Trinitarian prayer: My doorway out

by
September 12th, 2019

“Behold, what manner of love.”  These words from the Epistle of John are etched on the memory of anyone who spent years attending the Christian Science church.

They begin the I John 3:1-3 passage that Mary Baker Eddy directed to be read at the close of every Sunday service as the supposed correlative Scripture to her pantheistic, gnostical, matter-denying formula, the so-called “Scientific Statement of Being.”

By God’s providence, however—or might we even say by God’s sense of humor—this very passage came to play a crucial part in my dawning awareness that biblical truth must stand above and apart from any of Eddy’s theories. Which then eventually led to my escape from Christian Science and my salvation by Jesus Christ.

It happened this way. Throughout the 1980s after my initial surrender to Christ’s Lordship, I flailed around trying to have one foot in the Gospel and the other in my CS upbringing. My custom then (as now) was to pray aloud each morning the Lord’s Prayer and a series of other petitions and affirmations.  One of those was I John 3:1-3, given in the King James Bible as follows

1-Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2- Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3- And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

Dividing my Sundays (even as my heart was still divided) between attending CS services and worshiping hungrily at various nearby Protestant churches, I found myself wanting “more of Jesus” in those weekday devotional times. “God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity,” as the Doxology calls Him, increasingly dominated my thoughts, overruling the MBE abstraction of “infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation.”

So one day it occurred to me that the kind of love God loves us with would be better illumined by inviting the Trinity into that I John passage where each of the “he” and “him” pronouns appears in King James. I tried it, and the result was this:

1-Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew not Jesus Christ. 2- Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when Jesus shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see the Son as the Father is. 3- And every man that hath this hope in Jesus Christ purifieth himself, even as the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is pure.

By substituting these few words, we see with dramatic clarity that the text is not a cold metaphysical diagram as Mrs. Eddy tried to make it, but a compelling salvation story with beginning, middle, and end.

It’s a story that goes from the pathos of our failing to recognize Jesus when he came among us, resulting in the Cross; to the hope we have in his return and the purification we experience in awaiting that; the encouragement to persevere as pilgrims and strangers in a world uncomprehending of Christ and his followers; and finally to the glorious anticipation of his fleshly reappearing and our then becoming exactly like him, adopted brothers and sisters to the risen, ascended, and reigning Lord.

Praying this aloud day by day, I came into a clearer, surer knowledge of myself as Jesus’ own disciple and sheep, not as MBE’s self-rescuing student. Through trinitarian prayer, her dishonestly borrowed “correlative Scripture” became my doorway out of Christian Science darkness into Christ’s redeeming light and love.

The author can be reached at andrewsjk@aol.com

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