Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Is Christian Science Christian?

Origin of Christian Science
On February 1, 1866, Mary Baker Eddy slipped and was severely injured on an icy sidewalk. According to the official Church of Christ, Scientist website, “She asked for her Bible and, while reading an account of Jesus' healing, found herself suddenly well. Eventually, she referred to this as the moment she discovered Christian Science.”[1] The official organizational title has been changed to Church of Christ, Scientist.  Adherents to this religious organization are estimated to be around 150,000, with as many as 400,000, worldwide according to the official website. But, membership has been declining and, in the Pew Forum's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted from May 8 to Aug. 13, 2007, Christian Science did not even make the list.

In 1908, Mary Baker Eddy founded a newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor, published by the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston. It is not religious, but a standard newspaper – somewhat unusual for a religious organization. However, the Monitor is projected to lose $18.9 million in the current budget year and is transitioning to all web-based news in 2009.[2]

Why is it called Christian Science?
The term Christian Science (CS), according to their own current official website, is used because “It’s Science because it’s based upon a set of spiritual principles—laws relating to the nature of God and His creation—that can be applied with expected, consistent results.”[3] This religion places a very strong emphasis on bodily health as evidenced by their own definition that “Christian Science is both a religious teaching and a Bible-based system of spiritual healing” and the fact that the primary print source material for the religion is Eddy’s book titled Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.[4] However, after examining CS teachings, it becomes apparent that some critical doctrines differ from those of Christianity found in the Bible.

All is spirit
Regarding Spirit, Mary Baker Eddy states in S&H:
“Spirit, God, has created all in and of Himself. Spirit never created matter … Things spiritual and eternal are substantial … Spirit is the only substance, the invisible and the indivisible infinite God.”[5]
And, the official stance of Christian Science is that Eddy arrived at the conclusion:
through prayer and searching, to see the physical world as a product of the human mind. So instead of accepting thought as a phenomenon of matter, she saw that matter is a phenomenon of thought.”[6]

Some Christian Science (CS) concepts appear to be consistent with the Bible. For instance, the Bible informs us that “God is Spirit” (John 4:24), God is eternal (Romans 16:26), and things that are unseen will endure (2 Corinthians 4:18). However, the Bible does not support the notion that matter is unreal. The Bible clearly distinguishes between spirit and matter, while teaching that the spirit is the more important of the two. Even though the material world will “pass away” (Mark 13:31) and our physical bodies will return “to dust” (Genesis 3:19), the dust is real. Eddy’s assertion that “Spirit never created matter” is in disagreement with the Bible, which states “God created the heavens and the earth”. The Bible mentions the spiritual nature of God and man numerous times, but never indicates matter is not real or matter is spirit.   

Beliefs about God
God is described in Christian Science in impersonal terms such as “Truth, Love, Principle, Mind, Intelligence, Spirit, Divine Love”. Eddy goes on to assert that we understand God not “materially, but spiritually we know Him as divine mind, as life, truth, and love.”[7] She also states, “Father-Mother is the name for deity”[8]. Some of Eddy’s teaching seems to indicate God is personal, but then she makes statements such as this:  “Life, Truth, and Love constitute the triune Person called God”[9]. So, does she believe God is personal or principle? Science and Health appears to lean more toward the latter. The Bible states that God is love and He is spirit, but never hints that He is some divine principle, rather a personal being. God walked with man, has emotions, desires a personal relationship with us, and we will see Him face to face someday.

The Holy Spirit
Science & Health describes the trinity as:
“God the Father-Mother; Christ the spiritual idea of sonship; divine science or the Holy Comforter.”[10]
The Holy Spirit whom Jesus referenced in John 14:16 is depicted by Eddy, not as a person, but as “Divine Science”[11].

However, the Bible shows that the Holy Spirit is a personal being, not a set of principles:
·         The Spirit teaches - “He will teach you all things” (John 14:26)
·         He speaks –“ the Spirit said to Philip” (Acts 8:29)
·         He helps believers – “the Spirit also helps our weakness” (Romans 8:26)
·         He guides – ““all who are being led by the Spirit of God” (Romans 8:14)

Beliefs about Jesus Christ
In answer to the question whether Christian Scientists believe Jesus is the same as God, the answer is “No … Christian Science teaches that Jesus embodied the divinity of God but that he himself was not Deity”.[12] However, the Bible states that Jesus Christ is deity in several passages, such as Colossians 2:9, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form”. And, John 1:1 states, referring to Jesus: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Another belief concerning Jesus, according to Science and Health, is that He did not die:
“His disciples believed Jesus to be dead while he was hidden in the sepulcher, whereas he was alive, demonstrating within the narrow tomb the power of the Spirit to overrule mortal, material sense”[13] and the disciples, failing to understand, “until they saw him after his crucifixion and learned that he had not died.”[14]
Of course, the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus Christ died in numerous passages.[15]

