From “And Jesus Wept,” by Pastor K. David Oldfield
Children have special tools for coping with the problems of their surprisingly complex worlds. For example, a child lacking the ability to make friends easily may become a show-off or a bully in order to compensate. Another with the same problem may take a different route and create imaginary friends or live in a dream world. Another example are children with vision problems, convincing themselves that everyone sees the same way that they do. Little ones have all kinds of tricks that they use.
Perhaps the average child’s favorite problem-solving technique can be called simply “denial.” How many childhood toothaches have disappeared at the mention of the dentist? Why is it that healing is sometimes instantaneous when some enjoyable diversion is planned?
Often these childish troubleshooting methods creep into the world of adults. But there they quickly stop being cute. Have you ever seen the foolish man drowning his problems in a liquor bottle or in drugs? It’s not a pretty sight!
A man’s perennial, troublesome pain, often gets the same treatment as a child’s – denial. Some people deny pain’s origination, others its operation and yet others deny its culmination, but it is all still basically the same old childish denial.
Some Deny Pain’s Existence
When people reject obvious truths anything can happen. Perhaps we don’t like the idea that 2+2 = 4. The reason really doesn’t matter. It may be a math teacher that we don’t like: “I refuse to believe her!” Perhaps we feel that the equation is too antiquated for the modern world. Whatever! Once we have decided that 2+2 doesn’t equal 4, then whatever sum it might be becomes subject to our personal fancy. I may like the number “7,” but you may decide that “8” is more symmetrical, prettier, and more appropriate. “22” is an obvious choice to some people. But making the laws of mathematics subject to our particular whims means disaster.
Nowhere are the dangers of subjectivity more obvious than in the worship and service of Jehovah, just as Israel discovered with their calves of gold, false priests, fake sacrifices and high places. The same exists today. For example there are millions of people who deny the existence of Hell “It’s a painful thought, so let’s pretend that it isn’t there.” “We can even write a new Bible, if necessary, to help us maintain our unbelief.”
What if a person arbitrarily decided that forgiveness of sin is dependent upon eating four barbecued potato chips for breakfast? God’s Word, the final authority, says that person will leave this world under the condemnation of his sin (Jn. 3:18, 36). He is lost and bound for Hell.
Someone might even decide that forgiveness is unnecessary because sin is only a state of mind. If this is his opinion, again, he will find himself in an eternal Hell, because God’s opinion of sin is different from man’s, and His is the only one that matters.
In every area of spiritual truth, our ideas count little unless we are willing to agree with the authority, God’s Word, and this includes the areas of sin and suffering. Denial simply doesn’t get the job done.
Some Deny Pain’s Operation
Amazing as it seems there are many who refuse to believe that pain is real. Yes, and many of these people suffer greatly.
“What is termed disease does not exist. It is neither mind nor matter. The belief of sin, which has grown terrible in strength and influence, is an unconscious error in the beginning…Mortal existence is a dream of pain and pleasure in matter, a dream of sin, sickness, and death; and it is like the dream we have in sleep, in which every one recognizes his condition to be wholly a state of mind. In both the waking and the sleeping dream, the dreamer thinks that his body is material and the suffering is in that body….Sickness is a growth of error, springing from mortal ignorance or fear” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health, with a Key to the Scriptures, pg. 188).
“You say a boil is painful; but that is impossible, for matter without mind is not painful. The boil simply manifests, through inflammation and swelling, a belief in pain, and this belief is called a boil” (Mary Baker Eddy,Science and Health, with a Key to the Scriptures, pg. 153).
This “Christian Science” was “discovered” in 1866 by Mary Baker Eddy, and despite wanting to work through organized religion, she started her own church in 1879.
To her, evil and sin are misconceptions of ignorant minds, so, along with them, we should deny all forms of pain and even death. “What appears to the sense to be death is but a mortal illusion, for the real man and real universe there is no death-process.” “Death. -An illusion, the lie of life in matter; the unreal and untrue” (pp. 289, 584).
All of this is well and good – for children, but these mind games don’t remove the fact that pain is real, and it hurts.
Dr. Audrey McMaster, at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Convention in 1974, presented a pointed limerick on just this subject:
“There was a young lady from Deal
Who said, Although pain isn’t real,
When I sit on a pin
And it punctures my skin
I dislike what I fancy I feel.”
The place to begin in the study of pain is the confession that it’s very, very real.
Despite Mrs. Eddy’s denial of pain and death, on December 2, 1910 at the age of eighty-nine, she died and faced the eternal Judge, despite her teaching that “God is All, God is Life, and therefore Sickness and Death are non-existent.” If she had only admitted her pain, and its source in sin, she might have eventually learned of the suffering, dying Redeemer.
