History of the Church:
Mary Morse Baker Eddy (1821-1910) discovered and founded Christian Science. She was raised in a strict, deeply religious home, from which she derived her lifelong interest in Christianity and the Bible. She had been plagued with ill health through her childhood and into adult years. This motivated her to study alternative methods of healing, which deviated from the then current medical techniques which had failed her. Shortly after her first marriage, her husband died and she began to study a number of healing ministries. She remarried in 1853 in an unsuccessful attempt to gain control of her son who had been placed in another home by her family in the belief that she was physically incapable of caring for him. At the age of 41, she sought a cure from a healer, Phineas P. Quimby (1802-1866). Quimby had been a clockmaker, with relatively little education. But he had developed a method of natural healing which involved techniques of hypnotism and animal magnetism. He emphasized the role of the human mind in achieving bodily health. Quimby felt that the key to healing lay in the confidence by the healer in the patient's recovery, and in the confidence that the patient has in the healer's ability.
Mrs. Eddy (as she is referred to by church members) was a student-associate of Quimby until his death in 1866. Her health initially improved under his care, but she later suffered a relapse. Shortly afterwards, she fell on an icy sidewalk and severely injured herself. Some did not expect her to survive. On what she believed to be her deathbed, she read one of Jesus' healings. She suddenly realized that healing comes not from internal bodily processes, or from the power of a person's mind, but from the Divine Mind, God. She was instantly cured!
Mrs. Eddy withdrew from society for three years in order to concentrate on a deep search through the Bible and discover precisely how her healing had taken place. She wished to share this knowledge with others, and to give them the tools to take away sin and achieve health. Mrs. Eddy then wrote her main book, Science and Health, later called Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. The book has since been published in 17 languages, and is available in English Braille, on audio cassette, CD, and in software packages.
Many people have speculated on the source(s) of Mrs. Eddy's new beliefs. Some skeptics have implied that she plagiarized much of Quimby's writings and teachings. His beliefs involved the dualism between mind-spirit and matter. He emphasized the supremacy of mind over matter, and was highly antagonistic towards Christianity. She had always been deeply committed to Christian beliefs and rejected his opposition to religion. It is probably accurate to say that Mrs. Eddy was further sensitized by Quimby to the healing role of mind. However, she made a major break from his basic teachings. She determined that it was the Divine Mind, God, who healed, not the human mind. Other skeptics have asserted that she copied some of the writings of a German-American philosopher, Francis Lieber. This appears to be unfounded. She asserted that her beliefs are derived from new interpretations of Biblical passages, not from human sources. She taught that they do not represent an "add-on" to the Bible; she had discovered the science of scriptures. Through a spiritual interpretation of the Bible she had rediscovered its original truths as believed in and practiced by the early Christian church.
Her book was published at a time of great social unrest. The people of the United States were buffeted by the effects of the Civil War, by the teachings of Darwin, Freud and Marx, by rapid industrialization, and by many economic upheavals. Mrs. Eddy's teachings were welcomed and adopted by many Americans, but bitterly opposed by many traditional Christian authorities. They also raised some animosity from scientists who criticized the use of the word "science" in connection with Christianity.
In 1875, she published her book. In 1877 she married Asa Gilbert Eddy, her second husband having left her, and she adopted the name by which she is most commonly remembered: Mary Baker Eddy. Her book, though controversial, was well received by many Christians. She was inspired to promote the founding of the Church of Christ, Scientist in Lynn, MA, a suburb of Boston, in 1879. She was ordained by her students, and created the Massachusetts Metaphysical College in 1881 and the National Christian Scientist Association in 1886. She later disbanded the Association, College and Church and concentrated the movement within The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, MA. Although she continued to manage church affairs until her death in 1910, she removed herself from public contact and lived in seclusion, in order to revise her book and guide the movement.
The church went through a period of rapid growth during the first half of the 20th century. Membership leveled out by 1950 and has since gradually declined. "...the closing of hundreds of branch churches over the past two decades suggests that attrition is the biggest threat the Church faces." 19 Current membership data is unknown; the Church does not publish statistics. One source estimates about 400,000 people follow Christian Science teachings, although many are not affiliated with a congregation. Another estimates:
Two Christian Scientists, H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, of the Nixon era helped sponsor a Congressional bill which extended the copyright of "Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures" by 75 years. The bill became law but has since been declared unconstitutional. 19
The Church has about 2,300 branch congregations in 60 countries. There are about 1,600 congregations in the US; about 60 in Canada. They operate Christian Science Reading Rooms where the public is invited to read the Bible and literature published by the Church. In 1908, Mrs. Eddy founded The Christian Science Monitor, an international newspaper, whose employees have won 6 Pulitzer prizes. A cable TV channel launched in 1991 was short lived and was terminated for financial reasons.
