It is official. In fact, the claim appears on the web-site of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts. The claim? ‘During the past 112 years, more than 50,000 authenticated testimonies of healing have been published in the monthly and weekly Christian Science Journals’.
And that is not all. They claim that for ‘some families, Christian Science has been the means of healing and care for five generations’. There is more to the claim, too. Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health, we are told, ‘has a proven, century-long heritage of improving the health and changing the lives of millions of readers around the world’. It is a staggering claim to make.
But how important is healing for this cult? Mrs Eddy provides two answers to the question. One answer views Christian Science as a revival of ‘primitive Christianity’, along with ‘its lost element of healing’ (Manual of the Mother Church, p.17). Her second answer concerns the genuineness and validity of Christian Science which ‘is demonstrated by healing the sick and thus proved absolute and divine. This proof once seen, no other conclusion can be reached’ (Science and Health, p.109).
Four observations are necessary before we proceed further. The first is that, in the Bible, miracles do not appear at random but at strategic and unique stages in the unfolding of God’s redemptive purpose. In the Old Testament these key stages are:
1. The exodus from Egypt
2. The ministries of Elijah and Elisha
3. The Babylonian exile, with particular regard to Daniel and his companions.
In the New Testament, the earthly ministry of the Son of God was accompanied by an unparalleled number and unique range of miracles. These miracles were performed explicitly to authenticate Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ of God (see, for example, Luke 4:18-21; 7:19-23; John 14:11). Miracles were also credentials and ‘signs’ confirming the apostles’ witness to Christ, as they established the Christian church and wrote the New Testament (see, for example, Acts 4:7-10).
While not denying that God can work miracles today, the principle is nevertheless clear. Miracles, including healings, were not performed indiscriminately in biblical times, but for specific reasons and to attest key stages in salvation history. They are rare today; indeed, it is extremely difficult to find any convincing evidence that modern so-called miracles are genuine.
The foundations of faith
A second observation is also pertinent. Deuteronomy 13:1-4, and other Bible passages, warn us that our faith should not be based on a healing or miracle, but on the Word of God. Thirdly, the Bible declares that the devil and his hosts are able to work signs and healing miracles (Exodus 7:10-11, 20-22; 8:6-7; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10; Revelation 13:12-14; 16:14). A healing, therefore, is not necessarily the work of God.
Stanley Myers claims that before he left Christian Science he ‘had known of outstanding healings in others who practised Christian Science — real miracles that defy explanation’. If these healings were not merely psychologically induced, then they may well have been the work of evil powers.
Fourthly, Christian Scientists place too much importance on healing. ‘What is a healing of cancer’, asks Katie Bretz, ‘if it keeps you away from knowing the Lord Jesus Christ, and being saved? It’s a smoke screen (see Matthew 7:21-23)’. Such alleged healings as reported by this group can mask spiritual hunger and disillusionment.
But there is another side to the practice of healing in this cult, namely, failed attempts to heal. For example, Dr Rita Swan was a former Christian Scientist whose son died as a result of the family’s reliance on the cult’s teaching. In a useful pamphlet, entitled Cry, the Beloved Children (Child, 1994), Dr Swan documents some failed healings in Christian Science that have cost children (and adults) their lives.
The author helps to expose the fact that Christian Science healing is not as effective as people have been led to believe. Caroline Fraser has also provided an in-depth study of ‘child cases’, and of some other current problems facing the Christian Science movement, in an article entitled, Suffering Children and the Christian Science Church (The Atlantic Monthly, April 1995).
A former member, Linda Stecher Kramer, underlines the fact that healing is ‘greatly emphasised’ in this cult ‘both because it is said to validate the religious doctrine and because it indicates the spiritual maturity of the believer’. Failure on the part of a member to obtain healing ‘is said to reflect his own lack of understanding rather than to reveal a problem with the system’.
No room for sin?
But why such emphasis on healing? We must start with their basic teaching in order to answer this question. Remember their claim that God is ‘supreme, infinite Mind, the only Life, substance or Spirit. All that exists, including man, is incorporated within the one incorporeal [God]’. Christian Science then teaches that man is made in God’s image and likeness so that the real man is like God. Although this statement may appear orthodox, I assure you it is not. Their argument is that because God is mind, spirit, and perfect, so man must also be spiritual, not material, and perfect rather than sinful.
We need to pause here and point out the error of this teaching. Yes, man is made in God’s likeness, but that does not mean he is perfect and spiritual like God. To be created in the image of God means that like God we are rational, thinking beings with a moral nature, capable of discerning right from wrong.
In addition, since God is spirit (John 4:24), to be created in his image means that all humans are created with an indestructible spiritual dimension to their being. But in no way are we identified with God or part of God. Furthermore, the Bible makes clear that man does have a real physical body although he is made in the incorporeal image of God. And to say that man is perfect and incapable of sin is flatly contradicted by the Bible.
Sin, disease and death are not unreal, nor are they an illusion and part of the ‘Adam-dream’. Not at all. Sin is a fact in society and it spoils lives, families, communities and nations. The Bible declares: ‘There is not one righteous, no, not one’, and again: ‘All have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ ((Romans 3:10, 23).
With the denial of sin and the physical realm, it is a logical development for Christian Science to deny the incarnation of the Lord Jesus. ‘The virgin mother’, writes Baker Eddy, ‘conceived this idea of God and gave to her ideal the name of Jesus. Jesus was the offspring of Mary’s self-conscious communion with God’ (Science and Health, 29:17-18, 32; 30:1).
Wrong! And heretical. ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us’, says John 1:14. ‘God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law’, declares Galatians 4:4-5. Read also the warning of 1 John 4:2-3: ‘Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God’.
Furthermore, Christian Science also denies the reality of our Lord’s death and the necessity for him to die. The Bible declares unequivocally that ‘without the shedding of blood there is no remission’ (Hebrews 9:22), and that ‘we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins’ (Ephesians 1:7). But Christian Science prefers to reject this central and glorious message of the Christian gospel. Salvation for them involves the removal of error, and is a matter of ‘right thinking’ rather than deliverance from the punishment, power and corruption of sin.
The Christian Science view of healing is part of an elaborate philosophy, which is diametrically opposed to the gospel of Christ. No wonder Carolyn Poole affirms that ‘these nice, quiet, law-abiding people are deceived. It is imperative’, she adds, ‘that Christians stop having a “hands-off” attitude towards them. With love, we must show them who Jesus Christ really is and what He has done’.
Pressing practical problems remain for these cult members relating to vaccinations, medicines and surgery for broken bones. In declaring that ‘Christian Science treatment and medical treatment proceed from opposite standpoints’, they can hardly justify any recourse to modern medicine or surgery. In their view, disease and death are only an illusion. They urgently need our prayers.