Christian Science: What It Is and What It Is Not


The Rev. Irving C. Tomlinson, C.S.B.

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts


We publish herewith a very able, helpful, and interesting lecture, delivered by Rev. Irving C. Tomlinson, in the Mother Church, September 28, 1898. It is the first lecture ever delivered in the Church. Mr. Tomlinson said:


Before, beginning this lecture, may I tell you how I came to be a Christian Scientist? The majority of this Faith have entered through the door of healing. After long years of suffering, after trying all schools of medicine, they have been fully healed by this divine method. Feeling the force of its power, the honest and grateful can do nothing else but accept it and strive to live it. Such, however, was not my experience. I came into Christian Science not because of my own healing, nor because of the healing of any friend, but because, after a long and painstaking investigation, I became thoroughly convinced that Christian Science was the religion of the Bible, the theology of Christ Jesus, and the philosophy of common sense. Then there was nothing for me to do as an honest man but to withdraw from a fellowship I dearly loved, and fully accept and strive to attain the high ideal of Christian Science. I was so slow myself in grasping and accepting this Truth, that I have a fellow-feeling for all who have not yet made it their possession. While still an active clergyman, I had a copy of Science and Health on my table six months, but I could not understand it. I have passed through all the prejudices, I am aware of all the misconceptions, I have raised all the objections that come to others. I know from actual experience that there is not an argument or objection raised against Christian Science that further study and research does not fully and completely answer. In that period of doubt and misconception, I should gladly have listened to a true account of this healing religion. None of us desire to misunderstand or misjudge any cause that has commended itself to a large number of intelligent men and women. We all say, as does every unprejudiced person, If this is really the Truth, I want it. At least your presence indicates that you are grateful for the privilege of hearing from an authorized source exactly what Christian Science is not and what it is.

The theme is too large to be fully fronted in a brief address. A few salient points only can be touched. To gain a fair estimate of Christian Science, one should read the textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," and the other works of its author, Rev. Mary Baker G. Eddy.

Christian Science is rejected by not a few because they ignorantly classify it with mesmerism, spiritualism, and theosophy. It is not the purpose of this lecture to pass judgment upon any of these systems of thought. It is but fair to say, however, that among the followers of these systems of thought are many honest seekers for Truth. To know that Christian Science is neither mesmerism, spiritualism, nor theosophy, you have but to ask one of the well-informed followers of these systems. They will tell you that Christian Science is not only unlike, but is the opposite of each and every one of them. In nothing is Christian Science like, in everything is it unlike, mesmerism, spiritualism, and theosophy.


Not a Fad

Some would easily dispose of Christian Science by calling it a fad, and they declare that it will end "when the new wears off." But a very slight knowledge will show that Christian Science is not a foolish fad, but a very serious fact. Christian Science has been before the American public for more than thirty years. It has three hundred and fifty worshiping congregations, with about a million believers in this country and in Europe, and is rapidly spreading into all parts of the civilized world. Its textbook, Science and Health, has passed through one hundred and sixty editions, of one thousand copies each, and by this method of healing more than a million persons have been restored from sickness to health. Surely, with a careful thinker and an honest investigator, a snap of the fingers cannot dispose of a cause so widespread, so deeply rooted, and so beneficent.


Not a Godless Religion

The time has passed for rejecting Christian Science on the ground that it is Godless and infidel. Christian Science can point to much ripened fruit, and must be judged by its fruit. Many who are not Christian Scientists are ready to say that it makes neighbors better neighbors, husbands better husbands, and wives better wives. It inculcates honesty, virtue, temperance, and brotherly kindness, and it helps men to be better, healthier, and happier. Some other reason for rejecting Christian Science must now be found than that it is dangerous to good morals.

