Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-18-55 10:50 a.m.
As practically all of our people know, the pastor is preaching through the Bible and has been doing that for about ten years. But before we begin it again, for last Sunday, for this Sunday – I do not know whether next Sunday or not – but at least for last Sunday and this Sunday, there are just some things that I wanted to speak of that arise out of observations and convictions and persuasions as I look at our modern, turbulent world.
Now, the title of the message this morning is The Christian Faith and World Revolution. And if I could read a little passage of Scripture, it would be in the eleventh verse of the twenty-first chapter of Isaiah: "The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, ‘Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?’"
The Hebrew word dumah means "silence" – the silence of death, the silence of the grave – and "Seir" is the other name for Edom, the country just south of Judah. And Seir, of course, was under the judgment of Almighty God [Isaiah 21:9], and their night was lasting long, long, long. And finally, the silence of the night was broken by the lamentable cry of the country of Seir saying to the prophet, "Watchman, how long oft the night?" Literally, "How much longer the night? Watchman, what of the night?" [Isaiah 21:11] And his reply is not anything like you’d thought it would be. "The watchman said, ‘The morning cometh, but it is followed by another night, and that’s all. If you will inquire, come. Ask again’" [Isaiah 21:12].
A survey was made of our modern, daily city newspapers. How much of foreign affairs do they print in their columns? And you would be surprised at the results of the survey. They found that all of our newspapers print a most liberal amount of foreign news, but they also discovered another thing: it’s not read very much. People for the most part do not bother to read very much of the news from foreign areas of our world.
Well, I can sort of understand that for there’s hardly any news from the other areas of the world – maybe not much from our own – that is encouraging or uplifting or elevating. When they print news from Indochina, it’s turmoil. When they print news from India, it would make you fighting mad. For all that we have done for India and in behalf of India, Nehru [Jawaharlal Nehru] and his compeers do hardly anything else but slap us in the face. And to those of us who are interested in Christian missions, the restrictions of India daily increasing upon missionary activity is nothing short of appalling and disastrous.
When you read the news of Palestine, of Arab and Jew, it again is nothing but turmoil. There is racial tension in Africa mounting all the time like the waters back of a great dam. There is bloodshed and revolution in Morocco. There is resurgent nationalism, and there is that everlasting, continual, unwearying triumph of Communism. That’s the news of the world today.
Nationalism is a thing that partly is good, but it takes a vicious twist. All over this country you’ll find fomenting here and fomenting there, agitating groups sending out placards and dropping leaflets: "Foreigner, go home! Yankee, go home!" And one of the tragic things about that nationalism is that almost always it is tied in with the re-creation and the resurgence of native religions.
Whenever you go around India, every one of those Indian women will have a dot in the center of their forehead. That means they are loyal Indians. They are loyal Hindus. That means that they have been to their idol temples and have bowed down and worshipped. And when they are done with their worship, there’s a little pan there, and they put the forefinger in the pan and put a dot there in the center of their forehead. And away from India where the dot would not remain, when you go over Europe, you’ll find those Indian people everywhere in all those hotels and those Hindu women will have a dot in the middle of their foreheads. They are Indians, but they are also not Christians, and they are vigorously and actively and polemically and antagonistically not Christians. They are nationalists. They are Hindus.
In Japan this last January, on New Year’s Day, there were two and one-half million Japanese who went to the Meiji, a shrine in Tokyo. And the resurgent nationalism in Japan is identified with the old religions – Shinto for one – and definitely anti-Christian and anti-Western.
One of our men stopped one of those Japanese and said, "Why did you go to the Meiji shrine?" That same sort of thing as if you’d visit the Lincoln Memorial, or the Washington, Mount Vernon, except it has a religious turn to it. "And why did you go?" And the answer was, "Sir, I am Japanese. That means I’m not a Christian. That means I’m not a Westerner. I’m a Japanese." And more and more, back like it used to be, therefore, "I’m a Shintoist."
