Church of Christ, Scientist
(a.k.a. Christian Science)
What is Christian Science? Who is Mary Baker Eddy? What is a Christian Science Reading Room? Does Christian Science have a church? What are Christian Science beliefs? These are examples of the kinds of questions that people have when they hear about the Christian Science religion.
Christian Science, officially called the Church of Christ, Scientist, is a religion that emphasizes physical healing through prayer and a recognition of the nonexistence of matter and illness.
Christian Science should not be confused with Scientology. Despite a somewhat similar name, the two groups are completely different and have almost nothing in common.
Christian Science is also associated with the weekly magazine, and news organization The Christian Science Monitor, which was started in 1908 by Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy.
Christian Science Fast Facts
- Date founded: 1879
- Place founded: Massachusetts, USA
- Founder: Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910)
- Adherents: 150,000 - 400,000 worldwide
Christian Science History
The Church of Christ (Scientist) was founded by Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), a semi-invalid who, in 1862, began to learn from Phineas Quimby the possibility of cures without medicine. In 1866 (the year Quimby died), she suffered a severe injury after a fall on ice, and claimed a complete cure without the intervention of medicine. She was reading an account of one of Jesus' healings in the Bible when she suddenly realized that healing comes by spiritual means, and she was instantly cured.
Mary Baker Eddy thereafter devoted herself to the recovery of the healing emphasis in early Christianity, and in 1875 she completed the first edition of her major book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. In 1879, the Church of Christ (Scientist) was incorporated with the purpose of 'commemorating the word and works of our Master'. She became chief pastor of the Mother Church, and wrote The Manual of the Mother Church to govern its affairs. Mary Baker Eddy is referred to as Mrs. Eddy by church members.
At the end of the 20th century, Christian Science churches numbered about 2,500 congregations in 70 countries; its headquarters is at the Mother Church in Boston.
Christian Science Texts
The main texts of the Christian Science religion is the Christian Bible and Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Both texts are read in Sunday services, studied in private devotions, and provide the foundation for Christian Science beliefs.
Christian Science Beliefs
The Christian Science religion teaches the existence of an all-powerful God and the authority and inspiration of the Bible. Christian Scientists also believe the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus to be essential to human redemption. Mary Baker Eddy taught belief in one God and unlike traditional orthodox Christianity, described God with the synonyms: Principle, Soul, Mind, Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love. The Christian Science religion also departs from traditional orthodox Christianity in several other doctrines.
The fundamental distinctive beleif of the Christian Science religion is that creation is entirely spiritual and perfect and matter does not exist. Sin, sickness and death also do not exist; people only think they do. "The only reality of sin, sickness, or death is the awful fact that unrealities seem real to human, erring belief, until God strips off their disguise" (Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy, 472:27-29).
According to Christian Science beliefs, humans are subject to the laws of matter only so long as they believe they are real. So just as in The Matrix Neo could mentally bend a spoon by realizing "there is no spoon," so the Christian Science religion teaches that people can heal themselves spiritually by realizing illness does not exist. (Note: This is a ReligionFacts analogy, not a Christian Science one.)
These core teachings are encapsulated in the "Scientific Statement of Being," which is read at every Christian Science church service:
There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter.
All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all.
Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error.
Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal.
Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness.
Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual. (S&H 468)
The Christian Science religion refers to God as "Father-Mother" rather than the biblical "Father." Though unconventional, this is not a major departure from mainstream Christianity, since God is believed to encompass both male and female (both were created "in the image of God").
The Christian Science religion teaches that Jesus is divine but not God, and that Jesus' human nature is a separate entity from the divine Christ. "Jesus Christ is not God, as Jesus himself declared, but is the Son of God" (Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy, 361:12-13). "Jesus is the name of the man who, more than all other men, has presented Christ, the true idea of God, healing the sick and sinning and destroying the power of death" (Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy, 473:10-17).
Mary Baker Eddy taught that the Holy Spirit is equivalent with "divine Science," i.e., the teachings of Christian Science. "In the words of St. John: ‘He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.’ This Comforter I understand to be Divine Science." (Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy, 55:27-29) "His [Jesus'] students then received the Holy Ghost. By this is meant, that by all they had witnessed and suffered, they were roused to an enlarged understanding of divine Science, even to the spiritual interpretation and discernment of Jesus’ teachings and demonstrations, which gave them a faint conception of the Life which is God" (Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy, 46:30-47:3).
