Christian Science and the Sixth Commandment:
Holding before us this ideal of forgiveness as taught by Jesus, how could Christians
ever justify killing? Alas, there are many issues relating to “killing” that the world still
Euthanasia or mercy killing
Killing in self-defense or protection of others
Driving while under influence of alcohol, drugs, or anger
As mankind grapples with how to apply the Sixth Commandment to these issues,
some of which may seem justified at times, we must never lose sight of the original
ideal put forth by God to Moses, and then by Jesus in his teachings of mercy and
self-sacrifice. Simply put: Thou shalt not kill. One day, humanity will have grown
spiritually to the place where there is no longer a need to justify any form of killing.
Yielding to God’s will, we will find a better way to peace and harmony.
We are taught in Christian Science to literally obey the Sixth Commandment. How
this is applied in today’s society to the various issues listed above is something
each individual must pray about and demonstrate on his or her own. There is no
official church stand on political and social issues. However, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, had strong views about war, in particular, as we shall see in upcoming citations.
The main thrust of Mrs. Eddy’s teachings regarding “Thou shalt not kill,” is the spirit
of this law: We must destroy the hate and anger which erupt in thoughts and acts of
violence. There are many ways to kill morally and spiritually, in addition to physically.
It is not enough to simply resist physically killing someone, if we are assassinating
his or her character in our conscience. We should also resist killing reputations,
opportunities, livelihoods, worthy goals, or anything that rightfully belongs to another.
We do not control or manipulate the lives of others for personal power. We do not
break or kill the “spirit” of anyone, especially children.
The world needs to grow into the spiritual maturity which will fulfill the Sixth Command-
ment. If someone stands in the way of what we think we want, we must learn to bow
in humility to God’s will, and wait for the proper flow of events that will bless everyone.
We must recognize the power of Love in the law behind the Golden Rule. Christian
Science gives us the mental tools to work with.
For a complete presentation of Christian Science, I recommend you read Mrs. Eddy’s primary work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” This is necessary to understand the basis upon which the citations and statements in this essay are based.
What does Christian Science bring to an understanding of the Sixth Commandment that is unique?
Christian Science, discovered by Mary Baker Eddy in 1866, reveals the truth about God and man that has been demonstrated by thousands of spiritual healings. Research within the published testimonies of healings will show that many people have found Christian Science an aid in forestalling violence or recovering from the effects of it. Many have been healed of the hate and anger which could have exploded into harmful acts. People in wartime have been protected by an understanding of the ever-presence of divine Life and Truth and Love.
One truth that Christian Science proves is that God is infinite Spirit and is perfect, and man, His “image and likeness” (as the Bible teaches), is therefore spiritually perfect. God’s creation is therefore spiritual only, leaving what is called “matter” to have no real substance, life, or intelligence, except in the realm of mortal mind beliefs and illusions. Therefore, in spiritual reality (the only reality) man cannot kill or be killed. While that statement may seem delusional to those unfamiliar with how Christian Science works, it is the basis for demonstrating God’s power over evil.
Also, according to Christian Science, any attempt by a mortal to kill will be proven ineffective, since man never really dies. Life is eternal, because God is eternal. Man reflects this eternal Life as God’s “image and likeness.” If, from humanity’s earthly point-of-view, a loved one is killed, we can take comfort in the fact that God has preserved his or her life, in spite of what we seem to experience. This may be a tough fact to grasp, but many people have been healed of severe grief by accepting that Life is eternal. Jesus proved this for all time through his resurrection from the grave and his ascension above all material beliefs. Ultimately, mankind will be able to prove this as well. “Thou shalt not kill” means also “Thou cannot kill.”
One unique Christian Science interpretation of the Sixth Commandment can be found in Gilbert Carpenter’s book “Mary Baker Eddy: Her Spiritual Precepts, Volume IV.” In it he writes: “Once Mrs. Eddy interpreted the Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill, ‘ as ‘. . . shall not kill our insight into spiritual things — it would be the commission of the greatest sin, to kill the spiritual insight.'”
