There was a time in my life when I was preoccupied with conspiracy theories. I believed that the church organization of which I am a member had been infiltrated by a secret order of evil men and that some of the members of this order were masquerading as leaders in my church. As a teenager, I devoured comic books and other materials that fed my conspiracy theory. I spent a lot of time and mental energy imagining how evil these people were and how I would go about “outing” them and exposing their evil machinations.
I’ve learned a few things in the years since my teenage obsession with conspiracy theories. First, I’ve concluded that some of what I believed back then probably isn’t true. And secondly, even if all my teenage conspiracy theories were true I’ve decided that it wouldn’t make much of a difference in my life anyway.
Most grand conspiracy theories are based on a great deal of speculation and not on any solid biblical (or other) evidence.
Whether or not the Illuminati or some other secret order have actually infiltrated and are controlling churches or governments today is a matter of at least some speculation. Some of it may be true. But a lot of the information upon which these theories are based is conjectural and circumstantial in nature. One thing is certain, these theories are not based on the Bible, for the Bible says nothing about the Illuminati pulling the strings on world events or controlling the world.
In fact, the Bible specifically tells us to avoid speculative issues, myths and questions that engender strife. Paul writes, “But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.” (Titus 3:9, emphasis mine). “…[Do not] pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.” (1 Timothy 1:4). Almost every grand-scale conspiracy theory, generally based on a great deal of speculation, fits within what these verses are talking about.
But let’s say that we could prove without a doubt that the world is controlled by the Illuminati. As a Christian, what practical difference would that make in my life or your life? Would we go into hiding? Try to assassinate those evil leaders? Spend our time focused on exposing their evil plans?
Or would we keep doing what we’re supposed to be doing anyway – loving our enemies like Jesus tells us to do and praying for evil doers while spreading the gospel?
Ultimately, grand conspiracy theories lead to an unhealthy fascination and preoccupation with things that are less than certain and direct our attention away from loving our enemies and spreading the gospel as Jesus told us to do.
Conspiracy theories give evil people too much credit and attribute too much power to them.
Think about it. Most grand conspiracy theories give a lot of credit to evil men, teaching that those men – most of them Freemasons or members of the Illuminati – are controlling the world. Really? Is that what the Bible teaches? Not exactly.
In fact, the Bible teaches that God is the one who controls the affairs of the governments of this world. He is the one who determines who will rule the world, not a bunch of evil men.
Speaking of this, notice what the Bible says:
“And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding…” Daniel 2:21.
“For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.” Psalm 75:6-7.
So the Bible says that God, not any group of men, is responsible for who comes to power in our world. To give evil men the credit goes directly against what the Bible teaches.
Additionally, focusing on the supposed power of some men in a smoke-filled room somewhere ultimately leads us to exalt these evil men to a demigod status with power akin to that of God himself.
Conspiracy theories about the government and church leadership cause us to distrust God-appointed authorities.
Granted, some political leaders are unquestionably evil. A good example was the Emperor Nero who lived during Paul’s time. Yet, do we see Paul railing on Nero’s evilness? Hardly. In fact, we hear nothing from Paul that could be construed as disrespect toward Nero. Paul had bigger fish to fry, namely spreading the gospel to the world and helping prepare people to meet God. What Nero did was largely irrelevant to the grander scheme of things and Paul knew that.
In Romans 13 the Bible calls the civil authorities “ministers of God” appointed by Him to keep the peace. Paul also commands that Christians should respect and “honor” the authorities to the extent that we can do so without disobeying God (see Romans 13:1-7 and Acts 5:29).
Grand conspiracy theories teach the opposite. Instead of respecting civil authorities, conspiracy theorists teach that political leaders should be, at the least, distrusted and that they are not the “ministers of God” but are rather the ministers of Satan. Those embracing these theories would do well to heed the example of David when his men encouraged him to take the life of King Saul in the cave (see 1 Samuel 24:10). There, instead of taking the life of the evil king who was pursuing him, David refused to lay a hand upon the “Lord’s anointed” and instead showed respect to this evil man and spared his life.
By embracing conspiracy theories Christians are led to engage in slander and bear false witness against their neighbor.
As noted above, some leaders are undeniably evil and others are open and avowed enemies of God and his people. To state these objective facts about such an individual is not slanderous. However, to speculate and say that a certain government leader is a member of an evil secret organization (or to make other similar allegations) when there is less than certain proof that such is the case is to bear false witness against that person and to slander them.
