Christian Science: Practical, Operative Christianity

 

Lowell F. Kennett, C.S., of Louisville, Kentucky

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

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

 

Mr. Lowell F. Kennett of Louisville, Kentucky, delivered the following lecture, under the auspices of the Second Church of Christ, Scientist, on Thursday, November 13, 1958 at 8:00 p.m. at 253 Fifth Avenue North, St. Petersburg, Florida.

The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:

 

If religion is to be worthwhile it must be practical. And if religion is practical, it must meet our human needs. It must be part of our everyday experience, right where we are. It must work for us, just as we must work for it.

 

Primitive Christianity

The Christianity of Jesus' day was practical and operative. Christianity was much more than mere belief. The early Christians were healers. Jesus established his ministry on healing works, which confirmed his words. The Master paid little attention to material laws but overcame them by the understanding and application of spiritual laws. There was nothing supernatural about Jesus' healing work; it was divinely natural. He taught his followers how to use spiritual law through a true understanding of God, and they, too, healed by this law. It was practical Christianity which gave sight to the blind, cleansed the lepers, and raised the dead.

For three hundred years the early Christians practiced their religion in practical deeds rather than in dead rites of ceremony and ritual. Their prayers included expectancy of good, based on the spiritual understanding of God. What a pity that this simple and practical teaching of the Christ, Truth, should have been lost for so many centuries; but what a glorious thing that it has been restored.

This wonderful restoration, of course, was the discovery of Christian Science in 1866 by Mary Baker Eddy. With its founding, primitive Christianity was reinstated for us on a firm and everlasting foundation (Science and Health, p. 131). Mrs. Eddy felt at first that her discovery would be welcomed by the Christian churches. But what happened? It was rejected. In the past few years, however, several Protestant churches have been investigating spiritual healing. However this investigation has been influenced by the pattern of the medical school rather than the Bible. It has been an effort to use prayer as intercession to aid medical treatment, and its theories have been influenced by psychiatry. The orthodox theological research has not accepted radical reliance on God alone the radical reliance through which Christian Science has been healing disease since 1875.

Sincere and scholarly clergymen with love for God and their fellowmen are honest in their conviction that spiritual healing presents a vast field for research. Many clergymen have Science and Health in their libraries. Some have read it and value it. Certainly, it is no longer popular to refuse to recognize Christian Science as an established, proved system of spiritual healing. The value of Christian Science is not debatable. Today some medical schools are freely admitting that Christian Science heals.

Some physical scientists are approaching agreement with Mrs. Eddy that matter is not what it seems to be.

The practice of Christian Science is completely mental; spiritually mental, that is. Christian healing cannot be accomplished by mixing the spiritual and material.

A case in point came to my attention about ten years ago. A woman who had begun the study of Christian Science, but still was a member of an orthodox Protestant church, went to a Christian Science practitioner for treatment. Her face was swollen and discolored with what had been medically diagnosed as bone infection and lockjaw. She had to talk through clenched teeth and had not been able to eat for a day or so. She wanted to rely on the Christ method of healing, but a member of her family felt that she should see a medical specialist.

The Christian Science practitioner did not try to influence her and suggested that, if she still wanted Christian Science treatment after seeing the medical specialist, he would take her case. Later that day she returned to the practitioner's office.

The physician had advised that she should have an operation that very day. He said it probably would leave a lifelong scar, but if she didn't undergo the operation, she couldn't live more than four days. Despite this frightening verdict, she took her stand to rely entirely on God's care. She knew enough from her study of Science and Health to understand that Christian Science treatment is based entirely on divine law.

It was pointed out to her that God is Life, the divine Principle or cause of all existence, activity, and function; that Principle or God is unchanging perfection as Science and Health states (p. 249): "Life is, like Christ, 'the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever.' " It was explained that God knows nothing about infection, nor did He create material substance to be infected; that bone has no substance other than what mortal thought attributes to it. The patient was convinced that since God is Life, no human or mortal mind verdict can annul His law nor put an end to life; that no material condition or combination of conditions, called complication, can destroy life.

