Like many of you who celebrate Easter, I grew up wearing special spring dresses, coloring eggs, and receiving a basket of goodies. However, it was not until I left Christian Science during my first Easter as a follower of Jesus Christ that I experienced true Easter joy. The words and impact of “He is Risen!” are profoundly different for believers in Christ and here is why: Christian Science alters the message, meaning, and magnitude of arguably the most important day of the Christian calendar.

MESSAGE: What does Christian Science teach about Easter?

Christian Science Teaches:

When Christian Scientists say “He is Risen!” it is important to consider what they mean. While believers affirm that the world was created as good and perfect, Christian Scientists believe that “all” is good. They deny the physical reality of creation and of humanity in particular.  They deny both the possibility of evil (forbidden trees) and the reality of evil in Genesis 2 and 3. For them, sin, illness, and death do not exist. To Christian Scientists, Jesus is the “Way-shower.” When he overcame the grave, He proved “the nothingness of the material world.” It’s not completely clear whether they believe Jesus actually died on the cross (there’s different teaching on this) but they believe that Jesus was working out his healing in the tomb, his battle with the illusion of evil, referred to as the Mortal Mind. When He rose from the grave, Jesus’ healing was complete. The exclamation, “He is Risen!” points to Jesus’ success in overcoming Mortal Mind. Jesus’ resurrection sets in motion their unending and mentally tortuous task to do the same. Thus Jesus’ resurrection proves that Christian Science works; Christian Science is true.

Biblical Christianity Teaches:

Followers of Jesus Christ believe that God created our physical world as good and perfect. We believe in the possibility and the reality of evil because Genesis 2 and 3 tells how sin entered the world with the disobedience of Adam and Eve. We also believe Genesis 3:15 where God promises to save mankind and destroy all evil through the seed of the woman. These prophecies recur with increasing specificity throughout the Old Testament, telling how God will send a Savior who will redeem mankind. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus shows us that He is the Messiah who will fulfill this prophecy bringing salvation and the end of sin and death.” Three days after Jesus is crucified, He rises from the grave, showing his astonished followers that He is without a doubt God, the Savior of the world.  He has overcome the grave and is victorious over evil as prophesied. Followers of Jesus exclaim, “Christ is Risen!” God has been faithful to his promise; God is victorious over evil!

MEANING: Who does the resurrection work?

Christian Science Teaches:

For Christian Scientists, the joy that “Christ has Risen” is short-lived because they emphasize the action of Jesus rising rather than his death as a “once for all” substitute for sin. Imagine watching an Olympic Marathoner win a race and then turn to you and say, “Okay. You’ve seen me do it. Now it’s your turn.” Your excitement quickly becomes fear, frustration, and shame as you clumsily attempt to run. So, it is with the resurrection of Jesus and Christian Science. Armed only with inspiration to have hope, Christian Scientists must overcome Mortal Mind on their own. The resurrection is an example to follow, not something done on their behalf. The exclamation, “Christ is risen!” becomes a starting bell to a marathon that no one can win. For them “Christ is Risen” is a call to run as hard as they can: “Ready, set, go!”

Biblical Christianity Teaches:

Believers see Jesus’ resurrection as the single event that changes all of history. Jesus has carried or borne our sins on the cross. He died so we wouldn’t have to pay the punishment for our sins. We are redeemed by faith in him alone. He is the long-awaited promised Savior sent from God. As Jesus arises on Easter morning, He secures the victory over the grave, and as those who trust in Him, we share in that victory. Our Easter joy overflows as we celebrate this incredible gift of grace. It’s not because of anything we did or even could do. The work has been done for us thus the race is one because “Christ has Risen!” Something has happened and now everything is different. “It is finished.”

MAGNITUDE: What is the heart of the issue?

Christian Science Teaches:

For the Christian Scientist, the very essence of Easter is different. The resurrection is not personal to the Christian Scientist. Nothing is accomplished or lifted from the Christian Scientist’s shoulders by the resurrection. The resurrection is also then not essential to the life of the Christian Scientist. The resurrection does not point to the climax of their story, rather it serves as an instructional diagram to help them in their own race. Essentially stripped of its overarching victory, the exclamation of “Christ is Risen” to the Christian Scientist provides an encouragement with a mandate to action to “go and do likewise.”

Biblical Christianity Teaches:

Followers of Jesus Christ believe the crucifixion and resurrection are the climax of the biblical story. His death and resurrection are the sole means through which we are saved from our sin. The Old Testament looks forward to this moment while most of the New Testament looks back to it. Because Jesus died and rose again, everything in the world is different. Jesus’ resurrection is a deeply personal pronouncement of God’s grace to each one of us and a merciful invitation into relationship with the real, living God. Followers of Jesus proclaim “He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!” with overwhelming awe and gratitude rejoicing in the finality of Jesus’ victory over the grave and the beauty of our resulting redemption.

As believers we freely then encourage others to join in the celebration of what God has done, to “repent and receive this good news.”

 

Scripture to Consider:

Matthew 16:21

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

Romans 6:3-11

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

1 Corinthians 15:22-26

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

Katherine is the founder and director of the Fellowship of Former Christian Scientists. Growing up a fourth-generation Christian Scientist she attended Principia, a school for Christian Scientists, from preschool through her first year of college. She started questioning her Christian Science faith and ultimately left after September 11, 2001 when faced with the undeniable reality of evil in the world. Several years later the Lord pursued and she came to know Jesus Christ as her Savior at a bible-based PCA church. She was baptized and began studying at Covenant Seminary where she earned a MA. She felt called to start the FFCS connecting people with a Christian Science background with Christ-centered resources, care and community. She also loves the arts and serves as the Choir director at her church.