"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

More Wild Winds From Texas Are Needed

Today I viewed a priceless video interview with Dr. W. A. Criswell and his wife Betty on their 62nd Wedding Anniversary. Dr. W.A. Criswell told several anecdotal narratives, totally impromptu, that give the listener insight into several unique characteristics of Dr. Criswell’s life, marriage and ministry. I learned why Dr. Criswell was never seen in old, shoddy clothes, including at home. I learned of the Criswell’s love for antiques, and through Dr. Criswell’s ten minute detailed explanation, the history of the porcelain Easter egg. But the one story that caught my attention began when Dr. Criswell was asked two questions about meeting Betty in 1933, whom he later married in 1935. The interchange begins at minute fifty one of the videotape:

Question: “Now Dr. C. you knew Betty two years before you married her?”

Dr. Criswell: “At least”

Question: “Did she have other boyfriends?”

Dr. Criswell: “Good night yes. Unspeakably so. Indescribably so. Unforgiveably so.”


Dr. Criswell: “You know how come my knowing her? I was raised out here you know. I never dreamed of a church such as they have over there east of the river. And in Kentucky it was an unwritten law that no female was ever to pray in public. I never heard of anything like that in my life.”

Mrs. Criswell: “You know that’s true”

Dr. Criswell: “So my introduction to Mt. Washington where she grew up, which was seventeen miles from the seminary, I was there first on Wednesday night, and I wanted to have a prayer meeting. I was going to speak and on and on, but I wanted to have a prayer meeting. So I had them bow their heads and I started with that woman there (pointing) and asked her to pray. Oh boy, she was insulted. Then I asked her to pray, the next one. Same thing. Asked her to pray. Asked her to pray. I went clear through the front row.

Mrs. Criswell: “You would think anybody would know better than to keep on and on . .”

Dr. Criswell: "Well I just did. I had never heard of anything such as no woman was allowed to pray in public. So when I got through the first row I started on the second one here. And then I asked that woman to pray. “No.” And the next one, and the next one. And finally I got to that girl (pointing) – later Bessie Marie Harris – and I got to her. And I asked her to pray."

"And she did. That’s the first time I ever saw her and the first time I had ever heard of her. And I said, ‘How in the earth is it that all the women refused and when I got to you, why you led in the prayer?' And she said, 'I just got full of pity for you, so when you got to me I just decided I was going to pray."

"Well that was my introduction to Bessie Marie Harris."

Question: "Well now she must have just been awestruck with you from the beginning."

Dr. Criswell: “Good night no.”

Mrs. Criswell: "This wild wind from Texas we’ve never seen in Kentucky. All our preachers were nice and quiet. We started home after the service and I said, “I hope I never see that man again.” My mother said, "We’ll I hope we do he’s the only right thing that’s come into this land in memory."

I love this story.

May the Wally Amos Criswells in our convention increase. May we constantly challenge unwritten and unspoken rules that we don’t find in Scripture. May we persevere when all we hear are naysayers. May the world around us change because we stand alone against tradition and emphasis the freedom and liberty found in God’s Word.

In His Grace,



Cecdaddy said...

When I first became a pastor, I found a book in my new church that had been left there by the former pastor upon his retirement. The book was "Criswell's Guidebook for Pastors," and it has been extremely helpful and encouraging to me.

He certainly was a "wild wind," but there were also times when he was timid. He seems to have viewed those moments as a weakness; he believed that following God required boldness at all times. Because of that, even when he was fearful of the result, he spoke boldly and faithfully and trusted God to take care of the rest.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful interchange between Dr. Criswell and his wife.

David Cecil

Anonymous said...


this is a great story. dr. criswell is one of my hero's in the faith. i wish that we had many dr. criswell's in the sbc right now. i can still hear his voice at one of the sbc meetings back in the 80's crying out that we should get the liberal skunks out of the sbc. he was something special.

i can also still hear dr. adrian rogers voice as he told us that we shouldnt be dogmatic about unclear things in the bible, but that we should be bulldogmatic about things that were clearly spelled out in the bible.

wade, believe it, or not, but in a lot of w. tn churches and north ms and w. ky and n.e. arkansas churches, or the mid-south as we call it, still have that mindset about women not praying in public. i have faced similar times in churches as dr. criswell did as i called on women to pray, or invited whoever in the sanctuary to pray during a prayer meeting.

also, i have heard that when cokes first came out in cans, that a lot of christians were against drinking them. that it would look like you were drinking a beer, so you shouldnt drink anything out of a can to avoid the appearance of evil. also, my grandmother was against anyone playing cards in her house due to it looking too much like gambling. and, the list goes on and on over laws that some groups, or regional areas, had that really had no real backing from scripture. i agree with you that we should break those laws and mores of society just as Jesus did to the pharisees legalistic laws.

but, to the clear teachings of scripture.....let's be bulldogmatic about them.


ps. wade, for some reason i could not post under my name. it kept telling me that i was using the incorrect password, and i wasnt.

Wade Burleson said...


You said,

"Wade, believe it, or not, but in a lot of w. tn churches and north ms and w. ky and n.e. arkansas churches, or the mid-south as we call it, still have that mindset about women not praying in public. i have faced similar times in churches as dr. criswell did as i called on women to pray, or invited whoever in the sanctuary to pray during a prayer meeting.

I have heard that when cokes first came out in cans, that a lot of christians were against drinking them. that it would look like you were drinking a beer, so you shouldnt drink anything out of a can to avoid the appearance of evil. also, my grandmother was against anyone playing cards in her house due to it looking too much like gambling. and, the list goes on and on over laws that some groups, or regional areas, had that really had no real backing from scripture. i agree with you that we should break those laws and mores of society just as Jesus did to the pharisees legalistic laws.

But, to the clear teachings of scripture.....let's be bulldogmatic about them."

Someone STOP the presses!!

I agree 100% with VOLFAN!

Who would ever have thunk it.


P.S. Now if I can just get him to see that some things he's bulldogmatic about are not clear teachings of Scripture we will have arrived.

Trigun said...

W.A. - often imitated but never replicated.

Sadly, most of anything I know of Dr. Criswell is through books and people old enough to have known him well. I've yet to come across a person or book that spoke of him in a bad light though.

He seemed like a really cool guy. I didn't even know him personally and I miss him! Our loss was certainly heaven's gain.

Anonymous said...

Sorry that I must remain anonymous due to my work. But I would like to relate a brief story about my one encounter with Dr. Criswell.

He once came and spoke at a pastor's conference near my church. After he spoke, about 5 or six other pastors and I took him out to a catfish restaurant for lunch. Believe me, this was no fancy place! It was one of those hole-in-the-wall greasy spoons where the food is really tasty.

There we sat with WA all dressed up in his three-piece suit with his coat off and his sleeves rolled up eating catfish. He really enjoyed his fish, even though he couldn't eat it all. He insisted that the rest of us eat his leftovers so it wouldn't go to waste. The meal and conversation was great and he was one of the wisest, nicest, most humble, down-to-earth men I have ever met.

After the meal, we were standing in the line to pay and I was standing right in front of Dr. Criswell. The thought occurred to me that I might not ever have the chance to meet him again this side of heaven. So, rather abruptly, I turned around and looked him in the eye and asked, "Pastor, can I hug your neck?" With a big smile, he grabbed me and gave me a big bear hug and patted me on the back. As we were hugging each other, he said, "You sure are a sweet boy!"

I can still hear his voice. It's a moment I will always remember. I look forward to giving him another hug in heaven someday.

Ben Stratton said...


Women still don't pray in public in 90%+ of the Southern Baptists churches in western Kentucky.

As far as this being a tradition not found in scripture:

"I will therefore that men (males) pray ever where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." I Timothy 2:8

Before someone says this is an ignorant interpretation of scripture, no less a Southern Baptist than John R. Broadus held this same view. As a matter of fact most 19th century Baptists believed the same.

Anonymous said...

Women do pray as worship leaders in my church (in Oklahoma) though I have been in other churches where women did not pray aloud in general worship services. In fact, I led the offertory prayer last Sunday morning.

As for Scripture, I Corinthians 11:5 says women should cover their heads when they pray and prophesy (which in many contexts is interpreted as preaching!). Paul did not say they shouldn't do it, just how they should dress when they did. (Women aren't usually required to cover their heads in church any more. Most accept this practice as cultural rather than timeless.)

As for the I Timothy verse quoted, I seldom, and certainly not in traditional Baptist churches, see men "lifting holy hands in prayer". But certainly holy and without wrath or doubting should apply to all prayers.


selahV said...

Susie: I like your spunk. selahV

Volfan: we prayed in our Western KY churches--the older women didn't feel comfortable doing it--but 50 and under did when they were led of the Lord.

Wade: great anecdotal insight for we folks on Criswell. What unspoken rules are "necessary" to challenge that are not in scripture? Is all tradition enslaving? selahV

Bart Barber said...


John A. Broadus. Let's not confuse him with John R. Rice! :-)

Blessings, brother.

Gill Lindsay said...

At FBC Dallas' School of the Prophets in 1976 I heard Dr. Criswell say in an address to us 'preacher boys' that "anyone who speaks in tongues is an unadulterated idiot!" I remember being a more than a little surprised by such a bold statement.

Wonder what he'd say about the PPL issue today?

"Whether we live or die" in '85 is one of the greatest sermons I've ever heard in person.

The longer I live the more I realize that having some eccentricities does not disqualify us from a deep relationship with the Lord Jesus - Praise God!

Wade Burleson said...

Ahh, Gill,

You put your finger on the problem. To Criswell, a woman forbidden to pray is ridiculous, and even a couple of people on this thread have disagreed with the legend on that one. Yet, according to Criswell, one who speaks in tongues is an idiot, and I'm sure that more than a few on this thread would disagree with his assessment.

I personally believe Southern Baptists should focus on the fundamentals of the faith and cooperate around those, and be very, very hesitant to separate in fellowship over disagreements in other areas.

volfan007 said...


what, pray tell, are the things that i am bulldogmatic about that are not clearly spelled out in scripture????? i always try to base my beliefs on the clear teachings of the bible.

i just wish that more people could see more clearly. i would gladly lend my glasses to those who cannot see clearly. lend..not give....lend, for i need my glasses very badly. :)


Wade Burleson said...

All right Volfan, you asked for it.

"Do not forbid the speaking in tongues" (I Cor. 14:39).

What is your view on this clear teaching of the Bible?

I just take it at face value and would never even consider forbidding a Southern Baptist missionary to serve because he prays in tongues in private. How about you?

Debbie said...

david: Ha ha ha. Me too. :)

Ben: Not to begin a debate, but I take the word men to mean all people. Men and women. It's translated from Greek the same as verses 1 and 4.

I enjoyed reading this anecdote today. My 23rd wedding anniversary is this month and I would like to think when we have been married 62 years that we too would be able to remember fondly as the Criswells have.

Bart Barber said...

Bro. Wade:

When's the last time someone spoke in tongues in the worship service there in Emmanuel, Enid?

When do you anticipate that it will happen next?

Wade Burleson said...

Bart Barber,

Never. We follow the Scripture -- we would rather speak five words publicly in a known language than ten thousand in an unknown language. However, if someone chose to speak in tongues publicly, we would not prohibit it, and we would follow Scripture.

We would stop the person and ask if someone would interpret for us.

We would then proceed decently and in order. First, the gift of tongues, second, the gift of interpretation.

We would insure that no interpretation violated the written word of God.

These restrictions are so strict, and come straight from the Bible, that the public speaking of tongues is extraordinarily rare -- and in our case has never happened.

But we don't prevent it. We just follow the Scripture.

Oh, by the way, I have a deacon prepared for the interpretation --

"Pastor, he's just promised to give $10,000 to the building program."


volfan007 said...


i'm so glad that i caused you to laugh today. i'm always glad to brighten someone's day. was it the comment about lending my glasses that caused you to laugh so heartily?


do we really have the time and space to discuss such a topic? first of all, it's clear in the bible that tongues is not ecstatic jibberish....it's a known language unknown to the speaker.

secondly, i have stated...and will continue to state...that if someone wants to speak in unknown, ecstatic words.....in a personal, private prayer closet...then, let them have it. if it does them some emotional good....then go for it. and, i would apply this to missionaries as well, as long as they would keep it private! dont teach it to others. keep it truly private.

thirdly, i dont think that the Lord would want people to be speaking in ecstatic, unknown, unintelligible words in a worship service. it would be foolish and confusing and disorderly. i would ask them to stop, and i feel that the Lord would want me to ask them to stop.

wade, would you allow "tongue speaking" to happen at your church? have yall had tongue speaking in your worship services?


volfan007 said...


we must have been posting at the same time. so, do you think that tongues was ecstatic, unintelligible words?


Cecdaddy said...

Anonymous Anonymous,

I have another anecdotal story about WA Criswell, but I got it secondhand over the radio in Dallas.

At some time in his ministry, I understand that a couple had, as their sole job, the responsibility of driving him to his speaking engagements and caring for his needs while travelling. They would take him out to eat at places like Dairy Queen, load him up with greasy foods, nachos, etc.

