CENTENNIAL SANCTUARY SERMON: THE BIBLE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-3-90 10:50 a.m.
Thank you, glorious choir and orchestra, and we will be listening for the climactic part of the service with you in a few moments. And welcome, the glorious audience on radio and on television, sharing with us this marvelous day: the one hundredth anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of this house of worship, in which we have been worshipping for one hundred years.
And the sermon is in keeping with the one delivered that day, one hundred years ago, by Dr. Franklin Howard Kerfoot, born in Virginia the twenty-seventh of August in 1817, a Confederate soldier honored for his courage and endurance, a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, my alma mater, after other degrees he had received in other institutions. He was at once chosen upon being graduated from the seminary, as Professor of Pastoral Ministries. Then he was chosen by the pastor of this church, A. M. Simms, whose great-granddaughter is here today, a member of our church—and you will see her in a moment—Pastor Simms invited Dr. Kerfoot to deliver the dedicatory address upon the building of this new sanctuary.
The newspaper reports that—and I quote from it: “People were present who had never been seen at church”—that’s great. “The day was balmy,” the paper said, “the breeze is cool, the weather delightful, and such a collection of lovely spring bonnets.”
If you are here with a hat on, a woman, would you stand up? I’d just like to see you. If you’ve got a hat on, I want you to stand up. How nice to see you. Bless your heart. I love you. You look beautiful, I tell you. “And it made up a sea of bewildering beauty.”
Now his sermon: the text has been announced, the one that you read a moment ago, Psalm 11:3: “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” It was a message on the Bible. And I quote from him:
When we talk about the real foundation of the Christian faith, that upon which all Christianity is built, upon which all civilization is built, it may be summed up in one single word: the Bible. Take that Book away and what warrant have we for all this? The one explanation and foundation for it all is the Book: the Bible. While stands the Bible, our Christian faith stands; when it falls, if fall it could, there is no other hope for man. If the Bible goes, the church goes. Preach the Bible!
Amen. Then he continued:
People sometimes get shaken up by infidels. Thousands of young men get their thinking from Bob Ingersoll. They are reflecting his thoughts. Ingersoll tests the Bible with a sneer, with blasphemy, with an array of superficial wit which could never reach the ears and the soul of truth. Infidels hate the Bible. They don’t want to believe it because it condemns them.
And I have followed through with that word about Bob Ingersoll, whom I have heard about all of my life. Robert Green (Bob) Ingersoll was born in New York State in 1833. He lived the rest of his life in Illinois. He died in New York in 1899. He was the son of a Congregational pastor. He was a lawyer and an eloquent rhetorician. He was world-famous for his public diatribes against the Bible. From one side of this nation to the other, he spoke in great auditoriums, to vast audiences, ridiculing the Word of God.
Some of the titles of his orations: “The Mistakes of Moses,” “The Gods”—plural—”The Gods of the Bible,” and “Hell.” I remember reading about a colporteur who was up and down the train, selling, you know, those things, as they did a long time ago. And among other things that he was selling was a tract, published, an oration of Bob Ingersoll’s on hell. So he went up and down the train, holding up his tract, hollering, hawking, “Ingersoll on hell.”
Happened to be on that particular train, Dwight L. Moody was seated. And when the colporteur came by, Dwight L. Moody had in his briefcase some of his tracts on heaven. He said, “Son, I’ll give you these tracts and you sell them.” So the colporteur went up and down the train hawking: “Ingersoll on hell; heaven by Moody.” Amen!
Now T. Dewitt Talmage was one of the most phenomenal of all of the preachers of creation. He was pastor of the Tabernacle Church in Brooklyn, New York. And each week his sermon delivered the Sunday before, on Monday of that week, that message that Talmage preached was put on the front page of over three thousand newspapers in the world. There’s never been anything like that in the history of Christianity. And it was read by twenty million people every week. That went on for all of the years of Talmage’s ministry.
