Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Third Commandment – A Christian Science Perspective

The Third Commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,” is asking us to become aware of the connection — or the gap — between our spoken words and our innermost thoughts, between our public face and our private truth. (And you perhaps thought it was just about swearing!)

God knows each of His children. Nothing can be hidden from Him. Yet, people fool themselves all the time, believing they can hide from God their true motives or desires.

Perhaps they do it with a wordy prayer, or a recitation of Bible verses, or maybe a superficial act of charity done for show rather than from brotherly love.

Some people may also try to impress others with a public display of words or emotions that are designed to show how God-like they are, or how well they know the Bible, or certain religious teachings. Their motives may not be bad, but their words do not heal the hearts and minds of others, because they are nothing more than words.

Then, there are some folk who simply don’t care about God one way or the other, and have no problem using His sacred name to curse or swear, in order to shock others into paying attention to them.

Others might use God’s name to dress up in formality an oath or promise they may have no intention of keeping.

The examples above are just a few of the ways in which the Third Commandment can be broken, even unintentionally. Basically, these people are using God’s name as a shield to cover their sins, or their lack of true understanding. Or, they are using God’s name for empty or unworthy purposes. They are taking His name “in vain.”

And, we are all guilty of disobeying this Commandment from time to time in our life’s journey. This Commandment is a sign telling us to stop and take a look at how we might be using God and His name for the wrong purposes. Or, perhaps God’s name, spoken loud and long in public, has become for us as a window-dressing, fronting an otherwise empty store: a heart and mind void of real love and understanding of God and His creation.

How does this happen to those of us, whose original motive was simply to worship God, learn more about Him, and share the good news with others? I’m sure others will have different answers, but in thinking about this, I feel it is a case of stopping too soon, or not digging deep enough into the lessons and ideas revealed to us through God’s Word. We become satisfied with immature ideas and the early progress we have made, but are unwilling to
devote time and personal sacrifice necessary to plant ourselves firmly in the spiritual understanding of God.

Think of it like this: we may have an “ocean of knowledge” — Bible verses to spout, church laws and traditions learned and upheld without fail, anecdotes and sentimental quotes for every occasion to share, and — for those of us who are Christian Scientists — countless paragraphs of Science and Health memorized and available to counter every suggestion of error that comes to us in our daily life. However, no matter how vast our “ocean of knowledge,” what happens when we try to stand upon the ocean? We sink!

Superficial knowledge of God and His nature, will not hold us up. What does? The “dry land” of understanding. We need to use what we learn about God, apply it to our daily life and the problems that come to us, until the ideas take form in our consciousness as something definite and usable. You might want to compare this stage of spiritual enlightenment to the third day of creation, as described in the first chapter of Genesis. By then, the firmament of Spirit has divided the waters, but in the third day, dry land appears. This is when creation becomes something definite, rather than formless and vague. It is then that the land begins to bear fruit. So, if we want those new and higher ideas of God that have come to light for us, to stick around and bear fruit, we must take our stand on the land!

Consider how children learn math. They are first taught the theory or basic facts, and then are given problems to solve. If they have trouble solving them, the teacher and child work together, going back and forth between discussing theory and solving problems, until suddenly the child “gets it.” As long as they continue to use and practice that new concept of math, they will make it their own. It will “bear fruit.” But, how far would a child get if all they were required to do was simply read math books. They might be able to spout a few rules and theorems for their parents or teachers, but accomplish little. They would be “taking the name of Math in vain.”

With all this in mind, the next post will go over some possible approaches to teaching children the Third Commandment, along with additional thoughts on its meaning and ways to happily obey.

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Teaching Children the Second Commandment

Teaching Children the Second Commandment – A Christian Science Perspective

If you haven’t already done so, you may wish to read the previous posts on the Second Commandment.  The following are ideas for teaching the Second Commandment to your children or Sunday School pupils based upon the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.

FOR VERY YOUNG CHILDREN:

If you read the Second Commandment to very young children, they most likely will not be able to comprehend what it means. It may be best to introduce the concept of it in a more concrete fashion. Here is one possible lesson leading up to the Second Commandment:

Bring a small toy animal to your class, or home session, preferably a carved wooden figure.  Set it out on the table for the children to see, and ask: “What is it?” Suppose you have an elephant. You’ll probably get the response: “It’s an elephant!” (or “it’s an elephant, dummy!”) Some bright child may tell you right away that it is a toy or statue, but until one of them does, prod the children with other questions to get them to think about what they are seeing:

“How do you know it is an elephant?” “Have you seen one before?” “How is this different?” “Will it eat this peanut?” And so on. After you have exhausted this line of reasoning, everyone should be able to agree that it is not a real elephant. But what is it? Ask the children to hold it and touch it. Then ask the following: “What is it made of?” “Where did the material come from?” “Is a tree an elephant?”

