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Cults and World Religions

Church of Christ, Scientists



Christian Scientists

I should blush to write of Science and Health with the Key to the Scriptures, as I have, were it of human origin, and I apart from God, its author; but as I was only a scribe echoing the harmonies of heaven in Divine Metaphysics, I cannot be super-modest of the Christian Science text-book.
Mary Baker G. Eddy 56

Syncretism is the blending the worship of false gods with the worship of the true God. The most prominent example of syncretism in Scriptures is found in 1 Kings 12:24 where Jeroboam takes the Northern tribes away from Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. Jeroboam becomes the first King of the Northern kingdoms, generally called Israel in Scripture, as opposed to the Southern kingdom composed of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. To keep the people of the Northern Kingdom from going to Jerusalem to the Temple for the feasts, Jeroboam built two altars, one in the north and one in the south. He place golden calves at these altars and created a priesthood to serve the people and to “talk to God.” It was a system which very much resemble that in the former united nation. But, it was a cult, the cult of the “golden calf.” For this sin, the people were judged, although it would take God a couple hundred years of patience before He would actually execute this judgment.

But, in about 721 B.C., the Northern kingdoms were defeated by the Assyrians and carried off into captivity. One of the clearly stated reasons for this judgment was the creation of the golden calf cult.

2 Kings 17:16
So they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.

God did not see the syncretism as worship to Him alone.

We have seen already that this is what man does, he puts God in a box of his own choosing. He makes God to look the way man wants Him to look, like a golden calf, or a tree, or something similar. A.W. Tozer sums it up by writing that “Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms.” 57

Manageable terms – we put God in a box, we make Him act and look and think and demand they we want Him to be. Isn’t this a picture of the cults? 58

The period just before and after the Civil War was a time for religious considerations. In general terms, the Mormon movement started in 1830, the Seventh-Day Adventists came the following year, Spiritualism (which we will study in a later chapter) began in 1848, Russellism (or Jehovah’s Witnesses) started around 1872, and Christian Science arrived 1876. 59 As we have already observed in the other religions, all of these are, or border upon, syncretism. Indeed, in 1963 Anthony Hoekema would write the work, The Four Major Cults, 60 naming Mormonism, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh Day Adventists as the major threats to Christianity. We have already considered three of these, including the open issue of the status of the Seventh Day Adventists (indeed, an issue that caused many to be critical of Hoekema’s book when it was published). Now, we will look at Christian Scientists.

Gnosticism

Paul’s letter to the Colossians seems to fight a new cult which would become grow into what we now call Gnosticism. The name gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge,” and stresses the character of this heresy. Gnosticism was a philosophical system built upon Greek philosophy that stressed matter as evil but spirit as good. This creates a dualism of thought and ultimately creates a picture whereby Jesus the human is evil because He is material, but Christ is good, because He is spiritual. Obvious, this entire approach questions the deity of Jesus.

To resolve this issue, two different views were adopted. One held that since matter is evil, Jesus could not have actually come in human form; He only “appeared” in human form. Since this is but an “appearance,” He only “appeared” to suffer on the Cross. Or, the other suggestion was that the divine Spirit or Logos came upon the human Jesus, similar to Old Testament empowerments, but that the Logos departed prior to the crucifixion. In other words, God did not die on the Cross. Salvation becomes a philosophical knowing of the truth. A modern form of gnosticism is Christian Science. 61

History

EDDY, MARY MORSE BAKER, GLOVER, PATTERSON (1821–1910), an author and founder of the Christian Science church. Born in New Hampshire, she received her early education at home and the Sanbornton Academy in Tilton, New Hampshire. In 1843 she married Colonel George Washington Glover who died the following year, leaving her with a son, her only child. In 1853 she married Daniel Patterson, a dentist, who left her. She then married Asa Gilbert Eddy in 1877. Often ill as a child, she was attracted to the teachings of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby. She suffered a long time as the result of an accident, then felt that her health was restored and devoted her life to the doctrines referred to as “Christian Science.” She wrote Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, founded the monthly paper Christian Science Journal, and the daily paper Christian Science Monitor. In 1879 she founded the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston and in 1881 the Massachusetts Metaphysical College to train her followers. Christian Science denies the doctrines of the deity of Christ, the Trinity, sin, death, disease, and Satan. 62

Baker’s story is one of single-mindedness as she formed a religion. She had been raised as a Congregationalists, so her background was mainline conservative Christianity. Phineas Quimby was a blacksmith (or a clockmaker, according to some sources) in Portland, Maine, who practiced hypnotism. Quimby’s fascination with hypnotism was based upon his beliefs that sickness was the result of negative thoughts and could be cured with positive attitudes. Some credit Quimby as advertising his methods as the Science of Health, or Christian Science. If so, Baker stole the name as well as the foundation of her beliefs from Quimby. It is unclear, however, if Quimby ever tied his teachings to any form of religion.

Although not completely following all of Quimby’s teachings, Eddy adopted many of his ideas, ultimately applying them to her own experiences, claiming to discover the divine law of life. In terms of the new religion, 1866 becomes an important date. Meditating on Matthew 9:2, Eddy claims to have been healed from injuries resulting from a fall. She soon began her own healing ministry, based on the conviction that the “Eternal Mind” is the source of all being, matter is nonexistent, disease is caused by erroneous thoughts, and power is released through the teaching of “Christian Science.”

In 1875 she formed a small band of followers into a society at Lynn, Massachusetts, and soon published her textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. In 1877 she married Asa G. Eddy, one of her early followers, and together with other friends they established the Church of Christ, Scientist, in 1879 in Boston. 63 In 1881, Eddy opened a metaphysical college and charged $300 for 12 healing lessons. The Church was reorganized in 1892, with the disbanding of the Association, College and Church. The movement was then concentrated within The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston. Although she continued to manage church affairs until her death in 1910, she removed herself from public contact and lived in seclusion, in order to revise her book and guide the movement. At the time of Eddy’s death in 1910 the Church of Christ, Scientists, claimed a 100,000 members and Eddy was a multi-millionaire. Science and Health has been translated and distributed in seventeen different languages.

Mrs. Eddy, herself, asserted that her beliefs were derived from new interpretations of biblical passages, not from human sources. She appears to have taught that her writings were not an "add-on" to the Bible. Rather, she had discovered the “science” of scriptures. Indeed, her devoted friend and colleague describes her thus: “Christ Jesus was the masculine representative of the fatherhood of God. In this age Mary Baker Eddy is the feminine representative of the motherhood of God.” 64 Through a spiritual interpretation of the Bible she had rediscovered its original truths as believed in and practiced by the early Christian church. This is, of course, is the claim of all cults, to be the “true church of Christ.”

It is worth noting that Martin and others maintain that studies of Mrs. Eddy’s writings show that she plagiarized several different sources to writhe Science and Health. In particular, she seems to have borrowed heavily from Quimby’s Questions and Answers, and from a paper on The Metaphysical Religion of Hegel by Frances Lieber. 65

While the church went through a period of rapid growth during the first half of the 20th century, its membership leveled out in the early 1950 and has been declining since then. Since The Mother Church does not publish statistics, true membership is unknown. Estimates range between 150,000 and 400,000. Two of Richard Nixon’s key aides, H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, were Christian Scientists (Nixon was a Quaker).

It is estimated that the Church has about 2300 branch congregations in 60 countries, with 1600 of these are in the US. While the church does have actual church buildings, much of their practice comes in the Christian Science Reading Rooms where the public is invited to read the Bible and literature published by the Church. In 1908, Mrs. Eddy founded The Christian Science Monitor, an international newspaper, whose employees have won 6 Pulitzer prizes. A cable TV channel launched in 1991 was short lived and was terminated for financial reasons. 66

There is no ordained clergy in the Church. Services are conducted by Readers who read from the Bible, from "Science and Health" and from lesson-sermons sent from The Mother Church. Further, since healing is obtained by spiritual power, the church has no hospitals or doctors. However, it does have Lay Christian Science practitioners who are trained in Church principles and present a prayer-based healing ministry to members and the public as an alternative to conventional medical services. In place of hospitals, the church has a series of nursing homes.

Beliefs of the Christian Science

The following doctrines are referenced out of the primary Christian Science work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy. It is supposed to be a companion to the Bible. Science and Health together with the Bible are called the Pastor of Christian Science.