Some of the objections to Christian Science do not deserve even a passing notice, but, surprising as it may seem, there are those who assert that Christian Science is the fantastic doctrine that all sickness is only imagination; that a cold in the head is cured by telling a patient that he has no head; that a Christian Scientist would tell a stranger during a Western blizzard that there is no storm, and that all is as calm as a day in June. Or again, that it is the doctrine that husbands and wives were never married, and that their children do not belong to them; that it teaches that nature is nothing, and that all art is error. It is needless to say that this is caricature. Christian Science begets wisdom and common sense. Its healing is in harmony with reason, and not an insult to it. It enhances the appreciation of nature and art, and fosters a deeper love for relatives and friends, for Christian Science rests on reason as well as revelation, and it appeals not to blind credulity but to open-eyed intelligence.



It has been said that Christian Scientists make too much of personality, and some even today refuse to investigate this subject on the ground that Christian Scientists worship Mrs. Eddy. But in fact, it is a very sane view that true Christian Scientists have of their Leader. After many years of close application to the study of the problem of human existence, after long preparation through sorrow and suffering, she was fitted to receive the divine revelation of the Science of Man, which she named Christian Science. This Science is embodied in the textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." It is but natural that the Founder and Discoverer should also be the Leader of this movement.

In this free land leaders hold their place, first, by reason of natural endowment; second, by reason of thorough information; third, by their acknowledged ability to plan and execute. Mrs. Eddy is of more than average ability, of New England parentage, liberally educated, broadly cultured, of rare spiritual discernment, and calm, clear judgment. Every follower sees in her the best-informed, among their number, on spiritual affairs, and thirty years experience has shown her to be an able executor and wise administrator. They are glad to follow one who has shown herself so well fitted to lead. In the clear light of Truth, is it not evident that instead of being an objection to the system, it is very much in its favor, that it has a Leader who has earned her place by long years of active service, a commander whom every private soldier loves and honors? Is it too much to say that doubtless a most important factor in the strength and solidity of the movement is in its wise Leader, who has been providentially selected to guide a worthy cause?

"But," says one, "she is a woman." Yes, and so is your mother. Is it not conspicuously true in charity, in philanthropy, and in religion that the burden of the work rests upon woman? Is it not a fact that in spiritual perception and intuitive power woman is the equal, certainly not the inferior, of man? Then must it not be granted that to refuse the investigation of Christian Science because its discoverer, founder, and leader is a woman, is to abandon reason for prejudice and to forsake logic for lunacy?



One cudgel which has been wielded against this healing gospel is labeled "Pantheism." But Christian Science is not Pantheism. The misconception is due to the imperfect understanding of the fundamental thought in Christian Science that "God is All-in-all." But further study shows that this is a superficial judgment; for, according to the Century Dictionary, a pantheist is "one who believes that God and the universe are identical." According to Christian Science, which is in full agreement with Christ Jesus, God is Spirit, and is reflected only by Spiritual things. God, then, according to Christian Science, is not identical with material forms, but is identical with Spirit, and with nothing else. It is evident, then, that Christian Science is no more Pantheism than day is night, for the one is in direct opposition to the other.


Mental Science

Still another misconception is, that it teaches that one personality may control another; that sickness is healed by the control of the stronger will over the weaker. If this were true, then might you well object to Christian Science. Infinitely better for the patient is an honest doctor than the mental manipulator. Than the one plague of mental quackery, better have the ten plagues of Egypt. In Christian Science the less there is of personality the more there is of the healing power; for this power is God, and the change is wrought by none other than infinite Mind. That which heals in Christian Science is not the human will. It is not the mortal man. The healing power in Christian Science is the ever-present Love, which is God.



