Overland Monthly / OV371 - Is Christian Science Reasonable?
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OV371 Is Christian Science Reasonable?
By C. T. Russell Pastor New York, Washington and Cleveland Temples and the Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
(This is the first of a series of two articles on Christian Science. The second will appear in our next issue.) "Come, now, let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow."—#Isa 1:18.
WHEN a number of people associate themselves, adopt a name, publish their doctrines to the world and invite members, their doctrines are properly subject to public criticism. They still preserve their individual rights, however. What a man believes or disbelieves is his own business, and not subject to public criticism. Doctrines only may be criticized; and these should be honestly treated, not misrepresented. This applies to every creed, every cult; and all honest people should welcome such investigation and truthful criticism. We assume that Christian Scientists, therefore, will appreciate what we now have to say as much as, or more than, others. We trust that we always have this attitude toward any criticism leveled against our public teachings. We are therefore following the Golden Rule laid down by the Lord, and acknowledged by all.
The growth of Christian Science has astonished the world. Its teachings seem to have appealed to a very intelligent, well-to-do class of people, of considerable mental independence, possessed of considerable "backbone." So far as we have conversed with them we find that physical healing seems to have been more or less associated with their conversion to their cult. Either themselves or their friends have been healed.
Their realization of the cure brought them religious conviction instead of the doubts and wonderments of their previous experiences. The awakening to this conviction that there is a real power outside of man, a supernatural power, aroused a religious sentiment such as they had never known before. It seems to them that they have started a new life.
The reason for this is that nominal Christianity is merely a form of godliness, without power or conviction. This form of godliness has spread to such an extent that the whole world is styled Christendom—Christ’s Kingdom. In countries like Great Britain, Germany, Russia and Scandinavia, approximately ninety-five per cent of the population are rated as Christians, even though some of these are in prison, some in insane asylums, and some too young to think at all or be anything. In Italy, everybody is rated a Christian—although amongst some of the Italians who come to our shores flourish works of the Devil, such as the Black Hand, the Mafia, etc.
Additionally, a sincere class of Christian people have, during the last fifty years, been in great perplexity because of the stupendous nonsense intermingled with Truth which was handed down to us from the Dark
OV372 Ages. Under the increasing light, thinking people have not been able to swallow some of the monstrous statements of the creeds as readily as did their forefathers. The persecution of Baptists gave place to toleration—that they might baptize as they chose, even though their teaching that immersion is the door into the Church implied that all the unimmersed are outside the true Church, outside the pale of salvation, and hence prospectively subject to eternal torture. Presbyterians and Methodists, unable to down each other on the subject of Election or Free Grace, agreed to "live and let live."
The great churches which formerly persecuted all others as heretics, forbidding any to preach except by their ordinations, gradually found themselves compelled to desist from making their tenets too prominent. Thus people are more or less bewildered as to what are the differences between the various denominations; and many conclude that the only difference is in forms, ceremonies, ordinations, etc.
The doctrine that God had foreordained 999 out of every 1,000 to an eternity of torture in fire was gradually looked at as too horrible to believe. The alternative doctrine, that God did not foreordain the matter thus, but had not the wisdom or power to avoid such a catastrophe for His creatures, was equally repugnant. As a consequence, preachers began to tell that the destiny of the world was not literal fire, but gnawing of conscience, etc.—each manufacturing a Hell according to his own wisdom or ignorance and to suit his congregation.
Under such conditions Christian Science was born, and has grown to its present proportions. Three things especially favored it: (1) Its acceptance of the Bible. (2) Its rejection of everlasting torment, mental or physical. (3) Its teaching respecting Divine healing. Mrs. Eddy, the acknowledged head of Christian Science, had a keen mind and considerable wisdom in its exercise. She would hold to the Bible even though she needed to pervert its teachings. She would not make her teachings respecting the future life too pronounced or too antagonistic to other theories. She contented herself with vague, ambiguous statements re the future life. She laid principal stress on healing, and settled all doctrinal difficulties with the dictum that there is no evil, there is no sin, there is no death; that what have been called sin, death and evil are merely errors of the mind.
The very absurdity of some of these statements advertised them. People said: What does it mean—There is no death, no sickness, no pain, no sorrow, no evil of any kind?
Absurd! Later they said, We will see how Christian Scientists explain death, sickness, pain, sin. Thus curiosity led them into the metaphysical labyrinth which Mrs. Eddy had skillfully constructed. Having no intelligent knowledge of the Bible, they were just in condition to fall an easy prey to "Mother Eddy’s" errors. If some of her definitions were fanciful, far-fetched and unscriptural, they were no more so than the teachings to which people had been accustomed from childhood, and which substantially claim that the more unreasonable and illogical a matter is, the more faith is implied by the believing of it.
