Calvinism, Christian Science, and God's elect
A Christian Science perspective.
In her youth, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, came face to face with the doctrine of predestination, articulated by John Calvin, who is featured in the Monitor article, "Christian faith: Calvinism is back" (March 27). She wrote in her autobiography that “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” (“Retrospection and Introspection,” p. 13).
Later, she told the minister who was examining her for membership in the Congregational church her parents attended that she could never unite with the church if it was essential that she agree to this doctrine. Moved by her sincerity, the minister accepted her anyway.
Many years later she would found the Church of Christ, Scientist, based on the teachings and healing works of Jesus. Through a physical healing that transformed her life, she had discovered that the laws behind his healing ministry were still able to heal in her day and for all time.
Determined to share this knowledge, she spent years studying the Bible and, later, working on a manuscript that, in 1875 would be published as the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” The book would help those in need of physical healing, but its deeper goal was “to attest the reality of the higher mission of the Christ-power to take away the sins of the world” (p. 150).
Unlike Calvin, who taught the doctrine of original sin, Mary Baker Eddy understood the nature of God to be all good and the man and woman of His creating to be perfect, pure, and forever sinless. In her eyes, the account of Adam and Eve’s fall is an allegory designed to show the influence of a mortal and sinful view of life, totally separate from the spiritual reality of God’s entirely good creation. An understanding of this point is essential to the Christ-healing taught in Science and Health and is linked directly to Jesus’ saving ministry.
Referring to Jesus, she wrote that he “annulled the laws of matter, showing them to be laws of mortal mind, not of God.... He demanded a change of consciousness and evidence, and effected this change through the higher laws of God” (“Unity of Good,” p. 11). These “higher laws” enable one to prove that each individual has an unbreakable relationship with a loving God, and that life consists of progressive spiritual growth as one understands God better. This understanding leads to improved health and morals.
Nor is this promise meant just for an elect group, predestined to be saved. The Bible makes clear that God’s desire is to have "all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”
(I Tim. 2:4, English Standard Version). Christian Science shows that this saving action comes through the Christ – God’s message of love for humanity, which Jesus’ life fully expressed.
John Calvin and Mary Baker Eddy differed theologically, but they shared a conviction of God’s omnipotence. In their own way, both trusted this divine power to sustain them as they carried out their ministries, in cultures and time periods that were worlds apart.