Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Simple Thought on Miracles

I'm sick and tired.

No, really. I have a persistent cough and it woke me up throughout the night. It probably woke my wife up, too, but she was kind and loving enough not to say anything this morning. You really gotta love someone like that.

So whereas I was hoping to finish off another article on spiritual starvation, it's just not going to happen today. My brain is just too fuzzy. In fact, it's so fuzzy right now, I wonder what I'm doing writing at this time instead of heading back off to sleep. I guess it's not just the cough that's persistent.

I was thinking this morning about some of the things that we take for granted within the Baha'i community that are not explainable by science, such as the power of prayer, or the intervention of the concourse on high. I'm not sure why my mind went in this direction, but it all came from a comment I heard the other day in which another Baha'i said to someone that we don't believe in "silly things, like the virgin birth."

We don't? Last time I checked, we did. Now, of course, I didn't say anything at the time, because it wasn't really appropriate, but I did double-check when I got home, and sure enough, it is there in the Writings.

In a letter from the Guardian, we find the following: "The Master clearly writes in a Tablet that Christ was not begotten in the ordinary way, but by the Holy Spirit. So we must accept this. Every Faith has some miracles, and this is the great miracle of the Christian Faith. But we must not let it be a test to us. Our human minds are so small, and as yet so immature compared to the men of the future, that we should have no difficulty in acknowledging the Power of God when He chooses to show it in some manner "illogical" to us!" (23 December 1948)

I find this rather reassuring, in an odd way. Miracles are acknowledged, but they are not seen as a basis for proof. Their importance is, if anything, minimized, as stated in the following extract from the Guardian.

"...(R)egarding the birth of Jesus-Christ. In the light of what Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá have stated concerning this subject it is evident that Jesus came into this world through the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit, and that consequently His birth was quite miraculous. This is an established fact, and the friends need not feel at all surprised, as the belief in the possibility of miracles has never been rejected in the Teachings. Their importance, however, has been minimized."

I have often wondered why some of the friends make a big deal about this. Sure, it seems to go against logic, and even what we know of science, but so what? We don't know everything.

"...God Who is the Author of the universe, can, in His Wisdom and Omnipotence, bring any change, no matter how temporary, in the operation of the laws which He Himself has created."

The problem, as far as I can tell, is not whether or not we believe something that seems to go against the current understanding of science, but whether or not it becomes a linchpin for our belief. To say, "I don't believe in the Faith if it means I have to accept the virgin birth" is just as silly as saying "I believe in Jesus because He was born from a virgin mother." In both cases the validity of the teachings themselves are ignored.

The Universal House of Justice said it so well when they responded to this very issue: "To any of your friends who are confused on this issue, you can explain that the principle of harmony between religion and science, while it enables us, with the help of reason, to see through the falsity of superstitions, does not imply that truth is limited to what can be explained by current scientific concepts. Not only do all religions have their miracles and mysteries, but religion itself, and certain fundamental religious concepts, such as the nature of the Manifestations of God, are far from being explicable by present-day scientific theories."

Ok, so we believe in the virgin birth. So what? Does that make Baha'u'llah's teachings more applicable for the transformation of civilization? Does it invalidate His other teachings?
Nope. And nope.
In fact, in a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, I find one of my favorite responses, "To reject miracles on the ground that they imply a breach of the laws of nature is a very shallow, well-nigh a stupid argument..."
Yup. You read it correctly.
I really like a faith that can, in an official letter from a centre of authority, call an argument shallow and stupid. It's kind of refreshing. Can't you just see the Guardian sighing in frustration at the letter that provoked this response?
Anyways, I just wanted to get that off my chest. It's been bouncing around in my head for a few days, and I thought I'd just put it down here for fun.
I think I'll take a nap now, and try to get rid of this cough. (I asked my son if I could put it in the compost bin and he said "No". He won't even let me try to recycle it. So I guess I just have to try and get rid of it the old fashioned way.)