Christian Science

Christian Science
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Christian Science is a system of thought and practice derived from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy and the Bible. It is practiced by members of The First Church of Christ, Scientist as well as some others who are nonmembers. Its central texts are the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, Science & Health With Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. In the textbook, Eddy describes the teachings and healings of Jesus as a complete and coherent science which is both demonstrable and provable through healing.[1] Eddy spent the two years prior to the publication of Science & Health documenting evidence for the healing of various diseases and other physical ailments. In the chapter "Fruitage," accounts of healing verified as accomplished mainly by reading Science and Health are given, and the chapter was appended to a much later edition than the original. Christian Science asserts that man and the universe as a whole are spiritual rather than material in nature and that truth and good are real, whereas evil and error are illusory aspects of material existence.[2] Christian Scientists believe that through prayer, knowing and understanding, all things are possible for good through God.

Mary Baker Eddy wrote that she learned the Christian Science method of healing as she recovered from an injury in 1866 after reading a Bible passage describing one of Christ's healings. She believed that Jesus Christ's way of healing is available to all people, now as much as in biblical times. After this recovery, she studied the Bible for many years and documented her understandings in the Christian Science textbook entitled Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, copyrighted in 1875 and still in print today. The Bible and Science and Health are the foundation for Christian Science beliefs. "She concluded that Jesus was the practical demonstration of the spiritual power, a master healer who saved humans from sin, sickness, and death. His miracles were 'natural demonstrations of divine power,' a force available to any one with correct knowledge."[3]


Beliefs and practices

At the core of Christian Science is the claim that God and God's creation are entirely good and spiritual, and that God has made all things in his likeness. Christian Scientists literally interpret the Biblical teaching that God is both good and almighty, and follow this to what they believe is a logical conclusion; that any form of evil is God's opposite and so must necessarily be unreal. Hence sin, disease and death are illusions, which when seen through, can be overcome. Christian Scientists hold that the reality of being and of all that God makes is spiritual, not material. They see this spiritual reality as the only reality and all else as illusion or "error."[3] Christian Science acknowledges that all people seem to be experiencing a material existence, but holds that this material existence ultimately yields to a true, spiritual understanding of God and creation. They believe that this recognition of spiritual reality is how healing through prayer is possible.[4]

Prayer, from the Christian Science perspective, does not ask God to intervene but is rather a process of learning more of God's spiritual reality—"awakening mortal thought," by degrees, to spiritual truth. Christian Scientists show the effect of this spiritualization of thought in healing—physical, emotional, and otherwise. Health care of those for whom Christian Science is the preferred mode of treatment is typically not attempted through drugs, surgery, or other conventional methods but through Christian Science treatment, a specific form of prayer intended to spiritualize thought.[4]

While there is no formal compulsion on Christian Scientists either to use Christian Science healing or to eschew medical means,[5] Christian Scientists avoid using the two systems simultaneously in the belief that they tend to counteract or contradict each other, as material medicine and Christian Science treatment proceed from diametrically opposite assumptions. According to Christian Scientists, medicine asserts that something is physically broken and needs to be fixed, while Christian Science asserts that the spiritual reality is harmonious and perfect and that any belief to the contrary needs to be corrected.

Mary Baker Eddy defined Christian Science in these terms: "...the law of God, the law of good, interpreting and demonstrating the divine Principle and rule of universal harmony."[6] She saw it as "...the natural law of harmony which overcomes discord."[7] Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, also holds that Christian Science is the Divine Comforter mentioned in the gospel of John.


Christian Science addresses the theological problem of evil by teaching that evil is unreal and an illusion.[7] Neither Genesis, nor the rest of the canon ever mention Adam as having awakened. This awakening is considered to be the "Christian Science revolution in thought". Christian Scientists believe that if the belief in evil is replaced by the understanding of the true universality of good, one's perception will also change, rendering the question "where did evil originate?" meaningless.

Christian Science differs from conventional Abrahamic theology as it regards God as both Father and Mother. This does not refer to any anthropomorphic characteristics, but to a concept of God that has qualities traditionally considered feminine (gentleness, compassion, nurturing and so on) and qualities traditionally considered masculine (strength, support, protection etc.). According to Christian Science, every person in their true spiritual selfhood as created in God's image or as God's reflection, embodies these qualities as well.

