Christian Science and God’s Government

 

Robert S. Van Atta, C.S., of Rochester, New York

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

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

 

God's government can be understood and applied in every department of life, Robert S. Van Atta, C.S., of Rochester, New York, said in a public lecture in Boston today.

Speaking to a noontime audience in John Hancock Hall, Mr. Van Atta held that humanity's one great hope for peace and justice is based on spiritual understanding of the government of God or kingdom of heaven.

"We must be ever alert to defend our divine citizenship," he declared. A member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship, he spoke under the auspices of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, on the subject, "Christian Science and God's Government."

Mr. Van Atta was introduced by Mrs. Josephine Carver, Second Reader of The Mother Church.

 

‘Heaven Is a . . . Divine State of Mind’

The lecturer spoke substantially as follows:

Some twenty-seven centuries ago the Hebrew prophet, Isaiah, foretold the coming of him who was to be the Saviour of mankind from all its troubles. "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isa. 9:6) This verse is one of the [best loved] and most quoted [from the Bible], mankind still yearns and waits for the coming of "The Prince of Peace."

It was widely believed among the Hebrews that their Saviour would come as a national ruler or king, as the successor to their great King David, restoring the ancient glories of Israel. Even some of Jesus' followers shared this materialistic view. But Jesus spoke much of the kingdom of heaven. He described it in parables; by precept and example he showed his followers how to find it and enter into it. He taught that the kingdom of God is mental and spiritual and is not to be sought or found at a point in place or time. "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" (Luke 17:20, 21) - which is to say, within one's thinking or consciousness.

The Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, corroborates this great spiritual fact. On page, 291 we read, "Heaven is not a locality, but a divine state of Mind in which all the manifestations of Mind are harmonious and immortal, because sin is not there and man is found having no righteousness of his own, but in possession of the 'mind of the Lord,' as the Scripture says."

 

Mrs. Eddy Proved Allness of God

Surely all men and women desire and long for peace, security, health, and abundance. Is it reasonable for us to hope for the kingdom of heaven on earth? Will the Prince of Peace indeed come and reign over us? In the face of all the material sense evidence of misgovernment in the world today, of tyranny and despotism holding sway over nations, of fear, ignorance, and suffering ruling the lives of men and women, can anyone truthfully say that God's kingdom is now an actual reality, here on earth? Certainly not if one accepts the evidence of the material senses. God is actually present to guide the destinies of men, and the rule of His kingdom is truly a fact, but we shall need to look higher than matter to see the evidence of it. In the words of our textbook Science and Health, p. 264): "Mortals must look beyond fading, finite forms, if they would gain the true sense of things. Where shall the gaze rest but in the unsearchable realm of Mind?"

The truth that God, divine Mind, is all and matter unreal was discovered in this age by Mary Baker Eddy.

In a little book entitled "Retrospection and Introspection" Mrs. Eddy gives a few of the facts of her earthly life. The account is brief, because she considered incidents of personal history of relatively small moment. But her spiritual pilgrimage was of great importance to her and later to mankind as well. The key to her life is found in her statement (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 31), "From my very early childhood I was impelled, by a hunger and thirst after divine things, - a desire for something higher and better than matter, and apart from it, - to seek diligently for the knowledge of God as the one great and ever-present relief from human woe." After many years of suffering and tribulation, her search was rewarded. Because of her natural spiritual endowments and devotion to God, her study of the Scriptures brought her a great spiritual light. This glorious light came to her in the hour of her greatest need. She began to see that the very essence of Christ Jesus' teaching was the unreality of matter and the reality of divine Spirit and its spiritual creation.

The immediate result of this revelation was her instant recovery from an injury which her doctor and friends were sure would be fatal. The long-range result, so very important to you and me, was that she wrote and published the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," and founded the Christian Science movement as it is today. The textbook fully elucidates the Christian Science system for healing disease and all manner of human discord by spiritual means alone. The organized activities of the Christian Science church insure that her discovery will continue to be given to the world in unadulterated purity.

