Ever get that question? We do sometimes. Maybe today - the day of the annual business meeting for the church that publishes this newspaper - is not a bad day to address it.
Some people might know that the Christian Science Church is one of many Christian denominations - and a small one at that. And it isn't unusual for people to think of various churches in terms of a particular characteristic, even if it's a fairly limited one. Quakers are often known for their pacifist views. Seventh-Day Adventists are known to worship on Saturday. Christian Scientists are often thought of as "the people who don't go to doctors."
When it comes to physical healing, we do take the teachings of Jesus very seriously. But the practice of relying completely on spiritual healing, which follows Christ's own example, is more the natural outcome of a deeper conviction - that Christianity is actually scientific. That is, that the teachings of Jesus rest on provable truth. On a divine Science. In this sense, lots of people might identify with being a Christian Scientist.
How can one speak of science and religion this way? Isn't science a question of physics and chemistry, biology and medicine? And religion - doesn't it relate more to issues of faith?
Actually, many centuries ago science was thought to relate to God, to the true knowledge of God. Since then, a more empirical perception of science has gradually evolved. This view has been broadly accepted. But in very recent years, some people have begun taking a fresh look at the whole question of how faith and reason relate.
One of the most basic messages of Christian Science is that faith and reason really aren't in opposing camps. That, in fact, reason doesn't have to be based only on physical observations. It can be based on God being the primal cause and intelligence of the universe.
So many people, Christian Scientists included, find the Bible filled with truth. And some see it virtually overflowing with spiritual facts, eternal laws, divine precepts, that accomplish much good through thought and prayer alone. These facts are dependable in times of trouble. Enduring from Bible days right up to the present. And practical in terms of physical healing. Chemical and biological theories shift and evolve over the centuries - even over the decades. But truths of the Bible, some people find, are permanent, and therefore scientific in the deepest sense of the word.
The woman who founded Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, "Jesus of Nazareth was the most scientific man that ever trod the globe" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 313). Mrs. Eddy wrote this statement after searching the Bible to discern what had healed her. She'd received serious internal injuries in an accident.
At that point, she had asked for her Bible and read one of the healings of Jesus - one she had undoubtedly read many times before. But that time it was as though a light dawned in her thought. And to everyone's amazement, she was healed physically in that moment.
Out of her subsequent search of the Bible grew a realization that Jesus was teaching and practicing eternal laws of healing - laws of harmony. Laws that his followers could understand and practice, then and today.
Eddy had discovered that understanding ourselves to be the image of the divine Spirit - of Life itself - is the essence of Christianity, and is always powerful and practical. It is the spiritual light that healed in the time of Moses, that animated Jesus, and that heals today. Spiritual understanding is true Science - a knowledge that good is changeless and substantial.
Christian Science heals because it reveals us to be spiritual (of God) instead of material. That is, our ultimate and eternal identity comes from intelligent Spirit - perfect God - rather than from unintelligent matter.
This message extends to all spiritual seekers.
Does it seem unusual to think of the possibility of a Christian being a Scientist? Maybe it doesn't need to be a strange thing after all, if you believe that there's truth beyond what physical observation can show us. And that the unifying Principle of all reality is the infinitely good God.