CHRISTIAN SCIENCE CHURCH
GERGES A. GAD
The following article was part of a research paper for the
Religions" class in the Coptic Orthodox Theological Seminary. It
is mainly intended to shed light on the church known as Christian
Scinece or Church of Christ, Scientist. It focuses on the
history, the founder and the concepts, without supporting nor
condemning it. However, the last portion compares some of the
believes to those of the Orthodox church, and the conclusion is
very self- explainatory. This article should not be read as the
view of the Coptic Orthodox Church, nor of Copt-Net, nor any
other organization. This article was provided mainly in an
effort to explain what Christian Scinece is all about.
At Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1866 Mary Baker Eddy recovered almost instantly
from a severe injury after reading in Matt. 9:1-8 the account of Christ's
healing of the man sick of the palsy:
"So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to
His own city. And behold, they brought to Him a
paralytic lying on a bed. And Jesus, seeing
their faith, said to the paralytic, "Son, be of
good cheer; your sins are forgive you."
... "Arise take up your bed, and go to your
house." And he arose and departed to his house.
Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and
glorified God, who had given such power to men.
(Matt. 9:1-2, 6-8)
She started to attribute causation to God and to regard Him as the divine
Mind. From these roots came Christian Science and the Church of Christ,
Mary Baker Eddy was one of the most remarkable women to appear on the
American scene during the nineteenth century. She was an almost complete
failure at fifty years of age, yet at eighty-nine she died surrounded by
every evidence of wealth, comfort and power, and mourned by many thousands of
At fifty, Mrs. Eddy was regarded as an impractical, aspiring author of a
book which she could get no publisher to accept and which she lacked funds to
publish privately. This book is "Science and Health with Key to the
Scriptures", which together with the Bible has become the twofold textbook of
Christian Science. At the time of her death, thirty-nine years later, the
printing presses were busy printing not only this book, but dozens of other
books, pamphlets, and periodicals she had written. Profits from this
printing made her a women of good wealth.
She was almost alone at fifty, with only a handful of followers who believed
in her. Yet at her passing, thousands who she had taught, or who attributed
their healing to her, mourned her as a mother. Inevitably she is regarded as
the greatest human figure of the Christian Science Church. Many books have
been written about her life, including: The Life of Mary Baker Eddy, by Sibyl
Wilbur, The Cross and the Crown, by Lyman Powell, Mary Baker Eddy: The Truth
and the Tradition, by Ernist Bates, and many more.
The bare facts of her life may be simplified as follows. She was born at
Bow, New Hampshire, on July 16, 1821. She was the youngest of six children,
belonging to devoutly religious New Englanders, Mark and Abigail Baker.
There was a close bond between Mary and her mother, yet she was often in
disagreement with her father. This may have had some effect on her health;
she became anxious and worried. Finally the doctor advised her parents to
take her out of School, and so her formal education was early interrupted.
She did attend school for a brief period later; but most of her education was
through her own efforts and the help of her brothers and sisters. This left
her in a desire for literary style; when she was to publish her Science and
Health, Rev. James Henry Wiggin was employed to assist her in its revision,
not from the view of doctrines, but for its grammatical and linguistic
For years she was a semi-invalid, sometimes hysterical that she had to be
held or carried about by her father, and often under the care of the
physician. She was fifteen when her family moved to Sanborton Bridge (AKA
Tilton, NH). At age seventeen she joined the Congregational Church in
Tilton, NH, because she rejected her father's Calvinistic believes and sought
a more delicate theology.
She was married to George Glover, the brother of her sister- in-law. His
business of building and selling houses was in Charleston, North Carolina,
and so they moved there. Her happy marriage did not last long because in
about six months of their marriage, George was stricken with a fever and was
gone in few days. He left her with an unborn child in a relatively strange
place. Mary was crushed by her loss and returned to her family. On
September 11, 1844, she gave birth to her child whom she called George after
his father. Due to her many illnesses, she couldn't care for her son, so she
gave him to a former servant of the family, Mahala Sanborn, who took her
adopted son with her when she got married. Mary Eddy who was to become a
mother to thousands was never really a mother to her own child.
From this time on she was never free from pain. She had spinal trouble which
left her in great discomfort much of the time. She later married a dentist,
Daniel Patterson, yet her pains still remained. She was experiencing spinal
inflammation, with its train of sufferings, gastric and bilious. She learned
of a Dr. Phineas Quimby who was effecting remarkable cures without resort to
medicine and thought that this was her chance.
Quimby believed that he had rediscovered the secret of healing practiced by
Jesus. He believed that he took his patients' ills upon himself and then
drawing spiritual strength from Wisdom (God), "threw them off". She became a
devout disciple to Quimby, and believed in his theology even after his death
in January of 1866.
February 1st 1866, was the turning point of her life. She fell on an icy
pavement and was painfully injured. she was then an elder woman, and the
injury was "pronounced fatal by the physicians". But on the third day
afterward, she opened her bible to Matthew 9:2. She said, "As I read, the
healing Truth dawned upon my sense; and the result was that I rose, dressed
myself, and ever after was in better health than I had before enjoyed." This
was the beginning of Christian Science. She has stated the following in her
Science and Health:
In the year 1866, I discovered the Christ Science or
divine laws of Life, Truth, and Love, and named my
discovery Christian Science. God has been
graciously preparing me during many years for the
reception of this final revelation of the absolute
divine Principle of scientific mental healing.
