Reason and the Bahá'í Writings

By Ian Kluge

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)

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 14
© 2013, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    Unlike the scriptures of other religions, the Baha'i Writings have a great deal to say about the importance of reason. Indeed, they tell us that "in this age the peoples of the world need the arguments of reason" (`Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 7) and that "If religion were contrary to logical reason then it would cease to be a religion and be merely a tradition" (`Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 143). Furthermore, the Writings also exemplify the use of reason in explaining the teachings. The Writings are not, however, an example of strict rationalism but of moderate rationalism in which reason is necessary but not sufficient to attain transrational knowledge and certainty.

    This paper explores what the Writings say about reason, its proper uses and limitations. It also strives to resolve an apparent contradiction in what the Writings assert about reason. The investigation begins by considering Shoghi Effendi's reference to a "rational God" (The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 112) and the teachings on the "rational soul." It shows that the Writings are consistent with standard or classical logic and its extensions, including a form of dialectics as well as the principle of sufficient reason. In addition, this paper discusses some controversies surrounding the topic of reason in the Writings, among them cultural differences and logic and the resulting `cultural politics.'

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