Every worldview has to answer three important questions. First, “How did we get here”? This question is obviously foundational to how it is we see the world around us and how it is we understand our role within that world. Secondly, we have to ask, “How did things get so messed up?” All of us know that there is something broken about the world in which we live and our worldview helps us to understand WHAT has been broken! Finally, we must answer the question, “How can we fix it?” This final question is the culmination and conclusion of our worldview. We begin with an idea related to how we got here, but ultimately find ourselves answering the most important questions of life. Christian Science offers answers to these three worldview questions. Let’s examine these answers and see if they are cohesive and relate to the world as we know it…
A Short History of Christian Science
Mary Baker Eddy was born in Bow, New Hampshire on July 16th, 1821. She was the youngest of six children, and her parents raised her in a “Congregationalist” Christian church. She suffered a number of childhood illnesses that led her to examine the Biblical passages that dealt specifically with healing. As she grew into a woman, her persistent illnesses continued. In 1862, at the age of 41, she became a patient of Phineas Quimby who was himself a ‘mesmerist’ and ‘magnetic’ healer. Quimby was a dualist who believed that the mind was “spiritual matter” and that man “exists outside himself”. He saw the mind and the brain as two separate entities that interacted with each other, and he developed the theory of “mental healing”. He believed that disease was simply the result of faulty thinking and his work with Mary Baker Eddy was formative to her own writing and theological thinking.
In 1866, at the age of 45, Eddy suffered a fall and a spinal injury. She turned to the Bible for answers and recovered from the injury quickly and unexpectedly. She spent the next three years studying the Bible and forming the basis for Christian Science as a philosophy of mind, a theory of healing, and a theological system. She tested her theories for several years and eventually published “Science and Health” (later re-titled as “Science and Health with a Key to the Scriptures”) in 1875. She advanced this theological view and theory of science by establishing the Christian Science Church from students she taught at the Massachusetts Metaphysical College in the 1880’s. Today, there about 100,000 students of Christian Science in over 60 countries, totally approximately 400,000 members in 1,850 to 2,000 congregations. They utilize the Bible and “Science and Health with a Key to the Scriptures” as their two sacred texts.
How Christian Science Answers the Question:
“How Did We Get Here?” (What’s the Nature of God and Creation?)
Christian Science teaches that all creation is the product of the Divine Mind, and the god of Christian Science is very different than the God of Orthodox Biblical Christianity. Eddy described God as an impersonal “Principle” rather than a person (as described in the Bible). In fact, Eddy often described God using a number of similar impersonal synonyms, like ‘Principle’, ‘Soul’, ‘Mind’, ‘Spirit’, ‘Life’, ‘Truth’, and ‘Love. Christian Science also denies the Trinity and teaches that while Jesus is divine, He is not God. For Christian Scientism, there is a distinction between Jesus’ human nature and His divine “Christ”.
“Jesus is the name of the man who, more than all other men, has presented Christ, the true idea of God, healing the sick and sinning and destroying the power of death” (Science and Health, 473:10-17).
While Eddy taught that all of creation is a product of the Divine Mind, She made an important distinction which is the fundamental difference that separates Christian Science from Orthodox Christianity. Eddy taught that God’s creation is entirely spiritual and perfect and that matter does not exist. In addition, sin, sickness and death also do not exist. While we may THINK that these material things exist all around us, we are simply mistaken; they are an ILLUSION:
“The only reality of sin, sickness, or death is the awful fact that unrealities seem real to human, erring belief, until God strips off their disguise” (Science and Health, 472:27-29).
Christian Science teaches that we are bound by the material world until we finally understand that this world is not real. Once we understand the truth that matter, sin, sickness and death are not real, we too will have power over them. God is spiritual and cannot be sick. Man, as his creation, is an eternal spiritual being who has been deceived into thinking that there is a material world where sickness and sin have power. Eddy taught that sickness was simply an imagining of what she called the “Mortal Mind”. Take a look at a brief summary of these ideas offered in the Christian Science “Scientific Statement of Being” that is recited as a creed in Christian Science churches:
There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter.