Christian Science Readers and Practitioners.
Christian Scientists feel what might be termed spiritual pride in connection with their healing practices and with the public reading of the Scriptures and Mrs. Eddy’s comments—as much spiritual pride, perhaps, as is sometimes felt in other churches by preachers, elders, deacons, vestrymen, deaconesses, etc. To be lifted from the ordinary walks of life to places of distinction in Christianity, especially in scientific Christianity, would surely appeal to the majority. Once elevated to positions as readers or practitioners or healing practitioners, it becomes their duty loyally to support and defend the system which they represent. And so, just as earnestly as with other
OV373 sects, the establishment and defense of Christian Science goes courageously onward.
Still another class is interested, financially—those in control of the Christian Science literature. It sells at good, stiff prices; and anybody questioning the merchandizing of the truth is given to understand that he is unappreciative; and with the majority of people the price regulates the value, anyway. Having, we believe, fairly stated the facts and claims of Christian Scientists, we now inquire whether or not their teachings are logical. We hold that they are not, and will endeavor to show in what respect this is true.
Is Christian Science Logical?
Striving for a truth, "Mother Eddy" declared that there is no pain, no sickness, no sorrow, etc. The truth she was feeling after, but did not fully grasp, is that sin, sickness, sorrow, death, are abnormal conditions. There could be none of these, except for the curse that came upon our race at the beginning, because of disloyalty to God.
We agree with Mrs. Eddy to the extent that these conditions are not designed by God to be everlasting. He does not recognize them as proper for those in fellowship with Him.
Nothing gives any reason to suppose that there are prisons, insane asylums, hospitals, doctors or cemeteries in Heaven, where all is perfect and in fullest harmony with God.
Messiah’s great work of Redemption will obliterate these unsatisfactory conditions from the earth. Jesus Himself tells us that their abolition will be the result of His Kingdom work of a thousand years.—#Re 20:6; 21:4; 22:3..But is it wise for us to say in one breath that all these will pass away, and in the next breath that they are non-existent? Surely we all value consistency and logic!
Otherwise, language would bring us only confusion, instead of intelligence. Let us then say that, with mankind in proper relationship with God there would be none of these things; that they exist now because man is out of relationship with God through sin; and that God’s provision, according to the Bible, is that mankind shall be delivered from this bondage of sin and death into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.—#Ro 8:21.
In this view, too, we see that the perfect earth was represented in Eden, and that eventually Eden will be world wide. The perfect race was represented in Father Adam before he sinned; and through Christ, eventually the earth will be filled with perfect human beings, such as Adam was. Then whoever will not come into fullest accord with the Lord will die the Second Death. Theirs will be perishing like natural brute beasts, which St. Peter mentions—the punishing with everlasting destruction, mentioned by St. Paul. (#2Pe 2:12; #2Th 1:9.) But nothing in the Bible implies an everlasting torture of any members of our race or even of Adam himself.
In the Bible presentation there is a special place for the Church of the Gospel Age, called out of the world before the Restitution Times. Her acceptance of the Call implies her attempt to live in fullest harmony with the Lord under present imperfect, unsatisfactory conditions—even to the extent of laying down life for the brethren, for the service of God and His Word. To this Church class, the Bible assures us, will come a still higher blessing than that of Restitution. The Church is to have spirit nature—yea, the highest form of spirit nature—the "Divine."—#2Pe 1:4.
Truth Biblical, Scientific, Sanctifying.
We commend Christian Scientists for their endeavor to hold fast to the Bible, but remind them that not the letter of the Bible merely will enlighten and sanctify, but its spirit, its real meaning. This is obtainable, not by confusing definitions, but by simplicity of mind in accepting the words for what they are and putting them together in logical order.
Let us give Mrs. Eddy credit for desiring
OV374 to be logical; but let us notice that, whatever she thought, her language was confusing when she said: "There is no death, no sickness, no pain." The most that can be conceded by the most generous logician would be that there should be no death, no sickness, no pain, no sorrow, if things were in right condition. But they are not in right condition, as the Bible declares, and as all can see. And they will not be so until the Savior, who redeemed the world by the sacrifice of Himself, shall assume His kingly office and right the wrongs which sin has brought us. As a result of His work, there will then be—at the close of the Millennial Age—no sin, no death, no sorrow, no pain.
