Frequently asked Questions
From the Christian Science Sentinel - November 1, 2013
Originally published in the 1974 pamphlet “Questions and answers on Christian Science”
What sort of people are Christian Scientists?
All sorts. Housewives, auto mechanics, bank presidents, farmers, teachers, secretaries, pop singers, diplomats. They're just people—people for whom God has become tremendously real.
Is a Christian Scientist a Christian?
He certainly is—and trying to be a better one all the time. The Christian Scientist is expected to be a Christian seven days a week and prove his faith by his life. One of the tenets of Christian Science to which he gives his signature when he joins the church reads: “And we solemnly promise to watch, and pray for that Mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; to do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and to be merciful, just, and pure.” 1
Why do you use the word Science to describe your religion?
Because it can be demonstrated. We see God as the universal, divine Principle underlying the life and healing work of Christ Jesus. God by His very nature must be unchanging Truth, invariable Love, operating through timeless spiritual laws rather than special miraculous acts. To understand these laws of absolute good is to find that Christianity can be scientifically applied to every human ill. On this basis Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, could write that “Jesus of Nazareth was the most scientific man that ever trod the globe.” 2
When did your church start—and why?
In 1879 fifteen people living in the Boston area met together and voted to form an organization to be called the Church of Christ, Scientist. They were all students of Mary Baker Eddy, and it was on motion of Mrs. Eddy that they voted to “organize a church designed to commemorate the word and works of our Master, which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing.” 3 That's the reason our church came into existence.
How widespread is Christian Science?
There are around 3,000 Christian Science churches, societies, and college organizations in some 50 countries. In addition, there are of course individual Christian Scientists in other parts of the world. Local churches and societies, wherever they may be, are all branches of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts.
Don’t you feel the churches are doomed in this scientific age?
Not if they can help people prove that there’s nothing more practical in life than Christianity. Blind faith may be doomed, but not an enlightened understanding of God and His laws.
What is your idea of God?
Well, there’s nothing far off or remote about God, as we learn to know Him in Christian Science. You remember the Apostle Paul says, “In him we live, and move, and have our being.” 4 God is closer than the air we breathe, the sunlight we stand in. He is the divine Love that fathers and mothers everything that is good, real, and lovely in experience. He is all good, and only good. We can turn with complete trust to His infinite power and understanding. As Mrs. Eddy puts it in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, God is “the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love.” 5
What place does Jesus Christ have in your teachings?
We see him as occupying the highest place in human history. Jesus has furnished humanity the perfect example of what it means to be the son of God. By doing that he has opened the way for all of us to find our spiritual sonship with God. He is our Exemplar, our Way-shower and Saviour. But Christian Scientists draw a distinction between the human Jesus, who is no longer here on earth, and his divine nature, the eternal Christ which is always here. We see the Christ as the Truth that Jesus lived, taught and demonstrated—the Truth that unites every one of us to God as His beloved child.
Do you believe in the virgin birth?
Yes, we believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. As we understand it, Mary’s pure concept of God as the Father of man was the avenue or means by which the Christ, Truth, found expression in the human Jesus.
Do you believe in heaven and hell?
To us, heaven and hell are states of thought, not places. People experience their own heaven or hell right here in proportion as they draw closer to the love of God or fall into the confusion and torment of dead-end materialism.
Do you have baptism or other sacraments?
Baptism and holy communion are to us not outward observances but deeply meaningful inner experiences. Baptism is the daily purification and spiritualization of thought; communion is finding one’s conscious unity with God through prayer. A beautiful communion hymn by Mrs. Eddy ends with these words:
Strongest deliverer, friend of the friendless, Life of all being divine: Thou the Christ, and not the creed; Thou the Truth in thought and deed; Thou the water, the bread, and the wine. 6
Why do you put so much emphasis on healing?
Actually, we don’t put any more emphasis on it than the New Testament does. Christian Scientists are not obsessed with a desire for physical well being; indeed, they think and talk less about their bodies than most people. In one sense a healing is only a by-product of drawing closer to God through coming to know the lovingkindness of His divine laws and the perfection of His spiritual creation. Healing, as we see it, is an important proof of God’s care for man, but it is only one element in the full salvation at which Christianity aims.
Must a person have faith in Christian Science in order to be healed by it?
Not necessarily. Some people have been healed when they turned to Christian Science as a last resort, though with very little hope that it could help them. But faith is a valuable asset—faith not so much in Christian Science as in God’s willingness and power to save humanity from evil of every kind. The Bible tells us that he who comes to God must believe that God is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. 7 But Christian Science teaches that faith, to be really firm and effective, must rest not on blind belief but on an understanding of the present perfection of God’s spiritual creation. This is the crucial difference that separates Christian Science from “faith healing.”