Mary Baker Eddy rejected the traditional doctrine of the Trinity, saying that it suggests polytheism (Science and Health, mary Baker Eddy, 256:9-11). She did, however, accept the threefold nature of God, defining it as a trinity of "Life, Truth, and Love," or "God the Father-Mother, Christ the spiritual idea of sonship, and divine Science or the Holy Comforter" (Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy, 331:26-332:3).
Eddy defined salvation as follows: "Life, Truth, and Love understood and demonstrated as supreme over all; sin, sickness and death destroyed" (Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy, 593:20-22).
Heaven and hell are states of mind. Heaven is "not a locality, but a divine state of Mind in which all the manifestations of Mind are harmonious and immortal" (Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy, 291:13-16). It is "Harmony; the reign of Spirit; government by the divine Principle; spirituality; bliss; the atmosphere of Soul." (Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy, 587:25-27). Hell is "Mortal belief; error; lust; remorse; hatred; revenge; sin; sickness; death; suffering and self-destruction; self-imposed agony; effects of sin; that which 'worketh abomination or maketh a lie.'" (Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy, 588:1-4).
The Christian Science religion has no creed, but Mary Baker Eddy listed six "important points, or religious tenets" in Science and Health (496) as follows:
- As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 theGalilean Prophet in healing the sick and overcoming sin and death.
- We acknowledge that the crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection served to uplift faith to understand eter- nal Life, even the allness of Soul, Spirit, and the nothingness of matter.
- 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.
Christian Science Practices
Spiritual healing of disease is a central focus of the Church of Christ, Scientist, for its own sake as well as its evidence of redemption from the flesh. Most members refuse medical help for disease. This is the church's most controversial practice. However, Christian Science generally teaces cooperation with local laws, such as in getting vaccinations, reporting communicable diseases, etc., and leave the decision to seek physical treatments up to each individual. "Healthcare decisions are always a matter of individual choice." ("About Christian Science." Official Website of the Mother Church)
There is no ordained clergy in Christian Science. Members engaged in the full-time healing ministry are called Christian Science practitioners and services are conducted by elected Readers. Practitioners treat church members through prayer, and members are encouraged to pray as well.
The Mother Church is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of six members who choose their own successors. Each branch is self-governed and democratic. The Manual of The Mother Church that governs the movement has remained virtually unchanged since Mary Baker Eddy's death.
Readers lead Sunday services based on readings from the Bible and mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. These are based on Lesson-Sermons developed by the Mother Church, which are also used in daily private study.
Christian Scientists do not practice the sacraments of baptism or the Eucharist; these are affirmed but understood in spiritual terms. "Our baptism is purification from all error... Our Eucharist is spiritual communion with the one God. Our bread, 'which cometh down from heaven,' is Truth. Our cup is the cross. Our wine the inspiration of Love, the draught the Master drank and commended to his followers" (Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy, 35).
Christian Science References & Sources
- "Christian Science." John R. Hinnels, ed., The Penguin Dictionary of Religions, 2nd ed. (Penguin Books, 1997).
- "Christian Science." John Bowker, ed., The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (Oxford UP, 2000).
- Official Website of the First Church of Christ, Scientist.
- Science and Health, as published online at Spirituality.com
Christian Science Books
- Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.
- Mary Baker Eddy, Poems by Mary Baker Eddy.
- Willa Cather, The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science (1909; U of Nebraska P, 1993).
- Gillian Gill, Mary Baker Eddy (Radcliffe Biography Series) (Perseus Books, 1999).
- Nancy Niblack Baxter, Mr. Dickey: Secretary to Mary Baker Eddy (Hawthorne, 2005)
- Stephen Gottschalk, Rolling Away the Stone: Mary Baker Eddy's Challenge to Materialism (Indiana UP, 2005).
- Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery (1991).
- Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Trial (1991).
- Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority (1991).
- Rennie B. Schoepflin, Christian Science on Trial: Religious Healing in America (Johns Hopkins UP, 2002).