The Whole Wide World and What’s With It
August 13th, 1978 @ 8:15 AM
THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD AND WHAT’S WITH IT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-13-78 8:15 a.m.
On the radio we welcome you to the services, early, of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Whole Wide World and What’s With It. In the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, verse 27, it reads: "And when they were come, and had gathered the church 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].
As many of you know, I have just come back from a trip around the world. This is the third time that I have made that circumnavigation of the globe. I was thinking how many times I had been up and down in it; I have crossed the equator twelve times. In this journey the closest I got to it was in Singapore, eighty miles away; and the farthest north in Leningrad, close to the Arctic Circle. The journey was very, very long, and very hard. From here to San Francisco, to Honolulu, to Guam – first time I’d ever been there – to Manila in the Philippines, to Singapore, to Bangkok in Thailand; across the Burma Sea, across India, across the Persian, the Arabian Gulf to Dubai, one of the capitals in the United Arab Emirates; from there across Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, across the Eastern Mediterranean to Athens, from Athens to Bucharest, Romania; from Bucharest to Budapest, where I met the choir; then following them to Warsaw in Poland, to Leningrad and Moscow in Russia; they went home, came home by way of Rome; we came home by way of Dresden, Germany, back to Budapest, to Prague in Czechoslovakia, to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and across the ocean to New York, and finally back to Dallas. So, the world and what’s with it.
A man was asked, "How is your wife?" And he replied, "How is my wife? Well, compared to what?" The whole wide world, how is it? Compared to Texline, the little town of three hundred people in which I grew up, it is a big, big world. Compared to a cemetery, it is teeming with hordes and throngs of people. Compared to the holiness of heaven, it is dead and lost in trespasses and in sins. And compared to the rest and peace of God, it is filled with tears and sorrows.
Next Sunday, August 20, the title of the message will be The Mingled Tears of Jews and Gentiles.
In order not to be forever expatiating for the hours and the hours of looking at this world, I have carefully prepared this address, and I hope I can present it rapidly in these next few allotted minutes. And remember, as I deliver it, that it is from me: these are my impressions. I am not infallible, and I am deeply biased and prejudiced toward the free enterprise of America, which is another way of saying I hate and I despise socialism and socialistic governments. So as I speak, remember it is from me, and I do not claim infallibility.
First: the Chapel Choir, they are literally incomparable ambassadors of heaven, and of this church, and of the Baptist faith. In Warsaw, the guide for the parallel tour, walking by my side, said, "I never saw such beautiful young people. Do you choose them because of their beauty?" I said, "Indeed!" I told her, "The only way a girl can get into the Chapel Choir is by being ravishingly beautiful. And the only way a boy can join is by being handsome and good-looking." I never told her any different, either. And what an unusual impression they make upon the people who look upon them and hear them. When they got through singing, they sang in Warsaw in a Roman Catholic Church and were wonderfully received; in an evangelical church, a Lutheran church, and in a Baptist church. When they were done in the Lutheran church, a man who was evidently a Catholic – ninety-five percent of the people in Poland are Catholic – he came up to me, and in the most beautiful way clasped his hands as though in prayer, and said, "Most reverend father, a beautiful concert." I thought I had been elected to succeed the pope. You boys and girls surely make me look good, and bless you for it.
And, of course, Gary Moore and all of the sponsors and our instrumentalists they just shine over the earth.
Now my impression of the world as I look at it: first, my political impressions. I entered the communist world from Athens to Bucharest; and my first facing it was, I would have to admit, in its poorest representation. I suppose there is no poorer adjunct to the communist social order than you would find in Romania. Anyway, that’s where I first met it. So I was on a Romanian airline; they call it TAROM, Romanian airlines, from Athens to Bucharest, and I happened to be seated by a most distinguished looking gentleman. I introduced myself to him, and 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 children. So, as we talked on that journey, he began to speak about Russia and about communism. So he exclaimed to me, "Communism, Russia, we experienced their presence in Egypt for twenty long insufferable years." I did not realize it was that long. He said, "They don’t believe in God. They are atheists, and they dehumanize mankind." He said, "Life is so meaningless to them they drink like fish; they are drunkards." And he said, "We kicked them out. And our hope lies in America."
Well, I stayed in the communist world for three weeks: in Romania, in Hungary, in Poland, in Russia, and touched it in Czechoslovakia. And looking at it, visiting it, especially as I suddenly faced it in Romania, I have chosen ten characteristics of the communist world among forty dozen others that I could name. Number one: it is something for us, their dimly lighted cities, as though they were in a war. Number two: old women sweeping the streets and women doing a man’s heavy work. For example, landing at the airport in Leningrad, there were five women who were shoveling asphalt in a pavement, loading the truck, unloading the truck, driving the truck, dressed in heavy boots and heavy garments that go with it. I wish the ERA could just look at that: that’s what they want.
