Does Critical Race Theory Conflict with Biblical Truth?

Within the next week the Southern Baptist Convention will be gathering to discuss Resolution 9: On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. This is my biblical analysis of why it should be overturned.

Since CRT is rooted in postmodern philosophy and the postmodernists didn’t believe in meta-narratives or absolute truth, “woke” social justice differs from the Christian definition of justice. Christians are concerned with truth, especially as found in the Word. But we also look for truth in our justice systems. For example, the ninth commandment forbids us to “bear false witness,” but CRT has no problem with “storytelling” in legal cases. Richard Delgado admits:

Finally, CRT’s adversaries are perhaps most concerned with what they perceive to be critical race theorists’ nonchalance about objective truth. For the critical race theorist, objective truth, like merit, does not exist, at least in social science and politics. In these realms, truth is a social construct created to suit the purposes of the dominant group. (1)

CRT was founded by lawyers who were frustrated with the legal system and believed that, just as Derrida claimed that language was unable to be a source of truth because every person could interpret it differently, there was also a “legal indeterminacy—the idea that not every legal case has one correct outcome. Instead, one can decide most cases either way, by emphasizing one line of authority over another, or interpreting one fact differently from the way one adversary does.” (2) If this is the case, they reason, then why should a lawyer not attempt to manipulate the outcome of the case using any means possible? Under a section entitled “Storytelling in Court,” Delgado explains how this can be done by lawyers through the use of narrative:

Attorneys and teachers of clinical law have been applying storytelling and narrative analysis to understand how the dynamics of persuasion operate in the courtroom. They also use them to understand the interplay of power and interpretive authority between lawyer and client. Suppose, for example, the lawyer favors strategy A because it is 60 percent likely to win. The client, however, favors strategy B because it is “truer to his experience” or world. Writers such as Lucy White and Anthony Alfieri show that attention to the narrative side of lawyering can enable lawyers representing the poor and disenfranchised to achieve a better brand of justice. (3)

Since truth is unachievable, the goal of the justice system isn’t that of discovering the reality of what actually happened, instead the goal is to win the case at all cost. Therefore “storytelling” can be justified simply because a client is a member of an oppressed class. This is contrary to the scriptures which teach that justice should be blind. Courts should merely be interested in the facts and evidence of the case. “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour” (Lev. 19:15).  

Because concern for truth has now been replaced by concern for the power relationship between the group identities of the persons involved in the case, this explains why, over the last few years, there has been no concern over the rush to judgment when whites and blacks were involved in a criminal conflict. The critical race theorists automatically took the side of the person in the oppressed class, even before all the facts surrounding the case came out. This is not biblical justice. Individual justice based on the facts and the circumstances surrounding a particular case cannot be set aside in exchange for social (or collective) justice.

Not only is CRT not concerned with truth and justice, more importantly, it’s representative of a spirit that is the EXACT OPPOSITE of Christianity. Just like those in past generations, it may be difficult for us to see the forest for the trees concerning the challenge of our time, but if we step back and take the wide view, it’s obvious that the Gospel message of grace and forgiveness are against the very essence and nature of CRT. Its principles lead its adherents to continually find fault, make false accusations, and divide people into identity groups who are bitterly suspicious of one another. Its goal is to break down old institutions—especially the church, because our beliefs create a large part of the cultural “hegemony” in America.

The word “critical” in Critical Theory has no hidden meaning. It simply means “critical” which is defined as “inclined to criticize, find fault.” This is the exact opposite (the antithesis) of the word “grace.” Some synonyms for “critical” are judgmental, disapproving, unfavorable, fault-finding, and disparaging. On the other hand, some synonyms for “grace” are favor, charity, kindness, mercy, blessing, leniency, benevolence, and clemency. How can these two diametrically opposed attitudes coexist in the church? As the apostle James asked: “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter water?” (James 3:11)

The very purpose of all Critical Theory is to criticize existing structures and tear them down. The Southern Baptist Convention is a target for this destruction. Not only because of our past racial sins, but also because of our present views on Critical Gender Theory, Critical Feminist Theory, and Critical LGBT Theory. There will no appeasing adherents of Critical Theory merely by accommodating Critical Race Theory. It won’t stop there. There will be constant skirmishes over biblical authority. So instead of forming a strong bulwark of opposition, we will see a continual erosion of the faith under a steady flood of corruption. The critical theorists will bring about this warring status through false accusations, self-righteous anger, bitterness, and fault-finding. Not by the attempt to get the SBC to adhere to the Word, but by bringing in faulty exegesis and extrabiblical ideologies—exactly what they did successfully during the slave era.

