A critique of the Science of Metaphysical HealingIntroduction
I have had a number of contacts with Christian Science believers, although as the years have gone by these contacts have grown less and less. It is a fast aging Christian sect. I guess the saddest contact was in 1995 when the husband of a member of my congregation developed cancer. He was a leading Practitioner in the Christian Science church and was totally devastated when his methods failed to rid him of this awful "unreality". So, not only did he have to deal with the increasing pain and disability of his disease, but he also had to deal with the failure of allowing its "illusion" to master him. He went through a terrible death. His wife's simple believing faith was his only comfort.
Mary Baker Eddy was the founder of the Christian Science church. She was a very charismatic woman with great appeal, even though she had limited education and understanding of the Bible. She was a woman obsessed by the healing ministry.
Mary Baker was born in 1821 into a strong Christian home. She was a sickly child and continued to have bouts of illness all her life. Her first husband died after six months of marriage and her second husband deserted her. In 1862 she went to see a faith healer named Phineas Quimby. She claimed she was healed by him and joined his ministry team. He called his healing ministry, The Science of Christ.
In 1866 Quimby died and in the same year Mary experienced a dramatic healing in her life. Although there is some doubt as to the reality of her healing, she certainly saw it as a turning point. From that time on she was completely dedicated to the healing ministry. She established a training programmed to train Christian Science Practitioners in the science of healing and health. By 1875 she had completed her text book on Christian Science which she gave the name Science and Health.
Her church was established in 1875 when a small group of her followers rented a hall in Boston USA, meeting on Sundays. In 1879 it was officially called The Church of Christ Science with a charter "to commemorate the word and works of our Master, which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing." Mary became the first minister of the church. By this time she was married to Asa Eddy, 1877. In 1881 she established her main training college in Boston - the Massachusetts Metaphysical College.
Opposition to her church grew and she became quite ill from the stress. Her teeth had to be extracted and her eyesight began to fail. As pain increased, it was claimed at the time that she was forced to take morphine. Naturally this went against everything she taught.
Mary Eddy retired as minister of the Boston church and moved to Concord, New Hampshire. From 1889-1890 she reorganized the church under the control of the Mother church, The First Church of Christ Scientist. All pastors were removed and replaced by readers and all authority placed in the Manual and appointed Directors. She revised Science and Health and in 1908 established the Christian Science Monitor. This daily newspaper, later called the Monitor, was one of the leading newspapers in the US, being noted for its positive reporting. Mrs. Eddy died in 1910. The church has spread throughout the world with Christian Science reading rooms found in most major population centers, primarily in the English speaking World.
From the 1930's on the church went into decline and today is quite small.
The church is governed by the Church Manual written by Mrs. Eddy, along with a board of directors. The Manual cannot be altered and the directors have complete authority beyond the directives of the Manual.
The Sunday service consists of Christian Science hymns, silent prayer along with the Lord's prayer, a reading from the Bible followed by a reading from Science and Health. There is no sermon.
Regular lectures are held in the church at lease once a year and each church has a reading room where members can read authorized Christian Science literature. A full time ministry is exercised by Christian Science Practitioners who have been trained in Christian Science healing methods. Most churches have a weekly testimony meeting where people can speak of their healings.
At their peak in the 1930's, there was some 3,000 churches worldwide. It is therefore quite a small sect, and increasingly so. The church produces a number of magazines. It runs a number of sanitariums, mental Institutions and retirement villages. The main church is still the Mother Church in Boston USA. Administration is handled from this church and it remains the center for the main conferences of the denomination.
Science and Health
Science and Health with the Key to the Scriptures is the essential textbook of the Christian Scientist. It is placed next to the Bible and used as the means of understanding the Bible. In a sense, it is believed to be inspired in that it is seen as a special revelation to Mrs. Eddy for the proper understanding of the Bible. "No human pen nor tongue taught me the Science contained in this book." As a consequence the book is virtually used as the final authority in matters of faith. Without it, a proper understanding of the Bible is not possible for the Christian Scientist. Naturally, such a high regard for a human document can only lead to trouble.
Mrs. Eddy claimed that the Science (sometimes called "the absolute divine principle of scientific mental healing") detailed in her book, was something discovered by her in 1866 through divine revelation. There is some evidence to show that most of her views were gained from Quimby who taught that healing was achieved by correcting the thoughts of the patient, ie. healing "with the truth that Christ taught".
The authority of Science and Health over Christian Scientists is reinforced by a liberal treatment of the Bible. It is held that the Bible is sometimes in error, sections are rejected and passages given spiritual interpretation. The Bible is therefore not able to speak of itself, but is continually subjected to Science and Health. "The literal rendering of the Scriptures makes them nothing valuable, but often is the foundation of unbelief and hopelessness. The metaphysical rendering is health and peace and hope to all."
Mary Baker claimed to have discoverd the principle by which Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead. It was "metaphysical healing." She held that humans were, in reality, spiritual beings and that the body and the mortal mind were unreal. When we suffer from sickness it is simply because we have a wrong sense of ourselves. We can easily regain health when we remove the delusion that we sin, suffer and die. It is the realization of truth that destroys sickness. Healing is achieved by first noting the difference between the present human, but unreal state, and the actual real spiritual state and then affirming that truth (the spiritual reality) and denying the error. In simple terms, sickness does not exit in reality, but only in the imagination.
This type of teaching is a form of subjective realism. Matter is seen as unreal whereas God and pure mind is seen as the only reality. By believing this, the material body is brought into harmony with spiritual reality. Obviously, Quimby and Mrs. Eddy were influenced by the "new thought" (mind healing) philosophical movement of the nineteenth century. In the late twentieth century it was popularized in the widely held "positive thinking" movement headed by Peel and Schuller. They taught that positive thinking is the means of obtaining worldly wealth, success, social status and even health.
In the final analysis, it is difficult to class Christian Science as a Christian denomination. God is seen as an impersonal soul, spirit and mind. Jesus is but a human example to follow. The Holy Spirit ends up being the Christian Science church. Humanity turns out to be unfallen spiritual beings. Salvation is but a release from false beliefs.
"My first plank in the platform of Christian Science is as follows: 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 real and eternal; matter is unreal and temporal."
Evil and sin
"All reality is in God and his creation. 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 humans, erring belief, until God strips off their disguise."
"If it is true that man lives, that fact can never change, in Science, to the opposite belief that man dies...... Death is but another phase of the dream that existence can be material..... The dream of death must be mastered by the mind here and hereafter... Life is real, and death is the illusion."
"Divine principle, life, truth, love, soul, spirit, mind."
"Man is not matter: he is not made up of brain, blood, bones and other material elements. The scriptures inform us that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Matter is not that likeness... Man is spiritual and perfect.... He is.... the reflection of God, of Mind and therefore is eternal; that which has no separate mind from God; that which has not a single quality underived from deity. that which possesses no life, intelligence, nor creative power of his own, but reflects spiritually all that belongs to the master."
Jesus and Christ
"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 and Christ."
Jesus "reappeared to his students - to their apprehension he arose from the grave on the third day of his ascending thought."
"One sacrifice, however great, is insufficient to pay the debt of sin."
"To get rid of sin through science, is to divest sin of any supposed mind, of reality, and never to admit that sin can have intelligence or power, pain or pleasure. You conquer error by denying its verity."
The last things
"Man is not annihilated, nor does he lose his identity, by passing through the belief of death. After the momentary belief of dying passes from the mortal mind, this mind is still in a conscious state of existence."
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