How conspiracy theories are detrimental to a Christian's spiritual health
Do not say, "a conspiracy," concerning all that this people call a conspiracy, nor be afraid of their threats or be troubled. (Isaiah 8:12)
As I travel over the Internet super-highway I will drive by websites dedicated to the promotion of some elaborate conspiracy theory. Just like the attractions along the side of the road promising to show those willing to stop such glorious curiosities as the world's largest gum ball or genuine jackalope skeletons, these conspiracy websites promise that if you are willing to open your eyes, read all the facts, and connect all the dots, you too will be awakened to the truth of reality.
Now, before I go on, it may be helpful to define what I mean by a conspiracy theory. A "conspiracy" is simply defined as a "planning together to do something." Additionally, the conspirators - the group of individual conspiring together - do so in secret with those outside the group having no knowledge of what is going on.
Generally, the word "conspiracy" has a stigma attached to it because it is assumed that the conspirators are attempting to perpetrate something illegal or harmful. Normally, that may be the case when we speak of a conspiracy, but a conspiracy and those conspiring together need not be thought of as being harmful or acting illegally. The Manhattan Project, for example, was a massive conspiracy designed to develop the atomic bomb. It was necessary for the entire project to remain a conspiracy - top secret - for the purposes of national security. Even the Normandy Invasion of June 6, 1944 was a large scale conspiracy which also necessitated absolute secrecy. I myself once participated in a "conspiracy" when I was invited to attend a private get together with a well-known pastor that was limited to the number of folks who could attend. I was told the gathering was impromptu and I was to keep it secret because there was no way to accommodate a large group of people.
Those type of conspiracies are not bad.
However, the conspiracies that occupy the minds of conspiracy theorists are of the harmful, illegal type and they cover a broad spectrum of subjects and scenarios. For instance:
- Zionists and Jews attempting to take over the world.
- International bankers trying to take over the world.
- The Illuminati, or other clandestine groups, attempting to take over the world.
- NASA and the government covering over the truth about UFOs.
- NASA and the government covering over the truth about cities on Mars and the moon.
- NASA and the government covering over the truth that the Apollo missions were hoaxed.
- The government covering over the assassination of high profile government officials like JFK or Ron Brown.
And the most recent: - the government covering over their involvement orchestrating the events of September 11th, 2001, with remote control planes, cruise missiles, and controlled demolitions.
Now, it is one thing to have a disturbed individual who lives in a one room apartment with 3 cats named after the Harry Potter children who lectures on a part-time basis at the local community college claim the government, in conjunction with the Reptilian Guard from the planet Zinar, staged 9-11 so Bush could steal all the oil in the Middle East. I, as a Bible believing Christian, expect these kind of conclusions from men whose minds are darkened in sin and are thus easily susceptible to be snared by these fantasies. However, it is quite another thing to find men and women who name Christ as their Lord and Savior advocating conspiracy theories. These folks go beyond being disturbing to grieving my heart.
Before the Internet, there were a handful of pastors and Bible teachers who preached about massive conspiracy theories that were going to usher in the anti-Christ, or establish the new age, or force people to get a barcode burned onto their head, or the U.N. rounding up Christians and locking them in concentration camps. For some reason, the cranks who promoted these theories were fundamentalists, King James onlyists. I am not sure what that means exactly, but suffice it to say, their publications were contained to a small, marginalized fan base and didn't get much air time in the real world.
But now, with the advent of the world wide web, these same Christian conspiracy hunters have the ability to spread their paranoid delusions to the four corners of the earth with hideous, seizure inducing websitesand sadly, many other less discerning believers are becoming tossed to and fro by these reckless ideas. And this is something we should consider alarming, because conspiracy theory theology, or what I call "tin-foil hat" theology, not only causes problems for pastors shepherding a Church whose members are exposed to these websites, but this tin-foil hat theology will wreck havoc on the spiritual well-being of a Christian believer. An inordinate fascination with conspiracy theories should never mark the spiritual life of a believer. A Christian who is consummed with a conspiracy mindset demonstrates a severe lack of discernment. Let me list 6 reasons why Christians should stay away from believing in conspiracy theories.
