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General Bible Courses > Living by the Book > Counterfeits by the Book

Chapter 3: Christian Science , Unity and New Thought, and Scientology


IN THIS CHAPTER, you will discover:

  • Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science.
  • The central doctrines of Christian Science.
  • The history and beliefs of the Unity School of Christianity.
  • The history and doctrines of Scientology.

AS A RESULT, you will be able to:

  • Understand the origins of Christian Science doctrine.
  • Distinguish between Christian Science and orthodox Christianity.
  • Discern the pitfalls of positive thinking and confession.
  • Recognize the dangers of Scientology.

Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science

Reading: Another Gospel, pp. 149-67.

Key Scripture: God saw all that he had made, and it was very good (Gen. 1:31).

Key Words: Spiritualism, Malicious Animal Magnetism.

Like Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science grew out of the spirit of the early nineteenth-century. Its roots were not in revivalism or apocalyptic expectation, but in the metaphysical speculation current in New England. New England was a gathering place for American intellectuals, and much of their thinking was influenced by European philosophers such as Kant and Hegel. These philosophers argued that reality is primarily "ideal" or mental in nature, and that what is ultimately real is "mind-stuff". Anton Mesmer lent credence to this worldview through his theory of "animal magnetism" and his experiments with hypnotism. The Fox sisters also gained notoriety during this period. Their claimed ability to communicate with spirits began the influential movement known as spiritualism.

Mary Baker Eddy was born in 1821 in New Hampshire. From her youth she was plagued with chronic illnesses and seizures of unexplained origin. She also had an affinity for the spirit world and often reported hearing a mysterious voice calling her.

After two marriages, Eddy remained too sickly to be an effective wife or mother. She consulted mental healer P. P. Quimby, who taught her that health could be achieved through positive thinking. Eddy responded to this message strongly and was apparently cured of her longstanding ailments. Her enthusiasm for Quimby and his theories was boundless. She compared him to Christ and wrote: "P. P. Quimby rolls away the stone from the Sepulchre of error, and health is the resurrection" (p. 154).

Soon after this recovery, however, Eddy fell sick again. She compulsively turned toward Quimby for help, writing long letters of appeal for psychic aid and consulting him "in spirit" during his "angel visits." She also copied his unpublished manuscripts to gain deeper insight into the secrets they contained. Quimby died in 1866, but Eddy was determined to carry on his message. After slipping on the ice and purportedly being close to death for three days, she miraculously (and somewhat melodramatically) "rose again" on Sunday. The revelation of God that Eddy received during this healing was later considered to be the true inauguration of Christian Science.

In the months that followed, Eddy began to teach a gospel of mental and physical healing based on Quimby's notes and her own idealist interpretation of the Bible. The movement did not gain momentum quickly. Eddy's inflexibility alienated follower after follower, causing her to move repeatedly. With the publication of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures in 1875, she and her ideas gained greater visibility. Eddy moved to Boston in 1879 and established the Massachusetts Metaphysical College. Christian Science was embraced by intellectually fashionable, non-orthodox Bostonians, and within a decade was considered a serious threat to orthodoxy.

The most glaring inconsistency in Eddy's theories lay in her own continued ill-health. (She remained a morphine user all her life.) Eddy attributed her attacks and fainting to Malicious Animal Magnetism; that is, negative thoughts directed at her by disloyal students. She even brought a lawsuit against one ex-student for "mental arsenic poisoning." Yet she herself marshaled her students to send Malicious Animal Magnetism against her enemies in two-hour shifts.

Like other cult leaders, Mary Baker Eddy was authoritarian. She considered herself God’s spokesperson for this age and defined immorality as disloyalty to herself. She was so incapable of self-criticism that she attributed the defections of her followers to hostile hypnotic suggestions.

Ultimately, death was the principal antagonist that threatened to refute Eddy's theories. According to her theology, sin, sickness, and death were only illusions. If a Christian Science practitioner died, it could only mean that they were thinking wrongly  - or that Eddy's theories were incorrect. When her fourth husband, Gilbert Eddy, died in 1882, she ascribed his death to Malicious Animal Magnetism rather than to heart failure, as diagnosed by his physician. Finally, she herself faced death, devoid of assurance, and with a plea that her death not be attributed to natural causes.