Oh, the tragic and evil day! We are so overwhelmed by the statistical report of church membership in America that we are hardly cognizant of the fact that as a Christian people and as Christian nations, we are almost becoming isolated in the world. Christianity is this way – and for you who can’t see on the radio, I’m pointing precipitously downward, much downward – rapidly acceleratingly downward, the Christian faith.
All right, let’s take this other thing I mentioned. In our lifetime – in my lifetime and in the lifetime of men even younger than I – in our lifetime, out of a population, a world population, of about two billion people – it is a little more than that – but out of a world population of something beyond two billion people, we have seen, we have seen in our short lifetime, we have seen almost half of this world go under Communism. It’s the most astounding development in the history of mankind: nothing like it since creation; nothing like it.
Walking around in Germany where they face that Communist peril so instantly and constantly – part of their country under the Soviet orbit and part over here in the free Western world – walking around with those people as I had opportunity to talk to the men, I said, "You have a tremendous Communist party here in West Germany, don’t you?"
"Yes, that’s right. It’s underground. They’re not allowed to propagate openly, but it is very much there working actively and vigorously."
And I said to one of the most intelligent young Germans you could ever visit with, I said, "Tell me why of all people in the world that a German would want to be a Soviet sympathizer and a follower of Communism."
"Well," he said, "it comes from our working people." He said, "Over here in our country, a laborer working long hours and six days a week will make twenty dollars a week. An automobile will cost him fifteen hundred dollars and up. A gallon of gasoline will cost him a dollar five cents and up." All of these things that we have in America – a refrigerator, an automobile, all of these gadgets that we say make our life luxurious, at least we say that’s the high standard of living – all of those things are absolutely out of reach of the German working man, the great mass of workers.
Now, may I digress to say and they’re rich compared to some of the workers of the earth? You can go most everywhere over there in those poorer countries, and you’ll find, say, building a road, they have no machinery to build a road. They’ll crack up those great big rocks by manual labor by hammers. And those men will work twelve hours every day, and they’ll make ninety cents a day working hard breaking those tremendous big rocks into little rocks in order to pave a road: ninety cents a day.
Now, among those laboring people, the Communist soul – those great, great visions of a new world order: a new day, a new generation, one for them – I can imagine, I can imagine the thrill of the millions and millions of dispossessed in this earth, the disinherited in this earth, I can imagine how they’d feel the first time they would hear a Communist hymn like this:
Arise, you prisoners of starvation
Arise, you wretches of the earth
For justice thunders condemnation
A better world is in the birth!
No more tradition’s chains shall bind us.
Arise, you slaves, no more enthralled;
The earth shall rise on new foundations
We have been naught. We shall be all.
["The Internationale," by EugÃ¨ne Pottier, 1871]
That is a Communist song.
Last November over there in Iran, they had ten Communists in jail. Three of them defected, but seven of them, given the choice of defection or being shot, chose to be shot. And when the dawn came, they had one last request. The seven of them asked to be marched into a room by themselves and left alone for a moment. They were marched in the room. The door was closed and locked. What they heard outside was the singing of these Communist hymns – the cheers for Red Russia and Communism. The door was unlocked. They were marched out and shot. That is the march of Communism.
You say to these men – like a federal judge I talked to in Delhi, India – you say to him, "However could it be that your great country might go Communist? How is it?"
And his reply is very simple, and he’ll say, "What you don’t realize is this. To us the power of Soviet Russia is very impressive. A few years ago, czarist Russia was weak and backward and the people without power. But today Soviet Russia is one of the great leaders of the world, and they did that in one generation. And they did it through the efforts of Communism." And he says, "We are greatly, greatly impressed."
And when you argue with them, when you argue with them, they always have that eternal reply: "But don’t forget, we’re now in the transition stage. The great day of victory, the new order, is yet to come; and we are now on the way."
Well, it’s a funny thing. If I could digress before I go on to this next thing. It’s a funny thing. The United States Congress voted: "Anybody that wants to go to the Soviet paradise, we’ll buy them a one-way ticket and pay for it ourselves;" and they advertised that to the world. There has been no citizen of the United States to this present moment that has made application to be given a one-way ticket to the Soviet paradise. Isn’t that funny? Isn’t that funny?
