One of my favorite genres is the conspiracy thriller. The mythos of conspiracy theories, like the mythos of fairy tale, has had a great impact on literature. A classic example is Umberto Eco’s novel “The Foucalt Pendulum,” which weaves a tangled web from the legends of the Knights Templar, the Illuminati, and dozens of historical events. Threads of unsolved mysteries, hints of shadowy figures manipulating events behind the scenes, and the growing desperate knowledge that They are working some secret sinister plot are tantalizing to my analytical mind.
But there’s a certain element of the population that has an almost religious attachment to conspiracy theories. They will spin a convoluted theory of schemes and cabals, even when the publicly accepted explanation is simple and plausible.
I think there’s actually a good subconscious reason for this belief system.
God’s Invisible Attributes
Let’s step back for a second and consider a different, but related, question. Why is the belief in deity so prevalent across cultural lines?
Cultures express it differently, of course, as each comes up with its own idea of what its god (or gods) looks like. But this religious sense is extraordinarily prevalent. It’s rare for a culture to completely reject deity – more often, it will attribute divine attributes to nature or humankind.
Paul tells us why this is:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.
Humanity has an innate knowledge that God exists and that He ought to be worshiped. This drive has led them to conjure up imaginary substitutes for the True. The fact that these substitutes exist is testimony to this persistent subconscious knowledge.
But God’s existence is not the only thing that we know innately. We also have a subconscious knowledge that someone, somewhere, is controlling things. Someone is shaping the past and the future, directing our lives. This is the instinct that conspiracy (and, incidentally, destiny) appeals to.
Christians have a face to put to that someone:
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God… And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Here Paul gives in glorious summary a truth that is repeated and expanded throughout Scripture: God is in control. Everything that happens or has happened, from the beginning of time to its end, is a part of His specific, definite plan. And His purposes are good, for those who love Him.
When this doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of God is weakened, other less savory characters take His place. For example, certain conservative circles place a tremendous importance on the control Satan has over the nations of the world. It’s no coincidence that these groups are especially susceptible to other conspiracy theories as well.
Theology Matters in Conspiracy Theories Too
Once again we are reminded that theology matters. Doctrine is not merely heady amusement for the intellectual; a proper understanding of God is central to a stable and vital Christian life.
We must recognize that God is sovereign over everything that happens. He is intentionally shaping history towards His eventual victory. When we understand this doctrine, history and current events take on a completely different light.