The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has its own think tank: the National Intelligence Council (NIC). In mid-January, 2005, the NIC released a bleak vision of what the world might be like in 2020. A major point in the report was the idea that the US will, by that time, be sharing global dominance with China and India. This fact, said the report, will “transform the geopolitical landscape.” If the 20th century was “The American Century,” the 21st may turn out to be “The Asian Century.”
The report, which is called “Mapping the Global Future,” is worth reading for it reflects the views of the CIA, business people, academics, government officials, and other experts around the world.
It is estimated that China’s economy, fifteen years from now, will be larger than all others except for the United States. The report suggests that by 2020, India’s economy will have overtaken that of Europe.
Both Europe and Japan are facing a massive demographic breakdown as their population ages. Work forces are shrinking, and the only answer to the labor problem is to import labor from other countries. In Europe, that means bringing in workers from the south. Europe already has a huge Islamic population that many view as a collective “Trojan horse” for future Islamic attempts at conquest.
For the Western world, Islamic terrorism is a real and abiding problem. For Asia, it is less important. The CIA report estimates that terrorism will still be with us fifteen years from now.
The engine that is driving the sea changes that are taking place around the world is globalization. National borders have become largely porous as labor forces, information, technology, and capital all flow freely from one place to another. As once-poor nations gain access to new technologies, their economies will be transformed.
At the moment, the US leads the global technology pack, but that leadership, according to the report, is now at risk. Two reasons are given: The decline of science and engineering graduates and the loss of privately funded research and development. Asians, in contrast, are passionate about education in the hard sciences as well as in R&D.
The report is available for reading at www.cia.gov/nic/NIC2020project.html.
The Christian Perspective
As Christians, we may tend to see the world differently than do our friends at the CIA’s think tank. We think of it in terms of divine interventions and cosmic events that will change the course of history. Some Christians are looking for the rise of a new ten-nation “Holy Roman Empire” that will eventually conquer the world.
Few envision a Europe in which the white population ages and declines and is supplanted by an imported Islamic population from North Africa and elsewhere. At present, the Roman Catholic Church has virtually no significant influence in once-Catholic Europe. Will it, under the leadership of a new pope, come roaring back to create a new Church-State alliance that will dwarf the previous one?
What of the hordes of Asia that are expected to sweep westward at the time of the end (Revelation 16:12)? What of Armageddon?
On the basis of prevailing understandings of Bible prophecy, it would be easy to slip into a steady state of paranoia about coming world events. Whether you are talking about Islamic terrorism, the rise of a new Church-state system in Europe, the supplanting of the European population with imported Islamic hordes from the south, the rise of China and India, the re-Communization of Russia, famine, drought, starvation and civil war throughout the Sub-Sahara region of South Africa, the AIDS epidemic, the alleged environmental crisis or the general decline of the West, it’s all very grim. It would be easy to conclude that we’re doomed. It would be natural, if one dwelt on these things, to slip into a deep and permanent depression. All is dire, gloom & doom, suffering, death and destruction. Woe is us.
A Higher View
Forget it! The world is what it is. For the moment, we’re in it, but we’re not of it. Our citizenship is in Heaven, and we represent the Kingdom of God while we’re here on the earth. In all times and circumstances we have but one calling: to live as children of the Most High (Romans 8:16). No matter how much the world changes around us, we must continue to live the Christian life and uphold The Standard of Christ. We are called to follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and learn from the way his apostles interpreted his words and teachings in the real world (Acts 2:42). We are bought with the price of Christ’s blood (I Corinthians 7:23), and that means that our primary allegiance is to the Lord, not to men. Paul put it even more bluntly in his letter to the Romans: “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord, and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8). It is vital that we learn to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit on a moment-to-moment basis.
Jesus said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Our peace comes from our relationship with God in Christ. In the world, there is no security. Christians will always be persecuted, and in many cases, martyred, until our Lord returns. We cannot expect an easy ride. The forces of darkness are, in our time, gathering strength. We all have targets on our backs, but the Lord will lead us as individual Christians through whatever lays ahead (Matthew 28:20).
We should all be following the advice of James who said, in effect, “Don’t live the world’s way, but take care of each other” (James 1:27). The world is not God’s world; rather it is one that lives in rebellion against the God of the Bible. We are either of that world or we are not. God has called us out of it. We must, as James said, “keep unspotted” from it. Secondly, we should seek to meet people at their real points of need whenever possible – as James wrote, “In their affliction.”
Christians, no matter their doctrinal and denominational differences, ought to realize that the forces of darkness don’t discriminate between kinds of Christians – unless of course they themselves are kinds of Christians, which in some cases they are. A terrorist sees us all as “Crusaders” because that is how he has been puppeteered to think. We are the enemy because his leaders say we are, not because we are. He’ll not stop to give each of us a doctrinal litmus test before he blows us up.
We Christians have to learn to love each other (John 13:34-35), not emotionally, but in terms of the way we treat each other. I find the hard-nosed, authoritarian cults of personality that represent the most rigid right-wing approach to the faith repugnant and oppressive. Yet I know that those who take this approach sincerely believe they are going about things in the correct way. They have “zeal, but not according to knowledge.” As much as I despise the whole authoritarian mentality, I would still, if I saw one of them being persecuted, do what I could to save his or her bacon. If I saw one of them starving, I’d try to give them food; thirsty, I’d give him water.
Remember what Jesus taught? “…Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). Jesus takes how we treat any of his other followers personally. However we treat them is how we’re treating Him. Though we may disagree with each other, we cannot allow ourselves to lapse into hating each other. The lot of Christians in the world is not getting easier, but harder. We’d best stick together, no matter how obnoxious some of us may be.