All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all.
Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error.
Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal.
Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness.
Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual. (Science and Health, 468:9-15)
Mary Baker Eddy taught that the Bible was full of errors and was only useful when interpreted by her own writing, “Science and Health with a Key to the Scriptures”. In this volume, Eddy rejected Genesis chapter 2 as a corruption (a “lie”) and relied on Genesis chapter 1 in order to make the claim that humans are a completely spiritual creation and have nothing to do with matter (remember that Genesis 2 links the creation of man to the dust of the ground). Creation Science teaches that the true nature of man is that he is a purely spiritual and immaterial creation of a purely spiritual and immaterial god.
How Christian Science Answers the Question:
“How Did It Get So Messed Up?” (What Separates Man from God?)
OK, if God is the spiritual, immaterial creator of all things and the only reality of this creation is spiritual, the problem with the world we live in is simple: we have been deceived into thinking that matter, sin, illness and death exist when, in fact, they don’t! How did this happen? Christian Science teaches that our deception is the result of the Devil, but it defines the Devil as “evil; a lie; error… a belief in sin, sickness, and death…” or a belief in the material world around us. The Devil is not a person, but instead is simply a BELIEF that tells each of us:
“I am life and intelligence in matter. There is more than one mind, for I am mind, – a wicked mind, self made or created by a tribal god and put into the opposite of mind, termed matter, thence to reproduce a mortal universe, including man, not after the image and likeness of Spirit, but after its own image” (Science and Health, 584:20-25)
This is our dilemma; we are deluded by this false belief in the material world and the false belief that we are independent material beings. We must overcome these beliefs before we can ever hope to solve the problem we have as we exist within this world filled with sin, death and illness. While we may SEE evil all around us, Christian Science describes this evil as an illusion:
“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.” (Science and Health 186:12-15)
In this worldview, evil is not actually “real” at all. Evil is not a part of God’s being or His creation. Yes, evil may APPEAR to be real, but it is actually a mistaken view of God and man. Christian Science teaches that God and His creation (as spiritual realities alone) are completely (and only) good.
As humans deceived by our perception of the material world, we often have thoughts and engage in actions that are contrary to our God-given goodness. When this happens, we suffer in some way. In essence, we experience what we think is evil because we have simply misconceived the nature of our world. While God has created all things to be good, we continue to ‘misunderstand’ His creation and then ‘misapply’ the principles of His creation, resulting in the suffering we experience on earth.
How Christian Science Answers the Question:
“How Do We Fix It?” (How Can We Be Reunited with God?)
So how can we ‘fix’ this misunderstanding and misapplication so we can correct our situation? The Orthodox Christian worldview promises a new life in Heaven with the God who created us, but Christian Science rejects the idea of heaven as the abode of God. For the follower of Christian Science, heaven and hell are simply states of mind. Heaven is described as:
“Harmony; the reign of Spirit; government by the divine Principle; spirituality; bliss; the atmosphere of Soul.” (Science and Health, 587:25-27)
In a similar way, hell is described as:
“Mortal belief; error; lust; remorse; hatred; revenge; sin; sickness; death; suffering and self-destruction; self-imposed agony; effects of sin; that which ‘worketh abomination or maketh a lie.’” (Science and Health, 588:1-4)
As a result of these beliefs about heaven and hell, the Christian Science believer is not trying to escape the judgment of God and the destiny of hell as a place of eternal punishment, but is instead trying to liberate himself (or herself) from the illusion of the material world. Heaven (the “harmony” and “reign of the Spirit”) can be achieved if we can simply learn the truth and connect to the mind of God. The “salvation” of Christian Science is defined as:
“Life, Truth, and Love understood and demonstrated as supreme over all; sin, sickness and death destroyed” (Science and Health, 593:20-22)
