Arms Control and God's Purpose in History


1151 Vienna Street
 Livermore, CA 94550

From: PSCF 44 (March 1992): 25-35.

From 1988 through 1990 a series of events transpired worldwide which generated rising hopes for global peace. The "Cold War" came to an end, and democracy was declared the winner. An array of international agreements to reduce armaments took shape, and for his role Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The optimism lasted less than two years, however, ending abruptly with Iraq`s invasion of Kuwait; next, the arms treaties moved to the rear of the world stage because of the economic and political collapse of the Soviet Union. Some think that the West missed a golden opportunity for lasting peace by not inking arms treaties while Gorbachev was still able to deliver. However, the need for arms control--especially in the nuclear age--supersedes the ebb and flow of world politics. In this paper the author examines the pursuit of arms control as an application of the biblical principle of engagement for healing. This principle provides a basis for Christian participation in the process of public policy formation, with arms control a particularly graphic contemporary application. Alternative perspectives concerning Christian involvement--or noninvolvement--in public policy processes do not take healing into account and therefore cannot provide a satisfactory motive for arms control.

When President Reagan and Premier Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 1988, the only immediate meaning was that two historical adversaries were agreeing to remove from their arsenals and destroy an entire class of nuclear weapons. Few would have forecast that the nuclear arms race of forty-five years duration was ending. The confidence of US security policymakers was bolstered when the Soviets began to withdraw their army from Eastern Europe in 1989, for it was that presence which had driven US nuclear policy for forty-five years. Gorbachev's acquiescence that year to the election of a Solidarity government in Poland was key, because the demonstrations which followed in Leipzig led directly to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Strategic Arms Reduction Agreement (START) was signed in 1991, and then trumped by President Bush's announcement of sweeping unilateral cuts in US tactical nuclear forces.

Prospects for avoiding nuclear holocaust and global war seem brighter than at any time in this century. In 1988 Margaret Thatcher proclaimed V-CW day, announcing that "the Cold War is over; we won."1 The Atomic Scientists turned back their "Doomsday Clock" three times, from 11:59 to 11:54 to 11:50 and then to 11:43 PM, declaring that the world is farther removed from nuclear holocaust than at any time since World War II.2 Secretary of State James Baker observed, "We face the clearest opportunity to reduce the risk of war since the dawn of the nuclear age."3 Charles Krauthammer wrote that, "Gorbachev represents the greatest imperial self-transformation since Constantine converted to Christianity,"4 and in 1990 Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On December 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned, swept aside by the very forces of change that he had unleashed. Perestroika had been his great contribution. Only time will reveal whether the realm which Ronald Reagan once called "The Evil Empire" has ceased to exist, or has simply assumed a different form.

In addition to INF and START, several other arms reduction treaties were either signed or in negotiations at this writing, including the Conventional Forces in Europe Agreement (CFE); a bilateral Chemical Weapons Agreement (CW); and verification provisions for the Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT) and Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty (PNET). Some of these arms accords include provisions for destruction of weapons, provisions which seem to qualify as acts of beating swords into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3). Under the INF Treaty, for example, some transporter-erector-launchers (TELs) for the Soviet SS-23 missile have been converted into lumber haulers; others were offered for sale (for nonmilitary purposes) at a Moscow auction. Warsaw Pact tanks are being converted into tractors and fire-fighting vehicles. ICBM stages rendered excess by a START Treaty are to be used as space launch boosters (for example, to place communications satellites into orbit). The CFE agreement will require soldiers (perhaps as many as 1,000,000 US troops) to be integrated into the civilian economy.

The purpose of this paper is to communicate a biblical perspective on arms control. The first draft was developed during the author's participation in the START negotiations in Geneva, and at that time most people believed that nuclear arms control--properly verified--was a critical element of the quest for world peace. The dramatic changes that have transpired in the Soviet empire, however, have caused some security analysts to question not only the need for the START Treaty,5,6 but also to suggest that the need for arms control in general has been "overcome by events."7 When arms control is defined more broadly than negotiations involving nuclear superpowers and their interests, it becomes clear that the endeavor is very much in need today. Missing, however, is a properly biblical framework that will transcend the evolution of political and military events and provide context for Christians to approach the subject.

