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The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Christian Science

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE. The religion, or interpretation of the Christian religion, discovered and founded by Mary Baker Eddy (q.v.). Christian Scientists regard it as the restoration and divinely promised fulfilment of the religion taught and practised by Christ Jesus. It is defined by Mrs. Eddy as “the law of God, the law of good, interpreting and demonstrating the divine Principle and rule of universal harmony” (‘Rudimental Divine Science,’ p. 1).

To the question, What did Mrs. Eddy discover? Christian Scientists answer that she discovered the law of God, the law of Life, Truth and Love, as well as the rule, the systematic method or practice, for demonstrating the Principle of harmonious being. Besides this she added immeasurably to the world's knowledge of spiritual reality as distinguished from material belief. Anyone who would understand Christian Science “must begin,” says Mrs. Eddy, “by reckoning God as the divine Principle of all that really is” (‘Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,’ p. 275). Whatever is the object or subject of thought, unless God made it, unless it expresses His being, it is illusive, destructible and unreal. This is the basis of Christian Science practice. On this basis the Christian Scientist works to purify human thought and to realize the truth of being.

The Christian Science definition of God is “incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love” (‘Science and Health,’ p. 465). The word “Person” (spelled with a capital letter), is also used as a term for God, but Christian Science does not hold that God is like a human being. Of God it is said that “He is all-inclusive” (‘Science and Health,’ p. 331); which statement is to be regarded as consistent with the idea of imparted identify and individuality. Indeed, one of the leading points of Christian Science is that God is the Life, Mind and Soul of man, yet that man, as the reflection of God, possesses perfect identity and individuality. As understood in Christian Science, therefore, God creates man and the universe; He governs the individuality and continuity of each creature; and He maintains this infinite creation as the expression of His being.

Since Christian Science is based on the teaching and example of Jesus, it has a definite and emphatic view of him and his mission. To begin with, it distinguishes between Jesus and the Christ as between what is human and what is divine. In the authorized literature of Christian Science the word “Jesus” usually refers to the person whom Christian Scientists regard as Teacher and Way-shower. The word “Christ” may refer to him, to his spiritual selfhood, or to his office as the Messiah, Saviour or Christ. Usually, however, Christian Scientists use the word “Christ” in an entirely impersonal manner, as Saint Paul sometimes used it. Thus Mrs. Eddy defines “Christ” as “the divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error” (‘Science and Health,’ p. 583). As for the mission of Jesus, Christian Science finds the index to it in his description of himself as the Teacher and the Way, His teaching and example showed the way of salvation for all men and made him the Way-shower as well as the Teacher or Master. Accordingly, the system which he taught was called the Way by the early Christians. This fact appears frequently in the historical Book of Acts (ix, 2; xviii, 25-26; xix, 9, 23; xxii, 4; xxiv, 14, 22) and in some of the Epistles (Heb. x, 20; 2 Peter ii, 2). Originally, therefore, Christianity was, to quote modern translations of Hebrews and Second Peter, “the way which he (Jesus) dedicated for us, a new and living way,” “the way of the truth.” Christian Science, then, utterly rejects the doctrine that Jesus, by his death, paid a ransom to the devil and thus wrought the deliverance of those who believed on him. Christian Science likewise rejects the doctrine that the righteousness of Jesus was accepted by the Father as a substitute for the righteousness of mankind lost through the fall, and that the death of Jesus was accepted by the Father as an equivalent of the punishment justly incurred by mankind; men being consequently released from punishment, on condition of their acceptance through faith of his sacrifice. And of course Christian Science rejects the various refinements of these doctrines which have continued to the present day. Christian Science finds the supremely efficacious service of Jesus in his life, including his overcoming of death, as he himself said, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” The way which he showed or dedicated was new, as distinguished from the substitutional sacrifices of the Old Testament. It was also living, for he overcame death with the full proof of life and immortality. Furthermore, he dedicated it for us; hence it is available to us, even as it was to him. So the pertinent tenet of Christian Science reads, “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” (‘Science and Health,’ p. 497).

Christian Science defines man as the image, likeness or reflection of God. Of course this is not an uncommon description of man; but Christian Science, defining God as heretofore stated, reasons consistently from cause to effect as Jesus did when he said, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Christian Science does this in spite of all material evidence to the contrary, and declares with Saint John that “As he (God) is, so are we in this world.” Such a conclusion must mean either that God is like a human being, or that the human concept of man is erroneous. Christian Science declares that the human concept of man is erroneous; that the human need is spiritual consciousness; and that human life becomes more divine as the true conception of God and man is realized.

