Who Is a Christian Scientist?

July 11, 2002

Man has no underived power.

Unity of Good, by Mary Baker Eddy

Who's a Christian Scientist is a complicated issue — more complicated than we thought when we took it up. It cannot be reduced to political correctness. While it is pretty much one's own call as to who gets the name, there is often a level of suffering and surrender necessary to arrive at the place beyond the name where practice actually happens. Our readings include opening passages from the chapter on Christian Science Practice, where Mary Baker Eddy identifies herself and other potential Christian Scientists with the struggle of Mary Magdalene to reach the healing Christ.

Technically the term Christian Scientist might be reserved for those who are in full fellowship with the teachings of Mrs. Eddy. Yet there are many, including some who come to our meetings, who have only a smattering of Science and still call themselves Christian Scientists; while there are others, again even in our group, well grounded and seasoned, who would venture only so far as to be called students of Christian Science.

Most members seemed to feel it is a corrosive and dangerous undertaking for anyone to hold himself capable of determining whether another is a Christian Scientist. Perhaps The Mother Church and its branches need to do some of this for record keeping purposes and preparation of approved lists of practitioners and teachers, but we could see no reason to do it in our proceedings.

Some members saw nothing amiss in beholding everyone, whatever the formal religious denomination or atheistic proclivities, as a Christian Scientist — since all are working out a better life here or hereafter, with varying degrees of scientific precision.

A question arose as why we have to use the word Christian in connection with this precious Science. Mrs. Eddy had no choice — surely she'd have been run out of town if she hadn't used it in her day. But today we need a better reason than that. So we read the definition of Christ in the textbook. Here it is: "The divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error." Therefore, Christ and its derivative Christian are technical terms in Science for what occurs when good destroys error. Thinking of the term as a person or group is to consign it to matter where powerlessness and dualism prevail.

More esoterically perhaps one member pointed out that some Christian Science teachers encourage students to hold themselves and others as Christian Science, not merely Christian Scientists, thereby reducing, one hopes, the tendency to ego inflation. Living the Christ, our Jesus (or corporeal concept) is brought into proper alignment.

We discussed one sense where it appears essential that the label Christian Scientist be used. It's when we want specifically to disrupt thought that may comfortably be assuming it understands what we're saying, but doesn't really. This goes beyond terminology. Thus for instance, we lamented the interviews Virginia Harris had with Larry King. Yes, it was fine that she made us seem normal, but she could also have briefly stated something like, "The whole thrust of Christian Science and its healing element is based on the unreality of matter as cause and the total reality of God, good, as the only cause." That might have filled the churches with curious and maybe angry seekers.

One member's six year old son was asked by his school teacher about his Christian Science religion. Did he pray to Jesus? "No, I go right to the top." We're trying to get an interview with Larry King.

Another member said we must keep pushing Christian Science thought to the front lines of current theological, medical and scientific inquiry as did Mrs. Eddy when she was here. Are we for instance seeing the Science of psychology, quantum physics and the genome or merely garbing our practice in ancient symbolism?

These healings were reported.

1) One member has continued to deepen her relationship with God. This has involved quite a "renovation". The biblical passages she prayed with this week include: "Give me an understanding heart..." (I Kings 3:9), "Seek ye first the kingdom of God..." (Matthew 6: 33), "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do..." (John 14: 13).

2) Another member broke his toe a few weeks back. Discoloration and pain came up. Oddly, when he performed as a tap dancer all pain left him. He recalled the experience Mrs. Eddy recounts of an actor wracked with arthritis who becomes as free and lively as other, younger actors when he steps out on stage. (See Science and Health, p. 261: 11-20). Our member worked on the problem in Science and this week there was a sudden snap and all was well again.

3) Another member suffering from grief over the sudden death of his roommate three weeks ago, found comfort and insight in several of the stories included in this week's Christian Science Quarterly Bible Lesson on Sacrament. At the Last Supper Jesus not only comforts his disciples before his departure but prepares them to go forward with the work afterwards. Our member has been able to identify many Christly aspects of his roommate's behavior and bearing which fill him with profound gratitude that he was present in his life. And he is still learning lessons from this very dear one's life. In the final two sections of the Lesson the disciples interact with Jesus at the Sea of Tiberias and then form a flourishing community at Jerusalem. Our member feels beneath the sadness a stirring of energy, ready to generate new concepts and mythology.