While some Christian Science teachings are unorthodox from the point of view of conventional Christian theology (as in the rejection of substitutionary atonement and of Hell as a place of eternal punishment), others are orthodox (acceptance of the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection of Jesus). Christian Science is presented as a resurgence of primitive Christianity as a demonstrable scientific system.

Another way to illustrate the foundations of the theology of Christian Science is to consider the problems involved in the philosophy of dualism. Many belief systems posit a "god versus something else" or "spirit versus matter". Mary Baker Eddy in a sense followed the reductionism of her time, but instead of reducing all things to the material, she reduced all things to the spiritual.[8]

Christ and the Trinity

Christian Science distinguishes between "Jesus" the man, and "Christ" the divine manifestation. In considering the question of the relationship between divinity and humanity in reference to Christ Jesus, it is important to consider the Christian Science definition of God as "The great I AM."[9] "As a drop of water is one with the ocean, a ray of light one with the sun, even so God and man, Father and son, are one in being."[10]

In Christian Science, Christ is the "divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error."[11] Christ is completely divine and spiritual, but not material. Jesus, the son of God, therefore embodied Christ to such a degree that he, and he alone, can carry the title Christ. As a corporeal being, however, he was not the totality of Christ. Christian Scientists argue that Jesus never claimed to be God and that he implicitly denied it in Matthew 19:16–17.

Mary Baker Eddy claims that her teaching reconciles Judaism and Christianity: ", Jew and Christian can unite in doctrine and denomination on the very basis of Jesus' words and works. The Jew believes that the Messiah or Christ has not yet come; the Christian believes that Christ is God. Here Christian Science intervenes, explains these doctrinal points, cancels the disagreement, and settles the question. Christ, as the true spiritual idea, is the ideal of God now and forever, here and everywhere. The Jew who believes in the First Commandment is a monotheist; he has one omnipresent God. Thus the Jew unites with the Christian's doctrine that God is come and is present now and forever. The Christian who believes in the First Commandment is a monotheist. Thus he virtually unites with the Jew's belief in one God, and recognizes that Jesus Christ is not God, as Jesus himself declared, but is the Son of God."[12]

Mary Baker Eddy writes, "Throughout all generations both before and after the Christian era, the Christ, as the spiritual idea – the reflection of God – has come with some measure of power and grace to all prepared to receive Christ, Truth",[13] and even today, the Christ continues to come to people, giving them a greater understanding of their wholly spiritual identity through healing and the destruction of sin.

The Trinity in Christian Science is found in the unity of God, Christ, and divine Science, or: "God the Father-Mother; Christ the spiritual idea of sonship; divine Science or the Holy Comforter."[14] This differs from the traditional Christian view defined in the Athanasian Creed.[15]

The Hereafter

There is no concept of eternal punishment in Christian Science: hell and heaven are both states of thought. Death is not necessary for the experience of heaven: heaven or harmony can be experienced here and now to the extent that one's thought is elevated to a spiritual level. Indeed, Christian Science teaches that death itself is an illusion, and that it can, and will, be ultimately conquered through the conquest of sin, as taught by Christ Jesus and exemplified in his life. A person who seems to die does not "go" anywhere: he/she simply adjusts to another level of consciousness which is inaccessible to those they have left behind. Mary Baker Eddy states "Heaven represents harmony, and divine Science interprets the Principle of heavenly harmony. The great miracle, to human sense, is divine Love, and the grand necessity of existence is to gain the true idea of what constitutes the kingdom of heaven in man."[16]

Near death experiences are accepted by Christian Scientists as evidence of the hereafter, and have been known to them at least since the 19th Century. The modern public interest in near death experiences really only started with Raymond Moody's 1975 book Life After Life.[17] Mary Baker Eddy writes that persons in the process of passing on may see and call the names of those who have passed before them.[18] However, Christian Scientists do not believe that it is possible to communicate with so-called "spirits of the dead", and so do not believe in, or participate in Spiritualistic seances.[18]


Christian Science teaches that prayer is a spiritualization of thought or an understanding of God and the nature of the underlying spiritual creation. The world as it appears to the senses is regarded as a distorted version of the world of spiritual ideas: the latter is the only true reality. Prayer can heal the distortion, bringing spiritual reality (the Kingdom of Heaven in biblical terms) into clearer focus in the human scene—not changing the spiritual creation but giving a clearer view of it. (An analogy would be adjusting the lens of a telescope or microscope until a clear image appears.) The result is healing. According to Christian Science there are not two creations, a spiritual one and a material one, but only a spiritual creation which is incorrectly perceived as material.

