The First Commandment – A Christian Science Perspective

I can recall in my earlier days of Bible study, skipping over this Commandment when
studying the Decalogue, with the idea that “Of course I have only one God — no idol
worship in this home!” My thoughts would turn to old Biblical movies showing “heathens” bowing down to statues, large and small; or other movies on ancient or modern cultures worshiping the sun or moon or some cult-like figure.

However, I have since learned that as my own concept of the great “I AM” expands, so does my definition of “other gods.”

I can’t speak for what other religions teach on the First Commandment, but in Christian
Science, it is impossible to be a practicing Christian Scientist without a working knowledge of this crucial rule of God. We simply cannot understand Christian Science without a recognition that there is only one God, one power, one good, one Mind. We must have a willingness to actively deny the existence of “other gods.”

In her book Miscellaneous Writings, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: “Christian Science begins with the First Commandment of the Hebrew Decalogue, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me.'” She writes extensively on the First Commandment, which she refers to as her “favorite text.”

The First Commandment is a vast subject. I will try to break it down into several areas, as I try to explain it as it is taught in Christian Science.  Another post will offer suggestions for teaching the First Commandment to children.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE IS MONOTHEISTIC

Just so there is no confusion for anyone new to the teachings of Christian Science, we do share the belief with other Christians and Jews, that there is only one God:  “The Science of Christianity is strictly monotheism, — it has ONE GOD. And this divine infinite Principle, noumenon and phenomena, is demonstrably the self-existent Life, Truth, Love, substance, Spirit, Mind, which
includes all that the term implies,
and is all that is real and eternal.” (Christian Science Versus Pantheism, pg. 12)

BASIC DEFINITION OF “OTHER GODS”

Let’s start with a definition of “god” from Webster’s New World Dictionary:  “1. any of various beings conceived of as supernatural, immortal, and having special powers over the lives and affairs of people and the course of nature; deity, esp. a male deity 2. an image that is worshipped; idol 3. a person or thing deified or excessively honored and admired.”

I think that definition can support what Mrs. Eddy teaches us about “other gods.” However, let’s take a look at her definition of “gods” found in the Glossary of the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

“GODS. Mythology; a belief that life, substance, and intelligence are both mental and material; a supposition of sentient physicality; the belief that infinite Mind is in finite forms; the various theories that hold mind to be a material sense, existing in brain, nerve, matter; supposititious minds, or souls, going in and out of matter, erring and mortal; the serpents of error, which say, ‘Ye shall be as gods.’
“God is one God, infinite and perfect, and cannot become finite and imperfect.”  (S&H pg 587)

Note, that whereas the dictionary definition speaks of persons, things, images, and beings, Mrs. Eddy classifies “gods” as beliefs, suppositions, theories, and error. What this points to is the mental nature of “other gods.”

Note, also, in the definition above, that she refers to gods as “the serpents of error.”  This is illustrated, of course, in the story of Adam and Eve. The “serpent” was the first to disobey the principle and rule against suggesting or believing there may be a power besides the one God. Adam and Eve fell for the serpent’s suggestions, and we are still listening to the “whispers” of the “serpent” today in every type of malicious suggestion against good. That is why, if we wish to bring peace and harmony to earth, we must learn to recognize “other gods” in their various forms and disguises, and deal with them immediately. Mrs. Eddy gives a fuller description of what the snake symbolizes, in her Glossary definition of serpent:

“SERPENT (ophis, in Greek; nacash, in Hebrew). Subtlety; a lie; the opposite of Truth, named error; the first statement of mythology and idolatry; the belief in more than one God; animal magnetism; the first lie of limitation; finity; the first claim that there is an opposite of Spirit, or good, termed matter, or evil; the first delusion that error exists as fact; the first claim that sin, sickness, and death are the realities of life. The first audible claim that God was not omnipotent and that there was another power, named evil, which was as real and eternal as God, good.” (S&H pg 594)

WHO IS “ME”

We have shown that Christian Science teaches that there is only One God, and that the “other gods” are only myths, lies, and illusions that must be dealt with as such, until they are proven to be powerless. But, what, exactly, is God — the “me” that is speaking to us in this Commandment?

The Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, contains the  revelation and explanation of the nature of God as revealed to Mrs. Eddy. One of the definitions which summarizes her teachings on God is found on page 587 of the textbook:

“GOD. The great I AM; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence.”

