Christian Science is also known as The First Church of Christ, Scientist. That title refers to the movement’s mother church in Boston, Massachusetts.
Branches may call themselves First Church of Christ, Scientist, Second Church of Christ, Scientist, and so on, but only the mother church may use “The” in front of the name.
The church is sometimes confused with ‘Religious Science,’ or with the ‘Church of Scientology’.
Founder Mary Baker Eddy (1821 – 1910) described Christian Science as a return to “primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing.”
In her book Science and Health (1875) Eddy teaches that sickness is an illusion that can be corrected by prayer alone. The book became Christian Science’s central text, along with the King James Bible.
However, the movement neither represents science, nor Christianity.
The Bible does not teach what Christian Science claims it teaches. See our research resources on faith healing.
Christian Science: Theologically a Cult of Christianity
Christian Science rejects and/or redefines key doctrines of the Christian faith, including those on the trinity and on the deity of Christ.
While it uses Christian terminology it completely reinterprets those terms.
For instance, in Christian Science:
- God is not personal, but rather ‘divine principle.’ In her writings, Eddy used the terms Mind, Spirit, Mother, Intelligence, Substance, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love as synonyms for God. She denied the doctrine of the Trinity, saying “Life, Truth, and Love constitutes the triune Person called God….God the Father-Mother; Christ the spiritual idea of sonship; divine Science or the Holy Comforter.” 1
- Jesus is not God. The incarnation and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ did not occur
- The Holy Spirit is Christian Science
- Scripture is not inerrant
- Sin, death and evil do not exist
- Sickness and death are illussions, the result of false beliefs
- There is no literal, physical evidence of the material universe
While she claimed that “the Bible has been my only authority,” 2 Mary Baker Eddy also taught the Bible was corrupted, and said that Science and Health is the “first book” which has been “uncontaminated by human hypotheses.” 3
Therefore, though the movement claims to be a return to early Christianity, Christian Science is theologically a cult of Christianity.
Quackery, Religious Exemptions, and Preventable Deaths
In many U.S. states the Federal Government has granted Christian Science religious exemptions which, in the eyes of many, has led to needless suffering and preventable deaths.
In the 1970s, Idaho, like numerous other states incentivized by the federal government, enacted a religious exemption for parents who believe in faith-healing. The federal government was responding to pressure from the First Church of Christian Science, and no one seems to have grasped that children could and would die from such an exemption. The only explanation I can offer is that was part of the Pollyanna era of American history when everyone believed at some level that religious believers wouldn’t harm a child.
Such exemptions open the door to the deaths of children from ailments with known and tested treatments, from food poisoning to diabetes, pneumonia, and leukemia. The Church of the First Born and the Followers of Christ are two of the most ardent believers against medicine, and at one time, they populated Oregon, where prosecutors discovered in the 1990s to their horror that they could not prosecute them for the preventable deaths of children. Since then, Oregon has dramatically narrowed its medical neglect exemptions and prosecuted some of the worst cases, with a major manslaughter conviction in 2014.
While Oregon finally made strides in protecting its children, the number of deaths in Idaho escalated. Why? Because Idaho has created a legal paradise for believers in faith alone.
– Source: Marcia A. Hamilton, How to Craft a Religious Exemption Regime Guaranteed to Be Dangerous for Children: The Case of Idaho Verdict, February 19, 2015
- The Christian Science Holocaust [Contra] By Gerald Bergman. Article on the website of the New England Skeptics’ Society.
Many churches teach that to use medical care is a violation of God’s law, although the record of religion caused medical deaths is probably held by the Christian Science Church founded by Mary Baker Eddy over a century ago. No one knows how many persons have died prematurely as a result of rejecting medicine on religious grounds, but the number is likely in the tens-of-thousands.
- Christian Science: Key Doctrinal Issues [Contra] Excerpts from The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin; editor: Ravi Zacharias
- Christian Science: Healing to Death [Contra] Watchman Fellowship shows this movement denies the reality of sickness.
- Is the Christian Science Religion Christian? by Matt Slick, Christian Apologetics Research Ministry
Of all the Biblically-based cults in America today, Christian Science is one of the most interesting. Not only does it deny the essential doctrines of Christianity but it has also completely reinterpreted the Bible. It drastically redefines the Bible’s culture and terminology and rips thousands of Scriptures out of their historical and Biblical contexts. The result is a non-Christian mixture of metaphysical and philosophical thoughts. Christian Science is so foreign to the Bible that if it didn’t use words like Jesus, Trinity, Love, Grace, Sin, etc., you’d never suspect it had anything to do with the Bible at all. Additionally, the book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which is the Christian Scientist’s mainstay of spiritual knowledge, reads with a rhythm of pseudo-logical statements that has the tendency to dull the senses when read long enough. Is Christian Science Christian? Definitely not.
