I was part of a group visiting some mainstream Christian ministers. One of them who had dipped into Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures commented, “I gather Mary Baker Eddy didn’t like matter.” It didn’t take long to realize that his lightly offered comment was backed by pretty heavy feelings. This led to an exchange of ideas. It also led to more thought on my part about why a Christian would be offended by the challenge Christian Science poses to the existence of matter.
While not all Christians would feel as strongly as my clergyman friend, most would see matter as central to God’s creation—a view graphically described in the second chapter of Genesis. Still, it might be worthwhile for those who aren’t Christian Scientists to think more deeply about what Christian Science is really saying in the questions it raises about matter. For example, it isn’t saying: “That tree isn’t real. Your body isn’t real.”
Think about society’s evolving perception of matter. The view held by natural science has been changing. Matter doesn’t have the kind of substance once assumed, especially a century ago. Now, that doesn’t mean modern physics is adopting the Christian Science view. But it does suggest people might want to be less rigid in how they think about matter.
Matter to the Christian Scientist isn’t so much the things we see as how we see them. Matter is a distortion of reality. A denial of matter is actually a denial of what the physical senses are presenting as an accurate picture of reality. The Christian Scientist sees beyond the surface appearance. Take the body. The Christian Scientist would say that it’s the vulnerability of the body, subject to age and accident, disease and discomfort, that is matter. You do have identity, substance, form, outline, color, being. But not this matter-based identity—a distorted identity that deteriorates until it ultimately wastes away. What an ungodlike view of you!
Through spiritual reformation and regeneration, the Christian Scientist discerns a spiritual view of individual identity that is permanent, tangible, recognizable, truly substantial. He or she sees this view as authentic, as described in the first chapter of Genesis. This is the expression of Spirit, created “in his [God’s] own image.” This individuality has the substance of joy and peace, innocence and goodness. This, not the distortion, is what truly matters.
Matter doesn’t have the kind of substance once assumed, especially a century ago.
And so the Christian Scientist isn’t denying the substance of God’s creation. But he or she is saying that this substance is spiritual; that is, invulnerable, undiminished, unlimited. Of course, the evidence to physical sense seems pretty conclusive that real existence is matter-based—a view that insists reality is subject to discord and decay. But the Christian Scientist feels a deep conviction that Christ Jesus proved there’s even stronger evidence of Spirit-based reality—a spiritual-sense view that is free of inharmony. And Jesus gave proof of what he saw.
Here’s a present-day example. What began with flu-like symptoms deteriorated until ten days later my health seemed seriously threatened. I reasoned that as impressive as the material evidence was, my spiritual sense was telling me that God was infinite, all power, ever present, perfect harmony. God’s goodness, His substance, was my reality. Suddenly the condition disappeared. I prayed for days, gratefully valuing this wonderful healing. So was the disease or the feeling of health and wholeness the reality? Was a matter-based view or a Spirit-based view closer to Truth? I choose the latter.
Some would shake their heads and say this is no proof. Highly unusual things do happen. But when evidence of healing a wide range of conditions has been reasonably consistent all one’s life, and for many other lives worldwide for more than a century, it’s natural to take seriously the validity of a Spirit-based view.
The material senses may tell us that regardless of some healings, it’s just not realistic to argue for a Spirit-based view of reality. The evidence of matter, however distorted, is just overwhelming. Yet, natural science persuades us to reject a view of the earth as flat—regardless of what your eyes convey. In a similar way, there’s logic in letting the Science of Christianity bless your life by nurturing a spiritual sense of reality, right in the face of opposing material evidence. Prophets of the Old Testament and Jesus’ disciples in the New Testament caught glimpses of spiritual reality. God’s perfect creation is still right here to be discerned. And such a glimpse can bring progress and healing.
The only intelligence or substance of a thought, a seed, or a flower is God, the creator of it.
—Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 508
The Christian Scientist feels his or her rejection of matter is realistic, intelligent, and Christian. Remember, it’s a rejection only of deteriorating substance, of a dying creation. What really matters to the Christian searching for Truth should be the uninterrupted continuity of God, of Spirit, and its infinitely good creation that can be experienced right here, right now.
Nate Talbot is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher living in Garden Valley, Idaho.