Where can I learn more about Christian Science healing?
By far the best way of learning is to study the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mrs. Eddy. Of course, you can learn much by attending Sunday services and Wednesday testimony meetings at Churches of Christ, Scientist, but for serious study you will undoubtedly want to go to a Christian Science Reading Room and find out about the publications that you can read, buy, or borrow there.
Is a Christian Scientist allowed to go to a doctor?
A Christian Scientist, like anyone else, is a free moral agent. When he joins the Church of Christ, Scientist, it’s understood that he will rely on God instead of drugs for healing. He voluntarily chooses this as his way of life, and usually because he has found this kind of healing more effective than any other. But if in extreme circumstances or under heavy family pressure he resorts to material means, he won’t be treated as an outcast by the Church. The point to remember is that Christian Scientists choose spiritual means because such healing not only makes the body well but also brings the individual closer to God in his living, thinking, and acting.
Why not combine Christian Science with medical treatment?
Well, you see, they start from opposite standpoints. Christian Scientists appreciate the humanitarian work of doctors—for those who wish to rely on their form of treatment. But the Christian Science method is purely spiritual; it calls for a mental and moral change, for finding one’s true relationship to God. This just doesn’t mix well with a system that looks into the body for causes and treats disease on a physical and chemical basis. It really isn’t fair to either method to try to mix them.
Don’t Christian Scientists have failures as well as successes?
Our record is good but not perfect! Sometimes we feel a little like the disciples of Jesus who went to him and said, “Why couldn’t we heal that case?” Then Jesus pointed out that what they needed was a faith rooted in greater consecration—a deeper understanding of God’s power and love. 8 Certainly, God—the divine Principle—never fails, but sometimes our understanding of Him may. Even so, the record of Christian Science in comparison with other healing systems is unusually fine. Insurance companies have learned to look on our people as very good risks indeed, and that speaks for itself.
What do you do about broken bones?
Some Christian Scientists have a broken bone set by a surgeon, others prefer to rely wholly on God’s power. The setting of a bone, of course, doesn’t involve drug therapy; it’s a kind of mechanical adjustment. For that reason Christian Scientists see it as being different from relying on medicine or regular medical treatment. But there are scores of records of cases where broken bones—even bad compound fractures—have been healed entirely through prayer in Christian Science.
Do you keep any record of Christian Science healings?
Authenticated testimonies of healing are published regularly in our weekly and monthly periodicals. And an interesting book called A Century of Christian Science Healing 9 records representative healings that have taken place during the past hundred years. There’s plenty of evidence! And of course there are the thousands of spontaneous testimonies given every week at Wednesday evening meetings in Churches of Christ, Scientist, all over the world.
What public recognition has Christian Science healing received?
The great majority of insurance companies in the United States recognize Christian Science treatment on the same basis as medical treatment. Either directly or indirectly, the right to rely on Christian Science treatment is recognized by various federal and state laws. The right to practice Christian Science healing is firmly established legally in the United States and elsewhere in the free world.
What is a Christian Science practitioner?
A Christian Science practitioner is a person who gives his full time to the public practice of Christian Science healing. The work is both a ministry and a profession. It’s done out of a love for God and man, but the practitioner also has to earn his living, and his patients pay him as they would a doctor or psychiatrist. In order to be listed in the directory of practitioners in our official church organ, The Christian Science Journal, a person must show that he has the experience and understanding, as well as the Christian character, to qualify for this sacred work.
How do you go about healing?
Through prayer. Through turning completely to God for the answer to one’s problem—whether the problem seems to be a disease in the body or a discord in the family. Now, this isn’t just a matter of blind faith, and it certainly isn’t a matter of willpower or mental suggestion or merely taking a cheerful attitude of positive thinking. It calls for an understanding of God and His laws; it calls for systematic study of the Bible and of the Christian Science textbook; it calls for opening one’s heart and mind to the love and the law of God. In the old Christian phrase, it means being born again.
How do you pray in Christian Science?
Prayer in Christian Science means the desire to let God’s will be done and knowing that God’s will is always good, always on the side of peace and joy and health and holiness. Prayer doesn’t merely plead with God; it acknowledges His presence and power, His perfect love and control. Prayer is something we don’t always have to put into words. In our churches we have silent prayer, as well as repeating the Lord’s Prayer aloud. It’s often the heart’s silent desire to find our true selfhood as the child of God that brings healing into our lives. There is a full discussion of this subject in the chapter entitled “Prayer” in Science and Health.
