When I was a young college student, a weekly newsmagazine ran a terrifying article predicting the disastrous effects we could all expect from the escape of "killer bees" in South America. With vivid details, the writer traced their expected course northward and described the inevitable deaths that would result. So impressed was I by this "prophetic" vision, that I remember wondering if it might not be wise always to remain in the north where the climate is not so hospitable to such bees.
Many years afterward, I saw the first reports of the arrival of those bees in Texas. Contrary to forecasts of the scientific community, the killer bees, while still considered to be dangerous, were now a small threat compared to what had been initially predicted in such a confident and sensational manner. Some reports attribute this to the bees' breeding on their trip north with the more domesticated inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere.
Is this just an example of human prediction gone awry, or is there more involved?
The practice of prophecy and of predicting future events has long been a part of human history, and its subject matter has ranged from the profound to the catastrophic. The coming of the Messiah was foretold in the Old Testament. In contrast, the destruction of the earth has been predicted times without number. Currently our society is awash with prophecies that the earth is doomed, for any number of reasons—that uncontrollable disease will decimate the population or, conversely, that the soaring birth rate will destroy our natural resources and us.
Certainly we need to be alert and watchful to intrusions on our thought. Yet we also need to be able to discern what is the truth and how it can be distinguished from faulty predictions. The reliability of prophecy must be determined by the foundation upon which it is based. What is its source? Does it emerge solely from human knowledge—human observations and calculations? Or is it discerned through prayer and spiritual revelation?
Mary Baker Eddy clearly delineates the differences between the mortal and spiritual bases of prophecy when she states: "The ancient prophets gained their foresight from a spiritual, incorporeal standpoint, not by foreshadowing evil and mistaking fact for fiction,—predicting the future from a groundwork of corporeality and human belief." Science and Health, p. 84 On the other hand, she defines material knowledge as "evidence obtained from the five corporeal senses; mortality; beliefs and opinions; human theories, doctrines, hypotheses; that which is not divine and is the origin of sin, sickness, and death; the opposite of spiritual Truth and understanding." Ibid., p. 590
When we are able to recognize the delineations between material and spiritual knowledge, we will discern the incorporeal, indestructible nature of God's—not man's—creation. When conditioned to accept only testimony from the five senses, humanity finds it difficult to even entertain the concept of a loving Father-Mother God who cherishes and cares for all of His children. Thus it should not be surprising that prophecies of evil and lack have been continuing threads running through human history—from the shores of Galilee in the first century a.d. to the technologically rich nations of the twentieth.
Contrary to the predictions of many, we never sailed off the ends of the earth no matter how many times we tried. Despite visions in the forties of a long struggle, Europe emerged from the rubble of World War II in a single generation. And beyond most people's expectations, the Berlin Wall has come down, and the cold war is over.
Had all of the most recent prophecies been fulfilled, acid rain would have completely destroyed the forests in the Adirondack Mountains; Mount St. Helens would be a permanently devastated area because of volcanic activity; and we would now be suffering from a worldwide climatic catastrophe because the oil wells of Kuwait were fired.
All of these predictions of disaster were undoubtedly made in good faith and based upon probabilities derived by the scientific community from material knowledge. But exactly how much are we willing to trust information that is gathered solely on the basis of what the five senses tell us?
Why do these conjectures and visions of doom, seem to have the power to hold us hostage to fear? The answer rests upon a fundamental mortal belief that beyond God, there is a power that has the capacity to wreak havoc. This commonly accepted false premise is one that those who trust in God must daily dispute. And the authority for doing so, and thereby resisting prevailing public opinion, comes from the life and teachings of Christ Jesus.
Throughout his sojourn on earth, the Master consistently challenged any human assumption or prediction that would suggest that man could be separated from God, including those related to illness, immorality, lack, natural disaster, and death. Essentially, Jesus refused to accept as reality the conclusions of human knowledge or the evidence of the five senses.
When awakened by his disciples in a ship that was in danger of foundering in fierce seas, Jesus instantly rejected his students' contention that they were all about to perish—neither did he depend upon his own eyes and ears to assess the situation accurately. Instead, looking beyond what he saw and heard, he demanded that the tempest be stilled! See Mark 4:37-39 Jesus' response was not based on human logic but on his understanding of the divine Principle of harmony, which governs man and the universe. As the Psalmist writes, "Therefore will not we fear ...though the waters thereof roar and be troubled ...." Ps. 46:2, 3 Without dwelling upon the lore of the sea acquired through generations of human knowledge, the Master immediately accepted and affirmed the absolute power of God over discord. Thus did the little boat and its passengers rest safely in the suddenly quiet waters.
