Eddy Establishes the Christian Science Movement Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

In 1875, Mary Baker Eddy published the first edition of Science and Health, a book stating her unique theology. Science and Health put forward a religious system that became the basis of the movement known as Christian Science.

Summary of Event

The Church of Christ, Scientist (commonly known as Christian Science) developed duirng the late 1870’s, beginning as a religious movement before it became an official organization. The movement was established by the publication of Science and Health on October 30, 1875. The book, published by Mary Baker Glover (who would become Mary Baker Eddy when she married Asa Gilbert Eddy fourteen months later) laid out the principles of its author’s religious system. In 1876, the Christian Scientist Association was founded; it was later chartered as the Church of Christ, Scientist, in 1879. Christian Science Christianity;Christian Science Science and Health (Eddy) Eddy, Mary Baker [kw]Eddy Establishes the Christian Science Movement (Oct. 30, 1875) [kw]Establishes the Christian Science Movement, Eddy (Oct. 30, 1875) [kw]Christian Science Movement, Eddy Establishes the (Oct. 30, 1875) [kw]Movement, Eddy Establishes the Christian Science (Oct. 30, 1875) Christian Science Christianity;Christian Science Science and Health (Eddy) Eddy, Mary Baker [g]United States;Oct. 30, 1875: Eddy Establishes the Christian Science Movement[4810] [c]Religion and theology;Oct. 30, 1875: Eddy Establishes the Christian Science Movement[4810] Quimby, Phineas Parkhurst Dresser, Julius Arens, Edward

Eddy traced the movement’s origins to 1866, when she experienced what was, by all accounts, a miraculous cure from a fall that had left her near death. While reading the Bible, Bible;and Christian Science[Christian Science] she had discovered the true meaning of the Gospel and was suddenly restored to health. In the days following her recovery, she began an intense study of healing in the Bible and devoted herself to studying, writing, healing, and, finally, to organizing and leading a church.

Since childhood, Mary Baker Eddy had suffered from chronic invalidism and various physical complaints, and as an adult, she suffered many personal losses. She struggled to understand how a good and omnipotent God could allow suffering and pain in the world and reasoned that if God created matter, then God would be responsible for suffering, which she found to be an unacceptable conclusion. After her accident, she had a new understanding that the only reality is spiritual. God could not have created evil, because God is spirit, or divine mind, and God’s Creation was therefore completely spiritual, not physical.

Eddy deduced that disease Diseases;and Christian Science[Christian Science] resulted from a false belief in a material universe. Jesus Jesus Christ [p]Jesus Christ;and Christian Science[Christian Science] had become like God and had been able to heal through the power, or mind, of God, because he had understood the nature of God. The true Gospel had been lost to the church over the years through error and misunderstanding, but all people could become like God, just as Jesus was like God, through a correct understanding. Eddy called this “rediscovery” of primitive Christianity, with its power to heal, Christian Science. Science and Health contained all the doctrine her followers would need to understand it.

Boston’s Mother Church of Christian Science at the end of the nineteenth century.

(Library of Congress)

In 1878, Eddy began leading services in Lynn, Massachusetts, and she gave sermons at the Baptist Tabernacle in Boston. She attracted a large following, and by 1879, the members of the Christian Scientist Association voted to form the Church of Christ, Scientist. Eddy was ordained pastor of the church in 1881 and moved to Boston. That same year, she opened the Massachusetts Metaphysical College, where she taught faith healing. The success of Christian Science practitioners created numerous converts to the movement. In 1886, the National Christian Science Association (NCSA) was formed.

Hostile critics sought to discredit Eddy and her movement through public meetings and sensational newspaper attacks. Protestant clergy accused her of using apparently Christian language to create an entirely different religion. She was denounced by the medical community and rival mental healers, and many of her followers defected. The so-called Quimby controversy plagued the movement for years. A former student, Edward Arens Arens, Edward , who had instigated a number of disastrous lawsuits on Eddy’s behalf and later turned on her, together with the founder of New Thought New Thought movement , Julius Dresser Dresser, Julius , began a campaign in 1883 to establish Phineas Parkhurst Quimby Quimby, Phineas Parkhurst as the founder of Christian Science. Quimby was a mental healer from Portland, Maine, who had successfully treated both Dresser and Eddy in 1862 and had become their mentor.