Historical Purposes of Arms Control

Pursuit of arms limitation agreements may proceed with a greater sense of urgency between adversarial nuclear superpowers, but it is by no means limited to this framework. Nations have been seeking to limit the war making capability of their adversaries for thousands of years.8 (Table 1.) One of the earliest recorded "agreements" is described in I Samuel, where the Philistines banned the practice of blacksmithing in Israel. The Philistine objective was to ensure that the Israelites did not have access to agricultural instruments made of iron, because these could be fashioned into weapons that would far outperform their bronze substitutes.

As is evident from the table, arms control is not limited to negotiated agreements like INF and START. Controls imposed by the victor upon the defeated, as terms of surrender (e.g. the Philistines upon Israel, Allies upon Germany, United Nations upon Iraq) are more common variants. Confidence building measures such as open military maneuvers, exchange inspections, and export of safety and use-control technologies also fall within the broad definition of arms control. Provisions for verification of compliance by means of on-site inspection presume a significant degree of cooperation, as in UN International Atomic Energy Agency inspections for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Unfortunately, we have learned recently how easy it is for one nation to avoid detection of its clandestine nuclear weapons development program.

Calculated unilateral arms reduction initiatives with expectation of reciprocity--as in Bush's moves of September, 1991--have been rare. Unilateral disarmament moves are likely only in an environment of cooperation and trust, because then the benefit is perceived to outweigh the risk. Calls from the "antiwar activist" community for unilateral initiatives by the US during the height of the Cold War and even toward its end were not well-received in the national security community.9 Nevertheless, during the Cold War arms control negotiations provided important confidence-building measures for the superpowers.

Is Arms Control Imprudent?

Depending upon one's world view, the events of the past few years can be viewed either with suspicion, or as cause for celebration. During the INF and START negotiations, some "hard liners" warned that perestroika10 was a brilliantly conceived Soviet strategy to divide NATO, "Finlandize" western Europe, obtain access to western technologies, and revitalize the Soviet economy.11 Margaret Thatcher cautioned that "Euphoria is a bad master; when the ice breaks up it can be very dangerous."12 (Mrs. Thatcher did not mention Alexis de Tocqueville, who earlier had penned a very similar thought regarding the breakup of dictatorships.13) Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney said, "Those who would slash defenses are like folks who would give away their coats on the first sunny day in January."14 General John Galvin, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, appealed to Isaiah 11:6-9 (without citation) by noting that "The lion is not yet lying down with the lamb, and security is the number one responsibility for political leaders."15

It seems likely to this author that the root cause for progress in 
superpower arms control  was Gorbachev's realization that the Soviet Union 
was at the threshold of economic collapse.

From the author's personal discussions, it seems clear that many evangelicals hold similar views today. It is believed by many Christians to be only a matter of time until the former Soviet government is once again seized by militants, and the revitalized Empire becomes the "Magog" of Ezekiel. Liberals cite the failed coup of August 18, 1991 against Gorbachev as proof that the former Soviet Union has moved too far toward democratization ever to return to totalitarianism, while conservatives use the attempt as evidence that the future is far from certain and the West must remain armed and vigilant. Extreme conservatives suggest that the coup attempt was an extension of the elaborate hoax described earlier, intended to continue misleading the West into complacency.

Conservatives--Christian and secular--also credit President Reagan with bringing the Cold War to an end. The 1988 edition of Soviet Military Power noted that, "The strength of our collective response has resulted in the Soviets' return to serious and realistic negotiations."16 Ronald Lehman III, President Reagan's Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy, said, in reference to the INF Treaty, that "Ronald Reagan's success in arms control is directly the consequence of high standards, careful preparation, tough bargaining, and steadfastness of purpose in the face of sharp and shifting political winds."17

It seems more likely to this author that the root cause for progress in superpower arms control was Gorbachev's realization that the Soviet Union was at the threshold of economic collapse. As then Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze was to acknowledge concerning fifty years of centralized socialist economic planning, "We have ruined the Country!"18 Nevertheless, arms control stands on its own merits. During the coldest times of the War, arms control negotiations often provided the only functional point of contact between the adversaries.

