Christian Science: Its Message to the Twentieth Century
Thomas A. McClain, C.S., of
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
The lecturer was introduced by Mrs. Jo Ann Metcalf, as follows:
A most loving welcome is extended
to you by First Church of Christ, Scientist,
The Bible is the authority for the teachings of Christian Science. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, writes, "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Each of us has the opportunity this evening, as we listen to this message, to learn more how we gain this peace for ourselves, and thus for the world.
It is now my privilege to present to you, our speaker, Thomas A. McClain.
The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:
This century has often been depicted as an age of emancipation from material limitations. We see evidences all about us of scientific and technological advances. Yet, in many areas of human experience the forces of matter appear more threatening than ever before. The new-found ability to harness and control vast material forces engenders the fear that this knowledge may be used against us.
The central need of the twentieth century is for mankind's spiritual advancement. The universal demands to live in peace with one's fellow beings, to share and distribute the world's goods in justice and in mercy, the search for a true and unfailing cure for mankind's ills, the need for a higher morality in public and private life - these demands are pressing in on humanity today with challenging urgency.
During the latter half of the last century Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, wrote in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 196), "If materialistic knowledge is power, it is not wisdom. It is but a blind force. Man has 'sought out many inventions,' but he has not yet found it true that knowledge can save him from the dire effects of knowledge." That mankind can be saved through a knowledge of Truth, or God, from the dire effects of materialistic knowledge, and that this salvation is the need of the hour, is the message of Christian Science to the twentieth century.
During this hour I hope to show you that Christian Science is the revelation of Truth to this age - the divine Comforter promised by the Master. More than a mere message of hope, it imparts the demonstrable understanding of God's power and presence. Its message to the twentieth century is its message to you and to me: a message of spiritual redemption, and of divine healing; a message of sure defense against evil, and a message of peace and freedom for all mankind.
The Master, Christ Jesus, might well have foreseen the challenges of this space age when he spoke of "signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations. . . . Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth." But Jesus continues with this comforting assurance, "And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:25-28).
By revealing the truth of man's sonship with God, Christian Science redeems us from the false knowledge of mortality and sin. This truth was first revealed in Christ Jesus who brought to humanity a living example of how the divine reaches the human. Jesus was a human being, but he perfectly embodied the Christ, the spiritual idea of sonship, at one with the Father. When Jesus spoke of his divine sonship - as when he said, "I and my Father are one" (John ) and "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do" (John ) - he was referring to the Christ, his spiritual selfhood.
The Christ includes your true selfhood and mine. It awakens us to our unity with the divine Mind, infinite Life, Truth, and Love. These terms, Mind, Life, Truth, Love, and also Spirit, Principle, and Soul, are used synonymously in Christian Science to define the nature of Deity. Through the Christ we feel the divine energy of Spirit, the governing influence of divine Principle, the satisfaction of Soul, spiritually understood. Thus Christ awakens us to man's present and eternal relationship to God, his divine source.
This relationship is clearly established in the spiritual record of creation found in the first chapter of Genesis where we read that God created man in His own image and likeness. The opposite picture - a picture of man as originating in dust, subject to the deceptions of evil and the helpless victim of sin - epitomizes the false knowledge of mortality. The second chapter of Genesis in which this concept of man's origin and destiny is set forth is a very enlightening allegory. This allegory explains the suppositional existence of evil or mortal mind. Mortal mind deceives itself with its own false conception of man. The real man, the son of God, is not in the lie of mortality; nor can he in reality be deceived by it.
Humanly speaking we are redeemed from the false knowledge of mortality and sin by true self-knowledge, which comes to us through spiritual sense, the active awareness of man's divine origin and nature. Spiritual sense is inherent in each individual; it is his eternal, unbreakable link with God. Spiritual sense is like a pilot light in human consciousness, which can never be extinguished. This pilot light of Truth burns, dimly or brightly, in each one of us. When we become willing to "turn on the gas" - to accept the true understanding of God and man - then Truth floods human experience with the warmth and power of God's goodness and love.
Perhaps, some of you are thinking at this point that to do this demands a great deal more of us than at first appears; and, you're absolutely right! If it were otherwise there would not be enough Christian Science churches to hold the people wanting to get into them. In Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy points out (p. 322), "It is easier to desire Truth than to rid one's self of error." The fact is, this message of redemption from sin and mortality requires an answer. It requires a response from the hearts of those who receive it.