When the problem did not yield immediately, the practitioner uncovered the fact that well-meaning friends in the church this woman still belonged to, in the small community where she lived, were greatly disturbed because she was relying on spiritual prayer, and was not under a physician's care. So to remove herself from their observation, she entered a Christian Science nursing home in a nearby city. Then she learned that three close relatives, all in the medical profession, were coming that weekend to take her home and place her under medical care. Now, then, here was an ultimatum. God's work had to be done by Sunday afternoon.

The patient courageously took her stand. The practitioner held to the fact that there is no time element involved in the operation of God's law, as the Scripture says (II Cor. 6:2), "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." The treatment was continued with the understanding that infection has no virus or poison from which it can start; no incubation place or period; no time element; no person as its victim or target; no beginning through accident, bruise, or injury. Since man is the idea or expression of God, there is absolutely nothing in His creation or of His knowing that can tend to produce death.

Just a few hours before the arrival of the family, the patient's face opened in two places as cleanly as if incisions had been made. The swelling went down, and the discoloration lessened. Her family permitted her to stay in the nursing home, and the healing was soon complete.

 

God and the Godlike Man

Through the centuries men have usually searched for God in some physical locality. In Greek mythology He was thought to dwell on Mount Olympus. The Norse myths placed Him in Valhalla; the American Indians in the Happy Hunting Grounds, and the latter-day Christians in a localized heaven. The teachings of scholastic theology generally make Him responsible for disaster, disease, malformation, and even death. Legal contracts frequently contain an "act of God" clause, attributing fire, flood, and tornado to the loving Father. This concept of God is not consistent with the Scriptural statement that God is not in the earthquake, the wind, or the fire (I Kings 19:11-15).

Christian Science does not attribute any physical nature to the Supreme Being or to His manifestation, man. Mortal theories do this. In the words of a French philosopher (Voltaire), "God created man in His own likeness, and man returned the compliment." The Christian Science textbook tells us (p. 140), "The Christian Science God is universal, eternal, divine Love, which changeth not and causeth no evil, disease, nor death."

The Scriptures reveal that God is divine Mind, Spirit, Life, Truth, Love. Christian Science teaches that God is the divine Principle or cause of every living thing and of all that exists. God is perfect Mind and is incapable of mistakes or imperfections. This understanding of God enables people to avail themselves of His power. What a blessing it is to mankind to have a God we can intelligently know and rely on in every trouble, in every emergency.

If we are to accept the fact that God is everywhere, then He must be recognized as Spirit or divine consciousness, the source of all strength and substance.

The application of God's law to the solution of human affairs begins with a correct understanding of God. It is also essential to have a right concept of God's man; that is, to know that he is perfect in the Father's likeness, unfallen and free. It is necessary to realize that this perfect man is not under any curse of sin and therefore does not have to go through any process or ritualism in order to be redeemed or saved.

Man, the child of God, is already a perfect idea in the divine Mind and does not have to be rescued from anything, but human misconceptions about both man and his perfect creator need to be corrected.

Man in God's likeness is spiritual, eternal, indestructible, the expression of Spirit or pure Mind. Mrs. Eddy defines man, in part, as (Science and Health. p. 475), "that which has not a single quality underived from Deity; that which possesses no life, intelligence, nor creative power of his own, but reflects spiritually all that belongs to his Maker." The perfect, or spiritual man, in God's likeness needs no redemption. Mankind, however, or the mortal man evident to the material senses, does need to be saved from human ills and discords.

Christian Science proves, it does not merely theorize, that mankind's individual redemption or salvation is in the acknowledgment and acceptance of what God has already done for us. It is to accept the freedom, perfection, health, happiness, and abundance which are already our inheritance, available for our claiming in proportion to our individual worthiness. Now, of course, everyone is entitled to all that the loving Father has to give, but materialistic beliefs, superstition, self-condemnation, or self-righteousness tend to obscure the blessings which are available right where we are. Ingratitude for the blessings already received will certainly not bring a greater blessing. There is nothing wrong with God's creation, and that includes man.

