Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-17-87 7:30 p.m.
Once again welcome the great multitudes of you who are sharing this hour on radio and on television. This is the pastor bringing a baccalaureate address entitled True Education. It is based on passages in the seventh and twenty-second chapters of the Book of Acts. It says in Acts 7:22: “Moses was learned in all of the wisdom of the Egyptians.” But with all of the education granted this son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and he had the widest open door of the learning of that day of any young man in the generation; with all of the learning in the wisdom of the Egyptians, it was not enough. Over and above and beyond, God had to teach him the true way of life: “And he was a stranger”—and a student—”in the land of Midian” for forty years [Acts 7:29-30].
I turn now to the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Acts. Moses, learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians [Acts 7:22], but his education was not complete until after forty years God had taught him in the Sinaitic desert of Midian [Acts 7:29-30]. Paul says, “I am a citizen of Tarsus, a city,” the capital of the Roman province “of Cilicia” [Acts 22:3]. He was a graduate of the university, the Greek university of Tarsus. And not only that, “I was brought up in this city of Jerusalem at the feet of Gamaliel,” one of the seven great rabbans, great teachers of Judaism, much presented and quoted in the Talmud; brought up “at the feet of Gamaliel” [Acts 22:3].
A university graduate in Tarsus, and instructed in all of the ways and wisdom of the world in the mind and purview of Gamaliel; but it was not enough. Over and beyond and beside, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” [Acts 9:6, 22:10], cried this university graduate. “And the Lord said, Arise, and go into Damascus, and there it shall be told thee of the things that are appointed for thee to do” [Acts 9:6; 22:10]. And in Galatians 1:17, the apostle writes that he was sent into Arabia, into the deserts, there to be alone in the school of Almighty God.
And after his training and education before the throne of grace in God’s heaven, he returned to Damascus [Galatians 1:17], then to Jerusalem [Galatians 1:18], and then as a missionary to the Roman world [Acts 13:1-28:31]. Education in the wisdom of the world, but it is not enough. Over and beside and beyond, there is a training and a learning from God Himself [Matthew 11:29; James 3:17]. All of the great men of heaven, all of the exemplary proponents of the faith in the earth, all of them have received that over and above training and education from the hand of God.
There is an affinity in the Christian faith for education and for learning. It has been that from the beginning. But the wisdom of the world is not enough. We must also learn the wisdom of God. In the beginning of the Christian dispensation, Justin Martyr is a great learned, gifted Greek philosopher, but that is not enough. He must also sit at the feet of Jesus. Tertullian is a brilliant lawyer in North Africa, in one of the Roman provinces, but that’s not enough; he must also learn at the feet of Jesus. Augustine was a brilliant student and a Greek philosopher, a forensic of the first and highest order, but it was not enough; he must also learn at the feet of Jesus.
Chrysostom, John Chrysostom, “John the golden-mouth,” his mother had tremendous ambition for him; sent him to the school of the finest philosophers in that Greek civilized day, but it was not enough. He must also learn at the feet of Jesus. When we come to our modern day, it is no different. John Wesley is an Oxford don, a brilliant student; but it was only after the Aldersgate experience that he came into the true knowledge of God and of life. Charles G. Finney was a brilliant and able lawyer. But in this last century, as he learned the wisdom of Christ, he became an emissary from heaven, turning the whole destiny of America God-ward and Christ-ward. It is a remarkable thing, this dedicated life in education.
You say that your school days are over?
Why, lad, they’ve only begun.
Go forth and count the sands of the sea
Or look on the blazing sun
When its last rays shall tremble at
Father Time’s caress,
The Master will still be keeping school,
It will be only the first recess.
When the earth is worn to its axis,
When all the seven seas
Are numbered among the things that were,
You’re still in your ABC’s.
For so long as heaven and nature remain
With an unsolved rule,
And God has a truth that is unrevealed,
Why, lad, you’re still in school.
[author and title unknown]
The wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God; it is a strange thing the affinity of the Christian faith for education, for learning. All of the great universities of this modern world, all of them were founded by the church. The Western world knew no other education but that in Christ. Every great university in our Western civilization is in the church. Education was in the church—all of it. The great universities of Europe, like the Sorbonne in Paris; or the great universities in England, like Oxford and Cambridge; or the great universities in America; all of them were founded by the church: Harvard, and Yale, and Princeton, and Columbia, and Dartmouth. And even in our Baptist Zion: Brown University of Rhode Island, or Richmond University of Virginia, or Wake Forest University of North Carolina, or Furman University of South Carolina, or Mercer University of Georgia, or Union University of Tennessee, or Baylor University of Texas. Without exception all of the old schools were founded in the church. Even Chicago University, created by taking the Morgan Park Theological Seminary and placing it in the heart and in the center of the school and then building the university around it.
Our public school system came out of the church. Robert Raikes, in 1780 in Gloucester, England, seeing these children, waifs on the street, gathered them together on Sunday that they might be taught the Word of God and the three R’s. And as time developed on Sunday, they began teaching the Holy Scriptures. And in the days of the week, they began teaching the three R’s, which finally developed in America and only in America in a public school system. Religion and the church and education and the school are in inexorably and everlastingly connected.
