Throwing Out the Baby With the Bathwater
By Wendee Holtcamp

When I was a little girl, I would pray every night, "Lord, take my heart, black with sin, wash it with your red blood, and make it as pure and white as snow." I don't know where I got that prayer from (though its imagery stems from Isaiah), but I do believe my early prayers made a tremendous difference in my life. I didn't get much religious guidance from my parents in my younger years, and eventually I became a boat adrift in stormy waters. I strayed from belief in God for many years, but my questioning helped strengthen the faith I have today.

As I grew older, I saw people claiming to be Christians yet living lifestyles far removed from what Christ taught. I always felt passionate about world peace, egalitarianism, honesty, and everlasting love - truths that come from God. But I saw Christians who were hypocrits, not truly loving one another on earth, and sometimes spewing out venomous hatred toward others different from themselves. This turned me away from the "institutionalized" religion of Christianity. I changed from a naive believing child to ardent atheist.

I began to think I knew it all about the Bible, and thought it was full of contradictions. I believed "God" was an ethereal balm to soothe aching souls and to ease fears of dying -- the classic "opiate of the masses." I thought Jesus was just a good man that people took for a God. I was dismayed by some Christians' beliefs, the ones the media always seems to find, that in essence say you have to "check your brain at the door," ignoring all scientific evidence for theories about evolution or age of earth.

Funny, though, I had never actually read the Bible, but I sure thought I knew what was inside. I was confusing the beautiful truth of Christ and his message, with the fallible human efforts expressed in the institutional church. I was throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

When I finally picked up the Bible and made a committment to read and understand it, I was amazed that it said many of the same things I had always said and believed -- except with God existent. Sadly, it stood in radical departure from some of the historic and current Christian practice - from the crusades to the pharasaical-like behavior of certain modern-day church leaders.

As a man, Jesus was revolutionary. He treated all people - from lepers to children to prostitutes - and all races and creeds equally, with loving kindness, mercy, and grace. He chose a life of voluntary poverty, and spent his time teaching how to love and how to live with grace. He healed the wounded in heart and body. He taught people to not judge others because we can never walk in their shoes, and to fix our own sin before pointing out other people's.

Yet Jesus was not hesitant in illuminating errors in thought and worship of the temple leaders (Pharisees), or the wrong things that people did - like holding grudges and bickering and the love of money. He held teachers of the Law to a higher standard and exposed hypocrisy for what it was. He preached peace and forgiveness and love through direct physical action - and putting others' needs before your own (submitting).

He rebuked his disciple Peter for becoming violent when someone opposed Jesus his Lord. And rather than flee, Jesus ultimately endured torture and execution on a cross to give us spiritual freedom -- freedom from the bondage of our own sin.

I found much more than I expected in the Bible. I made the committment to search for the truth about whether God exists and whether Christianity was true by reading the Bible for myself and praying, instead of relying on what the world told me. I found that what I "heard" about various biblical stories and issues were often wrong or misunderstood, tainted by world-influenced biases, by the incorrect teachings of some church leaders, by the hypocritical behavior of many Christians, and by the failure to go back to the original languages of the Scriptures to gain true understanding.

I don't know how to explain what has happened since then, or how I really came to change my mind. It's no short of a miracle -- one that left no scientifically testable evidence. When I began to have faith and trust that there was something bigger out there, a higher purpose to this earthly life, something extraordinary happened. God began to answer prayer, from mundane and simple to extraordinary and miraculous.

Many people ask why God doesn't just prove beyond doubt that he exists. This is a valid question, with several possible answers. One answer, I believe, is that he did - in the Messiah Jesus Christ. Jesus performed miraculous signs and healings that broke all ordinary natural laws, and was resurrected from the dead -- the impossible -- yet at the time, some people who saw the miracles firsthand still refused to believe that he was God incarnate.

If God performed a miracle today to prove his existence, would you even believe what you saw? Or would you still think it was a fluke -- your mind playing tricks on you. Would you ask for one more miracle? I know I have!

As Hal Burton said in an excellent essay on Faith, Reason, and Doubt, shall we just turn God into a circus performer who must be on call to perform miracles at our whim? I believe miracles still do happen, but God requires faith and a humble spirit. If someone's already convinced he doesn't exist, then nothing God would do will convince them anyhow.

As Isaiah learned on the mountaintop, God was not in the earthquake, or the thunder and lightning, but in a gentle wind after all the storms passed.

God wants every person to know his love, his peace, his wisdom, his understanding. Seek and you shall find, and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7). God tells us that the conscience contains the elements of belief and the knowledge of what's "right and wrong" even before knowledge of theology (Romans 2:13-16). God is too important to wash your hands of Him because of human inadequacies and the world's confusion -- that's throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

You make your choices here on earth and live with the consequences eternally. Although there certainly is a place for the "fear of God," I believe the choice to discover the truth about God should be made out of love and an open heart.

As for me...

My heart aches for the world, the child abuse, the hate, the violence that is sweeping across our schools and taking away our country's children. It is a sad testament that in this blessed time of relative world peace, our children have less understanding of the sanctity of life, and often people naively care more about making money than teaching their children - and the society we live in - about how to love God and live Godly lives than we did in times of world wars.

We are told by Jesus that it is our duty and calling to serve God by helping people who are in need - nourishing and healing them in physical, emotional and spiritual health. There are three things I feel personally called to do:

1. Reconciling scientists to Christianity and Christians to science. There is such misinformation on both sides of the fence and despite what some might say, they are not mutually exclusive. God created the earth and cosmos, and called it good, says Genesis. Therefore what good science reveals about its operations will never contradict the true meaning of Scripture.

2. To help elicit a greater appreciation of God's creation - nature and the cosmos. So many people, myself included, go from one man-made box to another - from houses to cars to office, and spend little time outside in nature where you can really feel at peace with God. Where did Jesus go when he needed to prepare and strengthen for his three-year ministry? To the desert wilderness.

3. To encourage believers to do the things Jesus actually called us to do - caring for the poor, helping eachother, making sacrifices to meet the needs of the masses, bringing people closer to God, being stewards of the earth.

Copyright © 1998 Wendee Holtcamp