What is the nature of this response? What is required of us in this age? Is it not enough that notable advances are being scored in almost every field of human endeavor? New methods for social and economic betterment are being devised on every side. But are we as individuals weighed in the balance and found wanting? The most challenging demand of these times still remains that of working out one's own salvation in the way Jesus taught.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Christ Jesus said (Matt. 5:6), "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." This is the response we can make today to the Christly message of spiritual redemption: a hunger and thirst after righteousness, a desire to be filled with all that is spiritually satisfying. Students of Christian Science learn from its teachings how to relate the Sermon on the Mount to their daily lives, not merely in its moral overtones but in specific application of its truths.
Take, for example, the experience of a friend of mine who was employed on the sales force of a large manufacturing concern. Shortly after he joined this firm, the business entered its annual rush season, and my friend found his orders piling up in the production department. It appeared that some of the production workers had taken a strong dislike to him and were deliberately delaying his work. The firm's manager noticed the mounting friction and cautioned the salesman about it. Regardless of who was at fault, it was clear that he had to do something about it,
What he did was really quite simple. He began to work with his own thought about the situation. He prayed for spiritual enlightenment. As a student of Christian Science, it was his regular practice to study the weekly Lesson-Sermon from the Bible and the Christian Science textbook each morning before going to work. This study and prayer helped him gain more spiritual views of his work and of his fellow workers, as well. It was a specific instance of the hungering and thirsting after righteousness commended by the Master. My friend was not asking God to do something about the problem. He was uncovering what in his own thought was unlike God and replacing it with righteousness - with spiritual understanding.
This involved seeing clearly that man, the child of God, is not an erring, unloving, or unlovable mortal dwelling in a competitive, fear-laden environment. As a child of God, man abides in the atmosphere of Spirit, in the presence and activity of Love's ideas. Expressing the divine nature, he is free to live and work in harmony with others and could not possibly want, or feel compelled, to do otherwise.
Now it was not enough for my friend to know these truths of man in simply an abstract sort of way. He had to make them his own! He must conform his own thought and action to the truth he was knowing. Suggestions of resentment, of self-importance, and the fear that he might not succeed in his work had to be cast out. He opened his thinking to a new sense of humility, love for others, and the spiritual assurance of God's control over all.
This change in thought brought changes in his relations with his fellow workers. He discovered new things about them. He found that they responded to kindness and gentleness, that they were as interested in doing a good job as he, and that certain ways of doing his work could help them achieve better production. He was surprised at how much they had changed! You see, this was a transformation of his own thought. It was not a manipulation of the human mind; it was a spiritualization of it. This brought the situation under God's law of adjustment and healing. My friend's relation with the production workers became one of friendship and cooperation, for which a much relieved manager commended him highly. The production difficulties were completely ironed out and happy associations continued over succeeding years.
Yes, Christian Science redeems us from the false knowledge of mortality. It speaks to this age as an age of scientific thinkers; but its message should not be confused with popular theories of thought control, or self-improvement, which deal solely with the human mind. Christian Science is a method not only of self-improvement but of self-immolation. Individual spiritual regeneration, as taught by Christ Jesus, lies at the heart of its message of redemption.
It was her love of the Bible and the teachings of Christ Jesus that brought Mary Baker Eddy to the discovery of Christian Science. As a young girl, reared in the traditions of her Puritan ancestors, she was taught the Scriptures and in early life became a member of the Congregational church. From her spiritually minded mother, she gained a simple but firm faith in God's goodness and love. Despite prolonged periods of illness and a succession of personal misfortunes, which plagued her early adult life, her faith in God grew stronger. Repeated disappointments in the search for a permanent cure for her ills, when thrust into the soil of her religious faith, germinated seeds of a deeper spiritual experience.
This experience, which took place in 1866, was the discovery of Christian Science. Mrs. Eddy was remarkably healed of serious injuries resulting from a fall. The healing was gained through prayer alone. To others such an experience might have remained simply a miraculous cure, a gratifying incident of divine intervention; but this woman was fitted by God to fulfill a vital mission in this age. Later, she wrote in Science and Health (p. 307), "God had been graciously preparing me during many years for the reception of this final revelation of the absolute divine Principle of scientific mental healing." Her own healing opened the door to this revelation of Truth.
Prior years of diligent study of the Bible were not to be compared to the search of the Scriptures that for three years following this healing consumed her waking hours. The time for the reappearing of the divine healing practiced by Christ Jesus had come. And it was to unfold in this age as a scientific system providing positive, demonstrable rules.
