Christian Science Healing
Christian Science healing
Christian Science healing is a method of spiritual healing based on the beliefs of the Christian Science, or Church of Christ, Scientist, church. The church's healing practices are based on the divine healing work of Jesus. Adherents hold that the material world is a false reality and that health is a condition of mind, God, and truth. Thus, Christian scientists believe that ill health can be cured by spiritual education, understanding of the truth, and prayer.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, was born Mary Baker in Bow, New Hampshire, on July 16, 1821, into a family of strict Christian practice and Puritan values. Baker was ill for much of her childhood and early adult life. She explored medical therapies popular in her time, including homeopathy , and found no relief for her chronic illness.
Between 1862 and 1865 Baker was a patient of a charismatic healer named Phineas Parkhurst Quimby. A former hypnotist, Quimby developed a philosophy of mental healing based on the belief that he had rediscovered the secret of Jesus' ability to heal the sick. It is thought that Quimby's ideas may have influenced Baker in the development of her philosophy of Christian Science healing, although she herself denied it.
In 1866, the same year that Phineas Quimby died, Baker suffered a spinal injury from a fall. This proved to be a critical turning point in her life. Seeking strength in the Bible to sustain her through the injury, Baker read a New Testament account of Jesus' healing. While she was reading, she experienced a sudden insight into how Jesus' healing was accomplished, and as she read, she found herself suddenly released from her injury and restored to health.
This transformation inspired Baker to spend the next three years studying the scriptures and codifying her discoveries about healing. She called her discoveries Christian Science, and believed that she had found the one and only "truth." She put her principles into action by healing others, including those who had illnesses declared by medical practitioners of the day to be incurable.
As Baker studied the Bible and practiced healing, she came to believe that she could teach others to heal following God's truth as she had discovered it. In 1870 in Lynn, Massachusetts, she taught her first class and began to develop a following that shared her belief in Christian Science healing.
In 1875, while still living in Lynn, Mary Baker published Science and Health later renamed Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. This book, revised by Baker Eddy over the next 35 years, is the fundamental document explaining the doctrine of Christian Science healing.
In 1877 Mary Baker married fellow Christian Scientist Asa Gilbert Eddy and by 1879 had established enough of a following to found the first Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts. This church became her headquarters and is known as the Mother Church. The regulatory structure of the denomination was set forth in her book The Manual of the Mother Church published in 1895.
Throughout the late 1800s, Christian Science continued to attract converts. Most of these conversions were brought about by demonstrations of Christian Science healing. Eddy also established the Massachusetts Metaphysical College to teach Christian Science healing. It is estimated that by 1895 there were about 250 Christian Science congregations, mainly in New England.
Mary Baker Eddy died on December 3, 1910. At the time of her death, there were about 1,200 Christian Scientist congregations in the United States. By the 1930s the number had increased to about 2,400. The United States Bureau of the Census in 1936 estimated church membership in the United States at about 269,000. Meanwhile congregations were also being established overseas.
After World War II, the number of Christian Science congregations began to decline. Beginning in the 1980s the church had to deal with negative publicity from court cases alleging that the failure of Christian Science parents to seek conventional medical treatment for children who had illnesses considered treatable by mainstream medicine constituted child endangerment. Convictions, many of which were overturned on appeal, further hurt church membership. The number of Christian Scientist practitioners, as those people whom the Church of Christ, Scientist officially recognizes as spiritual healers are called, dropped from about 8,000 in 1960 to about 2,000 in 1998.
Today Mary Baker Eddy is recognized both as a mind-body healer and as a pioneer in the area of equality for women. In the Church of Christ, Scientist, men and women function equally as leaders and healers, an idea that was revolutionary in Eddy's lifetime. In 1995 she was elected to the National Women's Hall of Fame in recognition of being the only American woman to found an internationally established religion.
In addition to its practices of spiritual healing, Christian Science is best known today for its publishing activities, spearheaded by the international newspaper the Christian Science Monitor founded by Eddy in 1908. Each congregation also provides a public Christian Science Reading Room where the public may read Christian Science literature and ponder spiritual matters.
For believers, Christian Science healing brings both spiritual and physical well being to those who are ill. Its healing practices make no distinction among different types of illnesses. It uses no material methods or laying on of hands to restore people to health and can be practiced in almost any setting.
To understand Christian Science healing one must also understand Christian Science theology, because the two are inextricably linked. On the first page of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures Eddy writes, "The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God..and a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love.. Prayer, watching, and working, combined with self-immolation, are God's gracious means for accomplishing whatever has been successfully done for the Christianization and health of mankind."
Christian Science teaches that the ordinary physical world that we perceive is a misconception. Matter is not created by God, but appears because of man's limited perception. Jesus, Eddy explains, was able to heal the sick, the blind, and the lame, because he saw beyond their material form and saw the spirit essence of the person.
In writing on the human body in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Eddy states, "To measure intellectual capacity by the size of the brain and strength by the exercise of muscle, is to subjugate intelligence, to make the mind mortal, and to place this so-called mind at the mercy of material organization and non-intelligent matter. Obedience to the so-called physical laws of health has not checked sickness. Diseases have multiplied since man-made material theories took the place of spiritual truth. You say that indigestion, fatigue , sleep-lessness, cause distressed stomachs and aching heads. Then you consult your brain in order to remember what has hurt you, when your remedy lies in forgetting the whole thing; for matter has no sensation of its own and the human mind is all that can produce pain."
For believers, Christian Science healing is the triumph of mind over matter and the spiritual over the material world. Ill health is simply an illusion. Good health occurs when the mind achieves awareness of itself, which is synonymous with awareness of God. The goal of healing is not to remove physical suffering, but to lead the ill person to Christ and transform the consciousness into a more pure and spiritual state that knows God. Healing is seen as a measure of the depth of one's sincerity and belief.
Since health does not reside in the body, and is not controlled by physical laws, Christian Science healing cannot occur when a person is in a state of moral sinfulness or lack of belief. The basis of disease is fear, ignorance, or sin. Health is a spiritual fact to be demonstrated.
Christian Science teaches that all believers can be taught to heal. Those people officially sanctioned as healers by the Church of Christ, Scientist are called Christian Science practitioners. Practitioners may be either male or female. These people must pledge to devote themselves to the practice of healing full time. They may be paid by their patients for their work. In 2000 there were about 2,000 officially recognized Christian Science practitioners in the United States, and that number is declining.
Practitioners do not use any material props or even touch to heal their patients; only prayer is used. The practitioner approaches the patient with a clear conviction of the omnipotence of God and the firm belief that God is good and produces only good things. Practitioners who hold false beliefs, or error, even unwitting error, blended with the truth, have weak healing abilities and may be guilty of malpractice. If the healer realizes the truth, it will free his patient from symptoms of disease, discord, and disharmony and lead the patient to Christ. This is said to leave the patient feeling calm, refreshed, and healthy.
Many converts come to Christian Science through the demonstration of its power to heal. Traditionally, Wednesday night meetings are given over to healing testimony and witnessing of the healing power of God's truth.
The purpose of Christian Science healing is not to free the body from disease, but to lead the patient to a higher spiritual understanding of God. Patients are best served if they are receptive to Christian Science beliefs and practices prior to the start of a healing session.
There are no reasons other than disbelief or spiritual unreadiness not to participate in Christian Science healing. However, patients that do this must understand that they may be exacerbating their health problems by denying themselves access to traditional medical care.
No side effects are reported from practicing Christian Science healing. There is, as noted above, danger posed by replacing traditional medical care with Christian Science practices in the case of serious illness.
Research & general acceptance
Christian Science healing is seen by the traditional medical community as quackery, since it denies any relationship between the physical universe and illness. It rejects the concepts of germs, contagion, and healing through the application of drugs.
All "proof" of the effectiveness of Christian Science healing is anecdotal. Many physicians believe that in certain cases of psychosomatic illness Christian Science healing may indeed bring about improvement in symptoms, but in diseases with a clear physical origin, it is ineffective.
Training & certification
The Church of Christ, Scientist recognizes some of its healers as official practitioners whose full-time job is healing. About 2,000 were in practice in the United States in 2000.
Eddy, Mary Baker. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Boston: Christian Science Publishing Company, 1875 (reprinted 1994).
Sheler, Jeffrey L. "Mrs. Eddy's House. U.S. News Online February 16, 1998. http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue980216/16eddy.htm.
Church of Christ, Scientist. http://www.ChristianScience.org.
The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity. http://www.marybakereddy.org:86/.
Virtual Christian Science Reading Room. http://www.mtn.org.