

This might be a good place to wonder if the the UHJ is indeed omniscient. That would certainly make things simple.

“However, the Universal House of Justice is not omniscient…”
(Universal House of Justice — June 14th, 1996)

Well, there goes that theory.

Now, before proceeding, I want to clarify something else. I am not saying that omniscience and infallibility are one and the same. Not at all. One can know everything and be fallible. That is, one can choose to not exercise one’s omniscience. Like for example, knowing how to juggle and choosing to sit on your hands. The two are clearly separate and distinct from each other. You can have one without the other, but can you have the other without the one first?

Could one be infallible if one is not omniscient? If yes, how would that work?

Here is the UHJ again:

We have found nothing in the writings of Shoghi Effendi which suggests that the House of Justice would on any occasion reach a ?wrong decision?.
(Universal House of Justice — June 14th, 1996)

How could anyone or any earthly institution be infallible (in the sense of never making mistakes and always being right) if they do not also possess omniscience?

There is the conundrum for me.

If you have an answer, I’d be delighted to hear it. But please use small words so that my few remaining brain cells can handle the synaptic load.

You might also be interested in Part II – a continuation of this discussion.

  • Grahame

    Hi, It all sounds so logical and reasonable when you put it that way. Perhaps the answer lies in the translation of the word Masum (sp).
    Grahame

  • Grahame

    Hi, It all sounds so logical and reasonable when you put it that way. Perhaps the answer lies in the translation of the word Masum (sp).
    Grahame

  • Sen

    Certainly “never making a mistake” would require omniscience, which the neither the UHJ nor the Guardian have : Shoghi Effendi says that attributing super-human status to the Guardian is “open blasphemy”
    (The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 150). Surely it is equally blasphemous to attribute omniscience or the absence of mistakes to the UHJ.

    The UHJ says:

    > We have found nothing in the writings of Shoghi Effendi which suggests that
    > the House of Justice would on any occasion reach a “wrong decision”.
    (The Universal House of Justice, 1996 Jun 14, Infallibility, Women on House of Justice)

    Shoghi Effendi says:

    “the Guardian of the Faith … cannot override the decision of the majority of his fellow-members, but is bound to insist upon a reconsideration by them of any enactment he conscientiously believes to conflict with the meaning and to depart from the spirit of Bah??’u’ll??h’s revealed utterances.
    (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 150)

    That the UHJ is not omniscient and can therefore make mistakes of fact, or mistakes because it has the wrong information, is obvious. What Shoghi Effendi is saying here is more specific: that the UHJ does not have complete knowledge of the meaning and spirit of Baha’u’llah’s teachings. So the UHJ can be wrong in a deeper sense than just making a mistake. It may be leading in the wrong direction, departing from “the spirit of Bah??’u’ll??h’s revealed utterances.” So can anyone else — Shoghi Effendi’s words are not an invitation to stand on the soapbox of our own certainties, rather they indicate the need for humility for everyone.

  • Sen

    Certainly “never making a mistake” would require omniscience, which the neither the UHJ nor the Guardian have : Shoghi Effendi says that attributing super-human status to the Guardian is “open blasphemy”
    (The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 150). Surely it is equally blasphemous to attribute omniscience or the absence of mistakes to the UHJ.

    The UHJ says:

    > We have found nothing in the writings of Shoghi Effendi which suggests that
    > the House of Justice would on any occasion reach a “wrong decision”.
    (The Universal House of Justice, 1996 Jun 14, Infallibility, Women on House of Justice)

    Shoghi Effendi says:

    “the Guardian of the Faith … cannot override the decision of the majority of his fellow-members, but is bound to insist upon a reconsideration by them of any enactment he conscientiously believes to conflict with the meaning and to depart from the spirit of Bah??’u’ll??h’s revealed utterances.
    (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 150)

    That the UHJ is not omniscient and can therefore make mistakes of fact, or mistakes because it has the wrong information, is obvious. What Shoghi Effendi is saying here is more specific: that the UHJ does not have complete knowledge of the meaning and spirit of Baha’u’llah’s teachings. So the UHJ can be wrong in a deeper sense than just making a mistake. It may be leading in the wrong direction, departing from “the spirit of Bah??’u’ll??h’s revealed utterances.” So can anyone else — Shoghi Effendi’s words are not an invitation to stand on the soapbox of our own certainties, rather they indicate the need for humility for everyone.

  • Ty

    Logic has no place in organized religion

  • Ty

    Logic has no place in organized religion

  • Brendan Cook

    For me, the whole matter is very simple. For the sake of argument let’s concede the House is *always* correct provided it has all the relevant information. Even if this were so, it would only mean so much. Aristotle argued that the *only* reason any of us makes the wrong choice is because we don’t have all the facts. Error is the result of insufficient knowledge. We would all choose well if we knew all we needed to know. So if the House is infallible in the sense, I can accept it, just as I can accept it about anyone else. But considering all that of the things in this world that are understood imperfectly, I don’t take something like this as much of a guarantee of the rulings the House makes.

  • Brendan Cook

    For me, the whole matter is very simple. For the sake of argument let’s concede the House is *always* correct provided it has all the relevant information. Even if this were so, it would only mean so much. Aristotle argued that the *only* reason any of us makes the wrong choice is because we don’t have all the facts. Error is the result of insufficient knowledge. We would all choose well if we knew all we needed to know. So if the House is infallible in the sense, I can accept it, just as I can accept it about anyone else. But considering all that of the things in this world that are understood imperfectly, I don’t take something like this as much of a guarantee of the rulings the House makes.

  • tagbeny1

    I think we should also consider divine intervention to make the discussion a little more balanced. Does divine guidance have a role to play? Even if divine guidance has a role to play how can we be sure that every word or action from such “infallible person or institution” is divinely inspired? I think, it would require faith and sometimes, blind faith.

