Conspiracy theories are on the rise. You can tell by just listening to people in your own family. In fact, you might have already canceled your annual Christmas gathering, not because of COVID-19 but because your “crazy” uncle is believing and promoting crazier ideas than usual.
So why are conspiracy theories spreading faster than the virus? One reason is that we’re not getting our information from credible sources. Instead, Big Tech is feeding its users heavier doses of extreme ideas to keep people engaged. Just click long enough, and you will end up on the fringes of rationality.
You might have your own ideas about what’s driving all these conspiracies. In fact, we might even disagree what should be classified as a conspiracy. Regardless, my concern is what these conspiracies are doing to the witness of the truth. As people become more and more cynical about truth claims, how can Christians make a case for Christ? How do we keep people from seeing Christianity as just an ancient form of QAnon (a contemporary conspiracy theory)?
First of all, nobody can believe in Jesus except by the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). It’s a miracle when anyone believes the good news of Jesus. Therefore, we will never be able to find the perfect explanation to make everyone believe the truth. And yet, we must show the world that Jesus is the reality worth building our lives on.
So what makes the message of Jesus different from modern-day conspiracies?
Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy.
The work of Jesus is the fulfillment of hundreds of prophecies that span over thousands of years. Starting in the third chapter of the Bible, the inspired authors begin to predict the coming of Jesus. As you keep on reading, Jesus’ profile becomes more and more complete. Then when Jesus shows up, he is described as an Israelite from the tribe of Judah; born of a virgin; born in Bethlehem; a king from the line of David who will heal the sick, raise the dead, be pierced for our sins, and crushed for our iniquities. Each detail, a prophecy fulfilled. On the other hand, the latest conspiracies pop up out of nowhere and have the shelf life of a few months and are quickly forgotten.
Jesus rose from the dead.
Not only did the Old Testament Scriptures predict Jesus’ resurrection, but Jesus also claimed that his identity as the Messiah was built on the resurrection (John 2:19). Jesus’ close followers saw, touched, and talked with the resurrected Jesus. In fact, in the Bible book of Acts, they made the resurrection the focus of all their preaching and teaching. In contrast, conspiracies have no clear proof, nor a coherent narrative, that explains their existence.
The apostles died for confessing that they saw Jesus alive.
Many people are risking their lives for beliefs that lack credibility. Some people will fight, even die, for what they hope to be true, but no one will die for what they know to be a lie. That’s what makes the martyrdom of the apostles so compelling. They didn’t just hope that Jesus rose from the dead. They witnessed that he was alive, and no amount of torture could convince them otherwise. Their sacrifice gave birth to the New Testament Christian church, which led to the conversion of billions of people over the past two thousand years.
Compare that to the conspiracies that are getting a following today. Sure, there’s a lot of enthusiasm in the moment. But soon these movements will lose their steam, and their disciples will dissipate and move on to something else.
I know opinions surrounding these conspiracies are keeping us from communicating with people close to us. So I pray that, if you are able, you can still gather with your family and friends over the holidays. I pray that you can still talk with your coworkers and friends about important topics. And if any of them want to get into a debate about the latest conspiracy, redirect them to a message that has stood the test of time. Talk to them about something so wonderful it seems too good to be true. Talk to them about God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. He is the truth that has stood the test of time.