The Biblical Perspective on Davos Man :: by Wilfred Hahn

A report that we look forward to reviewing every year is the Global Risks report that is published by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The 2013 issue was released earlier this year, in time for the big WEF Annual Meeting held in Davos Switzerland in January.

Ho hum, another convention of economists? Not at all. We would be hard-pressed to describe how influential this organization and its members have become around the world. Originally founded by Klaus Schwab in 1971, this organization has come to represent the absolute pinnacle of International Man. Some 2500 leaders participate in this invitation-only event from over 100 countries.

If you are a global mover and shaker, you need to be invited to the Davos meetings. It has become the highest recognition of what has popularly and also derisively come to be called the Davos Man. It comprises a self-reinforcing assembly of individuals thought to have something to contribute to “the global agenda.” After all, the WEF’s stated mission is to “improve the state of the world.” In a recent article, Mr. Schwab stated that “the need for global cooperation has never been greater.”

Of significance is the fact that the WEF is financially supported by 1000 members. Who are they? All are companies, typically very large global firms. The average revenue of these companies is in excess of $5 billion (therefore collectively representing perhaps as much as 10% of world GDP). As we have often documented, “transnational corporations” (also called multinational corporations — MNC’s) as a group, are the most powerful economic (and, yes, also geopolitical) force in the world. Their influence over governments and global organizations is not to be underestimated.

We would not be surprised if even larger, more-powerful corporate entities were to emerge in the future. Already today, the globe-spanning MNC is regarded as more reliable and credit-worthy than most sovereign nations. Indeed, some MNCs have more employees than many countries have populations.

However, the intent of our discussion of the WEF is not to examine the state of the world’s economies or its companies but rather to focus on the “soul” (for lack of a better term) of the WEF. In other words, we want to take a Biblical worldview. Just what is the WEF “spirit” all about?

Political scientist Samuel P. Huntington some time ago coined the term “Davos Man.” This was meant to characterize the typical attendee: an international “business leader” without nationality…the elite globalist. This view is not misplaced. The WEF indeed has become the pinnacle of Global Man…the International Elite. We would even consider it to be the Mecca of the Commercial Humanism…the present Global High Temple of Self-determinative Mankind.

Our comments here are not meant to mock the activities of the WEF. We think that many of its initiatives are worthy pursuits. Civil society, after all, is charged to manage its affairs upon earth in a manner of stewardship and justice. Dominion of the earth was given to man (Genesis 1:26, 28). As such, mankind is in charge. Seeking to better manage societies, countries, economies or foreign relations, in itself is not a bad thing. Where the problems arise is when mankind chooses to do so without God.

The WEF most certainly gives very little thought to any imperatives of religious faith of any kind. Its perspective is completely “materialist.” Its definition of success is economic growth and more global cooperation.

Its definition of “risk” is predominantly measured in terms of economic impact and financial loss. Risk to them is not so much the unknowing of the future, but the possibility of events and developments that could cause economic upsets in the future. All mention of religion in its policy statements and research, with the exception of one we will yet review, is only in terms of negative risks.

Of all the myriad factors impacting the future outlook of the world mentioned in the 80-page report, the main context in which religion was mentioned was in the phrase “rising religious fanaticism.” Moreover, it is stated to have been the concern only of “non-experts” that were involved in the completion of the report. While this is not entirely surprising, one would have at least expected mention of the growing influence of “geosectarianism” (the rising role of religion in geopolitical affairs). The report therefore assumes a subtly derisive stance with respect to religions.

Most assuredly, as would be expected with an organization sponsored by 1,000 leading companies from around the globe, the WEF is committed to the increase of worldly wealth. Their control of massive economic resources ensures that their voice is heard and that they and their corporations will be rewarded in the future.

The WEF clearly represents the rich, powerful and elite of the world coming together to determine the world’s future. In its collected wisdom, it purports to provide the answers and solutions to mankind’s continuing future progress.

The Bible warns of such conceits. “The rich are wise in their own eyes; one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are” (Proverbs 28:11). “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:21). That mankind wishes to forge its own way is the spirit of the world that has always existed. The only difference today is that this takes the form of a global mankind which is unified in this self-determinative objective. Powerful globe-spanning organizations such as the WEF are at work (as well as others). In the case of the WEF, it perpetuates the common interests of commerce for mankind.

We note several interesting snippets from the latest Global Risks report. Risks from nature are said to be “X” factors. Since these factors are in the sphere of “total chance” and “unpredictability” (or as Bible believers would view, things completely under the dominion of God) they are called “X” factors. One belief stated is that the development of superhuman cognitive abilities (which, in their view, is “fast approaching the horizon of plausibility”) could destabilize the world into factions — the cognitively-enhanced and the non-enhanced.

For all the ponderous human intelligence supposedly behind this report, its occasional banality is therefore all the more pronounced. Consider that the report dedicates a section to the possibility of the discovery of alien life. The report is optimistic that there is life elsewhere in the universe. Quoting the report: “It will tell us that the origin of life is ‘easy’ — that anyplace in the universe life can emerge, it will emerge. […] The discovery of even simple life would […] challenge many assumptions which underpin human philosophy and religion.” This is the only other mention of religion in the report.

There need be little doubt that the WEF represents worldliness and hubris at its height. They seem to be sure that God is subject to having His assumptions challenged. As such, it excels at representing the interests of the world of Mammon.

What we see today is that the vernacular of commerce has become the common language of a new Babel. Business leaders from more than 100 countries can get together at venues such as the WEF to “talk shop” and fully understand each other. It is one more indicator of the season of the world. Bible-believing Christians will find this “sign of the times” yet one more confirmation.

The Bible states that there are two spheres — that of God and Mammon. These two “economies” are in direct opposition. It is as two magnets with the same poles that repel each other. The Kingdom of God has love as its common currency. Why? Love is the only motivational system that is said to never fail. “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8). Mammon, in contrast, has gain and self-interest as its motivational system. Such things as the “love of money,” profits and gain are its incentives.

Though Mammon and the Kingdom of God can never come together, it is true that Christianity often teaches that Mammon and God can work hand in hand. We have called this the final ecumenism where all the religions of the world will agree that their paths and purposes all lead to prosperity on earth. (In Christian circles, prosperity theology may likely be a step in that direction.)

The Apostle John isolated the key motivations defining the world. “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16).

Expressed in more familiar terms, the world today is defined by the quest for fleshly satiation and consumerism; power, influence and celebrity; and self-determination which is the ability to determine what one will say and do. If any one or more of these impulses has commanded our attention and striving, we are not walking with the Lord. To do so is to be a devotee of Mammon.

In reality, according to the Bible, all the wealth of the world that goads the ungodly to the competitive striving for wealth, power and self-determination is only a fleeting distraction, not even offering the semblance of real wealth. Jesus Christ said this: “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches” (Luke 16:11).

What are the true riches? Only those which last eternally. In short, heavenly rewards and eternal salvation. That is not to say that Christians cannot work in business or commerce. However, they serve a different master. The Apostle Paul lays out our objectives in this way: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23- 24).

In the world’s perspective, earth becomes the eternal home. Real riches are not to be found in heaven. This same Jesus who said, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9) is not expected to return to gather up His faithful. Instead of “using worldly wealth” to translate into heavenly treasures, the stockpiling and hoarding of temporal wealth has become the purpose of human life on the earth that shall pass away.