shared from and with BibleTexts.com users
#76 - Writer "not a big fan of Ms. Eddy's theology"
and response by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
After looking at your web site this morning, I assume that you are a Christian Scientist. If this is the case I think it important to share with you the fact that I am not a big fan of Ms. Eddy's theology.
I am student of Christian Science, who was baptized as a Methodist, and who has been a member of The Church of Christ, Scientist for quite a few years. I have found Mary Baker Eddy's explanations of Christianity very insightful and helpful, and I also find yours, Metzger's, Conzelmann's, Bultmann's, Bruce's, Koester's, Bornkamm's, Jeremias', Caird's, Schnackenburg's, Barratt's, Hengel's, Pagels', and many others' explorations of the biblical texts and early Christianity very insightful and helpful. Yet, I do not come to the same conclusions on everything that any one of the above ever wrote. This is consistent with the intellectually honest discipline of biblical criticism, which we all employ.
We all are engaged in a dialog together, but the real answers are articulated to each of us individually by God though Christ and the Holy Spirit. Letting God prepare our thoughts and lives to fitly witness to God's answers is what I understand to be the privilege of every Christian, every believing follower of Christ.
I especially take very seriously several of the passages in Mrs. Eddy's writings that point me back to Jesus and back to the original biblical texts. She wrote:
Acquaintance with the original texts, and willingness to give up human beliefs (established by hierarchies, and instigated sometimes by the worst passions of men), open the way for Christian Science to be understood, and make the Bible the chart of life, where the buoys and healing currents of Truth are pointed out. (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, page 24)
Finally, brethren, wait patiently on God; return blessing for cursing; be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good; be steadfast, abide and abound in faith, understanding, and good works; study the Bible and the textbook of our denomination; obey strictly the laws that be, and follow your Leader only so far as she follows Christ. ('01, 34:20-26)
I again repeat, Follow your Leader, only so far as she follows Christ. ('02, 4:3)
[Note: Mrs. Eddy preferred to be called "Leader" rather than "Mother," due to "the public misunderstanding" of the name "Mother," by which she had come to be known by her closest associates in her church. (See her Church Manual, pages 64-65.) At that period it also was common for fellow church members to refer to each other as brothers and sisters, just as all members of the early Christian church did. It is also fair to say that the use of the term "Leader" also has become publicly misunderstood.]
To my understanding Mary Baker Eddy did not consider Christian Science or Divine Science to be a religion per se. Nor did she consider it as confined to what she wrote about it nor to what has been available to Christians in this period of human history. She simply used the name Christian Science or Divine Science to explain the means and divine influence of the Paraclete (Comforter, Counselor, Advocate), the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth -- the same Holy Spirit or Advocate of truth -- that redeemed, healed, and taught our first century brothers and sisters and that has redeemed, healed, and taught Christians throughout the ages, including our current age. She wrote Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures [S&H] as an articulation of that same Comforter.
When I find what I believe to be differences between what I read in the writings of Mrs. Eddy and what I read in the United Bible Society's (UBS) Greek New Testament, 4th Revised Edition, I consult the UBS Greek text, the best modern representative of "the original texts," as she herself advocated. I then find that as I re-view Mrs. Eddy's writings in light of the original texts, the Greek texts often further explain or clarify what she wrote, and makes me read her writings differently and more appreciatively. Using her writings as a springboard into the Bible texts very frequently helps me to further discover the rich nuances of those Bible texts, especially in the Gospel of John and in Paul's writings.
Mrs. Eddy personally made use of and encouraged others to use resources utilizing modern biblical critical scholarship, especially to clarify or correct wording in the King James Version. She herself was a very serious student of the Bible, of which she had a dozen different translations in her own personal research library. For more details on this, you can browse
Beyond the issues of scholarship, Mrs. Eddy was most noted for her unconditional love (agape), especially toward her many enemies, and for her practice of Christian healing. (I myself have experienced many Christian healings of sin and disease through the practice of her teachings on Christian Science.)