Hebrews 12:14-15 warns us about this danger: Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” Because CRT is a form of unfaithfulness to God, based upon beliefs that are foreign to biblical teachings, it produces bitter fruit, just as the scripture predicted:

Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit. – Deut. 29:18, ESV

Christopher Hitchens pointed out in his book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, that religion is a poisonous force, but Hitchens only pointed out the failures of Christianity—those times when the church was producing “poisonous and bitter fruit” because they were practicing a corrupted and false religion under the cover of Christianity.  

Because we are in a time of grace, we are commanded to let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:31-32). A beautiful example of grace and forgiveness can be found in the example of Liuba Ganevskaya who was being held in a Russian prison because of her faith:

Liuba Ganevskaya had been beaten repeatedly in the Russian prison. But when she looked up at her torturer, holding the whip above her back, she smiled.

“Why do you smile?” he asked, stunned.

“I don’t see you as a mirror would reveal you right now,” Liuba said. “I see you as you surely have been—a beautiful, innocent child. We are the same age. We might have been playmates.”

God opened Liuba’s eyes to see the man differently. She saw his exhaustion; he was as tired of beating her as she was of being beaten. He was frustrated that he was unable to make her reveal the activities of other believers.

He is so much like you,” God said into Liuba’s heart. “You are both caught in the same drama of life. You and your torturers pass through the same veil of tears.”

Seeing the man through God’s eyes, Liuba’s attitude changed. She continued talking to him. “I see you too, as I hope you will be. A persecutor worse than you once lived—Saul of Tarsus—and he became an apostle and a saint.” She asked the calmed man what burden weighed on him so much that it drove him to the madness of beating a person who had not harmed him.

Through her loving concern, Liuba ushered her torturer into Christ’s kingdom.”

Corrie ten Boom, who spent time in a Nazi concentration camp, tells a similar story about being set free from bitterness and resentment towards the guard who beat her sister Betsy. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said the sign of a true Christian was the ability to forgive our enemies. And yet, CRT focuses on attacking enemies. Exposing them. Cancelling them. Calling them out. Falsely accusing them and finding the sin of racism in every action. Their focus isn’t on bringing people into reconciliation with God or others, instead the focus is on pharisaical targeting and making unjust judgments.

I don’t bring up the need for forgiveness as a way to say to blacks that they must forgive whites for the heinous sins of the past; I bring it up because we must not forget that grace and forgiveness make up the precious foundation of Christianity. It was the purpose of Christ’s coming. It is the beautiful root that produces the beautiful fruit. If we submit to, or try to synthesize with, any other system of thought that is based on an opposite ethos, we will lose the true essence of Christianity!

Jesus served as our great example when he cried out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34) while he was on the cross. The same grace that Jesus extended to his tormentors we are now commanded to extend to others. How many times should we forgive? 70×7 times. If our enemy commands us to carry his burden for a mile, offer to carry it two miles. If our enemy hits us on the cheek, we are commanded to turn the other cheek. If our enemy is hungry, feed him, care for him, love him. We are to be characterized by an attitude of grace and thankfulness, not criticism and murmuring or complaints.

Christians need to turn to the Word for our wisdom—and its wisdom is the opposite of the wisdom of Critical Theory. The Word produces the beautiful fruit of peace and gentleness. It’s impartial and open to truth and reason. It tries to make peace.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. – James 3:17-18, ESV

This is the wisdom that comes from Jesus—not from the world. It’s the sweet fruit of the True Vine, and Jesus said, “You’ll know them by their fruit” (Matt. 7:16a). But look at the poisonous and bitter fruit that was produced in the past when the church accommodated the wisdom of the world. It produced the fruit of Nazism, slavery, inquisitions, racism, and segregation…and they “stained” the name of Jesus in the process!

In fact, the heroes of Christian history have been those who refused to drink from the impure cup (the “broken cisterns” – Jer. 2:13). They simply preached biblical truth and it produced the fruit of righteousness. The abolitionists didn’t need CRT to love their neighbor and help them find safe passage on the Underground Railroad. Christians didn’t need CRT to redeem slaves, hide Jews, oppose the injustice of the Inquisition, or join their churches together to oppose Hitler. And even without CRT they expanded scientific knowledge and contributed greatly to medicine and health. The Bible was also enough to cause missionaries to fight against tyrants who abused indigenous peoples. The Bible has been sufficient for all of these battles. If you want to be on the right side of history—remain faithful to God and his Word, but if you want to fail, muddy the living water like those Christians of the past who couldn’t keep the Word pure.

