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The Sinfulness and Destructiveness of Conspiracy Theories

Lacking these models, some Muslims, with their heightened sense of God’s sovereignty, can often only think in terms of Allah’s will, and the faults and sins of other peoples. Accepting fault for national sins seems to be an insult on the Koran and Islam. For instance, the attempt of Turkey to join the European Union was obstructed by the Turkish government’s refusal to acknowledge their responsibility in the Armenian genocide of 1915-1918. There is simply no model for such a critical self-judgment in the Koran.

Often the Muslim reaction to critical and embarrassing aspects of their own history is to ignore the matter or cover it up. Again, for instance, the Turkish government has gone to great lengths to bulldoze the remnants of its abandoned Armenian villages. Similarly, Palestinians in the West Bank have frequently purposely pulverized ancient Temple artifacts in the attempt to negate that there really was an ancient Jewish temple in Jerusalem.[26] Without a true sense of critical history, Islamic peoples are wide open to conspiracy theories. This happens even at a local business enterprise level where offices and plants are riddled by factionalism because disputes and normal disagreements devolve into local conspiracy theories between “them” vs. “us.”[27]

This comparison is important to the discussion of our current epidemic of conspiracy theories. The more the American public gives way to the conspiracy theory pattern of thinking, the more it walks away from its heritage of biblical and Western ways of historical thinking.

Suspicion as Necessary in a Sinful World

In this article I have used “suspicion” in a negative sense as a major component of conspiracy theories. But suspicion is not necessarily evil, and in fact is a necessary component of wisdom in a fallen and sinful world. Let me give an example by telling a parable of an imaginary church.[28]

At St. John’s Church, a visitor comes on Sunday and is convicted of his sins during the sermon. He continues in attendance and later gives witness to his conversion. He had been a card shark and gambler, and often cheated at gambling with slights of hand. He was skilled at this and never caught. He vowed to live clean and now has a job as a salesman. At church he volunteered to be an usher.

Restoration to how things should be does not hinge on the elimination of an evil conspiracy. Restoration depends on one thing: the repentance of God’s people and their return to righteousness.

However, from the Sunday he began ushering there was a noticeable decrease in the cash receipts of the offering. The rector became suspicious. He thought, perhaps the man was tempted by the cash fell into his old habits. Discreetly the rector moved him to the greeters’ ministry. The shortfall ceased. At this point the rector’s suspicion seemed to have been verified, although there was no proof of any theft. Perhaps the shortfall variations were a coincidence? The rector considered sharing his suspicion with his vestry, but decided not to, as there was no direct evidence about the matter and the shortfalls had ceased. Six months later his organist comes to him, guilt ridden, and confesses that she took the money from the safe. When she leaves he gives a sigh of relief that he never shared his suspicion with the vestry. It would have been merely gossip.

In this parable we see the right use of suspicion. Suspicions should not be shared until there is positive evidence. What separates normal and useful suspicions from conspiracy theories is that in conspiracy theories suspicions are given the credence of facts, and any coincidences are viewed as verification of the conspiracy. For instance, that a map at a war game room labels Texas as “enemy” verifies that Obama is planning an invasion of Texas.

Some conspiracies are not evil and may even be necessary. They happen all the time. A company develops a new product at great expense and secretly plans its launch and marketing program. That is a conspiracy of sorts, and it is necessary to profit on its innovation. We saw also how William Buckley, Senator Goldwater and others conspired to remove the John Birch Society from the center of the Republican Party. That Palm Beach meeting had to be secret, and it ultimately did much good. Conspiracies are secret plans, conspiracy theories are beliefs that secret plans have been launched and have produced evil when there is only a suspicion of such plans.

The Biblical View of History Contrasted to the Conspiracy Theories of History

Why is it that so many of the books of the Bible are historical? That type of religious writings is not found in the scriptures of other world religions. Especially unique in the Bible are the historical books that repeat with different perspectives the same events, as the Gospels or the books of 1 &2 Chronicles. What type of wisdom does God expect us to receive from historical books? These are important questions that we must keep in mind as we compare the Biblical view of history with conspiracy theories.

Why is so much of the Bible historical?

The historical books of the Bible stress man’s freedom and responsibility in obeying or disobeying God and His commandments. God does not interfere in man’s freedom to obey or disobey, or to be foolish, but rather works though sin and foolishness to get His providential way. An example is found in the account of Joseph and his brothers. After all the sin and pain Joseph experienced he said to his brothers:

“I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Gen 45: 4-7).

In the Bible evil and destruction are often the fruit of mankind’s own foolishness and sin. Note that in the fall of Jerusalem described in 2 Chronicles 36 (cited above), there is no hint of a conspiracy. Jerusalem fell and the Temple was destroyed not because some traitorous and conspiratorial party within Jerusalem opened the grates to the Babylonian Army. No, the Babylonians succeeded via the superiority of their army that was ultimately put in motion by Israel’s sins and disobedience.

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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2015

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include, Quenching the Spirit (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), and Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He and his wife Carolyn continue in their healing, teaching and writing ministries. He is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook AnglicalPentecostal.blogspot.com

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