Do you just pretend that evil is unreal?
No, quite the contrary. We try to see through the gigantic pretense that evil puts up—its claim to be so real, so irresistible, so terrible, that it can overwhelm good and defeat God’s purpose for man and the universe. Jesus spoke of the devil as a liar and the father of lies, and evil is always a deceiver by nature—a false claimant to power.
How do you explain the suffering in the world?
Let’s start with a very simple analogy. A shuttered room may be in utter darkness, but throw open the shutters and the room is flooded with light. A person could spend weary hours sitting there in the dark, trying to understand and explain the nature of darkness, but his real need is to let in the light. So with the anguish, the loss and pain and waste of human life, all the crippling and imprisoning conditions that can seem to have such nightmare reality. Our need is never for an explanation that legitimizes these aspects of mortal existence. Our need is for the clear understanding of God’s omnipresence that dispels the claims of evil as light dissipates the terrors of the dark. Then we begin to understand Isaiah’s words: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” 10
Do Christian Scientists ignore the world’s problems?
Definitely not. This is readily apparent when you consider that we publish an international newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor, which reports and analyzes the world’s problems. Our other periodicals—the monthly Christian Science Journal, the weekly Christian Science Sentinel, and The Herald of Christian Science in various languages—deal with the problems of society and the individual from the standpoint of effective, healing prayer. In other words, Christian Scientists don’t ignore problems; they try to meet them with intelligence, courage, and the truth that heals.
What part does The Christian Science Monitor play in your outreach to the world?
It plays a very important part. The Monitor reaches more than 140 countries throughout the world. About half its subscribers are not Christian Scientists. Many of them are journalists, members of Congress or Parliament, judges, writers, school teachers—people of influence in public affairs and education. Also many plain people of all sorts read the Monitor, and it educates them to a wider concern for their fellow men—as well as giving them a newspaper they can trust. That’s our aim: to tell the news with clarity, incisiveness, and integrity. In the first issue of the paper, Mrs. Eddy wrote, “The object of the Monitor is to injure no man, but to bless all mankind.” 11
What does your church do for the community?
Its biggest contribution is its healing work—and by that we don’t mean only the healing of physical disease. We mean the healing of the fears and disorders and frustrations that plague the individual and the community. This kind of healing is the best way we can demonstrate that the Christ is always present in human affairs to satisfy men’s deepest needs and yearnings. If people learn, through healing, the infinite power of the Christ-spirit, they’re going to take this new sense of spiritual power and love out into their community activities. You’ll find Christian Scientists engaged in all sorts of community projects and humanitarian work—you might call it an overflow of their conviction of God’s loving care for all His children.
What does it do for young people?
If you listen to the testimonies given by young people in our churches, or read what they write in our periodicals, you may be struck by one thing: religion is something they spontaneously relate to their school studies, their social life, their sports, their temperamental hang-ups, their family problems and intellectual doubts. Not in a pious or preachy way, but as a vital source of joy and inspiration and healing. Our various youth activities aim to make religion practical in their lives.
What youth activities do you have?
Most important are our Sunday Schools; they lay a foundation for fruitful living. Then there are our college organizations, which are more than a youth activity since they include faculty members and others in the academic community. Through these Organizations the members are helped in their application of Christian Science to the problems of campus life. At headquarters in Boston, our youth divisions give constant care and attention to the needs of young Christian Scientists all over the world. From time to time, regional conferences in various countries and large-scale conferences in Boston bring together thousands of students to share their experiences and inspiration.
What does Christian Science teach about marriage, birth control, divorce?
It teaches that the moral code rooted in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount is in no way outmoded. A chapter on Marriage in Science and Health sets a very high standard for Christian Scientists. Matters of family planning are left to the decision of the individual couples involved. Divorce may sometimes be the only legal and moral means for resolving what has become an intolerable situation, but Christian Scientists are encouraged to work and pray just as hard to bring healing to a failing marriage as they would to bring it to a failing body.
How does Christian Science help to solve problems like racism, poverty, war?
