A reverend critic's challenge to the Christian Scientists...

The Oregonian

A reverend critic's challenge to the Christian Scientists is highly ingenious. He asks them, in his last Sunday sermon, to "prove their power by the restoration of incurable cripples," among other things. On a certain previous occasion the Nazarene was asked to prove his power by turning stones into bread. But Jesus declined. Why, indeed, should the adherents of any faith, old or new, submit to every test their enemies happen to fancy? Is anything gained by it? But as to the "restoration of incurable cripples." Let us meditate a moment upon the meaning of this singular proposition. An incurable cripple is one that cannot be cured. Here is where the good doctor's ingenuity comes in. No matter how many thousand cripples Christian Science may restore, he is always perfectly safe. The very fact of their being cured would prove that they were not incurable. Hence the test forever defeats its own fulfilment. It is like asking a man to make a square circle or to move an immovable body....

Let us grant, for argument's sake, that Christian Science cannot quite keep all its promises in the way of curing diseases. Does that prove it to be "a fake and a pretense," as the doctor roundly asserts? A religion that does not keep all its promises is a fake, then. Very well, so be it, Let us apply the same rule to the critic's faith. It is promised in the New Testament that he and his fellow-pilgrims shall heal the sick, make the lame to walk, and cast out devils! By his own admission, the Christian Scientists fulfil part of their professions. They cure ailments which are amenable to treatment. But he cannot even do that. If the fulfilment of promises is a fair test, which comes nearer being a fake, the one who keeps none of his, or the Christian Scientists, who keep part of theirs?...

The truth is that the adherents of all faiths live in glass houses. ... The theologians are safe only when they confine their assertions and promises to the other world. Then, if they turn out false, nobody knows it. Since all are in the same boat, it would look much more seemly if they would not throw mud at one another, but experience teaches that this is too much to expect. Still it is somewhat shocking to behold the doctor aiming his missiles at the ancient and respectable doctrine of the illusoriness of matter. It would be interesting to hear him prove that the external world, "the fleeting show for man's illusion given," is what it seems to be. If he can, he will succeed where all others, ancient and modern, pagan and Christian, have failed. Beyond question the hypothesis concerning matter which Mrs. Eddy has adopted is the only tenable one. Since Kant there has not been a respectable philosopher who held any other. It would also be interesting to hear our critic explain why it degrades prayer to use it as a "mental medicine." He says it does, but he does not tell why. What does he use prayer for? To produce good or harm? If he prays to produce good, or remedy evil, then he, too, uses prayer as a kind of medicine. The only difference between his prayer and that of the Christian Scientists seems to be that theirs accomplish results, while his does not.

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September 26, 1908

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