I believe that the most balanced and honest biographies of her are those by the thorough, scholarly historian, Robert Peel, who did not back down from his honest conclusions, even when the publishing of those conclusions reportedly brought him disfavor from some senior management at The Church of Christ, Scientist, the church that Mrs. Eddy founded.
As illustrated by some reaction to Robert Peel's biographies of Mrs. Eddy, the articulation of honest findings is not always very comfortable to those who prefer simply to accept traditional views that justify or at least reassure their already-held opinions. Mr. Peel's biographies are a difficult read for those fundamentalist Christians whose literature so consistantly misrepresents the history and theology of Christian Science and who find modern biblical scholarship threatening. Mr. Peel's biographies are also difficult to read for those fundamentalist Christian Scientists who have idolized Mrs. Eddy to an almost semi-divine status and/or who also find modern biblical scholarship threatening.
Those who seek to be led by the most honest representation of the facts and who are not beholden to popular opinions find intellectual honesty to be exhilarating and their conclusions to be very genuine and inspiring. Obvious examples of where traditional views have been enslaving, and of where a more honest and thorough examination of the biblical texts has been liberating, can be found in Bibletexts.com webpage articles on the roles of women in the early church, that are listed and linked at http://www.bibletexts.com/women.htm. A specific example of such an article can be found at http://www.bibletexts.com/qa/qa078.htm.
Mr. Peel wrote in his final biography, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority (page xi):
I have tried at every step to convey the true proportions and suggest the inner dimensions of a life story which, in both its public and its private aspects, has been misrepresented so often by sanctified legend and scandalous fable.
There also are 'sanctified legends' about the Bible (and sometimes about Bible translations) that are perpetuated by some Christians of all denominations, including students of Christian Science, and there are 'scandalous fables' about the Bible that are perpetuated by some opponents of Christianity. Giving up those 'sanctified legends and scandalous fables' "open the way for Christian Science to be understood, and make the Bible the chart of life, where the buoys and healing currents of Truth are pointed out."
I have spent many years really trying to consider these matters very, very honestly. I sincerely welcome dialog with you, and I am eager to learn from your insights. I deeply value my fellowship with Christians of all denomoninations, because before we are denominated, we are Christians. For an articulated example of this, see
Does anyone have a complete grasp of what Jesus' original teachings and practices were and how he expects us to apply them today? I don't, and I don't know of anyone, anywhere, of any time that has had that complete grasp. (See also Phi 3:12-15.) It is the role of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete (Comforter, Counsellor, Advocate) to remind us and further teach each of us what Jesus taught. (See Joh 14:26; Joh 16:12-15.) Many of us have earnestly sought such a grasp, and if we are honest with each other, we can help each other along the way. It is ultimately God who reveals Himself to each one of his beloved children through Christ and the Holy Spirit, but we lovingly and faithfully can help prepare each other for that revealing.
At the end of another BibleTexts.com Web page, I articulate a very longtime commitment to intellectual honesty, to which I continue to be very much committed:
If you have information or insights that shed further light, either in agreement with or contrary to what I have stated, please email me. My desire is to arrive at honest conclusions that are consistent with all available facts. I deeply respect all who honestly arrive at genuine conclusions, even if those conclusions differ from my own conclusions. It is not my intent to prop up any opinions, which are often the result of one's selectively using only those facts that support such opinions - and conveniently disregarding facts that undermine such opinions. I do not want to have any personal opinions. I only want to develop faith-inspiring, honest conclusions that lead to being "filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." (Col 1:9, NRSV) So please feel free to share with me any facts that may help lead to even better or further refined conclusions.
(excerpted from the last paragraph of http://www.bibletexts.com/bl-ver.htm)
To explore a response to a reader's characterization of Christian Science as heretical, browse http://www.bibletexts.com/qa/qa103.htm.
Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer