This is part of a series of posts exploring the questions of Is Christian Science Christian? Not Christian? A Cult? All posts will be tagged Christian or Cult?
I’ve heard (and read) quite a few critiques of Christian Science “not really being Christian” (see links below – 1) but I never really bothered with it the idea – after all the Tenets of Christian Science (2) say we “acknowledge Jesus” and that was usually enough to keep my other-denominational friends from pestering me too much, the rest of the details are just icing on the cake.
A recent conversation with a fellow former-CS piqued my curiosity, so I did a quick google search on what makes a religion Christian which led me to the Apostle’s Creed. From wikipedia:
- The Apostles’ Creed (Latin: Symbolum Apostolorum or Symbolum Apostolicum), sometimes titled Symbol of the Apostles, is an early statement of Christian belief, a creed or “symbol”. It is widely used by a number of Christian denominations for both liturgical and catechetical purposes, most visibly by liturgical Churches of Western tradition, including the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, and Western Orthodoxy. It is also used by Presbyterians, Methodists, and Congregationalists. (3)
In many ways, the Apostle’s Creed feels much more solid than the Tenants of Christian Science. The statements are very solid, many starting with “I believe” making it all the more personal.
Ecumenical version of the English Language Liturgical Consultation (3)
- I believe in God, the Father almighty,
- creator of heaven and earth.
- I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
- who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
- born of the Virgin Mary,
- suffered under Pontius Pilate,
- was crucified, died, and was buried;
- he descended into hell.
- On the third day he rose again;
- he ascended into heaven,
- he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
- and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
- I believe in the Holy Spirit,
- the holy catholic Church,
- the communion of saints,
- the forgiveness of sins,
- the resurrection of the body,
- and the life everlasting. Amen.
The Apostles’ Creed is a stark contrast to the Tenets of Christian Science and a far more literal system of belief is established. Before we delve into the Tenets, it is important to know how Ms. Eddy defines Christ (S&H p. 583) and Jesus (S&H p. 589).
- CHRIST. The divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error.
- JESUS. The highest human corporeal concept of the divine idea, rebuking and destroying error and bringing to light man’s immortality
In Christian Science, Christ and Jesus are separate entities. It was explained to me that Jesus was the man, and Christ was his mission (4). In the Apostles’ Creed, Jesus Christ is solidly set as God’s only Son, while Ms. Eddy gets a bit more creative with her description in Tenet 2:
- (Tenet 2) We acknowledge and adore one supreme and infinite God. We acknowledge His Son, one Christ; the Holy Ghost or divine Comforter; and man in God’s image and likeness. (emphasis mine)
So Christ is also the Holy Ghost and divine Comforter? I have also seen the argument that Christian Science is the Divine Comforter (5). Jesus comes into play later, as fulfilling the duty as way-shower, and man is saved through the Christ idea of Truth, Life and Love:
- (Tenet 4) We acknowledge Jesus’ atonement as the evidence of divine, efficacious Love, unfolding man’s unity with God through Christ Jesus the Way-shower; and we acknowledge that man is saved through Christ, through Truth, Life, and Love as demonstrated by the Galilean Prophet in healing the sick and overcoming sin and death.
- (Tenet 5) We acknowledge that the crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection served to uplift faith to understand eternal Life, even the allness of Soul, Spirit, and the nothingness of matter.
So we acknowledge that Jesus was crucified and resurrected, but did he die and ascend into Hell? The Creed says he did, Ms. Eddy remains vague. As for ascending into Heaven and returning to judge everyone, Ms. Eddy teaches in Tenet 3 that
- We acknowledge God’s forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal. But the belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts.
Sunday School students are taught they make their own hell when they disobey/stray from their ever-loving God, but I am unclear of Christian Science’s official view on judgement after death. While Ms. Eddy did see fit to include Probation After Death and Everlasting Punishment as official weekly Bible Lesson topics, the heart of the issue is glossed over in Sunday School. My father once explained that we have to work out our own salvation, if not in this life, then then next, and eventually we would be one with God, but I’m unsure if that is official Christian Science dogma, his own personal view.
Christian Science is vague about death, preferring to trumpet that Jesus has shown us the way to eternal life, eternal life, and the nothingness of matter. There is no mention of saints, the or the Holy Church in any incarnation. Tenet 6, makes Jesus our role-model instead of a savior:
- And we solemnly promise to watch, and pray for that Mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; to do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and to be merciful, just, and pure.
While the Tenets of Christian Science are often enough to dissuade an over-eager Christian from attempting to “convert” they fail stand on their own as “Christian” in the traditional sense. The Apostles’ Creed is far more straight forward, and while there is plenty of room to interpret them and argue the finer points, they are clearly applicable and accepted by most of Western Christianity.
A complex system of reality, unreality, heaven, hell, mortal mind, and salvation, is only useful if you’re the person controlling it as a way to keep the others in line. The entire system is confusing and complicated, we should all be nice to each other and do away with antiquated systems of belief which have been used for centuries to oppress.
