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Christian denominations

The Church of Christ, Scientist
(a.k.a. Christian Science)

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Quotations from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy:

bullet"If Christianity is not scientific, and Science is not God, then there is no invariable law and truth becomes an accident."

bullet"Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it."

bullet"To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, today is big with blessings."

bullet"Truth is immortal; error is mortal."

History of the Church:

Mary Morse Baker Eddy (1821-1910) discovered and founded Christian Science. She was raised in a strict, deeply religious home, from which she derived her lifelong interest in Christianity and the Bible. She had been plagued with ill health through her childhood and into adult years. This motivated her to study alternative methods of healing, which deviated from the then current medical techniques which had failed her. Shortly after her first marriage, her husband died and she began to study a number of healing ministries. She remarried in 1853 in an unsuccessful attempt to gain control of her son who had been placed in another home by her family in the belief that she was physically incapable of caring for him. At the age of 41, she sought a cure from a healer, Phineas P. Quimby (1802-1866). Quimby had been a clockmaker, with relatively little education. But he had developed a method of natural healing which involved techniques of hypnotism and animal magnetism. He emphasized the role of the human mind in achieving bodily health. Quimby felt that the key to healing lay in the confidence by the healer in the patient's recovery, and in the confidence that the patient has in the healer's ability.

Mrs. Eddy (as she is referred to by church members) was a student-associate of Quimby until his death in 1866. Her health initially improved under his care, but she later suffered a relapse. Shortly afterwards, she fell on an icy sidewalk and severely injured herself. Some did not expect her to survive. On what she believed to be her deathbed, she read one of Jesus' healings. She suddenly realized that healing comes not from internal bodily processes, or from the power of a person's mind, but from the Divine Mind, God. She was instantly cured!

Mrs. Eddy withdrew from society for three years in order to concentrate on a deep search through the Bible and discover precisely how her healing had taken place. She wished to share this knowledge with others, and to give them the tools to take away sin and achieve health. Mrs. Eddy then wrote her main book, Science and Health, later called Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. The book has since been published in 17 languages, and is available in English Braille, on audio cassette, CD, and in software packages.

Many people have speculated on the source(s) of Mrs. Eddy's new beliefs. Some skeptics have implied that she plagiarized much of Quimby's writings and teachings. His beliefs involved the dualism between mind-spirit and matter. He emphasized the supremacy of mind over matter, and was highly antagonistic towards Christianity. She had always been deeply committed to Christian beliefs and rejected his opposition to religion. It is probably accurate to say that Mrs. Eddy was further sensitized by Quimby to the healing role of mind. However, she made a major break from his basic teachings. She determined that it was the Divine Mind, God, who healed, not the human mind. Other skeptics have asserted that she copied some of the writings of a German-American philosopher, Francis Lieber. This appears to be unfounded. She asserted that her beliefs are derived from new interpretations of Biblical passages, not from human sources. She taught that they do not represent an "add-on" to the Bible; she had discovered the science of scriptures. Through a spiritual interpretation of the Bible she had rediscovered its original truths as believed in and practiced by the early Christian church.

Her book was published at a time of great social unrest. The people of the United States were buffeted by the effects of the Civil War, by the teachings of Darwin, Freud and Marx, by rapid industrialization, and by many economic upheavals. Mrs. Eddy's teachings were welcomed and adopted by many Americans, but bitterly opposed by many traditional Christian authorities. They also raised some animosity from scientists who criticized the use of the word "science" in connection with Christianity.

In 1875, she published her book. In 1877 she married Asa Gilbert Eddy, her second husband having left her, and she adopted the name by which she is most commonly remembered: Mary Baker Eddy. Her book, though controversial, was well received by many Christians. She was inspired to promote the founding of the Church of Christ, Scientist in Lynn, MA, a suburb of Boston, in 1879. She was ordained by her students, and created the Massachusetts Metaphysical College in 1881 and the National Christian Scientist Association in 1886. She later disbanded the Association, College and Church and concentrated the movement within The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, MA. Although she continued to manage church affairs until her death in 1910, she removed herself from public contact and lived in seclusion, in order to revise her book and guide the movement.

