Christian Science (formally the Church of Christ, Scientist) is the product of the belief system of Mary Baker Eddy, who believed that she came upon the hidden truths of God in 1866 by being instantaneously healed when Scripture was read. She then opened herself up to what she deemed the “divine Mind” and began to receive revelation. She taught the principles she derived in her main book Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures. She believed that God demonstrated to her that the only thing that truly exists is Truth, also known as the divine Principle, Love, or God. Everything else is illusory, especially those things deemed “material,” or of this physical realm. Her “divine Science” was the action of this divine Mind, and therefore the Christian Scientist was one who practiced the will of the divine Mind in his or her life. Such was generally the demonstration of God working within someone, and manifested to others by healing with the divine Mind: in Christian Science, sin, disease, and all evils are merely illusions, deceiving what was deemed “mortal mind,” or the mind in humans, and causing them suffering, sickness, and death. These teachings were accepted by many, and by the time of the death of Mary Baker Eddy in 1910, the “Cause,” as Christian Science was deemed, had spread far beyond her New England roots. Christian Science is known for its neo-Gnostic conception of the duality of material and spirit, and the focus in the denomination is on the individual’s development of the divine Mind within him or her. Their focus is purely spiritual, allegorizing many of the practices discussed in Scripture (including baptism and the Lord’s Supper) and only having church buildings and worship services proper to cater to the “weaknesses” of man.
Sections on this Page
- General Considerations
- Dualism: Physical versus Spiritual
- The Interpretation of the Scriptures
- Healing and Demonstration
- The Nature of God
Dualism: Physical versus Spiritual
The foundational concept in Christian Science theology is the dualism (having two forces at odds with one another) between what is deemed physical (or material) and what is deemed spiritual (or spirit). The only thing that truly exists is God, the divine Mind, otherwise known as Truth, Love, and Intelligence, which is manifest in what is deemed the “spiritual1“. On the other hand, that which is physical or material is merely illusory, having no existence within itself: it is a fabrication of the senses and the “mortal mind,” the human mind and its belief system2. Christian Science introduces these concepts as polarities: materialism and spirit are two distinct systems, having no part of each other3. The theology follows from this that the conditions of suffering within mankind–sin, sickness, and death–are merely illusions of the mortal mind, and do not truly exist4. If one has the divine Mind working within him, he will understand that all of these “material” things are delusions and have no place in “Truth”; thus, he will conquer these delusions, and be thus practicing Christian Science5. Is this system of belief found in the Scriptures?
We have been told in the Scriptures that God made the heavens and the earth and also man, Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 2:7:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
The Scriptures do speak concerning the “lust of the flesh” (1 John 2:16) and the fact that the physical will be transformed into the spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:35-57). The Scriptures do not say, however, that flesh and spirit have no portion with each other; in fact, we have the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:17-20 the contrary:
But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? And ye are not your own; for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body.
The flesh can be made to glorify God; how can it do so if it has no existence or has any part with spirit? How can the body be a “temple of the Holy Spirit” if the Spirit does not exist within matter?
When God established the creation, He established that it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31); the reality of the creation around us is everywhere assumed in the Scriptures. Jesus’ proof of His resurrection is that He has a body of flesh and is not only spirit (Luke 24:39). To posit an illusory reality represents neo-Gnosticism, and its attendant docetic views have no place in the Scriptures (Romans 1:18-20, Colossians 2:8-9).
The Interpretation of the Scriptures
Christian Science will answer the above arguments by attempting to demonstrate that the Scriptures are being interpreted incorrectly because they are being used in a literal sense. In Christian Science, the Scriptures are to be read for spiritual meaning and understanding6. Mary Baker Eddy demonstrated this concept with her exegesis on Genesis 1:1-3:24 in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, attempting to demonstrate that the “light” created in Genesis 1:5 is “Truth,” the “waters” in Genesis 1:9 are “thought,” and so forth and so on7. Therefore, in the Christian Science mentality, the creation account of Genesis 1:1-2:3 refers to the spiritual creation, and 1 Corinthians 6:1-20 refers to the spiritual man.
This spiritual system of exegesis may have some validity if it were not for the fact that Mary Baker Eddy repudiated portions of Scripture which would not harmonize with her belief system. For instance, she considered the creation account of Genesis 2:4-25 to be a “lie” and the “opposite of scientific truth8.” She relied on the then-new belief that there were at least two authors of the book of Genesis, the “Yahwistic” and the “Elohistic” authors, attempting to demonstrate a “material” versus a “spiritual” form of God9. Eddy went further with the concept of the YHWH of the Jews being a more “material” God by proclaiming the Jewish system of religion to be limited, a “tribal religion” based on “material things,” the “antithesis of Christianity,” with a “man-projected God” that “gives no hint of the unchanging love of God10,” all comments reminiscent of the position of the Gnostics. The Scriptures, however, teach that the Scriptures are inspired and that the Jews were a people of God in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Romans 9:1-5, and Romans 10:1-4:
Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren’s sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
Brethren, my heart’s desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to every one that believeth.
