Christian Science

Church of Christ, Scientist

General Information

Christian Science is a religion emphasizing divine healing as practiced by Jesus Christ; its tenets were formulated by Mary Baker Eddy. In 1879, Eddy founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, with its headquarters in Boston. Today it has about 3,000 branch churches, societies, and college organizations in more than 50 countries. While the branches are democratic in government, they all conform to the rules laid down in the Manual of The Mother Church (1895) by Eddy.

Sunday services consist mainly of readings from the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1906), the textbook of Christian Science written by Mary Baker Eddy. Wednesday meetings include testimonies of healing from the congregation. The church has no ordained clergy. Readers, both men and women, are elected from the membership to conduct the services. Practitioners, also both men and women, devote full time to the work of spiritual healing.

Christian Science teaches that God and his spiritual creation are the only realities. God is regarded as infinite Life, Truth, Spirit, Mind, and Principle. The material world, with all its suffering, strife, and death, is considered to be a misconception or distorted view of the divine universe. Christian Science claims to prove through the healing of disease and other difficulties that the understanding of God and his spiritual creation is as effective now as it was in Jesus' time. Its adherents therefore rely on divine law in times of sickness instead of resorting to medical and other material means. The right of Christian Science parents to withhold medical treatment from their children has been challenged in court.

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Publications of the Christian Science Publishing Society include the Christian Science Quarterly, containing Bible lessons for daily study; The Christian Science Journal, a monthly magazine; Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine; The Christian Science Monitor, a daily newspaper; and The Herald of Christian Science in 12 languages and in Braille. In the 1980s the group expanded into other media, producing both radio and television news programming.

J C Cort, Christian Scientism: An Informal History (1988); R Peel, Health and Medicine in the Christian Science Tradition (1988).

Church of Christ, Scientist

General Information

Mary Baker Eddy, b. Bow, NH, July 16, 1821, d. Dec. 3, 1910, was an American religious leader and the founder of Christian Science. She was also the author of the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Her delicate health prevented her from attending school regularly, but her family provided private tutoring. Her childhood was also strongly marked by prayer and Bible reading.

During her early adult years she was twice married and suffered increasing invalidism. In 1866, however, her life took a radically new turn. After sustaining a severe injury through a fall, she asked for her Bible and read a Gospel account of one of Jesus' healings. While she was reading, she believed that she had an insight into the method by which Jesus Christ healed; at that moment she felt herself restored to health.

She made an intensive study of the Bible for 3 years after her cure and came to the belief that she was able not only to heal the sick herself but also to teach others to heal as well. She held that all sickness was mental rather than physical and recorded the laws of God as she had discerned them in Science and Health (1875). This book contains a full statement of what she called Christian Science. She later published 16 other books, including Retrospection and Introspection (1891), which tells of her own experience of discovering, practicing, and teaching the science of Christian healing.

In 1877 she married Asa Gilbert Eddy, an active Christian Scientist. Two years later Mrs. Eddy founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, whose organization she oversaw closely until her death. She also established (1908) the Christian Science Monitor. Christian Scientists today continue to acknowledge her as their leader and founder.

E Dakin, Mrs. Eddy (1929); R Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery (1966), Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Trial (1971), and Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority (1977).

Church of Christ, Scientist

Advanced Information

The Church of Christ, Scientist is an organization founded by Mary Baker Eddy in an effort to reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing. In 1876 Eddy formed the Christian Scientists Association and three years later chartered the Church of Christ, Scientist. The church was reorganized into its present form in 1892. The First Church of Christ, Scientist of Boston is known as the mother church, and other Christian Science churches are considered branches, although each is independently governed. The tenets and bylaws of the church were incorporated by Eddy into the church manual of 1895. The church's fundamental theological teachings are presented in Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

Theologically, the Church of Christ, Scientist, does not concur with the basic tenets of historic orthodox Christianity. Although it uses the theological vocabulary of traditional Christianity, it assigns metaphysical meanings to the terms. The sources of authority for the church are the Bible and Eddy's writings. Members accept Eddy's writings as divine revelation and interpret the Bible allegorically through her works. The most significant authority for the church is Science and Health, which was published in 1875 and regularly revised until Eddy's death in 1910. Eddy referred to this volume as containing the perfect word of God, and thus was divine and infallible teaching.