Regarding Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, Eddy taught:
“Sin, sickness, and death are to be classified as effects of error. Christ came to destroy the belief of sin.”[16]
This is consistent with the CS doctrine that sin and sickness are not real, but are illusions we can overcome by believing this truth.  However, the Bible clearly indicates that sin is real. John informs, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10) and “as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

Physical healing is one of the foundational and most prominent feature of Christian Science, which claims there have been “thousands of well-authenticated cases of healing”.[17] Mary Baker Eddy believed and promoted the concept that sickness is not real. She stated:
“The sick are not healed merely by declaring there is no sickness, but by knowing that there is none.”[18]
Because sickness is not real, the method of eliminating sickness and attaining health is through use of the mind. She states:
“Christian Science deals wholly with the mental cause in judging and destroying disease. It succeeds where homeopathy fails, solely because its one recognized Principle of healing is Mind, and the whole force of the mental element is employed through the Science of Mind…”[19]

Most of us who have been sick and in pain would have a difficult time accepting that it is not real. What does the Bible say about sickness and healing? Sickness, according to the Bible, is a real product of living in a fallen and sin-filled world. But, God is willing and able to heal and provide physical health. Refusal to believe in the physical nature of sickness is not a Biblical concept; nor is mind power. God’s word states:
·         “I, the Lord, am your healer” (Exodus 15:26)
·         God is the one “who heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:3)
·         “Jesus Christ heals you” (Acts 9:34)
·         Jesus “Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases” (Matthew 8:17)
The physical body and sickness are real, but fortunately there is a real God who heals.

Evil and sin
The concepts of evil and sin fall into line with the rest of Eddy’s teaching, which states that they do not exist. She says:
“Expose and denounce the claims of evil and disease in all their forms, but realize no reality in them. A sinner is not reformed merely by assuring him that he cannot be a sinner because there is no sin.”[20]
Again, Eddy is contradicted by the Bible, which references sin in numerous passages, indicating it is very real and, in fact, will cause a person to die:
            “The person who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:20).
when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:15).

In Christian Science teaching regarding prayer to confess sin and receive forgiveness, Eddy mixes valid statements with unbiblical assertions. For example:  “Sin is forgiven only as it is destroyed by Christ” sounds good, but in the same paragraph, it is stated, “Prayer is not to be used as a confessional to cancel sin.” And, “If prayer nourishes the belief that sin is cancelled, and that man is made better only by praying, prayer is an evil.”[21] These statements are antithetical to the Biblical teaching regarding sin and confession:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:9-10).

Heaven or hell?
Christian Scientists do not believe in hell as a literal place, but as a state of mind. Furthermore, there is no final judgment day[22] in CS.  However, the Bible teaches that hell is a real place reserved for those who reject God and His plan of salvation, which is belief in Jesus Christ. For example, Revelation 20:15 states: “if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Jesus, the Judge, on the last day will say to the unbelievers, “'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41). These and other verses clearly indicate hell is a literal place with eternal conscious condemnation.

Many teachings of Christian Science give the initial appearance of reasonableness. However, when compared with the truth in the Bible, are shown to be erroneous. God is a real being, not a “divine Principle”. Sin, sickness, and evil are not illusions to be overcome with a proper understanding of Eddy’s “science of Mind”, but rather by belief in Jesus Christ who really died for our real sins.

For more information, see The Kingdom of the Cults, by Walter Martin, updated 2003, Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, MI.

(Biblical references are from the NASB version.)

[1] The Mary Baker Eddy Library, “Life”, accessed 29 Oct 2008, <http://www.marybakereddylibrary.org/marybakereddy/life.jhtml>
[2] Christian Science Monitor website, “Monitor shifts from print to Web-based strategy”, posted 28 Oct 2008, accessed 1 Nov 2008. 
[3] Christian Science website, “Frequently Asked Questions About Christian Science”, accessed 29 Oct 2008, <http://christianscience.com/questions-christian-science-faq.html>
[4] Christianscience.com homepage.
[5]Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, (Boston, MA:  Christian Science Publishing Society, 1875), p. 335.
[6] Christian Science website, “Christian Science Healing Practices”, from The Christian Science Journal, accessed 6 Nov 2008, < http://www.christianscience.com/blogs/articles-journal/christian-science-healing-practices>
[7]Ibid., p. 140
[8] S&H, p. 332
[9] S&H, p. 331
[10] S&H, p. 331
[11] S&H, p. 55
[12] S&H, p. 5
[13] S&H, p. 44
[14] S&H, p. 46
[15] Romans 8:34, 14:15; 1 Cor. 8:11, 15:3, and others
[16] S&H, p. 473
[17] Science & Health, p. x, Preface.
[18] S&H, p. 447.
[19] S&H, p. 157.
[20] S&H, p. 447.
[21] S&H, p. 5.
[22] Christian Science website, FAQs, accessed 1 Nov 2008.

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