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Tackle the Big Question: What Is God?

Craig L. Ghislin, C.S., Glen Ellyn (Bartlett), IL
Posted Monday, June 29th, 2009

Tackle the Big Question: "What Is God?"
Metaphysical Application ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson: "God" for June 29-July 5, 2009
by Craig L. Ghislin, C.S., of Glen Ellyn, Illinois


Editor's Note: The following application ideas for this week and the Possible Sunday School Topics that follow are offered primarily to help CEDARS campers and staff (as well as friends) see and demonstrate the great value of daily study and application of the Christian Science Bible lessons year-round, not just at camp! You can sign up to have them emailed to you free -- in English by Monday each week, or by each Wednesday you can get a FREE TRANSLATION in French from Pascal or in Spanish from Ana. JUST SIGN UP at www.cedarscamps.org/newsletters

What is God? Mankind has been asking this same deep question for centuries. Mary Baker Eddy is said to have started her classes with it. How one responds to this age-old query depends somewhat upon one's personal experience. It would be safe to say that those who feel they have experienced some measure of direct evidence of God in their lives are more apt to have a clearer understanding of God.
To know and understand a man one usually studies his history and accomplishments. We might ask, "What choices has he made? Who were his associates? What has he done?" Historically, the Jews defined and defended their concept of God in much the same way. The Jews measured their God by His proven ability to get things done. The Golden Text is a segment of such an accounting. Compared to other gods worshiped at the time, the God of Israel accomplished wondrous things.

The Responsive Reading is another review of the many great things God had done for His people. The Abingdon Bible Commentary calls it "a review of God's victories across the centuries with a consequent hope of his ultimate and complete triumph." The Jews regularly went over their history to bolster their confidence and trust in God. How has God been active in your life? Think deeply about it. Don't be satisfied with a quick, short answer. Take your time and really consider the evidence of God in your experience. How would you answer the question, "What is God?"

Section 1: God Is Mind
The seven sections in this week's Lesson follow the order of the seven synonymous terms used by Mrs. Eddy for God. Usually, when we consider the meaning of "mind" we think in terms of thought and intellectual capacity. In the Student's Reference Dictionary the "intellectual" definition of mind is pretty far down the list. The first four definitions include: "1. Intention; purpose; design. 2. Inclination; will; desire.... 3. Opinion. 4. Memory." Thinking of mind in terms of intention, purpose, and design, we can see that Mind is a good place to start.

What is God's purpose in creating us? Why are we here? The Scriptures place God as "head above all" (B-1) and therefore as the initiator of all that has ever been done. The Old Testament prophets marvel at the magnificence of God's creative power (B-2). Who could have done such a thing and why? There is no searching of His understanding. There is nothing equal to the Creator of all things. His thoughts-His Mind or intentions- are very deep and profound (B-3). The New Testament writers were equally amazed at God's wisdom (B-4). "Paul realizes he is in a realm beyond human logic" (The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible). Wondering how and why man and the universe exist is part of our nature. Understanding God may be well beyond human reasoning, but spiritual understanding allows us to "touch the fringes of eternity" (Christian Science Hymnal # 64).

The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science asked a lot of questions too. She devoted her life to finding some practical answers. She did not shy away from the big question, "What is God?" Some might feel that no human has the right to even attempt an answer. But as the children of Israel knew God through experience, so did Mrs. Eddy. Through her study of the scriptures she found seven synonyms which help us to define God (S-1). She concluded that "God is His own infinite Mind, and expresses all" (S-2). This has profound implications. Being infinite, Mind can never enter the finite. The intelligent, good, unlimited, eternal, and immortal do not enter the limited, evil, temporal and mortal (S-3). Perhaps the most startling implication of using the term Mind for God is that since there is only one God, there can be only one Mind or Ego. That's not at all what it looks like to human sense, but recognizing only one creative Mind changes everything. Mrs. Eddy acknowledges that human language can't adequately convey the fullness of God's creation (S-4). What remains is the necessity of relying on the one Mind to reveal itself to us. Take some time to think about God as the only Mind. How does it affect your view of the world? The activities you do? The way you view your purpose? The way you pray?

For CedarS campers: How does God as the only Mind affect your relationships with each other, with the horses, or even with the insects and other wildlife around camp? Can anything be harmful if one Mind has created everything from the infinitesimal to the infinite?

Section 2: God Is Spirit
As a subheading Abingdon calls Psalm 139 (B-6) "The Psalm of the Unavoidable God." No matter where one goes, no matter how far from home, no matter what time of day or night, on high ropes or low ropes, in a cave or in a canoe, "the universe from top to bottom and from side to side is filled with the presence of God and is under his control" (Interpreter's). While it's tempting to think of God as being wherever we go, it's more accurate to understand that everything is in God. The human eye and ear cannot comprehend it, but God's ever-presence is revealed by infinite Spirit (B-7). It was also through "the Spirit" that John was able to have his revelation of the new heaven and earth (B-8).

