The answer to the above question is that it is really neither one! Christian Science cannot rightly be regarded as either having a Christian theistic worldview or as a form of naturalistic science. Below is a brief overview of the history, and a point by point explanations of the beliefs, of Christian Science (using Mrs. Eddy’s own words). We will then compare and contrast Christian Science beliefs to the doctrines of historic biblical Christianity.
The official name of Christian Science is the Church of Christ, Scientist (CCS). It was founded in 1879 in Boston, Massachusetts by Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) and is still headquartered at the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston. There are no official statistics of membership or number of churches. It is estimated to have 900 congregations in the United States and about 1,000 worldwide with about 85,000 members. These numbers are far lower than those reported even as late as a decade ago.
There are a number of ministries and corporations associated with Christian Science. They include WQTV, Boston, Mass., Monitor Radio, The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Journal, The Christian Science Sentinel, The Herald of Christian Science, and The Christian Science Quarterly.
According to the CCS, Mary Ann Morse Baker, as a young person, was frail and suffered many illnesses. In 1844, her first husband, George Glover, died of yellow fever leaving her poor and with an infant son whom she gave up to foster care. In 1853, she married Daniel Patterson. She divorced him in 1873. While living in New Hampshire in 1866, she claimed to have discovered the secret of “Divine Science” after being healed miraculously from a crippling fall. She began teaching her healing techniques and spiritual philosophy to interested students. In 1875, she moved to Lynn, Massachusetts, founded the Christian Science Association, and published her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (S&H).
In 1877, she married Asa Albert Eddy (d. 1882) and together they formally established the CCS. In 1890, Mrs. Eddy established “The Mother Church,” The First Church of Christ, Scientist, of Boston, Massachusetts. Mrs. Eddy died in 1910 and authority now rests in the CCS Board of Directors.
Authority: The Bible and Mrs. Eddy
Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy maintained that “as adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life” (S&H, p. 497). Nonetheless, Christian Science interprets the Bible in light of Mrs. Eddy’s writings, particularly her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, in which she interprets it according to her metaphysical presuppositions. Also, Mrs. Eddy seemed to question the textual reliability of the Bible blaming… “the manifest mistakes in the ancient versions . . . these facts show how a mortal and material sense stole into the divine record, with its own hue darkening to some extent the inspired pages” (S&H, p. 139).
Christian Response: The Bible is the only source of divinely inspired Scripture. No single person or church can claim an infallible interpretation. Mrs. Eddy’s metaphysical approach fails to adhere to sound principles of biblical interpretation (see 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21). She ascribes arbitrary spiritual meanings to common biblical terms. For example “Jerusalem” is defined as “Mortal belief and knowledge obtained from the five corporeal senses” (S&H, p. 589). She defines “Holy Ghost” as “Divine Science; the development of eternal Life, Truth, and Love” (S&H, p. 588). Those are totally invalid definitions of those common biblical terms. Mrs. Eddy made many other similarly wild interpretations of Bible texts in her books.
God is Mind, Truth, Love, etc.
“God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love” (S&H, p. 465). These are synonymous terms that “refer to one absolute God. They are also intended to express the nature, essence, and wholeness of Deity. The attributes of God are justice, mercy, wisdom, goodness, and so on” (S&H, p. 465).
The Trinity is redefined as life, truth, and love. “The theory of three persons in one God (that is, a personal Trinity or Tri-unity) suggests polytheism, rather than the one ever-present I AM” (S&H, p. 256).
Christian Response: There is only one true God (see Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10; 44:6-8) who exists eternally in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (see Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14). The CCS use of impersonal synonyms for God diminishes His personal nature as revealed in the Bible. The Bible says “God is love” (1 John 4:8), not “love is God.”
Jesus: Discoverer of the Christ-Ideal
There is an essential difference between Jesus the man and the “Christ Principle” which came upon Him as He comprehended it. “We acknowledge Jesus’ atonement as the evidence of divine, efficacious Love, unfolding man’s unity with God through Christ Jesus the Way-shower” (S&H, p. 497).
Christian Response: There is no distinction that can be made between Jesus the man and Christ, His divine office (Messiah). He did not receive his Messiahship, but rather claimed that title from eternity past (see Isa. 9:6; Matt. 1:16-18; 2:4; Luke 2:11). Jesus died on the cross as the atonement for humanity’s sin and rose again physically to claim God’s victory over death (see Luke 24:36-43; John 2:18-22; 1 Cor. 15:1-8).
“Spirit” Is Real; “Matter” Is Not
Since God’s essential essence is spirit or mind, and only that which reflects His nature is real, then matter does not really exist. “Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal” (S&H, p. 468).
