Christian Science and Jesus Christ

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.

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8 thoughts on “Christian Science and Jesus Christ”

  1. Hello Pastor Bedard,

    I am a Christian Scientist. I have also spoken in academic and religious settings on the subject of the Gnostic heresy and its fundamental challenge to Biblical Christianity. I applaud your objections to Gnosticism. Mary Baker Eddy was a firm opponent of Gnosticism as well.
    The Gnostics identify matter and material existence as the main problem to be overcome. In Christian Science the carnal mind (also referred to as mortal mind) is enmity against God. Repeatedly Mrs. Eddy refers to physical healing as the smallest part of Christian Science, but that the activity of Christ “who health all thy diseases” is to take away the sins of the world. The physical healings attest the validity of Christ’s power to overcome sin, disease, and death – all the apparent results of the fall. The Holy Spirit regenerates us and we can thereby put off the old man (the carnal mind) and put on the new man (the mind which was also in Christ Jesus). In Christian Science the priority is always in overcoming the carnal mind – and the claims of matter consequently yield to the supremacy of the Father.

  2. Regarding Christ Jesus’ advent in the flesh, Mary Baker Eddy talks about how that means that Truth is practical in human affairs. He would be of no use to humanity were he not fully human. As Christians we recognize Christ Jesus as the coincidence of the human and the divine. He is indeed the very Son of God, but he is also the Son of man “even the Son of man which is in heaven.” Mary Baker Eddy makes allusions to the fact that Christ walking on the water signifies the overcoming of Gnosticism (which would include the claims of the docetae). When Mrs. Eddy found out that one of the financial contributors to her church harboured doubts about the Virgin Birth, she returned the money even though it was a substantial amount.

    The question is does being human mean dwelling in the flesh? Certainly no orthodox Christian believes that Christ Jesus is in the flesh today? The nature of humanity, of human existence, is not defined materially, but spiritually. We are made in the image and likeness of God. We are created “a little lower than the angels”. We have no material descriptions of our Saviour, but does that mean that he was less than a man? Every believing Christian has a clear image of Christ in their hearts, one which is wholly spiritual, not material. If we are made in the image of the Godhead, then do we not have a spiritual identity?

  3. The question of the atonement of Jesus is, of course, at the heart of Christianity. Yes, Christian Scientists look to the healing ministry of Christ Jesus. But according to Mary Baker Eddy the crucixion and resurrection (not to mention the ascension) are central to Christian Science. The second chapter of her book Science and Health is entitled “Atonement and Eucharist.” In the history of Christian Science many so-called Christian Scientists, who had gnostic overtones to their thought, couldn’t abide that chapter, or Mrs. Eddy’s teachings regarding the cross, and many of them broke away and tried to establish non-Christian healing movements.

    Mrs. Eddy writes much on the subject, but I will just quote a few lines: “Nameless woe, everlasting victories, are the blood, the vital currents of Christ Jesus’ life, purchasing the freedom of mortals from sin and death. This blood of Jesus is everything to human hope and faith. Without it, how poor the precedents of Christianity!” “Of old the cross was truth’s central sign, and it is to-day.” “The cross is the central emblem of human history. Without it there is neither temptation nor glory.”

    “Do I believe in the atonement of Christ? I do; and this atonement becomes more to me since it includes man’s redemption from sickness as well as from sin. I reverence and adore Christ as never before.”

    In Christian Science, man’s salvation through Christ is not just intensive as a full deliverance from sin, but extensive as deliverance from sickness and death as well.

    Prior to his ascension to the right hand of the Father, he gave his followers what has since been called the Great Commission. “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

    Mary Baker Eddy writes: “Jesus’ promise is perpetual. Had it been given only to his immediate disciples, the Scriptural passage would read you, not they. The purpose of his great life-work extends through time and includes universal humanity.”

    So for the Christian Scientist healing (of sickness) is just as much a part of the unchanging work of Christ as the healing of sin.

  4. I am not any official spokesman of the church, I am just a Christian Scientist who happened across your blog, and saw your comments about Christian Science. Anyway, thank you for your kindness and your thoughtful consideration of what I and others have said.

    Grace be unto you

  5. I’m rather enjoying this impromptu course in comparative religions, and I really appreciate your diligence in going to the source instead of relying on third parties to form your views of my faith, but I personally would find it helpful if you reconsidered your use of the word “cult.”

    I assume you intend it in the sense that you are talking about small religions (I still feel that Christian Science is more accurately described as a Christian denomination, but I realize we disagree on that point) … but I think for most people, the word “cult” conjures up images of the Jonestown massacre, the Branch Davidians, or more-benign-but-still-weird stuff like Tom Cruise jumping around on Oprah’s couch or Hare Krishnas panhandling at airports.

    It’s hard not to feel a little put-upon when someone is placing your faith in the same category with that sort of thing.

  6. Greetings!
    In response to Reverend Bedard’s thought-provoking comparison of the tenets of Christian Science to the Bible, I would like to add to this discussion a direct quote from Mary Baker Eddy’s central work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Born of a woman, Jesus’ advent in the flesh partook partly of Mary’s earthly condition, although he was endowed with the Christ, the divine Spirit, without measure. This accounts for his struggles in Gethsemane and on Calvary, and this enabled him to be the mediator, or way-shower, bethween God and men. Had his origin and birth been wholly apart from mortal usage, Jesus would not have been appreciable to mortal mind as ‘the way’.” (Eddy 30)

    Thanks again for the discussion forum!

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