The message of Christian Science to the twentieth century is assuredly a message of spiritual healing. It has come in response to present-day needs and challenges; yet it repeats the teachings and Christian ethics of the Master, who centuries ago proved the power and willingness of God to heal the sick.
Many individuals today are suffering from physical ills which they honestly believe have come to them by the will of God. There may seem to be no other explanation since many of these sufferers are deeply religious, earnest, and upright people. Moreover, Christians often believe that God wills man to suffer. Suppose we take a moment right here to examine this question in the light of Christian Science.
In the ninth chapter of John's gospel it is recorded that Jesus and his disciples passing by observed a man who had been blind from his birth. The disciples asked if this blindness had been brought on by the man's sins or those of his parents, Jesus' illuminating answer was (John 9:3), "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." It was plain to the Master that God had not made the man blind. God's purpose for man is that His works - His will - be made manifest in him. Jesus illustrated this truth by healing the man and by his clear implication that this healing, rather than the disease, was the manifestation of God's will.
In Science and Health under the marginal heading, "Divine fulfilment," these statements appear (p. 474): "If sin, sickness, and death are as real as Life, Truth, and Love, then they must all be from the same source; God must be their author. Now Jesus came to destroy sin, sickness, and death; yet the Scriptures aver, 'I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.' Is it possible, then, to believe that the evils which Jesus lived to destroy are real or the offspring of the divine will?" Jesus fulfilled the will of God when he healed the sick, raised the dead, and reformed the sinner. He understood God as a loving Father, who sends only good to His children.
Like the Master, Christian Science brings the fact of God's love for His children into practical application in healing the sick. Rejecting the theory that diseases are part of God's creation, this Science proves their unreality - their illusory nature. If we understand that disease is unreal, that it is an illusion of mortal mind, we can bring to light the spiritual idea of man's true harmony, which seems to be lost. This process is described in the textbook in this way (p. 276), "The realization that all inharmony is unreal brings objects and thoughts into human view in their true light, and presents them as beautiful and immortal."
You see, we do not need to make man well. God has already done this, and His work is perfect and complete. Our need is simply to bring human thought under God's law, in somewhat the same way that one corrects a mathematical error by bringing thought into conformity with the law of mathematics. Take a simple error in arithmetic, such as, 2 x 2 = 5. Is 2 X 2 = 5 a sick 2 x 3 = 4? Is it a deformed 2 X 2 = 4, or a mesmerized 2 X 2 = 4? No, it isn't 2 x 2 = 4 at all; it is a lie about it! The true fact and the mathematical science that governs it are untouched by the lie. Erasing the error we attach to an object brings the object into human view in its true light. We see it as it really is.
A young married couple, whom I know, were just beginning the earnest study of Christian Science when their six-year-old boy became ill. At first it did not appear serious; however, a Christian Science practitioner was called and asked to take up treatment. Over the next few days the boy's condition grew worse and the parents became very fearful. Being new in Christian Science, and not having fully outgrown their dependence upon medicine, the parents decided to turn to medical diagnosis and treatment. The boy was admitted to the local hospital and the practitioner withdrew from the case.
After a series of examinations and X-rays, the parents were told that their boy was suffering from poliomyelitis in a severe form. As kindly as possible the doctors informed them he was not expected to live, but that should he live he would be severely paralyzed. Indeed, by this time, the boy was unable to move the lower portion of his body.
These parents could not believe that God meant their son to die. They had learned from their study of Christian Science something of the truth of God's infinite love for His children. With renewed faith, they resolved to turn wholeheartedly to God for the healing. The boy was returned to his home. The Christian Science practitioner was recalled, and to help the mother care for the boy a Christian Science nurse came on the case.
Improvement in the condition did not come immediately. The parents' fear had to be mastered and a better understanding gained of man's true, spiritual perfection and freedom as a child of God. Many hours were spent in prayer and in study of the Bible and the Christian Science textbook. The practitioner diligently continued treatment and made regular visits to the home to talk with the boy and his mother.
Gradually, the mental atmosphere began to change. The continued realization of God's ever-present love for His children overruled fear, and the belief in disease yielded to spiritual understanding. Up to this time, the parents had been unable to talk with the boy about the problem, but they now found that they could do so and, with true confidence, could assure him the healing would come. And come it did! Within three months from the time the boy had been carried from the hospital to his bed, he was running and playing with the other children. Every vestige of the disease was removed; and today, eight years later, this boy is as healthy and sturdy a lad as one could find.