Consider how Science and Health uses the word "all" in this section. God is "all-inclusive...reflected by all that is real...fills all space....Hence all is Spirit and spiritual" (S-6). "Spirit, God, has created all in and of Himself...Spirit is more than all else" (S-8). Other words referring to Spirit are one, only, indivisible, infinite, and so on. Nothing but Spirit could be described in this way. We can't conceive of a finite or limited being as adequate to these descriptions. We can conceive of God as pervading every element of existence only as Spirit. As such, God is truly unavoidable.

What does this mean for you? Can you ever be outside of God's care? Can you ever be separate from goodness? Is there ever an instant when you could be alone? Not with God as Spirit!

Section 3: God Is Soul
Of all the seven synonyms used for God, perhaps Soul is the one most people have difficulty understanding. Traditional human reasoning has consigned the word soul to mean an indwelling, individual spirit within a mortal body. Pagan belief has also implied that God or Soul is encased within nature. Some biblical passages may make it look that way. Citation B-9 takes a higher view by connecting Soul as a creative aspect of God. Citations B-10 and B-11 hint at the abundance of Soul and the artistic and beautiful things of nature as having their source in Soul. Soul's creativity is infinite in variety and marvelous in every way.

Our textbook underscores that Soul, like Spirit is properly a name for God. "There is no finite soul nor spirit" (S-9). Mortal belief tries to put Soul into matter, but it can't be done. To comprehend Soul, our material views need to be overhauled completely. The entire framework of soul housed by matter or God housed within nature needs to be cast out (S-11). Our Leader tells us that the belief of man as a finite soul within a material body forms the chains that bind us (S-12). We don't live in body: We live in Soul. And Soul has infinite resources with which to bless us (S-13). We can enjoy all the wonders of life and rejoice in the abundance of Soul. All artistic and creative talent finds its source in Soul.

CedarS campers: think about how you can feel the abundant joy and beauty of nature. There are no limitations to our complete freedom in every activity. We can reflect creativity in crafts and discover more of our individuality through learning more about Soul. We don't live in a body subject to the whims of weather. We can't be afraid or annoyed by any creature great or small. We live in Soul and everything Soul has made is good and can only bless us.

Section 4: God Is Principle
The Lord is "the rock of our salvation" (B-12). This rock symbolizes the immovable, unchangeable nature of God-a firm foundation on which to build. All creation owes its existence to God and God's law governs with absolute authority. Jesus' healing ministry was based on this divine Principle. He did not allow human, man-made rules and regulations to stand in the way of healing. When the religious establishment tried to catch him breaking the Sabbath, he took it right back to them and healed the withered hand (B-14). Unlike the sun rising and setting and the moon waxing and waning, God's good gifts are a constant (B-15).

Mrs. Eddy saw God as unchanging Principle. She understood fixed rules of healing to be found within this Principle (S-14). To beg and plead to God to heal us, as if He were a super-human who healed according to his whim, would limit our faith (S-15, S-16). How could anyone feel comfortable praying to a god who may or may not answer prayer? With such a personal and wavering concept of God, who wouldn't be tempted to turn to other methods for healing? Jesus promised that healing would follow when grounded in a spiritual understanding of God as Principle not as person (S-17). At camp we love to sing "The Rock Song" whose words are from Psalm 18 verses 3 and 46. Our expectation of healing comes from understanding God as Principle, the solid rock and foundation of our faith, "the same yesterday, and today, and forever."

Section 5: God Is Life
If we look a bit past the markers to the whole of Psalm 42 (B-16), we will see that the author is desperately searching for a deeper understanding of life. He is overwhelmed by sounds of the underworld rushing upon him to "carry him down to the realm of death" (Interpreter's). He begins by comparing himself to "a thirst-crazed deer frantically searching the desert for a stream of water. With the same intensity as the animal seeks the living water the psalmist seeks the living God, from whom life and hope come" (Ibid.). Although we don't see the raising of Lazarus (B-17) from his point of view, he could well have been in a similar state of thought. There may be a time when we feel like we've hit a wall. It's just us and God and the cold, dark night. While for some it may well be a choice between continuing to fight for life and giving up, for others it could be just reaching a point where you feel you can't possibly go further. But irrespective of the circumstance, our God who is our only Life is present to save us.

Mrs. Eddy writes that God is infinite Life and "death has no dominion" (S-18). Our true being is in God not in a finite material form. All of the darkness, doubt, and gloom though seeming very real, are powerless to harm us because man is immortal (S-19). Sin, sickness, and death do not come from God. We are under no obligation to give in to any of them. In fact, we have a "moral right to annul" them (S-20). Jesus didn't see things from a material point of view. He saw what God saw. He knew man never dies. This spiritual view provided the power to reverse the belief of death (S-21). The belief of death is a belief of an inevitable end. There is no end to goodness, no end to life. If you feel you've hit a wall-whether facing an illness, a troubled relationship, employment, scholastic requirements, or even a challenging activity at camp, remember that "the true way leads to Life instead of death" and ultimately to the appreciation of your God-given "dominion over all the earth" (S-22).

