Can Men Bring Lasting Peace and Security?
1. What questions do we need to ask, and why?
FOR HOPE to have any meaning, it must be founded on reality, on truth. False hopes only blind people to reality. Therefore, we need to ask: Do we appreciate just how big the problems are that must be solved to bring genuine peace and security? Do we realize how urgent the situation has become? Is there any evidence that human solutions would be equal to the immensity of the task?
2, 3. (a) Why is the search for peace and security even more urgent today? (b) What other threats are there to life on earth?
2 For thousands of years men have sought lasting peace and security, without success. But now the situation is most urgent because of the threat of nuclear war. A Canadian report warned: “There’s no such thing as a winnable nuclear war because its aftermath would be so appalling that the survivors would envy the dead.”3 Showing why, astronomer Carl Sagan stated: “There are now more than 50,000 nuclear weapons, . . . enough to obliterate a million Hiroshimas.” He added: “There is little question that our global civilization would be destroyed.”4
3 In addition, other threats imperil life on earth. One is the worldwide pollution of land, air, and water. Another is the population explosion with its associated hunger, disease, and unrest.
4. How has mankind’s situation today been described?
4 Regarding the various threats mankind now faces, a peace institute in Norway said: “Today’s international situation is characterized by a profound crisis pervading almost all spheres of human activity: economic and social, political and military, spiritual and moral.” It added: “Violence is on the increase and the use of force as an instrument of policy and diplomacy has become widespread. . . . The balance between peace and war is becoming ever more precarious.”5 Where is this leading? The secretary-general of the UN warned: “We are perilously near to a new international anarchy.”6
A Warless World by Men’s Efforts?
5. What does history show as to man’s ability to put an end to war?
5 Is there any reason to believe that men can bring an end to war? Historically, there have been only a few scattered years when this earth was totally free from war. In this 20th century alone, about 100 million people have been killed in war! Neither yesterday’s League of Nations nor today’s United Nations has been able to stop this slaughter.
6. Is the fear of nuclear war a sound foundation for peace?
6 But will not the fear of destruction from nuclear weapons change this? Was not sufficient fear of nuclear weapons aroused back in 1945 when atom bombs annihilated two Japanese cities? Well, since then stockpiles of vastly more powerful nuclear weapons have grown a thousandfold. And just since 1945 an estimated 35,000,000 people have been killed in wars and rebellions involving more than 100 countries. In one recent year 45 nations were involved in conflicts!7 No, fear of nuclear weapons has not stopped war.
7. Does the signing of disarmament pacts or peace treaties guarantee lasting peace?
7 Granted, nations do and probably will continue to sign disarmament pacts or peace treaties. Over the centuries literally thousands of these have been signed. Yet, whenever war sentiment became strong enough, those treaties became worthless scraps of paper. The United Nations also has failed to stop war, because although nearly all countries today are part of the UN, they ignore it at will. So is it realistic to hope that future world leaders will keep their word any more than those of the past?
8. How has the Bible told the truth about man’s failure to achieve lasting peace?
8 On the other hand, the Bible’s position is in harmony with the lessons of history. It does not recommend putting our hope in human efforts to bring peace. On the contrary, it foretold long ago that human efforts would never bring lasting peace. It forewarned that just before the end of this system of things, wars and disorders would escalate worldwide, with ‘nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom.’ (Luke 21:9, 10, 31; Revelation 6:1-4) World events since 1914 have fulfilled those prophecies. So rather than arousing false hopes, the Bible truthfully declares: “To earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”—Jeremiah 10:23.
Can Men Cope With the Population Bomb?
9-11. (a) How rapidly is the earth’s population increasing? (b) What condition afflicts large numbers of people?
9 Earth’s population reached one billion in the 19th century. Now it is about five billion,8 with each new billion coming faster and faster. Every year, about 90 million more people are added! And most of this growth merely adds to the suffering in areas where poverty, hunger, and disease already prevail. This population increase has been called the population bomb with good reason. The New York Times commented: “It is as possible that large portions of the earth will be turned into desert by the pressures of unmanageable population and poverty as by a nuclear holocaust.”9
10 Regarding the scope of world hunger, Time magazine said: “The hunger problem today is vastly different from that of the past . . . Now there is so little food in so many parts of the world, year after year, that fully 25% of the globe’s population is hungry or undernourished.”10 One source estimates that each year 11 million babies die before their first birthday due to the effects of malnutrition and disease.