  • tagbeny1

    I think we should also consider divine intervention to make the discussion a little more balanced. Does divine guidance have a role to play? Even if divine guidance has a role to play how can we be sure that every word or action from such “infallible person or institution” is divinely inspired? I think, it would require faith and sometimes, blind faith.

  • I would think the relationship between omniscience and infallibility is the opposite of what you are suggesting…

    if one is omniscient, and someone asks you a question, and the question makes sense, it seems like it should be no big deal for you to access your omniscience and give a correct (infallible) answer.

    But it seems very plausible to me for an infallible-but-not-omniscient entity to be at least be aware of their own limits. So if someone asks them a question about an area outside of their sphere of expertise they would be wise enough to answer “I don’t know” or otherwise remain silent.

    So omniscience would tend to imply infallibility. But infallibility doesn’t necessarily imply omniscience.

  • I would think the relationship between omniscience and infallibility is the opposite of what you are suggesting…

    if one is omniscient, and someone asks you a question, and the question makes sense, it seems like it should be no big deal for you to access your omniscience and give a correct (infallible) answer.

    But it seems very plausible to me for an infallible-but-not-omniscient entity to be at least be aware of their own limits. So if someone asks them a question about an area outside of their sphere of expertise they would be wise enough to answer “I don’t know” or otherwise remain silent.

    So omniscience would tend to imply infallibility. But infallibility doesn’t necessarily imply omniscience.

  • Very interesting. Thank you all for your assistance in my goal to understand this concept better. I think it certainly deserves another attempt, to say the least.

    If you have further suggestions or ideas, continue to share them.

  • Very interesting. Thank you all for your assistance in my goal to understand this concept better. I think it certainly deserves another attempt, to say the least.

    If you have further suggestions or ideas, continue to share them.

  • Interesting question, to be sure. I think if we examine the matters being considered by the Universal House of Justice, they will inevitably fall within the range of spiritual solutions to corporeal issues.

    Spiritual things are spiritually discerned (I Cor. 2:13-16); the intellect serves as a “governor” in the sense that Reason must provide a check, but the fount from which the Universal House of Justice must draw is the Spirit of God, not the mind of man. Therefore, they are, on the one hand, not Omniscient; yet they have access to the Omniscience of God when deliberating/meditating/consulting en banc.

    Those who are intellectually gifted by God (or, if you wish, burdened with such responsibility) often will see everything through the lens of the intellect. That is not God’s way; He can use any tool he likes — from a wool merchant, a carpenter, a fisherman, or even Balaam’s ass can come wisdom. Wisdom and discernment are spiritual; no scholarship is required to receive wisdom, but love, trust, and obedience are prerequisites. JMHO

  • Interesting question, to be sure. I think if we examine the matters being considered by the Universal House of Justice, they will inevitably fall within the range of spiritual solutions to corporeal issues.

    Spiritual things are spiritually discerned (I Cor. 2:13-16); the intellect serves as a “governor” in the sense that Reason must provide a check, but the fount from which the Universal House of Justice must draw is the Spirit of God, not the mind of man. Therefore, they are, on the one hand, not Omniscient; yet they have access to the Omniscience of God when deliberating/meditating/consulting en banc.

    Those who are intellectually gifted by God (or, if you wish, burdened with such responsibility) often will see everything through the lens of the intellect. That is not God’s way; He can use any tool he likes — from a wool merchant, a carpenter, a fisherman, or even Balaam’s ass can come wisdom. Wisdom and discernment are spiritual; no scholarship is required to receive wisdom, but love, trust, and obedience are prerequisites. JMHO

  • Mahnaz

    dear friends, when we say the Universal House of Justice is infallible, it means whatever decisions they arrive at is infallible. thank you.

  • Mahnaz

    dear friends, when we say the Universal House of Justice is infallible, it means whatever decisions they arrive at is infallible. thank you.

  • dear mahnaz, when I say that your comment is circular logic, it means that your comment is using circular logic. thank you.

  • dear mahnaz, when I say that your comment is circular logic, it means that your comment is using circular logic. thank you.

  • Sasha

    I think ‘infallibility’ is a ruse to safeguard ‘Unity’

  • Sasha

    I think ‘infallibility’ is a ruse to safeguard ‘Unity’

  • Not only can the Universal House of Justice be infallible in its decisions, but we can as well; through the same medium. This is not to say that a man is infallible, but his decision may be.

    “Know then: that which is in the hands of people, that which they believe, is liable to error. For, in proving or disproving a thing, if a proof is brought forward which is taken from the evidence of our senses, this method, as has become evident, is not perfect; if the proofs are intellectual, the same is true; or if they are traditional, such proofs also are not perfect. Therefore, there is no standard in the hands of people upon which we can rely.

    But the bounty of the Holy Spirit gives the true method of comprehension which is infallible and indubitable. This is through the help of the Holy Spirit which comes to man, and this is the condition in which certainty can alone be attained.”

    (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 298)

    So, you see, your belief that intellectual omniscience must prevail in order for decisions of the Universal House of Justice to be infallible is erroneous; what they require, and receive, is the discernment provided by the Spirit of God.

    Warmest regards,
    overmywaders

  • Not only can the Universal House of Justice be infallible in its decisions, but we can as well; through the same medium. This is not to say that a man is infallible, but his decision may be.

    “Know then: that which is in the hands of people, that which they believe, is liable to error. For, in proving or disproving a thing, if a proof is brought forward which is taken from the evidence of our senses, this method, as has become evident, is not perfect; if the proofs are intellectual, the same is true; or if they are traditional, such proofs also are not perfect. Therefore, there is no standard in the hands of people upon which we can rely.

    But the bounty of the Holy Spirit gives the true method of comprehension which is infallible and indubitable. This is through the help of the Holy Spirit which comes to man, and this is the condition in which certainty can alone be attained.”

    (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 298)

    So, you see, your belief that intellectual omniscience must prevail in order for decisions of the Universal House of Justice to be infallible is erroneous; what they require, and receive, is the discernment provided by the Spirit of God.

