Christian Science: The Religion of Reason and Revelation
Lt. Col. Robert Ellis Key, C.S.B., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
"Christian Science: The Religion
of Reason and Revelation" was the subject of the lecture on Christian
Science given in Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist, Milwaukee, by Lt. Col. Robert
Ellis Key, C.S.B., of London, England, Friday evening, March 5th, to a capacity
audience. The lecturer, who is a member of the Board of Lectureship of The
Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in
God and His Christ
In the second
World War, during the battle of El Agheila in
"Stay with me God, the night is dark.
The night is cold. The night is long.
Be with me God and make me strong."
That petition was the earnest and heartfelt prayer of a young soldier tried in the crucible of war. It was also the message of one man to another, and surely no greater encouragement could have reached that other soldier than the scrap of paper with its heartfelt prayer. Was that young man's prayer answered? We cannot doubt it. St. James says: "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James ).
Many of you are here today because you desire to know more about God. This desire is in itself a prayer. We turn to God with confidence when we understand the nature of God, when we know He is our Father-Mother, our Parent, our Physician, and our Friend, as taught in Christian Science by its Discoverer and Founder, Mary Baker Eddy.
Throughout the ages men and women have held a variety of views about God, ranging from the image of a colossal form dwelling in the skies, to a spiritual influence which God exerts in response to a righteous man's petition. The Bible describes God in a variety of ways. The tribal Jehovah of the Israelites bears little resemblance to James' designation of God as "the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James ). For thousands of years, in fact ever since the beginning of time, mortals have attempted to discover the nature of God and have formulated various theories concerning Him. They have not reached a unanimous conclusion about God, because human opinion is not based upon revelation, and revelation is essential in order to understand the real nature of the creator and His creation. Truth is not humanly evolved; it is divinely revealed.
We can talk to God, that is, we can silently commune with Him, so surely it is reasonable to feel that God speaks with us through spiritual sense. In fact, God is continually speaking with us when we earnestly desire to know more about Him. We sometimes fail to hear God speak because we fail to listen. To illustrate: if you or I were called to an audience with a great king or the president of a country, we should not break forth in a torrent of words and petitions; we should wait for the great man to speak and listen with respect to what he had to say. In like manner in order to hear what God has to say we must listen. There is nothing mysterious or supernatural about this spiritual listening. God speaks to man through the Christ, that is to say, through His manifestation; for Christ as understood in Christian Science is "the divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error" (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 583). In Christian Science a distinction is made between Jesus and the Christ. Jesus was the human man. Christ is the divine idea or ideal which Jesus represented. We must manifest the Christ-ideal in order, as Paul said, to let that "mind be in [us] which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). This does not imply that the so-called materially-minded man is the real or spiritual thinker. It is impossible to bring a clean thing out of the unclean, or to draw pure water from a contaminated source. God is the only cause and creator, and Christian Scientists acknowledge perfect God and perfect man, perfect cause and perfect effect, as the only reality of existence.
This is the basis from which a Christian Scientist reasons, and to reason correctly is important in Christian Science. We begin with God, and from this perfect premise arrive at a correct conclusion.
Consider for a moment the usual train of reasoning employed by the average mortal in regard to a sick person. Such a reasoner begins by accepting the material evidence of a sick man. He believes in the existence of material laws, some of which are said to work against the interests of the patient. Eventually, according to his belief, these so-called laws will work wholly against the patient's interests and he will die. In this train of reasoning God, the great creator of the universe, is left entirely out of the picture. The Christian Scientist, on the other hand, reasons from a directly opposite standpoint. He rejects the material theory of man's origin and accepts the Scriptural dictum that God made man in His own image. He begins with the premise of perfect God and perfect man and so arrives at a perfect conclusion. The real man, the man of God's creating, is forever expressing the Christ, or divine manifestation. In fact, he cannot help doing so, because man is God's image or idea. A careful perusal of the Scriptures will prove to any sincere Christian that this was the basis from which Jesus reasoned, namely, perfect God and perfect man, and that he completely rejected the theory of a material origin. What was the result of Jesus' rejection of materialism? The answer is healing.
