Christian Science: The Science of the Possible
C. Earle Armstrong, C.S.B., of Princeton, New Jersey
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
In a lecture last evening,
Mr. Armstrong, a frequent
contributor to the Christian Science periodicals, was a Trustee of The
Christian Science Publishing Society from 1977 to 1979 and earlier served as
the Christian Science Committee on Publication for
Mr. Armstrong was introduced by Patricia O'Brien, a local member of The Mother Church.
The following is an abridged text of the lecture:
Early in the preparation of this lecture I asked myself a question:
What is it you want to say in your lecture? What is the message concerning Christian Science that you most want to share with this audience?
This was my answer: Through the study of Science it is possible to gain not just the wistful hope, but the absolute conviction, that:
First - there is a God at hand, to whom all things are possible.
Second - this God loves us, and is altogether knowable.
Finally - the better we know God, the more His divine possibilities control our lives.
I'm going to focus on these three points. And as I do so, I'll try to accomplish one other thing as well. And that is to set the record straight in a few instances on what Christian Science is and what it isn't.
Now, about that first idea I mentioned - that there is a God at hand, to whom all things are possible. Where does this idea come from?
Let's start with the Bible.
Some of us may not have much more than a nodding acquaintance with the Bible. Others peruse it from time to time. Many, however, never let a day go by that they do not reach into its sacred pages for guidance, for inspiration - and find them in abundance.
Many of us have read or heard of wondrous things that took place in Bible times, always through faith and trust in an almighty God. Those men and women had no doubt that God was right at hand, accessible, powerful in their affairs.
That's why young David could conquer the giant Goliath, and Daniel could find safety in the lions' den. And that's why Jesus was able to bring Lazarus forth alive four days after his burial.
Each of these triumphs was possible because David, Daniel, and Jesus had gained a conviction that the Almighty was an ever available, irresistible power which many times before had proved to them that He was at hand to bless and to save.
Their trust in God was complete. Both before and after the event they praised God and accorded to Him the victory. For instance, Jesus, standing before Lazarus' tomb, quietly acknowledged: "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always" (John , 42). And then at Jesus' bidding Lazarus came forth from the grave.
On another occasion Jesus lovingly reassured the father of an epileptic boy: "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark ). And then he healed the lad, restoring him to completely normal activity.
Jesus had great faith, great understanding, great expectancy of good - and this enabled him to heal.
Have you ever wondered about those marvels?
Have you ever thought: "I just don't understand. Seems impossible."
We sometimes hear it said of some prodigious accomplishment, "He did the impossible."
There is a built-in inaccuracy here. What was accomplished may never previously have been achieved and may therefore have been considered impossible, like the four-minute mile before Roger Bannister paced it off, or Babe Ruth's longtime home-run record before Hank Aaron broke it. Once accomplished, however, those events obviously could no longer be termed impossible.
But what about those Bible events?
I'd like to tell you something of one individual who decided that those biblical marvels were not impossible, who became convinced that God's presence and power could be proved. She too had often read these Bible accounts of spiritual healing, the glorious results of effective prayer.
She read them - she believed and accepted them. She felt it would be sacrilegious not to believe, not to accept the biblical records as valid, even if at first she didn't clearly understand them. But she was determined to grasp the basic laws underlying those wonderful events, and was willing to do whatever was needed to gain that understanding.
She said, "I knew the Principle of all harmonious Mind-action to be God, and that cures were produced in primitive Christian healing by holy, uplifting faith; but I must know the Science of this healing, and I won my way to absolute conclusions through divine revelation, reason, and demonstration" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 109).
In other words she wasn't satisfied with anything less than a demonstrable understanding of these events. And she found it, . . . Mary Baker Eddy found it! And it was to mankind's immeasurable gain that she did, because she freely shared that demonstrable understanding. It's available to all in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures."
Mrs. Eddy based Christian Science firmly on the Bible. Indeed, if there were no Bible I don't quite see how there could be any Christian Science. The spiritual truths contained in the sacred Scriptures are foundation stones for Christian Science. They give us clear insights into God's closeness to each of us and His power to heal and regenerate. And they have uplifted Bible readers for centuries.
Who can fail to be inspired today by these Bible accounts? Or do some feel that experiences like those of David and Daniel and Lazarus challenge and even defy comprehension?
And if these evidences of spiritual power do challenge and defy human comprehension, what then? Must we circle the wagon train of stereotyped thinking to defend the status quo? Or do we open our thought?
The knowledge of a God at hand, of a God who can become the greatest, indeed the only, influence on our lives, demands a radical shift in thought, a whole new conception of what's possible.
Certainty of divine Mind . . .
