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A New Christian Identity

Christian Science Origins and Experience in American Culture

By Amy B. Voorhees

326 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 halftones, 1 table, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6235-0
    Published: March 2021
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6234-3
    Published: March 2021
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-6236-7
    Published: February 2021

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In this study of Christian Science and the culture in which it arose, Amy B. Voorhees emphasizes Mary Baker Eddy’s foundational religious text, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Assessing the experiences of everyday adherents after Science and Health’s appearance in 1875, Voorhees shows how Christian Science developed a dialogue with both mainstream and alternative Christian theologies. Viewing God’s benevolent allness as able to heal human afflictions through prayer, Christian Science emerged as an anti-mesmeric, restorationist form of Christianity that interpreted the Bible and approached emerging modern medicine on its own terms.

Voorhees traces a surprising story of religious origins, cultural conversations, and controversies. She contextualizes Christian Science within a wide swath of cultural and religious movements, showing how Eddy and her followers interacted regularly with Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Catholics, Jews, New Thought adherents, agnostics, and Theosophists. Influences flowed in both directions, but Voorhees argues that Christian Science was distinct not only organizationally, as scholars have long viewed it, but also theologically, a singular expression of Christianity engaging modernity with an innovative, healing rationale.

About the Author

Amy B. Voorhees is an independent scholar.
For more information about Amy B. Voorhees, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

"An excellent study of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science Church. . . . Voorhees has done exceptional work among the archival and primary sources, including close comparison of the many editions of Science and Health. This definitive look establishes Eddy as a major figure in America’s faith history."--Publishers Weekly

“Amy Voorhees’s survey of Christian Science’s first century, one that emphasizes its historical development, theological depth, and complex image in a shifting cultural context, is an undeniable gift to those who want to understand American religious culture in this period. Voorhees compellingly draws our attention to Science and Health’s key moments of revision and development, tying these to both Mary Baker Eddy’s biography and the dynamics of American religion at particular historical moments.”—David F. Holland, Harvard Divinity School

“Voorhees’s fine-grained and multifaceted analysis of the evolution of Mary Baker Eddy’s thought, discussion of Eddy’s relationship to modernity, and comparative analysis of Christian Science in relation to other nineteenth-century expressions of Christianity are very welcome contributions to the study of Christian Science and to American religious history more generally. Voorhees shows how Eddy’s religious innovations—and her success—ultimately hinged on her ability to defy easy categorization and to bridge and transcend numerous religious debates of the time.”—Joseph Williams, Rutgers University