The Question of Exclusivism:
A Scientific Perspective
First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #9
Bahá'í National Center: Wilmette, Illinois, USA
March 29 – April 1, 1996
(see list of papers from #9)
This study looks at the dogma of exclusivism, instituted by many Christian denominations, with the aim of demonstrating that this doctrine is no longer viable. The operating principles necessitating a shift in scientific "paradigma," as discussed by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, are applied to the paradigm of exclusivism. Although Thomas Kuhn relates his analysis and discussions to the evolution of scientific knowledge, the principles involved also operate in and are fundamental to all progressive processes in history.
This presentation first examines two major views of the universe: the geocentric model of Aristotle and Ptolemy and the heliocentric model of Copernicus. The theological implications of these models are discussed and the underlying reasons for the vehement opposition to the heliocentric model and the resistance to adoption of this paradigm are considered.
The successive stages of paradigm adoption, emergence of anomalies, and consequent state of crisis precipitating a scientific revolution (i.e., the Copernican Revolution) leading to a change in world view are considered and the attendant phenomena of rejection of and opposition to the new paradigm as well as its eventual assimilation and integration are discussed.
The same stages are applied to the analysis of the structure of "spiritual revolution." The paradigm of exclusivism is considered against the background of our particular juncture in history. The emerging anomalies of the exclusivistic world view and the consequent state of crisis has led to a state of spiritual revolution necessitating a major shift in world view, from the paradigm of exclusivity to that of relativity. The Bahá'í paradigm of relativity of religious truth, often referred to as "progressive revelation," is examined and its dynamic features considered. The Bahá'í paradigm presents an expanded world view providing fresh insights so that with new eyes one perceives underlying dynamic relationships one had not known existed.
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