Question: "What is Christian Science?"

Christian Science was begun Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) who pioneered new ideas about spirituality and health. Inspired by her own experience of healing in 1866, Eddy spent years in Bible study, prayer, and research into various healing methods. The result was a system of healing she dubbed Christian Science in 1879. Her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, broke new ground in the understanding of the mind-body-spirit connection. She went on to found a college, a church, a publishing enterprise, and the respected newspaper, “The Christian Science Monitor.” Because of its similarity to other groups, many believe Christian Science to be a non-Christian cult.

Christian Science teaches that God—Father-Mother of all—is completely good and wholly spiritual and that all God's creation, including the true nature of every person, is the flawless spiritual likeness of the Divine. Since God’s creation is good, evils such as disease, death, and sin cannot be a part of fundamental reality. Rather, these evils are the result of living apart from God. Prayer is a central way to come closer to God and heal human ills. This differs from the Bible which teaches that man is born in sin inherited from Adam’s fall and that sin separates us from God. Without God’s saving grace through the death of Christ on the cross, we would never be healed of the ultimate sickness—sin.

Rather than teaching that Jesus heals our spiritual sickness (“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” [Isaiah 53:5]), Christian Scientists see Jesus’ ministry as their own paradigm for healing, believing it demonstrates the centrality of healing to salvation. Christian Scientists pray to realize more of the reality of God and God's love daily and to experience and help others experience the harmonizing, healing effects of this understanding.

For most Christian Scientists, spiritual healing is an effective first choice and, as a result, they turn to the power of prayer in lieu of medical treatment. Government authorities have occasionally challenged this approach, especially in certain circumstances where they have interpreted this as withholding medical treatment from minors. However, there is no church policy mandating members' health care decisions.

Christian Science has no ministers. Rather, the Bible and Science and Health act as pastor and preacher. Bible lessons are studied daily and read aloud on Sunday by two elected lay members of each local congregation. Churches also hold weekly testimonial meetings, at which congregation members relate experiences of healing and regeneration.

Eddy made Boston the headquarters of the church in 1881. In 1892, the church was named The First Church of Christ, Scientist, or The Mother Church; local churches are considered branches. The Christian Science Board of Directors runs The Mother Church and local branches function on a democratic basis. The Mother Church and its branches operate under the guidance of the Manual of the Mother Church by Mary Baker Eddy.