The true meaning of education is only found in the mind of Christ. I am not saying this. The head and executive of the National Education Association said, “The true meaning and purpose of all true education is to impress upon the mind of the student the mind that was in Christ Jesus.” And that is the background of our struggle to build our First Baptist Academy here in these grounds and in these buildings. Thirty years did I struggle to do it; thirty years, trying, attempting, seeking, agonizing and failing every year. A very typical meeting would be in our fellowship of deacons. After once again making an appeal for a Christian school, the man who headed the public school system in Highland Park, president of the trustees, was seated there, and when I got through he stood up and had the outline of the budget of the Highland Park High School in front of him, and he read it to me. And it totaled more than seven million dollars. Then he turned to me and said, “Now pastor, where are you going to get seven million dollars for the building of a Christian school in this church? And he sat down. I didn’t have seven million dollars. I couldn’t begin to answer. I just knew in my deepest soul that it was right for us to build in our church an academy—teaching the Word of God, a part of the curriculum; having chapel, and prayer, and revival, and appeal for faith in the saving grace of our Lord. That is the meaning and the foundation and the purpose of all true education.
And now, may I substantiate the avowal. First, education, separated from the great moral principles of Christ, is a tragedy and a disaster to the world. I speak out of the few brief years that I have lived, not speaking of the centuries of history before, just what I have looked upon. Education apart from Christ is disastrous. I remember reading in the paper, and seeing pictures of it, when Sinclair Lewis, our tremendously gifted author and novelist stood up in a church in Kansas City, Missouri, making fun of Almighty God, and saying, “I defy God, if there is such a thing, I defy Him to strike me dead.” And the whole atheistic world applauded.
I also remember—this is an aside—there was a famous columnist named Arthur Brisbane, who was a devout Christian. Arthur Brisbane had a column in all of these national papers on the side, and I used to read it every day. When he read what Sinclair Lewis had said, defying God to strike him dead, he said, “You know, that is just like an ant climbing on top of the rail of the Santa Fe Railroad track in Arizona, and the little thing lifts up his paw and says, “I hear that the president of this company is named Story. If there is such a president, I defy him to come down here and strike me dead.” And Brisbane said, “It would be contemptuous even for God to think about coming down to strike him dead. Why take time to do it?” And Sinclair Lewis died in a sorry, unbelievably and indescribable wretchedness.
Ernest Hemingway, one of the most gifted men that America has ever produced, died a suicide—took his own life. George Eastman, who invented the Kodak, died a suicide. You know, I have often thought, a bum, a sorry bum, walking down Park Avenue in New York City stops before a beautiful mansion. And he sees beyond a beautiful and open picture window, he sees a rich man, with his smoking jacket, seated there before a roaring fire. And the bum, outside on the street in the cold, thinks, what a wonderful thing it would be to be that man—so trained and educated and beautifully dressed, seated before that roaring fire. What a wonderful thing to be in that mansion in that chair and be that man. But what the bum does not know is that the man seated there is contemplating suicide; as though achievement and education and affluence and success and fame in the world are the things that feed the soul and bless the life.
As you know, as you would know, I began my pastoral ministry sixty years ago, in 1927, and I saw in those days the rise of the intellectual prowess of Germany. If any teacher anywhere or any academician on the face of the earth sought highest degrees, they attended the universities of Germany. There’s never been, and I do not think there will be again, there has never been a nation so taught and so literate and so academic and so intellectually full of every achievement as Germany. And it was out of the academic life and the educational advancement of Germany that there rose the Nazi movement, the most devastating of all of the scourges that have ever damned and destroyed humanity. Education apart from God is an unspeakable tragedy. And we are facing that in America.
In our secular materialistic universities and in our public schools, that by law say we cannot pray, we cannot have chapel, we cannot name the name of Jesus, and we cannot read God’s Holy Word. There is a judgment day awaiting America. You know, it is a strange thing, an unusual thing; success, worldly success, achievement, affluence; name it, do nothing to bless the human life and to save a soul. In the twelfth chapter of this Book of Luke, our Lord spoke of a man who had such marvelous increase, he tore down his barns to build greater. Then he tore them down to make greater [Luke 12:16-18]. And that night, the Lord knocked at the door of his soul and his heart and his life, and said, “This night, this night, thy soul is required of thee: then whose shall these things be that thou hast stored up for yourself? [Luke 12:20]. There is something more to life than the wisdom of this world, than the success and fame that go with its achievement. There is God, and there is eternal life, and there are the truths of almighty heaven. This is the true education.
May I describe it in just a moment? And then I must quit. The true education is first of all in the presence of our Lord, humble, humble, humble. When I was your age, I made a visit to George Washington Carver in Tuskegee, Alabama. I read where about two days ago where the president of the United States addressed the school there in Tuskegee, Alabama. He was tall, slender white-headed, kinky-headed black man. And all around his laboratory were the most unbelievable scientific breakthroughs that mind could imagine. Out of red clay in Alabama, and out of peanuts grown in Alabama, he had wrought the most miraculous series of unending things that I could ever think for. Great, great corporations and industrial complexes moved there just to be close to that wonderful man. And when he had shown us all of the things that he had done, one of us asked him, “George Washington Carver, how have you been able to do this?” And he replied in the sweetest and in the humblest way, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” [Philippians 4:13].
