Church of Christ, Scientist

Church of Christ, Scientist
Church of Christ, Scientist
Classification Christian
Geographical areas United States
Founder Mary Baker Eddy
Origin 1879
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Congregations approximately 1000 worldwide (900 in the U.S.)
Members approximately 85,000 worldwide

The Church of Christ, Scientist was founded in 1879 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, by Mary Baker Eddy. She was the author of the book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Christian Science teaches that the "allness" of God denies the reality of sin, sickness, death, and the material world. Accounts of healing through prayer are common within the church and adherents traditionally refuse medical treatment. The church, headquartered in Boston, has a worldwide membership of about 85,000.[1]



The church was founded by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879 following a personal healing in 1866, which she claimed resulted from reading the Bible.[2] She called this experience "the falling apple" that led to her discovery of Christian Science. She was convinced that: "The divine Spirit had wrought the miracle — a miracle which later I found to be in perfect scientific accord with divine law."[3] She spent the next three years investigating the law of God according to the Bible, especially in the words and works of Jesus. The Bible and Eddy's textbook on Christian healing, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, are together the church's key doctrinal sources and have been ordained as the church's "dual impersonal pastor".[4]

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, is widely known for its publications, especially The Christian Science Monitor, a daily newspaper published internationally in print and on the Internet. Skeptics consider the religion to be controversial due to adherents' reliance on healing through prayer and their rejection of medicine. There have also been periodic tensions with both mainstream and fundamentalist Christians, who think the religion is aligned with Gnosticism or is a cult, and fault it for departing from traditional Christian doctrine. Of particular issue is the deity of Jesus, which Christian Science denies; and a view that Christian Science does teach, that God is not the creator of finite (material) existence and its concomitant suffering, sin and death.[5]

The church building, Huntington Ave., Boston, 1900

The Church of Christ, Scientist is sometimes confused with the Church of Scientology, an unrelated organization founded about 75 years after Christian Science. It is also sometimes confused with Religious Science, a recent denomination in line with the New Thought tradition.[citation needed]

The seal of Christian Science is a cross and crown with the words, "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons," and is a registered trademark of the church.

Theology and healing

Origins and early development

In February 1866, Mary Baker Eddy (known at the time as Mary Glover) was healed of an injury "that neither medicine nor surgery could reach..." (Ret 24:12). According to her personal accounts, when she appeared to be near death, she called out for her Bible. She turned it to Matthew 9:2, which tells the story of Jesus healing a man who was sick with palsy, and after pondering the meaning of the passage, found herself suddenly well and able to get up. In her autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection, she wrote:

Even to the homeopathic physician who attended me, and rejoiced in my recovery, I could not then explain the modus of my relief. I could only assure him that the divine Spirit had wrought the miracle—a miracle which later I found to be in perfect scientific accord with divine law. (Retrospection and Introspection, page 24)

She referred to this event as her "Great Discovery", the "falling apple" that led to her "discovery how to be well" herself (ibid.) (Later, she gave it the name of "Christian Science" stating that she "...named it Christian, because it is compassionate, helpful, and spiritual." (ibid).) Not knowing how it had occurred, she spent the next three years studying the Bible, experimenting and praying to discover if the experience was repeatable and if there were knowable laws that governed it. She claimed that she was able to heal others and began to be called out to the bedsides of those whom the medical faculty had not been able to help. A doctor attending a severe case in New Hampshire is said to have witnessed her healing one of his patients and asked if she could explain her system. At the time, she said only that God did it. But he urged her to write about it and soon she began her main work explaining her system of Christian healing, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

Soon others began to ask her to teach her healing method and she claimed that her students were able to approximate her ability to heal. The readers of her book gathered into an organization and gradually developed into a church, with Mary Baker Eddy as its pastor.


