|Doctrines|| ||Christian Science is based on a very different perception of God and reality than that of traditional Christianity. Rather than believing God to be the Creator of the material world, Christian Scientists regard God as all pervading Spirit or Mind who alone is real. Matter, evil, disease, pain, and death are illusions created by the limitations of the human mind. |
Such a perception of being involves a radical reinterpretation of Jesus' life and ministry. Jesus is not seen as the incarnate Son of God whose death on the cross atoned for humanity's sins. Instead, he is viewed as one whose perfect obedience to God enabled him to transcend the illusion of sin and suffering. Through following Christ's example of yielding to divine Mind the individual can be released from death and suffering.
|History|| ||Christian Science was founded by Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910). After years of suffering ill health through a spinal illness she sought the help of a man named Phineas P. Quimby whose helaing techniques involved the use of mesmerism and basic psychology. She was so impressed by her apparent recovery that she came to believe that Quimby had rediscovered the healing method of Jesus.|
The turning point in her life came in February in 1866, a month after Quimby's death, when she slipped on an icy pavement and badly hurt her back. A few days after the accident, while reading the story of the healing of the paralytic in Matthew's Gospel, she instantly recovered her health.
Inspired by the belief that her healing was the result of a spiritual awakening to God she embarked on the life of a spiritual healer. The priciples behind her beliefs were published in 1875 as Science and Health, later revised as Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. By 1879 she had a large enough following to establish the Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1889 Mrs Eddy retired from leading the church in Boston, which enabled her to devote her time to revising Science and Health. She died in 1910 aged eighty-nine.
With the death of Mrs Eddy the church came under the control of five self-perpetuating directors who had been appointed by her. Under their leadership the church first grew rapidly. However, since 1931 the number of practitioners (those trained in the healing techniques of Science and Health) has declined, as has church membership in more recent decades. Services today operate in the same way as they did during Mrs Eddy's life. They are led by two readers, one who reads passages from the Bible and one who reads correltive passages from Science and Health. The same lesson is read on Sunday in every Christian Science Church throughout the world.
|Symbols|| ||Church services are very simple and without ornamentation or symbolism. There is no rite of baptism, and bread and wine are not served during communion services. Communionis taken to be the union of God through prayer, and baptism the continual presence of regeneration. The only distinctive emblem belonging to the Christian Science Church is the cross and crown surrounded by a verse from the Bible, which is found on every copy of science and health.|
|Adherents|| ||It is very difficult to estimate with accuracy the number of adherents since the church does not give out membership statistics. Consequently, estimates of the number of adherents varies considerably. One source places it at 475,000 and declining (Melton, 1986 26). Another places it at 1,500,000 (Harris et al., 1994 59 ).|
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