  1. God is infinite...and there is no other power or source, S&H, 471:18.
  2. God is Universal Principle, S&H 331:18-19
  3. God cannot indwell a person, S&H 336:19-20
  4. God is the only intelligence in the universe, including man S&H 330:11-12
  5. God is Mind, S&H 330:20-21; 469:13
  6. God is the Father-Mother, S&H 331:30; 332:4
  7. The Trinity is Life, Truth, and Love, S&H 331:26
  8. Belief in the traditional doctrine of the Trinity is polytheism, S&H 256:9-11
  9. Christ is the spiritual idea of sonship S&H 331:30-31
  10. Jesus was not the Christ, S&H 333:3-15; 334:3
  11. Jesus Christ is not God, as Jesus himself declared... S&H 361:12-13
  12. Jesus did not reflect the fullness of God, S&H 336:20-21
  13. Jesus did not die, S&H 45:32-46:3
  14. The Holy Spirit is divine science, S&H 331:31
  15. There is no devil, S&H 469:13-17
  16. There is no sin, S&H 447:24
  17. Evil and good are not real, S&H, 330:25-27; 470:9-14
  18. Matter, sin, and sickness are not real, but only illusions S&H 335:7-15; 447:27-28.
  19. Life is not material or organic S&H, 83:21
  20. The sacrifice of Jesus was not sufficient to cleanse from sin S&H, 25:6.
  21. True healings are the result of true belief, S&H, 194:6

Additionally,

As can be observed, these are not the teachings of the Bible. Jesus is a “way-shower” for the Christian Scientist. He leads the way to spiritual healing. Salvation does not exist in any true form in the Christian Science movement.

Like the other cults, Christian Science has spawned some off-spring. Two are clearly the direct result of Mrs. Eddy’s efforts.

Beyond these two, however, Mrs. Eddy’s general approach to Scriptures has seeped into some mainline communities. The “Divine Mind” is a power concept for man wanting to be in control of things. Those who appear to have adopted some portions of Mrs. Eddy’s approach have secularized the concepts to refer to the human mind and have grafted it onto traditional Christian belief. This is seen in Norman Vincent Peale&s Power of Positive Thinking, Bishop Sheen&s Peace of Soul, and Rev. Robert Schuller&s Possibility Thinking.

A closing comment on the viability of Christian Science comes from a secular source. One of the sources used to develop these materials is the web site ReligiousTolerance.org, a clearly non-Christian site. The OCTR group which maintains this web site has the following closing statement on its page about Christian Science.

We are distressed at the lack of hard data available concerning the effectiveness of faith healing generally and of Christian Science healing methods in particular. We consider this a major ethical concern. If either conventional medical treatments or faith healing is marginally better that the other, then thousands of lives could be saved each year in the U.S. by inducing people to switch to the more effective treatment.

Footnotes:
56. As quoted by William C. Irvine, Heresies Exposed, New York : Loizeaux Brothers, Inc, Bible Truth Depot, 1917, 66.
57. A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, San Francisco: Harpers Collins, 1961, 8.
58. For that matter, isn’t this a picture of the way you act most of the time. We are too busy and preoccupied to study God’s Word to understand who God really is.
59. Howard Frederic Vos, Exploring church history [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994 by Howard F. Vos.
60. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1963.
61. Some see gnostic characteristics in other religions as well, such as those we have already studied. While the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses may have some gnostic elements, they are not true examples of the philosophy of the gnostic structure of the second century.
62. Hammack, Mary L., A Dictionary of Women in Church History, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) 1997, c1984. It is interesting to note that by birth Joseph Smith (Mormons), William Miller (Seventh Day Adventists), Ellen G. White (Seventh Day Adventists), and Mary Baker Eddy were all from New England. Could the strict, conservation Christian background of the region during this time frame have had a “backlash” effect in the formation of bad doctrine and revolt against God?
63. Douglas, J. D., Comfort, Philip W. & Mitchell, Donald, Editors, Who’s Who in Christian History, (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1992.
64. John H. Gerstner, The Theology of the Major Sects, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960, 74, quoting Mrs. Stetson as quoted by Altman K. Swihart, Since Mrs. Eddy, 56.
65. Martin, Kingdom of the Cults, 129-131.
66. http://www.religioustolerance.org

 

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