1969 SB Convention Report
June 15th, 1969 @ 8:15 AM
1969 SBC CONVENTION REPORT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-15-69 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message. I am changing it. For the first time in my life, I thought I owed it to you to bring a message concerning our people, our denomination, what we believe, to what we are committed, and where we are going. Now in the first verses of Jude – the brother of James, the half-brother of our Lord – we read these words. "Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James," James is the pastor of the church in Jerusalem:
to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:
Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all –
I put that "for all" in there, in that original language –
delivered unto the saints. To exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all.
There will never beanother one. This is it. There is finality in Christ and the gospel message of our Lord. "Contend for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints" [Jude 1:3].
Now, there are good many things about that convention that would be interesting to you. First of all, I was presented with these gavels. This one and this is one of the most uniquely beautiful gavels I ever saw. It is made by Cooper Waters, the pastor of the First Church at Orange, Texas, who last Sunday celebrated his twentieth anniversary there, and it is made of the different woods that grow here in Texas.
Usually the head of a gavel will be lathed in one way and the handle turned in another. But this is made up of all kinds of woods, and the dowel through the middle of that head holds it together. It is a magnificent thing. There is oak, there is cedar, there is pecan, there is pine, there is hackberry, ash, I don’t know what all, and Bo Baker, you tell Pastor Waters how much I appreciated the gift of this gavel. He asked me to use it at least one time at the convention, and I did. Now it’s big enough too.
While I was there, a dear couple who live in Marietta, Georgia brought to me this gavel and asked that I use it at one of the sessions of the convention. George W. Truett came before the world in the courthouse of Marietta, Georgia. The Georgia convention was held in Marietta. The First Baptist Church was not large enough to contain it, so they moved the convention to the courthouse and there F. C. McConnell introduced a mountain boy. That was his first public speech, and it electrified the convention of Georgia and launched the career of that incomparable preacher. They have torn down – this couple said to me – they have torn down the old county courthouse in Marietta, and that dear couple took a peace of the wood and framed that gavel and brought it to me at the convention. And these gavels I am presenting to our church to be kept in our historical room forever.
Now this third one, you will be surprised at the beauty of that gavel. It is made from the timbers of our church steeple. I would never have thought that those old boards and beams up there could ever be framed into a beautiful wooded piece like that. Dr. Scott Tatum who preached the convention sermon this year has a hobby like Dr. Irvin. He has a lathe, and he loves to work with it. When he heard that that steeple was being torn down, he sent over here for a block of that wood, and as a surprise to me, he made this gavel and put a beautiful inscription on it, that it is made from the steeple of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And these three gavels we will keep in our historical room properly labeled and beautifully remembered.
Now about the convention itself: at one of the sessions before the convention itself opened, I sat at the pastor’s conference and nearly fell in the aisle laughing at Franklin Pascal, my predecessor and pastor of the First Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He was describing what every presiding officer dreads. In the midst of the convention, out of no where, appears a woman, and she dashes up to the platform and to the mike and begins singing to the top of her voice.
Well, what do you do? Do you put your hands on her, and seize her, and drag her out? Just what do you do? There are photographers and newspapermen everywhere taking pictures, looking. Just what do you do? Well, I sat there and I just laughed uproariously as I thought of his embarrassment and plight with that strange woman out of nowhere up there before the convention, singing at the top of her voice, stopping everything, nobody know what to do, and least of all he.
So when I sat in my place, I said, "Ah, I’ve really got it made. You see, we’ve got all of this committee on the order of business, and they’re going to guard the entrance up there to that presiding chair. And not only that, but the two vice-presidents have told me faithfully, they’ll be seated also right over here, and nobody will get to that chair unless first they are visited by them."
Well, I was there just so comfortable and so secure, we just going down the line, and somebody tapped me on my right arm, and I looked around, and there stood a woman. I smiled in recognition of that tap, and I said, "May I do something?"
