shared from and with BibleTexts.com users
#109 - Some resources for answering Church Manual questions
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.
As a new student of Christian Science, I have often come to your site for help with struggling with my old beliefs and emerging into the new. The detailed information in your site is invaluable, I believe, to anyone who questions the historical and scriptural accuracy of their current beliefs and are searching for Truth. I have been studying Christian Science for 5 months, and have visited your site frequently, especially during the early months of my quest.
I purchased the Church Manual the other day and have completely read it... and so I very much enjoyed your content on the Church Manual and the roots it has in Scripture. I have a question about some of the more authoritative statements in the Manual, and was wondering if you could point me in the right direction so I can find some answers (books, websites, people, etc...).
Specifically, in Man. 53:11-14, Mrs. Eddy appears to be saying that unsolicited or unwanted questions to her would be considered an offense. I'm sure there was a reason for this... after all, there is only so much a person can take. But, on the other hand, I am reminded of Jesus and "suffer the children"... taking offense (if you will) that the disciples were actually keeping the children away from him. To my knowledge, Jesus accepted everyone.. every seeker... and as the Way-Shower, I'm sure he understood the importance of his message (and demonstrations) and withheld nothing from no one. Going with that same thought, why would Mrs. Eddy purposefully forbid people from inquiring of her, if the message she held was so dear? Was this during her older years, and she was simply unable to keep up with everyone? I've been trying to fathom a reason for this, but simply cannot come up with one.... and I would appreciate your help in pointing me in the right direction.
Other areas I have questions about are:
Thank you in advance for your help. Now that I have experienced Truth, I need to understand the woman God used to bring such fullness to humanity. I have a couple of biographies on her, but nothing that covers my questions above. I would ask my questions to people at church, but I do not want to offend anyone with them.
Your questions are good ones. I encourage you to continue to ask yourself probing questions and to relentlessly seek Truth. Your intellectually honest journey may be quite scary to many with whom you may come into contact -- both those who are students of Christian Science and those who have other Christian traditions, but as you keep exploring the Christian Science textbooks (the Bible and Mrs. Eddy's writings) more and more deeply, the value of that journey will be apparent not only to you but to those who witness the fruits of your labors. Providing resources for such a quest is an important part of the mission of BibleTexts.com.
Reading through Mary Baker Eddy's Prose Works will help answer many of your questions by providing not only some of the history but even more importantly the spirit of Truth and Love that guided her life. (I recommend pondering carefully her words, My 120:1, "We look for the sainted Revelator in his writings, and there we find him. Those who look for me in person, or elsewhere than in my writings, lose me instead of find me.")
Robert Peel's 3-volume biography of Mrs. Eddy has the most readily available, authoritative, and reliable biographical information for some of your questions. I would strongly recommend your obtaining and reading Peel's biographies, if you have not already done so. The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity (http://www.marybakereddylibrary.org/) is also an excellent resource. (I myself have that library to be very cooperative when I have called or emailed research requests.) Also as you come across challenging passages in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (S&H), you can check for cross-references in the Bible and Peel's works as listed at http://www.bibletexts.com/sh. There are similar cross-references on the Church Manual at http://www.bibletexts.com/manual.
As to your primary question, you are at least partially on the right track. You asked, "Why would Mrs. Eddy purposefully forbid people from inquiring of her, if the message she held was so dear? Was this during her older years, and she was simply unable to keep up with everyone?"
Peel covers this pretty well in his Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority. I include cross-references to Peel's references to the Church Manual at http://www.bibletexts.com/manual. Some of the By-Laws about which you are inquiring have references in Peel's biographies.
Especially from 1892 onward, Mrs. Eddy worked tirelessly to establish her church on the basis of the Church Manual and not on her personal authority or personal guidance. She also continued to make multiple revisions to Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures to make the message even clearer. Rather than answering individual questions as she had done in the past through The Christian Science Journal and through correspondence, she endeavored to direct people to the Bible and her works for answers. Through the Church Manual she also expressed the spirit of that endeavor when she required authorized teachers of Christian Science to "enjoin [students] habitually to study the Scriptures and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures", rather than encouraging students to be personally dependent on their teachers. (See Man 83:11)
Also the demands on her in establishing her church on Principle rather than person were so great that she had to minimize distractions. This was ultimately to the advantage of even those who wanted but were unable to seek her personal guidance. She increasingly sought the means to deliver the greatest good to the greatest number, while continually reducing dependency upon her personal interaction. Again, Peel's The Years of Authority solidly documents that.
Regarding your questions about the By-Laws from Man 67:24 - 69:20, you may get a taste of what she expected of her church members by browsing http://www.bibletexts.com/terms/love-in-action.htm.
Specifically regarding Man 69:13-20, she was emphasizing the commitment required not to her personally but to the movement she was leading in Christ's service. (See also Man 41:1.) Her actual practice was to staunchly advise workers to put family first. See The Years of Authority, pages 386-387, footnote 74, where Peel writes: "It was not her [Mrs. Eddy's] policy to say anything to a husband or wife that would promote disunity and Mrs. Nixon's place was with her husband." William Nixon had been Mrs. Eddy's publisher and was a prominent member of the church. Mrs. Helen Nixon was a worker who was very much valued by Mrs. Eddy. In a later letter, Mrs. Eddy "stressed the moral necessity of fulfilling a wife's full nuptial obligations, and warned Mrs. Nixon, 'Never notice the sentiments of those hot-headed students of Christian Science who talk foolishly on the subject of marriage.'"
You also asked: "Man. 87:1-7 - Why would Mrs. Eddy single out Roman Catholics as a group not to be taught Christian Science? I thought this Truth was for all seekers of Truth." For some explanation of this, please see: http://www.bibletexts.com/manual/index.htm#27
Regarding biographies of Mrs. Eddy in general, I really value Peel's approach, which is epitomized in his "Prefatory Note" in The Years of Authority, page xi, where he writes: "I have tried at every step to convey the true proportions and suggest the inner dimensions of a life story which, in both its public and its private aspects, has been misrepresented so often by sanctified legend and scandalous fable."
Copyright 1996-2003 Robert Nguyen Cramer