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:
- 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.