And she said, "Yes, yes." Oh, she was so excited! "Yes," she said, "Yes! In the tenth chapter of the Revelation, God told John to seal the voices of the seven thunders, but God has revealed them to me and told me to speak to the people." Dear me, what do you do? The voice of the seven thunders that God has sealed up is now revealed to her, and God has commanded her to speak to the people. Ooh! You got to think furiously and oh, what do you do?
So I said to her, "Oh, listen my dear. I am so happy for you. This apocalyptic revelation has come to us in these latter days, and I’m so glad. Now I’ll tell you what you do. I don’t have anything to do with this convention at all. All I do is just preside over it. I don’t make the program. I don’t do anything. I just preside over the convention. Now you see those men seated over there? Now those men, those men, they are the program committee. And you go there and you tell them all about it, and they will work out a program for you, and what you are to do, and when you’re to present this to the convention and all about it.
So she was kind enough to go over there to the committee, and then that threw them into a turmoil. What do you want me to do? And they had the presence of mind to remember it is a rule of the convention when anybody brings anything before the convention you have to write it out. Resolution, motion, anything, you must write it out.
So they said to her, "Now you must write it out. You must write it out so that we might have it here before us." So she went over there, and she wrote it out, and then after she wrote it out, she brought it here to me, a summation of the nature of her statements regarding the voice of the seven thunders, and with the concluding word, "The Lord has instructed me to speak to the people concerning this apocalyptic revelation." But God help me, by that time when all of that had been worked out, it was time for the benediction. Oh dear, what things can happen!
Now as you know, and as everybody expected, the police, the governor, the people, everybody, the nation, they expected the appearance of the black militants. When I got off the plane here in Dallas yesterday afternoon returning home, the first thing I saw was the man who invited me over to his side, and there they had cameras, and lights, and recording devices all set up, and they asked me some of the things about the convention.
And after the interview was over, why, I walked to the little gate to go down the way and out of the terminal. And there was a couple there by the time I had done, why, there’s a large crowd gathered around listening. So as I walked away, why, this couple stopped me and said, "We were just passing by. We’re from New York City." And they said, "Are you a United States senator, or are you a governor?"
And I thought, you know, isn’t that a strange thing? A minister of Christ; I presume I’m supposed to be complimented that they would think that I was the senator or a governor. It’s no compliment for an emissary or an ambassador from heaven to be president of the United States or the prime minister of England! A preacher of the unsearchable riches of Christ! I said, "No, I’m a pastor, I’m a preacher."
"Well," they said, "we just heard the word ‘James Forman,’ and [being] from New York City where he so largely militates, why, we were interested. And from what we could gain and the word or sentence we picked up, our thought and conviction is exactly like yours."
"Well," I said, "I’m grateful. I think most of us are like that."
Personally, I had no fear or dread or expectancy of his appearing. I do not know why I felt that way, as I have felt this way in our church. Governor John McKinnon is one of my dear friends, and he said to me when we came to New Orleans, "I can tell you this. As the governor of this state, you’re going to have no trouble from any black militants. My men will see to that." And the chief of police of New Orleans said the same thing. But I did not expect them, and the thing passed through Friday, and they never did appear.
Then an unusual thing; after the adjournment of the convention Friday night, a man who is a press representative from one of the great daily newspapers in New York City, with a little recording device, said, "Would you sit down here with me for just a few minutes and let me speak to you?" So we sat down with his little recording device for that interview, and in the interview as time went on, he made an observation. He said that, "I think that in this convention James Forman and his black militants have lost their leadership."
Well, that was an unusual thing to me, and I said, "What makes you think that?"
Well, I’m not a newspaperman, and I don’t meditate on these things very much, don’t think about them a great deal, and so I asked him, and he replied in a way that I would never in this earth have thought about.
