Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chapter 8 -- The Christian Scientists

Chapter 8

The Christian Scientists

‘And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.’ --Matthew 4:24

Jeremy was strolling through downtown Chattanooga when he walked by a Christian Science Reading Room. He stopped before and looked it over. There was a chalkboard propped up in the middle of the sidewalk announcing that Dr. Leslie Schau was lecturing that afternoon on faith healing. She was speaking at three; it was then one thirty. He considered going in and learning more, then noticed the library across the green and decided to satisfy his curiosity there instead.

He searched out a couple of books and discovered that it was a religious order that had been founded in America by a woman named Mary Baker Eddy in the nineteenth century. She had been sickly as a child, and cultivated an early interest in healing through faith. Her major work was SCIENCE AND HEALTH WITH KEY TO THE SCRIPTURES, on which the Christian Scientist order was based. Beyond that he couldn’t understand much of what she and her followers believed. The text was so obfuscated and verbose that he could glean very little meaning from it. After two hours of diligent reading he finally gave up, re-shelved the books and left the library.

He wandered back the way he had come, and when he reached the reading room, decided to go in. There were about ten people seated in a group by the window, and the lecturer had already finished speaking, and was mingling with the guests. Jeremy hung in the back for a few minutes, and when an opportunity arose, he introduced himself. “I was wondering if you might explain basic Christian Science to me,” he petitioned.

“I’ll be more than happy to do that,” she offered. “Did you have any specific questions regarding my lecture?”

He bristled. “Actually, I didn’t hear you speak. I spent this afternoon in the library reading about Mary Baker Eddy and her order.”

“I see…then what do you lack for knowledge of Christian Science?”

“Just about everything,” he responded. “Other than her biography and that she was interested in faith healing, I didn’t comprehend much.”

There was a bookshelf there behind her, and she turned and plucked two volumes from it. She turned and held them out to Jeremy. In her right hand was THE BIBLE and in her left, Mary Baker Eddy’s book SCIENCE AND HEALTH WITH KEYS TO SCRIPTURES. “Everything you need to know is in these two books.”

“That’s what I was reading, but I just didn’t get it.”

“Well, she was in poor health most of her life, yet through her faith managed to live into her eighty ninth year. She generously shared her understanding of the healing power of the scriptures, and her order, as you call it, has been thriving and well for well over a century. Even today there are about two thousand reading rooms around the world.”

“I understand all that, and every Christian knows God can heal anyone, but in reading her book I didn’t understand what exactly her understanding was beyond that. It didn’t make…much sense to me.”

“Just open her book and read,” Dr. Schau explained. She handed The Bible to Jeremy then opened Science and Health. “It’s called science because it’s based on Mary Baker Eddy’s set of spiritual principles, laws of God and His creation, and when applied which when applied have the power to heal. There’s dozens of them… Effective Triumph, Recreant Disciples, Perception Prolonged, Painful Prospect, Healing Primary. Here’s an interesting one: The Spiritual Mathematics. ‘Who would stand before a blackboard, and pray the principle of mathematics solve the problem? The rule is already established, and it is our task to work out the resolution. Shall we ask the divine Principle of all goodness to do His own work?’”

“What does all that mean?” Jeremy asked. “And why does she call God the ‘divine Principle of all goodness’? Why doesn’t she just keep it simple and say ‘God?’”

“God is the divine Principle of all goodness,” Dr. Schau replied. “I think one easy way to come to an understanding of Mrs. Eddy’s work is to flip back and forth between the first and the last chapter. That was from the first. The last chapter is entitled Fruition, which is a collection of testimonials from people who discovered how to heal themselves through Mrs. Eddy’s understanding of scripture. Here’s one from NRF of Salina, Kansas. I have long desired to express my gratitude for what Christian Science has done, through reading Science and Health, for me and my family. ‘I was healed of profanity, the tobacco habit, and a bad temper, through the understanding that man is the image and likeness of God. I was also healed of kidney disease and rheumatism.’”

“That’s wonderful,” Jeremy said. “But how did Christian Science help NRF to find faith in God?”

“That’s where you turn back to the principles. They all apply always. Here’s another one. ‘Inspiring Discontent. The world could not interpret aright the discomfort which Jesus inspired and the spiritual blessings which might f low from such discomfort. Science shows the cause of the shock so often produced by the truth,--namely, that this shock arises from the great distance between the individual and the Truth.’ That’s beautiful,” she whispered with breathless admiration.

“Maybe, but I still don’t understand what it means,” he reiterated.

“And that’s where we turn back to Fruition and read how it saved someone who did understand it. Here’s a testimony called Deafness And Dropsy Healed, from AB in Pittsburgh. ‘I had been deaf from childhood. I suffered intensely after eating, and dropsy was another of my complaints. This, with consumption, caused one doctor to say, " It puzzles me; I have never seen such a case before as yours.” I met a friend who had been cured in Christian Science, and she said, "Try Christian Science." I got a copy of Science and Health and in three weeks I was entirely cured. I felt uplifted. It seemed as if God's arms were around and about me. I felt as if heaven had come down to earth for me. After five years of suffering can any one wonder at my unspeakable gratitude?’ That’s a beautiful story.”

“It is,” Jeremy said, pausing to temper his mounting frustration. “But how?”

She turned back to the beginning of the book. It could easily have been this,” she said, locating her page then reading. “’Deity Unchangeable. God is not moved by the breath of praise to do more than he has already done, nor can the infinite do less than bestow all good, since He is unchanging wisdom and Love. We can do no more for ourselves by humble fervent petitions, but the All-loving does not grant them simply on the ground of lip-service, for He already knows all.’ How true is that?”

“Why doesn’t she simply say God is perfect and omniscient instead of using such a mouthful of necessary words?” Jeremy mused.

“You need only search the results to know that not a word is waste,” she answered, then turned again toward the back of the book. Here is how ASJ of Sioux City, Iowa was touched. He wrote ‘Astigmatism And Hernia Healed. It is nearly five years since I bought my first copy of Science And Health, the reading of which cured me of chronic constipation, nervous headache, astigmatism, and hernia, in less than four months. Where would I be now, had not this blessed truth been brought to me by much persuasion of a very dear friend? I certainly should have been deep in the slough of despond, if not in the grave.’ How can you not be moved by that?”

“It’s very touching,” he concurred. “And I’m happy for all who were healed. But I still don’t get it. Here, let me read you something that I just perused an hour ago and still don’t understand. It’s Mary Baker Eddy’s rendering of the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus sublimely taught using simple words: ‘Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not in to temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.’ Gorgeous words. Mary Baker Eddy renders it thus. ‘Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious, Adorable One. Thy kingdom is come; thou art ever-present. Enable us to know,--as in heaven, so on earth,--God is omnipotent, supreme. Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections; And Love is reflected in love; And God leadeth us not into temptation, but delivereth us from sin, disease, and death. For God is infinite, all-power, all Life, Truth, Love, over all, and All.’ There is much wisdom in leaving well enough alone.”

“And there is no wrong in one woman giving expression to her glorious love for the Lord,” Dr. Schau said in an almost defensive tone.

Jeremy made a subtle motion toward the door; she didn’t hold him to his place. “If you find yourself with any more questions, I’m here at least once a week. Feel free to take the books with you. God bless you, sir.” She politely shook his hand then joined two women who were conversing nearby. Jeremy glanced at the books. He already had a Bible, and didn’t want to be saddled carrying around the other, so he waited a few moments, silently placed them back on the shelf and slipped out the door.

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