If you thought there was a conspiracy in my writing on conspiracy theories (parts 1 and 2), you were right. I really wanted to bring it down to theology. After all, theology matters. It always matters.

So where do we see conspiracy thinking in theology?

Well, it seems Christians are prone to conspiracy theories just like anyone else. Maybe it’s because Christianity has always been the shepherd boy standing against the giants of unbelief. Unfortunately, conspiracy thinking often causes us to use up all our smooth stones on our brothers.

Conspiracy theories have sold enough Christian books and fuelled enough Christian periodicals to make them big business.

Here are some examples of the forms conspiracy thinking takes in theology:

Revisionist history

What history books are you finding in Fundamentalist colleges today? Check it out sometime. A lot of them are obscure or self-published textbooks or just course syllabi with no textbook at all.

If a theory cannot be built using the historical data available in the broader Christian and academic scene (albeit countering and differing with the various biases and interpretations), then it’s probably little more than a conspiracy theory in a suit and tie.

Demonising

When it comes to theology, there’s no one we like to dislike more than those who have wrong theology (which of course is defined as anyone who disagrees with us). But when someone tries too hard to make you dislike those you dislike more than you already dislike them, you may be dealing with conspiracy thinking.

For instance, the Roman Catholic Church has enough crimes which can be legitimately attributed to it without accusing it of founding Islam and organising the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Conspiracy thinking attempts to demonise people instead of just warning about their error.

Simplistic thinking

Every good Fundamentalist knows that Egypt stands for bad things in theology, so it’s a given that nothing good could come out of Egypt. It’s quite simple really—or is it?

Egypt was actually a place of refuge for Jacob and his family during famine and even for Jesus Christ Himself in his early years. Further, tradition suggests that at least two of the Lord’s twelve disciples ministered in Egypt before their death.

But it seems so simple to just say “well, that piece of theological evidence comes from Egypt so it must be corrupt” and end the discussion with that. But wrestling with complexity is part of growing up.

Simplistic explanations are the stuff of conspiracy thinking. Our goal must be to explain complexity as simply as possible. Simple is good. Simplistic is bad.

There are quite a few conspiracy theories in current Fundamentalist theology. Of course as we pointed out in the first post, some of them could be correct. But if there’s any correlation to their secular counterparts—well, let’s just say I don’t subscribe to the ufoevidence.org weekly newsletter.

 

this is part 3 of 3 in the series
Conspiracy Theories

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About Jason Harris

Jason is a writer, pastor, and academic. He has authored multiple books, articles, and papers including his book Theological Meditations on the Gospel. Jason has degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research. He is currently working on his PhD from James Cook University as well as serving as pastor at CrossPoint Church. Jason has lived in Cairns, Australia since 2007. You can contact Jason at jason@jasonharris.com.au.

9 Comments

  1. PJ 15 June, 2010 at 7:59 am - Reply

    “What history books are you finding in Fundamentalist colleges today?…A lot of them are obscure or self-published textbooks or just course syllabi with no textbook at all.”

    Care to suggest a few titles?

  2. Jason Harris 15 June, 2010 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    Hey PJ, Could you clarify your question. Are you asking for titles of books that are obscure or self-published?

    Sorry… just not clear on the question.

  3. PJ 16 June, 2010 at 7:42 am - Reply

    Sure…just looking for examples of books that you’ve found being used in Fundamentalist colleges that fall into the ‘obscure’ category.

    I agree that there hasn’t always been a high-degree of academic rigour in fundamental circles – and I’d be interested to know what titles are in use in colleges today that you feel don’t measure up.

    I’d also be interested to know which Fundamental colleges you think have adequate academic strandards when it comes to their church history courses. (Though I’d understand if you didn’t want to comment in a public forum like this.)

  4. Jason Harris 18 June, 2010 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    Sorry for the delay PJ. I started on a response and then got too busy to finish.

    I know in at least some Australian colleges, there are history courses that do not use a textbook at all. Instead they use a syllabus authored by someone at the college. Granted, those same colleges may (and in at least one case, do) have other courses that use credible textbooks, but the trend is concerning.

    Then there are books like Our Baptist Heritage, The People Called Baptists, and The Trail of Blood which tend to be promoted as teaching tools in our circles.

    In the broader scheme, the use of unpublished material or self published material is the norm at least in Australian colleges. It’s one thing to do this where the world’s authority on a subject is a resident professor. It’s another thing to do this when it’s a small college.

  5. PJ 18 June, 2010 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this Jason…I appreciate your reply.

    I wonder if the colleges you have in mind have had to revert to the texts you’ve mentioned particularly ‘The Trail of Blood’, because there are few other texts that support the ‘landmarker’ view of baptist history?

    I agree with the need to use texts by authors with academic standing and I also think as students of church history we ought to expose ourselves to as much primary source material as we’re able – e.g. the writings of the Church Fathers and the Reformers, and not just rely on what other scholars say about them.

  6. Jason Harris 18 June, 2010 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    Most of our colleges would refute the landmark position as such, but would have similar agendas to push.

    It’s true that we live in a day when the primary sources are often readily available. It is ideal to take advantage of them.

  7. Robert 18 June, 2010 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    it is interesting that whether you are independent or denominational, everyone has their ‘trail of blood’ story.
    everyone is trying to show that the early church in the Book of Acts, through the church fathers, etc etc, were just like us:)

    it is designed to give us reassurance that we are on the ‘right’ track and it is the ‘other’ churches that are on the ‘wrong’ track.

    rather than marvelling how God has used many different people (with orthodox theology of course) to accomplish his purposes unfortunately our natural tendency is to engage in revisionist history making.

  8. Alen 20 June, 2010 at 12:22 am - Reply

    I’ve got a particular book in mind while you’re on the subject Jason.. :)

    As for revisionists, I think most Christians today would be horrified by the early church. At least us Western Christians.

  9. Jason Harris 20 June, 2010 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    We’re trying to play nice Alen. =D

    Good thought. I suspect it is not as we imagine it.

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