The whole of Christian Science itself is unique to other teachings and systems, not just in its Founder’s interpretations of the Commandments and other Bible verses. Mrs. Eddy explains:
“What is the cardinal point of the difference in my metaphysical system? This: that by knowing the unreality of disease, sin, and death, you demonstrate the allness of God. This difference wholly separates my system from all others. The reality of these so-called existences I deny, because they are not to be found in God, and this system is built on Him as the sole cause. It would be difficult to name any previous teachers, save Jesus and his apostles, who have thus taught.” (Un. 9:27)
Does God cause death?
People often suggest that someone’s death may be “God’s will.” This is not a teaching of Christian Science. God is Love and Love never kills. We read in Science and Health:
“God, divine good, does not kill a man in order to give him eternal Life, for God alone is man’s life. God is at once the centre and circumference of being. It is evil that dies; good dies not.” (S&H 203:31)
“Does God send sickness, giving the mother her child for the brief space of a few years and then taking it away by death? Is God creating anew what He has already created? The Scriptures are definite on this point, declaring that His work was finished, nothing is new to God, and that it was good.
“Can there be any birth or death for man, the spiritual image and likeness of God? Instead of God sending sickness and death, He destroys them, and brings to light immortality. Omnipotent and infinite Mind made all and includes all. This Mind does not make mistakes and subsequently correct them. God does not cause man to sin, to be sick, or to die.” (S&H 206:19-31)
“In one sense God is identical with nature, but this nature is spiritual and is not expressed in matter. The lawgiver, whose lightning palsies or prostrates in death the child at prayer, is not the divine ideal of omnipresent Love. God is natural good, and is represented only by the idea of goodness; while evil should be regarded as unnatural, because it is opposed to the nature of Spirit, God.” (S&H 119:17-24)
What is “death” according to the teachings of Christian Science?
As we learn in Christian Science, man is more than what he appears to be to the five physical senses. He is not mortal, but has a spiritual identity. We can also say of death that it is not what it appears to be to the physical senses. Life cannot be destroyed by death, even though it seems that way to those experiencing it from a mortal viewpoint. Death is a mortal belief to be destroyed by spiritual understanding, just as sin, sickness, and disease are. Jesus commanded that his followers “raise the dead.” Christian Science shows us how to do that.
The Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, explains and develops this concept much better than can be done in this short space, but here are a few citations that touch upon the concept of death. Each one tackles the beliefs of death from different angles, and require careful study to understand.
Mary Baker Eddy responds to this question by a reader:
“After the change called death takes place, do we meet those gone before? — or does life continue in thought only as in a dream?
“Man is not annihilated, nor does he lose his identity, by passing through the belief called death. After the momentary belief of dying passes from mortal mind, this mind is still in a conscious state of existence; and the individual has but passed through a moment of extreme mortal fear, to awaken with thoughts, and being, as material as before. Science and Health clearly states that spiritualization of thought is not attained by the death of the body, but by a conscious union with God. When we shall have passed the ordeal called death, or destroyed this last enemy, and shall have come upon the same plane of conscious existence with those gone before, then we shall be able to communicate with and to recognize them.
“If, before the change whereby we meet the dear departed, our life-work proves to have been well done, we shall not have to repeat it; but our joys and means of advancing will be proportionately increased.
