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Christian Science and Controversies

Updated on June 27, 2011

From its infancy, the Church of Christ, Scientist has been the center of great controversy, within and outside the church.

Christian Science,  was founded by Mary Baker Eddy about 1875. Most of the controversy involved Eddy’s authority as author of their healing practices and doctrines.

Eddy was born in New Hampshire in 1821 and suffered poor health for much of her life. She sought help in 1862 from mental healer Phineas Quimby who taught massage and mental healing techniques.

Following Quimby’s death in 1866, Eddy had a debilitating accident. Physicians gave her little chance of recovery, so she turned to the Bible. From her studies and interpretation she concluded that “God was the only life and that Life was the only reality of being.” Eddy was miraculously healed. This event later became a catalyst for the beginning of Christian Science.

Eventually Eddy began deviating from what she had learned from her mentor Quimby. She began teaching about a healing concept. Her thoughts involved unification with God, where there was no disease. Shortly thereafter Eddy left the Congregational Church of which she had been a lifelong member.

In 1876, Eddy established the Christian Science Association. Three years later, the Church of Christ, Scientist was founded and Eddy was ordained its minister.

Christian Scientists are said to hold beliefs either controversial or heretical to orthodox Christian churches and have redefined Christian terminology. They interpret the Holy Ghost as Divine Science and strongly reject association with the New Thought Movement, which was a part of Quimby’s teachings. Their beliefs run contrary to traditional Christian teachings regarding the Trinity, divinity of Jesus, and atonement for sin and its creation.

However, according to Ken Girard, a Christian Scientist representative in MA., it's a misconception Christian Science is against medicine and/or doctors. There's simply nothing in the theology of Christian Science against traditional medicine.

Girard explains: "It’s really more nuanced than what it would appear to be. It’s not so much the illusion of physicality and the unreality of the material world. If you touch a table, it’s solid and real."

It’s more about our perception of ourselves, of others, of God, and all creation being spiritual rather than material in nature" he continued. "And it’s grasping that sense, that understanding, of God’s ever-presence and love for all of His creation that brings about healing. For instance, I used to wear eye glasses and I no longer do."

However they do share some common beliefs with other Christian denominations such as the belief in one god who came in the form of Jesus Christ. Where they differ is that one is "saved" through not only Jesus, but others as well.

Christian Science holds a distinction between the human Jesus and an “eternal, spiritual self-hood. However, Christian Scientists do not believe that Jesus is God, but the Son of God. ” Additionally, the “allness of God,” meaning everything lives within God.  Prayer as used in Christian Science is an acknowledgment of God as supreme, all-powerful, all-present, and eternal good.

Because of this, they don’t recognize disease, sin or death to be a reality. Also, evil is not defeated by Christ, because it’s not real…except for one's belief in it. They also emphasize non-personal attributes of God as Principle, Mind, Life, Truth and Love. However, they recognize God as Father, but little or no emphasis on placed on the aspect.

Christian Scientists have sometimes found themselves pitted against health professionals engaging in legal issues over use of prayer instead of traditional medical care.

Their fundamental belief is reality is spiritual not material. They teach sickness and disease are problems concerning the body and a result of incorrect beliefs about the nature of reality. Christian Scientists trust the way to healing is through recognition of one’s relationship with God. It is a system of health-care based on prayer.

According to Barbara Bradley Hagerty, who was raised in the Christian Science faith, her mother was a Christian Scientist. She writes: “Everything is thought in Christian Science. Everything is going on in your thinking. If you remove the ‘false beliefs’ which we call error, evil, sickness, and replace those thoughts with the spiritual truth, the truth that man is made in the image and likeness of God, the body responds.”

Some have charged Christian Science healing practices as being “faith healing.” Believers object to this term because in their view healings are not a miraculous event.

It' been said they consider medical treatment and spiritual healing to be contradictory and incompatible. In contrast, they hold medical treatment as a material reality and view spiritual healing as affirming a non-material nature of reality.

Christian Scientists employ prayer for healing and sometimes consult Christian Science practitioners. These practitioners use prayer, which, according to Hagerty, “is nearer to meditation than a petition.”