1) Produces an inordinate fear that should not be a mark of a Christian
An unhealthy interest in conspiracy theories can produce fear in the heart of the person entertaining them. A lowgrade paranoia that drives the way the person evaluates people and events he or she may come in contact with and experience.
Just like the by-line from the X-files, No one is to be trusted, everyone in any position of authority could be lying or covering something up to conceal the truth. The person becomes suspicious of every person and everything. Some folks may think I am exaggerating the feeling of fear on the part of these people, but I have known individuals recently and from my past who were marked by a spirit of fear because they allowed conspiracy theory scenarios govern their hearts. I can recall one gal who claimed she would never use a computer because the Anti-Christ would use computers to form the one world government in the end-times.
The Bible tells us that Christians are not to be marked with fearfulness of heart. Paul wrote, For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Note how the idea of a "sound mind" is connected with not being fearful. That means the person who is thinking straight about reality will not be full of fear. A sound mind is a person who has been saved, whose mind is no longer darkened by sin and is now soberminded; not given over to being victimized by the prince of this world who delights in holding men in bondage to their fears.
Moreover, the Apostle John writes that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). We should no longer be afraid of God, for the wrath against our sin has been appeased by Christ, but also, because Christians live in perfect love, any fear about our life and world will be cast out. It is unnatural for a believer to live in fear of conspiracies ruling the world.
2) Generates an obsessive fixation on the uncertain
All the folks I have encountered who name Christ, yet involve themselves in pursuing conspiracy theories, are more fixated on the promotion of the pet conspiracy than they are on the promotion of Christ. They don't live the Christian life at all in some instances, but anytime there is opportunity to preach the "truth" about the conspiracy, they will do so from the house tops. The reality, however, is the conspiracy is based upon subjective things totally uncertain to the conspiracy theory aficionado even though he will claim to "know the truth." It is sad when some issue becomes so obsessive to a Christian that people know the person for their conspiratorial views rather than the fact he or she is a Christian. A handful of times, I have encountered Christian individuals who believe Lee Harvey Oswald didn't act alone when assassinating President Kennedy. They take any opportunity to explain to anyone willing to listen why they believe it. I simply ask, why is the JFK assassination more important to these people than Christian's spirituality? Yet sadly, anyone who denies their assertions about Oswald is dismissed as being out of touch and not desiring to know the truth.
That leads me to a third key area conspiracy theories are spiritually unhealthy,
3) They promotes Gnostic tendencies
By "Gnostic tendencies" I mean the aspect of old, pagan Gnosticism that relegated knowledge of the truth to a handful of people who then dish out the "special" secret knowledge to those willing to learn the truth from them. I encounter this mentality all the time from tin-foil hat theologians who sneer at me as someone not "willing to hear the truth" of the matter. I live in a fantasy world, according to these folks, and I am foolishly allowing myself to be duped into believing a lie about such and such a conspiracy. But I would think that because Christians have the spirit of discernment to know truth, that any obvious conspiracy would be evident, yet, I am required to go and learn from the one alleged "expert" on the particular conspiracy. Why should I have to do that?
4) Conspiracy theories are based upon untenable, fanciful, and irrational scenarios
I believe Christians need to pause and ponder the importance God places upon the minds of his saints. In other words, how we as Christians think about the world is extremely important to our Lord. The Bible describes fallen men as "walking in the futility of their minds" and "having their understanding darkened" (Ephesians 4:17,18); that he cannot know spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:14); and even though they know God, they refuse to acknowledge the truth about God and instead dream up fanciful excuses to explain away what they know to be true (Romans 1:18-23).
Moreover, the spiritual war waged for the souls of men takes place on the battlefield of the mind. The godly weapons used to engage sinful men are designed to assail the fortress of the mind by pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and taking captive every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5). The imagery of spiritual warfare is connected to how men think: arguments being cast down, having the right knowledge about God and thoughts captive to Christ.
Christians, on the other hand, are described as having their minds freed to think God's thoughts after Him. The Bible declares, But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus ... and be renewed in the spirit of your mind (Ephesians 4:20-21, 23). The Christian is to be no longer conformed to the way the world thinks, but he is to be transformed by the renewing of his mind and to be sober in his thinking (Romans 12:2,3). Thus, a Christian should never be marked out as thinking irrationally about reality. His mind must reflect the logical mind of God by being reasonable and having a high regard for the truth in all areas of reality.
Even with this brief overview, it is clear that God places a vital importance upon how we think. Christians, then, are not free to believe any truth claim as "true" even if the person has really strong feelings about what ever it is he believes. We are to be mindful of what we allow into our heads, because what we dwell upon - think about - can influence how we view reality.
Now I highlight this about the minds of men because a Christian obsessively indulging conspiracy theories does not demonstrate a sober minded believer whose thinking is being renewed daily. The reason being is because when fully critiqued, conspiracy theories dive into the realm of the utterly fantastic and are built upon illogical premises. A Christian who thinks conspiracy theories are real is a person who is noted by everyone else as being gullible and out of touch and does not witness the sobriety of mind that should be common of a believer.
I say this for a handful of reasons:
- Conspiracy theories are untenable. They are untenable because conspiracy theories are unworkable in real life. Probably the main reason they are unworkable is the secrecy needed to maintain the conspiracy is next to impossible. There are way too many necessary variables to keep it from being exposed. Probably the most risky one is the human involvement. Humans are prone to general incompetence, as well as greed and other failures of the human condition. The more people involved with the conspiracy, those human problems are compounded, and thus the greater the risk of exposure by either overall failure or by blabbermouths who are easily paid off to talk or just want to look like a big shot down at the bar. The Watergate scandal was found out due to human error. The fake CBS-Dan Rather-George Bush Air National Guard memos from October 2004 were exposed as frauds almost the very hour they went on-line at CBS, and again, due to human error.
Take for example those who claim the Apollo missions were hoaxed. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people were intricately involved with the Apollo program. Engineers, technicians, government officials, civilians, and the astronauts themselves. Additionally, millions of people were eye-witnesses all around the world, including the Soviets with whom we were in a race to get to the moon first. The sheer number of people involved is enough to guarantee the Apollo moon missions were not hoaxed. More importantly, and this point is missed by conspiracy theorists, the Apollo program had a total of five missions to the moon during which men actually walked on the surface of the moon. That means all of those hundreds of thousands of people had to hoax a moon landing a total of FIVE TIMES! There is no way they could have gotten away with it just once, let alone five times.
Conspiracies are just too difficult to keep secret even when there are only one or two people keeping the secret. There are a couple of fun examples of conspiracies being exposed from the Darwinian world. In 2000, Archaeoraptor was purportedly the "evolutionary find of the century" that proving once and for all bird-to-dinosaur evolution. The National Geographic Society claimed it was the true missing link connecting birds to dinosaurs and prominent paleontologists said archaeoraptor was the long sought key to the mystery of evolution. However, it was a terrific hoax. As science writer Dr. Jerry Bergman, states: "High-resolution X-ray CT work found 'unmatched pieces, skillfully pasted over." The fraud was also determined to be "put together badly-deceptively" involving "zealots and cranks," with "rampant egos clashing," "misplaced confidence," and "wishful thinking."
Even another example involved archaeologist Professor Reiner Von Zieten who allegedly found remains in a peat bog linking humans to Neanderthals. His career ended in disgrace after the revelation that he systematically falsified the dates on this and numerous other stone-age relicts. His deceptions were so serious that it may mean an entire tranche of the history of man's development will have to be re-written.
- conspiracies are based upon fanciful scenarios. One of the first questions I ask a tin-foil hat theologian is, "why does he think his conspiracy is needful?" "Why is there a need for a conspiracy with thus and such?" and "How exactly is this thing pulled off?" The reason behind the conspiracy is almost all the time ridiculous and defies all credulity and the explanation of how it was accomplished is almost even more unbelievable.
