WHAT MEAN THESE STONES?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-23-72 10:50 a.m.
It is our great privilege on radio and on television to thank you for sharing with us this morning worship service in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled What Mean These Stones? It is a text for a background and introduction only. It is not an exposition of a passage of Scripture. It is from a story in the fourth chapter of Joshua, as the people, out of the wilderness, entered into the Promised Land. And in memory of their crossing over Jordan the Lord said to Joshua:
Take one man out of each one of the twelve tribes, and lift up a big stone in the midst of the Jordan, and place those stones on the side, on the western side, on the Canaan side of the river.
And it shall come to pass, that when your children ask you, saying, What mean ye by these stones?
You will tell them how God opened the way, dried up the waters for the children to enter into the Promised Land: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.
Now, this last week we began the building of our Christian Educational Building over here on Ervay Street. Between the Burt Building and the Salvation Army building, there is now going up our Christian Education Building. It will cost, as it is now, something like three million dollars. I am praying that our people will so respond that we can build it eight stories high instead of six, for we so desperately need the added area.
There is a great turn, a decisive one in our church that is most noticeable in the last few years and few months. There is a new emphasis. There is a new dedication among our people. I am referring to the great commitment that we are making in Christian education. Not that anybody sat down to do it, least of all did I plan such a turn in these present days. It’s something that happened. It is something from God. It is something from heaven. The Holy Spirit is leading our church into a new emphasis and a new dedication to Christian education.
I see it in the launching of our Bible Institute. This has in it one of the tremendous possibilities of anything that any church or denomination could do in the name of Christ. And right now there are things coming to pass that argue for a tremendous development in our Bible Institute. The summer semester, by the way, begins about the thirteenth of June. And the fall semester begins about the second week in September.
Our Bible Institute is a part of this new educational emphasis in the church. I see it again in the launching of our elementary school, our First Baptist Christian School. This coming fall we shall begin with the seven grades; and we are believing that the Lord will so help and bless us in this that the day will come when we’ll have all twelve grades, our primary, our secondary, our high school. It has in it a marvelous opportunity for us. The founding and the launching of our elementary school is another sign of our turn toward Christian education.
I see it also in the emphasis that our people are beginning increasingly to place upon the teaching of the Bible in our Sunday school. We’re not satisfied with little devotionals, and little, platitudinous, moral clichés, and little sermonettes. Our people are hungering to be taught the mind and the revelation and the wisdom of God as the Lord reveals Himself in these Holy Scriptures.
I see it even among little children’s departments. More and more our church, in all of its divisions, our church is beginning to emphasize and to teach the Word of God, the Bible. These are just illustrations of the turning of our church in these last several years, and especially these last several months. Our church is increasingly becoming an instrument of teaching the mind and the will of Christ.
Now, this is in no small way, this is no small part of my daily gratitude to God. I am pleased, I am happy, I am grateful in the way that our church is beginning to turn and the new emphasis and dedication I see among the leadership of our people. I am to speak of that this morning, and especially remembering the appeal being made to our congregation to help us build our new Christian Education Building.
In the Bible, sometimes the revelation, the Scripture, will speak of a man as a dichotomy, as being made of two parts. For example, in the fourth chapter of the second Corinthian letter, Paul will speak of the exōanthrōpos, the outward man, this physical body man; then he will speak of the esōthen anthrōpos, the inward man; the exōanthrōpos, the body, the outside man, the one you see; then the esōthen anthrōpos, the inward man, the spirit man [2 Corinthians 4:16]. There he’s looked upon as being two. He’s body and soul. He’s body and spirit. He’s corporeality and spirituality. He’s a dichotomy.
Then in the Bible there is also the presentation of a man as a trichotomy. He is made of three component constituent parts. In the Scriptures he will be referred to as a sōmatikos anthrōpos. He is a body man. That refers to his carnality, to his animality, to his anatomy. He is a body man, a sōmatikos anthrōpos.
Then the Scriptures will refer to a psuchikos anthrōpos; that is the sentient man, the intelligent man, the psychic man, the psuchikos anthrōpos; the man of mind and of appreciation and of knowledge [1 Corinthians 2:14]]. But in that trichotomy the Scriptures will refer to a third part that makes up the man. He is also a pneumatikos man, a pneumatikos anthrōpos. He is a spiritual man. He can know God. He’s capable of following the thoughts of God and responding to God. He is made unlike any other of God’s creation. He is made in the image of the Almighty [1 Corinthians 2:15].
