No permission needed

January 16th, 2017

Why would any intelligent adult have to ask someone else’s permission before making up their mind about whether the Bible is true? They shouldn’t. There’s no need.

But that is essentially the position of some Christian Scientists, followers of Mrs. Eddy who have begun to doubt her teachings yet continue to feel emotionally beholden to her. Stirred by Christ’s call of “Come,” they are seemingly compelled to ask her, “Should I?” It makes no sense.

To assess this compulsion, we need to put in perspective the two books that Scientists study daily, hear from in church, and regard as their pastor.

In the ancient world over the course of centuries, some forty men who personally knew Jesus of Nazareth — or spiritually foresaw him — wrote book after book about this “only begotten Son of God” and his Father, the almighty creator of all things.

As growing multitudes began to acclaim Jesus as God incarnate, Savior and Lord, apostolic followers collected the best sacred writings about him, 66 in all, into one great holy book, the Bible. For 1500 years it stood as the definitive account of creation and redemption, good and evil, truth and lies, life and love: the meaning of everything.

Then in the modern world in 1875 one woman — one woman — wrote a book undertaking to correct and perfect the Bible, all of Christian history and belief to the contrary notwithstanding. This audacious prophetess was Mary Baker Eddy, author of the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

Most of the world took no notice. But for some of us who grew up under its influence and spent many years of our lives steeped in it, Science and Health came to exert an iron grip over our conception of who God is and how we should relate to him; far more than the Bible.

Objectively there is no justification for this, considering the relative weight of the two books’ truth-claims. But subjectively, the textbook’s hold can seem almost unbreakable.

Wanting Reassurance

Even as a questioning Scientist feels Jesus drawing them in, they seem unable to move toward him decisively — rooted to the spot, as it were; looking back over their shoulder for some reassurance that Christian Science indeed sheds valuable new light on the things of God.

They’re hesitant to enter the Body of Christ unless Mrs. Eddy can come with them. They comb her writings for a rationale to justify this. It’s as if their identity and self-worth are at stake in vindicating, at least partially, the “beloved leader” they’ve followed for so long.

Hpw do I know? Because this was me. This “stuck place” was exactly where I was for years before finally giving my heart to Jesus in 1980, and for a decade thereafter.

It took me that long to realize that I didn’t need Mary Baker Eddy’s permission to believe the Holy Scriptures on their own terms — that I was actually choking myself with intellectualism and spiritual pride by obsessing about her.

Enter Alone

“Enter now, John, and enter alone.” That’s what I seemed to hear the Lord saying at last. He calls himself, after all, the door, the gate, the way; indeed the one and only way. Trying to enter hand in hand with anyone — my wife or my children or my dad or Mrs. Eddy — wasn’t going to work, I saw. The gate is too narrow for that.

As for any “key” to truth or salvation or life eternal, the Bible assigns that key specifically to Jesus Christ in Revelation, chapters 1 and 3.

We also read of him entrusting it to the apostolic succession through Peter in Matthew 16. But nothing is said of a key in some far-off future book. Rather the closing words of Revelation 22 (and hence of the entire Bible) warn us away from such books.

I began to lose interest in vindicating Mrs. Eddy, the more I reflected on the anomaly, or blasphemy, of a writer who would consciously contradict Scripture in purporting to unlock it.

As Jesus explains to Peter in Matthew 19, forsaking all to follow him is a stern requirement but at the same time a wondrous offer — since the newborn believer in due time finds “more than all” restored to him. It certainly proved so for me.

“Yes But”

Finally relinquishing, after a long struggle, the valued insights I had clung to in the textbook and the maternal feelings I had for its author, I was recompensed a hundredfold with Scripture’s pure truths and the Lord’s personal love for me, exactly as he promised.

Whether we look at that Matthew 19 story of the rich young ruler, or the excuses made to Jesus in Luke chapters 9 and 14, the warning for a stuck-in-the-middle doubter of Christian Science is the same: the only answer to our Lord’s invitation of “Come” is to come, period. Telling him “yes but” is the same as telling him “no.”

And what a price we pay for that “but.” What a costly and needless postponement — or worse, a forever loss — of the precious pearl he offers the humble, the obedient, the surrendered.

The unsurrendered one, the excuse-maker, for a long time was me, as I said. Is it now you?

Don’t wait or hesitate, my friend, for anyone’s permission to embrace without reservations the King of Kings and his Book of Books. Don’t!

The decision is yours alone. Make it today. You have nothing of substance to lose, and eternity to gain.

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