Faith and Works
May 29th, 1960 @ 7:30 PM
FAITH AND WORKS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-29-60 7:30 p.m.
It is an unusual privilege for us to welcome as our guests this evening, the family, the friends, the faculty, the graduating group from our Dental College and our School of Hygiene. We have watched this institution grow on the campus of our Baylor Medical Center in Dallas with justifiable pride and with humble gratitude to God. This is one of the colleges in our Baylor University system. We have a great medical school in Houston, one that is signally favored, and one that performs in behalf of humanity not only in our country but in this earth, a notable and a glorious service. Of course, our school at Waco, to which we send our children and to which school I attended four years, is one, we think, of the finest schools in all the earth.
And of the group: we are no less proud of the effort this faculty, our trustees, and our praying constituency pour into the dental school and its related ministries on the medical campus here in our city; and for you to come for a baccalaureate is indeed a blessing to us who love you and pray for you and do our best to support you in the wonderful work you seek to do for our Lord.
We would have no other word but one of congratulation to the parents and to the students who have worked and have now come to this glorious hour, both tonight and tomorrow afternoon. When young Ptolemy, the son of the king of Egypt, was being taught geometry by Euclid, the young fellow, the young prince, found it difficult. And he said to Euclid, “Is there no easy way for a prince to learn geometry?” And the professor, the great Euclid, replied, “My young friend, there is no royal road to learning.” And whether it’s in dentistry, or in medicine, or philosophy, the only way to learn is by study and hard work and laborious trial and devotion to it. And you have done well, and this is a mark of your success in completing those wonderful studies.
It is with no small pride that in reading the history of the colleges of dentistry, the first dental college in America was organized in 1840 in a Baptist church in Baltimore, Maryland. And for this school to be related to our Baptist people, and for you to have your commencement in this First Baptist Church, is in keeping with the wonderful traditions of the schools of dentistry. So welcome, and God bless you in the way.
Now I have been preaching for over fourteen years; this is the fifteenth year and it will soon be into the sixteenth year, I’ve been preaching through the Bible. I started at Genesis and I am now in the third chapter of the Book of James. So I am going to frame this baccalaureate address tonight around the subject that James speaks of here in the third chapter.
This morning we left off at the twelfth verse [James 3:12], and the thirteenth verse is this—I just wonder; we have so many guests here tonight. We always read the Bible together. Did you bring your Bible that we can read it together? Everybody here that’s got his Bible with him, will you hold it up. My land! There’s more Bible’s here tonight than people. All right, turn to the Book of James, the Book of James chapter 3, and beginning at the thirteenth verse to the eighteenth, these five verses [James 3:13-18], let us read them together. Your neighbor does not have his Bible and you can share one with him, do so. The third chapter of James verse 13, almost to the end of the book; now let us all read it together, James 3:13:
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
That thirteenth verse reads, “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good,” the King James Version translates it, “conversation”; the Greek word, conduct, behavior, or you’d say, “life”; “out of a good life his works with meekness of wisdom” [James 3:13]. So I want to speak tonight on the good life and the good works; or, in keeping with the way he speaks of it in the chapter before, in the eighteenth verse of that chapter, my faith and my works [James 2:18].
When we think of faith we think of the religionist. And so many of us, when we think of the religionist, we think of a man who is given to superstition. He accepts all the foibles, and the fables, and the myths, and the legends to be found in the Word of God. That’s faith. But a man who hath wonderful, scientific insight, a man who had studied, a man of the books, and a man of the scholastic realms, and a man of the universities and the schools, he wouldn’t be a man of faith. Materialism, secularism, pseudoscience, all strike at the foundation of faith. And when a man knows, and when he studies, and when he reads, he doesn’t believe. He becomes a secularist; he becomes a materialist.
Now first of all, I want to say a word about the faith: it takes far more credulity. Now, could I call it faith? It takes far more faith for a man to believe in the creed and in the doctrines of the secularist and the materialist and the pseudoscientist than it does to believe in the creed of the most fanatical religionist! I don’t care who the religionist is. I want to demonstrate that to you the best way I can under three categories. One: the creation of this visible world. Second: the nature of man. And third: the providence of God. Now, I’m speaking of my faith.
