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Book Plunge: Christians and Conspiracy Theories

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  • Book Plunge: Christians and Conspiracy Theories

    How should a Christian approach conspiracy theories?

    ---------

    What do I think of Mike Duran's book? Let's plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    There was a time and age when someone with a conspiracy theory on the internet was looked at as nuts. To be fair, some theories are crazy. However, lately, it has seemed that more and more people who claim something against the prevailing narrative are right.

    There was a time to say COVID was a lab leak was false. Now it's acceptable news. The Biden laptop was seen as Russian disinformation. Not anymore. You used to be a villain if you opposed wearing a mask or lockdowns. Now it looks like those didn't really do any significant good if any.

    It looks like more and more that if you want to go and see what today's news is, just look at the conspiracy theories from 2-3 years ago.



    Yet I did say some such theories are crazy. Jesus Mythicism comes to mind. How is a Christian to know what to think? How does one investigate a claim to see if it is true?

    I saw that Mike Duran had written a book on this and I decided since this was an area of interest to me, I would get it and check it out. There are a number of benefits to this book. For one, there is a generally good guide to how one should go about studying these claims.

    There are general rules to check a source, for example. He mentions that Politifact will often say a story that is largely true but comes from a Republican source as mostly false. This is not to say conservatives like myself don't have a bias, but it is certain that today, the fact-checkers have a bias as well and we should all watch ours.

    He also does talk about levels of skepticism that one can have. You can be completely certain a claim is false or agnostic to it or just skeptical of it. On the surface, there are a lot of claims for any conspiracy theory likely that many a layman won't be able to answer let alone sometimes an expert not due to them being difficult, but to them going on a highly technical point. Many New Testament scholars don't bother interacting with arguments of Jesus mythicists and more laymen like myself can usually be better equipped. We can all be sure that the moon landing was not faked, but that doesn't mean that all of us could easily answer arguments from moon mythicists.

    Duran guides the reader through the process and explores how he comes to conclusions on various matters. All of this is good and helpful. Christians should be people of truth and we shouldn't believe everything, nor should we dismiss everything.

    That being said, I have some criticisms. The first one is a minor one.

    There is good information here, but I wish that it had been broken down into smaller bits. Normally, I go through multiple books on my Kindle at a time and read a chapter a day of each. I couldn't do that here as chapters could be unusually long.

    However, my main problem was Duran frequently puts his eschatology at the center so what happens when there is a fellow Christian that doesn't share that eschatology? For instance, on page 191 he writes:
    This present age will culminate in a period of great deception and turmoil, concluding in the bodily return of Jesus Christ and the final judgment of the wicked and the righteous. (Matt. 24) All of these claims are elements of biblical epistemology. They are foundational, axiomatic, to the Christian’s knowledge of the world around us.

    I find this language problematic. It treats the idea that Matthew 24 is our future as something necessary to a Christian worldview. There is a part where Duran says he knows not every Christian holds to this eschatology (see below), but if you don't, then where do you fit? Do you deny something that is a claim of biblical epistemology, that is foundational, and that is axiomatic?

    I hold to a view of orthodox Preterism. If you tell me that Matthew 24 is about the bodily return of Jesus, I will thoroughly disagree. Thus, when Duran regularly tied his understanding of the world to his eschatology, I could not go along. It's similar to a preacher I hear on the radio every Sunday as I'm heading to church telling me "Jesus is coming soon. The signs are all around us!"

    Which has been being said for how long?

    Also on page 202:
    Despite the assertion of many possible futures, Christians believe the Scripture reveals a rather specific unfolding redemptive plan. While it could involve technology, nuclear war, and even non-terrestrial entities, the biblical timeline envisions our world culminating in global cataclysm, war, spiritual deception, persecution of Christians, the appearance of the Antichrist, Armageddon, the Second Coming of Christ , and the Final Judgement. Yes, there are different branches of eschatology. But the Church has historically believed that most of these aforementioned elements will constitute the End Times.

    However, the church has not historically held to all forms of futurism either, such as dispensational futurism. I can definitely say I hold to the return of Christ and the final judgment, but others like war and spiritual deception and persecution I hold not because of biblical prophecies, but because if you look at the history of humanity, well, let's just say the odds are on the side of those not ceasing any time soon.

    Unfortunately, what about those other Christians is not really explained.

    And finally on 202:
    One such belief often concerns a New World Order (NWO). The idea of a one-world government is commonly seen in the books of Daniel and Revelation. This geo-political end-times empire emerges after the rise of a confederation of ten nations or regions (Rev. 13:1; Dan. 2:41-42, 7: 16–24). One member of this confederacy (the Antichrist) displaces three of the other members and rules over this alliance. Some see this confederation as the United Nations. Others have associated it with the European Common Market, and even speculate that Brexit plays a part in this unfolding biblical prophecy.

    We all know of many futurist predictions of what the Bible says that have been proven to be false. When I meet other futurists, I tell them they interpret the text differently I am sure, but how is their hermeneutic any different?

    However, I find it odd to point to Daniel as a fulfillment of One World government. Let's look at the passage in Daniel 2 entirely. These are the verses Duran cites above:
    41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle.

    But if we look at the passage as a whole.
    31 “Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.

    36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.

    39 “After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.

    44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.

    “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”

    Now if you look, Nebuchadnezzar is the gold part. The next kingdom is the Medo-Persian empire. The third kingdom is the Greek kingdom which through Alexander the Great rules the Earth. The final kingdom is a brittle kingdom but one that is strong as iron and crushes everything. This is Rome. Now either in the time of Rome as the text says, a kingdom was established that will never end. Now let's ponder this. What could be a kingdom that arose in the time of the Roman Empire that will never have any end whatsoever? We have a limited timeframe since the Roman Empire fell in 476 AD.

    Could it be, and I'm just taking a wild shot here, the Kingdom of God?

    If we're talking about a one-world government that is the Kingdom of God, yeah. I'm cool with that. Note this does not mean one man claiming to rule on God's behalf. It means Christ being the king overall. I'm fine with that one.

    In Daniel 7, we see similar:
    15 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this.

    “So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’

    19 “Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. 20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. 21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

    23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.

    26 “‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’

    We have again four different kingdoms. How does it end in verse 26 and on? All the Kingdoms are given to God, again. If this is one-world government, I'm fine with that.

    Besides this, look at all that is going on in Daniel. In this chapter, you have one kingdom after another conquering each other and then in chapter 11 you have a back and forth history of war going on between two kingdoms. How does this show a one-world government? Revelation is quite similar. See what's going on in there. You have war taking place constantly. The Beast and the Harlot don't even work together ultimately.

    Duran has a lot of good material here, but I wish he hadn't made his eschatology central to that. If your eschatology is wrong and you read modern day events in light of that, you could do a great harm and ultimately miss the meaning of the text.

    Christians need to think about conspiracy theories. This one is a good start to go to. Put aside the eschatology and there's plenty of good to get.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters
    (And I affirm the virgin birth)










    What do I think of Mike Duran’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out. There was a time and age when someone with a conspiracy theory on the internet was looked at as nuts. To be fair, some theories are crazy. However, lately, it has seemed that more and more people who … Continue reading Book Plunge: Christians and Conspiracy Theories

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