It has always been an interest of mine how religions develop, and of course the Bahá’í one would be a perfect one to study except that the Universal House of Justice has been rather secretive about the records at the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa, Israel. Nevertheless, what it decides now and its attitudes to actual independent scholarship are of course public.
Bahá’ís have always been positive about education and they claim the right of independent search for the truth. Of course they do with seekers: but once you sign on the dotted line you do have conformist obligations to the Faith - and the truth of its founder and the leadership afterwards is taken as given. Nevertheless, Bahá’ís operate in this world, and they attend universities that expect critical methods in dealing with knowledge. Or at least they should: the situation in Iran remains appalling, where Bahá’ís cannot get into university and those that are there are systematically denied their qualifications. The situation is getting worse (and perhaps the UUA President Rev. Bill Sinkford should have thought about that when he met the Iranian leadership with all the pre-arranged questions).
Some of what the Bahá’ís are now saying about their participation in scholarship and about representing the Bahá’í Faith is showing some development. I was reading an interesting article that actually (if unintentionally) says something to Christians too about doing theology. Paul Lample gave a plenary talk at the 32nd annual conference of the Association for Bahá’í Studies – North America 29 August to 1 September 2008, and much of it reflects upon a further stress on education coming from the Universal House of Justice. Clearly they are using education as a means to keep those who are recruited, not as a replacement for Firesides but as a more systematic induction. Perhaps it is like the Methodist class system: people get tied into more structures, people, commitments and things to think about. But here is how he sees Bahá’ís studying and I think this transfers to other faiths (these are extracts):
The learned Bahá'í is not a "gatekeeper" or "priest." 
The learned Bahá'í is not an "anthropologist" of the Bahá'í community. The purpose of Bahá'í scholarship is not merely to explain the community at a moment in history and present the resulting picture as its reality. Bahá'ís recognize that, at any point, the community is far from that which Bahá'u'lláh has envisioned. It is "less Bahá'í" now than what it will become in future. [16-17]
The learned Bahá'í is not an "archeologist." The "true" meaning of the Faith is not lost somewhere in the past, to be recaptured by excavating layers of erroneous interpretation and practice. 
The learned Bahá'í is not an "artist" who is free to shape the teachings according to some criteria of personal choice or creativity. The teachings of Bahá’u’lláh have an intended meaning and an intended aim. Unity - even unity in diversity - emerges by seeking out and conforming to this meaning. 
The learned Bahá'í is not an "impartial observer." The resolution of important questions requires more than the application of methods of the natural sciences. It is not possible to stand apart from the community to study it without influencing it or being influenced by it. 
Perhaps the learned Bahá'í is more like the "scout" who helps to guide an expedition on a journey into unexplored territory. This is someone who participates actively in the journey, but whose specialized knowledge, skills, and experience informs various aspects of the struggle to make progress... 
These can be translated across to the Christian theologian perhaps, though the University has its theology courses open to anyone as it cannot be the place for a special interest group. Thus the University theologian can show much or no commitment to Christianity; and there is a huge diversity of what constitutes commitment to Christianity, whereas the learned Bahá'í has a rather stricter Covenant to follow (the Bahá’í stress on unity and maintenance via - in the not so extreme - declaring Covenant breakers becomes effectively uniformity rather than unity). So if these were transferred to Christianity they might say, instead:
- The learned Christian may be a priest and give more promises than a layperson.
- Anthropology is not enough for the learned Christian - God and Jesus should at least be considered.
- Archaeology is tempting for many learned Christians (that there was the true faith) but we live in the present and are going to the future.
- The learned Christian may be an artist, and produce highly creative theology (as postmodernists have done, for example).
- The learned Christian is not, in the end, impartial, and may dispute impartiality.
- The learned Christian is like a scout, using the intellect to go into new and interesting areas to examine how the faith may be developed, understood and applied.
This is in itself interesting, but so is the adaptations Bahá’ís must make in the world of different commitments and institutional expectations.
Bahá’ís claim that science and religion is not in conflict, but the following statement suggests that such could at least have the potential - and look which must have priority:
It would be unacceptable and completely unconvincing to a scientist, for example, if a quotation from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá were used in an attempt to overturn scientific understanding of biological evolution while justifying nonscientific concepts such as intelligent design which are, in fact, theological or philosophical in nature. Whatever the source of inspiration, a hypothesis must be tested according to the scientific methods and standards, producing change that can be articulated and justified within the domain of science. [17-18]
That is quite a far reaching statement, and certainly comes across as different in tone from all that I was told and heard in the 1980s. In other words, in doing science you do science and not do as Christian Creationists and Intelligent Designists do. But that statement admits the possibility that the revelation for now and its authoritative interpreter may not be correct when it comes to actually doing the science.
However, this all meets limitations as regards the presentation of the Faith:
A particular tool of scholarly inquiry, for example, such as historical criticism,49 may be very useful in shedding light on aspects of the teachings. Yet, the scope of the validity of such tools is a topic of discussion even within academia. While they may have value to Bahá'ís engaged in scholarly study of the Faith, they cannot be blindly accepted as instruments that yield "scientific truth" and used to justify propositions that overturn explicit Bahá'í concepts presented in the authoritative texts.50 
Such a limitation is not placed on Christian theologians; and it is by this route that one gets different understandings of Christianity and its origins. The Bahá’ís cannot allow such diversity. Yet diversity is a product of maturity and confidence.
There is clearly a struggle here for Bahá’ís, in that they face different standards of performance and expectation between their own faith and the scholarly community, and then if both have their own rules and findings the Bahá’ís then have the problem of relativism, which their faith of revelation is forced to reject:
An individual is usually a member of more than one community of practice, and therefore, is able to contribute to change within a particular practice by introducing new insights from others. Different practices are, however, not relativistic groupings free to occupy distinct realms each with their "own" truth, since insights are ultimately checked against reality and must, over time, yield to it.  ...we can gain insights from these practices and bring them into the Bahá'í community-to the degree that they are acceptable within the range of internal standards of the Bahá'í teachings.
There is a tension here. In a hundred years there may be less paranoia in the Bahá'í community, that is within its make-up, coming from having excommunicated so many competitors for leadership in its reasonably short history and its subsequent maintenance of uniformity from the time of Shogi Effendi. Old faiths do mature, they do produce schools, and there is competition. Faiths undergoing a lot of rapid change, including change in their environment, can crack when the speed of change increases and interconnections go across stress points (see a previous post). We are seeing this in Christianity now: Roman Catholicism papering over the cracks, and Anglicanism not doing so but finding parties separating and competing for supremacy.