The healing message of Christian Science is fully explained in Mrs. Eddy's book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." Students of Christian Science study this textbook daily, in conjunction with the King James Version of the Bible.
An interesting thing about this book is that you can read it for years without ever finishing it. You may read through to the last page, but unless you resolve to stop there, you will not have finished the book. With each additional reading, it unfolds anew.
Those who are reading Science and Health for the first time will find it helpful to recognize that it is a textbook for the advanced student as well as the beginner. In academic study we generally find a different textbook for each level of a subject; thus, we do not expect to encounter calculus in a textbook on arithmetic. For the student of Christian Science, however, there is only one textbook. If some of you are just beginning your study of Science and Health and are running into what you may feel is the "calculus" of Science, don't let it discourage you. You will find your questions answered as you continue studying, and as you apply this truth to the demands of daily life.
One of the most striking demands of these times is to find a sure defense against evil. Mankind seems beset by fears. It is not uncommon today to find magazine articles, the radio, television, or the daily press, discussing the possibility of nuclear holocaust and asking, "Can our civilization survive?" In America, controversy has reigned over the question of fallout shelters: Are they really safe, and should our neighbors be admitted? Local and national governments in many parts of the world are devising what they hope will be adequate defenses should their cities be attacked.
Into the heart of mankind's prayer for a sure defense against evil comes the message of Christian Science - a message for these times, addressed to you and to me. It speaks to us of God, of His loving care of all His children; but it speaks to us also of the nature of evil. It awakens within us the spiritual understanding that evil can never overpower good, that evil is but the supposition of a power opposed to God, good. This understanding is our sure defense!
It is generally conceded that a proper defense against an enemy requires a knowledge of him and a knowledge of the methods he would employ against us. The enemy, on the other hand, will endeavor to feed us false intelligence. He would have us believe that he is more powerful than we, that victory for us is unlikely if not impossible, that we should surrender or, at least, compromise with him. If we accept false intelligence, our actions will be governed by it and our defenses weakened.
Applying this same reasoning to our defense against evil, we may see that to know evil and understand its methods we must first know God and understand His allness. The reason for this is simple: Evil is the suppositional opposite of all that is God. It is the belief in a power apart from God, which counterfeits every idea God, good, includes. Evil would have us believe it is more powerful than good, that it can make us sick, that it can turn one person against another, or one nation against other nations.
Through personal sense, evil seems to attach itself to individual thought and experience. Actually, evil has no identity; circumstances do not limit us; nor can the occurrence of certain events, of themselves, threaten us. The some "thing" or some "body" seemingly pitted against us is the false intelligence evil evolves. Our defense against evil is to know its unreality and to reject its false intelligence.
In the textbook, we read (p. 102), "Mankind must learn that evil is not power. Its so-called despotism is but a phase of nothingness." By revealing the unreality of evil, Christian Science destroys mankind's fear of it. Armed with the understanding of God's allness, men recognize evil to be aggressive mental suggestion and bar the doors of their thought against it. This is a spiritually scientific method of defense.
Christian Scientists use this defense daily! They regard it as their duty to do so, not only for their own protection, but to aid in the general defense against every aggressive suggestion of evil. If this sounds to some of you like an arduous task, let me assure you that it is nothing of the kind. Defense against evil, as practiced in Christian Science, is a joy-filled, spiritual activity. It unfolds to human comprehension the grandeur and glory of God.
Anyone can practice this defense. Start with the simple suggestions that come almost daily - what we might call everyday errors: suggestions of fear, perhaps of illness, or of incurring someone's wrath; suggestions of loss, or of lack. All you need do is turn these suggestions around and send them back into the nothingness they came from. Since error is a denial of Truth, reversing error reveals Truth. Someone once said, “Fear is a demon and for every demon you cast out an angel will take its place.”
Angels are thoughts from God. As we cast out sinful, fear-ridden suggestions through spiritual understanding, we waken to the presence and power of God's ideas already at hand. The understanding that every material belief is but the reverse of a spiritual idea renders thought receptive to God's angels, which reveal spiritual reality and restore harmony. Evil is powerless to oppose this spiritual activity.
