The Open Door to Life
May 22nd, 1988 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-22-88 7:30 p.m.
The baccalaureate message, it is entitled The Open Door. Just as a background text, in the Word of our Lord Jesus to the church at Philadelphia, in Revelation 3:8, "Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no one can shut it."
It is one of the virtues and glories of our America that we can have a Christian school. It would be unthinkable, it would be impossible that any totalitarian nation would have such a school. In Russia, in the nations of Eastern Europe, in any socialist government, even a Sunday school is not allowed, all are proscribed by law. But in our country, in America, we are privileged to have a school in the church, sponsored by people of God, teaching the mind of the Lord in Christ Jesus. I praise God for America.
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
A flash of color beneath the sky:
Our flag is passing by!
["The Flag Goes By," by Henry Holcomb Bennett]
Praise God for America. And in this country of freedom and liberty, we have the privilege of building our Christian academy.
From the beginning, education has been a part of the church. For centuries and centuries, education was in the hands of the people of God. It is only within the last comparatively few years that secular government has sponsored and supported education. For all of those preceding centuries and millennia education was a part of the church.
I hold in my hands the Holy Word of God. Those little tracts that we call the Gospels, and these epistles that explain the mind of the Lord, they were a part of the training of the catechumens. They were taught these wonderful truths of God sent down from heaven. And they were taught by the church. All of the great universities, without exception, all of the great colleges of the West, of Europe and America, all of them were founded by the church, all of them. Whether it was Oxford or Cambridge, whether it was Harvard or Yale or Princeton or any other great school, all of them were founded by the church. Education was in the hands of the church. It is a vital part of the kingdom of God, that school.
Upon a preaching mission in Japan, I was I don’t know where, at the furthest place in those islands. And when I got through making an appeal, there were many that responded, giving their hearts in faith to the Lord Jesus. And one of those men, one of those Japanese who had accepted the Lord as his Savior, took the card that I placed in his hand to fill out his commitment to the Lord. And as he looked at it and read it, he said to me, "Sensei, sensei, teacher, master, teacher, if I sign this card, then what?" No church, no school. "If I sign this card, if I commit my life to Christ, then what?" It is as vital that the church has a school as it is for the church to have a convocation of God’s people for the preaching of the gospel. They come together in God’s will and work.
The Christian school. What makes a Christian school? Number one: it is teaching every subject in the purview, in the rerview, in the wisdom and in the mind of our Lord; every subject seen as a revelation of God, the truth of heaven.
Walking down the streets of Warsaw in Poland, I passed by a monument to Copernicus. This is the scientific genius who brought to us the avowal that the center of the universe is not the earth but is the sun, and the earth with the other planets revolve around that central sun. I would like to take it one step further, the center and the heart of our universe is Almighty God. All knowledge, all creation revolves around Him. And that is the Christian school: every subject taught in the interpretation and the mind of our Lord.
What is the Christian school? It is the school where the administration and the teachers are devout disciples, believers in our blessed Lord Jesus. They are all Christians, all of them.
What is a Christian school? It is a school where the name of Christ can be named; where a chapel service can be held; where the students can pray; where the Word of God can be taught. I came across the funniest, craziest thing I ever ran into my life about a day or two ago. The principal of a school came across a bunch of little boys who were down there facing each other on their knees. And he stopped to see what it was. He walked away and said, "Thank God they are shooting craps and not praying." Well, you cannot pray in the school by law. You cannot read the Bible in school by law. You cannot have a chapel service by law.
I was invited to speak these years gone by at one of the great high schools in the city of Dallas in a certain section of our city. And these who had charge of the convocation said to me, "You name the name of Christ and we will shut down the school." That was by the American Civil Liberties Union. Confound them! Blast them! They are the enemies of God and they are our enemies. I don’t care what they say about themselves. What a tragedy that we are secularizing our education, the whole system, and the result has been the secularism of the culture and the life of America. We are no longer a Christian nation. We are a secular society, and increasingly so.
O God, how desperately we need that Christian school! To have it in our properties on our campus here is a benediction to me. I think of these churches that look like mausoleums, dark, uninhabited, nobody present, and all the days of the week and just on Sunday a little band of them gather together. How wonderful it is to come down here to this place. There is not a day, not one, but that you will find at least two thousand people here at this dear church. They are going to school or they are entering in many of the multiplied, multifaceted activities of our congregation. I praise God for it.