In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Eddy argues that given the absolute goodness and perfection of God, sin, disease, and death were not created by Him, and therefore cannot be truly real. She bases this reading on Genesis 1, calling that the true record of creation in contrast to Genesis 2, the false record of creation obscuring the true (which occurred when "a mist went up from the face of the ground"). Rather than being ontologically real, in Christian Science evil and its manifestations are instead terrible lies about God and His creation. This, it contends, is what Jesus meant when he said that "the devil is a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44). The demand for Christians, therefore, is to "unmask" the devil's lies through Christ, revealing the true and eternal perfection of God's creation. Eddy therefore called evil "error" and felt it could be remedied through a better spiritual understanding of one's relationship to God. She contended that this understanding was what enabled the biblical Jesus to heal and accords with the Scripture: "We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." (I John 4:6)

This teaching is the foundation of the Christian Science principle that disease – and any other adversity – can be cured through prayerful efforts, made possible only by God's grace, to fully understand this spiritual relationship. It is encapsulated in Science and Health as "The Scientific Statement of Being". It is read aloud in churches and Sunday schools at the end of every Sunday 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.[6]

(In the church, the passage from I John 3:1–3 and a biblical benediction are also read.)

This belief in the unreality of imperfection, stemming from the allness of God, Spirit, is the basis of Christian Scientists' characteristic reliance on prayer in place of traditional medical care, often with the aid of Christian Science practitioners.

Christian Science practitioners are listed in the Christian Science Journal, with the permission of the church's Board of Directors, their only form of official recognition by the church and among the Christian Science laity. (Some "unlisted" practitioners maintain active practices as well, but they do so without the acceditation that a Journal listing brings. Additionally, medical insurance plans that cover Christian Science treatment generally only cover treatment provided by Journal-listed practitioners).

Practitioners treat patients, in Christian Science parlance, through prayer. Such treatment often, though not always, is for health-related problems, and a practitioner's patient may request help for personal problems as well, such as relationships, problems of employment or housing and so on. Practitioners generally charge a fee for their services. Christian Scientists believe that through scientific study of the inspired word of the Bible, especially Jesus' words and works, one can learn to heal. Healing is understood not as an end in itself, but a natural result of drawing closer to God. Healing sin is particularly important. Eddy called this the "emphatic purpose" of Christian Science, writing that it is also sometimes more difficult than healing sickness, because "while mortals love to sin, they do not love to be sick." (Rudimental Divine Science, page 2)

Christian Scientists celebrate the sacraments of baptism and eucharist in an entirely non-material way. "Our baptism," wrote Eddy, "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, page 35) There are no rituals in the Christian Science church, but at the communion service, held twice a year, those in attendance are invited to kneel for silent prayer, followed by the audible repetition of the Lord's Prayer. The communion service is not held at The Mother Church.[7] Marriage is not a sacrament of the Christian Science church, but the church's by-laws require a legal, religious ceremony for marriage: "If a Christian Scientist is to be married, the ceremony shall be performed by a clergyman who is legally authorized."[8]

Christ Jesus is both "Wayshower" and savior in Christian Science theology. Eddy distinguished between the corporeal Jesus, the human man in the flesh (the Son of Man), and the incorporeal Christ (the Son of God). According to Christian Science, Christ is "the divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error." (Science and Health, page 583) This incorporeal Christ is the "spiritual selfhood" (or spiritual identity) of Jesus (Science and Health 38). In Eddy's Message to The Mother Church for 1901, in the section titled "Christ Is One and Divine", she writes:

The Christ was Jesus' spiritual selfhood; therefore Christ existed prior to Jesus, who said, "Before Abraham was, I am." Jesus, the only immaculate, was born of a virgin mother, and Christian Science explains that mystic saying of the Master as to his dual personality, or the spiritual and material Christ Jesus, called in Scripture the Son of God and the Son of man — explains it as referring to his eternal spiritual selfhood and his temporal manhood. (Message for 1901, page 8)

This accords with a basic plank in the platform of Christian Science:

The invisible Christ was imperceptible to the so-called personal senses, whereas Jesus appeared as a bodily existence. This dual personality of the unseen and the seen, the spiritual and material, the eternal Christ and the corporeal Jesus manifest in flesh, continued until the Master's ascension, when the human, material concept, or Jesus, disappeared, while the spiritual self, or Christ, continues to exist in the eternal order of divine Science, taking away the sins of the world, as the Christ has always done, even before the human Jesus was incarnate to mortal eyes." (Science and Health, page 334)

Christian Science teaches that Christ Jesus was sent by God and that his history is factual, including the virgin birth, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension.[9]

Because of his special status due to the virgin birth and his pure, unselfish nature, Jesus voluntarily faced his struggle in Gethsemane, death, resurrection, and ascension to show humanity that no phase of mortal existence was beyond God's redeeming love. Eddy wrote: "Jesus of Nazareth taught and demonstrated man's oneness with the Father, and for this we owe him endless homage". (Science and Health, page 18)

Jesus could have withdrawn himself from his enemies. He had power to lay down a human sense of life for his spiritual identity in the likeness of the divine; but he allowed men to attempt the destruction of the mortal body in order that he might furnish the proof of immortal life. Nothing could kill this Life of man. Jesus could give his temporal life into his enemies' hands; but when his earth-mission was accomplished, his spiritual life, indestructible and eternal, was found forever the same. (Science and Health, page 51)

Christian Science teaches that we are not Christians until we "go and do likewise," until we in some degree "come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ," as it says in the Scriptures (Ephesians 4:13). We never become Christ, but we are called upon to become fully Christly or Christ-like, to emulate our Master's great words and works in some measure. This was Eddy's understanding of Jesus' saying: "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto my Father" (John 14:12). No one's ministry, however, can equal that of Christ Jesus in Christian Science. Eddy even stipulated in her Church Manual that "careless comparison or irreverent reference to Christ Jesus is abnormal in a Christian Scientist and is prohibited." (Church Manual, page 41) She also wrote: "The cardinal points of Christian Science cannot be lost sight of, namely — one God, supreme, infinite, and one Christ Jesus." (Miscellany 339)

Christian Scientists are trinitarian, but in an unorthodox way. One plank of the platform of Christian Science says:

Life, Truth, and Love constitute the triune Person called God, — that is, the triply divine Principle, Love. They represent a trinity in unity, three in one, — the same in essence, though multi-form in office: God the Father-Mother; Christ the spiritual idea of sonship; divine Science or the Holy Comforter. These three express in divine Science the threefold, essential nature of the infinite. They also indicate the divine Principle of scientific being, the intelligent relation of God to man and the universe. (Science and Health, page 331)

Eddy calls God "Father-Mother," signifying not an androgynous God but a God "without body, parts or passions," as in the Westminster Confession of Faith, who nevertheless functions both to govern and comfort. She calls the Holy Ghost "divine Science or the Holy Comforter," the spiritual law of God operating as the Holy Ghost in the world. She sent her students a definition of the Trinity (circa 1898), which read in part: "Jesus in the flesh was the prophet or wayshower to Life, Truth, and Love, and out of the flesh Jesus was the Christ, the spiritual idea, or image and likeness of God." (Christian Science Journal, July 1915, p. 192). This statement reflects Mrs. Eddy's doctrine regarding the uniqueness, unity, and individuality of Christ Jesus' eternal, spiritual identity.

Spiritual healing in the material world

Christian Science's focus on spiritual healing led to some measure of stir in the theological realm at first. Under the influence of the Enlightenment, many mainstream denominations had relegated spiritual healing to the realm of a one-time dispensation rather than a modern practice. During the religion's early days of rapid growth, the teachings were frequently attacked from the pulpit and press.[10][11][12]

While reliance on prayer is central to Christian Science, Christian Scientists are not officially required to refuse medicine. Orthodox practitioners treating a patient who decides to switch to medical care will typically resign the case because combining methods is discouraged. Such efforts are even referred to as "mental quackery." [13] Prayer and matter-based medicine are described as being essentially incompatible. "The flesh and Spirit can no more unite in action, than good can coincide with evil. It is not wise to take a halting and half-way position or to expect to work equally with Spirit and matter, Truth and error." (Science and Health, page 167)

Nonetheless, Eddy said a person may accept certain temporary aid from a doctor if he is in pain "so violent," he is unable to pray for himself. (Science and Health, page 464) She also made it clear that people were not to be prevented from seeking whatever help they feel will help them.

