The Theology of Christian Science
Edward A. Kimball
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
In the month of August, an Associated Press dispatch was sent broadcast to the newspapers of the United States and was generally published by them; it was stated as follows:
"Warsaw, Ind., Aug. 20. — Speaking at the opening of the eleventh annual Bible conference at Winona Lake this morning, the Reverend Mr. Chapman arraigned Christian Science, saying:
"'False doctrines have arisen, and chiefest of those is Christian Science. The Christian Scientists dishonor our Lord. Anything which covers or hides the purpose for which Christ came is false and ought to be rebuked.."
It is my purpose to give some attention to this statement because it is utterly false and utterly unjustifiable.
The history of religious sects and activity declares that sectarian antipathies and rancor have shamefully disfigured humanity. Men have instinctively been searchers after God and in their search have stopped to formulate innumerable conceptions of Deity, most of which have been absurd, fantastic, impossible; but, being good, bad, or indifferent, as the case may have been, they have all fallen in line with the inveterate propensity of sectarian intolerance to waylay and to obstruct or destroy everything unlike themselves and particularly to make common cause against every new phase of religious thought. History declares that in this behalf, sectarian strife has done every foul and ruthless thing that the human mind could discover or invent, and impeaches it as having been the monster assassin of the race. It also records the fact that the Christian sects have afforded no exception to the rule, but, on the contrary, have conspicuously stained themselves with the blood of unrighteous conflict and the poison of falsehood. Alas that the Christian Church whose glory has added luster to the centuries has not yet learned to "put up the sword."
A half century ago there were more than one hundred Christian sects on earth claiming to be representative of the Christianity of Christ and each one justified its separate existence and aloofness on the ground that it was different from all the others and in many instances so vastly different that reconciliation was impossible, yea, inconceivable. Upon this scene a generation ago, when every Christian sect admitted that it was different from all the rest, the religious sect which is designated by the appellation Christian Science made its entrance and declared itself to be likewise different from all the rest. In that hour when scores of Christian sects were in confessed disagreement as to what Christianity is, which one, if any, was qualified to define with unerring amplification the substance, vesture, and activity of pure Christianity? It is doubtful if any of them would have admitted that any other one was thus qualified and yet, ignoring the incongruity of the act, they with characteristic unanimity, stoned the newcomer and declared it un-Christian, simply because it was different from them, which were also different from each other.
I believe that we are too wise to repine much because the Christian Science cause has been so pitilessly wounded, so stung by misrepresentation and libel; too wise not to expect that history will repeat itself and that enmity will continue to smite Christian Science until Christ reigns on earth absolutely. It would be folly to yoke ourselves in unprofitable contest with everyone who chooses to misrepresent or defame; we ought to be too dignified to contend with each self-appointed marauder whose challenge is couched in a falsehood which should not be dignified by means of a denial.
Ten years ago the opponents of Christian Science were industriously announcing that we do not believe in God. By means of its Lecture Board and the other agencies at the disposal of the denomination, this falsehood has, within these ten years, been so thoroughly exposed and refuted, that by this time the one who would utter it well knows that he would instantly be accounted grossly ignorant or grossly dishonest. Recently, as if by concert of action, these same opponents, intent on bringing Christian Science into disrepute and upon obstructing its influence, are declaring that it is in denial of the mission of Christ.
Among religious people of to-day, many say that God foreordained the damnation of some of His creatures. Many others say He did not. Many claim that He has ordained the damnation of unbaptized infants and others say He has not. Some say that He has provided for the damnation of the heathen and others say not. Millions believe in the confessional and in absolution as being essentials of Christianity and other millions say they are not. Some believe in probation after death; others deny it. Many believe in eternal punishment in hell and others reject such belief. I might go on indefinitely in the mention of such antipodes as these, all of which make conspicuous the fact that the Christian sects hold widely different views as to what constitutes Christianity, and in doing so I would disclose the fact that there is no unity of Christian beliefs and no universal, faultless standard among them from which to sit in judgment on Christian Science. Moreover we freely admit that the one whose estimate of God includes the belief that our infinitely good heavenly Father requires the damnation of a little irresponsible baby because some one has neglected to baptize it will hardly approve of Christian Science which insists that Jesus was right in declaring "for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
Although other people license themselves to indulge in indiscriminate and offensive references to Christian Science and its exponents, we are taught never to make any reprisals nor to retort in kind, nevertheless there is no intention to endure, without protest or correction, such statements as the one I am to consider at this time.
