Week 2: "Why is being new-born of Spirit so important to growth and uniting with Church?"

Question: "Jesus told an incredulous Nicodemus that he must be reborn of Spirit. Mary Baker Eddy said that we can unite with Church only as we are new-born of Spirit.  Why is being new-born of Spirit so important to growth and uniting with Church?"

Response 1: Lois Carlson

Think of the humility it must have taken for Nicodemus, a nationally known religious leader and Pharisee (also a member of the powerful Sanhedrin, a council of the 70 most outstanding Jews in Israel), to come to Jesus under cloak of night. Jesus explained that his teachings and healings were based on a clear understanding that the origin of life is Spirit. The conversation was earnest, but Jesus' answers were met with resistance and misunderstanding of what it meant to be born again. Great freedom was being offered Nicodemus to let go of his identity anchored in human history and live in the Christly relationship of sonship with God—to be new-born of Spirit.

This is no less than the struggle we each face: to let go of the pride of human intellect that argues persuasively for its own matter-based experience, opinion, and judgment. When Jesus said to Nicodemus, “We speak that we know. . .” (John 3:11). I think he was asking Nicodemus to remember the power—the spiritual impetus—that initially impelled him to come to Jesus.

What if every time we came to church, we honored our new-born life in Spirit? Moments of inspiration found through study and prayer aren’t really rare occurrences. They’re the natural consequence of God’s fresh, vibrant, uninterrupted conversation with us as His dear children. Remembering our healing experiences and spiritual insights—when the Christ awakened us from some fear or sense of isolation; when we found the courage to silence the accuser; when we knew we had no strength of our own but felt the strength and power of the Christ—these are the foundation of continuing spiritual growth that unite us with Church. Every time we newly honor Spirit as the substance of our being, the old belief in matter-based living is loosened. We become more alive and that aliveness can be felt by everyone we come in contact with in church and in our daily interactions.

What if our church work was always based on overflowing gratitude and awareness for our new-born life in Spirit? Then we’d meet and greet each other in a state of reverence and wonder, grateful that we come together in Church to learn more of our spiritual life from a broad range of people who are also having these glimpses of reality.

And we’d soon find Church not in just one location, but under-girding the very fabric of our lives. We’d notice in the routines of our everyday life the innocence, the compassion and honesty that continually percolate to the surface as evidence of our new life in Spirit.

This would keep uniting and reuniting us with Church. The Church that will always be new and alive.

Response 2: Karl Sandberg

For many who consider themselves to be Christian, this term may mean simply the acceptance of a religious doctrine or creed based on a personal faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior.

What Jesus presented to Nicodemus, and what Mary Baker Eddy wrote on the subject of spiritual rebirth in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, goes far deeper than the basic acceptance, by faith, of a religious doctrine or creed. This idea of being born again, or of being new-born of Spirit, indicates that a demand is placed on all who embrace the teachings of Christ Jesus to live in accord with those teachings and practice them, not merely believe in them!

The Gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus indicate that Jesus taught not only that the kingdom of God is at hand, that is, present, here and now, but also if people want to experience this kingdom, their daily lives need to conform to his teachings. And the promise he gave them and us was that if we follow his teachings, we, too, will heal as he did (see John 14:12).

Mary Baker Eddy so caught the essence of this concept, that she advanced the spiritual meaning of church membership, moving it far beyond the mere acceptance of articles of faith or religious doctrines presented by a specific religious body. The real essence of uniting with church, she maintained, occurs only as we demonstrate our understanding of God, divine Truth, through healing or, to use her own words, “… as we reach the Life which is Truth and the Truth which is Life by bringing forth the fruits of Love, — casting out error and healing the sick” (see Science and Health, p. 35).

  1. Mrs. Eddy clearly had a very spiritual concept of church. It’s clear in her definition of church in the Christian Science textbook, where she wrote, “The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle.” She then goes on to describe what the model of a human institution should be like, bringing healing to the community and world.

