Who was Mary Baker Eddy, and what is Christian Science? This intriguing modern religion has raised many questions from thinking people today. We begin with a brief history of Mary Baker Eddy and the founding of Christian Science.
History of Christian Science
Mary Baker Eddy was the founder of Christian Science. She was born July 16, 1821 in New Hampshire. Because Mrs. Eddy didn’t become a public spectacle until later in life, we know very little about her early years. Gill writes, “Eddy was in her sixties before she became a subject of public interest, and by then most of her parental generation had passed on… Thus, for first-person testimony to the Bow years, we have only what Mrs. Eddy herself left us—a few pages in her memoir and some odd anecdotes she confided in her last years.”
Mrs. Eddy’s early life
Mrs. Eddy was raised in the Congregational Church, but left the church because of the teachings of unconditional election and predestination. She writes, “The doctrine of unconditional election, or predestination, greatly troubled me; for I was unwilling to be saved, if my brothers and sisters were to be numbered among those who were doomed to perpetual banishment from God. So perturbed was I by the thoughts aroused by this erroneous doctrine, that the family doctor was summoned, and pronounced me stricken with fever.” Of course, there are other biblically faithful ways to understand these doctrines, but Mrs. Eddy decided to leave the church altogether.
Mrs. Eddy grew up suffering from various illnesses. Biographers debate the nature of these illnesses, claiming that some may have been psychosomatic. Needless to say, she became preoccupied with the Bible’s teaching on physical healing, also turning to other various methods of curing herself (e.g. medicine, diet, hypnosis, homeopathy, etc.). But none could cure her.
Eddy married George Washington Glover on December 10, 1843, only to be widowed six months later, losing her husband to yellow fever. She gave birth to her only son—George—two months after her husband died. She remarried in 1853 to Dr. Daniel Patterson—a dentist. During this time, Eddy continued to look for cures to her poor health.
In 1862, Mrs. Eddy became the patient of Phineas Quimby—a healer from Maine. For the next three years, she studied under Quimby, learning from his practice. Biographers often believe that Mrs. Eddy combined Quimby’s practices of hypnosis with the Bible—thus creating “Christian Science.” Quimby died in 1866.
Mrs. Eddy’s life-changing fall
On February 3rd of the same year that Quimby died, Eddy incurred a terrible fall, supposedly injuring her spine. She opened her Bible to Matthew 9:2 where Jesus cured a man sick with palsy. She healed herself mentally and spiritually, and after this “miraculous” healing, she devoted the next three years to biblical study. This became her “discovery” of Christian Science.
Mrs. Eddy’s book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”
Eddy published Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures in 1875. This work was revised numerous times before her death. Gill (a friendly biographer of Mrs. Eddy) writes, “From 1875 to 1907 Mary Baker Eddy was engaged in a virtually daily revision of her book. Thus the text of 1875 and the text of 1907, the one that Christian Scientists read today, are radically different.”
A critique of Christian Science
A Philosophical Critique of Christian Science In this article, we offer a rational critique of Mrs. Eddy’s claims to a miraculous cure after her terrible fall, the credibility of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, her claims of healing physical ailments, and her own personal consistency with her belief-system.
Theological Critique of Christian Science In addition to a philosophical and skeptical critique of Mrs. Eddy’s Christian Science, we also wish to offer a biblical critique of her view. Since her religion is titled “Christian Science,” it is often confused as being biblical. However, when compared with Scripture, nothing could be further from the truth.
Boa, Kenneth. Cults, World Religions, and the Occult. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1990.
Gardner, Martin. 1993. The Healing Revelations of Mary Baker Eddy. Buffalo, NY. Prometheus Books.
Gill, Gillian. Mary Baker Eddy. Reading, MA: Perseus, 1998.
Gillian Gill is an American writer and academic who specializes in biography. Christian Scientists often recommend Gill’s biography, because it defends Mary Baker Eddy’s character and denounces her critics. However, her work has been criticized for being a feminist reading of Eddy against critics of Christian Science.
Martin, Walter, and Ravi Zacharias (General Editor). The Kingdom of the Cults. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2003.
Peel, Robert. Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977.
Peel, Robert. Mary Baker Eddy; the Years of Discovery. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966.
Peel, Robert. Mary Baker Eddy; the Years of Trial. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971.
Robert Peel is a Christian Science historian, so his biography is highly favorable to the life of Mary Baker Eddy.
Von, Fettweis Yvonne Caché., and Robert Townsend. Warneck. Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer. Boston, MA: Christian Science Pub. Society, 1998.
This is a biography of Mary Baker Eddy written from a Christian Science perspective. The Church of Christian Science authorized this biography of Eddy.
Whorton, James C. Nature Cures: The History of Alternative Medicine in America. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002. Chapter 5. 103-150.
 Gill, Gillian. Mary Baker Eddy. Reading, MA: Perseus, 1998. 8.
 Retrospection and Introspection, p.13. Cited in Gill, Gillian. Mary Baker Eddy. Reading, MA: Perseus, 1998. 10.
 Gill, Gillian. Mary Baker Eddy. Reading, MA: Perseus, 1998. 49-67.
 Gill, Gillian. Mary Baker Eddy. Reading, MA: Perseus, 1998. 95-115.
 Gill, Gillian. Mary Baker Eddy. Reading, MA: Perseus, 1998. 209.