Stewarding Our Minds As Christians: Conspiracy Theories And Truth

Jul 10th, 2021 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

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I receive a daily devotional from Chuck Swindoll in my Inbox.  Recently his devotional entitled, “Greatness,” focused on “we become what we think.”  Indeed, Proverbs 23:7 declares, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”  He writes:  “The secret of living a life of excellence is merely a matter of thinking thoughts of excellence.  Really, it’s a matter of programming our minds with the kind of information that will set us free . . . Our minds were originally enemy-held territories.  We were blinded by the power of the enemy.  The mind was his ‘base of operations’ until the light shone within . . . And what is God’s ultimate goal?  To take ‘every thought captive’ . . . His plan is to transform the old thoughts that defeat us into new thoughts that encourage us.”  In short, it is “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Dr. Scott Rodin, perceptively writes:  2 Corinthians 10:5 is a “call to war against the mental attack the enemy wages on us through television, the Internet and other [social] media.  It can come through the people we allow to speak into our lives and the corrosive attitudes we leave unchecked.  Stewards treat their minds as precious gifts from God, and they set up clear boundaries for what they will let in and what they will take captive and discard.”  Philippians 4:8 challenges us to let our minds dwell on what is “true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, of excellence and worthy of praise.”  Indeed, we “strengthen and nourish our minds when we feed on those things that align with God’s truth and engender in us the right attitudes and spirit.”  Rodin correctly declares that “Minds that are alert, sober and girded for action can parse the half-truths and deceptions of the enemy without being contaminated in the process.  We can have open minds that can be taught, expanded and exercised without letting in the corroding influences that sicken our souls.”

As I have studied what American evangelical Christians think, I have concluded that many evangelicals are allowing fear to undermine their faith and trust in God.  Many evangelicals are buying into bizarre conspiracy theories that further deepen their fears.  For many, the Internet and other social media are more important than God’s Word.  Their minds are being shaped and molded by the conspiracy theories that abound on social media, creating a paralyzing fear about their lives, their future and their faith.  Such paranoia has infiltrated the church in North America.  Indeed, evangelical theologian Russel Moore recently declared that he talks every day to pastors “who are exhausted by these [conspiracy] theories blowing through their churches.”

Perhaps one of the most pernicious conspiracy theories that many evangelicals have bought into is the QAnon conspiracy.  Kevin Roose identifies this expansive phenomenon known as QAnon as “the umbrella term for a sprawling set of internet conspiracy theories that allege, falsely, that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles . . . while operating a global child sex-trafficking ring.”  [This conspiracy includes Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, George Soros, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama, etc.]    Quite incredibly, a recent online poll from Ipsos reported “that 15% of Americans agree that the government, media and financial worlds are controlled by Satan-worshiping pedophiles.”  According to QAnon lore, former president Trump was recruited by top military generals to run for president in 2016 to break up this global conspiracy and end its control of politics and the media.  In October 2017, the point of QAnon’s origin, a person known as “Q” posted a message on 4chan that this “war” against the cabal would culminate in “The Storm.”  Many QAnon adherents saw the 6 January 2021 insurrection in the nation’s Capitol building as “the storm.”

What conclusions can we draw about QAnon and these bizarre conspiracy theories?

  • QAnon misuses and distorts Scripture.  Bonnie Kristian of Christianity Today concludes that “Among QAnon’s most troubling aspects are its use of the language and style of evangelical Christianity, its misuse of the Bible to disguise its deception and its increasing function as a syncretic cult of semi-Christian heresy. [One of QAnon’s favorite texts is 2 Chronicles 7:14.]  That religious language isn’t only metaphorical.  A pro-Q politician in Oregon described her involvement by sharing that some ‘people think that I follow Q like I follow Jesus,’ a blasphemous characterization she left unchallenged. That’s unsurprising, for QAnon fashions itself as a ‘Christian’ movement. Q drops often quote Scripture—as even the devil does (see Matt. 4:10)—a tactic that adherents have said helped convince them the theory was worth their time.”  Kristian reports that “There’s a ‘church of QAnon, in which congregants meet for services, pray, take communion, and use incoherent, anonymous posts from filthy online forums to guide their understanding of God’s Word.”
  • QAnon strategies to infiltrate more normal parts of the internet are working, especially in evangelical and fundamentalist Christian contexts. As former CT editor Katelyn Beaty recently reported, pastors say QAnon “is on the rise in their flocks. It is taking on the power of a new religion that’s dividing churches and hurting Christian witness” among younger generations.  “QAnon is predatory drivel that undermines the authority of Scripture and pilfers trust we owe only to Christ.”  QAnon follows Christian patterns to establish certainty:  “Q always has a plan in this cosmic struggle of good against evil.”  Religious language appeals to religious people, but QAnon is not for Christians — it is a replacement, with its own messiah and demons, unrelated to Christianity and unmoored from the Bible.  “American Christians have a responsibility to learn to identify it—and flee.”
  • Genuine biblical Christianity affirms the trustworthiness of Scripture and the importance of studying Scripture.  Ed Stetzer of the Billy Graham Center stresses that we “pursue things that are true:  [QAnon] is primarily a social media conspiracy. Social media is a petri dish for conspiracies, causing far too many to believe things like QAnon are true . . . Believers are to be people of the truth as the Jesus we follow literally calls himself “truth” (John 14:6) . . . Years ago, Mark Noll wrote about the “Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.” If there is anything that represents the scandal of the evangelical mind right now, it’s the gullibility of Christians who need to be discipled into critical thinking about how to engage the world around them. We need to be able to see through the bias and discern conspiracy theories that have risen to the level of messianic religion.  As seekers of truth, we need pastors, leaders, and everyday Christians to address this conspiracy, and others like it, before others are fooled. It’s the Christian’s role to speak up about this and against this, even when the president does not, and before more people get hurt.”

Columnist Peggy Noonan writes that “Conspiracism is of course fueled and powered by the great engine of this still-new thing in human history, the Internet . . . The Internet is a great thing with great virtues, but it is helping to break up America.  This is a problem that can’t be solved, only managed.  Good people should be thinking about how to do that.”  Genuine biblical Christianity does have the answer—the stewardship of the mind.  In Romans 12:2, the Apostle Paul commands that we are to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  May we who accept the authority of God’s Word show American civilization the way—“taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”

See Chuck Swindoll’s daily devotional, “Greatness” (7 June 2021); Scott Rodin, “Stewarding Our Mind” in; Bonnie Kristian, “QAnon Is a Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing” in (26 August 2020); Ed Stetzer, “Evangelicals need to address the QAnoners in our midst,” USAToday (4 September 2020); Ed Stetzer, “QAnon, Conspiracies, and Discipling the Way Out” in (4 September 2020); Kevin Roose in the New York Times (19 August 2020); Time (21/28 September 2020), pp. 74-77; and Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal (5-6 June 2021).

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