This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people: 12 “Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear and do not dread it. 13 The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread. (Isaiah 8:11-13)
If you’re following along with TGC’s Read the Bible plan, you read this passage yesterday. The timing couldn’t have been more providential, as conspiracy theories abound today—and Christians are among those most liable to believe and promulgate them. In fact, I had been planning to write about this lamentable tendency today even before I read the passage, because, sadly, so many struggle with it.
In his excellent (although disheartening) article “Christians Are Not Immune to Conspiracy Theories,” Joe Carter cuts right to the heart of the matter: “That some people somewhere believe something ridiculous is not surprising. What is shocking, though, is so many Christians not only believe in such conspiracies but also promote them in public. You can hardly open Facebook without seeing a Christian (too often a pastor or other church leader) has posted claims they cannot possibly know to be true. Much needs to be said about why so many followers of Christ are spreading misinformation. But we don’t need a sophisticated sociological analysis before we can denounce such slander as sinful.”
That last sentence explains one reason God hates conspiracy theories. God hates them because he hates slander, and conspiracy theories by definition involve slander. To slander is to damage someone’s reputation by sharing untruths about him or her. Conspiracy theorists might argue that it’s not slander because it’s true, but there is a reason they’re called “theories.” If there were knowledge, and not wild assumptions based in hearsay and outright misinformation, that would be different, but conspiracy theories involve information that the average person could not possibly possess. (Of course, even if it is true, it’s likely gossip, which isn’t any better.) Proverbs 6:16-19 and Romans 1:30 both make clear how much God detests slander. That right there should give us pause before we indulge conspiracy theories.
But the passage quoted above gives two more compelling reasons to flee from this temptation. Note first the strength with which God speaks about this matter: “This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me” (verse 11). It’s as though God grabs Isaiah by the shoulders, looks him in the eye, and cautions him passionately. Why? What makes this so serious?
Well, the second reason God hates conspiracy theories is because they blur the distinctions between God’s people and the world. When we act indistinguishably from the world, we dishonor the God whose name we bear. This is why God warns Isaiah “not to follow the way of this people” (verse 11). I fear that some of you, including some who post conspiracy theories regularly on social media, do not understand the damage that’s been done to Christ’s reputation, and that of his bride, the Church. Right at the moment when people stand ready to receive good news, a (sizeable) segment of the American church has acted in ways that have lost us our hearing. We are keeping the nation from revival.
Lastly, God hates conspiracy theories because they strip God of his rightful place in history. On view are two different readings of world events. In the first, people explain current affairs as the result of human conspiracy, which leads to fear and dread (verse 12). This is why conspiracy theories always sound so panic-stricken. Like Chicken Little, they see the sky falling around them, and feel they must do something to stop it—usually posting an impassioned plea on Facebook. In misplacing our fear, however, we misplace our trust. In the second view, however, God is sovereign over all history. Nothing happens outside his control (not even truly dreadful events). We live rightly when we fear him in the splendor of his holiness (verse 13). The fear of the Lord is pure (Psalm 19:9), not polluting, and thus brings order and peace to our lives. We can hide ourselves in him, knowing he is wise, good, and powerful. He will direct all history toward his ordained ends.
There is someone in a position of power pulling strings in the midst of this pandemic. His name is Jesus. Take a deep breath. You’re in good hands.