In the Old Testament, Christian Scientists point to the healing of a skin disease from which Naaman suffered, by the revelation of a propensity to anger on his part, and the development of humility instead 2Kings 5:1-14; and to the insistence of the mother of the child healed by Elisha that, contrary to appearances, her child was well when it seemed to be dead 2Kings 4:17-37.

Christian Scientists believe that in the New Testament, Jesus is implying the existence of an underlying spiritual harmony that can be demonstrated through faith in its existence.[19] They look to Luke 8:22–25 where Jesus calmed a storm through prayer and implied that his disciples could have done so also if they had sufficient faith, to Luke 8:49–50 where Jesus stated that a young girl who had apparently died could be well again if faith was shown, and to Mark 9:17-29 where he teaches that everything is possible through the prayer of one who believes.

Christian Scientists believe that prayer works through love – in its Christian sense of unselfish, unlimited and unconditional awareness of the spiritual identity of another – and that this is the way Jesus Christ healed. Their aim is "to reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing"[20] which, they believe, was lost after the early centuries of Christianity. They cite such Bible texts as Mark 16:17–18; Matthew 10:8 in support of their contention that Christian faith demands demonstration in healing. This is a faith in the omnipotence of God, which according to the Christian Science interpretation of the Bible such as Luke 17:5–6, logically rules out any other power. The Christian Science view, citing Matthew 21:22; Matthew 7:7–11, is that Jesus taught that we should claim good as being present, right here and now, and that this will result in healing. Christian Scientists point to Jesus' teaching in John 14:12 that his followers would do "greater works" than he did and that a person who lived in conformity with his teachings would not be subject even to death, in John 8:51.

An important point in Christian Science is that effectual prayer and the moral regeneration of one's life go hand-in-hand: that "signs and wonders are wrought in the metaphysical healing of physical disease; but these signs are only to demonstrate its divine origin, to attest the reality of the higher mission of the Christ-power to take away the sins of the world."[21] Christian Science teaches that disease is mental, a mortal fear, a mistaken belief or conviction of the necessity and power of ill-health – an ignorance of God's power and goodness. The chapter on "Prayer" in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, gives a full account of healing through prayer, while the testimonies at the end of the book are written by people who believe they have been healed through spiritual understanding gained from reading the book. Christian Scientists claim no monopoly on the application of God's healing power through prayer, and welcome it wherever it occurs.[22]

Christian Science does not teach that one needs to pray through Jesus Christ as a sole mediator. Christian Science holds the belief that Jesus of Nazareth was not God, but the Son of God. Therefore, the position held by literalists that one must pray through Jesus alone was not held by Mary Baker Eddy.


The basis of Christian Science healing is the view that "man" (the male/female spiritual being who appears as an individual human being) is the reflection or expression of God who is wholly good and perfect, and therefore man is perfect. Christian Scientists believe that God loves every individual, because God is the creator of all.

Christian Scientists believe that sickness is the result of fear, ignorance, or sin, and that when the erroneous belief is corrected, the sickness will disappear. They state that the way to eliminate the false beliefs is to replace them with true understanding of God's goodness. They consider that suffering can occur only when one believes (consciously or unconsciously) in the supposed reality of a problem. If one changes one's understanding, the belief is revealed as false, and the acknowledgement that the sickness has no power, as God is the only power, eliminates the sickness.

Christian Science makes an important distinction between the healing of sin (or moral evil) on the one hand, and the healing of sickness or disease on the other. Mary Baker Eddy writes: "The only difference between the healing of sin and the healing of sickness is, that sin must be uncovered before it can be destroyed, and the moral sense be aroused to reject the sense of error; while sickness must be covered with the veil of harmony, and the consciousness be allowed to rejoice in the sense that it has nothing to mourn over, but something to forget."[23]


Although it is not required, many Christian Scientists use their healing system as their first choice for treatment over drugs and surgery. They believe in following what they believe to be the example of Jesus, bringing the real or ideal man more clearly into thought. Christian Scientists believe that Jesus was "the Wayshower", a proof by example of the divine method of healing sin, sickness and death. According to the Christian Science belief, there are no limits to the type of medical conditions that can be healed through prayer.