He said, "The reason is this: James Forman and those black militants have assailed liberal churches. They have gone to the pulpits and just taken it over, and they have presented themselves before liberal denominations." Then he told me something I didn’t know: this group of denominationalists that recently met in San Antonio paid for James Forman to go down there and appear before them. Isn’t that something? This is a man who advocates the violent revolutionary overthrow of the American government. This is the man who is calling for guerilla warfare right now in the United States. This is the man who statedly and purposively is seeking to destroy the Christian faith. Yet, a denomination will pay for his way to come down and appear before them.
Well, the press representative continued speaking to me, and he said, "But when time came for that man to face the largest denomination we have in America, and the most conservative, he didn’t have the moral courage to do it." He left New York City. He came as far as Cincinnati. He never crossed the Ohio River, and the press representative said, "It’s very apparent what he is, and what he is like. Where there are plums to fall in his lap from liberalism, there you’ll find him. But before a conservative people and the largest of the denominations, he is afraid even to appear."
Well, what do our people think about it, our Baptist people, our Southern Baptist denomination? In this resolution number ten over which so long a discussion ensued on Christian social concern, they voted to delete this part of the resolution:
Be it further resolved that we urge Southern Baptists to give continuing support to all governmental and social service agencies which work through legitimate means and channels to lift the material and social status of all native peoples.
And they eliminated that because they said that would mean that we gave our approval and support to every harebrained social program that the government can think of, and we’re not about to do it, and they voted to delete it.
But this one, after a long discussion, they voted to keep just as it is here, and I read it to you.
Be it further resolved that we reject in total the demands, principles, and methods espoused by the National Black Economic Development Council" – that’s the one of James Forman – "which has made outrageous claims against religious bodies in our nation, proclaiming our disapproval of the intimidation, threats, and ultimatums propagated by the leaders of this movement.
And the convention voted to keep that resolution intact just as I have read it. You can be proud of your fellow churches and your fellow Baptists. To help people is fine. To do all we can to raise their economic or spiritual or educational status is blessed, but for a man to put a gun at your head and to say, "If you don’t do just as I say, I pull this trigger," that is blackmail and plain, unadulterated, violent robbery. Now that’s the position of your Southern Baptist Convention.
Now we have in our day and our generation, we have the appearance of militant youths, young people. You see them on the streets. They have long beards, long hair, wear beads, filthy and dirty, never bathed, filthy and dirty in their minds, in their personal lives, the scum of immorality. They are a scab on the youth life of America. Now you have that same kind of a development in the academic world.
All these things you know as well as do I. So in certain places you have religious professors who are like that, and they are teaching these youngsters all of those liberal inanities that breed such unspeakable attitudes, and convictions, and deportments, and demeanors. Well, they had them all framed and prepared to appear at the Southern Baptist Convention. Well, most of those youngsters are sincere, and they’re fine, and they love God, and they want to find the truth of the Lord for their lives, in their time, and in their generation. Some of them are just way-out in their attitudes, and of course, as far as I’m concerned, in their theological interpretations and convictions. Practically all of them remind me of somebody who lives in a maze and a mist, grew up in a fog. All they’re doing, of course, is reflecting the teachers who are teaching them. So when you listen to them, they don’t believe the Bible. They don’t believe in the deity of Christ. They don’t believe in anything that to me is a part of the great, basic, fundamental tenets of the Christian faith, and they’re just lost. They’re just groping out there.
Well, they are taught to be very vocal. You must speak. You must appear. You must challenge, and you must castigate. You must denounce, because we’re bringing in a new day and a new order. That is the way they’re taught, so there they are. Well, you want to get sick, or you get disgusted, or you don’t know what’s happening to the young generation. And you’re just sometimes overwhelmed or taken back or look askance. What is all this? Then things like this happen.
On a Wednesday night, there was presented there a program of our church, our churches, our denomination, for the 1970s. It was called "Ekklesia" the Greek word for "the church, the called out ones." And they had a group of young people there, and they did it magnificently. Ah, they just were, they were just gifted in doing it.
