Cults in Culture: Christian Science – A Deadly Religion (Part 7)
A multipart series on religious groups commonly associated with Christianity
A deadly religion is passing off as “Christian” and has been for more than a century. Not just spiritual death, but literal death as well; hundreds of people have died as a result of disease untreated because a Christian Scientist will tell you, sickness is only an illusion.
“Christian Science is one of the few religions in the world that contains a core teaching that is often deadly when put into practice,” James Beverley writes in The Nelson’s Illustrated Guide To Religions.
“Quiet carnage is a part of the Christian Science culture,” stated Linda Kramer, a former member who is now a born-again believer, in the article, “Christian Science: Attempting a Comeback.”
That culture is in fact, a cult, apologists say, and different from Christianity in every way.
“Christian Science deserves the title of cult since it departs from plain Bible teaching on major doctrines and the movement also adopts a potentially deadly view of how to deal with sickness,” Beverley, professor of Christian Thought and Ethics at Tyndale University, said in an email to The Christian Post.
Craig Branch, director of the Apologetics Research Center, agrees, saying that although Christian Science claims “to be the true understanding of Christianity,” “they have a different God, a different Jesus, a different authority, a different gospel, different salvation.”
Former member Kramer tells of her experience as a Christian Scientist in her book, Perfect Peril: Christian Science and Mind Control. She, too, says the doctrines are far different than evangelical Christianity.
“Nearly every central [Christian Science] doctrine – in its concept of God, of Jesus’ identity and mission, of judgment and salvation and of the Trinity,” she writes, listing different theologies between Christian Science and evangelical Christianity. “Is Christian Science a cult? In a word – yes.”
The book describes Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy’s life and the fall that spurred the inception of Christian Science in the late 1800s.
According to church history, Eddy “discovered” Christian Science in 1866 after she slipped on a patch of ice and was severely injured. She was expected to die, but turned to the Bible and was healed. Eddy claimed she was “revived” from her near-death state, and then, a believer will tell you, she went on a 3-year journey to receive the fundamentals of Christian Science from God.
In Christian Science, “matter is an illusion. It’s pantheistic – followers ‘evolve’ to become one with God, and there is only one reality, which is God is good,” Branch told the CP.
Eddy, the “Revelator,” takes the place of Jesus Christ in revealing the truth to followers.
“Mrs. Eddy repeatedly taught that matter is not real and that sin, disease and death are only illusions,” Beverley writes in his book.
Indeed, Eddy herself in Science and Health, a book considered by Christian Scientists to be divinely inspired and infallible, said, “There is no life, truth intelligence nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-All.”
In fact, every Christian Science service begins with those words.
“Man is incapable of sin, sickness and death,” according to Science and Health. “God or good never made man capable of sin.”
Therefore, by overcoming these illusions, man can be healed from disease and any “evil” behavior.
“If evil is unreal, then hell does not exist,” Kramer’s book adds. Instead of heaven or hell, followers attempt to achieve a higher “plane of existence.”
“Heaven and hell are states of mind,” Kramer told CP in an interview. “The big ‘carrot’ is spiritual healing – perfection – it promises you can never experience illness again.”
Christian Science “practitioners” aid followers in overcoming sickness and negativity. Once a follower “realizes the bad things happening are not real” but illusion, he or she can become perfect and sinless.
“Any problem you can think of can be remedied through the kind of prayer that turns everything over to God,” Sheila Smith, member of the Christian Science Society in St. George, Utah, said in a Nov. 12 article in The Spectrum & Daily News. Smith said she has experienced “about 40 years-worth” of this kind of healing.
“When the little things, like menstrual cramps, or colds, get better with time, they think it works,” said Kramer.
“It’s ‘mystical manipulation,’” she said. “Any cult leader is going to twist things to make them seem supernatural.”
Eddy “was very concerned about mental malpractice,” Kramer said. “Mental malpractice is someone’s negative thoughts can cause me to have illness, which is the ‘animal magnetism’ Eddy believed caused her near-death.”
“If you mention my cold, then you are mentally malpractice me,” causing the illness, said Kramer. “Eddy believed her third husband Asa was mentally murdered with arsenic that was mentally administered.”
“They don’t understand a lot of their bodies,” she said, which leads them to refuse medical treatment and leave illness untreated.
Beverley noted that “Christian Science is one of the few religious groups that has a deadly component or potential at its core.”
“The denial of the reality of physical disease and sickness has led … parents to keep their sick children from proper medical care. This sometimes results in death.”
Adults have died too, Kramer said. “It’s the history of little things that do get ‘cured’ – menstrual cramps, headaches – then you get cancer and think the same thing will happen.”
Fred Miller, director of True Light Education Ministry, which holds educational courses for Christians on cults, said he even saw his best friend die.
