Report from ‘Round the World
August 9th, 1970 @ 8:15 AM
A REPORT FROM ‘ROUND THE WORLD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-9-70 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and I am so glad to be able to stand here and bring the message this morning. It is entitled A Report from ‘Round the World. And once again, we read a passage that closed the first missionary journey. I flew over Cappadocia, and Phrygia, and Pamphylia, and Cyprus, where Paul first went with Barnabas preaching the gospel of Christ.
And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.
And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia:
And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.
And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.
We came in last night, landed at Love Field a little after seven o’clock, from going west, and west, and west around the world. From Dallas, to Seattle, to Tokyo, to Kyoto and Osaka, then to Taipei and Taiwan, old Formosa, then to Hong Kong and to Bangkok; and the choir turned back to Singapore and to Hawaii and home, but we went from Bangkok across Burma, and East Pakistan, and India, and across Afghanistan and Iran to Tehran; then from Tehran through Turkey and Cyprus, down to Tel Aviv in Israel; then from Tel Aviv over the isle of Rhodes, and the isles of the Greeks, and Greece itself, the entire length of Yugoslavia, a part of Austria, the length of West Germany and Belgium, to London, across the Atlantic to Chicago, and back down to Dallas. I have several things that come forcefully to my soul as I think of this missionary journey.
First, we shall speak of things choral, things concerning our choir. Over there in one of those countries across the Pacific, a man came up to me, and he said, “I saw on the plane two sets of young people. I understand one of them belongs to you. They are a group of young people,” he said, “that I am told sing in your church. I looked at them. They were fine looking, clean cut, well-behaved. On the same plane,” he said to me, “I saw a bunch of hippies from a great university,” and he named it, “in the eastern part of the United States. They were filthy, they were dirty, they were unshaven and unclean, and they stank; they smelled vile. They didn’t sit in the chairs in the plane, but they heaped themselves on the floor in a corner.” Then he said to me, “I want you to tell me, which one, which one of those groups of young people represent America? The dirt, and the filth, and the immorality, and the promiscuity, and the drug addiction, and the stench? Or the choir of the young people of the First Baptist Church in Dallas? Which one,” he asked me, “represents America?”
Well, you know what I said and what we believe? And it is an incomparable opportunity and responsibility to represent that side and that image of the country over which flies the Stars and the Stripes. Oh, what a tragedy that most of the world is introduced to an image of America that is unlike us. And I shall speak of it later on.
First: things choral, our choir. Where preparation was made, oh, they did so marvelously and effectively and wondrously. In Hong Kong, Mrs. Criswell and I went to the concert, as we always did, and I made an appeal for Christ after their singing. When I went to the city hall, which itself was a miracle, for the Czechoslovakian communists had it, but some kind of a miracle came to pass, and the Czechs for communist political reasons did not appear, and the hall immediately was assigned to us. When I went to the hall, I thought, “Oh dear me, there’s a riot on!” There were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people outside. As I maneuvered my way into the crowd and up toward the door, a missionary said to me, “Oh, can’t you get me a seat? Please.” When I got to the door I found out the reason for the throng outside: they couldn’t get in. Where preparation was made, as in Thailand, singing an hour and a half over the television, the greatest television system in that part of Southeast Asia, and making the headline in the Thai papers, and at Singapore, where great preparation was made, oh, how God used them and blessed them.
Where preparation was not made, it broke your heart. On a Monday night in Tokyo, after the concert, to such a small group in a big hall, we returned to the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, where all of us were staying, and two of these boys in the choir met me in the hall, met me in the lobby, and said, “Would you come up and pray with us?” They were on the mezzanine, a large area in that Imperial Hotel—looked to me as though they covered half an acre. And they were here, and they were there, and they were there; they were in little groups, and they were praying together. I asked them to come around me in the mezzanine; they all circled me. And I talked to them. They were so blue, and so down, and so burdened, and so discouraged. I said to them, “Our part is to do our best, and the rest is with God. We can’t convert people; it’s God who converts people. It’s the Spirit that convicts the soul. It’s just for us to do our best.” But as I looked at them in burden, and intercession, and in prayer, I thought, “O dear Lord, that such a thing could be in the earth—teenagers down on their knees, on the mezzanine floor of a hotel, praying to God to bless their witness and their efforts.”
Their impact upon a city and a nation is incalculable. Just their walking down the street is something great and good for God.
Second: I speak of things political; the world of communism and our place in it. The deep, deep cleavages and divisions among the nations and peoples of the world is poignant. It touches the very souls of men. For example, if you were flying from Tehran, the capital of Iran, ancient Persia, to Israel, you’d just fly straight. You’d cross Iraq, with Baghdad the capital, and Syria, with Damascus the capital, and go down to Israel. We were in a BOAC plane, British Overseas Aircraft plane, and instead of going straight, we went up to the middle of Turkey, and then down—that’s where I said we flew over where Paul’s missionary journey had followed—and then down to Cyprus, and so into Israel from the western side of the Mediterranean. Why don’t you go straight across? Because of the intransigence and the deep, bitter hatred of Iraq and Syria. So no plane going to Israel could fly even over the airspace of Iraq and of Syria; just an example of the tragic cleavages and divisions among the nations of the earth.
But especially is that seen in the war in which we are involved in Southeast Asia. We flew over South Vietnam; and some of the flights over at night—we went in the daytime—some of the flights at night, they said they could see the bombs bursting and the artillery fire down there on the ground beneath. So a missionary sits down with me in Bangkok, and this is what he says: he says, “Our Thai people heretofore have been at peace and at rest in their hearts regarding the conflict into which they are involved. But,” he said, “now our Thai people are becoming restless and disturbed and afraid.” Well, you’d naturally ask, “Why?” And he said, “Because of the attitude they think is developing in America.” And the missionary said to me, “The Thai people, old Siam, the Thai people have never been involved in international conflict; they’ve been never a colony of a colonial power. They’ve always been free. Therefore they chose instead of Siam”—which means “black”—he said, “we’re not black people, we are brown people, yellow people, so they changed the name from Siam, which means ‘black,’ to Thailand, which means ‘freeland’.” Now he said, “Due to the encouragement of America, the Thai people have taken a stand. They are involved in this war against communism. Their soldiers are fighting by the side of our soldiers in South Vietnam. And they are dying in the conflict in Cambodia.” But the missionary said to me, “The Thai people are beginning to wonder if America has led them to the abyss and is going to forsake them as they seek to oppose the floodtide of Red communism. They hear of these so-called doves in America, and they read of these so-called demonstrations for peace in America, and the Thai people are becoming afraid.” And he said to me, “Don’t you think it would be a tragedy for America to lead this nation to take a stand against the aggressors of communism and then forsake them and leave them to face their own fate? Don’t you think so?”
I replied, “I certainly do!” The reason we are in Southeast Asia was because we were honoring a treaty called SEATO, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, that when a nation was attacked by the communists we would help them. That’s why we are there. And as I have said many, many times before, somewhere, sometime there has to be a line drawn where you say to the Red aggressor, “You can come this far, but no further.” And you can draw the line in Vietnam, or you can draw the line at the Philippines, or you can draw the line at Hawaii, or you can draw the line at the western coast of America in California, or you can draw the line between Texas and New Mexico, or you can draw the line at the Mississippi River, but somewhere, sometime that line has to be drawn, and our free people must stand and say, “Thus far, and no further.” My impression is, whenever that line is drawn, you’ll find the communist aggressor to wilt before it.
I went to Macao when I was in Hong Kong; went on a hydrofoil, I never had ridden on one of those fast-moving speed boats before. As it goes along, it rises out of the water and just skims the surface of the water on sleds—unusual experience to me. I went to Macao. I was interested in Macao. Macao is a Portuguese colony. And it was there a long time before Columbus discovered America. Hong Kong is a British crown colony. Macao is a Portuguese colony. In the riots in 1967—and we all read about them—in the riots in Macao and in Hong Kong, you have two different reactions. In Macao the people refused to stand; they let their police and they let their government go by the board, and the communists took it over. We have a great Baptist school in Macao; and a communist woman took it, a woman! And today we have no part in its property or in the school; the communists own it because a communist woman took it in the riots of 1967. And as you know, Macao is nothing but a communist colony now. They control it, and they direct it, and it’s Portuguese only in the sense it gives them an open window on the world. The same rioters in 1967 sought to overthrow Hong Kong. But the people of Hong Kong stood by their police, and they stood by their government; and the rioters wilted, and the communists disappeared, and Hong Kong is the bustling, bursting free colony on the shores of China today.
