When appeals to humanitarianism fail

How do you stop someone who is convinced he'll go to heaven if he drives a truckload of explosives into a crowded building? Or someone who believes it's God's will that innocent people be taken hostage? How do you defuse mob violence by long-oppressed peoples?

One might naturally hope to appeal to a common humanitarianism, to some universal rationality and desire for peace. But if we base our efforts strictly on a human desire for or capability to bring peace, we are liable to failure—as many recent events have shown. The difficulty isn't just that human intelligence is limited and prone to blind spots (fanatics are often convinced of the reasonableness of their acts). It's that appraising man on the basis of what appears to the physical senses doesn't take into account all the resources available for the resolution of conflicts.

The Bible's persistent message is that man is much more than —indeed, something radically different from—what appears on the surface. Though the Bible does describe acts of depravity and violence among humankind, there is another, stronger message—the message of man's spiritual nature. From Genesis to Revelation, in one way or another, it is hinted, proclaimed, or shown that man is forever God's beloved child, His image and likeness. Since this is true, it is a fact that overrides all the other pictures, because man cannot be both a reflection of divine goodness and an autonomous evildoer.

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September 22, 1986

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