Christian Science shows us that there are eternal, spiritual laws available to all of us today - laws of God - which if understood and utilized can open wide doors of healing and accomplishment, doors which may have seemed closed.
These laws govern what I call the Science of the possible.
Now let's define possible: It has two meanings:
First; "that which may or may not occur; dependent on contingency." This applies to the uncertainties of human existence - all the maybes and perhapses of life.
The second meaning of "possible" is: "within the powers of performance, attainment, conception." This involves certainty and clearly applies to Christian Science, which is the Science of the greatest of all powers of "performance, attainment, conception" - the Science of all-knowing divine Mind.
Another definition may be helpful. The name Christian Science is a particularly precise and accurate name for this religion which reinstates primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing.
. . . results in proof
"Science" may be defined as provable or demonstrable knowledge. "The Christ" is the healing presence of God so wonderfully exemplified by Jesus. To characterize Christian Science as the Science of the possible therefore reveals it in its true light as that which makes possible the proof of God's healing presence.
And this Science of the possible is available to all. It's not the special knowledge of a particular group. It's in the Bible, and it's thoroughly explored and explained in the works of Mary Baker Eddy.
Do you see what I mean now when I call Christian Science the Science of the possible?
For the purposes of our discussion, Jesus' statement is definitive: "With God all things are possible" (Matt. ).
But does "all things" include evil, disease, degradation? Can we hold God responsible for creating or fostering these evils?
Certainly nothing in Jesus' life could make us believe that. Jesus - who called himself the Son of God - healed disease, rebuked evil, and lifted men out of degradation.
Mankind sometimes wallows in the belief that evil is inevitable, and that good is impossible. But Christian Science, the Science of the possible, unveils a divine law of good that makes just the opposite true - good not only possible but inevitable, evil never truly possible.
Does that sound too good to be true?
Consider this: It is generally agreed that God, to be God, must exist everywhere. He must be infinite; and He must be eternally good, else His creation would be in constant conflict with itself. Being infinite and eternal, God, good, can't possibly ever include something else, something in addition to, or opposed to, good.
Accordingly there can be no such thing as an opposite to infinite good called evil, because good cannot include evil and good's absolute allness precludes it. Good fills all space and must continue to do so throughout eternity.
By this do I mean that evil can't exist? Evil exists only as supposition, as a false view or misconception of the allness of good. To realize the utter nothingness of what is called evil, we must see it for what it is - illusion only - ". . . that which seemeth to be and is not" (Science and Health, p. 472), to quote Mrs. Eddy.
In this world we may be faced with what appears to be evil. And to the unfortunate victim, that appearance of evil may seem very real indeed. But evil can occur only in the mistaken material view of existence and only as illusion. Evil is a divine impossibility. Only good is possible to God, and the progressive realization of this divine possibility will eventually eradicate all evil.
Thus we have the spiritual means to challenge the pretensions of evil and destroy them.
I know a Christian Science practitioner who received an urgent telephone call for help very late one Friday evening. Christian Science practitioners are wholly engaged in the ministry of healing through prayer as taught in Christian Science. When Christian Scientists are not able through their own prayerful efforts and understanding to master some difficulty - whatever the name or nature of that difficulty may be - they will call on a Christian Science practitioner to help them through prayer. And since Christian Science practitioners are in the public practice of Christian Science, they are ready to help anyone who might call upon them.
In this case, the caller was the driver of a car that had just been in an accident. A huge block of ice had been deliberately dropped from an overpass. It had shattered the windshield and had wrenched the whole front seat from its moorings. The front seat passenger for whom Christian Science help was sought had been badly scraped by the ice and cut about the face and head by glass fragments.
That was the picture. And what did the practitioner do?
Immediately she turned to God in prayer. She knew man's true spiritual nature to be peaceful and blessed, that man is not a mortal to be victimized by chance, or by vandalism. Nor is man a mortal to engage in irresponsible acts, or to be motivated by any evil. Man is immortal, made and maintained in the very image of his divine Father-Mother.
She knew that God, good, the all-knowing Mind, neither foreknows, permits, nor condones what are called accidents. God's unerring direction, not chance, guides and protects His man. Man therefore is always harmoniously governed, and accordingly is accident-free.
She knew further that since God, Spirit, is All-in-all, there could be no human reaction of shock or resentment, nor could there be scar or loss of faculties.
All these prayers were affirmations of God's flawless creation, declarations of what is eternally possible to Him.
Practitioner and patient were in daily telephone contact, affirming and realizing man's uninterruptible perfection as God's son.
On the following Monday, three days after the accident, the passenger returned to work with only a few scratches still apparent. By Thursday these too had gone.
That was a rapid healing, through spiritual means alone, of apparently serious injuries. Impossible? The man who was healed doesn't think so.