Now, in those three levels a man can live. He can be trained. Sometimes you could think of him as being a house; a basement, and a first floor, and a top floor. The sōmatikos man, the carnal man, you can live your life in a basement [1 Timothy 4:8]. There are some who are like clods. There are some who are like animals. They live in the flesh, in sensuality, all their lives. But there is a higher level. A man can also live on the level of a psuchikos anthrōpos. He can aspire to know, and to understand, and to be trained in his mind [1 Corinthians 2:14].
There was a boy, awkward, barefoot, ignorant, who came out of the Ozarks and went to the headmaster of a school and said to the headmaster that he wanted to enroll in the school. The principal was interested in him and said to the boy, “Why is it that you want to come to school?” And the boy replied, “Sir, back there in the mountains where I live there is a sign at the crossroads, pointing this way and this way.” He said, “Mister, I’d like to learn to read that sign down there at the crossroads.”
This is a noble aspiration, to be aware of what is around us. A flower is not just a flower. There are ten thousand botanical things to be learned about it. An animal is not just an animal. There are thousands and thousands of things to be learned about that animal. The whole world around us is a world that awaits to be discovered and appreciated and known. And we can do this. We’re capable of it in our minds. The psuchikos anthrōpos can be taught and can be trained and can be made aware intellectually of the glorious world in which we live.
But there is also a third level upon which and to which a man can aspire. It is also possible to be a pneumatikos anthrōpos [1 Corinthians 2:15], to be a spiritually oriented man; for a man in his soul and in his heart can be made sensitive to God. The windows of his life can open out upon heaven. And this knowledge is the highest knowledge that God has made possible to the human mind and the human soul; to know God and to think God’s thoughts after Him.
In the third verse of the seventeenth chapter of John, in our Lord’s high priestly prayer, He prayed, saying, “This is life eternal, that they may know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” [John 17:3]; the knowledge of God, the pneumatikos, the spiritual man. In the Proverbs, “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord” [Proverbs 1:7, 9:10]. This is the highest of all knowledge, the noblest of all training, the most heavenly of all teaching; to know God [Jeremiah 9:23-24].
Now that is what we call Christian education; education that brings one to the knowledge of the Lord, and Christian education is made possible in the atmosphere in which that knowledge is brought. For the atmosphere around the child or the youth is more important than anything that is taught him, more important than the books, more important than the pedagogical methods by which he is introduced into knowledge. The atmosphere around the child is all significant and all important.
And Christian education is a place where all of the teachers and all of the leaders are Christians. They are committed to the life, and knowledge, and way, and will of our Lord. And what is brought and what is taught is in the framework of the Christian life; the unconscious attitude and the unconscious influence and example of the teacher. All of the atmosphere of the school is Christian. There is the chapel service, dedicated to Christ. There is the reading of the Bible. There is the kneeling and the bowing in prayer. These are the things creating an atmosphere of worship and of reverence before God. That makes for Christian education.
Another thing that makes for Christian education is how the content is taught, how the knowledge is mediated. Oh, what a difference there can be in teachers who teach the same subject! Here is a teacher, who is an atheist or an infidel, and he takes the same text, and he takes the same subject, and he teaches it. And here is a devout, godly Christian, he takes the same text, he takes the same knowledge and he teaches it, but they are poles apart, for the teaching in the mind of the Christian takes on it the color and the interpretation of Christ Himself. When the Christian teacher presents the knowledge of the text to the student, everything partakes of the Spirit of Christ. In history, as someone said, all history is just His story. It is the hand of God, the great sovereign Lord in human development and human history.
And the facts that we’re taught all reflect the blessed Christ. In geology, He is the Rock of Ages [Isaiah 26:4]. In astronomy, He is the Bright and the Morning Star [Revelation 22:16]. In botany, He is the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley [Song of Solomon 2:1]. In zoology, He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah [Revelation 5:5]. In eschatology, He is the coming and reigning Prince [Revelation 19:16]. And in the Christian school, the facts and all of the knowledge that is presented has in it the mind and the Spirit and the interpretation of our blessed Lord.