The Christian Science Church does not forbid the use of medicine by its members. An exception is the case of Christian Science Centers which may require certain employees to sign a statement of principles. Though Christian Scientists respect the work of medical practitioners, most of them prefer to use prayer and to rely on God. Christian Scientists who choose to rely on medical treatment for a specific problem normally give up Christian Science treatment for the period of treatment. This is because one treatment approaches healing from a material and the other from a spiritual perspective. Because the method of prayer includes denying the reality of matter and affirming the perfection of the individual – while medicine is used to fix matter and a person with a problem – these two means are seen as incompatible and indeed as tending to work against each other when used simultaneously. Most Christian Scientists are practical when it comes to using material aids such as vision correction, splints for broken bones, and dental services, and will use what seems appropriate at the time. However, numerous claims of healings of near- and far-sightedness, dental problems and broken bones have been reported in the periodicals published by the Church.[24]

Mary Baker Eddy's views on this subject are as follows: "If Christian Scientists ever fail to receive aid from other Scientists – their brethren upon whom they may call – God will still guide them into the right use of temporary and eternal means."[25] She also stated, "It is impossible to gain control over the body in any other way [divine Mind-Prayer]. On this fundamental point, timid conservatism is absolutely inadmissible. Only through radical reliance on Truth can scientific healing power be realized".[26]


Christian Science might be considered as a form of theistic monistic idealism: there is but one substance which is God, Mind in whom all are embraced.[27] The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy cites Christian Science as an extreme form of philosophical idealism.

Christian Science teaches the unreality of matter. Indeed, the central thesis of Christian Science is found in a short but tightly reasoned paragraph which begins: "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter . . . [and it concludes]: Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual".[28] The paragraph is read each Sunday at the close of worship. According to Christian Science, what is called the material world is a distortion of the underlying spiritual reality or divine idea, a distortion which can be dispelled through prayer and recognition of matter's unreality. Immortality is possible and indeed inevitable.[29] The reality of each person is believed to be a spiritual idea only and not born of the flesh. Therefore, sin, disease and death are illusions, as the material body is an illusion. Christian Science believes that Jesus overcame death as the ultimate demonstration of spiritual reality.[30]


Christian Science teaches that the spiritualization of consciousness should have a practical effect on physicality, as well as on moral regeneration. This teaching was articulated by Mary Baker Eddy who rejected the "coldness" of traditional philosophy and emphasized the importance of spiritual love as well as abstract thought and the integration of thought and feeling. She taught that it is not enough to think true thoughts: our consciousness must be imbued with the love which is God, and furthermore, that love must be lived as well as felt. She referred to the futility of mere intellectualism, stating: "If we would open prison doors for the sick, we must first learn to bind up the broken-hearted. If we would heal by the Spirit, we must not hide the talent of spiritual healing under the napkin of its form, nor bury the morale of Christian Science in the grave-clothes of its letter. The tender word and Christian encouragement of an invalid, pitiful patience with his fears and the removal of them, are better than hecatombs of gushing theories, stereotyped borrowed speeches, and the doling of arguments, which are but so many parodies on legitimate Christian Science, aflame with divine Love".[31]

Christian Scientists believe that people should love in a spiritual or Christian sense, in other words show agape love to others (as distinct from physical or material love). Loving, in Christian Science is seeing, understanding, witnessing to or upholding, and accepting as valid only the spiritual identity of each individual as God's likeness, expression, or idea. This spiritual identity consists of an individual's own particular reflection of the qualities or attributes of their Maker/Creator/God, such as love, purity, innocence, spiritual understanding, etc. In Christian Science terms, these are the real qualities that constitute our true spiritual being, eternally known to God and maintained by God regardless of what the finite material senses testify to. These qualities cannot be perceived materially but only through spiritual sense, which Mary Baker Eddy defines as "a conscious, constant capacity to understand God".[32] This is an understanding of what God is and what humanity's relationship to God is.[33]


