Volume 27, Issue 3, March 2021
Part one in this series on racism and Critical Race Theory (CRT) was an introduction to the current conversation, while part two addressed past roots and present areas of social unrest. This part will provide a biblical investigation of CRT, identify three major ways that CRT is having a negative impact on evangelical Christianity, and part four will offer a response drawn from Scripture.
Biblical Investigation of CRT
We now turn our attention to investigate the claims of Critical Race Theory, racism, and social justice in light of Scripture, including how unbiblical answers color our understanding of the gospel, the church, and the Scriptures. The question must never be if an ideology is popular or trending, but whether it stands the test of the Word of God. Looking at the big picture, we can quickly see the contrast between the CRT worldview and that of Scripture. To do so, we return to the basic CRT worldview as outlined in part one and examine how it contrasts with the biblical worldview:
CRT: Intellectually our problem is we need to become critically aware of the inequalities in our world.
Scripture: While inequalities are a serious concern in our world, they are not the primary or central one. The fundamental problem is that all humans are fallen creatures, living out their fallen natures, alienated from God, in a battle with sin and all of its corrupting elements. In other words, we have a systemic sin problem; racism as traditionally defined is just one aspect of that larger sin problem.
CRT: The solution is to correct power imbalances by advancing the interests of disadvantaged people groups.
Scripture: While the Lord loves and cares for disadvantaged people (as He does all people), the great need of humanity is not a rebalancing of power but the forgiveness of sin and the gift of righteousness found only in Christ. Elevating the standard of living and influence of the poor and marginalized often has great benefits, but such benefits, while not to be ignored, are only temporary. The world is passing away; the great need of humanity is to know and follow Christ.
CRT: The ultimate end is a just society and liberation from oppression.
Scripture: On the surface a just society and liberation from oppression are commendable, but in practice, when attempted without Christ at the helm, these efforts are mostly disastrous. Those familiar with the history of communism will recognize similar rhetoric from the Marxist view, but all attempts at implementing these ideas, devoid of Christ and the guardrails of Scripture, have ended in tyranny, loss of freedom, and often death and destruction. Utopia cannot be obtained in this life. The Lord will set up His kingdom upon His return.
Owen Strachan offers seven reasons why Christians should not embrace CRT. After each reason is a brief statement contrasting each tenet of CRT with Scripture.
CRT loses sight of the image of God as our constituent identity.
Scripture: All humans are created in God’s image, and distinct human races do not exist.
CRT edits federal headship.
Scripture: We have all sinned in Adam. Christ did not come to solve various socio-ethnic problems but to save us from sin.
CRT does not present us with our problem with sin but with a new problem—the unfair distribution of power, which is solved by rebalancing power.
Scripture: To recast our major problem is to lose sight of the biblical solution.
CRT revises the purpose of human law from enacting justice to reapportioning privileges to those without them.
Scripture: Government and law are God’s instruments to keep us from anarchy.
CRT destabilizes truth by making it narrative rather than absolute.
Scripture: God’s truth is universal and objective.
CRT makes virtuous most any movement that is a minority position including groups at variance with Christianity, such as the LGBTQ community.
Scripture: intersectional ideas cannot be allowed precedence over biblical morality and mandates. The views of minority groups are welcomed only as they align with the Word of God.
CRT vilifies people who erred on racial matters, regardless of other contributions they may have made.
Scripture: We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
—Biblical Christianity is the replacement for CRT.
In summary a contrast between CRT and the gospel is germane at this point. CRT sees humanity’s problem as a lack of awareness of inequalities and the unfair distribution of power in our world. The Bible says our problem is sin and our resulting fallen nature. CRT seeks to correct power imbalances by advancing the interests of disadvantaged people groups. Scripture says the solution is found through redemption provided by Christ and living according to the truth of the Word. CRT sees as its ultimate goal the forming of a just society and liberation from oppression—a form of utopia. The Bible says our goal is to glorify God and make preparation for Christ’s return in which He will establish His kingdom on earth. In a sense, CRT is attempting to establish the kingdom of God without recognizing that we are sinners who need a Redeemer. In essence, it is trying to establish Christ’s kingdom on earth without Christ, the King.
Joseph Bacholm from the Colson Center summarized the distinctions between CRT and the teachings of Scripture in the following manner:
Critical theory claims that our identity as human beings is rooted in things like race and gender…. The Bible grounds our identity…in the fact that we are created in God’s own image…. Critical theory offers a different view of sin than Christianity. The Bible identifies sin as anything that violates God’s design for people, including unjust oppression of other people, but critical theory identifies sin only as oppression…. The Bible says that we are all guilty before God, regardless of social status, race, or economic situation…. Because critical theory gets the problem wrong, it also gets the solution wrong…. Critical theory offers a different view of salvation than Christianity. According to the Bible, because we are all equally guilty of sin, salvation can only be found in Jesus through repentance. Our hope is found in being forgiven of sin…. In other words, critical theory has a completely different understanding of who we are, what the problem is, and how to fix it, than Christianity.
In 2019 the Southern Baptist Convention hastily passed a resolution, infamously now known as Resolution 9, which gave guarded approval to CRT. This resolution has created a firestorm in the Convention, as might be expected. Accusations, sermons, articles, and whole conferences have aimed pointed criticism at many of the SBC’s leaders suspected of trying to take the SBC down the CRT path.
Resolution #9 is titled, “On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality” and states, “Whereas, Critical Race Theory and intersectionality alone are insufficient to diagnose and redress the root causes of the social ills that they identify, which result from sin, yet these analytical tools can aid in evaluating a variety of human experiences…” Some, and I believe rightly so, accused the SBC leadership of denying the sufficiency of Scripture by implying the tools of CRT and intersectionality are necessary alongside the Word to analyze and evaluate human experiences. Why they would ask does the Word of God need to be supplemented and informed by ideologies born out of cultural Marxism, radical feminism, and morally bankrupt social theories? Good questions like this one have caused a stir in the SBC.
While the dust has not settled on this issue (which most likely will get much attention at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting at which three candidates running for the presidency take decidedly different positions on CRT), it is encouraging that the presidents of all six SBC seminaries issued a joint statement in November 2020, affirming that “Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith and Message. SBC President J. D. Greear affirmed the statement as well, saying “The Gospel gives a better answer.” All six presidents gave short statements verifying their agreement with the joint statement. I particularly like what Jeff Iorg from Gateway Theological Seminary wrote: “While refuting distracting ideologies is necessary, our focus must be on promoting the Gospel rather than having prolonged debates about new ideas that gain cultural traction.” Hopefully, this document is a sign of good things to come within the SBC regarding social justice.
Dangers of CRT infiltrating evangelicalism.
CRT is a serious challenge to biblical Christianity on many fronts but three, in particular, stand out.
The Gospel: our message. The good news is framed by the bad news. If the bad news is that we are sinners alienated from a holy God and rightly under His wrath, now and eternally, then the good news is that because of the work of Christ on the cross, we can be forgiven, given His righteousness, and redeemed by His blood. However, if, according to the CRT and the social justice gospel, the bad news is that certain people have been oppressed by others, then the good news is that Jesus Christ has come to provide social liberation for those groups needing to be empowered. Nowhere in Scripture is the gospel presented in such a way; thus adding the CRT agenda to the biblical gospel and calling this combination the “whole gospel” distorts the true message of Christ.
The Church: our mission. If the mission of the church is to spread the good news, make disciples, and rescue people from this present evil world (Phil 2:15), it is muddled by a mission of rescues those who are oppressed, righting social ills, and making the world a more pleasant place to live. If social activism is rolled into the Great Commission, then the resulting mission of the church is a diluted, insipid, fragmented effort to improve political governments. While as citizens of this planet, we must be concerned about living conditions, injustice, and aiding the poor and marginalized, when we make such the function or purpose of the church, we change its very nature. The mission of CRT and social justice is not the God-mandated mission of the church.
The Scriptures and hermeneutics: One of the collateral issues with CRT is the idea that each people group has unique ways of reading Scripture. A frequent criticism of literal-grammatical-historical hermeneutics is that it is nothing more than a white, male approach to interpretation. The idea is that the Bible has been interpreted through a white, male grid, which results in a Christianity of white males from the Western hemisphere. To rectify this supposed distortion of Christianity, white supremacy in hermeneutics needs to be supplemented, if not overthrown, by women hermeneutics, black hermeneutics, African hermeneutics, South American hermeneutics, and on and on. If this approach gains traction (and it seems to be doing so: for example, Christianity Today’s 2020 book of the year is Reading While Black), it will radically and tragically change how Scripture is interpreted in profound ways.
The foundational principle behind biblical hermeneutics is that the reader is attempting to understand the meaning of the divine and human authors of the biblical text. Our task is to determine the original meaning intended by the Holy Spirit as He superintended and guided human instruments to pen the Word of God. Once the meaning to the initial audience is determined, the reader is ready for application. Applications can be many and can vary according to culture, circumstances, background, and so forth, but there is only one authorial intent in each text. However, the CRT approach, grounded in postmodern thinking, is to allow the text to be controlled by the reader, rather than the author. The text can take on a variety of meanings depending on the social condition, cultural background, ethnic identity, or gender of the reader. The Scriptures, interpreted with this methodology, no longer have a single meaning but have as many meanings as there are readers. Thus, in attempting to make the Bible less white, and Christianity less Western, the Bible has been deconstructed and rendered essentially meaningless. All interpretation lies in the eyes and mind of the readers, not in the Author and His intended meaning.
As CRT infiltrates evangelicalism it will increasingly modify and distort the gospel, the church, and the Scriptures. For these reasons, it must be challenged and prevented from permeating our conservative evangelical ranks.