Now we're getting to the second point I wanted to cover: that God loves us and is altogether knowable; that we can become acquainted - well acquainted - with God right now, and thus come to understand how spiritual healing is scientifically possible today.
Why, really, should skepticism and incredulity be the reaction to spiritual healing through prayer? Jesus expected us to emulate his works. He said, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also" (John ). That's what he said.
So Jesus expected us all to heal. Now, Christian Scientists are deeply aware of how far they have to go before they equal Jesus' unparalleled record - but they're trying! And some wonderful things are taking place. Christian Scientists endeavor every day to fulfill Jesus' expectations and are greatly encouraged by the results to date. That's why they constantly strive for a clearer understanding of God's AImightiness, and His great love for us all.
Man's capacity to understand the things of God - to become acquainted with God - is not dependent on what the five physical senses tell him. The senses can't comprehend spiritual truths, much less are they competent to pass judgment on them. We must learn what the Bible means when it says: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus . . ." (Phil. 2:5). This Mind is God, the Mind that understands all things, that governs all in peace and equity.
It is man's heritage, it is part of man's God-given dominion, to be acquainted with the creator of all.
Our Bible friends David, Daniel, and, above all, Jesus, knew this. Their understanding of God was their secret weapon against brutality, injustice, death.
Certainly for these Bible stalwarts to "come out" whole from the dire circumstances they faced required much more than human ingenuity or mere positive thinking. They had an unshakable conviction of God's power and presence. They knew Him as protector, a constant source and resource, divine Love itself, an ever-caring Father.
And can't we know Him that way, too? Was God all-powerful in Bible times but not so now? Could the divine omnipotence be governed and limited by what we call time?
Some today have come to accept the hypothesis of a decade ago that God is dead - or at least dead to human thinking. But let me ask: Could such doubters suggest a solution to David's need, or the need of that man injured in the accident, superior to the one that was so wonderfully provided by the living God?
Others thinking of the Bible's illustrations of divine power ask, "Why can't we see those wonderful evidences of divine protection and healing today?"
Why can't we?
My friends, I submit to you, that's the wrong question.
Accepting those biblical accounts as real and recognizing that there is present-day evidence of the effectiveness of God's power, shouldn't we ask, not "Why can't we?" but, "How can we experience those wonderful results today?"
That strikes me as the right question and the right challenge. Wouldn't you agree?
As I mentioned earlier, this was the question Mary Baker Eddy arrived at, and it impelled her discovery and full exploration of Christian Science. Consider for a moment the position of this woman who in the 19th century dared to differ with conventional science, religion, and medicine.
Mrs. Eddy challenged the thinking of her day not only by her preaching, but by demonstrating in her life and the lives of others the validity of what she preached.
Then she wrote a textbook, Science and Health, which, along with the Bible, became the basis of the new religion.
She founded a church which rapidly drew members who discovered new life in what this church taught. Later she founded periodicals: daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly periodicals, and wrote extensively for them. Perhaps most of you are familiar with the daily periodical, The Christian Science Monitor, an international newspaper.
Mary Baker Eddy's accomplishments proved very possible what most of her contemporaries and even many of her friends considered quite impossible.
What sort of person was Mary Baker Eddy?
As a young girl Mary Baker grew up
It was this glimpse of enlivening Truth that brought that declaration - you'll remember I mentioned it earlier - ". . . I must know the Science of this healing." The resultant absolute conclusions, she said, came through "revelation, reason, and demonstration." Only after she had demonstrated her hard-won discovery through many healings did she write the essence of its rules in the textbook which is ready today to bless all who earnestly study it.
Originally Mrs. Eddy believed that all the churches would welcome this reinstatement of Christian spiritual healing.
This welcome did not take place, however; and it became clear that the only way she could perpetuate her discovery was to establish a church of her own, which she did. She was frequently attacked, vilified, and ridiculed from the pulpit and in the press. It sometimes appeared to be open season both on Mrs. Eddy and on Christian Science. But did Christian Science become an endangered species? Far from it. Christian Science thrived! And Mrs. Eddy was to say, ". . . when these things cease to bless they will cease to occur" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 143).
In her textbook, Mrs. Eddy offers simple guidance to those who seek an understanding of how spiritual or metaphysical healing works. She says, "It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord," and then she adds, "and the right understanding of Him restores harmony" (Science and Health, p. 390).
So, according to one whose own practice of Christian healing was impressive, ignorance of God results in discord, and knowledge of Him - a full acquaintance with Him - restores harmony.
And don't the Scriptures say exactly the same thing? "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee" (Job ).
The teachings of Christian Science are based upon the record of prophets and apostles, and especially upon the word and works of Christ Jesus. When the New Testament declares that "God is love," Christian Scientists understand this to mean not just that God is loving, which He is, but that God is Love itself, infinite compassion, inexhaustible lovingkindness.
Many of us bow in awe at the name of God, but that name alone reveals relatively little of His nature. In no way does Christian Science benefit mankind more than in its clear insights into the divine nature, insights drawn right from the Bible. Christian Science glorifies the God of the Bible, never forsaking Him for a cold abstraction, a divine "It," as some have charged.
Christian Science explains that God not only includes, but actually is, Love and Life and Principle. Each of these terms is a name for God which can expand our acquaintance with Him. To regard God, for example, as Principle is to see Him as completely dependable, ever at hand, an infinite basis or foundation. His very being is divine law - protecting, guiding, guarding. How great a God is that God!
Consider too what it means to understand God as Life. Life with no beginning and no ending; uninterruptible continuity; the only self-existence.
Man, the Bible informs us, was made in God's very image and likeness. Therefore man must be spiritual. His nature and activity must be like his Maker's. And since God is Life, man as the reflection of Life expresses the uninterruptible continuity of constructive, harmonious activity.
Now let's move on to my third point: that the better we know God, the more His divine possibilities control our lives.
As many of you know, Christian Science churches hold weekly testimony meetings at which those who speak express their gratitude to God for some good they have already experienced, a physical healing, perhaps, or the solving of some personal or business problem, achieved through the study and application of Christian Science.
But at one Christian Science Wednesday evening testimony meeting an unusual event occurred - a woman stood up and asked for Christian Science help. She said she'd happened to pass that way, saw the church was open, and came in. She had just left the hospital eight blocks away. The doctors there had told her that her husband would not live out the night. Then she asked, "Can Christian Science do anything for my husband?"
Now I realize that every church faces challenges, but I have never known a church membership to be challenged in just that way. Nor have I ever witnessed such a response.
The meeting, which up to that moment had been quite active, really caught fire. Testifier after testifier spoke gratefully and eloquently of the power of God to heal and gave examples from personal experience - the demonstrated proof.
After the meeting this woman was introduced to a Christian Science practitioner, a member of that Christian Science branch church.
Since the doctors had given up this case, the practitioner was free to commence Christian Science treatment immediately.
I should mention that the relationship of Christian Science practitioner to patient is a confidential one, so of course the other church members were unaware of just what was happening during that week. I know that I was one who looked forward very eagerly to the following Wednesday.
The woman was there. She got to her feet at the first opportunity to say that her husband was still alive. Again the meeting reverberated with praise to God for His great love and care for His creation, citing specific individual experiences to substantiate that praise.
On the third Wednesday she was there again and announced, with face glowing, that her husband was much improved, was continuing under Christian Science care. He was still in the hospital, was having no medication, and the hospital staff was totally unable to explain events.
On the fourth Wednesday evening he was there at church with her, completely healed. What a night of rejoicing that was for us all.
Now what happened here to nullify a sentence of death and restore this man to normal health?
Certainly the fact emphasized by the practitioner, and glimpsed by this desperately earnest wife, was that God is man's Life. Man doesn't possess a temporary lease on a fragile human life, but is the forever reflection or expression of God, eternal Life itself, and therefore is wholly spiritual. Since man's true being is spiritual, he is not vulnerable to fear or attack. God being man's Life, man's Life is untouchable and cannot be threatened or destroyed.
Result? Restoration to normal health.
All these experiences we've shared illustrate how the power of divine Love can be applied not only to the lesser, everyday problems of human experience but also to what might seem major emergencies.
They also substantiate those three points I mentioned when I began - remember them?
1. That there is a God at hand, to whom all things are possible.
2. That this God loves us and is altogether knowable.
3. That the better we know God, the more His divine possibilities control our lives.
And it seems to me that Jesus is driving home just such thoughts when he tells us: "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you" (Matt. ).
Nothing shall be impossible unto you.
Accordingly, it is possible now for man to be what God made him to be - His very image and likeness.
It is possible now for man to see himself as God sees him - spiritual and perfect.
It is possible now for man to do what God eternally makes him to do - to express Him through healing works.
And the Science of the possible enables us today to be and see and do what God makes us capable of being and seeing and doing, all in accordance with His divine command - "Let them have dominion" (Gen. 1:26).
Isn't this really what we've been talking about? Everything we've said points to the fact that man's dominion includes present realization of divine possibilities.
And be assured: God's divine possibilities are not uncertainties but warranties, not wishful thinking but present practicality.
Christian Science - the Science of the possible - is here to broaden the horizons of the possible for all of us, and to help us see and acknowledge that God's divine possibilities endow us with limitless good - every one of us. Every single one!
[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, July 18, 1980.]