CHRISTIAN SCIENCE AND THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT
Christian Science demands adherence to the moral and spiritual law of “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” The demand is upon both men and women, inside and outside of a marriage relationship. The principle behind God’s Commandment includes Jesus’ teaching on lust, and anything that would stain or invade the purity of one of God’s children, or the purity of man’s relationship with God. We will explore both the moral and spiritual concepts of the Seventh Commandment, and see how the idea of our unity with God — our “at-one-ment” — is the true
Covenant which is not to be adulterated.
“‘Thou shalt not commit adultery;’ in other words, thou shalt not adulterate Life, Truth, or Love, — mentally, morally, or physically.” (Eddy, Mary Baker: “Miscellaneous Writings,” pg. 66)
The Moral Demand of the Seventh Commandment:
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:
“Infidelity to the marriage covenant is the social scourge of all races,‘the pestilence that walketh in darkness, . . . the destruction that wasteth at noonday.’ The commandment, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ is no less imperative than the one, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’”
“Chastity is the cement of civilization and progress. Without it there is no stability in society, and without it one cannot attain the Science of Life.” (S&H 56-57)
Committing adultery is a moral wrong according to Christian Science. Good morals provide a foundation for our spiritual growth and ability to heal. Maintaining chastity, and turning from the temptations of adultery, will also keep us from much personal sorrow.
“You must control evil thoughts in the first instance, or they will control you in the second. Jesus declared that to look with desire on forbidden objects was to break a moral precept. He laid great stress on the action of the human mind, unseen to the senses.” (S&H 234)
“In order to heal by Science, you must not be ignorant of the moral and spiritual demands of Science nor disobey them. Moral ignorance or sin affects your demonstration, and hinders its approach to the standard in Christian Science.” (S&H 483)
“Emerge gently from matter into Spirit. Think not to thwart the spiritual ultimate of all things, but come naturally into Spirit through better health and morals and as the result of spiritual growth.” (S&H 485)
“Never breathe an immoral atmosphere, unless in the attempt to purify it.” (S&H 452)
“It were better to be exposed to every plague on earth than to endure the cumulative effects of a guilty conscience. The abiding consciousness of wrong-doing tends to destroy the ability to do right. If sin is not regretted and is not lessening, then it is hastening on to physical and moral doom. You are conquered by the moral penalties you incur and the ills they bring. The pains of sinful sense are less harmful than its pleasures. Belief in material suffering causes mortals to retreat from their error, to flee from body to Spirit, and to appeal to divine sources outside of themselves.” (S&H 405)
Meeting the Moral Demands:
As many already know, forced long-term celibacy is a pretty hard task. During much of history, social pressures kept many people from committing adultery, or engaging in premarital sex. By the end of the 20th Century, most of these pressures were gone. Birth control pills and abortion prevented unwanted pregnancies outside of marriage. The rights of illegitimate children were
enforced, and the stigma associated with illegitimacy faded. Women’s legal and economic independence fostered a more carefree attitude about sex, and easy, no-fault divorce gave both men and women an escape from unhappy marriages.
With social pressures gone from much of Western society, and sexual freedom seeming more and more acceptable, why would a person care about meeting Old or New Testament standards of morality? Remember from citations quoted in an earlier post, how the Jews often committed adultery even though they risked being stoned to death if caught? Today, in most societies, severe public consequences are gone. So what is there to restrain us from indulging in sex outside of marriage? There may be many individual reasons for abstaining from sex, but a solid, permanent reason is clear: Love — pure love for God and man. Many Christians do want to be obedient to God. They do want to respect and honor others. And, many Christian Scientists do yearn to heal others spiritually, and are willing to stay pure to do so.
Where once the expectations of society and family kept premarital sex and adultery somewhat under control, we are now left alone, with few social stigmas, face-to-face with our conscience and with God. How do we fend off the temptations of lust and adultery in today’s modern society?
Christian Science offers a way to lift thought above the material senses to see our lives “hid with Christ in God.” We do have a spiritual covenant with God, our Father, and as we grow in our understanding of His nature and our relationship to Him, we find a special unity with Him that cannot be broken, divorced, or adulterated.
What keeps us from consistently being the good, moral people we may long to be? The Apostle Paul expressed his frustration in this way:
“For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” (Romans 7:19-20)
According to Christian Science, lust and sensuality are evidence of a mind mesmerized by the material senses. Paul called it the “carnal mind.” Because human procreation seems necessary to perpetuate this so-called carnal mind, the suggestions of lust seem to be the most powerful sin of all to conquer. But, in reality, sinful qualities are not natural to God’s children, and need to be targeted by spiritually scientific prayer. It does seem to be a struggle, but we are given encouragement in Christian Science that we can be successful, since there is no divine law supporting lust or sensuality. Any indulgence in them can cause a belief in separation from God, good, and may bring us much needless suffering.
