The Whole Wide World and What’s With It
August 13th, 1978 @ 10:50 AM
THE WHOLE WORLD AND WHAT’S WITH IT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-13-78 10:50 a.m.
And when I read you my text concluding the first missionary journey, “And when they were come,” back to the church in Antioch, “and had gathered the assembly together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles” [Acts 14:27]. I could speak for hours concerning this long, long journey, but I have carefully prepared these things that are presented at this hour. But remember, these are things that come out of my heart, my persuasions, I am not infallible nor do I claim to have, alone, the wisdom of God. But these are things that I think; these are persuasions and impressions that fill my heart as I look at this whole wide world and what’s with it.
This is the third time that I have gone all the way around the earth. And I have been up and down in it so many times that I can hardly count them. Thinking the other day on the plane, I have crossed the equator twelve times. The closest I got to it this journey was in Singapore, eighty miles away; and to the Arctic Circle was in Leningrad, in northern Russia. Started here in Dallas to San Francisco, to Honolulu, to Guam—and I was glad to see that embattled fortress—then to Manila in the Philippines; then to Singapore; then into Johor and Johor Bahru, the capital of that southern province of Malaysia. Then to Bangkok in Thailand and then across the Burma Sea and across India and across the Persian Gulf to Dubai, one of the capitals of the United Arab Emirates, then across Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon, and eastern Mediterranean to Athens, then from Athens to Bucharest, the capital of Romania; then to Budapest, the capital of Hungary where we met the choir, then following the choir to Warsaw, then to Leningrad, then to Moscow. Then as the choir came back to America through Rome, we went to Dresden, Germany; then back to Budapest to catch the plane; stopped at Prague, Czechoslovakia, then to the Netherlands, to New York, and so back to our heavenly home in Dallas.
Now, how is it, the world today? It just all depends upon how you reply. A man was asked, “How is your wife?” And he said, “How is my wife? Well, compared to what?” How’s the world? Compared to what? Compared to the little tiny town of Texline with its three hundred inhabitants? It is a big world, teeming and thronging with uncounted millions of people. Compared to a cemetery, it is alive. Compared to the holiness of God, it is dead in trespasses and in sins; it is a lost world. And compared to the need and the rest of God, it is filled with tears and illimitable sorrows. Next Sunday morning at this hour I shall preach on The Mingled Tears of Jews and Gentiles.
I have gathered together the impressions that I have of the world under three categories: political, and economic, and religious. And I remind you again that these are the impressions of my heart, and I will not be buried carrying the wisdom of God. These are my conclusions: first of all, political. I entered the communist world from Athens in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. I flew Romanian Airlines; they call it Tarom Airlines, from Athens to Bucharest. I was seated by a distinguished looking gentleman. I introduced myself to him; he introduced himself to me; he is the Egyptian representative on the board of the World Bank. In front of him sat a beautiful woman, his wife, and two darling girls, their two daughters. As I talked to him, the conversation reverted to the Russians in Egypt, and that gifted and learned man said to me, “Communism, Russians; we experienced it twenty years.” I did not realize it was that long the Russians were in Egypt. He said, “It was devastating; they are atheists, they do not believe in God, and they dehumanize their people.” That’s the word that he used. He says, “They drink like fish, they are drunkards. They make life hopeless, helpless, and meaningless.” And he said, “We threw them out and our hope lies in America.”
I stayed in that communist world for three weeks in Romania, in Hungary, in Poland, in Russia, in East Germany, and touched it in Czechoslovakia. Looking at it, visiting it, suddenly facing it, just like that—out of the free world into it; I have chosen these ten characteristics of the communist world out of forty dozen others that I also could have included.
Number one: their dimly lighted cities, as though they were in a war. When you come into one of those cities at night, it looks as though the world were turning into terror.
Number two: old women sweeping the streets; women doing heavy work. When we landed, for example, in Leningrad, coming out of the plane, there were five women shoveling asphalt, loading the truck, paving the runway, dressed in heavy boots and soiled garments. As I looked at them I thought, this is what ERA [the Equal Rights Amendment] is trying to bring to the American people.
