Perhaps the greatest controversy in Christian history centers around the nature of Jesus Christ. Those who study history know that Christian scholars have debated this question since the beginning. Was Jesus God? Or was Jesus a man? What is the Holy Spirit? It is a question that Baha’u’llah has resolved for Baha’is, once and for all.
At first glance, the Bible does say some seemingly contradictory things about the Trinity. Jesus did claim to be God when He said, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30). Also, Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” (John 14:9). Jesus also claimed to have an everlasting existence when He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58) But Jesus also said that He was not God when He said of [God] the Father, “Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.” (John 15:37). Jesus also said, “Why callest thou me Good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” (Matthew 19:17). This implied that the figure standing before His apostles, Jesus Christ, was not God.
Of course, an honest student of the Bible knows that there are many more quotes that seem to offer seemingly contradictory statements. This student would also know that the word ‘trinity’ does not appear anywhere in the Bible. She would know that the concept of the trinity was invented many years after the time of Christ, and that it was a compromise between religious leaders. These leaders had split the churches over the debate on whether God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit had separate or singular natures. They could not agree on what the nature of God was so much that they would just agreed to disagree. Some eventually decided that the question would be categorized under the idea of the ‘trinity,’ and it would remain a mystery that could not be explained. Volumes of books have been written on this subject over the years. Therefore, when Baha’is approach this subject, they know that they are dealing with a debate that is nearly as old as Christianity itself.
Many Christians turn to the analogy of the three forms of water. They say that water can be a gas, liquid, and solid; and so God can be a man, a Divine Creator, and the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, this analogy does not hold up, because the Bible clearly implies that Jesus existed apart from the ‘essence’ of God. The Bible says that, “No one has seen God at any time.” (John 1:18). The Bible also says God is the One “Whom no man hath seen nor can see.” (1 Tim 6:16). Therefore, Jesus says they were not of the same substance while ice, liquid, and gas are different forms of the same substance, H20.
But the Bible also says that Jesus was God. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30). On the other hand, Baha’is also believe that God is separate, unknowable, and cannot be seen, as Jesus says to God, “Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain you.” (1 Kings 8:27). How do we resolve this? Baha’is use the analogy of the mirror. God is the sun and Jesus and was His Mirror. Baha’is understand that Jesus reflected all of God’s attributes to mankind. The Bible even says this, when it says “Who (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God.” (Col 1:15). And in another place where it says “Who (Jesus) … the express image of His person (God).” (Heb 1:3).
From this perspective, Jesus was as close to God as mankind could ever get. In fact, Jesus was the walking incarnation of God’s Will. This is how Baha’is could say that Jesus was God, just as when someone looks in a mirror at their reflection they can say, ‘that is me.’ On the other hand, Baha’is also believe that the essence of God is beyond our comprehension, and that they have no direct access to the Lord except through the image reflected by Jesus and the other Manifestations of God. This is how Baha’is can agree with statements that claim that no one has ever seen God the Father (John 15:37), and reconcile this with the statements that claim that anyone who has seen Jesus has seen the Father. (John 14:9)
Finally, what is the Holy Spirit? If God is the Sun, and His Messengers are mirrors reflecting God’s qualities to humanity, then Baha’is believe that the Holy Spirit is like the rays of the sun that carry this reflection from the sun to the mirror and to humanity. The Holy Spirit, for Baha’is, is the active force of inspiration pouring through God’s Creation. It carries to the universe the power, wisdom, grace, and infinite love of God. As Abdu’l-Bahá wrote, it is the spirit behind civilization itself, “Material civilization is like the body. No matter how infinitely graceful, elegant and beautiful it may be, it is dead. Divine civilization is like the spirit, and the body gets its life from the spirit, otherwise it becomes a corpse. It has thus been made evident that the world of mankind is in need of the breaths of the Holy Spirit.” (SWA p. 303)
This understanding of the Trinity using the analogy of the mirror is how Baha’is come to terms with this age-old dilemma of Christian theology. Baha’is have learned to balance religion, science, and reason together as essential parts of God’s creation designed to educate mankind. Therefore, to Baha’is, this analogy of the mirror brings comfort and peace of mind, and helps to make the Bible more accessible to everyone through the use of such an elegant, clear and logical explanation.