The Inspiration Behind Christian Science
PEOPLE the world over are somewhat acquainted with Christian Science. At transportation terminals, magazine stands and public libraries they have seen Christian Science literature on display, and in many of their own cities Christian Science reading rooms are maintained at strategic locations inviting passersby to come in for quiet meditation on Christian Science literature. Particularly prominent is the popular international newspaper The Christian Science Monitor, which not only has a wide field of readers, but is subscribed to by some 4,500 editors.
But for perhaps the majority this is their closest acquaintance with Christian Science, and no doubt they know little more about it, other than that it was founded toward the end of the nineteenth century by Mary Baker Eddy. Other persons, however, may have had occasion to talk with Christian Scientists, and if the conversation included a discussion of their beliefs, it is conceivable that the listener may have been somewhat confused. Why so?
Well, for example: Although daily we are conscious of evildoing in the world, according to Christian Science belief, evil does not really exist. Death also is said to be merely an illusion, and though one appears to die, he actually is not dead. Even pain, despite the fact that it may cause a person to wince in agony, is said to be only imaginary, and in truth does not exist. Such explanations may cause one to wonder how this unusual religion got started. From where did Mary Baker Eddy obtain her unique teachings? Are her teachings Christian?
INSPIRATION OF WRITINGS
Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science can be said to be almost synonymous, for her writings are the very basis of the Christian Science religion. Her most popular writing and the church’s main textbook is Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, although her little book Unity of Good is likewise very highly regarded. Mrs. Eddy also wrote the Manual of the Mother Church, which contains the rules and bylaws that govern Christian Scientists. Some of her other writings that are treasured by loyal Christian Scientists include: Retrospection and Introspection, an autobiography, Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896 and the small pamphlet No and Yes.
According to Mrs. Eddy, these writings were divinely inspired. “The works I have written on Christian Science contain absolute Truth,” she claimed. “I was a scribe under orders; and who can refrain from transcribing what God indites?”a And of the church rules and bylaws she wrote: “They were impelled by a power not one’s own, were written at different dates, and as the occasion required.”b
Even today Christian Scientists revere the writings of Mary Baker Eddy as the very word of God. The church’s official publication, The Christian Science Journal, in its January 1961 issue, said: “Mrs. Eddy was not just a person writing about the things of God. Her discovery was the very appearing of these things. That is why her word is law, her work infallible, and her writings inspired. Every page of these writings was dictated by God; every line glows with glory; every By-Law set forth in the Manual of the Mother Church is God-given and must be obeyed. From everlasting to everlasting, this Science will continue to unfold as it glows in ever fuller effulgence.”
EXALTING OF A WOMAN
It was toward the end of the nineteenth century that her followers began to acclaim Mary Baker Eddy as God’s messenger. “What a triumphant career is this for a woman!” The Christian Science Journal exclaimed in November, 1885. “How dare we say to the contrary, that she is God-sent to the world, as much as any character of Sacred Writ?” The esteem in which she was held is also indicated by the introduction to the following letter written her: “Dear Mother:—The most blessed of women! Oh, how I long to sit within range of your voice and hear the truth that comes to you from on high!”c
In keeping with such acclaim, it is interesting to note that throughout one of the chapters in the third edition of Science and Health, 1881, God was called “Mother,” and even in editions now in common use, on page 16, Mrs. Eddy renders the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious, Adorable one. Thy kingdom is come; Thou art ever-present.” Is it not noteworthy that Mrs. Eddy also accepted the title of Mother, and that in editions of the Manual of the Mother Church prior to 1903 it was stipulated that no other church member should receive this title?
However, due to ridicule because of the obvious implications, a revision was made in the Church Manual, so that Article XXII reads: “It is the duty of Christian Scientists to drop the word mother and to substitute Leader.” But in order to guard her preeminent position, Mrs. Eddy ordered that no other member shall “be called Leader by members of this Church, when this term is used in connection with Christian Science.” It is understandable that Christian Scientists should have difficulty in harmonizing this bylaw with Jesus’ command: “Neither be called ‘leaders,’ for your Leader is one, the Christ.”—Matt. 23:10.
Another rather obvious move to assure her preeminence was to abolish pastors in 1895, and instead have only readers. So at Christian Science meetings and services held on Wednesday evenings and Sundays, readers merely read portions from the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. They are prohibited by the Church Manual to make any “remarks explanatory of the LESSON-SERMON,” or to give a Bible lecture. This restriction causes all attention to be focused on what Mary Baker Eddy said. And as a further measure to exalt Mrs. Eddy, the Manual authorizes that at every service “Readers of SCIENCE AND HEALTH WITH KEY TO THE SCRIPTURES, before commencing to read from this book, shall distinctly announce the full title of the book and give the author’s name.”
It is interesting to observe that, in keeping with this policy, Mrs. Eddy’s name appears on practically every page of Christian Science religious publications. Unquestionably Mrs. Eddy is looked to as the teacher of all Christian Scientists. But where are the Scriptural grounds for a woman to hold such prominence? Did not the inspired apostle of Jesus Christ say: “I do not permit a woman to teach, or to exercise authority over a man”? But even down till today women continue to fill many offices as teachers, and a woman, Mrs. Helen Wood Bauman, now holds the church’s highest post, as president of The Mother Church in Boston.—1 Tim. 2:11, 12.
Christian Scientists, however, will excuse the prominence accorded Mrs. Eddy with the assertion that she was no ordinary person, but received inspiration from on high. Of such communications Mrs. Eddy herself writes in Retrospection and Introspection:
“When I was about eight years old, I repeatedly heard a voice, calling me distinctly by name . . . I thought this was my mother’s voice, and sometimes went to her, beseeching her to tell me what she wanted. Her answer was always, ‘Nothing, child! What do you mean?’ . . . One day, when my cousin, Mehitable Huntoon, was visiting us, and I sat in a little chair by her side, in the same room with grandmother,—the call again came, so loud that Mehitable heard it.”
Young Mary Baker continued to be susceptible to spirit influence, as Sibyl Wilbur notes in her church-approved biography: “Mary Baker’s spiritual experiences continued to be grave and unusual, as had been her ‘Voices.’” But in order to appreciate the nature of these experiences it is necessary to understand the circumstances at that time.
Mary Baker was born in Bow, New Hampshire, in 1821, and when she was a young woman the New England countryside was charged with the subject of Spiritualism. “Mediums developed on all sides,” Sibyl Wilbur explains, and “the cure of disease by clairvoyant diagnosis and mesmeric healing was quite commonly given credence.” Following the death of her first husband, George Washington Glover, in 1844, Mary became intimately involved with Spiritualists. “She associated with Spiritualists for years,” Sibyl Wilbur acknowledges, and “at times she was even present at seances.”
Although official sources endeavor to minimize Mary Glover’s early connections with Spiritualism, a well-documented biography by Georgina Milmine in 1907, testifies:
“There are people living who remember very distinctly the spiritism craze in Tilton, and who witnessed Mrs. Glover’s manifestations of mediumship. One elderly woman recalls a night spent with Mrs. Glover when her rest was constantly disturbed by the strange rappings and by Mary’s frequent announcements of the ‘appearance’ of different spirits as they came and went.”
And in an affidavit, a Mrs. Richard Hazeltine said:
“Mrs. Glover told us, as we were gathered there, that, because of her superior spiritual quality, and because of the purity of her life, she could only be controlled in the spirit world by one of the apostles and by Jesus Christ. When she went into the trance state and gave her communications to members of the circle, these communications were said by Mrs. Glover to come, through her as a medium, from the spirit of one of the apostles or of Jesus Christ.”
While staying with a Mrs. Sarah Crosby during the summer of 1864, the former Mrs. Glover, who was now Mrs. Mary Patterson as a result of her marriage to Dr. Daniel Patterson in 1853, again displayed her prowess as a spirit medium. However, in an endeavor to divorce her from any direct participation in Spiritualism, Sibyl Wilbur’s church-approved biography tries to explain that Mary was only playing, making believe.
“Mrs. Patterson conceived and put into practise an admirable though harmless hoax. One day, as Mrs. Crosby has described it, while they sat together at opposite sides of a table in the big nursery, Mrs. Patterson suddenly leaned back in her chair, shivered from head to foot, closed her eyes, and began to talk in a deep, sepulchral voice. The voice purported to be Albert Baker’s [Mary’s deceased brother] . . . Mrs. Patterson expected Mrs. Crosby would shortly recognize the pretense and laugh with her over it. Not so. . . . [Therefore] Mrs. Patterson, with a gaiety which she has rarely indulged, continued the hoax. She pretended to go into another ‘trance’ the following day.”
It is true that later Mary Baker Eddy vigorously denied that her ‘Science’ had anything to do with Spiritualism, and, in fact, devoted a chapter in Science and Health to the subject “Christian Science Versus Spiritualism.” Nevertheless, she admits being able to produce the same results as the Spiritualists, as you will note from her following comments in Science and Health, second edition, 1878, page 166:
“There is one simple subject to which we will allude; the current opinion that we must be a Spiritualist or medium . . . But we never were a Spiritualist; and never were, and never could be, and never admitted we were a medium. We have explained to the class calling themselves Spiritualists how their signs and wonders were wrought, and have illustrated by doing them; but at the same time have said, This is not the work of spirits and I am not a medium.”