Mary Baker Eddy also discusses God with relation to the First Commandment. For instance:

“The first demand of this Science is, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me.’ This me is Spirit. Therefore the command means this: Thou shalt have no intelligence, no life, no substance, no truth, no love, but that which is spiritual. The second is like unto it, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ It should be thoroughly understood that all men have one Mind, one God and Father, one Life, Truth, and Love. Mankind will become perfect in proportion as this fact becomes apparent, war will cease and the true brotherhood of man will be established. Having no other gods, turning to no other but the one perfect Mind to guide him, man is the likeness of God, pure and eternal, having that Mind which was also in Christ.” (S&H pg 467)

A favorite citation from Science and Health delves further into the grand results of what
a world devoted to proving and obeying the First Commandment would be like:

“‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me.’ (Exodus xx. 3.) The First Commandment is my favorite text. It demonstrates Christian Science. It inculcates the triunity of God, Spirit, Mind; it signifies that man shall have no other spirit or mind but God, eternal good, and that all men shall have one Mind. The divine Principle of the First Commandment bases the Science of being, by which man demonstrates health, holiness, and life eternal. One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, “Love thy neighbor as thyself;”
annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, — whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed.” (S&H pg 340)

You may be able to see now why the Ten Commandments, and this First Commandment especially, are part of the “first lessons” of Christian Science. Uplifting the human race into the understanding and demonstration of man’s spiritual nature is a goal of Christian Science. Elsewhere in Mrs. Eddy’s writings we read the following citations:

“The First Commandment, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me,’ is a law never to be abrogated — a divine statute for yesterday, and to-day and forever.” (Message for 1902, pg 4)

“The sacred command ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me,’ silences all questions on this subject, and forever forbids the thought of any other reality, since it is impossible to have aught unlike the infinite.” (’02, pg 5)

“The Christianization of mortals, whereby the mortal concept and all it includes is obliterated, lets in the divine sense of being, fulfils the law in righteousness, and consummates the First Commandment, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me.’ All Christian faith, hope, and prayer, all devout desire, virtually petition, Make me the image and likeness of divine Love.” (Message of 1902, pg 6)

“The First Commandment of the Hebrew Decalogue, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me,’ and the Golden Rule are the all-in-all of Christian Science. They are the spiritual idealism and realism which, when realized, constitute a Christian Scientist, heal the sick, reform the sinner, and rob the grave of its victory. The spiritual understanding which demonstrates Christian Science, enables the devout Scientist to worship, not an unknown God, but Him whom, understanding even in part, he
continues to love more and to serve better.” (First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany, pg 5)

BACK TO “OTHER GODS” AND HOW THEY AFFECT US

I have learned over the years in my study of Christian Science, that as my concept of God has expanded, so has the variety of “other gods” that I must learn to expose and denounce. Just being ignorant of these “other gods” does not protect us from their abuses, or prevent us from being enslaved by them. We must face and challenge them when we recognize they are present and trying to operate in our consciousness. Study the following citations from the writings of Mrs. Eddy, and see what she identifies as “other gods” and how they operate in our lives:

“The true understanding of God is spiritual. It robs the grave of victory. It destroys the false evidence that misleads thought and points to other gods, or other so-called powers, such as matter, disease, sin, and death, superior or contrary to the one Spirit.” (S&H 275)

“If Christian Science takes away the popular gods, — sin, sickness, and death, — it is Christ, Truth, who destroys these evils, and so proves their nothingness.”  (S&H 347)

“Was it Mind or matter that spake in creation, ‘and it was done’? The answer is self-evident, and the command remains, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me.'”  (Miscellaneous Writings pg 23)

“Christian Science reveals the infinitude of divinity and the way of man’s salvation from sickness and death, as wrought out by Jesus, who robbed the grave of victory and death of its sting. I understand that God is an ever-present help in all times of trouble, — have found Him so; and would have no other gods, no remedies in drugs, no material medicine.” (Miscellaneous Writings pg 96)

“For matter to be matter, it must have been self-created. Mind has no more power to evolve or to create matter than has good to produce evil. Matter is a misstatement of Mind; it is a lie, claiming to talk and disclaim against Truth; idolatry, having other gods; evil, having presence and power over omnipotence!” (Miscellaneous Writings pg 173-174)

“Divine Science deals its chief blow at the supposed material foundations of life and intelligence. It dooms idolatry. A belief in other gods, other creators, and other creations must go down before Christian Science.” (S&H 535)

DISOBEDIENCE TO THE FIRST COMMANDMENT

You’ve been given a sense of what the First Commandment means in the teachings of Christian Science. Those of us who try to live Christian Science, learn that we must put into practice what we are taught. We must watch our thoughts and actions to avoid “breaking” the First Commandment. Then, we must also actively seek to conform our thinking to the ideal of what the First Commandment represents. This is done through daily prayer and demonstration.

