Shut that book

February 8th, 2021

C. S. Lewis invites us to imagine a man with a lizard attached to, or actually growing out of, his shoulder. Clinging there, it whispers lies in the man’s ear to keep him out of heaven. An angel, seeing that the poor soul is half-willing to be rid of the lizard, asks his permission to kill it. “That might kill me too,” he says, but finally consents. After a brief agony, the man is at last free of his torment and reborn as a child of the Kingdom (The Great Divorce, Chapter 11).

A recent conversation with a friend of mine who is questioning Christian Science and feeling more and more drawn to Jesus, made me think of that little fable. We’ll call her Maureen.

I was so encouraged when she told me of her new inclination to go to the Bible first with any question about God, man, or reality—and only later to inquire of the matter from Science and Health and Mary Baker Eddy. I asked Maureen if she thinks the time will come when she doesn’t go to Science and Health at all.  She didn’t answer.

My heart goes out to Maureen, and to any Christian Scientist who is beginning to feel as she does–stuck in the middle. Jesus looms ever larger in that person’s spiritual life, yet they are unable to dethrone Mrs. Eddy from the central place she has always held there. I can relate because I was in exactly that dilemma for over ten years.

Jesus Wants our All

Since my friend finds herself increasingly willing to take the words of the Bible at their plain meaning, and not blur everything metaphysically to maintain a comfort zone, I have tried to show her from the New Testament that Jesus wants to be our everything; that he refuses to share our hearts with any rival.

So in Matthew 13, how much did the finders of the treasure field and the precious pearl have to pay for them? Everything. In Matthew 19, what would be the cost of discipleship for the rich young man? All he had.

In Luke 14, what pressing excuse from the banquet invitees would the master accept? None. Not even the time to bury one’s father? No, said Jesus in Matthew 8, not even that. “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”

As for the number of suitcases his missionaries might be allowed, that would be zero, commanded the Lord (Matthew 10:10). Your personal hoard must be left behind if you hope to pass the needle’s eye (Matthew 19:24). Off with that backpack or you’ll never get through the strait gate (Matthew 7:14).

Fountain of Falsehoods

What I hope Maureen will eventually come to see is that the Mrs. Eddy rewrite of Scripture is not merely a distraction from, and distortion of, Scripture itself. It is a fountain of falsehoods actually swamping biblical truth with the ultimate effect (whether intentional or not, never mind) of drowning the gospel outright.

I’m working and praying to reach my friend with the bottom-line recognition that the Bible, by getting you to Jesus, will get you into heaven, whereas Science and Health, by keeping you from Jesus, will keep you out of heaven.

I’ve yet to put this to her in so many words because Scientists lack the conceptual framework to deal with so stark a formulation of the choice they’re facing—and therefore putting it so bluntly would wound her.

The wounding occurs because for the lifelong CSer, Mrs. Eddy and her book and her whole system are part of one’s very identity. That’s why the Lewis fable about having the lizard torn away is so apropos.

For Maureen (just as it once was for me), the best analogy from Jesus’ teachings isn’t any of those I cited about offloading bad baggage—it’s the arresting image in Matthew 5 about plucking out one’s eye or cutting off one’s hand.

When I challenge her, as reasonably and kindly as I can, “For your own good, for your salvation, shut that book,” what she hears and recoils from is the awful urging, “Cut away and throw away part of yourself.” Of course she would hardly be able to do it that immediately. It took me a decade.

But the reward, I want to help her see, is immense. Like the frightened, hesitant, vacillating man in The Great Divorce, liberated at long last, the Christian Scientist who with God’s help is finally rid of the parasitic impostor has taken the ultimate glorious step toward being reborn as a child of the Kingdom.

Strengthen me, Lord, strengthen us all, to bring those undecided CSers to the decision that will bless them unimaginably: “Shut that book!”





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