War is hell. It has far reaching implications that are not often foreseen by those who are enthusiastic for it. My friend Peter Hammond has written a fascinating article about World War I – “The War that Will End War” as it was called. It was said to be the war that would “make the world safe for democracy,” as Woodrow Wilson put it.
It accomplished neither.
August 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of what became known as the First World War.
1914 marked the end of the greatest century of Missions and the beginning of what proved to be the worst century of persecution. The consequences of the First World War continue to have far reaching repercussions to this present day.
The Great War
Contemporaries called it The Great War because it was literally greater than any war ever waged before that time. In numbers of soldiers involved, in numbers of casualties, in terms of the disastrous consequences, it was the most catastrophic event in the history of civilization.
When Christians Ruled the World
In 1914, Christian nations ruled virtually the whole world. With the exception of China, Japan and the Ottoman Empire, the globe was dominated by Christian powers, either Protestant, as in the case of Britain, Germany and the United States, Roman Catholic as in the case of the Austria Hungarian Empire, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the French Empire, or Orthodox as in the case of the Russian Empire.
Evangelising the Nations
Christianity came to the beginning of the 20th century on a rising, and apparently unstoppable, tide. Christianity was gaining spectacular momentum as Missionaries from Europe were Evangelising and discipling every tribe and nation. The Protestant Faith had far outstripped the Catholic and Orthodox branches in missionary activity, vitality and initiative.
Anticipating the Completion of the Great Commission
At the world’s first Missions Conference, held in Edinburgh, 1910, delegates were anticipating the completion of the Great Commission within their generation. The consensus at Edinburgh 1910 was that every nation would be thoroughly Evangelised and discipled, and all false religions extinct, by 1960.
Retreat from Victory
Had present trends continued, that was a realistic scenario. Nothing could have stopped the positive onward march of Christianity worldwide, except that Christians were persuaded to kill one another so enthusiastically and so efficiently.
World War I saw such spectacular technological advances in warfare as submarines and aircraft used in war, flame throwers, gas and tanks
20th Century Weapons – But 14th Century Tactics
However, these 20th century weapons were being used alongside 19th century tactics. Of the 65 million European soldiers who were mobilized from 1914 to 1918, over 9 million were killed, 9 million were permanently disabled, and 15 million were seriously injured.
Russia mobilised 12 million soldiers, Germany 11 million, France 8.4 million, Great Britain 8.9 million, (over 250,000 under-age boys served in the British Army, including one who was discovered to be just 12 years old. Average life expectancy in the trenches was about 6 weeks), Italy 5.6 million, Austria 7.8 million and the USA 4.3 million.
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