In this article we are going to look in more detail at what Christian Science teaches and believes. At the outset I want to make five introductory points in order to approach the subject responsibly.
First, Christian Science beliefs are expressed clearly in many books and pamphlets as well as on their own website. There is an abundance of data available.
Second, as we saw last month, their special appeal is to Mrs Baker-Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (abbreviated here to Science and Health). All their beliefs were expressed by their leader in this book. They foolishly claim that Eddy is the unique revealer of Christ, the Truth, in this age, so that Science and Health is the final revelation which correctly explains ‘true Christianity’.
Third, in describing their beliefs our aim is to evaluate them in the light of the Bible. That alone must be our criterion for establishing whether a teaching is true or false. The Bible is the one and only objective standard by which we must ascertain truth. As we will see, Christian Science teaching must be rejected as false because it contradicts the clear teaching of the Bible.
Fourth, Christian Scientists are sincere in holding to their beliefs and practising them. Those members I have met have been charming, as well as sincere in thinking that they have the ‘truth’.
The fifth point is related, namely, that although Christian Scientists are sincere, they are sincerely wrong! To be sincere is not enough in itself. And even Christians need to grasp the point.
For example, we may sincerely believe that the visitor at the door is a political canvasser or a genuine telephone company representative. But the man is not what he claims to be. In fact, he only wants to enter our home to steal our money and possessions. Sincere people can be sincerely wrong. And sincerity is not the criterion of truth although, of course, those who believe the truth of the Bible should be sincere and genuine.
What we are discussing in this article, then, is doctrine, especially Bible doctrine. But the term ‘doctrine’ still has a bad press, even among Christians. If you associate doctrine with awkward and extreme doctrinaire individuals or groups, then you may want to shy away from it.
Again, you may wrongly associate ‘doctrine’ with a past age. You may feel it is an anachronism at the dawn of a new millennium to be concerned over ancient creedal formulations concerning the Holy Trinity, for example, or Reformation principles like the sufficiency and supremacy of Scripture, or justification by faith alone. After all, in a ‘postmodernist’ society there are supposed to be no absolutes in either morals or doctrine.
But such an attitude towards doctrine is wrong, for it strikes at the foundations of the Christian faith. There is such a thing as truth. And that is what the Bible is – ultimate, absolute and infallible truth from God, who is himself the source of all truth.
This is why we are going to compare the teaching of Christian Science with what the Bible says on basic doctrines concerning God and Jesus Christ. These are key subjects which we need to understand from God’s Word, both for our own benefit as Christians and in order to help unbelievers.
The doctrine of God
Our assessment of Christian Science must begin with the doctrine of God. The reason is that this is a fundamental teaching and one which determines other doctrines. Here we note that Christian Science has a radically different view of God from that revealed in the Bible.
At first glance, however, their official statement seems orthodox: ‘God, Spirit, is the supreme Being … ever-present, all-knowing, all-powerful and wholly good’. But what are they really saying? Their explanation is revealing: ‘God’s nature is seen through synonymous names for God used or implied in the Bible, including divine Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love’. In other words, Christian Scientists do not believe that God is a person or that he is distinct from the universe. For them, God is only Intelligence or Mind, the All-in-all. Mind is all that exists.
Furthermore, they teach that there is no reality or existence outside of this Mind or God. The technical terms for this position are pantheism (the belief that the universe and God are identical) and monism (all is one).
Notice the devastating implications of their view of God.
Firstly, God is the universe and we are all part of the one divine reality or Mind. But the Bible distinguishes clearly between the nature of God and creation: ‘thou hast laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure…’ (Psalm 102:25-26). What is more, the world is preserved by God continually: ‘For by him were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible … all things were created by him and for him … by him all things consist’ (Colossians 1:16-17). And while God is present everywhere and active in the universe he created, nevertheless he is also wholly ‘other’, distinct and apart from the universe. God is ‘the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity…’ (Isaiah 57:15).
Secondly, according to Christian Science, God is impersonal, and this involves the denial of the Holy Trinity of divine persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In fact they claim that the Holy Spirit is ‘Divine Science’ which the group regards as ‘the universal expression of Christian Science’!
The claim is obviously wrong. God is revealed in the Bible as a triune personal God. And within the one Godhead, there are three distinct, eternal and co-equal persons (see Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). The Holy Spirit is the third eternal person in the Godhead. And the Lord Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit with personal pronouns (John 14:16-17; 16:7-14). The Spirit has a mind (John 15:26), a will (1 Corinthians 12:11) and both speaks and teaches (1 Timothy 4:1; Acts 13:2; Luke 12:12). These are just a few of the Bible statements which indicate the personality of the Holy Spirit.
All in the mind?
Thirdly, if Christian Science is right, all matter is an illusion and has no real existence. Only the Divine Mind exists, along with its ideas! This involves the denial of man’s physical nature, so that he has no bones, flesh or blood. They also teach that man is perfect because sin and evil are unreal, being merely errors of mortal mind. The theology of Christian Science is similar to the Docetic-Gnostic teaching in early church history, which separated the spiritual from the ‘evil’ material realm. Both maintain that Spirit and matter do not and cannot mix. For Christian Science, however, the reason is not that matter is evil but rather that it does not exist.
To deny the reality of matter, sickness or death, however, is to fly in the face of the evidence. And the Bible teaches that God who is Spirit (John 4:24) also created all matter (Genesis 1:1-31) and saw that it was ‘very good’. Man also fell into real sin (Genesis 3, Romans 5:12-19) so that ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). Suffering and death are the consequences of God’s just punishment of sin.
The doctrine of Jesus Christ
According to Christian Science, Jesus was a fallible human, a divine idea. He shows the way to salvation but is himself unable to save. Jesus was not God incarnate, nor was he the Christ. The only reason for the cross was to show the unreality of death. Such are the errors taught by Christian Science concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.
In contrast, the Bible teaches clearly that Jesus is true man (Philippians 2:7) but also fully God: ‘For in him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily’ (Colossians 2:9). Peter, too, was commended for proclaiming, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16). And rather than being merely a ‘way-shower’, Jesus is himself ‘the way’ (John 14:6).
Christian Science strikes at the heart of the Christian gospel. They say that Jesus did not die. The Bible, however, insists that ‘Christ died’. It was a real death. And Jesus prophesied that he would die and then be raised from death (Matthew 12:38-40; 16:21). He died, also, ‘for our sins according to the scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:3). But that is not the end. Christ also ‘rose again the third day according to the scriptures’ (v.4). A real physical resurrection from the dead! For ‘if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins … we are of all men most miserable’ (vv.17,19).
The glorious news of the gospel proclaims, ‘But now is Christ risen from the dead’ (v.20), and he alone is the one who is able to save us. I appeal to any Christian Scientist who may read this page, to embrace in faith the Christ revealed in the Bible.