Christian Science: Its Message of Salvation

 

Howard H. Irwin, C.S., of San Bernardino, California

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts

 

A lecture entitled; "Christian Science: Its Message of Salvation," was given by Howard H. Irwin, C.S., of San Bernardino, California, Sunday, March 22nd, at 3:00 p.m., in the Clearwater High School auditorium, under the auspices of Second Church of Christ, Scientist, Clearwater.

Mr. Irwin was introduced by Larry C. Palmer, First Reader of the church.

The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:

 

The rapid advances men have made in understanding their material world have stirred in them an urgency to gain control over all materiality. The advances made in the natural sciences in our century have brought us to where anything from the atom to outer space itself seems almost commonplace.

Christian Scientists appreciate these advances and rejoice in the signs of the breaking down of human limitations. We support the channeling of physical forces into useful and constructive purposes.

But many thinking people are alert to a great danger these advances bring. The danger lies in impressing human thought with the power and importance of material interests in turning human thought toward matter and away from God, Spirit.

Failing to turn human thought toward Spirit, these physical advances fail to meet the basic spiritual needs of mankind. No searching in the realm of matter can satisfy mankind's yearning to know about God, about man, about one's own identity, destiny, and reason for being. Material accomplishments cannot dispel mortal man's loneliness, his grief, or his sorrow. In short, materiality can never bring salvation to mankind.

Only that which teaches a demonstrable knowledge of God, and of man as God's spiritual image and likeness, can meet the real needs of mankind. Such knowledge brings a full salvation from sin, disease, and death.

The Master, Christ Jesus, promised (Matt. 5:6): "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." Christian Science shows how the sacred promises of the Master may be fulfilled.

The term Christian Science is used to mark a great spiritual discovery, and also to identify a church organization.

As many of us know, Mary Baker Eddy was a deeply religious New England woman who discovered Christian Science. Later she founded the Christian Science church organization. Thus we refer to her as the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.

 

Christian Science Defined

In answering the question, "How would you define Christian Science?" Mrs. Eddy writes in her book "Rudimental Divine Science" (p. 1): "As the law of God, the law of good, interpreting and demonstrating the divine Principle and rule of universal harmony."

Here we see that the term Christian Science is fraught with deep spiritual meaning. It speaks of the discovery of the laws and government of God, and of how the understanding of these laws may be applied to meet the needs of men. Truly this was a spiritually scientific discovery, and a Christianly scientific application.

The events leading up to the discovery of Christian Science are interesting and significant. Mrs. Eddy had been in poor health for many years. But her great love of God kept her pushing on in her search for a spiritual means of healing, not only to regain her own health, but to help others.

At a dark moment in her experience, in the winter of 1866, when the results of an accident were supposed to prove fatal, Mrs. Eddy followed her custom of turning to the Bible for help.

The glimpse of spiritual truth that came to her brought immediate physical healing.

Of course her friends rejoiced with her in this wonderful experience, but she was unable to explain to them the manner of her healing. So for the next three years Mrs. Eddy devoted herself to searching the Scriptures. She must know the Science by which she had been healed.

In her autobiography, "Retrospection and Introspection" (p. 25), Mrs. Eddy has told us of the search for this Science. She writes: "The Bible was my textbook. It answered my questions as to how I was healed; but the Scriptures had to me a new meaning, a new tongue. Their spiritual signification appeared; and I apprehended for the first time, in their spiritual meaning, Jesus' teaching and demonstration, and the Principle and rule of spiritual Science and metaphysical healing, in a word, Christian Science."

 

The Church of Christ, Scientist

At first, Mrs. Eddy expected the churches eagerly to accept her discovery of this element of spiritual healing, which had been so long lost sight of by the Christian churches. But she and her discovery were not welcomed, and so she found it necessary to establish her own Church. This Church, the Church of Christ, Scientist, is charged with safeguarding the letter and spirit of what she discovered, so that it may not again be lost, but be kept available for mankind's full salvation.

Mrs. Eddy's place in Christian Science is as its Discoverer and Founder; and through her writings she is also the Leader of the Christian Science movement. Christian Science is in complete accord with the inspired word of the Bible. It acknowledges the divine origin of Christ Jesus, and so accurately recognizes his nature, character, and universal mission. It teaches us to worship God alone, and to worship Him with understanding.

In setting forth her discovery in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mrs. Eddy was forthright and honest. She was a spiritual pioneer recording what was revealed to her receptive thought.

