"I have a loved one who is into political conspiracy theories. For example, a couple of years ago, he told me a few months before the Presidential election that it would not take place because the US would be under martial law by that time and Obama would be ruler for life. Innocent citizens will be shot down by drones as they're walking down the street. The Illuminati is behind everything. There are secret military training camps hidden all over the country. His latest is hiding away survival materials in the instance that he would need to protect himself against government attacks. I'm starting to worry about his sanity. Still, he is a strong, Bible-believing Christian. Are there any biblical resources out there that I can pass along to him to perhaps persuade him to forget all this craziness and trust Christ?" (message received from a reader of our blog)Why do people become captivated by conspiracy theories? Why do some otherwise rational thinkers begin to follow rabbit trails in their thinking, rabbit trails which conjure up all manner of nefarious mischief being plotted, when there is no evidence to support their beliefs? More specifically, why do some Christians become ensnared by such thinking, given that, of all people in the world, Christians should be those with the most hope and the most joy, and should not given to suspicious, paranoid thinking, such as is engendered by the conspiratorial worldview? Is there even a balanced way to think about conspiracy theories? What about secret plots that have existed over the years and which have come to light (such as the KGB brainwashing, Nazi human experimentation, etc.)?
With those thoughts in mind, I would like to point our readers to two of today's Christian writers who are tackling this topic of the conspiratorial worldview head on. On a recent Dividing Line program, Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries discussed the production of conspiracy videos in which spooky, manipulative music and leading language take the place of actual scholarly data. The specific film being discussed was Tares Among The Wheat by filmmaker and talk show host Chris Pinto, and in this segment, Dr. White christened Pinto's filmmaking style as the "the spooky music proof approach." Unfortunately, the sad reality is that these fringy films have a way of getting around in the Christian community, and thus it is a real service to the body of Christ for our respected leaders to acknowledge that these films are out there, and take the time the refute them, as Dr. White has done. (The segment begins at about the 11 minute mark in the video below.)
(NOTE: Dr. James White of AOMin also recently participated in a public debate with Chris Pinto regarding the issue of Codex Sinaiticus as a Jesuit forgery.....you can listen to the debate in its entirety here.)
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Writer Fred Butler (who works with John MacArthur's GTY media ministry) has also weighed in on Chris Pinto's film with his article entitled Tares Among The Wheat, A Review. In his review, Butler noted that the reason he felt the need to review this film was because Chris Pinto has been given credibility by his association with a Christian ministry that has a number of credible teachers associated with it. From Butler's article:
"Someone who is driven by a conspiratorial world view isn’t taken seriously by most regenerated, sober-minded, Bible-believing Christians. However, within the last few years, Pinto has gained more recognition by being numbered among Brannon Howse’s Worldview Weekend ministry partners. A conspiracy theorist is featured along with other reputable Christian men including John Whitcomb, pastor Mike Abendroth, Justin Peters, and Erwin Lutzer. That association provides him some credibility that I don’t believe he deserves, nor is it one the Christian church at large needs." (online source)As I've written before, my own thinking became fear-based for a brief season of my Christian walk by scaremongering radio shows, websites and videos. After all, as an ex-occultist, I am fully aware that there is genuine evil out there, that occultic and New Age groups do use occultic symbols, etc., etc. It was only in conversations with my friend Marcia Montenegro (who is also a former occultist/New Ager and who writes for Christian Answers For The New Age) that my own thinking became more biblically aligned. Out of those conversations, I asked Marcia to write an article on symbols that really was a turning point in my own Christian walk as far as steadying me in this regard. (You can read that article here.) So please understand that my true desire is to exhort my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to guard their minds against this kind of fear-based teaching. God did NOT mean for us to walk in fear! Yes, it is true that Jesus, Paul, and most (if not all) of the apostles were targeted by conspiratorial groups (which were in all likelihood guided by Satan), groups that sought and achieved their deaths. And yet, Scripture nowhere exhorted them (and by extension, us) to focus on the evidences of these conspiracies, but only to continue studying God's word, growing in the faith, and sharing Christ with the lost.
When I did a Precepts study on the book of Isaiah a few years ago, one of my takeaways from that year of study was a real wonder and marvel at the sovereignty of God. Such knowledge brings what can only be described as a supernatural peace, and I truly wish this kind of peace for my Christian brothers and sisters enslaved to a focus on Conspiracy Theories. In Isaiah, God reveals himself as an omnipotent being so powerful that He has the ability to swing the pagan rulers over his head like a club and mete out punishment to the Israelites using these pagan kings as a disciplining tool. He reveals himself as a God who knows the end from the beginning, as a God who sets up (and takes down) rulers, as the One who says "I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass." (Isa 46:11) Such knowledge of God should bring us peace and joy, even in the midst of this dark and crooked generation in which we live.
A very helpful passage from Isaiah 8 (below) very specifically and pointedly addresses conspiracies, one of the few places in Scripture where God does so. And before I get a barrage of emails with scriptures mentioning plots and conspiracies, please try to understand that just because there are Bible verses that do mention plots and conspiracies, this does NOT mean that Christians should extrapolate out from that that we should spend hours of our time on the internet, attempting to connect this nefarious group to that nefarious group. That's a very, very poor hermeneutic.
"For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 'Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.'" (Isaiah 8:11-13)I have personally dealt with Christians completely ensnared to the conspiratorial worldview, and if you try to lovingly and gently point out why this type of material isn’t edifying to the Christian walk, ah well, then, *you* must therefore be part of The Big Conspiracy. You’re not a fellow Christian, you’re One Of Them. It’s very tidy, how this whole cottage industry first preys upon people’s fears and then answers back to the naysayers who would attempt to bring in a reasoned, biblical response to those ensnared by the teachings being peddled. And make no mistake: there is an entire cottage industry of these kinds of videos that lurks within Christendom, ready to prey upon Christian’s fears. Illuminati! Bilderberg! The all-seeing-eye! Oh my! It’s a real moneymaking endeavor for the person who can convince his audience that he alone is the decoder who can help them Connect The Dots, because well, they will just keep coming back for more…and more…and more. What I eventually began to realize, through God’s grace and the Holy Spirit growing me in discernment, was that God truly never meant for us to walk in fear of Satan’s schemes, but by being undergirded with the truth of God’s word which commands us to fear ONLY the Lord (Prov 1:7 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”).
In closing, I want to say clearly that while the conspiracy stuff is not considered an essential, this is still NOT a minor issue. Conspiratorial thinking is not only not edifying to the Christian walk, but as I stated earlier, nowhere in Scripture are we taught to unravel supposed conspiracies. Instead, we're to keep our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2). I know several Christians who attest to having gotten involved with this conspiracy stuff, and that it made them fearful, anxious and perhaps even a tad pietistic (and I mean "pietistic" in the sense of feeling one has superior knowledge to other "lesser" Christians who are supposedly clueless of all these supposed secret societies actively working to do spiritual mischief). A Christian friend, who at one time was ensnared by the conspiratorial mindset, made the following remark to me:
"All I know is my family used to joke around about me wearing a tin foil hat. Were they intrigued? Yes. I could tell them all kinds of Illuminati, Masonic, Satan worship, mind stealing stories and keep them glued to my pc for hours!!! Did they get saved? No. Did they hear the gospel? Not really. They wanted to hear more conspiracy junk over what the Bible has to say. They didn't care if I had any good MacArthur downloads. I'm glad I turned away from that stuff because there isn't a whole lot I can do about the New World Order. But....God can and God is still on the throne and I'd much rather prepare myself to meet Him. He's really the one we should fear and not the Jesuits creeping around. Let 'em creep. God's watching them and they can only do what He allows. Why scare the heck out of yourselves and your loved ones? Not edifying at all."To answer the question posed at the beginning of this article about whether or not there is a balanced way for Christians to view conspiracy theories, the answer is yes, there is. Simply put, it involves weighing actual evidence, and not just relying on anecdotal accounts or speculation. Of all people, Christians know that there is real evil in the world, and that we have a real Adversary, a real spiritual presence that is alive and well and active in the world today ("Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8). But, we also know that a sovereign Lord rules and reigns over the affairs of man, and that what we are commanded to do is simple: contend for truth and share the gospel.
"Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." (Hebrews 12:1-2a)
"Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, 'The LORD reigns!'" (1 Chronicles 16:31)
"Say among the nations, 'The LORD reigns.' The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity." (Psalm 96:10)
"The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake." (Psalm 99:1)
"The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all." (Psalm 103:19)
"In the LORD's hand the king's heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him." (Proverbs 22:1)
"Thus says the LORD, 'Do not learn the way of the nations, and do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens Although the nations are terrified by them'" (Jeremiah 10:2)
"Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." (Romans 13:1)
"It is God changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding." (Daniel 2:21)
"Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 1:3)
"For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:2)Satan is alive and well, and is a very real and active presence in the world today. We're not to be ignorant of his schemes (2 Cor 2:11), but only in the sense that we need to know how to tear down the strongholds of worldly wisdom raised up against God's unchanging truth, and that we do by applying God's word, rightly divided, "for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds" (2 Cor 10:4). The answer is to refute the false beliefs with truth from God's word. Our battle is doctrinal, it has to do with ideas, not with things like decoding symbols or connecting the dots from this nefarious group to that nefarious group. With all this in mind, not only do I now refuse to have any part of any ministry actively selling videos that serve to ensnare Christians with a conspiratorial worldview, I would even go a step further and say that because I see such thinking as being so potentially damaging to the Christian walk, I believe I have something of a responsibility to actively warn against teachings that serve to create such a mindset. And thankfully, more Christians (James White of AOMin, Fred Butler of GTY, etc.) are also now beginning to weigh in on this topic. It's an important issue to address and for all of us as Christians to be mindful of as we navigate our own Christian walks.
photo credit: James Provost via photopin cc
Resources About Conspiracy Theories
The Christian and Conspiracy Theories (Ken Samples, Issues Etc.)
The Christian and Conspiracies (Faith Defenders)
Christians and Conspiracy Theories: A Call to Repentance (Acts 17:11 Ministry)
David Rockefeller, the New World Order, and the Necessity of Verifying Internet Quotes