 

Christ Jesus the Way-Shower

The Christian Scientist finds that a scientific understanding of Christ Jesus is fundamental in the healing work. Jesus was the human man, and Christ is the pure nature, power, law, and activity of God which Jesus exemplified in his daily living. The pure consciousness of Jesus, identified with God's nature, earned for him the title of the Christ. Therefore, he is often referred to as Christ Jesus. Jesus demonstrated practical, operative Christianity. When he was asked for help by a blind man, imploring mercy, he showed his mercy in a practical way: he restored the man's sight. While Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a woman who had been bowed together for eighteen years and "could in no wise lift up herself." He did the practical thing, he loosed her from her infirmity. When a case of dropsy was called to his attention he again did the practical thing; he healed the man. Mrs. Eddy knew that Christianity was practical because Christ Jesus had proved it to be so. She encouraged her followers to love Jesus and to follow in the way of his example and lesson of love. She writes (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 207), "Learn its purpose; and in hope and faith, where heart meets heart reciprocally blest, drink with me the living waters of the spirit of my life-purpose, to impress humanity with the genuine recognition of practical, operative Christian Science."

The Pharisees of Jesus' day refused to accept this representative of Christ and rejected both the Teacher and his teachings from their synagogues. Even John the Baptist, whose doctrine did not confer healing power on him, questioned whether Jesus was the promised Messiah. Jesus answered by pointing to his healings as evidence.

If Jesus were physically on earth in our day, would not many of those who profess to love him deny him? Would they not, like the Pharisees of old, also condemn him for teaching and healing on any basis other than theirs? Mrs. Eddy's discovery and revelation of the Christ method of healing were rejected, too, at first. She tells us in the Christian Science textbook (p. 131): "Jesus established in the Christian era the precedent for all Christianity, theology, and healing. Christians are under as direct orders now, as they were then, to be Christlike, to possess the Christ-spirit, to follow the Christ-example, and to heal the sick as well as the sinning."

 

Practical Application in Healing

The healing process in Christian Science is that practiced by the humble Nazarene. It affirms the perfection of God's man and intelligently denies the evidence of the physical senses. It sets aside human theory and tradition and acknowledges spiritual law only. It does not accept man-made theories, and neither did Jesus. This is indicated in his healing of the epileptic boy whom the disciples had failed to heal, as recorded in Mark's Gospel.

The father of the boy brought him to Jesus and said (Mark 9:17,18): "Master, I have brought onto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; . . . and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not." The Master rebuked his disciples, or students, and said (Mark 9:19): "O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me."

Then Jesus asked the boy's father (verse 21), "How long is it ago since this came unto him?" And he replied, "Of a child." "Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth" (verses 21, 23). Then Jesus healed the boy.

Why had his disciples failed to heal the case? The disciples had probably been limited in their healing effort by lack of faith in God's power and their acceptance of history of error; a case history, as the physicians term it. Their acceptance of the time and duration of the error limited their expectancy and nullified their treatment. Jesus' perception, no doubt, uncovered the error in the disciples' thought, probably when he learned from the father that the boy had been afflicted since childhood.

Would not medical reasoning say that here was a chronic case which it would probably take a long time to heal, if it could be healed at all? Jesus apparently knew that there was no such thing as either a new disease or a firmly established disease, just as he must have known that there is no functional error and no organic error.

Later his disciples asked him, "Why could not we cast him out? and he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting" (Mark 9:28,29). Mrs. Eddy explains fasting as: to refrain from admitting the claims of material sense.

Spiritual healing through Christian Science practice parallels that of Jesus' day. I know of similar healings of chronic physical disorders through Christian Science treatment, and I would like to tell you of one.

