In His Most Holy Book, the Kitab-I-Aqdas, Baha'u'llah
expounds the Principle of Infallibility.
Baha'u'llah states that only the Manifestation of a New Religious Revelation
has what He calls the
Most Great Infallibility, while other Central Figures of the faith have what
He calls a Lesser
Infallibility. This Principle of Infallibility is important, for it assures
us of Infallible guidance.
I understand the difficulty many people have in accepting Infallibility.
the principle of Infallibility is expressed by Baha'u'llah in the Aqdas,
and so we as Baha'is must account for and
uphold the principle of Infallibility.
Baha'u'llah, in Writing about the books and statements of previous
Manifestations, effectively destroys the belief that the statements of
Manifestations can be taken as literally Infallible (as for instance in
Baha'u'llah's analysis of the misunderstandings and errors caused by
taking the statements of previous Manifestations literally which can be
found in His Book of Certitude); yet Baha'u'llah also upholds the
principle of Infallibility.
It seems to me that Baha'u'llah has exploded the myth of what
label "Strong Infallibility", while absolutely asserting the truth of
what I will provisionally call "Weak Infallibility". This term must be
replaced, because there is nothing weak about "Weak Infallibility".
Weak Infallibility asserts that everything done, said, written,
initiated by a Manifestation works together for the good of those who
love God. In some ways, this is more profoundly powerful than a more
limited Strong Infallibility, which incorrectly asserts that everything
said and written by a Manifestation is literally inerrant.
The deeds, statements, and written words of a Manifestation,
all possess the ultra-powerful property of Weak Infallibility, are not
done, said, nor written in a vacuum; they are all done, said, and
written in a Context. This Context is important. In the Baha'i Faith,
where, as Dr. Peter Khan, a member of the Universal House of Justice, asserts,
Process is more
important than results, the
Context of the Baha'i Faith always is a background which includes a
powerful process of Evolution. While it would not be correct to say that
previous religions lacked the evolutionary process altogether, since for
instance Christianity is a clearly evolutionary development of Judaism;
nonetheless it is true that the Baha'i Faith brings this Evolutionary
Process to the forefront as in the clearly enunciated principle of
progressive revelation, and the discourses of Abdul Baha on Evolutionary
Now, since the Process of Evolution is a powerful part of the
Context of the Baha'i Faith, we can expect always for the Faith to be
evolving, progressing, and developing in a positive manner. Since the
Baha'i Faith is the first expression of God's true religion to expressly
include this Evolutionary Context, the Baha'i Faith needs better and
more evolved control functions to keep it from spinning off in the wrong
direction; and so we do have, as Baha'u'llah created, for the first
time in religious history, an explicit, divinely ordained succession and
set of Institutions, leading us now to the Universal House of Justice.
Notice that these Institutions have been and still are Evolving; that
is, they did not just spring into existence fully grown and developed.
Now, as this applies to the study of gender differences and
equality of men and women, we see that this area of Baha'i thought (like
so many others) can only be comprehended by taking into account the
Context of the process of Evolution. Indeed, in its early days, the
Baha'i Faith can hardly be said to fully express this foundational
principle, the equality of men and women! In the beginning, women were
not even allowed to be members of local Houses of Justice! But we know,
since this is a clearly expressed principle of Baha'u'llah (the equality
of men and women) that it will be much more fully expressed as time goes
on. No doubt this all will be carefully guided by the Universal House of
Justice, and also we will find more full expression of the equality of
women and men as the people in the Baha'i Community develop their
understandings and sensitivities in these areas.
Now, it is also clear that there are some real differences between
men and women, as expressed by Baha'u'llah and Abdul Baha. It is
impossible for us in our current state of understanding, to see which
"differences' are culturally produced and temporary, and which are
permanent. If Baha'u'llah had merely stated a Static dogma of the roles
of women and men, then this area would not have retained its dynamic
ability to evolve into a more full and true expression of reality and
human potential, as guided by the Infallible process started into motion
by Baha'u'llah, carefully nurtured by the Central Figures and ultimately
by the Universal House of Justice. In this important respect, the
understanding of the process of evolution in the relationships of women
and men is a good example of how this Evolutionary Process affects many
other areas of Baha'i thought and practice, as inaugurated by the Weak
Principle of Infallibility.
There are many "firsts" in the Baha'i Faith. The Baha'i Faith
first to be truly "Voluntary". As ordained by Baha'u'llah, the Faith can
not be spread through force of arms, as were all previous faiths, to
some extent. More importantly, the Unity of the world causes all humans
for the first time to be aware of many religions, and to be forced to
choose a religion, rather than passively accept their own local cultures
religion by default.
As befitting this new found maturity of the human race, Baha'u'llah
has made explicit the principle of Infallibility and the principle of
Evolution. it seems readily apparent that, since the baha'i Faith is a
Voluntary Association of individuals, it could never become dominant
worldwide if it required people to choose a Static, and thus ultimately
false, version of reality as would be necessitated by a Strong
Principle of Infallibility; but rather it requires a more true, "Weak
principle of Infallibility , which includes evolutionary tendencies, and
as guided by an Infallible universal House of Justice, whose authority
must always be completely acknowledged by all Baha'is.
Perhaps this Weak principle of Infallibility needs a new name,
as Infallibility of Evolutionary process.
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