If Christ be not risen
“Would ye ascend the mountain… and drink from its living fountains?” So asks the mysterious Stranger to a group of laborers in the valley at the beginning of Mrs. Eddy’s brief, biblically resonant tale entitled “An Allegory.” Recently I met a Christian Science couple who have organized — and named — their successful international consulting business around this worthy goal of helping mankind up the hill.
After talking with the couple, I read through “An Allegory” (Miscellaneous Writings, pp. 323-328, date unknown) for the first time in at least 15 years– having discontinued my study of Mrs. Eddy’s writings upon leaving the church in 1992. Scripture citations in the text were marginally noted in my own hand from some long-ago study I had made of the piece. But something was glaringly obvious to me now which I had only half-sensed back then, on my way out of Science — the complete absence of the crucified and risen Savior from this story.
Mrs. Eddy does quote or paraphrase Jesus throughout the piece. She does explain near the end that “the mountain is heaven-crowned Christianity, and the Stranger the ever-present Christ, the spiritual idea which [acts to] acquaint sensual mortals with the mystery of godliness — unchanging, unquenchable Love.” But the man Jesus is never mentioned, his passion hardly hinted at. All the theology here implies self-salvation by thought and effort, not the rescue of lost humanity by the sacrifice and victory of the Son of God incarnate.
Next to “mystery of godliness,” for example, I had jotted I Tim. 3:16. Mrs. Eddy simply equates that mystery with Love, one of her familiar synonyms for Deity. But the Bible context, from which she has torn this rich phrase, spells out the mystery this way: “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” What a contrast.
The hill in this allegory is certainly not Calvary. We read nothing here of “the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died.” The only cross spoken of, at the very end of the article, is that which a “follow[er] [of] the Way-shower,” loving God and man as commanded, will “safely bear… up to the throne.” In that closing paragraph we’re told that fitness to “ascend the hill of Christian Science” is a matter of personal righteousness, much like the qualifications in Psalm 24 to go up the hill of the Lord.
The whole thing has an Old Testament feel of heaven earned by law, devoid of New Testament gospel and grace. Missing entirely is the good news from Hebrews 12 that “ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire… but ye are come unto mount Sion, and… the heavenly Jerusalem… and to Jesus the mediator of new covenant.”
Reading the Allegory of the Stranger, Mr. Spiritual Idea atop “the summit of bliss survey[ing] the vale of the flesh, I felt very sad for my new friends with the consulting business, sad for all Mrs. Eddy’s followers. Denying themselves access to the freely offered mystery of godliness, metaphysically insisting that God was NOT manifest in the flesh, they needlessly struggle to do so much with so little, trudging up an incline which — did they but know it — our gracious Lord has already climbed for us.
“If Christ be not risen,” wrote Paul, “then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” This is the tragedy of the Christian Scientists. They do admit the resurrection of the human Jesus, but their Christ is someone or something different, an abstraction called unchanging Love — not the God-man who redeemed us with his blood, the Savior of Romans 10:6-9 and the Apostles’ Creed.
Lacking the transforming help of the true, biblical Christ, the Scientist is left to think or will his own way out of the fallen Adam nature into the restored image of God, a discouraging and ultimately impossible task. Sonship for us sinners cannot be self-asserted. It can only be attained by adoption, and this requires a sponsor who has paid the price for us: the risen Christ. “If Christ be not risen,” Mrs. Eddy’s preaching, metaphysics, allegories, and scriptural keys are all in vain, as is her followers’ earnest faith in all that. A tragedy indeed.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org