If patients fail to experience the healing power of Christian Science, and think they can be benefited by certain ordinary physical methods of medical treatment, then the Mind-physician should give up such cases, and leave invalids free to resort to whatever other systems they fancy will afford relief. (Science and Health, page 443)

Christian Science teaches that spiritual healing is a natural result of studying Jesus' teachings[14] and that he proved his teachings by healing. Christian Scientists are instructed to follow Jesus' example and heal as well, as the words in the registered trademark of the Cross and Crown indicate.

The Church claims to have over 50,000 testimonies of healing through Christian Science treatment alone. While most of these testimonies represent ailments neither diagnosed nor treated by medical professionals, the Church does require three other people to vouch for any testimony published in its official organ, the Christian Science Journal.[15] However, some[who?] critics of the Church complain that the verification guidelines are not strict enough. The Church also has a number of statements regarding diagnosed conditions accompanied by legal affidavits of authenticity signed by medical practitioners who witnessed a non-medical healing. Historian and journalist Robert Peel, who was a Christian Scientist, chronicles examples of these accounts, quoting from the affidavits.[16]

Christian Scientists may take an intensive two-week "Primary" class from an authorized Christian Science teacher.[17] Those who wish to become "Journal-listed" (accredited) practitioners, devoting themselves full-time to the public practice of healing, must first have Primary class instruction. When they have a proven record of healing, they may submit their names for publication in the directory of practitioners and teachers in the Christian Science Journal. A practitioner who has been listed for at least three years' may apply for "Normal" class instruction, given just once every three years.[18][19] Those who receive a certificate are authorized to teach.[20] Both Primary and Normal classes are based on the Bible and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy. The Primary class focuses on the chapter, "Recapitulation" in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. This chapter uses the Socratic method of teaching and contains the "Scientific Statement of Being". The "Normal" class focuses on the platform of Christian Science, contained on pages 330-340 of Science and Health.[21]

Medical studies of spiritual healing

The medical community (and others) have taken some interest in spirituality and healing. The Harvard Medical School Department of Continuing Education continues to offer a course titled "Spirituality and Healing in Medicine; The Importance of the Integration of Mind/Body Practices and Prayer" which The Mother Church has supported. In addition, some studies on the effectiveness of prayer on recovering heart attack patients have shown a small benefit to prayer or other spiritual treatment in recovery.[22] However, it is important to note that the patients in these studies received some form of spiritual healing (i.e. not Christian Science 'treatment') in addition to, not instead of, conventional medical care. Later studies (again not involving Christian Science treatment) with larger numbers of heart patients showed prayer has no effect on recovery.[23]


The Mother Church, Boston, Massachusetts.

The First Church of Christ, Scientist is the legal title of The Mother Church and administrative headquarters of the Christian Science Church. The complex is located in a 14-acre (57,000 m2) plaza alongside Huntington Avenue in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts.

The church itself was built in 1894, and an annex larger in footprint than the original structure was added in 1906. It boasts one of the world's largest pipe organs, built by the Aeolian-Skinner Company of Boston. The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity is housed in an 11-story structure originally built for The Christian Science Publishing Society constructed between 1932 and 1934, and the present plaza was constructed in the late 1960s and early 1970s to include a 28 story administration building, a colonnade, and a reflecting pool with fountain, designed by Araldo Cossutta of I. M. Pei and Partners (now Pei Cobb Freed).

Branch churches of The Mother Church may take the title of First Church of Christ, Scientist; Second; but the article The must not be used, presumably to concede the primacy of the Boston Mother Church.

An international daily newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor, founded by Eddy in 1908 and winner of seven Pulitzer prizes, is published by the church through the Christian Science Publishing Society.