I have here in my hand, the current issue of a most popular and widely acceptable scientific magazine. I want to read to you the creed, the faith, the persuasion of an internationally famous scientist. And I’m saying to you—and I want you to listen to it as I read it—that it takes more credulity, more faith, to believe in what this man says than that of the most fanatical religionist. We’re talking about faith. Listen to this man:
New life throbs in the century-old theory of evolution by applying Darwin’s evolutionary principles to the inorganic matter of the universe. Scientists—
are acquiring fresh insight into the genealogy of the mighty universe you see about you.
All right, what is his idea of it? Now you listen. Listen the best way you can. Here’s the scientific, the pseudoscientific, explanation of the world in which we live and the universe we look upon every day and every night. Now he says, “Ten or fifteen billion years ago,” a billion years more or less, that doesn’t matter:
Ten or fifteen billion years ago, all the matter of the now observed expanding universe was in a single mass, a tremendously dense ball of radiation and elementary matter. It exploded and that was creation. Both time and space began at that cosmic instant. There was no before. There was no elsewhere. There was no origin. There will be no end. The universe is unchanging. To be sure, stars are born and fade; galaxies organize themselves out of stars and gas and scatter.
In the Lord’s view of the long time, however, there is no unidirectional change. It isn’t this way or that way or any other way.
As the mean density of matter tends to decrease because of the scattering of galaxies, new matter is created at such a rate that the mean density remains the same. This new matter is wholly composed of hydrogen atoms, which like the primeval atom, are created out of nothing whatever. They just appear. From them, stars eventually form. Much difficult technical work—
then he begins to explain life in this universe—
Much difficult technical work must yet be done before our test tubes contain the self-replicating micro-molecules that by definition constitute living substance. But I believe it will be done. Some say we will have test-tube life in a decade, others say by 2000 AD. But even as it stands now, we are willing to claim that man has traced his ancestry back to the hydrogen atom of the condensing nebulae.
Now, listen. I’ll repeat it again. “Matter is wholly composed of hydrogen atoms, which, like the primeval atom, are created out of nothing whatever. They just appear.” I say to you that it takes more credulity to believe that than any kind of a revelation you will ever find in any religious system. Can you conceive of matter being created of itself? Out of vacuity and out of nothingness? “It just does it,” you never saw it; you couldn’t demonstrate it. Yet this is an article in a current issue by one of the finest scientists of our present world.
Now I’m no superstitionist. When I say that it’s far easier—in my humble opinion—to believe it like this, “In the beginning God, God, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” [Genesis 1:1]. And as it says in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, “Through faith we understand that the worlds which were framed by the word of God are made of things which do not appear” [Hebrews 11:3]. God did it. “God said, Let there be light: and there was light” [Genesis 1:3]. “God said, Let the land and the waters be separated” [Genesis 1:9]. And God made the whole world and said, “It is good” [Genesis 1:31]. And you don’t have any choice but this. You either believe one or the other. And to believe in God is so infinitely better.
Now I take the second one: the purpose and the nature of man. In this same magazine, and it just happened to be so, there is another great scientist who is writing. And he’s a scientist from another field and in another area [Abraham Maslow, 1949]. Now listen to him as he is speaking of the nature of man. “How can one look around one, and observing this internecine strife of treachery, duplicity, sadism, and general wickedness, arrive at any other conclusion than that there must be something in man that drives him to such iniquitous behavior?” Now he’s going to say there is no such a thing. “St. Paul declared that it was due to the evil with which every human being is born.” “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all” [Romans 5:12]; that’s what the Book says. That’s what the Bible says. That’s what Paul says.
