The European Union and the Book of Genesis
In December 2011 David Cameron broke ranks with the European Union and as a result was cheered by many people in Britain. Others were not so pleased, accusing him of having weakened the nation's influence on the continent. Amongst Bible-believing Christians, some almost certainly criticised him, but perhaps more would see the potential demise of the EU as something to be welcomed, the majority citing passages from the Book of Revelation as the justification for their Euro-scepticism. In this article I consider why Christians need to grasp the relevance of the early chapters of Genesis to the EU and similar organisations, in order to have a good understanding of global political trends.
In October 2011 German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, warned that peace itself could be endangered if the EU failed. Speaking before an emergency EU summit she said, “What is good for Europe is good for Germany, half a century of peace and prosperity in Germany and Europe testify to that. No one should think that a further half century of peace and prosperity is assured. It isn’t. And that why I say if the Euro fails, Europe will fail, and that mustn’t happen.” [London Evening Standard & Channel 4 News] In early January, French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned that the collapse of the Euro could trigger instability. Speaking after a meeting with Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti, Sarkozy said, “We do not have the right to drop Europe, we do not have the right to let the Euro be destroyed. The Euro is the heart of Europe. If the Euro is destroyed, it’s the whole of Europe that goes up in smoke. If Europe goes up in smoke it’s the peace of our continent that will be one day or another be called into question.” [Reuters] Why this link between the Euro, the EU and peace?
The idea of a United States of Europe [USE] is said to go back to Napoleon, who reportedly stated, “Europe thus divided into nationalities freely formed and free internally, peace between States would have become easier: the United States of Europe would become a possibility.” Wojciech Jastrzębowski, a Polish polymath, argued at length for an Europe united as one republic without internal borders, with a unified judicial system and institutions consisting of representatives of all nations. He published his “About the everlasting peace between the nations” in May 1831. Victor Hugo and other philosophers including John Stuart Mill, continued the argument for a USE during the nineteenth century. After World War I the idea was supported by a number of thinkers and politicians. The League of Nations was formed during this period and the First Paneuropean Congress assembled in Vienna in 1926. Motivating these initiatives was a range of ideologies. At one extreme Trotsky argued for a “Soviet United States of Europe”, whilst Austrian Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi believed in a specifically Christian Europe. In 1940, the second year of World War II, Wilhelm II stated that: “The hand of God is creating a new world & working miracles.... We are becoming the United States of Europe under German leadership, a united European Continent.”
The birth of the modern EU followed World War II and Sir Winston Churchill was a cautious supporter of it. Speaking in Zurich on 19th September 1946, under the title of “Something to astonish you!” [The Churchill Society] Churchill argued for a united Europe. His speech began by describing the continent as “the fountain of Christian faith and Christian ethics”, but soon pointed out that in spite of this, “frightful nationalistic quarrels,” could “even in this twentieth century and in our own lifetime, wreck the peace and mar the prospects of all mankind.”
Warning that the end of WWII did not guarantee security, he argued, “Yet all the while there is a remedy which, if it were generally and spontaneously adopted, would as if by a miracle transform the whole scene, and would in a few years make all Europe, or the greater part of it, as free and as happy as Switzerland is today. What is this sovereign remedy? It is to re-create the European Family, or as much of it as we can, and provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe.”
This great statesman then went on to reason, “If Europe is to be saved from infinite misery, and indeed from final doom, there must be an act of faith in the European family and an act of oblivion against all the crimes and follies of the past.” Later he asserted, “I am now going to say something that will astonish you. The first step in the re-creation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany.”
Summarising his argument Churchill said, “Our constant aim must be to build and fortify the strength of the United Nations Organisation. Under and within that world concept, we must re-create the European family in a regional structure called, it may be, the United States of Europe. The first step is to form a Council of Europe. If at first all the States of Europe are not willing or able to join the Union, we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and those who can. The salvation of the common people of every race and of every land from war or servitude must be established on solid foundations and must be guarded by the readiness of all men and women to die rather than submit to tyranny.” [Emphasis mine throughout]
There is some evidence in his speech that he did not see Britain as part of a unionist Europe, “In all this urgent work, France and Germany must take the lead together. Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America, and I trust Soviet Russia - for then indeed all would be well - must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live and shine.” This echoed a comment he made to an American journal, The Saturday Evening Post, in February 1930, to the effect that Britain was with Europe, but not of it; interested and associated with it, but not absorbed by it.
There can be no doubt that there has been a genuine desire to eliminate war and establish peace in the politics of the last 200 years. Churchill was not a supporter of the federal Europe which is now setting the agenda, but he did believe accord could be established by securing unity amongst the nations. I have quoted at length from his speech because I wanted to establish two things. First, that he believed the ideal he was supporting was essentially Christian in nature. Secondly, he spoke twice of salvation, the first time saying it needed “an act of faith in the European family”. These are religious phrases for such a political project, but are they the words of faith which Paul states bring life?
