Christian Science is a religion "emphasizing divine healing as practiced by Jesus Christ." It is officially known as The Church of Christ, Scientist (CCS) with headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, founded in 1879 by Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910).
In the nineteenth century, America was not surprised to hear of a new religious movement starting. It was a time of new revelations and rebellion toward the church. A religious group that came out of this century was a movement known as Christian Science. The founder of the movement, Mary Baker Eddy, carried views and beliefs that drew people away from their orthodox beliefs to a new way of living. Here we will see how the Christian Science group came to being, explore their theology, and their reasoning behind it. In addition, we will show how the group is flawed in the doctrine and teachings they hold to.
During the nineteenth century there was a swell of health problems in America. Women were coming down with a disease that they called “hysteria” and men similarly developed a syndrome termed “nervous exhaustion.” Medicine throughout this time period mostly did more harm than it did good. Doctors raced to find cures for these sicknesses but found themselves unsuccessful a majority of the time. Health centers would even try to cure the illness by giving them medicine that was similar to the actual sickness they had by mesmerism or the technical term for this practice, Homeopathy. The middle class dealt with this more than any other class and sought to find a solution to this health epidemic.
Biographical sketch of Mary Baker Eddy
Mary Baker Eddy founded Christian Science. Born to Mary Morse Baker in Bow, New Hampshire in 1821, she was the last of six children of Mark Baker and Abigail Ambrose Baker. Her father was a devout Congregationalist and carried very strict Calvinistic teaching. As a child, she was frequently ill with fever which confined her to bed for days and kept her from regular school attendance. Eddy is said to have been "domineering, quarrelsome, and extremely self-centered." (Meyer, 1961) At age 22, she married George Washington Glover, and they moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. He died seven months later in the yellow fever epidemic. Penniless and pregnant, Mary returned to her parent's home where her first and only child was born. She fell ill, and with no money, the child was sent to live with others. This family moved to the then 'far West' and she was told he'd died. She met this child for the first time thirty years later. In 1853 she married Dr. Daniel Patterson, a traveling dentist and homeopathist. His practice failed, and he went to fight in the Civil War. Their marriage eventually ended in divorce because of his infidelity and desertion(1877) . Subsequently in 1862, while suffering from several illnesses, Eddy visited a man named Phineas Quimby. Quimby operated out of Portland, Maine and he taught a system of healing the focused on the mind. He taught that the mind had the power to heal the body. He exerted a significant influence on her thinking regarding spiritual matters. In fact, Quimby had cured several infirmities that Baker had but that did not stop her from the events that were soon to unfold in her life.
In January, 1866 , Quimby died. Then, on February first, Mary took an arduous fall on the ice and was significantly injured, not expecting to recover. Yet as this founding event unearthed, she read a passage from Matthew chapter nine verse two, “Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’” After three days she was miraculously cured. The fall and cure then brought Eddy to her conversion with new knowledge.
Subsequent to her conversion she moved to Lynn, Massachusetts and opened her own mental healing clinic. Then in 1875 at the age of 45, she published her first edition of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures". She claimed it was the final revelation of God to mankind and asserted that her work was inspired of God. The word "Key" in the title of her book is in reference to her being the woman of Revelation 12; that she is the key to unlocking the Bible, which she called a “dark book.” Eddy claimed the Bible had many mistakes and that her writings provided the "Key" spoken of in Rev. 3:7.
Mary then married a student of hers, Asa Eddy, and her name became Mary Baker Eddy. Then in 1879 her church was organized and was titled “Church of Christ (Science).” Following the foundation of the church a metaphysical college was started to train Christian Science leaders and then in 1910, Eddy died, not fully cured of her own infections.
The history of Mary Eddy gave way to the essential doctrine that the Christian Science church taught and still teaches today. The core theology they hold to is the rejection of medicine and the belief in the mortal mind. With the rejection of medicine, Christian Science followers developed an intricate system to help heal apart from use of medication.
On the first level of this system are the practitioners. These are the lay people, or the regular Congregationalists that have taken classes and been ordained as healers. Second are the teachers who gain their statues by obtaining a license from the church. Finally there are the readers. These people read the lessons in church services and are usually made up by a male and a female together. They also are the librarians of the reading rooms that one could currently find in most cities. Together, these people make up the church positions.
Christian Scientists believe that by simply reading Eddy’s book, “Science and Health” one can be healed of the their sicknesses or diseases. Eddy assumed this to be the key to healing because when she had fallen on the ice and was healed by reading Matthew 9:2, then healing could occur for all people. In some cases, though, it was necessary to see a doctor. If someone broke a bone and had to get it set, then seeing a doctor would be best, or if one needed glasses, they should go to an eye physician to get glasses. Yet, a Christian Science member must do this with great discernment.
According to Eddy and the Christian Science affiliates, something was desperately wrong with the world. With suffering, illness, and death taking place in the world around them, there had to be some cause. This error, as they properly call it, is purely human and it is caused by a false belief of the world around them. This false principle, states that matter or the material world, is real. If the material world is false, then the spiritual world is reality. The mind and the spirit can carry what is real but the fleshly things cannot. However to achieve salvation, he or she needs only to find the true reality of understanding, as revealed in Christian Science teachings. Health and Science states, "It is contrary to Christian Science to suppose that life is either material or organically spiritual" (Eddy, 83:21-22)
Moreover, between many of the biblically based movements in America today, Christian Science is one of the most interesting. Not only does it deny the essential doctrines of Christianity, but it also has completely reinterpreted the Bible. It radically redefines the Bible’s culture and terminology as well as cleaves thousands of scriptures out of their historical and biblical contexts. The result is a non-Christian mixture of metaphysical and philosophical thoughts, much like the Buddhist of the east. Christian Science is so foreign to the Western thought that, if it did not use words like Jesus, Trinity, Love, Grace, Sin, etc., you’d never suspect it had anything to do with the Bible at all. In fact it is so different, that it absolutely rejects the substitutionary atonement of Jesus and states that it had no successful value. (See Science and Health 25:6)
The Christian Scientists regard their viewpoint to be concurrent with the original teachings of Jesus. They even go as far as to consider truth a matter of higher understanding and learning. Mary Baker Eddy died a millionaire from her position in the church and will continue to affect the Christian Science by her writings.
Conkin, Paul, American Originals. U. of North Carolina Press, 1997
Eddy, Mary Baker, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.
F. E. Meyer, The Religious Bodies of America. Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis, Missouri. 1961. P. 532.