“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,
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” 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)
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