The Inner Light Rising
Mark A. Foster, Ph.D.
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Many religions impart to their folllowers a paragon, human or textual, of moral virtue. In the first century of the Christian era, Jesus was the spiritual Exemplar of the Light. Subsequently, Paul became an exemplar for contextualizing the Gospel in later centuries and in other communities.

Regrettably, the particularized counsel furnished in the epistles traditionally attributed to the apostle Paul was, within a few centuries of his passing, inappropriately institutionalized and univeralized into a supposedly inerrant bedrock of faith. The main branches of Christendom were forever frozen in the past. The words of Paul - like those of James and others - are, at best, inspired midrashim (commentaries) and, at worst, uninspired hermeneutics. However, to call their words the Word of God is sacrilege.

The Pauline letters should have been regarded as an example to believers who, like Paul, had spiritually experienced the risen Christ, or Inner Light, without having encountered him in the flesh. Then later Christians could have been "Pauls" to their own nations and communities. Unfortunately, the Church fathers turned Paul, a pastor, into a theologian. The historical controversies and theological schisms within Christianity have been the result.

Therefore, if a person takes Paul's epistle to Corinth as a pastoral letter to the Corinthians, that person is taking that epistle literally. Someone who universalizes it, removing it from its historical and cultural context, is, by engaging in metaphysical speculation, not taking it literally.

For Bahá'ís (followers of the Light), our Exemplar is 'Abdu'l-Bahá (Servant of the Light). He was born Abbás, Son of Bahá'u'lláh (Light of God), the Prophet and Founder of the Bahá'í Faith. Bahá'ís endeavor to be conformed to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's example and to become morally upright servants of the Light and of humanity.

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