Let’s take a look at how lust and sensualism are viewed through the lens of Christian Science, as taught by Mary Baker Eddy:
“A moral question may hinder the recovery of the sick. Lurking error, lust, envy, revenge, malice, or hate will perpetuate or even create the belief in disease.” (S&H 418)
“Self-ignorance, self-will, self-righteousness, lust, covetousness, envy, revenge, are foes to grace, peace, and progress; they must be met manfully and overcome, or they will uproot all happiness. (Miscellaneous Writings 118)
“Until he awakes from his delusion, he suffers least from sin who is a hardened sinner. The hypocrite’s affections must first be made to fret in their chains; and the pangs of hell must lay hold of him ere he can change from flesh to Spirit, become acquainted with that Love which is without dissimulation and endureth all things. Such mental conditions as ingratitude, lust, malice, hate, constitute the miasma of earth. More obnoxious than Chinese stenchpots are these dispositions which offend the spiritual sense.” (Unity of Good 56)
“Sensuality palsies the right hand, and causes the left to let go its grasp on the divine.” (S&H 142)
“Sensual treasures are laid up ‘where moth and rust doth corrupt.’ Mortality is their doom. Sin breaks in upon them, and carries off their fleeting joys. The sensualist’s affections are as imaginary, whimsical, and unreal as his pleasures. Falsehood, envy, hypocrisy, malice, hate, revenge, and so forth, steal away the treasures of Truth. Stripped of its coverings, what a mocking spectacle is sin!” (S&H 241)
“Selfishness and sensualism are educated in mortal mind by the thoughts ever recurring to one’s self, by conversation about the body, and by the expectation of perpetual pleasure or pain from it; and this education is at the expense of spiritual growth. If we array thought in mortal vestures, it must lose its immortal nature.” (S&H 260)
“Sensualism is not bliss, but bondage.” (S&H 337)
We are promised that beliefs of sin and evil can be overcome, and Christian Scientists are encouraged — commanded, even — to take up the fight against lust. The following citations offer insights to how we might overcome this sin step-by-step:
“Christian Science commands man to master the propensities, — to hold hatred in abeyance with kindness, to conquer lust with chastity, revenge with charity, and to overcome deceit with honesty. Choke these errors in their early stages, if you would not cherish an army of conspirators against health, happiness, and success. They will deliver you to the judge, the arbiter of truth against error. The judge will deliver you to justice, and the sentence of the moral law will be executed upon mortal mind and body. Both will be manacled until the last farthing is paid, — until you have balanced your account with God. ‘Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.’ The good man finally can overcome his fear of sin. This is sin’s necessity, — to destroy itself. Immortal man demonstrates the government of God, good, in which is no power to sin.” (S&H 405)
“If a man is an inebriate, a slave to tobacco, or the special servant of any one of the myriad forms of sin, meet and destroy these errors with the truth of being, — by exhibiting to the wrong-doer the suffering which his submission to such habits brings, and by convincing him that there is no real pleasure in false appetites. A corrupt mind is manifested in a corrupt body. Lust, malice, and all sorts of evil are diseased beliefs, and you can destroy them only by destroying the wicked motives which produce them. If the evil is over in the repentant mortal mind, while its effects still remain on the individual, you can remove this disorder as God’s law is fulfilled and reformation cancels the crime. The healthy sinner is the hardened sinner.” (S&H 404)
“We cannot build safely on false foundations. Truth makes a new creature, in whom old things pass away and ‘all things are become new.’ Passions, selfishness, false appetites, hatred, fear, all sensuality, yield to spirituality, and the super-abundance of being is on the side of God, good.”
“Evil thoughts and aims reach no farther and do no more harm than one’s belief permits. Evil thoughts, lusts, and malicious purposes cannot go forth, like wandering pollen, from one human mind to another, finding unsuspected lodgment, if virtue and truth build a strong defence.” (S&H 234)
Prayer, as taught in Christian Science, enables us to destroy sinful beliefs, such as lust, by daily denying their reality. They are not real because God did not create them! We pray to not be led into the temptation of believing that evil has power, or is “real” in God’s kingdom, which “has come.” We also affirm the spiritual good that God did make, and ask to be fed with this daily bread of Truth. We affirm our spiritual innocence and purity.
Christian Science and Marriage:
Mary Baker Eddy offers an entire chapter on the subject of “Marriage,” in the textbook, Science and Health. The chapter contains both practical and moral advice to those who are seeking to improve their concept of marriage and family relationships. But tucked in-between these helpful, down-to-earth comments, will be found ideas and statements meant to lift thought that is ready for it, to a higher ideal of true marriage. We can find in the teachings of Christian Science the remedy for that feeling we are somehow not complete, and need a mate to make us so. We learn that adultery is more than disloyalty to a human institution; it is disloyalty to God and to our spiritual integrity.