“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Rom. 10:8-10
Imagine the situation - your great-grandparents had lived through the biggest environmental calamity ever experienced. The land had been devastated, homes and fields had been destroyed to a far greater extent than in last year’s tsunami in Japan. Fears remained as smaller events continued to shake the earth. Just as you had managed to plant this year’s crops, the sea flowed inland and destroyed everything just as it had done three times previously. Distant volcanoes seemed to be erupting far too frequently and the sky was often dark with their ash. Despite all these adversities, the family was growing bigger and there was fear that another major cataclysm would drive you apart again. What would you do to protect your extended family, your homes, your crops and your futures? Where would you look for salvation?
Many years ago, events like this seemingly threatened one nomadic community. The elders met and listened to ideas from young and old alike. They needed a compound with walls high enough to keep repeated floods at bay. These walls needed to be so strong that they would not be shattered by any earthquake or lava flow. Besides providing a refuge for all your family, they would also need to store what food people were able to produce, just in case disaster struck and everyone had to retreat inside and stay there for several months. Together they planned a strong, earthquake-resistant skyscraper.
We cannot be sure that a scenario like this preceded the events recorded in Genesis 11, when the global community decided to make a city, a tower and a name for themselves, but we do know they were afraid of being scattered across the face of the earth by their circumstances. Was it just pride which motivated them to build a high tower, or were catastrophic physical events threatening their security? Today we commonly soften the impact of many Old Testament passages by assuming they are using poetic language. Psalms 18, 29 and 114 are all examples of passages which describe geological and atmospheric events as The LORD’s actions, but it is very easy to read them as imagery about spiritual things. If these accounts are literal, and it is only our present-day experience and naturalistic mindset which make them metaphorical, then they are testimony to the experience of men like Moses and David, who witnessed His hand in the type of seismic upheavals we consider rare today.
If the earth was still settling down from the chaos of the Flood over a thousand years after it happened, then we cannot exclude the possibility that just a couple of hundred years after Noah and his family left the ark, the earth was still resonating with the aftermath of the judgement which had been poured upon it. The men and women who built a tower on the plain of Shinar, wanted to do something to protect themselves, but they were looking in the wrong place for salvation.
The Flood was not a distant memory then, as it is now. They knew that their ancestor Noah had been saved through his faith in The LORD, yet they chose to trust in the work of their own hands, rather than in Him. Why might this have been? Were they fed up of wandering across the earth? Were they terrified by the unstable and hostile environment they existed in? Were they unable to trust in The LORD because they were being rebellious towards Him, despite the destruction that had come upon the pre-Flood society? The LORD had repeated to Noah the command given to the human race in Gen.1 to “multiply and fill the earth”. This generation however preferred to huddle together in one place and not to be spread out. They also wanted to make a name for themselves. Biblically, names are not just about identity, but also have to do with authority, which is why as Christians we are told to pray in Christ’s name. Whatever it was that these people were threatened by, they decided that they would find security by banding together, trusting in the work of their own hands (the bricks they made) and establishing their own authority system. Though they had a recent history which told them emphatically that salvation was to be found nowhere but in The LORD, this generation sought to save themselves by their own devices. Many years later, a psalmist looking for a refuge rejected all alternatives but the God of his salvation, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” Psalms 121:1-2.
Genesis 11 records the last time mankind as a whole cooperated together to establish security for themselves rather than calling on The LORD for salvation. That was at a place later known as Babel, because He brought confusion upon them to prevent them from repeating that same mistake in the immediate future. We can be sure that His intention in dividing people into families, clans, tribes and nations was to cause people to seek Him, because Paul made this clear to the Athenians. In his Mars Hill speech he told them that a God they once knew about but had now forgotten was the One who “who made the world and everything in it”. He then explained:
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. Acts 17:26-27
We often quote this to emphasise that all mankind is descended from the one man, Adam. But did you notice that Paul also explains why The LORD divided us into nations and has maintained our separation (boundaries) ever since? It is to motivate us to seek Him in the hope that we should find him. Read it carefully and you will see that it is The LORD who has the hope that we will find Him, not the other way round.
How might being divided into separate nations motivate us to seek Him? We know that we live in a world where sin abounds, and sin causes people to think of themselves before others. This is true not only of individuals, but also of tribes and nations. When Israel was rebellious towards Him later, He sent other nations to attack them. This was not to punish them as we can so easily imagine, but in order to discipline them and cause them to turn back to Him. Deut. 28 contains the warning about the consequences of disobedience which He gave them through Moses . In v.45 52 He describes how part of His response would be to bring a nation against them from afar which would destroy them utterly. However, in Lev. 26:40-46 He also promised that if they would “confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers,” recognising that it was He who had “brought them into the land of their enemies” then He would hear their cries and remember His covenant with them through Abraham. This is a promised repeated in 2 Chron. 7:14, though losing the right to occupy the land is not mentioned until v.20-22. Throughout their history, when Israel has sought The LORD He has delivered them from their enemies; when they have ignored Him, He has handed them over to them!