Here are some citations from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, which will give an idea of what we mean by “breaking” the First Commandment:

“Mortal man believes in, but does not understand life in, Christ. He believes there is another power or intelligence that rules over a kingdom of its own, that is both good and evil; yea, that is divided against itself, and therefore cannot stand. This belief breaks the First Commandment of God.”
(Miscellaneous Writings, pg 197)

“God is Spirit. Then modes of healing, other than the spiritual and divine, break the First Commandment of the Decalogue, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me.’ There are no other heaven-appointed means than the spiritual with which to heal sin and disease. Our Master conformed to this law, and instructed his followers, saying, ‘He that believeth on me, the works
that I do shall he do also.’ This is enough. (Mis. pg 221)

“Evil was, and is, the illusion of breaking the First Commandment, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me:’ it is either idolizing something and somebody, or hating them: it is the spirit of idolatry, envy, jealousy, covetousness, superstition, lust, hypocrisy, witchcraft.” (Mis. pg 123)

“It is plain that elevating evil to the altitude of mind gives it power, and that the belief in more than one spirit, if Spirit, God, is infinite, breaketh the First Commandment in the Decalogue.” (Pan. pg 6-7)

“False pleasure will be, is, chastened; it has no right to be at peace. To suffer for having “other gods before me,” is divinely wise.” (Mis. pg 209)

“God is not unable or unwilling to heal, and mortals are not compelled to have other gods before Him, and employ material forms to meet a mental want. The divine Spirit supplies all human needs.” (No and Yes pg 42)

OBEYING THE FIRST COMMANDMENT

This is not easy. We can only take this step-by-step, moment-by-moment, day-by-day. It is not enough to say the words, “I have only one God.” This is a universal principle that becomes real in our lives only as we apply it to the problems that come our way, and to the concepts we hold in consciousness of God’s universe. In Christian Science, we might use this principle in our daily prayers by pondering ideas or affirmations such as: “If there is only one God, there is only one divine Mind. This Mind is infinite, eternal, all-knowing, and all-powerful. There is no mortal mind separate from the one divine Mind. There is no evil mind, hateful mind, insane mind, immoral mind. I am man, God’s perfect image and likeness. Therefore, I reflect the one divine Mind. I cannot have a finite mind separate from God. I express all the intelligence, comprehension, understanding, memory, foresight, wisdom, and intuition that I need today. I cannot be influenced by any other so-called material mind. I am influenced only by God, good. Today, I am governed by the one God.”  As you listen for God in quiet communion, you will hear new ideas and truths about God and your relationship to Him.

Here are some citations from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, relating to obedience to the principle of One God:

“To have one God and avail yourself of the power of Spirit, you must love God supremely.” (S&H 167)

“Applied to Deity, Father and Mother are synonymous terms; they signify one God. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost mean God, man, and divine Science. God is self-existent, the essence and source of the two latter, and their office is that of eternal, infinite individuality. I see no other way under heaven and among men whereby to have one God, and man in His image and likeness, loving another as himself. This being the divine Science of divine Love, it would enable man to escape from idolatry of every kind, to obey the First Commandment of the Decalogue: ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me;’ and the command of Christ: ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’ On this rock Christian Science is built.” (Message for 1900 pg 5)

“In the first chapter of Genesis, matter, sin, disease, and death enter not into the category of creation or consciousness. Minus this spiritual understanding of Scripture, of God and His creation, neither philosophy, nature, nor grace can give man the true idea of God — divine Love — sufficiently to fulfil the First Commandment.” (Message for 1902 pg 7)

“To-day, if ye would hear His voice, listen to His Word and serve no other gods. Then the divine Principle of good, that we call God, will be found an ever-present help in all things, and Christian Science will be understood. (Miscellany pg 152)

“The scientific, healing faith is a saving faith; it keeps steadfastly the great and first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” — no other than the spiritual help of divine Love. Faith in aught else misguides the understanding, ignores the power of God, and, in the words of St. Paul,
appeals to an unknown power “whom therefore ye ignorantly worship.” (Miscellany pg 153)

[Originally published on website “First Lessons in Christian Science]

Copyright 2016 Vicki Jones Cole

 

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