From the very first Mrs. Eddy sought to turn the thought of her followers away from her personality. She knew that personal worship would hinder their understanding and demonstration of what she had discovered, namely, the Principle and laws of spiritual healing. Today, Christian Scientists love Mrs. Eddy. They eagerly express their gratitude for her work as Discoverer and Founder. This is far different from worshipping her. Christian Scientists are devout worshippers of God, and of God alone.

Human thought too often is either unwilling or incapable of grasping things outside its own experience. It finds it difficult to conceive things unlike itself.

This tendency accounts for mankind's slowness in getting into space. The laws or forces that make it possible to explore outer space have always been available, but they could be grasped and used only as the human mind was led out of its bondage to ignorance.

This same reluctance of the human mind to think of anything unlike itself also explains the delay mankind has shown in the full acceptance and practice of the Christianity of Christ Jesus.

The world rightly honors the famous men of the physical sciences, who were willing to brave the resistance of church dogma to bring freedom to human reasoning and understanding. How much greater should be our gratitude for the prophets of the Bible, Christ Jesus, the disciples, the Apostle Paul, and in our day for the faithful follower of the Master Mary Baker Eddy. These persons were rare examples of thought so spiritualized that it could grasp and use the things of Spirit.

 

The Nature of God

Through his words and works Christ Jesus strove to define God to the people in a way they could understand and use. Christian Science, which explains the teachings and acts of the Master, has clearly defined for us today the exact nature of God. In Science and Health we find this definition on page 115: "God: Divine Principle, Life, Truth, Love, Soul, Spirit, Mind."

These terms, which all mean essentially the same thing, are used in Christian Science to define the completeness, wholeness, and oneness of God. The Bible refers often to God as the "living God."

When the children of Israel were at the point of crossing over the river Jordan into The Promised Land, Joshua reminded them that the ark of the covenant meant the presence of the "living God" with them.

When they referred to their God in this way, these ancient Hebrews were reminding themselves and others that the God of Israel was an active God.

They believed that besides being active on behalf of His children, He was constantly supplying their needs. Being the only "living and true God," He must remove all doubt that He is God.

Today God is not far off and indifferent to the needs of mankind. Through Christian Science we learn that He is actively present everywhere, making His blessings available to all, since He is always and everywhere expressing Himself.

God as divine Principle is the ever-active source, or creator. Being conscious of what He creates, He governs it with irresistible laws and maintains His creation, man and the universe, as His own perfect expression of Himself.

The activity of God as Life is expressed in vigor, freshness, and fulfillment. Because Life is all-knowing it must be ever conscious of Life and of all that Life creates. Because Life is eternal it is forever new. The understanding of God as Life brings to the one who accepts it freedom from the general beliefs of time, age, decrepitude, and decay.

Truth is a synonym for God that fairly sings God's activity. Just as light is always active or it would cease to be light, so Truth never ceases to express its own limitless measure, its beauty, perfection, and irresistible might. Did not the Master say: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free"? (John 8:32)

Truth must be ever conscious of itself and of that by which it expresses itself. Truth can never be conscious of its opposite, error. Thus error can never in any way limit or interfere with the activity of Truth, just as darkness has no power to limit the activity of light. Since Truth is present everywhere, there can be no space empty of Truth's forces and laws. Therefore there can be, in reality, no space filled with any other forces or laws. Thus it is perfectly natural for mankind, for you and for me, to know the truth and to experience the freedom that knowing the truth brings.

The nature of the living God could hardly be more accurately expressed than in the term Love. The very substance of Love is its activity expressing itself to and through its object, man, of which it is always conscious.

God is not merely a loving God. God is Love itself. Thus we see that God is not a manlike being in a certain place, but is infinite Spirit, everywhere present, all-inclusive.

It is divine Love that is our refuge in time of trouble. Love is the tender Shepherd, providing, guiding, and guarding. To divine Love, each individual is important, cared for, and watched over. Each one may come to Love in trust, for he may know that divine Love is infinitely patient, inexpressibly tender, and always caring for its own creation, man and the universe. Understanding God as Love helps us lift our human expression of love and brings healing, joy, and peace of mind into our daily living.

To know the "living God" as Soul is to gain release from and control over the aggressive claims of evil, lack, and limitation. Soul reveals God as the source of man's pureness, wholeness, and individuality. It is the very nature of Soul to express itself without interruption and change. To understand God in this way, and to know oneself as the reflection of Soul is to find the basis for true self-expression.

Spirit, as a synonym for the "living God," was brought forcibly to the attention of mankind by Christ Jesus himself. In that memorable talk with the Samaritan woman, as recorded in the fourth chapter of John, the Master said (4:24): "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."

In Christian Science the term Spirit is used to express God's presence, strength, power, and steadfast nature. It suggests God's activity in filling all space, showing His availability everywhere, all the time, to everyone.