 

Church Manual Blesses All Who Obey

The organic law of the Christian Science movement is the Manual of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts.  These By-Laws were written by Mrs. Eddy under the direction of divine wisdom and the pressing need to defend her Cause and to guide her followers in true practice. The Manual has stood the test of many years; courts of law have acknowledged it as the foundational charter of our church and affirmed it to be legally sound and unassailable; it has protected the church against enemies within and without; and it stands today as a firm guarantee of continued strength and growth. The Manual provisions are both spiritual and practical and so exemplify the blending of the divine and the human which is such a vital feature of Christian Science. The power of God demonstrated in human affairs, His kingdom ruling on earth as in Heaven - this is the ideal of Christian Science. Experience proved the need of the Manual By-Laws; divine wisdom dictated their form and substance: they bless all who obey them. What a model we have here for human governments!

What is the source of the power of governments? The power of tyrants rests only upon their own claim to authority and physical power to enforce it. Kings used to rule because it was believed they had a divine right to do so. The great Lincoln said government is by the people. But primary authority can never rest in persons - whether dictators, kings, or commoners - because people are not original creators. Back of kings, people, and all outward forms of government, there must be the one great cause and creator of man and the universe, the only underived and absolute power, God. Democracy has been defined as "good men, self-governed.'' Our textbook declares (Science and Health, p. 106), “Man is properly self-governed only when he is guided rightly and governed by his Maker, divine Truth and Love.”

 

Christian Science Begins With God

So Christian Science begins with God, as the sole creator of the universe and man, as the source of all being and power, as the ruler or sustainer of His creation. There may be disagreement among men as to the nature of God, but surely there can be no valid disagreement as to the fact of God; for since life and creation as effects are plainly seen, it surely is equally clear that a creative cause is thereby indicated. The presence of an effect proves the existence of the cause. Man knows that he exists; he knows he is something. He knows he did not create himself, therefore he is convinced of the reality of a primary cause or creator outside of and beyond himself. In other words, he knows that God is. The fact of God is so obvious that it is a wonder how atheism, indifference, materialism, and other forms of godless reasoning can possibly delude thinking people. We start with the understanding or conviction that God is the beginning, the primary source or cause, of all created things. It follows that He is all-knowing or intelligent. He knows all that can be known; that is, all true knowledge is His. Being self-existent in His intelligence, He must be the only Mind; there cannot be another mind to teach Him, or to contradict Him. Being the only cause or Mind, He is One. Being One, there can be no contrary elements in His nature, therefore He is infinite Love, all-harmonious. Being the one source of all existence, He must be eternal Life, without beginning or end. Being unchanging in His completeness and perfection, He must be divine Truth. Being without limits, He cannot be material but is infinite Spirit. As the eternal Life of all creation, He is the Soul of man and the universe. God is the source or foundation of all reality, the fundamental substance, activity, or energy of all creation, therefore He is the divine Principle of the universe, the eternal governing power, or King. His rule is absolute, unchanging, and infinitely wise. The nature of God is well represented by the word "Father" in its most, elevated sense. To this term Mrs. Eddy has added the word "Mother," as expressing an even higher idea of Deity.

Much that I have said about God and His nature is found in the Bible, and the rest is there plainly implied. And I wish to state at this point that there is nothing peculiar about the Bible used in Christian Science. It is the King James translation, the standard and authorized version as used in Protestant churches for over three hundred years. The Bible is one of the textbooks of Christian Science; Mrs. Eddy studied it and found therein the authority for her teachings. Her new discoveries came to her through revelation and spiritually enlightened and correct interpretation of the Scriptural teachings. This revelation came to her through the power of divine Love. But the great point of departure of Christian Science from all other schools of religion is the insistence upon demonstration or proof.

