Response to the article on Christian Science in the Encyclopaedia of Modern Religious Life in Russia.
While I understand – and appreciate – that the history of the development of Christian Science in Russia presented in the article on Christian Science in the Encyclopaedia of Modern Religious Life in Russia is fairly accurate, that accuracy is not repeated in the historical account of Christian Science generally. In particular it is unjust in its presentation of the life of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science Church and author of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. For that reason, we provide, in this brief space, pointers to a few of the corrections needed to the Encyclopaedia’s present article on Christian Science.
The information drawn upon for the history of Christian Science and the life of Mary Baker Eddy does not sufficiently evidence the balanced, scholarly approach for which the Keston Institute is deservedly well known, since – by its authors’ admission – the principal source used is a book which is by no means accurate or impartial in its rendition of Christian Science. This book Walter Martin’s Kingdom of the Cults – as its title suggests – sets out to denounce Christian Science and consistently misrepresents the life of Mrs Eddy in order to argue its case.
In 2003 The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Mankind was opened in Boston, Massachusetts, where all records of the writings of the Founder of Christian Science are available to the public. A recent book entitled Mary Baker Eddy by Gillian Gill, an independent scholar and author challenges much of the misinformation that has been broadly circulated by those who are skeptical of the claims of a religion that seeks to replicate the healing work of primitive Christianity, as exemplified in the works of Jesus and the early followers of Christ. Christian Science puts an emphasis on bringing a renewed sense of life and purpose, and moral and spiritual healing and regeneration, through the prayer and Christian living inspired by study of the Bible and its textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. The following review of Gillian Gill’s biography on Amazon.com gives a more balanced outline of Mrs Eddy’s life of consecration, as she herself puts it, “to relieve the sufferings of humanity by a sanitary system that should include all moral and religious reform” (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 30):
Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) rose, in mid-life, from poverty, illness, and obscurity to found the Christian Science Church, a national newspaper and to become one of the most influential women in America. The author places Mrs. Eddy in the context of 19th century American womanhood, portraying her as neither a saint nor a demon but a woman of extraordinary talents who overcame the repressive forces of society, jealousy, intrigue, and scandal. She shows us Mary Baker Eddy as a radical Christian thinker, pioneer in the recognition of mind/body connections, survivor of scandal, and target of both admiration and scorn from many eminent contemporaries. With access to closely guarded church archives, Gill presents a superb and balanced biography of one of America's most enigmatic religious leaders.
These “closely guarded church archives” are now available to the public in the aforementioned Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity.
It might be appropriate here to mention one glaring error in the Encyclopaedia, where it states, following the death of her husband, Mr Asa Eddy, “From then on, the already emotionally unstable and physically ill Mary Baker Eddy turned essentially into a cripple.” This is patently untrue and there is a vast amount of evidence to disprove this. Mrs Eddy lived a further 28 years, in good health compared to her earlier life of constant struggle with illness. This is evidenced by her impressive accomplishments during those later years – as healer, teacher, lecturer, religious leader and business woman, including founder of the remarkable newspaper The Christian Science Monitor.
It seems surprising that such a remarkable feature of The Church of Christ, Scientist as The Christian Science Monitor – an internationally renowned newspaper which has been published for almost 100 years without break – receives a write-up of just one line. The reputation of the newspaper for fair-minded and non-sensational journalism would have been unique in the annals of journalism even if it had been started by a businessman, but even more so as launched by a woman at a time when American women couldn’t even vote and rarely ran businesses, and when Mrs. Eddy was already 88 years of age. The Monitor is held in high esteem by journalists, politicians, and thought leaders in countries around the world for its balanced reporting. (It has received seven Pulitzer prizes.)
During her earlier life – before the discovery of Christian Science in 1866, – Mrs. Eddy was notably of poor health and unable to find permanent relief in medicines or alternatives, hence her search for what she saw as a dependable system of Christian healing. Fundamental to the growth of Christian Science into a world religion with churches in 80 countries is this practical application of the spiritual truths of the Bible, in particular the teachings and works of Jesus Christ. Healing through prayer alone, on this basis, is the core of Christian Science. Sadly this core feature of Christian Science is all but totally neglected in the Encyclopaedia article.
Unjust criticisms of the doctrines of Christian Science may best be answered by listing a brief exposition of the important points, or religious tenets, of Christian Science found in Science and Health:
1. As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life.
2. We acknowledge and adore one supreme and infinite God. We acknowledge His Son, one Christ; the Holy Ghost or divine Comforter; and man in God's image and likeness.
3. We acknowledge God's forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal. But the belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts.
4. We acknowledge Jesus' atonement as the evidence of divine, efficacious Love, unfolding man's unity with God through Christ Jesus the Way-shower; and we acknowledge that man is saved through Christ, through Truth, Life, and Love as demonstrated by the Galilean Prophet in healing the sick and overcoming sin and death.
5. We acknowledge that the crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection served to uplift faith to understand eternal Life, even the allness of Soul, Spirit, and the nothingness of matter.
6. 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.
We very much respect the aims and intentions of the Keston Institute, and hope that in time its representation of Christian Science can genuinely reflect its hard-earned reputation.