Thursday, January 14, 2010

It's All a Conspiracy?

Conspiracy theory seems to be all the rage nowadays. It's the vast Right Wing Conspiracy versus the New World Order, and may the best conspirator win. (You do know they are both backed by space aliens.) And many historical events, from the Kennedy assassination to the moon landing, have been claimed to be faked as the results of some far-reaching conspiracy. But is this approach plausible?

My chief problem with conspiracy theories is not that I do not believe people are that evil, but that I do not believe people are that competent. Chuck Colson, in addressing the question of whether Christianity originated as a conspiracy among Jesus' disciples, recalls his own experience in Watergate. He points out that if a small group of men with all the power of the presidency could not manage to keep the events behind Watergate a secret, without someone talking, what hope did a bunch of uneducated Galilean fishermen have of pulling it off? But of course not all conspiracy theories are against Christianity. Christians have been known to come up with their own theories in support of the Christian position. And we need to ask, is this really reasonable? Yes, people may be motivated by ungodly philosophies which lead them to the same conclusions and actions. Yes, Satan and his minions are working behind the scenes to accomplish their purposes. But the idea of an omnicompetent human conspiracy does not fit with the real facts or what we know of human nature.

But there are certain attractions of conspiracy theories. They can allow us to see our opponents as fiends incarnate, beyond the limits of our compassion. But this is not how Scripture would have us look at those who disagree with us (2 Timothy 2:24-26). They can be seen as exonerating everyone (including us) who is not in on the conspiracy. But Scripture says we are all sinners and therefore all contribute to the evil that is in the world (Romans 3:23). They can justify a cynical passivity. If all these forces are arrayed against me, why even bother? But the Scripture calls us to continue in well-doing, knowing God will bring about His purposes in His time (Galatians 6:9, 10).

But the bottom line is that conspiracy theories encourage Christians to react in entirely the wrong way. Forgetting God is in control and working out His purpose even in a sinful world (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 2:10; 1:11), we respond in fear, anger, and hostility rather than the kindness God calls us to (1 Peter 2:15; Colossians 4:5, 6). For our job is not to accuse people, but to invite them to eternal life.

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