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Rolling Away the Stone: Mary Baker Eddy's Challenge to Materialism (Religion in North America) Paperback – February 23, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Gottschalk, an independent historian and author of The Emergence of Christian Science in American Religious Life, completed this significant intellectual biography of Mary Baker Eddy before his death earlier this year. As with that earlier work, Gottschalk distinguishes himself by placing Christian Science in the larger context of American religion, rather than examining it as a mere curiosity or one-off sect. Eddy, he argues, should be taken seriously as a religious innovator whose radical theological teachings were intended not only to start a new religious movement, but also to reform all of Christianity from within. The biography focuses on the last two decades of Eddy's life, when the "retired" leader spent her seventies and eighties overseeing the construction of the Mother Church in Boston, revising Science and Health, battling external critics and internal dissension, and founding the Christian Science Monitor. Gottschalk, who was a Christian Scientist himself and once worked for the denomination, shows a clear pro-Eddy bias at times, especially when he is turning the tables on bombastic critics like Mark Twain or Joseph Pulitzer, but in general the book demonstrates copious and painstaking research. In fact, this is the first major biography of Eddy to be published since the opening of the denomination's archives to researchers a few years ago, and its command of primary sources sheds new light on Eddy's life and work.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Mary Baker Eddy (1821, 1910) has had more than her share of biographers: admirers, detractors, scholars, and members of her church. In this posthumous work, Gottschalk, who belongs in the last two categories, accepts the daunting task of examining the years between Eddy's 1889 move from Boston to Concord, NH, and her death. This period, ostensibly her retirement from active leadership and public life, was punctuated by acrimony, lawsuits, and highly publicized conflicts over Eddy's physical and intellectual/spiritual property, and the usual attacks upon her character and theology. Gottschalk does a superb job of providing historical context for the chaotic events of Eddy's final decades. He analyzes frequently oversimplified disagreements between Eddy and Mark Twain, deftly highlighting the many points of agreement and parallel thinking that led Eddy and Twain to very different conclusions. Finally, Gottschalk makes accessible Eddy's mature theology, the product of controversy as well as deep reflection: a thoroughgoing rejection of all materialisms affirmed by her contemporaries (scientific, medical, ecclesiastical, spiritual) in order to seek something higher and better than matter, and apart from it. All libraries should own this book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers; general readers. D. Campbell, Colby College, 2006 oct. CHOICE



"Gottschalk does a superb job of providing historical context for the chaotic events of Eddy's final decades. He analyzes frequently oversimplified disagreements between Eddy and Mark Twain, deftly highlighting the many points of agreement and parallel thinking that led Eddy and Twain to very different conclusions. Finally, Gottschalk makes accessible Eddy's mature theology, the product of controversy as well as deep reflection: a thoroughgoing rejection of all materialisms affirmed by her contemporaries (scientific, medical, ecclesiastical, spiritual) in order to seek 'something higher and better than matter, and apart from it.'" ―Choice



"Gottschalk's account is well told and enriched by fresh material now available from the Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity." ―Christian Science Monitor



"Gottschalk has provided readers with a masterful account of Christian Science in its heyday. The book is a first-rate read for students of American religion and provides a look into how one of the country’s more complex religious figures dealt with materialism in the late nineteenth-century America." ―Religious Studies Review



"The book includes a great deal of fresh research and honest scholarship... [F]or the individual wanting to sink his or her teeth into a serious study of Eddy... you have a lot to look forward to in reading this book." ―The Christian Science Journal, Vol. 129, No. 5 May 2011

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Product Details

  • Series: Religion in North America
  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; Reprint edition (February 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253223237
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253223234
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #317,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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92 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Larry K. Wojno on February 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"Marinating in materialism" is an apt sound bite describing society entering the 21st century. Some nostalgics might yearn for a simpler time-say a hundred years ago-before cell phones, high speed Internet and the Jerry Springer Show.

According to Stephen Gottschalk, other than new technology, little has changed in media strategy and social values in the last century. His new book, "Rolling Away The Stone: Mary Baker Eddy's Challenge to Materialism" focuses on the period from 1890 to 1910, the ending twenty years in the controversial career of Mary Baker Eddy, religious leader, church founder, publisher and media lightening rod.

