Bahai News - Open to Reality

Faith in the Future 5 - Open to Reality

by John Deverell
November 18, 2000

This is the fifth and final part of a series of articles on "Faith in the Future". The first in the series is "The Need for Faith"

This article continues the discussion in my article entitled "The Renewal of Religion".

It is not necessary to throw out all the treasured beliefs of our ancestors. We can interpret the wisdom received from our parents and grandparents in new ways that apply to our present situation. We can take the attitude that new information helps us to understand the wisdom of the past much better. We need to have confidence in the foundations already built, yet keep our minds open enough to realise the usefulness of new building materials, with which to expand our mental homes. With the spread of literacy and education, ordinary people have been empowered to see with our own eyes, draw on our own storehouses of knowledge, exchange ideas with others, expand our perceptions, deepen our insights. 'Abdu'l-Baha called this process the investigation of reality:

What does it mean to investigate reality? It means that man must forget all hearsay and examine truth himself, for he does not know whether statements he hears are in accordance with reality or not. Wherever he finds truth or reality, he must hold to it, forsaking, discarding all else; for outside of reality there is naught but superstition and imagination. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, page 62)

This approach builds a bridge between science and religion. As He said:

Between scientists and the followers of religion there has always been controversy and strife for the reason that the latter have proclaimed religion superior in authority to science and considered scientific announcement opposed to the teachings of religion. Baha'u'llah declared that religion is in complete harmony with science and reason. If religious belief and doctrine is at variance with reason, it proceeds from the limited mind of man and not from God; therefore, it is unworthy of belief and not deserving of attention; the heart finds no rest in it, and real faith is impossible. How can man believe that which he knows to be opposed to reason? Is this possible? Can the heart accept that which reason denies? Reason is the first faculty of man, and the religion of God is in harmony with it. (‘Abdu'l-Baha: Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 231)

One contemporary thinker who works hard to reconcile science and religion is Keith Ward, the Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University. In 1996 he published a book entitled God, Chance and Necessity, which was written in answer to an atheistic account of creation written by the above-mentioned biologist Richard Dawkins and another Oxford colleague, Peter Atkins, a chemist. Professor Ward writes: "That the whole cosmos has developed from simplicity and unconsciousness to complexity and self-awareness is a foundational view of modern science. Such an evolution from a state where no values are apprehended to states in which values can be both created and enjoyed gives an overwhelming impression of purpose or design. There is thus every reason to think that a scientific evolutionary account and a religious belief in a guiding creative force are not just compatible, but mutually reinforcing." (Keith Ward, God, Chance and Necessity, quoted in One Country, the Newsletter of the Baha'i International Community, Volume 9, Issue 3 / October - December 1997.)

With vigorous defenders like Keith Ward, religion shows no sign of dying out just yet. The main point I want to convey in this essay is that religion has the ability to renew itself. Its Spirit is unrestrained. Each one of us has the capacity to receive its inspiration, through prayer, meditation and study, and allow it to regenerate our own thinking and outlook. Religion has repeatedly sprung up in fresh and vigorous new forms in the past, does so in the present, and will continue to do so. I would like to sum up with three propositions in favour of faith in the future.

  1. The power of religion arises from its ability to reveal and illumine the truth. Whenever religion seems to have been crushed by the weight of man-made tombs, its spirit rises up again.
  2. The power to illumine the truth has been strikingly evident in the lives of the Founders of religions. So vigorous and penetrating are Their teachings that they generate new civilizations. We should take such uncommon wisdom seriously.
  3. All the great Prophets and seers have testified that history has a purpose and direction. As it is put by one writer: "The unification of the world, instead of being an afterthought, or of needing an improvised miracle for its completion, is the normal conclusion of a process that has been going on since the race began." (George Townshend, The Promise of All Ages, London, 1961, p. 28.)

To conclude: we can have faith in the future of our beautiful green and blue planet because it is the home of a race of beings whose destiny is to discover their true nature, which, the Bible says, has been created in the image of God. This is the meaning of Christ's prayer: "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." We need religion—real, vibrant religion—to guide us on our journey. And the potential for exploration into the reality of religion is infinite, the rewards astonishing. As Christ said:

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew 7:7)

This is the end of this series of articles.

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The author is a follower of the Baha'i Faith. For further information about the Baha'i Faith, please visit the Baha'i World site. at www,

©Copyright 2000, John Deverell

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