Communism and Christianity
March 28th, 1976 @ 10:50 AM
CHRISTIANITY AND COMMUNISM
Dr. W.A. Criswell
3-28-76 10:50 a.m.
We welcome you who are sharing with us this service on radio and on television in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message; the last in the series of four. The first was entitled The Christian Martyr. The second was entitled The Struggle for Religious Liberty. The third was entitled, and Chuck Colson spake of the same thought and message just now, the third was entitled The True Freedom, the freedom in Christ and forever. And the message today is entitled The Crisis Created by the Confrontation of Christianity and Communism.
In our preaching through the Book of Isaiah, we have come to chapter 51. And as a background text for these four addresses prepared for this bicentennial year of the birthday of America, the addresses are to remind us of the price paid for our freedom, and a prayer made for God’s blessings upon us in the days and the years that unfold. The reading of the text, a background for the message in Isaiah 51:1-2, is this:
Look, look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn,
and to the hole of the pit from whence ye were cut.
Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah who bare you.
It was a habit oft repeated by the apostles and by the prophets, to call their people back to a remembrance of the forefathers who led them into the faith, and to the blessings of God upon His people in the years and the generations past. “Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn, and to the quarry of the pit from which ye were digged” [Isaiah 51:1], and it is that that we are doing in these days of addresses concerning our freedom and blessing in America.
The great and illustrious pastor of this church, George W. Truett, died in 1944. A year after his death, there was published a little book of fifteen addresses that had been made, written by the great and far-famed pastor. The last of those addresses, of those little messages, he penned a few months before he died. And from that last message, I copy these words from George W. Truett, who for forty-seven years was my predecessor in this pulpit. He said, quote:
Two ideologies are in mortal combat: democracy and aristocracy—freedom and tyranny. Liberty-loving people cannot, dare not, be indifferent to the amazing and worldwide efforts to subjugate and enslave humanity everywhere.
The two ideas in the awful conflict are as far apart as the poles. One view supremely magnifies the dignity and value and indefeasible rights of the individual, any and everywhere. The other view denies the dignity and value of the individual and appraises him merely as a cog in a machine. The whole world is divided into those two camps: the East and the West—the world of slavery and the world of freedom.
Behind those two great worlds, there are two vastly differing ideologies. And behind those two ideologies, there stands two of the great, towering powers of the world: the Soviet Socialistic Republic of Russia and the United States of America.
And behind those two great, worldwide powers, there lies the shadow of two personalities: one, that of Nikolai Lenin who was the architect and founder of the Soviet Union and a disciple of the communist-socialist, Karl Marx. And the other is the Lord Christ from heaven whose teachings and whose disciples were the basis for the founding of the liberties and freedoms we enjoy in the United States of America.
Both of those powers and ideologies and personalities come before the world with a program and a plan for humanity. And both of them alike demand a dedication and a consecration that is known but to those who give their lives for the communist cause, and those who laid down their lives for Christ. In these few moments now, we shall contrast the teaching and the doctrine of Nikolai Lenin and the communist Soviet Russia; and the teaching and spirit of Jesus our Lord, that has framed the life of liberty and freedom in America.
First, their idea and their presentation of God. Lenin, following Karl Marx said, quote, “Communism begins where atheism begins,” and again, “What we wish for is the annihilation of all religion and the church; and to arrive at the negation of God.”
I saw a cartoon in the Soviet Union: below were pictures of church-houses in ruins, destroyed, decimated. And up above was a cloud, and on it a banquet set; and among them, three: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Against the cloud, there leaned a ladder. And on top of the ladder was a Russian workman with a hammer raised in his hand. And the caption in Russian that I had translated for me said, “As we have destroyed God in earth, so we shall destroy God in heaven.”
The attitude and Spirit of the Lord Jesus was like this,
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name” [Matthew 6:9]. And again, “Not a sparrow shall fall to the ground without your heavenly Father . . . Fear not therefore, ye are more value than many sparrows.
From whence the hymn was written: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me” [Civilla Martin, 1905].
Second: a contrast in their attitude toward man. Again following Karl Marx, Lenin said, “Man is a child of appetite. His only spontaneous movement is to get food, satisfaction, warmth, and wealth.” That is, a man is an animal without a soul. And instead of “being made,” as the Scriptures reveal, “a little lower than the angels” [Psalm 8:5], he actually is just a little higher than an insect.
Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” [Matthew 4:4]. And again:
This is the first and the great commandment…
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and mind, and soul and body.
And the second commandment is like unto the first,
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
We contrast, third: their attitude toward morality, toward rightness. Lenin said, “Anything that helps the revolution and 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 again, “Sincere diplomacy is no more possible than dry water or wooden iron.”
On the other hand, our Lord Jesus said, “Always let your yea be yea; and your nay be nay, for to deceive in speech is of the evil one.” And again, “Be therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” [Matthew 5:37, 48].
We contrast next their attitude toward humanitarianism, altruism, the milk of human sympathy and kindness. Lenin said, “To relieve misery is to reduce dissatisfaction. And to remove dissatisfaction is to retard the revolution. The individual is totally unimportant; it is the state that counts.” And on the basis of that, he encouraged class struggle, hatred, destruction, misery, chaos, in order to foment revolution.
On the other hand, Jesus said, or this was written of our Lord, “When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them…” Jesus moved with compassion is ever His enduring name, “because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” [Matthew 9:36].
And in the tenth chapter of the Book of Luke, Jesus told the story in answer to a lawyer who asked, “Who is my neighbor?” And the Lord replied:
There was a man [going] from Jerusalem to Jericho, who fell among thieves and robbed,
wounded, hurt, was left for dead…
And there came along a good Samaritan and bound up his wounds,
and took him to the inn, and cared for him until he was well again.
We contrast them lastly in their attitude toward war. Lenin said, “It is inconceivable that the Soviet Union should continue to exist side by side with imperialistic states. Ultimately, one or the other must conquer.” Then he said—commending intrigue, and betrayal, and treason, and infiltration, and then finally brute force and war, merciless and cruel—Lenin said, “What does it matter if two thirds of the world’s population,” that is now reaching toward four billion, “What does it matter if two thirds of the world’s population is destroyed, if only the remaining one-third is communist?”
It pleases Russia to see the genocide that is now raging in little Lebanon. Lebanon, in these generations past, has been a Christian nation, dominated by Christian political leaders. The great University of Beirut is located in Lebanon, and some of the finest Christian leaders in the earth have been Lebanese. But it pleases Russia to see the people torn apart; to see a Beirut citizen slay a Beirut citizen, to see a Lebanese murder a Lebanese. And that most beautiful little country—a gem, and a model, and a paragon of peace in the Middle East, with its beautiful, towering, capital city of Beirut, is now in shreds; it is in ruins. And that pleases the socialist, communist left as they destroy the conservative and the Christian right. It pleases Russia that there was war in Vietnam. It pleases Russia that there was war in Korea. It pleases Russia that there was chaos in Angola when the Portuguese left the colony. It gave them opportunity to foment revolution and rebellion.
And wherever in the earth—in Cuba, or in Chile, or anywhere under God’s sun that Russia can create misery, and war, and bloodshed, there will you find the merciless, ruthless hands of Russia present. On the other hand, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” [Matthew 5:9]. And again, “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, that ye have love one for the other” [John 13:35].
And last of all, we shall contrast them in the most significant and meaningful of all differences: in life and in death. As with some of you, I made an extensive journey one time in recent years to the Soviet Union. And as all of us would, in Moscow we visited the great Red Square. On one side, their largest department store, the GUM department store; at this end, the beautiful, incomparably beautiful cathedral of St. Basil, which is now been closed. And on this side, an historical museum of Russia; and there, the frowning walls of the Kremlin and the government buildings beyond. In the center of the Red Square, and just inside of the dark, towering Kremlin wall, is the mausoleum to Nikolai Lenin, the architect and founder of the Soviet Union. And as every day, long, long lines queuing up to go inside of that tomb to look upon the dead face of their fallen leader; and with the others, I lined up. Finally, into the tomb from this side and then down the steps to a chamber that is carefully air-conditioned. And then, following on this side, the large glass case; and then, slowly on this side, and then slowly on the other side, looking inside that glass case at the dead face of Nikolai Lenin.
There he lies as he died in 1924, from the waist up, exposed, with one of his arms helpless and useless where a woman had shot him. Dead; how very dead! How certainly dead; as you walk slowly, slowly, slowly, looking at that embalmed body of dead Nikolai Lenin.
There are cities and districts and counties without number in the Soviet Union named for that dead man, such as Petrograd; St. Petersburg is now Leningrad. There are statues all over the Soviet Union to that dead man. There are placards advertising his words, quotations from his addresses and from his books, all of them from the lips of that dead man.
He is so certainly dead! You walk slowly by, and by, and by, looking upon his embalmed countenance. If you were to ask a Soviet citizen or a communist in the world, “Do you believe he’ll live again? That he’ll rise again?” The Soviet citizens and the communist would be insulted as to what you think of his intelligence. “Certainly he will not rise again! He is dead! He is dead! He is certainly dead!” And that vast mausoleum is a monument to a dead communist, socialist, leader named Nikolai Lenin.
As with many of you, I have been to the Holy Land. Seven times have I visited it. I’m asked many times: “If you had one place in the world that you’d like to visit, what would you say?” Without question, the Holy Land; visit Israel! All the places in the world are not comparable to what you see and feel in the Holy Land. My second would be England, from where our forefathers came. The Holy Land: seven times have I visited it. And of course, the most indelibly impressive was the first time I was there. Dr. Duke McCall, who was then executive secretary of our Southern Baptist communion, and I were on a four-months preaching mission around the world. And we came to Israel. Saturday night we said to the clerk at the little hotel where we were staying: “Be sure to wake us while it is yet dark in the morning.”
He did so. And while it was yet dark, we made our way to the Garden Tomb. One of us stood at the head, and one of us stood at the foot; and in those days I always carried my Greek New Testament with me. And standing there at the head, at the foot, inside the sepulcher of the Garden Tomb, I read from my Greek New Testament the story of the resurrection of our Lord; that first incomparably glorious Easter Sunday morning.
Then we came outside and looked at it, and the sun as it shone in its strength, and I felt again the throb, and the thrill, and the wonder of that first announcement of the angels, “He is not here… Why seek ye the living among the dead?
- “He is risen” [Luke 24:5-6]. He is alive!
- And then, the marvelous word of Mary of Magdala to Peter and to John, “He is alive! He is alive! I have seen Him. He is alive!” [John 20:1-2, 11-18].
- And then the report of the women: “He is alive!” “He is alive!” [Matthew 28:9-10].
- And then the report of the two on the way to Emmaus, in whose home He broke bread: “We have seen Him. He is alive!” [Luke 24:13-35].
- And then the ten apostles to Thomas who was absent, “He is alive! We have seen Him. He is alive! He is alive!” [John 20:24-28].
- And then to the five hundred at one time, on an appointed rendezvous in Galilee, “He is alive! He is alive!” [1 Corinthians 15:6, Matthew 28:16-20].
- And Simon Peter, “He is alive!” [Acts 1:2-11; Luke 24:34; Acts 2:32; 1 Corinthians 15:7].
- And to his brother James, the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, “He is alive! He is alive!” [1 Corinthians 15:7].
And in that final meeting on a mount beyond Jerusalem, called Olivet—when the shekinah, a cloud, received Him out of their sight [Acts 1:9-10], then they needed no longer to see Him in bodily presence, for they knew Him by His Spirit and by His presence working with them [Matthew 28:20]. And through the years, and through the years, there He stands in all His glory and majesty and wonder, “He is alive!” Stephen, the first Christian martyr, when they beat him to the ground with stones, lifted up his face and said, “I see Him., He is alive! He is alive! Standing at the right hand of the Majesty on high, I see the Son of God” [Acts 7:55-56].
And Saul of Tarsus, breathing out threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord on the way to Damascus, above the light of a midday Syrian sun saw the face of the glorious Prince of heaven. And falling at His feet, cried saying, “Who art Thou, Lord?” And the Lord replied: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest” [Acts 9:1-5].
And through the centuries and the years since has His presence been known and been felt, and at times has been seen. In the home in which I grew up, how could I describe the sense of the presence of the living Lord when we would bow in prayer? As a youth, and finally as a man and as a pastor, have I known the blessing and the presence of the living Christ.
And now I conclude as first I began, with the great and far-famed pastor, Dr. George W. Truett. In the first years of his ministry in this dear church, there was a couple who belonged to the congregation; devout, consecrated—Captain J. C. Arnold of the Texas Rangers, who had been elected chief of police of the city of Dallas—it was decided that that Dr. Truett would go with the chief of police to Johnson County on a quail hunt. They boarded a train, went to Cleburne. There in a carriage, to the place where they were to hunt—spent the day shooting quail. That evening, returning to the carriage, the chief of police, Captain Arnold, was walking in front and the great pastor, with a shotgun across his arm, walking behind. And Dr. Truett shifted his hammerless gun from this arm to this arm; and when he did so, he accidently pulled the trigger and it wounded the man in front of him, Captain Arnold. And from that wound, Captain Arnold, the chief of police, died.
The great pastor had a premonition of the coming death. And when it was announced that Captain Arnold had died, it plunged the great preacher into indescribable grief and sorrow. He said, “I can never preach again with the blood of that innocent man on my hands. My carelessness has cost his life. I can never preach again.” And the days and the nights, and the days and the nights with no rest, and no comfort, and no sleep.
Saturday night, out of sheer exhaustion, the great pastor fell into slumber. And in the night there came to him the Lord Jesus Christ, and spoke to him saying, “Be not afraid,” and called him again into the ministry. He awakened and told his wife of the vision he had seen. He went back to sleep and a second time, the glorious Lord appeared to him and said, “Be not afraid,” and called him again into His ministry. He awakened and told his wife of the marvelous vision. He went back to sleep and the third time there appeared to him Christ, the Son of glory, saying, “Be not afraid,” and calling him again into His ministry. The next day, Sunday, Truett came to this place to preach the gospel of the living Lord; and it spread like wildfire over this city, “Truett is preaching again!”
The Presbyterian church, the Methodist church dismissed their services, that their people might come and listen to the marvelous words of testimony of God’s preacher, God’s man. And that began the far-famed, worldwide ministry of Dr. George W. Truett, the undershepherd of this congregation for forty and seven years.
His son-in-law Dr. Powhatan James said, “Dr. Truett, what did Jesus look like?” And the great pastor replied, “As I thought that He would, glorious and wonderful beyond description!”
I serve a risen Savior,
He’s in the world today!
I know that He is living,
Whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy,
I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him,
He’s always near.
He lives, He lives!
Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me,
Along life’s weary way.
He lives, He Lives!
Salvation to impart;
You ask me how I know that He lives?
He lives down in my heart.
[“He Lives!”; Alfred H. Ackley]
Dead? Never! “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive fore vermore, and I, I have the keys to Death and of Hell” [Revelation 1:18]. O glorious Lord! O mighty Prince! O coming Conqueror! O King of heaven and of earth! He is alive! He is alive! He is alive.
I thought this day for our invitation hymn, we would sing that song together; number 132, “I Know My Savior Liveth.”
He is alive, He is alive. He is able and mighty to save us and to help us, to forgive our sins, to redeem our souls, to regenerate our spirits, to walk by our sides, to bestow on us the rich blessings only heaven could afford. And where you are, listening on radio, or where you are sharing this service on television; today, would you give your heart to Jesus? [Romans 10:9-13]. Bow in His presence and say, “Lord, I need Thee. Come, Lord Jesus, my Savior, my Lord, and my God.” And He will be to you what He is to us and to the generations who have loved Him and are now in His presence in heaven, seeing Him face to face [2 Corinthians 5:8].
To give your heart in trust to Christ [Ephesians 2:8], to bring your family and be numbered among those who call upon His name, would you make the decision now? Would you come now? In the balcony round, down one of these stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Here I am, pastor, I make it now, I’m coming now.” God bless you in the way, angles attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.