While some deny the specifications of pain, millions of others…
Some Deny Pain’s Origination
“Who did sin” the disciples asked the Saviour, “this man or his parents” (Jn. 9:2). Centuries before this question was asked, Hindus and Buddhists were asking their own question: “When did he sin, in this life, the last life or another prior life? Certainly in some past time he brought this upon himself!”
For many people in Eastern religions and their New Age Western clones, “this life’s” problems are the extensions of “other lives and other lifetimes.”
Siddhartha Gautama (563?-483? B.C.) Is considered by some to be the founder of Buddhism. His desire was simply to answer the questions of sickness, old age, pain and death (dukkha), and he basically decided that suffering depends on one’s birth, and one’s birth depends on his previous lives. “Why do the wicked prosper?” Because they weren’t wicked in their last life. “Why do the righteous suffer?” Because previously they caused suffering in others.
This is the doctrine of “karma”, an unbroken chain of cause and effect in which every action produces an equal and opposite reaction, either in this life, the last life, or the next life. The only way to break through what could be a long line of successive lives, and to end one’s “dukkha” is to make everything in the current life “right:” right thoughts, right speech, right actions, right meditation, etc. What this boils down to is the reaching of god-consciousness. If a person can get every part of his life in perfect order, eventually he will reach Nirvana and the end of reincarnation.
There are currently about a billion people within the confines of Buddhism’s and Hinduism’s reincarnation thinking, and the numbers are growing by leaps and bounds upon this continent through various segments of the “New Age Movement.”
All of this is a convenient explanation of things, but it denies certain facts: mainly, there isn’t even a shred of evidence that reincarnation is true. Morris Netherton and Nancy Shiffrin wrote a psychology book called “Past Lives Therapy.” These two “scientists” believe in reincarnation, not as occultists or followers of Eastern Gurus, but through the “intellectualism” of New Age Psychology. They believe in it themselves and get people to pay them money to treat emotional problems and pains through dealing with their “prior lives.” Suppose, for example, a person has a morbid fear of heights. When he finds that his appointment on the 24th floor of the City Tower, is by an outside window, his heart begins to race, his blood pressure rises, and another acute headache tears apart his thinking process. Coming to these “Past Lives Therapists” the problem is solved. The patient, perhaps, is made to realize that a terrible accident took place during a past incarnation, something like death through falling and dashing his brains out on some pavement or rocks. With time the counselor can bring the patient to grips with that prior-life tragedy and free him from his current pain.
It’s interesting that in their introduction, Netherton says, “Past Lives Therapy treats reincarnation as a proven fact; it is, of course, nothing of the kind. I doubt very seriously whether reincarnation can ever be proven, and I really have no interest in proving it….Past Lives Therapy does not depend on the ‘truth’ in order to work toward curing the patient’s behavioral problem” (Morris Netherton, Past Lives Therapy, Pg. 16).
Isn’t this the use of child-like imagination to hide from reality?
Unlike these writers, some people do attempt to “prove” their theory of reincarnation. Some use arguments gained through hypnosis, for example. Under this mind-manipulation, people have described where they used to live, and when they lived there, sometimes centuries ago. They talk about being a part of other races, the other sex and so on. They can even be made to talk about their lives as various kinds of animals or pre-historic creatures.
One difficulty in these revelations is that these same people can also describe future lives as well; whatever the hypnotist wants. The fact is that much of what is said under hypnosis can be suggested by the administrator. For this reason more and more courts are not accepting evidence in trials gleaned through the use of hypnosis.
Of course, the primary problem with reincarnation is the fact that the Bible denies every suggestion of it. Reincarnation is in no way related to the Bible doctrine of resurrection, a part of the hope of the saint.
“For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again…” (II Sam. 14:14).
A third kind of denial and perversion of pain is in the area of its finality.
Some Deny Pain’s Culmination
There are “Christians” getting rich these days through preaching a “prosperity” gospel of perfect health and fabulous wealth, right here upon this present earth. They hold that Jesus’ death on Calvary was for the purpose of crucifying death, pain, poverty and misery of every kind. They teach us that if we send offerings to these preachers, buy their books and self-improvement tapes, and bow at their shrines, soon, our pain will vanish. Their message is essentially, “Forget about Heaven, now is the time.”
That really would be nice-if it were true.
The reality is that this is not Scriptural. Paul left friends sick on several occasions (II Tim. 4:20, etc.), and he himself suffered considerably. If Paul could not rid the world, or even his own body, of pain then certainly no one else will either.
But, this is one of the glories of Heaven. One day the Lord will wipe away all tears (Rev. 7:17; 21:4). One day our last enemy, death, shall be destroyed (I Cor. 15:26). But these things are not for now or for this world.
Don’t be an ostrich with your head in the sand. Pain is real! Where some people have their heads buried they will find neither truth nor gold. Ah, these things are ore mined from the pages of God’s Word.