A well-known Christian evangelist once related a story of his boyhood which illustrates in a measure how God speaks to us through the Christ. "When I was a little boy of four years," he said, "one fine day in spring my father led me by the hand to a distant part of the farm, but soon sent me home alone. On the way I had to pass a little pond, then spreading its waters wide; a rhodora in full bloom, a rare flower, which grew only in that locality, attracted my attention and drew me to the spot. I saw a little tortoise sunning himself in the shallow water at the root of the flowering shrub. I lifted the stick I had in my hand to strike the harmless reptile, for though I had not killed any creature yet, I had seen other boys out of sport destroy birds and squirrels and the like, and I felt a desire to follow their wicked example. But all at once something checked my little arm, and a voice said within me loud and clear, "It is wrong!' I held my uplifted stick in wonder at the new emotion, the consciousness of involuntary but inward check upon my actions, till the tortoise and the rhodora both vanished from my sight. I hastened home and told the tale to my mother, and asked what it was that told me 'It is wrong.' . . . Taking me in her arms she said, 'Some men call it conscience, but I prefer to call it the voice of God in the soul of man. It you listen and obey it, then it will speak clearer and clearer, and always guide you right; but if you turn a deaf ear, or disobey, then it will fade out little by little, and leave you in the dark without a friend. Your life depends on heeding that little
As the material sense of existence is put off, the spiritual becomes more and more apparent. Ruling over all, we see and feel the supremacy of good. We discern our complete safety as children of our divine Father-Mother, and we rest serenely in the quietness and strength of divine Love. In Christian Science we do not worship an unknown God.
In the Christian Science textbook, God is defined in seven synonymous terms as follows; Life, Truth, Love, Soul, Spirit, Mind, Principle. In the story just related the evangelist must have caught a glimpse of what constitutes Life and Love when the conviction came that it was wrong to take life, it was cruel to kill the small and harmless tortoise. If one were tempted to rob or defraud another and the spiritual sense checked this desire, would he not hear God speaking in terms of Truth, for Truth is the corrective of a lie? Do some of you feel the material sense of existence to be shallow and unsatisfying? Then be sure God is speaking to you in terms of Soul and Spirit, and urging you to a more spiritual and satisfying existence. Truly the author of Proverbs was right when he wrote, "Unto you, O man, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man" (Prov. 8:4).
Leadership of Love
Therefore, one of our first responsibilities
as students of Christian Science is to listen. In the first
World War a Christian Scientist learned something of the value of listening
when he was called upon to raise a battalion of men taken from the rougher
elements of London's
In the same brigade was a battalion of men drawn from the well-educated classes. The Scientist was sometimes tempted to draw a comparison between these fellows and his own, but he soon saw that comparisons are odious. Only one standard of discipline must be maintained, the standard of discipleship.
One day after the training had been completed the regiment marched past the Divisional General. Imagine the Christian Scientist's joy when the General taking the salute turned to him with the remark, "You have a fine and well-disciplined battalion." That was enough! The discipline of Love had proved a working proposition. The Christian Scientist then knew something he had never known before. He knew that leadership is based on Love, and Love is divine Principle, absolute, supreme, and invariable. Once the spiritual way has been proved satisfactory, the merely material method can no longer be considered of itself adequate. Before the leadership of Love, all other ways and means become useless and obsolete.
But Love is an abstract term until we learn something more of its specific meaning and character. We cannot love or appreciate even a human friend until we learn to understand his character. The nature of God is understood through the attributes embodied in the seven synonymous terms for Deity previously mentioned: Life, Truth, Love, Soul, Spirit, Mind, Principle. Some of these attributes are justice, mercy, wisdom, goodness, joy, peace, and power. Looking away from matter to God we find man, for the Bible informs us that man is made in the image and likeness of God. It is clear, therefore, that the nature of the true God is reflected in the nature of the real man. Man is not God, but he is God's reflection. Christian Science makes this point clear in words to be found on page 250 of the Christian Science textbook: "Man is not God, but like a ray of light which comes from the sun, man, the outcome of God, reflects God."
For instance, God is divine Principle, therefore the real man is a man of Principle. He is upright, honest, just, and true. He stands foursquare to all the winds that blow, untouched by sin and all erroneous influences. God is divine Life, therefore man expresses energy, strength, and vitality. He has an immortal life because God is his Life. In reality there is one Life and that Life is spiritual and it is our life, yours and mine. God is divine Truth, therefore man expresses the attributes of Truth, namely, justice, honesty, integrity, and so on. God is divine Love, therefore man expresses all the qualities of Love in their infinite variety and perfection. Man is joyous, compassionate, inspired, faithful, and firm. Yes, Love is firm as well as gentle, for divine Love is synonymous with divine Principle. If you are tempted to forget the fact that you in your true being are God's image and likeness then recall to thought the seven synonymous terms for God, and identify man with each and all of them. Find your true manhood and womanhood in the man of God's creating, and you will begin to learn something new every day about your true nature and that of your neighbor. Let the so-called weak or depressed turn to God, divine Life, with the clear realization of man as Life's image and likeness, and he will find himself lifted up and strengthened by the knowledge that life is not dependent on a frail physical body. Let the one who believes he is stupid or forgetful turn to God as divine Mind, and rejoice that Mind knows nothing of forgetfulness or stupidity, for intelligence is the substance of man's being. Thought is uplifted and spiritualized by the great realization that God is Spirit, and therefore man is spiritual, perfect, and eternal.
