Common Misconceptions About Christian Science, Answered

Common Misconceptions About Christian Science, Answered

Christian Science is a cult that was created by a science fiction author, right? Um…wrong.

Many people have never heard of Christian Science. Those who have often don’t understand it. But those who dig a little deeper often find their preconceived notions false. Let’s explore together!

1. Christian Science is not Scientology.

Thanks to their similar names, many people think Christian Science is the same thing as Scientology. While the two religions do share five letters, they otherwise have almost nothing in common. Scientology was founded by author L. Ron Hubbard in 1954. Christian Science was founded by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879 after discovering its key ideas in 1866, spending about ten years of careful prayer and study, and publishing the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures in 1875. Christian Science is Bible-based and seeks to restore the healing practice of the early Christian Church prior to 300 AD. It closely adheres to the teachings of Christ Jesus and the other spiritual leaders of the Bible. We won’t speak to Scientology’s practices here, as we don’t want to falsely interpret their ideas. But it’s safe to say that Christian Science and Scientology have almost nothing in common.

2. Christian Scientists do not worship Mary Baker Eddy.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, is often a controversial figure. In hindsight, it’s easy to see that this was due in large part to the fact that she, a woman, dared to start an international church, publish seventeen books, and start four periodicals in an era when women couldn’t even vote. Mrs. Eddy drew the ire of muckrakers, misogynists, and other members of the patriarchy during her career, but that doesn’t change the effect that she had on the world. Today some people think that Christian Scientists revere her almost to the point of worship. This is not true. We respect Mrs. Eddy and are grateful to her as the founder of our faith, much in the same way that Lutherans respect Martin Luther or Methodists respect John Wesley. But Mrs. Eddy herself was very clear that she did not want to be considered in any way divine or superior to any other person. She vehemently denied that she was the second Christ when asked by a reporter, and actively avoided attending services at the Christian Science Mother Church in Boston to avoid the development of a cult of personality.

3. Christian Scientists are not forbidden to go to doctors.

Yes, healing is the cornerstone of the Christian Science faith, and most Christian Scientists choose prayer as their first line of defense in any situation, whether it be medical or otherwise. Christian Scientists do this because prayer really works for them. There have been about 80,000 recorded, verified healings, often of conditions diagnosed by the medical establishment as incurable, throughout the history of Christian Science (yes, even today!), along with many more that were not recorded. But, there is no rule or mandate from the church that forbids Christian Scientists from seeking medical treatment, and churches continue to lovingly support Christian Scientists who make that choice. The decision between traditional medical treatment and Christian Science treatment is a completely individual choice for members.

4. Christian Scientists do not give Science and Health precedence over the Bible.

Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures is the Christian Science textbook, written by Mary Baker Eddy in 1875. It expands on the ideas of the Bible and clarifies its teachings into the system of beliefs called Christian Science. However, Christian Scientists still consider the Bible to be the Holy Book. In fact, Christian Scientists put so much importance on the Bible that it, along with Science and Health, is considered Christian Science’s only pastor – that’s right, Christian Science churches do not have an ordained clergy. Selections from the two books are assembled into a lesson sermon months ahead of time by a central committee in Boston, and the same lesson sermon is read by elected congregation members in every single one of the about 2,000 Christian Science churches worldwide.

However, Christian Scientists don’t take every part of the Bible literally. The first tenet of Christian Science states that Christian Scientists “take the inspired word of the Bible as [their] sufficient guide to eternal life” (Manual of the Mother Church, p. 15). Christian Scientists seek the deeper spiritual meaning of all parts of the Bible. For example, Christian Science sees the first chapter of Genesis as the true account of creation, and the second as an allegory.

5. Christian Scientists don’t do science experiments in church.

This was one of the more entertaining misconceptions I have heard. No, there are no chemistry experiments during the service! Christian Science’s name can sometimes confuse people. Christian Scientists believe that the system of healing that Christ Jesus originally taught was in fact a demonstrable, repeatable science, based on the divine laws of God. Hence, the term “Christian Science.” That’s not to say that many Christian Scientists aren’t scientists in the traditional sense. But usually, mainstream science doesn’t spill over into Christian Science church services.