And after the service that night adjourned, why, the leader of that dramatic presentation and all of those students who were in it gathered round. And the leader said to me, "Do you remember today that car passing by" – – it was a station wagon – "and all those young people waving at you?" Well, I was right behind them, and I said, "I did my best. Were they my young people? I couldn’t recognize any of them."
"Well," he said, "It was this group here, this group here." And the leader said, "We just wanted you to know that there is another kind of young people here at this Southern Baptist Convention. These all dedicated, giving their lives all summer long, without pay or stipend or compensation, to the work of Jesus. There’s another kind of young people here at the convention."
After one of the sessions – and it was late at night when I left, speaking to the people after it was over – I went back of the stage, and there in a great area there were young people, and they all were bowed in prayer around the leader. And again, that remark, "Look, there is another kind of young people." I walk through a restaurant, and there was a group of young people singing there and testifying to the grace of God, and that same remark again, "Look, there is another kind of young people."
And then of course, on Tuesday night – you know it’s a strange thing how little things impress people – when I came into the vast coliseum on Tuesday night, I happened to come in the door on the side where our choirs, these youngsters and others with them from our church, were singing. And when I came in and they saw me, they began to applaud. Then they all stood up and applauded and applauded and applauded.
And one of the finest, discerning men of the Southern Baptist Convention said to me, "Do you know what is the most impressive thing I have seen at this convention?" Of course, I did not know, and asked him, "What?" He said, "To me, the most impressive thing I’ve seen at this convention was when the pastor walked into the hall and those young people stood up and applauded and applauded and applauded." Isn’t it amazing what impresses people? "A different kind of young people."
They did that in Amarillo. Those men in Amarillo made the same observation to me. Well, let’s go on with this. I’m going to write a book about it. I have been asked to write a book to lift up our hearts and to encourage our churches and our preachers, because it’s easy to be discouraged and to fall into discouragement.
Well, at the Southern Baptist Convention you had your first test – in the history of the convention – you had your first test of liberalism and conservatism, Bible and anti-Bible. When time came for the election of the president, when this other man was nominated – – a liberal, liberal professor from the University of Virginia, from the University of Richmond – – the nomination speech was made by one of those left-winged students. And in the nominating speech, he was presented as a liberal candidate.
In a hundred twenty-five years of that convention’s history, any nomination [that] was ever made was just because the man was a man of God or a great workman for Jesus. They wanted him to lead our Southern Baptist people. But for the first time, a man was presented on a platform, and the platform was liberalism. "We want to update the Bible, and we want to update Christ! We want to update the church. We want to change its structure, and its ministries, and what it believes." So the nomination was made on that basis, and the vote was taken on that basis.
Now the Southern Baptist Convention has a rule, for the years, that no number is ever announced, just whoever wins, or it passes or it loses. But when that was done, and the nomination was made on that basis, at the next session of the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the other men stood up and said, "I make a motion that the tally be revealed. Since the nomination was made on the basis of a liberal candidate, we’re going to have a liberal party in the Southern Baptist Convention. I make a motion that the numbers be spoken, how many voted which way."
And that passed almost unanimously. So the numbers were revealed. Just how liberal is the Southern Baptist Convention, just how liberal are our churches, and just how liberal are our pastors and our people? The tally was this: for your pastor, there were seven thousand five hundred votes, and for the liberal professor there were four hundred and fifty. That’s the proportion of liberalism in the Southern Baptist Convention. They are a strange lot. I wish I had time, and I had it prepared, but there’s no length of time to do these things. They are a strange lot.
Out of a multitude things, let me choose one. They like to embarrass you, to put a knife in you and turn it if they can, to trap you in your words. They love to do that. So one of them came to me up there on the platform; a young liberal, carefully taught and instructed. So he starts off speaking to me, "You exalt the Bible and not Christ."
