Recently I published a blog posting which addressed a list of questions posed to Christian Scientists by a modern fundamentalist Christian theologian in an article unfairly and falsely critical of the Christian Science movement. Though each of the questions was easily addressed, I felt that there was one question which deserves additional attention on account of the overwhelming amount of attention it receives in the public eye. The question dealt with the popular assertion that Jesus was the fleshly incarnation of God, with which Christian Science takes logical exception. Perhaps the primary objection to the theodicy of Christian Science by traditionally minded theologians is with respect to this misunderstanding of Christian Scientist’s regard for the place and role of Christ Jesus in Christianity.
Christian Scientists, like all Christians, regard the God-assigned office of the Christ, the Messiahship, to have been a title held by and deserved by only one man ever. That was the man Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. Christian Science understands the Christ to be the perfect spiritual nature of man, possessed by all men, women, and children; it is a nature which was without human fault exemplified in the purest man ever to have walked the earth, the immaculately conceived Jesus, the only human man ever to be deserving of the role of perfect Sonship with God. Careful analysis of Scripture confirms without exception that Jesus, as the Son of God and not as the Father Himself, continually maintained his relationship with the Father through constant prayer and awareness of his oneness in quality with his Father, God. As His Son, Jesus continually sought and followed the guidance of the Father.
This Jesus did more perfectly than any other human being ever could or can do, and better than could any mortal man whose fatherhood is tainted by human origin. Jesus was conceived by a human mother but was not fathered by a human man. Jesus was fathered by Mary’s pure spiritual conception of him. This made Jesus literally the Son of God, and not the human son of Joseph. To regard Jesus in this light, and to recognize that his unique and perfect spiritual Sonship can never be usurped or replaced by another human being, is to maintain the highest possible respect that can be held for him and his office of Messiahship.
At the same time, such respect necessitates the logical recognition that the offices of Father and Son cannot be one and the same thing. The Father, God, is the great cause. The perfect Son, or Christ, is the great effect, and reflects all of the characteristics of the Father perfectly. When God is recognized as the great Cause, then the Christ man as His image and likeness can be seen as the exact and perfect effect of that cause. Neither can exist without the other. Christ is that perfect effect resulting from God’s perfect cause – God and the Christ, cause and effect, Father and Son.
What is the Scriptural authority for this point of view? A careful analysis of the Gospels provides overwhelming evidence in support of the point of view that logically, Jesus could not have been God incarnated in the flesh, but that he was the ultimate representation of God’s perfect man, or the perfect Son of God, and was animated perfectly by the Christ nature.
Does this point of view disrespect Jesus or God? Not at all! On the contrary, it in fact confirms his unique and irreplaceable place in Christianity, giving the glory where it is due, to our one spiritual God, as manifested in His effect, the Christ man. The Gospels contain numerous references in which Jesus himself insisted that his followers take their attention away from Jesus’ personal identity and assumed personal power, and refocus their attention on his divine nature as the perfect divine messenger, the Son of God, Christ.
Let us examine a selection of references to Jesus’ relationship to the Father. Virtually identical evidence supporting the fact of Jesus’ Sonship with God, as opposed to claims of his nature as the Father, God, himself, is found throughout all four Gospels. The following verses are a typical sprinkling of evidence that Jesus was not the fleshly incarnation of God, but that Jesus was or is His holy and perfect Son. Even more supporting evidence of this proposition can also be found in the books of the New Testament which follow the accounts of the four Gospels. That examination is left to the reader to pursue.
The most commonly quoted verse used to proclaim the deity of Jesus is his statement in John 10:30 “I and my father are one.” In the Christian Science textbook, Science and health with Key to The Scriptures, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy writes on page 26
“The Christ was the Spirit which Jesus implied in his own statements: “I am the way, the truth, and the life;” “I and my Father are one.” This Christ, or divinity of the man Jesus, was his divine nature, the godliness which animated him. Divine Truth, Life, and Love gave Jesus authority over sin, sickness, and death. His mission was to reveal the Science of celestial being, to prove what God is and what He does for man.”
And further in the book, on page 315:
“That saying of our Master, “I and my Father are one,” separated him from the scholastic theology of the rabbis. His better understanding of God was a rebuke to them. He knew of but one Mind and laid no claim to any other. He knew that the Ego was Mind instead of body and that matter, sin, and evil were not Mind; and his understanding of this divine Science brought upon him the anathemas of the age.”
Matthew 10:40 says “He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me” Here Jesus was addressing his disciples with respect to the acceptance they might expect to receive from their healing ministry. Jesus said here that the ones who receive the disciples were receiving Christ Jesus, and the ones who receive Christ Jesus were receiving the Father. If we were to make the false assumption that the writer meant that Christ Jesus and the Father were one and the same entity because they were both being received, one would logically also logically have to make the assumption that the disciples and Christ Jesus were also one and the same entity, because they were both being received by the sick. This would be clearly nonsensical. Taking the point of view that the perfect Christ nature was represented in the fleshly man Jesus, it should be clear that the writer intended to say that the reception of this Christ nature in one’s self equates to the recognition of our own perfection as the image and likeness of God. To receive Christ is to gain a recognition of one’s inherent likeness to God.
