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Q&A #65 - Question from a Roman Catholic girl about her Christian Scientist boyfriend?
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
I was raised Roman Catholic and my boyfriend is a Christian Scientist. Please explain to me the differences in the two religions, and how they view each other.
Both the Roman Catholic Church and The Church of Christ, Scientist, teach us to wholeheartedly love and depend upon God, to gratefully follow the life and teachings of Christ Jesus, and to unconditionally love our neighbor as ourselves. As a Christian, first and foremost, I view fellow-Christians of all denominations as my sisters and brothers in Christ. The feeling of fellowship and relatedness does not stop there. I have met many people who have no religious education or religious affiliation but who by nature live more the teachings of Christ than many who call themselves Christians or Christian Scientists. The Apostle Paul put it this way:
Glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good,… For God shows no partiality… For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God's sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts. (Romans 2:10,11,13-15, New American Bible)
As a Christian and a Christian Scientist, I concur with Mary Baker Eddy, the author of the Christian Science textbook, who wrote:
A genuine Christian Scientist loves Protestant and Catholic, D.D. and M.D., -- loves all who love God, good; and he loves his enemies. (Miscellany, page 4:14-16)
What we love determines what we are. I love the prosperity of Zion, be it promoted by Catholic, by Protestant, or by Christian Science, which anoints with Truth, opening the eyes of the blind and healing the sick. I would no more quarrel with a man because of his religion than I would because of his art. (Miscellany, page 270:24-29)
Christian Scientists have no quarrel with Protestants, Catholics, or any other sect. (Miscellany, page 303:7-8)
In 1899 Mrs. Eddy wrote a letter to the editor of a New York newspaper a very charitable response to "A Priest of the Church" who had referenced her address to a church. She concluded her letter:
I would that all the churches on earth could unite as brethren in one prayer: Father, teach us the life of Love. (Miscellany, page 301:9-11)
In 1903 Mrs. Eddy also wrote a beautiful eulogy for Pope Leo XIII:
ON THE DEATH OF POPE LEO XIII, JULY 20, 1903. The sad, sudden announcement of the decease of Pope Leo XIII, touches the heart and will move the pen of millions. The intellectual, moral, and religious energy of this illustrious pontiff have animated the Church of Rome for one quarter of a century. The august ruler of two hundred and fifty million human beings has now passed through the shadow of death into the great forever. The court of the Vatican mourns him; his relatives shed "the unavailing tear." He is the loved and lost of many millions. I sympathize with those who mourn, but rejoice in knowing our dear God comforts such with the blessed assurance that life is not lost; its influence remains in the minds of men, and divine Love holds its substance safe in the certainty of immortality. "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men." (John 1 : 4.) (Miscellany, page 294:22-7)
I know at least one student of Christian Science who did her theological seminary study at a Roman Catholic university. She greatly admired her professors and fellow students, and she was treated with respect and appreciation by them.
Some of the best biblical research materials in English are the work of Roman Catholic scholars. The New American Bible (from which all Bible texts in this response have been taken) is an excellent translation with excellent footnotes. I believe that the New Jerome Biblical Commentary is the best one-volume commentary available in English today. Rudolph Schnackenburg's and Ray Brown's commentaries on the Gospel of John are among the best commentaries ever written on John. It was only as a result of Vatican II (1962-1965) that many lay Roman Catholic Christians experienced English language Bible readings at mass and that many lay Roman Catholics really began to explore the Bible. Prior to that the Latin Vulgate was the scriptures read at most masses, and Bible reading was not so common as it was in the Protestant tradition.
Since most Roman Catholics did not study the Bible prior to that, Roman Catholic Christians who now study the Bible often do so with less theologically biased views than many of their Protestant brothers and sisters. The biblical message is fresher to them than to many Protestant Christians. The late Raymond E. Brown's Responses to 101 Questions on the Bible (NY: Paulist Press, 1990) provides a wonderful example of the intellectual integrity of an internationally celebrated New Testament Roman Catholic biblical scholar, who also happened to be a Roman Catholic priest who sat on the Roman Pontifical Biblical Commission. (Even in the latter half of Father Brown's Responses where he frequently provides a mild defense of the official church position on the basis of church doctrine, he also generally presents the dissenting view of Protestants and other scholars. In the first 60 or so questions, his explanations are very consistent with explanations that the very best Protestant scholars would give on those questions.)
You might find it of interest to know that for several years I have been participating in an international, email-based "Ordination of Women" forum. It appears that the majority of participants are Roman Catholics. Involvement in that ecumenical forum has been exhilarating. Some of my contributions and other forum-members' responses to my contributions are available to be read at http://www.bibletexts.com/women.htm.
Over the past 20 centuries, there have been many preachers and teachers with many valuable messages to offer, but there still is only one unique Christ Jesus, who is the only final authority of all Christians. I feel that a very important part of my current adventure as a Christian is to explore and articulate (with my words and with my life) the clearest, most honest possible understanding of the life, works, and words of Jesus and of the first century Christian community. I am grateful to have many other Christians, including Roman Catholics, as companions in that adventure. When I was a Christian Science prison chaplain, one Roman Catholic priest used to encourage inmates to come see me. We both were supportive of each other's ministries. I am eager to learn from and with all fellow Christians, regardless of their denominational traditions.
Regardless of our job descriptions, it is how we individually and collectively contribute to the success of our company that counts. In the same way, regardless of our denomination, it is how we live, breathe, and illustrate the Good News (Gospel) of Christ that really matters.
Representing well the teachings of Jesus (see Mar 12:28-34), Paul described the condition of us all:
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1Co 13:12,13, NAB)
Copyright 1996-2004 Robert Nguyen Cramer