A woman who had been a professional musician was forced to give up her work due to an injury to her wrist, suffered in a fall backstage while on tour. The fracture had been set by a physician and the wrist placed in a cast. Upon removal of the cast, a second physician found the hand partially paralyzed. This seemed to end her career as a harpist. Materia medica was not encouraging, so she turned to another vocation. She knew of Christian Science but put off having Christian Science treatment.

A number of years later she told her experience to a Christian Science practitioner. The practitioner assured her that it was never too late to be healed because there was no difference whatever between an old lie and a new one; it was only necessary to give the lie to the lie.

The practitioner had learned something about this a short time before, having healed himself of a crippled ankle believed due to an injury experienced thirty years earlier. The first thing that needed healing in this woman's case was her chronic antagonism towards the physician who had treated her. This had to be replaced with love, wiping out the belief of condemnation of the doctor. Second, it was necessary to know that her musical talent was as spiritual as her talent for expressing harmony. Since nothing had happened to her talent, in reality nothing had happened to the ability to express it.

The medical diagnosis of a pinched nerve was reversed by the prayerful realization that man's function and activity are dependent on Mind and are not in non-intelligent, inanimate matter, to be injured; that, since accidents are unknown to God (Science and Health, p. 424), the case had no beginning as accident, and no law of God to enforce it; therefore it had never been anything more than an illusion, and the child of God could not be the victim of any theory of physiology.

This knowing of the truth, or Christian Science treatment, continued with the understanding that man naturally responds to good and consequently cannot be limited by any obstinate characteristic of mortality, nor can good ever be postponed. The procrastination, or putting off, of having Christian Science treatment was seen to be anti-Christ, or resistance to the Christ, Truth. Mortal mind was seen to be holding on to the mental picture of medical diagnosis, which invited resistance to spiritual law.

As the patient's thought responded to the spiritual truths declared, the practitioner suggested that she get her harp out of storage and start practicing. This proposal was not very well accepted, as there was, as yet, little physical evidence of improvement. The recommendation, however, was finally carried out, and for several months practice was resumed. Then one day the harpist invited the practitioner and his family to her home to be her first audience in many years! The music was beautiful. In a short time she was ready to resume her professional career and in about a year she received a contract as harpist with an internationally known civic orchestra. Her healing was complete.

 

The Bible and the Textbook

Now let us consider these healing experiences. What made them possible? The teachings of the Bible, of course. And I would like to mention here that Christian Scientists study the King James Version, which is used in many Protestant churches in English-speaking countries.

Both the Old and the New Testament record instances showing the application of spiritual law to meet human needs, but the Bible teachings were not shown to be practical until "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" was published in 1875. Scholastic theology accepts and seems satisfied with the literal interpretation of the Scriptures. Science and Health gives the spiritual interpretation of the Bible through which the healing Principle is proved.

Mrs. Eddy's love of the Bible and her understanding of its teachings are best expressed in her own words in the textbook (p. 131): "The central fact of the Bible is the superiority of spiritual over physical power," and (p. 406), "The Bible contains the recipe for all healing."

 

The Discoverer and the Discovery

Today Christian Science is meeting the needs not only of adults but also of young people and children. Even young children comprehend and utilize its healing recipe. This is consistent with Mrs. Eddy's own experience, for her love of the Bible began developing during early childhood, and she was an earnest and consistent student of the Scriptures. Even at the age of twelve she had confidence in the loving nature of God, refusing to believe that He could be wrathful and vengeful.

Her own father openly rebuked her for this when she was under examination for church membership. She was so disturbed by this experience that she became ill with a fever. When the doctor's efforts failed to help her, her mother told her to pray and rest in God's love. She followed her mother's advice. The fever quickly left her, and she arose and dressed herself. This was her first spiritual healing. Is it any wonder that she followed her intuitive search into the allness of Spirit and the nothingness of matter? She had proved the truth of her conviction that God is Love and that Love heals.