The Christian Science position on the nature of evil may be stated as follows: "Evil is a negation, because it is the absence of truth. It is nothing, because it is the absence of something. It is unreal, because it presupposes the absence of God, the omnipotent and omnipresent. Every mortal must learn that there is neither power nor reality in evil".[34] This statement should not be taken as meaning that Christian Scientists ignore the belief of evil and its effects, but they do not see evil as either an aspect of God, or as a real power separate from God. Evil is not fundamentally "real" because it is not part of God's being or his creation. But it may appear to be real as a mistaken concept of God and man, and consequently must be "seen through" rather than ignored. Christian Scientists believe God and his creation to be wholly and only good.[35]

To answer the question whether God punishes evil-doers, Christian Science teaches that any thought or action contrary to a person's God-given goodness results in some kind of suffering, just as the misunderstanding of a mathematical principle results in incorrect answers. The principles of mathematics do not cause the mistakes; rather, the mistakes are the result of a misconception of the principle. From God's perspective, evil does not exist because he/she has created all and it is good.[35]


The claim of Christian Science to be scientific is based on induction (rather than, for example, on being able to produce falsifiable theories). Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "Christian Science must be accepted at this point by induction. We admit the whole, because a part is proved and that part illustrates and proves the entire Principle." (Science and Health, p. 461).

Because they are not biblical literalists, and because they regard the material world as fundamentally unreal, Christian Scientists have no intellectual problem with the theories of contemporary geology, cosmology, or biology--for example in regard to the origin of mankind, the literal occurrence or non-occurrence of a worldwide flood, or indeed the age of the earth itself. (However, they sometimes object to detailed descriptions of disease, as tending to reinforce the symptoms described in the consciousness of the viewer or listener, with the consequent danger of externalizing these mental images on the body as physical symptoms.) Christian Science periodicals occasionally cite developments in cosmology and physics as indicating how contemporary science is coming to an understanding of the illusory nature of time and materiality.[36]

Christian Scientists are not creationists. They regard the story of the creation in the Book of Genesis as having symbolic rather than literal meaning. However, Mary Baker Eddy also believed that the theory of evolution wrongly portrayed man as mortal rather than spiritual: "Theorizing about man's development from mushrooms to monkeys and from monkeys into men amounts to nothing in the right direction and very much in the wrong."[37] Thus, from the Christian Science point of view, both creationism and evolution are false as they both proceed from a belief in the reality of a material universe. However, Christian Scientists do not oppose the teaching of evolution in schools, nor do they demand that alternative accounts be taught: they believe that both material science and literalist theology are concerned with the illusory and mortal rather than the real and immortal. In fact, where it came to material theories of creation, Mary Baker Eddy herself showed a preference for Darwin's Theory of Evolution over others.[38] Likewise, Christian Scientists, as part of their endeavor to follow more spiritual lives in an apparently less-than-perfect world, do not abandon normal physical needs such as eating or being properly clothed.[39]


Church of Christ, Scientist

Students of Christian Science are usually, though not always or necessarily, members of The First Church of Christ, Scientist (also called The Mother Church) in Boston, Massachusetts.

"On April 12, 1879, it was voted at a Christian Scientist Association to organize a church to commemorate the words and works of our Master, a Mind-healing church, without a creed, to be called the Church of Christ, Scientist, the first such church ever organized." At this meeting, "on motion of Mrs. Eddy, it was voted,--To organize a church designed to commemorate the word and works of our Master, which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing." "The charter for this church was obtained in June, 1879."[40]

There are also Christian Science "branch churches." Each Sunday, church members hold services where citations from the Bible and the Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures are read by lay members of the church. These Readers are voted into office by the members of the church for a limited period of time (usually for three years). Churches will most often hold mid-week public Testimony Meetings, a time in which anyone can testify to what they believe to be the healing power of the Christ in their lives.

Christian Science churches maintain Reading Rooms in most major cities in the world, in which Mary Baker Eddy's writings can be read, borrowed or purchased, together with the Bible, related concordances and commentaries etc. Many Reading Rooms also have bound volumes that contain articles on Christian Science and accounts of healing spanning more than 125 years. The Christian Science church publishes a weekly periodical called the Christian Science Sentinel, a monthly publication called the Christian Science Journal, and the international, award-winning news web site, formerly a newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor.