So Talmage preached a series of sermons on Bob Ingersoll. And this one entitled, “Mr. Ingersoll, the Champion Blasphemer of America,” begins—and I quote it because it gives you an idea of what Bob Ingersoll said up and down the whole earth. Quote from Talmage:
We have recently heard that the Christian religion is a huge blunder; that the Mosaic account of the creation is an absurdity; that the ancient Flood and Noah’s ark were impossibilities; that there never was a miracle;
that the Bible is the friend of cruelty, murder, polygamy, obscenity and of all forms of base crime; that it is from lid to lid a fable, a humbug, a sham, and a lie;
that the martyrs who died for its truth were miserable dupes; that the church is properly gazetted as a fool; that when Thomas Carlyle said “The Bible is a noble book,” he was dropping into imbecility; that it is something to bring a blush to every patriot that John Adams declared, “The Bible is the best book in all of the world”; that lion-hearted Andrew Jackson turned into a sniveling coward when he said that “the Bible is the rock upon which our republic rests”; that Daniel Webster abdicated his throne of logic and turnes into an idiot when he said “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a divine reality”; that William H. Seward, living in that day—the diplomat of the century only showed his puerility when he declared “The hope of human progress is suspended on the influence of the Bible”; that it is wisest for us to take the Book from the throne and to trample it under our feet with hatred and contempt; and that your old father was hoodwinked, cheated and befooled when he leaned on the Bible as a staff; and that your mother sat with a pack of lies on her lap while reading of that better country and of the reunion with her children she has buried with infinite heartache so that she could no longer read, but took her glasses off and wiped the tears from her eyes. Ingersoll’s teaching would fill all the penitentiaries and the gambling halls and the houses of shame on the planet. In twenty years, we would have a hell on earth, eclipsing in abomination the hell that Mr. Ingersoll has so much laughed at. I want to persuade our young people to get aboard God’s train of salvation, instead of throwing themselves across Ingersoll’s track of abomination.
Amen! God bless him. The attacks against the Bible have been persistent through all of the years and the centuries. The last great exhibit of ancient Greek philosophy was that: its Neo-Platonism. In about the 200s AD, an incomparably brilliant scholar by the name of Plotinus had no less a brilliant student named Porphyry. And Plotinus had his student Porphyry to study the Christian faith and to write vicious books against it. Porphyry did that: Kata Christianon, fifteen books he wrote against the Bible, attacking the Bible.
Well, what do I think and what can I say. Is that Book something of the truth of God on which I can base my life and my hope for eternity, or is it a volume full of errors and misleading revelations? What am I to think?
All right, let’s begin: as a book of history. Ingersoll went up and down the land. His most famous lecture was entitled “The Mistakes of Moses,” and it was his introduction to all of the errors in the Word of God. What about that? Books of history? Sweet people, they have been digging in these archaeological tells for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years, and there has never yet been one spade of earth turned that has contradicted any historical word in that holy and infallible Book; never, ever.
Let me give you some examples. For example, the scholastic world said, for God only knows how many centuries that the Bible was mistaken when it said that Moses wrote, Moses wrote those Ten Commandments; Moses wrote these things.
“Moses wrote,” and they scoffed and laughed, saying: “That was before writing was invented, and it’s an anachronism. It’s a mistake in the Bible.” Then they began to dig, and to dig, and to dig, and to dig in those archaeological mounds. And when we got through with Ugarit, with Ebla, with Ras Shamrah, with Tel Amarna, and a thousand other places, we learned that writing was known and practiced by mankind thousands of years before Moses.
All right, let’s take again. They scoffed at the thought of the Hittites. The Bible speaks again and again of the Hittites. And in sarcasm and ridicule, they said there was never any such thing as a Hittite. I can well remember when Life magazine, from cover to cover, had a tremendous presentation of the Hittite Empire; empire, one of the great empires of the world. Hittite: that is in the Book.
I can read, world without end, the scoffing of the infidels about Belshazzar. “There never was anybody, no less, much less a great king of Babylon named Belshazzar.” Then they began to dig in the cuneiform tablets hidden underneath the destruction of Babylon. Herodotus was there in Babylon seventy years after Belshazzar and he never heard about him; but the Bible tells the intricate story of Belshazzar, and the feast, and the destruction of the Babylonian Empire [Daniel 5:1-31]. Sweet people, from those tablets, those cuneiform inscriptions, I can write you a biography today about Belshazzar. That’s the Book!
Let me tell you just one other. For years and years and years, even in the beginning of my own ministry, I have read without end the scoffers saying that the Gospel of John presents a developed theology that could not have been possible beyond two hundred years after John the apostle lived. Two hundred years it would take to develop the theology in the Fourth Gospel. Then they discovered a papyrus in Egypt which shows that the Gospel of John must have been written at least by 98 AD, in the life of the apostle John. I could go on for the hours and the hours how every archeological discovery has confirmed the infallibility of the Word of God.