Most Christian religions see in the Bible’s words God’s blessing of marriage; however, Christian Science picks up on the message of Jesus to his disciples as it was recorded in Luke:
“And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage.” (Luke 20:34-35)
While Christian Science does not teach that its followers abandon marriage at this period, as it certainly provides for stability in homes and families, we are given indications throughout the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, that Jesus meant what he said. The question to ponder then, is why does he say that?
Does God’s divine plan for man include the human institution of marriage? We get the first indication that marriage may not ultimately be a divine requirement, in this early paragraph from the chapter “Marriage,” which has the marginal heading “marriage temporal.”
“Marriage is the legal and moral provision for generation among human kind. Until the spiritual creation is discerned intact, is apprehended and understood, and His kingdom is come as in the vision of the Apocalypse, — where the corporeal sense of creation was cast out, and its spiritual sense was revealed from heaven, — marriage will continue, subject to such moral regulations as will secure increasing virtue.” (S&H 56)
It appears that as long as mankind still believes in the need for human procreation, marriage will be needed to protect families. But the idea is introduced here that would indicate there will come a time when this human marriage may no longer be necessary. The question may then be asked: where will future children come from if marriage is no longer necessary? The answer may be found through an in-depth study of the textbook of Christian Science — Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures — for an explanation of the true nature of man as an infinite reflection and “image and likeness” of God, and how God is the only Creator of man and the universe. There will never be a shortage of God’s children!
The chapter on “Marriage,” introduces the concept that “completeness” — which we usually hope to find in marriage — does not come from such a ceremony or oath, but is rather a compound idea of mental elements:
“Union of the masculine and feminine qualities constitutes completeness. The masculine mind reaches a higher tone through certain elements of the feminine, while the feminine mind gains courage and strength through masculine qualities. These different elements conjoin naturally with each other, and their true harmony is in spiritual oneness. Both sexes should be loving, pure, tender, and strong. The attraction between native qualities will be perpetual only as it is pure and true, bringing sweet seasons of renewal like the returning spring.” (S&H 57)
Seeking for such spiritual qualities in a partner, rather than superficial traits such as money, looks, status, etc., is a more promising way to start a marriage. But, we are also shown an even higher spiritual outlook:
“Marriage should signify a union of hearts. Furthermore, the time cometh of which Jesus spake, when he declared that in the resurrection there should be no more marrying nor giving in marriage, but man would be as the angels. Then shall Soul rejoice in its own, in which passion has no part. Then white-robed purity will unite in one person masculine wisdom and feminine love, spiritual understanding and perpetual peace.” (S&H 64)
Is there any Biblical authority for this idea? Mary Baker Eddy points us to the story of creation in Genesis. It is there we read:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:27)
We see in Genesis that God has created man in His image. We learn in Christian Science that God must be both Father and Mother; otherwise, God could not create man both male and female. The divine Mind, or Spirit, must include the substance of that which He creates! But, was His “male and female” divided into two separate “genders”? Mrs. Eddy writes of the concept of “gender”:
“Gender means a kind. Hence mankind — in other words, a kind of man who is identified by sex — is the material, so-called man born of the flesh, and is not the spiritual man, created by God, Spirit, who made all that was made.” (Miscellany 239)
“God determines the gender of His own ideas. Gender is mental, not material. . . Gender means simply kind or sort, and does not necessarily refer either to masculinity or femininity. The word is not confined to sexuality, and grammars always recognize a neuter gender, neither male nor female. The Mind or intelligence of production names the female gender last in the ascending order of creation. The intelligent individual idea, be it male or female, rising from the lesser to the greater, unfolds the infinitude of Love.” (S&H 508)
The following words of Jesus are part of the traditional Christian marriage ceremony:
“What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matt.19:6)
Was Jesus referring only to the act of mortal men and women being joined together, or was he suggesting something more spiritual?