That is true education. We don’t know anything, absolutely nothing. All we are capable of doing is just observing, that’s all. We just look. We just see. For example, gravity, that holds this universe in motion; what is gravity? We will never know. Nor will we ever know anything. We just observe the mighty hand of God.
I remember one time as a boy, listening to a phonograph record. It was that of a black church, and one of their members had gone away to college. And that black boy—superior, said to the congregation that he knew all things, and he could answer any question. And the pastor stood up and said, “So you have learned about everything, and you know all of the answers. Well, how is it that a black cow can eat green grass and give white milk that turns into yellow butter?”
And he says: “Well, you know—yeah, yeah.” And so the pastor said, “Let’s stand and sing the Doxology.” All we do is just observe the mighty hand of God. You remember Tennyson’s flower in the cranny?
Little flower in the cranny,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower- but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should understand what God and man is.
[from “Flower in the Crannied Wall,” Alfred, Lord Tennyson]
The humblest flower is a miracle. We just observe. We just look. We don’t understand anything. We don’t know anything. The true educated man is, first of all, humble in the presence of Almighty God.
O Lord, how great thou art.
And how marvelous
Are Thy works.
The sun, the moon,
The stars, this planet earth,
This verdant field,
O God how marvelous Thou art.
[author and source unknown]
I cannot help but refer to the fact that every Sunday there will be a family come forward with a little baby to dedicate the child to the Lord. In my humble persuasion, there is nothing in all God’s creation, and I am including the planets that in their courses follow their God-ordained paths around the center of the universe; there’s nothing in all God’s creation as miraculous and wonderful and inexplicable as this little life, little tiny baby child. Many a man—many a man has given his life to the Lord having placed in his hands his little newborn baby. Isn’t it a strange thing Enoch walked with God after Methuselah was born? [Genesis 5:22]. Oh, to be humble in the presence of the Lord! This is the beginning of true education.
May I say just a word about its end, about its consummation? The end and consummation of true education is the devoted life of service to the blessed Lord. Here I am, Lord, these hands, these feet, this heart, this mind, these days; all of them, Lord, are dedicated to Thee, in Thy service. There was a young man who finished his education and went before the foreign missionary board, volunteering to be an emissary of Christ on a foreign field. And the board replied to him, “You are not well. You are not strong. You are not in health. But if you were sent to the foreign field, in no time you would die. And we refuse to send you.” And the young man replied, “Beneath the great piers of any mighty bridge there are foundation stones that are buried in the ground, unseen. I will be one of those stones, buried in the ground, unseen, but without which the great towering bridge would not span the tide.” Sure enough, being on the foreign field, he soon died, but he had achieved God’s great purpose for him. It is not our length of days nor our worldly success. It is the dedication in our hearts to the call and service of God. That is the consummation of true education—coming into the knowledge of God’s will for me, and here Lord, I give You all that I am or ever hope to be. Oh, to be like that! We shall have attained the true meaning and purpose of our schooling if we can be like that. Now may we bow our heads in the prayer?
Our faithful and living Lord, what a wonder it would be if we could drown our self in the grace and goodness and mercies of God; if we could sit at Thy feet and learn of Thee [Matthew 11:28-30]; if we could find the meaning and the purpose of life in Thy call and will and our Savior we pray that for these students and these homes and parents who are in God’s presence tonight. And our Lord as we make this appeal and sing this song of invitation, please God, send us these that the Holy Spirit has called and chosen for the night; this service, this hour. And our Lord may there be marvelous willingness in the heart of these who are present to answer God’s call, “Here I am Lord and here I stand.”
In just a moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you give himself to Jesus [Romans 10:9-13]; a family you coming into the fellowship of the church or answering a call of the Lord in your heart, make it now. Into that aisle and down here to the front or down one of these stairways, “Pastor, God has spoken to me, and I am answering with my life” [Ephesians 2:8]. And dear wonderful Savior may the angels attend the way of these who come, in Thy precious and saving and keeping name, amen. Make that decision now. In the quietness of this moment, make that decision now and when you stand up, stand up walking down that stairway, coming down this aisle. “This is God’s time for me, pastor, and I am on the way,” while we stand and while we sing.
A. Moses (Acts 7:22,
B. Paul (Acts 22:3, 10,
C. God’s greatest
servants through the years
1. Learned in
world’s wisdom and taught of God
II. Affinity of the Christian faith for
education and learning
A. Education was in the
1. All great
universities of this modern world were founded by the church
2. Public school
system came out of the church
III. True meaning of education only found
in mind of Christ
A. Education separated
from moral principles of Christ a tragedy
1. Examples in my
Out of academic and educational advancement of Germany arose Nazi movement
is more to life than wisdom of the world, success and fame (Luke 12:20)
IV. A true education
A. Humble in the
presence of our Lord (Philippians 4:13)