There are certain honest objectors to this system of mental therapeutics who regard it as unreasonable and illogical. They say, as a religion, it is all very well, but, as for attempting to heal the sick without drugs, that is all very wrong. No one knows better than myself the high character of a large class of our physicians. No one more than myself believes in their high moral purposes and their self-sacrificing lives. However, are physicians themselves fully satisfied with their system of healing? Not if their words be taken as the index of their thought. In an essay in the New York Medical Journal, a prominent physician is quoted as saying, "I have no confidence in the remedies I give. They do not cure. There must be some other influence that cures disease." In an essay published in the New England Medical Gazette, the author says, "I know of a physician who for one year gave absolutely no medicine, and with no ill results to his large circle of patients." From the Atlantic Weekly we quote a writer, saying, "If in the past, people have recovered in spite of treatment, how do we know but they are doing so yet?"

When Jesus Christ began his healing work, mankind had been using material remedies for two thousand years, yet, though it is said of him that he healed all manner of diseases, he never was known to give a single drug. But it is said that Jesus is the exception? Yet his disciples healed in like manner. Also Paul and the Church for the first three hundred years of its existence.

Christian Science, in healing without drugs, is simply obedient to the explicit command of the Master, "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons." To reject Christian Science because of healing is to reject the commands of Christ Jesus. If he was right in refusing the use of drugs, Christian Scientists cannot be wrong in healing without them. To his disciples he gave two explicit commands: "Preach the Gospel," and "Heal the sick." If those who only preach, who obey only one-half the commands of the Master, call themselves believers, by what logic are Christian Scientists who obey the whole of his commands called unbelievers? Said the Founder of Christianity, "These signs shall follow them that believe: they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover." A million witnesses testify that Christian Scientists have the signs. Therefore, they are the believers according to the standard of Christ Jesus. To deny this is to declare that its Founder could not define his Christianity, but no one will deny it. Therefore, it is confessed that Christian Science is the Christianity of Christ.


Science and Religion

The objection is often made that religion needs no Science, but I submit that what is today called religion stands in need of something, and to one who is an independent thinker it is plain that the needful element is Science. Certain it is that true religion is right living, and as right living constitutes the sum and substance of existence, why should man be devoid of Science there? He has his science of numbers and his science of music. If he has discovered the science of that which is without, why should he not discover the Science of that which is within?

Mankind existed many centuries without mathematics and without music, but their science only awaited discovery. Likewise of man, his Science has awaited its discovery; and in presence of the many hard life problems that have been solved, in presence of the errors that have been eliminated and the discords that have been silenced, who shall say that Christian Science is not the Science for which mankind has so long sought and for which he has so eagerly waited?

All Christians acknowledge that God is omniscience or omni-science, that is, all Science. If God be all Science, must not the religion of God contain Science?


Unreality of Matter

Another declares, "Healing and Science may be a part of religion, but I object to the teaching that matter is unreal, and that sin and sickness are illusions instead of actualities." Here let it be stated plainly that Christian Science does hold that God is the real and is the master of evil, health is natural, disease unnatural. Life is Truth, and death is error. These positions the world has controverted and still controverts. Are you satisfied with the results? Has this philosophy worked so well that there should be no desire for a better? Our overflowing hospitals, our crowded insane asylums, our large criminal class are the answer. A better system is called for, and men are earnestly in search for it. Now, may it not be that because Christian Science does propose a radical change of thought, instead of its being an objection, it is rather a point in its favor? You say that the situation is such that a revolution is needed; then, may it not be that a revolutionary system will give to you your revolution? At least, does it not argue quite as much for as against Christian Science, that it does propose to effect the needful revolution through doctrines that are revolutionary? As to the unreality of matter, you recall that natural science has never explained what matter is. The last, or one of the last, group of words to define it, says that "matter is a mode of motion." Does that definition fully satisfy? Christian Science teaches that Mind God is all, that all Substance is Spirit, that thoughts are things, and "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." Many of you know that natural science is tending toward this same position. Says Prof. James T. Bixby, Ph.D., "We can mentally think away everything that is an object of sensation. Everything visible we know is transient. If there be anything permanent it must be in the invisible realm." Declares Prof. Clifford, "Every molecule of matter possesses a piece of mind-stuff." And Prof. Wilhelm Oswald, of the University of Leipsig, Germany, says this: "Matter is a thing of thought."


