An intriguing aspect of the current religious scene is the interest many people express in spirituality - apart from the conventional religious expression found in organized churches. One Gallup survey, reported at a December conference in Boston - "Spirituality & Healing in Medicine" - indicated that while 96 percent of Americans said they believed in God, only 43 percent had attended worship services within the past week.
There seems to be a perception that traditional religion and denominationalism are not providing the mental and spiritual sustenance - and healing - that people need. Why might this be? And what, if anything, might churches do to regain favor?
Discussing the loss of spiritual healing from the Christian Church, the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, "In proportion as the personal and material element stole into religion, it lost Christianity and the power to heal; and the qualities of God as a person, instead of the divine Principle that begets the quality, engrossed the attention of the ages" ("Christian Healing," Pg. 3).
Could it not be that preoccupation with material elements and personality in religious denominations has discouraged the inclusion of church in today's search for spirituality? Perhaps Paul the Apostle accurately stated the challenges of modern denominations when he said to the Athenians, "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands [or as one Bible translation has it, 'manufactured, of human construction']" (Acts 17:24).
Whose Church is it anyway?
It is difficult to find spirituality in human constructions governed by material laws and persons. And yet that is often what a traditional sense of religion presents. How do we view Church? As a material structure governed by legal authorities and courts, or as the activity of God, evidenced through the Church's own governing principles and authority and good works? Perhaps Paul was conducting a somewhat similar inquiry when he wrote to the Galatians: "This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Gal. 3:2, 3) "The works of the law" and "the flesh" never reveal to the seeking heart whose Church it is.
Again, Mrs. Eddy wrote incisively on this subject: "There was never a religion or philosophy lost to the centuries except by sinking its divine Principle in personality" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," Pg. 117). And in her best-selling book "Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures," she gave a metaphysical definition of Church that provides a spiritual answer to today's spiritual seekers. It begins: "Church. The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle" (Pg. 583). Truth and Love are words used throughout the Bible to describe God - as is the word Spirit. And the many scriptural references to God's statutes and laws indicate that God is also Principle. Surely it is spiritual statutes and laws that govern His Church.
So, seen in the light of this definition, each denomination can answer the question "Whose Church is it?" by responding: "This is the Church of Truth, structured of healing spiritual substance, truthfulness, honesty, and steadfastness. This is the Church of Love, characterized by all that is lovely, caring, warm, affectionate, and gentle. This is the Church of Principle, composed of vital, sure spiritual laws that govern every moment of day-by-day living. And this is the Church of Spirit, sharing spirituality, purity, clarity, joy, and healing with every spiritual seeker."
Whatever material elements, laws, and personalities appear to have composed any denomination, its present spiritual substance and energy as the Church of God - of Truth, Love, Principle, and Spirit - enable it to respond to the spiritual seekers of today. As Mrs. Eddy wrote: "Popularity, self-aggrandizement, aught that can darken in any degree our spirituality, must be set aside. Only what feeds and fills the sentiment with unworldliness, can give peace and good will towards men" ("Pulpit and Press," Pgs. 21-22).