Unofficial sources provide a variety of resources to suggest that the Church has been ina long period of decline. An unofficial web page traces the growth of the church from 8,724 members in 1890 to 55,000 members in 1906. A special US Census in 1936 recorded 268,915 Christian Scientists. In the Spring 1992 edition of the Christian Research Journal , William Alnor states church membership had gone from 268,000 members in the 1930s to 150,000 members in 1992. As an indirect measure of the Church'sstrength, that same article cites statistics showing that the circulation of the Church's celebrated Christian Science Monitor decreased from 240,000 in the 1960s to 100,000 in 1992. Other estimates place membership in a wide range from 150,000 membersto 400,000.
Against this backdrop and building on years of daily prayer, Bible study, and devotion to church, Eddy worked to find a permanent Christian-based system of healing -- something neither traditional medical systems nor her religious upbringing could provide. She continued her search for relief from her ailments and experimented with various systems of health care, such as hydropathy, homeopathy, mesmerism, and allopathy.
In her early forties, Eddy sought relief under the tutelage of Phineas P. Quimby, who experimented with natural healing through the powers of the mind. But she found only temporary relief. In 1866, shortly after Quimby's death, severe injury left Eddy in a condition which the local newspaper reported as critical. She asked for her Bible and read Jesus' healings. In a short time, she was healed, not only of the effects of the fall, but of other longstanding ailments. It was this healing and the remarkable change in her thought which accompanied it, that she regarded as her discovery of the Science of Christ Jesus' teachings. In her words, "I discovered the Christ Science or divine laws of Life, Truth, and Love, and named my discovery Christian Science."
Eddy believed that healing occurred through realization of God's allness, goodness, power, and presence, and thus, the fundamental powerlessness of illness and all forms of evil. Ills could be overcome through the power of the divine Mind, God, though not through the human mind as Quimby had believed.
Eddy spent three years in deep search of the Bible to understand how her healing had taken place and nine years putting her discovery to the test in healing others. The results were consistently good and scores of people were healed by her through Christian Science prayer and treatment. In 1875, Eddy published Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, to help others understand the Bible's spiritual meaning, including how to practice Christian healing.
Eddy had expected that Christian churches of the day would accept her discovery. When this did not happen, she and a small group of followers undertook in 1879 to establish a church to help others find the discovery explained in Science and Health. The church's organization and form of government evolved over the next three decades. Eddy died in 1910.
During the second half of her nearly 90 years, Eddy's accomplishments included founding a spiritual preventive and therapeutic system; writing her definitive work on Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and fifteen other books; founding a publishing house and an international daily newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor; and establishing a world-wide church organization, The Church of Christ, Scientist.
Christian Science is based on the life, teachings, and works of Christ Jesus. Christian Science does not have an organizational creed. However, the following are the tenets, or important points, of the religion as given in Science and Health (p. 496):
Christian Science teaches how to rely progressively on prayer alone for physical cure. For those practicing it, such healing often affirms its primary mission --- to heal "the sins of the world" through understanding the power of Christ, or divine Truth.
Christian Science practice demands faith in order to heal and cure physically. It further teaches that in order to heal systematically and consistently, understanding the nature of God and His laws is necessary. It is praying with understanding and "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (II Cor. 10: 5) that heals sin and sickness and adjusts human circumstances. The teachings of Jesus are central to Christian Science, and his healing work provides the foremost example of how his followers also can turn to God's omnipotent love for healing. Jesus' words, "And these signs shall follow them that believe" (Mark 16:17) precede a description of healing effects.
In modern times, people are being cured physically and sins are being healed. Over the course of more than one hundred years, Christian Science magazines have published more than 60,000 testimonies of healing through prayer, including a significant number which have been medically verified, such as tuberculosis, cancer, diabetes, bone diseases, and others. These testimonies represent a small percent of the number of actual healings which have occurred.
Christian Scientists normally choose prayer alone for healing for themselves and their children because they have found it effective. However, individuals are always free to choose whatever form of treatment or care they feel will best answer their needs. Christian Scientists appreciate the compassionate humanity of doctors and nurses, but they turn typically to prayer as the means of healing they've seen as effective in their lives.
While physical cure appears as a noticeable element of the outcome of prayer, it is important to recognize that Christian Scientists believe that character transformation results and all inharmony in relationships, school, career, marriage, mental health or any other aspect of life, can be healed through prayer.