Fervent Desire and Prayer
Those of you who are familiar with the Beatitudes as given by our Master in the Sermon on the Mount may have noticed how much attention is given to righteous desire. Indeed the spirit of righteous desire is breathed through every statement of the Beatitudes, "Desire is prayer" (Science and Health, p. 1), and prayer is an essential part of the life of every Christian Scientist. Consider for instance, the first Beatitude: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their's is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3). Do we recognize our spiritual poverty, our lack of spiritual power, and reach out fervently for spiritual riches? "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." Have we lost God and do we fervently desire to find Him? It so we shall surely be comforted. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." Are we hungry for the Christ nature, and thirsting for the living water of Spirit? If so we shall be filled and satisfied.
Fervency, like desire, is an essential element of prayer. It is akin to consecration. It is positive, emphatic, sincere. Fervency gives impetus to every endeavor. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James ). Job expressed a deep fervency and devotion when he wrote, "Oh that I knew where I might find him." (Job 23:3.)
Mary Baker Eddy
How emphatically does our Leader, Mrs. Eddy, exhort us to be fervent, positive, single-minded, and sincere. She writes, "To understand God is the work of eternity, and demands absolute consecration of thought, energy, and desire" (Science and Health, p. 3). None was more fervent in her desire for good than Mary Baker Eddy. She earnestly prayed for the freedom and welfare of mankind. She worked unceasingly to this end, and her achievements are beyond human estimate. Judged by the countless thousands who have been healed and regenerated by Christian Science, the lifework of Mrs. Eddy far surpasses any other save that of our great Master, Christ Jesus. From childhood this desire for good was her primary concern. She did not seek a personal sense of goodness, for she understood well the teaching of the Master on this matter, namely, as he said, "There is none good but one, that is God" (Matt. ).
She strove fervently to know God aright, and this righteous desire led her inevitably to the discovery of Christian Science. From early childhood she listened for the voice of God; in fact her life was one of spiritual fervency, devotion, and obedience. She never knowingly deviated from the straight path of Principle. She was positive in her approach to God, positive in her obedience to Him, and positive in her message to mankind.
It is necessary to be scientifically positive in Christian Science. For only positive good can obliterate negative evil.
We are familiar with the disastrous effects of a negative thought process as opposed to positive, spiritual, right thinking, a process in which one wrong thought leads to another and another and another until we are landed in the slough of despond. We know, for instance, how fear leads to doubt, doubt to discouragement, discouragement to defeat of a good purpose. St. James draws attention to the deadly effect of the epicycle of sin when he writes (James ), "When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" − that is, spiritual oblivion. On the other hand, the cycle of scientific right thinking will instantly obliterate the epicycle of wrong belief. Thus hope becomes faith, faith becomes understanding, understanding brings fruition, and fruition reality. (See Science and Health 298:14.) We can at any moment discard the negative and material and adopt the positive and spiritual.
In a fervent and beautiful message sent to Second Church of Christ, Scientist, New York City, Mrs. Eddy wrote: "May . . . the glory of the resurrection morn burst upon the spiritual sense of this people with renewed vision, infinite meanings, endless hopes, and glad victories in the onward and upward chain of being" (Miscellany, p. 202). This surely gives a glimpse of the upward way, and points out the thought-road to heaven.
Christian Scientists do not claim
to be the first to realize the value of positive thinking. Let me quote to you
extracts from a fourth-century prayer recently discovered and now in the
". . . Sanctify, sustain, gather, govern, establish, glorify, confirm, pasture, raise up (?), enlighten, pacify, administer, perfect − the people which Thou hast established, the peculiar people, the people which Thou hast ransomed, the people which Thou hast called, Thy people, the sheep of Thy pasture.
". . . Never dost Thou cease to do good, for Thou art bountiful; Thou givest all, takest nought, for Thou lackest nothing; every righteous thing is Thine, unrighteousness alone is not Thine. Evil is that which Thou wouldest not, the child of our imaginations." (Fragments of an Unknown Gospel, edited by H. Idris Bell and T. C. Skeat.)