Branch Christian Science churches and Christian Science societies are subordinate to the Mother Church, but are self-governed. They have their own by-laws, bank accounts, assets and officers, but in order to be recognised must abide by the by-laws in the Manual of The Mother Church. Church services are regulated by the Manual, the set of by-laws written by Eddy, that establishes the church organization and explains the duties and responsibilities of members, officers, practitioners, teachers and nurses; and establishes rules for discipline and other aspects of church business.

Board of Directors

The Mother Church, from another perspective

The Christian Science Board of Directors is a five-person executive entity created by Mary Baker Eddy to conduct the business of the Christian Science Church under the terms defined in the by-laws of the Church Manual. Its functions and restrictions are defined by the Manual.

The Board (occasionally CSBD or the BoD for short) also includes functions defined by a Deed of Trust written by Eddy (one of several, in fact) under which it consisted of four persons, though she later expanded the Board to five persons, thus in effect leaving one of its members out of Deed functions. This later bore on a dispute during the 1920s, known as the Great Litigation in CS circles, pivoting on whether the CSBD could remove trustees of the Christian Science Publishing Society or whether the CSPS trustees were established independently.

While Eddy's Manual established limited executive functions under the rule of law in place of a traditional hierarchy, the controversial 1991 publication of a book by Bliss Knapp led the then Board of Directors to make the unusual affidavit during a suit over Knapp's estate that neither acts by it violating the Manual, nor acts refraining from required action, constituted violations of the Manual. A traditionally-minded minority held that the Board's act in publishing Knapp's book constituted a fundamental violation of several by-laws and its legal trust, automatically mandating the offending Board members' resignations under Article I, Section 9.

Another minority believed that Eddy intended various requirements for her consent (in their view, "estoppels") to effect the church's dissolution on her passing, since they could no longer be followed literally. Ironically, one of the stronger arguments against this position came from an individual highly respected by their theological quarter, Bliss Knapp, who claimed that Eddy understood through her lawyer that these consent clauses would not hinder normal operation after her decease.


Churches worldwide hold a one-hour service each Sunday, consisting of hymns, prayer, and currently, readings from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible (although there is no requirement that this version of the Bible be used) and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. These readings are the weekly Lesson-Sermon, which is read aloud at all Sunday services in all Christian Science churches worldwide, and is studied by individuals at home throughout the preceding week. The Lesson, as it is informally called, is compiled by a committee at The Mother Church, and is usually made up of six sections, each of which consists of passages from the Bible (read by the Second Reader) and passages from Science and Health (read by the First Reader).

Eddy selected 26 subjects for the Lesson-Sermon. These Lessons run in continuous rotation in the order she established, hence each subject is studied twice a year. In years in which there are 53 Sundays, the topic "Christ Jesus" occurs a third time, in December. In addition, there is a special, shortened Lesson-Sermon for Thanksgiving Day.

Because there are no clergy in the church, branch church Sunday services are conducted by two Readers: the First Reader, who reads passages from Science and Health, and the Second Reader, who reads passages from the Bible. First Readers determine the beginning "scriptural selection", hymns to be sung on Sundays, and the benediction. The vast majority of the service is the reading of the weekly Bible lesson supplied by Boston, and order of service set out by the Manual. To be elected the First Reader in one's branch church is one of the highest and most important positions the lay Christian Scientist can aspire to.

Churches also hold a one-hour Wednesday evening testimony meeting, with similar readings, after which, those in attendance are invited to share accounts of healing through prayer. At these services, the First Reader reads passages from the Bible and Science and Health. They may choose alternate Bible translations at these services (i.e. Phillips).

Branch churches also sponsor annual public talks (called lectures) given by speakers selected annually by the Board of Lectureship in Boston.

Recent problems


Beginning in the mid-1980s, church executives undertook a controversial and ambitious foray into electronic broadcast media. The first significant effort was to create a weekly half-hour syndicated television program, The Christian Science Monitor Reports. "Monitor Reports" was anchored in its first season by newspaper veteran Rob Nelson. He was replaced in the second by the Christian Science Monitor's former Moscow correspondent, David Willis. The program was usually broadcast by independent stations — often at odd hours.