The church went through a period of rapid growth during the first half of the 20th century. Membership leveled out by 1950 and has since gradually declined. "...the closing of hundreds of branch churches over the past two decades suggests that attrition is the biggest threat the Church faces." 19 Current membership data is unknown; the Church does not publish statistics. One source estimates about 400,000 people follow Christian Science teachings, although many are not affiliated with a congregation. Another estimates:

bullet150,000 members, and

bullet100,000 members in the U.S., 15,000 in Germany and Great Britain, and others in over 60 countries. 19

Two Christian Scientists, H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, of the Nixon era helped sponsor a Congressional bill which extended the copyright of "Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures" by 75 years. The bill became law but has since been declared unconstitutional. 19

The Church has about 2,300 branch congregations in 60 countries. There are about 1,600 congregations in the US; about 60 in Canada. They operate Christian Science Reading Rooms where the public is invited to read the Bible and literature published by the Church. In 1908, Mrs. Eddy founded The Christian Science Monitor, an international newspaper, whose employees have won 6 Pulitzer prizes. A cable TV channel launched in 1991 was short lived and was terminated for financial reasons.

In recent decades, a number of main-line Christian leaders have extracted the Christian Science concept of Divine Mind. They have secularized it to refer to the human mind and have grafted it onto traditional Christian belief. This may be the source of some of the teachings in Norman Vincent Peale's Power of Positive Thinking, Bishop Sheen's Peace of Soul, Rev. Robert Schuller's Possibility Thinking, etc.

Church Beliefs:

(provided by Lyle Young, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Ontario)

Christian Scientists believe:

bulletChristian Science is a Christian denomination based on the teachings and works of Christ Jesus. The Church was founded in 1879 by Mary Baker Eddy, with this purpose: ". . . to commemorate the word and works of our Master, which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing." (from the Manual of The Mother Church by Mary Baker Eddy)

bulletChristian Scientists do not have an organizational creed. However, the following is a brief exposition of the important points, or tenets, of the religion as given in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy (p. 496):

bullet"1. As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life.

bullet2. We acknowledge and adore one supreme and infinite God. We acknowledge His Son, one Christ; the Holy Ghost or divine Comforter; and man in God's image and likeness.

bullet3. We acknowledge God's forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal. But the belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts.

bullet4. We acknowledge Jesus' atonement as the evidence of divine, efficacious Love, unfolding man's unity with God through Christ Jesus the Way-shower; and we acknowledge that man is saved through Christ, through Truth, Life, and Love as demonstrated by the Galilean Prophet in healing the sick and overcoming sin and death.

bullet5. 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.

bullet6. And we solemnly promise to watch, and pray for that Mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; to do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and to be merciful, just, and pure."

bulletSeeking and finding God is central to the practice of Christian Science. God is understood as the all-loving, omnipotent Father-Mother, and Christ Jesus as His Son. Jesus' human life characterized the kind of sonship that Christian Scientists believe is provable for all as the children of God. He is seen as the Exemplar, the Way-shower. The divine nature he expressed is the Christ, and the Christ-God's expression of Himself-is eternal and ever-present. Understanding man's pure, indestructible relationship with God is what results in regeneration and healing.

Healing:

(also provided by Lyle Young)

bulletA surface acquaintance with Christian Science may reveal that adherents don't generally use medicine or go to doctors. This is true, but it's not the result of any antagonism towards doctors. Christian Scientists respect the work of the medical profession, but choose prayer as treatment for themselves and their children rather than medicine because they have experienced prayer's effectiveness many times in their lives. The regeneration of heart and mind that brings about physical healing is a most significant element of healing.

bulletThe teachings of Christ Jesus are central to Christian Science, and his healing work provides an example of how his followers can also turn to God's omnipotent love for healing. Over the years, Christian Science religious publications have provided thousands of accounts of healing through prayer. Each week corroborated testimonies of healing are published in the Christian Science Sentinel and each month in The Christian Science Journal.

bulletHealing is accomplished not through blind faith but through a growing understanding of God and a recognition of one's identity as God's reflection. This can be gained through the study of Christian Science. It is the result of drawing closer to God through coming to know the loving kindness of His divine laws and the perfection of His spiritual creation.

bulletChristian Scientists often pray for themselves and find healing. If one feels the need for additional prayerful assistance, however, he or she can call a Christian Science practitioner. Practitioners are men and women who devote their full time to helping others through prayer. The practitioners claim no personal healing power, nor do they act as intercessors. God alone heals. The practitioner, just as the patient, turns to God in humility and willingness to hear His direction and follow His guidance.