Now this scientist, he’s going to speak. “During the age of enlightenment, there arose one thinker, Jean Rousseau.” And by the way, he was the most abominably filthy man in his life of any man I ever read of in history. He’s going to take Rousseau, who declared that man was born good, not evil. Then he follows it through. “He wrote at a time,” Rousseau did:
He wrote at a time when behavioral science was still almost two centuries away. And all that he had to work with was the genius of a powerful mind and the insight of a seer. When we carefully studied babies and small infants, those—
and he quotes from, evidently somebody had called them—
“egomaniacal, selfish little bundles of evil,” and look for the evidences of their innate depravity, we find no evidences at all of anything resembling such a description.
He says, “Our children are born little divinities.” Man, wouldn’t you like to be persuaded of that? The first time a baby is displeased, he’ll turn red in the face; he’ll get mad. He’ll bawl and cry and scream; first thing he does. “The baby is born good,” this scientist says,
good in the common or gladdened sense of the word, from the biological or biosocial point of view. Nowhere, then or later, is there the least evidence of any drive oriented in the direction of aggressiveness. A famous psychologist once defined adults as “deteriorated children.” What we need is a little more primitiveness and a little less taming.
Just let us go, says this scientist, don’t tame us. Don’t correct us. Just let us go and be our primitive selves and we will all be good. Man alive! Didn’t I tell you it took credulity or faith to believe in what these fellows say?
The truth is that the doctrine of innate depravity hasn’t a leg to stand upon. What we are saying is that man is born good and would remain good all his life, were it not for the disordering effects to which he exposed from birth on. It might help if we gave the doctrine of innate depravity a long-overdue rest.
Now I want to define that doctrine he’s talking about. I’ve always called it the doctrine of total depravity. He calls it the doctrine of innate depravity. It’s all right; same thing. The doctrine of total depravity is this: not that a man is as vile and as wicked as he can be, but the doctrine of innate or total depravity, the doctrine of the apostle Paul is this: that sin, that iniquity, that shortcoming, that fault and failure and mistake, reach into every faculty of a man’s mind and body. If he dreams dreams, his dreams are not without fault. If he has ambitions and visions, they are touched by sin, by short-coming, by depravity. And when a man works, he never works quite perfectly. He always comes short of the holiness of God.
Now Paul says that like this: the third chapter of Romans, “There is not one that doeth good, no not one” [Romans 3:12]. There is no difference. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23]. Now there you have it again. Which one would you take? Now when I look about me and when I compare and see, it seems to me that the doctrine of the Bible is always correct in its judgment of human nature. That by nature we are sinners and children of wrath [Ephesians 2:1, 3], and that a man needs to be born again [John 3:3, 7]—he needs to be changed in his soul and in his heart before he can become a true child of God.
I remember, though I was a small child, I remember World War [I], and I remember Woodrow Wilson, the great marvelous American idealist. And Woodrow Wilson stirred the consciousness of the world and the whole living soul of America with his words, “This is a battle. This is a battle to end war for all time. It’s a war to end all wars. This is the last war we’ll ever fight.” And he used the expression, “We are going to make the world free for democracy.” And we fought Kaiser “Bill,” and we won the war. And after the issue of that war and we had won the victory, in those roaring 20’s, I can remember reading the editorials and I can remember reading the papers, and I can remember reading the books, and I can remember listening to the preachers, the great millennial dawn was at hand. We were going to outlaw the tooth and the tiger and the ape in human nature. And the millennium was just around the corner. It was preached in every pulpit. It was written in every book. It was spoken on every radio. It was delivered as the great ideal that we were all reaching out, just about to touch and to achieve.
And in those days, when men were preaching the innate goodness of man, and in those days when men were saying that the millennium was just around the corner, in those days, there arose in Germany a little Chaplin-looking like sort of a fellow, a crack-pot Napoleon, with a little mustache and his hair hanging over one side. And he was haranguing the people around this way and haranguing the people around that way. And to the amazement of the world, he molded that nation into one of the most diabolical instruments of conquest and cruelty and wickedness and violation that the world has ever seen!