Are we so arrogant to believe that our generation will be able to blend in other beliefs with the Christian faith and not produce poisonous fruit? Notice that James said, “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure…” The wisdom of Christ cannot be blended with any other source of wisdom! The Word of God cannot be subjected to the Hegelian dialectic. Christianity cannot be synthesized with CRT to form a new religion. Biblical wisdom MUST PREVAIL in the church. “Every word of God is pure…add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” (Prov. 30:6). Paul warned the Galatians: “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9). Leaven (yeast) grows. It spreads. It gets blended into everything. It’s impossible to separate the yeast from the dough once it has been added.

CRT is rooted in worldly philosophy and false exegesis. Many Southern Baptists realize this, so they assure us that “Southern Baptist churches and institutions repudiate the misuse of insights gained from critical race theory” and tell us it isn’t necessary to adopt all of the ideas that form CRT (they simply cherry-pick the portions they want to believe) but they still believe there are “insights that can be gleaned from some of its principles.” (4) Unfortunately, Resolution 9 doesn’t demarcate what portions of the theory will be embraced or rejected by the denomination, leaving the SBC open to future accusations that they were complicit in all of the evil which will result from CRT.

We can already see the fruit of CRT in the battles taking place across America. We saw the fruit of anger, hatred, and bitterness through the mobs at Evergreen College.[133] We see the cancel culture of the Twitter mobs. Sports have even been tainted by the conflict. Censorship has now become a part of the American experience. America is being divided by those who make false allegations against anyone who uses the wrong word or thinks in a way that isn’t approved by the ever-shifting morality of CRT.

Which side of the culture war does the SBC want to align itself with: the never-changing rock of the Word of God, that has always stood the test of time, or the shifting sand of an ideology rooted in the philosophies of this world, which have a history of failure and destruction? Didn’t our Lord warn us about the danger of being aligned with the ungodly?

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?

and what communion hath light with darkness?

And what concord hath Christ with Belial?

or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?

for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. – 2 Cor. 6:14-17

The word “philosophy” is made up of two Greek words: “philo” (love) and “sophia” (wisdom). There are two sources of wisdom: one is named Jesus, in whom the scriptures tell us “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3), and the other source is the world, of whom the scriptures warn us to “beware lest any man spoil you” [take you captive] “through philosophy and vain deceit…after the rudiments [principles] of this world and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). CRT is rooted firmly in the philosophies of this world. It has its foundation in the dialectics of Hegel, Marx, and Marcuse. It borrows from the ideas of the French postmodernists who tell us there are no absolutes (no commands of God) and no meta-narratives of history (no Judeo-Christian understanding of God’s working in history). It points us to Marcuse’s raised fist of rebellion rather than to the raised hand in worship and submission to God. We only need to have the smallest understanding of history to see how much damage philosophy has done. It is knowledge that isn’t founded upon the unchanging Word. Instead, it causes us to question the Word. It’s the original sin—eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The assertion that whites are racist, and nothing can be done about it (as Robin Diangelo claims in her argument for “white fragility”) (5)  is also a non-negotiable doctrine of CRT. But if we accept her line of reasoning, aren’t we admitting there is a sin that is beyond the reach of Christ’s cleansing and liberating power? If, while we are in our fleshly bodies, we are unable to be set free from the racist attitudes of the dominant culture, then aren’t we admitting that these forces are more powerful than the sanctifying influence of the Word in a believer’s life? And if the power of Christ and the truth of his Word cannot set us free from sinful racist attitudes, how can Jesus possibly judge us? How could he judge the Southern slaveholders for that matter? Racism was even more culturally dominant at that time! And what are Christians supposed to believe when we see evidence that it is possible to repent of racism? (I once had a racist read one of my books and repent of his sin!) We also see this repentance from racism in one of the most beloved stories in church history.

The song “Amazing Grace” was written by John Newton, a slave trader who was saved during a raging storm in the north Atlantic. He started slowly in his walk with the Lord, but as he learned more of the Word, and was exposed to Christians who persuaded him that slavery was wrong, he openly confessed his sin and repented. He became a mentor to William Wilberforce and joined with him in the struggle to rid the British Empire of the slave trade. His song reminds us that the Holy Spirit can convict any “wretch” of sin—leading to a complete change in their heart, mind, and life. It also reveals to us that the “stain of racism” can be removed. Newton’s friend, William Cowper, wrote these words that have been used at revival meetings around the world:

There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins

And sinners plunged beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains.