The objective of arms control is to reduce the capability of states to wage war. Reducing their incentive to war will be addressed in the subsequent sections. However, from the reduced capability objective alone, several reasons can be identified for continuing pursuit of arms control. The first reason is to reduce the potential for damage from war. Although the most graphic illustration is provided by nuclear weapons, chemical and biological weapons are similarly indiscriminating. In terms of absolute reductions, unfortunately, the INF and START negotiations fared poorly. As a result of continuing buildup by both sides during the seven years of START negotiations, at the end of 1991 the Soviet nuclear arsenal numbered approximately 27,000 warheads; about half were strategic weapons (land and sea-based missiles, and long-range bombers) still targeting the USA. The START reductions will decrease strategic arsenals to roughly their magnitude at the outset of negotiations. And with whom is the agreement to be implemented? As the Soviet Union has been replaced by a commonwealth, central control of the nuclear arsenal will be replaced by "collective" control.

During the coldest times of the War, arms control negotiations often provided
 the only functional point of contact between the adversaries.

A second reason for continuing arms control is to limit proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical, biological, and the missiles to deliver them). The worldwide changes in the past three years have shifted the focus of arms control from bilateral to multilateral. As threatening as the bipolar world seemed, the mutually assured destruction (MAD) doctrine turned out to be stable, in the sense that no global or strategic wars occurred. However, in the post-Cold War world of the 1990s, no such paradigm for stability is in evidence. The "new order in global politics" that was proclaimed at the fall of the Berlin Wall lasted less than two years, ending abruptly with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. Next, the victory by the UN forces over Iraq was identified as the beginning of a "new world order." Since then, the foreign policy crises that have engaged US policymakers most intensely have been the result of animosities among nationalist groups. Unions which were held together by force and communist ideology since World War I in Europe and within the former Soviet Union are struggling to realign according to commonalities in religion, culture, or spoken language.

Should the US support retention of national boundaries and strong central 
governments  as long as they are moving toward democracy, 
or should we champion independence movements? 
Which is the most promising path to peace and stability?

This fragmentation matches literally Jesus' prophesy in Matthew 24:27, "Nation (ethnos) will rise against nation," and "kingdom (basileia) against kingdom." The two terms used together imply both ethnic and governmental conflict. The dilemma which fragmentation poses for US national security policymakers is this: should the US support retention of national boundaries and strong central governments as long as they are moving toward democracy, or should we champion independence movements? Which is the most promising path to peace and stability?

The stakes are highest with regard to control of the Soviet nuclear arsenal. Soviet strategic warheads remain in Russia, Byelorussia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, and the tactical arsenal is dispersed throughout the fifteen republics. Disintegration of the Union not only means that thousands of nuclear weapons may fall into the hands of nationalist forces in the independent republics, but also that economic crises may tempt the republics to sell the weapons or the technology to the highest bidders. There is a sense of urgency in the US to help the Soviets disable and dismantle their nuclear weapons before such action can occur. President Bush's arms reduction announcement of September, 1991 was motivated as much by concern about control of Soviet nuclear weapons as by decreased Soviet aggressive intentions and the emergence of a free press which would make cheating on treaties more difficult. Nevertheless, if the US wants the commonwealth republics to denuclearize themselves, we will probably have to offer a nuclear incentive: further reductions in our own considerable arsenal.

Threats confronting the US in coming years may include not only "chaos and civil war" in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, but also acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq, Libya, Syria, and North Korea. The discovery of Iraq's nuclear weapons program raises concern that an additional epilogue to the Cold War may be an age of nuclear proliferation. Of special concern are states whose leaders have shown by their behavior that they are willing to use every weapon that they can lay their hands on. Nuclear and chemical disarmament by the have nations may be a prerequisite to persuading the have not nations from seeking such weapons for themselves.

Finally, the possibility of accidental launch must be considered. Statistical probability of accident rises with the number of deployed weapon systems. From a purely analytical perspective, if arms control efforts succeed in simply reducing the number of weapons (aside from reducing their destructive capacity), the likelihood of accidental war declines.

Christian Participation in Public Policy

Most popular and philosophical definitions of history presume that it consists of an essentially random sequence of events--there may be some principle of transient cause-and-effect, but no enduring purpose. This stands against the Christian belief that God is in control of history.

If arms control efforts succeed in simply reducing the number of weapons 
(aside from reducing their destructive capacity), the likelihood
 of accidental war declines.