Section 6: God Is Truth
As alluded to earlier, God wouldn't be much of a god if we couldn't count on Him/Her with absolute confidence. We find in this section another reference to God as "the Rock" (B-18) which symbolizes God's "absolute and unwavering faithfulness" (Dummelow). We can always count on something true and God is Truth itself. Interpreter's notes that this name for God indicates "his consistency to his own nature, a quality which guarantees that none of his actions will be arbitrary or inconsistent with his declared will." The freedom Jesus speaks of (B-20) is not based on human precedent, law, or opinion, but on divine authority.

We all know what it's like when we finally understand something. All the bits and pieces finally come together and we see what's going on. In the same way, when the Truth is focused in consciousness, it cuts through millennia of human-based theory (S-24). Mrs. Eddy writes that it is essential to understand instead of believe. We can only find reliable information when we look in the right place. What we understand we are able to demonstrate (S-25). When we understand we are no longer bound by false fears, confusion, or doubt. We are free to see things as they are. Fear is often based on a false perception of things. At camp we make a distinction between actual risk and perceived risk. While doing the high-ropes course it may look and feel like a fairly risky endeavor. But, safety is paramount, and when all the directions are followed there is no actual risk. This knowledge frees us to do things we would never do otherwise. In our human experience it may look at times like we are in danger. To human sense the danger might be perceived or actual, but leaning on the Rock-the Truth-we can find the freedom to meet all challenges with full confidence that we are safe in God.

Section 7: God Is Love
At last we come to Love. Is there anything better than knowing the Creator¬-the Ruler of all that exists is Love itself? Jethro's response to Moses' account of deliverance from Pharaoh (B-22) is based on indisputable evidence of God's loving care for His people. It establishes the unsurpassed greatness of God. It is reasonable to expect God's great love for us to be reciprocated. Jesus confirmed that the great commandment was love for God. Additionally, Jesus linked love for God with love for mankind (B-23). Abingdon mentions that this was a pivotal point of the new religion. For the Christian, love for God is measured by one's love for man (B-24).

Christian Science teaches that divine Love is infinite and all that exists manifests His love (S-28). Understanding God as Love makes it impossible to conceive of God in any limited human sense (S-29). As Love's expression we can't help but care for one another. God is the source of all good things and in turn everything real expresses Him. While a spiritual understanding of the first six synonyms does much to help us see ourselves and creation in a higher light, the understanding of Love can only be proved by how we deal with others. If we understand God as Love, we must show it in our lives. This year's theme at CedarS is to "Contribute to a positive climate change-the ‘atmosphere of Love divine.'" I think we can all agree that our world could use some atmospheric reconditioning. So let's all join in bringing a little more love to our homes, churches, neighborhoods, and workplaces. Since a little bit of leaven leavens the whole lump, the love we express in everything we do will help to bring a climate change of thought to the whole world.

We can't fully answer the question, "What is God?" in a sentence, or in a Bible Lesson. But we can use Mrs. Eddy's response to the question and this week's Lesson to get off to a good start. Working and praying each day we will gain a clearer view of these seven synonyms and find amazing ways to put them to practice throughout our day.

This weekly Metaphysical Newsletter is provided at no charge to the 1,200 campers and staff we hope to bless again this summer at CEDARS--as well as to CEDARS alumni, families and friends who request it, or find it on our website. But, current and planned gifts are much-needed to help cover the costs of running this service and of providing camperships.

CLICK HERE RIGHT AWAY TO SUPPORT CEDARS WORK ONLINE!
We are thrilled and extremely grateful that some large, hoped-for FOUNDATION GRANTS came through on top of several small and large individual gifts, so that we have enough campership contributions to guarantee that any Christian Science Sunday School student who wants to come to CedarS this summer can do so. Please encourage all the C.S. Sunday School students you know to attend a camp for Christian Scientists this summer! To also help cover transportation costs to get these dear ones to camp, your donations of transportation funds or of earned airline tickets or frequent flyer miles would be VERY helpful.

