Closer to Calvary?

by
November 24th, 2009

Sizing Up the Next Generation Fellowship

Lifting up “Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” in the words of I Corinthians 2:2, is unusual for Christian Scientists. But there is a new group in St. Louis who talk more like followers of the cross than Mrs. Eddy’s devotees usually do. What are we to make of them? What is going on?

Too many Scientists, objectively though not deliberately, come under Paul’s awful verdict, “enemies of the cross” (Phil. 3:18) — owing not to any materialism such as that verse suggests, but to a spiritual pride which in the end negates Jesus’ atoning death just as fully and leaves the individual just as lost.

But the Next Generation Christian Science Fellowship, according to its website, recognizes the centrality of the cross along with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of evangelism. These terms appear in a “covenant agreement” which members of the fellowship have signed.

It’s not clear to me, however, whether the members are struggling back toward the New Testament gospel or merely repackaging the Eddy teachings for contemporary tastes. Do they feel the relentless pursuing love of the Hound of Heaven, as we who maintain this website did in making our way from Boston to Calvary — or is this just word games and marketing?

Ten questions presented themselves when I read the Next Generation Fellowship’s covenant. The questions, which have been submitted to Fellowship officers, appear below in italics after each paragraph of the NGF document.

A curious mind may draw one closer to Calvary, perhaps even to the very hilltop. But only the surrendered heart can truly dwell there and find salvation in the wondrous cross. I pray this will be the outcome for NGF Christian Scientists, whatever may have been their intent in first coming near.

Next Generation Christian Science Fellowship of St. Louis

Encouraging growth in grace through worship, education, and service
in a joyfully inclusive and loving community

Covenant Agreement

These convictions bring us together as a faith community. We hold in common that:

The purpose of life is to glorify God and joyfully to celebrate the defining, creative, and loving presence of God in everything we do.

    Question 1. In “echoing the Westminster Confession,” as a footnote says the above statement does, are you also accepting its definition of God in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?

The inspired Word, Logos, or Christ revealed in the Bible is our sufficient guide to eternal life. This includes embracing not just Jesus’ teachings but the fullness of his life — which he said demonstrates the design of the Bible and God’s intent for salvation, healing, and wholeness

    Question 2. Does your concept of “our sufficient guide” allow the Bible to be its own key, or is Science and Health indispensable for correctly understanding God’s Word? In “embracing the fullness of [Jesus’] life,” do you accept that he was God incarnate, who died to save us from our sins? (I Cor. 15:3).

Following Christ in the way of God’s choosing is the means by which Mary Baker Eddy repeatedly said Christian Science could be correctly understood and her teachings broadly shared with humanity. “The
school whose schoolmaster is not Christ, gets things wrong…”

    Question 3. Does your way of “following Christ” includes worshiping Jesus as Savior and Lord? Does it include taking communion with bread and wine in remembrance of his body and blood?

Spiritual Healing is a natural sign following the transformative power of the Spirit at work on one’s character and the entirety of one’s life and relationships. Physical healing alone is insufficient as the
primary incentive for, or validation of, one’s spiritual commitment.

    Question 4. Do you accept that spiritual and physical healing can really occur through the prayers of any Christian, not just Christian Scientists?

The centrality of the cross, consistent with the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy, embodies the essential evangelism of the human ego, the necessity for the surrender of any source of meaning and purpose apart from God. In the cross the inseparability of divinity’s embrace of humanity is made clear, and individuals feel God’s love right where they are in their experience.

    Question 5. When you relate the cross to “the inseparability of divinity’s embrace of humanity,” are you agreeing that each of us is a real sinner in need of a Savior, and that Jesus’ real death was the necessary sacrificial atonement to meet that need?

Binding up the broken-hearted and demonstrating extraordinary love is reflective of the highest practice of Christian Science. In consonance with the Bible and Christian Science, the genuine expression of our humanity is the primary indication of what we understand of God.

    Question 6. Does “your demonstrating extraordinary love” include welcoming into the fellowship those who use medicine, alcohol, or tobacco?

“Judge not that ye be not judged” and “let every person examine himself or herself” are the hallmarks of biblical and Christian faith, and of the practice of Christian Science. Great perversion of Christian faith
occurs when people feel criticism and judgment of their worth in the midst of Christian community.

    Question 7. Does your “judging not” result in acknowledging Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox believers as no less true Christians than Mrs. Eddy’s followers?

Love is the defining characteristic of primitive Christianity and must remain so in any reinstatement of it today. We strive to offer a witness of love so radical that the world may not understand it even while people are irresistibly drawn to it. Caring for the community involves inward nurture of those who are part of this fellowship and outward embrace of the larger community and world in which we live. Our ideals must be practiced in tangible expression as proof of our prayer for enriched affections.

Reaching Youth and Young Adults with a ministry and fellowship that draws them to want to be involved in worship and service, spiritual education and growth opportunities, enhanced relationships
and community, is a primary commitment of this Fellowship.

Equipping “the saints” for ministry is core to the mission of the Christian church and we strive to recognize the gifts of ministry given by the Holy Spirit to each individual, offer to support their development in service to the mission of this Fellowship, and afford opportunities for these gifts to be
shared.

    Question 8. Is it imperfect human beings, ordinary people in the flesh, who are given these gifts by the Holy Spirit, or do the gifts reside with some other entity: immortals, the ideal man, God’s perfect child?

Evangelism, sharing the good news of God’s love, is central to the calling of every follower of Christ and fulfills Mary Baker Eddy’s definition of her church as an evangelical order. This Fellowship devotes itself, individually and corporately, to making a witness to the world of the truths it espouses.

    Question 9. Does your “evangelism, sharing the good news of God’s love,” involve leading individuals to the New Testament gospel (“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” Acts 16:31), or to Mrs. Eddy’s metaphysics?

And finally, John Andrews asks:

    Question 10. My inquiry into the foundations of your faith can be summed up in this: If someone ignorant of Scripture were to ask you the same two questions Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) and “What shall I do with Jesus which is called Christ?” (Matt. 27:22), how would you answer?

The author can be reached at andrewsjk@aol.com

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