Pray for an open door

October 14th, 2009

Carl Gans of Santa Barbara, originator of the idea for this website, here concludes the interview he and I began back in May. “Pray that God would open a door of conversation,” he urges in reply to my final question regarding our intercession for loved ones who still follow Christian Science. Our exchange on the first two questions is posted here. Our exchange on the third question is at this link. Questions 4-7 now follow.

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

CG replied: Very little, actually, at least in my experience. On the face of it, there ought to be a lot of common ground, because CS claims as a foundational principle that the “Word of God” is the guide to eternal life. This ought to lead to a healthy discussion of Scriptural references and biblical principles. However, whenever questions of faith have come up in my discussions with followers of CS, I have been met with an extremely awkward silence, or some non-responsive non-sequiturs. Scripture claims that Jesus is the Word of God, come in the flesh, the Way, the truth, and the life. This claim is so profound, and so inescapably polarizing, that it ought to create dialogue, argument, discussion, and intense interaction between followers of Christ, who accept Jesus’ claim for himself, and the followers of MBE who hold that Jesus was not the way, but the way-shower.

The dialogue, if it can be called such, that I have had with followers of MBE, has had the effect of creating polarization, awkwardness, strong avoidance, and silent or cryptic anger in them. Many of the CS followers with whom I have discussed or even mentioned my faith in Jesus have responded with “how interesting”, and then permanently cut off communication with me. Honestly, it is puzzling to me that this should be the reaction. I have concluded that without the assistance and intervention of the Holy Spirit, dialogue is literally impossible. Would that it were different.

JA asked: (5) What is your approach to praying for ourselves as former Christian Scientists who are now baptized Christians?

CG replied: My approach to praying for myself follows the acronym A C T S (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). Rather than making ‘claims’ based on an impersonal, unknowable force, I pray trying to wrap my mind around a glimpse of the greatness, the glory, the majesty of the person of God, and to contemplate His majesty in awe and wonder. When I am able to get even a hint of God’s greatness, I stand (or kneel) in adoration. When I get a sense of the glory of God, and of His holiness, I then get a view of my own sinfulness, and I am driven to confess my sins, both of commission and of omission, and I ask God for both the gift of repentance, without which we are unable to even acknowledge our sin, let alone confess them, and ask forgiveness. Thanksgiving speaks for itself, but when I consider my helpless estate, and the greatness of God, and my inherent sinfulness and wickedness, and the incredible awesome depth of God’s love and mercy… what can I say but “thanks be to God!” The primary difference between prayer as a Christian and prayer as a follower of CS is in the dimension of Supplication, or petition. As a follower of Christ, I recognize that God has promised certain things in Scripture, and has not promised others. Prayers that do rely on specific promises are usually expressed in terms of thanksgiving for the truth of those promises. Many other prayer requests are discretionary, such as deliverance from suffering or hardship. In these circumstances, I strive to humbly petition God for his merciful favor. In the battle against sin, my prayer is that God would intercede and fight the battle on my behalf, and that He would hold me back from presumption, such as believing that in my own power or ability I can actually accomplish any victory. It is such a relief to know that anything God does through me is to His glory alone.

It always troubled me slightly in CS that my prayers were expressed in the forms of demands that God would do what I asked, and that my prayers were requests made as a matter of right or entitlement. It seemed presumptuous and arrogant, somehow. It seemed that God was being treated as a servant, rather than the Lord of all creation. As R. C. Sproul has said, God is not a cosmic Santa Claus.

JA asked: (6) 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 another direction. How do you see the future of her teachings and her church in years to come?

History, and the passage of time since MBE “discovered” CS, have shown
that her prediction has not come true. The trend is not of a church and a
religion that is in ascendancy, increase, or even ‘stasis’. It grew
rapidly during its early years, peaked sometime several decades ago, and
is now in a period of long decline. Other religions have grown very
rapidly, including Mormonism, Islam, and other religious that preach
‘another gospel’.

I think that popularity is by no means an accurate measure of truth or
reliability, which appears to be the implication of Mrs. Eddy’s quote
about the destiny of CS. Even so, her prediction as to the religious
component of her statement is proving to be inaccurate.

With respect to the therapeutic component of her statement, this also is
proving to be false. The therapeutic aspect of CS has always seemed to me to be of dubious worth. As my Pastor often says, we are all terminal,
most of us just don’t know when. As Keynes said, “In the long run,
we are all dead.” The real question of existence is not our health or
whether or when we will die, but what then?? God has written eternity in
our hearts, and that is the great issue we all must deal with. To take
the position that death is an illusion, as CS does, is not only patently
false, it ignores the question of what happens after death, and what will
happen to us when we face the Judgment of God. Therapeutics at least on a global basis are gravitating away from CS and other forms of faith
healing, and relying more on medicinal treatment and holistic methods such
as exercise, healthy eating, and so forth. With respect to emotional or
psychological therapeutics, CS is singularly unhelpful, and emotional
issues are usually simply ignored.

I see the future of her church and her teaching as becoming less and less
influential, gradually fading to insignificance, if indeed it is not already there.

JA asked: (7) Finally, and in light of the above, 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?

CG replied: Please pray that God would infuse that person with the Holy Spirit, that God would grant that person repentance, and breathe into that person the life-giving breath of the power of regeneration. Pray that God would open their eyes, unstop their ears, and revive their hearts to receive the living Word. Pray that God would convict that person of their need for salvation, and that God would bind Satan and prevent him from intercepting the words of salvation. Please pray that God would open a door of conversation, and that the Holy Spirit would give us the words to say as we speak to that person.

Carl Gans can be reached at [email protected]

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