If Mary Baker Eddy’s theology required her to consider a portion of God’s Word to be a lie and to denigrate the people of God, how can her theology be consistent with the Scriptures? Therefore, we can see that the exegetical and interpretive methods of Christian Science do not harmonize with the whole message of the Scriptures. There is no good reason to deny that God created a real, physical realm in which we currently reside.
Healing and Demonstration
The main practices of Christian Science–healing and demonstration–follow from its theology: if the vestiges of materialism are non-existent, they can be conquered. The only way to determine if one is conquering materialism is to negate its effects, including sin, sickness, age, and death11. Therefore, the practice of healing is to Christian Science the ultimate demonstration of the work of the divine Mind12.
Some words must first be spoken concerning the Christian Science conception of disease and healing. In Christian Science theology, disease has no material basis but is simply a condition of mortal mind. Mortal mind believes that it is ill, and therefore it is ill, either consciously or unconsciously13. Drugs have no effect within themselves when it comes to fighting disease, for it is the faith in the drug that leads to a form of material healing14. When Jesus came to earth, He thus began the task of healing people using “divine Science,” and not drugs or such things, desiring that His followers would continue to do the same15. In fact, it is believed that Jesus founded the church on the foundation of healing16. In the end, Mary Baker Eddy says that Christian Science is proven to be a valid theological system on the basis of the ability to heal17. Is this theology consistent with the Scriptures?
It must first be said that the mind does have a significant impact in illness and healing. The mind is able to facilitate the occurrence of either, and some of the proofs of Mary Baker Eddy are true: some people are healed by the “placebo effect,” some become ill because of mental disposition to become ill (hypochondria), and so on. It is not accurate, however, to say that there is absolutely no material basis for illness and/or healing. Since the death of Mary Baker Eddy, it has been conclusively determined that disease does have a material basis: bacteria and viruses enter the body and attack cells, and the body responds to this attack, or there is an imbalance in hormones and/or brain signals that lead to psychological or some internal physiological illnesses, and so on. Therefore, illness and its symptoms are most often the result of an agent (in scientific terms, a pathogen) acting within the body and the body’s reaction thereto. Furthermore, drugs do perform physical actions which facilitate healing, normally either working to destroy the pathogen itself or giving the cells of the body the knowledge required to do so. It is very true that the “mortal mind” of Christian Science does play a large role in the illness/healing process, yet there are valid physical actions going on.
It is also very true that Jesus came to this earth and healed many; to remove illness, however, was not His mission. His mission was to preach the Kingdom of Heaven, to seek and save the lost, and to sacrifice Himself on the cross for our sins, as demonstrated in Mark 1:38, Matthew 15:24, and Philippians 2:8:
And he saith unto them, “Let us go elsewhere into the next towns, that I may preach there also; for to this end came I forth.”
But he answered and said, “I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.
Healing was a means to demonstrate His power, to perform deeds not able to be performed by men. This same attitude is found in the Apostles, who used the opportunity in Acts 3:1-4:22 to heal a paralytic and thus open the hearts of many to receive the Gospel. Furthermore, the method of healing–instantaneous healing through the name of Christ or by the word of Christ–is not demonstrative of the ineffectiveness of drugs but the demonstration that the healing was done by the power of God and by the power of God alone. There is neither evidence nor justification to infer any other reason from the Scriptures.
The Scriptures never speak of the preeminence of healing; in fact, by the time James wrote his epistle, prayer for healing had become customary, as seen in James 5:14-16:
Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save him that is sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him. Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working.
Likewise, there are accounts in the Scriptures of Christians who were ill and were not automatically healed by an Apostle, as seen in Philippians 2:25-27 and 2 Timothy 4:20:
But I counted it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need; since he longed after you all, and was sore troubled, because ye had heard that he was sick: for indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow.
Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus I left at Miletus sick.
