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JoAnn Borovicka

JoAnn's Blog

Welcome to my blog! Here you will find short reflections, connections I've noticed that I'd like to pursue in future research, and various items that have caught my attention related to Bahá'i studies and Christian scholarship.

 

You are welcome to send me your comments at JoAnnBorovicka@gmail.com.

By JoAnn Borovicka, Dec 21 2017 04:50AM

This excerpt from 'Abdu'l-Bahá's discourse (recorded utterance) on the "People of the Cave" from Amr va Khalq (compiled by Fadil-i-Mazandarani) describes they concept of the Prophets entering the traditional discourse; that is, speaking of a traditional story as if it was historical truth:


“In the days of the Prophet [Muhammad], the Jews incited the Quraysh to ask about the People of the Cave. When the question was asked, His Holiness said:" I will inform you tomorrow". According to another narration "In forty days" and according to the least narration "In three days." Because the Prophet knew that this was just a story, He did not wish to give an answer, nor did He wish to say outright that this is something that has no truth in it, but when He saw that the enemies would not stay their hand, his reply was couched as though it were truth. For certain matters are in reality just stories, but the Divine Manifestations bring them out as though it were truth and discourse upon them. For if they were to deny well-known and established matters, others would consider this evidence of their ignorance. Therefore, they bring them out as though they were truth.” ('Abdu'l-Baha, Amr va Khalq Volume 2, p. 211)


When the Central Figures mention a certain biblical story, it does not necessarily mean that this mention validates the literal historical truth of the story. I think it does indicate that the story carries spiritual truths.

By JoAnn Borovicka, Jun 3 2017 01:35PM

The following study briefly looks at the principles of Christian Protestantism known as the “Five Solae” in light of the Bahá'í Writings.


Bahá’i Teachings and the Protestant “Five Solae” (“Solae” is Latin for single, alone)


1. Sola Scriptura (Latin for “by Scripture alone”)—that biblical teachings are inerrant, necessary, and sufficient for salvation without an apostolic mediator (such as the Pope, Bishop, Priest).


Bahá’i teachings: The integrity of the Bible as divine guidance is confirmed: “This book is the Holy Book of God, of celestial Inspiration. It is the Bible of Salvation, the Noble Gospel. It is the mystery of the Kingdom and its light. It is the Divine Bounty, the sign of the guidance of God.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 18)


That an individual can strive to understand the inner meanings of the biblical Scriptures and therefore “attain eternal life” is confirmed: I, therefore, pray in your behalf that you may be given the power of understanding these inner real meanings of the Holy Scriptures and may become informed of the mysteries deposited in the words of the Bible so that you may attain eternal life and that your hearts may be attracted to the Kingdom of God. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 459)


2. Sola fide (Latin for “faith alone”)—that faith in Christ is sufficient for eternal salvation; there needs to be a direct, close, and personal connection between Christ and the believer.


I see confirmation of this in “Love Me that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O servant.” (Bahá’u’lláh)


Also:


Know that such ways, words, and deeds [that is, virtues and good deeds] are to be lauded and approved, and they redound to the glory of the human world. But these actions alone are not sufficient. They are a body of the greatest beauty, but without a spirit. No, that which leads to everlasting life, eternal honour, universal enlightenment, and true success and salvation is, first and foremost, the knowledge of God. It is clear that this knowledge takes precedence over every other knowledge and constitutes the greatest virtue of the human world. For the understanding of the reality of things confers a material advantage in the realm of being and brings about the progress of outward civilization, but the knowledge of God is the cause of spiritual progress and attraction, true vision and insight, the exaltation of humanity, the appearance of divine civilization, the rectification of morals, and the illumination of the conscience. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, no. 84.2)



3. Solus Christus (Latin for “Christ alone”)—that Christ is the only mediator between God and humanity.


A certain Gospel verse comes to mind; “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Interestingly, the Universal House of Justice states that this very verse, John 14:6, is not only confirmed in its truth but is also “the expression of the central truth of revealed religion”:


There is equal agreement in these texts [the world’s Scripture] that the soul’s ability to attain to an understanding of its Creator’s purpose is the product not merely of its own effort, but of interventions of the Divine that open the way. The point was made with memorable clarity by Jesus: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” If one is not to see in this assertion merely a dogmatic challenge to other stages of the one ongoing process of Divine guidance, it is obviously the expression of the central truth of revealed religion: that access to the unknowable Reality that creates and sustains existence is possible only through awakening to the illumination shed from that Realm. (Written under the supervision of, and commissioned by, the Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p. 31)


With the Bahá’í understanding that this teaching relates to the eternal Christ Spirit (the Cosmic Christ, the Manifestation of God) this teaching is confirmed.


