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A Letter About Faith

[For young adults]

From the November 30, 1968 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


Dear Jim:

We were talking the other night about faith, specifically about your current lack of faith in Christian Science. You seemed to be asking what sort of happening would awaken your faith in Christian Science.

There seem to be some widely held false assumptions about faith. One is that faith is most likely to be experienced by the simple, the emotional, or the uneducated. Another correlative assumption is that some people are not capable of experiencing a strong sense of faith. A third assumption holds, as you did, faith is awakened from the outside by some sort of happening.

These hypotheses ignore, it seems to me, the fact that faith is like honesty, loyalty, or courage. I do not believe it is unrealistic to say that each of us has been given the capacity to be honest, loyal, courageous, and full of faith or conviction. These capacities are an inherent part of our humanness and our spiritual inheritance as sons of God. So to the first assumptions we can reply that all of us, even the most hardened, sophisticated skeptics, have the capacity for faith.

Is a man extremely honest because honesty is derived from the basic nature of his being or because certain miraculous, or at least felicitous, situations keep stimulating his honesty? If the latter explanation seems absurd in reference to honesty, it is equally absurd in reference to faith. Faith is a capacity available at all times to be activated.

I do not say that we may not be tempted to believe that we have lost our faith. When I was halfway through college, I thought I had lost my faith in Christian Science entirely. I had experienced healings through Christian Science, a few through my own work. I was grateful for what it had done to improve my thinking. But suddenly, because of studying Darwin's theory of evolution, I couldn't believe a word I read in Science and Health by Mrs. Eddy.

I was told, "If you believe any of the truths presented in Christian Science then use those. Even if there is only one truth you still accept, use it. Use it every day, if you can."

I can't truthfully say that ardent faith blossomed overnight. I remember that the state of paralysis subsided. I began once more to feel the usefulness and validity of the premises and truths that operate under the title Christian Science. But I had a good deal more to learn about faith.

My demonstrations in Christian Science at that time involved problems of fear and selfishness and human will. Physical problems I turned over to practitioners. I was willing to let a cold hang on for weeks once help in Christian Science had eliminated its more painful aspects. I was also fairly adept at sleeping off headaches. I woke up one day convinced that I didn't and couldn't have the faith necessary for handling physical problems. Practitioners had that sort of faith, not I.

Again, a friend, a practitioner, helped. "You call yourself a Christian Scientist? If you're a Christian Scientist, then you're 'in the practice.' " She said this to me one morning when I was voiceless. That evening I had a voice, and the cold was virtually gone. Activating of faith had begun, but I confess that there still was a long pull ahead. When we let our faith go soft, we may find that the reactivating of it requires the same rugged persistence that physical tuning up of soft muscles demands.

And yet I wouldn't have missed any of the experience, because it so thoroughly convinced me of the part I had to play in expressing faith. The delusion that something is going to give you faith, as one would be handed a gift on a platter, dies hard. How many times I was to continue to cry, as did the troubled man to Christ Jesus, "I believe; help thou mine unbelief"!  Mark 9:24;

A turning point came when I spotted this very plea within a paragraph in the textbook, Science and Health. The paragraph states: "In Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and English, faith and the words corresponding thereto have these two definitions, trustfulness and trustworthiness. One kind of faith trusts one's welfare to others. Another kind of faith understands divine Love and how to work out one's 'own salvation, with fear and trembling.' 'Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!' expresses the helplessness of a blind faith; whereas the injunction, 'Believe and thou shalt be saved!' demands self-reliant trustworthiness, which includes spiritual understanding and confides all to God."  Science and Health, p. 23;

Trustworthiness, rather than trustfulness; faith activated, rather than faith permitted to be partially inactive. It was a matter of choice rather than dispensation, wasn't it? The more I thought about trustworthiness, the more I saw the part that obedience, loyalty, and gratitude play in the expression of faith.

No one has wrestled with faith and not pondered the famous statement in Hebrews: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  Hebr. 11:1; Faith is substance, evidence. strange order of sequence, I thought. Give me the evidence of Spirit's power over matter; then I'll have faith. But no, the words were that faith is the evidence, the substance. Firm, trustworthy faith could affirm and dwell with spiritual fact, the only real evidence, until it was present and substantial here and now.

How shall I describe the feel of faith activated? Expectancy is certainly part of it—a gentle, happy, imperturbable expectancy. I remember my gratitude, even astonishment, at feeling this when facing two separate very grim attacks of flu. In one case I worked all night long. Each time I dwelt joyously and persistently with one short quotation, in fact, practically with only one or two words, until the healing came.

In the statement from Science and Health, "Rise in the conscious strength of the spirit of Truth to overthrow the plea of mortal mind,alias matter, arrayed against the supremacy of Spirit,"  Science and Health, pp. 390, 391. the words "plea" and "supremacy" provided me with a fruitful contrast. The frightening evidences of flu were nothing but mortal mind's plea to be given attention and power. It could do nothing but plead. The supremacy of Spirit was an absolutely irresistible power against which the mortal mind plea had no chance whatsoever. Just one idea held to during all those long hours until dawn! I was alone and in a strange country. But the expectation of healing kept bubbling up quietly, confidently. I thought: "why, that's faith! I have it!"

And so have you, Jim.

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