“The difference between a belief of material existence and the spiritual fact of Life is, that the former is a dream and unreal, while the latter is real and eternal. Only as we understand God, and learn that good, not evil, lives and is immortal, that immortality exists only in spiritual perfection, shall we drop our false sense of Life in sin or sense material, and recognize a better state of existence.” (Mis. 42)
“DEATH. An illusion, the lie of life in matter; the unreal and untrue; the opposite of Life . . . Matter has no life, hence it has no real existence. Mind is immortal. The flesh, warring against Spirit; that which frets itself free from one belief only to be fettered by another, until every belief of life where Life is not yields to eternal Life. Any material evidence of death is false, for it contradicts the spiritual facts of being.” (S&H 584:9-16)
“Matter has no life to lose, and Spirit never dies. A partnership of mind with matter would ignore omnipresent and omnipotent Mind. This shows that matter did not originate in God, Spirit, and is not eternal. Therefore matter is neither substantial, living, nor intelligent. The starting-point of divine Science is that God, Spirit, is All-in-all, and that there is no other might nor Mind, — that God is Love, and therefore He is divine Principle.” (S&H 275:1-9)
“Man in the likeness of God as revealed in Science cannot help being immortal. Though the grass seemeth to wither and the flower to fade, they reappear. Erase the figures which express number, silence the tones of music, give to the worms the body called man, and yet the producing, governing, divine Principle lives on, — in the case of man as truly as in the case of numbers and of music, — despite the so-called laws of matter, which define man as mortal. Though the inharmony resulting from material sense hides the harmony of Science, inharmony cannot destroy the divine Principle of Science. In Science, man’s immortality depends upon that of God, good, and follows as a necessary consequence of the immortality of good.” (S&H 81:17-30)
“The fact that the Christ, or Truth, overcame and still overcomes death proves the “king of terrors” to be but a mortal belief, or error, which Truth destroys with the spiritual evidences of Life; and this shows that what appears to the senses to be death is but a mortal illusion, for to the real man and the real universe there is no death-process.
“The belief that matter has life results, by the universal law of mortal mind, in a belief in death. So man, tree, and flower are supposed to die; but the fact remains, that God’s universe is spiritual and immortal. “The spiritual fact and the material belief of things are contradictions; but the spiritual is true, and therefore the material must be untrue. Life is not in matter. Therefore it cannot be said to pass out of matter. Matter and death are mortal illusions. Spirit and all things spiritual are the real and eternal. (S&H 289:14-30)
“Mortal belief says that death has been occasioned by fright. Fear never stopped being and its action. The blood, heart, lungs, brain, etc., have nothing to do with Life, God. Every function of the real man is governed by the divine Mind. The human mind has no power to kill or to cure, and it has no control over God’s man. The divine Mind that made man maintains His own image and likeness. The human mind is opposed to God and must be put off, as St. Paul declares. All that really exists is the divine Mind and its idea, and in this Mind the entire being is found harmonious and eternal. The straight and narrow way is to see and acknowledge this fact, yield to this power, and follow the leadings of truth.” (S&H 151:14-30)
“If you or I should appear to die, we should not be dead. The seeming decease, caused by a majority of human beliefs that man must die, or produced by mental assassins, does not in the least disprove Christian Science; rather does it evidence the truth of its basic proposition that mortal thoughts in belief rule the materiality miscalled life in the body or in matter. But the forever fact remains paramount that Life, Truth, and Love save from sin, disease, and death. ‘When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality [divine Science], then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (St. Paul).’” (S&H 164:17-29)
While not every student of Christian Science has been able to prove that death is unreal by “raising the dead” as Jesus did, we accept that his resurrection and ascension demonstrated that death can be overcome. Our present demonstrations should at least consist of what Mrs. Eddy describes as “raising the dead, — those dead in trespasses and sins, satisfied with the flesh, resting on the basis of matter, blind to the possibilities of Spirit and its correlative truth.” (S&H 316:29)
That citation tells us that the healing of the sins of the flesh is chipping away at the
belief in death, and we can have faith that we are working toward the goal of
destroying the “last enemy” of death. That said, there are accounts of Christian
Scientists, including Mrs. Eddy, having brought people back from death’s door,
and perhaps a few steps beyond.