When they turned in their expense accounts to the host churches, they were always questioned about where they ate. "Why didn't you take him somewhere nice?" "Why didn't you treat him to the finest restaurants in town?" Their response was always the same, "Dr. Criswell preaches better on junk food."

I hope it is true, I dearly like that story.

David Cecil

Bart Barber said...

I really like that gift of interpretation!

Bart Barber said...

But do you think it the plain reading of 1 Corinthians that Paul was attempting to regulate the public speaking of tongues out of existence?

Wade Burleson said...

Yes, I do believe that Paul put so many restrictions on the speaking of tongues in public in order to make it an extraordinarily rare practice.

Wade Burleson said...


Other than maybe a little softer approach to those with the gift of tongues, I do not disagree with you an any point you make.

The problem began when the question asked on IMB missionary application was:

"Do you pray in tongues in private?"

It used to be that the person who answered 'yes' would be told 'O.K. just keep it private and don't speak in tongues in public on the mission field.'

Now, they are told they are disqualifed.

I believe that is a direct violation of the Scripture "Do not forbid the speaking in tongues" and my conscience is bound to Scripture and not man made tradition.

And, of course, I do not have the gift of tongues, nor do I desire it.

John Moeller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Moeller said...

How about a little experiment?

For those who believe tongues to be only that described in Acts 2….. I challenge you to go visit other church services, not a Benny Hinn, or other sensationalized tele-evangelist, but a simple, Gospel loving church who experiences manifestations of the gifts in service.

Go a few times, listen, watch, and then ask God to confirm or reject what you have seen, heard and felt. I used to think it was all a bunch of junk too, until I went for myself, experienced it in a service, and realized that I could understand every word that someone spoke in “tongues”. I then had to become bold enough to give the interpretation.

All this academic theological discussion stuff will never change anyone’s opinion. The rules of baseball are all real nice, but if you never take the field and play ball, you will never realize that some of the rules sound nice on paper but are acted out differently on the field. God can’t be put in a box, His ways our not our ways, and He will surely confound the wise every time.


Wade Burleson said...


Thanks for your humble approach.

I do not, in any form or fashion, dispute your Biblical approach or personal experience to the gift of tongues. It seems balanced and I am grateful to hear from someone who has experienced the gift of interpretation. I guess my only question would be 'how do you know it is the gift of tongues being manifested when what you hear in the gift of interpretation you receive is in English?

John Moeller said...


Excellent question.

An interpretation, nor any of the gifts really happen as you describe. On tongues, I may here someone speak in tongues and think nothing of it. On other occasions, I will hear the person speak in tongues and get an overwhelming pressure to speak afterwards. It is probably the very same overwhelming pressure you may feel when you feel the need to say something to someone, pray with them, or witness to them.

I may not have the entire message in my head, but I also may. The pressure persists, prompting me to open my mouth and say what is captured in my head. Assuming I obey, I speak the sentences I feel pressured to say, and the overwhelming feeling transitions into a feeling that I was correct to say what I said. Aka, God confirms to me, good job.

It’s the same thing with all the gifts. You may study, feel prompted, even pressured to preach a certain thing. You do, and it gets confirmed when someone comes to you and thanks you for preaching that thing. You have the gift God gave you to preach.

I also have the gift of knowledge. It works the same way. I receive an overwhelming pressure to say something to someone. When I speak it, God sheds light on that person’s situation, and opens doors to minister.

Before everyone gets crazy, let me ask; Have you ever been in a place, say the walmart check-out line, and you just have a strong feeling that you need to say something to the person in front of you? So you introduce yourself and say something real simple like, God really loves you, or God knows what you are going through. All of a sudden that person starts pouring out their troubles and you get to minister to them….. That’s a word of knowledge. You spoke to their need without knowing them…

Please don’t think that what you see on television is the real deal of the gifts… God has granted each of us gifts. It’s simple though, it’s a subtle pressure to speak to someone. It’s when you know what your kids are doing while they are on a date, and you call their cell phone to tell them to not do that and come home. It’s that feeling you get to not drive on this road, something is wrong up ahead. It’s when you get a vision of trouble, and make changes in your life to avoid them.

These are the gifts. No white suits, no cameras, just simply listing to God and allowing Him to speak to you and ask you to speak/minister to the needs of others.

Wade Burleson said...

Thanks John for the clarification.

John Moeller said...


In short. You probably operate in more gifts than you recognize. You just operate in the way God intended. You don’t make a show of it, you let the Spirit lead you, and you minister to the people God places in front of you.