6. Reading Rooms are not churches.

You may have seen a Christian Science Reading Room at a downtown location in a city near you, or even in your own hometown. Some people think these are churches. This is not the case. A Reading Room is a bookstore and study space where Christian Scientists and the general public can purchase CS literature, prayerfully study, or read the lesson. The Christian Science Monitor, an international newspaper run by the church that has won seven Pulitzer Prizes, can also be purchased at reading rooms. Originally founded by Mrs. Eddy (at the ripe age of 88) to combat yellow journalism in the early 1900s, the Monitor is known for optimistic, unbiased, non-alarmist news reporting, and is considered one of a handful of “national newspapers” in the United States. The Monitor’s mission has always been to provide a balanced, realistic view of world affairs. While the newspaper chooses to shed light on positive aspects of world news, it does not gloss over world problems or pretend that nothing bad is happening; in fact, the Monitor was one of the first newspapers to expose the nature of the Nazis’ rise to power in the 1930s. Christian Science churches are quite similar to those of other denominations, featuring a main auditorium, a Sunday School, and other ancillary rooms including board space and a childcare space. Christian Science churches feature a wide range of architectural styles, but the majority of them are neoclassical (Greco-Roman), Georgian (colonial), or modernist in style. Evanston has one historic Christian Science church and one currently functioning one. First Church of Christ, Scientist, Evanston, is located downtown near several other churches. You have probably seen its impressive front portico. That church is functioning as Nichols Concert Hall of the Chicago Music Institute and is not currently a Christian Science Church. Second Church of Christ, Scientist, Evanston, is located off Central street and meets for worship at 10:30 AM on Sundays and 7:30 PM on Wendesdays. The most well-known Christian Science church is The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston (pictured,) which is also known as “The Mother Church” and serves as Christian Science’s headquarters. The Mother Church seats five thousand people, and includes one of the world’s largest pipe organs, with over 13,700 pipes.

7. Christian Scientists are not fanatical cult members.

Some people who don’t know much about Christian Science think that it is a cult with fanatical members closed off from society. This could not be farther from the truth. Cults usually feature a central leader who demands total obedience from members and typically cuts off involvement with the outside world. Christian Science has no such central leader, and readers in Christian Science branch churches are democratically elected by congregations, with set term limits. Readers in CS Churches typically serve about three years. The Mother Church has a Board of Directors that is appointed by the previous Board, but there is no central leader like a pope or patriarch.  The study of Christian Science is very individual, with each Christian Scientist doing his or her own best to work out a personal understanding of God. Christian Science is a quite normal Christian denomination with members involved in every aspect of the community. Christian Scientists are involved in Government, industry, law, scientific fields, entertainment, and the arts. You might be surprised to hear that a number of well-known people were/are Christian Scientists, including actor Ginger Rodgers and bandleader Kay Kyser. Any Christian Scientist is more than happy to talk to you about his or her faith, and Christian Science Churches and Reading Rooms are always open to visitors with questions.

8. Yes, Christian Science is Christian.

Some people say Christian Science is not Christian, owing to its unique viewpoint on certain aspects of the Scriptures. But here’s the facts. Christian Scientists believe in one all-powerful, all-loving God who created everything in the universe and is wholly good. They acknowledge Jesus as God’s son, and believe in the virgin birth and the resurrection (however, Christian Scientists do not believe that Jesus was God, which Jesus himself affirmed multiple times in the New Testament). Christian Scientists believe in all of Jesus’ so-called “miracles,” although they believe them to be natural expressions of God’s law and not supernatural or miraculous occurrences. Christian Scientists take to heart Jesus’ command to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons” (Matthew 10:8), which can be found on the seal of the Christian Science Church. Christian Scientists, though they don’t believe that Jesus was God, see him as the highest possible human example, the “way-shower.” Jesus is seen as a great teacher who first brought the light of Christ to the world in its complete form. Christ is seen as the idea that Jesus taught, while Jesus was a man who lived in the first century. However, it is impossible to fully explain the Christian Science viewpoint on the nature of God in one paragraph; that would be like trying to explain calculus in five minutes. Our CSO would be happy to answer deeper questions about the Christian Science perspective on God and the role of Jesus.