BIRTH OF CHRISTIAN SCIENCE
But despite Mrs. Eddy’s claims to the contrary, Christian Science is inseparably linked with supernatural phenomena of a spiritistic nature. This becomes even more apparent as we examine events immediately prior to the year 1866, the date Mrs. Eddy officially sets for her discovery of Christian Science.
Due to her chronic ill health that had progressively worsened, in 1862 the then Mrs. Patterson, as a last resort, sought out the miracle-working healer, Dr. Phineas P. Quimby of Portland, Maine. “It did not matter if Quimby were a mesmerist, or a Spiritualist, or if he transmitted magnetic currents,” Sibyl Wilbur writes. “The thing was he cured.” So Mrs. Patterson went to him, and her personally approved biography tells what happened: “Gradually he wrought the spell of hypnotism, and under that suggestion she let go the burden of pain . . . Quimby himself was amazed at her sudden healing.”
As a result Mrs. Patterson became a devout disciple of Quimby. “She talked Quimbyism to the exclusion of all other topics,” her approved biography relates. She made a careful study of his personal writings, which were later produced in the volume The Quimby Manuscripts, and defended his supernatural power to heal as being “the result of superior wisdom, which can demonstrate a science not understood.”d But later, when it was shown that her Science and Health was similar to Quimby’s manuscripts, she denied getting her ideas from him, and spoke disparagingly of Quimby as an ignorant mesmerist.
After Quimby’s death in 1866, and during the ensuing years when she wrote the first edition of Science and Health, Mrs. Patterson continued her close association with Spiritualists. About this time she and her second husband separated permanently, and she lived, in turn, with the Crafts, the Websters, Miss Bagley and the Wentworths—all Spiritualists. While staying with the Websters she even advertised her healing art in the Spiritualist paper, the Banner of Light.
Finally, in 1875, she was able to get her writings printed, and on page four of that first edition of Science and Health she asserted: “We made our first discovery that science mentally applied would heal the sick in 1864.” But in later editions she changed the date to 1866, claiming to have been miraculously healed in that year.
So Christian Science was born, but for a time it did not appear as though it would amount to anything. When Mrs. Eddy first organized the Church of Christ, Scientist, in 1879 there were only twenty-six members. Personality conflicts and misunderstandings had hamstrung progress. Even when the sixty-one-year-old Mrs. Eddy moved to Boston in 1882 she still had but a handful of followers, one of them being her third husband Asa Eddy, whom she had married five years previous. That summer Mr. Eddy died; and soon afterward the scene began to brighten for the Christian Science movement.
In 1885 a Mr. James Henry Wiggin, prominent in Boston literary circles, was hired to polish up and improve the readability of the stiff and awkward Science and Health. Right along Mrs. Eddy had been changing the form of her textbook; adding chapters and making deletions, and now, with the improved readability, the book really began to sell. Mrs. Eddy’s religion started to grow, and its growth was phenomenal. By the time of her death in 1910 at the age of eighty-nine, there were tens of thousands of members associated with 1,247 branch churches. Considerable growth has been realized since. Although membership figures are hard to come by, not long ago there were reported to be a total of some 367,570 Christian Scientists, 80 percent of whom were said to live in the United States.
A REVELATION OF GOD?
Despite the rather conclusive evidence that Mrs. Eddy got many of her ideas from Quimby, and that Wiggin did considerable revising of her writings, Christian Scientists, nevertheless, contend that she was inspired of God. They believe that the voices Mrs. Eddy heard and her unusual spiritual experiences were from God. But were they? Are the teachings she received in harmony with God’s Word the Bible? Let us see.
First of all, what did Mrs. Eddy teach concerning God? In her early booklet The Science of Man, she claimed: “Jehovah is not a person. God is a principle.” “The starting point of divine Science,” she wrote on page 275 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “is that God, Spirit, is All-in-all, and that there is no other might nor Mind,—that God is Love, and therefore is divine Principle.”
In keeping with this belief, Mrs. Eddy wrote in her Unity of Good: “Truth is GOD.” “Life is GOD.” “Mind is GOD.” “The summary of the whole matter,” she said, is “that GOD is All, and GOD is Spirit; therefore there is nothing but Spirit; and consequently there is no matter.” A few pages later she reasoned: “GOD, being everywhere, it must follow that death can be nowhere; because there is no place left for it.” And this led to her conclusion on page 61: “I understand that man is as definite and eternal as GOD, and that man is coexistent with GOD.”