Number three: the cheap, poor clothes of the whole populace.
Number four: the stores, so many of them half empty and the sorry, shoddy merchandise that is offered.
Number five: the glum, unsmiling faces of the people. When you look at them, they look away, unhelpful.
Number six: soldiers everywhere, at the airports and in other areas of the cities, armed, some with sharp bayonets. They look so fierce to me.
Seven: long lines before everything, anything: a fruit stand, a vegetable stand, the stores. I don’t know how many times I would like to have bought some fruit; never could get up to it. Queues on every corner, it took an hour and half in a little jet from Athens to Bucharest; it took me from three o’clock in the afternoon until twelve o’clock at midnight to get my hotel.
[Number eight]: Class distinctions: the opposite of their political philosophy of a classless society. The great, basic tenet of the communist religion is that all people are to be the same, there are to be no classes. And in their revolutionary propaganda, they set class against class. But in their society, I have never seen class distinctions more pronounced or more viciously awesome.
For example, standing in the Bucharest Airport, standing there waiting for the plane going to Budapest; suddenly I heard the word shouted, “Legotsia! Legotsia!” And a policeman shoved me out of the way and over in a certain area of the airport and everybody else. Then I saw six long sleek black limousines drive up to the airport entrance; they were Mercedes Benz sedans; in America each one would cost more than fifty thousand dollars. And out of those six sedans came six Chinese, three of them military—in their drab olive green uniforms, the red band here, the red band around the cap and the red star—and three Chinese civilians, and then six Romanians with the stars on their shoulders, and three civilians. As I looked at them and the pomp and superiority with which they disembarked and walked into the airport, I thought of the military attaché who stood by me in the Red Square before the Kremlin twelve years ago when I was in Russia. And as we were standing there, a loud police whistle and the crowd opening the way and rushing by—another big, sleek, black limousine driving through the open gate into the Kremlin—and the military attaché turned and said to me, “And they say they have a classless society!” The elite of the communist government is manifest everywhere. And the poor people are ground to death in a faceless, and hopeless, and helpless, and sameness society. There is no opportunity; they have none. They are serfs of the government. In many meaningful areas of life, they cannot own anything. That is the socialist-communist world.
We sat down with Lucien Jacobi, who is pastor of the Baptist church in Dresden; one church in a city of over a half million people. The poor place in which he lives is manifestly representative of the whole nation. He lives in the church with his four children. He was born in Kaliningrad, old Königsberg in East Prussia. He wanted to go back to the place of his birth. He is forbidden by the government to visit the city; he cannot go. Ben Hart, the representative of our Baptist people in East Berlin with Rolf Damen, who came to met us in Dresden, he said, “You know? Sunday, the day that you return home is the anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall.” He lives there inhibited, prohibited and helpless. I said to so many of the brethren in Eastern Europe, “I will see you in Brighton England next July when the general council of the Baptist World Alliance meets in Brighton, England, preceded by a great Congress, convocation of the Baptists of Europe.” And they all replied to me, “We would love to go. But we are not allowed. We cannot leave the country.” That is their classless society.
Again look at an instance of their classless society: when I was in Russia before—I was in five cities in Russia twelve years ago—I saw everywhere, what I called “dollar stores,” their foreign currency stores. And the people of the country cannot enter them, they cannot buy in them. Those stores are only for those who have dollars and who have West German marks and who have British pounds and like hard currencies. They are an insult to the people who live in those nations. There are some who are privileged and can buy, but the great mass of the people are interdicted by law from even entering the store, much less seeking to buy the delights that we know in the western world. They won’t even take their own money at the airport—if you have any, you leave with it, they won’t take it!
Number nine, the characteristics of the communist world: when I came to Bucharest—which by the way, I admit is one of the poorest of the communist countries, Romania—I had a feeling as I walked up and down the streets, entered the stores, tried to talk to the people, I had a feeling of hostility and dislike. So I sat down with myself. You know, it’s easy to have a feeling in you which actually is not real. So I thought, “You know, this is just psychological. Surely, surely this isn’t true, just walking up and down trying to be nice, have a feeling of unwantedness, dislike, hostility.” So I was standing in front of one of those typical, cheap, sorry stores—the counters half-empty, the showcases half-empty—and what there of the poorest, sorriest of goods. I was standing in front of the store just looking at it. And the manager of the store walked to the front, took the great, big door and slammed it in my face. Why? That’s communism!
Number ten: the black market. It is everywhere: they come up on the street by your side, they will press against you as you look into a store window. They are waiting for you at the arrival of the sight-seeing bus. In Romania, for example, twelve lei are exchanged for one dollar. He’ll come up by the side of you and he’ll say, “Twenty-five for a dollar? Give you two thousand five hundred for a hundred dollar bill.” That’s true of the forint in Hungary; it is true of the ruble in Russia. It is true of the zloty in Poland and it is true of the mark in East Germany. And it is a characteristic of the whole communist world; the worthlessness of their currency and the black market that seeks to trade it for an American dollar. These are some of the political impressions that I have of that darkening world.
Second, my economic impressions: I was talking with a man in Singapore, a very knowledgeable man, and I said to him, “You know, it’s just wonderful for us; wherever we go there are signs in English, announcements made in English, explanations made in English. It is just wonderful for us.” For example, at two o’clock in the morning in Dubai, I watched an Arab with a little portable TV, he was looking at an American movie and underneath, those bylines in Arabic—it is everywhere, English. The man, when I pointed that out and told him how happy I was traveling around the world to see that, he replied to me, “Yes.” He said, “You see this world was mostly under the British for two hundred years. Then for the last half century,” he said, “it has been under the economic dynamism of the American dollar.” But he said, “Now, all of that is passing away. The British no longer have the tremendous influence they want exercised in the world.” And he says, “The dollar is losing its value.” The decline of the dollar: the economic strength of America is manifest everywhere in the world, even against the worthless currencies of Eastern Communist Europe. They are careful to explain to me on every corner that the dollar is down and down and down. The tragedy of the fiscal, economic policies of America are manifest to the remotest corners of the earth. You don’t realize it until you go outside this country and let those people talk to you in terms of their trading, their selling, and your dollar.
The taxpayers in the United States, now we’re counting taxes that are taken for local and national levels. The ordinary workman in America now works four months out of the year for the government. And the day is soon coming when every American who works will be working six months of the year for government. The federal budget for 1979 is proposed at five hundred billion, an increase of one hundred and fifty percent since 1970. The vast deficits of the government are made up by printing money—a cruel way to rob the poor people. Your money, whatever it is, is in a bank; it’s in a savings, daily its value goes down and down and down because the government prints money. And when you go abroad, everywhere people are conscious of the increasing worthlessness of the American dollar.
What is the money spent for? A half of it goes for social programs, most of which are needless, subsidizing drones and parasites. Three and one half billion is spent to regulate business, an increase of twenty-one percent over the last year. And business compliance with government bureaucracy costs one hundred fifty billion dollars a year. There is one government employee for five of us who work out in the private sector of our free enterprise system. Ever-growing government, increasing rates of taxation and inflation, costly bureaucratic regulations are destroying the economic life and strength of America and its influence in the world. We also are becoming serfs of the government just as in other socialist countries. And we also are losing our standard of living, as in other socialist countries. The same debacle and catastrophe that has overwhelmed them in those socialist nations is gradually beginning to overwhelm us; I stagger at it when I think of the background and the foundation of the freedoms that we have known in America, gradually eroding away. And whether you are a slave in a communist state or a serf in America; finally, it is just the same.
Now, we come to a far different plane: an elevation, a light, a glory, my impressions of the religious world. The sweet precious people who love God and praise Him in every language, in every tongue, in every nation of the earth, God has His own. As I look at them, I think of the truth of the Revelation: they were there singing, “Worthy is the Lamb” [Revelation 5:12], out of every language, and tribe and people under the sun [Revelation 5:9]. And every pastor without exception said to me over and over again, “Be sure to give our love and greeting to your dear church.” They have in their minds, pictures of us that are almost immeasurably sweet, tender and precious. Their appeals to us for help move our hearts; I have listed about three.
