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January 6, 2013

Question:  What is the greatest lesson your faith has taught you?

Lessons could be various: moral, theological, scientific, historical, practical, personal. Today I will choose a “lesson” from the Bahá’í teachings that greatly favours a global understanding of the close relationship of unity that exists among the world’s great religions. This teaching is called “progressive revelation.”

Humanity’s spiritual education began with Adam, the initiator of a great religious cycle, approximately 6000 years ago. According to Bahá’í belief, God established a Great Covenant with humanity by which divine guidance would always be provided  periodically by a series of prophets or messengers of God who would appear at intervals varying between 500 and 1000 years.

Each prophet is entrusted with a specific mission. He covenants with his followers about the coming of the next messenger. Each prophet renews the spiritual truths of the previous messenger, but has the authority to abrogate some of  laws of the previous faith, according to the circumstantial needs of time and place. All the prophets have gradually prepared humanity for the unification of the human race, which is synonymous with world peace and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.

Since God is eternal and unlimited, no end can be imagined to this process of progressive revelation. Prophets are almost never acknowledged in their lifetime. Because the Major Prophets abrogate some of the laws of the previous faith, or lay claim to divine revelation, they are martyred, imprisoned or persecuted, along with their followers.

The corollary of progressive revelation is the unity of the prophets. While the light of some revelations is greater than others in this world,  Bahá’ís view all the prophets as a university of preeminent teachers. Their missions are complementary; they are not in competition with one another. Bahá’ís never teach that one prophet is superior to another because we view their spiritual unity as absolute, even though some prophetic missions are greater than others in historical time.

Bahá’ís affirm the startling belief that Bahá’u’lláh is the promised messenger of our global era. His mission is to underscore the unity of all faiths and to establish the oneness of humanity through a common faith.  His superlative teachings have been revealed for this purpose.   
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen January 6, 2013
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