In this JSH-Online.com audio podcast, adapted for print, Christian Science practitioner John Rinnert spoke with Audio Producer Will Pappas. The title of the interview online is “Getting to know God through His Word.”
John, we’re talking today about getting to know God better, and I think many have found that as they’ve grown in their understanding of what God is, their lives have really been blessed. So do you have some ideas to get us started on just how to learn more about God? And why would one really want to learn more about Him?
The Word of God is revealing aspects of God that you can’t see with the human intellect.
I’ve found it very helpful to look at the first tenet of Christian Science in the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. It states, “As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life” (p. 497). That word Life is capitalized, and we understand that to be a synonym for God. So basically, we can see the tenet as saying that we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to God. The simple answer to that question, “Well, where do we understand God, and how do we understand God?” is that we understand God through the inspired Word.
Recently, I was reading an article from The Christian Science Monitor, and this article was talking about the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Hubble telescope. And this article mentioned all the great and incredible discoveries that have come from the Hubble telescope. As I think about that, that’s kind of a great illustration of the Word of God. For instance, what does the Hubble telescope do? It causes things that are invisible to become visible.
When the Hubble telescope beamed back the first images of the Bug Nebula, those beautiful images, the Hubble telescope didn’t create the Bug Nebula. That nebula was there long before the Hubble telescope. And so, if I were to say to you: “OK, I can see the Bug Nebula with my naked eye. I don’t need the Hubble telescope to see that,” well, what would your response be?
I would say, “That’s impossible.”
It is impossible, because the naked eye is an incapable tool when it comes to seeing deep space.
The Word of God is revealing aspects of God that you can’t see with the human intellect. The human brain, or the material senses, can’t comprehend God. I think the Bible really touches on this when it says, “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5). Christian Science reveals to us that it’s through our God-given spiritual sense, which every individual in reality possesses, that we are able to understand the inspired Word.
Speaking of the Scriptures, Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health,“Christian Science separates error from truth, and breathes through the sacred pages the spiritual sense of life, substance, and intelligence” (p. 548). There’s another aspect to this, again from Science and Health, that touches upon the importance of knowing God, and this is what it says: “It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord, and the right understanding of Him restores harmony” (p. 390).
Now, that’s a pretty incredible statement, because I think we often feel that the discord, the challenges in our life, are financial, or they might be physical, emotional, genetic, or about dealing with relationships or things like that. But in Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy is really establishing, or introducing, this idea that, “OK, that’s not the source of our discord.” The source of discord is ignorance of God, the divine Principle, and a right understanding of God restores harmony.
We might say: “Well, OK, that’s all fine and good, but what’s Mrs. Eddy’s authority? Is this just the opinion of a woman who lived 120 years ago, or is there something in back of that?” If we look to Christ Jesus’ teachings in the Bible, we’ll find that he says essentially the same thing. This is from the Gospel of Matthew, and he says this: “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (22:29). And so, what’s the problem? Well, we don’t know the power of God. We don’t know the power of good and the presence of good. And why don’t we know that? Well, this has to do with not knowing the Scriptures. Jesus makes that connection as well. So, that flips the diagnosis on its head, and we begin to see that problems are not any of these other things. Problems result from ignorance of God, and if the Word of God, the inspired Word of the Bible, is our sufficient guide to understanding God, well, it’s the key to overcoming discord.
Now, it might seem a little weird to question this, but we might ask, “What’s Jesus’ authority?” How do we know his teachings were really accurate and he was giving an accurate portrayal of reality? John the Baptist, at one point, sends out two of his disciples, and they ask this question to Jesus: “Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?” (Luke 7:20). In other words, they’re questioning, “Are you the real deal, the Messiah, or are we going to look for somebody else?” And Jesus’ response is in the affirmative, but he doesn’t respond with a doctrine, or theory, or anything like that. He responds by pointing to his works, his healing works, and this is what he says: “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up” (Matthew 11:5).
Another time, in John’s Gospel, the Jews asked him the same question. They say, “If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly,” and Jesus’ response is very similar. He says, “The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me” (10:24, 25). And Mary Baker Eddy, in the beginning of Science and Health, says the same thing. She writes, “The question, What is Truth, is answered by demonstration,—by healing both disease and sin; and this demonstration shows that Christian healing confers the most health and makes the best men” (p. viii). And so, we can accept not only the authority of Christ Jesus, but also the authority of Mary Baker Eddy, because both of these individuals did the healing works that come with understanding God’s Word.
We can accept not only the authority of Christ Jesus, but also the authority of Mary Baker Eddy, because both of these individuals did the healing works that come with understanding God’s Word.
