CHRIST AND COMMUNISM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-30-72 12:00 p.m.
Tomorrow is the last day of our pre-Easter series of services. The theme this year has been "Christ and Contemporary Crises"; the Lord of life in the day and in the age and the generation in which God has cast us and our time. On Monday it was Christ and the State, Christ and political government; on Tuesday, Christ and martial conflict, Christ and War; yesterday it was Christ and Modern Science; tomorrow, the last day, the day in which He was crucified, Friday, it will be Christ and Our Last Enemy Death. Today the subject concerns Christ and the greatest challenge and the greatest threat that the two thousand years of history has ever known: Christ and Communism. There has never been a challenge to the Christian faith that was anywise comparable to the vicious, overwhelming attack of communism. Nor has there ever been a foe that seemingly was impregnable and invincible as the foe that we face in communism.
In the apocalyptic chapter of the First Gospel, our Lord said:
Take heed that no one deceive you.
For many shall come, saying, I am the Promised One; and shall deceive many,
For there shall arise false christs, and false prophets, and they shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they would deceive the very elect.
Behold, I have told you before it comes to pass.
[Matthew 24:4-5, 24-25]
And there is no false religion, and there is no false messiah, false prophet, or false christ that in anywise has ever compared to those personalities that we see leading the past, the present communist world.
The whole earth and all the nations and populations of the world are divided into two great camps: the East and the West; the slave world and the free world. And behind those two great camps are two great ideas and ideologies: one is communism and the other is Christianity. And behind those two great ideas there stands the shadow of two tremendous personalities: Karl Marx and Jesus the Christ. Both of them come with a world program; and both of them demand full and final and eternal allegiance from their followers; and both of them are religions.
The Christian faith is a religion; and communism is a religion. The Christian faith preaches the almightiness of God, and the kingdom of Christ, and the dignity of man, and the worth of the individual human soul. Communism believes in atheism, and it preaches the almightiness of the state, and it declares the worthlessness of the individual man. To the Christian, Christ is the Messiah. The great apostle of its faith is Paul. Its book is the Bible; and its shrine is an empty tomb. To the communist, the messiah is Karl Marx. Its great apostle is Nicolai Lenin. Its holy bible is Das Kapital; and its shrine is the tomb of Lenin in the Red Square before the Kremlin in Moscow.
For the kingdom of God, the communists supplant it with the sovereignty of the proletariat; and for spiritual values they substitute economic determinism. Communism is a religion and a fanatical one! They deify their leaders. Karl Marx, who died in 1883, was a wretch who allowed all six of his children to starve to death. He is the author of their holy scriptures. And Nikolai Lenin, who died in 1924, was a revolutionary of a fanatical and zealous kind who bathed the whole nation in human blood.
The communists have a doctrine of God, namely that He does not exist. And they teach their children, "Pray to God and there’s no food to eat. Pray to a communist leader, and they bring in an abounding delicious meal." They will let a plot of ground grow fallow and say, "This is what God can do." Then they have a laborer work in a beautiful garden, "And this is what man can do." The communist religion has a doctrine of conversion: it is brain-washing, diabolical use of psychological approaches. They have a doctrine of evangelism: the conversion of the whole world. And they have a doctrine of discipleship: they study Karl Marx and Nikolai Lenin by day and night in Russia, and they study the sayings of Mao Tse-tung by night and by day in Red China. And communism, as all true religions, has an universal appeal: it makes appeal to the wretched, poverty-stricken masses, promising utopias that could never be fulfilled by them. And as Karl Marx discovered, communism in its philosophical approach has a dynamic, tremendous appeal to the intellectual and especially the professor in the university. And there is no doubt but that the success of the communist venture has surprised and overwhelmed the whole world; at this moment, more than one-third of the world’s surface and almost one-half of the world’s populations are under the domination of the hammer and of the sickle.
Visiting in India one time, I was the guest in the home of a distinguished federal judge by the name of Gulani; he had married the sister of a Baptist pastor, and thus came the invitation to spend the day with him in his home. And as I spoke to him, I talked about the close and increasingly close friendship between Russia and India. And in this last altercation with Pakistan, the United States found itself on the wrong side again. And the friendship of Russia to India is close, and getting closer. And I asked Gulani, the federal judge, "Do you think that India will ever turn communist?" And he said, "What you people in the United States do not realize is that we are greatly impressed with the achievements of communism in Russia, that has taken a serf state, a backward nation, and has suddenly almost transferred it into the only power in the world that can challenge the power of America." And then he repeated it, "We are greatly impressed." There is no doubt but that the fanatical zeal of communism has wrought miracles in some parts of the nations of the world.