Key Concepts:

1. The Fox sisters, who were _____________________ , helped set the stage for Christian Science. [152]

2. Eddy was apparently addicted to ______________ throughout her life. [152]

3. Eddy saw herself as heir to mental healer _____________________ . [155]

4. Christian Science was born in 1866 after Eddy's “ ___________________ following her fall on the ice. [155-56]

5. Eddy attributed her ill health to the practice of _________________________________________ by disloyal students. [157]

6. Eddy considered _________ toward herself as identical to immorality. [160]

7. The Mother Church is in (New York, Boston). [162]

8. Several competing “mind cure” movements sprang up around Christian Science under the generic name ________________________ . [163]

9. Eddy's main work __________________________ sold 400,000 copies before her death in 1910. [166]

10. Eddy's last days were filled with a denial of (wealth, death). [166]

Further Study: Read Proverbs 14:30; 15:13, 30; 16:24; 17:22; and especially 3:5-8.

Life Application: The scriptures above indicate that Mary Baker Eddy's teachings have some biblical basis. Our mental attitude does affect our health - physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Joy is a precious fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). But how do we bring it forth? In Psalms we often find David complaining loudly to God (e.g., 28:1-5). Note that after doing so, he "comforts his soul" by remembering the goodness, faithfulness, and power of God (vv. 6-9). We should do the same. Choose an area in your life where you have been complaining to God. Then list at least three ways in which He can turn your problem into a blessing.

Christian Science Doctrine

Reading: Another Gospel, pp. 167-76, 393.

Key Scripture: "If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives" (1 John 1:10).

Key Words: Mortal Mind, Anthropomorphism, Pantheism.

During Mary Baker Eddy's 1878 lawsuit against Edward J. Arens, it became public knowledge that she had plagiarized much of Science and Health from P. P. Quimby's notes and other written sources. Still, Eddy maintained that she was "a scribe echoing the harmony of heaven," who had received Science and Health "by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (p. 170). Though claiming that the Bible was her only textbook, she insisted that the “300,000” different readings of the New Testament were evidence of its corruption by material and mortal mind. Science and Health bypassed this corruption by "penetrat[ing] behind the literal interpretation of the Bible and grasp[ing] its spiritual significance" (p. 170). In actuality, the "spiritual" meanings Eddy found in the Bible were those she herself read into the text.

Mary Baker Eddy's worldview was similar to that of the gnostic dualists mentioned in Chapter 1. She felt that the material world was filled with so much pain that it could not be ordained by God. Rather than attribute the existence of matter, sin, and death to an inferior deity (as some early gnostics did), Eddy said that they were unreal. She reasoned in this manner: God (Mind) alone is real. God (Mind) is truth. There is no pain (nor sin, nor matter) in truth; therefore, there is no truth in pain (nor in sin, nor in matter). They are the illusions of mortal mind.

To be fair to Christian Science theology, Eddy did not simply teach mind over matter. She considered heretical any "mind-cure" theory that taught that disease could simply be willed away. Eddy claimed that she taught "divine Mind"`or "spirit" over matter. But if there is a theoretical difference between Christian Science doctrine and positive thinking or "mind-cure” teachings, there is little or no practical difference. The burden of healing rests solely on the individual in both cases. Christian Scientists cannot attribute any flaw to the "perfect Principle"(God), nor can they appeal to that impersonal Principle for sovereign healing. Christian Science, like other cults, redefines orthodox" theological terms. Listed below are some of their unbiblical teachings.

God. Eddy rejected biblical anthropomorphism, which ascribes human characteristics to God. She preferred to speak of God using impersonal, idealist terms such as "Mind," "Principle," or "Spirit" (although she did speak of God as "Father-Mother"). In statements such as "We acknowledge . . . the allness of Soul, Spirit, and the nothingness of matter" (p. 393), Eddy seems to approach pantheism. The pantheist goes beyond saying that all things are in God (Acts 17:28) by saying that God is all things. Pantheism claims that the Universe equals God, thus negating God’s surpassing transcendence.

