Do you have a favorite conspiracy theory? There are so many to choose from over the last year: the pandemic, stolen elections, Pizzagate, and vaccines.
It seems that conspiracy theories are more common today and they come out much more quickly after a major event. We live in a unique time in history where there is a combination of misinformation and untrustworthy leadership. This is not new for humanity, but the speed of news spreading is new. Social media has allowed us the ability to create an online presence to share information with a community of people we may never meet in person. Along with that is the ability to say anything without anyone verifying the facts. Over the last year, I have listened to stories of those who have believed in conspiracy theories, those who regretted what they believed, and others who held to their beliefs even when proven false. (By this I mean that there were theories of events that would take place on a specific date, but they never came to pass). Post-modern thinking has made a pivot in that we believe not based on facts, but belief is based on what one believes is true or wants to be true. The new maxim is “I know what is true.” Everyone is an expert on everything, even without any education, training, or experience. I am amazed at how the pandemic has caused everyone to become a medical expert.
We also live in an age of skepticism where people are quick to doubt. I remember hearing as a kid, “don’t believe everything you hear.” This was good advice, and it is important to have a “healthy skepticism” when we realize the depravity of the human heart. If the human heart is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), why should we grant anyone full trust? I think we also want to be careful not to take this to the extreme. In God’s common grace, people are not as bad as they could be. To have a healthy skepticism is to have a reasonable expectation of people, people do lie but they also tell the truth.
I think there are two dangers with so much skepticism and conspiracy theories.
- The first danger is that we think too highly of ourselves. We think we know what is true based on what we have researched and then made a conclusion. The Bible says in Provers 28:26 “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” I think we need to be humble that we could be wrong about what we think is true.
- The second danger is that we are not omniscient. This is a fancy theological word that means “all-knowing.” This is an attribute of God, although sometimes people think they have it. We cannot have all the information on every topic. There is complexity in every person and situation, and we have limited knowledge. Only God knows everything about anything. I am not saying we cannot have enough information to understand something, but we should not think we have all the information all the time.
I am not saying all conspiracy theories are false, there is likely some truth. The difficulty is discerning what is true and what is false. We tend to believe what we want to believe, and facts do not always change that. This is the human heart, a complexity that is hard to understand.
For me, I put my hope in the truth of the Bible, the rest I hold with an open hand.