Church Practices:

bulletChristian Scientists daily study the Bible and Science and Health. An important part of this study is a weekly Lesson-Sermon outlined in The Christian Science Quarterly which includes excerpts on certain subjects from the Bible and Science and Health. The lesson studied daily comprises the sermon that is read at each Sunday church service worldwide.

bulletThere is no ordained clergy in the Church. Services are conducted by Readers who read from the Bible, from "Science and Health" and from lesson-sermons sent from The Mother Church.

bulletThe King James Version of the Bible is used in English services. Other translations are also used in private study and in non-English speaking areas.

bulletThe Bible and Science and Health are considered the dual and impersonal pastor of the Church.

bulletLay Christian Science practitioners are trained in Church principles and present a prayer-based healing ministry to members and the public as an alternative to conventional medical services.

bulletThe Manual of The Mother Church lists the bylaws governing the movement. It was originally published in 1895, was extensively revised during Mrs. Eddy's lifetime, and has remained unchanged since her death.

bulletAuthority is vested in a Board of Directors who conduct The Mother Church business. It is composed of five members who hold their positions for an undefined interval and select their own successors. The Mother Church organization is highly centralized. Branches are self-governed along democratic lines.

bulletAlthough they engage in some of the traditional Christian sacraments, they interpret them differently. Baptism is regarded as the continual purification of thought and deed. The Eucharist is regarded as spiritual communion with the one God, which is celebrated with silent prayer and Christian living.

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Church Media and Publications:

bulletNewspaper: The Christian Science Monitor is a highly regarded, daily newspaper which has been published from Boston, MA since 1908.

bulletRadio: The Church has a short-wave network which broadcasts around the world. It broadcasts news, religious discussions and services from The Mother Church in Boston. They also distribute news programs to public radio stations in the US.

bulletPeriodicals: The Christian Science Publishing Society publishes:

bullet The Christian Science Journal, a monthly periodical which is the Church's official organ.

bullet The Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine which provides spiritual answers to life's problems.

bulletThe Christian Science Quarterly which includes weekly Bible lessons.

Church Controversies

Compared to other recently emerging faith groups, there has been relatively little controversy within Christian Science:

bulletA crisis over leadership (referred to as the Great Litigation) occurred at the death of Mrs. Eddy, but was settled by the courts.

bulletEmma Hopkins left the church during Mrs. Eddy's lifetime and created a movement which developed into New Thought; that group in turn influenced other new religious groups.

bulletAnne Bill led a breakaway sect, the Christian Science Parent Church, after Mrs. Eddy's death. This evolved into the Church of Integration, which expired in the 1950's.

Like other successful denominations which deviate from traditional beliefs, Christian Science has attracted negative attention. Some has come from the Counter-cult Movement  ;that condemns any Christian group that deviates from historical Christian teachings. Some conservative Christian religious leaders have also criticized it because of its unique interpretation of scriptures. Some refer to the movement as a cult. But the Christian Science Church maintains that this term inaccurately describes the century-old denomination. Christian Scientists practice their religious teachings out of reasoned conviction of its truth - not from blind irrational feelings about Mary Baker Eddy. Their churches and Reading Rooms are open to all; their services are dignified and simple.

There are many sites on the Internet maintained by persons who have left the Church. 13,14

Healing by faith:

There exists a chronic state of tension between the Church, its practitioners, and medical doctors over the substitution of Christian Science healing techniques for conventional medical treatments. However, this does not frequently escalate into conflict, as it often does between Jehovah Witness parents, their children and the courts. In instances where there would be a difference of opinion between Christian Science parents and medical authorities, the Church's policy is to strongly encourage parents to cooperate with those authorities. It is not known how frequently this advice is taken by individual members. The Church urges the reporting of communicable diseases, conforming with vaccination laws, and the provision of certified midwives or other medical attendants at childbirth as required by law. 15 The Church believes that spiritual healing techniques are quite effective; they publish descriptions of such healings in various of their publications. Their critics feel that medical intervention is more effective and should be the technique of choice. 16,17 We have been unable to locate any studies which compare the effectiveness of Christian Science healing with conventional medical treatments. The Church itself is unaware of any. 18

The church feels that the term "faith healing" does not accurately describe its methods of healing. They state that its methods do not rely on miracles. Rather, they are believed to be the same natural methods that Jesus used to cure people. 

Author's comment:

We are concerned about the lack of hard data available about the effectiveness of faith healing generally and of Christian Science healing methods in particular. We consider this a major ethical concern. If either conventional medical treatments or faith healing is marginally better that the other, then thousands of lives could be saved each year in the U.S. by inducing people to switch to the more effective treatment. See further details.

