In the comment discussion that took place for the previous post: Pre-Approved Individual Investigation of Truth an interesting concept was touched on.
Because it is worthy of further discussion, I wanted to spend some more time on it. Since I read a very good treatment of it by another Baha’i, I’d thought I’d simply share their thoughts with you, rather than try to rehash it myself.
Here’s a morsel to whet your appetite (the link at the bottom takes you to the complete post):
I was facilitating the class, and I pointed out that the last part of discussion question #12 was added in by the editors. The original text says nothing about “accepting the Truth of His Cause in its entirety.” Also, if you read the whole tablet, it’s kept ambiguous whether this is “Baha’u’llah’s Cause” or “God’s Cause” or whether we mortals can even make a distinction between those two, since God is unknowable to us. This use (by the Ruhi editors) of “His Cause” instead of “God’s Cause” or “This Cause” puts the focus on Baha’u’llah. This may be where the focus should be, or it may not. The point is, the discussion question has changed the ambiguity and higher-level abstractions in the original text and asked participants to react to a statement more clearly centered on Baha’u’llah and the Baha’i Faith, rather than God and the “changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future.”
When I pointed out the problems with inserting the phrase “in its entirety” I met with some of the typical remarks I often hear from my co-religionists. A favorite one is “you can’t pick and choose. You must accept everything.” Bad logic, of course, but it’s a popular notion. I responded as I often do, with the idea that if you accept everything in its entirety, then you accept the Kitab-i-Iqan, our “Book of Certitude,” in which Baha’u’llah reveals to us that much scripture is in the language of metaphor, and not to be taken literally. You must also accept the idea that we should use science and our rational thinking to enhance our understanding of our religion. You can’t reject that, because if you take the Baha’i Faith in its entirety, you can’t get away from such fundamental teachings. And, with that said, we do in fact pick and choose. The Baha’i book of laws (the “Most Great Book”) suggests that we be buried in caskets of crystal, but few Baha’is do this. Arsonists are to be burned, but no Baha’i seriously advocates for us to use branding or burning-at-the-stake as a punishment for arson. A law that men should not grow their hair beyond their ears is probably a polite way of forbidding men from engaging in sex work, if you understand the 19th century Persian context into which that Book was revealed. Clearly one can see in photographs that ‘Abdu’l-Baha, our perfect example, didn’t follow that law literally. So, we Baha’is do pick and choose which rules or teachings we accept literally and which we take metaphorically, and without any authorized interpreter left on this mortal plane, we really don’t have any persons with authority to tell us when we are correct or incorrect in our interpretations and understandings of the many metaphorical teachings. So often the scriptures are abstract, and rarely are they concrete or specific. So, we’re left to be mature and thoughtful and rational, and take things as best we may. So, this is a religion where we do some picking and choosing.