Hidden in plain sight

by
July 28th, 2015

Up to my mid-thirties I was a Christian Scientist following Mary Baker Eddy instead of Jesus. Then for a dozen years I was a Christian Scientist following Jesus and Mrs. Eddy both. Finally things reached a breaking point, and I became a born-again Christian following Jesus Christ alone. The warning in I John, chapter 4, “Test the spirits,” played a decisive part (Scripture quotations throughout are from the New American Standard Bible).

That thought and others from that same rich chapterwere familiar to me from study of the Bible lessons. But I knew them only as fragmentary platitudes, not in their context.

“God is Love” (I John 4:8), said the lettering on the church walls. But where was the proof? “Perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18), said the periodicals. But what fear in particular, and whose love was perfect?

Although the answers were right there on the page, I couldn’t see them. Science and Health, purporting to be the key to the Scriptures, functioned for me more like a lock. The Word was not laid open but shut away, its intended meaning, key themes, and central persons — Jesus in particular — all hiding in plain sight.

So long as I deferred to Mrs. Eddy’s interpretation of the text, important passages in the Bible were closed to me, and the plain meaning of other passages was overwritten with her own invented meaning. Sensing this, I struggled against it for years. At last I could defer to Mrs. Eddy no longer.

From now on I would read Science and Health in terms of the Bible, not the Bible in terms of Science and Health. The textbook would remain for me a helpful commentary (as I then thought), but never again an authority. Scripture must be uppermost.

The proof that God is Love, long hidden from me in plain sight, was now manifest. It was “that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (I John 4:9). The missing piece was Jesus.

I still had more to learn – and unlearn. After blowing up my marriage with selfishness and sensuality (and while first reader in my branch church), it was not God’s perfect child that I saw in the mirror, but a monster of sin and shame.

The fear of hell in eternity, and of a living hell as a failed husband and father, shook me to the core. That Savior who had never meant much to me? Suddenly I needed him like a drowning man.

Again my answered prayers jumped off the page. A Father who personally loved us had “sent His son to be the propitiation,” or blood sacrifice, for my sins (I John 4:10). It was by confessing Jesus that His love would be perfected in me, so I might “have confidence in the day of judgment,” all fear of hell cast out (I John 4:17).

Unlearning in this desperate hour my self-delusion of sinless identity as taught in Science and Health (see page 290, among others), I was able to reconcile with my family and begin anew as a self-styled “Christian Scientist for Jesus.”

For over a decade I reveled in growing closer Jesus, finding his footprints throughout Mrs. Eddy’s writings, and trying to witness about him to fellow Scientists.

But more and more I realized that the heresy C.S. Lewis calls “Christianity and” – the vain effort to improve on Jesus’ saving work – was holding me back from the Kingdom. (See The Screwtape Letters, Chapter XXV.)

Why continue to trust a teaching that had kept my Lord and Savior hidden for so long? Didn’t the refusal of Science and Health to confess “that Jesus is come in the flesh” as God incarnate (see page 361, among others), reflect “the spirit of the antichrist” (I John 4:3-4)? Didn’t this identify the book’s author with those “false prophets” of whom I John 4:1 warns?

Obeying the Apostle John’s command to “test the spirits,” I had no choice but to become Jesus’ man entirely and exclusively. I had found the missing piece, the God-man hidden in plain sight. I was home at last.
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Note: This essay was written for a forthcoming Bible study guide that explores the Book of I John in depth, to be published by the Fellowship of Former Christian Scientists in St. Louis MO. Contact: ffcsministry@gmail.com

The author can be reached at andrewsjk@aol.com

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