Some of you may be thinking, "Well, that's fine as far as evil suggestions are concerned, but the thing that bothers me is a physical condition - it's in my body, not in my thought." My friends, Christian Science logically explains the true relationship of physical conditions to the thoughts which produce them. Even more important, it imparts the spiritual understanding by which one can control his thinking and, thus, control his body.
The belief that matter can act or react, can feel or impart feeling, independent of thought, is being challenged today on several fronts. Recent advances in the physical sciences as well as the present-day practice of psychosomatic medicine are in line with the discovery made by Mrs. Eddy nearly a century ago that matter is the objective state of mortal mind. Even modern medical theories, however, seldom venture beyond the conclusion that certain states of thought may produce certain types of physical ills or diseases.
Christian Science, on the other hand, makes it plain that, rather than being merely the effect of wrong thought, disease is part of that thought. In the scientific treatment of disease and defense against it, this is a vitally important distinction.
Suppose, for example, a man allows hatred for his boss to so inflame his thinking that he develops a case of stomach ulcers. If he changes jobs and likes his new boss, he will be mentally at peace. He may even adopt a kindlier attitude toward the memory of his former boss. However, he may still seem to suffer from stomach ulcers. Why? Because he has admitted the suggestion of inflamed thinking into his concept of his body. This false belief needs to be replaced by a better understanding of what constitutes his body.
To put it another way: The suggestion of hatred in the mental concept he held of his boss has become a suggestion of inflammation in the mental concept he embraces of his body. Both errors need to be corrected, and the one is no less mental than the other. Just as we may see that this man doesn't really need to get a new boss - he only needs to get a new concept of his boss - so, he doesn't need to do anything to the human body - he only needs to change his thinking about the body.
Christian Science teaches that since God is Spirit, and the only creator, all that He creates must be spiritual, not material. One's real body is his spiritual identity dwelling in God, divine Mind. The discordant condition of a mortal body is the manifestation of a false belief of body embraced in mortal mind. To heal the body, this false belief must yield to the truth of man's spiritual identity and disappear. Now if any one of you is thinking that by becoming a student of Christian Science you might someday dissolve into thin air, let me put your mind at rest. We've never lost a single Christian Scientist in this way. What does happen, however, is something quite wonderful!
You find that through the understanding of man as the reflection of God, spiritual and perfect, you can correct wrong thinking and heal disease. Your concept of body, business, home, human relations, world conditions - yes, and maybe even of the boss - undergoes a marked change. Under the impact of Truth, understood and demonstrated, spiritual confidence replaces fear; aggressive mental suggestions of envy, dishonesty, false appetite, lack, or loss are rooted out. A new-found assurance of God's nearness and love, of His compassionate care and unerring guidance, takes possession of your thought and experience. In short, you view the world about you not with dismay but with spiritual dominion.
Thus the message of Christian Science to the twentieth century is not alone a message of sure defense, but of a positive peace as well. What better guide could be found to the true defense and peace so greatly needed today than the experience of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, recorded in the twentieth chapter of II Chronicles?
In the face of fearful odds, with
the armies of the Ammonites advancing to attack
Greatly uplifted by this answer to
their prayers, Jehoshaphat and his army went out to meet the enemy, singing
praises to the Lord and to the beauty of holiness. We read (II Chron.
20:22,23), "And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set
ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were
come against Judah; and they were smitten. For the children of Ammon and
Today, most of the world is living in what is, at best, an uneasy peace. Vast amounts of talent and material resources are being poured into the search for a formula by which differing ideologies can peacefully coexist. While the continued efforts of nations to find world peace are essential, there is an important need on the part of individuals for the establishment of peace within themselves.
In the experience of Jehoshaphat
and the people of
Christians throughout the world accept the fact that the teachings of Christ Jesus are for all ages. It must follow that the healing power of the Christ is timeless. Interpreting and demonstrating the teachings of the Master, Christian Science has come in a manner and form adapted to the needs of our time. The proof that it is God's messenger of Truth to this age lies in its healing work. It is of the utmost significance that, in Christian Science, the healing activity of the Christ is a current event - it is going on right now!
You who have come to this lecture embrace in your own thought and experience the hopes of all mankind: hopes for a higher attainment in the understanding of God, hopes for freedom from bondage to material beliefs, hopes for healing and a more fruitful life, and hopes for universal and lasting peace. Hear the message of Christian Science and respond to its loving invitation. It speaks to us today in the words of the Master (Matt. , 29), "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls."