Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist)
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE (CHURCH OF CHRIST, SCIENTIST)
A religious body founded in 1879 by Mary Baker eddy, whose discovery of what she named Christian Science resulted from a personal experience of prayer healing in 1866. Her Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the textbook of the Christian Science Church first published in 1875, described this experience. "I knew the Principle of all harmonious Mind-action to be God, and that cures were produced in primitive Christian healing by holy, uplifting faith; but I must know the Science of this healing, and I won my way to absolute conclusions through divine revelation, reason, and demonstration" (109).
Foundation and Growth. Mrs. Eddy did not at first expect to found a separate church or denomination, but hoped that other churches would take up the discovery and utilize it within their own systems. When they did not, she founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, at Boston, Mass., in 1879. Soon, groups of Christian Scientists sprang up in other places, and in 1892 Mrs. Eddy organized the Christian Science Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston. Local churches throughout the world are regarded as branches of this church. Newspapers, magazines, and books attacked the new religion and its founder; it received hostile receptions in many communities. But its appeal of Christian healing made a deep impact on thousands, especially in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries, and also in western Europe, particularly Germany.
Teachings. Christian Science maintains that fundamental reality is spiritual, created by God and consistently good. Thus, the human race, as the image and likeness of God, has a birthright of harmony and perfection. The ills that beset humanity, such as sickness, sin, fear, death, and poverty, are not part of God's spiritual creation, but result from the failure of the human mind to understand and obey God perceptively. To the degree that humans do understand God and follow His precepts unswervingly, their lives are regenerated, they experience healing, and their thinking is spiritualized. The degree to which they may not be healed is a result of their limitations in understanding and loving God. Christian Science defines God not in superhuman or anthropomorphic terms, but as "the divine Principle of all that really is"; biblical terms used directly or by implication for God, such as Life, Truth, Love, Soul, Spirit, Mind, were adopted by Mrs. Eddy. Her followers regard heaven and hell, not as localities, but as states of consciousness experienced by individuals in terms of their own spiritual progress or lack of it. The immortality of man's spiritual being is an emphatic teaching of Christian Science, while the experience of death is regarded as an illusion, not touching the real man who is spiritual.
Science and Health (497) summarized the following "religious tenets": "(1) As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life. (2) 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 and likeness. (3) We acknowledge God's forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal. But the belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts. (4) We acknowledge Jesus' atonement as the evidence of divine, efficacious Love, unfolding man's unity with God through Christ Jesus the Way-shower; and we acknowledge that man is saved through Christ, through Truth, Life, and Love as demonstrated by the Galilean Prophet in healing the sick and overcoming sin and death. (5) We acknowledge that the crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection served to uplift faith to understand eternal Life, even the allness of Soul, Spirit, and the nothingness of matter. (6) And we solemnly promise to watch, and pray for that Mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; to do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and to be merciful, just, and pure."
Organization, Services, and Publications. Mrs. Eddy's death in 1910 was a test of the plan of organization she had formulated in the church manual. It set up a five-member self-perpetuating board of directors to transact the business of the Mother Church. Branch churches throughout the world are democratically self-governed. Since 1910 the movement has grown steadily, although not at a sensational rate.
There is no clergy or official prayer book, and the order of church service is simple, identical, and unceremonial.
Sunday services are based on lesson-sermons, consisting of citations from the Bible and the Christian Science textbook. At the services these lesson-sermons, which have been studied in advance by church members, are read aloud by a "First and Second Reader," who are lay men or women elected for three-year terms. Hymn singing from the Christian Science Hymnal, the Lord's Prayer in common, and silent prayer, are part of the order of service. A Sunday School is held for pupils up to 20 years of age. Wednesday evening meetings include readings from the Bible and Science and Health, and testimonies of healing or other spiritual experiences from members of the congregation.
Although there is no clergy, there are professional practitioners of Christian Science. These men and women, whose names are registered in the church's monthly publication, the Christian Science Journal (1883), carry on healing work and spiritual guidance through prayer as a full-time vocation. Moreover, all Christian Scientists try to use their understanding of God's infinite grace and His law for spiritual healing. There is no formal missionary work, but the church maintains a board of lectureship, whose members deliver public lectures on Christian Science throughout the world. Other publications include: the Christian Science Quarterly, which contains the lesson-sermons studied each week; the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly first published in 1898, and the Heralds of Christian Science. In 1908, when Mrs. Eddy was in her 88th year, she directed the establishment of a daily newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor.
Bibliography: n. beasley, The Continuing Spirit (New York 1956). m. b. eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (Boston 1908). d. john, The Christian Science Way of Life, with A Christian Scientist's Life by e. d. canham (Englewood Cliffs 1962). r. peel, Christian Science: Its Encounter with American Culture (New York 1958). c. p. smith, Historical Sketches (Boston 1941). f. s. mead, s. s. hill and c. d. atwood, Handbook of Denominations in the United States: 11th ed (Nashville 2001)
[e. d. canham]