Even though today’s Christian Scientists may not be raising the dead on a
consistent basis at this period in history, the fact that “Life is immortal” is the
spiritual law that underlies the thousands of physical healings that have occurred
on a daily worldwide basis over the past century and more. As mankind grows
spiritually — both individually and collectively — there will be more and more proofs
that death, including attempts to murder, has no power to rob us of the life that
God has given us, and that He eternally sustains. Already, there have been
millions of people (according to Gallup Polls and other studies), who have
experienced “near deaths” (NDE’s), and have reported that life does indeed
continue after leaving their mortal bodies. The writer’s mother had such an
experience, which had a great impact on how she lived her life. She said she
never feared death after being allowed to make the choice to return in order to
care for her family.
While many people of various faiths also believe in an afterlife, students of
Christian Science have added to the proof that Jesus gave us, through an
understanding that man’s spiritual identity does not end because of a material
sense of death by those of us left behind when someone appears to die. This
truth, or law, can heal the belief of death here and now, just as it heals sickness
and sin, however modest that proof may be. Sooner or later, mankind will prove
that God’s kingdom is come on earth, as it is in heaven.
Does this teaching of Christian Science — that death is an illusion — mean that we can be indifferent to impulses to lash out in anger, or even to kill? After all, some might argue, we cannot really hurt anyone if matter is unreal!
No, this is not how Christian Science works. In our human experience, we must
discipline our thoughts and lives to conform to the laws of the Bible and the Christian
morals taught by Jesus. We must rebuke sin in ourselves and others, and we must
pay the penalties for sinful thoughts and acts until we cease sinning and destroy the
belief in its pleasures and pains. We must pray to understand the spiritual facts of
God, Truth. We use the truth about the unreality of sin to destroy it, not to justify it!
We do not indulge in sin and then claim it is “unreal,” pretending that we have
nothing to feel guilty about or be punished for. That is “mental quackery” and not
Christian Science. Mrs. Eddy comments:
“The evil-doer receives no encouragement from my declaration that evil is unreal, when I declare that he must awake from his belief in this awful unreality, repent and forsake it, in order to understand and demonstrate its unreality. Error uncondemned is not nullified. We must condemn the claim of error in every phase in order to prove it false, therefore unreal.” (Message for 1901 14:30-6)
“The notion that one is covering iniquity by asserting its nothingness, is a fault of zealots, who, like Peter, sleep when the Watcher bids them watch, and when the hour of trial comes would cut off somebody’s ears.” (Mis. 335:21-24)
Are there any specific directions about applying the Sixth Commandment to
impulses to kill, including self-defense?
Here are a few below. Mrs. Eddy’s statements on war and suicide are in separate sections.
“‘Thou shalt not kill;’ that is, thou shalt not strike at the eternal sense of Life with a malicious aim, but shalt know that by doing thus thine own sense of Life shall be forfeited.” (Miscellaneous Writings 67:10-13)
“The Christianly scientific man reflects the divine law, thus becoming a law unto himself. He does violence to no man.” (S&H 458:23-25)
“Love metes not out human justice, but divine mercy. If one’s life were attacked, and one could save it only in accordance with common law, by taking another’s, would one sooner give up his own? We must love our enemies in all the manifestations wherein and whereby we love our friends; must even try not to expose their faults, but to do them good whenever opportunity occurs. To mete out human justice to those who persecute and despitefully use one, is not leaving all retribution to God and returning blessing for cursing.” (Mis. 11:14-23)
“As I now understand Christian Science, I would as soon harm myself as another; since by breaking Christ’s command, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,’ I should lose my hope of heaven.” (Mis. 311:19-22)
“The Jewish religion demands that ‘whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.’ But this law is not infallible in wisdom; and obedience thereto may be found faulty, since false testimony or mistaken evidence may cause the innocent to suffer for the guilty. Hence the gospel that fulfils the law in righteousness, the genius whereof is displayed in the surprising wisdom of these words of the New Testament: ‘Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.’ No possible injustice lurks in this mandate, and no human misjudgment can pervert it; for the offender alone suffers, and always according to divine decree. This sacred, solid precept is verified in all directions in Mind-healing, and is supported in the Scripture by parallel proof.” (Mis. 65:30-66:13)