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Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on:

“Mortals and Immortals”
for May 11—17, 2020

by Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. of Glen Ellyn, Illinois (Bartlett) / (630) 830-8683 / (630) 234-3987 cell/text

Are you familiar with the sayings, “Like father, like son” or “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”? In the Golden Text Paul is saying something very similar: “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly” (I Corinthians 15:48).

Whether earthy or heavenly, it appears that we’re locked into our “family of origin.” Of course, “earthy” is symbolic for Adam—the man of dust, who produces other men from dust. While the “heavenly” is representative of Christ Jesus—who has no earthly origin—and all his brothers and sisters also come directly from heaven.

There’s a big difference between the earthy and the heavenly. Mortals proceed from mortals. The characteristics of the mortal are shared, repeated, and patterned in an ongoing cycle of limitation, disobedience, dysfunction, sickness, and death. On the other hand, immortals don’t proceed from other immortals. Rather, each individual is created directly by God. Therefore, the man from heaven Paul refers to, isn’t our progenitor, but our brother. We are “like” Jesus, but we are “of” our mutual Father-Mother God.

In last month’s Lesson on Doctrine of Atonement, we saw how Jesus would let nothing hijack his mission or take over his story. He knew that God is the only Author of man, and that his life and mission were originated, and ordained, in and by God alone.

In this Lesson, the carnal mind is claiming not only to interfere with our God-given purpose and abilities, but is actually claiming to usurp God as author, and be the writer of our stories from the outset. It would keep us bound to sharing, repeating, and following the pattern of mortal, or earthly ancestry.

It seems to human sense, that there are two types of men. As eighteenth century theologian John Gill (1697-1771) writes: “there are two kinds of men, for the one is "the heavenly man", and the other is "earthy"; the heavenly man is he, who is made after the image of God, incorruptible, and wholly devoid of earthy substance; the earthy is made of seminal matter, which is called the ground.'

First of all, though it seems like there are two types of men—mortal, and immortal—the fact is there are not. There is only one—the immortal. The so-called mortal is not the man God made and is not what we are. And no, they never intersect. Jesus’ life and mission refutes the belief that we are material mortals, with the fact that we are spiritual immortals. The real and unreal have nothing to do with each other. And the so-called mortal doesn’t turn into an immortal, nor can an immortal be demoted to mortal status, even temporarily. That’s the spiritually Scientific fact.

However, we do face the claim that we’re mortal. So, while we aren’t actually immortals stuck in a mortal existence, nor do we change from one to the other, we do seem to believe that’s the case.

To human sense, the earthy seems to be what we are, and the heavenly is what we hope to become. Traditional theology sees it that way. In the Responsive Reading Paul speaks of the expectation and promise that we will be changed in a “twinkling of an eye” from mortals to immortals. This is often interpreted as a collective external event that sweeps us all up at once, even the dead emerging from their graves. But here is where Christian Science sees things differently.

In Christian Science, we see that the awakening to immortality isn’t so much a universal outer occurrence that will take place for everyone at once, but rather an inward realization, that dawns on each of us individually as our spiritual understanding grows. Paul tells us flesh and blood (corruption) cannot inherit the kingdom of God (incorruption). This is so, for corruption and incorruption are opposites that have nothing to do with each other.

Christian Science also teaches that in a strictly metaphysical sense, we are now, always have been, and always will be immortal. But we have to discover it for ourselves. To human sense, there seems to be a process of transformation, but it’s actually waking up to what we’ve always been. Electricity always existed, but it needed to be discovered in a way that made it useful.

So even though to spiritual sense, we are now and always have been immortal, we still have to prove it. Paul urges us to be “steadfast, unmovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord.” But here’s where our work comes in. We don’t simply “accept Christ” and then wait around for an external change. Instead, we accept that we are in fact immortals right now, and then we begin living like immortals right now.

That’s why Paul says, “…behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

This reminds me of a story told by a chaplain I knew who served in the juvenile justice system. He was assigned a young man who was uncontrollable, and spent the majority of his time in solitary. At their wits end, the guards appealed to the chaplain for help. The young man was steeped in anger and self-pity. The chaplain prayed, and was inspired to ask this teen what he wanted to be when he got out. Maintaining a belligerent, defeatist attitude he said, “What’s the difference?—I can’t do anything in this cell.”

