Summary: A metaphysical worldview that is neither Christian nor scientific
Christian Science, a contradiction in terms...Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
When I was about to fly from Germany to Saugus to be interviewed by the Pulpit Committee, my supervisory Chaplain from V Corps HQ in Heidelberg told me to be sure to see the Christian Science headquarters in Boston, designed by famed architect I.M. Pei. My supervisor was Christian Science, and we had discussed the beliefs of this unique group. Although this is a relatively small church, it is prominent in New England, and I felt it appropriate to include in this series on World Religions. Some of you may have driven by Mrs Eddy’s home in Lynn, or you’ve visited the “mapparium” at the Boston Christian Science complex, or have read the Christian Science Monitor.
Mary Baker Eddy founded Christian Science (aka Church of Christ, Scientist). She was raised Congregational, and was stricken with illness throughout her early life. In 1866, in an age when medical science was unsophisticated and unreliable, she sought out alternative medical advice for a painful spinal inflammation. She contacted a Phineas Parkhurst Quimby who taught that people can heal themselves through mental thoughts alone. Mrs. Eddy became convinced that healing is the result of believing that there is no such thing as sickness, and claimed to be healed.
She wrote down her perspectives on self-healing, “borrowing” from Quimby’s writings, resulting in her book Science and Health with a Key to the Scriptures, a book she claimed had authority equal to the Bible. At the “Mother Church” in Boston there are 2 identical pulpits on the platform. On one rests a Bible, and on the other a copy of Mary Eddy’s book. On the walls on either side of the platform are passages cut in granite, one from the Bible, the other from Science & Health. Mrs. Eddy’s book completely reinterprets the Bible. Followers of Mrs. Eddy do not believe in going to medical doctors or taking medication; they instead have Christian Science “practitioners” come and pray (if sickness is an illusion, why have “practitioners” attempt to heal people?). According to Christian Science teachings, people “think” they are ill, and they need to see that illness is an illusion; they try to combat the “non-reality” of illness. They believe that since God is love, sin and sickness are errors of interpreting the Divine Mind and have no true reality.
Mrs. Eddy began a College of Metaphysics in Boston, which developed into an organized religion. Metaphysics is the study of the fundamental nature of existence. Metaphysics ponders reality outside of human sense perception, that which cannot be reached through objective studies of material reality. Christian Science teaches that what we regard as reality is an interpretation of Divine Mind; in other words, we exist only in the mind of God, Who is regarded as an impersonal, universal Principle.
According to an email from my former supervisory Chaplain, “The term ‘science’ as we use it refers to Mind, as a synonym for the nature of God. We look to Spirit as the only reality and see matter as Spirit’s opposite, untrue and therefore unreal. Spirit is represented in idea, not matter. We don’t believe spirit and matter can mingle. The human mind is a false belief of mind in matter. We would not find it wise to rely on anything material for healing.” Mrs. Eddy wrote that, “disease is a delusion of (the) mortal mind…an error which nothing but Truth or Mind can heal…sickness is part of the error that Truth casts out.”
We need to understand what sets Christian Science apart from Biblical Christianity. Mrs. Eddy taught that God was an impersonal “Divine Principle”. As for Jesus, she denied His deity, His death on the cross as a sacrifice for sin, and the resurrection. Jesus is seen in Christian Science as simply a “Way-Shower” but not God-in-flesh. Jesus was “a representation of the Christ consciousness that is the true and higher self of every person.” Christian Sciences teaches that Jesus did not die, because death is an illusion. They also deny the existence of sin and evil. Christian Science has more in common with the so-called “new age movement” than Christianity. It sounds Christian because it quotes the Bible and uses Christian terms, but redefines them. Like Grape Nuts, which has neither grapes nor nuts, Christian Science is neither Christian nor scientific.
Key to Mrs. Eddy’s thinking was that the physical world does not actually exist. She claimed “there is no substance in matter but all is infinite Mind.” In a way, the worldview of Christian Science is much like the movie The Matrix, in which what appears to be real is not. Christian Science claims only God exists; everything else is an illusion. When I returned to Germany, I told the V Corps Chaplain that I had seen the Christian Science complex in Boston. I wanted to add (but did not), “Too bad it doesn’t really exist.”