Why is Christian Science considered unorthodox?

  1. How is Mary Baker Eddy's neo-platonism different from Augustine's, Aquinas', Calvin's, Jonathan Edwards', et. al.?
  2. How is her understanding of the Incarnation different from Scheiermacher's, Tillich's, Marcus Borg, et al?
  3. How is her view of the sacraments different from the Quakers?

From what I can see, Mrs. Eddy puts together perfectly orthodox views on evil as privation, matter as shadows, and Jesus as Wayshower--just like Meister Eckhardt--and then applies these doctrines to Christian healing.

If evil is a privation of good and has no real existence, isn't the best way to approach healing to see disease as a privation and not real?

Maybe Jesus healed by removing the shadows which distort our vision of our true nature as God's children. If God is Spirit, and we are in His Image and Likeness, then doesn't it follow that we are spirit, and not matter? I'm not sure why Christian Science is a heretical cult since it is rooted in many purely orthodox strands of Christianity, albeit put together in an original, insightful way.

Why, then, is Christian Science considered unorthodox if it has orthodox views?

  • Your last statement seems to hint at the answer to your question. Finding out what a religion is "rooted in" tells only part of the story. What are its practices and teachings? If some people would consider them to be strange or sinister, that would qualify it as a cult in those peoples' eyes.
    – user32540
    May 14, 2017 at 0:21
  • Welcome to Christianity.SE, and thanks for taking the site tour. However, your question sounds more like a statement than a question. Was there something you wanted to know about Christian Science, or about a particular denomination's view of Christian Science? Or did you just want to argue rhetorically that Christian Science should not be seen as a cult? For what's on topic here, see: What topics can I ask about here? and: Types of questions that are within community guidelines. May 14, 2017 at 3:20
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    "matter as shadows" and "evil as privation' are not perfectly orthodox views. May 14, 2017 at 16:45
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    You asked at least five questions here, more like 11. Please edit your question to ask just one, like "How is Mary Baker Eddy's neo-Platonism different from Augustine's?" Or, "What is an overview of teachings of Christian Science that are considered heretical by Catholic and mainline Protestant denominations?" The question "Why is _____ a cult?" is a truth-seeking question. There are a lot of issues here. I voted to close this question as too broad.
    – Andrew
    May 15, 2017 at 12:43
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    I have edited your question to make it better organized, since the way you presented it was not well organized. As you can see, @Andrew was correct in pointing out that you have embedded multiple questions into one question. Please, pick one of the questions, make that your question, and then ask the other questions separately. You are more likely to attract good answers that way, and less likely to see your question simply closed as either too broad, or a "truth" question. May 15, 2017 at 12:58

3 Answers 3


This quote from catholic.com sums up why a Catholic group considers it unorthodox pretty well:

Christian Science purports to be a Christian organization. It borrows heavily from the Christian vocabulary but denies all the fundamental Christian dogmas. It rejects the belief in a personal God, the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the existence of sin and the devil, the Resurrection, and heaven and hell.

In short, Christian Science denies the fundamentals of the faith. This is how heresy is defined. It has nothing to do with having ideas similar to other Christian writers.

Mary Baker Eddy (Catholic Answers)

Want more details? Mary Baker Eddy's full teachings are found in her book, now online, Science and Health, with Keys to the Scriptures. Here are several extracts with links. As you can see, Mary uses the same terms as the Bible does, but reinterprets them.

25:3-9 tells us that Christ's blood did not cleanse us from sin on the cross:

The efficacy of Jesus’ spiritual offering is infinitely greater than True flesh and bloodcan be expressed by our sense of human blood. The material blood of Jesus was no more efficacious to cleanse from sin when it was shed upon “the accursed tree,” than when it was flowing in his veins as he went daily about his Father’s business.

from http://www.christianscience.com/the-christian-science-pastor/science-and-health/chapter-ii-atonement-and-eucharist?citation=SH%2025:3-25:12

361:1-3 tells us that Christ is not really God Himself, but only an idea of God:

The Jew believes that the Messiah or Christ has not yet come; the Christian believes that Christ is God. Here Christian Science intervenes, explains these doctrinal points, cancels the disagreement, and settles the question. Christ, as the true spiritual idea, is the ideal of God now and forever, here and everywhere.

from http://www.christianscience.com/the-christian-science-pastor/science-and-health/chapter-xi-some-objections-answered

335:24-30 Tells us that sin and sickness are not real:

XX. Mind is the divine Principle, Love, and can produce nothing unlike the eternal Father-Mother, God. The one divine Mind Reality is spiritual, harmonious, immutable, immortal, divine, eternal. Nothing unspiritual can be real, harmonious, or eternal. Sin, sickness, and mortality are the suppositional antipodes of Spirit, and must be contradictions of reality.

from http://www.christianscience.com/the-christian-science-pastor/science-and-health/chapter-x-science-of-being

30:3-12 tells us that Jesus and the Christ were separate entities. Also, He was a way-shower, and not the way Himself:

Born of a woman, Jesus’ advent in the flesh partook partly of Mary’s earthly condition, although he was endowed with the Christ, the divine Spirit, without measure. This accounts for his struggles in Gethsemane and on Calvary, and this enabled him to be the mediator, or way-shower, between God and men. Had his origin and birth been wholly apart from mortal usage, Jesus would not have been appreciable to mortal mind as “the way.”

