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The Sinfulness and Destructiveness of Conspiracy Theories

The Bible sense of history gives us hope. We may be disobedient, but after pain there is restoration and gain. But in contrast to conspiracy theories, restoration does not depend on the elimination or political ousting of an evil conspiratorial group, but on repentance and a return to righteousness of God’s people. Those things bring about positive circumstances and divine protection.

We see this work out in the Israeli exile and return from their captivity in Babylon. In fact, the captives were first enticed by false prophecy to believe that they would be returned to Jerusalem by a prophet called Hananiah. He was prophesying out of his “flesh,” as Paul would put it, and confused his yearnings for God’s word. It pleased, and confused the exiles. But Jeremiah put Hananiah in his place:

Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen, Hananiah! The Lord has not sent you, yet you have persuaded this nation to trust in lies. Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This very year you are going to die, because you have preached rebellion against the Lord’” (Jer 28: 15-16).

To the contrary Jeremiah wrote a letter to the exiles which really reflected God’s will and plans for them. It deflated heroic expectancy of the exiles. No hero would rescue them, the Babylonian King would not die in battle, etc.. Instead the true prophet had mundane but spiritually significant instructions:

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jer 29:4-7).

The exiles obeyed the true word of God, settled, blessed and prayed for the local government, and awaited Divine restoration. That came, as described in the same chapter of Chronicles which described the horrible fall of the Jerusalem, via an unexpected source, a pagan king:

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing: “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the Lord their God be with them’” (2 Chron 36: 22-23).

Conspiracy theories are counterfeit history.

This passage also suggests that Divine Providence is most often different from natural expectations and the “wisdom” of conspiracy theories which play on the fears of their host group. God, in his respect for human freedom allows great tragedy to happen in the lives of nations, but there is always his hidden hand to make a way out. Let us take the example of China. Mao triumphed over Chang-Kai-Check, and this led to horrific consequences in millions of persons, executed, starved to death by irrational communist policies, and a “Great Leap Forward” that left tens of millions dead, imprisoned and exiled for no reason.[29]

But through the ashes of destruction and millions killed came a rebirth of the Christian church in China, totally indigenous, evangelical and powerful in prayer. That was an unexpected event. Western Christians were horrified by the destruction of the churches, and the take-over of hospitals and schools founded by its missionaries. They had no idea that a rebirth of Chinese Christianity could happen until reports of the new Chinese house churches began filtering out in the 1990s. Mao was not overthrown, the communists still rule in China, but so does God’s providence.

Conspiracy Theory as a Counterfeit to the Wisdom of History

Christians who buy into conspiracy theories often cannot see, and are not willing to allow, God’s providential work in history and culture.

From the biblical standard, conspiracy theories are counterfeit history. They rob a person of the wisdom one should have in reading and understanding historical situations and present crises. Persons under the sway of a conspiracy theory, Christian or not, assume that the elimination of an evil group and the triumph of a “good” faction will bring about peace and harmony. This over values the worth of whatever faction is favored, Tea Party, John Birch Society, etc. and exaggerates the evil and power of the opposite political faction or party. In effect, politics is confused with messianic expectations.

Our political views are marred by our sinful limitations in discerning which news stories and sources are most accurate.

Christians who buy into conspiracy theories often cannot see, and are not willing to allow, God’s providential work in history and culture. They believe they must give divine providence a hand. They want the offensive group or faction removed so that the golden age may come forth. That dream might be as the Tea Party wishes, a liberal-free America and a return to a minimalist interpretation of the Constitution. A left-wing Christian might dream of a Republican-free America with a socialist economic system. And what if their goals are reached? Paradise will still not be achieved because man is inherently sinful. Unintended consequences of policies will breed a new generation of problems. Let us recall that the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and communism in its virulent, state-established form was destroyed.[30] A political scientist declared in a famous essay that the world had come to “The end of history.” That is, that democracy and free enterprise had won out and serious world conflicts would not reoccur.[31] Well, guess what?

The Spiritual Harm of Conspiracy Theories

Christians who hold to conspiracy theories are subject to various distortions and detours in their Christian walk. For one, they acquire a sense of superiority over the common folk who don’t believe in their conspiracy theory. They view themselves as having superior wisdom and discernment, when in fact the opposite is true. Conspiracy theories create a form of Gnosticism in the congregation in which an elite status is reserved for those who are in the know.

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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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