Baptists, Riots, and Revolutions
September 15th, 1968 @ 8:15 AM
BAPTISTS, RIOTS AND REVOLUTIONS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-15-68 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. At eleven o’clock you can see them on television, but it isn’t this choir. I wish you could see our teenage Chapel Choir. Oh, you youngsters, I am so proud of you and grateful to you. I cannot say it in words or syllable or sentence or language! But it is a glorious thing. They sing without a score before them. They just sing out of their hearts, like I try to preach, just out of your heart. I like that. And also I wish you could see on this rainy morning, outside of a few seats right down here in front of me, I guess people are afraid of me, but outside of the few seats right down here in front of me, this house is jammed to the last row in the topmost balcony. Well, it is a marvelous thing.
Now I am preaching this morning on Baptists and Riots and Revolutions. Now in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Acts, there is no text to expound, it is a background for what I am going to say; in verses 5 and 6 you find these words:
And they took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort . . . and set all the city on an uproar . . .
Crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.
Then you have the story of the riot in Corinth [Acts 18:1-17]. Now there is nobody that reads any newspaper or magazine, and there is nobody who listens to any news commentary but that is most cognizant of this fact, that this world, the whole world is in a ferment. And especially is that true south of the border, from Old Mexico down to the Tierra del Fuegans, down at the base of Chile.
And in that our people are caught as in a maelstrom. And as such we ought to be aware of what is happening and our part and place in it. In Santiago, Chile we have a Baptist seminary, and they invited me to address those young men and women. So I went there to speak, and when I stopped they said, “No, we want to hear more.” And when I stopped again, they said, “Let’s continue.” And the faculty acquiesced, so I spoke to them two hours. That was one of the finest things that I ever had before me in my life.
Well, when I got through, why, one of the representatives, one of the young men representing the student group stood up and said words of appreciation. And he said something that everybody laughed at. So the interpreter would not interpret it. I said, “Now, I am not going to do a thing else until you tell me what did that young fellow say?” So he said, “Well, if you want to know, I will tell you. After his words of appreciation for your coming, he closed his words of appreciation with this sentence. He said, ‘That man talking to me has more life and zeal than any old man I ever saw in my life.’”
Well, at the end of my much speaking, the president let the young theologues ask me questions. And they have there in the seminary a brilliant young fellow. He is the president of the Baptist Youth nationally of Chile. And he stood up and through the interpreter asked me this question. He said, “Baptists have always been in the revolution.” Then he followed the history of our Baptist people and cited instances. He said, “When the serfs of Germany sought their freedom, Baptists were with them and helped them. When Cromwell,” this young fellow said, “When Cromwell led the revolt against King Charles I and the despotic, tyrannical monarchy in England, Baptists fought by the side of Cromwell.” Then he said, “When Washington led the revolution in the United States in the colonies, Baptists were his chaplains and his faithful soldiers.” Then the young fellow asked this question. “We’re in the midst of a revolution today. And we are the prophets of this hour and God’s spokesmen.” He said, “What shall be our attitude toward the revolutions of our generations?”
Now I submit to you, that is a pretty good question for a young theologue to ask. So we are going to discuss it this morning; Baptists and riots and revolutions. First: there are some good revolutions. If I had time we would go through this Book. The Exodus was a revolution set by the Lord God through Moses and Aaron, when His people rebelled against the Pharaoh and marched out of Egypt [Exodus 1:1-18:27]. That was a revolution.
Here in the Book of Acts you have one riot after another. The only place where Paul and his companions did not stir up an enormous riot and trouble was when he spoke at the university and cultural city of Athens [Acts 17:16-34]. But everywhere else he was either beat, or imprisoned, or stoned, or created a riot.
In the world of politics, the American Revolution was a great demonstration of the unwillingness and unyieldedness of our people to acquiesce underneath a tyrannical yoke. And the Texas revolution, I was taught Texas history when I went to school, and the Texas revolution was a blessing to our people, my forefathers, and they shared in it. My forbearers came to Texas in the 1820s, and it was a blessing to them, the victory they won in the Texas revolution.
But there are revolutions and riots that are evil and bring disaster to the people. With your eyes you can see it throughout all of the nations south of the border, from Central America through all of the countries of South America. In Bolivia, in Bolivia where Che Guevara was slain, the communists thought that they would take Bolivia, which is in the heart of that South American continent, and spread violence and revolution throughout all of South America. So they tried to take over Bolivia, which is a most backward and undeveloped country.
Now I talked to a man who intimately knows the present communist recruiter in Bolivia. And outside of a few intellectuals in the university, he said to me that the communists in this country are criminals, and they are bandits, and they are gangsters! And that goes for a large part of the whole communist movement in South America.
