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Christian Science and Christianity

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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“A cult . . . is a group of people polarized around someone’s interpretation of the Bible and is characterized by major deviations from orthodox Christianity relative to the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith, particularly the fact that God became man in Christ Jesus” (Walter Martin, The Rise of the Cults).

Basic traits

  • Authority figure
  • Extrabiblical text
  • Unorthodox theology, somewhat related to Christianity

General characteristics

  • Presents a Jesus different from that of orthodox faith
  • Claims new truth
  • Offers new, non-orthodox interpretations of Scripture
  • Cites non-biblical authority source(s)
  • Rejects major tenets of orthodox Christianity
  • Generally develops a changing, often contradictory theology
  • Strong leadership, usually centered in a single person or group of persons
  • Almost always offers a salvation by works
  • Generally makes unsubstantiated prophetic claims

Introduction to Christian Science

Christian Science was founded by Mary Morse Baker Glover Patterson Eddy. She was born in Bow, New Hampshire in 1821. Her parents were members of a Congregationalist church; its strict doctrine of predestination troubled her as a youth Her life later became characterized by the rejection of central Christian doctrines.

Discovery of “Christian Science”

In 1866, while still married to Daniel Patterson, she had a serious fall which allegedly brought her near death (the attending physician disputed her account of the severity of her injuries). The principles she “discovered” during this time were to become the basis of Christian Science.

In 1875 her work Science and Health was published; in 1883 Key to the Scriptures was added; for these works, she claimed divine revelation.

The founding of the church

  • In 1879 in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the Church of Christ Scientist was organized
  • In 1892, the name was changed to the First Church of Christ Scientist
  • In 1895 the Church Manual was published, establishing the procedures of governing the church.

The death of Mrs. Eddy

Although she taught that death is “an illusion, the life of life” (Science and Health 584:9), she died on Dec. 3, 1910. Today a self-perpetuating board of directors governs the church. The church does not keep statistics on its membership, but it is estimated to be more than three million worldwide.

Claims

Christian Science believes it has restored the lost element in Christianity, namely healing. When this is applied, it demonstrates itself to work. This knowledge was revealed to Mrs. Eddy, who shared it with the world.

Mrs. Eddy: “Late in the nineteenth century I demonstrated the divine rules of Christian Science. They were submitted to the broadest practical test, and everywhere, when honestly applied under circumstances where demonstration was humanly possible, this science showed that truth had lost none of its divine and healing efficacy, even though centuries had passed away since Jesus practiced these rules on the hills of Judea and in the valleys of Galilee” (SH 147:6-13).

Authority source

Mrs. Eddy claimed that, “as adherents of the Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal life” (SH 497:3-4).

However, she taught that the Bible contains numerous mistakes and contradictions, and make it unreliable (SH 139:15-22; 522:3-5).

Thus in practice, her works are used to interpret the text, and are more significant to the group’s distinctive theology.

“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy is the “textbook” if Christian Science and the primary source for any understanding of the subject. It’s the book for those who want to examine the whole of the theology as it speaks to both head and heart–for those who want to experience the theology for themselves (Christian Science xii).

Note: her writings appear to be basic plagiarisms of the works of Phineas Quimby, a self-professed faith healer at the turn of the century who called his work “the science of the Christ” and “Christian Science.”

Basic beliefs

Ultimate reality

God is defined as “Divine Principle” (SH 115:13-14; cf. her Miscellaneous Writings 16:21,22).

Jesus Christ

Basic statement: “Christ is the ideal truth that comes to heal sickness and sin through Christian Science, and attributes all power to God. Jesus is the name of the man who, more than all other men, has presented Christ, the true idea of God . . . Jesus is the human man, and Christ is the divine idea; hence the duality of Jesus the Christ (SH 473:9-16).

Claim: “Jesus Christ is not God” (SH 361:12)

Mankind

The “mortal mind” is the source of the illusions of evil, sickness, sin and death. We struggle with “animal magnetism”–wrong thinking, which causes us to experience the illusion of evil; malicious animal magnetism can kill those it is practiced against.

We can have unity between our mind and that of God, as was demonstrated by Christ.

In fact, sin and evil do not exist:

“Christ came to destroy the belief of sin” (SH 473).

“Evil is but an illusion, and it has no real basis. Evil is a false belief, God is not its author” (SH 480:23,24).

Central focus: Christian healing

Principles given through Mrs. Eddy: “Our Master…practiced Christian healing…but left no definite rule for demonstrating this Principle of healing and preventing disease. This rule remained to be discovered by Christian Science” (SH 147:24-29).

By faith and practice of Christian Science healing principles, every conceivable kind of disease can supposedly be healed.

Salvation

Not by the blood of Christ: “The material blood of Jesus was no more efficacious to cleanse from sin when it was shed upon “the accursed tree” than when it was flowing in his veins as he went daily about his Father’s business” (SH 25:6-8).

When Life, Truth, and Love are understood and demonstrated as supreme over all, sin, sickness and death are destroyed (SH 593:20-22).

Because there is no such thing as “sin,” “salvation” is totally unnecessary.

Ultimate destiny

  • No such thing as a final judgment.
  • Heaven is a divine state of mind in which all manifestations of the mind are harmonious and immortal.
  • Note: despite the obvious contradictions of Christian Science with orthodox Christianity, Christian Scientists continue to claim that “we…share immensely in the fundamentals held by true Christians of all denominations” (Christian Science 193).

Apologetics and Christian Science

  • Demonstrate the biblical facts of Christian faith, in contradiction to Christian Science:
  • The fact of sin (Romans 3:23; 6:23)
  • The necessity of salvation through Christ (John 14:6)
  • The fact of judgment (Hebrews 9:27) and heaven and hell (Revelation 20:11-15)
  • Show the life-changing power of God’s Spirit through your lifestyle and witness.

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This survey follows closely the critique by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Understanding the Cults (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1982), 165-75; and by John H. Gerstner, The Teachings of Christian Science (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1960). Primary materials include Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures and Christian Science: A Sourcebook of Contemporary Materials (Boston, Massachusetts: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1990).