SBC Life Articles

Chaos May Rule the World, But God Rules History

"Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned … ."

Historians often quote these chilling lines from W.B. Yeats' poem, The Second Coming, to describe the horrific wars and revolutions of the 20th century.

A war-weary world wants to believe the "blood-dimmed tide" has receded. But if the Cold War's end – and the relative peace Americans currently enjoy – tempt you to think global tranquillity will descend like a spring rain in the new century, think again. Woodrow Wilson thought so, too – in 1918, after the "war to end all wars." The blood had barely begun to flow.

Once again blood is flowing in the heart of Europe. The 1914 assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo (now capital of Bosnia) touched off World War I. What will come of this decade's wars over Yugoslavia's corpse?

America and a few other rich nations are oases in a global desert of poverty and conflict. World chaos remains a threat – more so now than during the U.S.- Soviet standoff. That's not millennium hysteria; it's a sober conclusion based on clear and present dangers.

Iraq and the rolling collapse of greater Yugoslavia get the most attention from myopic U.S. media. But other hot spots abound:

• Russia's economy and social structures are crumbling. Millions yearn for a "strong hand" like Stalin or Peter the Great to set things right – and restore the old empire.

• Indonesia's fragile religious-ethnic fault lines have cracked open, threatening to plunge the world's largest Muslim nation into anarchy.

• India barely contains its many religious and ethnic conflicts. Ditto for Pakistan, India's bitter enemy. Both have nuclear weapons. Despite recent peace talks, Pakistani President Mohammed Rafiq Tarar displayed a new missile in March and vowed to "smash every dirty eye cast toward our sacred land."

• North Korea is slowly starving and regularly threatens to attack South Korea and even Japan, destabilizing north Asia.

• Up to thirty nations possess or are developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads, according to U.S. defense reports. Meanwhile, rogue nations sell weapons technology to the highest bidder – including freelance terrorists.

• China, despite its vaunted economic progress, has millions of unemployed wandering the country in search of food and work. Tight news controls can't squelch reports of growing social unrest and violence.

• Millions of Africans suffer staggering poverty and violence while living in anarchies that are "nations" in name only.

Harvard's Samuel Huntington predicts the coming of a titanic "clash of civilizations" pitting the West, Slavs, Muslims, China, Japan, and Hindus against each other. Sociologist Robert Kaplan warns of "unprecedented upheaval, brought on by scarce resources … overpopulation, uncontrollable disease, brutal warfare, and the widespread collapse of nation-states and, indeed, of any semblance of government."

"Welcome," Kaplan says, "to the 21st century."

Such a potential future may sound bleak, but it isn't unprecedented. Hunger, disease, and war are constants in human history, while political nation-states are a recent phenomenon. Empires rise and fall.

There's another historical constant, however: God reigns. "He is the God of history," writes John R.W. Stott. "History is not the random flow of events."

Through war, constant pressures – even enslavement and captivity – God used Israel, His often-disobedient and reluctant priestly nation, to lift His name among the peoples of antiquity. The Canaanites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians all witnessed His power.

God used the Roman Empire, which savagely persecuted His children, to transmit the gospel throughout much of the known world. He used pagan, marauding Vikings to spread the Good News throughout northern Europe via the few Christian prisoners they didn't slaughter.

"The conquerors became conquered by the faith of their captives," observes missiologist Ralph Winter. "In God's eyes, their redemption must have been more important than the harrowing tragedy … which fell upon God's own people whom He loved. After all, He had not even spared His own Son in order to redeem us!"

Possibly the most explosive church growth of our time occurred in China during and after the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76 – a period of social anarchy, destruction, and intense communist persecution of Christians.

Chaos may come, but God will use it for His purposes. And He will use His children, whether or not we comprehend each seemingly random event. Paula Chaney, a Southern Baptist seminary student, understands that after mission assignments in the near-anarchy of Albania and Bosnia.

"God had to take me out of America and take every single thing I was comfortable with out from under me," she explains. "Here I was, stranded with me and God – surrounded by people who had never had the opportunity to know Him. But once they found Him, they begged Him not to leave."

    About the Author

  • Erich Bridges