Christian Science: The Open Door to the Kingdom of Heaven

 

Elbert R. Slaughter, C.S., of Dallas, Texas

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

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

 

Delivered at First Church of Christ, Scientist, South and Park St., Kalamazoo, Michigan, on February 27, 1961

 

The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:

One night, a little over nineteen hundred years ago, after one of his usual busy days, Jesus had a visitor. He was a man of some prominence in the church and community. John describes him as a ruler of the Jews, whose name was Nicodemus. He had been listening to Jesus as he taught his followers a new doctrine one which enabled him to speak with authority. His first statement, after coming into Jesus' presence, was (John 3:2), "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles which thou doest, except God be with him." This would indicate that he had observed and been greatly impressed by the healing work which Jesus had done, and also by his complete dominion over all material conditions.

Now Jesus was, no doubt, very grateful for the kind comments about his word and works, especially coming from one of such stature. They indicated a sincere desire on the part of Nicodemus to know more about Jesus, his words and works and how to reach the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus began his explanation with the statement (John 3:3) "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Because Nicodemus was thinking only of physical birth, this statement was very confusing to him, so he said to Jesus (John 3:4), "How can a man be born when he is old?"

Now here Jesus was confronted with a problem that still exists that of conveying spiritual ideas by a material language, and to an individual who was, to a great extent, conscious only of materiality. To meet the problem he said (John 3:5,6): "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Jesus knew that water was recognized as a cleansing and purifying agent. The explanation of Spirit was a little more complex. To clarify this, he said later (John 3:8), "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."

Jesus was trying to explain to Nicodemus that spiritual man's source and ultimate cannot be comprehended by the material senses, and that man born of the Spirit is spiritual. In other words, he was saying to Nicodemus, "To enter the kingdom of heaven, you must cleanse your consciousness of old, material beliefs, and start anew, on a spiritual basis." To be born of the Spirit would necessarily involve accepting the Spirit or Mind which is God as one's only Parent. Jesus tells us (Matt. 23:9), "Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven." To reach that state of consciousness whereby one can accept God, Spirit, as his only source is not the work of a moment, however, and Jesus never said that it was. Its attainment is best explained by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, in her book "Miscellaneous Writings." Here she says (p. 15): "The new birth is not the work of a moment. It begins with moments, and goes on with years; moments of surrender to God, of childlike trust and joyful adoption of good: moments of self-abnegation, self-consecration, heaven-born hope, and spiritual love."

We have no record of the final outcome of Nicodemus' visit with Jesus. There is no doubt about the fact that he was much impressed by it. He finally became a follower of Jesus and was one of his defenders when he was tried by the Sanhedrin, and later he came with Joseph of Arimathea to claim the body of Jesus after the crucifixion.

Now the search for the kingdom of heaven has occupied the thoughts and activities of mankind throughout the ages. In most religions it has been the generally accepted conclusion that heaven is a physical location. The popular thought has been that it was somewhere up in the sky, although empyrean explorations have never revealed anything which would indicate that such a place exists.

Because Biblical descriptions of the kingdom of God cannot be reconciled to human, material beliefs, what it is and how to reach it have been to a great extent left to creeds and doctrines, some of which specify that only by affiliation with certain organizations, denominations, and by the performance of certain rites and ceremonies, can heaven be reached, and that only after death. Conversely, there has been the generally accepted thought that there is another place called hell, which is most undesirable, and is to be the dwelling place of those whose conduct here has made them unacceptable in heaven. Is it any wonder then that the kingdom of heaven and its attainment has been a great enigma to thinking people?

 

Christian Science and Its Discoverer

Now comes Christian Science, with not only a logical description of what the kingdom of heaven is, but with a demonstrable way to attain it, based upon a correct interpretation of Bible teachings.

Here perhaps it would be well to dwell for a little while upon Christian Science and its Discoverer and Founder, Mary Baker Eddy. First it should be understood that Christian Science is not primarily a denomination or sect. True, there is a church organization, known as The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, with its branch churches, societies, and college organizations throughout the free world. After demonstrating the effectiveness of her discovery, Mrs. Eddy felt that since it was demonstrably the Science of Christianity, as taught by Jesus, although he left no definite rule for its demonstration, it would be welcomed by Christian Churches. Such was not the case, however. Instead, both she and her discovery met with scorn and ridicule from most ecclesiastics. In the face of such violent opposition, she found it necessary to set up the church organization which we have mentioned before, in order that the final revelation of Truth might become available to all mankind.