Some Christian Scientists, after having had class instruction on how to heal effectively, become what are called Christian Science Practitioners. These are people who, after years of healing, go into the public practice of healing. Practitioners devote all of their time to healing and charge for their services. However, except under very special circumstances, they may not take legal action against patients for non-payment of fees.[41] As with other health professionals, they are obliged to keep their patients' confidences and are instructed to make concessions in the case of indigent patients.[41] It should be noted that there is no physical manipulation, or laying on of hands in a Christian Science healing treatment.[42]

Other intra-church organizations

The Christian Science Joint Broadcast Committee formed in 1998 with the support of the branch churches in Phoenix, Arizona.[43] Operations of telephone, internet and broadcast activities across Arizona have expanded ever since that time. Tucson, Prescott, Window Rock, and Phoenix have local access to national programming broadcast by the Christian Science Publishing Society.

Other groups

Throughout the history of Christian Science there have been a small number of dissenting people that are unacknowledged by the Boston organization. Such dissenters often point to certain "estoppel" clauses of the last Church Manual issued by Mary Baker Eddy before her death which, had they been interpreted literally, would have led to a radical decentralization of the Christian Science Church. The issue has involved the Church in repeated litigation brought by dissenters, most prominently between 1919–22, when a group of Trustees of the Christian Science Publishing Society filed a suit against the Christian Science Board of Directors.[44] The current controversies that exist within the Christian Science Church include the format of the weekly Bible Lessons and a debate as to whether, or to what extent, the use of the King James Version of the Bible should be replaced by that of more modern translations.

Social views

Christian Scientists generally defend the separation of church and state as affording a protection for civil freedom and religion. However, Mary Baker Eddy insisted on obedience by Christian Scientists to state laws in regard to health care. Progressive for her time, she was in favor of women's rights, and rejected the "corporeal punishment" of children. While she generally steered clear of politics per se, she stated her support of the Monroe Doctrine as well as her opposition to imperialism and economic monopoly. The Christian Science Monitor, which she founded, has traditionally been a staunch defender of civil liberties and individual freedom; nonetheless, it also supported the prohibition of alcohol.

There are no specific references to homosexuality in the writings of Mary Baker Eddy. Her writings prescribe the living of a morally decent life, which is not an explicit condemnation of homosexuality, but it may account for some of the discomfort with homosexuality seen within some Christian Science communities. There is some dissent among Christian Scientists as to what exactly the position with regard to homosexuality ought to be; in this matter, as in others (such as abortion), the Church chooses not to have an official position, as it is considered that each individual Christian Scientist should seek their own highest sense of right through prayer.


Controversies around Christian Science usually involve scientific, medical or theological issues.

Medical controversies

Most medical practitioners consider Christian Science a religion rather than a science. Critics point to epidemiological studies showing higher mortality rates among Christian Scientists than those using conventional medicine, and a lack of evidence for the efficacy of Christian Science aside from anecdotal evidence.[45] A study was reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[45] This study compared graduates of Principia College to graduates of a Seventh-day Adventist college (Loma Linda University). The Christian Science school's cohort had a higher overall mortality rate than the comparison cohort (though the dietary habits of Seventh-day Adventists may make them less susceptible to some diseases than the bulk of the population, possibly biasing the result).[45]

There are cases of individuals who have died following their choice of Christian Science care over medical treatment; however, defenders of Christian Science counter that no similar burden is placed on medical science to explain those who die each year under conventional medical care, nor those given up as incurable by medical practitioners, some of whom recover after seeking Christian Science treatment.[24] Defending the record of Christian Science, Robert Peel writes that "nosocomial illness--an umbrella term for a whole catalogue of infections acquired inside the hospital--has proved fatal to some patients who entered the hospital for treatment for a very minor ailment."[46] Peel cites a 1978 estimation that of "32 million persons admitted to American hospitals each year, about 1.5 million develop some kind of nosocomial infection, and 15,000 die of it."[47]

The CDC also reports on two measles outbreaks in communities of Christian Scientists: one in 1994[48] and one in 1985 in which three people died.[49] These cases help inspire continuing controversy over religious exemption to vaccination requirements.[50] Mary Baker Eddy counseled that Christian Scientists should obey the law (respecting quarantine, for example) and that sometimes Christian Scientists will be examined by a doctor for informational purposes (although she disapproved of physical diagnoses, as tending to induce disease).