In 1988, Monitor Reports was supplanted by a nightly half-hour news show, World Monitor, which was broadcast by the Discovery Channel. The program was anchored by veteran journalist John Hart. The Church then purchased a Boston cable TV station for elaborate in-house programming production. In parallel, the church purchased a shortwave radio station and syndicated radio production to National Public Radio. However, revenues fell far short of optimistic predictions by church managers, who had ignored early warnings by members and media experts.

In October 1991, after a series of conflicts over the boundaries between Christian Science teachings and his journalistic independence, John Hart resigned.[24] The Monitor Channel went off the air in June 1992. Most of the other operations closed in well under a decade. Public accounts in both the mainstream and trade media reported that the church lost approximately $250 million on these ventures.

The hundreds of millions lost on broadcasting brought the church to the brink of bankruptcy. However, with the 1991 publication of The Destiny of The Mother Church by the late Bliss Knapp, the church secured a $90 million bequest from the Knapp trust. The trust dictated that the book be published as "Authorized Literature," with neither modification nor comment. Historically, the church had censured Knapp for deviating at several points from Eddy's teaching, and had refused to publish the work. The church's archivist, fired in anticipation of the book's publication, wrote to branch churches to inform them of the book's history. Many Christian Scientists thought the book violated the church's by-laws, and the editors of the church's religious periodicals and several other church employees resigned in protest. Alternate beneficiaries subsequently sued to contest the church's claim it had complied fully with the will's terms, and the church ultimately received only half of the original sum.[25][26]

The fallout of the broadcasting debacle also sparked a minor revolt among some prominent church members. In late 1993, a group of Christian Scientists filed suit against the Board of Directors, alleging a willful disregard for the Manual of the Mother Church in its financial dealings. The suit was thrown out by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in 1997, but a lingering discontent with the church's financial matters persists to this day.[27]

Membership decline and financial setbacks

In spite of its early meteoric rise, church membership has declined sharply over the past eight decades, according to the church's treasurer J. Edward Odegaard.[28] Though the Church is prohibited by the Manual from publishing membership figures, the number of branch churches in the United States has fallen steadily since World War II. Dr. Stephen Barrett has reported that since 1971, the number of practitioners and teachers in the United States listed in the Christian Science Journal has fallen from nearly 5,000 to just over 300 and the number of churches in the United States has fallen from about 1,800 to about 900.[29]

In 2005 the Boston Globe reported that the church is considering consolidating Boston operations into fewer buildings and leasing out space in buildings it owns. Church official Philip G. Davis noted that the administration and Colonnade buildings have not been fully used for many years and that vacancy increased after staff reductions last year. The church posted an $8 million financial loss in fiscal 2003, and in 2004 cut 125 jobs, a quarter of the staff, at The Christian Science Monitor. Davis said however that "the financial situation right now is excellent" that the church is not facing financial problems.[30]

Controversies and criticisms

From the moment Mark Twain published his 1907 attack on Christian Science, the Church, and Mary Baker Eddy, herself,[31] Christian Science has been subject to significant criticism and public controversy. Twain aimed much of his ridicule at the idea of healing through prayer — particularly when practiced remotely. However, according to his biographer, Albert Paine, Twain seemed to quarrel more with what he saw as Mary Baker Eddy's cult of personality than with the actual ideas of Christian Science saying:

"Clemens never had any quarrel with the theory of Christian Science or mental healing, or with any of the empiric practices. He acknowledged good in all of them, and he welcomed most of them in preference to materia medica. ... His quarrel with Mrs. Eddy lay in the belief that she herself, as he expressed it, was "a very unsound Christian Scientist."
'I believe she has a serious malady—self-edification—and that it will be well to have one of the experts demonstrate over her. [But he added]: Closely examined, painstakingly studied, she is easily the most interesting person on the planet, and in several ways as easily the most extraordinary woman that was ever born upon it.'".[32]