Gail Riplinger , the Queen of King James Onlyism, suggests modern Bible versions like the NASB or NIV are designed to corrupt the Christian churches so they will be more willing to embrace the new age and the Anti-Christ. How exactly does the new age movement and modern translations connect? Ms. Riplinger ties together all sorts of absurd ideas that make no sense and are unsupportable by any known historic fact. I won't rehash them here, but you can check out a couple of reviews of her claims here here and here.
The current big conspiracy involves 9/11 and the destruction of the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon building. In spite of the fact the government is nothing but a massive, bloated bureaucracy that loses my tax returns, many people believe they had the know-how to fake hijacking 4 airliners full of people, set off controlled demolitions to knock down 110 story skyscrappers, while at the same time keeping it all hidden from the millions of eye-witnesses in the general public (except of course for the anointed few with the open minds and dot connecting capabilities).
Others suggest the government used holographic missiles that only looked like 757s. Since when has the government had Star Trek like holographic technology? Am I to conclude all those terrified passengers who called from the cell-phones were really on some holo-deck in a government facility? Yet tin-hat theologians will continue to buy into these fanciful scenarios because it apparently justify some religious reasoning.
- Conspiracies are based upon irrational scenarios. The fanciful ones are bad enough, but even more telling evidence showing how bogus conspiracy theories can be is how the ones with similar themes will contradict each other.
For instance, moon hoax conspirators are convinced that none of the Apollo missions went to the moon and the government is covering it up. Yet, other conspiracy theorists claim the Apollo missions did get men to the moon, but the government is attempting to cover over the fact the astronauts saw giant building and other alien structures. Now, both of these scenarios cannot be correct. Which one is wrong and which one is right and why?
It would be good to remind ourselves of Occam's razor , the philosophical principle developed by the philosopher Christian William of Occam in the 14th century. Simply put, Occam's razor states: all things being equal, the simplest explanation is probably the correct one. What is the simplest explanation for the moon landing? Was it hoaxed and then systematically covered up over the last 35 years? Or did NASA really send up 17 Apollo missions with the last 6 (except #13) landing on the moon?
5) A conspiracy theory mindset brings sinful accusations against others based upon pure speculation.
Because tin-foil hat theology is based largely upon pure speculation, any one supposedly tied to a specific conspiracy is accused of lying or covering up the truth concerning the particularconspiracy theory under consideration. Even when the speculations of tin-foil hat theologians are challenged by others, their defense is to blameshift by saying the people they accuse in the conspiracy are lying by denying their involvement; or they charge those who challenge their conspiratorial notions with being woefully ignorant and mis-informed as to fact.
Accusing someone of lying with no tangible evidence based upon personal interpretations of highly speculative and allegedly suspicious scenarios, especially accusations leveled against a fellow Christian, is dreadfully sinful. Accusing someone of lying smacks to the core of a person's character and is tantamount to gossip and slander. Neither should cross the lips of a God fearing Christian. Yet sadly, tin-foil hat theologians engage in these sinful practices when they accuse decent men and women of acting with deception in a conspiracy theory designed to harm others. Even more disappointing is their refusal to be corrected on the nature of their slander with many of them believing they are justified in naming other Christians and tying them to all sorts of hidden malfeasance to "protect" the Church or provide a "wake-up call" to the Christian community.
Let me share an example of what I mean from personal experience.
Back in 2006, a fellow was standing out side our church handing out literature charging that our church had been infiltrated by Purpose Driven Life philosophy. We were further accused of essentially courting the devil incarnate by having Al Mohler speak at our annual Shepherd's Conferences.
I am a friend of one of the accused pastors allegedly involved with this plot to bring PDL-Church growth-Marxist philosophy into my church. To put it mildly, I was rather mifted this fellow - who knows absolutely next to nothing about the person he is charging with conspiratorial intent - was raising such ridiculous charges against my friend. I told the guy that my pastor friend denied these charges, to which he replied, "he's lying." I was stunned. Such an accusation strikes a foundational charge against this pastor's character. I responded by asking, "are you telling me this pastor is deceiving me as to the intentions of his ministry?" To which this guy responded by saying, "yes." Even more stunned dismay. I pressed further, "Then is it your opinion that this pastor is not saved, because lying is a characteristic of a sinner, not a Christian?" and then I followed up by asking, "And is it your opinion the elders of this church are either ignorant of what is happening under their noses, or they are duplicit in the plot to bring in PDL philosophy, which would demonstrate the elders are unqualified to shepherd this Church?" I think my questions stunned him, because he didn't really supply a solid answer, but it showed the gravity of what he was accusing our pastors of doing.