4. Sola Gratia (Latin for “Grace alone”)—that all good works are a gift of God’s grace; no one deserves salvation because of the merit of her/her works, salvation is a gift of God (i.e., God’s act of free grace [Matt 7:21]).


The obligatory prayers seem to confirm this teaching. As creatures who are both powerless and in poverty, we look to the grace of God for everlasting life—this is not something we can do on our own no matter how excellent our deeds: O God, my God! Thy forgiveness hath emboldened me, and Thy mercy hath strengthened me, and Thy call hath awakened me, and Thy grace hath raised me up and led me unto Thee. Who, otherwise, am I that I should dare to stand at the gate of the city of Thy nearness, or set my face toward the lights that are shining from the heaven of Thy will? Thou seest, O my Lord, this wretched creature knocking at the door of Thy grace, and this evanescent soul seeking the river of everlasting life from the hands of Thy bounty. Thine is the command at all times, O Thou Who art the Lord of all names; and mine is resignation tand willing submission to Thy will, O Creator of the heavens! (Baha’u’llah, The Long Obligatory Prayer excerpt)


5. Soli Deo Gloria: (Latin for “Glory to God alone”)—faith in the heart of the believer is dependent upon intervention by the Holy Spirit and the Will of God, therefore God alone is worthy of the glory.


The Long Obligatory Prayer reminds Baha'is to look to the Will of God, not our doings: O God, my God! Look not upon my hopes and doings, nay, rather look upon Thy will that hath encompassed the heavens and the earth. (Baha’u’llah, Long Obligatory Prayer excerpt)


It is confirmed that faith is dependent upon illumination from the Holy Spirit, the Divine Realm:


There is equal agreement in these texts [the world’s Scripture] that the soul’s ability to attain to an understanding of its Creator’s purpose is the product not merely of its own effort, but of interventions of the Divine that open the way. The point was made with memorable clarity by Jesus: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” If one is not to see in this assertion merely a dogmatic challenge to other stages of the one ongoing process of Divine guidance, it is obviously the expression of the central truth of revealed religion: that access to the unknowable Reality that creates and sustains existence is possible only through awakening to the illumination shed from that Realm. (Written under the supervision of, and commissioned by, the Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p. 31)




By JoAnn Borovicka, Apr 25 2017 06:53AM

Christ’s last words according to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark are: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46). Sometimes I hear mention of these verses with surprise at Jesus' apparent feeling of abandonment and utter despair, but there is much more going on with this Scripture.


"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" is the first line of Psalm 22 (see below). Being a direct quote this verse effectively evokes the entire psalm, and Psalm 22 as a whole carries a message of great hope and confirmation. While this first line and many verses that follow express the anguish of suffering under tyranny, the psalm itself carries healing answers to that anguish, such as: the assurance of ultimate deliverance (Psalm 22: 4-5); the importance of teaching the Cause of God despite oppression (Psalm 22:22-23; 26-27); God’s solidarity with the oppressed (Psalm 22:24, 26); acknowledgement that knowledge of God is a gift from God (Psalm 22:25); and the knowing that all dominions is God’s (Psalm 22:28). Psalm 22 carries the theme of the suffering servant as well as assurance of salvation; in this way it is similar to Baha'u'llah's Fire Tablet.


In many ways, Psalm 22 holds the essence of many of Christ’s teachings through the voice of Hebrew Scriptures, therefore making it a perfect closure as His last words (reaching into the past, present, and future). Certain verses of Psalm 22 also foretell elements of the crucifixion, effectively connecting the Revelation of Christ and the significance of His Martyrdom to the Hebrew Scriptures (Psalm 22: 7-8, 18).

About the other renditions of Christ’s words: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46) and “It is finished” (John 19:30). These verses convey teachings that could also be connected to Psalm 22. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” confirms the verse in Psalm 22 that “To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him.” (29). It also confirms the verse: “May your hearts live forever!” (Psalm 22:26). Christ’s statement in Luke, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”, makes it a fact that the spirit lives forever; it confirms the message in Psalm 22 and takes it to a higher level.



Christ’s last words in the Gospel of John—“It is finished”—in some ways evokes the last two verses of Psalm 22: “Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it” (30-31). This deliverance spoken of in the Psalms was, in a spiritual sense, finished with Christ’s martyrdom in that Revelation, therefore, “He has done it” or “It is finished.” (Psalm 22:31, John 19:30)


So, from one perspective, these three renditions of the last words of Christ could be seen as united in Psalm 22 with an overall message of hope and confirmation. In a way, the three together summarize that psalm, confirm its healing message, and claim its fulfillment as prophecy:

• “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46).

