The Baby and the Wash

Some have coined such expressions as, "Throw the baby out with the wash," "Lean over backwards to stand up straight," and various other ones to describe what is conceived as an over reaction to a situation or philosophy. Perhaps in the church those who practice that phenomenon may be called "ultra-conservative." At any rate, although labels such as "liberal" and "conservative" may be dangerous, deceitful and divisive, there is little doubt that most of us use various labels to identify things and persons in some fashion. Without trying to attach an opprobrious label to anyone, I think it might be helpful to suggest one or more areas where it seems that some brethren have done disservice to "the baby," and perhaps not even eliminated the dirty wash.

Since there has arisen in the church various aspects of the "Pentecostal movement," such as tongue speaking, direct operation of the Holy Spirit in conversion, there are those who have taken the position that if God does anything in answer to prayer, this would be a direct operation of the Holy Spirit and the idea must be condemned as false doctrine. Some attempt to modify that idea by saying, "God may providentially do some things," but they seem unable to explain exactly what they mean by that.

There should be a clear distinction between a miracle that was apparent to all who saw it that it was a miracle, and God acting directly on a situation and causing something to happen that would not otherwise have happened. For example, when I pray for a sick person, I see nothing strange or wrong with praying that God heal the sick person. If God does it, I have no way of knowing that He did, so it is not a miracle in the Bible sense. However, it does not solve the problem to pray that God will bless the doctor, the nurse, the medicine, and all means that are used and still deny that God does anything. It is no more a miracle for God to heal the sick person than it is to bless the doctor's hands that they may do something that they would not have done otherwise.

When God "providentially" got Moses' mother to put him in the ark and got Pharaoh's daughter to come down to the river at the same time Moses drifted to the spot, He was acting, just as surely as He was acting when He turned the river into blood. However, the first was not a miracle as the second was, for no one could tell that God had anything to do with the first situation. How He got Moses down there at the right moment without anyone seeing His hand in it, or without overruling the will of anyone, we do not know. This is why we have used the term, "providence." However, by the use of that term, we do not have to deny that God is still active in the affairs of men. To do so would, in terms of this article, be throwing the baby out with the wash.

There is another area where it is possible that some of us are trying to throw the baby out with the wash. We have a group in the church who see nothing wrong with accepting as a Christian brother anyone who claims to accept Jesus as Lord. It matters not that they have neither understood nor obeyed the gospel. This ungodly, unscriptural practice has led some brethren to so react as to stigmatize and ostracize any who would say a good word about some denominational preacher or practice, or even be courteous to their members. To them, the expression, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" means that you sin even if you play golf with a denominational preacher. If you do not call a specific denomination by name when you point out some false doctrine, you are presumed to be a liberal, compromising the truth.

The baby still needs to be washed, and the dirt eradicated. We just need to be careful that we do not do more harm than good by the way we respond to situations. Jesus was teaching approximately the same thing when he gave the parable of the tares and the wheat. He did not mean that we are to disregard the tares and pretend that they are not there, or that they are as good as the wheat. He did include the idea that we are to be careful that we do not root out or trample down the wheat as we get rid of the tares. We are not to get rid of them in the sense that the Roman church got rid of heretics -- by burning them at stake, or otherwise killing or persecuting them. We are to have no fellowship with them as brothers in Christ, but we are not to take vengeance on them or punish them as God alone has the right to do, and will do in the judgment day.

T. Pierce Brown

Published in The Old Paths Archive