Is Christian Science true to the Bible? Or does it exalt Mary Baker Eddy’s writings above the Scriptures?
Christian Scientists claim to be true members of the body of Christ. Their leaders who have met for discussion with Presbyterians (see CHRISTIANITY TODAY, September 10, 1965, p. 39) acknowledge that one of their motives is to establish Christian Scientists as Christians. Is this claim well founded? Is Christian Science faithful to the Scriptures? Is Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health, its official textbook, “the voice of Truth … uncontaminated by human hypotheses,” as the book itself asserts (pp. 456, 457)? Let us ask ten questions of Christian Scientists, get answers from their own writings, and compare these answers with the teachings of the Bible.
1. Does Christian Science have a source of authority above the Bible? On the surface it would seem that Christian Science accepts the Bible as its final source of authority. In Science and Health we read, “As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life” (p. 497). In practice, however, Christian Scientists accept the Bible only as interpreted by Mrs. Eddy, whose Science and Health is really their ultimate source of authority. This book, as we saw, is said to contain “the revealed Truth uncontaminated by human hypotheses.” Though Christian Science is said to be “unerring and Divine” (Science and Health, 1934 ed., p. 99), the Bible is often said to be in error (ibid., pp. 139, 521, 522, 542). As a matter of fact, Christian Science completely reinterprets the Bible so as to read into it meanings poles removed from its intent. So, for example, Genesis 1:1 is “explained” as follows: “This creation consists of the unfolding of spiritual ideas and their identities, which are embraced in the infinite Mind and forever reflected” (ibid., pp. 502, 503). In their Sunday services, Christian Scientists follow readings from the Bible with extensive readings from Science and Health. As Charles M. Braden has pointed out, Christian Scientists accord to Science and Health an authority equal to or greater than that of the Bible, “since the true meaning of the latter is known only through the interpretation given it in Science and Health” (These Also Believe, p. 209).
The use of a source of authority above the Bible is condemned by Scripture itself. In Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man asked that his brothers still on earth might be given an additional revelation besides what was found in the Bible of that day; specifically, that Lazarus might be sent to them from the realm of the dead. To this Abraham replied, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). Here Christ clearly disavowed the need for any source of revelation superior to the Bible. Any group that considers a human writing superior in authority to the Bible cannot claim full loyalty to the Word of God.
2. Does Christian Science deny the personality of God? For Christian Science whatever is good is God, and whatever is not God does not really exist; God is the divine Mind, and Mind is all that truly exists. God is “All-in-all” (Science and Health, p. 113); God is “Divine Principle, Life, Truth, Love, Soul, Spirit, Mind” (ibid., p. 115). Is God personal? “God,” says Mrs. Eddy, “is infinitely more than a person … can contain”; he is “a divine Whole, and All, and all-pervading intelligence and love, a divine, infinite Principle …” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 16). Since for Christian Scientists God is not above the universe but is identified with it as the All, we must conclude that the God of Christian Science is not personal.
The Bible, however, teaches most plainly that God is personal, quite distinct from the universe he has created. This is clear from Genesis 1:1, and from a passage like Psalm 90:2: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” God is said to be displeased (Ps. 2:5), indignant (Ps. 7:11), angry (Num. 11:1), and rejoicing (Zeph. 3:17); he is said to choose his people (Eph. 1:4), and to reject evildoers (Jer. 7:15, Rev. 22:19). Surely such activities can be ascribed only to a person.
3. Does Christian Science deny the Trinity? The doctrine of the Trinity has been a keystone of the Christian faith from the beginning. But according to Christian Science, “The theory of three persons in one God (that is, a personal Trinity or Tri-unity) suggests polytheism, rather than the one ever-present I AM” (Science and Health, p. 256). Despite this flat denial, Mrs. Eddy felt compelled to make certain concessions to the trinitarian conception: “Life, Truth, and Love constitute the triune Person called God,—that is, the triply divine Principle, Love” (ibid., p. 331). But this kind of “trinity” obviously bears no resemblance to the Trinity of Scripture. A little later Mrs. Eddy defines her trinity in still different terms, suggesting that Christian Science is equivalent to the Holy Spirit of traditional Christian theology: “God the Father-Mother; Christ the spiritual idea of sonship; divine Science or the Holy Comforter” (ibid.).