My impression of the communists is that: when you say, “Thus far,” and when you oppose, they wilt. And I have a political observation to make about this conflict in Southeast Asia. I think that conflict would have been over in fifteen minutes had the American army said, “You are going to stop this invasion of South Vietnam, or we’re going to bomb and to destroy your cities and your armies and your people in North Vietnam; and you tell us which, you make the decision.” It would have been over in fifteen minutes. But what’s the matter is we’re bogged down in a no-win war. And the doves in the Senate and the doves in the political life of America keep extending it. And that’s why the men in Hanoi continue, is because they think—and according to secret captured documents, they avow it—they think that they’ll wait it out, and that the sentiment in America will be so ameliorating that they’ll just take the country, we’ll give it to them. The communists are always like that. As in the missile crisis in Cuba: the only time we’ve ever really stood up to Russia. “You get those missiles out,” said the United States government, “you get those missiles out, or it means destruction and invasion and bombing!” Khrushchev took them out in five minutes. Just things political.
Now to the heart of the message: things ecclesiastical, things of the church. I came back from this round the world tour with almost a fanatical rededication to what I pray we shall be able to do in our church, which is nothing but a continuation of a dedication that has been increasingly built up in my soul in these days past. It is a dedication to the Word of God and to the preaching of the gospel of Christ, which is the power of the Lord unto salvation [Romans 1:16]. Now, why in this journey did such a deep, moving dedication well up in my soul?
All you need to do to understand of what I speak is to see and to visit and to talk with the churches and the leaders in Japan. To my horror, to my heartache and heartbreak, I am seeing in Japan once again what happened in history in the days of the Kumamoto band, when it seemed as if the entire nation would be won to Christ. And as you know from the books of history, liberalism so innervated and permeated the message of Christ that their great Doshisha Christian University, founded by Neesima, and all of their work disintegrated under rationalism, liberalism, modernism; and the great movement that seemed it would usher the entire Japanese nation into the kingdom of God dissipated like the clouds dissolve in the air. We are beginning to see that same thing again. For in our Baptist churches—I shall not speak of the others, we shall just speak of us—in our Baptist churches in Japan, that little minority group of hard-core left-wing liberals are seizing its direction and its gospel.
How do they do it? They do it by disruption and disturbance. They say, “We don’t want to study the Bible. We’re interested in relevant political social reform, not salvation, but social reform.” And they come to the services, and they disrupt them, “We don’t want to sing songs, we don’t want to read the Bible, we don’t want to hear the gospel preached. What we want is to discuss social amelioration, social reforms, social betterment.” For to them the gospel is not one of salvation, not one of heaven, not one of Christ’s atoning death, but it’s one of social reconstruction. So they come into the churches, a little band, a little band, and they disrupt the services. The great Dai ichi Baptist Church in Japan, which was the largest church in Tokyo and in Nippon, is now almost a shell. And there are some of our Baptist churches where the pastors have become so discouraged they quit; and the churches have died! No church lives when it is nothing but a discussion group of political, social reconstruction!
There is something about the change of the gospel from its direction to the human heart, and from its salvation from sin, and from its hope of heaven, there is something about the gospel that when you change it from that to some kind of left-wing social amelioration, that it dies.
We had a good demonstration of what they proposed to do when Billy Graham brought the closing address at the Baptist World Alliance. I sat up in the ring around, first balcony; I sat up to the front where I could look at the whole throng. When I came to the hall, there was this cheap literature put out by these Baptist radicals, these social liberals. And I haven’t time to speak of it, but here it is, on cheap mimeograph paper. And each time they close, “We are strongly against Billy Graham. We would not admit him coming to Japan to preach his gospel. We strongly protest him and the program committee of the BWA.” And here is listed all the things that they believe. So, while I sat there and watched the program proceed, I saw about forty whom I did not know personally come into the big arena, auditorium, and they marched up and seated themselves there in the middle of the balcony. So when Billy Graham was introduced to preach his message of salvation, the audience—which is different from what we do—the audience clapped. And then Billy Graham stood up to speak. And that forty up there continued to clap, loud as they could, and to make all the noise that they could. I had already been instructed that there were to be two hundred of them; but by ways that I don’t have time to describe, they were able to decimate their numbers down to forty. So, those forty were there to make it impossible for us to have a Christian service and for a man to preach the gospel of the grace of the Son of God. That’s why they were there, our Baptist radicals.