Why would you seek to build a Christian school? And why would you emphasize a Christian education? There are several reasons, and I name a few as I have opportunity. One: it is necessary and it is vital because of the genius of the American government. We have in America a doctrine that was largely furthered by our Baptist forefathers. And it is this, that there is to be a separation between church and state. And when we apply that to education, to the school system, it goes like this: no man should be taxed to support another man’s religion, and no family should be coercively made to support another man’s faith or another man’s doctrine. Now, that is one of the greatest constitutional provisions that ever came to mortal man. We have freedom of religion, and we have freedom to teach, and we have freedom to train our children. Therefore, I have the choice, and ought not to be coerced in it.
I do not think the public school system ought to teach the faith. I would not want my child taught by an infidel. I don’t want him taught by an atheist, the faith. I don’t want him taught the Bible by someone who ridicules it, and scorns it, and scoffs at it. Nor do I want my child taught in the faith of a religion in which I do not believe.
If the public school therefore is interdicted from teaching the faith, from teaching religion, then how is the child to be taught it? That is our responsibility. That is our assignment, and it is our open door here in America. Let Caesar’s dues be paid to Caesar and his throne, but the conscience and the soul belong to God alone! [Mark 12:17].
We had a very long and forensic deacons’ meeting, and we were talking with the men about the launching and the establishing of our elementary school, our Christian school. And there was great question about it, and discussion about it, and in some instances looking at it with askance and trepidation. And in that discussion, Dr. Nolan Este, stood up. Dr. Nolan Estes is a giant of a man. He’s a giant physically. He’s a giant intellectually. He is a giant spiritually. Dr. Estes stood up in that discussion, and the great man said, “It would be a tragedy if the day ever came when education was solely the responsibility of the government! There could be no better tool for the establishment of a totalitarian state than for the government alone to have the sole prerogative of educating the child.”
Dr. Estes said, “We need the Christian school. We need the private school. And here in Dallas, where I’m the superintendent of public education, it has been our policy and shall continue to be that we cooperate and appreciate the private and the Christian school.”
I concur in the judgment of that great man with my whole soul and heart. I cannot think of a greater threat to the freedoms and the liberties of our America than to think of education being solely in the hands of the state. We need the Christian school. We need the private school. And to have freedom to establish it and to support it is one of the great privileges of the American life. And as we say that we would not like, would not choose, for our child to be taught the faith in a public school by a teacher who did not believe it, in saying that, immediately there falls upon us the responsibility of seeking to provide for the child in the Sunday school, in the elementary school, and any way that we can that faith, that teaching of the holy mind of God as revealed in the sacred Scriptures. Not that we would ever be able to teach all of them, it would never come to pass like that; but we need to teach some of them.
And then that brings me to my second point. Why Christian education? Because we need, desperately so, we need Christian leaders in every area of American life! Out there in the banking world we need Christian bankers. In the educational world, we need Christian teachers. In the medicinal world, we need Christian doctors. Out there in the economic world, we need Christian men of economics. In the merchandising world, we need men who are Christlike in the world of merchandising. In every area of life, forensic, political, jurisdictional, economic, merchandising, pedagogical, there’s no area of the scene of American life in which we ought not to have Christian leaders.
Roger Batson, one of the tremendously gifted men in economics, Roger Batson said, and I quote him, he said, “The desperate need of the hour and of the day is not for more factories, and more materials, and more railroads, and more steamship lines. Nor is it,” he said, “for greater navies and armies.” But he said, “The desperate need of the day and the hour is this,” and it’s such a simple thing that he said, “The desperate need of the day and the hour is this: more education based upon the plain teachings of Jesus.” O Lord, how true that is! And what a difference it makes, for the man is turned, and the difference in a man is largely seen in his soul, in his heart!
There is a no-account, filthy, dirty bum that breaks into a railway car to steal a can of tomatoes because he’s hungry. Dress him up, clean him up, send him to the Harvard School of Business, and he’ll steal the entire railway system and get away with it. The difference in men is not nearly so much in the mind or on the outside, but the difference is to be found in his soul and in his heart. And this is the difference that the teaching of Christ seeks to make in Christian leaders. We need the Christian man, the child taught in the faith.
Another reason: we need the Christian educator and the Christian child taught in the way of the Lord because of the very existence of our church and of our association of churches, our denomination. We have come upon tragic times. These are awesome times.
This week, this week, did you read in the daily papers here in Dallas? There is a convocation in another city of a great denomination, and the denomination is beginning to close down their seminaries? Why? They don’t need them any longer. So they’re beginning to close them down. And when I read it, I thought of some of these mission journeys I’ve made, especially in South America.
