The Current Scene
The President of the United States, when on the campaign trail and seeking the office, gave the impression that he knew how to deal with the Russians. No more powder puff diplomacy; let’s get tough. Well, at the time of writing, the new Secretary of State, Mr. Cyrus Vance, has just returned from Moscow with negative results. We can hope that the arms control negotiations to be conducted in Geneva in May will resort to reason and flexibility. Otherwise President Carter threatens to engage in a big U.S. arms buildup.
A lesson from history is that whenever a nation stockpiles weapons eventually someone gets trigger happy and the war hounds are loosed. Certainly there is no guarantee of peace. Treaties are conveniences until aggressors are ready to strike. The Bible time and time again describes a war of heretofore unprecedented proportions. Often it is referred to as “the great tribulation.” Even our Lord spoke of it in His Olivet discourse. That it was to immediately precede His Second Advent means that nothing in history, so far, answers to this time of sorrow, for our Lord has not yet come. The Third World War could well answer to this prophecy, for we can conceive of nothing left that would allow another buildup to rival it. Already, we are told, there are sufficient atomic weapons to make a cinder out of this world, and that would happen if it were up to the madness of man. There is One who rules, and overrules, and as the Umpire of the scene He will decree, “Except those days be shortened, there should no flesh be saved” (Matthew 24:21).
In all of this inhumanity of man against his fellows God will only allow the wrath of man to praise Him, “and the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain” (Psalm 76:10). In the light of the Scripture wars will continue to threaten and increase with their horrors. The root cause is man’s sinful nature and only Christianity can remedy that. So in the name of common sense our statesmen must keep the nation armed to the teeth. True, the money involved could be put to much better use, but this is the kind of world in which we live. After all, there is Satan, who is “the prince of the power of the air,” and much of his venom is in evidence everywhere. In the light of Scripture we see little prospect for the laudable aims of President Carter — namely, arms limitations.
It can be fairly said that the development of a capitalist society was one of the outcomes of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation. The nations that yielded to Protestantism in turn encouraged personal liberties and were soon in the forefront of material prosperity. England, Holland and Switzerland were perhaps among the notable examples. This mighty thrust that entered into history came to its crest in North America. Nothing equaled it in South America, although the natural resources of either continent were not that different. The possibility to accumulate wealth excited the ambitious to do their utmost and also brought amenities to the rank and file unknown in previous history. Its weakness has been to boom and burst.
The poor, whose standards have been raised, are the first to suffer. Communism has exploited this weakness and stands ever ready to feed upon it. The bigger the crisis the brighter their chances of success. Witness the throes that Italy and Portugal are passing through. From recent elections France does not appear to be far behind. Communism will only work where some of men’s most cherished freedoms are denied. If men prefer these freedoms, then capitalism and democracy, so far, is the only answer. No other system of human government yet devised can afford to give its citizens so much liberty. However, security seems to be uppermost in men’s minds today. As a result, capitalism is finding the soil harder to cultivate. This is literally true where Communism prevails; it cannot get the desired results from collectivized farms. Even where freedom reigns it is only a secondary blessing unless it is coupled with freedom from sin. Only the Lord Jesus can handle that problem of problems. He himself said, “If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Men laud their liberators such as Washington, Bolivar and Garibaldi, but Christians praise their Saviour. In this connection we appreciate the words from the pen of J.N. Darby:
Free from myself, Lord Jesus.
Free from the ways of men;
Chains of thought which once bound me;
Never shall bind me again.
None but Thyself, Lord Jesus,
Conquered this wayward will.
But for Thy love constraining,
I had been wayward still.
The thing that makes capitalism tick is material wealth and the possibility of constant growth. Like a man riding a bicycle, he must keep going or he falls. Capitalism is ever pulling down to build bigger and better. With sound money it is able to corner the world’s markets. Raw materials, the sources of such growth, are either diminishing or more costly to secure. This is particularly true of civilization’s life blood — namely, oil. As Robert Heilbroner writes in Between Capitalism and Socialism, “Economists have begun to concern themselves with a heretofore ignored aspect of growth —its encroachment on the carrying capacity of the globe.
A recent report given to the United Nations reveals the tremendous strain on social and technological problems to maintain world growth during the next 25 years. All of this bodes social unrest. The seething masses of humanity, intoxicated by demagogery, could readily take to the streets. With no appreciation of economics, they can only see themselves as being robbed by the rich. Scarcities eventually call for rationing. It is not hard to envision such on a worldwide scale. The poorer nations will be insisting on their share also. A world under the strictest controls is not a strange vision for those who have been interpreting the book of Revelation as largely pertaining to the future. In that last book of the Bible we read of a regimentation on a scale hitherto unknown. “That no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark of the beast.” As always, this sort of monopoly ferrets out those who are faithful to God and they become the objects of persecution. In close connection with this economic boycott are religious demands. The despot behind all of this is the Antichrist and we find him decreeing that “as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (Revelation 13:15).
When Mr. Heilbroner comes to moralizing on capitalistic growth, he inquires whether we are twice as happy as our parents since we have double what they had, four times as much as our grandparents and incalculably more than our colonial forbears. He says, “Such questions answer themselves. We are not. Something about the notion of growth is fraudulent, something about the riches it purports to bring is illusory.” This secular writer who is so skeptical about material prosperity seems to be equally alarmed when it becomes no longer possible. Of course, what our author appears to have discovered is what the Bible has been saying for centuries and with much less sophistication. The wise Solomon said, “Give me neither poverty nor riches” (Proverbs 30:8). Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes can be found the best solution to human happiness. Nor must we overlook the fact of life stated by our Lord — namely, that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).
Perhaps our generation has seen the peak of the so-called “good life.” Never before have so many had so much. Unfortunately, the steady hand to hold the full cup has been wanting. With prosperity comes the increase in divorce, crime, liquor and want of discipline. God is ever saying to this world, “Arise ye, and depart, for this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with sore destruction” (Micah 2:10) This world is to prepare us for better things, “Take then the world, but give me Jesus.”
As Christians we might well go along with John Wesley’s advice: “Earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.”