    Warmest regards,
    overmywaders

  • I don’t know if what I have to add will be of any help. In Catholicism, the infallibility of the pope is a sort of negative infallibility. What I mean is that the Holy Spirit will prevent him from saying something wrong (on those limited occasions when his infallibility is in play – most of what the pope says is not infallible). So he doesn’t necessarily have to know the right answer. If he knows it and is moved to say it, the Holy Spirit will allow him. If he doesn’t know it, then he won’t speak on the issue. It’s therefore never occurred to me that infallibility and omniscience should be related.

  • I don’t know if what I have to add will be of any help. In Catholicism, the infallibility of the pope is a sort of negative infallibility. What I mean is that the Holy Spirit will prevent him from saying something wrong (on those limited occasions when his infallibility is in play – most of what the pope says is not infallible). So he doesn’t necessarily have to know the right answer. If he knows it and is moved to say it, the Holy Spirit will allow him. If he doesn’t know it, then he won’t speak on the issue. It’s therefore never occurred to me that infallibility and omniscience should be related.

  • Dawud

    One possibility, which is what I always assumed their claim was: They have an omniscient God whispering in their collective ear. Making them like psychic mediums, or idiots savantes.

  • Dawud

    One possibility, which is what I always assumed their claim was: They have an omniscient God whispering in their collective ear. Making them like psychic mediums, or idiots savantes.

  • Abdul Baha said (someplace) that if he needed to know something the required knowledge would appear to him. Is this omniscience? AB clearly didn’t know everything but was able to answer questions brilliantly and was very well informed.

    The UHJ is infallible if its followers believe it to be. I believe most important matters in religion are matters of faith. The Bahai Faith asks its followers to treat the UJH as if it were infallible — for the sake of unity. So far this is working to a degree. But the side effect is that it is a limiting factor in the faith’s growth and development. This is the pickle the Bahai faith is in: it has antiquated notions in a religion that claims to address modernity better than any other religion. As Tolstoy found — Bahai is much more like the old time religion than it would like to be.

  • Abdul Baha said (someplace) that if he needed to know something the required knowledge would appear to him. Is this omniscience? AB clearly didn’t know everything but was able to answer questions brilliantly and was very well informed.

    The UHJ is infallible if its followers believe it to be. I believe most important matters in religion are matters of faith. The Bahai Faith asks its followers to treat the UJH as if it were infallible — for the sake of unity. So far this is working to a degree. But the side effect is that it is a limiting factor in the faith’s growth and development. This is the pickle the Bahai faith is in: it has antiquated notions in a religion that claims to address modernity better than any other religion. As Tolstoy found — Bahai is much more like the old time religion than it would like to be.

  • Frank,

    I would cordially disagree with you. You said “The UHJ is infallible if its followers believe it to be. I believe most important matters in religion are matters of faith. The Bahai Faith asks its followers to treat the UJH as if it were infallible — for the sake of unity.”

    Your fist sentence above suggests that wishful thinking (or “visualization”) will be the cause for a given effect. The Universal House of Justice will issue infallible statements and take infallible actions because those statements and actions are directed by God through the Holy Spirit. Even if all the Baha’is believed these actions were flawed; the actions would still be right and infallible. It is not a matter of belief making it so.

    Your second sentence implies a faith against reason. That is not faith, that is superstition.

    Your third sentence is very curious. “The Baha’i Faith asks…”. Actually, Baha’u’llah tells, Abdu’l-Baha tells, and the Guardian tells. They are narrating fact. The Baha’i Faith doesn’t ask anything of me; God does through His Manifestations and their designates, and I respond. That is our unity. I do not “treat the UHJ”; however, I do honor its role/office as God would have me.

    I don’t know how long comments can be so I’ll skip ahead. You speak of “limiting factor”. I think that the Cause actually has a number of “limiting factors” so far as modern society is concerned. For example, no women on the UHJ, no sex outside of marriage, and no gay marriage. These are tremendous stumbling blocks for some people — they want a religion of God that conforms to their culture. Certainly understandable; however, Truth doesn’t change to suit the times. So often we begin with a peculiar assumption — “new is better”. That is what you mean by “antiquated notions” and “old time religion”, I believe. Well, new is not always better; despite what Madison Ave might have taught you. Everything should be weighed in the proper scales.

    With warmest Baha’i regards,
    overmywaders

  • Frank,

    I would cordially disagree with you. You said “The UHJ is infallible if its followers believe it to be. I believe most important matters in religion are matters of faith. The Bahai Faith asks its followers to treat the UJH as if it were infallible — for the sake of unity.”

    Your fist sentence above suggests that wishful thinking (or “visualization”) will be the cause for a given effect. The Universal House of Justice will issue infallible statements and take infallible actions because those statements and actions are directed by God through the Holy Spirit. Even if all the Baha’is believed these actions were flawed; the actions would still be right and infallible. It is not a matter of belief making it so.

    Your second sentence implies a faith against reason. That is not faith, that is superstition.

    Your third sentence is very curious. “The Baha’i Faith asks…”. Actually, Baha’u’llah tells, Abdu’l-Baha tells, and the Guardian tells. They are narrating fact. The Baha’i Faith doesn’t ask anything of me; God does through His Manifestations and their designates, and I respond. That is our unity. I do not “treat the UHJ”; however, I do honor its role/office as God would have me.

    I don’t know how long comments can be so I’ll skip ahead. You speak of “limiting factor”. I think that the Cause actually has a number of “limiting factors” so far as modern society is concerned. For example, no women on the UHJ, no sex outside of marriage, and no gay marriage. These are tremendous stumbling blocks for some people — they want a religion of God that conforms to their culture. Certainly understandable; however, Truth doesn’t change to suit the times. So often we begin with a peculiar assumption — “new is better”. That is what you mean by “antiquated notions” and “old time religion”, I believe. Well, new is not always better; despite what Madison Ave might have taught you. Everything should be weighed in the proper scales.