• “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

• “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

Not to suggest that it was planned that way by the writers : ) but that the outcome of the three renditions is poetically brilliant and rings of truth together and separately.


Psalm 22


1“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?

2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.

3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

4 In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.

5 To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

6 But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people.

7 All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;

8 “Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.

10 On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;

15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled;

17 I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me;

18 they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!

20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog!

21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

24 For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me,

but heard when I cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him.

26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations

shall worship before him.

28 For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.

29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him.

30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord,

31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.”



By JoAnn Borovicka, Apr 1 2017 08:44PM

I am struck with how effectively the Gospel of John drives home the foundational religious truth of unity in diversity in its very first line: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The Word is at once God and with God, this is mystical relationship. It states that the essence of creation, from the beginning, is all about relationship. If I look for it, this unity in diversity I can find it throughout the gospels. Some scholars (such as Richard Rohr) call it “moral equivalency.”


• There is a mystical unity between the Manifestation of God and God: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).

• There is a mystical unity between the Manifestation of God and “others.” Jesus says, “Whatever you do to others, you do to me” (Matthew 25:40).

• There is a mystical unity between any person and every other person: “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

• And there is a mystical unity between any person and God: “The Spirit is within you” (John 14:17). Human and divine, matter and spirit, operate in unity.


One thing I take away from this is that, in this mystical unity, in this world of creation based on divine relationship, love is one fabric: how I love others is how I love myself and God; how I love God is how I love others and myself; how I love myself is how I love God and others.


This mystical relationship based on unity in diversity is taught again and again in the Baha’i Writings. ‘Abdu’l-Baha states, “All parts of the creational world are part of one whole”, “one laboratory of might”, “The organization of God is one; the evolution of existence is one; the divine system is one” (Some Answered Questions, pp. 182, 199).


By JoAnn Borovicka, Apr 1 2017 07:45PM

In the Gospel of Mark, a quick search shows at least 17 incidents where the disciples not only misunderstand but also betray, desert, deny, argue, are stricken with fear, and disobey Christ (references below). And what I find most fascinating is that after this long string of disconnects and human failures, in chapter 16 the Risen Christ chastises the disciples for their lack of faith and stubbornness one last time and THEN tells them to “Go into all the world. Preach the good news to everyone.” Mark 16:15


To me, the message becomes something like ‘Pick up your fears, your failures, all of your human weaknesses and go teach the Cause of God anyway. Divine forgiveness and power are greater than human faults.’


In the Tablets of the Divine Plan, when ‘Abdu’l-Baha tells the Baha’is to travel to teach the Faith He refers to Christ’s instructions to His disciples. ‘Abdu’l-Baha states, “It is also mentioned in the Gospel: Travel ye to all parts of the world and give ye the glad tidings of the appearance of the Kingdom of God” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, no. 2.3). The context of that biblical mandate—that it comes to the disciples after a long string of disconnects and epic fails—is, I think, important for Baha’is to keep in mind. When one considers the context of the biblical reference it is like ‘Abdu’l-Baha is saying, ‘With all your fears, failures, and faults, travel to all parts of the world and give the glad tidings anyway. Divine forgiveness and power are greater than human faults.’


Disciples faults and human failures:

1. “Why don’t you understand?” March 4:13

2. “Have you no faith?” Mark 4:40

3. Disciples “hearts are hardened” Mark 6:52

4. Disciples “fail to understand” Mark 7:18

5. “Do you still not perceive or understand?” Their eyes fail to see, ears fail to hear, they don’t

remember, don’t understand, their hearts are hardened, Mark 8:17-18

6. to Peter: “Get thee behind me Satan.” Mark 8:33

7. Disciples don’t understand, are afraid Mark 9:32

8. Chastised for arguing about which disciples is “first” Mark 9:34

9. Jesus indignant when disciples kept children away Mark 10:13-14

10. Disciples are perplexed, blind Mark 10:24

11. Arguing over who will be “first” Mark 10:41

12. Judas betrayal story Mark 14:10

13. Christ to disciples: “You will all become deserters.” Mark 14:27

14. Disciples failed to stay awake in Garden 3 times, Mark 14:34-41

15. All of the disciples “deserted Him and fled.” Mark 14:50

16. Peter denies Christ 3 x, Mark 14:66-72

17. Peter and others “would not believe” the reality of the Risen Christ, Mark 16:11-13

18. The Risen Christ chastises the disciples for their lack of faith and stubbornness Mark 16:14