Sin and Sickness are Illusions

It is true that this system of metaphysics affirms that sin, sickness, and death are not the Truth of God, but the illusions of sense. For this revolutionary position it finds confirmation in reason and revelation. It is written, "God made all that was made." Again, "God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good." Surely, there is nothing "very good" in sin, sickness, and death; therefore God never made them. Who did, then? The same that made ghosts and goblins. They are the children of ignorance and fear, whom light and Truth reduce to nothingness. Why should one cling so persistently to the actuality of sin and disease? Is there any thing good in them? And if nothing good, what does one want with them? And if one does not want them, why spurn a philosophy whose purpose it is to get rid of them? Christian Science teaches that all that is beautiful and good endures forever. All that is of God is everlasting. Then Christian Science takes away nothing that man truly wants: it takes away only what he does not want. And I more than half suspect that because it takes away what all are so glad to be rid of, is why such multitudes have given it a hearty welcome. It is written that, "Christ Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil." Surely there is nothing good in sin, sickness, and death; for Christ Jesus would not and could not destroy what was good and of God. Hence sin, sickness, and death are not of God, and therefore Christian Science is right in affirming that they have no reality.


God Is Principle

It is charged by some that Christian Science takes away the Christian God. If one's God is like himself, only on a larger scale, then is it not a favor rather than otherwise to take away such a God? It is even asserted that Christian Science reduces God to a mist, because it sees God as Principle, and the solemn charge is made that Christian Science takes away a personal God and leaves man nothing to worship. On this issue Christian Science is ready to be judged at the bar of reason.

It is a trite saying that human life is a problem to be solved. It has its mistakes to be corrected and its errors to be cancelled that the true life may be lived. Our earth life is like a song; it has its false notes to be eliminated, and its discords to be silenced, that Divine harmony may appear and "life the sweeter be." Let us together unfold the meaning of this universal thought of human existence. In numbers, when our vision is clear, we discern order and harmony. Each number has its exact value, the relation between the numbers is inviolate and inviolable. You know why this is so. The whole system of mathematics has its origin and existence in principle. So with music; the musicians of all countries are in practical agreement upon the fundamentals of musical harmony. These notes have precise values and harmonious relations. These notes can always be depended upon to do their part and fulfil their obligations. Why these exact relations? Simply because, as in mathematics, so in music, principle is the soul of all. Transfer the thought now to man. Is he not as worthy of harmony as music or mathematics? It is common usage to speak of this individual as a man of no principle, and that, as a man of principle. It is meant that the first is a man of no worth. He cannot be depended upon, he is exact neither in what he says nor in what he does. The man of principle is a man of truth; you can put your dependence in him, his word is as good as his bond. You know that the man of principle will fulfil his obligations, and that all he does will be good, for Principle is the Soul of him; and this Principle that is the creator of all that truth, this Principle that is the origin of all harmony, this Principle that is the Father of man is none other than God. For it is written, "All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made." And again, "In Him we live, and move, and have our being."


God is the Principle of Good

Nor is this all. In numbers and in music, where principle governs, there is the manifestation of harmony. Working out your problem in obedience to principle, your answer will reflect the harmony of good. With your fingers on the keys, moving in accord with principle, your expression will be good; and man rightly related to Principle, man in tune with his Principle, manifests the goodness of God. This Principle, then, from which all that really is proceeds; this Principle which is the Father of all, is God; and this God we know is eternal Good. Therefore, the true God is the Principle of Good, in full accord with which the Psalmist sings, "The Lord is good. His mercy is everlasting." Likewise the Master said, "There is none Good but one, that is, God." "Come now, let us reason together." It is proclaimed by the misinformed that the Christian Science God is no God. It is affirmed that this religion that knows God as the Principle of Good would rob mankind of the Christian God. Bring, then, your thought of God before the bar of reason and revelation.