An examination of all documented sources bearing upon the famous accident and
its outcome throws more than a shadow of doubt on the accuracy of Mrs. Eddy's
recollections. The physician who was attending her said that he had never
pronounced her case hopeless or even critical. He testified under oath that
he attended the patient twice on the day of her fall, twice the next day,
once on the third, and again on the fifth, giving her medicine during her
visits and seeing her finally on February 13, at which time she appears to
have recovered "from the disturbance caused by the accident." She had not
intimated at any time that she had been miraculously healed on the third day,
but had complimented him on his skill in selecting remedies. Sibyl Wilbur,
says that she interviewed the doctor, and he told her that he had given Mary
a remedy and that when he called again she had walked across the room to show
that she was healed. He does not recall their having spoken of a healing by
According to her recollection, this was really her third healing experience:
one had come through prayer in association with an aged minster, then another
in the Quimby healing, and now she herself had been healed through reading
the New Testament account of Jesus' healing of the man with palsy. All these
recoveries, however, proved to be temporary. All through the years afterward
there was recurrent attacks of illness with which she had to struggle.
Nevertheless, from this crucial event onward she was primarily concerned with
the power of religion to heal. Slowly she worked her way through to the
philosophy of healing, which is now Christian Science. She did not achieve
immediate success. Followers of strange new teachings were not quickly found
or easily held, and she was to know a good many years of pain, loneliness,
hostility, and even persecution.
THE SPREAD AND ORGANIZATION OF THE DENOMINATION
Christian Science is generally described as "a religious teaching and
practice based on the words and works of Jesus Christ." Mrs. Eddy regards it
as "divine metaphysics," as "the scientific system of divine healing," and as
the "law of God, the law of good, interpreting and demonstrating the divine
Principle and rule of universal harmony." She believes that the "Principle
for all harmonious Mind-action to be God".
Like many other religious leaders, Mrs. Eddy hoped to work through existing
churches; she did not plan another denomination. But organization became
necessary as interest in the movement spread. Under her direction, the
church of Christ, Scientist was established in Boston in 1879. In 1892 she
established the present world-wide organization, the First Church of Christ,
Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, and its branch churches and societies.
This church in Boston is often referred to as the Mother Church.
All local churches of Christ, Scientist, of which there are more than 3,000
branches, are organized under the laws of the states or countries in which
they exist. They are subject to the bylaws laid down in the Manual of the
Mother Church by Mrs. Eddy. Reading rooms open to the general public, in
which a Bible and a copy of the Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
could always be found. This book contains all the theological explanations
of Christian Science and its believes. Among its topics are: prayer,
marriage, creation, and atonement. It contains a "Key to the Scriptures",
primarily of Genesis and the Apocalypse; these are Scientific interpretations
of the scriptures. It also contains a glossary of the terms used in
Christian Science, as well as a "Fruitage" or testimonies of healing to prove
the theology of this denomination.
The affairs of the mother church are administered by the Christian Science
board of Directors, which elects a president, the first and second readers, a
clerk, and a treasurer. All members of the board are elected annually, with
the exception of the readers who serve a three-year term.
There are two reader in each church, usually a man and a woman. Services,
which are held on Sundays, consist of alternate reading from the Bible and
from Science and Health. There is also a midweek meeting, conducted by the
first reader alone, featuring testimonies of healing from sin and sickness.
Even though the bylaws written by Mrs. Eddy prohibit the publishing of
membership statistics, the government census of 1936 reported a rough figure
of 269,000 members. But even this figure has been since held inaccurate, and
today the number of members would be much greater. It is interesting to
know, however, that the number of people studying Christian Science and
attending its services but not yet admitted exceeds the number who have been
Applied not only to the healing of the sickness but to the problems of life
generally, the tenets (creed) and doctrines of Christian Science are often
confusing to the non-Scientist and call for careful explanation. They start
with the idea that God is the only might of Mind; He is the "All-in-all," the
divine Principle of all that really is," "the all-knowing, all-seeing, all
acting, all- wise, all-loving, and eternal. He is the Principle, Mind, Soul,
Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love. He's all substance and all intelligence."
The inspired Word of the Bible is accepted as "sufficient guide to eternal
The tenets state:
"We acknowledge and adore one supreme and infinite
God. We acknowledge His Son, one Christ, the Holy
Ghost or divine Comforter; and man in God's image
Jesus is known to Christian Scientist as Master or Way-shower. His chief
work lies in the atonement, the evidence of divine, efficacious Love,
unfolding man's unity with God through Christ Jesus the Way-shower. Man,
made in the image of God, is saved through Christ, through Truth, Life, and
Love as demonstrated by the Galilean in healing the sick and overcoming sin
and death. The Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus are held as serving to
uplift faith to understand eternal life, even the all-ness of Soul or Spirit,
and the nothingness of matter.