The term Mind shows us God's nature as the I AM. Mind expresses itself in all the spiritual ideas that it creates. Mind must always be conscious of all that it creates, and it must know that what it creates expresses itself. Thus, since God, Mind, governs Himself, He must also govern all of His spiritual ideas, including man.

 

Salvation Brings Healing

I should like to tell you how spiritually understanding the nature of God brought healing to a young girl I know. At the time of this experience the girl was about 11 years old. One evening, on going into the child's room, the mother found her seriously ill and delirious.

This mother was an earnest and faithful student of Christian Science, so she telephoned at once to a Christian Science practitioner to help them through prayer. The affirmative prayer of spiritual understanding is treatment in Christian Science, and it is scientifically effective.

The practitioner sensed the mother's great fear; and he reassured her that since God is Love, everywhere present and the only active force there is, the power of Love to protect and heal was right there where she and the child were.

As the mother turned from the telephone all fear vanished. Her calm trust in God's healing power had returned. Going again to the child she found that the delirium and fever were gone and the child was quietly asleep.

The practitioner kept on praying for the child. He knew that the Christ was revealing the specific spiritual truths needed at that moment. As these truths poured into the practitioner's waiting thought, he declared them with conviction, authority, and love.

God is the source of man's being, and He governs each one with unfaltering law. There really cannot be even a pretence of another power to disturb this divine government. Impartial Love, which is God, is the divine Principle of all being, the Soul and substance of individuality, the intelligent and all-wise source of man and the universe.

In the morning the mother reported that all was well; the child was happy and free.

However, two days later, when the mother insisted that the child practice her violin lesson, they discovered that the child's neck would not bend to allow her to hold the violin. The mother told the practitioner about this. They both rejoiced in the knowledge that since God's work is complete there could be no sign of incompleteness. The Christianly scientific healing of disease includes the impossibility of there being an aftereffect. The nature of God as the living God does not allow for any partial victories. God is all.

The practitioner had a visit with the child that morning, and they discussed what she had been learning about God in the Christian Science Sunday School. The teachers in Sunday School well know the ability of the child thought to understand God, to know God as ever-present divine Love, always taking care of His children.

That afternoon the report came that the child's neck was completely normal and that she was practicing her violin lesson.

 

Man's Spiritual Nature

Now, let us think about some aspects of the original, spiritual nature of man, since we must understand this nature to reject sin and to work out our individual salvation.

Christian Science accepts the spiritually scientific account of creation as set forth in the first chapter of Genesis. Here the origin and nature of man are described as follows (Gen. 1:26): "God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."

In the second chapter of Genesis we find a description of the limited, material sense of man. In this account, evil deceptively suggests a material origin for man. This view is based on a finite, personal sense of God, and of matter as having life and intelligence. Christian Science considers the second account in Genesis as an allegory that portrays the falseness of materiality and evil.

Man, as the image and likeness of God, must be spiritual and perfect. He must reflect and express God's qualities and attributes. He is not a limited material object living in material space. Rather he is the representative of infinite Mind, embodying the forces and laws of divine Truth and Love. As such he can be brought into no condition where God's law does not govern him and God's love care for him.

Man, as God's image, is not limited, poor, or sick. Mortal man is a poor counterfeit of God's man. The so-called mortal man seems to himself to be poor, sick, and limited because of his ignorance of man's nature as the offspring of God. But God's man remains spiritually affluent, whole, unlimited. These are the spiritual facts about each one of us.

Christian Science challenges us to press forward in the understanding and proof of all that these facts imply. In Science and Health (p. 476) we read: "Mortality is finally swallowed up in immortality. Sin, sickness, and death must disappear to give place to the facts which belong to immortal man.

"Learn this, O mortal, and earnestly seek the spiritual status of man, which is outside of all material selfhood."

 

Salvation: A Continuing Process

Salvation lifts our concept of ourselves. It brings us new values, new goals, and new purposes. Salvation is a continuing process, leading to the final overcoming of all material beliefs.

Think for a moment of a flower in your garden a rose, let's say. If we let the full-blown rose stand for the final appearing of salvation, we see how each step in the growth and unfoldment must take place. Only this orderly process will produce the perfect bloom. Not one step can be skipped and still produce the full beauty of the rose. The same orderly process of growth and unfoldment is required in working out our salvation.

The steps leading toward full salvation might be briefly stated as:

1. Challenging the human thought to know that there is something better, more satisfying, than its limited, frustrating material concept of things. With this knowledge comes repentance, which is needed for salvation.

