The Organic Function of Prophecy in Baha'i Context:
An essay in memoriam of the hundredth anniversary of `Abdu'l-Bahá's journey to America with excerpts from Some Answered Questions and other religious scriptures

By James B. Thomas

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #109
Bosch Bahá'í­ School: Santa Cruz, California, USA
May 16–20, 2012
(see list of papers from #109)


    In this, the twelfth year of the twenty first century, the world scene is dauntingly confusing and one may wonder why this is so when we have such abundance of material bounty at our disposal. The Middle East is in turmoil with issues of extreme wealth versus abject poverty, oppression and sectarian violence. Some European countries are on the edge of bankruptcy with the potential to bring the continent to its economic knees that many experts fear would drag the whole world down in a depression of unprecedented proportions. Concurrently, the United States is deadlocked in political polarity that threatens to paralyze governance while global warming continues its inexorable rise. Could man have foreseen the current chaos in the world after fighting so many deadly wars for freedom? Something is evidently out of sync with common expectations.

    Yet, in spite of these outward appearing forebodings there are, mysteriously, undercurrents of positive change in the world of humankind. What motivates them? What is needed for them to achieve fruition?

    In an effort to address such issues, this paper will emphasize in 4 steps, the validity of prophetic utterance throughout the evolution of civilization as perceived in Bahá'í writings: (1) Examples will be shown of just how vital prophecy is to the growth of faith in successive periods with respect to its impact on society; (2) The functionality and the organic nature of prophecy will be defined; (3) A way will be suggested as to how one may recognize the true meaning of prophecy; (4) How the power, resulting from the interrelationship of prophecy to covenants, provides mankind with options that, if wisely chosen, are capable of assuring a just and fruitful global civilization.


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