The Trinity. Eddy considered the orthodox concept of the Trinity polytheistic, a common misconception. Her idealist trinity consisted of "Life, Truth, and Love."”

The Holy Spirit. Eddy appropriated the identity of the Holy Spirit to herself in a subtle way. She understood the divine comforter prophesied in Scripture (John 14:26) to be "Divine Science." But she also envisioned the Holy Spirit as a feminine presence - one that her followers might easily equate with herself.

Jesus Christ. P. P. Quimby had taught, "As Jesus became clairvoyant He became the son of God" (p. 154). Eddy also distinguished between Jesus and divine Christhood. She taught that Christ is a model and an office, a preexistent "divine ideal of manhood,"” a "model of perfect spiritual sonship." Jesus, on the other hand, was merely "a human being who . . . completely demonstrated this divine ideal."” His virgin birth occurred when Mary perceived "the spiritual idea of Christ . . . in the bosom of God" (p. 173).

Salvation. Salvation consists not in deliverance from sin but in "purification from all error" of mortal mind (p. 168). The realization must come that people are already eternally saved in the mind of God. The new birth and the Atonement are simply the beginning and continuation of this realization. They have nothing to do with Jesus Christ except that he was a "Way-shower," who modeled the goodness we are to achieve (p. 393).

Although Christian Science is not a growing movement, its doctrines continue to have great power and influence. In fact, we can think of Christian Science as a bridge between early Gnosticism and the present. The doctrines of dualism, pantheism, salvation by knowledge (gnosis), Christ as an "office,"” and God as an impersonal principle, are first-century heresies that have found their way into twentieth-century New Age thinking via Christian Science and New Thought.

Key Concepts:

1. _____________________________ is the impersonal pastor at Christian Science church meetings. [169]

2. According to Eddy, "matter is mortal _________ ."” [169]

3. "It is unchristian to believe that pain and sickness are anything but _____________________ ."” [171]

4. The responsibility for healing rests entirely on the ________________ . [172]

5. Eddy rejected any ____________________ views of God; to her he was impersonal "Principle,"  "Mind," or "Spirit."”[172]

6. Eddy's doctrine that "there can be nothing outside" of God verges on _________ . [172]

7. The " ___________ " is the "divine ideal of manhood" that was demonstrated by the man Jesus. [173]

8. Christian Science membership is less than 270,000 today, largely because of controversies over ___________ practices and the early deaths of members. [176]

Life Application: Faith, as practiced in New Thought and Unity, was a matter of positive confession. Dr. Tucker notes that the modern "name it and claim it" mentality of the "Faith Movement" within Christianity was influenced by their teaching. But biblical faith is not something we must work up. Our job is to make our requests known to God, allowing the Holy Spirit to pray through us.

To help develop this sensitivity, ask these questions before praying. First, is my conscience clear, or do I have unfinished business with God to take care of (Matt. 5:23-24)? Second, what is my motivation? Do I want "things," or do I want God himself (1 John 2:17)? Third, where is my faith? Is it in faith itself, or is it in God?

Unity History and Doctrine

Reading: Another Gospel, pp. 177-90, 394.

Key Scripture: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).

Key Words: New Thought, Positive Thinking, Positive Confession.

Many of Mary Baker Eddy's disciples broke away from her, hoping to explore mental healing and divine science in a freer atmosphere than Christian Science offered. The groups formed by these disciples were individualistic and optimistic. Revolting against what they perceived as the negative attitude of both Christian Science and Calvinistic Christianity, they sought self-expression rather than submissiveness, self-realization rather than self-sacrifice, and self-development rather than self-effacement.