As a very young woman she expressed her thoughts in poetry which was gentle and loving. Her thinking was original and inspired; but she was to go on to speak with sterner words and greater authority. This is well expressed by Julia Michael Johnston in her biography, "Mary Baker Eddy: Her Mission and Triumph." Writing of Mary Baker's youth, she says, "But, later, there was the sound of portentous footsteps in her writing, the measured tread of one who moves with purpose, the strength of him who goes to war, the swiftness of a messenger who bears great tidings, the majesty of an ambassador for Christ" (p. 9).

Those who have seen the portrait of Mrs. Eddy which hangs in her home at Chestnut Hill, near Boston, see those characteristics represented. Here was a woman capable of the world's greatest tasks. She expressed the love and tenderness of woman and the strength and courage of man. No wonder that she explains God as Father-Mother. Isn't it strange that some who seek the blessings of her life's work resist the mention of her name? Those who have little or no gratitude for the Discoverer limit their blessings from the discovery.

Gratitude certainly must have been uppermost in Mrs. Eddy's thought in 1866 at the time of the healing which marked her discovery of Christian Science, for she was impelled to share this great gift with the world. It was in February of that year that Mrs. Eddy, while on her way to a temperance lecture in Lynn, Massachusetts, slipped on the icy sidewalk and fell, sustaining a brain concussion and an injury to the spine. A doctor was summoned, and the following Sunday found her near death.

The author of the biography previously quoted from refers to the experience of Mrs. Eddy (then Mrs. Patterson) as follows: "Mrs. Patterson's recovery followed her request to be left alone in her room. Taking the Bible, she read in the ninth chapter of Matthew the account of Jesus' healing of the palsied man. As she read, she felt the curative touch of the eternal Christ, and she, too, arose from her bed and walked. . . . The moment of discovery had come, that moment which was to lengthen into years of expanding revelation."

Physical science is nearing agreement with her statement in Science and Health (p. 468), "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter." Materia medica is agreeing that many, if not most, diseases are due to a mental cause. Theology is slow to accept the proven truth that "All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all," as "the scientific statement of being" further states.

 

The Christian Science Movement

The same divine guidance that led Mrs. Eddy to write Science and Health also guided her in the establishment of the Christian Science movement and her church. She founded the church on a world-wide basis: The Mother Church in Boston, with branch churches throughout the world; all governed by her inspired Church Manual, which provides for the establishment and conduct of the activities. Among these activities is our Sunday School for pupils up to the age of twenty. The pupils are taught the Scriptures according to their ability to grasp the simpler meanings, including the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Lord's Prayer with its spiritual interpretation by Mrs. Eddy. Our Sunday School students learn to use what they learn.

The many activities provided by branch church membership lead many students of Christian Science to still further study to class instruction with an authorized teacher of Christian Science.

This teaching makes clear the Science of healing, especially its ethics. It shows the student how to defend himself from sin and how to protect himself from aggressive mental suggestion. It provides a firm foundation for his growth in spiritual understanding and demonstration of Truth; it enables him to stand firm against any recourse to material means for healing. It also enables him to serve and help his fellowman, for class instruction is a great aid in Christian Science practice. In the words of Solomon, "Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning" (Prov. 9:9).

 

Freedom for Men and Nations

According to a respected historian (H. G. Wells), Christianity was a joyous religion for the first three centuries. It brought freedom to many individuals in spite of the tyranny of empires. The early Christians did not emphasize the gloomy rites of the crucifixion, but they did celebrate Easter every Sabbath day, to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. Christian Science has reinstated primitive Christianity, making it applicable to the affairs of men and nations. It restores a sick business as well as a sick body; it brings love into broken homes and reunites families; it casts out sorrow; it provides the healing balm that ends loneliness and human frustrations in general, including the fear of war and atomic weapons. Christian Science brings freedom from the hypnotic power of false propaganda, which is spreading disease through the medium of commercial broadcasting. Freedom once had a clearer meaning, including freedom from fear, sin, sickness, and death, but this complete freedom is lost when false human beliefs and dictatorial governments make a god of matter.

