The Christian and Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy

Over the past few years, it seems that we are hearing more about “conspiracy theories.” A number of people have expressed increasing concern over Christians embracing such theories. Notice the following excerpt from an article from Lifeway Research. [Note: We discussed this on the podcast a couple of months ago, but I thought it would be good to deal it here as well.]

“A new study from Nashville-based Lifeway Research finds 49% of U.S. Protestant pastors say they frequently hear members of their congregation repeating conspiracy theories they have heard about why something is happening in our country. Around 1 in 8 (13%) strongly agree their congregants are sharing conspiracy theories, defined by Merriam-Webster as ‘a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators.’” (Lifeway Research)

The article contrasts “conspiracy theories” with “truth,” assuming that they must be opposites. Yet that will not always be the case. What conspiracy theories were these pastors hearing? We are not told in the article. However, there is an assumption – not just from the author of the article, but an assumption that is held by many – that whatever has been labeled as a “conspiracy theory” must necessarily be false. (Keep this in mind and we will revisit this point later.)

Again, the article did not mention any specific conspiracy theories that were being spread by church-goers. And in this article, I will not be discussing any specific conspiracy theories either, whether they are about the pandemic, the recent Presidential election, or anything else. However, I do want us to consider some general principles. There are some who are very quick to believe any conspiracy theory that comes along. Others are very quick to dismiss all “conspiracy theories.” As Christians, we should not take either of these approaches.

So what are some Biblical principles we need to remember about “conspiracy theories”? In this article, we are going to consider six points.

First, Conspiracies DO Exist

A conspiracy is a secret agreement between two or more people to do something that is illegal or wrong (adapted from Merriam-Webster’s definition of conspire). These types of secretive plots have been going on throughout human history.

One example in the Bible was Absalom’s conspiracy to take the throne from his father David (2 Samuel 15:1-12). The Biblical account focuses on David and Absalom; so as we read, it is very clear to us what is happening. However, to the average Israelite – especially to those who were not in Jerusalem – hearing rumors of the king’s son wanting to overthrow his father probably would have seemed “crazy.” But something sounding “crazy” does not necessarily mean it is wrong; it could just mean we have limited information. Of course, this does not give us permission to spread misinformation; but it does mean that something sounding “crazy” to us does not necessarily disprove it, whatever it is.

Another example was the conspiracy of the Jews to kill Paul (Acts 23:12-15). In that instance, the political leaders were not involved in the planning or execution of the conspiracy. They were simply persuaded to make an innocent-sounding request of the Roman commander to bring Paul back before the Council so that the conspirators could carry out their plot to kill him on the way. The leaders would have been complicit, but they could also very easily deny any involvement and their role would not have been apparent to outside observers.

These types of plots and schemes happen in every nation, in every generation, all around the world. The existence of conspiracies should not be surprising. However, we often do not know anything or know very little about them.

Second, We Should Expect Wicked, Selfish, and Anti-God People in Positions of Power

In the admonition for brethren to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17), Paul explained why it was so important for Christians to prepare themselves in this way: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Notice that the “rulers” and “world forces” would be included in the opposition to God and His people. Having people in positions of civil authority who respect God and His will is the exception rather than the rule.

Third, We Should Not Blindly Trust Civil Authorities

When Paul gave instructions regarding civil authorities, he said we are to submit to them (Romans 13:1) and give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7). However, the Scriptures do not teach that we should trust them – especially not the way we are to put our trust in God.

King Herod was condemned because he accepted the praise from the people of Tyre and Sidon. They were saying of him, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” (Acts 12:22). Why would they regard him so highly? Luke gave a clue: “Their country was fed by the king’s country” (Acts 12:20). In other words, they were dependent upon him for their livelihood and, therefore, gave him the praise that should have been reserved for God. The result was that the king was struck down because “he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died” (Acts 13:23).

We should not elevate any leader – or for that matter, anyone in any position of power or influence – to the level of God in our minds. Our trust must be in God, not in the powers that be. The psalmist reminded us of this point: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (Psalm 118:8-9).