The philosopher Georg Hegel is given credit for the idea that history is an evolving process. This idea culminated, during his lifetime, in the establishment of liberal democracies, as embodied in the ideals--but not necessarily the practices--of the French and American revolutions.19 Karl Marx then developed the idea of the evolution of history into his well-known philosophy that civilization was moving inexorably forward through class struggle, the outcome of which would be a classless Utopia.

In 1989, a State Department employee named Frances Fukuyama attracted considerable attention with an article entitled, "Are We at The End of History?"20 With reference to Hegel and current world events, he suggested that history may be cyclical, punctuated by cataclysmic events. He identified several ideological forces which are likely to compete with liberal democracy in shaping the future world: nationalism, resurgent communism, Islamic fundamentalism, and "the evil side of human nature." It should, by the way, be sobering to the Church to note that Islam was included in Fukuyama's list of forces, but not Christianity.

A number of scientific cosmological theories have also been developed to describe the passage of time. These theories do not deal with human history per se, but rather seek to identify natural laws to which all things are subject. Such theories include ideas of an eternal cosmos, in which time proceeds in either a steady or an unsteady fashion; oscillating (recurring) history; and the "Big Bang," wherein time has a beginning but no end.21 Physicist Stephen Hawking describes three theories of time by using the analogy of three "arrows" of time: cosmological, wherein time runs in the direction in which the universe is expanding; psychological, where time is associated with human memory in a cause-and-effect relationship; and thermodynamic, wherein time moves in the direction of increasing disorder.22

Events and sequences contain moral significance 
because God continues to act in his creation, 
and because He has given human beings the power to choose.

Hawking, however, did not acknowledge that there is a fourth arrow of time, namely, the outworking of God's purpose in history--i.e. the theological arrow of time. (See, for example, Isaiah 46:8-11.) The Bible teaches that there does indeed exist a flow of history, and this flow is time-order-discernable and significant.21 Events and sequences contain moral significance because God continues to act in his creation, and because He has given human beings the power to choose. Notwithstanding this power to choose, nothing happens to the child of God that will not be used by God for the achievement of his purposes for the believer (Isa. 46; Rom. 8:28). God's plan is to develop perfect people without destroying free will.22

Although all evangelicals would acknowledge the stark  
contrast between the biblical and secular world views described here, 
neither they nor the rest of Christendom are unified  in their views 
concerning God's involvement in his creation, nor have they developed  
a unified genuinely biblical theory  of public life.

Although all evangelicals would acknowledge the stark contrast between the biblical and secular world views described above, neither they nor the rest of Christendom are unified in their views concerning God's involvement in his creation, nor have they developed a unified genuinely biblical theory of public life. Dean C. Curry23 has grouped the various approaches Christians have to public policy into three major categories: the purely secular (which, of course, he rejects as an legitimate option for the believer); the separatist, in which a believer disengages himself as much a possible from "secular"affairs--the idea of "Christ against culture"; and the search for a purely biblical third way. Curry rejects all of these, and argues that the Bible does not prescribe a single political option. He believes that extrabiblical options (such as blanket condemnation of capitalism, US foreign policy, and Western culture and values) have been invoked by every so-called biblical prescription to date. Curry argues for a return to a dualism which he ascribes to Aquinas, Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, where nature and grace are separate, if not distinct, such that the Kingdom of God operates only in the spiritual realm and has nothing to do with the affairs of this world.

Figure 1 portrays a secular perspective on the future: the variety of potential conflicts in the world and how likely they are to occur, from the viewpoint of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1991.24 The trend of recent events is optimistic: away from nuclear holocaust, and toward the left of the graph. When God's work in history is not acknowledged,

 forecasts such as this one provide the only means available for policymakers' planning purposes. If the millennium were included on the chart, Christians would have to assign to it the highest probability: indeed, it is a certainty. However, the Joint Chiefs are reckoning probabilities without the aid of biblical prophesies. On the other hand, populist end-times sermons and books of the 1960s and 1970s which identified Soviet Russia as "Gog" or "Magog" of biblical prophesy and the now-defunct European Common Market as the "Ten Nation Confederacy" have been discredited.25 Even sermons from 1991 which gave prophetic significance to Saddam Hussein because of Baghdad's proximity to Babylon already are dated.

