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"Thou Art a Gracious God, and Merciful"

By Nicolette Dumke

This is the story of the grace of God in the life of one man, my father and his family. My father became involved in Religious Science almost 40 years ago. Religious Science teaches many things, contrary to the Christian faith such as that man is a part of god, that there is no such thing as sin and therefor no need of a Savior, and that Jesus was only a good man and a great example of what all men can achieve.

My father’s initial reaction to my new faith in Jesus Christi as my Savior 19 years ago was, "Surely you can’t believe that you are sinful!" After overcoming his initial shock, his reaction changed to Religious Science’s toleration of all beliefs. All attempts to talk to him were quickly squelched with something like, "I’m so glad that you have a faith that works for you. I have a faith that works for me."

Cancer and the Scriptures

Four years ago my father was diagnosed as having prostrate cancer which had spread to his bones and was therefor not curable. For the first time, he allowed my sister and I to "get through" a complete presentation of the Gospel to him.

As we read verses to him he would quote them along with us, but add his own comments. "’I am the way the truth and the life’ – Yes, Jesus was the great wayshower." He knew the verses but had a completely different idea of what they meant than we did.

He asked what he could do that would reassure us about his spiritual condition and enable us to cope with his illness. We told him that he could receive Jesus as his Savior; he prayed with us to do so, but there was no sign of any change in his beliefs.

For about the next 4 1/2 months, my parents, my sisters, and I got together every Sunday afternoon to listen to Charles Swindol’s tapes on the Gospel of John. Some of the tapes made a little impression on our father. Others he liked, but it seemed like as the message went into his mind it was filtered or warped to fit a Religious Science mold.

Finally, we decided to have our own Bible studies rather than listening to the tapes. Our first (and last) was entitled, "Knowing God, Part 1: The Bible."

We discussed the uniqueness and inspiration of the Bible. We emphasized that Bible verses should be interpreted in context and that Scripture interprets itself.

As an example of studying Scripture in context, we studied John 10:22-33. In this passage Jesus claims Deity for Himself in an encounter with the Pharisees. We studied it in the context of many other verses from the Gospel of John about Christ’s Deity.

At one point my father said, "In other words, you are telling me that what I believe is wrong." He said he did not want religion to divide his family, and that was our last Bible study.

For the next three years, every night my father and mother read the daily reading for Science of Mind magazine, a Religious Science publication. My mother, who is Catholic, faithfully read the one partial Biblical verse at the beginning of the daily reading to my father in context. She read him the whole chapter in which the verse was found, or sometimes more than one verse.

My sister and I and all our Christian friends prayed for his salvation. Most of our few attempts to witness to him were brought to a quick end by his, "I’m glad you have a faith that works for you" routine.

I remember one conversation we had that was longer than a few seconds. I told him that if God is God and is in complete control of everything, then He determines how we come to Him; we do not decide how we want to come to Him, and that His way for us to come to Him is through Jesus Christ.

I also said that both he and I couldn’t be right; at least one of us had to be wrong in our beliefs. To that he replied, "I guess I’ll find out which of us is right soon."

About six months ago, my father made a videotape of himself talking to us which contained his "last requests." They included his wish that his church family and home family get together after he was gone. In response to that, we made a request of him - that he read Basic Christianity by J.R.W. Stott. He said that out of his love for us he would do it. We watched the bookmark progress through the book to the end. Finally, my sister asked him if he had finished reading it. His only response was that he had.

Help from an Ex-Member

Sometime last year, a friend of my sisters gave her a "Shield of Faith" newsletter.(1) It contained an article about the Mile High Church of Religious Science.(2) We both read it and then I stuck it in a notebook and forgot about it for several months.

Then late one night when I was agonizing about my father’s condition, I pulled it out and re-read it. The article said that the Mile High church has about 3000 members. It occurred to me that out of all those people possibly one had become a Christian and would be willing to talk to my father, and could possibly communicate with him better than we could.

I contacted Pat Knapp, the director of the ministry. He told us there was indeed such a person, Mary Malone; but she was in Israel for the summer.

When she came back we talked to her. Our father agreed to talk to her, again citing his love for us as the reason. She then went to my parents’ home and talked with my father for 2 1/2 hours.

She asked him things such as, "Why did God send Jesus into the world?" He replied, "So that we would know who He was and that we needed salvation. She also asked, "Why did He have to die?" He answered, "Because it wasn’t until he died that anyone realized who He was."

She asked, "What was the significance of His rising from the dead?" He answered, "So that we would know that we had eternal life." She asked, "If someone went to heaven and came back and told us how to get there, would you want to now the way?" He said, "Yes! What do I need to do to get there?"

She replied, "We need to enter into a personal relationship with Christ, accepting that Jesus has paid the price for our sin." They discussed sin, and he admitted that he had sinned. Then she prayed with him to receive Jesus as his Savior and Lord.

When I talked to him on the phone later that evening, he said things to me that I thought I’d never hear him say. Things like: Jesus is God" and "He died to save us from our sins."

In another conversation, he talked on and on about the grace of God and about heaven. He marveled that God took on human form in Christ. Listening to him reminded me of how amazing and great God’s grace really is.

Conclusion

In the last few weeks, my father’s physical condition has deteriorated rapidly. It is also difficult to watch our parents’ loving marriage of 45 years coming to an end. But now that we have that blessed hope of seeing our father in heaven We sorrow, but not "as others who have no hope" (1Thes 4:13).

Truly, "thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness" (KJV).

Note from Pat Knapp:
Shortly after the above article was written, the writer’s father went to be with the Savior whom sought him out and won him with His great love and grace. Thank God, from whom all mercies flow.

Books-A-Million has J.R.W. Stott's book Basic Christianity available. Also available is Stott's new book Christian Basics: A Handbook of Beginnings, Beliefs, and Behavior . These books are excellent resources to introduce people to the Christian faith and for new Christians to study.

Footnotes:
1) The Shield of Faith was a Denver-based, sister-ministry to Darkness to Light. It is no longer active; but some articles from its former newsletter, The Shield, are now posted on this Web site.
2) See An Analysis of Religious Science.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above article originally appeared in The Shield newsletter in 1990.
It was posted on this Web site in April 1997.

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