Third: the cheap, poor clothes of the people, all of them. Fourth: the stores, so many of them half empty, and the sorry, shoddy merchandise. Five: the glum, unsmiling faces of the people; they look away from you, unhelpful. Six: soldiers everywhere at the airports, in other areas of the cities, armed, some with bayonets so sharp. Oh! they are vicious looking things, those bayonets. Seven: long lines before anything, everything, before a fruit stand, a vegetable stand, before the stores; queues on every corner. My journey from Athens to Bucharest was actually one and a half hours. It took me from three o’clock in the afternoon to twelve o’clock at midnight to get finally into the hotel. Eight: class distinctions, the very opposite of their political philosophy of a classless society. That’s what communism is supposed to be: everyone is alike, no class. In their war of revolution they pit class against class. Theirs, they say, is a classless society. Let’s look at it for just a moment.
Number one: standing in the Bucharest airport, suddenly I heard the shout, "Legatsia, Legatsia!" And a policeman came to me, and moved me behind a certain row of seats, and moved everybody else out. Then six long, sleek, black Mercedes Benz limousines drove up, each one of them over here would cost something like fifty thousand dollars. Out of them came six Chinese; three dressed in their military uniform of drab olive, with red band, red hat, and a star, and three Chinese civilians. And then the Romanians: three military leaders and three civilians. As I looked at that, I thought of something a military attachÃ© said to me as I stood twelve years ago in the Red Square of Moscow: standing there, suddenly we heard a police whistle scream out, and we were shoved aside, and down through that throng of people in the Red Square a sleek, black limousine, and drove into the great gate through the Kremlin Wall. And the military attachÃ© turned to me and said, "And they say there are no classes in Russia."
The difference lies in there may be classes in other areas of life, where a man is given opportunity to work and save, and he may be an affluent man; another one throws his life away and he lives in poverty: but in the communist society, they have the elite of the communist party and of the military, and the poor people are ground to death in a faceless and sameness poverty. There is no opportunity but as serfs of the government. In many meaningful areas of life, they cannot own, they cannot have anything.
For example, visiting with the pastor of the Baptist church, the one little Baptist church in Dresden, a city of half a million people, his name is Lucian Jacobi; he lives in the church with his four children, mostly in one room. Born in Kaliningrad – used to be old KÃ¶nigsberg – in East Prussia, he wanted to visit where he was born, and the government refused him the opportunity. You don’t go but where the government says you can go, and when.
Ben Hart said to me, who is with Damen, from East Berlin, he said, "The Sunday that you return will be the anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall." And it seemed so hopeless when he said it; inhibited and prohibited. The next council of our Baptist World Alliance meets in Brighton, Germany, July of next year. I said to some of the brethren there, "I’ll see you." They said, "No, we are not allowed to go."
The society supposed to be classless, look at this: when I was in Russia before, I called them "dollar stores"; they are foreign currency stores. The people of the country cannot buy there, only those with coveted foreign currencies, as the West German mark and the American dollar and the British pound, can buy in the store. Can you imagine an insult to your people, when all through the nation there are stores in which Americans can buy, West Germans can buy, Britishers can buy, but the citizens of the nation are not allowed to enter the door, they cannot buy? In an airport, they will not take their own money. I came back with it, unable to spend it – they’re a classless society.
Number nine, a characteristic of the communist world: in so much of it I had the feeling of hostility and dislike. In Bucharest, I said, "Surely this is psychological, it’s just something in my head that I think, that they are that way." Well, walking down the street, standing in front of a store that was so empty and the goods they did have so cheap, I was standing there just looking at it, and the man walked over to the big door and slammed it in my face! Fine. Fine.
Number ten: the black market; it is everywhere. There is nowhere that it isn’t in the communist world. They come up on the street, they come by you as you’re looking in a window, they are waiting when the arrival of the sight-seeing bus is near. In Bucharest, for example, you get twelve leus for a dollar. He’ll come up behind you and he’ll say, "I’ll give you 2,500 leus for a hundred dollar bill. I’ll give you 25 for a dollar." That’s true of the forint in Hungary. That’s true of the ruble in Russia. That’s true of the zĭoty in Poland. And it’s true of the mark in East Germany. Because of the fierce, heavy government regulation, the black market exists and flourishes everywhere.
Those are my political observations. Second: my economic observations. I was talking with a man in Singapore, and I said to him, "It’s just wonderful for us: no matter where you go the signs are in English, the announcements are made in English, the explanations are made in English. America is just everywhere." For example, at Dubai, at two o’clock in the morning, I watched an Arab who had with him a portable TV; he was watching an American movie, and underneath those bylines in Arabic. You see the influence of the British and of the American everywhere. So I was talking with a man about that in Singapore, and I was commenting on how fine it was for an American traveler. And he said, "Yes, that’s true, you see the English language everywhere." He said, "You remember that Britain ruled the world for about two hundred years, and following them the economic dynamics of America influenced the world for another half a century." Then he sadly added, "But all of that is passing away. The British colonial empire is no more; and," he added, "and the dollar has lost its value." The decline of the dollar and the decline of the economic strength of America, even against the worthless currencies of the communist world, the dollar down and down and down and down, and they were careful to explain that to me everywhere I went.
There is a tragedy in the fiscal economic policies of America. In the communist world we say, "Those people are serfs of the government; they can’t own anything." In America now, so heavy is the hand of government upon the people, local and national, that every year, everybody works four months out of the year for the government; and it will soon be six months out of the year working for the government. The federal budget for ’79 is proposed at five hundred billion dollars; an increase of one hundred fifty percent over last year. Over 1970, the vast deficits of the government are made up by printing money; which is a cruel way to rob the people. What you have becomes increasingly valueless because the government prints more money, prints more money. What is the money spent for? One half on 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 last year; and business compliance costs one hundred fifty billion dollars a year. There is one government employee for every five who work in America.
The ever growing governmental increasing rates of taxation and inflation and costly bureaucratic regulations are destroying the economic strength of America in the whole world. I’m not talking about Dallas and the inflationary rates here, and I’m not talking about our homeland and how things cost more and more; I’m talking about the influence of America in the world: it is down and down and down and down. We also are becoming serfs of the government, as in all other socialist countries. We also are losing our standard of living. And as in other socialist countries, it’s going down and down and down. I don’t know what to tell you; I don’t know what to say. I’m just pointing out to you what is happening to America in the world.
Now last, and best, and most precious: my religious impressions in the world. The sweet, precious people who love God are everywhere. There is not any people, there is not any land, there is not any language in which they will not be found. Our dear Baptist brethren in every city and country send love and greetings to you. And the pastors would be careful to impress me, "Be sure to tell them our love and our remembrance."
The pastor in Leningrad, while the choir was singing, he broke in – unusual thing for me to witness – seated there in the pulpit, I was very astonished at it. He broke in to Gary Moore’s concert, and he says, "Let’s sing ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus,’ all of us." So they all sang "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." And then Gary said to the pastor, "You sing it, just you the second stanza." And they shook the heavens, and the choir burst, this Chapel Choir burst into applause as they sang that beautiful hymn so gloriously. And of course, as they do in Russia, when the service was over, their choir sang, and they were joined by their people, "God Be With You Till We Meet Again," wave their white handkerchiefs; and I’m just like the choir, we all just cried. I’ve been through that in Russia time and again, and every time I still cry – those poor, poor people, who work under such vast handicaps and who worship God at a price.
The appeals made to us are unbelievable. One, at the world council of the BWA in Manila, the contingency, the delegates, the people, the representatives from Brazil, about half a dozen of them, they had dinner with me, they talked to me, they met with me I don’t know how many times. This coming summer of 1979 they are celebrating their one hundredth anniversary in Brazil; and they are pleading for our choir to come. They want us to come to Recife, to Bella Horizonte, to Rio, to Sao Paulo, and then to go to Buenos Aires on the way back. And they’ll have thousands and thousands and thousands of people in Brazil to greet us, and to listen to us, and to worship with us. They are preparing an official invitation from their convention, which will be placed in my hands as soon as the mail delivers it. And I must reply in some way. They have their hearts set upon our coming.
Another appeal: in Australia, the men there ate dinner with me, and said, "Our Baptist witness in Australia is non-existent. In public media," and he named the three TV programs that they have there, and he says – and I can certainly agree – "they don’t represent Baptists." One of them was Herbert W. Armstrong and his Worldwide Church of God, which is the most condensed quintessence of heresy I have ever listened to in all of my life. Anyway, he says, "We need a Baptist witness." And he says, "If you’ll just videotape your services," and we do it every Sunday anyway, "and send us the tape, we will play it on the television station in Sydney." And that’s where practically all of the people in Australia live. And he says, "We will take care of everything. We will make the appeal for money; we will handle it in our Baptist offices, in the national headquarters in Sydney. All we need is for you to subsidize it about two years, or maybe three, to help us get started. And then it will take care and sustain itself." Oh, I wish we could do that. I wish we could do that. He said, "If we could start in Sydney, we’ll succeed." And he said, "We’ll take it to Melbourne, and then to Perth, and then to Darwin. And we’ll cover all Australia with our Baptist witness, the preaching of the gospel."