Later, via email, I ask the same guy about Al Mohler. He is of the opinion that because Dr. Mohler was a founding member of some morality organization connected to the Southern Baptist Convention, and that organization is listed on the U.N.'s group of non-governmental organizations, this some how makes Dr. Mohler a U.N. agent or something along those lines. Now, just as an aside, I am mystified Christians have tied all sorts of evil plotting to the United Nations. The U.N. has been primarily identified with the final, one-world government of the end times, but the U.N. has only demonstrated a general incompetence and impotence in unifying any nation under a so-called "one world government." The U.N. is only good for eliminating hook worms in 3rd world countries, not organizing a "one world government" with Anti-Christ as its head.
At any rate, Al Mohler's connection to this non-governmental organization in the SBC is enough to have his name slandered and mocked by tin-foil hat theologians, especially this fellow who was protesting our Church. Again, it doesn't matter how theologically sound Dr. Mohler comes across on his daily radio program. It doesn't even matter how anti-U.N. he may be in his various comments addressing the U.N. at times, this is all a big ploy to deceive and Dr. Mohler should be considered a liar. Additionally, all those people who benefit from his ministry by radio and the Internet, along with all the hundreds of thousands of pastors who listened to him preach at conferences, are either blind to the truth, or in agreement with his lying. Do the accusations ever stop? Everyone can't be a liar. Is it that the only people telling the truth, as well as believing the truth, are those people who join hands with the tin-foil hat theologians?
6) A hardcore belief in conspiracy theories denies the sovereignty of God
The Bible is clear that God is sovereign over the affairs of this world. The book of Daniel, for example, clearly teaches that God is sovereignly directing the governments of the world, setting up and taking down kings and world leaders, to bring about His ultimate purposes. Can we not conclude then, that God is using the so-called conspiracy theories to bring about His purposes? In reality, these tin-foil hat theologians are uplifting man to a place in the world where only God has the authority to occupy. Let us say for the sake of argument the U.N. is out to secretly usher in a one-world government ruled by an Anti-Christ-like figure. Even if they could pull off such a thing, would it not be God's purpose in establishing that one-world government? It could very well be tin-foil hat theologians who decry the U.N., the Illuminati, the big oil syndicates, world bankers, etc., are fighting against the will of God.
Returning for a moment to my interaction with the protester in front of my Church. During our conversation, I specifically pointed out to him his eschatological theology demands the one-world government being in place as necessity for Christ to return. I then asked him if it would be expedient to let the plans for the one-world government be established so as to hasten the coming of Jesus. He scratched his head on that one.
In the end, tin-hat theology places too much ability on men to overturn the decrees and works of God. It is as if God is powerless to do anything against these nefarious individuals, or the individuals have all the power to thwart God. I my opinion, I think the Lord is always doing things the conspiracy theorist will always blame on the invisible "they." Psalm 33:10 comes to mind, The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
These are just a handful of examples of how conspiracy theories are detrimental to a Christian's spirituality. A Christian who gives himself to pursuing conspiracy theories or allowing them to shape his or her view of the world is in danger of putting his mind in subjection to futility. Moreover, tin-foil hat theology only serves to bring a Christian to spiritual ruin. An unhealthy pre-occupation with conspiracy theories stunts a person's growth, takes their attention off of Jesus Christ and the gospel, and causes sinful division with in the Body of Christ. It also demonstrates a severe lack of discernment on the part of the individual who believes these conspiracies are true. I only pray these Christian conspiracy chaser would open their eyes to the harm they are causing themselves and the work of the gospel in the local Church.
,, Jerry Bergman, "Controversy in Paleanthropology," Creation Matters, Vol. 11, No. 1, January/February 2006. on-line here
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