Why the sun is setting on Christian Science

by
August 11th, 2019

Dave Petteys, a follower of Jesus since the 1990s and my colleague in hosting this website, recently jotted some thoughts about the deepening decline of Mrs. Eddy’s movement. I batted back my own reactions to each of his observations. Here’s our dialogue:

Dave Petteys: Having been raised in the Christian Science church, it’s sad in a way to watch it self-destruct. The latest long article about that from journalist and author Caroline Fraser gives full details.

John Andrews: Sad, yes, in terms of important experiences we both had and good people we’ve known who followed CS.  But also sadly welcome, in terms of this whole web of harmful falsehood that needs to pass from the scene—the sooner the better

DP: Even as a youngster, I witnessed the church do nothing for its young.  Any time anyone would try to do something, the “Monitor Youth Forum” or youth groups at the church, the elderly would grouse “it’s not in the Manual” and veto it.

JA: And I witnessed the same thing with my family’s effort to do youth ministry for Scientists through the Adventure Unlimited camps and chapters in the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s. Coldly rebuffed by the Boston hierarchy. To me it was an aspect of the inhumane, loveless absolutism CS teaches.

DP: Nor was there any organized body of instruction at the Sunday school to pass on to the next generation. It often seemed that teaching Sunday school was an onerous task assigned to the newer members as an initiation. It meant the least experienced Christian Scientists were the ones doing the teaching.

JA: Not always; I had some excellent Sunday school teachers. But the CS denial mentality had no more compassion for the young than it did for the elderly, the sick, the sinning, or the infirm.  As a kid, as a teen, there’s this eagerness for the world in all its glory. Science dismisses it as merely a dream. “Here’s a 600-page book on metaphysics, have at it.”

DP: So now as the movement shrinks, members dying off and churches closing, the only remnant will be a cadre of Mother Church officials in Boston managing and living off the huge endowment they still own.

JA: And ditto at Principia in St. Louis and Elsah, where an administrator blurted to reporters, “We’re richer than God—but running out of students.” Just the other day Principia announced it will begin admitting students who aren’t Christian Scientists at all.

DP: Theologically, the Christian Science church was established to “restore primitive Christian healing.” They go so far as to call Jesus “the first Christian Scientist.” No, he was God incarnate whose atoning death saved the world, something CS denies. Here on earth, Jesus’ mission was to bring “the Kingdom.” His healings were only supportive and ancillary to that.

JA: He warns at the close of the Sermon on the Mount that at the judgment some will say they did mighty works in his name, but he will reply, “I never knew you.” I think he’s warning against spiritual pride that assumes self-salvation—Christian Science in a nutshell. He wants us meek, poor in spirit.

DP: We so often heard church members refer to “the pivotal healing” (that brought them into the church). The downside is, of course, is that when a healing is NOT realized, then the faith is undone!

JA: CS also acts as if there’s no healing by prayer except with Mrs. Eddy’s method, her supposed “Key to the Scriptures.” Yet Christians all through centuries, Catholic and Protestant alike, have healed by prayer. The difference though, is that they see it as Jesus intended—one of the “things added” when you seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, sin forgiven, the new birth.

DP: The idea that a practitioner can conjure up the “healing power of Truth” and heal someone on command strikes me heresy. It’s magic, a manipulation of nature.  I don’t discount that there is faith healing. But it’s done only in accordance with God’s will, not the practitioner’s. Example: if you were a practitioner in the Egypt of the Exodus, praying against the ten plagues, you’d be in trouble, wouldn’t you? Something bigger was going on there—and is often going on in any illness.

JA: Suffering, struggle, sorrow, hardship, self-sacrifice, wilderness times, chastening—all have been part of God’s gracious provision for his people’s salvation and sanctification from Adam and Eve to John on Patmos to the martyrs of today. Christian Science completely misses that. It’s a fraud on the believer and a false portrayal of what the human condition is about.

DP: Exactly, and thus another mistaken CS article of faith is the “unreality of evil”. Such a doctrine overthrows millennia of sacred history along with everyone’s firsthand experience. To deny Satan exists is to allow him to have a field day with you. Then Mrs. Eddy oddly backtracks and talks about “malicious animal magnetism,” which is an element of the spiritual warfare the Church has been fighting forever.

JA: Satan, evil, and our own sin nature cannot be wished away. Attempting to do is spiritual suicide. For me, this realization came after blowing up my marriage. The man I saw in the mirror wasn’t “God’s perfect child.” He was reprehensible. For Katie Beim-Esche it was the horror of the 9/11 attacks. She went on to find Christ and now leads the Fellowship of Former Christian Scientists. For some CSers it’s the needless death of a beloved parent or child cruelly cut off from medical help.

DP: Tragic and avoidable. And then in Christian Science, there are no funerals.  To die is to fail to realize your healing, and no one wants to talk about it.  I can’t tell you how many times it was “what happened to so and so? I haven’t seen him for a while”   “Oh you didn’t hear?  He died six months ago.” So there is no sanctioned community support or comfort for loved ones left behind.

JA: Nor is there an accountability for the failures of the so-called “science” itself. Followers just go along telling each other that CS heals, CS works—except when it doesn’t. A genuine science is objectively verifiable, consistent, yielding replicable results. Eddyism is not.

DP: As the church members grow older, they continue to die off, to “fail to realize their healing”(as if all the members could live forever).  The children of these older members see them refuse medical care and die sooner than they might have. Who knows?  Would they have lived longer—a few months?  A year or three?

JA: All these well-meaning CSers are parroting terms like “truth” and “love” yet acting out the opposite, heartlessness and delusion. Talking of “treatment” while in many cases treating nothing. So very sad. 

DP: Not that conventional medicine and drugs, what Mrs. Eddy quaintly calls “Materia Medica,” is always the answer either. Doctors of questionable ethics (in my opinion) perform massively expensive medical procedures on very elderly patients, like a hip replacement on a 90 year old.  You have to wonder if it is for the patient’s benefit or a “cashectomy” for the provider, the system on autopilot.

JA: That, and the fact that some conditions are just beyond the knowledge or ability of medicine at its best, its most ethical and compassionate, to heal. There’s a tragic dimension to life in this fallen world that the Eddy doctrine ignores, leading to so much heartache. No one is immune to selfishness and sin, not the MD, not the CSB. We can’t perfect ourselves or save ourselves. We need Jesus for that. What a blessing that you and I found him. Or rather—he found us. 

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John Andrews says in conclusion: Dave Petteys and I became friends in the 1970s as fellow members of Sixth Church Denver, the largest CS church in Colorado. I escaped and came to the Cross in the 1980s. He did so a decade later. Now that Dave is 80 and I’m 75, sunset is coming for both of us one of these days.  But we’re confident of eternity with Jesus, the Light of the World. Sunset for Mary Baker Eddy’s woefully misguided movement is coming too—which I pray will lead to countless former CSers being born again to new life in Christ, as the two of us were. All praise and glory to Him!

The author can be reached at andrewsjk@aol.com

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