Scientists & Evangelicals: How different?

February 20th, 2009

What might Christian Scientists learn from evangelical Christians, especially as it relates to fostering church growth? Doesn’t Mrs. Eddy’s church manual suggest friendliness between her followers and evangelicals?

These questions surfaced out of a CS luncheon group after some of them discovered they shared an appreciation of Joyce Meyer’s TV sermons. A participant in the conversation, knowing that the Meyer telecast is often part of breakfast at my house, passed it along to us in a phone message.

My email in reply was couched mildly and obliquely, hoping to elicit a dialogue rather than seem to trump this friend’s (mis)understanding of the subject with my own pronouncements. Here’s what I wrote.

Dear Barb: Your report of the lunch discussion sent me to the concordance for Mrs. Eddy’s writings. There I found a couple of dozen references in all, from her textbook and other works, to “evangelical” and related words. These contained various hints about the questions you asked me, but nothing definitive.

Judging from all the citations taken together, it seems to me your elderly guest, the lady in her 90s, was right — Mrs. Eddy hoped to be on friendly terms with evangelical churches and believers but found it difficult.

The only Manual reference is page 17, which suggests the early members of her church saw themselves as pilgrims making an exodus out of evangelical churches to seek something they were missing. The implication was that of two paths diverging, not that of convergence.

The citation most striking to me is Science & Health page 254, “The human self must be evangelized.” That means, according to a contemporary dictionary, brought to accept one’s salvation from sin through the atoning death of Jesus. Thinking back, this is precisely what made me an evangelical Christian. They taught this definition of salvation — whereas CS did not do so at all.

I think it was my frustrations and failings as a husband that convinced me I’m a sinner in need of a savior. There is a practical realism in someone like Joyce Meyer that I don’t find in Science and Health, regarding our human flaws and the compassionate redemption of those by the crucified and risen Christ.

As so often happens, my CS friend and I were talking right past each other. She had the childlike assumption, so common among Mrs. Eddy’s followers, that differences between biblical Christianity and Christian Science are little more than shadings (though always showing the superiority of the latter), rather than diametric opposition at crucial points as is really the case.

She didn’t even know what she didn’t know. I pray each day for her and others like her, that God through his Son and his Spirit will bring them to know!


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