Conspiracy and writing about conspiracy seems to be one of mankind’s major activities. —Neal Wilgus, The Illuminoids (1978)
A conspiracy has power to the degree that it speaks to the prevailing beliefs and hopes of the day. —Rousas J. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction (1991)
Who’s Calling the Shots?
Once we understand how much our political system, our schools and universities, and the mainstream media are opposed to Christ, we can easily become jaded about everything we hear from these sources. We expect their minions to lie, distort, and spin on principle. We see concerted efforts against the kingdom of God from these centers of cultural power. It quickly becomes apparent that the leaders in these spheres of influence are almost without exception part of a conspiracy against the kingdom of God.
There are a lot of books, mostly paperback, that say exactly that: the world is threatened, maybe already ruled, by some incredible conspiracy, ancient in its machinations and cosmic in its scope. And the power behind it all is…well, that depends on which book you read. The candidates include the usual suspects… Bavarian Illuminati, the Freemasons, the Round Table Society, the House of Rothschild, and on and on. Many of the theories are marked by strange facts and remarkable historical truths that are all too real.
So what does the Bible say about conspiracies and conspiracy theory? What should we believe?
The Divine Roots of Conspiracy
To understand conspiracy biblically, we need to start with God Himself. God is personal. He exists eternally as three distinct Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—yet He is One, both ontologically and covenantally. That is, God is One in His essence. There is only one God, and He has no parts or pieces. He is One. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are each truly and fully God, yet they are distinct from one another. They make promises to one another and of course they love and commune with one another. Scripture distinguishes the Three Persons both by their names and their personal relationships.
The Father eternally begets the Son and breathes forth the Spirit. The Son is eternally begotten of the Son and breathes back the Spirit to His Father. The Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son as the personal bond of love between them both. Given all of this, there is perfect love, openness, understanding, and agreement among the Persons of the Trinity. They are one in their purposes, plans, and actions. The One and the Many find perfect harmony in the divine life of the Triune God.
Man was created to share in this divine fellowship, not as an equal partner, but as a creature and as adopted sons and daughters. But in the Garden of Eden, our first parents chose to conspire with Satan against God. Adam and Eve conspired to take God’s place as the sovereign Lord of history (Gen. 3). In the process, however, they alienated themselves from each other and destroyed for themselves and their posterity any hope of true love and fellowship outside the saving grace of God.
Conspiracy, then, is an image of the secret fellowship and counsel of the eternal Trinity, but it is an image reflected through the Fall. Conspiracy is either the attempt of wicked men to unite against God’s rule in history, or it is a temporary recourse of the righteous in their struggle with ascendant evil. In heaven there will be no conspiracies, no inner rings, no plotting and scheming, only open and eternal fellowship. But in this world, evil men scheme in secret to overthrow the rule of God and to crush the righteous underfoot. Often, though, their immediate targets are other wicked men. Sometimes the righteous conspire to stop them… or at least to survive their attacks.
The Power and Limits of Conspiracy
Are conspiracies effective? The conspiracy in Eden had real consequences within history. It was in some measure successful, though the conspirators turned on each other almost immediately. Certainly, this first conspiracy brought great evil upon mankind and changed the world forever. But what God ultimately brought into the world because of that conspiracy was not what any of the conspirators intended. God overruled the conspiracy for His own glory. In fact, God had even decreed the conspiracy. It was part of His eternal plan (Act 2:23).
Scripture records many conspiracies—the rebellion at Babel, the revolt of Absalom, the treachery of Athaliah, the scheme of Haman, to name only a few. All of these had real historical consequences. And, each of them fulfilled God’s Story… His eternal plan of redemption. The greatest human conspiracy recorded in Scripture is, of course, the conspiracy to murder Jesus Christ. Here is how the early Church reflected on that conspiracy:
Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain thing? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. (Acts 4:24b-28)
“To do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” Conspiracies are real. God uses them to fulfill His purposes in history.
More on Conspiracy
Here are a few more things that Scripture would have us understand about conspiracies. Wicked conspiracies are inherently self-destructive. Every sinner wants to play God. That’s the nature of sin. Eventually any cooperation within a group of would-be gods will fall apart. Blame shifting and backstabbing within the group will be a matter of course. C.S. Lewis’s conspiracy novel, That Hideous Strength, and his portrayal of hell in The Screwtape Letters give us good pictures of how self-destructive the conspiracies of the ungodly really are.
But even when everyone manages to play nicely, the conspirators don’t always get what they want. Despite their divine aspirations, they are neither omniscient nor omnipotent. Because they reject God’s law, they often radically misunderstand the way the world really works. And so they make mistakes, sometimes huge ones. What outsiders may regard as the conspirators’ greatest successes, they themselves may regard as abysmal failures.
Furthermore, conspiracies don’t arise in a vacuum. Successful conspiracies always play on and to the general climate of public opinion—to the covetousness, dreams, and faith of the average citizen. As Rushdoony points out, a conspiracy to impose a feudal monarchy or a vegetarian diet on America would only be a bad joke. A conspiracy that promises to take from the haves and give to the have-nots would be (and has been) a very different proposition. The seeds of conspiracy blossom in a garden of apostasy and greed.
Isaiah on Conspiracy
The Assyrian Empire was expanding rapidly, crushing all opposition under foot. The northern kingdom of Israel was rightly concerned (Isa. 7—8). So Israel “conspired” (formed a confederacy) with pagan Syria to subdue Judah, the southern kingdom, and to put a puppet ruler on Judah’s throne. Together, the three nations would make a united stand against the Assyrian war machine. The kingdom of Judah was terrified by the schemes of her northern neighbors. The words “confederacy” or “conspiracy” were on everyone’s lips and drew more than a little concern.
At this point, God gave Isaiah a strong message. Isaiah was to say, “Do not say, ‘A conspiracy,’ concerning all that this people call a conspiracy, nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled” (Isa. 8:2, NKJV). The ESV renders it, “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread” (Isa. 8:12).
Not everything that looks like a conspiracy merits the name. Wicked men bear the stamp of Adam in their very nature. It often requires no conspiracy at all for them to have the same sinful approach or response to a given situation. They may act in concert or take the same side simply because they all hate God and all act out that hatred in similar ways.
More important than this, however, is Isaiah’s warning about fear. The men of Judah were afraid of foreign conspiracies and intrigues. They should have been afraid of the anger of an offended God. Occult conspiracies, pseudo-messiahs, revolution, and war are God’s rod of judgment against a wicked and unrepentant society. We very much need to understand this. Scripture warns us not to fear conspiracies, real or imagined. It tells us to only fear God: “Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isa. 8:13). God always handles the rest.
For Further Reading:
Gary North, Conspiracy, A Biblical View (Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1986).
Rousas J. Rushdoony, The Nature of the American System (Fairfax, VA: Thoburn Press, 1978).
Rousas J. Rushdoony, “Conspiracy Thinking,” in The Roots of Reconstruction (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991), 667-676.