The chaplain persisted—“No, really—what would you like to be?

“I’d be an artist” he replied.

“Well, that’s cool,” said the chaplain. “What are you waiting for?”

“What are you talking about?” snapped the young inmate. “What can I do in this stinking place?”

“Well,” said the chaplain, “If you want to be an artist, why don’t you start thinking and acting like one right now?”

“There’s nothing in here to use. They won’t let me have any materials.”

“Have you asked?”

“No. They wouldn’t listen anyway.”

“Look,” said the chaplain. “If you start behaving like an artist in a responsible way, I think I can make sure they’ll give you some materials. In the meantime, remember if you want to be an artist, nothing is stopping you from right now doing everything you can do to think like an artist, and act like one.”

The young man agreed. He calmed down, and took whatever he had in his cell and began artistically arranging his cell, and creating art with whatever materials they let him have. Before long his cell, became his studio, and every inch of it was covered with art. His work was noticed, and when he got out he began having showings of his work, selling it, and ended up as a successful artist.

This young man’s journey represents what we have to do. The Lesson gives us many examples of what it means to put on incorruption and “be” immortal. We already are; we just have to start thinking and living that way.

Section 1: A New Creature

The opening verses from Psalm 119 (B1) model the attitude necessary to realize immortality. Just as the young man in the detention center altered his thinking and behavior, we must yearn to have our eyes opened to what’s already true, acknowledging our need and willingness to be taught. Although some might feel burdened and pressured by focusing on spiritual things, the psalmist delights in it.

The author of Ephesians implores us to think differently from the Gentiles. Theologian Adam Clarke (c1760-1832), explains the meaning of “having the understanding darkened” (B2): “Having no means of knowledge, the heart, naturally dark, became more and more so by means of habitual transgression; everything in the Gentile system having an immediate tendency to blind the eyes and darken the whole soul.” The phrase “habitual transgression” is interesting. In Works of Love, Danish philosopher, and religious writer, Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) writes: “However fast a habit fixes itself, it never becomes the unchangeable. … Habit is always that which ought to be changed; … But the eternal never becomes old and never becomes habit” (p. 52). Habits are mortal, and ought to be changed. The eternal is immortal, remaining constant. Those who have learned Christ are willing to put off the habits of the old man—the mortal story about us; and put on the new man—our true eternal natures. The effect of this transformation forms us anew. As the Twentieth Century New Testament states, “If anyone is in union with Christ, he is a new being” (B3).

Biblical scholar William Burkitt (1650-1703) explains the phrase, a “new being:”

This implies a real and inward, a thorough and prevailing change, both in heart and life; not a civil change, barely from profaneness to sobriety; not a sudden change, only under some great affliction or awakening providence; not a change from one sect or party of professors to another; but the change of the new creature consists in a new mind, a new will, a new judgment, new affections; in a new conversation, not in a new form and profession; the change of the new creature introduces the life of God, and produces the nearest likeness to God.

The citations in our textbook begin by establishing the fact that the man God made is spiritual, “not material and mortal” (S1). Mary Baker Eddy clarifies repeatedly throughout Science and Health, that the “sinful and sickly mortal” that seems to be, is not the man God made (S2). The mortal man is the man of earthly belief, and contrasts completely with the Christly, spiritual, indestructible man created by God, of whom Jesus was the highest example (S3, 4). Of these contrasting views of man, only one can be true. Clearly, Christian Science teaches that the spiritual man is the authentic creation of God. So, what then is the man that seems to be mortal?

Mary Baker Eddy tells us this mortal man is an illusion that is here one day and gone the next (S5). The real immortal man is “always beyond and above” the mortal illusion, and to the degree we understand this differentiation between the two, and realize that in fact, there is only one—the spiritual and immortal—which is real, this real man will be brought to light. This doesn’t mean the mortal turns into an immortal. Rather, that as our understanding develops, we put off the old man, the illusion fades, and the reality that was always there, becomes evident (S7, 8).

Section 2: Going Back to Go Forward

The psalmist definitely embraces and honors the process. He knows the value of a repentant, searching heart, and he’s intentional in doing whatever is necessary to achieve his objective (B4). I suppose there is a certain amount of determination in both the psalmist and Jacob. But it’s not really a clench-fisted, self-willed approach. It involves waiting on God with a steadfast loyalty to move toward true selfhood.

