In yesterday’s post I provided a brief overview of the Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science) worldview to show how it answers the three most important questions addressed by any worldview (“How did we get here?”, “How did things get so messed up?” and “How do we fix it?”). But how do we know if the Christian Science answers are actually true? One way to examine the Christian Science perspective is simply to see how well it answers a few important philosophical and theological questions. These questions are designed to challenge the Christian Science claims about reality and to help you initiate a discussion with your friends or family who may hold this worldview:
Let’s begin with some questions springing from basic philosophical concerns:
1. If the material world is not to be trusted, how can we trust the Bible and “Science and Health” if they exist in this material world?
This is the foundational problem with any worldview claiming matter is an illusion yet also claiming to have learned this truth from something in the material world. How can Mary Baker Eddy’s writings be trusted if they are part of the illusion? How could she have been trusted (when she was alive) if she was also part of the illusion?
2. If all of reality is an illusion to each of us individually, how is it that we all experience the same illusion?
If reality is an illusion each of us perceives, how are we able to experience the same illusion? There are no “group” hallucinations or “group” material illusions. Christian Science teaches an individual can overcome the illusion of the material world and conquer illness and death, and this enlightened achievement is allegedly possible at the individual level. In other words, Christian Science teaches each of us is experiencing the illusion of the material world individually and this illusion is to be overcome individually. How, then, is it possible each of us (individually) is experiencing the same illusion?
3. Why would a good God who created everything good allow the deception in the first place?
Is a world of material illusion and deception a “good thing”? If it is not a good thing, why would a good God create such a world? What is the “greater good” God is trying to achieve requiring this level of deception. As Christians, we are often asked how evil can exist if God is both all-powerful and all-loving. Our response is God wants a “greater good” (the ability to love from a position of free will) and therefore must allow the evil resulting from free will. But what is the “greater good” the god of Christian Science is trying to accomplish by allowing the evil of a material illusion and deception?
4. If our bodily existence is unreal, how can we trust any eyewitness account of the bodily form of Jesus?
One of the biggest questions Christian Science has to answer is whether or not Jesus’ material appearance was also an illusion. If it was, how do we know the disciples actually saw something they could trust? How do we know if they even accurately recorded His words?
5. Our senses are part of the material world, so how can we trust them to know if we are really healed in the first place?
Christian Science proposes each of us (through prayer) can understand the nature of God and the truth of the spiritual reality surrounding us. This worldview also teaches we can overcome illness in this way and there are a number of healings recorded in the history of Christian Science. But how can we trust our observations related to these healings if these observations exist within the material illusion itself?
6. If Biblical historical narratives are not to be trusted (because material history is an illusion), then how are we to trust Jesus lived within history as recorded in the Bible?
Christian Science has a tendency to allegorize all of the historical narratives of the Bible and to minimize these narratives from a teaching perspective. In fact, Christian Science devalues all material historical descriptions (as we might expect), because the worldview places no trust in the illusions of our physical, material existence. But if we can’t trust historical narratives described in the scriptures, how can we trust anything we know about Jesus? After all, Jesus is presented to us in the context of a historical narrative.
7. Why doesn’t Christian Science result in at least a handful of believers who have completely conquered illness and death? Why don’t they live longer?
As we discussed earlier, followers of Christian Science see their faith as a progressive work of spiritual growth allowing believers to overcome the illusion of the material world and become more and more enlightened about the spiritual reality of their existence. If this is true, we should see a number of these believers who have been able to conquer their deception and suffer less and less illness (and perhaps even conquer the illusion of death altogether). Why don’t we see this?
Now let’s examine some questions related to topics directly addressed in the Bible. Christian Science claims to use the Bible as at least some sort of authority, so it’s fair to compare what Christian Science proposes to the teaching of the Bible:
1. You describe God as an impersonal “Principle”, not a person. How do you resolve those Biblical teachings describing God as a Person who sees, hears, speaks, remembers and knows?
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD; and when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.
Do not remember the iniquities of our forefathers against us; Let Thy compassion come quickly to meet us; For we are brought very low.
2 Timothy 2:19
Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness.”
2. You say Jesus was not himself God. How do you resolve those Biblical passages in which Jesus describes himself as God or in which there is significant evidence of His Deity?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
1 John 2:22-23
Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
3. You say only “Principle” (God) exists and all matter is an illusion. How do you resolve those Biblical passages in which Jesus demonstrated the reality of matter?
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.
4. You say sin, evil; and death don’t exist. How do you deal with those Biblical passages teaching sin is real and separates us from God?
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”
Romans 5:12, 6:23
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned… For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
5. You say Jesus’ blood on the cross did not cleanse us from sin. How do you deal with those Biblical passages teaching Jesus’ blood atoned for the sin of mankind?
1 Peter 2:24
…and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
6. You say the disciples were fooled into thinking Jesus was dead when he was really alive in the tomb. How do you deal with those Biblical passages teaching Jesus died and rose from the dead in bodily form?
John 20:16, 17, 20, 27
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni.” (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'”…And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord… Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.”
So, Could This Be True?
Every worldview has to be both internally and externally consistent. The challenge for Christian Science appears to exist at both levels. There are a number of philosophical questions (and Biblical Questions for that matter) exposing the internal contradictions of the worldview. In addition, it would be difficult (if not impossible) to measure whether or not Christian Science is externally consistent if we can’t trust our observations in the material world in the first place. For these reasons, the Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science) worldview does not pass the test of internal and external examination.
For more information about the reliability of the New Testament gospels and the case for Christianity, please read Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. This book teaches readers ten principles of cold-case investigations and applies these strategies to investigate the claims of the gospel authors. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Cold-Case Christianity DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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