4) Another member, caught in a sudden rainstorm, opened his umbrella to find it an unusable shambles. As he stood in confusion, a young woman approached him and handed him an umbrella. "Here, take this. It's an extra." She quickly disappeared into a restaurant. As he started to walk, holding the umbrella over his head, he noticed the woman and a male companion smiling at him through the window of the restaurant.

5) Another member told of his struggles to keep his thought in line with Christian Science reality. Lately he has kept a few statements handy to blunt and reverse any tendency to slide off into negativity. "Perfect God, perfect man," is one of these, helping remind him of ever-present spiritual existence.

As we ended, a member was extolling the virtues of Henry Drummond's, "The Greatest Thing In The World," which concludes with the question, "Do you love?" Aha, a possible topic, mused one member. Yes indeed, others agreed, but only if we tightened it up to "Do I love?"

The Bible

There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it. And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples. And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy

It is related in the seventh chapter of Luke's Gospel that Jesus was once the honored guest of a certain Pharisee, by name Simon, though he was quite unlike Simon the disciple. While they were at meat, an unusual incident occurred, as if to interrupt the scene of Oriental festivity. A "strange woman" came in.

She bore an alabaster jar containing costly and fragrant oil,—sandal oil perhaps, which is in such common use in the East. Breaking the sealed jar, she perfumed Jesus' feet with the oil, wiping them with her long hair, which hung loosely about her shoulders, as was customary with women of her grade.

Did Jesus spurn the woman? Did he repel her adoration? No! He regarded her compassionately. Nor was this all. Knowing what those around him were saying in their hearts, especially his host, —that they were wondering why, being a prophet, the exalted guest did not at once detect the woman's immoral status and bid her depart,—knowing this, Jesus rebuked them with a short story or parable. He described two debtors, one for a large sum and one for a smaller, who were released from their obligations by their common creditor. "Which of them will love him most?" was the Master's question to Simon the Pharisee; and Simon replied, "He to whom he forgave most." Jesus approved the answer, and so brought home the lesson to all, following it with that remarkable declaration to the woman, "Thy sins are forgiven."

Do Christian Scientists seek Truth as Simon sought the Saviour, through material conservatism and for personal homage? Jesus told Simon that such seekers as he gave small reward in return for the spiritual purgation which came through the Messiah. If Christian Scientists are like Simon, then it must be said of them also that they love little.

On the other hand, do they show their regard for Truth, or Christ, by their genuine repentance, by their broken hearts, expressed by meekness and human affection, as did this woman? If so, then it may be said of them, as Jesus said of the unwelcome visitor, that they indeed love much, because much is forgiven them.

What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds. To keep the commandments of our Master and follow his example, is our proper debt to him and the only worthy evidence of our gratitude for all that he has done. Outward worship is not of itself sufficient to express loyal and heartfelt gratitude, since he has said: "If ye love me, keep my commandments."

The habitual struggle to be always good is unceasing prayer. Its motives are made manifest in the blessings they bring,—blessings which, even if not acknowledged in audible words, attest our worthiness to be partakers of Love.

Simply asking that we may love God will never make us love Him; but the longing to be better and holier, expressed in daily watchfulness and in striving to assimilate more of the divine character, will mould and fashion us anew, until we awake in His likeness. We reach the Science of Christianity through demonstration of the divine nature; but in this wicked world goodness will "be evil spoken of," and patience must bring experience.

Question.—What are the demands of the Science of Soul?

Answer.—The first demand of this Science is, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." This me is Spirit. Therefore the command means this: Thou shalt have no intelligence, no life, no substance, no truth, no love, but that which is spiritual. The second is like unto it, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

The scientific unity which exists between God and man must be wrought out in life-practice, and God's will must be universally done.

Miscellaneous Writings, by Mary Baker Eddy

God is All, and by virtue of this nature and allness He is cognizant only of good. Like a legislative bill that governs millions of mortals whom the legislators know not, the universal law of God has no knowledge of evil, and enters unconsciously the human heart and governs it.

Mortals have only to submit to the law of God, come into sympathy with it, and to let His will be done. This unbroken motion of the law of divine Love gives, to the weary and heavy-laden, rest. But who is willing to do His will or to let it be done? Mortals obey their own wills, and so disobey the divine order.

All states and stages of human error are met and mastered by divine Truth's negativing error in the way of God's appointing. Those "whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth." His rod brings to view His love, and interprets to mortals the gospel of healing. David said, "Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept Thy word."

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