When it is established that the elephant is made of wood (or whatever material your animal is made from), ask who or what has turned the block of wood into an elephant? An artist; perhaps a woodcarver. Maybe a machine programmed by a skilled technician.

Then write out the word “carve.” Maybe you can find a picture of a woodcarver or sculptor at work. Write out the word “engraven.” Talk about how artists carve and engrave the images of animals onto a plain block of wood to create an image of an elephant. Write out the word “image” and show it to them.

By now, the children should have a small concept of what a carved or graven image might be, with regard to idols or statues. You can point out that they have just learned that a carving is not the real animal that it represents. It might be beautiful or fun to play with as a toy or art object, but it is not a real elephant, which would have its own special qualities, the main one being life!

Now, you might ask, “Where else might we see images?” Pull out a small mirror. Have each child look at themselves. Ask which is the real [say name of a child]? We’ll use the name “Rachel” as an example. “Is the child in the mirror, Rachel?” “No! The girl in the mirror is an image of Rachel.” Do this with all the children. Go around once more and make sure the children understand that a carving, or an image of someone in a mirror, is not the same as the real thing.

Show them a short version of the Second Commandment: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.” Explain that this is one of God’s Ten Commandments. He does not want anyone making a graven image of Him. He does not want anyone making a graven image of any other creature and calling it a god, either. That is a law!

You can ask, “Suppose we wanted to make a carved image of God in spite of His law against it. What would God look like? What would we make from a block of wood?”

Lead their answers around to the fact that we do not know. God is Spirit. He does not have a physical or material body such as humans have. We cannot see Him with our eyes. However, God is many things that we can learn to know. For instance, the Bible tells us “God is Love.” Can we see Love? What does Love look like?

Lead them to see that while we do not know what God as Love looks like, we can feel His Love, we can express love to others, and we can do good and loving deeds. For instance, helping our family with the chores is a good deed which expresses love. Being obedient to both God and our parents is a way to show love. This love we show is actually Love we reflect from God. Like our images in the little mirror we looked at, we are made in the image and likeness of God. But it is not a physical body that we reflect, but the spiritual character of God! “Love is reflected in love,” we learn in the spiritual interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer found in our textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.

The Second Commandment, therefore, is a reminder that God is Spirit only, not made up of matter or evil or any bad thing. And man, as His image and likeness, is only spiritual, not material. You might show them the “Scientific Statement of Being” in the textbook, which those in Sunday School hear read to them at the end of the session.

To bring the lesson to a close, you might hold up the carved, wooden elephant (or whatever toy you have), and ask, “So, if there was a contest to find the world’s strongest elephant, would we enter this little fellow here?” “Would we take it to a circus and expect it to perform elephant tricks?” “No!” they will hopefully respond. “That’s right, because it is only a graven image of an elephant. It is not a real elephant!”

You might ask them to consider ways in real life that we need to separate the real and
powerful from the illusion of power: prayer versus pills; peacemaker versus fighting; telling the truth versus lying to get us out of trouble, and so on.

A good Bible story that can bring out this Commandment is the story of Noah’s Ark. God was not happy with the many people who were worshiping idols, and He had to put a stop to it. Noah was faithful to God, and did not worship graven images, and so God helped Noah prepare for a time when He, God, would send a flood to separate the good from the evil. Noah and the animals (his qualities of thoughts) were protected from the flood by the Ark. Not only must we not worship graven images, but we must actively worship, adore, and listen to God. His rainbow in the sky was a promise that He would not send another flood. However, later, He had to give Moses, another great friend of God, the Ten Commandments, to remind the people they must be obedient.

At Halloween time, you can bring up the Second Commandment again. Ask them when they or their friends put on a Halloween mask or costume, which is real? The person, animal, character, or thing represented by the mask? Or, the person underneath the mask? If they can see the difference, they can also be willing to see what God wants us all to see: the material body is not the real, spiritual man; and, the false concepts about God that would make Him material, do not represent Him, either. God is Spirit; man is spiritual — no matter how many graven images would say otherwise.