“When I was 14, my best friend at the time had appendicitis. His parents were Christian Scientists and his appendix burst and he died,” he said.
Miller also told of a less life-threatening event, where a grown man thought he was blind for several years because he wouldn’t visit an optometrist to get glasses.
“When I told him to put a pair of glasses on, he saw how deceived he was, and I got him into a Christian church,” he said.
Death and sickness are probably the cause of the significant drop in numbers recently, Miller said, though the religion attracted many big thinkers and celebrities at its peak in the early 1900s.
“It’s a dying religion,” he said “They’re dying out because they’re dying off. They don’t realize that at this point.”
“With modern medicine, it’s not attracting many.”
Kramer agreed. “It’s a dying religion, definitely. Right now we’re seeing a drop because a whole generation of baby boomers who were raised in Christian Science are now leaving the church.”
That’s why it’s so important to still try to reach these people, both Miller and Kramer stressed.
“There’s a massive generation of people who are left, and now spiritually, where are they? They’ve been damaged by it, they’re seeking answers everywhere,” Kramer said.
It may be dropping in numbers, but it’s trying to make a comeback, she warned.
“The Bible teaches that the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to help the one,” Miller said. “It’s extremely important to reach Christian Scientists – if we miss the one we’re not doing what God has instructed us.”
Kramer herself left the church in 1985, and accepted Christ as her Savior. “Salvation is basically what got me out of Christian Science. I saw that Christian Science contradicted the Bible. Then I had to decide between the two and I chose the Bible,” she told CP.
Because they use the Bible as a text – though passages are out of context – Kramer said it’s difficult to witness to them.
In witnessing, “A lot of it is to listen to what they say and help them realize the real context and reality, instead of changing the meaning. A switch to using a non-King James Version helps.”
She gives other tips in her article, "Attempting a Comeback."
“When discussing Christianity with Christian Scientists, remember ... Devout Christian Scientists have a deep love for God, Jesus and the Bible (as they understand them),” Kramer writes. “Christian Scientists often sound quite knowledgeable about the Bible. Remember that much of their Bible knowledge consists of partial verses taken out of context and assigned new, ‘spiritualized’ meanings.
“Ask them to define their terms when they quote the Bible. … When they quote verses out of context, challenge them to look at those verses along with the verses before and after them,” she writes.
Point out the differences between what the Bible really says and what Mary Baker Eddy says, she advises believers. Also, point out that healing occurs even in non-Christian Science Churches, “including those that do not emphasize ‘faith healing,’” the former Christian Scientist advised.
“Healings do not prove that one religion is the truth because healings occur in many religions. … Don’t be intimidated by the more than 50,000 authenticated testimonies of healing’ … this figure represents roughly one documented healing per ten Christian Scientists per lifetime,” she continues.
Beverley agreed, “We need to truly understand the Christian Science worldview and realize how deeply members are devoted to the ideology of Mrs. Eddy.”
Apologists agree it’s wise to mention the differences in your beliefs versus their own understanding.
“Many illnesses are real (not illusion). Placebos are also real,” Branch said.
Further, “When appropriate, respectfully discuss significant differences in doctrine. Focus on historic biblical perspectives about God, Jesus Christ and salvation. Establish the reality of sin, disease and death,” Tal Davis advises in his article on Christian Science at 4Truth.net, an extension of the North American Mission Board.
And Miller advised, “Evangelize based on their experience. Don’t start with telling them what you believe is right.”
Above all, establish a relationship with the follower. “We’re called to care enough about them to share with them,” Branch said. “First Corinthians 9:16-24 says ‘Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible’ (verse 19).”
“To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law (verse 20),” he said.
“It’s learning how to communicate in ‘Christian Science-ese’ to reach them on their level,” Branch said. “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some (1 Cor. 9:22).”
Editors’ note: This is the seventh story in a multi-part series examining cults, Christianity and belief systems that claim to be Christianity. The Christian Post will be looking at several belief systems that are commonly associated with Christianity and providing expert opinions and research on those belief systems. While the CP recognizes the issue of semantics when using the words “cult,” and “Christianity,” for our purposes, we are defining those belief systems outside of Christianity whose proponents claim to be Christian to be "cults."
Correction: Friday, December 16, 2011:
An article on Thursday, December 15, 2011, about the Christian Science Church incorrectly stated that Dr. Phineas B. Quimby helped Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy after she slipped on ice and nearly died. Eddy was a student of Quimby, but he was not involved in her near death experience. Eddy also went on a 3-year journey, rather than a 3-day journey, to realize the fundamentals of Christian Science. It took three days for Eddy to heal, but three years for her to realize the fundamentals of her religion. Eddy is not considered god, but is understood by followers to reveal God’s “truth.” And Asa Eddy is Mary Baker Eddy’s third husband, not her son.