What are some of the objections to a Christian school? Well, I will name two. Here is one. What if that child goes to a Christian school and comes back home and says and makes the announcement, "I have been converted. I have found the Lord. I am a Christian. I have been saved." What if the child makes that announcement to the father and the mother? Well, you might say they would object to it. Not at all. Not at all. They will be glad and they will rejoice that this child has become a Christian. Isn’t it a thousand times better that the child come home and announce to her parents or his parents, "I have found the Lord," rather than, you know, "I found the drug pusher,
or "I found the liquor dealer," or "I’ve found the procurer or the pimp"? A thousand times better the child say, "I have found the Lord."
I do not know what is going to happen to our America when our public school system increasingly is confounded and overrun with drugs, and liquor, and promiscuity and a thousand other things that destroy our young people. What a marvelous thing if the child can go home and say to father and mother, "I have found the Lord as my Savior."
One other objection that could be made about a Christian school. They are over-protected in such an environment, in such an academic teaching frame, and they’re unprepared for the reality of the world. My brother, I say just the opposite. It is the child in the secular school that is over-protected and unable to face the environment that will confront him. For that child who grows up in the secular school doesn’t have God and doesn’t have the teaching and the training of the mind of Christ. He is the one that is over-protected by law: can’t pray, can’t read the Bible, can’t be taught the Word of God. And naked and unprepared, he faces a hostile and secular world. I avow it is that child in our Christian academy that is prepared to face the world and all of its trials and troubles and temptations.
Why would parents choose a Christian school? Why would they? Number one: they are the finest students in our universities, by far. There are no other groups who attend our universities that are comparable in academic achievement with our graduates from our Christian academies. They are the best. They make the finest grades and they are the best of the students. You know, I read not very long ago where a survey had been made of these students who are taught in our Christian schools. And one of the things the survey said: by far, by far the greatest number of students in any Christian academy come from the professionals who have themselves been educated in our secular society, in our secular education systems. They know and they choose to send their students, their children to a Christian school. They are wise. If it is humanly possible, no matter what, the professional life that I would be given from God, I would send, if I could, my boy, my girl, my child to a Christian school.
Why parents send their children to a Christian school? Because they are presented there with a truth of God that everlastingly blesses, guides, and directs. Let us look at that for a moment. There is no evidence ever, there is no evidence in history ever that education in itself, however the advancement of science and learning, there is no evidence that any advancement in education makes any one better. Rather, it seems to me, just the opposite.
I want to take a sentence out of David Lloyd George. He was a Welsh Baptist, a devout man of God, and he was the prime minister of Great Britain during the First World War. In order to understand the sentence, I must describe the great manufacturing steel corporation company called Krupp, K-r-u-p-p. In Essen, Germany, for hundreds of years, that family called Krupp had built a vast steel industry there turned over to the manufacturer of munitions. In the days of the Second World War, there were, of the First World War, there were two hundred thousand men who worked in that Krupp arsenal. Now, the sentence from David Lloyd George. He said, "The formidable foe that we face is not the arsenals of Krupp, but the schools of Germany." There has never been a nation that had the high literacy and the academic achievement of Germany. When I was a youth, any great, wonderful man or woman who sought excellence in the academic world went to a university in Germany. David Lloyd George in the First World War, "Our formidable foe is the school in Germany."
Then Second World War. Not long after that Second World War, I was in Dachau, before anything had been done to it, before anything had been changed. And I walked around Dachau. I could not believe what my eyes were seeing. In the name of science and in the name of learning, they took live human beings for their guinea pigs. "What do you mean by that?" Well, I mean by that, in order to get ready for the invasion of Russia, which meant the cold steppes of that land in the wintertime, they took human beings, live human beings, and put them in chambers, and lowered the temperature until they froze to death, and experimented with the different kinds of clothing that would help to keep them warm; live human beings. And then others they put in water, and lowered the temperature of the water until they froze to death in the ice and the cold; live human beings. And when they taught the men how to use their bayonets, they used live bait, they used human beings! On and on I could go.
Where did that come from? It came from the academic community of the school life, the university life of Germany. May I repeat? There is no historical evidence that advancement in education and learning contributes to the betterment of humanity, not at all. Because you are a graduate of a school does not mean you have a heart that is perfect before God.
