Mary Ann Morse Baker was the sixth and last child of Mark and Abigail Baker, members of a strict Congregationalist church.
Founded: Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910)
Headquarters: Boston, Massachusetts
Membership: Not reported, but believed to have peaked in 1960 at 350,000 members. Today: estimated 150,000-170,000 in 2,500 branches (local churches) in over 60 countries. Each branch must have a “practitioner” or healer (the closest equivalent to an ordained Protestant minister). Local groups with fewer than 17 members are referred to as “societies.”
Scriptures: Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875, Key to the Scriptures added in 1883). They are referred to as the only “pastors;” Mrs. Eddy is the “pastor emeritus.” More than 8 million copies of Science and Health have been sold since 1875.
Immediate Authority: The Church Manual (1895), which cannot be changed, and a five-member Board of Directors.
Publications: Christian Science World Monitor (founded 1888; monthly, in English, paid circulation of 227,000 in 1992); The Christian Science Sentinel (founded 1898, weekly, in English); Christian Science Monitor (founded 1908, daily, in English, non-religious); Christian Science Journal (monthly, in English); Christian Science Quarterly Bible Lessons (in 13 languages); The Herald of Christian Science (monthly in French, German, Portuguese and Spanish).
Radio: Christian Science Monitor Radio on 200 public radio stations with a weekly audience of 1.5 million (1992).
Mary Ann Morse Baker was the sixth and last child of Mark and Abigail Baker, members of a strict Congregationalist church. The emphasis on predestination, judgment and hell in her parents’ church and her favorite brother’s (Albert) death would led Mary to reject orthodox Christianity. As a child, Mary suffered many illnesses and depended on Albert to teach her at home. Her mother died in 1849 and her father in 1865.
Mary was married three times. The first marriage in 1843 was to George W. Glover who died within a year of yellow fever. A son born after his father’s death died at age four years. Unlike her marriage to George Glover, her second marriage in 1853, to Dr. Daniel Patterson, dentist, was an un-happy marriage and he abandoned her after 13 years of marriage. They divorced in 1873. She married Asa G. Eddy in 1877. He died in 1882, which Mary claimed was due to “mental arsenic poisoning” administered by “malicious animal magnetism.” The autopsy reported his death was caused by heart disease.
In 1862, Mrs. Eddy became an enthusiastic follower of Phineas P. Quimby (died 1866), who had a reputation for healing without medicine. She denied Quimby influenced her, although he used terms such as “Christian Science,” “Science of Christ,” and “Science of Health.”
In 1866, Mrs. Eddy fell on ice and was injured. She claims she was near death until she read Matthew 9:2-8 and was healed. This was a turning point in her life. While there is some question concerning her account of her injury, this event is celebrated as a most significant moment for Christian Scientists, who claim that Mrs. Eddy “restored” to Christianity the power of healing “lost” since the first century. She began teaching her system of healing and published the first edition of Science and Health in 1875. She claimed to heal all kinds of diseases, including cancer, tuberculosis, and diphtheria.
In 1892, she established “The Mother Church,” The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts. The world head-quarters stands next to “The Mother Church.”
Mrs. Eddy died of natural causes (pneumonia and old age).
Teachings of the Christian Science Church
Scriptures: Christian Scientists affirm the Bible as the Word of God and believe their teachings are based upon it. However, Mrs. Eddy claimed there were “thirty thousand different readings [ or ‘manifest mistakes’] in the Old Tes-tament, and the three hundred thousand in the New [Testament].” – Science and Health, p. 139. Christian Scientists look for the hidden, allegorical or spiritual meaning behind the literal words of the Bible, which is given in the “textbook,” Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures. For example, baptism is said to refer to “a purification from all error” – Ibid, p. 35.
In a Christian Science service, the Second Reader reads from the Bible, followed by the First Reader who gives a reading from Science and Health to give the spiritual meaning of the biblical text. The passages for each week are listed in the Christian Science Quarterly. Science and Health is the “key” to correctly understanding the Bible.
God: Mrs. Eddy taught a pantheistic view of God, meaning that God and all reality are one and the same. Science and Health, p. 113, uses the formula: “God is All-in-all. God is good. Good is Mind. God, Spirit, being all, nothing is matter.” In other words, everything that exists is God. “God is Mind, and God is infinite; hence all is Mind.” – Ibid, p. 492. The belief that everything that exists is God forms the foundation for all Christian Science doctrines.