And this is the first time since Hitler I have read an article like that. And we are going back to the old way and the old persuasion that men are inherently good. And when we turned our faces to the West, behold, there was a cruelty and a violence and a ruthless mercilessness no less diabolical than we found over there in western Germany. And when I look around, I don’t see any different from that. These finest children we have in the city of Dallas, with everything given them, the finest education, and the finest environment and everything that wealth and affluence can afford; I well remember that beautiful mansion out there on Turtle Creek, and the thing was entered, and it was racked and sacked and somebody took knives and cut all of those beautiful paintings and tore up the beautiful furniture and made a wreck out of the mansion. And guess who did it? They were children out of the finest homes in this city. And when the police arrested them and asked them why, “Just for the thrill of it.” Like Loeb and Leopold slew that little Franks boy, “Just for the kick we get out it.”
The innate depravity of humanity: the curve of criminal statistics is fearfully rising in every Western nation, and most so in America. You take an old, sorry, dirty bum walking down the railroad track hungry, break into a car and steal a can of tomatoes and eat it. Take that same bum and dress him up, send him to Harvard, get him educated, and he will steal the entire railway system and get away with it! Just the same, just the same; Paul says it’s in the bloodstream. Paul says it’s in the heart. Paul says it’s in the soul. Paul says we need God [Romans 7:14-25].
Now the third thing: the providence of God. That is, the hand of God in human affairs; that God looks upon us, that He cares about us. Now a pseudoscientist will say, “Do you mean to tell me that you believe in this vast, immeasurable, illimitable, infinite macrocosm? After we have trained our greatest telescopes on those stars in the far away, there seem to be as many other uncounted stars and galaxies and universes we don’t know as these millions and millions that we can count. “Do you mean to say,” says the pseudoscientist, “that you believe, that you believe that the great God of all of this creation and all this universe, do you mean that He looks upon a tiny speck of a dust such as this planet Earth? And in this Earth, He looks down upon those little, tiny, infinitesimal creatures called man? And that it is a concern to the Almighty whether he lives or dies, his life and his troubles and his cares? And, above all, that He would bow down His ear to hear him pray? Do you believe that?”
Well, I’m not denying the greatness of the universe. I’m not denying all of those stellar constellations and galaxies that we’ve never counted and we’ve never named. I’m not denying the almightiness of the Almighty God. But I do say that the answer of whether He cares or not, and whether He bows to listen or not, and whether He looks or not, depends upon something you don’t think about when you evaluate and equate this world in terms of just mass and infinitude, bigness.
I can illustrate that better than I can expatiate upon it for an hour. Let’s suppose that you owned a beautiful mansion in Preston Hollow. And in that mansion you had scoured the earth for the most beautiful appointments, every embellishment that mind could think of you bought and you placed in that beautiful home. The draperies, ah, and the tapestries, oh, and the furnishings and the appointments, oh, and the silver of the services and all the accouterments, everything beautiful and fine, the best in the world, and on the inside of that marvelous home a little baby, yours, bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh.
And down here, on the top floor of our tallest building, you’re in the office, and you’ve got your stocks and your bonds and your investments and all of the things of the great mercantile world before you, secretaries here and secretaries there, and telephones here and telephones there, and everything just a-rollin’, and everything making money, and you’re in that world. And suddenly there comes a flash and you answer the phone and they say, “And the house is burning up.” And you ask, “What?” All right, you ask, “What of my draperies, and what of my tapestries, and what of my objects of art, and my paintings? And what of my furnishings and what of my beautiful house?” It all depends. If you have a heart, you’ll first ask, “What, oh what, what of my little baby?”
See it just depends. If you define life, and its purpose, and its meaning in terms of the wealth of a thing, and the bigness of a thing, and the worth of a thing, then when the fire comes, of course! “Where are my paintings and my draperies, and where are my rugs and my furnishings?” But if you have a heart in you, your first question will be, “Is my little baby safe? Is he safe? Is he safe? Don’t worry about the rest.”
