This is #3 in a series of posts looking at the 26 Christian Science Weekly Bible Lesson subjects, chosen by Mary Baker Eddy, and rotated twice per year. These lessons are the sermon at each Christian Science church worldwide, and are read by Christian Scientists daily. Today’s subject is “Adam and Fallen Man”.
One thing in this world that’s almost as certain as death, taxes, and the sun rising in the morning, is that this particular Lesson sermon will include either one or both of the creation accounts from the Bible book of Genesis. I have no memory of any time it hasn’t. There are two accounts of creation in the Bible, and in Christian Science, we were taught that one is true and the other is false. Most other Christian religions, as it appears to me, accept both to be true (I’m not sure how that is reconciled), and they expend a particularly massive amount of theological and rhetorical energy on the second account of creation: the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the lasting concept of “original sin”.
In the first account of creation, God created the heavens and Earth and everything else, and behold it was very good. He created man in his image “…male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:27). The first account of creation in Genesis is said, especially in Christian Science circles, to imply a certain level of androgyny in the human species, and perhaps all other species for that matter–that we are all both male and female. Mary Baker Eddy spends some time with that, and as I see it uses the idea to bolster her somewhat confused views on sex and sexuality–she seemed to have some conflicted views on the subject, an influence that pervades Christian Science culture to this day. My friend over at Kindism has written and researched on this subject extensively, so I won’t cover ground already well-covered elsewhere. I recommend this post as a primer on Eddy’s odd hang-ups regarding sex and sexuality, which extend largely within the Christian Science movement.
Eddy refers to the first account of creation as the true and “scientific” account. Creation theorists/scientists also latch on to this account as a more scientifically plausible explanation as well–after all, who’s heard of a talking snake? I was taught in Christian Science class instruction that you didn’t take literally the seven days in this account as actually seven days. A favourite quote from another part of the Bible bolsters this idea: “But beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (II Peter 3:8). If taken literally then Earth, the universe, and everything else was created in approximately 7,000 years. That’s still not possible, as evidence points to a vastly different conclusion. But, Christian Science, and probably creation theorists as well, counter that the “thousand years” could mean “millions of years”. Okay, possibly–I’ll concede that much can be lost in translation, but the evidence that speaks the loudest to me is the scientific evidence pointing to the universe and everything else evolving quite naturally over a period of 13 billion years. Do I even take that as absolute truth? No. It’s possible that evidence will come along that disputes the Big Bang theory (I remember watching a documentary that went into some evidence that counteracts the Big Bang theory), from which this age calculation comes from, but for now, it’s supported by evidence thus far. My bottom line is that my faith is in evidence-based science. Yes, sometimes science is slow to turn direction (it’s also controlled by human perception), but in it’s purest form, science relies on evidence, and does turn when the evidence is indisputable. I also do believe in a higher power, but that it is part of us and everything around us, as much as we are part of it–a collective intelligence/life-force if you will.
So, twice each year, Christian Scientists think through the contrasting accounts of creation, and “original sin” as given in the first two chapters of Genesis. They take the first as the true scientific and Biblical account and the second as, to put it in Eddy’s words, an account that “…is mortal and material.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 521)
Now, does that mean that Christian Scientists believe in intelligent design, or even some of the more crazy beliefs that Earth and the universe are 6,000 or so years old and that dinosaurs and humans co-existed? Not necessarily; some do, some don’t. Christian Scientists’ views on evolution, creation, and all of that are, to put it mildly, nuanced, and honestly as individual as each person. Many, such as my Christian Science teacher do take what I’d call a “nuanced literal” view of the veracity of the first account of creation. They take the tack of many creation scientists that the scientific evidence regarding creation points towards this “cosmic” presentation. Others, such as myself, take actually both accounts as ancient attempts to explain the age-old question, “where did I come from?” I never could 100% accept that everything around us was conjured up out of nothing at the whim of some omnipresent deity–maybe that’s why I was always a bit lukewarm in my faith. Of the two accounts of creation I will honestly say that for me, the first one comes closer to plausibility than the second, but it’s still a long stretch.
As for the accompanying subject of original sin that comes with the whole “Adam and Fallen Man” discussion, I’ve extensively discussed my thoughts on that in a previous post in this series dealing with the subject “Everlasting Punishment”, so I won’t repeat myself here. The whole idea of “original sin” comes straight from the Adam and Eve story (from whence the name of this Bible Lesson subject comes). The idea comes from the part of the story where Adam eats an apple which Eve gives him from the Tree of Knowledge. From that basis, Adam and all of his progeny (all of us) are created as sinners and that thousands of years later Jesus died on the cross for our sins. This is a bedrock faith of most Christians. Christian Scientists are more nuanced on this subject, going with Eddy’s view that the “…belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 497) Discussions and Bible citation references between this Lesson subject and “Everlasting Punishment” tend to overlap, as do some of the other subjects–there is only so much ground out there to cover, after all.
This particular Bible Lesson subject is one that definitely gives an interesting overview of the Christian Science perspective on a touchy subject–creation and original sin. For me, the Christian Science view on creation and original sin is a vestige that has, to some degree, stayed with me. I believe that sin, if you want to call it that, will punish you–I need look no further than the people I know who deal with addictions. I believe the first account of creation in Genesis is maybe an ancient take on the Big Bang theory, and the second is a fanciful ancient tribal legend that too many people take as fact.