We learn in Christian Science that male and female qualities are found in each
individual. Just as God is Father-Mother, so His children reflect this Fatherhood-
Motherhood. So, perhaps these are the elements that “God hath joined together,”
and these masculine/feminine qualities make up the complete spiritual identity of man
that he is not to “put asunder.” Or, we could also consider what Mrs. Eddy once wrote:
“We are joined by God, divine Science, to Himself, His power and love. And what God hath joined no man can put asunder.” (quoted in Divinity Course and General Collectanea, pg 43)
The above quotation is from a collection of writings, letters, and statements of Mary Baker Eddy titled Divinity Course and General Collectanea, compiled by Richard Oakes. Elsewhere in the book is an example of how Mrs. Eddy suggested that these new concepts about gender and completeness be applied in our thinking and prayers:
“This is my support, that the male and female natures are equally expressed, coexistent in me. This is the way that I exist and is the reason I never lack. It is because I am of the nature of infinite completeness; there is never anything in my experience in which the male and female qualities are not infinitely at one, supporting each other. It is because my spiritual inspiration is perfectly balanced with scientific understanding; because my joy is perfectly balanced with courage, and because my love is perfectly balanced with strength. My tender emotional nature is perfectly balanced with thought, reason and understanding; therefore I am a state of perfect protection, perfect substance, and I am supported by my own infinity. I am the presence of substance, because there is no unsupported idea in me.
“My manhood takes care of my womanhood, defends, protects, and supports her. My joy is defended and protected by my courage. My love is protected and defended by my understanding, by the strength of my scientific understanding which is omnipotence. I am never undefended and my womanhood cherishes my manhood. My tender affection cherishes my scientific understanding and unfolds love to it, takes care of it, watches over it with love, and gives it every opportunity to unfold
and demonstrate itself in perfect harmony, unity, equality, and unfoldment. So my nature is complete.” (DCGC 73)
Mrs. Eddy comments on male/female natures again in the chapter “The Apocalypse,” in the Christian Science textbook, when discussing the symbolism of the “Lamb” and the “Lamb’s wife” in the book of Revelation:
“The Lamb’s wife presents the unity of male and female as no longer two wedded individuals, but as two individual natures in one; and this compounded spiritual individuality reflects God as Father-Mother, not as a corporeal being. In this divinely united spiritual consciousness, there is no impediment to eternal bliss, — to the perfectibility of God’s creation.” (S&H 577)
What does all of this have to do with adultery and the Seventh Commandment?
What this spiritual truth does, is to question the old Biblical concept that adultery is only the breaking of the marriage covenant between two humans, and shows that there is a spiritual covenant with God that man breaks whenever he accepts, or acts upon, the belief that 1) man is both spiritual and material; 2) that man is separated from his Father-Mother God, the source of all spiritual qualities; or that 3) man’s complete spiritual nature reflecting male/female qualities, can be inverted and separated into mortal men and women needing to find each other. Gender is really a human concept, as we read earlier. When this is all understood and accepted into consciousness, the animal instinct that drives people to lust after one another — searching for happiness and physical satisfaction in sexual relationships — will diminish, or be mastered.
It is recorded that Mrs. Eddy once explained the Seventh Commandment against adultery this way:
“Unity. Knowing that we reflect the male and female, we must not adulterate this idea by supposing that each of God’s children is not complete, infinite. Seeing this purity, we are partakers of the marriage supper of the Lamb, the unity of man with the spiritual idea.” (DCGC 233)
Unity. Completeness. Purity. These ideals are themes throughout the writings of Mary Baker Eddy. We find our authority for these truths in the teachings of Jesus.
“Atonement is the exemplification of man’s unity with God, whereby man reflects divine Truth, Life, and Love. Jesus of Nazareth taught and demonstrated man’s oneness with the Father, and for this we owe him endless homage. (S&H 18)
This unity, or oneness, with our Creator, is the true marriage that must not be adulterated by the false beliefs that we are “animals,” that we are made of matter, that we are self-created through a sexual act, or that evil, sin, disease, or death can adulterate the pure, innocent spiritual children of God that we are.
Just as the early Hebrews and other ancient people were concerned with the “seeds” of foreign men falsely impregnating their women, and perhaps resulting in illegitimate children claiming the inheritance that rightfully belonged to others, so we need to be just as alert to the seeds of evil invading consciousness through mental adultery. These seeds of evil could result in the false fruits of sin, disease, and death, which would pretend to be legitimate, but are the carnal mind’s attempt to rob God’s natural children of their rightful heritage.
Do all of these spiritual ideals outlined above mean that we must give up the human institution of marriage at this point in history? No, as was earlier explained; but, for those who are ready to ponder the issues, Christian Science offers suggestions for how mankind might work up to it. Mrs. Eddy writes:
“Until time matures human growth, marriage and progeny will continue unprohibited in Christian Science. We look to future generations for ability to comply with absolute Science, when marriage shall be found to be man’s oneness with God, — the unity of eternal Love. At present, more spiritual conception and education of children will serve to illustrate the superiority of spiritual power over sensuous, and usher in the dawn of God’s creation, wherein they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels. To abolish marriage at this period, and maintain morality and generation, would put ingenuity to ludicrous shifts; yet this is possible in Science, although it is to-day problematic.” (Miscellaneous Writings 285)
End of Part Three – To Be continued