The current “take” on ISIS (the would-be Caliphate), is that ISIS has been seriously degraded, but that much work remains to be done. Most of that “work” is simply to enable the world to focus appropriate power to deal with this instance of public madness. Yes. That a reportedly tiny armed force, 30,000 people, could have caused so much havoc is indeed rather surprising. It illustrates the very degraded state of the military in the states of Iraq and Syria—but it is even more remarkable that a mere 43-year old Syrian, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, thought that he actually could form a caliphate and that such a venture could possibly succeed. So what’s the explanation of this phenomenon?
I think it rests on a belief—namely that God is actively engaged in this world and on behalf of various chosen people. And because God is God, those who hold this belief can sincerely attempt the quite impossible. They have nothing else to support their aims. To some significant degree, the belief also rests on quite deep ignorance, either actual or stubborn. At this stage in history, modernism is still very powerful and quite able, in due time, after it has managed to overcome its multiple distractions, to focus just a small amount of its available power on these fanatics. And then they will turn into history—and be rapidly forgotten.
It is reassuring to have recorded in the Christian tradition—which, alas, also features in its past a belief in a God who intervened and “chose” a people—some quite clear indicators that such a view is faulty. “My kingdom is not of this world,” said Christ in John 18:36. Then there is “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” Matthew 22:21.
First comes the worship of the tribe, then the worship of God. Endless problems have arisen from failure to grasp the distinction between these two kinds of worship.