Here we find the primitive Christian church in harmony with Christian Science. Here is a prayer of positive declaration in which evil is described as the child, or offspring, of our imaginations, to be reduced to its native nothingness by the understanding of God's goodness, affluence, and love. Christian Science teaches and demonstrates the nothingness of evil. It does this on the basis of the one God, good, beside which there is none other.
The Christian prayer just cited throws light on the healing work done by the early Christian church. This prayer includes fundamental truths which are to be found also in Christian Science. Evil is described as the child of our imaginations, and in this connection we are reminded of Mrs. Eddy's declaration: "Mankind must learn that evil is not power. Its so-called despotism is but a phase of nothingness" (Science and Health, p. 102). In this prayer God is described as the all-bountiful, giving all and taking nought. Christian Science, in line with the Bible, declares that God is All-in-all, all-presence, all-power, all-activity. It is an historical fact that the early Christians healed the sick and even raised the dead until the close of the second century. As evidence of this fact I would quote a passage from Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," chapter 15, where he writes: "But the miraculous cure of diseases of the most inveterate or even preternatural kind can no longer occasion any surprise when we recollect that in the days of Irenaeus, about the end of the second century, the resurrection from the dead was far from being an uncommon event."
Before the discovery of Christian Science the modus operandi of this healing work was not understood. Generally it was believed to be the result of blind faith or even mesmerism and suggestion. Now, however, through the discovery of Christian Science by Mary Baker Eddy, the Science of Christianity is revealed, and the Christian church can return to its original mission of healing, namely, spiritual and demonstrable Christianity. Thus the laws of God have become available in a practical and scientific manner.
Christ Jesus did not present the teachings of Christianity in a weak or fragmentary way. It is recorded that he spoke "as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matt. ). Had his teaching been theoretical he could not have spoken with such conviction. His assurance encouraged those who were receptive to his message, but it annoyed and often angered some of the learned men and religious rulers of his time. He swept aside many of their cherished beliefs and conventions. To the religious Jew, Jesus was a Sabbath-breaker, a stirrer up of the people, a disturbing and revolutionary influence, because he strove to rescue the people from physical and mental slavery. On that account he was summarily tried, and shamefully crucified. But persecution only served to strengthen his influence. He rose above physical death, and proved through the resurrection the power of Spirit in a practical, scientific, and convincing manner. His teaching and practice of Christianity were scientific in the highest sense of that Word. They embraced the whole field of science, theology, and medicine. After his departure Christianity, left in the hands of those who were less spiritually-minded, began to lose its vitality. His words were passed from mouth to mouth, but after the apostolic age the signs following grew less and less, until in the fourth century (about the year 325 A.D.) spiritual healing almost entirely disappeared from the Christian church. Dogmatic Christians then adhered with great vehemence to a variety of theories, and bitter controversies and persecutions divided the church, and split what should be a religion of universal Love into sects of every description. Today Christianity, based on healing, is slowly emerging from the sepulcher of materialism, and Christian Science has come to place it upon its original footing by revealing a strong, positive, and scientific Christianity.
Spiritual, scientific knowing brings to light true being, and reveals man as God's image and likeness. To illustrate: a friend of mine recently related the following incident. She burned her finger severely on a red-hot element of the electric cooker. The pain was intense, and for a moment she was not able to think. Then quite suddenly this thought came to her: "You are a spiritual idea in the Mind which is God, and you cannot burn an idea. You are a spiritual idea, and that is all you are, so in truth you cannot be burned." She repeated this statement aloud and vehemently in different forms, and in a short time the pain stopped. The thought then came, "Oh, you must bandage up that finger and put something on it." Then as if two people were speaking she seemed to hear the argument: "Which finger are you going to bind up?" "My first finger, of course," said the other voice. "Why?" "Well, because that is the finger that was −" Then suddenly she saw what she was doing. With one half of her thinking she was declaring for her spiritual nature, and with the other she was accepting the material evidence. That was the end of the argument. She slept well that night, and the finger was quickly healed.
Can we prove our understanding of Christian Science in this way? If so we can classify ourselves as scientific Christians. We do not achieve results by means of a faith-cure. Christian Science is not a faith-cure, but gives a demonstrable, scientific understanding of man's spiritual nature which, when understood, corrects and governs every detail of our existence.