    With warmest Baha’i regards,
    overmywaders

  • Hi Over,

    “Truth doesn’t change to suit the times.” I disagree.

    Bahaullah teaches that truth is relative, does he not? This is the basis of progressive revelation, I believe.

    Bahaullah asks us to turn to God and be guided through that action. He councils us to possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart. These are among his most powerful teachings for me. Much more important – to me — than all the telling you recount.

    Best Wishes,
    Frank

  • Hi Over,

    “Truth doesn’t change to suit the times.” I disagree.

    Bahaullah teaches that truth is relative, does he not? This is the basis of progressive revelation, I believe.

    Bahaullah asks us to turn to God and be guided through that action. He councils us to possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart. These are among his most powerful teachings for me. Much more important – to me — than all the telling you recount.

    Best Wishes,
    Frank

  • William Dunning

    Perhaps “infallibility” refers only to opinions, not to matters of fact like the speed of a flying bird. Matters of fact can be determined scienetifically: measured, tested or analyzed. Matters of opinion, even group opinion arrived at through consultation, are always sopen to question and reconsideration. But they unify society and let us give our attention to the things that we *can* do to move civilization forward.

    Assemblies — and the Universal House ofd Justice eis simply a model of the perfect Spiritual Assembly, just as ‘Abdu’l-Baha was the model of the perfect mortal human being — can and do reconsider their decisions, and it stands to reason that the UHJ would do the same.

    You will recall that the instructions given to the believers say, in effect, to accept the decision of the Assembly (LSA, NSA, UHJ) in unity. Then, if there was a flaw, it will become clear and the matter can be reconsidered. Unity is important and in fact absolutely necessary, to ensure that the faillure of the decision is due only to the decision itself, not to the believers’ failure to comply with it (this is an simple application of rigorous scientific method: you eliminate all variables except one, to determine that is the only factor in the experiment).

    As for omniscience and infalibility, clearly not the same thing, I submit that both are united only in God and His Manifestations. In any human agency, whether the hypothetical Guardian, a Pope, the UHJ, or the Supreme Court of the United States, omniscience is still missing. Not even the best scientific panel can determine facts like how much it’s going to rain tomorrow, when you’re going to die, or (and this is the key item) whether a certain person is, in absolute and perfect truth, guilty of a particular crime. As a practical matter, we accept the verdict of our courts as final (taking into account the appeals process). However, every month or so, you see another story in the news about a man on death row exonerated and releasaed after losing a decade or more of his life, when someone else confesses or is proven to be the murderer by DNA matching (another example of the human race’s slow approach toward omniscience — I suggest that on this plane, we’ll never quite get there, as exempliified by Zeno’s Paradox, simply because we are human and therefore flawed and imperfect by definition). This is, I suggest, what the oneness of science and religion (read “belief in what’s right”) is really all about.

    Is the UHJ infallible? Yes, if we believe so. And it is necessary for us to hold that belief to keep society from falling apart. That having been said, it is equally necessary for the UHJ to rise above human faalliibility as much as the members and the institution possibly can. They must make absolutely sure that they get as close to omniscience as technologically possible, and that they understand the intent of Baha’u’llah’s message to us all (perfect but filtered through language plus translation and the human part of the Manaifestation’s personality). It’s an awesome responsibility — the only thing scarier, I suspect, is the fear expressed by every Manifestation in not making the revealed message clear enough for everyone. (Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said to a clerk writing a presidential proclamation, “Make it so clear that a child can understand it; then no one can misunderstand it.”)

    Unity and acceptance of authority is a desirable social quality much more than a scientific one. In science, nothing is absolutely true, only acceptably so, and let’s keep checking to see if we can learn more. But in the meantime, we act as if the law of gravity is indeed infallibly true, even as we search for a loophole that can take us to the stars.

    Truth to tell, even Baha’u’llah goofed once or twice (not to mention Jesus and Muhammad). He forbade smoking (I suggest that the Mormons were a sort of “mirror site” to the Baha’i revelation!) and then rescinded the order when it marked the believers as “infidels” during the early years of the Faith (“Don’t ask, don’t tell” as it were). In the Aqdas he sys a man can have two wives, but adds, as Muhammad did, that this is conditioned on equal treatment, an impossibility, and goes on to say that monogamy is to be preferred.This sounds like diplomacy in a culture still used to polygamy more than it does outright specific command. To this day, we hear Baha’is born in the cradle of the Faith using the same sort of diplomatic phrasing: it really would be best to follow this path, but the choice is yours (we in the west could learn a lot from this approach!).

    These fiats were “wrong” because of the follow-through by the people given the rulings, not the rulings themselves. In the case of the smoking rule, it was the Muslims who caused the trouble, of course, and the bigamy ruling was a sort of straw-man anyway.

    Another angle is that the infallibility of previous Manifestations (and the institutions They created) all come up for review anyway, when the next Manifestation appears. I won’t try to cite examples, because we can all think of so many. In fact, rigidity about this question is what causes 99.99% of the problems in this ol’ world of ours, if you think about it.

    So [conclusion, and I’ll quit], accept the infallibility of the UHJ, and even your own LSA at home, within the universe of what it applies to (in both time and space), and get on with life in an orderly fashion. It’s like accepting the axioms of plane geometry; when you move into spherical geeometry, Cantorian space and what have you, the rules will change, but the principles of organized thought (read “basic morality in the larger scope of life”) will still apply. When you reach the Abha Kingdom (go back and review Pascal’s Wager here) you will, if it exists, be glad you did.

  • William Dunning

    Perhaps “infallibility” refers only to opinions, not to matters of fact like the speed of a flying bird. Matters of fact can be determined scienetifically: measured, tested or analyzed. Matters of opinion, even group opinion arrived at through consultation, are always sopen to question and reconsideration. But they unify society and let us give our attention to the things that we *can* do to move civilization forward.

    Assemblies — and the Universal House ofd Justice eis simply a model of the perfect Spiritual Assembly, just as ‘Abdu’l-Baha was the model of the perfect mortal human being — can and do reconsider their decisions, and it stands to reason that the UHJ would do the same.

