First Wilmette Institute Anniversary Web Talk Featuring Dr. John Hatcher Debuts with an Audience of One Hundred
The first Wilmette Institute Web Talk was an unmitigated success with one hundred listeners (the webinar’s limit) signed in five minutes before the talk was set to begin and more hoping to find an open slot. At 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time Dr. Robert Stockman, the director of the Wilmette Institute, welcomed the audience and introduced Dr. John Hatcher, the first speaker in the series of Web Talks marking the twentieth anniversary of the Wilmette Institute (1995–2015).
Dr. Hatcher elected to talk on “The Face of God Among Us,” the title of his book of the same name published by the U.S. Bahá’í Publishing Trust in 2010. Dr. Hatcher describes his book as a “highly structured analysis of the Manifestations of God, based on passages from the authoritative Bahá’í texts.” The book, divided into four sections, each with four chapters, examines the purpose, nature, powers, and methodology of Divine Emissaries. Each of the sixteen chapters raises (and answers) four questions, sixty-four in total.
For his forty-three and a half minute talk, Dr. Hatcher chose one or two questions from some of his book’s chapters, especially those that focus on “delicious paradoxes” (a term used by educator Dr. Daniel C. Jordan), mysteries that can be solved by going to the Bahá’í writings.
From “The Purpose of the Prophets,” the first section of The Face of God Among Us, Dr. Hatcher chose five questions: (1) Is the sign of our belief “faith” or deeds”? chapter 1; (2) Could we love God without the advent of the Manifestation—must our love relationship with God be indirect? chapter 3; (3) Then how do we enter the “Presence of God”? Why must our love relationship with God be indirect? chapter 3; (4) Explain the problem with the way the mirror analogy is sometimes used. chapter 4; and (5) What is particularly helpful or useful about the prism analogy? chapter 4.
Throughout his presentation, Dr. Hatcher used PowerPoint slides listing the questions and then slides with passages from the Bahá’í writings (with sources) answering the questions. The screens were made even more user-friendly with words, phrases, and sentences called out in red. Most of the time the slides stayed up long enough for the audience to read and absorb the quotations.
The second part of the talk focused on questions from the second section of the book, “The Nature of the Prophets.” Two questions from chapter 7—(1) What do you think Bahá’u’lláh meant about what happened in the Siyáh-Chál? and (2) What is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s authoritative explanation of this event or experience?—Dr. Hatcher referred to as “Biggies,” big questions, which can be answered with an understanding of the metaphorical nature of the language. A final question from chapter 8—(3) What are the three conditions of the Prophet?—ended with Dr. Hatcher’s saying that he had only come to understand the third condition when he was writing the book. The three conditions are pre-incarnate, incarnate, and post-incarnate.
From the third part of his book, “The Powers of the Prophet,” Dr. Hatcher chose three questions: (1) What passages indicate Bahá’u’lláh plays a creative role in His revelation? chapter 10; (2) Are the Manifestations just infallible or also omniscient? chapter 11; and (3) What is the significance of “through Whom the letters B and E” are joined? chapter 12. The third question Dr. Hatcher referred to as not being a paradox but fascinating, nevertheless.
From the final part of The Face of God Among Us, as time began to run out, Dr. Hatcher chose three questions: (1) Do the Prophets play a part in fashioning Their appearance and “persona”? chapter 13; (2) What is ironic about Their suffering as regards Their persecutors? chapter 16 and (3) Why is it strategically important for Them to endure passively all suffering? chapter 16.
Throughout the Web Talk, Dr. Hatcher kept referring the audience to his book for fuller discussions of the many questions. The talk, like the book, was very well organized and provided much to think about in terms of the purpose, nature, powers, and methodology of the Manifestations of God.
The presentation ended with a questions and answers and with Dr. Stockman’s invitation to the audience to join the remaining eleven Web Talks. The talks are listed on the Wilmette Institute’s website, http://wilmetteinstitute.org, under the Web Talk tab.
For those who were not able to log into the Web Talk or who want to listen to it again, click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uCFWiK08eQ. For those who wish to order Dr. Hatcher’s book, click here: http://bahaibookstore.com. If you are listening to Dr. Hatcher’s talk for the first time, you may find this article a good road map for it.
The next Web Talk will be on Sunday, February 1, at 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The speaker will be Ian Kluge, who will discuss “The Bahá’í Proofs for God.” To register and acquire a link to the Web Talk, click here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/945217525137182721.