All right, let’s take again; this Book of wonders, written by over forty men over a period of 1500 years, against the background of every different kind of a civilization. But none of the weird and monstrous things you read in those civilizations is found in the Bible. Not one. Not one.
For example, the Egyptians had a cosmogony and an anthropology. And the Book said that Moses was “learned in all of the wisdom and knowledge of the Egyptians” [Acts 7:22]. So we can, by archaeological discovery, we can read the textbooks that Moses read, that Moses studied, the latest science of the day. And it would go like this: their cosmogony—where the earth came from, universe came from—their latest scientific discoveries were that the great infinitude above us had a flying egg, and it went round and round and round and when the process of mitosis was culminated, the earth was hatched and came out of that flying egg. Now that was the latest scientific cosmogony studied by Moses in the days of his bringing up, education. So I pick up my Bible and I expect to read about that flying ovoid out of which the earth was hatched. But instead, I read the ten most dynamic words in human speech: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” [Genesis 1:1]. That’s the Book, that’s the Book.
Or take again, their anthropology; they were not neo-evolutionists. The latest scientists in those days of Moses—they said, when the annual inundation of the Nile River overflowed Egypt and left the slime, that there were white worms. And out of those worms left by the overflowing of the Nile River, there developed the human family. Wouldn’t that thrill your heart? Wouldn’t that bless your soul? So, I pick up my Bible and, according to the latest scientific evolution of Egypt, I expect to read about the annual overflow and the slime and those white worms. But, instead, what I read is this: “God made man in His own image, in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them” [Genesis 1:27]. That’s God’s infallible word.
Let’s take another one. Let’s take the Babylonian science. They were also learned in all the wisdom of the day. And they had their scientific cosmogony and their scientific anthropology, also. So it went like this in Babylon. There was a great god named Marduk and a great evil god named Tiamat. And they fought and Marduk overwhelmed Tiamat. He was victorious. And according to their latest scientific theories, Marduk flattened out the body of Tiamat and that was the earth. Then when he flattened out the body of Tiamat and it became the earth, Marduk spit. And where he spat, men came up. And men spit, and where they spat women came up. And the women spit and where they spat, animals came up. That was the latest science of Babylonia. And when I read that, I thought about that sign—it was in a big warehouse: “Don’t smoke. Remember the Chicago fire.” And a wag wrote underneath it: “And don’t spit. Remember the Jonestown flood.” Oh, dear! I repeat, none of these strange and weird things—none of them will you find in the infallible Word of God.
Let’s take another miracle of the Bible: its perfect, scientific accuracy today. That Book was written 2,000 years ago, and to this day its amazing contemporary, scientific accuracy is a miracle of God Himself. Just look at it. In the twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Job, it says: “God hangeth the world upon nothing, God hangeth the world upon nothing” [Job 26:7]. That was thousands of years before we learned that this sphere is out there in space with nothing holding it but the hand of Almighty God. Job writes: “God hangeth the world upon nothing” [Job 26:7]. When Job wrote that, everybody believed, and for centuries thereafter, that there was some kind of a solid foundation that held up the earth. The Egyptians said it was held up by five great pillars, held up, foundation of five great pillars: four at each corner and one in the middle. And you know when I got to thinking about that, I could quite understand how they thought they could crawl to the corner of the earth and look at those four pillars, but how in the earth were they going to get under there to look at that one in the center? Now I call that pure speculation. But that was the Egyptian idea of the foundation of the earth.
Or let’s take again the Greeks. There’s not a schoolboy in the earth but that knows that the Greeks believed that the earth was held up on the back of a great giant named Atlas. That was the Greek. As philosophically advanced as they were, the Greek idea was that the earth was held on the back of a giant named Atlas. Or the Hindus; the Hindus believed that there was a great elephant and he was standing on a giant turtle and the turtle is swimming in a cosmic sea. And the earth is balanced on the back of that giant elephant and, when it moves, that accounted for the earthquakes. That’s the latest science of the whole civilized earth. But God’s Book says: “He hangeth the world upon nothing” [Job 26:7].
Or take again, in the fortieth chapter of the Book of Isaiah; Isaiah speaks of the circle of the earth, the rounding of the earth [Isaiah 40:22]. My sweet people, that was thousands of years before we discovered that the earth was round. Did you know, in my first full-time pastorate, I had a deacon who was the dean of the university in which the town was built, and he believed that the earth was flat and square, and used to argue with me? Isaiah says it is round. He speaks of the circle of the earth [Isaiah 40:22]. I can go on forever.
