MBE’s towering self-appraisal

by
May 15th, 2011

Who did Mary Baker Eddy think she was?  Who did she think Jesus was?  What was the Trinity to her?  What was the Bible’s authority to her?  What did she think was God’s plan for our salvation and for the outcome of history?  The height of her self-importance and the distance of her departure from historic Christian teachings are evident in a dozen lines (shown in full at the end of this post) from Mrs. Eddy’s autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection. 

* On page 70 of that book, as I read it, she first assigns herself a role in the divine order of things that is coequal with the roles of Jesus and Mary and irreplaceable by either of them. 

* Then she claims that the second coming is “unquestionably” her system, Christian Science, and not the bodily return of Jesus as foretold in Acts 1. 

* Finally, she seems to say (the wording is emphatic yet cloudy) that the “scientific ultimate” of Jesus’ identity is “forever… incorporeal” — making us wonder how she would square this assertion with the warning of I John 4:3 that “every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.”

Squaring her assertions with Scripture did not greatly concern Mrs. Eddy, however, nor does wonderment about the matter seem to concern her followers today.  This was illustrated by the chance remark that led me to the passage we’re examining.  A Christian Science friend said jokingly that he was confident of his “own niche in time and eternity.”  I looked up the passage, which I had not seen in the 20 years since I quit studying the CS writings, and found the string of remarkable statements just noted.

In thinking further about my friend’s jocular remark, I was left with a couple of questions. 

* One, how can it be that a theologically momentous position like this on page 70 is so much taken for granted by the Scientists that they remember it chiefly for the aside about niches, and not for the central and profound points at issue? 

* And two (which may answer the previous question), is it possible that the “niche” declaration bespeaks an individualism — or even a solipsism — so radical that every Scientist is tempted to count his own view of things as equally valid with Mrs. Eddy’s or Jesus’s or the Bible’s view of things?

If this is the case for CS followers — and based on my own long years as one of them, I think it very well may be — each person implicitly feels he has permission to pick and choose any mix or modulation of doctrines from the Bible and MBE that happens to suit him. 

So when she ranks herself in an odd trinity with Jesus and Mary, if that seems a bit much for someone like my friend, you don’t confront it, you just shrug it off.  We’ve then gone beyond the Reformation teaching of “the priesthood of all believers” and arrived at the priesthood of all, period.  It’s individually customized designer theology for everybody, and no worries, mate.  You don’t have to “believe” in anything beyond your own niche in time and eternity.

This mentality slides easily into New Age spirituality, agnostic positive thinking, or a jaded sense that all religion is subjective and relativistic — the tragic end point of so many lost souls who break with Christian Science and replace it with one of those makeshift belief systems, or with nothing at all.

But if you are reading this and have broken with Christian Science or are thinking of doing so, it means you have not gone down that easy, empty, wide road and have instead found the narrow way of life in Jesus Christ.   That’s the way that I and my whole family have found, by God’s grace.  We are destined for the many mansions awaiting us with the Father, Son, and Spirit, the only real Trinity — and no other niche do we desire.

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From Retrospection and Introspection by Mary Baker Eddy, page 70:
 
(L.14) No person can take the individual place of the Virgin Mary. No person can compass or fulfil the individual mission of Jesus of Nazareth. No person can take the place of the author of Science and Health, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. Each individual must fill his own niche in time and eternity.
 
(L.20) The second appearing of Jesus is, unquestionably, the spiritual advent of the advancing idea of God, as in Christian Science.
 
(L.23) And the scientific ultimate of this God-idea must be, will be, forever individual, incorporeal, and infinite, even the reflection, “image and likeness,” of the infinite God.

See full book online at http://www.mbeinstitute.org/Prose_Works/RetroIntro.html

The author can be reached at centennial@ccu.edu

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