Voddie Baucham titles his book Fault Lines because of the similarity he sees between the geological fault lines that result in physical earthquakes and the social/political/ecclesiastical fault lines that have been developing within our society for decades, and which are now erupting in numerous ways. Baucham is not writing in hopes of avoiding looming trouble, nor does he see avoidance as desirable (p. 2). Rather he views disruption as unavoidable at this point (p. 138). His goal is to expose two competing worldviews, Critical Social Justice (CSJ) and biblical justice (p. 2) so that the reader understands the issues and can be on the right side of the fault line (p. 224).
For his audience to realize that he is not writing from an ivory tower or as a mere academic, Baucham offers considerable biographical material detailing his life growing up as a young Black boy in a poor, fatherless, non-Christian home, surrounded by crime and violence, with every opportunity to self-destruct. Instead, he thrived due to a vigilant mother, dedication to education, advantages of athletic programs, and eventual conversion to Christ (pp. 19-25). Baucham understands firsthand the difficulties facing American Blacks and yet rejects the narrative that America is racist (p. 201) and, due to the incredible number of social programs already in place (pp. 212-213), believes no country in the world that offers more opportunity and equality for Blacks.
If so, why is there so much social unrest swirling around so-called systemic racism? It is, Baucham believes, because of the infiltration of the Critical Social Movement (CSM) and Critical Race Theory (CRT), both of which are rooted in Marxism. “CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist… This is the analytical lens CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy” (p. xv). Baucham traces the roots of CSJ to Karl Marx, Marxism, and the Frankfurt School (pp. xii-xiii). These roots have been steadily growing in academia, politics, and legal contexts for decades, and recently eruptions have taken place – and will continue to do so.
Concerning general cultural fault lines, the author expertly documents the misleading rhetoric and repeated lies that the media, processive politicians, movements such as Black Lives Matter and, sadly, some Christian leaders propagate. Contrary to Lebron James who wrote, “We’re literally hunted EVERYDAY/EVERYTIME we step outside the comfort of our home” (emphasis his) (p. 45), studies show no evidence of disparities of police shootings by white officers along ethnic lines (pp. 48-49). If anything, it is actually white people who are disproportionately shot by police (p. 49). Baucham digs into the recently celebrated causes of the death of Black people at the hands of the police and reveals many falsehoods that have been perpetrated. In addition, he records similar events involving white people that have been ignored by the press because their stories do not advance the CRT narrative (pp. 47-63, 96-97).
The worldview propping up CSJ receives considerable attention, especially what the author terms the cult of antiracism (pp. 66-90), which is “the creation of whiteness with the express purpose of establishing white people as the dominant, hegemonic oppressors and all non-white people as the objects of that oppression… (p. 70). White people created whiteness with the express purpose of oppressing and enslaving Black people” (pp. 70, 71). Components of antiracism include changing the definition of racism from prejudices and discrimination to whiteness (pp. 81-85), and defining equality as equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity (pp. 86-89). Under antiracism, everything white people have created, including the scientific method, education, and language is racist (p. 86). To debate these theories is futile because Blacks claim to have what Baucham has coined “Ethnic Gnosticism” – the “idea that people have special knowledge based solely on their ethnicity” (p. 92). With Ethnic Gnosticism, the narrative always trumps truth (p. 105).
Antiracism has four glaring problems according to Baucham (pp. 153-172): circular, question–begging logic, repudiating the research, bashing the Black pulpit, and feeding the victim mentality. Under this heading is an extremely valuable discussion of the importance of the family, especially fathers. This issue is almost universally ignored in the social justice literature, both pro and, con. In Eric Mason’s book Woke Church, it is not mentioned either as a cause or a solution, but Baucham makes a credible case for both. Seventy percent of African American children are born to unmarried mothers and 80% will spend a significant part of their childhood living apart from their fathers (p. 160). In 1960, two-thirds of Black American children were living with both parents (p. 162). It was, therefore, not slavery or Jim Crow laws (p. 163) that have led to the crime, violence, and poverty that many Blacks face today, but dysfunctional homes. To emphasize his point the author quotes extensively from Barak Obama’s 2008 Father’s Day speech reinforcing the need for fathers in the home, education, and personal ambition (pp. 160-165). Obama’s message delivered a mere 13 years ago, would be considered verbal violence on most university campuses today (p. 160), and would cause the CRT advocates to cringe.
