Stephen Gottschalk, “Christian Science” and “Mary Baker Eddy,”Mircea Eliade, ed., “The Encyclopedia of Religion (New York: Collier Macmillan, 1987), III, 442-446 and V, 29-31.
From one of the most authoritative academic reference works on world religion:
“…Christian Science emerged as a distinct phenomenon in American religious life during a period of both social and religious crisis. The dramatic conflict between science and faith, as witnessed in battles over Darwinism and critical biblical scholarship, was only the most obvious aspect of a developing breakdown in a Christian cosmology that pictured experience as split between a natural and a supernatural order. Christian Science, however, rejected traditional cosmology and was therefore free to address religious issues in a way that was limited neither by creedal formulas nor by assumptions based on nineteenth-century natural science….
“Salvation [in Christian Science] includes obedience to Jesus’ command to heal the sick. Sickness is one expression of the fundamental error of the mortal mind that accepts existence as something separate from God. Healing, therefore, must be predicated on the action of the divine Mind or power outside of human thought. In Eddy’s words, ‘…erring, finite, human mind has an absolute need of something beyond itself for its redemption and healing.’ Healing is regarded not merely as a bodily change, but as a phase of full salvation from the flesh as well….
“By the 1979 centennial of the founding of the church, the Christian Science movement found itself experiencing greater challenges from the currents of secular materialism than it had encountered since the early days of its founding. The increasing secularization of Western society worked against the kind of radical Christian commitment it required, while at the same time its healing practices encountered new challenges in an increasingly medically oriented society.
“The history of the church, however, confirms that it is no exception to the general tendency of religious movements to grow or decline according to inner vitality rather than external pressure. Nor are external signs of growth in themselves altogether valid indicators of spiritual strength; indeed, it was because of this that Mary Baker Eddy forbade the publication of church membership statistics at a time when the movement was growing rapidly. The great numerical growth of the movement in the decades after Eddy’s death may well have been attributable more to sociocultural factors unrelated to and, in some respects, opposed to the specific religious and redemptive purposes of the church itself….”