FOR OLDER CHILDREN:

Depending upon their level of maturity and experience with the teachings of Christian
Science, you can take lesson ideas from either the ones for the little children above, or
from the general lessons on the Second Commandment found elsewhere.

Lessons for elementary-school age children might include the following:

Show them the entire Second Commandment from Exodus 20, or at least the portion
that stops after the second colon. Explain that symbolically the “heaven above,” “the
earth beneath,” and “the water under the earth,” may represent states and stages of
human consciousness. The “water under the earth” may be the mortal subconscious,
which we are not aware of, but which exerts a great deal of influence upon our thinking
and actions, if we do not learn to handle its false influence. Lots of “graven images”
develop and spring forth from the so-called subconscious.

Discuss historical details about idols and idol worship in the Bible. Look up Bible stories in which idols played a role. Discuss how the children of Israel, who were with Moses in the desert, returned to idol-worship when Moses took so long getting back to them.

Discuss God as “the great I AM.” He is not to be represented by any object, or worshiped by any material process. Think what that might mean. For instance, is just showing up at church, while spending time thinking of what you’re going to do that afternoon, true worship? Or, is an effort to seek fresh inspiration? Mary Baker Eddy has a number of citations referring to what true worship or divine service is. It has more to do with daily deeds than with the rituals of traditional church activities. This is an important point to discuss with kids as they get older. They do see hypocrisy in church members so clearly, and they need to find out that, yes, true worship is spiritual, and we all must actively seek to do better and eliminate any form of material worship. It is a trap anyone call fall into, even them!

The disciple John has a good statement on this in his book: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

The pupils must see, however, that it is not enough for them to go around identifying other church members as hypocrites. They must learn what it takes to avoid doing the same things — only differently! There are many avenues that hypocrisy and worshiping graven images can take. It is a life-long struggle we must be alert to. We need to get into the habit of self-examination, and become aware of how we worship and adore God.

You can use the wind as an example in one lesson (and this would also be good for the little children, too). If you can, go out and observe the wind. Otherwise, have them imagine a windy day. Note that we cannot see the actual wind. We can only see the effects of what it does. It makes the trees or leaves sway. It sweeps away light trash. It spreads the seeds of flowers. It clears the air of pollution. It carries the clouds away. The wind has a lot of power. Just so, we do not see God with our physical eyes, yet we can see His power at work in our lives if we know how to judge the effects correctly. Ask the children for examples of what might be God’s power at work in our lives. Remind them that God is Spirit, and that the Second Commandment tells us we do not have to materialize God to worship Him. We
can be grateful for His mighty works and adore Him, even without being able to see Him physically.

Point out that it is the devil, or “the accuser” as it is sometimes called, that likes to trick us into believing that God is human-like, rather than the other way around. Discuss the story of the serpent, and how he tricked Eve into believing she could be like God. The serpent, or false suggestions that are whispered into our thoughts, would try to get us to carve new “graven images” in our thought, that God never ordained. We must “stand porter at the door of thought” to protect ourselves, and to keep us from trying to label God with false, human attributes, such as hate, revenge, partiality.

Discuss how the media of today bombards us with false images that may become engraved in our thoughts. Sex and violence on TV, movies, video, and computer games would rob us of our peace and purity of mind. Commercials for medicines or other material aids for health would turn us away from trust in God for our health and harmony. Advertisements for all manner of toys and gadgets, clothes and accessories, would create an artificial need for such things. We make them into “other gods” that we worship as “graven images” if we hand to these things a power to make us happy or sad.

Discuss the role of the five physical senses in creating “graven images.” Point out that these material senses are misconceptions of the true spiritual senses of Spirit and Soul. The physical senses would hypnotize us into believing that what they experience is the sole reality. They would create graven images for us to worship or fear. The pains and pleasures of these senses in the body really do nothing but enslave us. We must start training ourselves to look through these lies, to our true spiritual nature. We must affirm that there is no sensation in matter. Only Spirit has true substance, only Soul has true feeling. Encourage them to include the “Scientific Statement of Being” in their daily prayers, and to work daily to deny the reality of matter and the five physical senses, which lie, lie, lie about God and His universe.

