Western Religions: Christian Science (Part 1)

Christian Science membership is on the decline.  “Membership in the church has steadily declined since the 1930’s.  Mrs. Eddy forbade her followers from keeping an official membership tally.  The church estimates it has about 400,000 members worldwide, but independent studies puts membership around 100,000.  In the U.S., the number of churches has dwindled from about 1,500 ten years ago to 1,100 today” (Christian Science Healing, August 01, 2008, pbs.org).  “The number of Christian Scientists in the United States was 270,000 in 1936 (the last reliable public count).  Today, despite growth in the nation’s population, actual church membership in the U.S. could be down to 50,000 based on a steep drop in numbers of congregations and registered healers” (How Christian Science Became A Dying Religion by Alfred Siewers, thefederalist.com).


1.  Mary Baker Eddy – early and middle years.

Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) was born in Bow, New Hampshire in 1821.  Her parents were Mark and Abigail Baker.  She was the sixth child born to the family.    She was brought up in the Congregational Church.  She was troubled by Calvinism.  She wrote, “At the age of twelve, I was admitted to the Congregationalist (Trinitarian) church… When meeting was held for the examination of candidates for membership… I answered without tremor that never could I unite with the church if assent to this doctrine was essential thereto… To the astonishment of many the good clergyman… received me into their communion” (Mary Baker Eddy, Retrospection and Introspection, pp. 12-ff, archive.org).

She, for years, had a troubled existence.  (a) She was frequently seriously ill in childhood.  (b) Her favorite brother, Albert, died when she was 20 years old.  His kidneys failed.  (c) She was a widow before her 23rd birthday.  Her husband, George Washington Glover, died of yellow fever.  They had been married about a half a year.  She was pregnant.  She moved back home with her parents.  She became “an emotional and highly unstable invalid, who, throughout the remaining years of her life, relied from time to time upon the drug morphine as medication” (Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults).  (d) Her mother died when she was 28.  “The help that the young widow needed from her family in raising her child was not forthcoming after her mother’s passing in 1849, and because of Mary’s health continued to decline young George was eventually put in the hands of foster parents” (Mary Baker Eddy, werehistory.org).  (f) She had an unhappy second marriage.  She married Daniel Patterson, a dentist, in 1853, with the expectation that he would be able to provide a home for her son, but Dr. Patterson did not honor his promise to her in this regard (Mary Baker Eddy, daystarfoundation.org).  “In 1856 she was plunged into virtual invalidism after Patterson and her father conspired to separate her from her only child, a 12-year-old from her first marriage.  She would not see her son again for nearly 25 years, and they only met a few times thereafter” (Mary Baker Eddy, britannica.com).  She endured years of infidelity (daystarfoundation.org).  Patterson “abandoned her in 1866, and, after years of living apart she divorced him in 1873 on grounds of desertion” (The Life of Mary Baker Eddy, marybakereddylibrary.org). 

2.  Mary Baker Eddy – middle and later years.

Mary began a search for better health.  She experimented with homeopathy, vegetarianism, hydrotherapy, and other treatments (werehistory.org).  “Losing faith in medical systems based on materialistic premises, she hit on what some today would call the placebo effect.  Her conviction that the cause of the disease was rooted in the human mind… was confirmed by her contact from 1862 to 1865 with Phineas P. Quimby of Maine, a pioneer in what would today be called suggestive therapeutics” (britannica.com).  “Her health initially improved radically under his treatment, which included a combination of mental suggestion and what might now be called therapeutic touch, but she soon suffered relapse.  She returned to Quimby not only for treatment but also to learn more about his approach” (marybakereddy.org).

Mary slipped and fell on ice on February 01, 1866, at the corner of Oxford and Market streets in Lynn, Massachusetts.  Quimby had recently died.  She couldn’t turn to him.  “As she later told the story, doctors declared that there was no hope of recovery.  On the third day, however, she picked up her Bible, opened it to Matthew 9:2, and read the account of Jesus healing the sick.  She recovered instantly and grasp the central idea of what became a new religion: Christian Science” (werehistory.org).  She wrote of this, “The discovery came to pass in this way.  During the twenty years prior to my discovery I had been trying to trace all physical effects to a mental cause; and in the latter part of 1866 I gained the scientific certainty that all causation was mind, and every effect a mental phenomenon.  My immediate recovery from the effects of an injury cause by an accident… was the falling apple that led me to the discovery of how to be well myself, and how to make others so” (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 24, archives.org). 

Some question certain details of the accident and recovery.  (a) Dr. Alvin M. Cushing denied that she was in as serious of a condition as she later claimed (Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, p. 134).  (b) The recovery may not have occurred as quickly as later recounted.  She continued to be treated by Dr. Cushing.  She also sought treatment from Julius Dresser, a pupil of Quimby (ibid).  (c) She filed suit against the City of Lynn in the summer of 1866 claiming continued suffering as a result of the fall.  This suit was later dropped (Myths & Legends: The Fall on Ice, exchristianscience.com).

She began to study, teach, and write.  Science and Health (her major work) was published in 1875 The Church of Christ, Scientist was established in Boston in 1879 (Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 4, p. 562 © 1979).

Much of her writings may have been borrowed.  “Mrs. Eddy’s plagiarism of Quimby’s writings were well illustrated by The New York Times (June 10, 1904), which published parallel columns of Mrs. Eddy’s and Mr. Quimby’s writings” (Walter Martin, p. 128-ff).  She may have also borrowed from Lindley Murray and Francis Lieber (Walter Martin, p. 130-ff). 

She married her third husband in 1877.  His name was Asa Gilbert Eddy.  He was one of her students.     Asa died in 1882.  His death was said to be from coronary thrombosis.  Mary “contested the autopsy report and the physician she chose confirmed her conviction that Asa died of ‘arsenic poisoning mentally administered.’  Such a radical report prompted inquiry into the credentials of Mrs. Eddy’s physician Dr. C.J. Eastman… It was found that the ‘Doctor’ Eastman was running a virtual abortion mill, and had no medical credentials whatever to justify his title.  He was sentenced to ten years in prison upon his conviction” (Walter Martin, p. 127).  What is interesting about this is that she seems to discourage autopsies in Science and Health, saying, “Many a hopeless case of disease is induced by a single post mortem examination, …from the fear of the disease and from the image brought before the mind” (Science and Health, p. 196, christiansciencemedia.org).  Why have an autopsy if the material world is an illusion?


1.  The Bible

Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “The Bible has been my only authority.  I have no other guide in the ‘straight and narrow way’ of truth” (Science and Health, p. 126).

2.  Science and Health

She wrote, ‘I should blush to write of ‘Science and Health with Key to Scriptures’ as I have were it of human origin, and were I, apart from God, its author.  But, as I was only a scribe echoing the harmonies of heaven in divine metaphysics, I cannot be super-modest in my estimation of the Christian Science textbook” (The First Church of Christ Scientist and Miscellany, p. 115, googlebooks).  “A Christian Scientist requires my work Science and Health for his textbook, and so do all his students and patients.  Why?  …Because it is the voice of truth to this age” (Science and Health, p. 456).


About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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