Basically, controversy about Christian Science involves the concept of freedom of religion and medical neglect. Critics have accused Christian Scientists of not providing essential medical care for their children and some have faced legal charges.

But Girard disagrees. "’s a statement that’s extremely exaggerated. While it’s true there have been some cases, it’s certainly not true there have been many."

"Christian Science parents do whatever is necessary for the well-being and health of their children" he added. "They are not driven by theology or dogma. They want fast results, just as any loving parent would. They generally rely on Christian Science because they see how effective it is." It comes down to the fact results matter in Christian Science."


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    • Marian Designs profile image

      Marian Cates 3 years ago from Stevenson, WA

      While you cover some important points about Christian Science, your article is inaccurate in one important regard.

      You say in your article that, according to Ken Girard, "it's a misconception Christian Science is against medicine and/or doctors. There's simply nothing in the theology of Christian Science against traditional medicine." This is true of the Christian Science textbook, "Science And Health With Key To The Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy. However, it's a misleading statement about the Christian Science church and Christian Scientists worldwide. The church and its members are not against traditional medical care *for others*.

      The church and its members take the stance that Christian Scientists have to choose between medicine and Christian Science "healing prayer." Neither Christian Science practitioners (healers) nor fellow church members will support anyone with "healing prayer," if the person is using medicine.

      Girard is the Committee on Publication for the state of Massachusetts. His job is to 1) communicate with the public about Christian Science and 2) lobby the legislature to gain and maintain exemptions, or accommodations, from Massachusetts laws requiring that parents give their children medical care, when needed.

      In several states in the U.S., Christian Science parents, who believed in the church's position, refused to take their children to the doctor and their children died. The parents faced prosecution, as did the Christian Science practitioners involved in the cases. In one case, the state prosecuted the church in Boston as well.

      I don't blame you for being taken in by your source. Committees on Publication are adept at answering questions from the public. They know how to deflect questions about the church's stance on medical care for Christian Scientists.

      If you want to see my background in Christian Science, check out my article, "Christian Science Compatible With Medicine" here on HubPages.

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina


      I was a professional news reporter for many years. When you make a mistake, you print a retraction, or correct it.

    • profile image

      Kathy 6 years ago

      JY - You are an exceptional blogger being willing to change what you are written with such humility and kindness.

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Kathy, thanks for catching those faulty points. I have incorporated them. There is so much faulty information floating around about Christian Science, it's a wonder anyone can get the whole straight story. It's apparent, the sources I found information on were not factual. Hopefully I have it right now. Thanks again.

    • profile image

      kathy 6 years ago

      As a Christian Scientist, I think most of your article was very good. Some of the points I would differ with (a) Christian Science isn't "medical sect"; it is a system of health-care based on prayer (b) Mrs. Eddy was not dismissed from the Congregational Church but rather left it with respectful and kind thoughts about her years there (c) Christian Scientists do not believe that Jesus is God, but the Son of God (d) prayer as used in Christian Science is an acknowledgment of God as supreme, all-powerful, all-present, and eternal good.

      I hope that this is helpful to your readers also.

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Well, Ken, you're welcome. After all that's what a good reporter is supposed to do.

    • profile image

      Ken Girard 6 years ago

      Hi JY,

      Thanks so much for incorporating those points, as well as your fairness and sense of accuracy. It's greatly appreciated.

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Ken, I have corrected the points in question by letting you say it. Thanks for helping me to get it right.

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      They come from very many places Martie. Some from conservative talk radio, something I see on the History channel or just something I see that gives me an idea. Sometimes, I just browse through the skeptics dictionary site. Then I have googled "interesting" or "controversial" topics or something like that. There are a few lists ranging from A-Z on different subjects. And some, like the "A Humorous Look at Creation" I just made up. I have a good sense of humor. Hope that helps.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      Interesting concept they have. Then it all comes back to the power of faith. I’m in awe of the topics of your hubs, JY. Where do you get them all? Come-on, I’m your friend, you can share you source with me :))))