In 1915 several such groups banded together to form the International New Thought Alliance. They affirmed what Mary Baker Eddy had called heresy - positive thinking and mind-cure techniques. New Thought also extolled the unity of all religions, health through positive confession, and the idea that God was a  "divine supply" of "energy and power" within us (p. 178).

The name of ex-Eddy disciple Emma Hopkins is significant because two of her students, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, created a school that carried the philosophy of New Thought into the twentieth century. That school became known as the Unity School of Christianity. The Unity message came into so many homes that it was said, "Unity supplies salvation as Sears and Roebuck supplies overalls" (p. 182). But what kind of salvation does Unity teach, and how does it echo the teachings of its doctrinal forbear, Mary Baker Eddy?

Charles was leery of traditional nineteenth-century medicine after being "bled, leached, cupped, lanced, seasoned, blistered, and roweled" by doctors after an accident (p. 179). He became interested in New Thought through spiritualistic experimentation and the study of comparative religions. His wife Myrtle was a natural mystic, who shared her husband's curiosity about other religions. After hearing the phrase "I am a child of God and therefore I do not inherit sickness" at a New Thought lecture, she felt that her consciousness had been revolutionized. As a result, she began practicing mind-cure treatments on others. In 1889 Charles began publishing a magazine preaching the gospel of positive thinking. In it he outlined a religious system that borrowed from all religions. In 1914 the Unity School of Christianity was founded in Lee's Summit, Missouri, and began establishing churches. The main points of Unity doctrine may be summarized as follows.

God. God the Creator is both masculine and feminine and devoid of evil. We "live, move, and have our being in God-Mind, and "God-Mind lives, moves, and has being in us" (p. 184). Unity, unlike Christian Science, is unequivocally pantheistic. Everything is part of the divine essence, differing only in the degree in which it manifests the one spirit.

Evil. Evil is "a limited or incomplete expression of God or good. Its origin is ignorance" (p. 394). "Pain, sickness, poverty, old age, [and] death . . . are not real"  (p. 187).

Jesus Christ. "The Christ" is "the pattern every person is seeking to bring forth" (p. 394). It is the eternal image of the ideal, perfect person that we potentially are. It is the obligation and privilege of each of us to become the word of God incarnate, as did the man Jesus. The only difference between Jesus Christ and ourselves is the difference between expressed and unexpressed potential.

Eschatology. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the ultimate exhibition of positive thinking. Through fulfilling all the requirements of the law and attaining union with the Divine Mind, Jesus transformed his mortal body into an immortal body before the Crucifixion. This attainment of the "deathless" state through the spiritual transformation of the physical body is regeneration. Until we become capable of duplicating this feat, we continue to reincarnate on the human plane. There is no hell, and heaven is not the "spiritual suburb" of "selfish relationships" it is pictured to be (p. 187). The kingdom of God exists here and now.

The Bible. The Bible is not literal in its meaning. It is to be read allegorically (see p. 187 for an example).

According to the Fillmores, God is there to be used as we will. This doctrine both divinizes humanity and depersonalizes God. God is reduced to a set of laws or powers that can be manipulated at will. In cheerily elevating the human will to a godlike status and calling that salvation, Unity demonstrates a lack of realism about the true nature of moral evil and the darkness that infects the human heart. Moral evil, to be evil, must be an act of the will, not merely an illusion of the mind (Matt. 15:19; cf. 5:27-28). Evil is rooted in our hearts and must be uprooted by God's Spirit if we are ever to know peace, freedom, and true love. This is the biblical meaning of regeneration. (Compare Jeremiah 31:33 with the Key Scripture.)