The conflict between Christianity and communism is eternal; and one or the other will survive. They are basically and drastically and deeply different. The Christian believes one thing about the universe; the communist believes something else. The Christian believes one thing about the state; the communist believes something else. The Christian believes one thing about the nature of man; the communist believes something else. To the Christian, the state is the servant of the man; but to the communist the man is a slave of the state. To the Christian, the whole order of society finds its great worth and meaning in Almighty God! To the communist, there is no almightiness except that found in the power of the state. To the Christian, the unit of society is to be found in the home and in the family; but to the communist the unit of society is to be found in the communist cell that is subservient to the party. To the Christian, the law of love is the unifying cohesive power that binds mankind together; but to the communist the law of life is class warfare, which can be settled by no other final recourse but in war and in conflict.
The Christian uses the word "brotherhood" and "social justice" to mean kindness; but to the communist it means treachery and subversion. For peace they mean war; for love they mean hate; for brotherhood they mean class antagonism; for peace and freedom they mean the police state; and for utopia they mean the power of the government to destroy. The kingdom of God to the communist is none other thing than the full realization of the power of the state. And their ideas of God and of religion go like this: Karl Marx said, "Communism begins where atheism begins." And when he was asked, "What are the objectives of communist life and ideology?" he said, "It is to dethrone God and to destroy capitalism."
I saw a cartoon in Russia. Below on the earth there was the destruction of the churches, in ruins; and in the foreground was a ladder leaning up against a cloud in the sky. There was a Russian workman at the top of the ladder with a hammer in his hand. And up there at a banquet table was seated God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And that Russian workman had his hammer raised to destroy the triune God. And the caption underneath, as it was translated to me out of Russian, said, "As we have destroyed God in earth," meaning the destruction of the churches, "so we shall destroy the gods in the heavens."
Their idea of morality is very plainly stated. Stalin said, "Sincere diplomacy is no more possible than dry water or wooden iron." And Yaroslavsky said, "Anything that helps the Communist Party is ethical. If it is advantageous to the party to lie, then lie; to steal, then steal; to murder, then murder." And their definition of the individual man is a faceless man in a faceless society. They look upon raw human material as something out of which they try to beat the very image of God. And the state owns the home, and the family, and the children, and the property, and the arts, and the sciences, and all of the manifestations of human life; the state is dominant and sovereign over it all.
And their plan of conquest is diabolical and plainly stated. Lenin said, "What does it matter if two-thirds of the world’s population is destroyed, if only the remaining one-third is communist." To the communist, the murder and the destruction of over two billion people is nothing if the billion that is left is communist. Lenin said, in this approach to the destruction of the capitalist world, he said, "We’ll take Eastern Europe. Then we’ll organize the hordes of Asia. Then we’ll surround the United States." And he predicted, and I quote, "That last bastion of capitalism, the United States, will not have to be taken: it will fall into our outstretched hands like overripe fruit." Lenin one time called us in America, quote, "The willing idiots." They are supremely confident of victory. As Nikita Khrushchev said, "We will bury you!" They believe that under the constant pressure of the cold war that we will give up one by one our democratic institutions and our God-given inalienable liberties and rights, and that we shall finally cease to resist the inroads of socialism and the socialist system.
Khrushchev one time said, "We cannot expect the American people to jump from capitalism to communism; but we can assist their elected leaders in giving them small doses of socialism, until they awaken one day to find they have communism." You’d think he was a prophet. In 1788, James Madison told the Virginia Convention, and I quote from James Madison: "Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." To listen to these communists, to read their prophecies and their books is almost like reading the development of American life and the life in the free nations of the world.
They are inordinately confident. And a decision will be made on the part of all the nations of the earth: it will be one or the other! There is a kingdom of darkness in this world, and there is a kingdom of light. There is a kingdom of Christ; there is a kingdom of Antichrist; and those two are eternally and forever irrevocable and irreconcilable! They cannot forever exist side by side: one or the other will win.
I was a guest one time in the home of President Black, the president of Robert College in Istanbul, Turkey. He had married a Bulgarian girl, and had lived, and was living in Bulgaria when the communists took it over. And he was describing to me life under a communist regime. And he said, "I cannot describe to you the darkening power of that tyrannical government." He said, "They are able to make children informers against their own parents, when it means prison and death for their fathers and mothers." And he said, "The only way that I can explain it is that as there is a kingdom of Christ, and a kingdom of light, and a kingdom of righteousness, and a kingdom of heaven," he said, "there is also a kingdom of darkness and of violence, and it is presided over by Satan himself." And he said to me, "I think the manifestation of the dark kingdom of Satan in this world is to be found in the encroaching inroads of communism."
