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On 16 Nov 2013 at 1:36, Don Calkins wrote:

> The Baha'i Studies Listserv
> I tho´t there was an authoritative letter saying that we believed 
in the Virgin Birth but not the immaculate conception of Mary.
> I can´t find it, so was i imagining things?

We believe in the immaculate conception of everyone, in the sense of 
their not receiving an original sin transmitted through sexual 
conception. The higher intent of the Roman Catholic doctrine is to 
point to the special innocence, purity and sinlessness of Mary, and 
this is a Bahai teaching, found in the Iqan, where Baha'u'llah says: 

 "reflect upon the state and condition of Mary. So deep was the 
perplexity of that most beauteous countenance,... How could she claim 
that a Babe Whose father was unknown had been conceived of the Holy 
Ghost? Therefore did Mary, that veiled and immortal Countenance, ...
        (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 55)

That the Babe was conceived of the Holy Ghost refers both to the 
Virgin Birth and to Mary's "virginity" (not necessarily as defined by 
a hymen, but certainly a continuing station of immaculacy). Look also 
at how Mary is described: as a most beauteous countenance (Tal`at 
kabri) and "that veiled and immortal Countenance" (mukhaddarat-e 
baqaa: ie, she is a virgin kept "behind the curtain" who has her 
eternal subsistence in God). Hence Shoghi Effendi says that the Iqan 
"upholds the purity and innocence of the Virgin Mary" (God Passes By, 
p. 139).

The formulation of this that reflects the Islamic background is "the 
immaculacy of Mary." This immaculacy (like that of Fatimeh and the 
Imams) is not something achieved during life, it is granted in 
pre-existence, hence it cannot exclude conception. The formulation 
"immaculate conception" -- the Catholic term -- turns the focus 
towards the concept of original sin, since immaculate conception of 
Mary in Catholicism is a mystery or miracle that is an exception to 
the rule of inherited sin. It's likely to lead to misunderstandings, 
and it did: Shoghi Effendi referred to the doctrine of the immaculate 
conception in Promised Day is Come in 1941:

"Count Mastai-Ferretti, [Pius IX) ... will be permanently remembered 
as the author of the Bull which declared the Immaculate Conception of 
the Blessed Virgin (1854), referred to in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, to be a 
doctrine of the Church, ....
        (The Promised Day is Come, p. 53)

However he also referred in that letter to the "immaculacy of the 
Virgin Mary"

As to the position of Christianity, let it be stated without any 
hesitation or equivocation that its divine origin is unconditionally 
acknowledged, that the Sonship and Divinity of Jesus Christ are 
fearlessly asserted, that the divine inspiration of the Gospel is 
fully recognized, that the reality of the mystery of the Immaculacy 
of the Virgin Mary is confessed, and the primacy of Peter, the Prince 
of the Apostles, is upheld and defended.
        (The Promised Day is Come, p. 109)

The first of these, read carelessly, was often taken as an 
affirmation of the Virgin Birth of Jesus, since that is what is most 
clearly affirmed in the Iqan (and in Some Answered Questions, where 
it is interpreted). Bahais who did not believe in literal miracles 
had a problem here, for they supposed that Shoghi Effendi was saying 
that the Iqan affirmed a literal understanding of Virgin Birth. 

The memory you are chasing is probably this one, a letter dated 
October 1948, which follows a series of letters on behalf of the 
Guardian by secretaries who think the Immaculate Conception is 
another term for the Virgin Birth of Jesus (the letter is cited in a 
Research Department memorandum) which states:

+++++++++++ is clear that the beloved Guardian understood the difference 
between the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary and the Virgin 
Birth of Jesus.  In October 1948 one of the believers wrote to him 
questioning Baha'i belief in the Virgin Birth, but referring to it as 
'The Immaculate Conception.' The Guardian's reply, which was written 
by his secretary on his behalf, corrects this misunderstanding while 
answering the substance of the question: 

"At the time when you and your dear husband came into the Faith the 
teachings were not as fully translated as they are now, and there 
were many misapprehensions regarding certain matters.  One of them 
seems to have been the "Immaculate Conception" or what we really mean 
is the Virgin Birth (for the two are different.) The Master clearly 
writes in a Tablet that Christ was *not* begotten in the ordinary 
way, but by the Holy Spirit.  So we must accept this. Every Faith has 
some miracles, and this is the great miracle of the Christian 


The 1948 letter distinguishes two things which were being conflated, 
and answers the question that was actually being asked : do we 
believe in the miraculous conception of Jesus and the Virgin Birth? 
It does not deny that we *also* believe in the Immaculacy of Mary 
(and of Fatimeh, and the Imams, and the Manifestations of God). This 
immaculacy is a freedom from sin, from moral error, which is -- to 
cause another confusion -- translated as infallibility. 

~~ Sen
Sen McGlinn
When, however, thou dost contemplate the innermost essence of things,
                 and the individuality of each, 
         thou wilt behold the signs of thy Lord's mercy . . ." 

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