    She must have been acutely aware of the fact that Jesus had no church. He didn’t start a denomination. He could have, so easily. But he didn’t. So what was church to him? He went around healing and told his current and future disciples or followers to do the same. Nicodemus was acknowledging his healing works and was apparently asking where he was getting this power and what one had to do to have it as well. To which Jesus replied that we need to be born again, born of the Spirit. It makes sense then that this is the true essence of church, to be born of the Spirit and to heal. I’ve found from my own experience that this is what it takes to heal, to be constantly spiritualizing thought.

    Mrs. Eddy makes clear in her writings and in many letters she wrote that without healing, church is basically meaningless. She once sent a message to someone who asked for her comments regarding their upcoming dedication of a new Christian Science church in Cleveland, Ohio. The message read, “One good case of healing by her (the person requesting the comments) would please God more than a new church; there needs to be practice more than preaching.”* At every turn it seems Mrs. Eddy celebrated healing rather than church building or congregations. Being new born of Spirit then seems to be the only way to accomplish true church inside or outside of a building, during a service or the rest of the week.

    *Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of humanity

  2. I gained a new appreciation for the idea of being "new-born of Spirit" several years ago. I was the youngest member of a small branch church. While the other members were wonderful and so kind to me, I found myself wishing there were more people closer to my age. When I prayed about it, the idea came that each one of us had united with church because we were new-born of spirit-- and that meant that none of us were young or old humans, we were fresh, inspired, childlike, pure divine ideas who were constantly renewed in our love for church and healing. The best thing was that from that point forward I noticed a shift-- we were open to different ideas, testimony meetings were active, and there was just a newness to our service. I still appreciate that idea that because we are members, we have united with church and must continually be new-born of spirit as a result of uniting with church.

  3. To me, being born again means to think and live more spiritually, openly and receptively rather than just carrying on blindly in the old limited ways.

    This new life has a new basis for thought and action. Rather than seeing ourselves as a random product of material evolution, it is better to think of ourselves as spiritual beings who have much more control over our life and experience than we may have previously thought.

    When considered as a purely academic concept, the idea that we are powerful spiritual beings can be difficult to grasp and to convey. But when we try to apply what we know... and then look at the results, then the nature of existence might be easier to understand. I guess you could call this process 'church'. And I think that this is why healing is so important.

    For me to experience the new-born state it is extremely helpful to have the conviction that Good is supreme. That God is Love. This is the foundation that gives me strength and provides the basis for my whole life.

    I think we also need to believe that what is thought and believed shapes (or even totally creates) our human experience.

    To some, being born again might make them totally deny the existence of matter. And in one way I have to agree that this is true. However we do seem to be having a material experience.... well at least I seem to be having one. But this material experience is a wonderful thing to work with. To me it is the laboratory of everyday living where I can apply my theories and ideas..... the place where I can experience God's 'will be[ing] done on earth as it is in heaven'.

    I am not an expert, although when I was a church-going teenager I might have considered myself to be one.... and possibly a tad superior to folks who weren't in my church. As I've progressed through my current experience, I have come to realize that I know very little. And even then I might be totally wrong! Perhaps this indicates that I am going through the new birth process.

    Despite uncertainties, I have proved to myself that when I have a certain feeling of well-being (maybe just generally or specifically about a subject), then I can expect to see good results in my daily experience. This state of feeling can be achieved by what we would call prayer. I have to add that my prayer nowadays differs from the prayer of my earlier days.

    I want to point out that although I am a member of the Mother Church, and a 'class-taught' student, my contributions to this website are as a member of public. My views may differ from the 'official version'.... in fact I can imagine my dear CS teacher trying to clarify certain points I've raised. So the reader should not judge Christian Science on the basis of what I've written. However I now feel that I am closer to being on my true path than I have ever been.

  4. nice post. thanks.

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