from http://www.christianscience.com/the-christian-science-pastor/science-and-health/chapter-ii-atonement-and-eucharist?citation=SH%2030:5-30:13

  • Here is a link to that part of the Christian Science website which deals with ecumenical affairs, Circle of Faith. Under Member Resources, there is a link to a pdf called "A Self-Understanding of Christian Science." christianscience.com/member-resources/committee-on-publication/… What you claim above is incorrect according to this document. I hope you'll look at the document and revise your answer to take it into consideration.
    – Ashpenaz
    May 14, 2017 at 2:50
  • I could not find such a title under that link, sorry. I would love to see it.
    – Steve
    May 14, 2017 at 3:25
  • It's kind of hidden. Follow that link to "Circle of Faith." Then, scroll down to the link "Resources, activities, and interviews." Open that, and it's the pdf at the top of the list. It would be interesting to see your thoughts.
    – Ashpenaz
    May 15, 2017 at 0:51
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    @Ashpenaz Read the quotes from Eddy's book. Do you think Augustine would have approved?
    – Steve
    May 19, 2017 at 1:07

I will enumerate all of Mr. G.K. Chesterton's (the man who wrote the book on Orthodoxy) differences here:

It is a "purely spiritual" form of Christianity.

the essential difference between Mrs. Eddy's creed and mine is that she anchors in the air, while I put an anchor where the groping race of men have generally put it, in the ground.

FAITH HEALING AND MEDICINE By G. K. Chesterton From the column Our Note Book, The Illustrated London News. October 22, 1910

And, like the gnostics of the first and second century:

In short, the first and last blunder of Christian Science is that it is a religion claiming to be purely spiritual. Now, being purely spiritual is opposed to the very essence of religion. All religions, high and low, true and false, have always had one enemy, which is the purely spiritual.


And the Manichaens who came after - and Augustine firmly opposed (after converting to Catholicism from the faith):

Christian Science may or may not start with the assumption that God is in his heaven and all is right with the world; it is a subject for a respectful debate with Christian Scientists. But Christianity emphatically began with the assumptions that God is in his heaven and all is wrong with the world; and from those two things the whole Christian theory proceeds.

BROWNING AND THE AMERICAN OPTIMISTS - By G. K. Chesterton From the column Our Note Book The Illustrated London News November 22, 1930

It denies death (all death including the part of the Creed where we say "Jesus died and was buried"

Should we passionately asseverate that something was as true as death, even if we all joined the religion of some Mrs. Eddy, which declared that death is a delusion, imposed by a conspiracy of undertakers?

THE DESTRUCTION OF LIBERTY - By G. K. Chesterton From the column Our Note Book The Illustrated London News October 06, 1934

And, while not a part of the faith, it denies human reason in the sciences, which is what Pope John Paul II would call fideism the twin heresy of rationalism.

The very system which would deny and destroy all physiological science, all medical science, all anatomical and surgical science, still calls itself Christian Science.

SCIENCE AND THE DRIFT TO SUPERSTITION - By G. K. Chesterton From the column Our Note Book The Illustrated London News November 13, 1920

As well as the twin heresy of materialism.

For the Hygienist is urging that if you take care of the body the soul will benefit by it; while the Christian Scientist is urging that if you take care of the soul the body will take care of itself

THE CRANKS OF THE HIGHER THOUGHT - By G. K. Chesterton From the column Our Note Book The Illustrated London News August 15, 1914

And, frankly, it is wrong to categorically deprive sick people of help

I think it both crazy and cruel for a follower of Mrs. Eddy to seek to deprive the sick of the help of any science except Christian Science

THE RAILS OF REALITY - By G. K. Chesterton From the column Our Note Book The Illustrated London News January 26, 1918

So, there are probably more instances of GKC's arguments against Christian Science, but this probably suffices. He was not a fan.

  • I appreciate this--I love Chesterton! I think his common sense insights are very helpful on any issue.
    – Ashpenaz
    May 18, 2017 at 13:29

Christian Science contains elements of four heresies that were condemned in the early Church, especially gnosticism:

  • Gnosticism: the denial and/or denigration of the material world

There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual. (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health, 468)

  • Nestorianism: a disjunction between Jesus the man and Christ the Son of God
  • Modalism: a denial of the Trinity
  • Peneumatomachianism: a denial of the divinity of the Holy Spirit
  • Having read both Eddy and Augustine and seen the Neoplatonic similarities, I think Augustine would say, "This woman gets me!" and "I never thought how this might relate to healing, but what she says makes sense." I think he also would have largely agreed with her ideas about the Incarnation.
    – Ashpenaz
    May 20, 2017 at 12:48
  • @Ashpenaz Based on what? As stated above the connections to Gnosticism, not to mention Palagianism, would relegate this to the pile of controversies that were anathematized by the early church fathers. Including Augustine himself. May 21, 2017 at 3:03
  • Here's a link which suggests Augustine was a heretic due to his belief in Neoplatonism (it's toward the middle of the article): gospeltruth.net/aug/sinsofaug.htm Here's a link connecting Mary Baker Eddy and Neoplatonism: en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Origin_of_Christian_Science/… Since both Eddy and Augustine have been considered heretics due to their belief in Neoplatonism, I think there must be a connection.
    – Ashpenaz
    May 22, 2017 at 15:30
  • Maybe you should just read Augustine yourself, and bring your own thoughts. The first eight volumes of 'The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers' contain his works. May 23, 2017 at 9:40

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