Many Christian Scientists know something about Mary Baker Eddy’s early life, but if you’re new to Christian Science, it’s useful to know that in Mrs. Eddy’s childhood, in early adulthood, and up to a certain point, she was very ill—she was an invalid. Many days she was bedridden, couldn’t get out of bed, and this is her comment about the source of this sickness—and I find it very interesting. This is from a summary of a sermon she gave to Christian Scientists, which can be found in Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896. It starts off by saying, speaking of Mrs. Eddy:
“Within Bible pages she had found all the divine Science she preaches; noticing, all along the way of her researches therein, that whenever her thoughts had wandered into the bypaths of ancient philosophies or pagan literatures, her spiritual insight had been darkened thereby, till she was God-driven back to the inspired pages. Early training, through the misinterpretation of the Word, had been the underlying cause of the long years of invalidism she endured before Truth dawned upon her understanding, through right interpretation. With the understanding of Scripture-meanings, had come physical rejuvenation” (p. 169).
That is amazing to me, because it really lays out: “Well, why was she sick? Was it her diet? Maybe she didn’t get enough exercise. Maybe it was a genetic predisposition.” No, it wasn’t. It had to do with a misinterpretation of the Word of God, and through right understanding came the physical uplift.
I’m sure you’ve had experiences yourself where you’ve been healed after gaining a better understanding of God. Would you say that’s the case?
I love to run and be active. And one example that I wanted to share was a healing I had of intense leg cramps and pain after returning home from running a marathon.
It was extremely uncomfortable, and the cramps would just happen, kind of out of the blue, so I didn’t know when they were going to come on. And they were very debilitating. During one of the lulls, I was thinking about the big picture of Scripture, of the Word of God—and one of the big pictures of the Old Testament is that God delivers mankind from two tyrannical governments: Egypt and Babylon. And I think that has important meaning here, because I see ancient Egypt and Babylon as not just places in the Bible but as representing in Scripture tyrannical mental governments.
From my own study, I’ve come to understand that ancient Egypt and Babylon can be thought of as symbols in the Bible. They symbolize false mentalities, you could say—the various mentalities of the “carnal mind,” which we know as “enmity against God” (Romans 8:7). The carnal mind is the basic belief that life and intelligence and substance are in matter rather than in God. So really, the error that Babylon and Egypt represent inverts “the scientific statement of being,” which can be found in Science and Health, and which states in part: “There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all” (p. 468). Mrs. Eddy states in Miscellaneous Writings that “the scientific statement of being” is the “first plank in the platform of Christian Science” (p. 21). And so, if we yield to the belief that life is in matter, it would tear away that platform, and we would have nothing to stand on.
The belief of life and intelligence in matter inverts the spiritual platform of Christian Science, manifesting itself sometimes through the belief of pain, through the fear of pain. The children of Israel’s lives in Egypt were very painful. The Bible says that “the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: and they made their lives bitter with hard bondage” (Exodus 1:13, 14), and so, that to me was an indication that the fear of pain I was experiencing was represented in the Bible as the influence of the Egypt thought. When those leg cramps would let up, I realized that I was so fearful that they would happen again that I really couldn’t think clearly. So, the first thing that I did was I really rejoiced that I knew, from my study of the Word of God, that God’s purpose was to deliver me from this influence, this fear of pain that seemed to be governing my thought.
From my own study, I’ve come to understand that ancient Egypt and Babylon can be thought of as symbols in the Bible.
As I just rejoiced in this fact, there were no more leg cramps. They went away, and I was able to sleep all the way through the night. Yet I woke up that next morning, and got out of bed, and I could hardly walk. I’m thinking: “What’s the deal here? Here I’ve had this wonderful healing of leg cramps, so why can’t I walk?” And it occurred to me that when the children of Israel left Egypt, they hadn’t really left—they hadn’t completely left this false and corrupt mentality of life and intelligence in matter. They continued to rely upon it, and when I was looking at my thought a little bit, I realized that I hadn’t left behind the belief in material substance and intelligence either.
For instance, the thought came, “OK, I’m sore now, but through drinking the right liquids and eating the proper foods, I’m going to restore that sense of health, and movement, and harmony.” But I realized that that’s really relying upon matter to establish health and harmony. That’s relying on Egypt. And so I instantaneously corrected that, and that provided great relief. Another hour or so later, I had a phone call with somebody, and we were actually talking about the Word of God. I got so inspired by what this Word was telling us, and the great joy that came from this understanding.
So I started getting up and walking around my apartment, and after the phone call, I realized that I was totally free—and I’ve been totally free ever since. Just that next day, I was able to take a bike ride and play in soccer games, and move around normally. And so, again, looking at these challenges—what was the problem? Was the problem physical? No. When an ignorance of God was corrected through turning to the Word, well, the situation was healed. I was healed.
The Psalmist says, “He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Psalms 107:20). Those destructive mental influences, beliefs that life and intelligence are in matter, are destroyed through the Word, through the truth that the Word of God speaks. We are all familiar with Jesus’ statement, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). That’s a wonderful statement, but that’s only part of it—that’s the second half of it. The first half is, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (verse 31). So, the requirement is, continue in the Word of God that Jesus lived and taught. The promise is, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” What a beautiful thing! Thank God for the Word of God!
John, I wouldn’t be surprised if people got out their Bibles right now and started studying.
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