A third appeal: they are building the Bethel Baptist Church in East Berlin. The First Baptist Church of Berlin moved out, moved over to West Berlin. The people somehow got through the wall. And that’s our Baptist witness in the capital of the Democratic German Republic, they call it. They’re only allowed to build if they can build it with foreign money. We’re going to help in some way. And then in Warsaw, they make a Baptist program; they can’t air it there, but they send it to Monte Carlo, and it goes all over Europe. And they have a letter from Siberia, couldn’t mail it, a man brought it to them, telling them that every Sunday in Polish, Polish people there in Siberia, they worship before the radio, listening to that station, and they need help.
Another thing I learned is the cutting edge of the faith, like a war, you have an assembly plant, and you have a munitions factory, and you have a training center; but the contact, the cutting edge of it is the infantry and the artillery and the air force. So with the Christian faith: there is a cutting edge in it, where the gospel is oppressed, and where it is prohibited, and where the people are filled with pagan indifference. Where is that cutting edge? I found it again and again. I found it in the home: the church in your house.
In the Philippines, I ate lunch with the executive secretary, Lopez; the president of the Philippine Union is a layman named Lorenzo Legardian, he’s a layman. He started with six pesos; he’s now a multimillionaire. They have eighty thousand Baptists now in the Philippines. He says, "In ten years we’ll have five million." I said, "How?" He said, "Home to home Bible study." He said, "If you’re close to the president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcus, you can have anything in the world. If you’re close to God, why should God be any less?"
In the report from Africa, in Kenya there were two strange Africans who walked into the meeting, our Baptist meeting in Kenya. It was an all African conference of our Baptist people. They asked the brethren, "Who are you?" And they said, "We are from Uganda." They had walked all the way, and through the vast forests that surround the Victoria Lake; they had come to the meeting. And in their report, they said that Idi Amin has outlawed our Baptist churches in Uganda, and we can’t meet." So the archbishop of the Anglican church said, "You are welcome to come and to worship with us." So the Baptist leadership in Uganda – where Jimmy Hooten is from, can’t return – they had a meeting, "What shall we do?" And the Baptists of Uganda said, "We’re not Anglicans; we’re Baptists. And we’re going to stay true to the faith. So our church is in the homes of the people."
I met it again in Singapore. There’s a fellow there named Jacob Chow. He lives on the eleventh floor of those endless high apartment buildings in Singapore. And every week he has fifty in his little apartment, learning the Word of God. And I met it again in Russia. Leningrad, a city as big as Chicago, there is one little Baptist church, three thousand members; you couldn’t crowd a portion of them into it. How do you carry on your work? In the homes of the people. So in Moscow, a city as big as New York, one Baptist church; how do they do their work? In the homes – and we’re going to see if we can’t have more outreach in the homes of this city.
And last, revival: somewhere always there is a where that the Holy Spirit of God is being poured out upon the people. In 1975, when I was in Seoul Korea, they said, "Stay for the morrow. We’re going to baptize 1,400 South Korean soldiers tomorrow, Sunday," this is Saturday. I said, "I wish I could stay. But I have to begin a crusade in Hong Kong." David Wong, the president of the Baptist World Alliance, reported that there is one Baptist church, not very long ago, in Mexico, one of them who baptized 268 one Sunday. The Telugus in India, they celebrated their one hundredth anniversary of missionary Clough baptizing 2,222 converts. And in that celebration, they baptized over 3,000. And in Burma, no one is ever allowed to leave Burma, nobody. There hasn’t been anybody out of Burma in years and years and years. But our Baptist work, founded by Adoniram Judson, an American Baptist, our Baptist work in Burma is unbelievably increasing. You look at this. Up there next to the Chinese border, in the Kachin Baptist Convention, in celebrating their centennial, they had an attendance of one hundred thousand people! And they baptized 6,215 in the Irrawaddy River. Can you imagine that? And I have here the pictures of that baptismal service. Six thousand two hundred fifteen baptized in one day: this in a communist world.
My dear people, victory is possible for the people of God anywhere. Great revival is possible before God any day. And however the tragic impediments and prohibitions and interventions and interdictions, if a people are dedicated, they can do a mighty work for Jesus anywhere in the world: even in Romania, our Baptist people have grown in these last few years from twenty thousand to over a hundred thousand. We can do it here in Dallas. We can build this lighthouse greater. We can baptize more converts. We can win more people. We can build a finer church. It’s just our willingness and our dedication.
And dear God, may He find that in us. Amen.
This has gone too long, even though I’ve tried to abbreviate it. As we sing our invitation hymn, on the first note of the first stanza, to accept the Lord Jesus as your Savior, to put your life in the fellowship of this dear church, as God would open the door and lead the way, make the decision now. And in a moment when you stand up to sing, stand up walking down that stairway, coming down this aisle, "Here I am, pastor, I have decided for God and for this church, and I’m coming." Welcome, while we stand and while we sing.