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WORLDVIEW: Back to the future

EDITOR’S NOTE: An audio version of this column is available online at

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Russia is on the move, reasserting its military power in the Caucasus — and sending a not-so-subtle message to Europe, the United States and its former satellites that Moscow intends to dominate Russia’s “near abroad.”

Meanwhile, China has fully emerged as a major global power, using the Olympic stage for its official coming-out party.

Both nations once again loom over their traditional regions of influence. Neither seems interested in becoming a Western-style democracy anytime soon.

So what happened to the “end of history” — the famous phrase coined by historian Francis Fukuyama after the Cold War to describe the notion that “there are no serious ideological competitors left” to democracy? Ideology may not drive the East-West struggle anymore, but Russia and China are dead-serious contenders for international power and influence. So are a host of other states that sharply limit — or quash — political liberty, personal freedom and religious expression.

History is like sports in one sense. “It ain’t over till it’s over,” said baseball philosopher Yogi Berra. Nations and empires rise, fall and rise again in various permutations. War follows peace. Chaos gives way to stability, which yields in time to more turmoil.

It’s not over. It’s also not new. As Solomon observed, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The “New World Order” envisioned by the Western winners of the Cold War — a world in which the victors and the vanquished would cooperate to ensure peace and prosperity for all — was doomed in the cradle by human nature.

“After every major, systemic war, there is the hope that this will be the war to end all wars,” writes strategic analyst George Friedman. “Those with the dream are always disappointed. The victorious coalition breaks apart. The defeated refuse to play the role assigned to them. New powers emerge that were not part of the coalition. Anyone may have ideals and visions. The reality of the world order is that there are profound divergences of interest in a world where distrust is a natural and reasonable response to reality. In the end, ideals and visions vanish in a new round of geopolitical conflict.”

Globalization doesn’t guarantee greater harmony, either, even as the major economies increasingly depend upon one another for stability and growth.

“The chief sources of global strife have been ideology, nationalism, religion and ethnic conflict,” says economic columnist Robert Samuelson. “Economics could now join this list, because the balance of power is shifting.”

The inevitability of international conflict, however, should not discourage world-hearted followers of Christ. Time after time, crisis has opened the door to ministry. Wars, turmoil, forced migrations and other traumatic dislocations compel hurting people to search first for physical security, then for spiritual truth. It’s no coincidence that the last several generations — one of the most convulsive periods in history — have witnessed the dramatic advance of the Gospel in so many places.

Should we pray for turmoil? No, but we should be prepared to respond in love and service.

At this moment, millions of people worldwide are living in the agonizing limbo of displacement — forced from their homes by war, strife or persecution. They wonder if they will ever know security again, if they will ever find sanctuary, if anyone cares.

Southern Baptist relief workers are seeking ways to deliver aid to the latest victims of war: people affected by the fighting between Russia and Georgia.

“We need to pray for those people, no matter where they are — South Ossetia or Georgia or Abkhazia — who have been in conflict and are on the edge, that they would find peace,” said Jim Brown of Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist international relief organization.

Peace is what the peoples of the world are searching for, like sheep without a shepherd. Only Christ can supply it.
Erich Bridges is senior writer for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.

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  • Erich Bridges