11 The same report states: “At least one person in five is trapped in absolute poverty, a state of destitution so complete that it is silent genocide.”11 And this, noted The Toronto Star, was after a world food conference in Rome over a decade ago “pledged that, within a decade, no child would go to bed hungry, no family would fear for its next day’s bread and no human being’s future would be stunted by malnutrition.”12 How hollow such promises proved to be! The reality is as England’s Guardian observed: “The world is on the verge of a human catastrophe. . . . Whole continents have seen their hopes for the future disappear.”13
12. Would cutting back the amount of military spending really solve the problem?
12 Much of the problem lies, not with the earth, but with the rulers and the people and their attitudes. For example, the nations now spend about a trillion (thousand billion) dollars on armaments each year while millions starve. But even if this enormous military buildup was abandoned, the world’s divided economic systems would work against any true solution to the problem. Often, when food is available, the desire for huge profits prevents its distribution to those in need. In some places, governments have paid farmers not to plant certain crops because overproduction would decrease prices too much. Vast amounts of food have even been destroyed because of surpluses.
13. Was the Bible accurate when it foretold the conditions existing at the world’s end?
13 Thus, despite all of its scientific advancements, modern society has not been able to avoid the very conditions the Bible foretold. It accurately foretold the arrival of severe “food shortages” during this “conclusion of the system of things.”—Matthew 24:3, 7; Revelation 6:5-8.
Can Men Make Peace With the Earth?
14-16. How serious is the problem of pollution?
14 For decades men have been making war with the very earth on which they live. They have caused poisonous wastes to back up into the water, air, and soil. A Toronto Star headline declared: “Pollution Puts Earth in Danger.” The article said: “Planet Earth is under a deadly assault. And the aggressor is man.” It noted that “the poisons of his progress” now threaten his very existence, and it also observed: “Scientists consider the degradation of the environment every bit as serious as the threat of nuclear war.”14
15 For example, of the United States, Discover magazine says: “Hazardous chemicals and metals seeping into the earth threaten the nation’s buried reserves of water. Some hydrologists fear that it may already be too late to save a quarter of them.”15 In England The Observer said that chemical pollution had contaminated “most of England’s drinking water.”16 And New Scientist reported: “The World Health Organisation says that diseases associated with dirty water kill 50,000 people every day.”17
16 In the United States a congressional investigation revealed high levels of poisonous materials in the air. The New York Times reported: “Thousands of tons of cancer-causing agents and other very hazardous materials are being released into the atmosphere from hundreds of factories.”18 Added to this are the hazardous chemicals put in the soil, for example, as pesticides, and into the food chain as animal feed.
17. Is it likely that technology can solve this problem?
17 Can technology come to the rescue? Is that likely, since it created many of the problems? The book Environmental Ethics notes: “Technology is a servant of only limited usefulness, and highly unreliable. When it does solve a problem, it often creates two new ones—and their side effects are usually hard to foresee.”19
18. In coping with pollution, what vital knowledge do humans lack, but who has it?
18 Again, the Bible foretold man’s lack of wisdom in using earth’s bounties. A prophecy at Revelation 11:18 spoke of the time when God would have to take action “to bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” Men admittedly do not fully understand the complex ecology of the earth. But God does, having created it. Is it not wise to look to this Source for a solution to the problems?
Security by the Removal of Crime
19. What fear do many people have today, and why?
19 Pollution endangers the very essentials for human existence. But it is the increase of crime that causes the greater number of people to be in fear. Crime is robbing more and more persons of their personal security not only in big cities but also in small towns and rural areas. Not just possessions but often a person’s body and life are in jeopardy.
20, 21. (a) Why would the passing of new laws not eliminate crime? (b) Would increased prosperity or new methods of fighting crime solve the problem?
20 Can men bring true security from these dangers, perhaps by new legislation? There are already thousands of laws on the lawbooks of the world. Yet, these have not stopped crime. Also, deep-rooted corruption often develops within law-enforcement agencies themselves. Dishonesty in high places may nullify the efforts of honest law-enforcement.