Christian Science Practitioners
It is customary for Christian Scientists to pray for themselves for healing. For additional assistance through prayer, they can call Christian Science practitioners. Practitioners are men and women in the public healing ministry, helping those who wish to rely on spiritual treatment alone for healing. Practitioners claim no personal healing power, nor do they act as intercessors. They turn to God alone, who is the healing power in all cases. Christian Scientists believe that Jesus was speaking to all, for all time, when he said, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also . . ." (John 14:12).
An important part of a Christian Scientist's religious practice is study of the weekly Lesson-Sermon outlined in The Christian Science Quarterly which includes citations from the Bible and Science and Health . This lesson also comprises the sermon that is read at each Sunday service in churches throughout the world. In some respects, the correlative passages from Science and Health serve a purpose similar to that in other churches in which a minister, after reading from Scripture, talks about its meaning. A Sunday School is typically provided for children and teenagers. Wednesday evening meetings include readings from the Bible and Science and Health on topics of current concern, as well as first-hand accounts of healing through prayer by members of the congregation.
There is no ordained clergy in the Church. Services are conducted by lay Readers, elected from the congregation normally for three years, who read the Lesson-Sermon from the Bible and Science and Health . As noted previously, these two books together are considered the pastor of the Church.
The Manual of The Mother Church provides the By-Laws that govern Church activities, officers, and members. Originally published in 1895, Eddy revised the small book extensively during her lifetime.
Authority for conducting church business according to the Manual is vested in the Church's Board of Directors, composed of five members who hold their positions for an undefined period and select their own successors. Local congregations (branches) are democratically self-governed.
The Legacy of Christian Science and Healing Through Prayer Alone
Christian Science is unique in its long-standing, systematic teaching and practice of a spiritual healing method through prayer alone.
At the age of 41, when Mrs. Eddy heard of Phineas P. Quimby (1802-1866) and his apparent success at healing without medicine, she felt that perhaps this was the answer she was seeking after years of ill health. Quimby had developed a method of healing which involved techniques of hypnotism, and relied upon the patient's faith in his ability and in his own confidence in himself. Mrs. Eddy's health initially improved under his care, but she later suffered a relapse.
Though she ultimately would form a church whose teachings were the very antithesis of hypnotism, she thought highly of Quimby for his humanitarian efforts. She later wrote that her experience with him had helped her to understand better the limitations inherent in relying on the human mind for healing and had turned her unreservedly to God. By contrast, Quimby's son, in discussing his father and his healing techniques, once wrote: "In curing the sick, religion played no part. There were no prayers, there was no asking assistance from God or any other divinity. He cured by his wisdom."
Various systems of "mind healing" based upon Quimby's system or using terminology similar to that of Christian Science, but whose meaning differed substantially, sprang up after the introduction of Christian Science. This has caused some confusion in public thought and has, in some cases, obscured the Christian foundation of Christian Science. Also, one of Mrs. Eddy's students, Emma Hopkins, who later discontinued the practice of Christian Science as taught by Mrs. Eddy, together with Julius Dresser, a former student of Quimby, began what came to be know as the New Thought movement.
New Thought places emphasis on the power of the human mind, while Christian Science recognizes all power as vested in the divine Mind, God, to evangelize the human self and cure physically. Because they use similar terminology, although with different meanings, some people confuse the teaching and practice of Christian Science with that of New Thought. However, Christian Science practice is based squarely on Bible teachings, especially those of Christ Jesus, which have proved practical for more than a century.
Christian Science has mistakenly been associated with other systems or philosophies including Scientology, Quimbyism and his system of "natural healing," "mind-healing," Mind Science, the New Thought movement. The reason for the confusion with Scientology, which has no connection with the biblically-based teachings of Christian Science, is probably due to the fact that the names are similar. However, the misconceptions regarding Quimby and New Thought have a different origin.
Over the past two decades there has been increased discussion in the health care community about alternative methods to traditional Western allopathic healthcare, including the role of faith and prayer in healing. Today, the Church of Christ, Scientist is deeply involved in dialoguing with both medical and theological thinkers who are examining the method and effects of spiritual healing.
Children and Spiritual Healing
More than a decade ago, Christian Science was in the news because of legal issues relating to children and spiritual healing. From the beginning Christian Science healing through prayer has been judged by some as treading a thin line between the entitlements of the Constitution's First Amendment and the interpretations of the courts. Although practicing Christian Science is an individual choice, the physical cure through prayer places it outside what some see as an acceptable alternative to medical practice.
Ten cases were brought to court in the 1980's and early '90's when children of Christian Science parents or guardians died. Few publicized failures in the history of Christian Science healing have been as tragic as were those deaths of children. Rita Swan, a physician and former Church member, has created an organization called CHILD (Children's Health Care is a Legal Duty) "to protect children from abusive religious and cultural practices, especially religion-based medical neglect." While her organization is concerned with abuse wherever it may occur in religious organizations, the focus of CHILD is clearly on Christian Science.
Fairness would seem to suggest that several facts be noted. First, all the cases involving the death of a child because of the suspension of conventional medical treatment have now been resolved and in most instances, the parents were exonerated. Second, while there are no comparative empirical studies, it would appear that Christian Science practice has been held to a standard of perfection medical practice hasn't faced. Third, in none of the cases was the Church held financially liable, since it does not direct what actions should be taken by individuals in their own lives.
Christian Science and Multi-media
In the mid 1980s, Christian Science established a multi-media presence based on the quality of its daily newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor , which was founded with the object "to injure no man, but to bless all mankind." The Church expanded its operations to increase further this purpose of offering trustworthy, unbiased news and commentary in each major form of media.
In a relatively short period of time they created a 24-hour network called The Monitor Channel, a UHF television station in Boston, a public news program called MonitoRadio, a monthly magazine called World Monitor, and a short-wave radio system called the World Service. In 1992, for a variety of reasons, these services were cut back or halted, though the Church still maintains a presence on short-wave.
Accountability of Church Officials
The Church has had little to say officially about their aggressive multi-media effort that ended almost as suddenly as it began. There is, however, wide speculation about over-extension, financial debt, and alleged misuse of resources in the Real Estate Trust Fund. Dave Robinson, a church member, has legally challenged the Directors of the Real Estate for allegedly misappropriating Trust Funds. Robinson maintains a web page that seeks to hold the Church more accountable for expenditures of resources.
Another dimension, or perhaps manifestation of the financial problems of the Church,unfolded in December 1991 when restricted funds were drawn upon to cover general operating expenses -- over $41.5 million in transfers were made. Also apparently related to the fiscal crisis was the authorization in 1991 by the Mother Church of the publication of a book by Bliss Knapp entitled The Destiny of the Mother Church. While the book appears to be contrary to Mary Baker Eddy's own teachings, it is alleged that the authorization of the book's publication qualifies the Church for a $97 million bequest. Critics both within and outside the Church contend that this incident, along with what they believe to be inappropriate transfers of funds, are testimony to changing priorities that have shifted steadily towards money concerns rather than spiritual ones.
The First Church of Christ, Scientist This is the official site of the Mother Church in Boston, MA. It contains information about spiritual healing, Christian Science beliefs, explanations of what is contained in Science and Health, publications, and Mary Baker Eddy. For those with the software, there is a quicktime movie for viewing as well as a virtual tour of the Mother Church. This site also has links to other Christian Science sites. http://www.tfccs.com/
The Christian ScienceMonitor
The Christian Science Monitor is an international daily newspaper that was founded in 1908 by Mary Baker Eddy. The mission of the Monitor is "to injure no man, but to bless all mankind." It offers dependable journalism and balanced, in-depth news coverage. Once the premiere newspaper in the US for accurate reporting on Third World news, it is today but a shadow of its earlier greatness. Still, it remains a credible newspaper with an elite readership. http://www.csmonitor.com
Science Reading Room
Maintained by First Church of Christ, Scientist - St. Paul, MN this site has the latest radio newscast from Monitor radio and a ChristianScience lecture available. Otherwise, this site does not differ fromthe other church endorsed sites.
This site, not affiliated with the Mother Church, is a global link to Christian Science churches, nurses, products, services and more all over the world. It also has a search engine useful for locating specific information about Christian Science.
The National Women's Hall of
Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) the only American woman to found a lasting American-based religion, the Church of Christ, Scientist.
Mary Baker Eddy Exhibit
Based on the exhibit that premiered at the Women's Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, New York, this site highlights Mrs. Eddy's contributions to the 19th century women's movement as a healer, thinker and reformer.
The Bookmark HomePage
This site claims to be "The" International source formaterials about Christian Science.
for Religious Tolerance, Christian Science Page
The OCRT Christian Science page gives an unbiased report of Christian Science history, beliefs, healing, practices, media, controversies and useful bibliographical resources.