You might say that it points to the root error from which these destructive ills arise. This error, as we see it, is the belief that man is cut off from God—that he is a finite mortal, the product of random material forces. From this belief, accepted as the basis of thought and action, come all the things that divide us, all the limitations and barriers of human life. But as one learns to accept his spiritual unity with God—the infinitely loving Father of us all—this begins to unfold his true unity with his fellow men. Then follows the gradual healing of those elements of thought—like selfishness, pride, and intolerance—which lie behind racial and economic injustice and cause war. As a person’s affections become more unselfed and universal, he’s also led to support enlightened human measures to combat the ills of society. Christian Scientists participate as individuals in all sorts of activities directed toward this end. And the Monitor keeps them well aware of the world’s needs!
Is your religion changing with the times?
Basic truth doesn’t change. Our life-styles may change. Some of the ways we present our religion may change. But God is still God, man is still God’s image and likeness, and the Truth lived by Jesus is just as true and vivid as when he said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.” 12
What are your church services like?
We have music and Bible readings and silent prayer and the Lord’s Prayer. Then we have what is called a Lesson-Sermon—passages from the Bible and Science and Health on special subjects. These are read aloud by two Readers. Christian Scientists study this Lesson-Sermon individually during the week and try to put it into practice. Then on Sunday they share its inspiration together in a public service. On Wednesday evening there are also meetings at which people tell of healings and guidance they’ve received through Christian Science.
Why don’t you have ministers?
Mrs. Eddy ordained the Bible and Science and Health to be the pastor of her church. The Readers who read from these two books at the Sunday services are elected for that purpose by the members of each branch church from their own congregation. Christian Science practitioners, who carry on the healing ministry of Christian Science, are also lay members of our denomination who have given evidence of their fitness for this work. In a very real sense, we are a church of laymen.
Who was Mary Baker Eddy?
Mrs. Eddy is usually known as the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. She was born in New Hampshire in 1821, grew up in a devout Congregational family, and always had a great love of God and the Bible. In 1866 she was healed of a severe injury, as she read the account of one of Jesus’ healings in the New Testament. This led to her discovery of what she came to understand as the Science of Christianity. Later she wrote the Christian Science textbook and many other books. Over the rest of her life she established the Church of Christ, Scientist, and founded its various periodicals and activities. Before she passed on in 1910—in her ninetieth year—the religion she founded had spread to many other countries and Mrs. Eddy was generally recognized as one of the most remarkable religious figures of modern times.
Was there anything unusual or miraculous in Mrs. Eddy’s life?
Like other religious leaders in history, Mrs. Eddy had a revolutionary experience that could be called “unusual.” This was the overwhelming conviction that came to her at the time of her healing in 1866 that God and His perfect spiritual creation are the only realities. But the healing itself she didn’t regard as a miracle, though it may have been unusual. Instead, she saw it as completely in line with God’s law. For the next 45 years she explored and taught Christian healing on exactly that basis. Of course, it might be considered miraculous that a woman of her day could found and establish a worldwide religion.
Why do you call her your Leader?
For the same reason the children of Israel looked on Moses as their leader. He led them out of captivity in Egypt. Mrs. Eddy’s writings are leading thousands of people out of bondage to materialism and into spiritual freedom. As they follow her leadership, they find themselves becoming deeper and truer disciples of Christ Jesus. Mrs. Eddy herself has written, “Follow your Leader, only so far as she follows Christ.” 13
Does her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures replace the Bible for you?
No, it provides us with a “key” to the Scriptures—and a key doesn’t replace the door it opens. Christian Scientists study the Bible more than most people do because Science and Health has made it so wonderfully alive and practical to them. The first tenet of Christian Science reads: “As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life.” 14 Both the Bible and Science and Health are available in all Christian Science Reading Rooms.
How is your church governed today?
Mrs. Eddy wrote and published a small book of By-Laws for the Church. This book, which is called the Manual of The Mother Church, might be termed the constitution of our movement. The provisions of the Manual are administered by a Board of Directors, who appoint the chief officers of The Mother Church. The branch churches, on the other hand, choose their officers by election from their own members for limited terms of office. In a way, this is a little like the federal system of government. The central authority of The Mother Church is counterbalanced by the democratic self-government of the branch churches. It’s a system we find very satisfactory.
1) Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 497: 2) ibid., p. 313: 3) Manual of The Mother Church by Mrs. Eddy, p. 17: 4) Acts 17:28: 5) Science and Health, p. 587: 6) Christian Science Hymnal, No. 298: 7) See Heb. 11:6: 8) See Matt. 17:19-21; 9) A Century of Christian Science Healing (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1966); 10) lsa. 9:2; 11) The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany by Mrs. Eddy, p. 353: 12) Mark 13:31; 13) Message for 1902, p. 4: 14) Science and Health, p. 497.