Well, the only reason that we were able to have a service at all was there was a group of dedicated Baptist young people who immediately swarmed around them up there, and they spoke the language that social radicals know, and the only thing they know is force and violence at the same time that they are saying peace and goodwill. They twist language till it’s unbelievable—by peace they mean war, and by social justice they mean the annihilation of all dissent, unless you agree with them. So that bunch of Baptist young people stormed around them up there—and I was seated here where I could watch them—and they said to them, “You’re going to be quiet, and you’re going to listen to this message, and you’re going to make possible this worship service, or we’re going to beat you to death! You choose which you want it to be.” And they were quiet. And it was a great service. When Billy Graham got through it looked to me as though there were a thousand or twelve hundred people there giving their hearts to the Lord.
Liberalism is an enemy of God. It is an enemy of the Book. It is an enemy of the church. It is the first step toward the absolute disintegration of the Christian faith. So I say, I have come back with a renewed dedication to the gospel, and to the Book, and to the teaching of the Word of God.
Well, isn’t that bibliolatry? Let me speak of it. A book, a book. Wherever we went, we scoured all the antique shops. We’re getting ready for our pastors’ parties. We went to all of them; if there are ten thousand of them in Tokyo, we visited ten thousand and two because maybe two of them weren’t antique shops. We thought we saw them all. Among other things, we were looking for old ivory, beautifully carved ivory. And every antique dealer said, “There is no ivory carved as you think of in China any longer. The government prohibits it.” Well, antique dealers so many times say things in order to sell what they have, so I just smiled at it, laughed at it. But I met that everywhere. So when I was in Macao, I went to—and as I say, Macao is a communist front—I went to one of those big communist department stores, you have them in Hong Kong, especially were they brilliant and beautiful in Macao. So I went into one of those beautiful and impressive communist stores, Red communist department stores in Macao. And there the entire wall on the other side of the store, on the left hand side, the entire wall of the entire length of the store was filled with beautiful ivory pieces. So I talked to the man. And I said, “All of these antique dealers tell me that there’s no more the carvings of ivory of ancient China, but that that’s outlawed by the government, they can’t use the faces of the people, or the dress, or anything.” He said, “That’s correct.” He said, “What we are doing now in China is we are blotting out the past, we are trying to erase it from the memory of our people, and we are building the image of a new and emerging China!” So he showed me the entire display of ivory pieces, and he said to me, frankly, he said to me, “All of them are political; they’re all political. They are presenting communism in its finest glory”—according to them. And what do they present in those ivory carvings? They present the Chinese workman, and the Chinese poet, and the Chinese philosopher, and the Chinese farmer. He is reading a little red book, a little red book, always a little red book, always painted red. In the ivory carving, he’s reading a little red book.
What is that little red book? It is the sayings of Mao Tse-tung. I had picked this one up on the streets of Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania in East Africa, so I never bothered to pick one up there in Macao. This is the little red book. When I turn its pages, it says, “Printed in the People’s Republic of China.” And when I turn its pages, there in Chinese, and it is translated for me in English, “Study Chairman Mao’s writings, follow his teachings.” And then when I read the introduction to this edition, “Mao Tse-tung’s thought is Marxism, Leninism of the era in which imperialism”—we—“imperialism is heading for total collapse, and socialism is advancing to worldwide victory. It is a powerful”—this little book—“is a powerful ideological weapon for opposing imperialism and for opposing revisionism and dogmatism. Mao Tse-tung’s thought is the guiding principle for all the work of the party, the army, and the country,” this little book! “Once Mao Tse-tung’s thought is grasped by the broad masses, it becomes an inexhaustible source of strength, and a spiritual atom bomb of infinite power,” the little book! The little book! And they publish that book by the millions and the millions, the little book! And the people read it, and they read it, and they quote it, and they study it, the little book!