Further reading of interest:
- Dr. McKim’s “Christanity and Christian Science” – A rejoinder by a Churchman via The North American Review, Volume 199 p. 723 – 733 (http://books.google.com/books?id=mJI2AQAAMAAJ&dq=Christian%20Science%20Apostles%20creed&pg=PA722#v=onepage&q=Apostles%20creed&f=false), sadly I could not find Dr. McKim’s original piece, but a brief synopsis can be found at http://books.google.com/books?id=v9pKAAAAYAAJ&dq=Christianity%20and%20Christian%20Science%20Dr.%20McKim&pg=PA268#v=onepage&q=Christianity%20and%20Christian%20Science%20Dr.%20McKim&f=false
- Pamphlets on Christian Science p. 422 http://books.google.com/books?id=avs-AAAAYAAJ&dq=Christian%20Science%20Apostles%20creed&pg=PA422#v=onepage&q=Apostles%20creed&f=false
- My First Year in Christian Science The Christian Science Journal, Vol. 21
- The Apostle’s Creed, is it really Biblical? http://www.bibleistrue.com/qna/qna32.htm
- http://carm.org/christian-science-religion-christian, http://www.letusreason.org/cults18.htm, http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Christian_Science, http://www.probe.org/site/c.fdKEIMNsEoG/b.4217729/, http://christiananswers.net/q-aiia/letter-christianscience.html*
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostles%27_Creed, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostles%27_Creed#Ecumenical_version_of_the_English_Language_Liturgical_Consultation
- I’m unclear how the Christ idea could come to the flesh, as MBE defines it on p. 58 it is unreal: FLESH. An error of physical belief; a supposition that life, substance, and intelligence are in matter; an illusion; a belief that matter has sensation.
- http://blissknapp.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/historicalfacts-bka.pdf p. 2
*An open letter to followers of the Christian Science movement contends that MBE took ideas from Hinduism, and the ideas they discuss also echo some of Hegel’s views as well.
6 thoughts on “Christian Science & the Apostles’ Creed”
Having come into Christian Science from a different denomination where I just accepted certain things such as Jesus is the God of the universe and matter as the end-all do-all substance of everything, I assume the purpose of the Six Tenets is a feeble attempt to communicate (commune maybe) with other Christians. Like you wrote, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
The big no-no to not accept is that Jesus is God. I have seen some pretty strange religions on Christian television. Some of them are way more wacko in how that act and teach than Christian Science. Yet, because these odd groups see Jesus as God, they are accepted within the Christian tent. They even have gotten on Christian television.
In the early 1990s, Christian Science had a few television programs that were carried on a open-minded religious network. When the network was bought by another Christian group, the first thing they did was cancel the Christian Science and Mormon programs. Again, some of the shows now on Christian television are far-out. At least the Christian Science programs were carefully laid-out intellectually in comparison. But who wants intellect when you can have belief?
I have a theory too long to explain here, why Mary Baker Eddy has Six Tenets instead of Seven Tenets. There really should be Seven Tenets. Why do I say that? Mrs. Eddy writes very often in fours and sevens. Fours and sevens are part of her writing plan or style. It’s a type of writer’s symbolism she employs. Many Christian Scientists ignore the style, probably out of an unconscious fear of a very distant and unnecessary association with numerology. So they miss out on the obvious use of fours and sevens in her book IMHO.
Bill, I would love to hear your theory about having seven tenents!
Also, if you’re interested in numerology and symbolism in Ms. Eddy’s works, I highly recommend http://thearkoftruthmothershood.wordpress.com/
I have been to several speeches about the artwork and symbolism in “Christ and Christmas.” What you sent is new to me. I will have to share it with some of my metaphysically oriented friends. On first glance, it seems to take a lot faith to believe the complicated geometry involved. I am aware of the theory of complexity as civilization progresses, but I’d rather have a few things explained in a simple fashion. It’s like humor. If a joke is too long, it hinders the punch line.
I agree, MJSmith is quite verbose. However, I have not found many others with her unique perspective. She does not update very often, but when she does, I find it fascinating.
From some speculative corners of quantum thinkers, there is this theory that we unconsciously construct our belief systems in a projected way. Perhaps some of this projection is what is going on. Some adding on more and more complex symbolism may be sidetracking what we really should be doing sometimes, when the symbolism becomes “the thing” over personal growth or applying spiritual laws to help others.
Paul talks about “speaking in tongues” as sometimes having a confusing side to it. Perhaps this Christian Science symbolism you sent, taken over the borderline just too far, is speaking in tongues. Some people understand it, but most people are left hanging. Christian Science is confusing enough. That is one reason for the attempt to better communicate with an up-to-date textbook. The idea appeals to me. See the “Christian Science Journal” reaction to an update in the July issue, page 42. It’s worth discussing.
Do you happen to have a link or full-text available? I’m unable to find the article in question — we no longer subscribe to any CS-lit, and anything online is behind a hefty firewall — the exception is the very early stuff that Google Books has thoughtfully provided.
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