One might ask here how and why this revelation came to Mrs. Eddy. How does revelation come to anyone? How did it come to the prophets of old, who foretold the coming of Jesus? How did it come to James, John, and to Paul and many others? How does it come to you and me? The unfoldment in individual human consciousness of the great facts of being comes only when individual thought is prepared to receive it. It comes because the mental soil has been cultivated and purified by a constant desire for that which is pure and holy.

It required a mathematician to discover and give to the world the truths of mathematics. It required physical scientists to discover and give to the world the physical sciences. Likewise, it required an individual drilled and cultivated in spiritual things to give to the world the great truths of Christian Science. The fact that Mrs. Eddy had given her entire life, her every thought and motive, to spiritual and higher things had prepared her to take that higher step and to rise to a plane of spiritual understanding and vision far above the thought of the world about her, where the great light of Truth could dawn on her consciousness as a divine revelation. When we can begin to understand what God is, and our individual relationship to Him, we shall then cease to think of a revelation from God as a supernatural phenomenon, to be experienced only by the chosen of God, but we shall look upon it as a natural, everyday experience of those who love and obey God's law.

 

Heaven and How to Attain It

In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mrs. Eddy describes "heaven" as "Harmony; the reign of Spirit; government by divine Principle; spirituality; bliss; the atmosphere of Soul" (p. 587). It would be difficult indeed to find a definition of heaven that conforms more closely to what Jesus said it is.

For instance, here is the question the Pharisees asked Jesus, and his answer (Luke 17:20, 21); "And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." In other words, he was saying that God's kingdom is not visible to the human eye, for it is a state of consciousness. Mrs. Eddy has given us in her definition of heaven, which we have just read, a description of that state of consciousness.

Now that we have established some concept of what we are seeking, the next question is how do we attain it? Again we turn to Jesus' words (John 17:3) "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."

According to Jesus' teaching then, knowledge of God and His Christ is a requisite to the attaining of the kingdom of heaven.

One of the mental road blocks to an understanding of the new or spiritual birth is a wrong concept of God. The Bible tells us man is the image of God. So to understand our true selfhood we must know what God is. We must not only know what God is, but must become acquainted with Him, and we cannot become acquainted with a God we do not know or understand. The only God you and I will ever worship is our consciousness of Him, our concept of Him. If our concept of God is correct, we need have no concern about how to apply our understanding of God to the problem of human living.

Christian Science teaches that God is omnipotent, all power. The omnipotence of God is proved in our individual experience. It is proved in solving problems through the correct understanding of God. One who has no understanding of the rules and laws of mathematics cannot apply and prove them likewise, one who does not know and understand God can never prove God's omnipotence. Then our ability to avail ourselves of God's guidance and protection is measured by our concept of God. If we have no clear, concise concept of God we obviously can have no knowledge of how to turn to Him in times of trouble. If we believe that God is humanly circumscribed, that He dwells afar off, is something vague, indescribable, and intangible, we are bound to be at a loss when confronted with problems for which there is no human solution.

If, on the other hand, our concept of God conforms to the revelations of Holy Writ, then the teachings and demonstrations of Jesus, of the apostles and the prophets will constitute a foundation for our faith, and we can dwell in the comforting assurance that God is eternally with us, our ever-present guide, friend, and protector.

Christian Science, whose conclusions are in conformity with the Bible, reveals God as the only creator. In Science and Health Mrs. Eddy defines "creator" as (p. 583), "Spirit; Mind; intelligence; the animating divine Principle of all that is real and good; self-existent Life, Truth, and Love; that which is perfect and eternal; the opposite of matter and evil, which have no Principle; God, who made all that was made and could not create an atom or an element the opposite of Himself."

The fact that God, Spirit, is the animating divine Principle of all that is real and good, who made all that was made and could not create an atom or an element the opposite of Himself, definitely rules out the possibility of any reality in evil or matter, and that is the premise upon which healing in Christian Science is based.

As we seek the kingdom of God by lifting our thought to understand this perfect creator and His perfect creation, we replace the material beliefs about ourselves and our surroundings with spiritual realities. To the extent that we spiritualize our thinking, we find our prayers answered and our needs met.

 

A Healing Experience

Let me tell you the healing experience of a friend of mine along this line. He was not a Christian Scientist at the time; however, his wife had been a sincere student of Christian Science for many years. Because of her exemplary life he had a deep respect for this religion, but, as he said, he had never felt that it was for him, because he had no great need for that sort of thing.

