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The University of Haifa Lectures in Bahá’í Studies

Edited By Soli Shahvar

This volume brings together a selection of essays from the Lecture Series in Bahá’í studies at the University of Haifa. Each chapter explores an aspect of the Bahá’í religion, including its history, community, culture and theoretical perspectives on contemporary issues. The authors discuss topics including the family and descendants of the Báb (founder of the religion from which the Bahá’í Faith emerged), the influential role of Bahá’í schools in the modernization of education in Iran, the process of introducing the law of monogamy into the Iranian Bahá’í community, early connections between Swiss citizens and Bahá’ís in the Middle East, the rich and varied landscape of Persian Bahá’í poetry, and the role of African Americans in the development of the US Bahá’í community, particularly with regard to race relations and the principle of the oneness of humanity. Also presented in this volume are Bahá’í perspectives on contemporary topics including changing conceptions of work and work values, the role of apologetics in interfaith dialogue, and the issue of ‘defamation of religions’ in international human rights discourse. This book will be of interest to readers in various disciplines in the humanities and social sciences who want to become informed in more depth about a wider range of topics in the emerging field of Bahá’í studies.
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8. Apologetics and Interfaith Dialogue from a Bahá’í Perspective

Extract



The term apologetics derives from the Greek word apologeisthai, ‘to defend oneself’. It denotes a systematic discourse of argumentation in defence, or a branch of theology devoted to the defence and scientific verification of religious belief. Its sister term is apologia (from the Greek apología, ‘answer’, ‘justification’ or ‘defence’), which concerns the practical defence of faith.

Apologetics is a very old discipline and is found in all the Abrahamic religions. Judaism has a long-standing tradition of apologetics, the Jews often having been forced not only to defend the tenets of their faith but also to defend the Jewish people against attack on racial grounds. Jewish apologetics experienced its points of highest intensity when Christianity rose to power and began to attack all other forms of belief, and then once again when Islam rose to power. Islam also has a pronounced tradition of apologetics, exercised mainly in defence of Islam as a religious creed against criticism from outside the religion but also employed between Muslims of differing schools of thought. The Qur’án itself is in great part apologetic in nature.

The targets of Christian apologetics were first heathenism, Judaism and Gnosticism; in medieval times, Islam; and in modern times the Enlightenment, idealism and materialistic ideologies. Today it focuses on combating the secular zeitgeist and indifference towards Christianity. The locus classicus for Christian apologetics is 1 Peter 3:14–15:

       But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye; and...

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