Advocates of Curry's second category--the separatist, "Christ against culture" theology--often arrive at a pessimistic eschatology: the failure of deterrence is seen to be inevitable because a global nuclear holocaust is identified with the picture of the end times portrayed in the Book of Revelation. Thus, this theology offers no satisfying basis for national participation in arms control negotiations, since the opposite initiative, arms buildup, is seen as necessary for the fulfillment of apocalyptic prophecy. Chuck Colson argues that this can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.26

The Bible does not require a monotone descent into tribulation, unlike Hawking's third arrow, which moves inexorably into chaos. Neither the rate nor the path toward tribulation is proscribed in scripture. Periods of remission, peace, or improvement in the human condition are entirely admissible. A failure to understand this could be a tragic mistake (and is most likely the cause of many premature sermons on the immanence of the end times.)

Because of this fatalistic view, "Christ against culture" advocates generally limit their involvement in public life to what might be called "rescue operations." Many praiseworthy activities of the church have been produced by such a theology: rescue missions, hospitals, shelters for battered women, the Salvation Army, and many others. However, there is no real attempt to change the social structures of society, which are seen as unredeemable.

Reconstructionist writers oppose signing treaties of any sort 
between "covenant" (Christian) and "non-covenant" nations; 
covenant nations are to seek peace through strength...

Curry's third category (the "search for a biblical third way") includes "Reconstructionism" (or Dominion Theology); "Politics of Biblical Justice," and "Kingdom Politics." These three philosophies are popular with different groups of Christians today.

According to Reconstructionists, Christians are to implement God's Kingdom on earth (empowered by the Holy Spirit, of course) by bringing God's Law to operate on all human institutions. God's Law is taken to be the civil and moral laws given to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament records.27 Reconstructionism appeals to the Christian Right because of its conservative foreign policy agenda.

Reconstructionist writers oppose signing treaties of any sort between "covenant" (Christian) and "non-covenant" nations; covenant nations are to seek peace through strength, unless the adversary also comes under God's covenant. Arms control negotiations are rejected on similar grounds, so that Reconstructionists and Apocalyptic Eschatologists are in substantial agreement in this area.

Reconstructionist teaching on international politics draws upon the idea that the object of the Great Commission (Greek ethnos in Matt. 28:19) refers to governments, thus contrasting radically with the separatist apocalyptic perspective.28 However, as noted earlier, Matt. 24:17 sets forth a clear distinction between peoples (ethnos) and governments (basileia). The two Greek words used together imply that the end times will witness ethnic group conflicts as well as conflicts between governments; consistent exegesis requires that the Great Commission directs the Apostles to take the gospel to all peoples rather than all governments. Reconstructionists resolve this dilemma by arguing that missionaries and businessmen should carry the gospel to the people, who then reconstruct their governments on covenant principles.

The goal of the "Politics of Biblical Justice" group is to bring about a biblically-based transformation of society, with liberal democracy being the best response to this age between the first and second comings of Christ. Curry rejects this theology because, in his view, it does not provide adequate basis to deal with the pervasive nature of sin in this age "between the times." In Curry's mind, politics, as the process of compromise, often requires an untenable accommodation between absolutes, i.e. between biblical and unbiblical positions.

In "Kingdom Politics," Christ stands against culture, and his followers must speak in judgment of it. However, in "Kingdom Politics" the biblical message becomes one of economic and social liberation from earthly injustice. As a result, it is easy to lose sight of individual human sinfulness here, and attribute evil only to economic and social institutions. Liberation theology provides a familiar example of this.

None of the theologies described in Curry's collection offers a satisfying basis for Christian participation in arms control in particular, or public life in general. Indeed, he believes that no such basis exists. I believe, however, that a biblical framework does exist. Curry rightfully argues for a biblical dualism, but it is the wrong one! To this writer the only dualism taught in scripture is the coexistence, for now, of good and evil in the plan of God, not the separation of nature and grace. The need to verify arms control treaties ("trust, but verify") reflects this duality. However, even the good/evil dualism is temporary--a day is coming when God's redemption will be complete.

In Curry's mind, politics, as the process of compromise, 
often requires an untenable accommodation between biblical and unbiblical positions.

A robust basis for Christian involvement in public life can be derived from the four-fold flow of biblical history: from Creation (good); to the Fall (evil); to Redemption (renewal); and to Consummation (glorification). 28,29 These elements comprise the biblical world view and provide a framework for interpretation of world events. In contrast to Curry's appeal for dualism, all of life is religious. The Bible teaches that creation is going somewhere: the Exodus is the Old-Testament paradigm for redemption, and the Promised Land is a picture of the promised consummation, the end of history.