Church of Chirst, Scientist
This overview essay on Christian Science was written by J. Gordon Melton, a leading authority on religious movements and Director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion.
Religious freedom is a fundamental right of all. This non-denominational, informational web site provides historical background and readable access to established laws that protect this right. In addition, it will explore new legislative activities, challenges, and interest in religious freedom taking place throughout the world. This site is intended to educate and inform individuals about their right to worship freely. http://www.religious-freedom.org/
Eddy's Path to Religious Leadership--a Book Review by Peter J.Gomes
This book review offers a concise history of Mary Baker Eddy's life that seeks to place her within the context of late 1800s society.
The Christian Science Beacon
This site explores the conflict over the Real Estate Trust that manages the resources bequeathed by founder Mary Baker Eddy to the Mother Church. Dave Robinson, a church member, has legally challenged the Directors of the Real Estate for their use (or as he sees it, misuse) of Trust Funds. This is not really an anti-ChristianScience page, but one that challenges church leadership. This extensive site should be of interest both to members and scholars of Christian Science alike. http://www.trmi.com/beacon.htm
The Christian Way
The Christian Way in an counter-cult organization that providesa "ministry of former- Christian Scientists for truth through Jesus."
Expositor on The First Church of Christ, Scientist
The Watchman Fellowship is a major counter-cult organization. The articleoffers a quite judgmental persepctive on how Christian Scientists have strayed from "true" Christian doctrine. There is also a Profile available.
Children's Health Care is a
Legal Duty (CHILD, Inc.)
CHILD is a nonprofit organization established in 1983 by Rita Swan "toprotect children from abusive religious and cultural practices, especially religion-based medical neglect." The group opposes religious exemptions from duties to care for children. Christian Science is a major target of this group's concern.
Eddy and the Cult of Christian Science"
This article appeared in the magazine American Atheist in 1987. As both the source and title indicate, the presuppositions of this piece are throughly anti-cult. Mark Twain, a leading critic of Mary Baker Eddy during her lifetime, wouldhave enjoyed this piece. http://www.atheists.org/church/xtianScience.html
Books and Chapters in Books
Broadcast : The Christian Science Publishing Society produces religious radio and television programs that reach over 1 million people each week via local, regional, and national broadcasts, plus an international short-wave radio audience estimated in the millions.
Radio : Programs are syndicated for broadcast on domestic radio stations around the world. They are also broadcast on the Church's own international short-wave radio station, WSHB, located in South Carolina. Current programming consists of: "The Weekly Bible Lesson," (in English and five other languages), based on the Christian Science Quarterly Bible Lessons. "The Christian Science Sentinel-Radio Edition," (English) and "The Herald of Christian Science-Radio Edition," (5 languages), containing interviews, commentary, and testimonies that illustrate the healing presence of God in individual lives. Church services from The Mother Church.
Television : The "Weekly Bible Lesson" in English is internationally syndicated.
Periodicals : The Christian Science Publishing Society publishes or broadcasts the following periodicals:
The Christian Science Journal was introduced in 1883 and is published monthly. In it are articles, as well as verified reports of scientific Christian healing by those practicing Christian Science. Each issue also contains a worldwide directory of Christian Science practitioners, teachers, churches, Reading Rooms, Christian Science organizations at universities and colleges, nurses, and Committees on Publication communicating with the public, especially the media.
The Christian Science Sentinel was designed to note the events and emerging trends that most affect people, and illustrate how an understanding of the spiritual laws and nature of God are enabling people to exercise greater dominion in their lives. Weekly articles, editorials, and firsthand accounts of healing are included.
The Christian Science Quarterly Weekly Bible Lessons contain Bible Lessons on subjects such as "Soul and Body," "Reality," "God the Preserver of Man," "Substance," and more. Each Lesson is made up of selections from the Bible and from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. The Lessons provide readers with daily inspiration and insight and are also the basis for Sunday services and Sunday School teaching in Churches of Christ, Scientist, worldwide.
The Herald of Christian Science is published in 12 languages, giving readers around the world practical examples of what Christian Science teaches about the availability and utility of the laws of God. Along with articles and testimonies of healing, each issue includes a directory of Christian Science churches, practitioners, and other listings applicable to each language field.
Grateful appreciation is acknowledged to Jennifer Milan
who created an earlier version of this page, and to
Warren Berckmann for counsel in the preparation of this version.
Milan's page is archived here .
Soc 257: New Religious Movements
University of Virginia
Last modified: 07/16/01