Number one: at the world council of the BWA, the Baptist World Alliance in Manila, the contingent from Brazil about half a dozen men; they sat down with me several times, we ate dinner together. They have it in their hearts that we send a choir down there next year, next summer, to help them celebrate their one hundredth anniversary. They want us to come to Recife and to Belo Horizonte and to Rio and to São Paulo and then to stop by Buenos Aires on our way back home; they have their heart set on that. They have heard of the tours of our chapel choir, and of course, those Brazilians would have people there by the thousands and by the thousands. It is nothing for the Brazilians to have a hundred thousand people in a great convocation. They so want us to come. I don’t know how to reply. I asked Gary about it. And he said maybe our sanctuary choir could go or some group selected. In any event, the Brazilian Baptist Convention is framing an official invitation to the First Baptist Church in Dallas to send a great choir to help them celebrate their centennial.
Again, the brethren from Australia met with me several times. The thing they laid before me was this: that they have no Baptist witness in the media and especially on television in Australia. There are three programs they say that come over television to Australia and all three of them, the brethren say to me, are things that are diametrically opposite to what we believe is the truth of God. One of them for example, is Herbert W. Armstrong, who is a boiled-down quintessence of unadulterated heresy. The far-out, screwball things that that guy teaches is beyond anything that an intelligent man who reads the Bible could ever think for. But that’s what they have down there in Australia. So he says, “Please, please,” he says, “would you videotape your service and mail it down to us? Our Baptist headquarters are in Sydney. Most of the Australians live in an area around Sydney.” He says, “We will take that videotape and we will play it on Sunday at a prime time, and it will be a message from the Baptist world to the people of Australia.” Then he said, “After we have succeeded in Sydney, we will take it to Melbourne, and then to Perth, and then to Brisbane, and then to Darwin. We will cover all Australia with the message of Christ as we Baptists believe that God has revealed it in the Book.” He said to me, “All it will take would be for you is to subsidize it for two years or three at the most, then,” he said, “by that time we shall have developed a Baptist response that will take care of it. Please,” he said, “do it.” So the Baptists of Australia are framing an official letter to the First Baptist Church in Dallas, pleading with us for that television program to begin in Sydney.
Again, appeal is made to us and we shall respond to it, to rebuild the Bethel Baptist Church in East Berlin. They are only allowed to rebuild it if they will do it with foreign currency. The First Baptist Church escaped—those members who would, could—to West Berlin, and this is our Baptist witness in East Berlin. The church lies in ruins, and they are seeking to rebuild it. And the twentieth day of August—is that Sunday? Twentieth? The twentieth day of August they are going to begin, they are going by faith and we’re going to help them somehow, some way.
Then last among many, the Warsaw brethren made appeal to us that we help them broadcast the message of Christ. They cannot do it in Poland, but in Monte Carlo is a great, tremendous station that reaches clear to Siberia. And they make the program in a cassette, send it to Monte Carlo and it is beamed all over Europe and especially, of course, to the Polish people. And they told of an instance in Siberia—couldn’t mail it, a man brought the letter, gave it to them—every Sunday in Siberia, that little group of Poles gather around a radio and they worship God, listening to the broadcast out of Monte Carlo.
Oh, dear, dear, dear! I must hasten, coming to the last; the cutting edge of the faith. As in a war, you have a plant and an assembly line and a training center. But the cutting edge of it, the contact in the war is the infantry, and the artillery, and the air force. What is the cutting edge of the Christian faith? Where is it? I found it in this trip among the oppressed, and the prohibited, and those who are lost in the indifference of paganism; it is found in the church in your house. It is found in the home.
The leader of the Philippines, the Baptist denomination in the Philippines, is a layman. With six pesos, that would be fifty cents, he now is a multi-millionaire. And he says, “We have eighty thousand Baptists in the Philippines. In ten years, we shall have eight million.” I asked him, “How?” He says, “By the Bible teaching in the home.”
In the report from Africa, at the BWA, at a meeting of our Baptists for all Eastern Africa in Kenya, there came two strangers, they were from Uganda. They had followed the trail of a forest and had so come to the meeting. And their report: Idi Amin, you know, has interdicted the Baptist faith in Uganda, so the church cannot meet. The archbishop of the Anglican Church said, “You meet with us.” And the Baptist leadership of Uganda, where we have a tremendous work—where Jimmie Hooten, our minister of missions cannot return, he’s here with us. The Baptist leadership in Uganda met, “Shall we go with Anglicans?” And after long prayer, they said, “No. We shall stay true to the faith.” And they are carrying on this minute. How? In the home; in the thousands of homes of our Baptist people in Uganda. In Singapore, I talked to a man named Chow; he lives on the eleventh floor of an eighteen story apartment building. Every day there will be people in his apartment studying the Word of God, sometimes fifty of them crowded in his little flat. In Russia, the church in Leningrad—just one in a city as big as Chicago, they have three thousand members; how do you do in so small a structure? Or the Baptist church in Moscow, in a city as big as New York—how do you do? They carry on their work in the home, teaching the Bible, the Word of God in the house. And dear people, in conclusion, there is revival in the earth, always somewhere there is a pouring out of the Holy Spirit of God.
In 1975 when I was in Seoul, Korea, they said, “Stay over one day. Tomorrow, Sunday, we are baptizing 1,400 South Korean soldiers, would you speak to them?” I was beginning a crusade in Hong Kong that day, the next day, Sunday; I couldn’t stay. I wanted to—great revival in Korea! David Wong, the president of the Baptist World Alliance, in his speech said there is one Baptist church he visited last year in old Mexico that in one day, on a Sunday baptized 268. The Telugu in India celebrated their centennial—missionary [John] Clough in 1978, baptized 2,222 in one day—they baptized over 3,000. And in Burma, no one is ever allowed to leave Burma, I have never seen a citizen of Burma at any of our meetings, but the great work planted there by Adoniram Judson, our Baptist missionary from America; it has experienced an unprecedented revival. Look at this: in the Cochin Baptist Convention which is located next to the Chinese border, in their centennial last year—they had 100,000 Baptists in attendance—and on that day, they baptized in the Irrawaddy River, 6,215 converts. I have never seen anything like that; just imagine, witnessing the baptism of 6,215 people. In a world like that; and even in Romania, where they did have 20,000 Baptists, they now have over 100,000. The Spirit of God poured out here, and there, and over there; isn’t that great? God still lives, the Holy Spirit still converts, people are being saved, they are being baptized. And the Baptist faith in the world in Uganda, in Romania, in Burma, in a thousand other areas of the earth, is growing and the light is shining. And dear people, when Jesus comes there will be a redeemed throng to welcome Him from the sky [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
And in that number, may we stand here by the thousands, dear Lord, waiting for Thee, loving Thee, believing in Thee; ready in Thy goodness and grace to establish Thy kingdom in the earth [Matthew 6:10]. O Lord, what a devotion, what a prospect, what a promise, what an ultimate and final victory.
And that is our invitation to you today, to share that faith with us, to commit your life to that living Lord [Romans 10:8-13], to join hands with us who pray in His name, who follow in His train, who lift up our faces, believing in His coming and His ultimate redemption [1 Thessalonians 2:19]. To give your heart in faith to the blessed Jesus, come [Ephesians 2:8]. To join with us in this dear church, come [Hebrews 10:24-25]. To give your life in a meaningful way to the Lord anew, come. As God shall press the invitation to your heart, make it now. In a moment when we stand to sing, down that stairway with a throng in the balcony; each one of these aisles with a press of people on this lower floor, “Pastor, I have decided for God and here I am. I am going to put my life with you and these dear people in this church.” Welcome. God bless you. Angels attend you as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.