All things were cursed after the Fall (Gen. 3:17; Isa 24:5; Hosea 4:1-3), resulting, according to Francis Schaeffer's assessment, in a three-fold alienation: man from God, man from nature, and man from man.30 However, all things--after separation of the unrepentant--are to be redeemed (Rom. 8:19-23; II Cor. 5:18,19; Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:20; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1). The redemptive message of the Bible is that individuals need to repent, and their culture needs healing. The direction of healing is toward justice and righteousness in society (Micah 6:8).

Christians are to be part of God's program of healing--in fact, they are to be his agents (Eph. 2:10). By acting out our lives as light and salt, Christians effect a present reality of the Kingdom of God which will reach its culmination in the future.31 God's Kingdom is now, and is coming. The calling is not passive. Our assignment moves from proclamation to demonstration of Kingdom values. This assignment means becoming part of God's plan for healing; living lives that serve to redeem, rescue, reclaim, repair, and restore from the effects of the Fall. We are called to work for transformation; and in Francis Schaeffer's terminology, the result will be substantial healing--now!32

A robust basis for Christian involvement in public life can be 
derived from the four-fold flow of biblical history: from Creation (good); 
to the Fall (evil); to Redemption (renewal); and to Consummation (glorification).

Christians should be active in national, state, and local governments, schools, committees, corporations, and any other arenas where biblical principles might be brought to operate on man's affairs. Retreatism, separatism, or isolationism with the sole objective of purity, holiness, or personal piety are not biblical positions. The motive for Christian political involvement is to obey God's command to care for his creation, to anticipate the consummation with the assurance that the principalities and powers of the present age do not have the last word.33 Participation is not to be undertaken with the idea of creating a perfect society or implementing the Kingdom of God, but simply as a redemptive endeavor. Failure to do so amounts to abandonment of man's institutions to the kingdom of Satan. At the very least, participation might prevent some of the evil that would be done if institutions were left untouched.

Political participation is not to be undertaken with the
idea of creating a perfect society or implementing the Kingdom of God, 
but simply as a redemptive endeavor. Failure to do so amounts to 
abandonment of man's institutions to the kingdom of Satan.

The biblical view of time provides further interpretive insight. The time for consummation--the culmination of healing--God alone knows. Hebrew and Greek words and phrases concerning time in Scripture refer to an appointed time or season e.g., eth (Eccl. 3) and kairos in the New Testament Greek; whereas yom (Hebrew) and chronos (Greek) refer to the passage of clock time. Advocates of the deterrence doctrine believe that despite its high economic cost, survival of Western and possibly global civilization has been the benefit. However, God may have brought about a new kairos by allowing, or causing, monumental changes in the Soviet empire. Because the window may not remain open, Christians must seize the opportunity to spread the gospel and initiate healing. Arms control can be a vehicle for this endeavor.

From Deterrence to Reconciliation

Alberto Coll has argued that "prudence" is the highest form of morality in US foreign policy.34 Senator Mark Hatfield suggested that reconciliation should become the new foundation of foreign policy,35 meaning that we should work to alleviate the incentives for nations to go to war. President Bush's foreign policy advisors believe that the surest path to global peace is the export of democracy and market economies. Which of these positions best matches God's purpose in history?

In the era of Soviet expansionism, US national security policy was political containment and military deterrence. Arms control has been intermittently included as a means, but never an end as a policy objective. That deterrence may have prevented global war for forty-five years cannot be disproved, and, as such, deterrence qualifies as a policy of prudence. However, when viewed from the perspective being developed here, several serious deficiencies are evident.

First, although deterrence may not have stimulated the arms race, it certainly did not prevent it. The world became steadily more dangerous with the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, biological, and conventional arms. Local wars and "low-intensity conflicts" (see Figure 1, p. 31) have continued unabated, and one doesn't need to be reminded of the growth of terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy. The prophetic cry of Jeremiah "the prophets cry `peace, peace' when there is no peace" (Jer. 6:14) rings true. MAD doctrine produced a false peace.