The Second Commandment – A Christian Science Perspective, Part Two

WORSHIPPING GOD SPIRITUALLY:

Once we separate our concept of God from any and all material forms, we still have to make sure that when we worship Him — when we set about to show our devotion and reverence for Him — that we worship Him with our spiritual sense, and not through material means. This gets down to what the Second Commandment is about: watching our thinking to see that our method of worship is of the highest and purest standards. Do we settle for traditional rituals, or repetitious prayers that may have grown stale and have little meaning for us as we say them? Or, do we offer our most heartfelt desires to God, and adore Him with our deepest gratitude? We can all do better here. According to Christian Science, our spiritual growth is dependent upon keeping our worship of God on a spiritual basis:

“Whatever materializes worship hinders man spiritual growth and keeps him from demonstrating his power over error.” (S&H 5)

“We worship spiritually, only as we cease to worship materially. Spiritual devoutness is the soul of Christianity. Worshipping through the medium of matter is paganism. Judaic and other rituals are but types and shadows of true worship. ‘The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.'” (S&H 140)

“Dost thou ‘love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind’? This command includes much, even the surrender of all merely material sensation, affection, and worship. This is the El Dorado of Christianity.” (S&H 9)

“The Israelites centered their thoughts on the material in their attempted worship of the spiritual. To them matter was substance, and Spirit was shadow. They thought to worship Spirit from a material standpoint, but this was impossible. They might appeal to Jehovah, but their prayer brought down no proof that it was heard, because they did not sufficiently understand God to be able to demonstrate His power to heal, — to make harmony the reality and discord the unreality.” (S&H 351)

“Moses advanced a nation to the worship of God in Spirit instead of matter. . . ” (S&H 200)

“As mortals do not comprehend even mortal existence, how ignorant must they be of the all-knowing Mind and of His creations. Here you may see how so-called material sense creates its own forms of thought, gives them material names, and then worships and fears them. With pagan blindness, it attributes to some material god or medicine an ability beyond itself. The beliefs of the human mind rob and enslave it, and then impute this result to another illusive personification, named Satan.”  (S&H 187)

“Holy Writ declares that God is love, is Spirit, hence it follows that those who worship Him, must worship Him spiritually, — far apart from physical sensation such as attends eating and drinking corporeally. It is plain that aught unspiritual, intervening between God and man, would tend to disturb the divine order, and countermand the Scripture that those who worship the Father must worship Him in spirit. It is also plain, that we should not seek and cannot find God in matter, or through material methods; neither do we love and obey Him by means of matter, or the flesh, — which warreth against Spirit, and will not be reconciled thereto.”  (Miscellaneous Writings 123-124)

“The restoration of pure Christianity rests solely on spiritual understanding, spiritual worship, spiritual power. Ask thyself, Do I enter by the door and worship only Spirit and spiritually, or do I climb up some other way? Do I understand God as Love, the divine Principle of all that really is, the infinite good, than which there is none else and in whom is all? Unless this be so, the blind is leading the blind, and both will stumble into doubt and darkness, even as the ages have shown.” (Miscellany 152)

“Do I believe in a personal God? I believe in God as the Supreme Being. I know not what the person of omnipotence and omnipresence is, or what the infinite includes; therefore, I worship that of which I can conceive, first, as a loving Father and Mother; then, as thought ascends the scale of being to diviner consciousness, God becomes to me, as to the apostle who declared it, ‘God is Love,’ — divine Principle, — which I worship; and ‘after the manner of my fathers, so worship I God.'” (Miscellaneous Writings 96)

The teachings of Christian Science on the Second Commandment clearly promote obedience of that rule by its emphasis on spiritualizing our concepts of God and our worship of Him in accord with the Word of the New Testament.

In the study of Christian Science, we learn that the laws of God are not just laws to be obeyed when the occasion seems to arise, but are dynamic, living expressions of divine Principle which can be utilized in our lives pro-actively. The Second Commandment is not one to set aside until we come upon someone bowing down to a wood carving in their living room!

The Second Commandment, summarized as “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,” is a foundational law to be studied and used in our lives. Christian Science teaches a deeply spiritual point-of-view toward the Second Commandment, which needs to be understood, as well as demonstrated in our lives.

Let’s consider some of the ways we might make “graven images” to be worshiped instead of God:

Think about some things in your life that you may have placed more importance on for
your happiness than your relationship with God. Are you a slave to tobacco, drugs, alcohol, caffeine, sex, or other stimulants? Are you suffering from the belief that these things bring you true pleasure? Are you a workaholic, finding satisfaction only in your job, or prestige of position? Then, you are disobeying the Second Commandment. Spirit, God, should be the only true source of attraction and happiness and satisfaction.

