A cartoon in The New Yorker some time ago depicts God sitting at a desk. On one side is an inbox filled with people smiling and exchanging high-fives. On the other, an outbox with people weeping and wailing. In front of the desk, a throng awaits God’s judgment.
The cartoon, which evokes the intended smile, speaks to the old theological doctrine of predestination, by which God selects some to be saved while the rest are consigned to eternal damnation.
Although this doctrine has largely been abandoned, other secular forms of predestination, or “determinism,” would place man under conditions over which he supposedly has no control, circumscribing his progress or even his chances for survival – or example, fatal health prognoses, beliefs associated with heredity, or threatening environmental trends.
All forms of determinism – genetic, cultural, biological, economic – derive their sanction from theories that define man as material. But determinism in every form, as well as the underlying belief that man is material, is challenged by the understanding Christian Science imparts that God, good, alone governs man, and that man’s destiny can therefore be characterized only by that which is good and harmonious.
Christian Science points to the bright promise of the Bible’s assurance of man’s eternal salvation. “What God knows, He also predestinates ... ,” Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, writes in her pamphlet “No and Yes” (p. 37). Thus, every one of us is destined only for good, not unavoidable suffering.
As our loving Father-Mother, God has created us as the spiritual reflection of His own nature, supplying health, abundance, and holiness to each of us, eternally. God’s beneficence annihilates every mortal theory that would deprive us of our birthright of perfection and purity.
A poignant example of this might be found in the biblical story of Jonah (see Jonah, chaps. 1-4). Jonah was sent by God to the city of Nineveh to preach repentance because of the people’s wicked ways. Instead, Jonah set sail for the city of Tarshish. Later verses indicate he did not feel the people of Nineveh were worth saving, so deep were their sins.
But being required by God to make this trip, Jonah was chastened. The Bible says he was swallowed by a whale and remained in the whale’s belly for three days and nights – an experience that caused Jonah to humble himself and follow God’s direction. When he finally did make the journey and preach in Nineveh, the people did repent and the city was saved.
God’s plan of salvation is most clearly seen through the advent of the Messiah. Interestingly, when asked for a sign that his works were of God, Christ Jesus pointed to “the sign of the prophet Jonah” as “the only sign I will give” (Matthew 12:39, New Living Translation), further confirming that God’s purpose is always to save and restore.
As we gain the true understanding of God and man, we’re freed from the belief in limiting theories that would declare man doomed rather than blessed. Daily steps in this direction give to human existence its supreme purpose and meaning.
When my sister was 5, she was diagnosed with scarlet fever. The doctor told my parents that unless she took a certain pill on a regular basis she wouldn’t live. But she was unable to ingest the pills.
My father had just become a Christian Scientist, as the result of a healing of a skin condition deemed incurable by more than one doctor. So in despair in the middle of the night, he called a Christian Science practitioner for prayerful help for my sister.
By morning, just a few hours later, my sister was completely healed. In her adulthood, she became a Christian Science practitioner herself, helping many others overcome deterministic medical beliefs.
As to the matter of theological determinism, it is significant that as a child, Mrs. Eddy rebelled against the doctrine of predestination, which was a tenet of the beloved church that her family attended and of which she remained a member until she founded a church of her own. “I was unwilling to be saved,” she later wrote, “if my brothers and sisters were to be numbered among those who were doomed to perpetual banishment from God” (“Retrospection and Introspection,” p. 13).
This idea that God’s will provides salvation for everyone is central to Christian Science, which explains that men and women are “predestined” only to manifest in full measure the qualities of our creator, God, divine Love. Guided by this conviction, prayer can bring to light more of God’s invariable and eternal love.
Adapted from an article published in the Jan. 13, 2020, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.