One day he suddenly realized that the vision in one of his eyes was fading. He went to see the physician who had been fitting him with glasses, for an examination. The physician was much perturbed by his findings, for he was not able to find a cause for the failing vision, although it was very evident that in that one eye it was failing. So he asked my friend to go see another physician who was a specialist. He did so, and this man was also unable to determine a cause for the failing vision. He was examined by two more specialists and after some consultation was told that eventually he would lose the vision in that eye completely. However, they said he did not need to be too disturbed, because usually under conditions of this sort, the strength of the other eye increased, and his activities would in no way be impaired.

My friend said that while he was very grateful for the fact that he had reasonably good vision, and could continue his work, he still felt it would be good to be able to see with both eyes. After thinking the problem over for some time, he decided to investigate Christian Science. He purchased his own copies of Science and Health and the Bible, and began to study.

From the beginning he was impressed by the logic of Christian Science, especially in its explanation of God and man's relationship to Him. His study of the synonyms for God gave him a clearer understanding of the Principle that is God. He was filled with gratitude for the unfoldment of truth resulting from his study. As he said, it was the greatest thing that had ever come into his life, but the vision in the defective eye did not improve. In fact, it continued to fade.

He sought the aid of a Christian Science practitioner, and asked for help through prayer. His work with the practitioner brought him increased understanding and a greater appreciation of Christian Science and its Discoverer and Founder. He saw that this Science really is God's law. With all his work, however, his vision still did not improve. One day the practitioner said to him, "Do you suppose that you are doubting divine Principle's ability to correct this mistaken belief?" He replied with a vigorous no. Surely his understanding of God's allness and omnipotence, as taught in Christian Science, left no room for doubt. The practitioner asked him to pray over this, and to search his consciousness for any erroneous thought that needed to be uncovered, and offered to help him along this line.

My friend went home that night and with much humility asked God to reveal to him what he needed to see to correct this error. Suddenly the thought came to him, "You have been checking up on God." At first he denied that he had done such a thing. Then like a flash of light, it came to him that he really had been checking up on God. Ever so often during the day he would place his hand over the good eye to find out whether he could see out of the other eye yet.

My friend was most grateful for the uncovering, for with it came the realization that while he was indeed grateful for the great good the study of Christian Science had brought him, he had still been waiting on divine Principle to begin to operate in his experience and heal him of detective vision. This he saw was not the proper approach. Humbly and gratefully he acknowledged that he had found in his study of Christian Science the pearl of great price, and whether he regained the vision in the defective eye was not a matter of primary importance. What was important was that he know more about the divine Principle, Love, governing the universe, including man, harmoniously. He resolved to apply himself more diligently to that task.

Prayerfully and sincerely he continued his work along that line. One day not long after that experience, he suddenly realized that he was seeing with both his eyes and had been doing so. He had no knowledge of how long he had been experiencing perfect vision, he only knew that he had had it before he was consciously aware of it. His search for and increased understanding of the truth had brought freedom, even as Jesus said it would

 

How Christian Science Heals

Now this experience illustrates clearly how healing is accomplished through Christian Science treatment. We do not start with a sick or defective body in our healing work. We start from the premise that the creator, God, divine Principle, made all that was made, including man in His image, and that everything He made was and is good, perfect. We know that any other conclusion or seeming evidence to the contrary is a distortion of the truth, which an understanding of divine Principle and its law corrects. Mrs. Eddy describes Jesus' healing method in this manner (Science and Health, pp. 476, 477): "Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick." And this is the pattern Christian Science follows.


As the great facts of existence began to dawn upon my friend's consciousness he was truly grateful, but there still lurked in his thought the belief that man could include a physical defect. Although he was not aware of it at the time, the fulfilling of his resolution to devote all his mental activities to acquiring a greater knowledge of God and man's relationship to Him displaced the belief of a defect and enabled him in Science to behold the perfect man and that, of course, is what brought about the healing.

 

Christian Science a Religion

Here it seems fitting that we mention the fact that Christian Science is a religion, and not a healing cult. True, it is perhaps best known for the fact that its adherents rely wholly on prayer for healing. Someone might say, "Would you do away with the doctors and material methods of healing?" Not at all. Christian Scientists are not opposed to doctors or medicine, for those who feel they need them. The Christian Science position is that God can heal better than men can heal, and it is proving its position daily. It should be thoroughly understood, however, that the primary purpose of Christian Science is to bring salvation to the individual and thereby usher him into the kingdom of heaven. Healing, which is brought about by the operation of God's law, carries with it the evidence of God's presence to the individual who has been healed, as well as to those who witness the healing. Healing is the proof of Immanuel, or God with us, which Jesus demonstrated, in his remarkable healing work. You will remember when he was informed of Lazarus' illness he said (John 11:4), "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby."