Anybody that wants to go to Russia, the Congress will buy your ticket. The only thing is, he doesn’t come back. You’re goin’ over there to stay. Nobody wants to go there. Isn’t that funny? These brainwashed citizens of America that are now coming out of the red orbit over there in China. Isn’t it funny? They want to come home. Isn’t that strange? Why don’t they stay over there in that paradise of a police state, the slavery of Communism? No, they want to be here. They want to be here. They don’t like it themselves, but they seek to foist it upon the entire world. Now, that’s a digression.
Now, let me say a word about the faltering of the Christian faith. One of the astounding things of Christianity is its weakness, its lack of vitality, its unableness to measure up to the challenge of the world and the obedience expected in the Great Commission of Jesus Christ [Matthew 28:18-20].
Now because I didn’t have time to memorize them, you listen to these statistics: Africa has a total population of 204 million people. These are right up to the last minute. Africa has a population of 204 million people. There are not more than nine million evangelical Christians in all of the continent of Africa.
Asia Minor has a population of 65 million. There are not 82 thousand evangelical Christians in all of Asia Minor. India has a population of about one-half billion. There are not more than 4 million evangelical Christians in all of India. Southeast Asia has a total population of 73 million. There are not more than about 700 thousand Christians in all Southeast Asia. Indonesia: Indonesia has a population of 66 million. There are not as many as 2 million evangelical Christians in all Indonesia.
In other words, you could take the entire Christian population of the vast continents of the world beyond this little orbit in which we live, and if they all were to die, you wouldn’t miss them. They are a drop in the bucket. After two thousand years, two thousand years of Christianity in this earth since Jesus lived, we still have not begun to reach the great masses of the people of the earth.
All right. There’s another thing about the Christian faith – another thing. It usually develops – Christianity, organized Christianity – it usually develops along two lines: a rightist and a leftist. The right line keeps on going right, right, right, extreme right, extreme authoritarian, extreme totalitarian, extreme conservative, keeps going right, right, right until finally the people who embrace the Christian faith know no other thing than an authoritarian, a totalitarian religion.
And they are the finest – in the finest shape – to accept dictatorship and authoritarian political government because they’ve been conditioned to that thing by their religion. There’s a prelate somewhere telling them what to do. There’s a church somewhere telling them what they can’t do, and they grow up under that. Consequently, when a dictator that’s fascist comes along and tells them what they can’t do, and tells them what they cannot do, they’ve been taught that for generations and they don’t know anything else. Consequently, Communism, dictatorship, tyranny, slavery takes over a people easily that have been conditioned by generations of authoritarian religion to listening not for their own heart or for the Word of God but for what a prelate has to say or not to say.
All right, that’s one development of the Christian faith. The other development of the Christian faith is this. It has a tendency to go leftist, and leftist, and leftist, and liberal, and liberal until finally the dry rot of liberalism and modernism and unbelief and rationalism simply undermine and undercut the sinews of the gospel faith itself.
Now, let me illustrate it so you know what I mean. There was a time in our generation, in our generation, there was a time when Christianity was sweeping the country of Siam – Thailand. Thailand/Siam is a nominal Buddhist state, but Buddhism has been decadent for hundreds and hundreds of years. It was a form and nothing else. It never guided or molded the life in the people at all. Thailand/Siam – there came into Thailand, into Siam, great evangelical missionaries. They began to preach. They began to organize churches. They began to make converts. It looked as if the entire country would be swept into the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then what happened? Then what happened? Rationalism, liberalism, modernism began to reach into those denominations: Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist. Liberalism, modernism began to reach into the hearts and souls of those missionaries. I stood in Bangkok and listened to two Baptist missionaries from England plead with Dr. McCall and me saying, "Won’t you take over our property? Won’t you take over our mission? We are the only two that are left, and we are old and dying and there’s nobody to carry on this mission after we are gone. Please, won’t you take it and carry it on?"