Key Concepts:

1. New Thought proponents emphasized the _________ of all religions. [178]

2. Myrtle Fillmore called her science of mental healing “"________________ Christianity." [181]

3. The theme of _________________ , which was implicit in Christian Science doctrine, is explicit and prominent in Unity writings. [184]

4. The difference between Jesus Christ and ourselves is not in our innate spiritual capacity but in the __________________________ of it. [185]

5. Jesus, after years of training His soul, transformed His mortal body into an ________________ body before the Crucifixion. [186]

6 The process of achieving eternal life in the body as Jesus did is called _______________________________ . [186]

7. Charles Fillmore's paraphrase of Psalm 23 reads: "The Lord is my ______________ ; my credit is good." [189]

8. Within Christian orthodoxy, the Modern ___________ movement has beeninfluenced by the philosophy of positive thinking. [189]

Life Application: Sin is a reality that cannot be wished away through positive thinking. Doctrines that discount the reality of sin draw their power and persuasiveness from pride (Gen. 3:12-13). The tendency to excuse our sinful actions is so powerful that we fail to discern between the truth and self-justification - we "become fools" (Rom. 1:22). How does your pride get in the way of your relationship with God? In what areas do you try to justify your actions? This is the "positive confession" the Bible asks us to make: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness"” (1 John 1:9).


Reading: Another Gospel, pp. 299-318.

Key Scripture: "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them" (Matt. 7:15).

Key Words: Thetans, Engrams, Auditing, Fair Game.

Like Unity, Scientology blends Eastern religious concepts with Western thought. Scientology also borrows and develops two central themes of Unity: "self-help" and the innate divinity of man. But unlike Unity, Scientology is unconcerned with reconciling its message with Christianity. Scientology is less a distortion of biblical Christianity than it is a distortion of modern psychology.Therefore, it falls into Enroth's category of psychospiritual or self-improvement cults (p. 21).

Despite this label, we cannot dismiss Scientology as just a spiritually neutral attempt at self-improvement. In claiming the status of a religion, Scientology substitutes the gnostic fantasies of its reclusive founder, L. Ron Hubbard, for the gospel. Scientology is a Christless religion in which questionable and expensive therapy, rather than repentance, is the prerequisite for salvation. It is, in addition, an authoritarian cult that has a history of abusing its adherents emotionally, financially, and physically.

Since Hubbard's death in 1986, his true character has been revealed publicly. According to his son, Hubbard had a long history of venereal disease, sexual perversion, and mental illness. He was a drug addict involved in bizarre occult practices. Hubbard believed that he was the Beast of Revelation and that he had the power to control the world. He was a paranoid, convinced that his enemies were out to kill him. Hubbard used "blackmail and mob-style tactics" against former cult members and ruthlessly exploited those around him (p. 315).

Hubbard was an imaginative science-fiction writer with an inclination toward dark and violent fantasies. Having once boasted, "If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion," he proceeded to do just that (p. 305). Using the pop psychology contained in his 1950s best-seller Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, Hubbard created a "theology,"”labeled his counselors "ministers,"” and acquired legal religious status in 1969. Hubbard amassed a huge personal fortune through the expensive, tax-exempt fees charged for the counseling sessions required of Scientologists. He also sold religious franchises, establishing Scientology centers worldwide. A summary of Scientology’s beliefs and practices follows.

Human beings are, in reality, immortal, omnipotent, and omniscient spiritual beings called thetans. In the unguessable past, bored thetans created matter, energy, space, and time as a field in which to play. But we became so absorbed in the material game and so identified with our physical bodies that our spiritual origin and capacities were forgotten.

The consciousness of physical beings is controlled by a "Reactive Mind Bank" consisting of engrams. These are records of each moment of experience. Engrams exert a force or potential that suppresses and obscures our thetan spiritual powers. Through auditing, engrams can be reexperienced and erased from the mind bank, making it possible for mortal beings to relinquish their self-imposed limitations. Those who release themselves from the emotional stress contained in their engrams are called Clears. Above Clear lies the level of the OT (operating thetan), a state of virtual godhood. A person reincarnates until such release is attained. (Neither Buddha nor Christ were OT’s, but only attained a level slightly above Clear.)

The process of auditing consists of having the auditor regress the pre-Clear to a state of "reverie."”The auditor then quizzes the pre-Clear to help them recall and recount painful unconscious experiences, thus clearing their Reactive Mind. An E-meter, a device that measures electrical resistance in the body, supposedly helps the auditor locate areas of resistance in the memory of the pre-Clear. Attaining Clarity - much less thetanhood  - is a process requiring years of increasingly expensive auditing.