Bearing false witness against our neighbor is sin (Exodus 20:16). Slandering is also prohibited in the Bible. “Do not go about spreading slander among your people. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:16, NIV. Furthermore, the Bible tells us to speak about things that will build each other up (“edify”) and stop speaking about the things that tear others down. Notice Paul’s words to the inhabitants of the evil city of Ephesus: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Eph. 4:29-32.
Notice how serious of a sin in God’s sight is the sin of evil speaking – Paul tells us that we can grieve the Holy Spirit by speaking words of this kind.
Focusing on conspiracy theories takes our eyes off of Jesus and could cause us to be deceived at the end of time.
The Bible teaches a principle of natural law: we become what we look at (see 2 Cor. 3:18). If we look at something long enough that thing, person or idea begins to affect us. (Think about the stories of cops tasked with infiltrating a criminal organization only to become “dirty” themselves. They began to change because of what surrounded them). If we feast long enough on conspiracy theories and the evils they encompass there is a danger that we will become enamored with the evil and take our focus off of Jesus.
Instead, we ought to be focusing on Jesus. John the Apostle admonishes us to “behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us” (1 John 3:1). “Behold” (focus on; think about) the love of God, John says, not the bad actions of evil people in this world.
Notice what Ellen White had to say about focusing on what she calls the seductive arts of Satan:
“Give the people present truth. Talk the truth. Fill their minds with truth. Build up the strongholds of truth. And do not bring Satan’s theories to minds that should not hear in regard to them. What the people need is not a representation of the seductive arts of Satan, but a presentation of the truth as it is in Jesus. Remember that the devil can be served by a repetition of his lies. The less we handle these objectionable subjects, the purer, cleaner, and less tainted will be our minds and our principles….” Evangelism, p. 624, emphasis mine.
Finally, Ellen White notes, “Resolve never, never to repeat error, but always to teach the truth. Fill hearts and minds with the solemn, sacred truth for this time.” Evangelism, p. 623.
The end-time movement to enforce worship is a democratic movement, not top secret behind-the-scenes maneuvering by a few evil politicians.
Ultimately, there is one grand conspiracy theory that the Bible indicates is true. That conspiracy theory is that Satan, the master deceiver and enemy of all that is good, is conspiring with and using sinful men to overthrow God and His people. The last book of the Bible details Satan’s titanic struggle with Christ to overthrow God’s government in the universe. That struggle will culminate in the Battle of Armageddon – the last battle between Christ and Satan. Satan will ultimately lose the war.
The Bible gives us some clues as to who Satan will use and conspire with at the end of time. First, there is the Antichrist power, a human organization, also referred to as the “Beast” in Revelation 13. Then there is a second “Beast” in Revelation 13 – referring to a nation that the devil works through in his attempt to control the world at the end of time. Through both of these powers Satan will seek to defeat God and His end-time people.
Surprisingly, to some, the end time movements to enact and enforce laws leading to the biblical “Mark of the Beast” will not primarily be stealth movements based on secret conspiracies. In fact, it seems that they will be very public and enacted by a democratic society and due to the popular demand of the citizens of that society. Notice that the second beast of Revelation 13 says “to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.” Revelation 13:14, emphasis mine. As Ellen White notes, this action denotes a grassroots-based, democratic movement that eventually leads to the enacting of laws that result in the Mark of the Beast. (“…Rulers and legislators, in order to secure public favor, will yield to the popular demand for a law enforcing Sunday observance.” The Great Controversy, p. 592.). According to Revelation, it’s the people who are ostensibly pulling the strings at the end of time – not a few evil men in a smoke-filled room somewhere. Of course, even during this tumultuous time, God will still be ultimately in control.
Quite contrary to this, most grand conspiracy theories about the end of time teach that a few evil men are plotting to spring laws on the United States or the world and that one day we will suddenly wake up to a dictatorship that has been going on all along behind the scenes without our knowledge.
The Bible tells us what we need to know and do to stand through the end of time. One thing we should not be doing is closely studying into conspiracy theories that are speculative and based on theories of men. Instead, we should put on the full spiritual armor of God so that we can stand against the ultimate conspirator – the Devil himself.
Paul sums it up for us by letting us know how we can “stand” in these last days. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Eph. 6:10-17.
Evil people, i.e., “flesh and blood,” are not the enemy. The enemy is the Devil and his demons. Every soul – government officials and members of secret organizations included – is a candidate for receiving the gospel of peace. Our mission is to put on the whole spiritual armor and to reach them with the urgency and love that accompanies God’s end time message. Don’t let yourself be distracted from the mission.
(I am indebted to a paper written by Pastor Lary Brown, president of the Sri Lanka Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, which inspired some of the thoughts expressed here).
Stephen N. Allred is lead pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Yuba City, CA. Follow him on Twitter at @allredesq