Again, in Tehran, two of the sweetest university students I ever met or saw in my life, one a Christian, one a Muslim, one an Armenian Christian, the other an Iranian Muslim; they stayed up all night long to meet us out at the airport. They had a car; they took us around in the four days that we were in Tehran. When the last day came and we were eating dinner together, Mahmoud Yusefian, the Muslim boy, said to me in his broken English, “I have a gift for you.” I unwrapped it. He unwrapped it. It was the Koran. And when he unwrapped it, before he placed it in my hands, he held this little book, he held it like this. And at the dinner table, he kissed it like this, and then he lovingly laid it in my hand, this little book! The finest gift he could think of for me was the Koran. And I turn the page, and I read its introductory message. For Muslims, for the Mohammedans, the Koran, it means “the recycled,” the Koran is the Arabic for “the recycled,” “the recycled,” just the saying of it, the repeating of it. For Muslims, the Koran is the infallible word of God, a transcript of a tablet preserved in heaven, revealed to the prophet Mohammed, by the angel Gabriel, a book! A book! Lovingly kiss it and place it in my hand, a book!
And shall I be intimidated by the sophisticated, supercilious, scornful observation that I am guilty of bibliolatry if I hold up the true Book, the Word of God? Shall I hesitate to kiss it? Shall I hesitate to read it, and to study it, and to preach it, and to teach it?
In 1950, the only part of the Old Jerusalem that the Jews had won was Mount Zion and King David’s tomb. There were those old picture book rabbis, the place was filled with them. They had in their hands the scroll of the Torah. And after they had read from the pages of the Torah, the books of Moses, they kissed the scroll as they rolled it up. They put it in the container, and they kissed the container. And then they kissed the tassels. Then they kissed the ark in which they deposited the Word of God. That’s why they live—it’s the Book! It’s the Book.
So I say I’ve come back with a deep, deeper, deepest rededication of my own soul and heart and life to the teaching of the Book, which is the mandate from this pastor to our divisional directors, and to all of our leaders and teachers in this church. We’re going to teach the Book! That’s what we’re for, is to teach the Word of God! When you teach the Book, you’re teaching Christ. You never know His name outside of the Book. When you’re teaching the Book, you’re teaching Christianity. When you’re teaching the Book, you’re teaching the dignity of human life. When you’re teaching the Book, you’re teaching the way to heaven. The Book!
Thou truest friend man ever knew,
Thy constancy I’ve tried;
When all were false, I found thee true,
My counselor and guide.
The mines of earth no treasure give
That could the volume buy;
In teaching me the way to live,
It taught me how to die.
[“My Mother’s Bible,” George P. Morris]
The Book! The Book.
Sing them over again to me,
Wonderful words of life;
Let me more of their beauty see,
The wonderful words of life;
[“Wonderful Words of Life,” Philip P. Bliss]
Break Thou the bread of life,
Dear Lord, to me,
As Thou didst break the loaves
Beside the sea;
Beyond the sacred page
I seek Thee, Lord;
My spirit pants for Thee
The living Word.
[“Break Thou the Bread of Life,” Mary A. Lathbury]
The Book! The Book!
How firm a foundation
Ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith
In His excellent Word, in His excellent Word!
What more can He say
Than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus
For refuge have fled?
[“How Firm a Foundation,” John Rippon]
The Book. The Book. God bless our dedication. God bless our teaching ministry. God bless our preaching ministry. God bless the example of this church as we exalt the Book, the incarnate Word of God, the spoken Word of God, the written Word of God. “The flower fadeth, the grass withereth: but the word of God shall abide forever” [Isaiah 40:8].
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” [John 1:1]. The Book. The Book.
Our time is far spent. We must sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you to whom the Lord has spoken, would you come and stand by me? “Here I am, pastor, I make today. I’ve decided for God today, and here I come, here I am.”
“Here’s my wife, these are my children; all of us are coming today”; or just you. In the balcony round there’s time and to spare; we’ll wait for you, down one of these stairwells and here to the front, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the side of the pastor, “Here’s my hand, pastor, I’ve decided for God. I’ve given my heart to the Lord.” We’re going to work with you and pray with you in the circle of this great church, come. On the first note of that first stanza, come. Do it now. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.