Later, Twain seemed to reverse his stance towards Eddy as Paine quoted Twain as saying: "... Christian Science is humanity's boon. ... [Mary Baker Eddy] has organized and made available a healing principle that for two thousand years has never been employed, except as the merest kind of guesswork. She is the benefactor of the age."[32]

Twain also expressed grave doubts about the authorship of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, showing through content analysis that the quality of the writing was much better than any of Eddy's previous or subsequent work (for example her autobiography and her later writings in the Christian Science Journal):

That she wrote the Autobiography, and that preface, and the Poems, and the Plague-spot Bacilli, we are not permitted to doubt. Indeed we know that she wrote them. But the very certainty that she wrote these things compels in us a doubt that she wrote Science and Health.[31]

Today, the most publicized controversies are still over the issue of medicine. While church members point out that followers are free to choose to seek conventional medical treatment, most rely exclusively on healing by prayer. Christian Scientists distinguish their method from “faith healing.” To a Christian Scientist, “faith healing” is something that relies merely on blind faith in miraculous cures. Christian Scientists see themselves as practicing a well-defined process with a proven track record[16][33] by means of the spiritualization of thought through prayer aimed at shedding the false beliefs of the mortal mind that manifest themselves as physical ailments.

This issue is most controversial regarding children. In a number of nationally publicized cases in the early 1990s, prosecutors charged parents belonging to the Christian Science church with murder or manslaughter after their children died of likely curable ailments without being medically treated. The best-known of these was the Twitchell Case in Massachusetts, in which parents David and Ginger Twitchell were convicted in 1990 of involuntary manslaughter in the death of their two-year-old son Robyn, who succumbed to a bowel obstruction.[34] In other cases, parents have been legally exonerated — often because of exemptions in state laws to taking legal action against people who relied on religious cures. Such cases are also controversial inside the Church. Many members believe that the parents involved received poor guidance from church leaders, while others contend that the process of healing through Christian Science was not done correctly.

Since the episodes with regard to The Monitor Channel and the Bliss Knapp book, the church has at times been accused of attempting to silence dissenters by methods such as delisting them as practitioners in the Christian Science Journal, or excommunicating them. Some dissenting groups continue to solicit support among current members of the church.[who?]

There have also been tensions over theological and religious concerns. While members of the Christian Science church claim their religion is based in, reconcilable with, and part of Christianity (being based on the teachings of Jesus), there are orthodox Christian theologians and others who disagree. These critics[who?] state that Mary Baker Eddy's interpretation of Christian scripture diverges too greatly from basic tenets of Christianity. They often cite Christian Science's views on the nature/existence of evil or sin, the divinity and resurrection of Jesus, the Trinity, and a few other matters as demonstrating that it cannot be considered a Christian denomination. In response, Christian Scientists say that Jesus never claimed to be God and even implicitly denied it in Matthew 19:16–17.

