An interview with Carl Gans

May 2nd, 2009

Carl Gans of Santa Barbara, California, is a husband, father, attorney, and one of the founders of this website. The Ananias letter on our home page, though cosigned by several of us, was his idea, and I have personally been strengthened a great deal as a follower of Jesus by Carl’s friendship over the past decade.

To give others a deeper look into his mind and heart, I recently put seven questions to Carl Gans by email. We’ll post his fascinating reply in sections. Here is the first installment. Links to the second and third parts are given at the bottom of this post.

Andrews: What is the faith you live by?

Gans: This is a difficult question, because it combines both what I believe, and how I live. These are not always well aligned. How I live often belies what I say I believe. Nevertheless, the following is my attempt to answer the question.

I have found great comfort and great security in the traditional confessions of the church. Among these are the Heidelberg Catechism; the Apostles’ Creed; and the Nicene Creed, to name a few. The first question in the Heidelberg Catechism comes close to summarizing the faith by which I live. The question is, What is your only comfort in life and in death? The answer – my answer – is “My only comfort, in life and in death, is that I belong, body and soul, not to my self but to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood, laid down his life for me, redeemed me from the just penalty for my sins, and gave me eternal life with him in heaven.” (See Note A, below)

I live by the faith that God owns all of me, my life, my possessions, my family, my home, my body and my soul. He made me, He knows me, and He owns me. My agenda – my purpose for living – is to serve the Lord Jesus faithfully. It is to use my gifts, my energy, my life in service to Jesus Christ.

One of the very first confessions of the church is to me one of the most profound. “Jesus is Lord.” With that priority established, everything else – everything – falls in place. As the hymn says:

“He is Lord. He is Lord.
He is risen from the dead, and He is Lord.
Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess,
That Jesus Christ is Lord.”

My very existence I owe to Jesus, and all that I have and am I owe to him. My purpose for living is to serve Him.

Additionally, or perhaps more fundamentally, the faith I live by is expressed in the Latin phrase “sola fide”, ‘by faith alone’. This is the foundation for the reform faith, meaning that I am saved – or justified in God’s sight – not by what I do, but by the fact that I have placed my faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Ephesians 2:8 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any one should boast.” In other words, I believe that Jesus Christ is my Savior and my Lord, and that this irrevocable commitment to Him has given me favor in God’s sight, has freed me from the power of death and hell, and has given me the gift of eternal life. More than that, because it is the gift of God, and not something I did, it does not depend on me to keep my salvation. (See Note B, below)

I believe that Scripture, God’s Word, the Bible, is the holy, inspired, and infallible Word of God, which is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12-13.

Andrews: Why and how did you leave Christian Science?

Gans: I left Christian Science in late June, 1990 after a year and half struggle following my conversion on December 1, 1988. At that time, I knew that I was a sinner, guilty and worthy of death, and that without a Savior I was eternally lost. I believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead, and that Jesus’ death on the cross was in payment of my sins. I prayed to God that He would forgive me of my sins, and I invited Jesus to come into my life and my heart, and be my Lord. God answered my prayer, and I was conscious of something dramatically different inside me. I felt an excitement and a joy I had never before experienced, and a desire to learn as much as I could about Jesus and what he wanted of me.

However, I was also confused, because I did not see how to integrate my faith in Jesus Christ with my lifelong commitment to Christian Science. I had been raised in Christian Science, and my parents were both Christian Scientists. I attended Principa Upper School, a boarding school for Christian Scientists. My wife was (and is) a dedicated follower of Mrs. Eddy. I had received class instruction in Christian Science, served as First Reader of the Goleta Christian Science Church.

During the months following my conversion, I spent vast amounts of time and effort in trying to reconcile the biblical Jesus, and what I was learning about this man to whom I had given my life, with the training, teaching and theology of Christian Science. It felt hopeless, draining, and as though I were caught in a trap from which there was no escape, no matter how hard I struggled. It just seemed as though I couldn’t make sense of it all.