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Camp Director's Note: This sharing is the latest in an ongoing, 8-year series of CedarS Bible Lesson "mets" (metaphysical application ideas) contributed weekly by a rotation of CedarS Resident Practitioners and occasionally by other metaphysicians. (To keep the flow of the practitioner's ideas intact and to allow for more selective printing the "Possible Sunday School Topics" come in a subsequent email.) This weekly offering is intended to encourage further study and application of ideas in the lesson and to invigorate Sunday School participation by students and by the budding teachers on our staff. Originally sent JUST to my Sunday School students and to campers, staff and CedarS families who wanted to continue at home and in their home Sunday Schools the same type of focused Lesson study, application and inspiration they had felt at camp, CedarS lesson "mets" are in no way meant to be definitive or conclusive or in any way a substitute for daily study of the lesson. The thoughts presented are the inspiration of the moment and are offered to give a bit more dimension and background as well as new angles on the daily applicability of some of the ideas and passages being studied. The weekly Bible Lessons are copyrighted by the Christian Science Publishing Society and are printed in the Christian Science Quarterly as available at Christian Science Reading Rooms or online at eBibleLesson,com or myBibleLesson.com. The citations referenced (i.e. B-1 and S-28) from this week's Bible Lesson in the "met" (metaphysical application ideas) are taken from the Bible (B-1 thru B-24) and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. (S-1 thru S-30) The Bible and Science and Health are the ordained pastor of the Churches of Christ, Scientist. The Bible Lesson is the sermon read in Christian Science church services throughout the world. The Lesson-Sermon speaks individually through the Christ to everyone, providing unique insights and tailor-made applications for each one. We are glad you requested this metaphysical sharing and hope that you find some of the ideas helpful in your daily spiritual journey, in your deeper digging in the books and in closer bonding with your Comforter and Pastor.
Enjoy!
Warren Huff, Camp Director director@cedarscamps.org (636) 394-6162

Possible Sunday School Topics by Merrill Boudreaux
for the July 5, 2009 Christian Science Bible Lesson: "God"

P.S.S.T. - Golden Text - Mary Baker Eddy opened her classes with the question recorded as the first question in the chapter Recapitulation in Science and Health, "What is God?" Have the students read that question and its answer.

P.S.S.T. - Responsive Reading - Have students list other terms for God beyond those seven prominent synonyms found above. Seek to have words that help broaden their concept of God to understand the nature of God, as one from whom all blessings flow and to whom we should offer significant praise. If you have the lesson-sermon printout from MyBibleLesson, you can find on the last page a large list of synonyms from which to draw.

P.S.S.T. - Section 1 -
One of the seven prominent synonyms for God is Mind.
Ask students how God, Mind, expresses intelligence as recorded in this section. List five intelligent acts God performed as recorded in the Bible portion of this section.

P.S.S.T. - Section 2 -
One of the seven prominent synonyms for God is Spirit.
What does the spirit of God reveal in B-7?
Here are some key words to define in this section: alpha, omega, omnipresent. Where can we see these references to God in this section? See B-8 and S-5. What has God prepared for us? What does it mean to be "in the Spirit"? How might one act or what must one do when "in the Spirit"? Is there another prominent Bible figure who was also "in the Spirit"? See Rev. 1:10. What did John do as a result? See Rev. 1:11.

P.S.S.T. - Section 3 -
One of the seven prominent synonyms for God is Soul.
What are some qualities of Soul that students may have seen or is in evidence in the class right now? Think of beauty, light, grace, color, art, dance, harmonious sounds, music, synchronous activities, order.

P.S.S.T. - Section 4 -
One of the prominent synonyms for God is Principle.
What kind of rules has God, Principle, put in place to help bring order to our lives? Are these rules based on restrictions or on love and care for that which God has created? What are signs that indicate that one is a follower of Christ Jesus? See S-17. Tell the story of the man with the withered hand in B-14. Have students share how the law of God, Principle, healed them, or someone they know.

P.S.S.T. - Section 5 -
One of the prominent synonyms for God is Life.
Who did Jesus restore to life in B-17? Is there a reason he waited four days? Does time have anything to do with healing, restoration, or how long life lasts? How long does life last? Why? How long should one expect to live? Do you know of any Bible characters who lived for a long time? See Genesis 5 for the listing of the generations of Adam. That is quite a list.

P.S.S.T. - Section 6 -
One of the prominent synonyms for God is Truth
Ask students to make a short list of things they know to be absolutely true. How does each one make us free? For example: Gravity as a law on the earth, allows us to move around freely without floating off into space; sunrise and sunsets...: being created in God's image and likeness....; the love I have for my puppy allows me to receive that love back and to demonstrate care for another, responsibility for his upkeep, and to practice selfless giving.

P.S.S.T. - Section 7 -
One of the seven prominent synonyms is Love.
Since God is Love, what is the requirement for us? In fact Jesus gave us a new commandment. See John 13:34 or John 15:12 or 1John 3:11 or
1John 4:7. What is our guidance in S-30 about what we should do? What was the reason Mary Baker Eddy established the church? See Church Manual 17:8. What do you know of how the primitive Christians helped/loved one another? See the Book of Acts for random acts of kindness in support of each other. What can our class do to express Love for someone else? Sounds like a good opportunity for selfless giving.

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