Let’s take the other side of that. There is no evidence that advancement in learning brings economic blessings to the human family. Now that is the strangest thing that a minister could ever say. Above a certain level of subsistence, there is no evidence, none at all, that advancement in learning contributes to the blessing and the happiness of human life. Isn’t that a strange thing? You would think that the more that we possessed, and the greater wealth we had, the happier we would be. It seems that affluence and riches have just the opposite effect. They bring misery into the heart and the home of the people.
Let me give you a little illustration of that. I don’t look at TV very much, just ten o’clock on Sunday night I listen to the news and that’s about all. There are so many other things I would rather do than look at that idiot boob tube, just sit there and sit there and sit there. Well, I do not know how come that I started looking at this, seated there. Maybe one reason was the star in the play was Eddie Albert, and once in a while somebody who does not know will say, "Did you know you look like Eddie Albert?" Well, I just beam all over, you know. Maybe have been like that.
Anyway, the show, the play on that screen was in four parts. The first part, Eddie Albert is seated in a Fifth Avenue mansion in New York City. And he is seated at a long table. He is there, and at the other end of this long table is a beautiful wife, and they are being waited on by maids and butlers and all, who are beautifully dressed. And the wife down there at this end of the table is excoriating him, she is burning him up, she is cussing him alive, she is tearing him apart, she is plowing him under. Just, oh boy, she is working on him. And as though that were not enough, her father comes in, his father-in-law. He looks like one of those magnates, you know. He comes in as a captain of industry, and he stands there and he blasts that son-in-law of his. It is just awful what he says about him. That’s the first scene.
Scene number two, this Eddie Albert is in a swanky office in one of those high, high office buildings in New York City. He’s seated at a luxuriously appointed desk. And he bows his head, just so miserable he could die. And while he is seated there at his luxurious desk, the telephone rings and he picks it up. It is an old girl friend that he knew in a little village up there at the top of New England in which he was reared as a boy, and had loved that village girl. She says to him on the telephone, "You promised me that if I ever needed you, you’d come. I need you now, will you come?" That’s scene number two.
Number three, Eddie Albert is in the little village up there in New England. He’s in the little village. And he is talking to his girlfriend of the years and years gone by, and she says to him, she says to him, "My boy" – you see, she had married another villager there and remained in the little place. And has this young man, her son, and she says to Eddie Albert, "My boy, my boy has fallen in love here with a girl in the village. And he wants to marry her and to stay here in the village. And he has a menial job, and he wants to live with her and do that little job that he has, and to build his home here in the village with the girl that he loves." Now she says to Eddie Albert, "I want my boy to be like you. I want him to go to the big city. And I want him to make lots of money. And I want him to be a rich man and marry a rich girl. And I want you to persuade my boy to do just as you did: go to the city, be rich, and marry the daughter of a rich family."
All right, the last one: Eddie Albert meets with the boy, and he is talking to the boy. And he says finally to the lad, "Son, you marry that girl. And you stay here in this village, and you do that job, and make your home here in this place." What do you think about that? You think he’s crazy? No, a thousand times no! Riches and fame and fortune, affluence and big mansions don’t bring happiness to the human heart, not at all.
"Well pastor, then what would be the purpose of education and achievement, and striving after the things of God?" I can answer it in a word. The purpose of education is to glorify the Lord. That’s all. That’s all. "Lord, if You can use me, with a degree from the university," or as I lived, with the training of the seminary, "then Lord, here is my mind and my studying, that I be a wonderful servant for Thee." That’s all. That’s all. Not for any other reason, but just to glorify God.
What are we saying?
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
["Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus," by Helen Howarth Lemmel]
Just to magnify the Lord, and Master if being trained and educated can help me do that, then may I be a good student of the Book, and may I learn at the feet of the professor. Then may I go out into the world and be a marvelous witness to the goodness and grace of my wonderful Savior, the Lord Jesus. That is the whole summation and meaning and purpose of life. And there is not any other.
God bless you, young people, as you give heart and hand and soul and body and study and devotion to magnifying the Lord in all you do, everything you learn and the commitment you make in life to the purpose for which God called you and made you and borned you. Amen.
Now, let us pray together.