Jesus is part of the Christian Science solution, but NOT as a redeemer who paid the price for our individual sins on the cross. (in fact, Christian Science teaches that Jesus did not actually die on the cross, but that his followers were instead fooled into thinking he was dead when he was really alive in the tomb). Also, it’s important to remember that Christian Science teaches that sin and evil are part of our material illusion. Eddy taught that Jesus helps us to solve our own delusion problem by giving us true information about the nature of the spiritual world in which we live. Christian Science describes Jesus as:
“The highest human corporeal concept of the divine idea, rebuking and destroying error and bringing to light man’s immortality. (Science and Health, 589:16-18)
Eddy described Jesus as the vehicle by which God presented the “Christ” which is defined as:
“The divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error. (Science and Health, 583:10-11)
Jesus saves us, but not by way of the “substitutionary atonement” described in orthodox Christianity. Instead, Jesus is the vehicle through which God imparts the correct view of the spiritual world within which we live. Christian Science teaches that we can access the truth of God through prayer as a means of learning about God’s nature so that we can begin to see things as He sees them. In prayer we are to do more than ask for a specific result; we are to ask for clarity of what is truly happening at the spiritual level and claim the good that exists at this level. When this is done, the Christian Science believer expects a renewed view of the situation to emerge. If the believer was falsely deluded into thinking he or she was sick, for example, the new spiritual awareness of the unseen reality will cure this false notion and the believer will be healed.
Followers of Christian Science believe that their faith is perfected over time; they get better and better at discerning the illusion of the material world as they learn more and more about the character of God and the spiritual world (through prayer). For this reason, they believe (in theory at least) that the more they practice their faith, the more they will overcome the illusion. They believe (in theory at least) that the more they practice their faith, the more they will overcome sickness, sin and even death. By this view, it should be possible for a faithful Christian Scientist to be illness free and (in theory at least) immune from death.
The Hard Questions Christian Science Has to Answer
OK, we’ve taken a look at the way in which Christian Science answers the three most important questions addressed by any worldview (“How did we get here?”, “How did things get so messed up?” and “How do we fix it?”). But how do we know if the Christian Science answers are actually TRUE? Well, one way to examine the Christian Science perspective is simply to see how well it answers a few important philosophical and theological questions that arise as we better understand what Christian Science teaches, so let’s ask those questions in an effort to get to the truth. The following questions are designed to challenge the Christian Science claims about reality and help you to initiate a discussion with your friends or family that may hold this worldview:
Let’s begin with some questions that spring from basic philosophical concerns:
If the material world is not to be trusted, how can we trust the Bible and “Science and Health” if they exist in this material world?
This seems to be the foundational problem with any worldview that claims that all matter is an illusion but then claims to have learned this truth from something in the material world! How can Mary Baker Eddy’s writings be trusted if they are part of the illusion? How could she have been trusted when she was alive if she was also part of the illusion?
If all of reality is an illusion to each of us individually, how is it that we all experience the SAME illusion?
Now think about this for a minute. If reality is an illusion that each of us perceives, how is it that all of us are experiencing the SAME illusion? There is no such thing as a “group” hallucination, and in a similar way, there can be no group material illusion. Christian Science teaches that an individual can overcome the illusion of the material world and conquer illness and death, and this enlightened achievement is supposed to be possible at the INDIVIDUAL level. In other words, it is clear that Christian Science teaches that each of us individually is experiencing the illusion of the material world and this illusion is to be overcome individually. So how is it possible that each of us (individually) is experiencing the SAME illusion?
Why would a good God who created everything good allow the deception in the first place?