In Japan, there was a great revival of religion, a tremendous revival of religion, and that Kumamoto Band, and the Doshisha University, and those evangelists like Paul Kanamori were sweeping Japan into the orbit of a great Christian faith and a great Christian nation. And what happened to it? Modernism, liberalism, rationalism entered into the life of the university, into its theology department, into its missionary activity; and it cut it down, and there was no faith to preach. There was no Christ to die for. He was just another man, though a good man and a great man, and the great missionary movement died where it was born.
Karl Marx said, "You ask me why I am an atheist. I am an atheist," said Karl Marx, "because of the German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach. And I am an atheist," he said, "because of two theological seminary professors David Strauss and Bruno Baur." There’s not any boy that’s gone to school in theology at all but who knows by household word like who Strauss is and who Baur is.
"Well, Preacher, what of the night? What of the night?" I am overwhelmed and lost in its impenetrable despair and darkness were it not for two or three things, and I name them briefly now.
The first one is this: our enemies are terrible and fierce. Our afflictions on every mission field apparently are insurmountable. But the first Christian missionary who went out under the banner of the cross, he faced obstacles that were seemingly insurmountable. He faced a certain and an inevitable persecution, martyrdom, and death [Acts 9:15-16]. But he wasn’t fazed [Acts 20:22-24, 21:8-14]. He wasn’t discouraged. He wasn’t cast down. Listen to him as he speaks: "You over there in Corinth, I’ll [not] see you by the way; [but] I trust to tarry a while with you, if God will permit. But right now I’m staying in Ephesus until Pentecost because a great door and effectual is open unto me, and there are many adversaries" [1 Corinthians 16:7-9].
Isn’t that a strange way to say it? "I’m staying here in Ephesus. God has many people in this city, a great door and effectual is open unto me and there are many adversaries" [1 Corinthians 16:7-9].
The government was against him. The Jews were against him. The workers were against him. Everybody was against him [Acts 19:1-41]. But God was for him. Christ was with him. There are many adversaries, that’s right. But he was not cast down [Acts 20:1].
That’s been the true Christian faith through all of the centuries since: many hardships, many sacrifices, many discouragements, many darknesses impenetrable [Acts 7:54-60, 12:1-3; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, 11:23-33]. But God is living, and the Lord is triumphant, and He never loses any cause – not ultimately and not finally [Matthew 16:17-18; 2 Corinthians 1:8-11; Philippians 1:12-26; 1 Peter 4:12-14].
All right, another thing: there is in this world the Holy Spirit of God [John 16:5-15; 1 Corinthians 12:3-7; Ephesians 1:13]. He’s in our city of Dallas. He’s in our church. He’s over there in Africa; I felt Him. He’s over there in Palestine; I’ve sensed His moving. He’s over there in China. He’s everywhere in this world: the moving Spirit of God.
And the most salutary and beneficial and blessed and helpful of all of the movements of the world is when God’s people and the Christian people band themselves together in prayer, in intercession, and in appeal, and when the great moving spirit of revival sweeps through them and over the land [Matthew 18:20; Acts 1:13-14, 2:42-47, 12:5-18; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; 1 Timothy 2:8]. And that is possible in any generation, and at any time, at any hour, and right now, right now.
I copied, cut out, the concluding sentence of one of our Christian newspaper correspondents who had been to the Leipzig fair in Germany. That’s in the eastern part of Germany under Soviet Russia. And he saw there the terrible wooing away of the youth of East Germany from the church and wrote extensively about it and then concluded his article with this sentence. He says, "More than ever, I am convinced that the only hope of survival for the free world is for us to begin in earnest to win people to Jesus Christ, to carry on a sweeping, aggressive program that will burn from one heart to another."
I think he’s right. I think he’s right. Those great revivals under the apostle Paul turned the Roman Empire. Those great meetings under Savonarola [Girolamo Savonarola] changed Florence. Those great, sweeping days under John Wesley saved England. America was framed and fashioned by those firebrands George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards. And we today are the product and the children of the pioneer preacher who pressed beyond the Allegheny Mountains, came to Texas, all over this Western Plains country founded churches, preached the gospel, called men to repentance, baptized them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, founded our institutions. That’s where we came from.