Certainly they have before them every right to believe that one by one they will finally conquer the whole earth. Quoting Khrushchev again: he said, "Anyone who mistakes our smile for withdrawal from the policies of Marxism-Leninism, is making a mistake. Those who expect this will have to wait until Easter falls on Tuesday." And Lenin said, "It is inconceivable that the Soviet Union should continue to exist for a long period side by side with imperialistic states. Ultimately one or the other will conquer!" I think that is true. Ultimately this world will be one or the other: it will be free or it will be slave! As Abraham Lincoln said of the states in America, "It cannot endure, the Union cannot survive half slave and half free." It will be one or the other. It is so in the conflict between communism and Christianity today: one or the other will survive; both of them will not.
Now, I am a Christian minister. I believe in the ultimate victory and triumph of our Lord Christ Messiah. I believe it for two reasons: one, because of the glorious nature and eternal Godhead of our great Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. And compared to Him, the leaders and the apostles and the messiahs of communism are Lilliputian, they are pigmies, they are worms, they are dust of the ground; they don’t compare, nor are they to be equaled, spoken of in the same breath.
As some of you, I have stood in that line in front of the mausoleum of Lenin, before the Kremlin wall, and finally down into that tomb, and around on the three sides looking at the cold, dead face of that communist leader. He is so dead! And looking upon his silent countenance, I thought once more of that statement given out to the presses of the world when Lenin died in 1924. The grand council of the socialistic Soviet republics sent this statement out to the world upon the death of Lenin: I quote their statement, "No man ever wrought as Lenin. He was the greatest leader of mankind. He was the greatest teacher of all time. He was the author of a new social order. He was the savior of the world." But unknown to the grand council of the socialistic Soviet republics, they spelled their ultimate doom in the tense of the verb that they used: "No man ever wrought," past, "as did Lenin. He was the greatest leader of mankind. He was the greatest teacher of all time. He was the author of a new social order. He was the savior of the world"; but he is dead! And the tremendous monument to the mortality and corruption of Lenin can be seen any day in the week by visiting his tomb before the Kremlin wall in the Red Square of Moscow. He is dead!
The grandest news the world ever heard was when the angel said, "Come, see the place where He lay. He is alive! He is alive! And He goes before you" [Matthew 28:6-7]; always before us, into Galilee, into Judea, into Samaria, into Rome, into London, into New York, into Dallas, finally into the glorious New Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom of Christ that is yet to come [Revelation 21:1-3]. We shall prevail. We shall win. We shall be victorious because of our glorious and incomparable leader, the Jehovah God, the Lord Christ.
Second: we shall not lose because of the devotion of His people – His disciples, His followers. You remember the twelfth chapter of the Revelation and the eleventh verse? "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" [Revelation 12:11]. My friend, this is not the first time that Christianity was ever challenged in blood, and in fire, and in fagot, and in sword, and in prison: the Christian faith was born in blood and in death! [Matthew 27:32-50]. It is a resurrection faith; it rises from the dust of the ground and the heart of the earth.
We may be poor examples of those who follow the martyrs in these centuries past, but it might surprise the world how many Disciples of Christ there are today who would gladly lay down their lives in His name, and are laying down their lives behind bamboo and iron curtains. We shall not fail, for the followers of our Lord are tried and true, and love not their lives unto death.
And this is the challenge for us in this crucial and critical time, the hour in which we live. Listen, Christianity cannot be heroic if I am a coward. Christianity cannot be gigantic if I am a pigmy. Christianity cannot be universal if I am not evangelistic. Christianity cannot be redemptive if I am unregenerate. Christianity cannot win the heart of the world if it does not win my heart. And the Christian faith cannot baptize the world if it does not baptize me. The kingdom belongs in my heart; it starts in my soul and in yours.
The Son of God goes forth to war,
A kingly crown to gain;
His blood red banners stream afar:
Who follows in His train?
A noble army, men and boys,
The matron and the maid,
Around the Savior’s throne rejoice,
In robes of light arrayed.
They climbed the steep ascent of Heav’n,
Through peril, toil and pain;
O God, to us may grace be given,
To follow in their train.
["The Son of God Goes Forth to War"; Reginald Heber]
We today, as they yesterday, and the saints who shall rejoice with us in the ultimate triumph tomorrow: and our Lord, in that faith and persuasion may we preach, call men to repentance, send out missionaries, build the churches, teach the people, walk in the full assurance that Christ our God can never fail; the victory ultimately belongs to Him who shall reign King over all the nations of the earth, and that forever and ever, amen.