Can a movement that rejects both the Trinity and the personality of God still claim to be Christian?
4. Does Christian Science deny the reality of matter and thus of creation? Matter, according to Christian Science, is mortal error, an illusion, unreal; therefore God could not have created a material universe. Since God is all and all is God, this all cannot have been created by God. For Christian Science, therefore, the narrative of creation in Genesis 1 is not a record of God’s calling a universe into existence at a certain point of time; it is rather an allegorical description of something that had no beginning and will have no end: the unfolding of the thoughts of God (ibid., pp. 502, 503).
According to Scripture, however, God is by no means to be identified with the universe he called into being: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). “By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God …” (Heb. 11:3). To reject the distinction between God and creation is to rob God of his sovereignty and to drag him down to the level of the universe.
5. Does Christian Science deny the reality of sin? Christian Science teaches that sin is a delusion and an illusion. “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” (Science and Health, p. 472). In other words, though sin may seem real to man, it is not real to God.
Christian Science denies the historicity of the fall of man. Adam was not a historical person; he is a synonym for error. So the story of the fall is simply an allegory picturing what is unreal and untrue. When one asks Mrs. Eddy, “If God made all that was made, and it was good, where did evil originate?” one gets the amazing answer, “It never originated or existed as an entity. It is but a false belief” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 45).
The Scriptures, however, depict sin as a tragic reality, and the fall of man as the saddest event in history. Only against the somber background of man’s sin can one perceive the glory of the cross of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). If sin is not real, the whole Bible is a lie.
6. Does Christian Science deny the reality of disease? Mrs. Eddy says, “The cause of all so-called disease is mental, a mortal fear, a mistaken belief …” (Science and Health, p. 377). Disease, she says further, is an illusion and a delusion: “Man is never sick, for Mind is not sick and matter cannot be” (ibid., p. 393). Since disease is considered to be wholly a mental phenomenon, the cure of disease is also mental: the removal of mental and spiritual tensions that produced the symptoms mistakenly interpreted as illness.
But the Bible pictures pain and disease as real, and as having been brought into the world by man’s fall into sin (Gen. 3:16, Isa. 33:24, Rom. 8:20–22). As Mrs. Eddy admits, Jesus himself often called diseases by name (Science and Health, p. 398). Luke informs us that Dorcas was truly sick (Acts 9:37), and Paul tells the Philippians that Epaphroditus had been “sick nigh unto death” (Phil. 2:27). Paul, in fact, even prescribed a remedy for Timothy’s stomach trouble (1 Tim. 5:23).
7. Does Christian Science deny the reality of death? Death is defined in Science and Health as “an illusion … the unreal and untrue.… Any material evidence of death is false, for it contradicts the spiritual facts of being” (p. 584).
But what do the Scriptures say? With the utmost lucidity, the Bible teaches that death entered the world as the penalty for man’s sin (Gen. 2:17, Rom. 5:12), that Christ came into the world to abolish death (1 Tim. 1:10), and that in the world to come, because of the redemptive work of Christ, there will be no death (Rev. 21:4).
8. Does Christian Science deny the deity of Jesus Christ? The answer to this question is not simple, for Christian Scientists distinguish between Jesus and Christ. Jesus, they say, was a man who lived in Palestine many years ago, and Christ is the name for a certain divine idea: “Jesus is the human man, and Christ is the divine idea; hence the duality of Jesus the Christ” (Science and Health, p. 473). What is the relationship between Jesus and Christ? The invisible Christ (“the ideal Truth, that comes to heal sickness and sin through Christian Science”) became perceptible in the visible Jesus (ibid., p. 473, 334); Jesus—who was no more than a man—presented and demonstrated Christ, the divine idea. We should therefore have to say that Christian Science denies the deity of Jesus and the personality of Christ.
All this indicates that the person of Jesus is not really important for Christian Science, since Jesus only demonstrated a divine idea. We are not surprised, therefore, to find Mrs. Eddy saying: “If there had never existed such a person as the Galilean Prophet, it would make no difference to me” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 318).
