Hope in Despair
August 29th, 1976 @ 8:15 AM
HOPE IN DESPAIR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-29-76 8:15 a.m.
To you who are sharing this service on radio, we welcome you with all of our hearts. There are two radios that are carrying the service; our own KCBI, and the radio of the city of Dallas, WRR. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Hope in Despair. I thought that having been on an extended journey, I might speak briefly, choosingly, selectively of one or two of the things that impress me as I look at this world.
Last summer I went around the world and this summer with our Chapel Choir to England and to continental Europe. And then Friday, day before yesterday, I returned from a meeting of our Baptist World Alliance General Council in Melbourne, Australia. And because of the vast distance covered between here and the bottom of that continent––Melbourne is located on the Antarctic Ocean––we had to island hop. So I visited in Fiji and in Tahiti. And there are some tremendous impressions that are made upon me as I go around the world and as I meet with those representatives from our denominational groups, in most of the nations of the earth.
My problem in speaking about it lies in trying to narrow it down. There are a multitude of things that crowd upon my heart when I look at our world; nor is there anything that is not known to you; television, radio, the newspaper, the editorial writer in the magazine and in the daily press bring to us, almost before they happen, the events that concern this world. But just to speak of them through the eyes of the pastor as he looks at it; my number one impression of the world is a darkening one, and it lies in the inevitable conclusion that the world is increasingly overrun and possessed by the communists. We are not winning this battle. We are desperately and silently losing it.
Little by little the communists are breaking off the pieces of the free world. It will be a South Vietnam. Then it will be a Cambodia. Then it will be a Laos. Then it will be a Mozambique. Then it will be an Angola. Then it will be the gradual possession of the political processes of Western Europe, such as we see in the tragedy of Italy, and in France, and in East Germany. So completely have the communists possessed East Germany that a discerning West German said to me, “We don’t recognize them now. After thirty years, they are a separate people and a separate country.”
One of the members, and a discerning one, of our World Alliance General Council said to me, “The greatest curse civilization has ever known is communism.” And my own impression is that the most implacable and formidable foe the Christian faith has ever faced is Marxism, socialistic communism. The word is never mentioned in our General Council because of the brethren there from behind the Iron Curtain, representatives there from Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, Poland, and especially the Soviet Union.
There’s a great possibility that Zidkov, the pastor of the church in Moscow, and two or three of his Baptist brethren will be in our pulpit here in November. And you’ll have an opportunity for your own self to see them and to listen to them. Out of deference to them and the tragedy of their life, the word “communism” is never used.
One of the men, having occasion to speak of Thailand and the difficulty we face in Thailand, never referred to the communists who are pouring in and infiltrating from Laos and Cambodia, but rather referred after a pause to the insurgents that are bringing terror to free Thailand. And beyond those men who represent those communist nations, you cannot help but feel the immense oppression that lies in their lands upon them and upon their people.
When they go back, they are interrogated, sometime by days. One of them said, “I’d almost rather go to prison than to go through the three days of intensive interrogation by the Hungarian government.” One of the representatives was told when she left Hungary, “You can go to the meeting, but if you attend any of them, we’re not responsible for what will happen to your family.” She came to the meeting which was held in Zurich, Switzerland, and never got out of her room. The pathetic helplessness of those people is for us an indescribable reality. And the reaction of the free world is in some places filled with great sadness and sorrow.
Walking down the streets of Sydney, Australia––Sydney is a city like Philadelphia, has about two and a half million people––walking down the streets of Sydney, I was attracted by a big caption pasted on a wall. At a distance I read, “Cambodia dies in silence.” I walked closer and read the entire caption. It read, “While we sit still, Cambodia dies in silence.” Then underneath, “And the communists slaughter their enemies.” And then underneath that, a large picture of a man on his knees, with his hands tied behind his back like this, and kneeling, above him stands a communist soldier with a great bloody sword held with both hands ready to strike. This is the world beyond the shores of America.
A second impression, deep and abiding, is the terrorism, the atrocity, the violence that has become a part of modern life. It is everywhere. And you see it everywhere. You don’t go into an airplane, anywhere, but that you are searched, either electronically or physically, bodily. That includes the airport at Love Field. That includes the airport at Dallas/Fort Worth. Anywhere there is the possibility of terrorism and atrocity. It is worldwide. It is a way of life.
About two or three days ago, there was brought back to America the bodies of American army officers who had been hacked to pieces by the North Koreans in the DMZ. We were in Seoul last year with this choir; it’s only three miles away from that demilitarized zone separating South and North Korea. And I can easily imagine the hero worship that has come to those North Korean savages, communists, who with axes hacked to pieces our American officers. It is a way of life; atrocity, terrorism, violence.
I had the most unusual experience. Returning back from Australia, I stopped in Tahiti and in a little minibus made a tour around the island, eighty miles. It’s a French possession. All of that vast area is French Oceana, the South Pacific under the aegis of the French government. I sat by the side of the driver on the front seat, just he and I. And as we went around the island, I began to talk to him. He was a big fellow. The Tahitians are fine looking people. They are large. They are bronze. Their hair is long and black. This Tahitian, I’d say, was at least six feet four inches tall; heavy, black hair, well proportioned.
And as we went along the island, I saw a great many flags, blue and white flags. I said, “What are they?” He said, “This is our Tahitian flag, and they’re on display, unfurled in defiance.” Well, I said, “What are you defying?” He said, “The French, the French.” He said, “We want to be free.” He said to me, “They impose an import tax on everything that comes into these islands. It is seventy-five percent added if it comes from France. It is eighty-three percent added if it comes from Australia. It is one hundred ten percent added if it comes from the United States. I have no shoes. I cannot buy them. They cost more than sixty dollars. The French have been here two hundred years, and look at these islands.”
And by that time we’d come to Marlon Brando’s home. He stopped and said, “That’s where Marlon Brando lives with his Tahitian wife, and he has a little island beyond that he owns, on which is a hotel, out of which he makes a great deal of money from the tourists.” Then he continued: “We will throw them out.”
Well, I said, “How many French are there here?” He said, “Fifteen percent of our ninety thousand population is French.” Then I asked him, “Without guns and without ammunition, how are you going to throw out the French?” And he replied, “We don’t need guns, and we don’t need ammunition. All we need is the knives that we have and the axes in our hands. We will slash, and we will murder, and we will cut, and we will take them one family at a time until we have murdered them all.”
I was not only amazed at what he said, but I was astonished at the new creature he turned into as he sat there driving that minibus. He had seemed so overt in kindness, and graciousness, and smiling happily, but when he began to talk about those knives and those axes—“And we will slash and murder, and we will take them one family at a time, until they all are killed”—he became somebody else. The transformation was surprising and amazing to me.
As I looked through some of the literature of Australia, I read this in a magazine:
Every year several more countries are seized and taken over as a bridgehead for the coming World War and the whole world stands and does nothing. Even the oceans are being taken over, and need one tell you British what that means, and what the seas will be used for. In Russia alone, as the great statistician Professor Kurganov—
K-u-r-g-a-n-o-v, whom I’m not acquainted with:
as Professor Kurganov has shown, one hundred ten million lives were heartlessly sacrificed between 1917 and 1959 to communist ideology and the brutal and bloodstained bureaucratic despotism by which it has been enforced on a helpless people. The vocal part of the younger generation, both in Europe and America, has been and is being taught to denigrate and revile the virtues—truthfulness, honesty, courage, tolerance, industry—which have built the house in which civilized man lives and has his being. Above all they are taught and are being taught, often in the name of high sounding abstractions like pacifism, equality, and anti-racism, to hate, and the inevitable fruit of hatred, to destroy. What is the consequence? Sometimes a single concrete example is more telling than a wealth of abstract generalization. Recently a gang of terrorists armed with Russian automatic weapons and bent on carrying murder into Rhodesia in the name of that theoretic racial equality which socialists all the world over proclaim as the supreme political goal of mankind and the justification for every act of cruelty or destruction which can be thought to further it, burst in on a native Rhodesian village. In an attempt to inflict terror on its inhabitants, they seized a native Christian. When he refused to aid them, he was beaten and had his ears, lips, and nose cut off. Then they forced his wife, with a gun at her head, to roast them at an open fire, and eat them. His mother was flung to the ground, her thighs forced open, and a burning log thrust between them. This is what can happen to human beings, and what human beings are capable of doing when Christ’s creed,
And this is not a religious magazine, this is a secular magazine:
when Christ’s creed of mercy and love is discarded, and Satan’s heinous dogma and ideology of hatred, envy, and destruction are enthroned in its place.
[cited “Illustrated London News,” Vol. 264, Issue 2, 1976]
This is going on all the time around the world in the name of these so-called great ideological commitments and dedications. Whether it’s in Ireland or in these communist nations, there is always that tragedy of support for and acceptance of these who are heinously hacking away at every Christian ideal we’ve ever been taught in these two thousand years.
There is a viciousness in that that is unspeakable. Just before I left, you all were acquainted with the tragedy of the Air France plane that was commandeered by members of the PLO in Athens, flown to Libya, and then down to Entebbe, near Kampala, the capital of Uganda. And the thousands of atrocities that we read of in the Middle East, financed by Gaddafi, the strong man of Libya; how could a man take the wealth that God has placed under those desert sands in Libya and use them, the billions and billions of dollars, to buy weapons and to hire men to commit atrocities against the human race?
You’d have no trouble in Rhodesia. You’d have no trouble in South Africa––and by the way, one of the most plaintive and pathetic of all of the papers I ever heard read was to the general council by the representative from South Africa; he also, I hope, will be here in our church where you can see and hear for yourself––you’d have no trouble were it not for the great wealth of Libya and the indifference to human suffering of communist Russia. Wherever you find these tragedies taking place in the world, for the most part, if you look deep enough, you’ll find the bloody hand of communist Russia, and in great areas of it the wealth of Libya.
These look upon themselves as being the great deliverers of mankind. They pride themselves as being the champions of the oppressed and of the outcast, when actually, when they achieve their goals, they inflict upon the people an oppressive regime ten thousand times as dark and as tragic as the supposed deliverance that they’re bringing to a minority people. This is the pattern of modern life. In the name of these high-sounding altruistic causes, they do the most violent and the most murderous acts of cruelty and horror.
But we have lived through that. I have my Bible, as I speak, open to the address of our Lord to the church at Smyrna [Revelation 2:8-11]. It’s the only one of the seven churches of Asia to whom the Lord addressed not a syllable, not a breath of criticism or condemnation. The church at Smyrna is the martyr church, and the Lord tells them that they will suffer trial and tribulation; “But be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches” [Revelation 2:10-11]. And thus it is with us. When I preach again, I’m going to speak of some of the things that I see God is doing in the world. But this moment I choose one.
A month ago I sat in Notre Dame Cathedral, in Paris, and listened to this sweet and glorious Chapel Choir sing a concert in the center of that great cathedral, where the transepts cross the great nave. It was an astonishment to me as I sat there and looked at that choir, and as I heard them sing. That day I had walked around the Place de la Concorde, where the guillotine had been placed in 1790, and the bloody French Revolution began. So much blood had been poured out in the Concorde, until it was soggy. And they moved the guillotine to other sections and places in the city of Paris, slaughtering and murdering the flower of France in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity. And those insurgents, those revolutionaries who bathed Paris and France in human blood, seized that great cathedral of Notre Dame. And they dedicated it, rededicated it to atheism and to hedonism and to promiscuity. In the center of Notre Dame was the high altar. They took a prostitute and raised her up and set her on that high altar. And they drank to her, the goddess of atheism and promiscuity.
And in the chapels, the little places where in a Catholic Church people build little chapels, and in the chapels around there were brothels. And in their violence they had destroyed the beautiful rose window on the left side of the transept. I sat there in Notre Dame, and I relived in my mind the history that I had read in these years past, of what had happened in the city, and what had happened in that place where the great altar once stood. It was in that exact place where that high altar once stood. It was in that exact place where the revolutionaries, in the name of blood, and murder, and atheism, raised that prostitute and drank to her as the goddess of promiscuity. It was in that exact place that I saw our Chapel Choir, and heard them sing; and as you’ve heard them, bringing to a great climax that song of the faith.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He has loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:.
His truth is marching on
Glory, glory, hallelujah, His truth is marching on.
[from “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Julia Ward Howe, 1862]
Not drowned in human blood, not confiscated and destroyed by revolutionaries who dedicate a house of God to atheism, but alive, and vibrant, and able, and mighty, and saving until the great triumph when He shall come again; our hope in despair; our song of deliverance.
And dear God, in that book You have in heaven, write my name. And when the call of demarcation is made, place me, Lord, on the side of those who trust in Thee. And insofar as I have ableness and ability, list me, Lord, among those who believe in the faith. In those great, heavenly, benedictory blessings, that it carries with it, to the sick and to the poor and to the lost; wherever in the earth there is a Christian minister and a Christian church, there will you find those beautiful and heavenly blessings that enrich and uplift mankind. Lord, list me among those who believe in Thee, who follow Thee, and who have hands outstretched in loving prayerful remembrance of the world that is so darkened and lost. And our Lord, help us to begin here where we are, in Dallas; to win our people to the faith, to invite these whom we know to the Lord. And, Lord, bless it now. Do it again.
And as we sing this hymn of appeal, you, have you given your heart and your life to the Lord Jesus? Does your family belong to the household of faith? Are you numbered among those who love God? As the Holy Spirit shall press the invitation to your heart, would you answer with your life this precious hour? In the balcony, you, down one of these stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come. This is my wife, these are our children, we’re all coming today.” Or just you, make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming down that stairway, or walking down this aisle, “I give you my hand, pastor. I have given my heart to God, and here I am.” Do it, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
I. The continuing spread of communism
by little, breaking off pieces from the free world
World Alliance members from behind Iron Curtain
Concern in the free world
II. Terrorism, atrocity, violence a way of
in Korea – American soldiers hacked to pieces with axes by North Koreans
in Tahiti – flying flags in defiance of the French; ready to use knives, axes
to slaughter French
read to our General Alliance from South Africa
Place de Concorde
exact spot Notre Dame re-dedicated to atheism, our choir sang praises to Jesus
“Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory”
world will not be conquered by atheism and communism (Isaiah 42:4)