Divine Wisdom

Stephen Terry


Commentary for the January 24, 2015 Sabbath School Lesson


“Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gate leading into the city, at the entrance, she cries aloud: ‘To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind.’” Proverbs 8:1-4, NIV

In a time when conspiracy theories abound, perhaps wisdom truly needs a megaphone to get through. It seems whether it is a governmental leader, a shadowy organization like the Illuminati, The United Nations, or Jesuits lurking behind the pews waiting to subvert the leadership of the Christian church, far too many people love their conspiracies. These and other organizations are blamed for the debacle of September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center was destroyed, for subverting the national currency, or even nefariously spraying chemicals during overflights of populated areas. Soon, we are told, they will be sweeping us all into concentration death camps, and woe to those who do not believe in these tales.

I first encountered these conspiracy theories when I was in theology school in the 1970s. Then some among the Adventist brothers and sisters were using the technology of the day, cassette tapes, to distribute John Todd’s warnings that the Illuminati were coming to get us. In spite of the fact that over forty years later that has not happened, it has not dampened the enthusiasm of those who love such conspiracies. The only thing that seems to vary over time is the actors. Walter Veith, the popular, but controversial, lay evangelist, warns us of the New World Order and sees signs and symbols of conspiracy in everything from brooches to seals of government. Too often, some in Adventism, as well as many in Evangelical Christianity, are attracted by those who lay out the intricate details of these theoretical conspiracies. Perhaps this is because many denominations, including Seventh-day Adventists arose at a time when fear of Catholicism and the imagined world-domination agenda of the Catholic Church were running at a fever pitch in The United States. Buoyed by an influx of Irish Catholic immigrants, the country was in a panic that the Catholic Church was about to assume the reins of power and subvert the democracy. It did not take much imagination to link the horrors of the Inquisition with the purported future of the United States, and of the world in general if the United States fell to such an “evil” power. The fear was so strong in the 19th century that it swept like a tide into the 20th as well.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that a Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, could be elected, and even then, the conspiracy theorists railed heavily against him during the campaign over his religion. I heard those during that campaign who said they would never vote for him or anyone else who was Catholic. Some might think, “Of course you did. Your friends were Seventh-day Adventists, and everyone knows they are anti-Catholic.” However, this campaign took place several years before I even heard of Seventh-day Adventists, and these were Baptists and other Evangelicals that were saying these things. Nonetheless, in spite of the conspiracy theories that abounded, Kennedy’s election as president did not sweep in rule by the Pope and institution of the Mark of the Beast as some warned. This does not mean that conspiracy theories have gone away. Some continue to call out the Pope as the Antichrist, just as Martin Luther did in the early 16th century, perhaps feeling that if you say it for enough centuries, it is bound to come true. However, those who try to win members to their particular denomination by putting the fear of conspiracy into people’s hearts are little different than those street preachers who try to scare people into church by preaching constantly about the never-ending fires of hell. “God is love”[i] gets lost in that message.

The problem with this kind of conspiratorial thinking is it is a “cry-wolf” way of presenting Christ. It relies on everyone remaining at a fever-pitch of alertness against the horrible events that we are told are coming. However, as in the fable, the real effect is that when these conspiracies are trumpeted over and over again and nothing happens, everyone is exhausted by the continual sound of the alarm, and they begin to ignore it and even become somnolent. Then when the real evil actually does appear, no one is prepared, and all perish. If we truly believe that there is an evil power at work in the world, then it would seem that this result would be more in line with the desires of that evil power than of God.

Some might think that this “sky-is-falling” type of alarmism actually is wisdom crying out, but is it? The Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.[ii] It is not fear of conspiracies that may be hatching, or fear of what may or may not happen on the Earth. Instead, wisdom seems to be found in seeking humbly for God and not what evil might be lurking. When fear reigns in our hearts, we may begin to rely on all manner of things other than God. We might choose money or gold. We might choose political power. We might even choose the sword, or its modern equivalent, the gun, to protect us from whatever evil we fear. But no matter what we choose, if we substitute it for God in dealing with our fear, it is an idol, and idolatry leads only to death, though it promises otherwise.

Instead, God wants to dwell in our hearts.[iii] Since He is love as we have already mentioned, that means replacing the spirit of fear that dwells in our hearts with one of love. The two cannot live together in the same heart. Love will cast out the fear.[iv] This is why it is not wise to try to bring people to Jesus through fear of conspiracies or hellfire. Hearts filled with fear have a hard time trusting anyone or anything, even Jesus. But a message of love will cast out that fear that fills those hearts. It does not take much effort to hear the message of fear swirling all around us. The evening news, the papers, and online media are all full of the possible horrors that may confront us. Everyone, who does not carry the Spirit of God with them, will walk around in a constant state of fear that is continually fed by these sources. It can become more than the human heart can take.[v]

Churches struggle with the lack of interest on the part of many and blame it on concepts like Post-Modernism, but could there be a different cause? If those within the household of faith are just as filled with fear as those who are considered “the Lost,” what do they have to offer that is any better? How can they offer the One who casts out fear when they have not lost fear themselves? How could their message of fear be attractive to those who are already fearful? Perhaps some would be drawn, but they might also simply be drawn because it represents another conspiracy tale they can add to their quiver of alarmist arrows. Maybe this explains why so many in the churches are sharers of these conspiracies, because those are the ones whom we are attracting by presenting all these plots, except that we provide the added color of giving a biblical twist to the conspiracies. Do we really need to do that?

How about if we introduce people to the Truth instead? There are many conspiracy theorists that will tell us that they have the truth, and if only enough of us would believe them the evil they are predicting would be prevented. For example, there are those who say that The United States government is going to round everyone up and put them in concentration camps. What do they say is the remedy to that? Everyone buy as many guns and as much ammo as possible to prevent it. Whether it does happen or doesn’t happen, either way, who gains? Isn’t it those who sell the guns and the ammunition? It’s like the stock broker who makes money whether you win or lose in the stock market. He or she makes money not by getting you winning stocks but by buying and selling stocks on your behalf. Perhaps this explains why there seems to be an entire industry selling conspiracy theory videos, tapes, books, and even guest lecturers.

Jesus said the He is the Truth.[vi] Why would we want to offer people fear and trembling over what might happen, when we can offer them the true wisdom? The remedy for the evil in the world is not studying the evil. It is not arming ourselves to the teeth. It is simply Jesus. When we invite Him into our hearts, it is the beginning of a wellspring of wisdom that will never stop flowing.[vii]


[i] 1 John 4:8

[ii] Proverbs 9:10

[iii] Romans 8:9

[iv] 1 John 4:18

[v] Luke 21:26

[vi] John 14:6

[vii] John 4:14



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