9. Christian Science is not “faith healing.”

Yes, Christian Scientists rely on prayer for healing. But this prayer does not include rituals, laying on of hands, anointment with water or oils, chanting, or desperate appeals to God. It is not predicated on the idea that God has chosen to send a disease and can choose to take it back if begged convincingly enough. It is not based on the idea that Jesus will descend from the heavens and heal somebody. And it certainly isn’t based on blind faith. Christian Science prayer is a silent affirmation of God’s unchanged spiritual laws, an acknowledgement of man’s already perfect state, and a lifting of thought to the point where one can clearly hear the “still, small voice” of God. Christian Scientists do not pray to change a bad situation or to heal a disease- they seek to reach a higher understanding that the bad situation or the disease never existed in the first place. As with Christian Science’s views on Jesus and God, it is impossible to adequately convey the experience of Christian Science prayer in a paragraph, but Christian Science prayer is a very holy, uplifting, individualized experience that moves beyond repetition of certain words into a deeply spiritual, rational sense of the divine. Christian Scientists do not believe that it is ever God’s will for somebody to suffer or die. In fact, Christian Scientists don’t even believe in a place called Hell. Christian Scientists believe that heaven and hell are states of mind and that sin, which many Christian Scientists think of as “missing the mark,” is forgiven as soon as it is destroyed, and that man is forever innocent and loved in God’s eyes. Is this healing really effective, or are Christian Scientists crazy? Well, there are hundreds of thousands of documented healings in Christian Science of everything under the sun. Many supposedly “incurable” conditions including tuberculosis, polio, cancer, alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, diabetes, mental illness, and Alzheimer’s disease have been permanently healed in Christian Science by applying the same ideas that Jesus used to heal. These healings are published in Christian Science periodicals such as the Sentinel, Journal, andHerald, and they have to be verified by three people before they are published. A great number of these healings also include verification or an initial diagnosis from the medical establishment. In fact, Christian Science’s early growth was due in large part to the fact that many people were saved from deaths’ door by Christian Science after the medical establishment had completely given up on them. Christian Science healing also extends to difficult financial situations, protection in wartime or against crime, and relationship issues. If anyone ever tells you that Christian Science healing is fake, read the numerous accounts yourself and make your own decision.

10. Christian Scientists aren’t asking for the right to “do nothing.”

In line with the misconception above, some people think that Christian Scientists seek exemption from medical legal mandates because they don’t want to be cured or they don’t want to do anything about a medical condition because they believe it’s God’s will for them to suffer. This could not be farther from the truth. Christian Science is not “positive thinking” or “mind over matter,” and Christian Scientists are not Pollyannas who walk about in complete denial. Christian Scientists acknowledge that evil seems to be a reality that needs to be dealt with in our experience, but rather than “fighting fire with fire,” Christian Scientists seek to destroy this seeming evil through the knowledge of good’s supremacy and allness. Christian Scientists do not hate doctors or the medical establishment. In fact, we have the exact same mission- to heal people! Christian Scientists just go about it a different way, and ask for their Constitutional religious rights to do so. Christian Science prayer is not “doing nothing.” It is a very active process of “knowing the truth” that brings about healing, often quite rapidly. That said, Christian Scientists are also careful to follow, laws, and, in cases where exemptions are not given, do follow legal healthcare obligations. Mrs. Eddy herself instructed Christian Scientists to always follow the law.


So there you have it! 10 common misconceptions. All of them wrong. We’re not weird. We’re not fanatical. We’re not unreasonable. And we are Christian. If you ever want to know more about Christian Science, please feel free to contact us at



Posted by William Whittenbury on April 11, 2016


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