This is the seventh article released in a series entitled, “Tensions: Navigating Current Issues as a Kingdom Citizen.” This article is by Pastor Bob Bolander.
There have always been “conspiracy theories”, and they started with the fall of humanity. Adam replied to the Lord in the garden that “the woman you gave to be with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12). According to Webster’s Dictionary, a conspiracy theory is “a belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for a circumstance or event.” American historian Gordon S. Wood claims that conspiracy theories were a byproduct of the Enlightenment, when humans needed something else to blame when things did not go their way. The rise of a post-modern view in the last century says that each person can formulate their own “truth”, blurring what is right and wrong. Modern, mass communication through the internet allows conspiracy theories to be presented to a larger and larger audience. Now we add “fake news”, which is a new aspect to these conspiracy theories that even information itself is now difficult to verify, believe, or simply be accepted by some. It’s been said if you tell a lie enough times individuals will begin to believe it simply because they have heard it so often. So what are a few principles that would guide the Christian through this cultural reality?
We are called to wisdom. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Solomon calls the man “simple who believes everything he hears, and prudent is the man who considers well his steps” (Proverbs 14:15). We have a God-given responsibility to use Biblical truth to develop our conclusions when we hear anything new. Some things like “taking the Covid-19 vaccination is receiving the mark of the beast” can be quickly dismissed because the Bible is clear that this “mark” is a conscious choice to reject Christ and follow the Beast. It also requires that we refrain from making quick decisions based on whatever we hear from others. The Bereans were praised for not simply accepting everything they heard from Paul but comparing it to scripture. Who is the source of the information? What is the motivation for the distribution of that information? Does it even matter whether it’s true or not? Most conspiracy theories are simply pointless, such as the one that man never landed on the moon and what we watched was a government conspiracy. It is shared simply to create distrust for government, but the facts really don’t make a difference in my daily life. Others are started to try to influence people for political reasons. This doesn’t mean we ignore all conspiracy theories. At times, conspiracy theories have been used in history to justify evil. The Nazis pushed the conspiracy theory that the Jewish people were responsible for the economic and international issues leading up to World War II, which led to the “final solution” and resulted in the murder of millions during the Holocaust. So, the application of wisdom in some instances means we do need to refute the claims. Bottom line: Wisdom is necessary to lead us in how, or even if, we respond to claims presented to us.
We are called to faith. Romans 11:33-36 says “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
This principle applies when we are the ones looking for something or someone to blame for our current circumstances rather than responding to other people’s claims. Since we believe that God is sovereign and has a plan beyond our comprehension, we must accept what He allows as part of that plan. It’s easy to blame others for circumstances that we don’t prefer, but we should instead recognize that God is also at work and often works through others to bring about His plan. We hear that China developed the Covid-19 virus and released it to destroy America (or was it Bill Gates?). Whether the Chinese government had anything to do with its release or not doesn’t change the fact that God in His providence knew of this pandemic and allowed it to unfold for His purposes. Let’s respond in faith to our God rather than with fear or vengeance against others.
Job’s conclusion is a testament of the faith that we should have in God’s work through circumstances (Job 42:2-6):
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
Bottom line: When circumstances aren’t what we want, we shouldn’t be looking for whom should be blamed but driven to our Lord in faith.
Another principle applies when it comes to what should be occupying our time and attention. We are called to gospel living. Paul warned against the dangers of a misplaced focus on “information.” “Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Christ” (Colossians 2:8). We also read “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). “But have nothing to do with pointless and silly myths. Rather train yourself in godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7). These verses speak for themselves. We are not to be concerned with any conversation that directs our attention away from the life and concerns God wants for His people. Focus on conspiracy theories also puts up a wall against others. Unity is threatened as people choose sides, and those alignments to anything other than gospel truth are dishonoring to our Lord. Bottom line: We are called to live godly lives and not be distracted by meaningless concerns.
Then there is the practical matter of what a focus on blame, excuse, fear, and distrust does to others. We are called to selfless love. It seems that most conspiracy theories are developed to destroy someone’s reputation or create resistance to that person. This is certainly rooted in selfishness and pride. This is particularly the case for politically motivated conspiracy theories. However, the practical fallout is that these theories create fear and anxiety in others.
“A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” (Proverbs 16:2)
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
Passing on a conspiracy theory is usually done as a simple proud act of demonstrating that you know something or saw something first, or it is done with a hurtful motive to discourage others. Both of these are sinful actions. Bottom line: We should only share with others what will edify them, and only respond to others out of love and grace.
Conspiracy theories will not go away any time soon; I’m sad to say they are part of our culture. However, we must relate to them as God’s Word directs us with these principles which are all focused on something other than self. Apply wisdom, respond in faith, be obedient in gospel living, and love others.