As chaos envelops the world, the crucial
need of the human race is to find a unifying vision of the nature of man and
society. For the past century humanity's response to this impulse has driven a
succession of ideological upheavals that have convulsed our world and that
appear now to have exhausted themselves. The passion invested in the struggle,
despite its disheartening results, testifies to the depth of the need. For,
without a common conviction about the course and direction of human history, it
is inconceivable that foundations can be laid for a global society to which the
mass of humankind can commit themselves.
Such a vision unfolds in the writings of Baha'u'llah, the nineteenth-century prophetic figure whose growing influence is the most remarkable development of contemporary religious history. Born in Persia, November 12, 1817, Baha'u'llah began at age twenty-seven an undertaking that has gradually captured the imagination and loyalty of several million people from virtually every race, culture, class, and nation on earth. The phenomenon is one that has no reference points in the contemporary world, but is associated rather with climactic changes of direction in the collective past of the human race. For Baha'u'llah claimed to be no less than the Messenger of God to the age of human maturity, the Bearer of a Divine Revelation that fulfills the promises made in earlier religions, and that will generate the spiritual nerves and sinews for the unification of the peoples of the world.
The Baha'i World Faith claims to be a religion of unique relevance to the modern world. Its emphasis upon rationalism, human rights, international peace, education, equality of the sexes, and the eradication of all forms of prejudice gives the Baha'i Faith a very broad base of appeal. The Baha'i cry for one world religion appeals to the ecumenical spirit of the age, especially in light of the continuing insistence that Baha'is are in perfect harmony with the Christian Faith.
According to Bahá'í teachings, religious history is seen as an evolving educational process for mankind, through God's messengers, which are termed Manifestations of God. Bahá'u'lláh is seen as the most recent, pivotal, but not final of these individuals. He claimed to be the expected redeemer and teacher prophesied in Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and other religions and that his mission was to establish a firm basis for unity throughout the world, and inaugurate an age of peace and justice, which Bahá'ís expect will inevitably arise. [Esslemont, J.E. (1980). Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, 5th ed., Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust]
The Bahá'í religion was listed in The Britannica Book of the Year (1992present) as the second most widespread of the world's independent religions in terms of the number of countries represented. Britannica claims that it is established in 247 countries and territories; represents over 2,100 ethnic, racial, and tribal groups; has scriptures translated into over 800 languages; and has seven million adherents worldwide .
The doctrine of Divine Manifestations is the central plank of Baha'i theology. Through this doctrine Baha'is are able to take seemingly amiable positions toward members of the major world religions, for each of their founders were manifestations of God and thus each religion has a measure of truth. On the same premise Baha'is draw converts from other religions, for, they insist, the other religions were for other ages while the religion of Baha'u'llah is for today. To follow it in no way will conflict with one's native faith, for there is truly only one faith in mankind's history, best represented now by the Baha'is.
There can be no doubt whatever that the peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source, and are the subjects of one God. The difference between the ordinances under which they abide should be attributed to the varying requirements and exigencies of the age in which they were revealed. All of them, except a few which are the outcome of human perversity, were ordained of God, and are a reflection of His Will and Purpose. - Bahá'u'lláh, from Proclamation of Bahá'u'lláh
Though the recognized Divine Manifestations represent just about every conceivable world view (Monotheism through Moses and Jesus, polytheism through Krisna, Agnosticism through Buddah, and dualism through Zoroaster), Baha'is insist that they are actually united in purpose and teaching. The Bahá'í Faith recognizes the divine origins of Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Bábí movement. Other religions which are not specifically named in the writings--such as Taoism, Sikhism, or Native American religions--are nevertheless acknowledged to contain genuine spiritual influences. The spiritually initiated see beyond the apparent differences. In fact, Baha'u'llah warned that anyone who saw even the slightest possible difference between their words and messages would be guilty of disbelieving and repudiating God.
Modern Christian Ecumenical Movements
Even a cursory review of what has taken place in the Church during the last 25 years will reveal a fierce underming of the faith. Precisely as the Bible warns, today's most effective enemies of Christ are those who claim to be Christians and call mankind not just to any old false religion but to a counterfeit Christianity.
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. - 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4
Modern Non-Christian Ecumenical Movements
Growing alongside the Christian ecumenical movement are those non-Christian movements with basically the same message: uniting the world into a one world religion that is inclusive of all beliefs.