Tragically deaf and blind
Relying on a textbook they call the Key to the Scriptures and on six tenets that seem to uphold the Scriptures, many faithful Christian Scientists are unaware of how radically their religion reinterprets the Bible and how sharply it departs from the historic consensus of Protestant,Catholic, and Orthodox theology.
Wes (not his real name), whom I’ve known since we were Adventure Unlimited camp counselors together in the 1960s, is a good example. He wrote to ask about some college memories I’d posted on my political blog, in which I described my time at Principia as”four of the best years of my life,” but added that I later “had another great four years working as a vice president at Hillsdale, to which I must regretfully give the edge over my beloved Prin in terms of conservative principles and fidelity to biblical truth.”
Wes’s question was this: “I concur with your judgment that Hillsdale stands out in terms of conservative principles, but was a bit mystified as to your comment choosing Hillsdale over Prin for fidelity to biblical truth. Could you give me an example ?”
Notice that my friend wasn’t saying he knew what I likely meant and that he’d probably disagree, pending my statement of the case. He was declaring himself mystified. My reply went this way:
Wes, thanks for your note. This is not a new thing in my life, but I guess we’ve never talked about it. In the early ’80s, after much struggle, I found there was more help and comfort in the Bible if I read it on its own terms rather than through the lens of Science and Health.
Above all, this was the case in understanding what it meant that Christ died for my sins. Reluctantly I faced a choice between Mrs. Eddy and her book, and Jesus and his book, chose the latter, and it was the greatest event of my life.
I have only charitable feelings toward CS, its church, and my alma mater, as noted in the blog post you asked about. But this was the reason I left the employment of Adventure Unlimited in 1981 and ended up working for Hillsdale. I resigned from the Mother Church in 1992 and have been active as a Presbyterian since then. Glad you asked, best wishes – John
Factually, I wanted to give Wes the information he deserved as an old friend. Spiritually, I wanted to speak the truth to him in love, hoping to start a dialogue and ultimately open his eyes to the Gospel. If he replies, we’ll see whether that succeeds.
Assuming we do have a dialogue, one obstacle will be the Christian Scientists’ rejection of traditionally understood biblical terms and claims. Take the text I cited from I Corinthians 15:3, “Christ died for our sins.” Difficulties with each of those five words arise from Mary Baker Eddy’s vocabulary and doctrine.
1- She says Christ is an idea, undying and distinct from the man Jesus.
2- She says that in any event, Jesus himself while in the tomb was not really dead either.
3- She rejects the notion of a substitionary atonement, whereby the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection occurred in our place or “for” us.
4- She declares sin to be unreal, an illusion or false belief.
5- Even this illusory condition can’t actually be “ours” (or “mine,” as I wrote to Wes), since according to Mrs. Eddy each of us has only the sinless nature we possess as God’s spiritual reflection; we have no other identity to which sin could attach.
The experience I had at about age 40, as briefly described to Wes above, was a convergence of powerful new insights from two sources: a more honest knowledge of myself and a perspective on the Bible.
I became convinced, from what I saw inside me and around me, that I was a sinner in need of a Savior. Then I was tremendously encouraged to find in Scripture (as I read it for the first time without Science and Health in the way) the good news of that very Savior, through such passages as I Cor. 15:3 and many others.
The tragedy of Christian Science is that it seems to render a determined adherent such as Wes, virtually deaf and blind to both the awareness of his need and the availability of Christ’s answer.
St. Paul, writing further to the Corinthians, speaks of the challenge he and his coworkers faced, as “able ministers of the new testament,” in evangelizing the Jews, whose “minds were blinded” by unbelief in the Messiah, so that “until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament” (II Cor. 3:6, 14). A similar veiling of both testaments obstructs the evangelizing of Christian Scientists today.
Paul assures us, though, that the veil “is done away in Christ,” and two verses later he repeats that when the unbeliever’s “heart… shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.” I’m praying Wes experiences that turn of heart, and with it the unobscured view of Scripture that I received by God’s grace years ago. We’ll see what his reply says.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org