In recent decades, a number of main-line Christian leaders have extracted the Christian Science concept of Divine Mind. They have secularized it to refer to the human mind and have grafted it onto traditional Christian belief. This may be the source of some of the teachings in Norman Vincent Peale's Power of Positive Thinking, Bishop Sheen's Peace of Soul, Rev. Robert Schuller's Possibility Thinking, etc.
(provided by Lyle Young, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Ontario)
Christian Scientists believe:
(also provided by Lyle Young)
|Newspaper: The Christian Science Monitor is a highly regarded, daily newspaper
which has been published from Boston, MA since 1908.|
|Radio: The Church has a short-wave network which broadcasts around the world. It
broadcasts news, religious discussions and services from The Mother Church in Boston. They
also distribute news programs to public radio stations in the US.|
|Periodicals: The Christian Science Publishing Society publishes:|
Compared to other recently emerging faith groups, there has been relatively little controversy within Christian Science:
|A crisis over leadership (referred to as the Great Litigation) occurred at the
death of Mrs. Eddy, but was settled by the courts.|
|Emma Hopkins left the church during Mrs. Eddy's lifetime and created a movement
which developed into New Thought; that group in turn influenced other new religious
|Anne Bill led a breakaway sect, the Christian Science Parent Church, after Mrs. Eddy's death. This evolved into the Church of Integration, which expired in the 1950's.|
Like other successful denominations which deviate from traditional beliefs, Christian Science has attracted negative attention. Some has come from the Counter-cult Movement ;that condemns any Christian group that deviates from historical Christian teachings. Some conservative Christian religious leaders have also criticized it because of its unique interpretation of scriptures. Some refer to the movement as a cult. But the Christian Science Church maintains that this term inaccurately describes the century-old denomination. Christian Scientists practice their religious teachings out of reasoned conviction of its truth - not from blind irrational feelings about Mary Baker Eddy. Their churches and Reading Rooms are open to all; their services are dignified and simple.
There are many sites on the Internet maintained by persons who have left the Church. 13,14
There exists a chronic state of tension between the Church, its practitioners, and medical doctors over the substitution of Christian Science healing techniques for conventional medical treatments. However, this does not frequently escalate into conflict, as it often does between Jehovah Witness parents, their children and the courts. In instances where there would be a difference of opinion between Christian Science parents and medical authorities, the Church's policy is to strongly encourage parents to cooperate with those authorities. It is not known how frequently this advice is taken by individual members. The Church urges the reporting of communicable diseases, conforming with vaccination laws, and the provision of certified midwives or other medical attendants at childbirth as required by law. 15 The Church believes that spiritual healing techniques are quite effective; they publish descriptions of such healings in various of their publications. Their critics feel that medical intervention is more effective and should be the technique of choice. 16,17 We have been unable to locate any studies which compare the effectiveness of Christian Science healing with conventional medical treatments. The Church itself is unaware of any. 18
The church feels that the term "faith healing" does not accurately describe its methods of healing. They state that its methods do not rely on miracles. Rather, they are believed to be the same natural methods that Jesus used to cure people.
We are concerned about the lack of hard data available about the effectiveness of faith healing generally and of Christian Science healing methods in particular. We consider this a major ethical concern. If either conventional medical treatments or faith healing is marginally better that the other, then thousands of lives could be saved each year in the U.S. by inducing people to switch to the more effective treatment. See further details.
|Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and health with key to the scriptures," Aequus Inst. Pubns, (Reprint: 1991)
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store|
|Gillian Gill, "Mary Baker Eddy," Perseus Press, (1999).
Read reviews or order this book|
|Stephen Gottschalk, "Rolling Away the Stone: Mary Baker Eddy's Challenge to Materialism," Indiana University Press,
(2005). Read reviews or order this book|
|David Keyston, "The healer: The healing work of Mary Baker Eddy," Healing Unlimited, (1998).
Read reviews or order this book |
|Richard Nenneman, "Persistent Pilgrim: The life of Mary Baker Eddy," Nebbadoon Press, (1997). Read reviews or order this book|
|The "Official home page of The Church of Christ, Scientist"
contains a question and answer section, and other
information about Christian Science. See: http://www.tfccs.com|
|The "Writings of Mary Baker Eddy," in Boston,
Massachusetts, U.S.A. sponsors http://www.spirituality.com
Although this appears to be a Christian Science site, that fact is
only revealed in the "about the site" page.|
|"The virtual Christian Science reading room," is
maintained by the First Church of Christ, Scientist in St. Paul, MN.
See: http://www.mtn.org/csreadingroom/ |
|Longyear Museum collects and preserves historic documentation
and artifactual material on Mary Baker Eddy's life and achievements,
and those of her early followers from 1821 to 1910. See:
|David J. Nolan maintains the Christian Science University at:
http://www.ucsinc.org/ It is
independent of the Church.|
|"Ananias: Pilgrims to the Cross of Christ from Christian Science" is a websites for former Christian Scientists who have transitioned from following the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy to evangelical Christianity. See: http://www.ananias.org/|
|Christian Science and homosexuality|
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