21 Does the answer lie in new methods of detecting and thwarting crime? For every new method produced, criminals devise new ways to overcome it. Then will increased prosperity solve the problem? It would be a mistake to conclude that crime is characteristic only of lower-income groups. White-collar crime also is soaring. For instance, in the United States each year at least $80 billion is lost because of such crime. About 30 percent of all businesses that fail do so because of it. South Africa reports that employee theft bankrupted about 1,500 businesses in one year.20
22. What evidence shows that human effort alone cannot solve crime?
22 Rising crime is not limited to just a few nations. It is everywhere. Note some headlines from around the world. Brazil: “Soaring Crime Rate.” Canada: “Female Crime Rate Soaring.” England: “Ever-Rising Child Crime.” India: “Organized Crime a Growth Industry.” Soviet Union: “Soviet Alarm at Increasing Crime.”21 Maclean’s magazine stated: “Violent crime in Detroit is so common that even murders sometimes rate only a brief mention in the back pages of newspapers.”22 Thus, rising crime is an international problem, and human efforts alone cannot solve it. If a human solution had been possible, after all this time and effort crime should no longer be a problem.
23. Has what the Bible foretold about conditions in our day been fulfilled?
23 What is happening is just as the Bible long ago foretold: “In the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, . . . without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, . . . lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:1-4) Jesus also foretold that an “increasing of lawlessness” would characterize the period just before God’s Kingdom would make the earth a place to be inhabited only by ‘mild-tempered persons.’ That “increasing of lawlessness” is a fact of life in our day.—Matthew 24:12; 5:5; Psalm 37:29.
The Greatest Problems of All
24. Even if men could solve all problems discussed thus far, what greater enemies would remain?
24 Suppose men could solve the problems of war, poverty, hunger, pollution, and crime. Would this bring you full peace and security? No, something would still be lacking. Sickness and death would still remain as unconquered enemies. Indeed, what does relief from other problems matter when you watch a loved one sicken and die, or you find your own body attacked by a fatal illness?
25, 26. What prospects do medical researchers see for the conquering of disease?
25 While medical advances have been made, has this brought us freedom from sickness and death? A medical authority answers: “Infectious diseases have not been licked. They are still the world’s leading cause of death and, here [in the United States], the leading cause of illness.”23 In Africa a report says that disease is so rampant “that of 1,000 children born about 500 will die before the age of 5.”24 Throughout the world hundreds of millions are affected by malaria, sleeping sickness, cholera, leprosy, and other diseases. In some advanced countries, heart ailments cause about half of all deaths, and cancer one death out of five. And The Lancet, a British medical journal, states: “Throughout the world there are something of the order of 250 million new cases of gonorrhoea and 50 million new cases of syphilis annually. Other sexually communicable conditions may be even more common.”25
26 A scientist stated that if cures are found for cancer, heart disease, and kidney disease, other illnesses would become bigger killers. He noted: “There is little chance that we will greatly increase life expectance or postpone aging in the near future.”26 And doctors in the Soviet Union say: “Despite all successes of medicine, within recorded history the biological span of human life has remained unchanged.”27
27. (a) What comment in the Bible on the human life span is just as true today? (b) Where can we learn why human life is so short and filled with problems?
27 How true the words of the Bible at Job 14:1, 2 continue to be today: “Man, born of woman, is short-lived and glutted with agitation. Like a blossom he has come forth and is cut off, and he runs away like the shadow and does not keep existing.” The Bible also shows the reason for this, and it identifies the cause of all man’s problems, as we shall see later.
In What Will You Hope?
28-30. To solve the problems facing mankind, why is it more realistic to trust God’s solution than man’s?
28 In all honesty, is it realistic to trust in humans to solve the problems facing mankind? Or is it more realistic to put trust in the solution to which the Bible points, namely, action by God himself by means of a righteous heavenly government?
29 Long ago the inspired psalmist wrote these words: “Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs. His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish. Happy is the one who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in Jehovah his God, the Maker of heaven and earth.”—Psalm 146:3-6.
30 Never forget that no matter how sincere men may be or how influential or powerful world leaders are, they are all dying creatures. Since they are unable to save themselves, how can they save others? They cannot. Only God can, through his Kingdom government.
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Throughout history humans have been staggering blindly from one calamity to another—war, rising crime, pollution, poverty, and many others. As the Bible truthfully states: “It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step”
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“Do not put your trust . . . in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs”