Who’s to Blame for The Great War?

25 01 2014

As we moved towards and into 2014 we started hearing references to the centenary remembrance of the start of what we now call World War 1, otherwise referred to as The Great War.  But no sooner has the new year arrived than voices are raised debating who started it off, who caused it, who was to blame for it?  My understanding, which may well be over-simplistic is that a number of people agreed with a number of other people to support and defend them if others raised hands against them and when it appeared that someone was doing just that, everyone found themselves embroiled in a fight that produced images of “trenches, mud, wire and poets” (Max Hastings in the introduction to ‘Catastrophe – Europe Goes to war 1914’).   Although the numbers killed or seriously wounded were horrific in that war, statistics tell us that the numbers killed in the Second World War make that number almost pale into  insignificance. To say that we had learnt nothing in that intervening period would be unfair because the ambitions of a little German with a moustache didn’t give the rest of us much option but to fight. Yet the first stage of that second war seemed to indicate that just possibly after the initial battles, the fighting might have slowed to a trickle if one man by the name of Churchill had not said we will not be overrun and raised his voice to rouse the rest of us to freedom.  Again that might be too over-simplistic but there is a lot of truth there.

But I am a Christian and we try to make sense of the world with the help of God, and when I read the book of Revelation  (putting aside all the difficult detail for the moment) I see God’s warnings come again and again to a foolish mankind who, just like Pharaoh of old, refuse to take note of the awful things happening and refuse to come to their senses and desist from their godless, self-centred, self-destroying ways of life.  And then I read in Romans how there are times when “God gives them over to…” even worse self-destructive practices and I realise there is a form of God’s judgement that is worse than Him bringing bad things to happen; it is Him standing back and saying, “Very well, I lift my hand of restraint off you; you are free to do whatever your sinful hearts want to do,” and to quote the title of Max Hastings book about the Second World War, “Hell Breaks Loose”.

Was that, I wonder, what happened in the twentieth century? Did God step back and allow humanity to move forward in its folly and do things that brought forth utter destruction?  Don’t blame God for the Wars because there are very human elements in both First and Second World Wars that are observable  that brought both about. Did we come to our senses after those times? Clearly not. We are still, here in the West at least, still as godless and still as self-centred as ever. Was the financial crisis that has engulfed so much of the world in these recent years been another instance of God lifting off His hand of restraint to allow the folly of mankind to prevail? Have we learnt from it?  Be quite clear, these three things I have referred to have been the work of humanity let loose.  In my previous blog, almost a year ago, I wrote about facing the truth of our situation. The book of Revelation shows the folly of mankind failing to learn from the things that happen. The last hundred years show us the folly of mankind failing to learn from the things that happen.  The question should not be so much, who was to blame for World War 1, or who was to blame for World War 2, or who was to blame for the financial crisis, but have we learned that as a godless human race we need help?

Is God standing on the sidelines impotent? Most definitely not. He works in and through His Church and He works in and through His world to say ‘Thus far and no further’.  (Was Churchill one such agent?)  Where people do start coming to their senses He is there – as always – instantly ready to be our Saviour, in little things in our personal lives and in big things in our national lives.

Psalm 2 asks, “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.”  Still the presence of sin in the human heart says, “We don’t need God. We can manage,” but the evidence clearly points otherwise.  As the old song goes, “Oh when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?”  ‘They’ is you and me. The evidence for God’s love is there for those who want to go looking, there is plenty of it. The evidence for the folly of living without God is piling up. Every now and then a Hollywood film postulates a future after a Third World War and it is never a pretty sight. May we come to our senses and turn to our God before the next idiot or bunch of idiots provoke such a scenario – but it starts with you.

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