Theories are not to be stated and left: their truth must be demonstrated. This was Jesus' way. He came not only to teach but to heal, and he considered his demonstrations of spiritual healing to be the incontestable proof of the Christ, Truth, and therefore that he was presenting the true idea of God to his followers. He instructed his disciples to say to the sick whom they healed, "The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you" (Luke 10:9). He declared to his critics, "If I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you" (Luke 11:20). See how he tied in the coming of the kingdom of God with the healing of disease and the casting out of evils! Did he not make it quite clear that entering the kingdom of heaven on earth is a blessed experience of healing and regeneration to be enjoyed now?

 

God’s Power Operates Through Prayer

In olden times rulers paid little attention to the health of their subjects, but modern governments are more enlightened; they have their departments of health and medicine intended to protect the well-being of their citizens. Likewise before the discovery of Christian Science it was not generally understood that the health of man comes under the jurisdiction of God. Health was supposed to be mainly a condition of the material body, to be secured or restored only by material means. But Christian Science declares (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 241), "Body and mind are correlated in man’s salvation; for man will no more enter heaven sick than as a sinner, and Christ's Christianity casts out sickness as well as sin of every sort."

God is not indifferent to health or wholeness, but God's medicine is Mind, not matter. Does it seem difficult to understand how God, as pure Mind, can heal physical disease? The difficulty disappears as one learns that physical disease is not primarily a condition of matter as that term is generally used; it is a state of mortal mind, a mental shadow of fear, ignorance, or sin.

This diagnosis of disease as primarily mental points the way to its scientific treatment and cure, which is to understand and realize that God is the only Mind and Life: that His creation is spiritual and good, including no disease or sin; that man is the reflection or expression of God's intelligence, goodness, and wholeness, not subject to fear, ignorance, or hate. When the true sense of health and freedom is established in the individual's consciousness, disease-producing thoughts are ruled out and healing results. The power of God operates through prayer to evolve the needful Christian and health-giving state of mind. But, it may be necessary to strive mentally to realize it, necessary to argue persistently, courageously, and even vehemently to break the mesmeric spell which sometimes seems to hold the human mind in bondage to evil and disease. The work must be based on the solid conviction that God is present and available for healing, and that, no power can withstand His love. As this conviction is established, healing takes place.

 

Periodicals Record Many Healings

Christian Science supplies abundant evidence to support its claim of healing through the power of God. The Christian Science Journal, founded by Mrs. Eddy in 1883 and issued monthly, contains many pages of testimonies, all verified by the editors. We also have the Christian Science Sentinel, founded by Mrs. Eddy in 1898 and published every Saturday. The Sentinel is a convenient size to be carried in a gentleman's pocket or a lady's handbag and is a cheery little companion to take along anywhere. Selecting at random one issue of this publication, here is a summary of the healings recorded. A man was physically and mentally debilitated after long internment in prison camps.  He was suffering from chronic bronchitis, heart trouble, dyspepsia, deafness, poor eyesight, chronic rheumatism, and arthritis. Having tried a milder climate and found no improvement he was healed in a few hours in Christian Science. A woman was healed of tuberculosis through reading Science and Health. Another woman and her husband experienced God's protection while living in jungles, deserts, and frozen areas; they were healed of poisonous snake bites, broken bones, blood poisoning from bullet wounds. Robbed and stranded, they came out unharmed: they were brought to safety after shipwreck; lost valuables were miraculously recovered. Another woman was healed of pneumonia, influenza, indigestion, burns, cuts, insect bites, colds, and appendicitis; also the smoking habit. Time would fail to tell of all the rest, but the list of troubles is long and varied. These testimonies come from many parts of the world. Some were brought about through the work of practitioners, some through reading Science and Health, and all through earnest prayer. Surely these people would agree that "the kingdom of God is come nigh unto [them]."

To Jesus of Nazareth, the healing of physical disease by the power of God was natural and quick, because he understood God and knew that in his true spiritual selfhood he was the son of God. Humanly he was the son of Mary, but he demonstrated Christ; that is to say, he proved that Christ is not a human person but the divine idea of God, the ever-present manifestation of God. In his promise of the Comforter who would come and abide forever, he was clearly assuring his followers of this great fact. He told them they were to do everything in the way of healing that he had done, and even greater works than that.