Christian Science, therefore, distinguishes completely between the real, ideal man and the human or mortal sense of man. For this purpose and for every purpose, it distinguishes between ultimate or absolute reality and mere appearance, semblance or illusion. Acknowledging God as the origin of all that really is. Christian Science does not find an origin for aught else, but consistently denies that anything which is not of God can have an origin or real existence. Says Mrs. Eddy, “The mirage, which makes trees and cities seem to be where they are not, illustrates the illusion of material man, who cannot be the image of God” (‘Science and Health’, p. 300). In this connection, Christian Science declares that Christianity was originally based on the truth or reality of being. Its basic requirement was the knowledge of the truth concerning God and man, “the truth” denoting absolute reality as opposed to which is merely apparent, seeming or false. Attention is drawn to sayings of the Master, such as the following: “For this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” “I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Such sayings imply that the human or mortal sense of life is false, and they imply that abundant and eternal life is to be gained by finding and realizing the truth of being. The human situation was stated by Saint John in these words: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.” He did not mean that we shall ever be different from what we really are. He meant that we are the sons of God, though the reality of being doth not yet appear. He did not foresee a loss of identity; he discerned the realization of true identity. Mrs. Eddy has consistently said: “The real, ideal man appears in proportion as the false and material disappears.” “Mortals will disappear, and immortals, or the children of God, will appear as the only and eternal verities of man” (‘Science and Health,’ pp. 69, 476).

According to Christian Science, then, no form of evil possesses the nature of substance, but every phase of evil is only an aspect of error; truth or the understanding of reality being the universal remedy. For instance, take its teaching in regard to sin. Sin is primarily wrong thinking; it is always punished by the loss of harmony or the suffering which it entails; it is forgiven as it ceases, for goodness always receives its reward. The impulse to sin is always ignorant or deceitful; at worst it is a false sense of pleasure in sin. So Christian Science is spiritually educational; it makes much use of the truths that sin cannot confer genuine pleasure; that the consequences of conscious indulgence are cumulative; and that happiness must be sought and can be found in active goodness. This religion also emphasized the power of goodness — the ability which goodness carries to detect sinful motives, to unmask sinful inducements and to dispel sinful persuasions. In this manner the reformative work of Christian Science has been conspicuously successful

The prevention and cure of disease is within the mission of Christian Science for the same reasons that it was within the mission of original Christianity. What are disease and health? In the last analysis not only disease and health but mortality and immortality are opposite mental states, resulting from contrary modes of thought. On one hand is material sense, which has no principle — no cause or substance — and is simply an illusion, a dream of pain and pleasure in matter that includes sin, disease and death. On the other hand is spiritual sense, which is created and sustained by God, the divine Principle of all true being. What Saint Paul wrote to the Romans on this subject was both Christian and scientific: “To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” In these words he declared that life is a condition of mind or thought; he analyzed causation as wholly metaphysical. The mentality which sickens and dies is carnal; that is to say, material; while the thought which lives and enjoys the perfect attributes of life is spiritual; that is to say, emanating from Spirit or God. In other words, it is Spirit, God, the divine Mind, that gives life and health to man, and gives it through mentality or thought. Health, therefore, is primarily a mental and spiritual quality, and it is to be gained and preserved as such; that is, through the understanding of and obedience to the spiritual law which emanates from the divine Mind. Disease, on the other hand, even the most physical disorder is a palpable evidence of false belief. It is a condition incident to the supposition that man is a material selfhood and governed by a law of suffering disability and death — governed by laws which divine Life, Truth and Love could never make. Every lack of health, from beginning to end, is only a subjective condition of mortal thought; it is a particular result of the general supposition that life inhabits matter and is mortal. Christian and scientific treatment of disease, then, depends on the distinction between absolute or real being and the human or mortal concept of man. Freedom from disease follows the absolute knowing of the truth concerning God and man. To cope successfully with disease it must be resolved into false belief and dealt with on a mental plane, in accordance with the divine law by which Truth destroys error. Healing comes to pass when the supposed law of disease and death is broken by the actual law of Life, and the unity of being is such that one individual can help another to obtain this victory. In so far as hygiene and sanitation denote cleanliness and purity, Christian Science is in full accord; and it commends not only a clean body and clean surroundings, but a clean mentality; not only pure food, but pure thoughts. Jesus intimated to the Pharisees that for outward cleanness to be more than superficial it must be the result of inward cleanliness.

Christian Scientists usually conduct their own charities, and they contribute funds with an ease that is remarkable to observers. During the Great War, for instance, Christian Scientists have contributed and expended relatively Large sums for the relief of sufferers from the war, both before and since the United States entered it; and they have carried on a varied and systematic work for the welfare and comfort of soldiers and sailors in this and other countries.

The Church of Christ, Scientist, or Christian Science Church, was organized at Boston in 1879. It consists of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, and branches thereof throughout the world. The number of regularly organized congregations in April 1918 is 1,766, of which 1,582 are in the United States. The governing body of the denomination is the Christian Science Board of Directors; but each congregation has its own self-government.

The Christian Science Publishing Society publishes Mrs. Eddy's writings (see bibliography at end of article under Eddy, Mary Baker) and issues the following periodicals: The Christian Science Quarterly Bible Lessons, a quarterly containing the “lesson-sermons” which are read in the Sunday services of this denomination; The Christian Science Journal, a monthly accompanied by directories of churches and practitioners; Der Herold der Christian Science, a monthly published with alternate pages in English and German; Le Heraut de Christian Science, a monthly published in English and French; The Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly; and The Christian Science Monitor, an international daily newspaper. This paper, founded in 1908 by Mrs. Eddy “to injure no man, but to bless all mankind,” has now become well known wherever the English language is spoken.

Committee on Publications, Boston.