    You will recall that the instructions given to the believers say, in effect, to accept the decision of the Assembly (LSA, NSA, UHJ) in unity. Then, if there was a flaw, it will become clear and the matter can be reconsidered. Unity is important and in fact absolutely necessary, to ensure that the faillure of the decision is due only to the decision itself, not to the believers’ failure to comply with it (this is an simple application of rigorous scientific method: you eliminate all variables except one, to determine that is the only factor in the experiment).

    As for omniscience and infalibility, clearly not the same thing, I submit that both are united only in God and His Manifestations. In any human agency, whether the hypothetical Guardian, a Pope, the UHJ, or the Supreme Court of the United States, omniscience is still missing. Not even the best scientific panel can determine facts like how much it’s going to rain tomorrow, when you’re going to die, or (and this is the key item) whether a certain person is, in absolute and perfect truth, guilty of a particular crime. As a practical matter, we accept the verdict of our courts as final (taking into account the appeals process). However, every month or so, you see another story in the news about a man on death row exonerated and releasaed after losing a decade or more of his life, when someone else confesses or is proven to be the murderer by DNA matching (another example of the human race’s slow approach toward omniscience — I suggest that on this plane, we’ll never quite get there, as exempliified by Zeno’s Paradox, simply because we are human and therefore flawed and imperfect by definition). This is, I suggest, what the oneness of science and religion (read “belief in what’s right”) is really all about.

    Is the UHJ infallible? Yes, if we believe so. And it is necessary for us to hold that belief to keep society from falling apart. That having been said, it is equally necessary for the UHJ to rise above human faalliibility as much as the members and the institution possibly can. They must make absolutely sure that they get as close to omniscience as technologically possible, and that they understand the intent of Baha’u’llah’s message to us all (perfect but filtered through language plus translation and the human part of the Manaifestation’s personality). It’s an awesome responsibility — the only thing scarier, I suspect, is the fear expressed by every Manifestation in not making the revealed message clear enough for everyone. (Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said to a clerk writing a presidential proclamation, “Make it so clear that a child can understand it; then no one can misunderstand it.”)

    Unity and acceptance of authority is a desirable social quality much more than a scientific one. In science, nothing is absolutely true, only acceptably so, and let’s keep checking to see if we can learn more. But in the meantime, we act as if the law of gravity is indeed infallibly true, even as we search for a loophole that can take us to the stars.

    Truth to tell, even Baha’u’llah goofed once or twice (not to mention Jesus and Muhammad). He forbade smoking (I suggest that the Mormons were a sort of “mirror site” to the Baha’i revelation!) and then rescinded the order when it marked the believers as “infidels” during the early years of the Faith (“Don’t ask, don’t tell” as it were). In the Aqdas he sys a man can have two wives, but adds, as Muhammad did, that this is conditioned on equal treatment, an impossibility, and goes on to say that monogamy is to be preferred.This sounds like diplomacy in a culture still used to polygamy more than it does outright specific command. To this day, we hear Baha’is born in the cradle of the Faith using the same sort of diplomatic phrasing: it really would be best to follow this path, but the choice is yours (we in the west could learn a lot from this approach!).

    These fiats were “wrong” because of the follow-through by the people given the rulings, not the rulings themselves. In the case of the smoking rule, it was the Muslims who caused the trouble, of course, and the bigamy ruling was a sort of straw-man anyway.

    Another angle is that the infallibility of previous Manifestations (and the institutions They created) all come up for review anyway, when the next Manifestation appears. I won’t try to cite examples, because we can all think of so many. In fact, rigidity about this question is what causes 99.99% of the problems in this ol’ world of ours, if you think about it.

    So [conclusion, and I’ll quit], accept the infallibility of the UHJ, and even your own LSA at home, within the universe of what it applies to (in both time and space), and get on with life in an orderly fashion. It’s like accepting the axioms of plane geometry; when you move into spherical geeometry, Cantorian space and what have you, the rules will change, but the principles of organized thought (read “basic morality in the larger scope of life”) will still apply. When you reach the Abha Kingdom (go back and review Pascal’s Wager here) you will, if it exists, be glad you did.

  • William,

    I wonder about the infallibility of God as well (sorry).

    God is both creator and destroyer so His nature has a plus for every minus. That’s infallibility or perfection, near as I can tell. Naturally God is beyond our comprehension in any case. So when we apply His nature to people, even Manifestations, we as human beings run into trouble. How do I know? Look at the history of religion.

    Best Wishes,
    Frank

  • William,

    I wonder about the infallibility of God as well (sorry).

    God is both creator and destroyer so His nature has a plus for every minus. That’s infallibility or perfection, near as I can tell. Naturally God is beyond our comprehension in any case. So when we apply His nature to people, even Manifestations, we as human beings run into trouble. How do I know? Look at the history of religion.

    Best Wishes,
    Frank

  • I offer you the following notes from a talk given by Douglas Martin on 27 May 2006 to enlighten this blog.

    ? We need to distinguish between the guidance and infallibility of God (through revelation) and the infallibility conferred by Baha’u’llah on the Universal House of Justice
    ? The Guardian spoke the truth. It is the truth for all time for it is the interpretation of the Holy Word
    ? It is perhaps for this reason that the House of Justice chose the English translation of the Kitab-I-Aqdas as the base language for all translations of the book.
    ? The Guardian not only translated the text but through his translation he interpreted it
    ? The Universal House of Justice is guided in a different way
    ? It needs to adjust its understanding to the needs of the community at a particular time
    ? The decision making process is one based on a deep study of the relevant Writings
    ? No deliberations take place without calling on the research dept. to present the revealed word for study and reflection
    ? Mr. Martin testified to his own witness to the infallibility of the UHJ during his time of service
    ? He reiterated that the infallible decisions of the House of Justice are not limited to certain areas and that every decision resulting from the deliberations of the members of the House of Justice is infallible no matter how mundane
    ? The idea of infallibility is a difficult one for many to accept; there are those within the Baha’i scholarly community who have opposed this – this has been done because of ego
    ? The idea of an infallible and ultimate authority has now entered human experience
    ? Some oppose this concept because of our past experience with the divine right of kings or the claimed infallibility of the popes
    ? Mr. Martin then quoted from Abdu’l Baha that the Universal House of Justice is infallible on every issue which they decide upon.
    ? Denial of this guidance creates great difficulties for us

  • I offer you the following notes from a talk given by Douglas Martin on 27 May 2006 to enlighten this blog.