 

Man Is Never Apart From Divine Love

There is a great human yearning to find God, to talk with Him, and to hear His voice. Christian Science satisfies this need by showing that God is the one, ever-present, divine Mind or intelligence; He is the creator of all true spiritual thoughts; He is constantly imparting them to man, who expresses them perfectly. So, in a certain sense, the divine government, like human governments, may be said to have its department of communications.  Our textbook states (Science and Health, p. 284), "The intercommunication is always from God to His idea, man." Man, the image or reflection of his divine creator, is not a mortal with a separate mind of his own encased in a body of flesh; he is individual spiritual consciousness. He is not a creating mind, but the expression or manifestation of the one divine intelligence. He lives always in the one Mind. He has no underived power, qualities, or life; he is entirely dependent on God for his being. God's communications are always messages of good; His control is a divine monopoly, and so rule's out the communication of evil. When you are tuned in on God's wavelength, there is no reception of fear or sin. The intercommunication from God to man is never cut off; it is constant and continuous. Man is never alone, never on his own; he has perfect and perpetual oneness with God.

In Christian Science one does not petition God as one would plead with an unwilling person to grant a favor. He studies and prays to know God better, that divine Love may rule his thoughts and life; he affirms the present reality of the spiritual good he hopes for; he strives to hold thought in constant oneness with the divine. He knows that the divine sending station never closes down; it is never off the air. When God's thoughts are accepted and obeyed they heal and uplift human life, and then does the Father reward you openly, so that all may see. His angel messages bring human blessings.

 

Great Moral Courage Is Required

Does God's government include a war department, a department of defense? God rules in harmony and peace; His kingdom come upon earth - established in the hearts of men - will mean the end of fighting. But great spiritual growth must precede the coming of this ideal state. In the meantime even Christian nations find it necessary to maintain armies and navies for the defense of freedom and righteousness.

In like manner the individual Christian warrior, battling with fear, doubt, temptation, and weakness within, and faced by militant paganism, hatred of Truth, and aggressive materialism without, must put on the strong spiritual armament of faith, hope, understanding, and love. He must fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life. Armed with the true Science of God and man, a sincere affection for the human race, spiritual alertness, and unselfish devotion, he can face the challenge of these stirring times and master the manifold subtleties of evil. We must triumph through the spiritual power of Christ, Truth.

There are many misconceptions of Christian Science in the popular thought. Sometimes it is said, "Oh, yes, Christian Scientists! They are the people who say they are not sick when they are!" Be assured, my friends, there is much more to it than that, and a very important weapon in the divine arsenal is moral courage.

It requires great moral courage to believe in and maintain the facts of spiritual being when the material senses are shouting of danger, sickness, and pain; when one finds himself but a tiny minority opposed by the vast majority opinion of mankind; when sometimes in an extreme case faith, patience, and hope are tried and stretched to the yielding point of human endurance, and temptation whispers, "You'll never make it;

might as well quit." But victory has never gone to the fainthearted. If one loves God and believes in His power, the time to prove it is when tried. Our textbook states (Science and Health, pp. 28, 29); "There is too much animal courage in society and not sufficient moral courage. Christians must take up arms against error at home and abroad. They must grapple with sin in themselves and in others, and continue this warfare until they have finished their course. If they keep the faith, they will have the crown  of  rejoicing."  The Psalmist writes, "Through God we shall do valiantly; for he it is that shall tread down our enemies" (Ps. 108:13).

 

‘Ye Shall Know the Truth . . .’

Christian Science is an incalculable help to humanity in its age-old struggle to overcome evil of every sort, for it exposes the nature of all evil as a lie.

