UNDERSTANDING THE CULTS
In this twelve-part series we are taking a brief look at some of the major cults,
past and present, that have found adherents in the United States. Your pastor can
help you if you’d like a more in-depth study of a particular group.
The Baha’i religion is one of the more difficult cults to comprehend. Its teachings are rather nebulous and often contradictory. Its geographical reach is very broad, with well over five million adherents scattered throughout almost every nation. In the US alone there are over a half million Bahá’í, concentrated primarily in the southeast, though there is also a strong concentration in Alaska and south-western and north-central South Dakota. In the US, their efforts tend to be primarily among minorities and indigenous peoples, though many celebrities have been drawn to the tenets of the Baha’i religion.
As a distinct religion, Bahaism sprang up in modern day Iran as an offshoot of Islam. Its founder was Mirza’ Ali Muhammad, who proclaimed himself to be a prophet greater than Mohammed, and who predicted that a prophet even greater than he would soon appear. Prior to his execution, he named Subh-i-Ezel to be his successor, but he turned out to be a poor leader. He was succeeded by his older half-brother, Mirza Husayn ’Ali, later named Baha’u’llah, which means “the glory of God.” Baha’u’llah then claimed to be that “greater prophet” whom Mirza’ Ali Muhammad had foretold would come into the world.
As far as the historical background is concerned, it is the same scenario that has played out countless times throughout history, as false Christs continue to arise, leading many astray. Where the teachings of Baha’u’llah and the Baha’i religion are unique is in their individual tenets. In regard to God, the Bahá’í hold that while there is only one God, He has chosen to reveal Himself through various manifestations, which—combined—are responsible for establishing the major religions of the world. Included, then, in these manifestations of God are Noah, Moses, Buddha, Jesus Christ, and Mohammad. Since all of these established religions are manifestations of God, Bahá’í find them all to be essentially unified in scope and purpose.
What is that purpose?
The Baha’i teachings state that the unification of humanity is the paramount issue in the religious and political conditions of the present world. Thus the Baha’i religion isn’t about individual salvation, but rather but about “societal salvation,” meaning cooperation and unity among all the races, ethnicities, and religions of the world for the greater good of mankind. The Baha’i religion does not present a personal Savior from sin, death, and hell because each human being must play the part of savior of the world by loving others and working to promote world peace.
While there are some aspects of the Baha’i religion that are appealing (for example, abolition of racism, equality and justice for all, provision for and mercy toward the poor), the glaring uselessness of this religion is shown in its failure to provide for the greatest need of the entire human race—the need to be reconciled to God. The Bahá’í fail to take into account that such evils as racism, war, and the injustices perpetrated by mankind are, ultimately, open rebellion against the God Who created us all in His holy image. The lack of unity in the human race is symptomatic of the broken relationship between man and God. No human being, because of the corruption of sin upon our nature, is capable of mending that relationship. For that mending to occur, it took a specific act of mercy and compassion on the part of “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:13-14 ESV)
Frank Gantt is pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Loganville, Georgia.