Dresser accused Eddy of stealing Quimby’s ideas and plagiarizing his writings. Because Quimby had died in 1866 without publishing anything and his son refused to release the few writings in his possession, it was impossible for Eddy to prove her ideas were original. Although Eddy was influenced by Quimby, her Christian Science was primarily a religion, relying on spiritual power alone to heal. Quimbyism, by contrast, was a more general belief in mind over matter that might use religion, mesmerism, or any other form of mental influence to effect a physical cure.

In 1889, Eddy resigned as pastor of the Boston church in order to gain a firmer control over the movement. She formally disorganized the Church of Christ, Scientist, dissolved the National Christian Science Association, and closed the Massachusetts Metaphysical College. She focused on defining her doctrine more precisely and, in 1891, published a landmark fiftieth edition of Science and Health. Next, the church was formally reorganized, and the Mother Church, First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston was dedicated in 1895, the same year the Manual of the Mother Church, regulating all matters of worship and practice, was published.

In 1908, Eddy instructed the board of trustees of the Mother Church to launch a newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor Christian Science Monitor Journalism;Christian Science Monitor . It became a leading newspaper in the United States. The Church of Christ, Scientist, had almost 100,000 members when Mary Baker Eddy died in 1910.

Significance

Christian Science is one of several lasting religious movements, indigenous to the Americas, that continues to be both a respected religion and a politically powerful force with a significant international following. At a time when scientific materialism was seriously weakening Protestant Christianity, Christian Science answered the needs of many Christians who looked to the Scriptures for comfort and guidance but no longer accepted the literal interpretation of the Bible or believed in an angry God, predestination, or damnation. The movement revitalized the early Christian message of the power of faith to heal and contributed to the later rise of Protestant denominations, such as the Pentecostals, that stressed faith healing.

The use of faith healing, especially in normal obstetrics, provided an alternative to the inadequate and often harmful medical interventions of the late nineteenth century. On the other hand, the movement has caused intermittent public outcries and ongoing legal and ethical debates over health-related religious practices. It has become an accepted principle that Christian Scientists have the right to refuse medical treatment for themselves. The most prominent of the debates about religion and medicine, however, have involved the right of a parent to refuse medical treatment for a child based upon the parent’s religious beliefs. Ensuring a child’s right to medical care while respecting the parents’ right to practice their religion continues to be a serious concern.

Christian Science owes its origins to the intellectual and organizational skills of a relatively self-educated woman in a male-dominated society. Although Eddy was not a feminist, she was certainly liberated, and she gave equal roles to men and women in the Church of Christ, Scientist. Her example has empowered women who sought a voice in religious matters. The Christian Science Monitor, founded in 1908 under the auspices of the Church of Christ, Scientist, as a protest against the sensationalism of the popular press, is perhaps the most significant accomplishment of the movement. It has become one of the most respected newspapers in the United States.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Eddy, Mary Baker. Science and Health: With Key to the Scriptures. Boston: Writings of Mary Baker Eddy, 2000. Complete explanation of Christian Science by its founder and leader. Textbook for the study and practice of Christian Science.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fraser, Caroline. God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church. New York: Henry Holt, 1999. Critical view of the Christian Science movement by a former member.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gill, Gillian. Mary Baker Eddy. Reading, Mass.: Perseus Books, 1998. Extensive, well-researched biography by a non-Christian Scientist who had access to archives of The Mother Church. Includes helpful chronology and detailed notes.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gottschalk, Stephen. The Emergence of Christian Science in American Religious Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. First significant comparison of Christian Science to other American religious movements.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Henneman, Richard A. Persistent Pilgrim: The Life of Mary Baker Eddy. Etna, N.H.: Nebbadoon Press, 1997. The development of Christian Science, as well as Mary Baker Eddy’s personal story, is described by a former editor of the Christian Science Monitor.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Peel, Robert. Christian Science: Its Encounter with American Culture. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books, 1965.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. Mary Baker Eddy. 3 vols. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966, 1971, 1977. These two works represent the definitive history of the development of Christian Science and the most complete biography of its founder; written by a loyal Christian Science historian.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Twain, Mark. Christian Science. 1907. Reprint. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Facsimile reprint of Mark Twain’s scathing attack on Mary Baker Eddy contains some humorous passages, but it is most interesting as a statement against Christian Science written at a moment when both Eddy and her church were in the ascendant.

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Related Article in <i>Great Lives from History: The Nineteenth Century, 1801-1900</i>

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