In Matthew 11:25 we read of Jesus thanking the Father: “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” In order to thank the Father for anything, Jesus would necessarily need to recognize that he was the Son. Otherwise, he would have no Father to pray to. What would be the reason or the logical sense in praying and thanking God and addressing Him as the Father, if Jesus’ identity was one and the same with the Father? Why did he not simply thank himself, if he was the Father?
Matthew 16: 13-16. “When Jesus came into the coasts if Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” Referring to himself here as the son of man, Jesus was clearly asking his disciples what the people thought of his personal identity. “And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.” These answers indicated that many of the people believed him to be one of the prophets reincarnated. “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” Once again, Jesus clearly identified himself here as the Son of God, and not as the Father himself in fleshly form.
In Matthew 17 is recorded one of two accounts of the transfiguration of Jesus in which he appeared with Moses and Elias, speaking to them in the presence of Peter, James, and John. The other account of the transfiguration is given in the Gospel of Mark, and is almost identically described. Matthew 17:5 tells us “ While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” Here we have an account of the voice of the Father Himself, speaking directly to all, praising Jesus’ perfection as His beloved Son. If Jesus was God incarnated in the flesh, then who was it who was speaking aloud to Jesus, Moses, Elias, Peter, James, and John on this holy occasion? It was the Father, speaking to His beloved Son, Jesus.
In Matthew 19:16, 17 is an account of a man who came to Jesus for advice on how to enter the kingdom of heaven. “And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do., that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Could Jesus any more clearly be stating here that his identity as Jesus was not equal to God, the Father? Rather, Jesus humbled himself, recognizing his place as the Son of God, and the source of goodness to be above him, in the source of his and of all goodness, God, the Father.
In Matthew 20: 22, 23 the mother of Zebedee asks Jesus what her two sons may do that they may be granted the privilege of sitting on the right hand of God. In verse 23 Jesus answered “Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.” Once again, could Jesus have any more clearly separated his identity as the perfect Son of God from that of His Father, God?
In John Chapter 14, Jesus’ disciples ask him again about his relationship with the Father. Verses 8-12 tell us “Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it shall suffice us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not know me , Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou, shew us the Father?” Here is where supporters of the deity of Jesus normally terminate this quotation, for without further information, the case could be made for the deity of Jesus himself with these words.. But the words which follow are important, and settle the question: “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself” (Jesus, the Son, is not the originator of the words) ” but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. “ Jesus is the perfect Son, the perfect Christ man, who acts as the direct result of His Father, God. Verse 12 goes on to promise that the works done by Jesus van be done by any believer! “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” Now, if Jesus was the incarnation of God and was therefore the only one to possess powers to heal or to grant those powers to others, how would it be possible that any believer should be able to do even greater works than Jesus himself? Perhaps in our modern era, we may doubt the truth of his statement because of our own lack of ability to heal. Does our lack of developed spiritual power negate the truth told by Jesus, the Son of God, himself?
Jesus continued to demonstrate his unity with the Father as his perfect Son even after his resurrection from the grave. When Jesus first made himself seen to Mary Magdalene, he told her (John 20:17) “ Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”
Jesus, the Son of God, states here how he is to ascend even higher in the understanding of his Father, God, stressing to Mary Magdalene the importance that she not touch yet physically touch him, for even at this point he had not yet reached the ultimate point of understanding of his own spiritual being. The passage perhaps implies that a physical touch would have been detrimental to his further advancement, which culminated in his ascension above the visible material plane, in which he was carried into the kingdom of heaven, that perfect state of the understanding of existence as purely spiritual.
If Jesus were God Himself, would he have had any fear of being touched at this point? Would Jesus, as God Himself, have ever been above to feel any doubt at all about reaching the ultimate state of existence totally above the realm of earth? God’s Son, Jesus, did clearly feel these human doubts until he was finally able to conquer them – in his final demonstration called the ascension. It was at this point that Jesus finally was enabled to completely shed his mortal and human nature and to find himself fully in the presence of God in the spiritual kingdom of heaven.
Jesus’ doubts and fears were an undeniable part of his human life. Being conceived immaculately, being the only perfect Son of God, Jesus was a man endowed with the capacity to become the perfect Christ man. Although all men are ultimately Christ-like and spiritual in nature, made in the image and likeness of God, Jesus’ origin of immaculate conception through the pure thought of Mary enabled him to maintain a conviction of his ability to become the perfect Christ man on the human plane. Such a conviction is foreign to the common man, conceived humanly and falsely educated to recognize himself as a sinning mortal. This natural Christ nature still had to be had to be developed, practiced, and learned through the actions of his human life.