We have to ask the fundamental question, “Is a world of material illusion and deception a ‘good thing’?” If it is not a good thing, then how is it that a good God would allow such a world to be possible? What is the ‘bigger good’ that God is trying to achieve that REQUIRES this evil of deception. As Christians, we are often asked how evil can exist if God is both all-powerful and all-loving. Our response is that God wants a ‘bigger good’ (the ability to love from a position of free will) and therefore must allow the evil that also comes as a result of free will. But what is the ‘bigger good’ that the god of Christian Science is trying to accomplish by allowing the evil of a material illusion and deception?
If our bodily existence is unreal, how can we trust any eyewitness account of the bodily form of Jesus?
One of the biggest questions Christian Science has to answer is whether or not Jesus’ material appearance was also an illusion. If it was, how do we know that the disciples actually saw something that they could trust? How do we know if they even accurately recorded His words?
Our senses are part of the material world, so how can we trust them to know if we are really healed in the first place?
Christian Science proposes that each of us through prayer can understand the nature of God and the truth of the spiritual reality that surrounds us. This worldview also teaches that we can overcome illness in this way and there are a number of healings recorded in the history of Christian Science. But how can we trust our observations related to these healings if these observations exist within the material illusion itself?
If Biblical historical narratives are not to be trusted (because material history is an illusion), then how are we to trust that Jesus lived within history as recorded in the Bible?
Christian Science has a tendency to allegorize all of the historical narratives of the Bible and to minimize these narratives from a teaching perspective. In fact, Christian Science devalues all material historical descriptions as we might expect, because the worldview places no trust in the illusions of our physical, material existence. But if we can’t trust historical narratives described in the scriptures, how can we trust anything we know about Jesus? After all, Jesus is presented to us in the context of a historical narrative!
Why doesn’t Christian Science result in at least a handful of believers who have completely conquered illness and death? Why don’t they live longer?
As we discussed earlier, followers of Christian Science see their faith as a progressive work of spiritual growth that should allow believers to overcome the illusion of the material world and become more and more enlightened about the spiritual reality of their existence. If this is true, we should see a number of these believers be able to conquer their deception and suffer less and less illness and perhaps even conquer the illusion of death altogether. Why don’t we see this?
Now let’s examine some questions related to topics that are directly addressed in the Bible. After all, Christian Science claims to use the Bible as at lest some sort of authority, so it’s fair to compare what Christian Science proposes to the teaching of the Bible:
You describe God as an impersonal “Principle”, not a person. How do you resolve those Biblical teachings that describe God as a Person who sees, hears, speaks, remembers and knows?
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD; and when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.
Do not remember the iniquities of our forefathers against us; Let Thy compassion come quickly to meet us; For we are brought very low.
2 Timothy 2:19
Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness.”
You say that Jesus was not himself God. How do you resolve those Biblical passages in which Jesus describes himself as God or in which there is significant evidence of His Deity?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
1 John 2:22-23
Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
You say that only “Principle” (God) exists and that all matter is an illusion. How do you resolve those Biblical passages in which Jesus demonstrated the reality of matter?
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.
You say that sin, evil; and death don’t exist. How do you deal with those Biblical passages that teach that sin is real and separates us from God?
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”
Romans 5:12, 6:23
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned… For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You say that Jesus’ blood on the cross did not cleanse us from sin. How do you deal with those Biblical passages that teach that Jesus’ blood DID atone for the sin of mankind?
1 Peter 2:24
and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
You say that the disciples were fooled into thinking that Jesus was dead when he was really alive in the tomb. How do you deal with those Biblical passages that teach that Jesus died and rose from the dead in bodily form?
John 20:16, 17, 20, 27
Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”…And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord… Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.”
So, Could This Be True?
Every worldview has to be both internally consistent (measure up against itself) and externally consistent (measure up against the world it proposes to describe). The challenge for Christian Science appears to exist at both levels. There are a number of philosophical questions (and Biblical Questions for that matter) that seem to expose the internal contradictions of the worldview. In addition, we would have a hard time measuring whether or not it is externally consistent if we can’t trust our observations in the material world in the first place! For these reasons, Christian Science does not seem to pass the test of internal and external examination.