Captured by the Hound of Heaven

October 2nd, 2010

Here is another in our interview series. On this site in the past, Linda Kramer and Carl Gans have answered my questions about how they know God, why they left Christian Science, and what still connects them to those roots. This time I have interviewed myself, using the same seven questions as before. You can read the Kramer interview here and the Gans interview here. We’re working on one with Jim Ritchie, coming soon.

1. What is the faith you live by?

Jesus who made the worlds and conquered death and hell, the High King, knows me by name and companions with me constantly. The certainty of this, having him as my Savior and Lord, my elder brother and best friend, anchors the faith I live by. God and man, law and grace, sin and righteousness, truth and duty, sacred history and eternal destiny, exactly as the Bible teaches them, define and animate my being. I find complete intellectual and spiritual satisfaction in the classical creeds: Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian. I am gratefully grounded in “the one holy, catholic, and apostolic church,” though still feeling myself to be a pilgrim in search of its earthly manifestation. I sense at times the faint but indelible imprint of Mrs. Eddy’s teachings upon my Christian outlook, complicating but not contradicting my fidelity to the gospel; of which more below.

2. Why and how did you leave Christian Science?

Nearing 40, I realized after deep questioning and study that Mrs. Eddy was not presenting the whole truth about God and man; yet I remained a Christian Scientist for another dozen years. Religion was still a highly intellectualized affair for me. Then when nearing 50, experience forced me to confront the ugly, elemental fact that I was a sinner, a lost soul (Rom. 1:31). I sensed that Jesus was personally pursuing me – relentless, demanding, intensely loving – although it was only much later that I ever heard him called the Hound of Heaven. Holding leadership positions in my local congregation and Adventure Unlimited intensified the ferment for me. But it seemed that through acquaintances, authors, and revelatory encounters, I was being drawn into the family of faith, “the general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Heb. 12:23), more than feeling myself distanced from the religion I had always known. Hungrily devouring such writers as Lewis, Chesterton, Newman, and McDowell, I felt a rising distaste for the notion of Mrs. Eddy as equal with Jesus, her book as a corrective to his, or her church as truer than his. Finally, I saw how the broken pieces fitted together: he was the Savior my sinning self had been resisting and rejecting, yet longing for. I must divide my loyalties no longer. Late in 1992 I resigned my Mother Church and branch church memberships, and early in 1993 I received Christian baptism. It was a homecoming beyond anything I could have imagined. I wept with joy upon first receiving the Eucharist, the body and blood of our Lord.

3. What lasting effects have you experienced, for good or ill, from having followed Christian Science for much of your life?

The Quaker scholar Elton Trueblood, a writer my father loved, entitled one of his books The Company of the Committed. In that broad and blessed company, Christian Scientists are one small but noble (if less than clearsighted) platoon. I am grateful to have joined the company of the committed for life, as a result of learning the Bible by way of Christian Science in childhood – and then devoting myself to the Bible, ultimately at the expense of Christian Science, in manhood. My formative years in Christian Science taught me to revere Scripture, to trust the omnipotence and goodness of God, to rely on prayer, and to live my faith day by day. I treasure those lessons, and they are with me still. I treasure the friendships and the role models of godliness that I gained within the close-knit circles of the Christian Science movement, especially through my long association with Principia and Adventure Unlimited. Some habits of thought acquired as a Christian Scientist, which I am still struggling to let go of, include denying evil instead of confronting it; an impulse toward self-salvation; touches of spiritual pride and smugness; and Pollyanna attitudes about health and the body. Trueblood’s real company of the committed are those who have utterly given themselves to the gospel, to Jesus Christ and him crucified (I Cor. 2:2). Christian Science indeed set me on the path toward this full measure of commitment; yet its erroneous vestiges remain as obstacles in my path even now.

