The Northern Whig

Criticism of Christian Science is apt to be very like what Hamlet says of an unweeded garden—that is, to grow to seed. Years ago, when the movement in England was very young, it occurred to some one to say that it was neither Christian nor scientific. The phrase was intended for an epigram, and though it would have had little chance of inclusion in "The Pilgrim's Scrip," it was "grateful and comforting" to those who like to find their thinking ready done. In recent months it has become the joy of the supporters of the Emmanueal movement, who, sharing apparently the views of the worthy showman Codlin, regard some violence of speech towards the opinions of those who differ from them as a natural adjunct to the advocacy of their own. The contention, therefore, of Dr. M'Comb, that he takes his stand "fairly and squarely" on the Bible, while Christian Science is neither Christian nor scientific, is worth examining.

Christ Jesus said quite distinctly that those who believed in him would be able to do the works he did. Christian Scientists accept this test of their faith without any qualification whatever. Nor so Dr. M'Comb. First, he says, you must call in a doctor to decide whether the disease is functional or organic. If it is organic, you must leave it to a doctor; if it is functional, under certain qualifications you may proceed to deal with it. It is not recorded that Jesus himself, he points out, ever healed a case of tuberculosis, typhus, or diphtheria, though he is "reported" ("reported" is good) to have healed leprosy, which, according to the medical theories of to-day, is regarded as incurable; but he explains there were in the East two kinds of leprosy—the one a mere eruption on the skin, and recognized as curable, the other admittedly incurable. If therefore, we assume ("assume" is likewise good) that "this was the type of leprosy mentioned by all the first three evangelists as having been cured at Capernaum, we can understand why the leper was permitted to come up close to Jesus and to mix with other people." Unfortunately for this argument, it is bound to lead to many other assumptions, for unless you assume that there were two kinds of water in Palestine, on one of which you could walk, whilst in the other you would sink,—and even here the difficulty that Peter did sink comes in,—there is not much advantage in having disposed of leprosy.

On the whole, the argument is one which would scarcely be expected to result from a teaching based "fairly and squarely" on the Bible. Dr. M'Comb is, however, as a certain writer says, "an arbitrary gentleman." Not only will he have no meddling with organic disease within the Emmanuel movement, but he insists flatly that "in no case can organic disease be treated successfully by Christian Science." Now, as a matter of fact Christian Science has healed thousands of such cases. There is evidence enough of this, in a phrase of Mr. Chesterton, to fill Hyde Park. For the moment, however, that is not the point; the point is the effect on Dr. M'Comb's argument of so reckless an assertion. First, then, it reduces law to a mere obiter dictum of his own; secondly, it reduces him to the quandary to which Huxley pointed out Hume's argument with respect to miracles had reduced him—namely, that that of which we have no previously recorded evidence never can happen; thirdly, it is a limitation of the statement of Jesus Christ that those who believed on him should do the works he did, though it admits incidentally that a physician who is an agnostic may succeed. It is not part of the business of any Christian Scientist to attack the opinions of those from whom they may differ; and I have dealt here solely with the criticism of Christian Science involved in the interview with Dr. M'Comb, printed in your issue of Aug. 17. Some day the opponents of Christian Science will learn wisdom, for they will find that humanity is wearying of criticism, and is asking for something which will give it instead "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding."

September 19, 1908

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