Through meticulous historical research, including new original source material recently made public, Gottschalk portrays both the heart-rending struggles and triumphs of a religious reformer who challenged the growing encroachment of materialism in society and particularly in religion. Through her Bible study, hard-knock life experiences, experimenting and discovery (or as she called it "reason and revelation") she felt she glimpsed the essential vitality of original Christianity. Not encumbered by formal education, no degree in classical theology, her reading of the Bible bore through centuries of tradition, ritual and dogma to share with the world a view of "primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing."

Much of 19th century church teaching was colored by doctrinal assumptions dating back to ancient church councils where it was agreed to make God the cause of not only infinite good but of matter and finitude which lead to death and suffering in human experience. Healing, common in the first years of the Christian era, was considered something confined to Bible times and not for contemporary practice.
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51 of 51 people found the following review helpful By D. Sand on February 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Gottschalk has written a graceful, lucid, and heartfelt book that captures both the inner life and outward struggle of Mary Baker Eddy, one of the more unique figures in American religious history. Though a Christian Scientist himself, he is no apologist but a clear eyed, sympathetic scholar who has the intellectual wherewithal to place her in a historical context (see his explanation of her Puritan background or the section on Mark Twain for example) and to do justice to her religious ideas. He does this while keeping in view her humanity and the steep price she paid for holding true to her own conscience-driven mission. Not a quick read but well worth the time spent.
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69 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Eric Chaffee VINE VOICE on February 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
My comments below will review the book, and also speak to a review in The Christian Science Monitor 2/21/2006 (available in archive at csmonitor [dot] com).

This book is an important story about a significant contributor to the intellectual history of the world. But the 'official' review by Monitor reviewer, Richard Bergenheim, editor of the Monitor, seems to wish Gottschalk had told a different story. And he bases some of his critique on the story not told, dismissing the book, in part, as dogmatic -- yet he does not establish his assessment charging 'dogmatism' by citing a single quote. (Here's one of his: "Regretfully, Gottschalk feels compelled to tell the more familiar story yet again, leaving examination of what Mrs. Eddy achieved during this period and how it was accomplished still largely unexplored. . . . Its tone, however, is often uncomfortably dogmatic.") 'More familiar?' RB seems to miss the point that the book is not about the church but about her challenge to materialism. What a pity. Perhaps he's the dogmatist, being more fixated by the (failing?) empire, than focused on the significant insight about the nature of matter and the way of treating it which Eddy has delivered to the world.

Yes, the book revisits ground covered by Robert Peel (in what still remains the leading scholarly biography on Eddy), but Gottschalk is on a new mission. The intrigue of prominent thinkers (Twain, Cather, Pulitzer, et al) and their differing perceptions of reality was, for me, worth contemplating. I came away with the distinct feeling that Eddy would have been much further ahead had she not allowed herself to be distracted by the founding of a centralized church, an effort she attempted to resist. (Let the local branches be the church!
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Mary E. Sibley VINE VOICE on April 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Mary Baker Eddy took a radical stand against materialism, and, resultantly, evil. Both Mary Baker Eddy and Mark Twain experienced moments of blackness, despair. Although Twain could believe in healing through Christian Science, he could not believe that God is Love.

This new scholarly biography by Stephen Gottschalk is of interest to both historians of religion in America and Christian Scientists. The author's focus is Mary Baker Eddy's final twenty years. For the most part these years were spent by her at her New Hampshire retreat near Concord, Pleasant View. Gottschalk uses pressure points encountered by Mrs. Eddy to organize the book. The first is the regrettable Next Friends Suit triggered by inquiries of Pulitzer's WORLD. Other points used are the vehement opposition of Mark Twain to Mrs. Eddy and the World Parliament of Religions.

In the near term the Parliament was deemed a success by Christian Science adherents. Mrs. Eddy had, nonetheless, fear of overexposure and she was more perceptive than her followers in this regard. The discussion of MBE and Mark Twain is interesting in terms of the Calvinist background they shared. Mrs. Eddy is characterized as a reluctant Charismatic. Her position was a radical one. Dissension in the movement threatened its prosperity. Through unity of action the Mother Church was built in 1894. Mrs. Eddy made unremitting demands upon members and officers for concerted purposeful action. The boom in branch church edifices, though, signaled a danger--creeping materialism. Mrs. Eddy believed her source of authority was spiritual listening.

More than Emma Hopkins and Augusta Stetson, Josephine Woodbury was a conflicted follower of Mary Baker Eddy. She passed from ardent disciple to adversary. She had drama and flair.
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