It all depends on your definition of God. If God has a heart, if God is like man, if we are made in the image of God [Genesis 1:27], however the stars may be multiplied and His mountains, and His seas, and His oceans may glorify His name, if God has a heart in Him, His first loving care is about you. How are My children? And He bows His ear to hear them pray.
Well, where in the world has that time gone? This is just my introduction. I was going to talk about the good life and the good works. I will close. I’ll not continue. I just want to say to you young men what a marvelous thing it is to see you be a Christian. And what a God-blessed thing it is to see you enter an office in our city of Dallas or see you build a clientele out in another town, in another city, maybe in another state. And as you go what a wonderful thing it is to see you there stand as a witness for our Savior and as a lighthouse for our Lord.
One day, one of the women in this church said to me, “Oh, pastor! I’m so glad my doctor joined the church this morning.” The physician, the dentist, the hygienist, you have an opportunity to say a word for our Lord that none of the rest of us ever has. Use it for God. Do it. Do it.
I was in Africa at their centennial convention celebrated the one-hundredth year of our Baptist work in Nigeria. And I happened to be seated by the secretary of our missionary board, Dr. Theron M. Rankin who is now with our Lord in heaven. And as I sat by his side there was a young doctor up there making a report of his work for the year. And as the young doctor spoke, Dr. Rankin said to me—the executive leader of our foreign mission enterprise said to me—he said, “Pastor, you see that doctor up there?” He said, “That young man, one of the most brilliant young men that the state of North Carolina ever produced, and when he’d got his degree and had finished his intern work he was invited to become a member of the staff of one of the most famous clinics in America.” He said, “That young fellow right now could be making more than thirty thousand dollars a year. And what his income would be in the years to come I do not know. But,” he said, “he stands there before you now making that report of his work, and his salary is a thousand dollars a year,” a thousand dollars a year! When you look at a fellow like that, you can’t help but believe in God and in human nature. When God touches a man’s life and when God touches a man’s heart, it elevates him. It lifts him up. It makes him great, and nothing else will.
One of your fellow students, who was graduated some time before is a member of our church, Dr. Wayne Logan, and last Sunday, a week ago, we had a little service here of dedication sending him and his wife to Africa. Now we’re not all called to go, I know, nor is this a service appeal in which you were especially invited here to give your life here for a mission enterprise, I understand. I’m just saying that if he goes, somebody like you and like me ought to stay here in America to hold the ropes, and to build the church, and to support him in the way.
And wherever you are, there’ll be a church that needs you. And there’ll be a congregation who’ll be blessed by your presence. And may the Lord speed you in your ministry, not only in the genius of your hand, as a trained physician, as a doctor of dental surgery or as a dental hygienist, but may God also bless you as you take your place in the community to be counted for Jesus, to stand up for God, and to support our Lord in His work in the earth.
Now this is a church service even though it is a baccalaureate hour and these guests are here. If God is in the service tonight, and if God blesses the appeal tonight, surely, surely there will be many to come and say to this pastor, “Pastor, tonight I give my heart in faith and in love to Jesus, and here I am. Here I come” [Romans 10:8-13].
Maybe there is a family you here tonight to put your life with us in the fellowship of our blessed and precious church, would you come? [Hebrews 10:24-25]. In that throng in the balcony round, coming down one of these stairways at the back or at the front, you come. On this lower floor somebody you, into the aisle and down here to the front, “I want to give my heart to the Lord in faith and in trust and committal to Him.” Or, “We want to put our lives in the fellowship of the church.” As the Spirit of God shall lead the way, would you make it now?
And could I be bold to make that other appeal? Is there somebody you that feels in his heart God’s call to a special devoted service for Jesus, would you come? “I would like to dedicate to Him the genius of my hand and the training of my life, and however God would use me or could, I dedicate all that I am and ever shall be to Jesus.” If the Spirit leads you, if God says the word, would you come? In the hush and the quiet of this holy hour, anywhere, as the Spirit of the Lord should lead and make appeal, would you come and stand by me, while we stand and sing?