I am sure that the Vicar of Tenterden, in the attitude he...

Kenlish Express

I am sure that the Vicar of Tenterden, in the attitude he has taken toward Christian Science, is acting up to his highest sense of duty. At the same time, will you permit me to say that he seems to be living in a past age? Three centuries ago it might have been possible for him to direct the attendance of the dwellers within the limits of his parish, under penalty of a fine, at the parish church. Tempora mutantur, however, if I may quote a very trite maxim, and for a clergyman in the second decade of the twentieth century to write letters to inhabitants of the town in which he lives, demanding to know whether they are attempting to convert his parishioners to Christian Science, and quoting his ordination vow as giving him no option but to do this, is perilously near making the cause he has at heart ridiculous. A lady and gentleman resident in his parish have adopted the teaching of Christian Science. They have read their service in their own house, and such of their friends as have wished, have attended these services. Suddenly this lady and gentleman receive a letter from the vicar, demanding to know whether they are "trying to convert some of his parishioners to the doctrines of so-called Christian Science," and also demanding to know whether they hold services every week. This raises the very serious question of the right of the vicar of a parish to assume the authority to demand such information from his fellow townsmen, and to claim to control the freedom of their actions as to whether they hold Christian Science services or not. One thing is perfectly certain, that if the vicar thinks he is going to suppress Christian Science in this way, he is making a great mistake. He is, on the contrary, merely helping to lay the foundation for the extension of the Christian Science movement in his parish.

Apart from this, the vicar launched against the Christian Science movement what may be termed a doctrinal attack. He attacked it from what he called the medical and religious sides. Until, however, he is able to delete from the New Testament the command of Jesus of Nazareth to preach the gospel and to heal the sick, he will find it impossible to separate these two headings, which are not only complementary to each other, but constitute the very basis of Christian practise. He began his sermon, as all these sermons always are begun, by a reference to false prophets. That reference to false prophets is something in the nature of a boomerang. Because Jesus warned his followers against false prophets, it does not follow that everybody who fails to accept the orthodox position is a false prophet any more than, as Macaulay once said, it proves that because St. Paul was beaten with rods, everybody who is beaten with rods is a St. Paul. The vicar is only really engaged today in attempting something which routed the papal authority in England, which broke its Protestant successor into sects, and which is always foredoomed to failure. He is engaged in the attempt to control freedom of thought, and to make people who do not agree with him, accept his point of view because it is his point of view. If it is any satisfaction to him to call Christian Scientists false prophets, it would be almost unkind not to permit him to indulge in the luxury of the phraseology; but he must remember that he is merely copying the example of generations of men who have failed in the effort to strain human intelligence through their own sieves.

The heterodoxy of Mrs. Eddy, according to the vicar, reaches its meridian at two points. First, she is unsound on the Trinity; second, she demands the practise of healing in demonstration of the precept of preaching. Now the vicar is a little unwise, at this time of day, in drawing too much attention to dogmas. When the answer comes, he can no longer ring a bell and cry "Heresy!" or it would perhaps be more exact to say, if he does ring it, nothing is going to happen. The orthodox view of the Trinity has never been too clearly defined. The effort to do so led to one of the great schisms in the early church, at the Council of Nicæa, and the battle waged there between the Homoousians and the Homoiousians has left Christendom in considerable perplexity ever since. An attempt to state the matter with some definiteness was made in the Athanasian creed, but to a large extent its recital has disappeared from the services of the church. Not a generation ago, its reading had fallen into such desuetude that the Bishop of London commanded all the clergy in his diocese to revive it. A very well-known London rector replied that if his lordship insisted, he would not only read it, he would explain it. The bishop was understood not to have pressed for the explanation. The Christian Science teaching of the Trinity has the advantage of being extremely simple and in perfect accordance with the Bible.

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