2. The effort to gain a glimpse of spiritual reality. To achieve this point the Christian Scientist studies daily the Bible and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy. Thinking about spiritual reality leads to spiritualization of thought, and this leads to real proofs of God's goodness in human experience.

3. The third step is the effort to turn the glimpse of reality into a constant, conscious awareness of the true nature of God, and of man as His spiritual image and likeness.

It is at this point that the practical nature of spiritual understanding becomes established.

It is at this point, also, that materialism's resistance to the process of salvation appears, for it is at this point that materialism is challenged as being without power.

The prophets in the Bible well knew this resistance, and many times they warned the people not to respond to it. Isaiah wrote (51:7,8); "Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation."

Usually this resistance to spiritual progress is subtle and hard to detect. Sometimes it is pronounced and acute, as the following experience shows.

One day a practitioner was asked to visit a boy who was in the custody of the juvenile authorities. This boy's parents were just becoming interested in Christian Science and they wanted the practitioner to talk to the boy about it.

The boy and the practitioner had a happy time together that afternoon, and the boy seemed interested in learning about God and of God's constant care for His children.

Later the authorities told the practitioner that that very evening the boy had become angry and violent. To use Bible language, he acted as one possessed of a devil. His violence came to the point where those in charge considered putting him in a strait jacket.

During this time, although he knew nothing of this angry display, the practitioner was earnestly praying for the boy. In Christian Science we learn that the prayer of spiritual understanding is the most effective treatment for any discordant condition.

In his prayers the practitioner pondered deeply the nature of God as Love. He realized that since God is everywhere present and all powerful, He was present right where this boy was, and He was actively and constantly caring for each and all of His children. God is the source or creator of all being, and so all that really exists obeys and responds to God's government. The practitioner knew that, because this is true, not a single individual in God's creation could respond to or be the victim of any lying, destructive claim of evil. He knew that the all-power of God, expressed as grace and love, is forever destroying the illusion that any evil can hold anyone in bondage. Science and Health states (p. 73): "God controls man, and God is the only Spirit." This thought led to the clear realization that the only spirit that man can express is the Spirit which is God.

About the time the practitioner finished his prayer the violence ceased, and the boy returned to his own likeable self. From that point on, during the time the boy was held in juvenile hall, his whole attitude was helpful and cooperative. Materiality's resistance to salvation had been proved powerless.

Several years later, when the practitioner again saw the mother of the boy, he was told that from that point on the boy had served his time with the Youth Authority cooperatively and helpfully. He had gone on to lead a normal, happy, and active life as a young man respected in his community. He had experienced the transforming touch of salvation.

 

Spiritual Satisfaction

Salvation brings with it a complete sense of true satisfaction. As one attains salvation, he can master all of the temptations that come to him.

Sin has been described as the result, or expression, of the lack of spiritual satisfaction. The spiritually unsatisfied human thought turns to matter for what matter cannot give.

True spiritual satisfaction comes only with a correct understanding of God, and of man as God's expression, His beloved son in whom He is well pleased.

Christian Science reveals that this perfect spiritual nature is the true nature of each individual. Christian Science helps each one to know this spiritual selfhood and so to have complete spiritual satisfaction. Thus Christian Science enables anyone who is willing, to reject the lying claims of sin.

One can resist and reject sin because sin is simply a contradiction of Truth. It is Spirit's opposite which claims to usurp God's authority. But Christian Science unmasks sin, shows its nature to be illusion, or lie, and proves its utter falseness. This Science teaches that a correct, scientific concept of sin or evil is necessary to free oneself from its claims. Only when we see its illusive nature can we handle it successfully.

Jesus' definition of evil tore from evil the deceptive veil with which it would cover itself, and with stark precision he exposed its true nature. He described evil as a liar.

Christian Science lays the axe of Truth at the very root of sin. But simply stating the truth which Christian Science teaches is not enough to free one from the claims of sin. We must live these truths and what they imply in all of our daily activities.

To encourage us in this Christian effort Mrs. Eddy has written in her book "No and Yes" (p. 32): "Good is great and real. Hence its opposite, named evil, must be small and unreal. When this sense is attained, we shall no longer be the servants of sin, and shall cease to love it."

 

Jesus the Christ

To show mankind how to gain salvation was the mission of the Master, Christ Jesus. He will be to us the way of salvation only as we accept his words and follow his leadings in our daily living.

It was through the appearing of the human Jesus among men that the eternal, spiritual idea, or Christ, was made evident to mankind. It was this Christ, the true idea of sonship, the only begotten of the Father, that was sent to the world to save the world. The eternal Christ is as present today as in Jesus' day to heal, to redeem, and to regenerate mankind.