I am reminded of a friend who, in the middle of the airport, placed his hands on my daughter’s eyes because she kept getting pink eye, and had a bad case of it that day. He simply said, Jesus, may she never get pink eye again. My daughter woke up the next morning without pink eye and has never gotten it again. That was 7 years ago. A gift of healing.

You have to realize it’s “that still small voice” not the TV junk. It’s the Spirit whispering, pray for that little girl, I’ll touch her if you only ask.... Talk to that stranger, they need a touch from God... Don't go that way, there is trouble ahead.... Call your friend Sue, she needs someone to tell her God loves her....

This is where the gifts are.


pfdfyrfytr said...

I have tried to email you a response, but i am at work and having trouble. Please feel free to post about dad. I have just talked to him and he is doing very well!! All tests have come back ok so far, just waiting on some blood work and an echocardiagram.

thanks for the prayers
brian cleveland

volfan007 said...


i asked....do you believe that the tongue speaking in nt times was unintelligible words..ecstatic utterances? or, was it a known language unknown to the speaker?

also, i agree with bart. i think paul was trying to straigten up a charismatic mess at the church in corinth where the ecstatic utterance type tongue speaking was drifting into the church from the wild and emotional orgie worship that was taking place in the heathen temple down the street, where the temple priestesses(prostitutes) would work themselves up into an emotional frenzy. then, they'd speak in unintelligible words, much like some african tribes did/do in thier pagan worship. and, paul was trying to lead the corinthian church away from that type of tongue speaking, and really from tongue speaking altogether. the corinthian church had many problems that had to be straightened out.


Wade Burleson said...


Point me to clear teaching of Scripture that supports your views.

Bart Barber said...

See, now, here's a point where we disagree. And perhaps it is one of the root disagreements of the whole shebang.

Paul's regulations were not anything onerous at all, presuming that there is such a thing as the biblical gift of interpretation in operation at the time. If the Corinthian church had folks with that gift in the congregation, then they could have had two or three tongues-speakers saying something in tongues at each worship service. The Pauline regulations address the problems of an interpreter not being present, not the problem of an interpreter not presently existing.

The reason that your regulations work so well to eliminate tongues-speaking today (apart from the fear of being dunned for $10,000), is the presumption that there will not be (or at least will not usually be) anyone in the congregation able to interpret. The assumption that these requirements would make tongues-speaking extremely rare is necessarily an assumption that the gift of interpretation either has ceased or has all-but-ceased.

Thus the difference: I observe the same phenomenon and conclude that today just isn't exactly the same as the New Testament era. The fact that the New Testament rules stamp out this whole modern-day phenomenon reveals clearly to me that the modern-day phenomenon is not the New Testament phenomonon. That's not my choice; it is just my honest observation. If it were the biblical gift of tongues, I should think that it would benefit the church to encourage its public practice.

You (it seems to me) presume that both the modern-day phenomenon and the New Testament phenomenon were something to be discouraged.

Wade Burleson said...


How can you say what you say when the Apostle himself said, "I would rather speak five words of understanding than ten thousand in an unknown tongue." It doesn't look like Paul is encouraging the public use of tongues.

volfan007 said...


again.........i asked....do you believe that the tongue speaking in nt times was unintelligible words..ecstatic utterances? or, was it a known language unknown to the speaker?

and, does your church forbid women from speaking in tongues in the public worship? as paul talked about in corinthians concerning the women being quiet? 1 corinthians 14:34


Bart Barber said...

Bro. Wade:

What I said differs not at all with what Bro. Paul has said. Paul's stipulations clearly allow for two or three people to speak in tongues at every occasion when the church is gathered to worship. The verse you cited expresses a preference of prophecy over tongues. Uninterpreted tongues are forbidden; interpreted tongues contribute to the edification of the church and are worthwhile; prophecy is preferable to all.

I prefer Macs to PCs, but I am not working to regulate PCs out of existence.

Wade Burleson said...


We follow the Scripture - always.

Headed out of town. Have a great weekend.

volfan007 said...


i'm taking that answer as a "i dont wanna answer those questions" answer. ok.

have a great weekend to you, too.]


Wade Burleson said...


Take it as 'we follow the Scripture to the nth degree, never deviating from it -- but we don't follow Scripture on these issues the way you interpret it.


Bob Cleveland said...

HEY ... you guys gotta lotta nerve talking about unknown tongues while I'm laid up!

Oh well. Life is one lost opportunity after another.