As leaders in the SBC grapple with “removing the stain of racism from the Southern Baptist Convention,” (6) I wonder how they think Christians lose their “guilty stains?” Don’t they lose their guilty stains when they confess their sins, ask forgiveness, and repent? Aren’t we supposed to believe the stain is then gone? Isn’t it under the blood of Jesus? 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Over a quarter of a century ago the SBC cried out in public, corporate, confession and repentance, saying, “We lament and repudiate historic acts of evil such as slavery . . . and we ask forgiveness from our African American brothers and sisters . . .” (7) According to the Word, this is sufficient to remove the stain and purify us from all our sin: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7).

And yet, there are leaders in the SBC who say that the “stain of racism” remains in the SBC. They point to the actions of members who have acted in wicked, hurtful, and racist ways. But should the SBC be found guilty of the sins committed by individuals who don’t align themselves with the teachings of the church? Do any teachings that are rooted in false racial doctrines still remain in the church? We no longer believe slavery is a “positive good” (as the Confederate leader John C. Calhoun argued in the U.S. Senate). We no longer forbid interracial marriage. We no longer preach the “curse of Ham.” We don’t believe in polygenism. We don’t believe in social Darwinism or eugenics. We have purged these false beliefs that propped up racism from our doctrines. And rightly so! As Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us, they had their roots in greed, false teaching, and pseudoscience. (8)

Isn’t placing the blame on the SBC for something they no longer teach or believe the same as placing the blame on Jesus for the sins of church history? He never endorsed the actions of the Nazis or Inquisitors, yet the skeptics are quick to place the blame on him. There needs to be a delineation between the sinful actions of people who claim to be members of the SBC—yet disobey SBC teaching—in the same way I’ve tried to separate out those in history who claimed to be Christians—yet disobeyed the scriptures.

Some Christians are also confused because those who hold to CRT are orthodox in their views on salvation. “We agree wholeheartedly with the Baptist Faith and Message!” they say. Well, the slaveholders were evangelicals too, and I’m sure their doctrinal beliefs on salvation, sanctification, and glorification were in perfect order, but when they knowingly added, or gave precedence to, even one anti-biblical view, they became unfaithful. They also reveal their lack of orthodoxy on these issues when they lift up the black liberation theology of James Cone.

Cone’s book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, is undeniably beautiful and heart-wrenching, but Cone misses the mark when he says that “God’s liberation of the poor is the primary theme of Jesus’ gospel.” (9) John the Baptist revealed the true primary goal of the gospel when he pointed his followers to the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” Then John showed the fruit of following the Lamb: A renewed heart that acted with kindness. If you see an individual in need, he said, and you can help them, do it. In Cone’s case, the primary goal is temporal, earthly salvation. Cone says, “heaven and earth must be held together in critical, dialectical tension,”[137] meaning the Christian must focus on getting people to heaven and caring for them on the earth, but the primary theme of the gospel must be reconciliation with God through Jesus—because it is from this Vine that the fruit of true liberation and love is produced. The first commandment is to love God. The second is to love our neighbor (Matt. 22:36-40). Cone inverts these commands and places the second love (neighbor love) before our first love—God.

What is the role of the church in society? Is it to become “co-creators” with God to bring about shalom or a restoration of Eden? Is it to pursue social justice? Or is it to be a witness who upholds the truth of the scriptures in every society in every age? I would argue that in every era, true justice was accomplished simply by standing fast on the truth of the Word and never being lured to wander off this Narrow Way.

Notes:

  1. Richard Delgado and Jean Stefanic, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 92.
  2. Ibid., 5.
  3. Ibid., 45.
  4. “On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality,” Southern Baptist Convention, Birmingham, AL, 2019. http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/2308/on-critical-race-theory-and-intersectionality.com.
  5. Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (New York: Penguin, 2019).
  6. Jarvis Williams and Kevin Jones, Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention: Diverse African American and White Perspectives (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2017).
  7. Ibid., lv-lvi.
  8. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Love in Action,” 1963 sermon as found in the book Strength to Love (Boston: Beacon Press, 2019).
  9. James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2019), 154.

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