Needed: A Viable Plan to Rescue the World

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A Viable Plan to Rescue the World

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The Marshall Plan, inaugurated 50 years ago this April, provided a necessary impetus toward integrating the free nations of Western Europe. It did this by providing massive aid, conditioned only on Europe planning her own collective recovery.

With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the nations of Eastern Europe can now also pursue their destiny. Several of them have applied to join an enlarged North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Community. In doing so they are returning to their roots.

The vision of a free, undivided and peaceful Europe remains a cornerstone of American foreign policy. Many observers believe prospects for peace and widespread prosperity have never held more promise.

But could events and circumstances yet derail this rosy world vision? Does Bible prophecy provide any clues? What can we expect for America and Europe in the years ahead?

The answers are shocking and sobering. They deserve our urgent attention.

The danger within

On June 5, 1997, 50 years to the day after George Marshall's speech at Harvard University's commencement exercises outlined a visionary plan to rebuild a shattered and divided Europe, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright delivered a visionary and comprehensive commencement address of her own on that campus. It was a speech worthy of her predecessor.

In her address Secretary Albright appealed for a wider vision than just focusing on Western Europe, as George Marshall had done (see "Excerpts" to the right).

The world is an interconnected community facing more-diverse threats than those that occupied Secretary Marshall's generation. Mrs. Albright attempted to galvanize American leadership to complete the Marshall vision on a grander scale-the whole of Europe and every continent. She reminded America that it must heed the lessons of the past to provide adequate world leadership. She said America must invest the resources to keep itself economically, militarily and politically strong. She also referred to threats to that vision.

Mrs. Albright implicitly referred to the moral health of America. She warned that "the greatest danger to America is not some foreign enemy; it is the possibility that we will... take for granted the institutions and principles upon which our own freedom is based."

Losing foundational values

The deteriorating moral condition of the Western world should rightly raise serious concerns. In America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, strength and freedom have been based on the Bible and its values. Yet those values are increasingly neglected, ignored and forgotten. Not only are they taken for granted; increasingly they are trampled underfoot.

A rising tide of immorality, drug trafficking, family and marital collapse, environmental degradation and the threat of terrorism are issues that demand the attention of Western nations. These factors sap any nation's moral strength and diminish its vision and leadership. The lesson of biblical history is that, when a nation departs from biblical values, disaster may not be far away.

America's moral, political and financial strength is eroding. Consequently her leadership role is at risk. Already it is practically impossible to mount the level of financial assistance that the Marshall Plan delivered.

In spite of apparent advances on many fronts, America has actually lost much of her power. Today's equivalent sum of Marshall Plan aid is $88 billion. That sum far surpasses the $62 billion of economic, food and military assistance the United States provided to more than 146 countries and numerous other organizations and banks in the four-year period from 1993 to 1996.

Further, to once again spend the same proportion of the federal budget as was spent on the Marshall Plan in 1948 (13 percent), the United States would spend a staggering $203 billion at 1996 values.

Global problems, global solutions

Today the problems of our globally interconnected world are daunting. Political, economic and scientific leaders increasingly recognize that such a world needs global strategies and solutions. The United Nations is presently the only instrument we have for such solutions, but its shortcomings and limitations are evident.

In her Harvard speech Mrs. Albright drew attention to the continuing tinderbox of ethnic hostility in the Balkans. That area and others such as Rwanda illustrate the dark side of human nature, which is capable of so quickly exploding into unbridled violence. The Middle East, so often in the headlines, is another area in which hostilities simmer close to the surface, never far from explosion and bloodshed. How long before a fragile peace again evaporates into violence?

To many in the West, the goal of bringing the world together in "an international system based on democracy, open markets, law and a commitment to peace," as Mrs. Albright put it, may sound laudable and desirable. But much of the world is suspicious of America's intentions and resists the imposition of such values.

Islam's more militant adherents in particular do not share America's democratic values and react with horror at its moral shortcomings.

The uniting of Europe along the lines of the American federal model also portends problems. There is a major difference between the various states of America and the hoped-for federal states of a united Europe. Different nationalities within Europe-with their long, separate histories and sense of identity-resist the notion of full integration. Britain in particular has a long-standing antipathy to being integrated within Europe. Religious and national differences exert-and will continue to exert-powerful constraints within such a union.

Elsewhere, Iranian rearmament and resurgence is an issue that also raises increasing concern. In neighboring Iraq, Saddam Hussein still defies the United Nations and refuses to reveal the nature and extent of his weapons programs.

