Modernism Betrayed Me

By Ruth Jarvis

Most people assume that all churches are a place to find and worship God. But I wonder how many men and women in this "Christian country" have sought God in a Modernistic church as I did and failed to find Him. My heart aches for these people, for I know the anguish of seeking God in a so-called Christian church, and being unable to find Him.

My spiritual frustration started when I was a girl in Sunday School. I saw that our class was much ado about nothing. The high-school girls who taught us knew little about the Bible, and class time was usually spent discussing clothes and boys.

I tried to find God by myself. One summer I spent many hours sitting on the porch reading my Bible. But I could not understand it, and there was no one to explain it to me. I grew bitter. By my late teens, I was trying to convince myself there was no God. When I met my husband-to-be, Parker Jarvis, he strengthened me in my philosophy. He had been well indoctrinated in atheism in university classes. After the first date, I remarked to my mother, "We agree on everything, even that there is no God." We were married a year later.

We decided we would not try to influence our children against religion, but encourage them to make up their own minds. Taking them to Sunday School drew us all into the social life of the small neighborhood church. We enjoyed the dances held in the social room adjoining the sanctuary, and we helped stage the annual minstrel show to raise money for a new building. When young couples gathered frequently in each other's homes, no one raised an eyebrow at the liquor served.

My husband and I had been married eight years when our small manufacturing business failed. We lost thousands of dollars, and suddenly I no longer felt self-sufficient. I groped for something to lean on, and a book on healthy mental attitudes came our way. I got literature from the Unity School of Christianity and Mary Baker Eddy's book, Science and Health. We clung to this material like drowning victims, but then Parker threw up his hands at the hopeless confusion of ideas. Soon after, I also gave up the task of making sense out of it.

Our church was buff cling bigger quarters, and I began to look forward to finally having space for an adult Sunday School class. I inquired of the man who was to teach it what material would be used. He replied: “Some of the older people want to study the Bible, but we don't want to do that.”

I was asked to teach the fifth-grade girls, and I told the minister that I could not as I knew nothing about the Bible. He assured me that was not necessary: So I taught for three years.

The life of Jesus was studied from the Sunday School lessons published by the parent organization of our church, but in this particular lesson series Jesus was presented only as a good man who came to show us how we ought to live. Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Schweitzer were upheld as glowing examples of men of faith, but there was no emphasis on saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

[NOTE: According to the new book, GREAT SOUL: MAHATMA GANDHI AND HIS STRUGGLE WITH INDIA, the book says Mahatma Gandhi was a flaming homosexual, a bisexual who left his wife to live with a Jewish bodybuilder from Germany between 1908-1910. Gandhi wrote to his Jewish lover and said, “I cannot imagine anything think as ugly as the intercourse of men and women.” The leaders of this book are angry, as well as some Jews. Many people these days want to honor this sex-perverted man. Most people were not aware that Gandhi was a flaming bisexual. Gandhi is no hero. ~by David Stewart

Often I would ask our minister about passages in the Bible that bothered me. He usually answered, “You almost have to understand Greek and Hebrew and the customs of those days to be able to understand that.”

His sermons seldom touched on the Bible, but he did say that the Old Testament was a very interesting collection of myths, perhaps originally based on some event, but much embellished in the retelling. His explanation of the Red Sea parting for the Israelites was that they found a swampy place to cross where the Egyptian chariots would bog down.

As youth leaders, my husband and I were given the denominational material to use in preparing programs. One session was entitled, “Christian Youth Meet a Communist.” It presented Communism in an idealistic fashion, with few complimentary words about Christianity.

Hoping to learn something about the Bible, my husband and I joined a study group started by the pastor. But they didn't study the Bible. The material was rather nebulous, but it was very intellectual, and the attendance was good.

About the fourth session, which my husband could not attend, the pastor led the discussion into the subject of war. He stated that if Russia should invade our country, we should lay down our arms and behave in a Christian manner. When someone protested about the killing that the Russians would do, he said, "They'll get tired of killing by and by."

In this group of twenty or so couples, many of them intelligent professional people, not a person raised his voice in defense of our country's freedom and the need to protect it.

I couldn't endure any more, and as I rose to leave, I said: "I assume that if a murderer broke into your home some night, you would not raise one finger in defense of your family. You would quietly watch him kill your wife and son, telling yourself all the while, 'He'll get tired of killing pretty soon.'"

This experience shook me utterly, for I saw that everything I had put faith in was tottering. The Bible became my only hope.

I hunted through it to find what God required of me so that I might know Him intimately. Often I would beg Him to reveal Himself to me in a way as real as the strong floor under me.

One day I read, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). So this was what God wanted of me. I knew I was fairly good already, and it would not take much more to make me perfect!

I buckled down and started policing myself—words, thoughts and deeds. This intense drive went on for months. If it had not been for my children, perhaps I would have convinced myself that I had attained perfection, but they humbled me. Who can always be as patient and as wise with them as one should be? Night after night I reviewed the events of the day and cried because I had failed again to be perfect.

Finally, an idea dawned. I would just take an hour at a time. Surely I could be perfect one hour, and then the next hour. I set the buzzer on my stove to ring every hour to remind me. When this, too, failed, I was at the end of myself and ready to give up hope of ever knowing God personally.

At a meeting my husband and I attended, the speaker was the attorney for the Ohio Un-American Activities Committee. During the question period following, a fine looking, white-haired gentleman in the audience made some well-documented remarks about the part churches were playing to change our form of government.

We wondered if he might be the Rev. William E. Ashbrook, known to be a pastor actively opposing socialistic influences in the churches.

So intrigued were we that I phoned the next morning and talked with Pastor Ashbrook. I found that he was indeed the man we'd seen at the meeting. I asked him if he would come over and explain to us what he believed. He came with his Bible, and we were amazed at the ease and confidence with which he used it. So delighted were we to find someone who could answer from the Bible our accumulated questions that it was midnight before we let him go. As I went to sleep that night, hope welled in me that all he had told us was true.

With the light of morning, however, I wondered if the peace I had glimpsed the night before was only an illusion. It was too good to be true. As soon as possible, I sat down with a Bible and reread the verses of the night before.

My heart grew lighter and lighter as I read. I found that, with the simple key he showed us, I could grasp the meaning of passage after passage which had always puzzled me. My heart sang, "O God, it's true, it's true!"

What was this simple key? It was the place of beginning with God—the place where a sinful human heart meets the holy God. The pastor used the third chapter of John in this way.

Jesus told Nicodemus, "Ye must be born again." As we are born physically, so we must be born spiritually. We must recognize that sin causes spiritual death, but that Jesus took the penalty of these sins upon Himself at the Cross. Whoever believes on Him as his Saviour is forgiven and "born again" with God's eternal life. What joy to learn that God did not require perfection of me! Only One is perfect, and that One gave me eternal life in spite of my imperfection, just as He will do for anyone who sees the need for Him as Saviour and trusts Him.

My husband also trusted in the Lord Jesus that day, and each day since then we have learned more of His love and peace! Christ made peace between God and man on the Cross; until mankind accepts it, there certainly will be no peace between men and between nations.

In the eleven years since my conversion, I have witnessed to my relatives and have seen several of them find spiritual life in Christ.

How wonderful that God offers life freely through faith in His Son. I am sure that all those who do trust Him will keep on discovering, throughout eternity, new and lovely facets to this jewel of salvation which Jesus has purchased for us.