“Christian Science” in Vol. 3 of The Encyclopedia of Religion
Gottschalk, Stephen. “Christian Science.” Pages 442–46 in vol. 3 of The Encyclopedia of Religion. Edited by Mircea Eliade. 16 vols. New York: Macmillan. 1987.
Gottschalk’s encyclopedic entry on Christian Science represents an experienced voice from within the movement. He identifies it as “a religious movement emphasizing Christian healing as proof of the supremacy of spiritual over physical power” (442b). Founded by Mary Baker Eddy in the mid-19th century, Christian Science emerged during a period of social and religious crisis, exemplified by the struggle over science (Darwinism) and faith (biblical critical scholarship). Although abandoning her Calvinist upbringing, Eddy clung to a strongly theistic, biblical solution to ‘the problem of being.’ Christian Science Christology, Gottschalk explains, claims Jesus’s “life of obedience and sacrifice is understood as the means through which the reality of humankind has broken through in the midst of ordinary human experience” (443b). Healing is an element of salvation, and it is this emphasis that differentiates it from philosophies of idealism. Offshoots from Eddy’s movement have tended toward metaphysical abstractions, which result in a loss of practical relevance in human experience. The concern in Christian Science with individual salvation gives it a conservative cast in the eyes of more liberal Christians who wish to transform the social order. Church activities can “best be understood as vehicles for disciplined spiritual education” (445b). These include Bible Lesson-Sermons, periodicals, and class instruction in Christian Science.