The attitude of Christian Science concerning spiritual healing, now as in Jesus' time, is presented very clearly in this statement by Mrs. Eddy (Science and Health, p. 150): "Now, as then, signs and wonders are wrought in the metaphysical healing of physical disease; but these signs are only to demonstrate its divine origin, to attest the reality of the higher mission of the Christ-power to take away the sins of the world."

 

Flesh and Blood Cannot Enter Heaven

Paul tells us (I Cor. 15:50), "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." Elsewhere he writes (I Cor. 15:53), "This mortal must put on immortality." Obviously, then, the mortal body and materiality have no place in the kingdom of heaven. That is a generally accepted fact, but the ridding oneself of these encumbrances has been a problem which has not lent itself to a simple solution. Mankind have clung to the false belief that ridding oneself of material encumbrances can be accomplished through the death process, but this does not at all conform to Jesus' teaching and practice. To illustrate: If death can free an individual from a mortal body and materiality, it was neither kind nor loving for Jesus to raise Lazarus and others from the dead. His own resurrection, after his crucifixion, was proof positive that death does not change the body, nor does it bring one any closer to the kingdom of heaven.

We learn in the study of Christian Science that as we accept into our consciousness pure and spiritual ideas of the divine Mind, which is God, and exclude evil and material beliefs, we are experiencing that new birth by which the kingdom of heaven is brought into our consciousness. To the extent that we spiritualize our thinking, by accepting these pure, spiritual ideas, and excluding evil and material beliefs, we establish our God-given dominion, not only over the physical body, but also over all our daily experiences.

 

Right Thinking in Action

Let me tell you an experience that I witnessed, which clearly illustrates the effectiveness of spiritually mental activity. Some years ago a very fine young couple were married. Their first years together were most happy ones. They established a lovely home and then came a young son. Life seemed very bright to them. After seven or eight years, however, friction developed. They began to exchange sharp words. There were financial difficulties and disagreements. Things went from bad to worse until a separation seemed inevitable.

The wife had attended a Christian Science Sunday School, and since then had studied the Bible and Science and Health at times. When conditions seemed to be approaching a crisis, she sought the help of a Christian Science practitioner. Tearfully she told him of her blasted hopes. The marriage which she had thought was so wonderful and perfect had degenerated into constant bickering and disagreement. She was unhappy over her husband's approach to the disciplining of the child. In addition to their personal disagreements, they both felt that the husband was not getting a fair deal from his employer. Their savings were dwindling rapidly. Her husband had become morose and didn't seem to want to talk things over with her any more.

After listening to her story, the practitioner asked her if she would like to have a new husband and a new home. She asked what he meant. He reminded her that she had learned in Sunday School that God made man in His image, also that God is good, and all that He made was good. He told her that what she had been seeing in her husband was not man at all, because it was not good. The same was true of her home. Mrs. Eddy tells us (Science and Health, p. 58), "Home is the dearest spot on earth, and it should be the centre, though not the boundary, of the affections." He told her that if she would begin to see her husband and her home in their true nature, she could have a new husband and a new home.

Very humbly she asked how she could accomplish this transformation. The practitioner asked her to enumerate some of her husband's good qualities. After considering for a moment she began with honesty. She then thoughtfully added that he was industrious, capable, neat, clean, and friendly. Then rather slowly she added that he was loving and kind. Almost enthusiastically she repeated that he was loving and kind. She was then asked if she was grateful for those good qualities. She admitted that they had certainly been overlooked in her thinking, but she was truly grateful for them. She knew from her study of Christian Science that they were Godlike qualities, always expressed by the man of God's creating.

The practitioner told her to continue looking for those good qualities in her husband and to thank God for every one of them. He asked her to find some way of letting her husband know, when he came home from work that night, that she was aware of his good qualities, and to report to him the next morning. When she called she said that her husband had come home very unhappy over some things that had been going on in the office. He had been most difficult, but through it all she had felt a great compassion for him and had done everything she could to make him comfortable. She was most grateful for the fact that she could see that none of these inharmonious experiences were any part of their life, because they were not of God. She was happy and grateful for the revelations that had come to her, and while her husband had not evidenced any marked change, she felt a great sense of peace.

The practitioner told her to keep up the good work; to read carefully the chapter on Marriage in Science and Health, and systematically to study the Bible and Mrs. Eddy's works, and that he would continue to pray for her. She did so, and the situation changed rapidly. The husband began to notice the change in her thought and attitude and responded accordingly. Over a period of some months they became closer than they had ever been before.