Congressional estimates of the cost to the US 
for defending Europe in 1990 was $160 billion, 
or $1600 per taxpayer, similar to the budget deficit.

The economic and social costs of the arms race provide a second concern about security policy based on deterrence. Shortly after his inauguration, President Dwight Eisenhower observed that "every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed."36 Ironically, his administration subsequently presided over the formative stages of the nuclear arms race. Congressional estimates of the cost to the US for defending Europe in 1990 was $160 billion, or $1600 per taxpayer, similar to the budget deficit.37 In 1989, according to the International Labor Organization, global spending on armaments was $1.9 million per minute, employing 55 million people. At the same time, in the "developing world" there was one soldier for every 240 persons and one physician for every 1,950 persons. During the two years of optimism in 1989-90 it was popular to anticipate that the reduction of military spending made possible by arms control would free up resources (a "peace dividend") to invest in the social infrastructure. The Persian Gulf War dashed those hopes for a while, because the war was estimated to cost over a billion dollars per day. Although President Bush's nuclear arms reduction speech renewed hopes for a peace dividend, a new arms rush is underway as US and European companies seek to replace reduced Western purchases with sales to eager Middle Eastern and Eastern European customers!

Arms control is more redemptive in nature than is deterrence 
because it can reduce the capacity to wage war, control arms races, 
and reduce damage if deterrence should fail.

Finally, deterrence as the basis for security policy has been questioned on more direct moral grounds.38 The concept of nuclear deterrence was implemented largely on the basis of economic expediency; and the basic theme is, if not vengeance, at least punishment. Vengeance remains God's responsibility (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19; Heb. 10:30), even though God sometimes used armies to bring judgments against his enemies. Vengeance does not provide a moral foundation for foreign policy. At the very least, application of the principle of nuclear retaliation first requires sorting out the differences between ancient Israel's theocracy under law and the secular democracy of the US today.

A Foreign Policy of Reconciliation

Arms control is not necessarily part of God's plan for redemption; neither is it sufficient by itself as a foreign policy. Clearly, however, arms control is more redemptive in nature than is deterrence because it can reduce the capacity to wage war, control arms races, and reduce damage if deterrence should fail. Deterrence is consistent with recognition of the Fall: it acknowledges human evil and seeks to hold it in check. However, deterrence as a policy contains no element of redemption, which, as we see above, is the third element of the biblical flow of history. By contrast, arms control contains an element of redemption. It can do this without sacrificing the deterrence element if the arms control results in "build down"; retaining deterrence while reducing damage potential.

After war making capacity is reduced by arms control, there still remains the objective of reducing the incentive. The Bible teaches that there will be wars as long as the causes remain, and that no peace will endure in the absence of righteousness and justice. "Structural injustice," which is simply the outworking of human sin through institutions, provides some of the causes. Structural injustice may be the system-level cause of extremes in wealth and poverty, hunger, economic exploitation, pollution, and colonialism; but simple greed is the root cause. Well-meaning Christians often participate unwittingly in many of these structures.

A foreign policy that sought to alleviate suffering and promote justice surely would please God. For example, suppose that, rather than selling arms to Persian Gulf nations, the US had been exporting health care, desalination technology, crops able to thrive in arid climates or alkaline soils, and economic policies that helped mitigate aggregation of extremes in wealth and poverty? The missing element during the Persian Gulf War was any call to national sacrifice in the US, creating the de facto energy policy of war before conservation. The "Harvest for Peace" campaign sponsored in Congress by Bread For the World provides a positive policy alternative: the initiative calls for legislation to direct the "peace dividend" into hunger relief, domestic and worldwide.39 Until God's Righteous Kingdom, the presence of justice will not eliminate despots and megalomaniacs, but it would make it harder for them to recruit followers.


It is probably safe to say that policymakers don't particularly care what evangelicals are writing in the pages of Perspectives or speaking at the ASA annual meeting. I am not criticizing ASA here; the organization has real value as a place where we hammer out our theology in a climate of love and trust. However, policymakers will pay attention to evangelicals' participation in the public policy process, e.g. what they write to their Congressmen and to the editorial pages, how they serve the poor with love and practice justice for them, and what they do as participants in national policy processes, such as arms control.



1Washington Post/Newsweek Interview, 1988.

2"Backing Away from Armageddon," Washington Post, November 27, 1991, p. 3.