Little is known about Jesus’ human life between the time when he was twelve years old and found studying in the temples with the rabbis, doctors and lawyers, until the time he began his actual ministry some fifteen years later. We do know that Jesus displayed remarkable abilities to learn. He spent much of his time in the temples studying, discussing, and learning the Scriptures inside out. After years of spiritually inspired study, it is easy to imagine that the rabbis, priests and scribes were angry when Jesus began to understand the Holy Writings in more depth than did they, and began to heal and to perform works of which they were not capable. Jesus was a man born with a perfect potential which had to be developed; and he proceeded to developed his God-given potential perfectly. His mission included the task of proving and showing that the Christ nature is native to every man. For him it was much easier to develop than for other men, because of his pure origin as God’s Son. His great powers took time, dedication, and effort to develop. Had Jesus been God in the flesh, would there have been any need for Jesus to learn anything at all? Had Jesus been God in the flesh, would he not have been ready to carry out his mission even as a child?
We know also that even thirty years after his birth Jesus cautiously began his world changing mission. He unmistakably had doubts and fears which he had to overcome before he was able to set out on his three year mission and ministry of healing and teaching and saving. Jesus had learned a trade from Joseph. He could just as well, being a human man, have made the decision to continue being a common carpenter. But, knowing in his heart that the he was endowed with the most perfect nature of the Christ,, Jesus knew that his life purpose was being called by his Father, God. He must go and change the world.
Matthew 4 and Luke 4 both recount his experience in the wilderness at the very beginning of this ministry. During this process he was tempted of evil on three different occasions. Jesus occupied all of his time from this point forward in prayer. In fact, Jesus’ life was virtually a continual prayer. His work was not easy from a human point of view, for it involved the complete sacrifice of himself humanly. He spent every waking moment communing with the Father, contemplating his unity with Him. His forty days in the wilderness were spent in prayer and began to transform his life, bringing it into its final stage and to the fruition of his mission, to save the world from sin. But even after forty continual days of prayer and communion in the wilderness, Jesus was still confronted by the temptations of evil. Of course, the Christ nature which he had been developing since childhood enabled him to completely defeat those temptations, and consequently to gain the confidence to know in his heart that he really had what it would take to carry out the mission of the Messiahship. The Gospel of Mark tells us that Immediately after the temptations, he submitted to the baptism of John. Immediately following the baptism, it is recounted that “there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew Chapter 4).
If Jesus had been the Father himself, would the Father have spoken to him from above? To whom was the Father speaking, if not to his Son? Could Jesus, if he were God Himself, have been tempted by evil at all? That he overcame those and all temptations from this point forward undoubtedly proves his claim to the Messiahship. But does his victory over temptation prove divinity itself? Can God be tempted by evil? Or is it man who is tempted by evil? Can God even consider the possibility of yielding His own omnipotence to another power? No! To do so would cancel the meaning of the word Omnipotence! To be presented with temptation at all requires a human nature. Could the perfect Son of God appearing to us as a human being, the man who had learned to submit his nature in totality to Christ as Jesus had done, be presented with temptation and defeat it every time? Yes! The human Jesus Christ, God’s perfect Son, did conquer evil, and pointed out the way for us to reach heaven in the complex process of his human life, ministry, healing, teaching, persecution, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
Christian Science honors Jesus as no other system does. Many traditional theologies maintain a doctrine which says that the shedding of blood on the cross is the all important and completely sufficient fact of atonement. Christian Science teaches that this fallacious doctrine is man-made, for Jesus consistently demonstrated and lived the proof that atonement and salvation can come only through the spiritualization of individual thought, beginning with his own thought. This he did by living the life of men, as a man, purely, as God’s only begotten perfect Son, eventually sacrificing his own human life and returning alive after three days. This he did as proof so that others might see and understand that Love is the master of sin, death and hatred.
What are the doctrinal beliefs of Christian Scientists with respect to Christ Jesus? This question is best summarized on page 497 of the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to The Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy. Here the following question is answered:
Question: — Have Christian Scientists any religious creed?
Answer: — They have not, if by that term is meant doctrinal beliefs. The following is a brief exposition of the important points, or religious tenets , of Christian Science:–
|1. As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word|
|of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life.|
|2. We acknowledge and adore one supreme and in-|
|finite God. We acknowledge His Son, one Christ; the|
|Holy Ghost or divine Comforter; and man in God’s|
|image and likeness.|
|3. We acknowledge God’s forgiveness of sin in the|
|destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that|
|casts out evil as unreal. But the belief in sin is pun-|
|ished so long as the belief lasts.|
|4. We acknowledge Jesus’ atonement as the evi-|
|dence of divine, efficacious Love, unfolding man’s unity|
|with God through Christ Jesus the Way-shower; and|
|we acknowledge that man is saved through Christ,|
|through Truth, Life, and Love as demonstrated by the|
|Galilean Prophet in healing the sick and overcoming|
|sin and death.|
|5. We acknowledge that the crucifixion of Jesus and|
|his resurrection served to uplift faith to understand eter-|
|nal Life, even the allness of Soul, Spirit, and the noth-|
|ingness of matter.|
|6. And we solemnly promise to watch, and pray for|
|that Mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; to|
|do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and|
|to be merciful, just, and pure.|