Jacob has to rise above not only the belief of being an earthly son of Adam, but he also needs to break free from the ingrained traditions and culture of his family lineage. Having fled from his brother after cheating him of both his birthright and his father’s blessing, and spending years being cheated himself, Jacob gets this word from God: “Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred…” (B5). On the surface Jacob may have had good reason to fear his brother’s vengeance. But there’s a deeper meaning to this command from God.

In order to go forward and embrace his identity as a “new man,” Jacob first, has to go back to re-visit, and wrestle with the behaviors he has learned from his fathers and kindred. This is a pattern for each one of us. We have to see how much history from our “family of origin” is weighing us down, and then we have to be willing to put it off. In Jacob’s case, there was a family culture of lying for generations:

  • Abraham lied twice about Sarah.
  • Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, helped Jacob to deceive his father and his brother.
  • Jacob blindly followed his mother’s scheme.
  • Uncle Laban in turn deceived Jacob several times.

There was also a pattern of competition between his father Isaac, and his brother Ishmael, and stressful separation that continued with Jacob’s children as shown in the story of Joseph. There was also confusion and jealousy within the marriages of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He needed to recognize these family patterns and move on. But Jacob couldn’t let go of them until they transformed him (B6). He saw himself and his brother in a new light, and even changed his name!

I really appreciate the connection Albert Barnes (1798-1870) makes regarding the significance of Jacob’s thigh being out of joint—

The thigh is the pillar of a man‘s strength, and its joint with the hip the seat of physical force for the wrestler. Let the thigh bone be thrown out of joint, and the man is utterly disabled. Jacob now finds that this mysterious wrestler has wrested from him, by one touch, all his might, and he can no longer stand alone. Without any support whatever from himself, he hangs upon the conqueror, and in that condition learns by experience the practice of sole reliance on one mightier than himself. This is the turning-point in this strange drama. Henceforth Jacob now feels himself strong, not in himself, but in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

As you contemplate this story, what area in your life could be better served by leaning on God rather than on your own power?

Paul urges this transformation on all of us. “Do not be conformed to this world: but be ye transformed…” (B7). How is that transformation going to take place? “By the renewing of your mind.” This isn’t merely an outward change, but a remodel from the inside out. It’s an entire overhaul of thought, purpose and outlook.

This is asking quite a lot. The natural tendency is to follow the crowd. Not just our peers, but our family cultures. Science and Health refers to these, sometimes painful, but progressive steps as, “the ripening of mortal man” (S9). Mary Baker Eddy warns us that it’s not always easy. The change comes either through “suffering or Science.” She explains that Jacob’s struggle wasn’t with a man or an angel, but “with a mortal sense of life, substance and intelligence as existent in matter with its false pleasures and pains” (S10). This process isn’t really a choice. We all have to face it. We have to grow out of the limited mortal sense of things, into a broader, spiritual view. Mary Baker Eddy very deliberately takes care to ease the concern that this process of giving up material origins will cause us to lose our identity (S11). Actually, we gain a stronger sense of who we are, because when we identify with God rather than a mortal family of origin, we actually are freed from a history imposed upon us, to one we are free to choose—namely our eternal relationship with the divine family.

In Section 1 we saw that “habit” was something that should be changed. In this section, even though Mary Baker Eddy uses the word “habitual,” she means it more along the lines of a “Rule of Life.” (S12). This is that intentional decision we make to constantly grow toward God—out of the belief of mortality, into immortality.

Section 3: We’re All Working on Something

To the majority of Christians, man is an inherent sinner. That is, man is a descendant of Adam and therefore, has inherited a sinful nature. While Christian Science does not agree with that conclusion, we do acknowledge that mortal man makes errors of judgment—sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose. In citation B8, a phrase from Paul’s words has been edited out of the Lesson. But given the application of the story of the adulterous woman, it’s worth considering them. Paul says Jesus came into the world to save sinners, but then adds, “…of whom I am chief.”