God a Power for Good

The highest thought of God ever uttered is this: "God is Love." Upon this theme what eloquence has been poured forth, what fervent petitions have been uttered! But at this bar of reason I ask, Is Love only to be preached about and prayed at? Is not Love a power for good? And if Love be a power for good, why should not that power be utilized in works that are good? Suppose an inventor seeks to interest a business man in a new principle for motors. Eloquently he preaches its rare merits, discoursing long upon its high qualities. When he has concluded his preaching, he prays that stock be taken in his enterprise; but the thoughtful business man will ask, "Will this principle work? Are there any results to show because of this principle?"

This sensible listener remarks, "Of what avail eloquent preaching and fervent praying if the principle does not work? One of two things is certain, either the principle is not understood or that which has been preached and prayed about is not principle." So of infinite Love: is it not the vital Principle of all that is, for God is Love? But of what avail preaching and praying if there be no works? One of two things is certain, either the Principle is not understood, or the preacher is without the Principle. But we know that with Jesus Christ the Principle did work. The blind saw, the deaf heard, the lame walked. With the Master, Love was an active, ever-present Principle, and that all might know who his true believers were, he said, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also."

There is excellent reason, then, for saying that our earthly career is a problem and a song; for as problem and song have their principle, so man has his Principle. As the correctness of the problem and the beauty of the song depend upon the understanding of their principle, so the value and the beauty of human life depends upon the understanding of divine Principle. This, then, is the appointed work of Christian Science, to give to all that understanding of their God, the Principle of Good, that from human experience, error and discord shall depart and eternal harmony appear.


The True Man

Christian Science has wrought untold blessings in making God better known and better loved by man. It has wrought no less a blessing in helping him to better know himself and better love his fellowman. We remember the world's opinion of man. It affirms that he is not wholly bad. It considers that man is the sum of the false and true; that he is a composition of chords and discords. But is there not a more exact statement? The ignorant boy may consider his aggregation of truth and falsehood to be mathematics, but not so his teacher. The ignorant South Sea Islander may deem his medley of chord and discord to be music, but not so the true musician. The student of science knows that mathematics is not a mixture of the true and false, but is the truth alone; that music is not both discord and harmony, but harmony alone. Likewise, though ignorance may assert that man is a medley of virtue and vice, of ease and disease; yet the enlightened student of Science knows that man, the real man, is not a mixture of good and evil, but that he is the manifestation of the Good, and the Good alone; and the exact sciences make plain how this is true.

The origin and source of every number and note is their principle. Each sweet note from harp or organ is the child, the son of its principle; and as the father, so is the son. For each unit is like the father of numbers, and each note images the father of harmony. Excellent authority declares "God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him." Meaning plainly that the origin and source of man is God, his Father; and as is the Father so is the son. The Father, man's Principle, is Good. Therefore man, the true man, is the image of Good, and only Good.

This understanding makes plain the words of the Master, "I and my Father are one." But again, "The Father is greater than I." Behold the fulness of the meaning in the light of exact Science. In numbers, the principle is greater, infinitely greater, than any one of the numbers; yet each unit is one with its principle. So in music, the musical principle is greater, infinitely greater, than any one of the notes, yet so worthy is each note, so truly does it reflect the principle, that it may be said, the note and its principle are one. The fact which Christian Science reveals is that, as the number is to its principle, and the note to its musical principle, so is man to his Principle. The Father is greater than he, and yet he and his Father, his Principle, are one. Therefore spake Christ Jesus, "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do; for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise."

In Christian Science the works are done, the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk. Where, then, will the fair-minded find the God of Christ Jesus? with those who profess to believe and can do no works, or with those who believe and do the works?