Health of children

With respect to children, two important rights are in apparent opposition – the rights of children to medical care, and the rights of parents to make decisions about the well-being of their children. The position that constitutional protections of freedom of religion allow parents to choose the method of healing which best benefits their children, contradicts court rulings which state that children cannot, on the basis of parental belief, be denied essential health care.[51]

In the United States, the constitutional guarantee of protection of religious practice from intrusion by government has been used by Christian Scientists and other religious groups to seek exemption from legal requirements regarding medical treatment of children in more than three quarters of the states. There are statutes in 44 states which allow that children are not to be deemed neglected because they are receiving treatment by spiritual means according to the tenets of a recognized religion. While these exemptions take different forms and interpretations in different states, the effect has been to limit the ability to prosecute parents for medical neglect of children as a result of religious practice.[52]

See Commonwealth v. Twitchell

'Spiritual' healthcare reimbursements

In November 2009, it was reported that the Christian Science movement had lobbied for the inclusion of a provision in the proposed legislation for U.S. healthcare reform that would allow for insurance reimbursement of affirmative prayers, including those practiced by Christian Scientists.[53][54] The legislation was sponsored by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), John Kerry (D-Mass.), and the late Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), the latter two representing the state where the church is headquartered. The House version of the bill ultimately was stripped of this provision, but it was reintroduced in the Senate version in December.[55] Furthermore, the Senate version of the bill would prohibit discrimination against "religious and spiritual health care".[55]

Theological controversies

Christian Science is sometimes criticized by some mainstream Christians for its theological differences. This is mostly due to its assertion of the illusory nature of the material world and of evil, its definition of "Jesus" and the "Christ", its explanation of the Trinity and its apparent de-emphasis on a personal, human-like, God, its rejection of the teaching of everlasting damnation, and its view of Jesus as the "Way-shower" rather than as one whose death provided for humanity's atonement for sin. Yet Mary Baker Eddy has much to say regarding atonement, dedicating a chapter, Atonement and Eucharist, to the topic in her seminal textbook. On p. 18 she states: "The atonement of Christ reconciles man to God, not God to man[.]"

Adherents of Christian Science cite the Bible (e.g. Mark 16: 15–18 and Luke 10:1, 9, 17) as an indication that belief in God should be demonstrated in healing. Mary Baker Eddy, however, was no biblical fundamentalist, and has often been criticised by fundamentalists who believe that the Bible is both inerrant (biblical inerrancy) and free of internal contradictions. She wrote: "The decisions by vote of Church Councils as to what should and should not be considered Holy Writ; the manifest mistakes in the ancient versions; the thirty thousand different readings in the Old Testament, and the three hundred thousand in the New – these facts show how a mortal and material sense stole into the divine record, with its own hue darkening to some extent the inspired pages."[56]

There has been internal controversy in the Christian Science movement regarding the status of Mary Baker Eddy herself. Some Christian Scientists claim (and others deny) that her appearance on the world stage was specifically prophesied in the Bible.

Some Christian theologians characterize Christian Science as a cult[57] (also refer to external sites providing criticisms of Christian Science) although Mary Baker Eddy constantly turned her students away from any tendency to place her on a pedestal. A basis of such criticisms includes her comment in reply to a questioner who asked how she knew there ever was such a person as Christ Jesus. She replied "If there had never existed such a person as the Galilean Prophet, it would make no difference to me. I should still know that God's spiritual ideal is the only real man in His image and likeness."[58] This is misinterpreted by opponents of Christian Science as Mary Baker Eddy downgrading the importance of Jesus, rather than making a basic metaphysical point, regarding a question doubting the historical existence of Jesus, raised by a Unitarian minister, Rev. Wiggin (ibid).

There are apparently contradictory statements on the question of the death of Jesus in Mary Baker Eddy's writings. However, since Christian Science teaches that death is an illusion, this may help to explain the apparent contradictions.


