Although still a young man, Josh Niles has been in the business of serving others for years.
He has been involved with tutoring, coaching and teaching Sunday school and has served in the U.S. Army. Since 2008, Niles has been devoted to full-time Christian service, teaching others how to effectively pray for themselves and others.
Niles was the guest lecturer at an afternoon event sponsored by Fayetteville’s First Church of Christ, Scientist. The event was held at the Peachtree City Library on April 22.
His lecture topic was “The Law of Harmony and Christian Science Healing.”
A resident of Boise, Idaho, Niles and his wife lived in Georgia during part of the time he was in the military. While in Georgia, Niles participated in the Army Ranger training course.
“Ranger school is really a leadership school,” Niles said. “Instructors make it challenging. Participants get little sleep and little food. The first week is designed as a mental and physical test, and the experience is mentally and physically exhausting.”
Near the end of the first week of the Ranger training course, participants were told that a non-denominational church service would be held. Rumor had it that the service would include a communion service. The idea of having a little extra nourishment was enticing to the soldiers. Niles attended the service. In addition to grape juice, participants were given “a whole slice of Wonder bread,” he said.
Following the service, participants joined in singing “bluegrassy gospel” hymns, Niles said, many of which were unfamiliar to him. During the singing of one of the hymns, Niles said he felt “such a tangible sense of love.”
Niles explained, “I felt surrounded by the love of God. I wish I could describe how good it felt in that moment.” He said something in the hymn “swept away the curtains,” and he knew without a doubt that the divine love of God is available all the time.
After the Army, Niles began intensive study to become credentialed through Christian Science. He explained the term “Christian Science,” a term using two words that people often have difficulty reconciling.
The word “Christian” evokes something deeply spiritual, while “science” elicits a notion of something that studies the material, physical world.
“Christian Science is Christian,” Niles said. “We believe in one God, one Christ and the Holy Spirit. The one God can be thought of in a number of different ways: Life, love, spirit.
“The principle of all goodness is God. He is the great and only cause, the supreme cause. ‘Effect’ always follows ‘cause.’ Harmony is the outcome of the principle of all goodness,” Niles said.
“Christ is the highest expression of God’s spiritual nature, and Jesus best describes Christ’s nature,” Niles said. “Jesus Christ is the pure transparency of the love of God.”
Science is based on methodology and evidence. It focuses on what is provable, demonstrable, and repeatable.
“Jesus Christ’s healing ministry was scientific,” Niles said.
Niles related an incident involving Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. Eddy lived in the 19th and early 20th century. During the mid-1860s, Eddy began to understand that there was a fixed principle of divine healing, one that had consistency and was repeatable. Noticing the healing that resulted when Eddy was consulted for prayer, people began calling on her.
The family of a woman who was dying of pneumonia called on four physicians in succession to treat her. One by one, the doctors informed the family that they had exhausted all that they could do to treat the ill woman and that her death was inevitable.
A family friend who had heard of Eddy brought her into the ill woman’s home before the last doctor, a Dr. Davis had left.
Eddy went upstairs into the woman’s room where she prayed. The woman was immediately healed. Family members alerted Davis who was astonished to find the patient well. Davis asked Eddy how she was able to heal the woman.
“Mary Baker Eddy gave all the credit to God. Dr. Davis implored Eddy to figure it out, write it down, and get it published to show the world,” Niles said.
Eddy went home and, as she was accustomed to doing, sat down to read her Bible. The scripture she turned to was Jeremiah 30:2: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you.’”
Eddy published “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” in 1872, a textbook to accompany the Bible.
“Many deeply skeptical people have read the book for the purpose of proving Mary Baker Eddy wrong,” Niles said.
Reading the book caused these skeptics to experience a shift in their thoughts, and many experienced actual physical healing, he said.
“The physical is a limited and limiting way of thinking about yourself. Ultimately what makes me me is character. Behind character are qualities, which are actually spiritual,” he said.
The Bible teaches that God is spirit, and man is made in the image and likeness of God.
“The outcome of infinite spirit has to be spiritual,” he said. “There is no mixing of matter and spirit. Matter and spirit are opposites. Thinking that we are a mixture of matter and spirit is a misconception of who and what we are,” he said.
“As thought moves, the body will follow. As your thoughts are moving spirit-ward, the body has no choice but to follow it, the most natural outcome of spiritualization of thought,” Niles said.
Niles said that Christian Science is not, however, equivalent to optimism.
“A positive outlook is locked in the physical. In the gospel of John, Jesus refers to evil as a liar with no truth in it,” he said.
No truth implies no foundation in reality which implies evil. Evil results in inharmony and discord, he said.
“Mentally insist that harmony is fact,” Niles said, “and that sickness is a temporal dream.”