But since Mrs. Eddy and Christian Science fail to recognize and state these facts clearly, it follows that however attractive some of the teachings may be to some people, they cannot be relied upon, because they are off the true foundation—recognizing neither the facts of sin and death, nor the necessity for a redemption from these conditions by the sacrifice of Jesus, nor appreciating the necessity for the coming Restitution.
Furthermore Christian Science does not clearly differentiate between the Church, which has been in process of calling and election for more than eighteen centuries, and the world, which still lies in the Wicked One, and which will not be dealt with until the Church shall be glorified, and with her Lord shall constitute the Kingdom of Righteousness.
Jesus prayed for His Church, "Sanctify them through Thy Truth; Thy Word is Truth."
While Christian Scientists and people of other denominations, and some of the heathen as well, are, many of them, moral, exemplary, honorable, nevertheless few of them, surely, claim to be sanctified. Indeed, the sanctifying features of the Truth they ignore or do not see. We are not to think of church attendance or of rejection of profanity, liquor, etc., as sanctification. The putting away of the filth of the flesh is indeed commendable, but is only a primary step in the right direction.
God is now calling a sanctified class—a set-apart people—whom He is testing under the promise, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a Crown of Life." This does not signify faithfulness to a denomination or a cult, but faithfulness to the Lord, to the testimony of His Word, to the principles of righteousness, to self-surrender to God to walk in Jesus’ footsteps.
We will not discuss at length the scientific element of Christian Science. To some it seems very unscientific—inharmonious with the Truth. We believe the only way that anything scientific could be associated with it is by adding to it the thought that sorrow, sin and death are in the world only temporarily, by reason of transgression of Divine Law, and that they are to be rooted out and destroyed as noxious weeds by Messiah’s Kingdom.
Christian Scientists tell us that they have received great benefit mentally and physically from following Mrs. Eddy’s theory denying that there is any pain, etc. We quite agree that the will is a powerful factor in resisting disease—that if we brood over sorrows, difficulties, aches and pains, they are increased by the operation of our minds. We agree, as do all physicians, that the mind should be lifted as much as possible from our diseases, and placed upon happifying subjects. This is rational and logical; but it is irrational, illogical and, above all, untruthful, to say that we are without pain when we have pain. The lover of the truth can never consent to this. Honesty must be first with all right-minded people, and surely is pleasing to God. Let us then not go to the extreme of untruthfulness or to the other extreme of exaggerating our ills; but, Let every man think soberly.—#Ro 12:3.
A Very Pernicious Teaching.
There is one doctrine held by Christian Scientists—and for that matter by many of other denominations, who
OV375 state themselves less positively—that is very pernicious, very injurious, very untrue, very unscientific, very unscriptural. This is the teaching that God is omnipresent—present in everything and in every place. Nothing in the Bible so declares, and when we attempt to be wiser than what is written, we are surely making a very great mistake.
Whoever thinks of God as omnipresent necessarily thinks of Him as impersonal; and the more he thinks, the more vague his God becomes, until gradually he has no God, but merely (as some Christian Scientists, including Mrs. Eddy, express it) believes in a principle of good, and calls that principle God. Such wish to believe in a Supreme Creator, but by this erroneous reasoning they mislead their own intelligence into the denial of a personal God. Whoever believes in a God who is everywhere believes in one who is not a person.
The Bible teaches a personal God—a great Spirit Being. The Bible gives Him a home, or locality, and does not teach that He is everywhere. It was Jesus who taught us to pray, "Our Father, which art in Heaven." Oh, how different this is from saying that God is in everything that has use or value—in the soil, because it is useful for the development of fruits; in the chair, because it is useful to sit upon; and in the table because it is useful as a convenience! Such teachings are faith-destroying, and surely lead away from the sanctification of heart and life and from the faith which the Bible inculcates.
HIS WILL, NOT MINE, BE DONE
O THOU of little faith! why dost thou fear?
Didst thou forget that Jesus is so near?
And hast thou thought that thou must walk alone?
Behold now at thy side the loved One!
Aye, more than this, thou’rt held within His hand, And twas Himself that hath thy trial planned!
There was a need be seen by Eye Divine, Although, perchance, not visible to thine.
And, wherefore wouldst thou see? Thou canst not tell If what thy heart contends for would be well; Perhaps thy hope’s fruition would be vain, Or prove a life-long discipline of pain!
Hast thou not seen, in retrospective life, That will of God which caused thee bitterest strife Hath turned to sweetness—while the thing He gave To suit thy will grew darker than the grave?
There’s rest supreme for souls that choose His will; A blest security from every ill.
The things God chooses for us never fail!
They have their anchorage within the veil.