The Christian Science Journal and the Christian Science Sentinel document instances of healing through the use of Christian Science prayer. Testimonies of healings reported in Christian Science publications are sometimes drawn from cases in which a doctor confirmed the initial condition and the subsequent healing, according to the testifier.[24] The verification process requires the contact information for three people (one a member of "The Mother Church") who "have either witnessed the healing or can vouch for its accuracy based on their knowledge of [the testifier]," according to the Christian Science Publishing Society website.[59]

In Popular Culture

See also


  1. ^ Science & Health, p. 473-474
  2. ^ Science & Health, p.468
  3. ^ a b J. William Frost, "Part V: Christianity and Culture in America," Christianity: A Social and Cultural History, 2nd Edition, (Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1998), 473.
  4. ^ a b Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. pp. 1–17. 
  5. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. pp. 443–444. 
  6. ^ Rudimentary Divine Science, 1936 [1891], p.1.
  7. ^ a b Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 134. 
  8. ^ Science & Health, p. 490
  9. ^ Science & Health, p. 587
  10. ^ Science & Health, p. 361
  11. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 583. 
  12. ^ Science & Health, pp. 360-361
  13. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 333. 
  14. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 331. 
  15. ^ "The Book of Common Prayer of Canada" 1962. page 695
  16. ^ Science & Health, p. 560
  17. ^ Moody, R. (1975) Life After Life: The Investigation of a Phenomenon - Survival of Bodily Death. New York: Bantam
  18. ^ a b Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 75. 
  19. ^ Science & Health, p.228
  20. ^ Manual of The Mother Church, p.17
  21. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 150. 
  22. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 141. 
  23. ^ Miscellaneous Writings, p. 352
  24. ^ a b c Peel, Robert E. (1987). Spiritual Healing in a Scientific Age. Harper and Row. ISBN 0-06-066484-3 
  25. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 444. 
  26. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 167. 
  27. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 503. 
  28. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 468. 
  29. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 387. 
  30. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 39. 
  31. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. pp. 366–367. 
  32. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 209. 
  33. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 231. 
  34. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 186. 
  35. ^ a b Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 519. 
  36. ^ Gerber, Russ, "A Matter of Time: Russ Gerber Interviews Dr. Laurance Doyle," Christian Science Sentinel, 30 Dec. 2002, p. 3.
  37. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 172. 
  38. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 547. 
  39. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 254. 
  40. ^ Ret 43:23-5; Man 17:8
  41. ^ a b Eddy, Mary Baker (1895). Manual of the Mother Church. United States of America: Trustees under the Will of Mary Baker G. Eddy. p. 46. 
  42. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1925 [1883]). Rudimental Divine Science. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. pp. 11 and 12. 
  43. ^ About CSeNews and its Publisher
  44. ^ Proceedings in Equity, 1921, Christian Science Publishing Society, Boston
  45. ^ a b c Simpson, W. F. (August 23, 1991). "Comparative Mortality of Two College Groups, 1945–1983". MMWR Weekly 40 (33): 579–582. Retrieved 2009-01-21. 
  46. ^ Robert Peel, Spiritual Healing in a Scientific Age, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987, p. 24
  47. ^ Dava Sobel, "The Hospital Fever," Harvard Magazine (May–June 1978) p. 30, cited in Peel, op cit, p. 24.
  48. ^ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (July 1, 1994). "Outbreak of Measles Among Christian Science Students – Missouri and Illinois, 1994". 
  49. ^ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (March 15, 1985). "Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Multiple Measles Outbreaks on College Campuses – Ohio, Massachusetts, Illinois". 
  50. ^ First Amendment Center. "Vaccination and Religious Exemptions". 
  51. ^ See Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 US 158 (1944) and Jehovah's Witnesses v. Washington King County Hospital, 278 F Supp 488 (Washington DC 1967), affirmed per curiam 390 US 598 (1968).
  52. ^ Fraser, Caroline (1995-04). "Suffering Children and the Christian Science Church". The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved 2009-01-21. 
  53. ^ Healthcare provision seeks to embrace prayer treatments, Los Angeles Times
  54. ^ Christian Scientists seek reimbursement for prayers, Washington Post
  55. ^ a b To a Divisive Debate, Now Add Religion, New York Times
  56. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1934 [1875]). Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. United States of America: The Christian Science Board of Directors. p. 139. 
  57. ^ Martin, Walter; Jill Martin-Rische, Ravi Zacharias (Editor) (October 2003). The Kingdom of the Cults. Bethany House Publishers. pp. 149–192. ISBN 0764228218. 
  58. ^ Eddy, The First Church of Christ Scientist and Miscellany, pp. 318, 319
  59. ^ Christian Science Sentinel. "Testimony Guidelines". 
  60. ^ "IMDB". Retrieved 29 May 2011. 

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