“Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.” Isaiah 8:12
This passage comes from a section in Isaiah which is often cited in the New Testament. The soon-after promise that “the Lord” is coming to earth to become a sanctuary for his people is an obvious look forward to messianic days. Hence, the apostles often cited the section in support of Jesus’ being the Messiah (ie. Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:8, 3:14-15).
But what does the “conspiracy” sentence mean? Apparently the people of God were in danger of a conspiracy-mindset creeping in during their days. Since Israel was in such bad shape as a nation, morale was low. Therefore, all kinds of explanations were being advanced as to why things were so bad and getting worse. One example is the peoples’ belief that the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah were working for opposing nations in their pronouncing of God’s judgments. Into this cultural moment God said, “Don’t listen to that stuff; don’t get caught up in the group-think. Wait on the Lord, and live in the Scriptures. He’s in control, and He’s using all of this difficulty to make the days when He steps foot on earth that much more glorious, so you’ll believe. Don’t get caught up in peoples’ easy diagnoses of the Problem. The work needed is inward. And the One coming will do that work.”
A Day of Conspiracy Theories
Today is the day of conspiracy theories. You may not agree, because maybe you hold that a particular theory has some weight to it. But people all over the place are buying into different claims about who is really destroying society, some theories more far-fetched, and some representing true concerns:
-Flat-earthers hold that NASA and the government have lied to the people about humanity’s travels to space.
-Many social-justice-oriented people hold that there is an organized conspiracy designed to hold down and hurt minorities and women in America.
-Anti-vaxers hold that our kids all have physical and mental problems because “big pharma” forces medicines on them.
-Many Christians hold that liberals are all working together intelligently to stamp out religion and traditional conservative values.
These are just a few examples. Of course, it is important to ask questions. How else can we learn? Still it is often the case today that when one begins to ask questions, they begin to see coherence between points in a particular web of beliefs (ie, a conspiracy), and it encourages them that they’re asking the right questions. The problem is that so few of these theories are ever actually proven, so no solution is ever found. But people feel that they’ve figured out what’s wrong and who is to blame. So they’re now part of the elite “in crowd,” which CS Lewis once rightly noted that all people want to be in.
But what if these are the wrong questions? I’m going to suggest something that may sound a little odd to our postmodern ears. What if our real issue is a lack of acknowledgement in the existence of the Devil, that ancient serpent (Rev. 12:9) whose goal is to lie and murder (Jn. 8:44), who has the power to blind people to God’s truth (2 Cor. 4:4) and is allowed to work powerfully in the earth (1 Jn. 5:19, Rev. 13:3)? What if the real conspiracy is a denial that he still works in the world, and that all of these little issues – some of them worthy of being called legitimate concerns – are thrown around to keep people distracted from the reality of sin and the glory of the risen King and his salvation? It’s what happened during Jesus' day; what if it’s still happening now? The old Cowper hymn is true which says that God works in mysterious ways. But the devil does too. He was crafty in Eden (Gen. 3:1), he had schemes in the first century (2 Cor. 2:11). Doesn’t he still today?
Screwtape and Politics
Speaking of CS Lewis, you’ve probably seen his little statement on the distraction of politics in the Screwtape Letters: Paraphrasing, “Dear wormwood, keep them focused on politics, so they won’t consider spiritual matters.” While Lewis would most certainly affirm the importance of right politics, nevertheless his point is taken: If the devil can get people calling other people the devil, then he can hide in plain sight and keep people blind to the spiritual realm where he works. Slanting the idea to a different angle, if I think others are the devil, I won’t think the devil is the devil, or that I ever do anything that serves his purposes.
And perhaps even more serious, if I think others are evil, I certainly won’t think I am. If I did, that would require me making a beeline to Jesus to renew me from the inside out. Never mind that Jesus said point blank that I am evil (Mt. 7:9, Lk. 11:9), and that I need His new creation. They, not I, are the problem with the world.
I’m the Way
As you know, Jesus spent a lot of time confronting the religious elite and the powers that be. Less noted is that he also confronted the outcasts of society – the marginalized, as people prefer to call them today – and told them of their need to repent too. Because while one side would point across and say, “THEY’RE the problem!” and vice-versa, Jesus came to say, “You’re all the problem, Satan has blinded you, and I’ve come to destroy His works and make you new” (cf. 1 Jn. 3:8, 2 Cor. 5:17). And anyone can get in on this and enjoy the new creation that He brings.
Until He returns, the world will never enjoy a mitigation of all problems. But a joy that is outside of circumstance will be available, and the church will herald its message clearly, as opposed to its current confused message. But you will only enjoy this if you're at least ready to question the world's conspiracy theories, and are ready to embrace God's simple yet profound theory (outlined above). One theory will give you no rest and it will make you incorrigible toward opponents. The other will give you rest and give you love for your opponents. That's because the latter is based on One lovingly giving HIs life for HIs opponents, to save them.
And to me, there's just no other way.
And to me, there's just no other way.