Will Saddam Hussein, perhaps allied with other Arab nations, again prove a major threat to the peace and security of the free world?

The Asian economic meltdown that began last year also gives increasing cause for concern. How will that crisis, as it continues to gather momentum, affect other nations of the free world?

The risk of nuclear proliferation and such weapons falling into the wrong hands has increased rather than diminished. The environment suffers under the insult of human exploitation. At times it seems as though even nature is striking back with punishing climate changes. Neither should we exclude unforeseen calamities such as earthquakes and volcanic activity, which also play a part in Bible prophecy (Matthew 24:7; Revelation 6:12-17; 16:18).

The point is that we live in a volatile, fast-moving global community and world economy in which unforeseen developments can quickly arise along a broad front. The crust of civilization and civilized values can be fragile and all-too-easily broken.


What lies ahead: the biblical view

The Marshall Plan was exemplary and successful. It rescued Western Europe from disaster. America's quest to continue and complete Marshall's vision based on peace, prosperity and freedom is also exemplary. Yet, from the perspective of the Bible, a different view emerges. As Mrs. Albright observed, "evil unopposed will spawn more evil."

The Bible reveals that the world will once again be overwhelmed by great evil as it was in Secretary Marshall's generation. However, this time it will be on such a scale that no human resources will be able to successfully stand against it. When that time comes, predicts the Bible, a source of good will be there to intervene and deliver mankind.

Matthew 24 outlines the disturbing picture of a world at the brink of disaster in which life teeters on the edge of oblivion. "It will be a time of great distress; there has never been such a time from the beginning of the world until now, and will never be again. If that time of troubles were not cut short, no living thing could survive; but for the sake of God's chosen it will be cut short" (Matthew 24:21-22, New English Bible, emphasis added).

Only the intervention of the returning Jesus Christ will save humanity from destroying itself. Only under His leadership will the vision of a global community fully at peace and sharing an alliance of enduring values and universal prosperity be fully developed. We can be thankful that God has a rescue plan that will pale even George Marshall's remarkable effort into relative insignificance.

A shifting and terrifying world scene

Elsewhere in the Bible, the book of Revelation has much to say about a coming short-lived superpower, a union of church and state whose actions will stagger the world (Revelation 13, 17).

According to this prophesied scenario, war, not peace, will engulf the world. How ironic that the very entity that has served as a cornerstone of American policy for the past 50 years-a politically, economically and militarily powerful Europe-may well play an integral part in this scenario.

As hard as it may be to imagine, this coming time of trouble will be worse than anything ever seen before (Matthew 24:21) and will lead directly to the triumphant return of Jesus Christ to earth (Revelation 17:14).

In fact, more than one of the Bible's major predictions indicates that a violent military confrontation will engulf the world powers (Joel 3:9-11; Revelation 9:15-18; 16:14). This is pictured as occurring at "a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation" (Daniel 12:1) and finds its geographical focus in the Middle East (Daniel 11:41-45; Zechariah 14:1-4).

Where do we go from here?

We should not forget the factors that make any nation strong. God tells us that "righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34). God's law, which the Bible details, describes universal moral values. They exalt any nation that upholds them. Any individual who upholds them will also flourish and be fruitful (Psalm 1:1-3; 92:12; Proverbs 11:28, 30-31; 12:12).

Mrs. Albright concluded her speech by asking what kind of world will result from the next generation of American leadership. Such a world will be the product of the judgments and choices made. She claimed that no "certain road map to success" exists. Morally speaking, however, such a road map does exist, and it is both authoritative and certain. The Bible guarantees success for individuals and nations who uphold its principles.

As we contemplate the 50th anniversary of a remarkable man's visionary plan that saved a continent, let us be thankful for such people and for the continuing efforts of well-meaning nations and leaders. But let us also contemplate the limits of human leadership. Let us not delude ourselves with well-meaning rhetoric that fails to address the fundamental spiritual problems that threaten to overwhelm us.

Political action can go only so far. The Bible predicts the eventual outcome of unrestrained human nature goaded by unseen spiritual forces (Revelation 12:9-17). It describes spiritual problems on a scale no human leadership, government or alliances can control. Only the returning Jesus Christ can remove such malign spiritual influence and oversee a new world in which human nature will be permanently changed for the better.

Continue reading future issues of The Good News, which will explore contemporary issues from the perspective of God's inspired Word, the Bible. It alone comprises a "certain road map to success" and contains true and reliable principles upon which we may base our lives. GN