There are few people who don’t love to read or watch a good mystery story. There is an allure to that which is mysterious, a thrill in the search of the valiant detective for the truth that draws us to (vicariously) join in the quest. Conspiracy theories take this allure to a whole new level. Regardless of the details, their basic claim is that reality is not as it appears to be. There are forces at work beneath the surface that are scheming, often in quite elaborate ways, to divert us from the truth, to pull the wool over our eyes about what is really going on in our world.
Theories such as this are spun about almost any subject you could think of—and almost any group you can think of has been pegged by someone somewhere as the source of all our ills. Christians, who know the reality of evil, who believe in the reality of Satan, often find such theories especially attractive. We know that Satan is at work in our world and conspiracy theories seem to offer an explanation for where and how. They promise, whether explicitly or not, to satisfy our deep seated human desire to understand what is really going on in the world in which we live. What follows are three of the reasons they cannot keep this promise.
First, most conspiracy theories thrive on misinformation, half truths, faulty logic and a general disregard for any standard of truth external to the given theory. There are exceptions of course, but the vast majority of such theories—every one that I have come in contact with—are shot through with the very same kinds of reality distortion that they accuse others of perpetrating. Time after time, the facts simply don’t check out, the logic doesn’t hold, and the conclusions are simply bogus. This is not always the case but it is certainly the norm. Obviously, if something isn’t true to begin with, it isn’t something that followers of Christ need to be involved with—no matter how sincere the person who retailed the distortion to you may have been. Big theories never justify invented facts.
Second, conspiracy theories, even when they get the facts right, simply don’t get evil right. Evil is not glamorous and powerful. It is always banal and pathetic. The most grotesque evil that has ever appeared in our world is simply a more developed form of the evil that exists in our own hearts, even after conversion. There is no such thing as “pure evil.” Evil is always a parasite. The most horrific evils, as C.S. Lewis famously pointed out, are not concocted in the dens of iniquity, but by the everyday paper shuffling of those whose conscience was once no more hardened than yours now is.
Finally, and far more dangerously, conspiracy theories, regardless of intention, subtly replace the big story of the Bible, a story that about God and what he is doing, with a story about evil and what we can do to avoid and stop it. God’s story has very little to say about evil and a lot to say about sin. Conspiracy theories, by and large, have a lot to say about evil and very little to say about sin. As believers in Christ, we don’t need conspiracy theories—even conspiracy theories patched together from poorly interpreted Scripture texts—to tell us what is really going on in our world. We already know. What is really going on in the world is that God, no matter how the forces of evil may rage, is calling forth a people that will one day be perfectly conformed to the image of His Son. Any explanation that competes with that story needs to be taken captive, not investigated further.
Conspiracy theories are at best a distraction and at worst a delusion. God has called us, certainly, to resist the Devil—but we do that best by pursuing truth and righteousness in the vocation in which God has actually placed us. Lies and deceit are present everywhere, but they are not resisted by spinning theories that purport to explain the power of evil, but by living lives ever more saturated with the truth.