Christian Response: Indeed, God is Spirit (see John 4:24). That does not mean that everything that is not spirit is not real or evil. The Christian Science perspective is more characteristic of Far Eastern Thought than Christian Theism. God is Creator of all that exists, including the material universe (see Gen. 1:1; Col. 1:16; Heb. 11:3). God declared the entirety of the created order “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Jesus was God incarnated in a material body (see John 1:14; Col. 2:9) and was resurrected physically (see Luke 24:36-39; John 20:26; 1 Cor. 15:1-8).
People Are Divine Spirits
Since matter does not exist and humanity reflects God’s nature, then humanity is not really made of matter. “Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual” (S&H, p. 468).
Christian Response: Humanity has both a spiritual and physical dimension (see Gen. 1:26-27). God created humanity as living souls (see Gen. 2:7). Our future resurrection will be both spiritual and physical (see 1 Cor. 15).
The Problem: Humanity’s Illusions
Since only those ideas that reflect God’s nature actually are real, then sin, death, disease, and pain are not real, but only illusions. “The only reality of sin, sickness, or death is the awful fact that unrealities seem real to human, erring belief . . . They are not true, because they are not of God” (S&H, p. 472). “The cause of all so-called disease is mental, a mortal fear, a mistaken belief or conviction of the necessity and power of ill-health” (S&H, p. 377).
Christian Response: Sin is a reality and all people (except Christ) are sinners by nature (see Rom. 3:23). It is a result of humanity’s willful disobedience to God and His will. Sin alienates people from God and produces suffering, disease, and death (see Gen. 3; Rom. 5:12-23).
Since matter, sin, disease, and death are illusions and unreal, then people are not subject to them. “Through immortal Mind, or Truth, we can destroy all ills which proceed from mortal mind” (S&H, p. 374). Thus when people fully realize this principle, disease should disappear. “When one’s false belief is corrected, Truth sends a report of health over the body” (S&H p. 194).
Christian Response: Sickness is real. Christians believe God can cure through prayer if it is His will. Inevitably, however, the physical body deteriorates and dies. Medical science is an appropriate adjunct to prayer in curing and maintaining physical health (see 1 Cor. 12:9,30; James 5:14-16). Luke (writer of the Gospel of Luke and Acts) is identified as a physician (see Col. 4:14).
Since sin and death are false beliefs (illusions), salvation involves overcoming the false idea that they exist with a realization of our divine spirit and mind. “We acknowledge that the crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection served to uplift faith to understand eternal life, even the allness of Soul, Spirit, and the nothingness of matter” (S&H, p. 497).
Christian Response: Salvation is not realized through some special knowledge. It is received only by acknowledging, confessing, and repenting of one’s sin (see Acts 3:19; 26:20; 1 John 1:9), and putting one’s faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (see John 1:12; Rom. 10:9-10; Eph. 2:8-9).
Death: The Ultimate Illusion
Since God and man are immortal spirit or mind, death is also only an illusion. It is a transition from the illusion of the material to ultimate reality of immortal spirit. “So, when our friends pass from our sight and we lament, that lamentation is needless and causeless” (S&H, p. 386).
Christian Response: Death is a reality and a result of mankind’s sin (see Gen. 2:17; Ezek. 18:20; Rom. 6:21-23; 8:6). It is both physical and spiritual. The spirit of the believer, however, at death, goes to be with the Lord (see 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23-24) and awaits a reunion with the body at the Lord’s return (see 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Those who are unsaved will face judgment (see Heb. 9:27) and eternal separation from God in hell (“the second death”) (see Rev. 20:1-15).
Christian Science Terms
* Bible Lesson (Lesson Sermon): One of 26 weekly lessons studied and taught in local churches.
* Branch Church: Local self-governing CCS congregation.
* First Reader: Person who leads Sunday and Wednesday services in local CCS (second reader assists).
* Lecture: Free talk sponsored by local CCS given by authorized member of Christian Science Board of Lectureship.
* Practitioner: Person in full-time professional work of Christian Science healing.
* Reading Room: Local bookstores/libraries that are open to the public to access and purchase Christian Science literature.
A lot of successful people identified themselves as Christian Scientists including Alan Shepard, Ginger Rogers, Doris Day, and Robert Duvall. In my experience I find most people who identify themselves as Christian Scientists to be moral and good natured. Nonetheless, Christian Science cannot be regarded as an authentic Christian movement. It’s basic worldview, its authority structure and texts, and its essential doctrines are far outside the boundaries of historic Christian theology. It has a different concept of God, a different understanding of who Jesus was and is, and different concepts of salvation and life after death. It is also not scientific in that denies the reality of matter, a basic presupposition of any scientific field. Therefore we must consider the beliefs of the Church of Christ, Scientist as a different Gospel (2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:5-7). That all being said, it may be that Christian Science is a dying faith. Its numerical statistics reveal drastic decreases over the last several decades.
© 2014 Tal Davis