Thus we read on pages 475, 476 and 486 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:
“Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements. . . . Man is spiritual and perfect . . . he must be so understood in Christian Science. . . . Man is incapable of sin, sickness, and death. The real man cannot depart from holiness . . . In divine Science, God and the real man are inseparable as divine Principle.” “In reality man never dies.”
But what about our five senses—sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing? How are these explained? On page 477 Mrs. Eddy wrote:
“To the five corporeal senses, man appears to be matter and mind united; but Christian Science reveals man as the idea of God, and declares the corporeal senses to be mortal and erring illusions. Divine Science shows it to be impossible that a material body, though interwoven with matter’s highest stratum, misnamed mind, should be man.”
Yet the Bible at Genesis 2:7 says: “And Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.” How does Mrs. Eddy explain this Bible verse? On page 524 of her textbook she quotes it, and then asks: Is this “creation [man] real or unreal? Is it the truth, or is it a lie?” She answers: “It must be a lie, for God presently curses the ground.” Thus she repudiates the plain Bible statement, which is harmonious with proved science: “The first man is out of the earth and made of dust.”—1 Cor. 15:47.
So it is seen that Mrs. Eddy denied the Bible teaching that Adam and Eve were perfect human creations of God, who later sinned. “Mortals are not fallen children of God,” she wrote. “They never had a perfect state of being, which may subsequently be regained.”e Are we to assume, then, that she also denied the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ? She leaves no question about it, for she asserted: “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.”f
UNCHRISTIAN AND UNSCIENTIFIC
How different such teachings are from God’s Word the Bible! “God made mankind upright,” his Word says. (Eccl. 7:29; Deut. 32:4, 5) Yes, Adam and Eve were created perfect, but afterward they sinned, and, in turn, passed sin on to their offspring. This is the way God’s Word explains it: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12; 3:23) However, due to his great love, “God sent forth his Son into the world . . . for the world [of obedient mankind] to be saved through him.” But to effect this redemption Jesus had to pour out his lifeblood, for, according to God’s law, “unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place.”—John 3:17; Heb. 9:22.
Notice, therefore, that the Christian apostle John did not say that man is “perfect” and “is incapable of sin,” and that ‘the blood of Jesus is unable to cleanse from sin.’ Rather, he wrote in harmony with God’s inspired Word: “The blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin. If we make the statement: ‘We have no sin,’ we are misleading ourselves and the truth is not in us.”—1 John 1:7, 8.
How evident it is that Mrs. Eddy’s nebulous reasoning flies in the face of Bible truth! What empty, unscriptural philosophy to declare that “Truth is GOD,” or that ‘God is everywhere’! Jehovah is a personal God with supreme intelligence and power. It is He who created man. Abstract, inanimate truth did not. Repeatedly the Bible attributes both personality and position to God. For instance, the apostle Paul wrote that Jesus ascended “into heaven itself, now to appear before the person of God.”—Heb. 9:24.
Since the Bible says that “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah,” and He “made us, and not we ourselves,” how can man be “coexistent with GOD”? The Bible shows he cannot be, even as it repudiates Mrs. Eddy’s teaching that “in reality man never dies.” God’s plain statement to the sinner Adam was, “You will positively die” if you disobey. And he did die.—Deut. 6:4; Ps. 100:3; Gen. 2:17.
What blasphemy to try to explain away sin, sickness and death with the unscientific reasoning that man’s marvelous senses are “mortal and erring illusions,” and that “man is not made up of brain, blood and other material elements”! Man is a marvelous creation of God, as the psalmist David sang: “I shall laud you because in a fear-inspiring way I am wonderfully made.” True, man has fallen a long way from his original perfection, but soon, in God’s new order, mankind, as they receive the benefits of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, will be restored to human perfection.—Ps. 139:14; Rev. 21:4.
Christian Science denies this. Its efforts are directed toward healing physical ailments by impressing upon the sufferer that pain, as well as all material existence, is unreal, imaginary. But this teaching is not from God; it is not supported by God’s Word the Bible or by scientific evidence. It is therefore evident that Mary Baker Eddy’s inspiration must have been from wicked spirit forces, whose efforts are to blind people to the truth and against whose influence God’s own Word clearly warns.—Deut. 18:9-12; Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 21:8.
a Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, pages 311 and 148.
b Miscellaneous Writings 1885-1896, pages 311 and 148.
c Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, page 415.
d Portland Courier, November 7, 1862.
e Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pages 476 and 25.
f Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pages 476 and 25.