Although most of the time people focus on the sin of the woman, this story is equally about the sin of those who condemned her (B9). While Section 2, dealt with mortal beliefs imposed upon us, sin is generally thought of as an error we choose. Though, it’s true these errors could still be part of a family culture. None-the-less, Jesus’ handling of the situation was brilliant. I suppose that Paul would identify with the accusers in this story. Not only had he, himself, taken that role, but he also came face to face with his own sin in a powerful way. Perhaps more importantly, he experienced the transforming power of Love. As indicated in many of Paul’s letters, putting off the “old man” is not a painless operation: It is often violent and painful.

Mary Baker Eddy writes, that as we wake to the demands of spiritual life, we do “experience suffering” (S14). We can’t live off of others’ spirituality. We must own our path and take each step towards salvation. Remember, God doesn’t want to punish or harm us, nor does God design things so we’re prone to sin. God is on our side. Which is to say, “He wants us on His side.” (S15). This is a unique point in Christian Science: God has no consciousness of evil or error. “Truth, Life, and Love are a law of annihilation to everything unlike themselves, because they declare nothing except God” (S16).

As long as we accept the view, that God knows about sin and allows it, we’ll never understand what Christian Science teaches about sin, redemption, and immortality. When we see that God’s heavenly man isn’t a sinner, and that God knows nothing of sin, we naturally give up sinful behavior (S17). Then “regulations” inhibiting our so-called “natural inclinations,” are no longer a burden; and we find a great joy and freedom in living and striving for a higher way of life that leads to immortality (S18).

Section 4: Reborn

As we mentioned earlier, the earthy man must be put off in order for the new, heavenly man to be revealed. It’s as if one dies to the beliefs of the flesh and is reborn to the purity of Spirit. As Jesus tells Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (B10). Nothing sinful has any place in the kingdom of heaven. So the sins and impurities of the old man must be cleansed away.

The new birth is letting go of the mortal history and familial ways of doing things and being reborn into the holy family. Some consider being “born again” as a one-time event, but that’s not true. We are reborn many times throughout our lives. If we are growing and progressing spiritually, we are constantly dying—putting off the corruptible beliefs, and being reborn—waking up to new incorruptible realities we hadn’t seen before. Mary Baker Eddy calls it “transformation by the renewal of Spirit” (S19). We all need renewal by Spirit, or we’d already have ascended.

Although it seems difficult to grasp, even Jesus needed renewal now and then. He had more challenges to overcome than anyone. But that’s because he was also the most “un-earthy” man who ever existed. As defined in the Glossary of Science and Health, he was the “highest human corporeal concept of the divine idea” (S20). He exemplified what we are being “born” into. Even though many may find the “idea” of being immortal appealing, we can’t and won’t really understand it until we make it our own. We accomplish this a little more every time we are reborn (S21).

Worldly sense simply does not comprehend the spiritual view. That’s one of the reasons Jesus met such violent opposition. To the world, his teaching was foolish. It’s feels unnatural for a mortal to give up his worldly ways and views. But, “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” and spiritual sense is understood as our lives are corrected (S22). Remember—being born again in Spirit isn’t turning mortality into immortality. It’s an entirely new thing. Spirit forms us anew (S23). This new man is what God is continually creating in us. The old man is constantly receding and dissolving as a dream, as the new man blooms and is “birthed” within us (S24). Our part is simple to say, but challenging to do. All we have to do is turn away from the mortal selfhood to realize that Jesus is the model of what sonship with God is. As we allow that to be “birthed” in our hearts, we’re reborn in Christ (S25).

Section 5: Looking Heavenward

As we know, Jesus really didn’t need to be “reborn.” He was rock solid on his relationship with his Father-Mother God, which included a very healthy relationship with His divine parent. Although Jesus had to face many earthly challenges, he was totally in tune with his eternal, spiritual identity (B11). This spiritually healthy relationship with God, gave him supreme confidence. And it also gave him an acute understanding and sensitivity to the needs of others. A contemporary of Mary Baker Eddy’s, Alexander MacLaren (1826-1910) was a Scottish-born, Baptist minister in England, known as “The Prince of Expositors.” He elucidates the compassion Jesus showed for the widow at Nain (B12):

…the sympathy of Christ was deeper than any human sympathy, howsoever tender it may be; for what unfits us to feel compassion is our absorption with ourselves. That makes our hearts hard and insensitive, and is the true, ‘witches’ mark’-to recur to the old fable-the spot where no external pressure can produce sensation. The ossified heart of the selfish man is closed against divine compassion.

