PERHAPS few things are as misunderstood about Christian Science as what it teaches about the treatment of disease through prayer. Some people assume Christian Science is simply a religious form of ``positive thinking,'' or perhaps somewhat akin to various holistic health systems that have become popular lately. As a Christian Scientist, I've often had to explain that Christian Science is not ``mind over matter.'' Nor does it teach that physical disease is simply a psychosomatic creation that the power of the human mind, coupled with the immune system, can overcome.
Christian Scientists understand their healing method to be based solely on the healing power of God, not of the human mind. Christian Science treatment relies on the regenerative power of Spirit, God, and is wholly Biblical and Christian in its approach to the healing of disease.
What may be hard for some to understand in our materialistic age is how seriously Christian Scientists take Christ Jesus' teaching that the kingdom of God, of Spirit, is at hand. Christian Scientists conclude that if God's kingdom is at hand, as Jesus said, then spiritual realities such as God-given health and harmony can be brought to light in our day-to-day experience. In other words, heaven isn't a far-off, after-death place but is something to begin experiencing here and now, step by step.
How does heaven come to earth? The way Jesus taught was individual spiritualization of thought. Jesus laid great emphasis on what went on in a person's heart and mind. It was the inner person, not the outward appearances, that mattered to him. The loving rules for living that he gave in the Sermon on the Mount and his other teachings all point to the need for a radical change in thought.
What Christian Science says is that this Christly way of thinking and looking at things goes far deeper than character reformation, as important as that is. Jesus was actually seeking to bring to light a whole new order of experience, one that demonstrates the reality of Spirit. The reason Christian Scientists lay such emphasis on spiritual healing is that they see spiritual healing as practical proof that God, Spirit, does exist, that He is in fact our loving Father, able to meet our every need.
When Christ Jesus said, ``Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,'' wasn't he linking radical change of thought with the ability to see and experience the presence of this spiritual reality? Though invisible to the material senses, Spirit and the kingdom of heaven were real and substantial to Jesus. In the final analysis, they are the only reality, our ultimate destiny.
This is why the change of thought -- repentance -- Jesus taught is no superficial adjustment of the human mind. It involves a complete and fundamental reassessment of one's view of reality, of what one recognizes as ultimately true, good, real, and substantial. The practice of Christian Science involves developing spiritual sense, learning how to recognize the presence of spiritual realities, such as God-given health and well-being, right in the face of contradictory evidence.
Does this mean ignoring disease? Did Jesus ignore disease? No! But he gave it no authority or irreversible power. This spiritual stance toward disease -- a stance based on his understanding that God creates and does only good -- gave him his remarkable dominion over disease. Today, as we pray with faith in God's all-goodness, we too can break the illusion, the fear, the conviction, that disease is something real that God cannot destroy.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains in Miscellaneous Writings how this mental change comes about: ``To the material sense, everything is matter; but spiritualize human thought, and our convictions change: for spiritual sense takes in new views, in which nature becomes Spirit; and Spirit is God, and God is good.''
Spiritualization of thought is the key to Christly healing. It means literally learning how to see, feel, hear, and sense more of the unseen things of Spirit. It means discovering and bringing out the spiritual ideas and goodly qualities that God expresses in man -- in you and in me in our real selfhood. Through prayer and daily growth in Christian character, we begin to give tangible evidence of the spiritual sonship to which Jesus called all mankind. We begin to sense something of man's absolute goodness, wholeness, and health as God's perfect, spiritual likeness. We begin to see that disease is illegitimate, because it is no part of God's harmonious order, the kingdom of heaven at hand and within.
Every day people are proving for themselves that this kind of radical, spiritual change of thought is as effective and therapeutic now as it was in Jesus' day. This is not to say that Christian Scientists claim to have equaled Jesus' healing ability, or never to have failures. But for over a century, thousands of families and individuals have confidently, safely, and successfully relied on Christian Science for healing of every sort.
At the very heart of this ongoing, Christly healing is a profound mental change that is infinitely more than positive or wishful thinking. It is learning what the Apostle Paul meant when he said in a letter to the Philippians, ``Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.'' This spiritual-mindedness, which recognizes the kingdom of heaven at hand, heals.