I would be glad if we might regard it as being simply an innocent mistake, but on the contrary it is a gratuitous, inexcusable wrong. The one who utters it with intent to discredit a people who claim to be Christians assumes a grave responsibility. In refutation of this wrong, I shall make a brief statement, not merely of my views, but of the teaching of Christian Science concerning the divine Christ and the nature of his mission. In the textbook of Christian Science, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mrs. Eddy, she has done this far better than I can do it and with greater amplification than this limited hour affords me. To anyone who will investigate the subject, her book is urgently commended, and the promise is made that whoever may study it with an hospitable willingness to learn the real meaning of the author, rather than with a predetermined intention to mangle and pervert her meaning, will learn that Christian Science is preeminently Christian, honoring God and Christ in its every word. Although not attempting to use her phraseology or to republish any part of her book, it is proper to say that no Christian Scientist does more in making such an explanation than to reproduce in part or to reiterate what she has already written and taught on the subject.
In order to consider properly the mission of Christ, it is essential to know what was the cause, animus, and inducement of that mission. By common consent the Christian sects will all concede that the one infinite God was the author thereof, and that it was in accord with His nature, purpose, and law, and this admission compels the inquiry, What is God? Millions of opinions obtrude themselves upon the attention of the world in reply to this question. Contemplating the vast network of finite conjecture concerning the infinite One, some one has aptly said "every man is the creator of his own god." Paul, who understood that God is Spirit, declared that He must be spiritually discerned, and this great truth upsets and annuls all human anthropomorphic conceptions and abolishes all manlike and man-made gods.
It is impossible for human terminology adequately to depict infinite Spirit; but to the extent that recourse is had to mere form of words whereby to exalt human conception, they must at least declare that God is one supreme, infinite, self-existent, all-inclusive, spiritual, individual, self-conscious being; that He is the sole creator of all that has actual, legitimate existence, and is, therefore, the origin, cause, source, basis, foundation, and Principle of all actual things, and the government and law which control all things. The definition must declare that God is Life, meaning thereby that He not only is Life, but has ordained all that manifests life, and is the positive, changeless, ever-active law of life to all that He has created. God is Truth, meaning thereby that He is omniscience, all Science, all wisdom, all intelligence, all Mind. God is Love, meaning that He is good, wholly, always, necessarily, and that He hath done all things well. God is omnipresence, meaning that the only real, eternal presence, substance, and continuance is and will be spiritual. God is omnipotence must mean that good, Spirit, is the only, actual, and supreme power. The omnipotent God is indivisible as power, is adequate and irresistible; without an equal or a competitor.
The realm of God, Spirit, is the spiritual; and "to be spiritually minded is life and peace." The relation of God toward his children indicates that God is more benevolent than the fondest parent, more tender than the tenderest mother, more watchful than the most faithful shepherd.
This is a diluted abridgment of Mrs. Eddy's definition of God. Thus she has presented the pure, spiritual Science of being. By way of a correlated analysis or definition, Christian Science teaches that God is incorporeal, "without body, parts, or passions" — that He is inorganic, non-structural, imponderable, and that He cannot be discerned by what are called the material senses of mortals, which senses promise nothing but the annihilation of man. It teaches that His immaculate nature and allness do not include evil, that He does no evil and does not coöperate with evil and does not need to have recourse to it in order to accomplish good. The unspeakable glory of God, the supreme sovereignty of His spiritual perfection and completeness, His limitless beauty, holiness, and volition — all that means our adorable God, surpasses immeasurably in majesty and sublimity the poor words of mortals, who as yet "see through a glass darkly." Nevertheless in this transitional hour, when words lend wings to ideas and serve as heavenward guides, I venture to ask you to sit in judgment on this inexcusable insinuation and declare to yourselves whether or no the words of Christian Science dishonor God.