Several things happened during that time, particularly in early 1990, that started to shed some light into the darkness of my struggle. I heard about a ministry called “The Christian Way”. I called Carolyn Poole, the lady who started the ministry and talked to her. Her counsel was wise and simple. If I would immerse myself in Scripture, God’s Word would clear away the confusion. She also sent me a book by Edward Dakin: The Biography of a Virginal Mind – the Story of Mary Baker Eddy. The Dakin biography gave me a picture of Mrs. Eddy that I had never seen before, and helped me gain some perspective on who she was, and what her motives and issues were. Far more significant and helpful was the intensive study of Scripture. I bought the Bible on tape, and listened to the entire Old and New Testaments on tape as I drove. I carried a paperback Bible with me, so I could check out the passages being read, to see if “it really says that”. As I became more familiar with Scripture, and began to get a concept of the Bible as a whole (as opposed to excised verses scattered throughout the Bible), I became more aware that Mrs. Eddy often quoted the Bible out of context. I also became aware that the “Lesson-Sermons” carefully picked and chose selected brief passages of Scripture to emphasize points that appeared to support Christian Science doctrine, and neglected other large passages of Scripture entirely.

As I continued this study, it began to become evident that I could believe in and follow the biblical Jesus, or I could believe in and follow Mary Baker Eddy, but that I could not do both. I could not be both a Christian and a Christian Scientist.

As I wrestled with this dilemma, I decided to look up in the Bible some of the references where Mrs. Eddy quoted the Bible. As I did this, I discovered that not only did Mrs. Eddy quote the Bible out of context in Science and Health, but she also made numerous errors, actually misquoted some portions, and was not truthful in her representations of what the Bible says. In one portion of Science and Health, she described different kinds of faith. This is a paraphrase, but says roughly the following: “Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief” expresses the helplessness of a blind faith. On the other hand, “Believe . . . and thou shalt be saved” expresses self-reliant trustworthiness that confides all to God. In other words, Mrs. Eddy was distinguishing between faith that is effective and faith that is not effective.

When I looked up the Scriptures she was quoting, it was from Acts 16:31, where the Philippian jailer asked Paul ‘What must I do to be saved?’ Paul’s answer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”. The deliberate omission of the words “on the Lord Jesus Christ” from Mrs. Eddy’s discussion of effective faith deeply shocked me, and made me realize that my choice was clear, and the answer was clear.

On June 26, 1990 I wrote letters to The Mother Church, to my branch church where I had attended and served for nearly 20 years, and to my Christian Science Association. In each letter, I announced my resignation from the church, and testified to my faith in Jesus Christ, and to my conviction that as a follower of Jesus Christ, I could not in good conscience remain a member of the Christian Science movement.

Then I told my family and my parents of my decision, and told them of my faith in Jesus. A counselor I had seen told me once, “At some point, you will have to deal with the statement by Jesus that “whosoever confesses my name before men, I will confess his name to the Father, and whosoever denies my name before men, I will deny his name to the Father.”

When I ‘went public’ with my faith as a believer, my world changed dramatically and wonderfully. I received the encouragement and support of dozens of other believers, the fellowship of a new church, and a growing hunger for God’s Word that was both satisfied and further stimulated. That day truly marked the beginning of my journey of faith, and the last 19 years have been an amazing blur of God’s blessings and challenges.

Andrews: Watch for the comments from Carl Gans on these additional interview questions, coming soon:

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

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

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

** 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?

** Mrs. Eddy in 1902 declared her belief that “Christian Science is destined to become the one and only religion and therapeutics on this planet.” But obviously the path God showed you and me for our lives went in another direction. How do you see the future of her teachings and her church in years to come?

Expanding on the doctrines referenced
under the first interview question.

A = The precise language of the 1st question in the Heidelberg Catechism is as follows: “What is your only comfort in life and death?” The answer is: “That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.”

B = Sola fide (by faith alone), also historically known as the doctrine of justification by faith, is a controversial doctrine that distinguishes most Protestant denominations from Catholicism, Eastern Christianity, and most Restorationists in Christianity. The doctrine of sola fide or “faith alone” asserts God’s pardon for guilty sinners is granted to and received through faith or belief alone, to the exclusion of all human efforts or works. All humanity, it is asserted, is fallen and sinful, under the curse of God, and incapable of saving itself from God’s wrath and curse. But God, on the basis of the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ alone (solus Christus), grants sinners judicial pardon, or justification, which is received only and solely through the divine gift of faith. Faith is seen as passive, merely receiving Christ and all his benefits, among which benefits are the active and passive righteousness of Jesus Christ. Christ’s righteousness is imputed (or accounted) by God to the believing sinner (as opposed to infused or imparted), so that the divine verdict and pardon of the believing sinner is based not upon anything in the sinner, nor even faith itself, but upon Jesus Christ and his righteousness alone, which are received through faith alone. Justification is by faith alone and is distinguished from the other graces of salvation, which always accompany justification.

Note: The second part of this interview, “Immersed myself in Scripture,” is posted here. The third part, “Pray for an open door,” is here.

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