Have you watched certain commercials on television or social media so often that they become “graven images” in your mind, and you find yourself “needing” what they sell? How often do we find ourselves coming down with the very illness that certain medicine commercials pound into our thoughts? If you are not on guard to erase these “graven images” from your mind, by denying the power of drugs to heal, or disease to harm God’s children, then the “graven images” become like “other gods” to you, as they force you to fear, obey, and worship them at the cost of your personal and spiritual health.

Do the sensational images on television, social media, movies, newspapers, and magazines arouse you in negative ways? Do they pull your thoughts away from the beauty and goodness that God ordains for man? Then watch that these powerful images do not become idols for you. God is the only true power. To obey the Second Commandment, you must oust any false sense of a power apart from God, any event that is not the will of an all-loving Father-Mother, any claim that man is an animal with animal instincts, and not the pure image and likeness of Spirit.

Has the “love of money” taken over your thoughts? Do you worship the idea of having tons of money without taking account of your usefulness to God in the service of mankind? Worshiping money instead of God, who is the source of all true supply and who fills all of our needs in the best way possible, is breaking the Second Commandment. We must humble ourselves before God, and ask Him for our “daily bread.”

Do we always turn to doctors and medicine, or the so-called healing benefit of “time,” to cope with illness or accidents? Jesus showed us that there is a healing Principle: God. Jesus did not use drugs. He taught us to grow in spirituality and unselfish love. These qualities will help us trust in God in times of physical need, just as Jesus did. Sometimes, though, God will guide us to the right use of “temporary” means, if we do need the help of doctors in situations that are beyond our current spiritual understanding to heal with Christian Science. The point is that our primary trust should be in God — not in the so-called power of drugs, the use of which can be a form of idolatry, according to our teachings. Having faith first in God always, will prevent us from being disobedient to the Second Commandment.

Those are just a few of the ideas of how we might make “graven images” of a variety of things in our lives. We must be alert to this process, and pray daily to be delivered from evil.

Now, let’s consider ways in which we might be materializing our worship of God, making “graven images” to worship, adore, or serve Him, rather than keeping our worship on a more spiritual basis.

An expression I have heard before in Christian Science, is that “We do not go to church to worship God, we go to express Him!”

That pretty much sums up what must be our attitude regarding attendance at church, and our activities to support the services. If we become self-satisfied with our “perfect attendance,” assuming that merely showing up at church, week after week, is sufficient to worship God, then we may need to search our hearts to see how much there is of spiritual growth. Are we using our time there wisely, in expressing God’s spiritual qualities? Or, do we find our thoughts drifting to other matters, perhaps what we will have for lunch, or casting a critical eye toward some other member?

Do you consider yourself a good Christian Scientist, because you read the Bible Lesson daily? Are you merely reading, or do you come away each day with some new and exciting spiritual discovery that you can put into practice right away? Are you using the spiritual qualities of the divine Mind as you read and study, or are you just rushing through the citations in order to “do your duty”? The Second Commandment would urge us not to use the act of merely perusing the Bible and Science and Health as a replacement for true adoration and worship and expression of God in our thinking.

Some followers of Christian Science might say, when wondering what went wrong in their lives, or in the lives of relatives, why some healing hasn’t occurred. After all, they had been model Christian Scientists: always reading the Lesson, attending all the church services, giving financial support, etc. They don’t understand why that doesn’t merit them a successful demonstration of health and harmony in their lives. In some cases, a tragic death under Christian Science care has prompted this kind of soul-searching. The truth cannot always really be known by us in any individual case. But, to prevent this kind of misunderstanding in the future, it must be thoroughly realized that the “rituals” of Christian Science, or any religion for that matter, are not, in and of themselves, protection from harm. Only a life spiritualized through the active purification of sin in our consciousness, and the active outpouring of unselfed love towards God and man, will be prepared to handle the demands of consistently successful spiritual healing. Just “showing up” at church, handing out money, and dutifully reading the Bible with no more than superficial interest, will not reach the divine heights of obedience to the Second Commandment.

For those readers of other religions, I leave it to you to give consideration to what, in the practice of your denomination, might be mere ritual, and not true spiritual worship. Think about those activities or messages that may have become habit to you, rather than a source of spiritual uplift. Is there someway you can find new inspiration in them? Love is usually the answer. If love will not bring a sense of renewal to your common practices of worship, perhaps you then need to turn to God in prayer, and start a new dialogue with Him. Just how might He wish you, in particular, to serve Him and your brother man? What steps can you take to spiritualize your thinking and your motives and your actions in daily life, not just on Sundays or other days or worship?