4. How much common ground do you find for dialogue between followers of the biblical Jesus and followers of Mrs. Eddy?

The deep reverence that Christian Scientists feel for the Bible provides our most important common ground. In their conviction that the God of the Bible constitutes ultimate reality and commands our utmost devotion, there is more common ground. And yet more in their acceptance that Jesus actually lived, the gospel accounts actually happened. And more still in their thoughtful, determined resistance to materialist and secularist worldviews. A friendly effort to explore together the implications of such congruence might ask, “Since we agree on (this or that), what you say (such and such verse) means, or what ought we to do about (some command or warning)?” The difficulties we’ll encounter almost immediately in attempting this, however, stem from the powerful grip Christian Science has on its followers. Science is a closed and self-reinforcing belief system, defended by adherents with the dogged certainty that “It works” – for which Scientists are conveniently if unconsciously selective in the evidence they admit. The comfortable grooves of social and family bonding among the faithful also deter dialogue; why risk disrupting one’s whole world (outer as well as inner) with heterodox thoughts? But I still welcome dialogue with our former co-religionists whenever the Spirit leads, so great is my debt of gratitude to the Christ-followers who again and again reached out to me when I was in Science. Links for further reading: Two essays I have written, “Mrs. Eddy’s Children” (1) and “Faith of Our Fathers“, look at the obstacles to dialogue. An outline I developed with Carl Gans, “Approaches for Evangelizing Christian Scientists” (2) explores the possibilities that remain nonetheless.

(1) Andrews – Mrs Eddy’s Children
(2) Approaches for Evangelizing Christian Scientists

5. What is your approach to praying for ourselves as former Christian Scientists who are now baptized Christians?

I hope we would each pray daily to “receive the kingdom of God as a little child” (Luke 18:17, Ps. 131:2), and to fix our eyes on Jesus “as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters” (Ps. 123:2). My best protection against the smugness I’m tempted to feel when comparing myself to Scientists who believe as I once did is the contrite prayer our Lord commended, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). And my petition continues this way: Holy Spirit, please set me free now and forever from false residual influences of that deeply ingrained Mrs. Eddy outlook. Give me opportunities to stand in the role of Ananias to Christian Scientists who have begun to ask, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). Grant me meekness and gentleness, discernment and discretion, boldness and courage, inspiration and a persuasive winning manner to make the most of those opportunities for your glory. Protect me, empower me, use me in your will not my own. In Christ’s name, amen.

6. Thinking of someone who follows Mrs. Eddy and who may be of special concern to you or me, how might we pray for that person?

Lord Jesus, as you gently but irresistibly drew to yourself the hesitant seeker Nicodemus and the questioning woman at the well, I pray you would call this lost brother or sister home to a saving knowledge of you. Bring the words of the Bible newly alive for them, perhaps alluringly or perhaps disturbingly, just as you know best what touches their deepest need. Let the holy days around Christmas and Easter stir their hearts (as mine and my wife’s were stirred) to see your divine beauty and feel your kingly authority despite the lulling misrepresentations of you in Science and Health. Bring into their lives exactly the people they need to know and the experiences they need to have, to be awakened and convicted and converted. Chase them down, corner them, and capture them with your relentless demanding love, O great Hound of Heaven. Use me personally as much or as little as your plan calls for, and help me remember always that this is not about me. It’s about my loved one and about you, dear Jesus. Enable me, I pray, to love this precious soul just as he or she is right now – as extravagantly as you love them.

7. Mrs. Eddy in 1902 declared her belief that “Christian Science is destined to become the one and the only religion and therapeutics on this planet” (My. 266). But obviously the path God has showed you and me for our lives went in a different direction. Another and truer religion (and therapeutics) prevails for us and is gaining throughout the world as her system weakens. How do you see the future of Mrs. Eddy’s teachings and her church in years to come?

Well, first, we can remark (with sadness, not spite) that Mrs. Eddy’s claim of speaking under divine inspiration is falsified yet again by this woefully mistaken prediction, as it is in so many other instances of her misreading of salvation history and of Scripture itself. After another of her predictions, “that in the twentieth century… Christendom will be classified as Christian Scientists,” (Pul. 22, made in 1895), proved untrue at the century’s close, I published a sharp-edged little piece entitled, “The Verdict is In.” Verdict is In But I’ve since come to see that no purpose is served by counterposing my predictions to someone else’s. What makes me so sure, after all? Taking to heart the admonitions of the risen Christ to his over-curious disciples, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:7), and “What is that to thee? Follow thou me” (John 21:22), we are better off to let come of Christian Science what may come, and simply concern ourselves with following Him more faithfully. I pray that in God’s good time, the reverse of Mrs. Eddy’s prophecy will finally come about, so that every lost Christian Scientist may be found again by the searching Shepherd, reborn, and “classified” among the saved. Institutionally, the Mother Church and its branches along with such organizations as Principia and Adventure Unlimited may still be here a hundred years from now, ever less biblical and ever more liberal or New Age in their outlook. Christian heresies tend to be long-lived. Our opportunity and obligation to witness for Christian truth are only increased by that chronic condition in a fallen world hungry for the Bread of Life. I’ll stay in the bread business for as long as it takes, and my children and their children after me. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!

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