The nothingness of matter is the basic teaching concerning what is real and
unreal, of which Mrs. Eddy say:
"All reality is in God and His creation, harmonious
and eternal. That which He creates is good, and He
makes all that is made. Therefore 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. They are not
true, because they are not from God."
God forgives sin in destroying sin with the spiritual understanding that
casts out evil as unreal. The punishment for sin, however, lasts as long as
the belief in sin endures.
Christian Scientists do not ignore that which they consider unreal; they
rather seek to forsake and overcome error and evil by demonstrating the true
idea of reality. In Christian Science mere opinion is valueless. Proof is
A BRIEF GLOSSARY
Certain terms are important in Christian Science. Animal magnetism is the
mesmeric action of erroneous belief. Healing is not miraculous but divinely
natural. Disease is a mental concept dispelled by the introduction of
spiritual truth. Heaven is not a locality but harmony, the reign of the
spirit. Bliss is the atmosphere of the Soul. Hell is mortal belief: error,
lust, remorse, hatred, revenge, sin, sickness, death, suffering and self
destruction, self-imposed agony, effects of sin, that which works abomination
or makes a lie. Mortal mind is the flesh opposed to Spirit. Prayer is
absolute faith that all things are possible to God - a spiritual
understanding of Him, an unselfish love. Baptism is not a ceremony but an
individual spiritual experience, a purification from all error. New
Jerusalem is Divine Science, the spiritual facts and harmony of the universe,
the kingdom of heaven. Angels are God's thoughts passing to man; spiritual
intuition, pure and perfect.
PASSAGES FROM SCIENCE AND HEALTH
Reading through Eddy's Science and Health, I selected some passages to
manifest this theology, and then responded to them according to the Coptic
Purpose of Crucifixion:
The efficacy of the crucifixion lay in the practical
affection and goodness it demonstrates for mankind.
In the Orthodox Church, the purpose of crucifixion
is the salvation of all humans, and not just a way
of God's goodness to man. St. Paul says: "Without
the shedding of blood there is no remission"
Marriage is the legal and moral provision for
generation among human kind. The point that
marriage is a union of two beings together with
God, (through the grace of the Holy Spirit) is not
very clear. In our faith, marriage is such a great
mystery that it is likened to the Church and
Christ: "This is a great mystery, but I speak
concerning Christ and the Church" (Ephesians 5:32).
Jesus the Way-Shower:
Born of a woman, Jesus' advent in the flesh partook
partly of Mary's earthly condition. Although he
was endowed with the Christ, the divine Spirit,
without any measure. This accounts for his
struggles in Gethsemane and on Calvary, and this
enabled him to be a mediator, or way-shower,
between God and men. There is obviously many
mistakes with this belief. Jesus was not "endowed"
with the Christ and the Holy Spirit, but They are
all One Being; "His Divinity parted not from His
humanity for a single moment, nor a twinkling of an
eye." In His struggles, He was "hiding" His
Divinity, so that the process of Salvation can be
carried out. "For though He was crucified in
weakness, yet He lives by the power of God" (2
Corinthians 13:4). It should also be noted that
the script does not capitalize the pronouns of
Jesus, thus making Him less equal than God.
Our baptism is a purification from all error. Our
church is built on the divine Principle, Love. The
Orthodox baptism is not only purification from
error, it is spiritual newness, rebirth, and unity
with God. Baptism allows the Holy Spirit to dwell
inside the Christian. "You have bestowed upon us
the grace of sonship, through the washing of
rebirth and the newness of the Holy Spirit" Without
baptism no one can enter the kingdom of God, or
view it, as Our Lord told Nicodemus, "Verily
verily, I say to you, except a man be born of water
and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of
God" (John 3:5)
The Universal belief of death is of no advantage.
It cannot make Life or Truth apparent. Death will
be found at length to be a mortal dream, which
comes in darkness and disappears in light. Death
has no great impact in the Orthodox Church, as we
say in the Litany of the departed, "For there is no
death for your servants but rather a departure."
Death is a departure to another life, a better
life, to those who have struggled for it. That is
why we see all our martyrs facing death like it was
Christian Science is a modern restatement of the Christian faith developed by
Mary Baker Eddy. Eventually it became organized as one of the numerous
Christian denominations of American life. It is another interpretation of
Christianity, related more to the Protestant faith, with the emphasis on the
healing power of religion. The church has become respected by her sister
Protestant churches. The quiet Christian character of so many of those
Christian Scientists, the lives they live, and the calmness of them achieved
through their faith has been important factors in winning their respect.
Mead, Frank S., Handbook of The Denominations in The United States; New York:
Abingdon Press, 1956.
Wilbur, Sibyl, The Life of Mary Baker Eddy; Boston: Christian Science
Publishing Society, 1938.
Eddy, Mary Baker, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures; Boston:
Christian Science Publishing Society, 1934.
Braden, Charles S., Christian Science Today; Dallas: Southern Methodist
University Press, 1958.
H. H. Pope Shenouda III, Salvation in the Orthodox Understanding; Westmont:
St. Mark & St. Bishoy Coptic Orthodox Church.