Communism and Christianity
March 28th, 1976 @ 8:15 AM
COMMUNISM AND CHRISTIANITY
Dr. W.A. Criswell
3-28-76 8:15 a.m.
We are happy this day to share with a multitude of people this early service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas over the radio of the city of Dallas, WRR. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Crisis Created by the Confrontation of Communism and Christianity, or Communism and Christianity. This is the fourth and the last in a series of messages, addresses that have been prepared in keeping with our bicentennial year.
It came to pass that when we arrived at the fifty-first chapter of Isaiah, through which book the pastor is preaching, the text for the background was immediately before us. And following that text, the four addresses have been prepared: the first address, The Christian Martyr; the second address, The Struggle for Religious Liberty; the third address of last Sunday, Freedom Forever, The True Freedom; and the message today, Communism and Christianity. The background text, Isaiah 51:1-2:
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.
This text is but reflective of the attitude, and spirit, and manner, and custom, and habit of the prophets, of the apostles, calling the people back to a remembrance of the quarry from whence they were cut, and the lineage and genealogy and faith from whence they inherited their blessings under God, and we have been doing that and do so again today.
A year after the great pastor Dr. George W. Truett, who ministered in this pulpit for forty and seven years, a year after his death there was published a little book of fifteen brief messages written and mailed to the people by the great pastor. In the last of those fifteen messages, written just a few months before he died, I have copied these sentences: “Two ideologies are in mortal combat, democracy and autocracy, 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 man, and are of man any and everywhere. The other view denies the dignity and value of the individual and apprises him, appraises him merely as a cog in a machine.”
The whole world is still divided into these two great camps, the East and the West, the world of slavery and the world of freedom. Behind those two great camps are two ideologies, that of communism and Christianity. And behind those two great ideologies, there are two tremendous representatives; one, the Soviet Union of Russia, and the other the United States of America. And behind those two great world powers, there are the shadows of two mighty men. One is of Nikolai Lenin, the architect and founder of the Soviet Union and the disciple of Karl Marx, and the other is the shadow of Jesus Christ that falls across the nations of the world and whose life, and influence, and teachings provided the basic foundation for the principles of liberty and freedom in America.
These two come forward before the vast populations of the world today, a population that is now reaching toward four billions, and they bring with them each a program and a way of life. And they call for their disciples and their devotees to follow unto death, both the committed communist and the dedicated Christian. It shall be therefore for us this day to compare those two, Nikolai Lenin and the Lord Jesus Christ.
First: the attitude of both toward God; Lenin said, following his master Karl Marx, “Communism begins where atheism begins.” Quote 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 published in the Soviet Union. Below on the earth was the wreckage and the chaos of churches that had been destroyed. In the center of the cartoon was a ladder that leaned against a cloud in heaven. On the top of the cloud was a banquet table at which set three, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. At the top of the ladder was a Soviet workman with a great hammer raised in his hand ready to strike, and the caption translated for me out of Russian said, “As we have destroyed religion in the earth, we shall destroy the gods in the heavens.”
The attitude of Jesus toward God the Father 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 one sparrow shall fall to the ground without your heavenly Father. Fear not therefore, ye have more value than many sparrows” [Matthew 10:29, 31]; from whence the hymn was written, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”
Second: the attitude of the two toward man; Lenin, again following Karl Marx, said, “Man is a child of appetite. His only spontaneous movement is to get food, satisfaction, warmth, and wealth.” That is, he is nothing but an animal. He is not created just a little below the angels as the Book says [Psalm 8:5], but just a little higher than the insects.
Jesus said and I quote, “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 great commandment is like unto the first, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” [Matthew 22:37-39].
Third: we shall compare them regarding morality. Lenin, quoted by one of his disciples, 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 then again, sincere diplomacy is no more possible than dry water or wooden iron.” On the other hand, regarding morality, honesty, the Lord Jesus said, “Always let your Yea be Yea, and your Nay be Nay, for to deceive in speech is of the evil one” [Matthew 5:37]. And again, the same Lord Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” [Matthew 5:48].
We contrast them now in humanitarianism, altruism; attitude toward other people who need help. 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.” On the basis of that he encouraged class struggle, and hatred, and destruction, and misery, and chaos, in order to foment revolution.
The Bible says of the Lord, on the other hand of Jesus: “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, he was asked by the lawyer, “Who is my neighbor?” [Luke 10:29]. And the Lord said, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, falling among thieves, was left beaten and robbed for dead. And a Samaritan came by and ministered unto his needs, pouring balm into his wounds, taking him to the inn, and providing for his hurt until he was well again” [Luke 10:30-35].
We contrast them now once again 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.” On the basis of that, he commended intrigue, and betrayal, and treason, and infiltration, then finally brute force, and war, merciless and cruel. Lenin said, “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, the tragic genocidal war in Lebanon. For the years, Beirut—have you ever been to Beirut in the days and years past?—for years, Beirut in Lebanon has been a model of peace and prosperity. The majority of the Lebanese like Sheffie Kadane, were Christians, and those dedicated Christians built a little country on the shores of the Mediterranean that was prosperous and healthy and beautiful in every respect. The American University of Lebanon is in Beirut, one of the great institutions of the world. And the city was beautiful, and towering, and affluent, and Christian.
But those leftists, those socialists, fomented and encouraged and given weapons by the merciless and cruel Communist Soviet Russia, are now in the throes of a struggle until death; Lebanese killing Lebanese; citizens of Beirut murdering citizens of Beirut. That is the case anywhere and everywhere in the world that Russia can enter with her merciless and ruthless hand
It was so in Angola when the Portuguese left. It was so in Vietnam. It was so in Korea. It was so in Chile. It was so in Cuba. It is so anywhere in the earth that Russia can foment hatred, and bitterness, and struggle, and revolution. For out of it, according to the doctrine of Lenin, is to come this socialist communist world built upon blood and violence and war.
What is the attitude of Jesus? I quote, “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 I come to the last and final differentiation, comparison between the two, and that concerns life and death. Some time ago, a few years ago, I visited the Soviet Union of Russia and went down, as all of us would, to the Red Square. On this side the Gum Department Store, on that side the frowning Kremlin wall and the institutions of Soviet communism in the Kremlin. At the end of the square, the incomparably beautiful Church of St. Basil, which is, of course, locked and misused, and at this side, a historical exhibit of the communist nation. And always, as always and always, that line going through to see the dead face of Nikolai Lenin, the mausoleum built facing the Red Square in front of that frowning Kremlin wall.
And finally in the line, coming to the entrance of the tomb and then down and into a carefully prepared, and humidified, and air-conditioned room, there in a very large glass display, the dead face of Lenin. Walking in here, and by the side of that glass case, then at the foot of the glass case, and then to the right of the glass case, and then out on the other side, moving very slowly, and there he lies where he was stricken in death in 1924, one of his hands, one of his arms, useless where a woman had shot him. Exposed from the waist up, dead, very decidedly and much dead, dead, dead.
All over the Soviet Union are statues of Lenin. They are everywhere, statues raised to a dead man. All over the Soviet Union are institutions and cities and districts named after Lenin, such as what once was St. Petersburg, or Petrograd, is now Leningrad. All over the Soviet Union, quotations from Lenin, dead; all over the Soviet Union there are books about Lenin, dead; the whole nation seemingly in worship before the image, the statue, the picture, the name, the life, the works, the words of Lenin, so very dead.
And if there is anyone in the Soviet Union or in the communist world that believes he will rise and live again, I never met them. I never talked to them. I never saw them. He is so certainly dead. And that vast mausoleum in the Red Square is a monument to his deadness. He is dead!
Seven times have I been to the Holy Land. The first time, one of the most indelibly impressive of any journey I have ever made in my life. I am asked many times, “If you had the choice to recommend one country abroad to visit, what would you say?” I say first and above all, the Holy Land, Israel. All of the nations put together and all that they could display means nothing comparable to what you find in the Holy Land. Second, I would say, especially for us, I would visit England; out of all the countries and nations in the world that I have gone through, first the Holy Land and second the land of our forefathers, England.
Twenty-six years ago I made my first journey to the Holy Land. There were two of us, Dr. Duke McCall, who was then executive secretary of the Southern Baptist communion of churches and now the president of our seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He and I were on a four-month preaching mission around the world and came to the Holy Land. On a Saturday night, we said to the man at the desk, “Be sure to call us while it is yet dark, for we have a mission early in the morning.” So while it was yet dark, we arose and made our way to the Garden Tomb, and one of us sat at the foot, and the other sat at the head.
In those days I always carried my Greek New Testament with me, anywhere I went in the world. And out of that Greek New Testament, I read the story of the resurrection of our Lord [Matthew 28:1-6]. And then standing in front of that empty tomb, I relived that glorious first Easter morning, when the angels said, “He is not here, He is alive. Why seek ye the living among the dead?” [Luke 24:5] And Mary, running to Peter and John and the apostles, “He is alive. He is alive!” [John 20:11-18]. And the women returning from the tomb, saying, “We have seen Him. He is alive. He is alive” [Matthew 28:9-10].
And the two on the way to Emmaus, to whom the Lord revealed Himself in the breaking of bread, rushing to Jerusalem with the glad herald, “He is alive. He is alive” [Luke 24:13-32]. And appearing to Simon Peter, He is alive [Luke 24:34]; and to James, He is alive [1 Corinthians 15:7]; and to above five hundred at once on an appointed rendezvous in Galilee, He is alive. He is alive [Matthew 28:16-20]. And with the apostles in Jerusalem, even to doubting Thomas, “We have seen Him. He is alive” [John 20:19-29]. And on the brow of Olivet ascending into heaven when the shekinah of God, a cloud, received Him out of their sight [Acts 1:9-10], He is alive. He is alive.
Finally, they needed no longer His bodily presence, so certainly did they know He was with them and working by them. And as they stoned Stephen, he looked up into heaven and said, “I see Him standing on the right hand of the Majesty on High. He is alive. He is alive” [Acts 7:55-56]. And on the road to Damascus, above the brightness of the midday Syrian sun, there did the glorious Person of heaven, the Prince of Glory, appear, and Saul of Tarsus, stricken down to the ground, looked into the face of the Majesty on High and said, “Who art Thou, Lord?” And the Lord replied, “I am Jesus, I am Jesus” [Acts 9:1-5].
And through the ages and the centuries since, we have felt and know His presence. In my home, in the family in which I grew up, bowing in prayer I felt, as a boy, the living Jesus. And in the years of my youth and manhood since, I have known and sensed the living presence of the living Lord. And today He is as alive, and as vibrant, and as able, and as mighty, and as glorious to save and to do as He was when He walked by the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
And I’m going to close, as I began, with the immortal pastor, George W. Truett. Not long after the church called Dr. Truett, he was invited, by a devout and wonderful Christian in the church, to go hunting. The man was Captain J.C. Arnold of the Texas Rangers, and he had been elected chief of police of the city of Dallas, and he and his wife, faithful devout members of the church.
They boarded a train and went to Cleburne and from Cleburne by buggy and horseback, quail hunting. And while they were there, having spent the day and returning to the carriage, the police Captain J.C. Arnold was walking in front of Dr. Truett down a trail. And Dr. Truett shifted his hammerless shotgun from this arm to this arm, and when he did, he accidentally pulled the trigger and the police captain fell with a wound in his leg.
Brought to the city of Dallas and in the hospital, the people said he would soon recover, but the great pastor had an ominous intuition that he would never recover. And upon a day in a coronary thrombosis, in a blood clot from the wound, the chief of police died. And the pastor oppressed by the thought that the blood of that good man was on his hands; it was his carelessness that brought about his tragic and untimely death, Dr. Truett shut himself up in the study at the home, saying, “I can never preach again. I can never preach again.”
And the days of the week passed, and on Saturday night, for the first night in days and nights, he fell asleep of sheer exhaustion. And while he was asleep, Jesus came and appeared to the great pastor and said to him, “Be not afraid,” and called him again into the work of the ministry. He awakened and told his wife of the vision, went back to sleep, and the second time the same thing happened. Jesus appeared to the pastor and called him again to His ministry. He awakened and told his wife. The third time he went back to sleep, and the third time the exact vision appeared. The Lord called him again to His ministry.
Dr. Powhatan James, who married Jesse Truett, his eldest daughter, said, “Dr. Truett, what did the Lord look like?” And the great pastor replied, “He looked exactly as I thought He would, only more glorious and more wonderful.”
And the word went out that Truett will preach on Sunday. The Presbyterian Church there and the Methodist Church there dismissed their services to come and to share in the glory and the wonder of what God had done for the great preacher. And thereafter his ministry assumed world proportions. And his fame went out to the ends of the earth.
He is alive. He lives today and shall forever:
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 narrow way.
He lives. He lives.
Salvation to impart.
You ask me how I know He lives.
He lives down in my heart.
[“I Serve a Rise Savior,” Alfred H. Ackley]
The victory and the triumph are ours. He is not dead. He is alive. He is alive! [Acts 1:1-3].
I thought this morning we would sing that hymn, 132, “I Serve a Risen Savior.” And while we sing it, a family, a couple, or just you, “Today, I give my heart and life to the blessed Jesus, and here I come. Here I am.” Down a stairway, down an aisle, “I make it now. The Spirit has spoken to me, and I’m coming.” Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand walking down that stairway, coming down that aisle. May God be with you and angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.