- The Origin and Current Status of Christian Science [Contra] by Stephen Barrett, M.D., of QuackWatch. Looks at the movement’s faulty beliefs and practices, and the consequences of medical neglect. [Last updated in 2009]
- A Skeptic looks at Christian Science [Contra] by Jeffrey Shallit
- Suffering children and the Christian Science church [Contra] 1995 Atlantic Monthly article. “The unwillingness of many Christian Science parents to seek help from physicians for their critically ill children has led to many painful and unnecessary deaths and, increasingly, to legal actions that have become burdensome to the Church and its members”
- What is Christian Science? [Contra] Brief intro at GotQuestions.org
- When faith fails children: Religion Based Neglect: Pervasive, Deadly … and Legal? [Contra] By Rita Swan, in Humanist, Nov. 1, 2000. Rita and her husband Douglas, former Christian Scientists, lost their son Matthew as a result of their religious beliefs regarding medical care. Rita is president of Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD), Inc., in Sioux City, Iowa
- Why I left Christian Science [Contra] Personal testimony of Carolyn Poole
[Slated to be expanded]
- Books by Mary Baker Eddy [Pro] Not recommended. Included as research resources.
- Christian Science on Trial: Religious Healing in America By Rennie B. Schoepflin. “The 1920s witnessed an unsteady truce between American medicine and Christian Science. The ambivalence of many Americans about the practice of religious healing persisted, however. In Christian Science on Trial we gain a helpful historical context for understanding late–twentieth-century public debates over children’s rights, parental responsibility, and the authority of modern medicine.” In its review of the book, The New England Journal of Medicine says, “This book is not so much a critical assessment of Christian Science as it is a densely researched narrative of how this unusual, but enduring, form of medicine and religion developed. … Despite its fresh historical detail, the story might have been more compelling if Schoepflin had spent more time examining why, after a 50-year detente, Christian Science has suffered increasingly frequent attacks since the 1980s. … The current debates probably revolve around the philosophical and theological problems with radically spiritualized worldviews that deny the reality of material existence.”
- The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin; editor: Ravi Zacharias. Includes a 44-page chapter on Christian Science.
- The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science [Kindle edition. Other editions available] Reissue of a 1909 biography by Willa Cather. The First Church of Christ, Scientist tried hard to suppress its publication.
News and News Archive
Profiles and Encyclopedia
- Children’s Healthcare Is A Legal Duty (CHILD) [Contra] Founded by former Christian Scientists who lost their son to the church’s beliefs, its mission is to “end child abuse or neglect related to religion, cultural practices, or quackery through public education, research, legal action, and a limited amount of lobbying.”
- The Christian Science Monitor Wikipedia entry on the Church-owned newspaper. In a FAQ section on its own website, the paper answers the question, “Is the Monitor a religious publication?” as follows:
No, it’s a real news organization owned by a church — The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Mass., USA. Everything in the Monitor is international and US news and features, except for one religious article in the weekly magazine and Daily News Briefing — a version of which has appeared each day since 1908, at the request of the Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy.
Tragedy in the Church of Christ, Scientist. BBC documentary from the series, Heart of the Matter, with Joan Bakewell.
- Christian Science: Neither Christian nor Scientific [Contra] Jeff Fitzgerald, who works with the website Christian Way.
- Child Abuse in Idaho – Deadly & Legal This site includes news and articles, background information and many other research resources.
- Christian Science [Pro, Official site]
- Christian Way: Former Christian Scientists for Jesus Christ [Contra] “We are former Christian Scientists — former followers of Mary Baker Eddy, her religion Christian Science, and its “textbook” Science and Health. We have all found a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that is based upon the Bible and not upon its spiritual interpretation as presented in Science and Health. Our members belong to a variety of denominations, but we hold certain core beliefs that are central to biblical Christianity.”
- What Every Christian Scientist Should Know [Contra] By a former Christian Scientist
More children die because of faith-based medical neglect in Idaho than in any other state. The combination of Idaho’s terrible laws and several congregations with religious beliefs against medical care has cost the lives of hundreds of children. Only eight other states have a statutory religious exemption from manslaughter or negligent homicide of a child.
The main sect in Idaho with beliefs against medical care is the Followers of Christ. Others are the Church of the Firstborn and the Christian Science Church. The Followers and Firstborners have similar historical roots and congregations in Oregon who have also lost children because of medical neglect. After Oregon repealed its religious exemptions in 2011, some Oregon Followers have reportedly moved to the safe haven of Idaho where faith-based medical neglect of children is legal.
– Source: Child faith deaths in Idaho. Links added.
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This entry on Christian Science is an update of an earlier version. This page is maintained by Anton Hein, co-publisher of Apologetics Index.
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- Science and Health, 331–332. ↩
- Science and Health, 126. Note, as Watchman Fellowship points out in its profile, “Christian Scientists believe that Mary Baker Eddy received the Truth through divine revelation. Instead, she plagiarized much of what she wrote from metaphysician George Hegel, P.P. Quimby, Francis Lieber and others.” ↩
- The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany, 115; Science and Health, 99, 139, 456–57. ↩