    ? We need to distinguish between the guidance and infallibility of God (through revelation) and the infallibility conferred by Baha’u’llah on the Universal House of Justice
    ? The Guardian spoke the truth. It is the truth for all time for it is the interpretation of the Holy Word
    ? It is perhaps for this reason that the House of Justice chose the English translation of the Kitab-I-Aqdas as the base language for all translations of the book.
    ? The Guardian not only translated the text but through his translation he interpreted it
    ? The Universal House of Justice is guided in a different way
    ? It needs to adjust its understanding to the needs of the community at a particular time
    ? The decision making process is one based on a deep study of the relevant Writings
    ? No deliberations take place without calling on the research dept. to present the revealed word for study and reflection
    ? Mr. Martin testified to his own witness to the infallibility of the UHJ during his time of service
    ? He reiterated that the infallible decisions of the House of Justice are not limited to certain areas and that every decision resulting from the deliberations of the members of the House of Justice is infallible no matter how mundane
    ? The idea of infallibility is a difficult one for many to accept; there are those within the Baha’i scholarly community who have opposed this – this has been done because of ego
    ? The idea of an infallible and ultimate authority has now entered human experience
    ? Some oppose this concept because of our past experience with the divine right of kings or the claimed infallibility of the popes
    ? Mr. Martin then quoted from Abdu’l Baha that the Universal House of Justice is infallible on every issue which they decide upon.
    ? Denial of this guidance creates great difficulties for us

  • I *love* this one:

    “Mr. Martin testified to his own witness to the infallibility of the UHJ during his time of service.”

    And how could he possibly have been mistaken? He was, after a member of the UHJ!

    This is good too:

    “Mr. Martin then quoted from Abdu’l Baha that the Universal House of Justice is infallible on every issue which they decide upon.”

    Well then, I suppose that `Abdu’l-Baha must have been correct if Mr. Martin quoted him!

    I am of the school that the said “infallibility” of Baha’i institutions must be taken by Baha’is to be simply and literally true, regardless of its logical absurdity. How can one possibly base religious truth on logic? The whole point of special revelation is that we cannot determine truth on our own, and Baha’u’llah makes that clear in more than one place.

    Yours,
    Dan

  • I *love* this one:

    “Mr. Martin testified to his own witness to the infallibility of the UHJ during his time of service.”

    And how could he possibly have been mistaken? He was, after a member of the UHJ!

    This is good too:

    “Mr. Martin then quoted from Abdu’l Baha that the Universal House of Justice is infallible on every issue which they decide upon.”

    Well then, I suppose that `Abdu’l-Baha must have been correct if Mr. Martin quoted him!

    I am of the school that the said “infallibility” of Baha’i institutions must be taken by Baha’is to be simply and literally true, regardless of its logical absurdity. How can one possibly base religious truth on logic? The whole point of special revelation is that we cannot determine truth on our own, and Baha’u’llah makes that clear in more than one place.

    Yours,
    Dan

  • Dan said “The whole point of special revelation is that we cannot determine truth on our own”

    This is where I withdraw. We must discern truth for ourselves. Abdul Baha says “Faith is conscious knowledge.” We obtain knowledge through the virtue and power of discernment.

    If we follow religious leaders and prophets blindly we get what we deserve. The word rational is used in the Bahai writings to describe the soul. Lets by all means use the rational powers of our mind, spirit and soul.

  • Dan said “The whole point of special revelation is that we cannot determine truth on our own”

    This is where I withdraw. We must discern truth for ourselves. Abdul Baha says “Faith is conscious knowledge.” We obtain knowledge through the virtue and power of discernment.

    If we follow religious leaders and prophets blindly we get what we deserve. The word rational is used in the Bahai writings to describe the soul. Lets by all means use the rational powers of our mind, spirit and soul.

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  • Frank,

    I’m sorry to take so long to get back to you. You said “Bahaullah asks us to turn to God and be guided through that action. He councils us to possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart. These are among his most powerful teachings for me. Much more important – to me — than all the telling you recount.”

    I certainly agree with the above. However, when I wrote about Baha’u’llah “telling” it was in response to your statement the “the Baha’i Faith asks of us”. I wished to make it clear that, much as we may look upon the Baha’i Faith as, perhaps, a body of individuals, or the Administrative Order; it is God Himself through His Manifestations that, to use your words, “counsels” or “teaches”.

    I used the word “tell” because it covers a broad range:
    “1 : COUNT, ENUMERATE
    2 a : to relate in detail : NARRATE b : to give utterance to : SAY
    3 a : to make known : DIVULGE, REVEAL b : to express in words
    4 a : to give information to : INFORM b : to assure emphatically
    5 : ORDER, DIRECT ” Merriam-Webster Online

    So, you see, it has the sense of Revealing, Informing, and Directing. It appears we stumbled over language.

    Best regards,
    overmywaders

  • Frank,

    I’m sorry to take so long to get back to you. You said “Bahaullah asks us to turn to God and be guided through that action. He councils us to possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart. These are among his most powerful teachings for me. Much more important – to me — than all the telling you recount.”

    I certainly agree with the above. However, when I wrote about Baha’u’llah “telling” it was in response to your statement the “the Baha’i Faith asks of us”. I wished to make it clear that, much as we may look upon the Baha’i Faith as, perhaps, a body of individuals, or the Administrative Order; it is God Himself through His Manifestations that, to use your words, “counsels” or “teaches”.

