- Christian Science
- Christian Science is a metaphysical religion that emerged in New England in reaction to the spiritual healing experienced by founder Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910). Eddy was a semi-invalid for most of her life until she met Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-66), a mesmerist and mental healer, in Belfast, Maine. She improved dramatically under his care and began to ponder the nature of healing. Shortly after Quimby's death, Eddy had an accident in 1866, slipping on some ice, and was confined to bed seriously ill. She reported that while reading her Bible she received a revelation about divine healing. She was immediately able to get up and walk.Her struggle to understand the world based on the healing experience led her to a period of teaching and writing, culminating in her major treatise, Science and Health (later expanded as Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures), initially published in 1875. Her students came to accept the book as a companion volume to the Bible.In 1870, Eddy began to train others how to heal in silence using her methodology. She started the Christian Science Association for students near Boston in 1876, and in 1879, she organized the Church of Christ, Scientist, in Lynn, Massachusetts, moving it to Boston in 1881. She allowed her students to ordain her as the sole pastor. In 1882, she founded the Massachusetts Metaphysical College, where for the next seven years she continued to teach future Christian Science practitioners and teachers.Although Eddy's attempt to wed healing with Christianity had parallels in the healing experiences so central to Jesus' ministry, her teachings radically departed from Protestant tradition. God was seen as a Principle, not as a person, and that principle was described as Life, Truth, Love, Substance, and Intelligence. Eddy also advanced an allegorical interpretation of the Bible; the Key to the Scriptures she appended to Science and Health was a dictionary to assist in that interpretation. The very fact that Science and Health was a new revelation challenged the authority that Protestants ascribed to the Bible alone.Eddy reorganized the church in 1892 and later developed the Church Manual containing the rules for governing the church. A five-person governing board administers the Mother Church and issues charters for branch churches. The Christian Science Publishing Society, with its own board of directors, is responsible for several periodicals, including The Christian Science Monitor, The Herald of Christian Science (published in 12 languages and Braille), The Christian Science Journal, the Christian Science Sentinel, and the Herald of Christian Science Quarterly.There are approximately 3,000 churches worldwide. Membership is unknown. Headquarters are in Boston. Several of Eddy's students left her to found independent churches and schools. Emma Curtis Hopkins (1853-1925) opened the Christian Science Theological Seminary in Chicago in the 1880s, became the fountainhead of the movement later called New Thought, and ordained many of the first generation of its leaders, such as Myrtle and Charles Fillmore, the founders of the Unity School of Christianity.Further reading:■ Christian Science: A Sourcebook of Contemporary Materials (Boston: Christian Science Publishing Society, 1990)■ Gillian Gill, Mary Baker Eddy (Reading, Mass.: Perseus Books, 1998)■ Stephen Gottshalk, The Emergence of Christian Science in American Religious Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978)■ Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy, 3 vols. (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1971).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.