Having said all this, the primary fault line Baucham wants to address is the one building up within evangelicalism. He believes this fault line is shifting and we have only begun to see the devastation that is coming as Christian churches, denomination and families will be divided over CSJ. On one side of the fault line, standing for biblical justice are leaders such as John MacArthur, Owen Strachan, himself, Tom Ascol, and the signatories of the Dallas Statement (see pp. 133-136, 235-243). On the other side stands those fully endorsing all things woke and CSJ such as Jarvis Williams (pp. 70-71, 75, 80, 101-102), Thabiti Anyabwile (pp. 103-104), Anthony Bradley, John Onwuchekwa (pp. 117-118), Tim Keller (pp. 185-186), Eric Mason (pp. 53, 99, 126), Matt Chandler (pp. 73-74), David Platt (pp. 87, 102, 121) and backers of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Resolution #9 (pp. 138-149, 245-251). Standing in the middle, desperately trying to straddle the fault line, include Mark Dever and 9Marks (p. 123), T4G (p. 123), the Gospel Coalition, Al Mohler, and many within the SBC. As the fault line shifts, those in the middle will have to solidify their positions. When they do, inevitable division will occur within conservative evangelicalism. As has already been mentioned Baucham sees this disruption as unavoidable (p. 138) and necessary (p. 6).
What issues are at risk? While there are several, the key ones are:
- The gospel: Those on both sides of the fault line raise CRT and Critical Justice to a soteriology level. Ibram X Kendi, a leading advocate for CRT and Liberation Theology, contrasts his position with what he calls “Savior Theology” (or the biblical gospel of redemption). He tweeted, “We are not here to see people delivered from the penalty and power of sin. . . The job of the Christian is to liberate oppressed people from their oppressors” (p. 28). Jarvis Williams, professor at Southern Seminary claims, “Race and racial reconciliation are soteriological issues” (p. 87). Unless one is elevating antiracism to the same level as preaching the gospel they are apparently preaching no gospel at all (p. 87).
- Sufficiency of Scripture: The woke canon, as Baucham calls it, carries the underlying assumption that the Bible is not sufficient to address issues of race and justice (p. 124). “The general theme of the current CSJ movement within evangelicalism,” Baucham writes, “is a covert attack on the sufficiency of Scripture” (p. 125). The CRT crowd in evangelicalism “are proclaiming that sources outside of Scripture have brought them to a new, better, and more complete understanding of God’s truth on race” (emphasis his) (p. 126). By contrast, Baucham proclaims the Bible as the Word of God, which is profitable for instruction concerning all issues including race, and is thoroughly sufficient (pp. 126-127). Evangelical social justice is not therefore a movement drawn from the careful exegesis of Scripture but emerges from the new woke canon of CRT.
Three final thoughts will conclude this review. First, the author warns that the Black Lives Matter movement, while unbiblical, is proving to be a Trojan horse to introduce Critical Social Justice to evangelicalism (pp. 215-225). Next, the weapons given to the Christian for any spiritual warfare, including social justice, are those clearly mapped out in Scripture (pp. 210-225). Finally, it is forgiveness grounded in the redemption of Christ that brings true justice, not the theories created by cultural Marxism (pp. 229-230).
Fault Lines is one of the finest books available analyzing, challenging, exposing and providing biblical insight concerning the Social Justice Movement. If you can only read one book on the subject, this reviewer suggests this one.
Fault Lines, the Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe, by Voddie T. Baucham, Jr. (Washington DC: Salem books, 2021) 251 pp. + XVII, hard $24.99.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor/teacher at Southern View Chapel.