Christian Science's view of God is monistic. God is divine principle, not a supreme being God is mind, and mind is all. Nothing possesses reality or exists which is not mind. The characteristics and attributes of God become God. The Trinity is constituted by the threefold nature of divine principle (God): life, truth, and love.

God, Christ, and Holy Spirit are not persons. The Christology of Christian Science denies a physical incarnation of Christ and insists Mary conceived Christ only as a spiritual idea. Since God is mind and spirit, and nothing exists which is not spirit, there can be no matter or flesh; these are only illusions. Thus Christ did not possess a body and did not die on a cross. The need of an atonement is nullified since sin, evil, sickness, and death are delusions, not reality. God is good, and nothing can exist which is not good. Christian Science teaches man is created in God's image as spirit, mind, and good; thus man is incapable of sin, sickness, and death. Man is placed on a plane of equality with God in his origin, character, and eternity. The metaphysical presuppositions of the church insist that heaven and hell are present states of man's thoughts, not real future dwelling places.

Christian Science church services are simple and uniform worldwide. They focus upon the uniform lesson - sermons which are read aloud from the Bible and Science and Health by readers elected from the congregation. There is no clergy or priesthood. The sacraments are not special rites. Baptism means the spiritual purification of daily life and the Eucharist is silent spiritual communion with God. No visible elements are used. Salvation to the Christian Scientist is the gaining of the understanding that man's life is wholly derived from God the Spirit, and is not mortal and material.

P G Chappell
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

C S Braden, Christian Science Today; E M Ramsay, Christian Science and Its Discoverer; L P Powell, Christian Science, the Faith and Its Founder; R Peel, Christian Science: Its Encounter with American Culture; E S Bates and J V Dittemore, Mrs. Eddy, the Truth and the Tradition.

Mary Baker Eddy

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Mary Baker Eddy was founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, and author of its famous textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Born Mary Morse Baker, she was reared in a devout Congregationalist home, but later rejected her parents' strict Calvinism. Although her formal education was limited due to chronic ill health, she studied such subjects as natural science, moral philosophy, logic, Greek, and Hebrew under the tutelage of her brother, a Dartmouth graduate. In 1843 she married George W. Glover, who died before the birth of their first child. Her second marriage, to David Patterson (1853), ended in divorce. In 1877 at age fifty-six she married one of her first Christian Science students, Asa Gilbert Eddy.

Suffering poor health throughout most of her life, Mary was preoccupied with questions of health. In search of healing she submitted herself to the metaphysical teachings of Phineas P. Quimby and was healed. Suffering a serious fall in 1866, she was healed by reading the Bible and practicing metaphysical principles. She regarded that incident as the discovery of Christian Science. Her metaphysical system gradually evolved and was published as Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures in 1875. Although her followers consider this work as divinely inspired, her critics contend that it is deeply indebted to the works of Francis Lieber and Quimby. The following year she founded the Christian Scientist Association, which three years later became the Church of Christ, Scientist.

Eddy's theological position has little in common with historic orthodox Christianity. It is entirely built upon a metaphysical base. She uses the theological vocabulary of traditional Christianity but substitutes metaphysical meanings for the terms. For her, God is "All-in-All"; he is mind; he is the divine principle of all existence, not a person. As the only cause of existence, God is reality and nothing apart from him can be real. Since God is Spirit and is All, matter cannot exist. Since all reality is divine and God is good, all reality is good. There cannot exist evil, sin, sickness, or death. Imperfections of every sort are illusory and unreal, delusions of the carnal mind.

The Trinity is defined by Eddy as the principles of life, truth, and love. The historic view of three persons in one Godhead is labeled heathen. Christ is not considered a person but rather the true idea of God, and his death or resurrection could not have occurred since evil and sin have no existence.

Eddy's major writings include The People's Idea of God (1886), her autobiography Retrospection and Introspection (1891), Unity of Good (1891), Manual of the Mother Church (1895), and Miscellaneous Writings (1896).

P G Chappell
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

S. Wilbur, Life of Mary Baker Eddy; R. Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery; E. M. Ramsey, Christian Science and Its Discoverer; C. Smith, Historical Sketches from the Life of Mary Baker Eddy; W. Martin, The Christian Science Myth; M. F. Bednarowski, "Outside the Mainstream: Women's Religion and Women Religious Leaders," JAAR 48:207-31.

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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