My post on Christian Science seemed to gather a lot of interest, so I thought I would dig a little deeper. Since my previous post relied on the writings of an author critical of sectarian groups, in this post I would like to rely on Christian Science texts and the Bible. Their web-site (www.Christianscience.com) has some useful information about their beliefs, including a summary of their beliefs from Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health that you can find here. Notice this statement:
1. As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life.
That is a good thing and I take that as permission to use the Bible to determine how close Christian Science is to biblical Christianity.
One of the problems with Christian Science is its affirmation of the nothingness of matter, that all physical matter is pure illusion. This of course means that Jesus, along withe everything else, is pure spirit and not matter or flesh. How then do we interpret that idea with these passages:
“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” (1 John 4:2, NRSV)
“Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist!” (2 John 7, NRSV)
I know that it is not very helpful to call people an anti-christ and the adherents of Christian Science who have contacted me seem very nice. I have no desire to insult anyone. The point I am trying to make is that the Bible makes it very clear that Jesus in the flesh is a non-negotiable within the Christian faith. John is likely responding to an early form of the docetic heresy that claimed that Jesus only seemed human, in reality being pure spirit. Christian Science is an extreme form of docetism, claiming that not only did Jesus just seem to be in the flesh, we too only seem to be in the flesh – all living creatures in reality are pure spirit.
Here are few other statements from Mary Baker Eddy.
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.
The problem with this is the intended purpose of the cross. Eddy seems to be saying that the cross is just a powerful demonstration of love and a means of encouraging faith. But the Apostle Paul sees more in the cross than this.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”(Romans 5:6-11, NRSV)
Paul agrees that the cross is a demonstration of God’s love but that the cross is not just an illustration. It was an act of justification that saved us from God’s wrath and reconciles us with God. This is far from the message of Christian Science that sees the foundation of Jesus’ ministry in his healing rather than his death on the cross.
There is more that can be said but this gives us a start in understanding the differences between Christian Science and Christianity. Again, my goal is not to insult anyone’s faith but demonstrate differences.