Shoghi Effendi has stated that “the whole theory of Divine Revelation rests on the infallibility of the Prophet.” It is elsewhere explained (e.g., the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and Some Answered Questions) that the infallibility of the Manifestations is “essential” in that, among other things, They are “omniscient at will.” However, the Bahá’í teachings complete the theory of Divine Revelation with a (complementary) theory of the Bahá’í Covenant that clearly rests on the attribution of various gradated forms of infallibility to other Persons (‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi) and Institutions (the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice). These forms of “conferred infallibility” are based upon the spiritual authority of Bahá’u’lláh as Manifestation. They endow the conferees with freedom from error without presuming them to possess the essentialist attribute of omniscience. This paper undertakes to examine the epistemological implications of these various forms of infallibility for the scientific study of the phenomenon of revelation in general, and of the Bahá’í Revelation in particular. We also examine the complementarity between those truths derived from systematic application of the scientific method of empirical verification, on one hand, and those derived from systematic exegesis of the texts of Bahá’u’lláh within the framework of the Covenant, on the other.
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Copyright © 2007 William S. Hatcher