I saw great institutions that are vacant. They’re closed down. I saw seminaries that were built with hundreds and hundreds of thousands of mission dollars. They’re closed. There are no students. Liberalism has undercut and undermined the faith! And there’s no need for the seminary because there are no students to attend it. That is a pattern over the whole earth.
Upon a day, in my hotel room, a newspaper reporter called me. And he said, “What is this that I hear that you are saying, that by the end of this century, evangelical Christianity will be practically non-existent? What is that?” “Well,” I said, “do you have a pencil and a paper?” He said, “Yes.” “Well,” I said, “just write it down and let’s look at it. A hundred eighty-five years ago, twenty-five percent of the world’s population, the whole world’s population, was evangelical Christian. Today it is less than eight percent. By 1980, it will be less than four percent. And by the year 2000 it will be less than two percent! Now,” I said, “You have a pencil and paper, just draw you a graph and see what the future of it.”
Barring the intervention of God, by the time these babies that are now born enter this twenty-first century, the Christian faith, as we know it and the churches as we have seen it, will be practically non-existent! Somebody made a survey of the churches of New England and found that you could take out four-fifths of the pews of the churches in New England, and they’d never be missed! This, in Christian America; this in the land of Cotton Mather, and Increase Mather, and Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield, and Roger Williams; this in the land of our Puritan forefathers! There is a tide of secularism, there is a tide of materialism, there is a tide of atheism that is sweeping the whole earth! And it is sweeping our beloved America.
We stand verily at the continental divide of civilization. We stand at the watershed of the Christian faith. There is no area of life in which revolution is not now fermenting and teeming. Things are changing. The French Revolution was a political revolution. The Renaissance was an intellectual revolution. And the Reformation was a religious revolution. But we have revolutions today in every area of life: spiritual, moral, ethical, financial, political, educational. There’s no area of life in which the ferment of revolution is not now moving. Oh, what a day and what a challenge to the faith and to the commitment of the Christian church and God’s Christian people!
The old Hebrew prophets had a habit of calling their people back to the remembrance of their forefathers. Isaiah one time cried, “Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah who bare you” [Isaiah 51:1-2]. And we need to do that. The pulpit and the preacher today need to call his people back to a remembrance of our forefathers.
My brother, listen to me. Our forefathers believed that education was in the heart of the church of Jesus Christ! The public school system came out of the church. The Sunday school came out of the church. Every great university of these days passed came out of the church! They believed that education was a part of the great responsibility and ministries of the church. We are to hearken back to those men who believed that our first and primary assignment was to take the child and to teach the little fellow or the little girl the mind of God in Christ Jesus.
What shall we do today before the floodtide of secularism and materialism? What shall we do? My friend, listen. No battle was ever won by retreat and by surrender, by capitulation, never! What we need to do is to raise up a standard. We need to raise high the flag and unfurl it!
Alexander the Great was asked, “How did you conquer the world?” And he replied, “By never surrendering.” And when he lay dying without an heir, they asked him, “Whose is the kingdom?” And he said, “It’s for him who can take it!” And it is so today, it is so today. It is for him who can take it. As the mystic William Blake cried:
Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear, O clouds unfold:
Bring me my chariot of fire.
We shall not cease from battle strife,
Nor shall the sword sleep in our hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In this fair and pleasant land.
[from “Jerusalem,” William Blake]
This is our commitment. This is the burden and the responsibility that God has laid upon our people. And I am persuaded in prayer and in the faith that we shall respond in keeping with the will of Christ for us and this world.
Now I want you to stand up, all of you, and everywhere. I want you to stand up. Across the aisle, from side to side, I want you to take the hand of the one next to you. Just join hands from side to side, all around, all of us. Just join hands. Now I want you to sing with me:
Must Jesus bear the cross alone
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone
And there’s a cross for me.
O precious cross! O glorious crown!
O resurrection day!
Ye angels from the stars come down
And bear my soul away.
O precious cross! O glorious crown!
O resurrection day!
Ye angels from the stars come down,
And bear my soul away.
That’s the mind of God for us. The Lord bless and sanctify and hallow these holy commitments to which we give ourselves, our prayers, our intercessions, our dreams and hopes, and the destiny of our church.
Now we’re going to sing our hymn of appeal. And in the balcony round, and on the lower floor you, a family, or a couple, or just one somebody you as the Spirit of God will press the appeal to your heart, come now. Make the decision now. On the first note of the first stanza, come. “Here I am, pastor, I’ve decided; and here I am.” Do it now while we sing our hymn of appeal.