This is the first in a series of posts about the 26 Weekly Bible Lesson Subjects (chosen by Mary Baker Eddy), which rotate twice each year. I’ll start with the subject “Everlasting Punishment”. Look for other posts under the category “Lesson Sermon Subjects“.
If you’re a former Christian Scientist or a Christian Scientist, the title of this post is familiar to you as one of the rotating weekly Lesson Sermon subjects. It is also one that I recall always seemed uncomfortable to many–after all, who likes the concept of punishment that never ends? But, as with everything Christian Science, there is more to these words than initially meets the eye. The devil is between the lines (and in the details).
“Everlasting punishment” in the Christian Science world largely refers to punishment for sin. As with the concepts of heaven and hell (which I’ve discussed in a previous post), the Christian Science view of sin and sin’s punishment is somewhat different than the conventional view of most mainstream Judeo-Christian/Abrahamic faiths. It is a view that I still largely agree with; it makes sense to me, and it is quite logical. Believe it or not, I do not reject 100% of everything I learned and practiced as a Christian Scientist.
3. We acknowledge God’s forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal. But the belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts.
(Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 497; emphasis is mine.)
I firmly believe the Christian Science view on sin to be true. This conviction is based on my own personal experience, as is my belief in the correctness of the Christian Science concept of heaven and hell. Whatever one considers sin to be, it is something that deserves punishment. I cannot, and never will, accept the idea that we will suffer some sort of future eternal punishment for sins committed in this world. If that were true, I think likely everyone who has walked this Earth will end up in hell.
3. Something regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong.1
If you are sinning; let’s take as an example, abusing drugs, you will suffer (although addiction is as much or more a disease or illness as it is a sin). I know this, I’ve seen it. That suffering is the punishment. I’ve seen many who are addicted to drugs who suffer immensely from their addiction. They lose their jobs and careers, their dignity, and often their families and friends. Some ultimately lose their lives. Many end up destitute, living on the streets. I have seen many who have lifted themselves up from these circumstances when they have made the decision to seek treatment and healing for their disease of addiction. I know people who have risen from a life on the streets to successful lives with satisfying careers and homes of their own. I’ve also known of those who have risen up, and fallen again when they relapsed.
This is but one example of how sin is punished so long as the belief, if you will, persists (I would expand on the idea of belief to include also the commission or practice of sin). There are many others–one needs to only look to the various scandals that have ensnared politicians and celebrities and the damage done to their careers, personal lives, and reputations, even when they’ve managed to move past their transgressions. They all suffered for a period for what they did. Almost all experienced some sort of loss. However, that loss can usually be recovered, and there are many cases where people have recovered and moved beyond their transgressions, and experienced renewed success.
It is on this basis of my own experience and observation that I do believe in the Christian Science concept of sin and the punishment of sin. It makes sense, it’s logical, and I’ve seen proof of it. I do not, and never have believed in the concept of eternal damnation, or the crazy idea that some Jewish carpenter died for my sins over 2,000 years ago–or that I am born a sinner because a nudist in a garden took dietary advice from a talking snake. Those ideas are completely illogical, stupid, and frankly whack-a-doodle to me. I will account and atone for the things I’ve done, but not for something someone who didn’t even exist. Why in a supposedly advanced society such as we apparently have in the 21st century, we still put so much stock in these ancient legends baffles me. What truly scares me, however, is that many in positions of power swallow that Kool-Aid, and make decisions based on it. Look no further than the current political mess in the United States–it has its roots firmly planted in conservative evangelical Christianity–a cancer that is consuming that country.
1 “Sin” (definition). The Free Dictionary. Farlex, Inc. n.d. Web. 14 October 2013. <http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Sin>.