The only way a lie can gain acceptance is to present itself as truth. Deception is its only weapon. A lie seen to be a lie has lost all power to deceive. A log made to look like a cannon might retard the advance of a body of soldiers, but not after it is seen to be only a log. The belief that matter has life and sensation, that evil is as real as good and even more powerful, and that man is a corporeal person with a mind of his own, has retarded the progress of humanity for centuries. It leads the well-meaning physician to examine matter for the cause of disease; whereas he should understand the power of God to heal the body through Mind. It induces the theologian to look to the death of Jesus instead of to the living Christ, Truth, for salvation and redemption. It causes the social worker and reformer to appeal to the unaided human will to reform and uplift mortals; a task as impossible as lifting oneself by his own bootstraps. The belief of the reality of matter misleads the research scientist, drawing him away from Mind and the true universe. It deceives the businessman, so that he seeks money as wealth, overlooking the lasting treasures of spiritual reality.  Nations, laboring under this universal misconception, look to physical resources and military power for safety and glory. But the great master Christian declared, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). And Christian Science is showing mankind the way to freedom by uncovering the claims of evil as lies and deceptions ruling humanity through fear and ignorance.

The theology of Christian Science is simple and practical; it applies to present living. Therefore salvation is not a dream state or a condition obtainable only hereafter. It is the   present understanding and service of God manifested in the destruction of sin, disease, and the elements of death. Salvation is a present fact, or it is no fact. Which shall we choose? St. John insists, "Now are we the sons of God" (I John 3:2). Before Mrs. Eddy's discovery the doctrine of universal salvation provoked violent opposition among theologians, but today Christian Science proves that salvation is a present possibility for all who are willing to follow the rules.

Rule number one in the divine code is the First Commandment, "Thou shall have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3). All starts with God, with present perfection. We must start with the kingdom of God as a present fact, material evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.  We must understand God, obey His laws, and appeal to His power at all times. We must be ever alert to defend our divine citizenship.  If we should be falsely accused and haled into court on charges of sin or disease, let us claim our rights as citizens of the kingdom - rights of health, freedom, and purity. Let us submit to trial only in the court of Spirit; let us come into court with clean hands and then plead our case honestly and earnestly until our freedom as sons and daughters of God is established.

 

Jesus Showed the Way of Salvation

The protection of God's government is for all men; we are to claim it for ourselves and grant it to all others. We need to be just as zealous for the rights of others as we are for our own. Spiritual salvation is not personal but universal. Frederick Douglas, a famous antislavery orator, and a citizen of my home city, declared, "No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellowman without at least finding the other end of it about his own neck."

A friend of mine used to have occasional dealings in real estate. I asked him whom he employed as agent in such transactions. He gave the name of a local real estate broker, and then said, "'Some say he is dishonest, but he has never been dishonest with me." You see, my friend did not regard honesty and dishonesty as personal qualities; he knew there is only one honesty, universal and ever present. He knew that honesty is a quality or law of God, a power operating between men to make them fair with one another. He knew that the same power which made him honest was a power to keep the other man honest. He knew that dishonesty is a false claim, without rights or power in the government of God.  When dishonesty is scientifically understood as unreal, it cannot come into one's experience or presence, therefore dishonest persons will stay away or leave their dishonesty behind when they come. Christ Jesus knew that sin and disease are unreal, therefore those errors could not abide his presence. When he came, they left.

The conclusion of the whole matter is that the government of God, or kingdom of heaven, is a present spiritual reality, a metaphysical fact which can be understood and demonstrated in every department of life. This kingdom of God is humanity's one great hope for deliverance from its many troubles. A world-democracy of "good men self-governed" has been the dream for centuries, self-governed in health, politics, and business, as well as in morals - because governed by their Maker. Jesus showed the way of salvation. Christian Science explains the Bible teachings practically and so enables us to follow the great Way-shower. The doors to the heavenly city are open; all who will may enter. The Master enjoined his followers to seek the kingdom of God first of all, promising that all needful things would be added if they would put God first. He concluded with the tender assurance, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).

 

[Published in The Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 25, 1960, under the headline "Divine Citizenship Assures Peace and Justice for Humanity". This transcription was made from a badly decomposed copy; the [   ] represent places where the original text was missing.]

 

 

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