The example of Israel being driven to seek The LORD by the aggression of its neighbours is not without parallel in other nations. In Britain, war twice brought the nation to its knees. National Days of Prayer were called by King George VI and leading politicians in May 1940 and March 1941. Both proved crucial moments, the first taking place days before the evacuation of Dunkirk, and the second days before the German advance into the Balkans was halted and the Italian fleet was defeated in the Mediterranean. Behind the scenes men and women like Rees Howells and members of the Bible College of Wales spent many sessions in strategic prayer during WWII.
Britain was not special in this respect, but these events do remind us of the truth of Paul’s argument in Athens, that The LORD’s intention in dividing mankind into nations was to provoke us to seek Him. How sad it is then that Churchill and many other war-time leaders, though paying lip service to Europe being “the fountain of Christian faith and Christian ethics”, actually resorted to a very old heresy. Repeating the mistake of the Babel generation whose fathers had experienced God’s salvation through the Flood, post-war world leaders ignored His mercy in response to national prayer. Instead they devised a scheme wherein they mistakenly trusted that mankind could save itself by doing away with the borders which The LORD Himself maintains to provoke them to seek Him. Again the old saying proves true - the one thing we learn from history is that we do not learn from history. This seems particularly true where Biblical history is concerned!
When Charles Lyell, often described as the father of modern geology, popularised the notion that in geology the present is the key to past, he was doing so to undermine Biblical history. He was exploiting the human tendency to assume that “today” is normal and everything else should be understood and judged by the assumptions of the current generation. Charles Darwin followed Lyell’s lead and persuaded people that a true biological history can be constructed by projecting backwards from what we see today. A Biblical world-view is the very opposite of this approach. When The LORD first created the universe, He declared the result of His work to be very good in every aspect. When Adam sinned, things began to deteriorate not just spiritually and morally, but biologically and environmentally as well. Today the world in which we live can be best understood as one which has deteriorated (and continues to do so) as a consequence of ongoing human rebellion against our Creator. The changes we observe in plants and animals for example, are better understood as degeneration rather than self-generated improvements as proposed by Darwin. What we observe is devolution, not evolution.
The Scriptures also make clear that social breakdown is another result of sin. The first thing recorded after the Fall is how Cain murdered his brother out of jealousy. Violence increased from then on and was one of the things which motivated The LORD to send the Flood. As we have seen, after that terrible judgement men had still not learned to be humble before The LORD - instead they sought to save themselves rather than call on Him. Their Creator therefore confused their languages and separated them from one other, in the hope that as separate nations they would learn to seek Him. Whilst some have sought The LORD from time to time, the prevailing trend since Babel has been to ignore Him and to look to ourselves for salvation from our problems. We do this despite overwhelming evidence that all are corrupt (sinful) and that on the whole each seeks his own good rather than his neighbour’s. Right now we live at a time when technology is overcoming the physical and linguistic separation of Babel and just prior to this communications revolution, two world wars had provided politicians with reason to think that international security might be achieved through global unity. However, by thinking this way, they are making exactly the same mistake as our ancestors did by building a tower which they thought would save them.
To understand the imagery of the Book of Revelation, a good knowledge of many Old Testament prophets is essential. But many Christians forget that this is a book which brings to an end an account begun in Genesis. Speaking of Jesus, and quoting from Ps. 102, Hebrews 1:10-12 links events of Gen. 1 & 2 to those of Rev. 21 & 22, “You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not fail.” The thread of human history runs unbroken from one to the other. To understand why things go so badly wrong at the end, we must learn from the beginning. In the early chapters of Genesis we have the origins of the rebellion which will finally become ripe for judgement in the events featured in John’s vision. Whilst the EU willingly takes to itself language and symbols which seemingly identify it with many scenarios in Revelation, to fully understand it and the other unions of nations we see being forged today, we need to appreciate their direct connection with the pride of Babel - a pride in which men preferred to try and save themselves rather than calling upon The LORD.
The pace of change over recent decades seems to be without precedent. Technology has shrunk the world in ways which could not be imagined at the end of WWII. Mankind has been desperate for peace, but wars between and within nations continue to increase. People are crying “Peace, peace!” but as one headline conflict ceases, at least one more breaks out. The West champions democracy, but in Europe sovereign nations are giving it up for the sake of political unity and economic stability. What will be the outcome of these things? Can I encourage you not to give your attention to apocalyptic passages as if they are a jigsaw for which the picture has been lost. Instead, stand back from the finer details of passages which may not become clear until we have watched them being fulfilled, and take the long view of Biblical history. Take in the whole panorama and see how from the foundation of the world the Lamb of God was slain to redeem for His Father those who would learn to love their God sacrificially as He does. Alongside this glorious revelation of Divine nature, there runs a honest and terrible description of the awfulness of fallen human nature. The Bible assures us that there is nothing new under the sun. The EU, the UN and political globalism in general have roots that stretch back to Babel and beyond. If Christians are not to be distracted by them, we must realise what the problem really is with these things. It is not that they are not British, nor that they are a danger because they might feature in Revelation. Their mistake is actually that, like their ancestors, they refuse to seek The LORD, preferring instead to try and save themselves.
paper was first published as part of the April 2012, Creation
Research UK Update.
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© Randall Hardy, 2013