“My mother had an expression: ‘Out of everything terrible something good would happen,’” said Joe Biden recently to a Business Roundtable group. “I think this presents us with some significant opportunities to make some real changes,” Biden continued.
What he had in mind was the potential for a global “re-set.”
In fact, Biden thinks, “the entire world is at an ‘inflection point’”— which he describes as a period of opportunity and redefinition that comes amidst crisis in every three or four generations.
Vladimir Putin would likely agree. Philosopher Alexander Dugin, perhaps Putin’s closest policy advisor — sometimes referred to as “Putin’s brain” — said, regarding the war with Ukraine, “Russia is destined to win ... We have no other choice ... This is an existential threat to us, so victory is our only choice.”
He believes the struggle over Ukraine is a fight against “American hegemony (domination) and the “global liberal elites who are trying to take over the world.” Dugin, and, one assumes, Putin also, sees this as a new totalitarianism that must be resisted.
But the answer is not in the despotism of the one any more than in elitism of the few.
This stare-down has brought us once more to the critical era when civilization itself is at stake.
A close study of history shows that as there are motifs in a great musical composition, so there are motifs running across the opus of finite time (Mark Twain called it “rhyming” time). One of these themes recurring in history is the destroyer-deliverer motif.
In every generation, there is a destroyer who rises seemingly out of nowhere whose aim is a conquest and the re-figuring of the global order. But a deliverer arrives on the scene to stand against the destroyer.
In writing the book, God and Churchill with Sir Winston Churchill’s great-grandson, the late Jonathan Sandys, I came to a broadened understanding of how Churchill viewed the civilizational issues at stake in his era: It was either take-over by the Fascist worldview, or the freedoms and beliefs of Judeo-Christian civilization, in which, Churchill said, “resides all that makes existence precious to man.”
A civilization, as the etymology of the word suggests, revolves around its cities. Lucifer-Apollyon — the ultimate destroyer — wants to bring down the cities, according to the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 14). Jeremiah also saw the significance of the city and said people should seek the welfare of the city where they live as natives, or by happenstance, because in its welfare its dwellers will have welfare (Jeremiah 29:7).
Civilizations are fragile, wrote Christopher Dawson. Malcolm Muggeridge said they “wax and wane”... and “the world is full of the debris of past civilizations.” Muggeridge went straight to the spiritual heart of the issue: “Fallen human nature is the culprit ... it’s in the nature of man and all that he constructs to perish, and it must ever be so.”
Arnold Toynbee traced the development and decay of 19 historic civilizations that have come and gone. The stages through which they all passed were genesis, growth, time of troubles, universal state, and finally, disintegration.
It would seem that the struggle now is for the development and rulership of the “universal state.” Will it be the “liberal” wonder envisioned by Joe Biden, or the global system under the dominance of the new Russian state, restored to glory through Putin’s leadership.
But if bringing the world under the “glory” of a new, human-contrived world order is the aim, wars will be inevitable.
Both Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin claim to believe in the God revealed in the Bible — and both appeal to Him. The world would be safer if they read the works of another believer, St. Augustine, and especially his book, The City of God, where he writes: “The bodies of irrational animals are bent toward the ground, whereas man was made to walk erect with his eyes on Heaven, as though to remind him to keep his thoughts in things above.”
Many believe that Putin is looking for a way out of the morass he has created with his assaults on Ukraine, while Biden seeks a new “liberal global order.” Both need to look up to the God they confess as their God.
The only way to handle earthly affairs is from a heavenly perspective. That goes for paupers and presidents, and everyone in between. Only from that lofty perspective can leaders get strength to resist the constant pull downward exerted on them by the rulers of chaos and darkness.
Power is the fundamental temptation. The greatest pressure on Adam and Eve in the Garden was to seize the power over their own lives by rebelling against God’s command. This is a repeat on the human scale of Lucifer’s foundational attempt to displace God from the throne of the universe (Isaiah 14). Power and the quest for more draw the demonic. Therefore, wherever there is a center of power, the demons cluster.
Biden and Putin in this perilous moment need a strong prayer covering. They personally need to “look up” to the God in Whom they say they have placed their faith.
And what if these two professing Christians came together to pray for one another, their nations, and the world?
That would be a wonderful way upward that would lead to a blessed way forward.
It would also beautifully confirm the faith of Joe Biden’s mother that “out of everything terrible something good would happen” (A paraphrase of Romans 8:28).
Wallace Henley is a former White House and Congressional aide. He is now a teaching pastor at Grace Church, The Woodlands, Texas. Wallace is author of more than 20 books, including God and Churchill, and his newest, Who Will Rule the Coming 'gods: The Looming Spiritual Crisis of Artificial Intelligence.