Conspiracy Theories: Navigating Faith and Foolishness

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Conspiracy Theories: Navigating Faith and Foolishness

The world is reeling under the pandemic of COVID-19. But another frustrating pandemic has emerged, somewhat more vexing and widespread—the pandemic of conspiracy theories.

Many absurdly believe that individuals like Bill Gates have manufactured the COVID-19 pandemic to micro-chip people and to track and control them.

Surprisingly, if you look at the definition of a conspiracy theory, even biblical end-time events may fall under within that realm!

The coming of a Sunday law is technically a conspiracy theory. The time of Jacob’s trouble is technically a conspiracy theory.   Even the coming of Jesus can be dismissed as a conspiracy theory!

The online Britannica dictionary defines conspiracy theory as an attempt to explain an event “as the result of the actions of a small powerful group”. Merriam-Webster defines conspiracy theory as “a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators.”

Does the Bible talk about “powerful conspirators” working in secret?

Consider the following two passages:

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. (Psalms 2:1-4, KJV)

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6: 12-KJV)

Sure, we are arraigned against some powerful human and hellish forces who work in secret to achieve non-benevolent objectives.

The heathen rage, the people imagine vain things and the kings of the earth take counsel together against the Lord.

If these definitions are anything to go by, then the Bible reveals conspiracy theories as an existential fact.

And you could be a conspiracy theorist even if you don’t believe that the earth is flat or that Neil Armstrong never landed on the moon. In a 7-point questionnaire developed by researchers to assess whether young people believe in conspiracy theories, some points indeed appear factual and not really beyond the pale! Thus, do you believe that:

  1. The real truth about events is often kept secret from the public
  2. The government deliberately hides important information from the public
  3. The government monitors people in secret
  4. The government often changes, makes up or hides evidence from the public
  5. Some political groups have secret plans which are not good for society
  6. Some diseases have been created by the government to be used as weapons
  7. The government often knows about terrorist attacks and lets them happen

Look at number 3 and number 5 for instance. Who does not believe that the government monitors people in secret or that some groups have secret plans which are not good for society? Yet that already qualifies you as a conspiracy theorist!

And if we are to be brutally honest, there seems to be an uncomfortable intersection between “conspiracy theories” and Biblical prophecy.

Take this example: In the writings of Ellen White, we read about how calamities brought about by climate change will increase in intensity and frequency to the point where there will be a conspiracy to put the blame on Sabbath keepers.

“It will be declared that men are offending God by the violation of the Sunday Sabbath; that this sin has brought calamities which will not cease until Sunday observance shall be strictly enforced” (Great Controversy, 590).

How should one interpret the above statement for instance in the light of Pope Francis’ 2015 Laudato Si encyclical which warns about the dangers of climate change and calls for a weekly Sunday-“Sabbath” rest?

In September of last year also, the Pope appealed to the world to use the COVID-19 pandemic to give the world a rest and to break the “endless cycle of production and consumption (that) are exhausting the natural world.”

We know what this “rest” means and where all this leads to.

But does it mean that if you explore these developments in light of Bible prophecy, especially the intersection of climate change and Sunday law, you should be dismissed as a dangerous conspiracy theorist?

I don’t believe so!

And I think there are two kinds of conspiracy theorists: a revelation conspiracy theorist and a speculative conspiracy theorist. Its fine to be the former but dangerous to be the latter.

Because, as Ellen White writes in the book the Great Controversy:

“The events connected with the close of probation and the work of preparation for the time of trouble, are clearly presented. But multitudes have no more understanding of these important truths than if they had never been revealed.”

There are events,—there are developments, that are revealed and which we should be aware of;—which we should follow and trace with a prophetic pen. Because they are “important truths.” These are the ones I refer to as biblical or revealed conspiracies.

As you can see, this is not a blanket support of conspiracy theories either. I believe that many issues are in most cases nuanced and seldom fit neatly into an either/or paradigm. The danger with many of us, I believe, is the taking of extreme positions.

Some would not want even a mention of how global powers and agencies are working to bring about prophetic fulfilments. On the other hand, some excessively dwell on the workings of these agencies as to veer from revelation.

Hence, while there could be some conspiratorial developments that we should monitor, because they form part of Bible prophecy, a fixation with them, beyond what constitutes Bible prophecy is diversionary and perilous. There is terrifying danger in believing extra-biblical conspiracy theories and the frightening delusions that they engender.

As reported in lifeway research, one of the deadliest shootings in American history took place at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas on the 5th of November, 2017. A pastor, Frank Pomeroy, lost his 14-year-old daughter in the shooting. Unfortunately, some people believed that the story was just made up by the government;—a conspiracy theory against gun-ownership.

In the weeks that followed, these conspiracy theorists started harassing Pastor Pomeroy leading to a physical confrontation on the church grounds. An armed man accosted the pastor and accused him of being paid by the government to fabricate the story.

He yelled that the pastor’s daughter wasn’t murdered because there was no proof she even existed. Fortunately, he was eventually arrested after a distress call. But the pastor was alarmed.

“The scary thing was the look in his eyes that confirmed he believed all the ludicrous things he was saying,” Pastor Pomeroy said of his assailant.

Look at the delusion of a conspiracy theorist; the imperviousness to fact and reason!

Indeed, apart from this kind of delusion, there is a grave danger when Christians start studying and teaching about the workings of such groups as the Illuminati and Freemasons.

First and foremost, Bible religion and the three angels message is not about secret, conspiratial formations like the Opus Dei or the black pope. We should never dwell on these when there are souls burdened under the heavy weight of guilt; who look for some ray of light;—amid the stranglehold of sin. We are primarily called upon to proclaim liberty to the captives, not to expose the illuminati. It does not mean that the illuminati do not exist. The reason for ignoring them is that a pre-occupation with them is diversionary.

“I have been shown that it is the device of the enemy to divert men’s minds to some obscure or unimportant point, something that is not fully revealed or is not essential to salvation. This is made the absorbing theme, the “present truth,” when all the investigations and suppositions only serve to make matters more obscure and to confuse the minds of some who ought to be seeking for oneness through sanctification of the truth” (Evangelism, 182).

Secondly, when we go beyond the Bible to engage in speculative conspiracies, we are left unmoored and unanchored in unchartered waters without chart or compass. It is the Bible that, when constantly used as a reference, provides a chart and a framework within which expositions can safely be undertaken.

Conspiracy theories also magnify the power of Satan. Is this pleasing to Satan or to Christ?

“Satan is pleased when we magnify his power. Why not talk of Jesus? Why not magnify His power and His love?” (Ministry of Healing, Pg. 94)

In conclusion, human beings seem to be hard-wired to be conspiracy theorists. We naturally want to explore and understand the world around us. Perhaps it is even God who put this subconscious fear in us that there are agencies which secretly work against our interests. Maybe it was to draw us to the safety of his presence.

The re-assuring bit is that God has revealed these agencies through the pages of the Bible. In fact, the Bible contains not only the juiciest but also the most relevant set of conspiracy theories that we should know. But perhaps most importantly, God wants us to view all these agencies in their proper scale. Like the Bible says, “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.”

From the way I see it, we should monitor prophetic events and the biblically related conspiratial developments which are revealed. But one syllable out of this is speculative star gazing.

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About the author

Jeff Oganga

Lecturer in accounting and finance at the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton in Kenya