Q #372: My father is a strong practicing Christian Scientist,
and we often have discussions on the differences in theology between it and A Course in
Miracles. One particular aspect of these differences is the world -- the Course
teaching that everything in the material universe is material and not created (or
even known) by God, while in Christian Science, things such as trees, streams, and
mountains are ideas of God, but not matter.
I believe what it boils down to is that in Christian Science they don’t believe we
escape from the world because we never left perfection. It seems to me that in the Course
we are trying to escape the thought system on which the world is based and don’t see
nature as ideas of God but as distractions of the ego thought system.
Another seeming difference in the two is that Christian Science believes that as you
withdraw your belief in matter or the illusion the world of form will get better --
guaranteed! Because it is all about thought. But I believe the Course’s view is that
form may or may not get better, even when you begin to see the unreality of it.
Can you clarify these differences for me? Also do you know of other differences in
these two philosophies because at their core they sure seem the very same to me?
A: You are correct in the differences between A Course in Miracles and
Christian Science that you point out. In themselves they are enough to establish that
these two thought systems are fundamentally different. A Course in Miracles teaches
not only that the world was not created by God, Who has no knowledge of it, but that it
does not exist at all. We are not asked to escape the world or the ego thought system as
such, but to learn to let go of our identity with that thought system through forgiveness (W.pI.23).
You are right, the world will not get better when we no longer believe the thought of
separation from God is real; it will disappear in our awareness. Since the Course teaches
there is no hierarchy of illusions (T.26.VII.6), all form in the physical universe
is equally unreal, no part of which is an idea of God, Who is pure spirit with and beyond
The Course’s teaching on forgiveness also distinguishes it from other spiritual
paths. As you may know, it tells us: "Be willing to forgive the Son of God for
what he did not do" (T.17.III.1:5). We are asked to live the Course by applying
the process of forgiveness to all our relationships. This involves looking at the hatred,
anger and judgments of the ego thought system in operation in our lives, so they can be
released and replaced by the Holy Spirit’s thought system. This is not central to the
teaching of Christian Science. If you are a student of the Course, it may be helpful to
remember that it is this application of its teachings that is important rather than the
intellectual understanding of its metaphysical principles. Discussions with your father
probably provide you with many opportunities for this. A Course in Miracles asks us
to acknowledge all the judgments we may have during our interactions, recognize that they
are projections of guilt at having chosen to identify with the thought of separation, and
give them to the Holy Spirit so they can be reinterpreted. As a Christian Scientist, your
father may have a very different practice.
Another significant distinction is the importance of the role of Jesus and the Holy
Spirit in the practice of the Course’s teaching. We are encouraged to ask Jesus or
the Holy Spirit for help in choosing our right minds rather than our wrong minds, so our
perception can be transformed.
i. Compared with A Course In Miracles, how does Christian Science
"heal" with mind?
ii. I have been a student of A Course In Miracles for thirteen years but
have been frustrated that my study and practice did not seem to be helping me with some
practical problems. I discovered that Christian Science also teaches that we are spirit
and not a body, so I recently started attending a Christian Science church, and was healed
of some long standing physical problems and a smoking addiction. The Christian Science
church says that Jesus said: "By their fruits ye shall know them," and that his
followers would do greater works than his. This is the basis for their emphasis on
healing, which seems to work. What is the Course’s view on this? Does it say anywhere
that we will heal and be healed? I am uncomfortable with some of Mary Baker Eddy’s
writings on sin and punishment, and much of the Bible, and feel much more comfortable with
the teachings of the Course. Is there any way I can get the practical healing of the
Christian Science way, but by study of the Course rather than Christian Science?
A: There are many striking parallels at the metaphysical level between the
teachings of Christian Science and the Course. Both proclaim the reality of spirit and the
unreality of sin and sickness. Both see the latter as errors of a mind that has forgotten
its true nature and only Life in God, Who is only Love and Who can be the source of
nothing unlike Himself.
But at the level of purpose and practice they may be seen to diverge. Christian Science
has a major focus on healing the illnesses of the body as a demonstration of the truth and
validity of its principles. The Course, as you have been aware, has no concern for
bringing about change at the level of form, or the body. Its purpose is to teach and
accelerate the process of forgiveness in the mind as a means of awakening from the dream,
and not simply for the "healing" of its effects as experienced in the body.
The process of healing articulated by Christian Science reflects principles similar to
the Course’s: that all physical healing comes from a decision of the mind and that
the ministrations of physicians and healers in the realm of medicine and other material
interventions have an effect only because of the beliefs in the mind of the one who is
sick. But Christian Science advocates going to the source of illness in the mind in order
to bring about the physical healing, rather than turning to the physicians of the world,
while the Course bypasses concern with the effects of the mind’s error and
advocates changing the mind so that the mind itself can be healed of its guilt. Along the
way, the body may very well be healed, and the Course suggests that in several passages
(e.g., W.pI.136.17; M.5.II.2). But that is never the goal. Jesus remarks in one
passage, which may be seen as a correction for Christian Science’s emphasis on the
body’s healing: "Thus is the body healed by miracles because they show the
mind made sickness, and employed the body to be victim, or effect, of what it made. Yet
half the lesson will not teach the whole. The miracle is useless if you learn but that the
body can be healed, for this is not the lesson it was sent to teach. The lesson is the mind
was sick that thought the body could be sick; projecting out its guilt caused nothing, and
had no effects" (T.28.II.11:4,5,6,7).
Because Mary Baker Eddy was concerned with defending the validity of Christian Science
against its detractors, she emphasized its greater effectiveness in bringing about release
from symptoms in comparison to traditional medical interventions, which she perceived as
only reinforcing the erroneous belief in the power of matter in the minds of physician and
patient alike. As a result, there has been a strong tendency for many of her followers to
take the position that seeking medical intervention is somehow wrong, even sinful. The
Course, because of its emphasis on awakening from the dream, accepts that the mind may
need to use whatever means it can accept, including doctors and medicine, to allay its
fears that are being manifested as physical symptoms. But over time the mind will come to
accept its power of choice in all matters, as its fear of acknowledging that power, as
well as the accompanying guilt, diminishes through the practice of forgiveness (T.2.IV.4,5).
There is nothing wrong with using the teachings of Christian Science to help resolve
physical symptoms and problems you may be experiencing. But it may be helpful to keep in
mind Jesus’ words, noted above. For if your only purpose is to heal your body, you
will have missed the tremendous opportunity for healing the guilt in your mind over the
separation that the physical symptoms always point back to. But as you remember the
Course’s purpose, the application of the principles of Christian Science may become a
helpful classroom in which to deepen your understanding of the Course’s teachings on
forgiveness, as you appreciate the similarities as well as the important differences
between the two paths.