Books about Mary Baker Eddy:

bulletMary Baker Eddy, "Science and health with key to the scriptures," Aequus Inst. Pubns, (Reprint: 1991) Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

bulletGillian Gill, "Mary Baker Eddy," Perseus Press, (1999). Read reviews or order this book

bulletStephen Gottschalk, "Rolling Away the Stone: Mary Baker Eddy's Challenge to Materialism," Indiana University Press, (2005). Read reviews or order this book

bulletDavid Keyston, "The healer: The healing work of Mary Baker Eddy," Healing Unlimited, (1998). Read reviews or order this book 

bulletRichard Nenneman, "Persistent Pilgrim: The life of Mary Baker Eddy," Nebbadoon Press, (1997). Read reviews or order this book 

Some web sites about Christian Science:

bulletThe "Official home page of The Church of Christ, Scientist" contains a question and answer section, and other information about Christian Science. See: http://www.tfccs.com

bullet"Concord" is a dynamic electronic tool for researching the Bible. See: http://www.tfccs.com/concord/ 

bulletThe "Writings of Mary Baker Eddy," in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. sponsors http://www.spirituality.com Although this appears to be a Christian Science site, that fact is only revealed in the "about the site" page.

bullet"The virtual Christian Science reading room," is maintained by the First Church of Christ, Scientist in St. Paul, MN. See: http://www.mtn.org/csreadingroom/ 

bulletLongyear Museum collects and preserves historic documentation and artifactual material on Mary Baker Eddy's life and achievements, and those of her early followers from 1821 to 1910. See: http://www.longyear.org

bulletDavid J. Nolan maintains the Christian Science University at: http://www.ucsinc.org/  It is independent of the Church.
 
bullet"Ananias: Pilgrims to the Cross of Christ from Christian Science" is a websites for former Christian Scientists who have transitioned from following the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy to evangelical Christianity. See: http://www.ananias.org/

Related essay on this web site:

bulletChristian Science and homosexuality

References used for this essay:

  1. Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, (1875 and later editions). You can see some book reviews or order a copy from the Amazon.com on-line bookstore.
  2. Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings (1896)
  3. Robert Peel, "Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery"; Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, (1966)
  4. Robert Peel, "Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Trial"; Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, (1971)
  5. Robert Peel, "Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority"; Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, (1977)
  6. "Christian Science, A Source Book of Contemporary Materials"; The Christian Science Publishing Society, Boston MA, (1990)
  7. G.A. Mather & L.A. Nichols, "Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult," Zondervan, Grand Rapids (1993) P,73 - 75
  8. The Mother Church home page contains a question and answer section, and other information about Christian Science. See: http://www.tfccs.com
  9. A Christian Science home page from Victoria, Australia has a question and answer section, lists related books, and short-wave broadcasts. See: http://home.vicnet.net.au/
  10. A list of links to Christian Science web sites can be seen at the Virtual Christian Science Reading Room at: http://www.mtn.org/
  11. The Christian Science Monitor has a home page at: http://www.csmonitor.com
  12. The Ontario Christian Science Committee on Publication is the public information office for the Christian Science church in Ontario, Canada. They can be reached at  oncscom@istar.ca, at (800)798-6627 within Canada or (613) 744-1699 elsewhere.
  13. Carolyn Poole, "Why I Left Christian Science. The Personal Testimony of Carolyn Poole." This is published by a counter-cult group, the Christian Research Institute at: http://www.iclnet.org/  She believes that the theology of Christian Science is is "similar to the docetic-gnostic tradition,." an ancient Christian heresy.
  14. Christian Way is a ministry of former-Christian Scientists; it has many links to other ex-members. See: http://www.christianway.org  
  15. The official home page of the Church of Christ, Scientist has a group of testimonies and articles that deal with healing at: http://www.tfccs.com/ 
  16. Caroline Fraser, "Suffering Children and the Christian Science Church", The Atlantic Monthly, 1995-APR.
  17. Dr. Rita Swan, "Cry, The Beloved Children, Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty" (CHILD), 1994. [This is a pamphlet which discusses the relative lack of effectiveness of Christian Science healing compared to medical science] Available from (712) 948-3500 or by writing to PO Box 2604, Sioux City Iowa 51106. You can Email them
  18. M. Victor Westberg, Manager, Christian Science Committees on Publication, personal Email on 1997-JUL-16.
  19. Caroline Fraser, "Suffering children and the Christian Science church," Atlantic Monthly, 1995-APR.
  20. Emergence International is an "association of Christian Scientists, their families and friends, who provide spiritual and educational support to lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals as they deal with homophobia and heterosexism." See:  www.emergence-international.org 

Portions copyrighted © 1996 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-JUN-15
Author: B.A. Robinson
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