Men have never been able to legislate complete freedom not even through such great and lasting declarations as the Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights of the United States. Nor through the more recent and noble effort of the Atlantic Charter, with its guarantee of the "four freedoms." How many of us today can even remember what the "four freedoms" are?

True freedom is to be found only in spiritual law as revealed in Christian Science and illustrated in the teachings and demonstrations of Christ Jesus and the prophets. Now, how can we use this spiritual law to attain freedom? By purifying human thought we bring increased harmony into all human affairs.

Our social sciences turn out hundreds of documents every year, including those dealing with community problems, juvenile delinquency, the frightening divorce rate, the increase in crime. Many of these reports are of considerable significance, but in them the individual is usually considered a helpless victim of material circumstances. The child of God, governed by divine law, is never the victim of evil. When parents educate their children spiritually, the child will not be attracted to evil practices. Both juvenile delinquency and adult crime result from ignorance of God and the Ten Commandments. The Godless thought is the lawless thought.

The sacredness of the marriage relationship would be kept intact if thought and conduct were based on Christian principles. Mrs. Eddy devotes an entire chapter in her textbook to the subject of marriage.

We are undoubtedly living at a turning point in human events in this mid-twentieth century. This was foretold by Mrs. Eddy, whose prophecies reveal great spiritual insight. Here is what she says in her Message to The Mother Church for 1902: "As silent night foretells the dawn and din of morn; as the dulness of to-day prophesies renewed energy for to-morrow, so the pagan philosophies and tribal religions of yesterday but foreshadowed the spiritual dawn of the twentieth century religion parting with its materiality."

Now, the logical question is: How does religion part with materiality? The answer, we learn in Christian Science, is through spiritual prayer the prayer which elevates us, as Mrs. Eddy indicates, from a theoretical to a practical Christianity.

In the beautiful chapter on Prayer, Mrs. Eddy makes this clear when she says (Science and Health, p. 4): "What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds."

In the first chapter of Genesis, the Bible describes man's complete freedom, dominion, and the supply of all his needs. Scientific prayer, therefore, is the acknowledgment of God's law and its ever-present operation, for divine Love governs man.

In Christian Science the prayer of spiritual understanding recognizes the Father's tender care for all His children, in which there is no separation from the governing Principle and no divorce from the unity of goodness. By recognizing these facts and maintaining them, we prove in human experience that the loving ties of home and family cannot be broken by selfishness, false appetites, temperament, or unfaithfulness. In Christian Science we learn that children are not at the mercy of the errors handling their parents, any more than they can be punished for the sins of their parents.

Every idea of God is needed, valuable, and fully employed, expressing the ceaseless activity of divine Mind. By maintaining these facts we prove that the activity of individuals, businesses, and churches cannot be limited by human economic theories and their resultant fears. Every legitimate and useful activity if governed by divine Principle, God.

This prayer of spiritual understanding maintains health, and restores what appears to be lack of health, by the intelligent acknowledgment of man as entirely spiritual. In Christian Science the prayer of affirmation denies the claims of materia medica and its widely believed theories about disease; this prayer understandingly pleads the case for freedom in the court of divine justice.

The prayer of spiritual understanding proves that nothing truly exists but that which is good, therefore of God. It brings heaven or spiritual harmony into our experience now; it can bring you into heaven right where you are, right now.

Ever since the day Moses led the children of Israel on their weary pilgrimage out of bondage into freedom, men and women have made pilgrimages to distant lands, searching for some sacred place or spiritual sanctuary. Since God is with us, the wayside is a resting place, and the desert a sanctuary. Christian Science proves the teachings and works of Christ Jesus to be practical and operative a priceless gift we can accept and use today and every day, right where we are.

Truly, as Mary Baker Eddy tells us (Science and Health, p. 254): "Pilgrim on earth, thy home is heaven; stranger, thou art the guest of God."

 

[Published in The Gulfport (Florida) Tribune & Citizen, Nov. 21, 1958.]

 

 

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