Watch What We Lean On

It is coincidental that the decline of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, should overlap the release of 21st Century Science and Health—a revision and update of the movements founding book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, written by religious leader, Mary Baker Eddy in the 19th century. The recent release of the 4th edition 21st Century Science and Health has prompted debate over the purpose of its followers and what Science and Health allows them to do.

The society of what has been branded Christian Scientists is more philosophical than they admit. References to Eddy’s writings enter their conversations more often than positions on current affairs or advancements in education because students feel bound by the founding principles of Christian Science.

This has advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantages are that Christian Scientists tend to argue on the basis of high principles. The biggest disadvantage is that differences over what book to read are often disguised as differences over whether a preferred choice is legitimate Christian Science or not.

Christian Scientists could be addressing pragmatic questions—Will modern vernacular work in today’s society? Will correct terminology solve the problem of confusion? Is a revision of Science and Health something The First Church of Christ, Scientist should do something about? But instead Christian Scientists fall back on abstract discussions of whether a revision of Eddy’s Science and Health violates the faith of Christian Science.

Falling back on the intangible is not a recent habit. When modern Bible versions became available in the 20th century, some Christian Scientists proposed breaking out of the trap of grounding Science and Health on archaic King James language. The idea was strongly opposed by many members of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, setting a pattern for the future by declaring any change of Eddy’s words invalidates Christian Science, moreover would be against Eddy’s wishes as expressed in the Church Manual and her other writings.

Those who claim we can be so certain of Eddy’s “original” intentions should take note: Science and Health was revised hundreds of times by Eddy herself who read many Bible versions at a time when books weren’t so easily accessible; and the Church Manual is a governing document that was the product of compromises and arguments.

We can recognize the extraordinary character of Eddy while also acknowledging that she was enmeshed in the historical circumstances of her times—as we are today. Christian Scientists do a disservice to themselves and Eddy alike if they take her out of history and demand she settle arguments that we ought to settle on our own. Eddy after all was not timid or bound by her past. She was adventurous and brave. Her writings were novel compared to the 19th century religious customs. Eddy thought and acted anew. We can pay a respectful regard to the former times while no longer suffering a blind veneration for antiquated rituals and customs.

Christian Scientists are truer to the founding principles of Christian Science when following Eddy by having more confidence in our own good sense and our knowledge of our own situation. Eddy’s genius lies in the fact she created a society that can act, move forward. The revision, 21st Century Science and Health proposes to Christian Scientists a new spiritual revival echoing her words as found in the first sentence of her Preface to Science and Health, “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, today is big with blessings.”

Blessings do not come by leaning on antiquated human language but by leaning on the sustaining infinite. Yes, the sustaining infinite is fully capable and willing to support our practice of wellbeing, spiritual power, and dynamic manifestations.



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4 thoughts on “Watch What We Lean On

  1. Julia Weldon July 9, 2012 at 7:25 pm Reply

    If changing and updating words invalidates Divine Science then it was invalidated MANY years ago when the Bible was first translated from the original. But, really, it makes no sense to think that Omnipotent Spirit can be invalidated in any way. How can “all-power” be in valid?

    Updating Science and Health only makes sense. A person reading it today might think “animal magnetism” is referring to an strong attraction to a person of the opposite (or same) sex. There were many times when I was reading Science and Health when I found myself frustrated by the language I couldn’t understand. (I had to keep a dictionary next to me while I was reading it.) There are also references in there to people and situations which a person of today would likely know little about.

    I am so glad 21st Century Science and Health is available. The material itself – Divine Science – is challenging enough to grasp, there’s really no need to make it harder by hanging onto out-dated language.

    • Cheryl Petersen July 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm Reply

      The very conviction that truth can be contaminated is the contamination…Yes, animal magnetism, as defined in a 19th century dictionary (which is the dictionary to use when reading Eddy’s Science and Health) is very different from its definition today.
      In my research, I went to the New York Public Library and read the books that Eddy quoted, and more fully realized how she adapted the ideas of divine Science to the thinkers and thoughts of the times. Therefore you will notice in 21st Century Science and Health quotes from books we are familiar with today. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Julia July 10, 2012 at 9:14 am Reply

    Cheryl, I have a question. In 21st Century and Health (pg.92) there is the paragraph “God and nature”. My question: Is all that we see – trees, birds, clouds, etc. – not God? Is Mary Baker Eddy (MBE) saying that all of this is only the objectification of human mind? The paragraph says, “God is . . . represented only by the idea of goodness. . .” If we are unable to see Spirit with physical senses, do we have Spiritual senses with which to see Spirit?

    Oops. That is three questions.

    Thank you ~ Julia

    • Cheryl Petersen July 10, 2012 at 10:23 am Reply

      Many thinkers realized that what the physical senses are detecting is only the human mind’s objectification. Even modern physical science is collecting data confirming this theory. As a result, people spend a lot of time trying to manipulate human mind so it projects better pictures.
      Divine Science reiterates that theory, however points out that indeed we do have spiritual senses. And, as we hone those senses of Spirit’s goodness we find the beauty, color, love, and inspiration (expressed in clouds, trees, birds) to be substantial, natural, and real. In other words, we find the human mind’s objectification to be unreal.
      God and the nature of spirituality are now, here, even expressed in singing!

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