Does belief in the resurrection make one more susceptible to conspiracy theories? I was recently asked this questions and have been giving it a lot of thought.

I want to say no – but not for the reason that you might think.

First of all it needs to be said that Jesus’ trial is conspiratorial.

But that is not where Christians get the conspiratorial thinking. That comes from passages like Ephesians 6:12 where Paul talks about unseen realms and powers beyond our view that maneuver behind the scenes:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.[1]

It is this belief in unseen realms and in spiritually dark forces that make Christians susceptible to conspiracy theories.

It come comes holding to a pre-modern cosmology of the 3-tiered universe with heaven being a realm above and hell below. That cosmology comes with an embedded metaphysic – an explanation of the universe beyond what you can see, and touch, and explain or even understand.

The most helpful thing that I try to get protestants to understand is that we actually do this to catholic believers. Protestants historically have accused Catholics of being superstitious. Catholics are not superstitious, the have a different metaphysic.

You see this in the Reformation controversy over transubstantiation vs a ‘real presence’ understanding from people like Luther. This is why priests who sexually abuse can’t be simply defrocked – it is because of their understanding of priesthood where the person (like the bread and wine in communion) is actually ontologically changed (altered) into something else while retaining the form or appearance that it had previously. It is substantially changed (substance).

Well protestant Christians have a similar divide from modern enlightenment rational when it comes to unseen realms and angelic/demonic powers. Christians are not merely physicalists who think that everything that is real can be quantified and measured in some sort of a laboratory setting. There is more going on in the world that you can possible understand, measure, and explain.

This belief makes them susceptible to modern conspiracy theories. It is one of the features (or bugs) of our operating system. It is embedded in the DNA of the way that we were taught to think and believe.

Side note: I don’t have time to go into it here but this also includes an inherent ‘persecution complex’ even when we are the majority religion and the dominant expression.

It is helpful to think about this in the normal distribution of a bell curve. There are a small group of Christians on the far left who say “let’s just not do any conspiracy theories – just too much bad historically has come from it so let’s avoid it all together.” Then there is a large majority of believers in the middle who are not entirely closed to conspiracy because … let’s be honest: you never know. There have been nefarious schemes and not everyone’s motives are always obvious and clear. Then there are those on the tail-end of the bell curve who are prone to seeing shadows around every corner.

This is what concerns me: not those who are gullible to cynical and devious schemes and outright lies but those leaders who know that and peddle such fabrications. I am concerned about those who are led astray by the Rush Limbaughs and Jerry Falwells of the world.

Which brings us back to the original question about the resurrection of Christ.  The suspicion of conspiracy isn’t that far from the narrative of scripture. Look, something rolled away that stone and somebody took that body. It is not out of line with the entire show trial (kangaroo court) that condemned Jesus. That was a conspiracy between the religious leaders and politicians. Now, I’m not talking about modern grand conspiracies about the Illuminati and the masons or Jews in Hollywood or any of the cartoonish caricatures that make for mocking tropes. I am talking about the ever-present specter that haunts Christian thought in the real world that something is off and we don’t have all of the information – that there are forces at work behind the scenes (either political, economic, or supernatural) that pulled the strings from the other side of the curtain.

Like it or not, that makes us a little bit susceptible to these devious schemes of darkness and to those who cynically play on those fears for their own purposes. Admittedly, even saying that starts to sound like a conspiracy theory.  

If you will allow me just one-side note of application: this is actually something that conservative and liberal Christians have in common! The only difference is that liberals look to earthly powers like governments and corporations where evangelical and charismatic Christians might look to the heavenlies and a supernatural realms.

I would love your thoughts, comments, concerns, and questions.

[1] You can also see it is passages like Ephesians 3:10, “ so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” and Ephesians 2:2, “in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”