Our divine service to God, the way in which we worship and adore Him, must be acceptable to God, not to other humans who may have a very limited concept of our spiritual growth. The opinions of others, and what they think will do us the most good, may not be what God has in Mind for us. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, tells her followers: “Follow your Leader only so far as she follows Christ!”

So, don’t take on the “graven images” that others may have formulated in their thinking
— you have enough of your own to deal with!

Our goal of obedience to the Second Commandment is to flee from any kind of material idolatry. Our desire to be obedient is a great start. Our daily prayer to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” will also be the method of purifying our thinking, so that we can also pray with the utmost of spiritual sincerity:

“Hallowed be thy name.
Adorable One.”

With the fullness of the Christ, Truth, in our consciousness, we will be utterly unable to make “any graven image.” The understanding that we are, in reality, the spiritual “image and likeness” of God, will prevent any false images or concepts from taking root in our thoughts. There will simply be no room or place for evil or erroneous material thinking to be engraved in a consciousness filled with the idea of God!

O, he whom Jesus loved has truly spoken,
That holier worship, which God deigns to bless,
Restores the lost, and heals the spirit broken,
And feeds the widow and the fatherless.

Then, brother man, fold to thy heart thy brother,
For where love dwells, the peace of God is there:
To worship rightly is to love each other;
Each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer.

Follow with reverent steps the great example
Of him whose holy work was doing good;
So shall the wide earth seem our Father’s temple,
Each loving life a psalm of gratitude.

(Hymn 217 John Greenleaf Whittier
SECCOMB Charles H. Morse
The Christian Science Hymnal)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Second Commandment – A Christian Science Perspective, Part One

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.”

I was not always clear about the difference between the First and Second Commandment until I started doing more in-depth research into their meanings. The First Commandment tells us to have “no other gods,” which would certainly include “idols.” But, then, the Second Commandment tells us not to make any “graven images,” or idols. What is the difference,
really?

A brief explanation from Dummelow’s Bible Commentary set me in the right direction:
“If the First Commandment implies the truth of God’s unity, the Second implies that of His spirituality. Israel is forbidden to worship even the true God under any external form. God is not like anything that human hands can make.”

That explanation falls into line with the teachings of Christian Science: that God is Spirit only, and is to be worshiped only through spiritual avenues, rather than material means and methods. It was also taught in the Bible by John, in his book, chapter 4: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the
Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

For the Israelites, the Second Commandment forbade them to create idols of wood or stone or metal, and then proclaim them to be God — either as representatives of the one true God, or as “other gods” separate from Him.

In our day and age, in order to be obedient to the Second Commandment, we must examine our concepts of worship to ferret out any materialism. We might think we are worshiping the one Supreme Being by our daily or weekly rituals, but it is possible that these rituals do not represent our highest means of worship. We also may find that we are empowering certain material things or activities with the ability to make us happy or sad. We have to monitor the images engraved in our minds to see if they represent any idols we may have thoughtlessly created. Do we serve these images, or do we serve God, Spirit? That is what we will explore now through the teachings of Christian Science.

ANTHROPOMORPHISM:

“Anthropomorphism” is defined in Webster’s as “the attributing of human shape or characteristics to a god, animal, or inanimate thing.” It describes the weakness that humans have for trying to make God more like them, in order to better understand Him, rather than trying to understand God, and then becoming more like Him. We are told right up front in Genesis, that man was made “in the image and likeness” of God. Some religions teach, therefore, that God must be like us — with human attributes — only bigger and more powerful.

Christian Science teaches that man must be the likeness God as a spiritual reflection of the one infinite Spirit. The material body and world we experience with the five physical senses, therefore, must be a lie about our true identity. The second chapter of Genesis, with its allegory about the mists that went up from the earth, the deep sleep that fell upon Adam, and the mesmerism of the “talking serpent,” point to the fact that human existence is a dream, or hypnotic state, from which mankind needs to awaken. Working daily with the Second Commandment will help to guide our thoughts and action away from the mesmerizing images that would keep us from recognizing our need for spiritual enlightenment.