In Chile, I don’t know how many times I was stopped on the street and asked to sign a petition to the pope in Rome, for the Sunday before I got there, recalcitrant and disobedient priests and nuns had taken over the cathedral, but the communists had infiltrated it. And that’s one of the tragedies of the social upheavals that we witness today. Wherever there is trouble and however right the cause may be, the communists will try to infiltrate it, they did there. And they were present there in taking over that cathedral. And the men on the streets were buttonholing everybody, everybody, to sign a petition to the pope to seek with all of his power to rid the church, the Roman church, of its communist infiltrators.
Now one of the great tragedies of our American life happened when I was in Rio. Gordon Mein, our ambassador to Guatemala, was assassinated by communists in Guatemala, the only time in the history of the American republic that one of our ambassadors had been assassinated. Now, Gordon Mein was known and loved by our missionaries in the south. And he was one of them. When I was in Recife in 1950, his father, Dr. John Mein, was the president of the seminary. And his brother, David Mein, who is now the president of the seminary, took me out to the cemetery to show me his mother’s grave. And Gordon Mein was one of those missionary children greatly loved by the missionaries. And when he was assassinated it brought great grief and tears to his friends and those who loved him on the mission field.
In the training school, the girls training school in Rio, they brought to me books that Orville Rogers had made possible for them. It is a translation of my book, The Bible for Today’s World, in Portuguese. And Orville Rogers, who made possible the translation, had given each one of the seminary students and each one of the training school girls a copy of that book. So, one of the girls stood up to thank me and to thank Orville Rogers for his kindness in giving them that book.
Well, after the service was over they came up, every one of them, and wanted me to sign that book. And one of the girls who brought her book for me to sign, the interpreter said to me, “This girl is the daughter of a Baptist preacher, and he has been a pastor on the interior of Sao Paulo. And just a few days ago he was assassinated in front of his church.” This is what is going on all through Latin America. And our Baptist people are caught up in it.
Now, we don’t have to look south of the border or to follow the communists to see the era of violence in which our modern world has been plunged. I picked up a paper, an English paper, an English language paper that is published in Rio. And under a big headline was the introduction of what is happening in the United States. And this will give you an idea of the image that America has in other nations.
In this newspaper article that I read in Rio, and it is headlined, it is dated the first day of September 1968. All right, let’s begin. “If you live in the United States, if you live in the United States, and there are one hundred people in your block, two of you will be murdered, raped, robbed or beaten this coming year.” That was the way it started off. Then it continued. “Since 1960 in the United States, there has been an increase of eighty-nine percent in violent crime.”
All right, the next thing: “Last year there were seventy-six policemen killed in the United States.” All right, the next thing: “There has been a total of fifty-nine thousand fifteen people murdered in the United States from 1962 to 1967.” Then the next article in it: “In 1967, last year, there were seven thousand six hundred people who were murdered in the United States by guns. And there were four thousand four hundred in 1967 that were stabbed, clubbed, and beaten to death.” And then the last article; “Texas recorded the greatest number of murders in that period, from 1962 to 1967, five thousand one hundred four.” Now you read that in the newspapers of foreign countries, and you get an idea of why they think of Americans as barbaric, and boorish, and brutal, and murderous!
Then when you look at the—and I wasn’t here when it happened, but I have been told so many and read so much about it, did down there, when you look at what happened at the Democratic Convention, and when you look at what is happening all over our nation, why, you have the increasing cognizance that we live in a day of riot and revolution.
So when the young fellow stood up in the seminary and said, “In this day of moving change, what shall be our role, for we are God’s spokesmen and God’s prophets for this hour?” Well, I have a very certain and final answer, and one that comes from God in the Book.
We read about these riots, and we read about these revolutions in God’s Book, but always and always God’s prophet and God’s messenger and God’s people are in a riot, or they are in a revolution for righteousness, or for godliness, or for the exaltation of Christ the Lord. And that’s the kind of a riot and that’s the kind of a revolution in which we ought to engage and in which we ought to be identified. There ought to be confrontation on our part. There ought to be demonstration on our part. But it ought to be godly and heavenly and Christ inspired!
Now may I show you what I mean? There ought to be on our part market street confrontation, agora confrontation, public confrontation. There ought to be. In Buenos Aires, I preached in the Onse Baptist Church and met that night, the young pastor of the Onse Baptist Church. He is one of the handsomest young fellows I ever saw. And I inquired about him. He made a great impression upon me. And I found out that the young fellow, his name is Daniel Tinajo, Daniel Tinajo, I found out that the young fellow has a Ph.D. from one of the great universities of America. He has an M.D. from one of the great medical schools of America. He has a doctorate in psychiatry from one of the great psychiatric schools in America, and he has his degree in theology. When he was graduated with his doctorates here in America, he was offered thousands and thousands of dollars by clinicians and by schools and universities to stay here in America. He is one of the most brilliant young men of this modern generation. Yet, he returned to Argentina and to the pastorate of that church, and because they are not able to pay him sufficiently as a pastor, he is a psychiatrist and has his own practice on the side in order to make a living, in order to pastor that church.