The natural question arises for a reconciliation between the ideal man, the true man, and the individual we have to deal with seven days of the week. And the answer is, the same reconciliation that there is between the multiplication table and the mistakes of ignorance. The multiplication table will wait for ignorance to open its eyes to the truth, when reconciliation is effected by the extermination of the mistake. In other words, the scientific method for the elimination of all error and discord is the recognition of the nothingness of error and the understanding of the Truth. Observe the world's method of dealing with sin and sickness. It begins by considering them just as real as Truth and Life. Materia medica attempts to heal sickness by the application of a drug, and scholastic theology attempts to heal sin by the application of a dogma. The physicians are in search of more successful remedies for healing the sick, and the clergymen are looking for new methods for reclaiming the lost.

To cure disease the doctor of medicine calls on a drug for help. To cure sin the doctor of theology calls on his creed for help. And the general opinion is that the doctors of medicine are rather more successful than the doctors of religion. The fact is, that both doctors average such unsatisfactory results that neither is satisfied with his methods. There is little question that both doctors have less faith in their systems than have their patients.

Christian Science suggests the reason for this dissatisfaction in medicine and theology. It affirms that the premises of both systems are false. Sickness and sin are not entities; they are nonentities. The evidence that this is so, is the uncertain and unsatisfactory results from these mistaken systems. The present method in the drugging systems is as if a mistake were to be corrected by giving treatment to the figures, or like attempting to silence the discord by giving a coat of varnish to the case of the instrument. Instead, the Scientific method is to correct the mistake and the discord by the understanding of divine Principle. The methods in theology are as if the discord was to be healed by praying the maker to take something out of the instrument, which was not, is not, and can never be there. Instead, the Scientific method is to put the performer in tune with the musical principle.


The Science of Prayer

The method of Christian Science, of the Bible and of Christ Jesus, in healing sin and sickness, is the Scientific method. Declares the Bible, "The prayer of faith shall save the sick." Christ Jesus said, "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name he will give it you." Yet prayer is so seldom answered that there has grown up a belief that God does not answer prayer. It is seen that the most devout are too often the most unfortunate; disaster, sickness, and sorrow follow the good. Why are not their prayers answered? The Bible gives the true reply: "Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss." Then you shall ask and receive when you ask aright. Christian Science is the science of asking aright. True prayer is the working out of our life-problem through divine understanding. Wherefore spake the wise man, "With all thy getting, get understanding."

Consider, then, the Christian Science view of prayer. You have your problem of human life to work out. As you find this problem there is error in it; mistakes have been made which are to be eliminated before your problem is correctly demonstrated. In mathematics the process is simple; you have the principle and the numbers for which the figures stand; through ignorance the figures have been wrongly combined, and error has crept in. You do not ask the principle of mathematics to blindly give you the right answer; you work it out yourself; you examine more closely the problem, your eyes open to the truth, and then the error is eliminated. So with a discord in music; you do not ask the principle of harmony to do the work that ignorance is misdoing. But you acquaint yourself with the truth of the harmony, and after more or less practice the discord vanishes. Why not let this good rule work with your other problem? In mathematics and music you free yourself from error and discord by the prayer of understanding. In these absolute sciences the prayer which heals error and discord is the clear-eyed discernment of the truth. So with the problem of human life. In it is found the error of sin, and the discord of sickness. The correct solution never can be gained by begging Principle to do the work. Instead, "Work out your own salvation." Apply your Principle. Open your eyes to the Truth; and this prayer will eliminate the error, silence the discord, and heal sickness and sin. "Know the Truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Christian Science, then, is a religion of reason. Its basis is demonstrable knowledge. Its God is knowable and provable. Its man the true image and likeness of the infinite Principle of Good. Its prayer the effective, workable understanding possessed by Christ Jesus, and commended by him to all believers. Its primal object is the cure of sin and sickness, the cessation of sorrow and suffering. Its social and civil purpose is the establishment of the brotherhood of man within the commonwealth of God. Its appeal is made to all in the words of the Apostle: "Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works."


[Delivered Sept. 28, 1898, at The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, as the first Christian Science lecture to be held in the Original Edifice, and published in The Christian Science Journal, March, 1899.]