See also


  1. ^ The Church Of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science)
  2. ^ "About Mary Baker Eddy, Discoverer of Christian Science". About Christian Science. The First Church of Christ, Scientist. Copyright 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-15. 
  3. ^ Ret 24
  4. ^ Mary Baker Eddy. Manual of the Mother Church, 89th Edition, page 58, Article XV "The Christian Science Pastor" Ordination. Section 1. First copyrighted 1895
  5. ^ Stephen Gottschalk. "Christian Science Today: Resuming the Dialogue" Republished, with permission, on from Christian Century, December 17, 1986, pps. 1146-1148. Accessed Feb. 27, 2010
  6. ^ Mary Baker Eddy. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 1910 edition, published by Trustees under the will of Mary Baker G. Eddy, page 468 ASIN 0007FAPN0
  7. ^ Church Manual, page 61, Article XVIII, Section 1.
  8. ^ Church Manual, page 49, Article IX, Section 1.
  9. ^ Science and Health, page 46
  10. ^ Rev. Irving C. Tomlinson. Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy (1945)
  11. ^ Edward Kimball. "Facts and Fictions about Christian Science." Lecture delivered April 8, 1898, from Lectures and Articles on Christian Science (1921)
  12. ^ Christian Science and Legislation. (1909) Chapter: Editorial Comments (a collection of quotes from magazines and newspapers around the US).
  13. ^ Science and Health page 458
  14. ^ Science and Health, page xi
  15. ^ "Guidelines for submitting testimonies" Christian Science Journal web site
  16. ^ a b Robert Peel. "Spiritual Healing in a Scientific Age (1987) ISBN 978-0-06-066484-8
  17. ^ Church Manual, page 92, Article XXX, Section 8.
  18. ^ Church Manual, page 89, Article XXIX, Section 2.
  19. ^ Church Manual, page 84, Article XXVi, Section 4.
  20. ^ Church Manual, page 85, Article XXVI, Section 9.
  21. ^ Church Manual, page 86, Article XXVII, Section 3.
  22. ^ Byrd, R. C. (1988). "Positive Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer in a Coronary Care Unit Population". Southern Medical Journal 81 (7): 826–829. doi:10.1097/00007611-198807000-00005. PMID 3393937.  edit
  23. ^ Power of prayer flunks an unusual test - Heart health -
  24. ^ "Ex-anchor cites interference at Monitor" The Baltimore Sun September 2, 1992. Accessed Feb. 27, 2010
  25. ^ Peter Steinfels. "Fiscal and Spiritual Rifts Shake Christian Scientists" New York Times (February 29, 1992)
  26. ^ Press release Stanford University. December 16, 1993
  27. ^ "Appellate Brief No. SJC-07156" (pdf). COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  28. ^ The Christian Science Journal November, 2010
  29. ^ Christian Science Statistics: Practitioners, Teachers, and Churches in the United States
  30. ^ Boston Globe October 13, 2005 p. A1
  31. ^ a b Twain, Mark (1917). Christian Science. Plain Label Books. ISBN 978-1-60303-084-7. 
  32. ^ a b Paine, Albert Bigelow (September 1912). "Christian Science Controversies, Working with Mark Twain". Mark Twain: A Biography; The Personal and Literary Life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. 3. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers. pp. 1186–1187, 1271. ISBN 978-0-7910-4539-8. 
  33. ^ A Century of Christian Science Healing (1966) ISBN 978-0-87510-067-8
  34. ^ Margolick, David (August 6, 1990). "In Child Deaths, a Test for Christian Science; Faith vs. the Law; A special report.". The New York Times: p. A2. ISSN 1649296. [dead link]

External links

The Christian Science Church

Writings of Mary Baker Eddy

Criticism of Christian Science

Biographies, Histories and Commentary

  • "Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer (Twentieth-Century Biographers Series)Yvonne Cache Von Fettweis* (2010)
  • "Rolling Away the Stone: Mary Baker Eddy's Challenge to Materialism (Religion in North America) Stephen Gottschalk (2011)
  • Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery; Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Trial; and Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority comprise the three-volume biography of Eddy favored by Christian Scientists. It was written by Christian Scientist, scholar and longtime Mother Church employee Robert Peel. It is the church's de facto "official biography" of Eddy, though it was not published by the church.
  • The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science by Willa Cather and Georgine Milmine (1909) began as a famous Muckraking magazine series 1907–08. Scholars who are not Christian Scientists rely on it, but church members strongly disfavor it. It was reprinted by the University of Nebraska Press in 1993.
  • God's Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church by Caroline Fraser (2000), a biography of Mary Baker Eddy and a history of the Christian Science church from its founding to the present day, with a detailed section on the "child cases" of the 1980s. Fraser was raised in Christian Science, but later left the church.
  • Christian Science Mark Twain's famous, vitriolic 1907 polemic mocking Mary Baker Eddy, her writings, and the church's financial arrangements.
  • Mrs. Eddy, the Biography of a Virginal Mind Book by Edwin Franden Dakin (1929); C. Scribner's Sons.

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