It is only eighty years since the light of Christian Science dawned upon its Discoverer, Mary Baker Eddy, but already this religion has spread rapidly. Its growth is not, however, to be measured by the number of church members, but rather by its far-reaching spiritual influence in the realm of human consciousness, especially in those three great fields of thought, science, theology, and medicine. These are usually considered to be modes of mortal thought, but Christian Science shows them to have a deeper significance. On page 118 of Science and Health Mrs. Eddy writes, "In their spiritual significance, Science, Theology, and Medicine are means of divine thought, which include spiritual laws emanating from the invisible and infinite power and grace." The discoveries of physical science primarily touch only the material side of existence. They seldom teach man to know more about God. They do not instruct him how to work out his own salvation. Electricity, the radio, the automobile, the airplane make our material sense of existence more pleasurable. We are able to enjoy them because men and women have pursued the quest of material knowledge through the centuries, and have done so with devotion and fervency. But we must not forget there is another side to the picture. Has not human knowledge also evolved the high explosive and the atomic bomb? The knowledge of good and evil is a dangerous compound. It was the fruit of that tree of knowledge which first brought death. Discoveries when used for the benefit of mankind help to improve our ways of living, but they are not spiritual. They do not disclose the ultimate meaning of life, or give man his moral and spiritual freedom.
Christian Science reveals man's inseparability from God, divine Life, and enables him to demonstrate it. Life is harmonious, Life is eternal, Life is spiritual. It is clear that we are all alive. That being true, we should know something about the source of all life − God. It is also clear that we think; therefore we must know something about divine Mind, the source of all intelligence. We can see law and order in our surroundings, therefore we are not entirely divorced from divine Truth expressing itself in law and order. As a rule we are considerate to one another, kindly and often courteous, therefore we are aware in a measure of the presence of divine Love, from which these qualities emanate. We may well be grateful for this simple but irrefutable evidence of divine Life, Truth, and Love, although it may seem to us nothing more than a natural everyday occurrence.
But at this moment when thought is directed to God we can begin to accept in these simple manifestations of Life and Love not, perhaps, the ultimate fulfillment but certainly the promise of man's divinity. Since evidence of life, law, intelligence, and love are present here in this audience, can it be doubted that the source from which they spring must be present also? Can we not say with Jacob, "This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven"? (Gen. 28:17). Declares Mrs. Eddy: "Heaven is not a locality, but a divine state of Mind" (Science and Health, p. 291), and in order to enter this state of Mind we need inspiration and revelation. We require honesty, humility, fervency, consecration, compassion, wisdom, joy, and purity. We need the wings of the morning. Then our transit is assured and we shall find ourselves here and now in that desired haven. The Apostle John says, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God" (I John 3:2). Here and now we can find our sonship in God. "Now is the accepted time," says the Apostle Paul; "behold, now is the day of salvation" (II Cor. 6:2).
How perfectly the Bible and the Christian Science textbook are agreed. Both declare the same truths, both insist on proof rather than profession. The treasure house and the key to its treasuries are inseparable. They reveal the inner kingdom where the Christ is forever revealing to us our God-given dominion. And what of our part in furthering the revelation of Christian Science? What do we need in order to demonstrate it?
We need a deep desire, fervency, consecration, spiritual awareness, and willingness to sacrifice the human sense of self for the cause of Christ. If a student of Christian Science fails to find inspiration and fruition in his work, if healing does not follow closely upon his prayers, then it may be wise for him to give more time to self-examination. Perhaps, the mesmerism of a physical body or the cares of this world temporarily have closed his eyes to the ever-present Christ.
After the crucifixion of Jesus two
of his disciples fled from the turmoil at
God's redeeming love is manifested through the Christ and is always present whether we scale the mount of revelation or walk the road to Emmaus. Even if we doubt and fear and run away from our problems, divine Love is always beside us on the road. We turn to our Bible and the Christian Science textbook to gain inspiration. We entertain the Christ, we make the truth practical, and then suddenly our eyes are opened and we realize the imminence, the power, the Science of ever-present Love.
The seeming evidence of darkness and indifference is not true evidence about man. They are the mesmerism of the carnal mind, which denies man's dominion over all the earth and attempts to shut him out from heaven. Our earthly existence, when scientifically expressed in health and spiritual harmony, is a foretaste of heaven. In Christian Science we can read our title clear. We know whence we came and whither we go. We do not believe in chance, or fatalism. We understand the government of God's unerring laws of Life, Truth, and Love, and we trustfully put ourselves under His government. Spiritual and original good is ours; the spiritual man includes no original sin. Man is not first a sinner; he is first and always a son of God; his origin is divine, his existence spiritual. He does not believe, he understands; he does not dream, he knows.
Let us go out from this hall not as miserable sinners but as the sons of God, with the ability to prove our sonship. Let us consecrate ourselves to the great Cause of Christ, heal the sick, reform the sinner, and raise the spiritually dead; then we shall prove the truth of St. John's words as given in the book of Revelation (11:15), "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever."