Saturday, August 13, 2011

Meta-Conspiracies: A Few Thoughts

My kids enjoy watching the conspiracy driven National Treasure movies. Of course, those movies are just for entertainment and are intentionally fantastic. That is part of the fun. I have; however, in my library a few works by authors that quite are quite serious about a conspiratorial view of history. Books such as Ralph Epperson’s The Unseen Hand, even argue for an overarching theory of history based upon conspiratorial presuppositions. I must admit that these conspiratorial histories are quite creatively assembled. Stories about the secret influence of Masons, Bilderbergers, The Trilateral Commission, Skull and Bones, the illuminati, and others are generally popular in American as a whole but I have noticed that there seems to be a particularly high percentage of people within the Christian community who are attracted to these types of historical explanations.

To be certain the interests of powerful people often come together to influence particular events. In many cases these powerful agendas are in fact coordinated. It is also true that governments and other organizations lie, cover up information, and obfuscate the various influences and relationships involved in decisions and events. Any particular historical event of any major consequence likely involves a series of overlapping and often independent influences as people attempt to use their power and connections to bend events to their own self-interest. There is, however, a theological reason why the more grandiose multigenerational conspiracies are unlikely. The kind of theories that conjecture that conspiracies hatched by the knights templar or the illuminati in centuries past are playing out today, as planned, are highly unlikely for doctrinal reasons.

One of the prominent doctrines of scripture is the depravity of mankind. The root of this sinful disposition is the placing of self interest ahead of the glory of God. Since the fall of Adam human beings apart from grace are lovers of self and will, if given the opportunity, make choices that they perceive to be in their own self focused interest. This particular reality of the human heart makes it very unlikely that people would continue to participate in cross generational schemes that have some ultimate payoff in the distant future.

It might be argued that these people do realize personal gains by being associated with the power structures that enable these conspiracies but that argument ignores the fact that anytime powerful people have a secret it opens the door for someone to profit from revealing it. Anyone who has ever been involved in complex plans involving lots of people knows how difficult it is to keep them quiet even if they do not involve major or interesting developments. The explanation of how hierarchies protect the alleged conspiratorial secrets seems to be quite naïve with regard to the way that people and organizations actually function. Certain things can be kept silent for a long time but to keep complex organizations of people spanning many generations is highly unlikely.

The idea that powerful people would continue in secret collaboration over hundreds of years to bring about particular ends may provide a convenient explanation for why things seem to have a certain historical momentum that does not appear to be in the interest of the common person but it doesn’t adequately account for the reality of the instability and selfishness of the human heart. Powerful interests do often collaborate to protect their own interests and that is often not conducive to justice for the average person but powerful interests are not monolithic in their goals. Every strategy or plan eventually provides a counter-opportunity for profit and influence. People are not naturally inclined to give their treasure, time, and passion for an idea to be realized many ages to come without direct benefit.

That we see a pattern or momentum to history is, however, not merely coincidence. We know that there is a definite plan or teleology that is driving history. The Lord God is working out His purposes in history and it has pleased Him, for a time, to restrain His full judgment upon the devil and those who follow him. Even in this, however, nothing escapes the overriding providence of God. The various relations and connections that influence our history are all subject to the ends to which God intended them.

As believers we know that there are powers at work in history that are not readily observable. We also live with the keen awareness that the world around us, its systems and movements, are not aligned with our interests. These powers may work through human governments and institutions but they do not originate there. The chaos of human history is played out within the broader spiritual struggle between good and evil. Though evil may appear to triumph for a time we know that it has already been defeated and will be judged. Multi generational human conspiracies are not necessary to explain the events in the world around us. They are highly unlikely given the nature of humans. Regardless of the extent that current conspiracies influence may be influencing us we have no need to fear them. God remains upon His throne and all things done in secret will be revealed.

Why do the nations rage
            and the peoples plot in vain?
            The kings of the earth set themselves,
            and the rulers take counsel together,
            against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
            “Let us burst their bonds apart
                        and cast away their cords from us.”
            He who sits in the heavens laughs;
            the Lord holds them in derision.
            Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
            and terrify them in his fury, saying,
            “As for me, I have set my King
                        on Zion, my holy hill.”
            I will tell of the decree:
            The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
            today I have begotten you.
            Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
            and the ends of the earth your possession.
            You shall break them with a rod of iron
                        and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”
            Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
            be warned, O rulers of the earth.
            Serve the LORD with fear,
            and rejoice with trembling.
            Kiss the Son,
            lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
            for his wrath is quickly kindled.
            Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
(Psalm 2 ESV)

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