Did you know in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, in the third verse, is the finest description of the atomic theory that you’ll read in the English language? [Hebrews 11:3].
I have to close. The Book, I admit, is by no means a book of history. It doesn’t propose to be a recounting of the civilization of the earth. It is not a book of science, was not written to teach us the scientific truths that lie back of our great marvelous world. You see, the Book was written that I might be saved, that I might go to heaven when I die [John 20:31]. And as such it’s the dearest, sweetest guide to heaven you could ever think for. God gave it to us that we might see His face someday and live [Revelation 22:4].
I want to show that to you. For the years I was a country pastor; one of my half-time churches was White Mound in Coryell County; preached there every other Sunday. And I was single in all those years and I lived with the people. So I was out there to preach and was staying in the home of Uncle Ed Davidson, one of my deacons, a godly man. And he put in my hand a book. And he said, “This is the strangest book I ever saw in my life. What is that?” Well, I looked at it. I said, “Well, Uncle Ed, that is a Spanish Bible. That’s a Bible written in Spanish.”
“Well,” he said, “I can’t read a word of Spanish. What shall I do with it?” I said, “I’ll tell you what to do with it. You take that Book. You have a Spanish-Mexican tenant on your farm with a whole house full of little kids. You give that Book to that Spanish, that Mexican tenant farmer of yours.” And he did. And upon a day when I came back to preach, why, Uncle Ed said to me, “I don’t know what to do. I gave them that Book, and they have read it. And they have come to me saying, ‘We found the Lord. We’ve been saved. And we want to be baptized according to what it says in the Book,’” [Matthew 28:19-20].
My brethren, that was the first confrontation of religious prejudice in my pastoral work. They said to me, “We don’t take Mexicans in the church and we’re not going to have them come down that aisle for baptism.” Well, here’s your preacher again. I said, “We surely are. When I get through preaching and extend the invitation, down the aisle, I’m looking for that Mexican family.” They acquiesced. When I got through preaching, down the aisle came that Mexican family, and I baptized them in the river.
Well, the days passed and I went out to my country pastorate. And Uncle Ed Davison said to me, he said, “Pastor, my Mexican family, my tenant family, their house burned down. The tenant family house burned down, and I have housed them temporarily another place on my farm. But they want to see you. They want me to bring you to them.” I said, “Wonderful.” So, I got in his T-model and he drove me to that temporary tenant farm, the Mexican family. And when I got out of the car, out of the house came that Mexican dad, that father, and behind him his wife, and behind the wife those children, the whole gang of them. And they came out in a procession to me. And he was holding in his hand that Bible. They had had a fire that burned down the house. And he was holding in his hand that Bible. And when he got to me he said, “Young pastor, I dashed into the flames and I rescued my Bible. It was about half-burned.” And he said, “Here is the Word of God that has saved our souls and blessed my family.”
When Sir Walter [Scott] lay dying, he said to his son-in-law, Lockhart, “Son, bring me the Book.” And Lockhart, in that great library of that Scottish bard, said, “Father, what book?” And Sir Walter Scott replied, “Son, there’s just one Book; just one.” And Lockhart brought Sir Walter Scott the Bible, and the great poet died with that Book in his hand.
“There’s just one Book!” cried the dying sage;
“Read me the old, old story.”
And the winged words that can never age
Wafted his soul to glory.
There’s just one Book.
That was the subject of the sermon first preached in this church, and God grant that we be true to its revelation until we see Him and one another in glory.
And our great God in heaven, what a wonder it is, the revelation in the infallible Word of a Savior who is Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth [John 1:1-3], and coming again to receive unto Himself these who have found refuge in Him [1 Thessalonians 4:13-17], God bless and keep. And we want in the deep of our hearts to love Thee and serve Thee forever, in Thy precious name.
We’re going to sing us a song of appeal, and while we sing the song of appeal, a family you to come into the fellowship of our dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; a couple you, a one anybody, somebody you, to give your heart to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], on the first note of the first stanza, come. And God bless you in the way, angels attend you, while we sing our hymn.
CENTENNIAL SANCTUARY SERMON: THE BIBLE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
FBC Dallas history
Bible as a book on history
1. Ingersoll’s “Mistakes
2. Every point of
Ingersoll has since been proven wrong
Bible as a book of wonder
1. Written by 40
men over a period of 1500 years
2. None of the
weird beliefs of other civilizations found in the Bible
Bible as a book of modern scientific accuracy
Bible as a book of salvation