This is #13 in a series of posts looking at the 26 Christian Science Weekly Bible Lesson subjects, chosen by Mary Baker Eddy, and rotated twice per year. These lessons are the sermon at each Christian Science church worldwide, and are read by Christian Scientists daily. Today’s subject is ‘Christ Jesus’. Look for other posts in the category ‘Lesson Sermon Subjects‘.
This is a big one, and sometimes contentious, especially if, like me, you’re not entirely convinced that Jesus even existed. But, I’m not here today to debate the existence of Jesus. My purpose here is to offer insight into the Christian Scientist’s view of Jesus.
One of the biggest departures Christian Science makes from most mainstream Christian faiths is in its view of Jesus and who or more accurately what he was. Most Christian faiths claim that Jesus is God–that they are one and the same. Christian Science teaches that Jesus was not God, but rather the son of God. This forms a major point of contention between Christian Science and other Christian faiths, and is one of the main reasons most other Christian faiths claim that Christian Science is not Christian.
The idea of the ‘Christ’ is also considered separately from the man Jesus in Christian Science. The ‘Christ’ is Jesus’s spiritual ‘essence’, if you will, in the Christian Science-view. My sense when I was a Christian Scientist was that this is what connected Jesus to God.
So, what role does Jesus Christ have in the Christian Science church? Well, Mary Baker Eddy referred to him as a “mediator, or way-shower, between God and men.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 30). She also referred to him as “…the most scientific man that ever trod the globe.” (Science and Health, p. 313). So, Jesus was held in high regard by Mary Baker Eddy, and his teachings do form much of the basis of Christian Science, however I do give equal or more credit to Phineas Quimby. Jesus and his teachings are at least an inspiration for the teachings of Christian Science, in particular his purported healings.
Christian Science claims to reinstate so-called “primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing.” (Manual of The Mother Church, p. 17). So, the healings of Jesus and the apostles are a major component of Christian Science, but I would say they aren’t the centre. Jesus isn’t the singular central figure of the Christian Science Church as he is in other Christian churches. Based on my own memories and perceptions, Jesus is one of the central figures in the Christian Science Church, along with Mary Baker Eddy herself. Many Christian Scientists view her as a partner with Jesus. Teachings I received in Christian Science class instruction taught that Eddy was the “divine female”, a counterpart to the male Jesus. She was placed not necessarily as Jesus’s equal, but as something close. Some do view her as an equal to Jesus. This sense of partnership or equality between Jesus and Eddy is also a huge point of contention between Christian Science and other forms of Christianity, and is in fact viewed as blasphemy by other Christians. It’s also a major reason why some view Christian Science as a cult.
So, Jesus and Christian Science have a strong relationship, and Christian Scientists will go to great lengths to show that to the world. What they’ll downplay is how they also elevate Mary Baker Eddy to a status almost co-equal to Jesus. If I were to give the relationship a Facebook status, I’d say Christian Science is “in an open relationship” with Jesus. There are other parties at the table too. One thing that has driven many ex-Christian Scientists I know who’ve gone to other Christian faiths is their view that Christian Science takes a false view of the Bible and Jesus in particular, and they, along with their other Christian brethren, therefore do not consider Christian Science to be Christian. It definitely isn’t a conventional Christian religion, but I do believe it is a Christian religion of sorts.
As a parting gift, dear reader, I leave you with one of my favourite movie songs. It’s from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. I recently had the pleasure of participating in an audience sing-along to this song along with its author, Eric Idle, when he and John Cleese were in concert here where I live. As a huge Python fan, this was a moment I’ll never forget. No matter what, always look on the bright side of life.