Is it dangerous to plead that God is changeless good? Is there mischief in the entreaty that mortals will turn from the fatal philosophy of materialism and become acquainted with God as Spirit and find heaven as the result? Are we a menace to the race in reiterating the words of the apostle "to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace"? Ought we to be stoned because we expect too much of God or trust Him too much in the hour of peril and are taught to obey His every mandate and to live without reproach before Him?
The theology of Christian Science is based on the foregoing postulates. All the derivatives and correlatives of this theology are in consistent and exact accord therewith. They constitute the basis of all correct reasoning and conclusions. Everything unlike this primary statement concerning God is rejected as being unsound and unlike God. Mrs. Eddy contends that the mission of Christ was in exact accord therewith and that any theory concerning that mission which does not parallel this asserted divine nature, will, and law is erroneous. In her textbook she has grandly explained the application of this divine Science, this spiritual theology, to the uplifting of a fallen race, and I am obliged to use almost her exact words in order to do any justice to the idea. It is this — that the divine will and power, God's law, which is the law of immortal harmony and perfection to His own — the things of his creating, is conversely "a law of annihilation to all that is unlike" God, (Science and Health, page 243:27) — the law of extinction to sin, vice, and all that defiles and distresses humanity. This divine law of annihilation to evil indicates the motive, the initiative of Christ's mission, the manifestation of God for salvation through Christ.
What was the Messiah? What is the truth about Jesus Christ? What does the name mean? It means Jesus, the anointed. As one wise person has expressed it, it means "Jesus, possessed of spiritual understanding and power without measure." The historical Jesus was born of a woman; his body, his bodily presence or corporeality, was not God. He knew it was not God nor a part of divinity. Speaking of the human sense of himself, he said: "Of myself I can do nothing," "Why callest thou me good?" The chemical elements that constituted the body that was born of Mary do not constitute immortal, indestructible Spirit, and are no part of God. What and wherein then is the divinity of Christ? What was it that was the son, the offspring of the living God? Paul said, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ." Why? Because it is the Mind that overcame sin and reformed the sinner; it healed the sick; it raised the dead, raised Jesus from the dead, and overcame every law of evil and of matter that was inimical to the welfare of man.
What mind was it which was in Christ? The Bible refers to the Mind that is Spirit ("to be spiritually minded is life and peace"), and it also refers to the carnal mind which is enmity against God. Which mind was in Christ? He himself explicitly declared the answer. He said, "My Father doeth the work." "My Father worketh in me." Is his Father omniscience, all knowledge, all truth? Was it this all knowledge, this divine Mind, that worked in Christ? Was it less than the divine Mind? Could it be more? Is there any rationally conceivable explanation of the words of Jesus other than that the Mind which was in Christ is the Mind that is God? Did not this Immanuel constitute the divine sonship, the divine Christ, who was the manifestation of God, begotten only and wholly of God, and expressing the unity of God and Christ which was declared in the words, "I and my Father are one"? This explanation alone is unmysterious, fathomable, convincing, satisfying. What then was the Saviour, the Messiah? It was the Mind which was in Christ and which was before Abraham.
Why did the Saviour come? The scriptures state that he "came to do the will of God." What God? The God that is good and that has already done all things well. He came as the representative of God, to do wholly according to the divine nature and it ought to be concluded that all his acts were in such accord. The Scriptures also state that he came to fulfil law. What law? The law of God, the law of Life, of perfection, completeness, harmony, — the law of health. This simple statement that he came to demonstrate law ought to have sufficed to withhold men from the utterly untenable supposition that he acted in contravention of law in healing the sick, and thereby upset the order of nature and of the universe.
