Skip to main content

Certainty versus probability

From the February 2019 issue of The Christian Science Journal

The certainty of God’s presence and power is vividly conveyed in the Bible account of the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda. John’s Gospel tells us that this man, who had had an infirmity for 38 years, was lying on a bed by the pool when Christ Jesus noticed him. To most onlookers, his case must have seemed hopeless, but Jesus was unimpressed by how long he had been in that condition. With spiritual authority, he told the man to “rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” And, as St. John relates, “Immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked” (see chap. 5). 

Understanding that God is all-powerful and totally good, Jesus healed the man with certainty, despite what looked like high odds against healing. The master Christian conceded no power to the so-called law of probability.

The theory of probability, which predicts the likelihood that some event will take place, given what has happened previously, is based on the belief that the universe is governed by chance. This theory is so widely accepted that it has come to be regarded as a law that has dominion in our lives. The media often discuss the “odds”—the percentage of chance—that some adversity or health problem will take place today because it has already taken place in particular ways in the past. But calculations based on false law stand in stark contrast to the certainty of God’s ever-present power and man’s inseparable relation to God as exemplified by Jesus.

Christian Science explains that God, divine Mind, is the sole creator of man and the universe, and His creation is spiritual, not material. Therefore, spiritual man—everyone’s true selfhood—cannot be subject to so-called laws of matter, such as chance, randomness, and probability. Rather, man can experience only the certainty of ongoing goodness, because God’s nature is good itself. And since God is the only power, man exists under the control of God’s law of harmony. 

The Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, emphatically states, “The evidence of divine Mind’s healing power and absolute control is to me as certain as the evidence of my own existence” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 177).

On the surface, belief in the theory of probability may seem harmless, since we make decisions every day based on presumptions that particular things are likely to occur. For instance, is the restaurant that is normally busy at lunch going to be full of customers again today? Probably. Yet, as we consider the theory of probability more thoroughly, it’s clear there are ways it can negatively pervade our lives if we aren’t alert. 

We might, for instance, unthinkingly accept the dire predictions of medical experts because their opinions are based on extensive education in their fields. When we read statements in the media associating particular health issues with age, gender, ethnicity, or location, or we hear discussions about the odds that people will need this or that kind of health care at a certain stage of life, do we take them in without question? It is often implied that heeding this knowledge is the responsible thing to do. But even though such statements may come across as valid information based on research and logic, they are actually conjectures based on a material view of existence and related statistics. 

Man can experience only the certainty of ongoing goodness, because God’s nature is good itself.

Such statistics are mortal history, and Mrs. Eddy says, “… mortal history is but the record of dreams, not of man’s real existence, and the dream has no place in the Science of being” (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 21). So if material history is erroneous, the belief that it will repeat itself is erroneous too. 

Rather than letting such predictions go unchallenged, it is better to heed the following advice in Science and Health: “When error confronts you, withhold not the rebuke or the explanation which destroys error” (p. 452); and “For right reasoning there should be but one fact before the thought, namely, spiritual existence” (p. 492).

Our rebuke might go something like this: Since man is spiritual, he has no relationship to matter—is not subject to material beliefs or supposed health laws that appear to dictate the when, what, where, duration, and origin of physical ailments. And because God is the only governing power, matter is powerless, so “… matter can make no conditions for man” (Science and Health, p. 120). Therefore, man has no material history and is not the result of a material accumulation of events—a material statistic. His true history is found only in God, Spirit, and expresses God’s goodness.

I had an opportunity to overcome the belief of probability relating to material health laws when one of my feet sustained a painful arch injury while I was running. Through my study of Christian Science, I knew that prayer would bring healing. I was finding it difficult to stand on my hurt foot, so I looked up references to the word stand in the Christian Science Hymnal. Several hymns offered inspiring ideas that guided my prayers: 

And man does stand as God’s own child, 
   The image of His love. 
(Mary Alice Dayton, Hymn No. 51)

Embosomed deep in Thy dear love, 
   Held in Thy law, I stand. 
(Samuel Longfellow, Hymn No. 134

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, 
For I am thy God, I will still give thee aid; 
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, 
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand. 
(Hymn No. 123, adapt. © CSBD) 

I prayerfully acknowledged that as God’s child—His spiritual offspring—I was surrounded by His love, held in His law of wholeness and perfection. Therefore I could stand on the certainty that I was not subject to material law of any kind. Ultimately, I knew I had nothing to fear because God was right there supporting me. It was through God’s strength, not a material body, that I was able to stand. I could have dominion over any material belief because God is omnipotent.

I’m so grateful to say that the pain began to dissipate, and I had complete freedom to walk and run within about a week and a half. In contrast, this kind of injury is typically predicted by medical professionals to take from several weeks to several months or more to heal. 

The Bible contains many stories of people whose faith in God gave them dominion over the illusory law of probability. For example, Elisha brought the Shunammite woman’s son back to life; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego survived a fiery furnace; Daniel was safely delivered from a den of lions; the Apostle Paul was freed from prison shackles and protected from the sting of a poisonous viper. And besides restoring the invalid man at Bethesda, Jesus healed and fed multitudes, walked on water, raised Lazarus from the dead, and rose from the grave himself after his crucifixion. The supposed law of probability was proven powerless for these spiritual luminaries because of their unwavering conviction of God’s governing power and care. 

Mrs. Eddy states, “Through discernment of the spiritual opposite of materiality, even the way through Christ, Truth, man will reopen with the key of divine Science the gates of Paradise which human beliefs have closed, and will find himself unfallen, upright, pure, and free, not needing to consult almanacs for the probabilities either of his life or of the weather, not needing to study brainology to learn how much of a man he is” (Science and Health, p. 171). As we discern spiritual existence—the truth of man’s being—we can each exercise authority over the belief of probability in our lives and prove the certainty that God is the only governing power.

Access more great content like this

Welcome to JSH-Online, the home of the digital editions of The Christian Science JournalSentinel, and Herald. We hope you enjoy the content that has been shared with you. To learn more about JSH-Online visit our Learn More page or Subscribe to receive full access to the entire archive of these periodicals, and to new text and audio content added daily.

Subscribe Today

More in this issue / February 2019


Explore Concord—see where it takes you.

Search the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures