The shepherd didn’t fail you, an impostor did

July 23rd, 2018

“Do you ever get to church?” I’m talking with Chip, a young guy in his late 20s, son of a Christian Science family I’ve known forever. No, he says, he never does, since having decided several years ago CS is not for him — but lately he has felt there’s something spiritually missing in his life, maybe it’s time to look around.

I urge him, when doing so, not to assume the discrediting of Science has also discredited what the Bible teaches about God and man. “Give that a chance, okay? Those of your peers who take Jesus seriously, ask them why.”

All this only took a moment, and circumstances didn’t permit us to talk more. But it got me to thinking about how often someone leaving CS seems to have been “spoiled” for biblical truth and the gospel. Why is that? What happened to them?

Maybe it is that having been indoctrinated to regard Mrs. Eddy’s system as the new, scientific Christianity (which eventually they rejected anyway), they unconsciously assume the old, faith-based Christianity has nothing to offer them.

The supposed revelation of a key to the Scriptures having failed them, why bother any more with Scripture itself?

It’s a case of a false premise producing a false conclusion. For if “scientific Christianity,” so called, is nothing of the kind — not a development of God’s truth, but a gross distortion of it — then truth itself has been in no way discredited by the Eddy system’s inability to deliver.

Or as James logically observes, if we’re given some olives purported to come from a fig tree, the correct inference isn’t that it was a defective fig tree, rather we  can be sure they’re from another kind of tree entirely (James 3:15).

So what’s the best way to help an unbelieving former Scientist realize this? I’d start with Jesus’ teaching about himself as the Good Shepherd in John 10.

Because the biggest lie of Christian Science, and the most tragic resulting imposition of agnosticism or atheism upon a former Christian Scientist, is that Jesus Christ is not God incarnate and the Savior of the world, after all.

Think about it: The implicit if not explicit bottom line for many an ex-CSer is that Jesus has failed me, I can’t connect with him, I don’t need him, he’s nothing special, he doesn’t matter much.

What a heartbreaking deception, what an awful loss. They can only reach this conclusion because Mrs. Eddy presented them a false Jesus in the first place.

When this lost one is ready to listen, we can present them a simple, vivid answer from the Lord’s own parable about what the sheep need and who can truly meet that need.

How can you tell who is the shepherd? He is the one, when it counts, who saves the sheep’s life by giving his own.

How can you tell who’s not the shepherd? He is the one who fails the sheep at the hour of danger. The two couldn’t be more different.

Jesus spells this out in his contrast between the unfailing Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14) and the unreliable hireling (John 10:12, 13).

In applying this for the kind of conversation we’re imagining, you don’t have to cast the hireling as a villain, or personalize him as Mary Baker Eddy.  Not at all.

The hireling just represents a come-lately at the sheepfold, a weak reed to lean on, a slick bargain-maker (follow CS, get healed) in contrast to the all-in owner (receive grace, no conditions).

Unprepared to face actual evil, the hireling runs away defeated when the wolf comes — like the doctrine-dabbling sons of Sceva in Acts 19:13.

“All hat and no cattle,” as they say out on the ranch. Or in the line from a famous ad, “I’m not a shepherd, but I play one on TV.”

One couldn’t blame the confused and frightened sheep, betrayed by a faithless hireling, for shying away from the true shepherd when next they saw him. But (and here’s where the parable is inexact) they are less likely to do so than we mortals are, with our propensity to over-think things.

Would the John 10 analogy help bring my young friend Chip around to take another look at Jesus the Good Shepherd and his gracious heavenly Father and their wonderful Book of Life, the Bible, after the disillusionment and disappointment of being let down by Christian Science?

I can’t be sure, but I am looking forward to our next visit and a chance to talk all this over with him.

He’s a thoughtful, open sort of guy, and it won’t be lost on him that Jesus — in this story and in numerous other settings — clearly anticipated the hireling or false Christ situation, of which CS is such a seductive example.  Chip will see the relevance of another old ad slogan, “Accept no substitutes.”

He likes history, too, so I will be sure to remind him of Lincoln’s famous lesson in logic to some glib debate opponent: “How many legs does a mule have, if you call a tail a leg?” Answer: it still only has four legs, because calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.

Nor does calling a hireling the shepherd make him that. Let’s look for opportunities, as the Spirit may lead, to lovingly redirect our friends who think that because Christian Science had nothing for them, Christ doesn’t either. Tell them:

“The shepherd didn’t fail you, an impostor did. Don’t quit now.  Don’t let the impostor win. Meet the Good Shepherd today. He’s waiting for you.”



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