“As adherents of truth, we take the inspired word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal life,” Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures 497:3-4.
I find it somewhat amusing that almost 25 years since I stopped attending Christian Science church services, and over 16 years since I gave my life to Jesus, I was able to type that without looking it up. It is, of course, the first tenet of Christian Science. The first of six statements of faith in which Mary Baker Eddy lays out the foundations for her belief system. As I stated in my first post, I want to work through these Christian Science tenets and compare them to some of the great creeds of the Christian Church.
In that previous post I wrote out (actually, I copied and pasted) both the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, two of the standard statements of faith that are widely accepted by the Christian Church. If you read through them you will note, unlike the Christian Science tenets, that neither creed actually says anything about the importance or veracity of the Bible. This omission is interesting, but not without explanation. These creeds were drafted by the early church fathers at a time when they were also debating which early texts were Divinely inspired and therefore belonged in the Church Canon, and which needed to be omitted due to false teachings and other issues. In other words, the Bible wasn’t the Bible when these creeds were written.
This omission actually caused the local Evangelical church that I attend to add to its statement of faith in order to cover our faith in Scripture: We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human writers. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in its original writings. It is the complete revelation of God’s will for salvation, and is the ultimate authority in all matters of faith and practice. (We use the Apostles’ Creed as the rest of “Our Beliefs” statement.) Most others churches and denominations have similar statements about the inerrancy of the Bible and the fact it contains all we need to know for our salvation.
So how do these statements on Scripture compare with Eddy’s? On the surface there is not much difference. In fact, just reading the first Christian Science tenet, there is little which with the redeemed Christian would disagree. Let’s take a closer look at the tenet and try to understand what Eddy is actually stating as her belief:
What is an “adherent?” (Eddy command of the English language is impressive and she often uses words that send average English-speakers to their dictionaries.) Dictionary.com defines the word as “a person who follows or upholds a leader, cause, etc.; supporter; follower.” In other words, Eddy is making statement for those who follow “the truth.”
Eddy goes on to say that the word was “inspired.” No argument here. The Bible itself makes the same claim: All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, (2 Tim. 3:16). (Some translations use the phrase “God-breathed,” which is a more literal translation of the Greek text. This captures the fact that the Holy Spirit worked through the human authors of Scripture to accurately record God’s message.The best modern English translation for this phrase is “inspired by God.”)
“Sufficient” simply means all you need. A “guide” is someone or something who shows you where to go and provides information. “Eternal life” is obviously a life without end. So to paraphrase the first tenet of Christian Science, “For those of us who follow the truth, the God-inspired Scriptures show us all we need to know to obtain a life without end.” Again, nothing I can really find issue with here, except…As is often the case, the issue comes down to one word: Truth. To quote Pilate, “What is truth?” For Eddy, the truth refers to her interpretation of the Bible. She feels that God revealed to her the real “Key to the Scriptures,” which she would spell out in Science and Health. The physical world is an illusion. Such everyday experiences as sin, disease and even death are not real. Through raising one’s spiritual consciousness, one can realize that “man is not matter, but spiritual,” thus eliminating the effects of these lies on human consciousness. For Eddy, eternal life is already a reality. Man just has to recognize this and “know the truth.”
This is where Christian Science takes a turn from the Biblical narrative. In the Bible, physical man (and woman) is created by God in His image to have an intimate relationship with Him. Because mankind chose to rebel against His Creator, that relationship was severed. Sinful man became separated from his Holy Creator. While man was indeed created to physically live forever, the sin committed by Adam and Eve condemned themselves and their offspring to death. From the moment Adam and Eve caused the rift, God has been lovingly working to restore His relationship with His children. He set up a system of justice that required a sacrificial death to atone for sin, the breaking of God’s Law. The problem was that no sacrifice was sufficient to atone for all the sins of mankind. So God sent His Son, Jesus, to be a sufficient sacrifice. “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21) God piled all the sins of mankind on Jesus and nailed Him to a cross. In that sacrificial death, the power of sin was defeated, the penalty of sin was paid, and the relationship between God and man was restored. While a physical death will still take place, a physical resurrection is promised and life eternal with Christ awaits those who believe.
However, there is the caveat… one must believe. For a person to have his or her relationship restored, he or she must recognize their sin, and accept Jesus’ sacrifice as payment for their sin. “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.” (John 3:16-18) Accept Jesus as your Savior and be saved. Reject Him and be condemned, for His sacrifice will not cover your sin.
The “truth” that Eddy “reveals” in Science and Health is not Biblical in origin. It is ironic, therefore, that she proudly claims the fact that the Bible is the sufficient guide (i.e. providing everything you need to know) to obtain eternal life, but only if you interpret the Bible through her “textbook” which provides the “Key to the Scriptures.” In fact, the Bible, the Word of God, stands just fine on its own. Reading Scripture and letting Scripture alone help us understand Scripture is one of the main foundations of the true Christian faith. “Sola Scriptura” (by Scripture alone) was one of the main doctrines to come out of the Reformation. In other words, no other man made document or church tradition can stand equal to or above the Bible when it comes to authority in one’s faith. Christianity does claim that the Bible is indeed the sufficient guide to eternal life. Eddy’s may claim it in her tenet, but by placing her own book on equal standing as the Bible, she demonstrates that she doesn’t actually believe that to be true.