These are not in harmony with the Christian Science system of healing by the power of the divine Mind, but will any Christian Scientist assert that James or Paul are not disciples of Jesus Christ? This demonstrates that the statement made by Mark in Mark 16:17-18 applied to the Apostles alone, and no other, and even then by the will of God and not always realized in every instance, unlike what is said by Mary Baker Eddy18:
“And these signs shall accompany them that believe: in my name shall they cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
Therefore, it is evident that the mission of Jesus was not primarily to heal physically, and the witness of Paul in 1 Timothy 3:15 demonstrates that the church is not founded on healing:
but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
Finally, it is interesting to note that although she taught that pain was an illusion of mortal mind and that drugs only worked inasmuch as one had faith in them, Mary Baker Eddy was known to at times take morphine for the constant pain that she faced19. This is justified by saying that sometimes she would have to face her physical difficulties with material methods in order to regain her spiritual understanding and to be able to further promote the “Cause,” Christian Science20. This demonstrates a major inconsistency: if pain was merely an illusion, could not Mary Baker Eddy overcome it with the divine Mind? Even if her weakness is allowed, why morphine, if Mary Baker Eddy was so convinced that drugs had no effect save the faith therein? Could she not have had faith without morphine? How can one reject materialism and materialistic medicine and then use it when beneficial? This should demonstrate clearly that there is physical, real, material basis for both illness and drug remedy.
The Nature of God
The basis of Christian Science is that God is divine Mind, otherwise known as the divine Principle, Love, Truth, Intelligence, etc. Since this divine Mind has nothing to do with anything material, the concept of Jesus being God the Son in the flesh is unsupportable in the Christian Science belief system. This is evidenced by the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy concerning Jesus: she taught that Jesus was the reflection of Christ, the “Christ-idea,” that Jesus is not synonymous with Christ, that Jesus is not God the Son but the Son of God, “one in quality, not in quantity21.” We see this demonstrated in a portion of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:
Christ is the ideal Truth, that comes to heal sickness and sin through Christian Science, and attributes all power to God. 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 the sinning and destroying the power of death. Jesus is the human man, and Christ is the divine idea; hence the duality of Jesus the Christ22.
We see from the Scriptures, however, that God is one, and yet Christ was with God and yet also was God, and that Christ became flesh and dwelt among us, in Isaiah 45:5, John 1:1, John 1:14, Colossians 2:9, and 2 John 1:7:
“I am the LORD, and there is none else; besides Me there is no God. I will gird thee, though thou hast not known Me.”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
For many deceivers are gone forth into the world, even they that confess not that Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.
We also have the confession of Peter in Matthew 16:15-16:
He saith unto them, “But who say ye that I am?”
And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Notice that Simon does not say that Jesus is the “Christ-idea” or any such thing, but that He is the Christ. Therefore, we have seen from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ, that separation of the two is not in the Scriptures, and that Jesus is fully God as the Father is fully God.
Mary Baker Eddy also considered the role of the Holy Spirit to be something like the giving of “divine Science,” for she stated that the “Comforter” of John 14:15-17, 25-27 was “Divine Science23.” This, however, is inconsistent even with Christian Science doctrine, for Mary Baker Eddy says in the same place that this Comforter is given “forever,” yet she states that the church lost its “healing power” in the fourth century, not to be regained until she received revelation in the nineteenth24. Furthermore, it is also believed by Christian Scientists that the disciples of Christ were not able to understand the divine Science, and that the responsibility of exposing materialism was left to Mary Baker Eddy25. How, then, can the Comforter be given to the disciples if the Comforter is divine Science and yet the disciples did not understand divine Science? This is not even internally consistent, let alone consistent with Scripture. Therefore, the belief system of Christian Science concerning the nature of God is not consistent with the God described in the Old and New Testaments.
1: Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 2, 27, 143
2: Ibid., pp. 97, 145, 293-294
3: Ibid., pp. 171, 173, 182
4: Ibid., pp. 42, 152
5: Ibid., pp. 374, 423, 428
6: Ibid., p. 177; Gilbert C. Carpenter, Mary Baker Eddy: Her Spiritual Footsteps, pp. 60, 265
7: Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 504, 506
8: Ibid., pp. 521-522
9: Ibid., pp. 523-524
10: Ibid., pp. 42, 133, 140
11: Ibid., p. 194
12: Ibid., p. 344
13: Ibid., pp. 168-169, 188, 234
14: Ibid., pp. 131, 155
15: Ibid., pp. 157, 230
16: Ibid., p. 136
17: Ibid., p. 547
18: Ibid., p. 38
19: Mary Baker Eddy: Her Spiritual Footsteps, p. 267
20: Ibid., pp. 269-271
21: Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 316, 332, 361
22: Ibid., p. 473
23: Ibid., p. 55
24: Ibid., p. 41
25: Mary Baker Eddy: Her Spiritual Footsteps, p. 100