And God hasn’t changed [Malachi 3:6], and the Spirit isn’t yet withdrawn. There is still the infinite, indescribable possibility of revival among us here, yonder, everywhere in every nation and place under the sun. And until God withdraws His Spirit from us, we still have Him and the possibility of a great turning to Christ in His power.
And the last, and the last, and this last is something, if you’ve heard me preach very much, this last is something you’d expect. For I don’t think, I don’t think we ever ought to be ashamed or abashed or hesitant or intimidated about holding up the hope that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ [1 Peter 3:15], called in this Book "the blessed hope" [Titus 2:13]. I don’t think a Christian ought ever to be ashamed of his eschatology, but he ought openly, prayerfully, earnestly to proclaim it and to teach it and to preach it.
Though these bodies turn back to dust, "Yet in my flesh shall I see God, for I know that my Redeemer liveth . . . and in the latter day, He shall stand upon the earth whom I shall see for myself" [from Job 19:25-27]. Though the world dissolve around me and though all of the enemies overwhelm me like a flood, yet will my Lord and my King ultimately and finally triumph [Psalm 46:1-11; Isaiah 42:1-13; Matthew 5:11-12].
There is no staying of His chariot. There is no denial of His coming [John 14:2-3; Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7]. There is no revolution that can circumvent His final triumph. He is still King and some day shall take unto Himself His own great and rightful power [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10; Revelation 20:1-15]. To proclaim that is the Christian’s hope and his fervent comfort [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58].
In 410, 410, the year 410, Alaric, the king of the Visigoths, came into Italy with his hordes, overran that civilized nation, and sacked Rome and pillaged it. By that time, of course, 410 AD, the Christian faith had been the regnant religion of the people for about a hundred years, and Rome was filled with God-fearing Christians. And when Alaric came with his Visigoths and destroyed the city and sacked it and pillaged it and raped it, those poor Christians, seeing the city destroyed and the culture – the civilization that for five hundred years had lived in Rome – saw it wane and fade away under the terrible battleaxes of Alaric and his Visigoths, they had at that time a great, great preacher and man of God, and his name was Augustine. And they came to Augustine for comfort and for help. "Augustine, what shall we do? What shall we believe? Where shall we turn? All is gone and destroyed. What shall we do?"
And it was then that the great preacher, Augustine, picked up his pen and wrote one of the great books of all time and all eternity. He wrote The City of God. The City of God. And the thesis of the book is this: turning the eyes of the people away from destroyed and decaying and dying Rome, he lifted up their hearts and their eyes and their spirits to the great holy city, the New Jerusalem that is yet to come, coming down from God out of heaven [Revelation 21:1-27]. And his people were encouraged, and their hearts were lifted up, and they began once again to sing the songs of victory and of Zion.
That’s our faith. That’s our faith. That’s our persuasion. That’s our commitment in the holy, heavenly, saving name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, we’re going to sing our song, and while we sing the song, while we sing the song, anywhere in this great, vast concourse of people, anywhere – somebody you, in the farthest part of that balcony, somebody you, come down that stairwell and down here to the front and stand by me.
And in this great horseshoe balcony and on the lower floor: "Today, today, I am committing my heart and my life to the persuasion of God in Christ Jesus. In faith, in repentance, in sure confidence that He will save us now and in death and in eternity, I’m putting my trust in Him, and here’s my hand, Pastor. Here I come." Is there a family you, to come? "All of us: we’re joining the church." Is there a child? As God shall say the word and make the appeal, while we sing the song and while we wait for you prayerfully this day, will you come and make it now while we stand and while we sing?
CHRISTIAN FAITH AND WORLD REVOLUTION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. A world in turmoil
A. Newspapers print liberal amounts of foreign news, but it is not read
1. Often depressing, discouraging
1. Almost half of world population under communism
2. The attractiveness of communism
II. The lethargy of the followers of Christ
A. Christians a small minority of world’s population
B. Totalitarian and liberal developments
III. Our future
A. Our enemies are fierce, but God is for us (1 Corinthians 16:7-8)
B. The presence of the Holy Spirit
C. The need of revival