What was his mission? The Bible says he came "to seek and to save that which was lost." What did he find that was lost? He found a world that was involved in sin, ignorance, vice, disease, woe, oppression, tears; one that was in every way insufferably disturbed by the hard attrition of evil.
How much of this evil which defiled and tortured humanity did Christ come to save men from? What does the world need to be saved from? Go ask each one of the people of the earth, "What would you be saved from?" and you will get by way of answer, "Oh, from these bitter tears," or, ''from this breaking heart," or, "from the agony of disease," "from insanity," "from the bondage and penalty of sin and fear and from the law of sin and death." Ask the question and get the answer, and you will learn that a fallen, lost race needs to be saved from everything that is evil.
Was it and is it the mission of Christ to save from all evil and to abolish the law of sin and death? Christian Science declares that such was his mission and insists that that mission was adequate, unlimited, ample. Does it dishonor our Lord to declare that his work was to "overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil," meaning thereby all evil? The Bible states explicitly that his mission was to destroy the works of the devil. In pursuit of that mission, what did he do? He reformed the sinner, healed the sick, raised the dead, and did other mighty works for the relief of humanity. Inasmuch as the Bible says "through sin came death into the world," and inasmuch as Jesus indicated his sense of disease by saying "Satan hath bound the woman," and in consideration of other similar statements in the Bible, can it be said in defiance or ignorance thereof that Christian Science dishonors Christ in declaring that sickness is one of the instances of evil which he came to destroy and did destroy?
Christ came to deliver the world from sin. What is sin? Did God create it? Is it like Him or unlike Him? Is it a part of the reality of being which He made and pronounced good? Does God coöperate with sin; does He give it deliberate sanction or permission; does it possess, in spite of God, all the elements of self-continuance and immortality?
What is the discovery or revelation of Christian Science concerning this mystery of evil? Considered as a phenomenon of human existence, sin is a form of moral insanity, — the intoxication and delirium of wickedness. Compared with the Mind which was in Christ, sin is the paraphernalia of the carnal mind, an utter abomination; destructive, inexcusable, intolerable, awful. With undeviating discrimination Christian Science pronounces as sin all that is unlike or contrary to the pure Mind which was in Christ, and points out the inevitable punishment which sin imposes on its victim. From the standpoint of Christian Science sin is abhorrent and fatal, and from this standpoint it entreats the sinner absolutely to abandon sin. The word of Christ Jesus is a warning to mortals that they must forsake sin in order to escape the hell which sin kindles within its victim. Considered as a phenomenon of the carnal or mortal mind, all of which is enmity against God, sin in all its phases, including its consequences, sickness and death, is found to be a monstrous abnormity, a disorder, an illegitimate impropriety, having no basis in God or Truth, no inherent power of continuance, no immortality. It is the very opposite of the reality which constitutes divine Spirit and God's actual creation, and is the antipode of spiritual righteousness. Jesus clearly indicated the nature of sin by designating it a lie.
I do not think that anyone living more fully understands the nature of sin than does Mrs. Eddy. No one more fully sees the necessity of exterminating it. No one more radically denounces it or deplores it, and yet she knows and says concerning this offspring of ignorance and degradation that it is in the realm of awful unreality, the riot of a false sense of life. She says that mortals are making a reality of that which is scientifically unreal; that which is a fraud and imposition, the impure invention of evil.
No one makes a poorer use of that which he calls his mind, than he who rushes precipitately and prematurely to the conclusion, that this scientific Christ-like analysis gives license to sin or ignores it. No sane person can intelligently read Mrs. Eddy's works on this subject with honest purpose, and arrive at any other conclusion than the one which I have stated, but in order that there may be no uncertainty about this refutation I will say that because of the practical application of Christian Science to humanity, the Christian Scientist recognizes and contends against all the phenomena of sin. He knows that to all intents and purposes all mortals are sinners and are under condemnation. He realizes that they are as disastrously involved in sin as though it were a legitimate entity and a part of God's kingdom. He knows that it is unpermissible and in violation of divine law, and he knows that mortals must turn from it in order to be saved, and that they will suffer for it until they are redeemed. He knows that there is but one Saviour and one Way and that Christ is that Saviour and Way. He knows moreover, that Christ Jesus as the son of God affords an essential mediatorial intercession and the only possible atonement through which mortals may be delivered from sin and its hell of punishment.
The distinctive difference between Christian Science and other phases of religious belief is that they hold that sin is a part of reality, is natural, and is as indestructible as good itself; whereas we hold that it is wholly temporal and destructible, the spawn of an evil philosophy, and is no more a part of the naturalness of real being than hysteria and delirium are among the normal concomitants of human existence.
The condition of belief which seeks to crucify Christian Science has, with indecorous violence to its teaching, forced the erroneous conclusion that because Christian Science denies the reality of sin it necessarily denies the atonement of Christ. After erecting this man of straw, it proceeds to revile and stone it and to continue in ignoble service its own unwarranted conclusion. If this wrong thing were true, it would indicate a perversion on the part of Christian Science that would be equivalent to the denial of the service of a physician who had healed an insane patient but whose work was repudiated on the ground that insanity is abnormal.
The ordinary layman protests against the numberless creeds, dogmas, doctrines, beliefs, and theories which encumber human thought with their confusion; therefore, in correcting this false conclusion, I will avoid all technicalities and say that Christian Science teaches this — that the human being who is to be saved can only be saved because of God and through Christ. It teaches that every step of the way from the mire of his sinful living to the glory of a pure heaven, every footstep of reform, every touch of truth that is to purify and exalt him and to procure his redemption and deliverance from evil, — all this must be and may be accomplished because of what Christ is, what Christ has done, and will do. There is no other way, but this way demands more than morality, more than mere ethical probity, — it demands spiritual regeneration.
According to Christian Science, Christ Jesus was the voice of God and therefore the voice of pure Christianity to all men throughout all time. The supposition that he spoke to but one particular age or for a limited personnel is far below the grandeur of his ministry. As the voice of universal Truth he said, "Go, preach" — "Heal the sick" — "I am the way" — "Follow thou me" — "The works that I do shall ye do also" — "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Did he mean what he said or was the utterance a mockery? Did he mean that men needed to obey this divine mandate? Did he mean that Christians must preach the gospel according to his way, or not? Did he mean that they must heal the sick according to his way, or not? Has any one divine authority for declaring that he meant one and did not mean the other? Is it reasonable to regard his works as correct interpreters of his words? If so, is it legitimate to believe that his work of healing the sick indicates that according to his word it ought to be done and can be done? Is it sacrilegious to heal according to his command and way? If so, is it also sacrilegious to be pure in heart according to his command and way? Do the Christian Scientists dishonor Christ in seeking to obey every mandate, to heed every rule, and to follow in his way without evasion or rebellion?
Christian Scientists believe in the immaculate conception. They believe that there is but one divine Christ and that there will be no other. They believe that no mortal is equal to Christ and that there will be no equal. They believe that his entire work was of divine impulsion. They believe that the Messiahship of Christ affords the only possible forgiveness of sin and that Christ alone can effect the reconciliation of man to God.
Christ gave proof of the supremacy of Spirit and manifested to mortals, in every word and act, the power of God over all evil. He confirmed the Scriptural declarations that God is the natural healer of the sick.
Instead of hiding or covering the purpose for which Christ came, Christian Science is dispelling the mystery that has enveloped the human sense of that purpose and is lifting the veil which has largely obscured the full import of his mission and of its promise and possibilities for mankind. The human estimate of Christ and his salvation has been dwarfed, minimized, and limited. By reason of an amazing mutilation of the works of Christ it has set aside the healing of the sick as being a manifestation of mystery instead of utility and of local rather than of universal import.