When necessity dictated that the multitudes be fed in a desert place where there was no food, Jesus did not accept his anxious disciples' advice to send the crowds away. Nor did he inquire about what they lacked to meet the needs of the gathering. As a devout student of the Scriptures, the Master was well aware of God's provision for the children of Israel in the barren Sinai. Challenging the human assumption that there was insufficient supply, and acting in accord with the Biblical promise that God would, indeed, set a table in the wilderness, he asked, "How many loaves have ye? go and see." Mark 6:38 When the disciples brought to Jesus only five loaves and two fishes, he blessed them, looking beyond the views of material sense to see God's infinite spiritual supply. The reality of abundance replaced the anticipation of lack.
The divine protection and
dominion invoked by Christ Jesus
in the wilderness and on the
Sea of Galilee are not only alive
today but are available to each
and every one of us.
Like Jesus, we must inwardly accept and acknowledge the supreme power of the one God and be willing to deny firmly and immediately the many publicized predictions that have their foundations in human knowledge. At the same time we must remain spiritually alert to the daily challenges that demand healing.
News reports today often present the worst-case scenarios of situations that affect the public. Such reporting attracts readers to newspapers and viewers to television, where we are informed of every ill and deprivation that human knowledge believes awaits us at every sunrise. In our prayers we can remember that this is not a new infatuation with evil but rather a continuation of an old theme—that mankind can be placed in a situation which is beyond the help of God. In one form or another, this has been and always will be the claim of the material senses! But affirming our spiritual relationship to God enables us to place our hands in His, confident in His ability to save and protect. We do have the God-given ability to stand against the shifting sands of prevailing public opinion.
My mother, who was a young girl just this side of the turn of the century, told me of the revivalist tent meetings she attended at which the end of the world was fervently preached and predicted —as in next Thursday. She said that the crowds were hypnotized by the constant repetition of these predictions. Her generation was caught up in the personal conviction and magnetism of the zealot. Our generation appears to be mesmerized by the massive accumulation and dissemination of "beliefs and opinions; human theories, doctrines, hypotheses."
At this point, the skeptic might well question the value of metaphysics in dealing with the "realities" of natural or war-related disasters currently occurring around the world. When Mary Baker Eddy established her Church, she did not ignore the ills that appeared to surround those living in the late nineteenth century. She recognized them for what they were—suggestions imposed on human thought, derived from fear, sin, ignorance, or the faulty information compiled from the five senses. Indeed, Mrs. Eddy taught that good— God, Spirit—was not just All but the only reality and power, and that evil was an illusion or lie. Operating within the framework of these teachings and their practical demonstration, one of her students declared, unequivocally, that if a man were drowning in the middle of the ocean with no apparent human help available, the right application of God's law would provide a means of rescue. It was never intended by Mrs. Eddy that Christian Science be relegated to the arena of philosophical discussions. Not only did she expect it to be of immediate and healing service to mankind, she demanded it!
Mrs. Eddy consistently counseled her students personally and in the Church Manual to resist prevailing public opinions. Church members were to regard it as a daily duty to defend themselves prayerfully against aggressive mental suggestions See Manual, Art. VIII, Sect. 6—a category that includes all of the predictions and forecasts that would seek to place mankind beyond the reach of God. It doesn't matter whether a prediction involves disease, the environment, or the economy—there are no restrictions on the power of prayer.
The life and teachings of the Master quickened religion with the capacity to answer the needs of the world. But until this fact is acknowledged, our species will continue to fear every tomorrow. In Science and Health we read, "Christian ideas certainly present what human theories exclude—the Principle of man's harmony."Science and Health, p. 170 This ever-present spiritual harmony is powerful enough to still the false contentions of human knowledge. The divine protection and dominion invoked by Christ Jesus in the wilderness and on the Sea of Galilee are not only alive today but are available to each and every one of us.
There is no need to fear tomorrow!
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy
and vain deceit, after the tradition of men,
after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ.
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
And ye are complete in him, which is the head
of all principality and power.
Interested in more more Journal content?
Subscribe to JSH-Online to access The Christian Science Journal, along with the Christian Science Sentinel and The Herald of Christian Science. Get unlimited access to current issues, the searchable archive, podcasts, audio for issues, biographies about Mary Baker Eddy, and more. Already a subscriber? Log in