One aspect of that search for understanding is watching that we do not outline God in human terms or forms. Here are some citations from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, which discuss the idea of anthropomorphism:

“The Jewish tribal Jehovah was a man-projected God, liable to wrath, repentance, and human changeableness. The Christian Science God is universal, eternal, divine Love, which changeth not and causeth no evil, disease, nor death. It is indeed mournfully true that the older Scripture is reversed. In the beginning God created man in His, God’s image; but mortals would procreate man, and make God in their own human image. What is the god of a mortal, but a mortal magnified?”
(Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures 140)

“The material senses and human conceptions would translate spiritual ideas into material beliefs, and would say that an anthropomorphic God, instead of infinite Principle, — in other words, divine Love, — is the father of the rain, ‘who hath begotten the drops of dew,’ who bringeth ‘forth Mazzaroth in his season,’ and guideth ‘Arcturus with his sons.'” (S&H 257)

“We cannot bring out the practical proof of Christianity, which Jesus required, while error seems as potent and real to us as Truth, and while we make a personal devil and an anthropomorphic God our starting-points, — especially if we consider Satan as a being coequal in power with Deity, if not superior to Him. Because such starting-points are neither spiritual nor scientific, they cannot work out the Spirit-rule of Christian healing, which proves the nothingness of error, discord, by demonstrating the all-inclusiveness of harmonious Truth.” (S&H 351)

“In one of the ancient languages the word for man is used also as the synonym of mind. This definition has been weakened by anthropomorphism, or a humanization of Deity. The word anthropomorphic, in such a phrase as ‘an anthropomorphic God,’ is derived from two Greek words, signifying man and form, and may be defined as a mortally mental attempt to reduce Deity to corporeality.” (S&H 516-517)

IDOLATRY:

Turning God into human-like dimensions is a form of idolatry. But, as every Christian Science Sunday School pupil likes to ask, if God made man in His “image and likeness,” where did evil and idolatry come from?

As I already mentioned above, the second chapter of Genesis shows, through symbolism in its allegory of Adam and Eve, the deception which lured man away from his relationship to God. In the following citations regarding “idolatry,” see how often Mrs. Eddy points the blame where it belongs: the illusion of life in matter and a mind in mortals.

“SERPENT. . . . the first statement of mythology and idolatry. (S&H 594)

“The first idolatry was faith in matter.” (S&H 146)

“LORD GOD. Jehovah.
This double term is not used in the first chapter of Genesis, the record of spiritual creation. It is
introduced in the second and following chapters, when the spiritual
sense of God and of infinity is disappearing from the recorder’s thought — when the true scientific statements of the Scriptures become clouded through a physical sense of God as finite and corporeal. From this follow idolatry and mythology, — belief in many gods, or material intelligences, as the opposite of the one Spirit, or intelligence, named Elohim, or God.” (S&H 590-591)

“Heathen mythology and Jewish theology have perpetuated the fallacy that intelligence, soul, and life can be in matter; and idolatry and ritualism are the outcome of all man-made beliefs. The Science of Christianity comes with fan in hand to separate the chaff from the wheat.” (S&H 466)

“We bow down to matter, and entertain finite thoughts of God like the pagan idolater. Mortals are inclined to fear and to obey what they consider a material body more than they do a spiritual God. All material knowledge, like the original ‘tree of knowledge,’ multiplies their pains, for mortal illusions would rob God, slay man, and meanwhile would spread their table with cannibal tidbits and give thanks.” (S&H 214)

“The idols of civilization are far more fatal to health and longevity than are the idols of barbarism. . . . Is civilization only a higher form of idolatry that man should bow down to a flesh-brush, to flannels, to baths, diet, exercise, and air?” (S&H 173-174)

“We lose the high signification of omnipotence, when after admitting that God, or good, is
omnipresent and has all-power, we still believe there is another power,
named evil. This belief
that there is more than one mind is as pernicious to divine
theology as are ancient mythology and pagan idolatry.” (S&H 469)

“Idolatry sprang from the belief that God is a form, more than an infinite and divine Mind; . . .” (People’s Idea of God 4)

“The question is often asked, If God created only the good, whence comes the evil? To this question Christian Science replies: Evil never did exist as an entity. It is but a belief that there is an opposite intelligence to God. This belief is a species of idolatry, and is not more true or real than that an image graven on wood or stone is God.” (Miscellaneous Writings 346)

“We learn from the Scriptures that the Baalites or sunworshippers failed to look ‘through nature up to nature’s God,’ thus missing the discovery of all cause and effect. They were content to look no higher than the symbol. This departure from Spirit, this worshipping of matter in the name of nature, was idolatry then and is idolatry now. When human thought discerned its idolatrous tendencies, it took a step higher; but it immediately turned to another form of idolatry, and, worshipping person instead of Principle, anchored its faith in troubled waters. At that period, the touch of Jesus’ robe and the handkerchief of St. Paul were supposed to heal the sick, and our Master declared, ‘Thy faith hath made thee whole.’ The medicine-man, far lower in the scale of thought, said, ‘My material tonic has strengthened you.’ By reposing faith in man and in matter, the human race has not yet reached the understanding of God, the conception of Spirit and it’s all-power.” (Miscellany 151)

THE “GRAVEN IMAGES” OF FALSE CONCEPTS:

A concept, according to my Webster’s, is “an idea or thought, especially a generalized idea of a class of objects; abstract notion.” In order to determine whether or not we are worshiping God, or we are making “graven images” unlike the one true Spirit, we need to understand what concepts we hold about God and His creation. Christian Science stresses the importance of purifying our consciousness of “false concepts” or material or mortal concepts. We cannot worship God if we cannot see, or understand, Him, and we cannot see Him if our mind is clogged with materiality. So the false concepts have to go!

“It is the false conceptions of Spirit, based on the evidences gained from the material senses, that make a Christian only in theory, shockingly material in practice, and form its Deity out of the worse human qualities, else of wood or stone.” (People’s Idea of God 2)

“Every concept which seems to begin with the brain begins falsely.” (S&H 262)

“The mind supposed to exist in matter or beneath a skull bone is a myth, a misconceived sense and false conception as to man and Mind.” (S&H 281)

“Is God a physical personality? Spirit is not physical. The belief that a material body is man is a false conception of man. The time has come for a finite conception of the infinite and of a material body as the seat of Mind to give place to a diviner sense of intelligence and its manifestation, — to the better understanding that Science gives of the Supreme Being, or divine Principle, and idea.” (S&H 285)

“A mortal, corporeal, or finite conception of God cannot embrace the glories of limitless, incorporeal Life and Love. Hence the unsatisfied human craving for something better, higher, holier, than is afforded by a material belief in a physical God and man.” (S&H 258)

“Mortal man has made a covenant with his eyes to belittle Deity with human conceptions. In league with material sense, mortals take limited views of all things. That God is corporeal or material, no man should affirm.” (S&H 255)

“The everlasting I AM is not bounded nor compressed within the narrow limits of physical humanity, nor can He be understood aright through mortal concepts. The precise form of God must be of small importance in comparison with the sublime question, What is infinite Mind or divine Love? (S&H 256)

“The fading forms of matter, the mortal body and material earth, are the fleeting concepts of the human mind. They have their day before the permanent facts and their perfection in Spirit appear.” (S&H 263-264)

“The human mind will sometime rise above all material and physical sense, exchanging it for spiritual perception, and exchanging human concepts for the divine consciousness. Then man will recognize his God-given dominion and being.”  (S&H 531)

“Mortal thought transmits its own images, and forms its offspring after human illusions. God, Spirit, works spiritually, not materially. Brain or matter never formed a human concept.” (S&H 259)

“The realm of the real is Spirit. The unlikeness of Spirit is matter, and the opposite of the real is not divine, — it is a human concept. . . . Nothing we can say or believe regarding matter is immortal, for matter is temporal and is therefore a mortal phenomenon, a human concept, sometimes beautiful, always erroneous.” (S&H 277)

“Clothing Deity with personality, we limit the action of God to the finite senses. We pray for God to remember us, even as we ask a person with softening of the brain not to forget his daily cares. . . . We expect infinite Truth to mix with error, and become finite for a season; and, after infinite Spirit is forced in and out of matter for an indefinite period, to show itself infinite again . . . Friends, can we ever arrive at a proper conception of the divine character, and gain a right idea of the Principle
of all that is right, with such self-evident contradictions?” (Christian Healing 4)

“. . . Proportionately as the people’s belief in God, in every age, has been dematerialized and unfinited has their Deity become good; no longer a personal tyrant or a molten image, but the divine Life, Truth, and Love, — Life without beginning or ending, Truth without a lapse or error, and Love universal, infinite, eternal.” (People’s Idea of God 2)

“The worshippers of wood and stone have a more material deity, hence a lower order of humanity, than those who believe that God is a personal Spirit. But the worshippers of a person have a lower order of Christianity than he who understands that the Divine Being is more than a person, and can demonstrate in part that this great impersonal Life, Truth, and Love, casting out error and healing the sick. This all-important understanding is gained in Christian Science, revealing the one God and His all-power and ever-presence, and the brotherhood of man in unity of Mind and oneness of Principle.” (People’s Idea of God 13)

End of Part One