…note that the pitying Christ dries the tears before He raises the dead. That is beautiful, I think. ‘Weep not,’ He says to the woman—a kind of a prophecy that He is going to take away the occasion for weeping; and so He calls lovingly upon her for some movement of hope and confidence towards Himself…. And Jesus Christ never said, ‘Dry your tears,’ without stretching out His own hand to do it.

…the true attitude for all men who have an immortal Christ to trust, and an immortality for themselves to claim, is that not ‘backward’ should their ‘glances be, but forward to their Father’s home.’ These are the thoughts that dry our tears, the assurance of the sympathy of Christ, and the joyous expectation of a great good to be ours, where beyond those voices there is peace.

The raising of the widow’s son in Nain is a very brief experience in Scripture, but it encapsulates the regenerating and life-giving power of Spirit. Notice that whereas, in order to purify and let go of the old man, Jacob surveyed the past to make corrections for the future; in resurrection, MacLaren tells us there’s no looking back because there’s no “back” to look to. It’s all new, and all looking heavenward.

Albert Barnes points out that this was one of the most decisive and instructive of Jesus’ healings. In addition to bringing the dead to life, it also can be viewed figuratively. Barnes writes, [he] “also has power to raise sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, to life. He can speak the word, and, though in their death of sin they are borne along toward ruin, he can open their eyes, and raise them up, and restore them revived to real life or to their friends.”

As indicated by Barnes’ commentary, resurrection isn’t confined to literally returning from the dead. In the broader sense, resurrection is a “spiritualization of thought” (S26). Resurrection is an ongoing process. As material beliefs yield, the spiritual understanding of immortality becomes clearer.

As we mentioned in Section 4, Jesus never lost sight of the fact of his spiritual origin. Likewise, he never lost sight of it for anyone else either. He didn’t think of us as mortals, and he knew that God didn’t make us that way. He saw himself and everyone else from an immortal point of view, and utterly rejected the belief that man has two lives, “one to be destroyed and the other to be made indestructible” (S27). He expressed the divine nature, and saw this as true for all. Citation S28 explains that to see as Jesus saw, we cannot begin by believing in a dual existence. The basis is “perfect God and perfect man.” This is the immortal standpoint from which Jesus lived and healed. We, too, can see ourselves, and others this way. Even though to human sense, it seems out of the realm of possibility, this immortal viewpoint has mighty power.

This view is essential. “Man is, not shall be, perfect and immortal…” (S29). As we hold to this, we will overcome sin, and even death itself. Jesus was consistent—the same yesterday and today, and forever. The more consistently we follow him, giving up the material view, the more apparent our immortality becomes.

Section 6: A Perfect Ending

No matter how many challenges we face, the psalmist tells us that the end will bring peace and rest (B13). Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance adds to the definition of “perfect’: complete, undefiled, and upright. This describes an immortal. Citation B14 may seem a bit hard to decipher at first. In context, Paul is borrowing from Hosea. The Jews had rejected God and therefore, God had rejected them. So, for our purposes this week, even if we’ve been accepting the mortal picture of ourselves, God always sees us as His children.

Mary Baker Eddy was completely assured of our salvation. She knew that so-called mortals would “disappear, and immortals, or the children of God, will appear as the only and eternal verities of man” (S29). That means our immortal nature as members of God’s family is the only truth of our being. Take note of the statement in citation S31: “Being is holiness, harmony, immortality.” She says, even if we have the tiniest glimpse of this, our characters will be improved. Eventually this will bring our immortality to light. The interesting thing to me is she says, “Being” not “doing.” We tend to think we have to “do” an awful lot. Doing implies earning and accomplishing. But remember when one is being “born” they’re not really doing much of anything other than letting it happen. Take some time and learn to “Be” with God, rather than “doing” for Him. “Being” is actually getting a glimpse of immortality. Being perfect means to be complete and mature. So “being” is getting a preview of what it’s like to be an immortal in God’s likeness (S32). Welcome to the family!

[Warren:] Click here for related Bible Lesson G.E.M.s from Cobbey Crisler & others.

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