3New York Times, October 25, 1989, p. 30.

4Washington Post, December 8, 1989, p. A19.

5Charles Krauthammer, "Why Arms Control is Obsolete," Time, August 5, 1991, p. 68.

6Ellen Goodman, "The Summit of the Absurd," The Oakland Tribune, August 6, 1991, p. A11.

7R. Jeffrey Smith, "Comprehensive Arms Pact May be the Last of its Kind," Washington Post, July 18, 1991, p. 29.

8Table 1 compiled by John M. Taylor, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM, 1990.

9Jack C. Swearengen and Alan Peter Swearengen, "Comparative Analysis of the Nuclear Weapons Debate: Campus and Developer Perspectives," Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Vol. 42, No. 2, June 1990, pp. 75-85.

10Mikhail Gorbachev, Perestroika, New York: Harper and Row, 1987.

11Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. "Baker Snatches Defeat from the Jaws of Victory," Wall Street Journal, May 24, 1990, p. 14.

12Wall Street Journal, December 11, 1989, p. 14.

13Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1930.

14Washington Times, December 1, 1989, p. F-3.

15Ibid, November 22, 1989, p. 9.

16Soviet Military Power: an Assessment of the Threat, US Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., April 1988, p. 158.

17Ronald Lehman III, "The Arms Control Legacy of the Reagan Administration: Focus on START," Strategic Review, Fall 1988, p. 13.

18From a speech by Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze to the Party Congress, July 1990 (reported in Wall Street Journal, July 31, 1990, p. 12.)

19Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Encyclopaedia of the Philosophic Sciences, 1817.

20Frances Fukuyama, "Are We at The End of History?" Fortune, Vol. 121, No. 2, Jan 15, 1990, pp. 75-78.

21Hugh Ross. The Fingerprint Of God, Orange, CA: Promise Publishing Co., 1989, pp. 108, 146, 171.

22Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, New York: Bantam Books, 1988, p. 143.

23Dean C. Curry, "Biblical Politics and Foreign Policy," in Evangelicals and Foreign Policy: Four Perspectives, Michael Cromartie, Ed., Washington, D.C., Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1989, pp. 43-64.

24Based on the Joint Chiefs' 1991 "Military Net Assessment," reported by Peter Alsberg, The Washington Post, National Weekly Edition, May 27-June 2, 1991, p. 8.

25Edwin Yamauchi, Foes From the Northern Frontier: Invading Hordes from the Russian Steppes, Baker, 1982.

26Charles Colson, Kingdoms in Conflict, William Morrow/Zondervan, 1987, pp. 9-40.

27Gary North, Healer of the Nations: Biblical Blueprints for International Relations, Fort Worth: Dominion Press, 1987, pp. 56-58, 127-129, 164-170.

28The author is indebted to Denis D. Haack of Ransom Fellowship for calling his attention to this framework.

29John R.W. Stott, Involvement: Being a Responsible Christian in a Non-Christian Society, Vol I, Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1985.

30Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who is There, Chicago: InterVarsity Press, 1968, pp. 152-154.

31Jaques Ellul, The Presence of the Kingdom, 2nd ed., Colorado Springs: Helmers and Howard, 1989, pp. xli, 21-47, 65.

32Francis A. Schaeffer, True Spirituality, Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, 1971, pp. 123-138.

33Richard John Neuhaus, "Why Wait for the Kingdom? The Theonomist Temptation," First Things, May 1990, pp. 13-21.

34Alberto R. Coll, "Christian Realism and Prudence in Foreign Policy: a Challenge to Evangelicals," in Evangelicals and Foreign Policy: Four Perspectives, loc cit., pp. 28-42.

35"An Agenda for Global Reconciliation," Essays by Mark O. Hatfield, George Weigel, John Lawyer, and Kenneth Kantzer, Christianity Today, June 18, 1990, pp. 29-39.

36Dwight D. Eisenhower, "The Chance for Peace;" address before The American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953.

37Ruth Leger Sivard, World Military and Social Expenditures, Washington, D.C., World Priorities, 1989.

38Challenge of Peace: God's Promises and our Response; Catholic Bishop's Pastoral Letter, 1983.

39Share the Harvest of Peace Resolution, Proc. 101st Congress, Vol. 36, No. 7: Senate Concurrent Resolution #91, House Concurrent Resolution #259.