The Scriptures, however, emphatically teach that “Jesus” and “Christ” designate the same person, and the two names often occur together. That Jesus was not just a man but was fully God is clearly stated in John 1, verses 1 and 14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.…” That the name Christ did not designate a divine idea but a person is evident from the words of Peter’s confession, “Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). By suggesting that it is not really important whether Jesus existed or not, Christian Science cuts the very heart out of the Gospel.
9. Does Christian Science deny the vicarious atonement of Jesus Christ? According to Christian Science, Jesus did not atone for our sin by shedding his blood on the cross. This view is not surprising, since Christian Science denies the reality of sin. If sin is not real, why should it have to be atoned for? Mrs. Eddy says, “That God’s wrath should be vented upon His beloved Son, is divinely unnatural” (Science and Health, p. 23).
What, then, do Christian Scientists say Jesus’ work was? He demonstrated the truth: the divine idea that sin, disease, and death are unreal. More specifically, the work of Jesus was to set us an example of the kind of life we must live. “His consummate example was for the salvation of us all, but only through doing the works which he did and taught others to do” (ibid., p. 51). A typical Christian Science way of describing Jesus is to say that he was the “Way-shower” (ibid., pp. 30, 228). What brings salvation, therefore, is not a living faith in the person of Christ but an acceptance of divine truth: “Christ is Truth, and Truth is always here,—the impersonal Saviour” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 180). Mrs. Eddy calls faith in the person of Christ a species of scholasticism: “Scholasticism clings for salvation to the person, instead of to the divine Principle, of the man Jesus …” (Science and Health, p. 146).
The Scriptures, however, teach most plainly that salvation is impossible without faith in the person of Jesus Christ: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). That Christ had to make atonement for sin by dying on the cross is also clearly taught: “Who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:25). What Mrs. Eddy rejects as “divinely unnatural” the Bible affirms: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:13). Christ bore the curse for us, that he might fill us with his blessing. The Jesus of Christian Science, therefore, is a far cry from the Jesus of the Scriptures. Fallen man needs more than a Way-shower; he desperately needs a Saviour.
10. Does Christian Science hold the biblical view of salvation? To determine what Christian Scientists teach about salvation is difficult, since at this point they involve themselves in hopeless contradiction. On the one hand Mrs. Eddy insists that, since sin and evil have no real existence, the way to get rid of sin is simply to stop believing in it: “To get rid of sin through Science, is to divest sin of any supposed mind or reality.… You conquer error by denying its verity” (Science and Health, p. 339). On the basis of a statement of this sort, sin is just a bad dream, and we must all learn not to believe in bad dreams. Yet other statements in official Christian Science literature give the impression that sin has some reality after all: for instance: “The way to escape the misery of sin is to cease sinning. There is no other way” (ibid., p. 327).
In Christian Science, therefore, salvation from sin occurs in either of two ways: when one ceases to sin, or when one stops believing that there is such a thing as sin. But one can hardly hold both views at the same time, for how can one stop doing what he believes to have no real existence? In either interpretation, however, the death of Christ has nothing to do with salvation.
As we saw earlier, however, the Bible leaves us in no doubt about the reality of sin. It further teaches that man can by no means simply quit sinning: “Everyone that committeth sin is the bondservant of sin” (John 8:35). Man’s salvation is secured through the death of Christ as an expiation for sin; Christ is said to have “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26). Man receives this salvation through faith in Jesus Christ: “… whosoever believeth on him [shall] not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Justification, acceptance as God’s child, and the forgiveness of one’s sins are received through faith apart from the works of the law (Rom. 3:28). And only through living union with a personal Christ (not an impersonal principle) is man enabled to turn away from sin and to live for God: “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit; for apart from me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). It is certainly clear that Christian Science teaching on salvation bears not the slightest resemblance to the soteriology of historic Christianity.
On all ten points, therefore, the teachings of Christian Science are contrary to Scripture. Can a Christian Scientist, then, call himself a true member of the body of Christ? Only if he repudiates most of the teachings of his church. And why should this person then remain with a group whose teachings he has thrown overboard? If one wishes to be true to Scripture, he must reject Christian Science.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.