    I used the word “tell” because it covers a broad range:
    “1 : COUNT, ENUMERATE
    2 a : to relate in detail : NARRATE b : to give utterance to : SAY
    3 a : to make known : DIVULGE, REVEAL b : to express in words
    4 a : to give information to : INFORM b : to assure emphatically
    5 : ORDER, DIRECT ” Merriam-Webster Online

    So, you see, it has the sense of Revealing, Informing, and Directing. It appears we stumbled over language.

    Best regards,
    overmywaders

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  • Ruhi NoMore

    We recently had a Ruhi Circle thing cancelled because participants wanted to put their own ideas forward and not answer the leading Ruhi questions. This discussion reminds me of that Study Circle. Putting things together that they don’t want us to put together, the Guardians right to ask the House to reconsider with the idea of infallibility leaves a BIG question.

    Infallibility without omniscience leaves a gap, a chance for error. The House talks of failed plans in the past and why they failed and why this new four portals is so much better. Guess what, those failed plans were all eagerly anticipated in the past, and they all came from the House’s Ridvan messages.

    Ruhi is boring, devotionals are uninspiring and the reflection meetings mind numbing. Let’s abandon it all and get back to spirituality. Maybe the House will someday run the world, maybe it won’t but why so much pontificating? Right now I won’t trust the House to fix the footpath outside my House, let alone run the world.

  • Ruhi NoMore

    We recently had a Ruhi Circle thing cancelled because participants wanted to put their own ideas forward and not answer the leading Ruhi questions. This discussion reminds me of that Study Circle. Putting things together that they don’t want us to put together, the Guardians right to ask the House to reconsider with the idea of infallibility leaves a BIG question.

    Infallibility without omniscience leaves a gap, a chance for error. The House talks of failed plans in the past and why they failed and why this new four portals is so much better. Guess what, those failed plans were all eagerly anticipated in the past, and they all came from the House’s Ridvan messages.

    Ruhi is boring, devotionals are uninspiring and the reflection meetings mind numbing. Let’s abandon it all and get back to spirituality. Maybe the House will someday run the world, maybe it won’t but why so much pontificating? Right now I won’t trust the House to fix the footpath outside my House, let alone run the world.

  • Could you provide any more detail? What happened exactly? People just refused to follow along? How big was the group, etc….?

  • Could you provide any more detail? What happened exactly? People just refused to follow along? How big was the group, etc….?

  • Simon

    I love the Universal House of Justice.
    🙂

  • Simon

    I love the Universal House of Justice.
    🙂

  • Zac Reed

    well im confused by it all too. but i also believe in the Baha’i Faith. I really don’t know just what to think about it except that this is just proof to me that every religion is corrupt. We can see the visible affects of just the last two centuries or so on the Baha’i Faith, which I believe is pure. Imagine the profound effects on Christianity even before the Council of Nicea. It’s just once that infallible Being (any Prophet, Jesus, Muhammed, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, any of them) disapear, corruption is evident. Even, it’s sad to say, Abdul Baha was not infallible, but he was very close. That’s what Genesis in the Bible tells me personally.

  • Zac Reed

    well im confused by it all too. but i also believe in the Baha’i Faith. I really don’t know just what to think about it except that this is just proof to me that every religion is corrupt. We can see the visible affects of just the last two centuries or so on the Baha’i Faith, which I believe is pure. Imagine the profound effects on Christianity even before the Council of Nicea. It’s just once that infallible Being (any Prophet, Jesus, Muhammed, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, any of them) disapear, corruption is evident. Even, it’s sad to say, Abdul Baha was not infallible, but he was very close. That’s what Genesis in the Bible tells me personally.

  • sanubakka

    [quote comment=””][…] Is the Universal House of Justice Infallible? Is the Universal House of Justice Infallible? part II […][/quote]
    ARE YOU SO BORED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO IN YOUR HOUSE,COMMUNITY AND THE WORLD AT LARGE. Get your asses up and go and teach

  • sanubakka

    [quote comment=””][…] Is the Universal House of Justice Infallible? Is the Universal House of Justice Infallible? part II […][/quote]
    ARE YOU SO BORED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO IN YOUR HOUSE,COMMUNITY AND THE WORLD AT LARGE. Get your asses up and go and teach

  • Regrettably Anon

    [quote comment=”31229″]William,

    I wonder about the infallibility of God as well (sorry).

    God is both creator and destroyer so His nature has a plus for every minus. That’s infallibility or perfection, near as I can tell. Naturally God is beyond our comprehension in any case. So when we apply His nature to people, even Manifestations, we as human beings run into trouble. How do I know? Look at the history of religion.

    Best Wishes,
    Frank[/quote]
    [quote comment=””][…] Is the Universal House of Justice Infallible? Is the Universal House of Justice Infallible? part II […][/quote]

    BINGO!

    No Ego here. Just Logic, drawing from the mind, heart and spirit together.

  • Regrettably Anon

    [quote comment=”31229″]William,

    I wonder about the infallibility of God as well (sorry).

    God is both creator and destroyer so His nature has a plus for every minus. That’s infallibility or perfection, near as I can tell. Naturally God is beyond our comprehension in any case. So when we apply His nature to people, even Manifestations, we as human beings run into trouble. How do I know? Look at the history of religion.

    Best Wishes,
    Frank[/quote]
    [quote comment=””][…] Is the Universal House of Justice Infallible? Is the Universal House of Justice Infallible? part II […][/quote]

    BINGO!

    No Ego here. Just Logic, drawing from the mind, heart and spirit together.

  • Jonah

    It is called independent investigation of truth. Try it sometime. Hint, it involves actually thinking.

    [quote comment=””]ARE YOU SO BORED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO IN YOUR HOUSE,COMMUNITY AND THE WORLD AT LARGE. Get your asses up and go and teach[/quote]

  • Jonah

    It is called independent investigation of truth. Try it sometime. Hint, it involves actually thinking.

