Rolling Away the Stone, by Stephen Gottschalk, was first released in 2006 to favorable reviews. Most of them highlighted the fact that this new biography of Mary Baker Eddy was top-drawer scholarship utilizing a great deal of new material from The Mary Baker Eddy Library. Based on the success of that first release, Indiana University Press has recently made Rolling Away the Stone available in paperback, which gives us a fresh opportunity to look at this book from the perspective of its value to readers of the Journal.
The title of the book comes from the Biblical image of the stone being rolled away from Jesus’ tomb following his resurrection. This stone, which Mrs. Eddy described in an Easter service as being “the belief of mind in matter” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 179), represents the materialism that would blind an individual to the teaching that is at the core of Eddy’s life and discovery of Christian Science—the allness of God, the understanding that “all is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation . . .” (Science and Health, p. 468).
Although this book focuses on the last 20 years of Eddy’s life, readers should not expect a linear narrative of the events she experienced over the course of that time period. Rather, as Gottschalk explains in the introduction, “the book is organized, after the Prelude, according to a broadly chronological, yet topical plan.” It is this “topical plan” that really is the strength of this book, with each chapter highlighting an event or crisis that forced Eddy to prove a particular aspect of the Christian Science she taught in order to be able to move her Church forward. Some of these topics include: how Christian Science confronts the problem of evil, including evil’s general appearance within human existence, as well as its directed hatred toward Christian Science and Eddy in particular; how Eddy’s deepening Christian spirituality established her authority within the growing denomination she founded; how Eddy expected her followers to build a church on the basis of Christian healing rather than creeds; and finally, how Eddy expected her followers to be on guard against the encroachment of materialism into the Christian Science Church.