"Well," I replied, "when I preach the Bible, I’m preaching Jesus, for outside of the Bible, you would never know His name. Apart from the self-revelation of God, we cannot know God. You wouldn’t even know His name. So when I pore over these pages and preach the Book, the Word, I’m preaching Jesus, I’m preaching the Lord."
"Ha," he said. Oh, they are sarcastic! "Ha ha!" and he burst into laughter, "Ha ha ha ha! So John 1:1, ‘In the beginning was the Word, the logos,’ so the logos was the Bible. You identified Jesus with the Bible, so it was the Bible that created the universe. Ha ha ha! And in Bethlehem, she gave birth to a Bible. Ha ha ha! And it was a Bible that was crucified on the cross. Ha ha ha! And I would presume you would say that it was the King James Version?"
May I parenthesize, you know there must be something good about the King James Version, because that bunch doesn’t like it. "Ha ha," he said, "so it must be the King James Version."
Well, I haven’t time to continue it. What of that? Preaching the Book, "do you preach Jesus, do you?" I have to summarize, but listen to the summary. Outside of the self-revelation of God in the Holy Scriptures, you can never know Him, never. The Greek philosophers – and one year there were more than four hundred courses taught in Oxford University on Aristotelian philosophy – the Greek philosophers reached an intellectual height that has never been approached in the two thousand four hundred years since the days of Plato, and Aristotle, and Socrates. And yet, and yet with all of their probing and thinking, they never found but the idolatrous, multitudinous, polytheistic gods all around them. Socrates called them daemons, spirits. And natural religionists, Mahavira, Gautama the Buddha, Confucius, Lao-tse, Muhammad, any of them, all of them, they never approached the revelation of the true God. By a man’s understanding, he can never encompass God.
And now in our day, science; science has probed and can forever, but never will the scientist in his science find God. The telescope pointed to the skies, the microscope pointed to the infinitesimal, the macrocosm above us, the microcosm beneath us. As the scientist learns and he studies and he probes, he could find out in his inquiry and in his investigation, he can find out that whoever made this universe must have been someone of great power. Look at its vastness! As he probes, inquires, investigates, he might learn that whoever made this universe loved things beautiful.
There’s no purpose in the sunset except just the beauty of it, no purpose in a rainbow except just the beauty of it, no purpose in color except just the beauty of it. Whoever made it must have loved things beautiful. As they probe, he might have discovered whoever made this universe must have been somebody with moral sensitivity.
We have conscience, conscience and judgment. But what is His name? And what is He like? And who is He? The philosopher in his philosophy could never discover, the natural religionist in his devotion and meditation could never find out, and the scientist however he studies, and inquiries, and investigates, could never find an answer. We find the answer in the self-revelation of God.
I know His name. I know His name. He revealed Himself. I know what He is like! "He who hath seen Me hath seen the Father, for I and the Father are one" [John 14:9; 10:30]. And when I preach the self-revelation of God in that blessed Book, I’m preaching the Lord.
Bring me the Book," said the dying sage;
"Read me the old, old story."
And the winged Word that can never age
Wafted his soul to glory.
Bring me the Book.
[Sir Walter Scott]
Here in these pages, I see the face of God. I’m introduced to the blessed Jesus, and I find salvation for my soul, hope in this life and the life that is to come. Preaching the Word, the incarnate Word, the spoken Word, and the written Word, and all three of them are one. They all three are called the Word of God.
I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; He that sat upon him was True and Faithful …
On His head were many crowns. His eyes were as a flame of fire …
He was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.
God bless it to our souls.
Now, we’ve gone far over our time. We stand and sing this invitation hymn. To give yourself to Jesus, or to put your life with us in the fellowship of this church, would you come and stand by me. "Here I am, pastor. Here I come." Make the decision now, and on the first note of the first stanza, come and stand by me. Make it now. Do it now. And if you’re in that farthest row in the balcony, there’s time and to spare. We’ll wait for you. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.