The office situation was cleared up in a satisfactory manner, as the realization came that her husband was really employed by Principle, God, governed by Principle, and remunerated by Principle. Therefore, he was not subject to the whims or idiosyncrasies of any individual, group of individuals, corporation, or institution.

Their savings began to grow, as she said, "when we realized that the savings account itself was not of primary importance, but that which was really important was the intelligence which produced it." She could see that her husband's approach to disciplining the son was right and proper, and according to Principle. Through her continued prayerful study, much good came to them, including a new home which met their need abundantly. Today they are a happy and prosperous family. All this was brought about by the wife's sincere effort to harmonize her thinking with God, divine Principle.

This experience demonstrates the fact that our world experiences are the result of our own thinking. You and I have to think, and we have the right to choose our thoughts. We make our own worlds by our own thinking. We make our own heaven or hell, depending wholly upon the thoughts which we accept into our consciousness.

 

Man's True Selfhood

In the first chapter of Genesis we learn that God made man in His image. Since man is God's image, then he must express God perfectly, and since man does express God, then heaven is his natural dwelling place, and he is already there. For you and me to avail ourselves of our sonship with God and realize that heaven is our home, we must consciously express those ideas which come from God. On page 591 of Science and Health, in her definition of "Mind," Mrs. Eddy says, "God, of whom man is the full and perfect expression." Since man is the expression of God, then he must express all the qualities of that divine Mind or intelligence which is God. So, as we consciously express love, kindness, integrity, purity, gratitude, and so on, we become aware of our sonship with God and bring the kingdom of heaven into our consciousness. Thus we see how individual the process of salvation becomes. It does not matter what others may think or do, we must devote our time and efforts to the expressing of those Godlike qualities which bring us freedom from the limitations and restrictions of material so-called existence. As we express joy, happiness, gratitude, patience, gentleness, and consideration for others, the mist of mortal mind is dispersed and we find our fellow men reacting accordingly

It has been said that in the world of ideas things happen quite differently from the way they do in the world of physics. For instance, if I give you a dollar, you have it; I do not. But, if I give you an idea, we both have it. In the world of ideas what we give we keep; so you see how important it is that we express love, kindness, compassion, joy, happiness, and so on. Simply refraining from manifesting hate, malice jealousy, and the like is not enough. Our expression of God must be positive. We cannot just assume the position of meeting others, halfway. In the business of expressing God that will accomplish nothing. What others do or think is their concern.

Our business is to see our true, spiritual selfhood manifested. This brings freedom from the fetters of sickness, poverty, unhappiness, sorrow, and the like, and is a task only we can do for ourselves. We must not permit our efforts to be restricted or measured by the attitudes and reactions of others. Man is the expression of God. He cannot help being as perfect as his Father. We must school ourselves in divine expression, so that we may consciously realize and demonstrate our true sonship.

 

Prayer

Prayer is the process of accomplishing this great spiritual regeneration. True prayer does not involve asking God to look down upon us as miserable sinners, with pity and mercy, but it consists in spiritually raising ourselves to the realization of our sonship with the Father. It is not the process of endeavoring to acquaint some distant, unknown deity with our trials and tribulations.

We never enter heaven through the doorway of death. Death is an enemy. We enter the kingdom of heaven through God-inspired thoughts. We think our way into heaven, and right thinking, spiritual thinking, is prayer. It is the process of mental purification by which we eliminate from our consciousness all erroneous thoughts, and thereby experience the new birth, which Jesus told Nicodemus was a requisite to attaining the kingdom of God. Heaven is that state of consciousness which includes not one sinful, material thought. Then it is right thinking, mental purification, or prayer, which leads us into the kingdom of heaven.

Our great Way-shower, Jesus, who so clearly presented the Christ to mankind, has marked out the way for us. Through the teachings of Christian Science that way is illuminated. Heaven is no longer a mythical location, to be reached by the death process. It is a divine state of Mind, which is obtainable here and now by following scientific divine law.

By this procedure the great realities of being are revealed to human consciousness, dissipating the mist of the mortal senses, and ushering us into the kingdom of heaven, by ushering the kingdom of heaven into our consciousness. Our gratitude for this great revelation is best expressed in our Leader's words (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 275), "Father, we thank Thee that Thy light and Thy love reach earth, open the prison to them that are bound, console the innocent, and throw wide the gates of heaven."

 

 

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