At one point, in referring to his spiritual selfhood, or the Christ, Jesus said (John 6:57): "As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me."

As the Christ, Truth, becomes to us the very substance of our thinking, the vitality of the Christ will become the purpose of our being. Thus we begin to understand why it is that through the Christ, and only through the Christ, can salvation come to the individual.

 

Universal Salvation

Up to this point we have been talking salvation as it relates to the individual. Through the teachings of Christian Science we find that as one grows in proving his salvation, everything that concerns him is affected; and everyone his thoughts rest upon is blessed.

Thus we see how vital individual salvation is in saving all mankind. Although salvation is individual, one cannot achieve it selfishly or alone. One's own salvation reaches out to all.

Salvation for all mankind is the ultimate goal. This universal salvation is the state of consciousness wherein all that opposes spiritual reality is completely and forever removed, even as belief.

In "Miscellaneous Writings" (p. 205) Mrs. Eddy describes this final unfolding of salvation. She writes: "This omnipotent act drops the curtain on material man and mortality. After this, man's identity or consciousness reflects only Spirit, good, whose visible being is invisible to the physical senses: . . ."

In the Bible there are many examples of how effective individual spiritual understanding is in bringing progress and helping others to work out their salvation.

In the story of Moses, as related in the book of Exodus, we are told that after Moses had killed an Egyptian and then found that what he had done was known to others, he fled into the wilderness. There he passed many years during which time he was working out his salvation. At the climax of this part of his experience, when he saw the bush which burned, but was not consumed, Moses gained a glorious revelation of the nature of God; God declared Himself to be "I AM THAT I AM" (Exodus 3:14). It was then revealed to Moses that although one has to ascend the path of salvation alone, the effects of individual spiritual growth reach out in ever widening circles. So he returned to Egypt to lead the children of Israel out from bondage, through the wilderness of fears and doubts, into the promised land, though, of course, each individual had to work out salvation for himself, through obedience to the law that Moses showed them. During the wilderness years, each step of progress of the Israelites was preceded by Moses' own individual spiritual growth.

Another illustration is found in the book of I Kings. Here, in the nineteenth chapter, we read that Elijah found himself at a low point of discouragement and despair. The Bible account (v. 4) says that he "sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die." But then an angel came to him to feed him and encourage him. That is, Elijah glimpsed clearly some spiritual idea. Strengthened by this glimpse of reality, he pursued it to its unfoldment, even to Horeb, the mountain of God.

In the cave in Horeb, Elijah learned a great lesson. He learned that spiritual-mindedness does not shut one off from the world. Elijah was told to go back into the turbulent world of his day and use his spiritual understanding to lead and protect the faithful of the children of Israel.

Now I should like to relate briefly a modern day example that shows the all-inclusive effect of spiritual understanding.

This is the experience of a Christian Scientist, a friend of mine, who served as a chaplain in the Army during World War II.

This chaplain was serving with an anti-aircraft gun battalion which was also doing duty as an artillery outfit supporting the first wave of infantry.

In his report to The Mother Church this chaplain wrote:

"From a human point of view, it would have seemed impossible that we not have many casualties, with heavy loss of life during the taking of some of our objectives. But hourly preventive work was done in Christian Science, and our officers and men were urged by me to claim the protection of the first statement in the ninety-first Psalm: 'He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty,' with emphasis on the word 'abide.' The result was a magnificent record of not one man killed by enemy action from the time I joined the outfit in the Mediterranean in May, 1944, to VE-Day in Southern Bavaria in May, 1945" ("The Story of Christian Science Wartime Activities 1939-1946," page 169).

The purpose of the Christian Science movement is the salvation of the world from sin, disease, and death. Its fulfillment of its mission depends upon its individual members. Their fulfilling of their part is of the greatest importance in the progress and growth of the movement.

In this light, church membership assumes a new and vital role. It requires service and sacrifice. Church membership is not for one's individual satisfaction or gratification, but to let the individual share in the church's basic mission of spiritualizing thought. Membership has its requirements and its obligations for the church to move forward in its healing and saving work.

In the larger areas of world affairs, we must see that our own individual spiritual progress is important and effective. The working out of our own salvation is needed for the welfare of the whole world. One's individual activity in working out his own salvation embraces and blesses his home, his business, his community, and his world.

In the Manual of The Mother Church Mrs. Eddy gives us a daily prayer that helps us appreciate the far-reaching effects of individual salvation (p. 41): " 'Thy kingdom come;' let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin; and may Thy Word enrich the affections of all mankind, and govern them."

 

[From a Clearwater, Florida newspaper clipping dated March 26 (?), 1964.]

 

 

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