Fourth, It Is Good to Help People Keep from Being Led Toward Disaster in This Life

What if there is a scheme that would bring harm to our families, friends, and neighbors? The wise man said, “Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back” (Proverbs 24:11). We may have a tendency to quickly make a spiritual application to this – and there is one to be made – but it is not limited to that. If we can help people avoid harm or being ruined in this life, it is good to help prevent that.

Fifth, We Are to Be Wise as Serpents and Harmless as Doves

Jesus made this point before sending His disciples out to preach: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). This same general application could be made for any of the Lord’s disciples living at any point in history. We must not be naive because there are “wolves” out there – those who would do harm to us and to others. However, we are also to be “innocent [harmless, KJV] as doves” and not do evil. If there are rumors, suspicions, and “conspiracy theories,” do not let them lead you to do something like storming the capitol building.

However, if rumors, suspicions, and “conspiracy theories” lead you to stock up on food, have cash on hand, learn how to operate a ham radio, or other such things, that is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, “conspiracy theory” or not, those could be examples of exercising wisdom and good stewardship so that we can take care of our own and also be equipped to help others in the event that some catastrophe strikes (natural or man-made). Again, we are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

Sixth, We Are Not to Lose Sight of What Is Most Important

If a “conspiracy theory” is true – and yes, some of them will be true even if they sound “crazy” – remember that this world is not our home. As Christians, our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). We need to keep pressing on to that goal (Philippians 3:14) and not allow ourselves to become distracted or thrown into despair by whatever is going on in the world. Even if the “craziest” and scariest conspiracy theory turns out to be true, we still have hope of a home in heaven. Let us never lose sight of that.

Conclusion

No matter what “conspiracy theory” may come along now or in the future, understanding these principles can help us respond the way we ought to respond as Christians.

Now, let us get back to the point I mentioned earlier. There seems to be an assumption held by many that whatever has been labeled as a “conspiracy theory” must necessarily be false. I think there are a lot of Christians who have bought into this idea. While it may seem “reasonable” to assume this, it is not safe. Consider the following story from Faithwire:

“Last week, Snopes — a fact-checking website that was used by Facebook for several years to combat what the platform dubbed misinformation — published an article describing creationism as ‘a conspiracy theory.’ The author of the article, chemistry professor Paul Braterman, who describes himself as a ‘skeptic’ and ‘anti-creationist,’ claimed in the piece that creationists — those who embrace the seven-day creation story as it’s outlined in the Bible — ‘go to great lengths to demonize the proponents of evolution.’ Braterman bemoaned the fact that 40% of Americans, according to a 2019 Gallup survey, believe in the creationist view of the origin of humanity, which is that we are descended from the first humans God created, Adam and Eve, ‘within roughly the past 10,000 years.’ ‘Such beliefs derive from the doctrine of biblical infallibility, long accepted as integral to the faith of numerous evangelical and Baptist churches through the world,’ he wrote. ‘[B]ut I would argue that the present-day creationist movement is a fully fledged conspiracy theory.’” (Faithwire)

For those of you who may be quick to dismiss everything that the world – whether government leaders, academics, society in general, etc. – labels as a “conspiracy theory,” be careful. If every idea is to be rejected and ridiculed simply because the world has labeled it as a “conspiracy theory,” what happens when they label certain beliefs found in the Bible that way? This story shows that this is not hypothetical. Is it common or widespread for the belief that God created the world as the book of Genesis describes to be labeled as a “conspiracy theory”? Maybe not yet. But it may just be a matter of time.

So if you have a desire to quickly join with the world in denouncing “conspiracy theories” – whatever they may be – be careful that you are not putting yourself in a position where you will be tempted to compromise your belief in what the word of God teaches when that belief is also labeled a “conspiracy theory.” God’s word is and always will be true (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17), no matter what anyone else says about it.

There will be conspiracies in the world – even some that will impact us – as long as the earth stands. While we should not be quick to embrace every “conspiracy theory” we hear, we should also not be quick to dismiss everything that the world has labeled as a “conspiracy theory.” Instead, let us exercise wisdom and continue to focus on what the Lord wants us to do, being faithful to Him no matter what happens in the world around us.


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