God is defined as “The great I AM; . . . Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence.” – Ibid, p. 587. Mrs. Eddy vacillated between a personal God and an impersonal God. She interpreted “Our Father who art in heaven” (Matt. 6:9) to spiritually mean, “Our Father-Mother God, all harmonious.” – Ibid, p. 16. Psalm 23:1, “The LORD is my shepherd,” is understood spiritually to mean, “[DIVINE LOVE] is my shepherd.” – Ibid, p. 578.
Mrs. Eddy taught that the Christian trinity suggested polytheism (Ibid, p. 256) and said the “trinity” was Life, Truth, and Love, not the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost is defined as “Divine Science.” – Ibid, p. 588.
Jesus Christ: Mrs. Eddy maintained a distinction between Jesus and the Christ. Jesus was the human manifestation in which the infallible divine Christ dwelt. Christ is the divine manifestation of God which comes to destroy incarnate error. Jesus is not God, but may be called the Son of God.. – Ibid, p. 361. Christ came to destroy “falsity and error,” not sin and death which do not exist.
Jesus did not heal people or raise the dead since illness and death are illusions. “The so-called miracles contained in Holy Writ are neither supernatural nor preternatural.” – Miscellaneous Writings, p. 199. Mrs. Eddy rejected the vicarious or substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. He is not the Savior, but a “Way-Shower” who shows mankind Truth. He only “seemed” to die on the cross. His “resurrection” displayed the supremacy of mind over matter and is a new understanding of the victory over ignorance. His second coming was synonymous with divine healing, so, according to Christian Scientists, Christ is already here.
Mankind: Mankind is spiritual and perfect. “Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements. . . . Man is spiritual and perfect.” – Science and Health, p. 475. Mankind’s problem is not sin, but ignorance. Mankind is made in the image and likeness of God; he is spiritual and perfect and cannot fall from that state. Therefore, he is incapable of sin, sickness, and death; they do not exist. – Ibid, pp. 475, 492. Death is an illusion. – Ibid, p. 584. “God, or good, never made man capable of sin.” – Ibid, p. 480. Mrs. Eddy wrote, “Man as God’s idea is already saved with an everlasting salvation.” – Miscellaneous Writings, p. 261.
Christian Science rejects the use of drugs and other kinds of medical care. “Sickness is a belief, which must be annihilated by the divine Mind. Disease is an experience of the so-called mortal mind. It is fear made manifest on the body.” – Science and Health, p. 493. Christian Science “practitioners” are professional healers who “heal” the person of his illness (i.e., illusion). Many insurance companies reimburse for fees from practitioners. Courts have defined this healing as a legally protected activity of the church as a form of worship. However, a court of appeals upheld a $1.5 million award to a father in a 1996 lawsuit against a boy’s mother after the child died when his Christian Science mother refused medical treatment. The parents are divorced.
Prayer cannot change God. If a person believes his prayer cancels sin, then prayer is evil. – Ibid, p.4. However, Christian Scientists pray directly to God to seek His will.
Salvation: All of mankind are “already saved with an everlasting salvation.” – Ibid, p. 141. Hell is mental anguish, not a place of separation from God. Heaven is harmony and bliss, not a place of reward.
Qualifications for Church Membership: 1) Believe in the doctrines of Christian Science; 2) dissolve membership with any other denomination, and 3) be at least 12 years of age. – Church Manual, pp. 34-35.
Special Services: Twenty-six lesson-sermons are “read” twice each year in each branch. The lesson-sermon is the same in every branch on any given Sunday.
The order for the service is given in the Church Manual. No special Easter service is observed, although a service is held on Thanksgiving Day.
Wednesday evening services are a time for testimonies of Christian Science healings. Communion is held in branch churches on the second Sunday in January and July of each year, but never in the Mother Church in Boston. – Ibid, p. 61.
Individuals must stop attending Sunday School classes at age twenty.
Lectures on various subjects are sponsored by branches. Thirty-five approved lecturers, with five always on sabbatical, must submit their lectures for approval to the Board of Directors before giving them in branches, which invite them to speak.
Conclusion: The Church of Christ, Scientist, affirms belief in the Bible, God, Jesus as the Son of God, the Holy Ghost and mankind as being in the image and likeness of God, but radically redefines these doctrines to set itself apart from historical Christianity.
Gary Leazeris the founder and president of the Center for Interfaith Studies, Inc. He received a bachelor’s degree from Mississippi College, and a master’s of divinity and doctorate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His primary areas of research have been the New Age Movement, the occult, sects and the world religions. He served on the staff of the Home Mission Board’s Interfaith Witness Department for 14 years.
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