Forty years ago Mrs. Eddy began her plea for the acceptance of a more spiritual interpretation of this mission and for a larger and more explicit obedience. She sounded a recall to the purity and ampleness of primitive Christianity and to the original healing work which history declares marked the first three Christian centuries. She still makes the same plea and urges the world to consider the subject and to learn that the healing of the sick according to the way of Christ Jesus is not only an essential of Christian progress but is a privilege of unspeakable benefit to stricken people.
The theology of Christ was based on a pure theism; on one infinite spiritual good unsullied by any taint of evil, because God is of "too pure eyes to behold iniquity."
His crusade against evil shows clearly that he regarded it as something to overcome and to destroy. By destroying evil he exhibited its destructibility. He certainly did not come to destroy that which was indestructible.
His Christianity reveals the divine rule whereby sin and disease and kindred evils are to be exterminated rather than avoided. The amplitude of his adequate way was indicated by his words, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden." Is this invitation for the wicked man whose burden is the sting of sin? Is it also for the good man whose burden is the sting of pain? Yes.
How did Jesus heal the sick? He knew more about God, man, and the universe than all the people that have ever lived. Indeed, he was possessed of accurate, definite knowledge without measure. He was therefore qualified to act from the standpoint of pure knowledge or science. In healing the multitude of all manner of diseases did he act according to wisdom and science or not? If possessed of absolute knowledge and science would it not have been consummate folly to resort to ignorance, mystery, and disorder? In healing the sick was he sensible, practical, natural, and lawful? Did he do this practical thing in the best, wisest, and right way? If it could be shown that he did not, then Christianity would collapse in the showing. There is no alternative; the answer must be that he healed the sick in the best and right way according to infinite Science and divine or primal law. Any other conclusion would degrade the mission of Christ to the level of inferiority. In coming to show the way of salvation and in entreating the world to do likewise, did he mean that they should heal the sick and do it in the right way, or after thus exhibiting the right way did he think that Christians could follow him and do the same things by adopting a contrary and inferior way? Finally, if Jesus healed the sick according to knowledge or Science and did it lawfully, is it possible for a human being to "go and do likewise"? If he can do it, then the kingdom of heaven is at hand. If it were true that he cannot do it, the utterances of Christ would be valueless. Jesus and the disciples healed the sick by invoking and relying upon the supreme power of God. He knew that the law of divine Love is the law of life and health to man and the law of extermination to sin and fear and disease, and he knew that all that is necessary to accomplish the cure of disease is available to mortals now.
The theology and practice of Christian Science are in exact unity with the words and works of Christ Jesus. They constitute precept, example, and goal for the Christian Scientist. By them he is incited to aspire to holier living and to overcome everything that defileth. Remembering that Christ is the overcoming of the world, the flesh, and the devil, he who is a genuine sincere Christian Scientist is striving to go and do likewise.
I know that words cannot be made adequately to set forth the unspeakable glory of our divine Christ nor indicate the consummate blessedness of his mission nor measure the gratitude and adoration which responsively flow from those who have felt the touch of this divine afflatus and who yield willing obedience to Christ's rule and way. I do not urge that these simple words furnish more than feeble tribute to our Lord, but I am reminded that since the day when Mrs. Eddy first published Christian Science to the world and consecrated her all to this ministry, hundreds of thousands of men and women have been delivered from the depths of sin and vice and disease and woe, and as these people come with penitential tear and chastened heart and song of rejoicing and grateful praise, I know that these things eloquently do honor to our Christ who promised that "these signs shall follow them that believe."
[Delivered at Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist, Chicago, and published in The Chicago Evening Post, September 29, 1905. This is the eighth of 18 lectures featured in the book Lectures and Articles on Christian Science by Edward A. Kimball.]