CP Opinion

Friday, Oct 24, 2014

The Best Hope for a Rapidly Deteriorating World

  • (By CP Cartoonist Rod Anderson)
    Wallace Henley is an exclusive CP columnist.
June 3, 2014|8:05 am

Global governance may be "all that saves us as a species," says one of the world's top foreign policy experts.

I met the man who has counseled presidents and other leaders recently in Europe. His comments were for non-attribution, so I cannot name him. Usually foreign policy experts, like the diplomats who look to them for guidance, speak obliquely and cautiously. As a White House aide many years ago and a congressional staffer later, I have attended numerous briefings by the international relations wonks. I cannot remember any speaking as bluntly as the man I met in Europe.

Though not identified as a Bible believer, his take on the contemporary world is similar –at one point at least – to many who view global issues through scriptural lens. The world, he says, is in a "constant state of deterioration."

The "deterioration" now is even more intense because of factors peculiar to the modern world. "Historically in war one had to defeat a nation's military to destroy the country," he says. But in the modern world, because of the potentials presented by new cyberwar capabilities, it is possible to conquer a nation without first overcoming its military defenders. In fact, increasingly in our times, there is "no verifiable definition for victory."

The complications of our time arise from the dual categories of capability and intentionality. Adversarial nations may intend the destruction of states they perceive as their enemies, but the crucial issue is whether or not they are capable of carrying out the intention.

This seems neat and logical until one considers the wild card: rationality. In strategic-talk an "irrational" state is one driven by a cause or set of values it believes to be of greater importance than its own survival. Had Hitler had the atomic bomb in April, 1945, as Germany was at the threshold of defeat, there is no question he would have used it, says the expert.

How "rational" is North Korean ruler Kim, or the leaders of states driven by a religious vision for world domination?

In addition to the wild card factor regarding rationality, Russian leader Putin adds much uncertainty. The world may be facing "the emergence of a new cold war," thinks the anonymous international affairs specialist. In fact, Russia may be willing to help states with whom it is developing ties develop nuclear capability.

Nations recognized now as officially nuclear states, as determined by their signatures on nuclear non-proliferation treaties, include the USA, Britain, China, France, and the "USSR" (the name relevant at the time of signing prior to the Soviet Union's collapse).

But there are other nations that are nuclear "obliquely" or with "ambiguity" (everyone knows they have the bomb that does not exist officially), and others on the edge of nuclear capability. These have signed no non-proliferation treaties, and those that have can withdraw by giving 90 days' notice.

All these factors existed in a much simpler environment in the Cold War-era bipolar world, when the United States and the Soviet Union were the world's two superpowers. Now, however, we inhabit a "multipolar" world in which the United States is backing away from global leadership, Russia and China are on the rise, and several more states – some of them "non-rational" – are growing militarily.

What's likely to happen in this increasingly hot cauldron? What can save humanity? The foreign affairs specialist named five components of whatever hope exists:
1. An improvement in the global balance of power. Some strategic thinkers believe the world would actually be safer if more nations had nuclear capability. This, they suggest, would create deterrence like that between the West and the Communist world in the Cold War era. This "balance" is unlikely to happen, and probably wouldn't help if it did.
2. Nuclear arms control. This would require nations committing to restrain their own development of nuclear weapons. States feeling themselves vulnerable in a nuclear world are unlikely to take such action. Those countries who envision a world dominated by their beliefs and worldview probably won't back down.
3. Nuclear disarmament. While this might be an admirable policy goal, it will not happen in the present international environment. Policing would present huge challenges, and without it no one would rest easy.
4. Global governance. Though the expert didn't say so, this would require a monopolar global hegemon (a dominating global power). This, the specialist says, as noted earlier, may be humanity's best and last hope. Bible students would disagree because this suggestion raises the portent of Antichrist. Though the expert saw this as the best possibility, he did mention one more factor that could save the "species":
5. The transformation of human behavior. The foreign affairs specialist did not elaborate on this point. From a strictly materialistic-naturalistic perspective it seems an impossible dream.

Everyone on the planet has a worldview. Those who understand reality through a biblical view know transformation is the fundamental issue. "Where do wars come from?" asks James, rhetorically. They come from our lusts and passions. We desire power and possessions, and we enter conflicts to satisfy those perceived needs.

Biblically formed thinkers are the ultimate realists. While many in the world try to find other explanations for "irrational" human behavior whether in the form of nations or individuals, those who embrace the Bible's worldview know the bottom line: "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)

Then follows the question: What worldview can really bring human transformation that benefits the rest of the world? Certainly not a belief system that advocates intimidation, manipulation, condemnation, and domination to force global allegiance.

Suddenly the Christ towers in our precarious moment: the Christ who taught us to love our enemies, to be harmless as doves but simultaneously wise as serpents, to lead as servants, the Christ who renews the human mind, and who gives us a whole new way of seeing and living.

This is why Winston Churchill said – as I noted in a recent column – there is no better hope than Christ's principles in the Sermon on the Mount. This is why the real church, Jesus-centered, Spirit-energized, Word-anchored, and Kingdom envisioning really does hold "the keys of the Kingdom."

Wallace Henley is senior associate pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church. He serves as adjunct professor in worldview studies at Belhaven University. Henley's newest book is Your First Step in Heaven: What Happens Immediately at Death, published by Worldwide Publishing Group.
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