Christian Science: What It Is and What It Does (Summary)


Robert S. Van Atta, C.S., of Rochester, New York

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

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


In ages past God proved his power and willingness to help mankind by many signs and wonders. Why is humanity today so little impressed by those marvels? The reason is found in the popular belief that miracles are supernatural events, wherein the laws of the universe are temporarily set aside and things happen quite contrary to common experience.

It is believed that miracles were peculiar to an earlier and more primitive age, but that the time for them is now past. But the root meaning of the word "miracle" is "to wonder"; therefore a miracle is simply a wonderful thing of a marvel.

Miracles are thought to be supernatural, or contrary to law, only because the laws governing them are not understood.

Christian Science throws much light upon the Scriptures the light of spiritual intelligence and understanding. It removes mystery from the miracle. It points out that the laws which the Bible miracles seem to set aside are, in every case, laws of matter, and draws the inevitable conclusion that material laws cannot be true laws, since they can be nullified through the operation of the laws of Spirit or divine Mind.

This is a revolutionary statement, and the seeker of truth has a right to demand the explanation and proof of its soundness.

The very first words in the Bible are, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Mrs. Eddy explains this verse in the Christian Science textbook in this way (p. 502): "The infinite has no beginning. This word beginning is employed to signify the only, that is, the eternal verity and unity of God and man, including the universe."

The Bible account goes on to describe the appearing of God's creation in successive steps, reaching its climax in the statement, "God created man in his own image" (Gen. 1:27), and ending with, "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31).

This account of creation in Genesis is the foundation of Christian Science teaching. It sets forth the true concept of God as the only creator and absolutely good. He is perfect, and his created ideas express his perfection.

Mortals may aspire to perfection and struggle to attain it, but God and the real spiritual man of his creating are already perfect. Christian Science shows how, on this basis of perfect God and perfect man, the human self may be evangelized, sin and sickness healed, and Christian perfection progressively demonstrated.

It explains that the wonderful works of protection and healing performed by prophets and apostles were the results of their spiritual understanding. It teaches the allness of divine Mind, or Spirit, and the consequent unreality of evil and matter. It proves that the understanding of these divine facts is as potent today as ever in freeing mankind from discord and danger.

The story of the discovery of Christian Science by Mary Baker Eddy has been told many times. Briefly, the facts are these: She was a woman of extraordinary spiritual capabilities. Her early life was marked by a number of unusual experiences, some bordering on the miraculous.

The things of Spirit were always her chief interest. Her trials and misfortunes, which were many, impelled her to reach out to God more and more for help and healing which seemed beyond human power to supply.

Finally, in 1866, the issue came to a focus. She suffered a serious accident which carried her to the door of death. Neither drugs nor surgery could help her. On the third day she recovered in what seemed a miraculous manner.

She had called for her Bible; opening it to Matthew 9, she read of Jesus' healing of a man sick of the palsy. As she read, the light of truth dawned upon her; she perceived that Life is Spirit, not matter; the result was that she rose, dressed herself; she was healed.

Now the important question arises, What healed her? She knew it was the power of God, but she must find out more about his method of operation. Her need to know was compelling; she withdrew from society for three years and devoted her time and energy to discovering a definite rule.

The only textbook she used in her metaphysical research was the Bible. The healing message of the Holy Book had been falling on dull ears for centuries.

What was the God-sent message as she discerned it spiritually? Briefly, that Spirit, or God, is all, and matter therefore necessarily unreal; that man is the perfect likeness of perfect God and therefore not subject to sin, disease, or death; that these errors are illusions, or dreams, and are dispelled through the understanding of God and His laws.

There are the basic truths of all being, capable of unlimited elaboration. Mrs. Eddy demonstrated the truth of her proposition and developed her system for the application of God's power in healing the ills and discords of human existence. This system she named Christian Science; it is fully explained in the textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," which Mrs. Eddy wrote.

Do not be misled into believing that your primary need is physical healing, a job, money, clothes, and such. The primary need is always something mental, moral, spiritual. To know this is a vital first step in healing or in any demonstration of God's power. First understand and acknowledge your need for spiritual consciousness; second, turn to divine Spirit and Love to supply you with spiritual ideas. If you entertain the desire for spiritual knowing and do it with deep sincerity and complete honesty, your desire will be fulfilled by a loving, heavenly Father, and your human need will be met in consequence.

It is generally acknowledged that the New Testament healings were brought about through the power of the Christ. Jesus promised his disciples that if they asked of the Father in his name their prayers would be answered. So we find them commanding the unclean spirits of sin and disease "in the name of Jesus Christ" to come out, and the patients were healed.

Name is understood to signify nature.

The nature or character of the man Jesus was so Godlike that he was given the title of "Christ." "Jesus" and "Christ" are quite commonly considered synonymous and used interchangeably, but Christian Science makes a careful distinction between them. Our textbook states (p. 332): "Jesus was born of Mary. Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness."

Jesus disappeared from this earth many centuries ago, but the Christ, the divine idea of God, has never left. It was this divine nature of the man to which he referred when he said, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matt 28:20).

The nature of Christ is Godlike incorporeal and spiritual; its presence dispels everything unlike itself. The Christ transforms human consciousness and imparts the understanding of God which leads into all truth.

The Christian apostles were so imbued with the true idea of God that their own natures were, in a great degree, Christlike; therefore when they commanded the destruction of error "in the name of Jesus Christ" their words carried spiritual power to heal because they were expressing the Christ-nature, which they had honestly made their own.

Christliness, or spirituality, is the true character of man as created by God; the understanding of this fact lifted the apostles above the limitations and so-called laws of matter; others felt the divine power as reflected by them and were healed.

Christ-healing is present salvation. Every healing is a foretaste of a more complete salvation to come. Our textbook promises (p. 406), "We can, and ultimately shall, so rise as to avail ourselves in every direction of the supremacy of Truth over error, Life over death, and good over evil, and this growth will go on until we arrive at the fulness of God's idea, and no more fear that we shall be sick and die."