Well, he impressed me, I say. A brilliant young fellow and a fine looking young man and a gifted young man, greatly loved, he impressed me, I say. He’d impress anybody. So, the next day I was the guest of one of our wonderful old missionaries in the seminary in Buenos Aires. I was trying to get down a cup of coffee—that is the hardest job in the world for me—is to get that stuff down. It tastes like stump water to me.
Well, I was trying to drink a cup of coffee with her, and I said to her, “Last night I met one of the most impressive young theologians that I have ever seen in my life, that young fellow, Daniel Tinajo, the pastor of the Onse Baptist Church.” And she said to me, “Did you know, did you know,” and I didn’t know, “Did you know that my mother won his mother to Christ in the marketplace?” Do you know what those marketplaces are, those open places in South America, you see them in Old Mexico everywhere. There was a young mother who was down buying things in an open marketplace, and she was won to Christ in that marketplace. She had a little baby boy, and that baby boy is now one of the finest young ministers and one of the most brilliantly trained leaders in all the nation of the Argentines.
That’s the kind of confrontation in which Baptists ought to be engaged, out on the streets, in the marketplace, inviting to Jesus. Then we ought to be in tremendous demonstrations, and parades, and public presentations. We ought to be. We ought to be.
I had read; see I did not go to the Baptist World Alliance in Rio, but I read about it, of course, as you did, and about Billy Graham filling the Maracana, that enormous football stadium. They call it football, it’s soccer to us; kickball. That thing will hold one hundred twenty thousand people. I’ve got pictures of all of this that we will look at Wednesday night of next week and Wednesday night of the following week; that enormous Maracana.
Well, I never thought anything about Billy Graham filling that stadium. If you were to take him to Afghanistan or you would take him to Timbuktu or Kalamazoo or anywhere, Billy Graham will fill the stadium. And I never thought anything particularly about it. But this is what I didn’t know. I did not know, nor had I read, that before Billy Graham came there for that Baptist World Congress that met in Rio, I did not know that the Brazilians had done it even more brilliantly!
That was like this. On the thirtieth day of January in 1965, there were thirty-five thousand, all of them, there were thirty-five thousand Brazilian Baptists that marched through the streets of Rio. And when they came to their destination, a public square in the center of that beautiful city, they had picked up a crowd of over one hundred thousand people. They showed me pictures of it, a sea of humanity. And they preached the gospel, and gave out leaflets, and delivered Bibles, and called to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus. Now that was Saturday, the thirtieth day of January in 1965.
The next day was Sunday, the thirty-first day of January of 1965, and they went out to the Maracana, and they had one hundred sixty thousand people in that Maracana! They filled the thing, they filled the field, they filled it from top to bottom. And Rueben Lopez, the pastor of our wonderful Villa Mariana Baptist Church in Sao Paulo delivered the sermon. Now this was the inauguration of their National Crusade for Christ, and when the year was done they had won one hundred thousand people to Jesus and had organized three hundred new Baptist churches. Now, that’s that kind of riots and that’s the kind of revolutions in which Baptists ought to be engaged.
God give us victories. If we don’t turn this way, and if we don’t do this in America, we are going to see the disintegration of our nation and the collapse of our republic. No nation has ever survived in evil, and blasphemy, and drunknness, and debauchery! The old prophet said, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” [Psalm 9:17]. And that still stands as God’s judgment upon our people and upon us.
We’re in riot, that’s right. We’re in revolutions, that’s right. But this is the time for Baptist people to share in a revolution and in a riot of godliness, and saintliness, and Christian testimony, and witnessing, winning, turning, calling, appealing for people to come to God, to get right with God, to give your heart to Christ, marching together in the love, and fervor, and zeal, and devotion to our Lord.
Now we must close, and we do so with an appeal to your heart. In a moment we will sing our song. And when we sing it, and we stand up to make this appeal, make the decision for our Lord now and come on the first note of the first stanza. In the throng in this balcony round, a family you, a couple you, or one somebody you, down this stairwell, there is one at the front and the back, on either side, and there is time and to spare, you come. Bring the whole family and come. The press on this lower floor, you, you, come, “Pastor, today I give my heart to Jesus” [Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8]. Or, “Today, I’m putting my life in the fellowship of the church. This is my wife, these are our children, all of us are coming.” Or just two of you, or one, as the Spirit shall press the appeal to you heart, make it now, make it this morning, come now, while we stand and while we sing.