Honesty and Temporary Means

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by J. Denis Glover

Christian Scientists demonstrate absolute Christian Science as far as possible. Beyond this we are obliged to choose the lesser of two evils.
—Alfred Farlow, CSD, first Committee on Publication of The First Church of Christ, Scientist. (appeared in Kansas City, Missouri Star, 7 Nov. 1897)

“Honesty is spiritual power,” writes Mary Baker Eddy. (Science and Health 453: 16 only)

Farlow’s frank comment above shows a humble and winning honesty. It raises the question of what Christian Scientists might do when choosing the “lesser of two evils” when it comes to the employment of temporary aids in certain emergency cases or in others when spiritual healing and comfort may not come rapidly.

His view connects with statements and actions by the Founder of Christian Science.  In such circumstances Mary Baker Eddy advises the Christian Scientist in Science and Health to seek divine guidance in finding the proper temporary means of help, while still praying for spiritual healing.  So often in the Christian Science textbook, she recommends a gentle emergence from material means to spiritual.

And in the Church Manual, the provision for Christian Science nurses is another indication of Eddy’s realization that, for some, healing may not occur immediately and that wise steps for temporary care may be in order.

Our family faced just such a circumstance.  A daughter had been riding at camp when her mount came too close to a barbed-wire fence, and she suffered a leg wound.  Camp officials, expressing a considerable amount of fear, called my wife and me.  They felt that significant first aid had to be administered immediately, so we asked for our daughter to be transported to a nearby hospital to obtain professional help.

Part of our decision was motivated by our desire to alleviate the fear at the camp. But, more importantly, we turned to divine Love for help, knowing that we would be led to do the right thing with no harm to the child. We felt confident that our prayers would be answered.  At the same time, we telephoned a Christian Science practitioner for spiritual guidance and prayerful support, which she gladly gave.

When we arrived at the hospital, the scene did not appear good from a human point of view. Continuing to pray, we patiently awaited a doctor—knowing that there was only one Great Physician, divine Love, and that the outcome would be harmonious.  When the doctor arrived, he seemed concerned, but we expressed confidence in his skills and started quietly singing hymns.  To our surprise he hummed along with us.  As he proceeded, the doctor’s initial prognostication began to abate, and skillfully-done stitches and other first-aid steps moved along rapidly and harmoniously.

It became increasingly clear to us that we were following Mrs. Eddy’s compassionate and wise counsel: “Until the advancing age admits the efficacy and supremacy of Mind, it is better for Christian Scientists to leave surgery and the adjustment of broken bones and dislocations to the fingers of a surgeon, while the mental healer confines himself chiefly to mental reconstruction and to the prevention of inflammation.” (Science and Health 401:29-3)

We were grateful for the inspiration and physical help, but even more grateful the next day to discover our daughter had returned to riding — without fear.  Christian Science treatment ensured that mental reconstruction had taken place and that no inflammation could occur.

The question might be asked, “Did we sacrifice spiritual power by seeking medical help in this situation?”  Well, we sought spiritual help first, and we never gave up the thought that divine Spirit could lead us to the right temporary means.  All that is symbolic of good, in the end, comes from God, however it may be expressed.

Was our temporary turning to a physician for first aid “radical” Christian Science?  Let’s look at that word, “radical.”

A friend of ours studied classics at Oxford University, and I queried him once about it.  I learned the connotation had changed considerably in the last century to become “extreme,” but he told me that the word actually derives from the Latin “radix,” meaning “root.”  We find this usage in a word used by Shakespeare, “deracinate,” meaning “to pull up by the root.”

I checked on-line and found other definitions: “an underlying support,” “basic,” and, of course, “arising from or going to a root or source.”  From this point of view, our choice for temporary means was, indeed, “radical.”  We had turned “radically” to God for our “underlying support,” and all involved were blessed.

Here’s another remarkable case of a Scientist in a similar situation.  On May 31, 1913, The New York Times reported that a Christian Scientist, returning from a Rochester-Montreal ball game, was thought to be dying after an automobile accident.  At first, according to the article, the Scientist refused to be taken to a hospital, but soon realized he needed practical care and agreed to go.  The newspaper further reported that “he had little chance of recovery.”

Although we cannot know exactly how he prayed, we do know that the Scientist fully recovered through his understanding of Christian Science.  He later had class instruction with a Christian Science teacher, who had served as Mary Baker Eddy’s secretary.

Interesting enough, he went on to become a Christian Science teacher himself and the author of many healing articles in the Christian Science periodicals.  My wife and I knew him for a number of years, and his honesty about the need for temporary aid had not prevented his healing, robbed him of God’s caring love, nor impeded his spiritual progress.

Sometimes the suggestion comes in situations like this, “Why was interim help even needed?”  It’s a question that goes nowhere since in the truth of being as taught by Christian Science, accidents and illnesses represent erroneous mental impositions — never occurring in Spirit’s, God’s, dominion.  We need to be mindful that Spirit renews and remakes us every moment, without histories of accident or delayed healing.

But we also need to be honest about them from a human point of view.  In doing so, we’re spiritually empowered, as Mrs. Eddy suggests — and, in addition, we avoid misunderstandings by non-Christian Scientists.

Alfred Farlow wrote many years ago: “Why not admit the truth? That, while a knowledge of Christian Science enables one more easily to prevent, lessen and overcome the ills of life, there is no Scientist who is wholly exempt, at all times, from aches and pains, or from trials of some kind.”  (The Christian Science Journal, June, 1892)  Again, his statement rings with a disarming humility and honesty.

Early Christian Scientist, Edward A. Kimball, CSD, pupil and associate of the Founder of Christian Science, stated with the same frankness: “It is not pretended that Christian Scientists have as individuals or as a class risen to the height of demonstration that excludes all failures.”  [“Facts and Fictions About Christian Science,” published in The Atlanta Constitution.  (Lectures and Articles on Christian Science by Edward A. Kimball, p. 39)]

Such statements need not be cause for discouragement.  They present a candor that can lead to an increased sense of spiritual guidance and power.  After all, we’re told that even the Master found such challenges on occasion, as St. Matthew openly reports: “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” (Matthew 13:58) That situation did not impair his faith, worthiness, or later demonstrations of spiritual healing.

On the other hand, we have this encouraging report from Mary Baker Eddy about the present possibility of the healing effectiveness of Christian Science, “when honestly applied under circumstances where demonstration was humanly possible”:

“Late in the nineteenth century I demonstrated the divine rules of Christian Science.  They were submitted to the broadest practical test, and everywhere, when honestly applied under circumstances where demonstration was humanly possible, this Science showed that Truth had lost none of its divine and healing efficacy, even though centuries had passed away since Jesus practised these rules on the hills of Judaea and in the valleys of Galilee.” (Science and Health, 147: 6)

Here is an honesty informed by profound spirituality, successful demonstration — and radical promise.