    [quote comment=””]ARE YOU SO BORED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO IN YOUR HOUSE,COMMUNITY AND THE WORLD AT LARGE. Get your asses up and go and teach[/quote]

  • P

    THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO IN YOUR HOUSE,COMMUNITY AND THE WORLD AT LARGE. Get your asses up and go and teach
    —————
    Sanubakka and if you are doing all these marvelous things, I sure don’t see the fruits of your labor. Oh, maybe you are doing it in a WRONG way. And it is this pattern of stupidity that a blog like this is shining the light on.

  • P

    THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO IN YOUR HOUSE,COMMUNITY AND THE WORLD AT LARGE. Get your asses up and go and teach
    —————
    Sanubakka and if you are doing all these marvelous things, I sure don’t see the fruits of your labor. Oh, maybe you are doing it in a WRONG way. And it is this pattern of stupidity that a blog like this is shining the light on.

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  • parvizdeamer

    Or it could just be that they are guided by Baha'u'llah, then that means that the House can just be 9 normal guys, no omniscience needed, that through the guidance Him, don't make mistakes. Or is that too simple a logic?

  • peyamb

    Too simple a logic.

  • parvizdeamer

    Remember that the members of the UHJ are not ,as individuals, infallible. It is only the institution when the members consult with a quarom, that is infallible.

  • Anonymous

    As to the question of infallibility–please read the Tablet of the Dichotomy specifically written to address this conceptual distinction between “conferred infallibility” and “acquired infallibility”. The body-members of the (true) Universal House of Justice is “free from error” in the sense that these collective members will be guided by God Who is omniscient and not by the promptings of self and passion. Note, too, that the serving members as individuals are fallible and equal as fellow believers. I warn all Baha’is and non-Baha’is, however, that only the TRUE Universal House of Justice has this station!

    The guideline as to the development of the true Universal House of Justice from fakes, frauds, and imitations is explicitly revealed in Baha’u’llah’s Kitab-i-Aqdas (see paragraph 32), Abdu’l-Baha’s Last Will and Testament (see pages 13-14), and delineated in Shoghi Effendi’s Four Stage Plan. It is abundantly clear that what is intended to function was BOTH the EXECUTIVE BRANCH and LEGISLATIVE BRANCH! For those who are not aware or who stubbornly cling to the Baha’i World Centre leadership (Haifa UHJ), it was divinely instituted that the Guardianship would continue forever constituting the core distinguishing feature of our divinely appointed and guided Institutions (i.e. Spiritual Assemblies or Houses of Justice).

    Shoghi Effendi in fact self-appointed on January 9, 1951 eight women and men to serve on the first International Baha’i Council (including a woman, Amelia Collins, to serve as vice-president in the “International Executive” capacity) he himself designated the “embryonic Universal House of Justice”, there being eleven members total. Anyone can search Wikipedia for the basic info (though not the whole story) where the current UHJ leadership in the Haifa World Centre properties ADMITS and documents that Shoghi not only created the Council that would serve on the international level in the capacity of the Universal House of Justice of Baha’u’llah before his death, but appointed Charles Mason Remey as president of this body, as well! FACTS! Within Shoghi Effendi’s Four Stage Plan, the presidency/executive branch was to serve as the Guardianship/Davidic Kingship, and these are the facts.

    Now, I will shortly emphasize what is talked about in Tablet of the Dichotomy: The reason there is so much contention concerning the Guardianship is an issue of how we understand His Imminence Shoghi Effendi HIMSELF! If you read the tablet everyone will see that he is the “pure rode of gold” that is distinguished and qualified to lead though he is not directly an Aghsan, but directly an Afnan. Understand that both Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha instructed that an Aghsan (“Branch” or male-lineal descendant of King David) to be Head (Guardian/President) of the Faith and its Institution/Administration. Being an Afnan, Shoghi Effendi was likened unto a “rod of iron” which characterizes the Prophet Muhammad and His Revelation that was a custodian of the messianic lineage and guardian to their authority, and being a descendant of Baha’u’llah through his grandfather Abdu’l-Baha he is a descendant of King David himself, he was chosen to be a valid Guardian of the Cause of God. Therefore, this is what makes Shoghi Effendi not only the First Guardian of the Cause of God but the first and ONLY infallible Guardian or Head of the Faith!

    In the Master’s Will and Testament He says that if a Guardian of the Cause of God cannot produce a biological heir (i.e. sonship) to succeed as Baha’u’llah’s Successor or if such an heir lacks moral qualification, then he [i.e. the Guardian] MUST CHOOSE another, therefore implying an adoption is possible! The Master also gave authority to Shoghi Effendi and his lineage itself, the Afnan bloodline. However, Shoghi Effendi had no children, and even if he did, they could not serve as the Aghsan/Guardian role. His heir was the “embryonic Universal House of Justice” he established during his lifetime to succeed him as the Baha’i World authority–executive branch and legislative branch together.

    What Ruhiyyih Khanum and the Hands of the Cause of God did after the passing of Shoghi Effendi was wrong and conspiratorial. In fact, it was covenant-breaking! According to the Law of God the Hands cease to have any authority upon the death of the Guardian. No one gave them the right to declare ‘Bida’ (to mean “innovation” or God has changed His will) that abrogates the commandments of Baha’u’llah! They scraped the first IBC, then re-elected another bogus UHJ Headless Monster in 1963 with the consent of the unwitting Baha’i world community after having excommunicated and ostracized those who stood up for the Covenant in 1960–including the president of the first IBC, Charles Mason Remey.

    http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:iqckW… (Tablet of the Dichotomy in full)

  • New here

    The  infallibility of the UHJ is conferred and is therefor not the result of the omniscience or knwoledge of its individual members but of the divine inspiration it benefits from when consulting as an administrative body:

  • Baquia

     New Here, thanks for your comment. It sounds like you didn’t read part deux!