Scientology, like Jehovah's Witnesses, has gained notoriety for its severity with members who question authority. Scientology goes beyond merely shunning those who abandon the group. According to its Fair Game policy, defectors "may be deprived of property or injured by any means . . . tricked, sued, lied to or destroyed"” (p. 317). It should not really surprise us that Scientology can justify such measures. In Romans 1:18-32 Paul states that those who willfully ignore the clear knowledge of God's existence and transcendence written into creation "become filled with every kind of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice" (v. 29). Those who worship the creature (humanity) rather than the Creator (God) become a law unto themselves (v. 25). But because of our fallen nature, that law invariably becomes lawlessness and chaos. This pattern was seen in the antinomianism of "perfected" Ranters and can be detected here in the thetan ethics of Hubbard. Both Scripture and history teach us religious philosophies that preach the innate divinity of humanity inevitably bring about the spiritual and moral disintegration of their adherents.

Key Concepts:

1. Since its release in 1948, Hubbard’s major written work, _________________, has sold over eight million copies. [301]

2. According to Hubbard, the removal of __________ through auditing cures all ills, increases the IQ, and eventually brings godhood. [303]

3. To protect the auditor from legal liability, the auditor utters a ______________ at the end of the session. [304-5]

4. According to the Church of Scientology, an ________________ is a “confessional artifact” and an ______________ is a “minister.” [306]

5. Scientology claims we were all godlike _____________ before we became lost in the playground of matter, space, and time. [307]

6. Disloyal Scientologists are declared "Enemies" and categorized as "________________________ " or S. P.s. [313]

7. S. P.s may be deceived, or destroyed according to the rules of “"______________ ." [317]

Further Study: Read Psalm 19 and Romans 1:19-20, which describe the revelation of the divinity of God in nature.

Life Application: Christians need not fall into the syndrome of worshiping the creation and its creatures rather than God. Nature can inspire and uplift us because it reflects the glory of God. Are you aware of God’s presence in nature? List some occasions when you have sensed His power and majesty through the created order. How can you teach your children about the grandeur, the transcendence - even the playfulness and humor - of God through the natural beauty of His creation?

Take the quiz

Quiz Instructions

Review Questions

1. The Fox sisters, who were ____________________, set the stage for Christian Science.



2. The founder of Christian Science was ________________________________.

C.S. Lewis

Mary Baker Eddy

3. Eddy attributed her continuing ill-health to _________________________________.

Malicious Animal



4. Several competing 'mind-cure' movements sprang up around Christian Science under the generic name __________________ .

New Thought

New Mind

5. The abbreviated title of Eddy's main book is ____________________.

Spirit and Soul

Science and Health

6. According to Christian Science, 'Matter is ________ mind.'



7. Eddy taught that pain and sickness were only _________________.



8. The responsibility for healing in Christian Science rests entirely on the _____________________.



9. The Mother Church of Christian Science is in ____________.


New York

10. Eddy's doctrine that 'there can be nothing outside' of God verges on _______________.



11. True or False. Christian Science is a rapidly growing cult.



12. __________ teaches that we differ from Jesus only in the demonstration of spiritual capacity.



13. ________________ proponents emphasized the unity of all religions.

New Mind

New Thought

14. The Unity process of achieving eternal life in the body as Jesus did is called ________________ .



15. Charles Fillmore's 'positive thinking/prosperity' paraphrase of Psalm 23 reads: 'The Lord is my _______________; my credit is good.'



16. The Modern Faith movement has been influenced by the New Thought philosophy of ___________________ .

Positive Thinking

New Age

17. Hubbard's major book, _________________, has sold over eight million copies.



18. The removal of engrams through __________ cures all ills and brings godhood.



19. Scientology claims we were originally all godlike ______________.



20. Disloyal Scientologists may be tricked, lied to, or destroyed according to the rules of ' _________ ___________.'

Fair Game

Fun Game

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