[ *** I wrote this response last summer, but because of other obligations I didn’t complete or publish it. I recently came across it and thought that it might be helpful (and even timely) in light of the battle over Critical Race Theory that is currently playing out at the Southern Baptist Convention.]
On August 6, 2020, Beth Moore tweeted this thread of comments on Twitter:
- If you’re gonna let a little name-calling keep you from standing up for what you believe according to the Word of God is gospel truth, you ain’t ready. White supremacy has held tight in much of the church for so long because the racists outlasted the anti racists. Outlast THEM.
- They’re going to call you a Marxist, a liberal (their worst possible derision) & a leftist. They’re going to make fun of your “wokeness” and they’re going to say you’ve departed all faithfulness to the Scriptures. If you teach or preach, they’ll say you are a false teacher/prophet.
- And they do this because it is effective. And this is why it has worked for generations. The names in the name-calling may be different but the fear it triggers is the same. No servant of God wants to be seen as unfaithful. So we tone down.
- Can’t say this strongly enough; Stay in your Bibles. Read the OT prophets & watch for verses noting God’s displeasure over injustice. Note divine judgment. Start w/ Isaiah. Pore over the Gospels and watch what compelled and repelled Jesus. Read Acts thru Revelation. Read, read, READ.
- Stop being intimidated. Don’t enter into the name-calling war. Hold onto your heart as you stand firm. Jesus said a tree is known by its fruit. Gal 5:22-23 lists the fruit Jesus prioritizes: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control.
- The white supremacist way has produced terrible fruit. ENDURE. In regards to the ones who will believe you’re on the slippery slope, just keep serving Jesus faithfully. They are looking for you to go off the deep end in a few years. SO DON’T. Stay faithful to Jesus. Time’ll tell.
I’ve been trying to explain to a Christian friend of mine who supports Critical Race Theory why it shouldn’t be brought into the church. Today she victoriously posted screen shots of the above Twitter thread on her Facebook page with this exclamation:
Thank you Beth Moore! Read…understand…I am not a Marxist, leftist, rebel, a rioter but I will not be silenced, I am a Christian and will fight for People of Color, in anyway they need me to.
This is my response:
Because of your influence on my friend, I feel compelled to respond to your Tweets. Although you don’t mention Critical Race Theory (CRT)in your Tweets, my friend believes that you support it because you use a lot of terms she associates with CRT, so I am going to approach my concerns with the understanding that you support it.
I want my friend to know that the rejection of CRT has nothing to do with embracing white supremacy or white nationalism. It also doesn’t mean that I reject social justice. (In fact, I think these are absurd accusations and they are a form of bearing false witness.) Instead, I admit that I am one of those who would tell promoters of CRT that they have “departed all faithfulness to the Scriptures” and I hope that by the end of this response you will understand why.
The following argument comes from my work as an apologist who has spent nearly two decades trying to defend the faith—specifically against the attacks of atheists on church history. Christianity cannot deny that it has a sordid past which includes the Inquisition, scientific ignorance, slavery, colonialism, Nazism, and many other failures, but the church has always been at war with itself, and atheists neglect to recognize that it was also the church that overcame the Inquisition (by the courageous stands of Wycliffe, Huss, and Luther, leading to the Protestant Reformation), that overcame scientific ignorance (the Scientific Revolution was a Christian movement based on the search for the “mind of God” in His creation), that overcame slavery (Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect, who fought and succeeded in abolishing slavery in the British Empire were evangelical Christians and so were most of the abolitionists in America—John Rankin, Levi Coffin, William Lloyd Garrison, etc.), that overcame colonial abuses (have you ever heard of William Knibb of Jamaica, John Mackenzie’s battle with Cecil Rhodes, or John Philip’s defense of the Khoikhoi?), and overcame the Nazi regime (the evangelical Confessing Church in Germany was the ONLY organized opposition to Adolph Hitler and history now sees them as heroes).
As I have tried to understand the failures and sins of church history, I’ve come to one conclusion: the reason the church failed so often is because the church was unfaithful to God. What do I mean by that? I mean that every time that atheists can point to our failures, it was because the church had ADDED another source of truth to the Word of God. (I like to think of it as spiritual ADDultery.) For example:
- Martin Luther was upset because the popes had become a source of extrabiblical Christian doctrine (especially concerning indulgences) and pointed out the inconsistency of man-made/extrabiblical papal decrees in his famous response before the Inquisition: “Unless I am convinced by scripture or by clear reason—for I do not trust the pope or church councils, since everyone knows they can make mistakes and contradict themselves—I am bound by the scriptures I have quoted. My conscience is held captive by the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything…” Luther was standing before a group of religious prelates who were unfaithful to the Word, and yet the Inquisition with its murderous flames and torture chambers would finally be defeated by those faithful saints who cried out “Sola Scriptura!” The Word of God ALONE!
- The Scientific Revolution began as a result of the Protestant Reformation—since the Catholic Church could no longer control Christian doctrine. In the medieval era, Thomas Aquinas (in his Summa Theologica) created a blend of biblical doctrine and the “natural” philosophy of Aristotle that would form a stronghold in the church. It was this blend of Christianity and philosophy that hindered science. Most of the greatest advances in science were direct attempts to OVERCOME this false blend that was set up as a dogmatic authority. Galileo wasn’t called before the Inquisition for opposing the Bible; he was called there for opposing Aristotle’s geocentric view of the solar system. Francis Bacon also went against Catholic dogma when he wrote his Novum Organum (which included his new “scientific method”) as a direct response to Aristotle’s Organum. Many medical advances have blessed the world simply because scientists such as Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister were trying to disprove spontaneous generation—another Aristotelian belief. Science was hindered because a group of religious leaders were unfaithful to the Word and formed a blended Christianity, but blessings came when the leaven of philosophy/”science” was finally cleaned out.
- According to Martin Luther King, Jr., in a speech given in July 1962, entitled “Love in Action,” (1) slavery was upheld by a trifecta of greed, false teaching of the scriptures (such as the Curse of Ham), and science. (Ibram X. Kendi speaks of the science of white supremacy in his book, Stamped from Birth.) The Enlightenment philosophers, impressed by the advances of the Scientific Revolution and excited to be free from the control that religion held during the “dark ages” felt justified in placing scientific truth and empirical evidence over scriptural revelation, but one of the first results of their new thought was their acceptance of polygenism—the belief that each race had separate parents other than Adam and Eve. This allowed blacks to be considered a sub-species that weren’t subject to the same human rights as whites. After the Civil War, polygenism was replaced by social Darwinism—the belief that the darker races were less evolved. (As the Report on Slavery and Racism in the History of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary revealed, many of their slaveholding professors and leaders [such as John Broadus and Charles Gardner] believed in a form of scientific racism in order to justify their white supremacist views.) The abolitionists, on the other hand, consistently stood on the Word ALONE, especially Acts 17:26 (“And hath made of one blood all nations of men.”) Slavery and Jim Crow were supported by religious hypocrites who gave precedence to “science” and were unfaithful to the Word, but another group of believers, standing on the Word, redeemed slaves with their own money, hid slaves on the Underground Railroad, and gave the lives of hundreds of thousands of their sons, husbands, and fathers to fight what they thought was a righteous war to emancipate the slaves. These Christians were not “complicit” in the sin of slavery. They shed their blood (what greater price could be paid?) for the sake of freedom.
- Colonialism became even more prolific when social Darwinism was added to the Gospel. “Christians” such as Josiah Strong and William Graham Sumner believed that the “Anglo-Saxon” was appointed by God to civilize the weaker races and that people of color were the “white man’s burden.” They truly believed they were doing good. Cecil Rhodes, the diamond magnate, believed the British people were the “finest race in the world,” (2) yet his belief in social Darwinism allowed him to exploit the darker races. Just like in slavery, abusive colonialism was upheld by religious hypocrites who were unfaithful to the Word.
- The Confessing Church, led by Karl Barth, Martin Niemoeller, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote the Barmen Declaration because they could see that the German church was succumbing to other sources of truth in addition to the scriptures. This led them to declare that they rejected “the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.” They refused to acknowledge any other source for the proclamation of truth beside the Word of God. We know that they were faithful shepherds who, in many cases, gave their lives, but we also know that Nazism was upheld by many religious people who were unfaithful to the Word. Even now atheists claim Hitler was a Christian, and we can see pictures of the altars in all the German churches who added Nazism to their faith.
Did you notice how in each area that atheists have attacked the failures of the church, the church didn’t preach the Word alone? They added man-made decrees, philosophy, or “science” to the Word, creating a lukewarm mixture. They still carried the name of God, though, so the damage that was done to humanity as a result of their compromise could now be placed on God!
This brings me to your analysis of the Old Testament prophets. Their primary message was that the Israelites had been unfaithful to God. This was difficult for the people to understand because they never stopped worshipping God. Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah—all cried out against the spiritual adultery of the Hebrew people. God used Hosea’s marriage as a picture of the way His people had betrayed him. Hosea’s wife didn’t divorce him, she just had lovers on the side. In the same way, Israel never denied God—they continued in their worship (as revealed in Isaiah 1:11-14)—but they also went up to high places and gathered under the oaks to worship idols on the side (Isaiah 1:29). Their sin was that of disobeying the First Commandment to love God with all their heart.
- Isaiah lamented, “How is the faithful city become an harlot.” – Isaiah 1:21
- Amos stated: “Fallen is virgin Israel.” – Amos 5:2
- Hosea cried out: “A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God.” – Hosea 4:12b
- God asked Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, this question: “Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there.” –Jeremiah 3:6
- And then God asked this heart-wrenching question: “What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?” – Jeremiah 2:5 (In other words, why have you been unfaithful to me? What have I done wrong? Any person who has been cheated on asks these same questions.)
And even though the prophets cried out against their unfaithfulness, the people denied that they had done anything wrong. They defended themselves to God saying, “My God, we know thee” (Hosea 8:2). But God pleaded with them, asking with a broken and grieved heart, “How long will they be incapable of purity” (Hosea 8:5, NIV)? He also said: “Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images” (Hosea 10:2). Israel was in a covenant relationship with God, yet his people were having affairs on the side. It was the equivalent of a wife remaining in her marriage, yet cheating on her husband with other lovers, and it broke God’s heart.
Israel had become a sinful nation because they were “corrupters” (Isaiah 1:4). To corrupt something is to taint it with something putrid. The pure worship of god was being tainted by idol worship (see Isaiah 2:8 and Isaiah 44), and in the same way that the church corrupted the faith down through history, and it caused massive sin and suffering, the corrupted worship of the ancient Israelites caused sin, suffering, and lack of care and justice for the least in society.
Jesus had this same concern for faithfulness. He was upset with the Pharisees for the same reason that the ancient prophets said God was upset with Israel. They may not have worshiped idols in the same way as the ancient Israelites, but they were still unfaithful in two ways:
- They set aside the commands of God for human traditions or man-made rules. They carried themselves as though they were the people of God, but they added other teachings to the pure Word of God (Mark 7:6-9).
- They wanted an extrabiblical sign from God to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. The “law and the prophets” weren’t enough (Matthew 12:39, 16:4).
Jesus wasn’t pleased when the Word was corrupted by outside influences, or if the Word was not enough. He said the Pharisees were just like the people of Isaiah’s day:
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” – Mark 7:6-8, NIV
Keeping the scriptures pure was important to Jesus because the only way that true compassion and justice could be produced was by remaining faithful to God and his Word. The prophet Hosea pointed out the connection between what we worship and the outcome of our character:
“But when they came to Baal Peor, they consecrated themselves to the shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved.” – Hosea 9:10, NIV
Jesus explained this propensity to become the thing we love. He revealed the connection between the vine and the fruit it produces in John 15. He is the vine and we are the branches. When we let the Word of God abide in us it bears much fruit. As you say, Beth, a tree is “known by its fruit.” I agree that white supremacy has produced “terrible fruit,” but the fruit of white supremacy came from another tree! It was rooted in a science (polygenism or social Darwinism) that was incompatible with the Word of God.
Unfortunately, the fruits of the Spirit are not what is produced by Critical Race Theory. What happened to Bret Weinstein at Evergreen College (at one point he was being chased by a person with a baseball bat!) is one example of the divisive, critical, and violent spirit by which it is characterized. The Black Lives Matter movement is also immersed in Critical Race Theory. (And even if rioting mobs have hijacked the movement [as some claim], the root of bitterness, anger, and misunderstanding that have resulted merely from the content of its ideology has divided communities across America.) The battle is also raging in the evangelical church and may even divide the Southern Baptist Convention.
I want to ask you: Why is Critical Race Theory necessary in the church? Isn’t the Word enough? Why do we have to turn to an ideology that is rooted in worldly philosophy when the scriptures tell us that in Christ “are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge?” (Col. 2:3) and it even warns us against being taken captive by philosophy and vain deceit, “after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ.” (Col. 2:8)
After all, the abolitionists didn’t need Critical Race Theory to fight against slavery. The Word was enough. The Confessing Church didn’t need Critical Race Theory to oppose Hitler and his racist views. The Word was enough. Missionaries didn’t need Critical Race Theory to oppose abusive colonial powers. The Word was enough. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t need Critical Race Theory in the battle against segregation. The Word was enough.
What are we gaining by adding things like the postmodern “rejection of metanarratives” (which is found in Critical Race Theory) to our faith? Especially when we believe in the greatest metanarrative of all–the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ! Or how about the argument that truth can only be known through our own individual experience (“standpoint epistomology”)? Don’t we believe Jesus when he said, “Sanctify them through the truth: thy Word is truth“ (John 17:17, KJV)? There are so many more arguments revealing the ways CRT does not align with the scriptures. As James asked, “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” (James 3:11)
But, the Christian critical race theorist might argue, “I don’t reject metanarratives! I believe in the truth of the Word! And according to Resolution 9, ‘Southern Baptist churches and institutions repudiate the misuse of insights gained from Critical Race Theory.'”
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 (division, hatred, false accusations, etc.) which has (or will) result from CRT. Leaven leavens the whole lump. Yeast cannot be separated out from the loaf of bread. It permeates it all.
I am pleading with you (and others) to reconsider your desire to add CRT to your faith. Just as the world looks back at the slaveholders (who added science), Nazis (who added science and philosophy), abusive colonialists (who added social Darwinism) and Inquisitors (who added manmade papal decrees and philosophy), and wonders how the church could have become so evil in those eras, I believe future generations will look back on the church of our era and wonder the same thing about CRT (which adds manmade philosophy, sociology, and psychology to create an unholy blend). CRT is just like those other “truths” that competed for the hearts of the saints, but when they conflicted with The Truth, those who trusted in them were like those who built their house on shifting sand instead of the Rock. They’ve been washed away, “foaming out their own shame” (Jude 13) by the judgment of history.
I hope my friend will read this letter and understand why I have so many reservations about CRT and that supporting it isn’t just an innocent way to show support for people of color. (Many black people oppose it!) Instead, I believe it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing–just as every false teaching in the past corrupted the Word for a “good cause.” And I hope that I’m presenting an informed argument, not just “white nationalist” or “white supremacist” talking points.
Finally, if the appeal to guarding humanity doesn’t influence you, I ask you to consider God’s heart. You may believe that Critical Race Theory is a way to oppose white supremacy and injustice (and these are great goals) but do you realize that the addition of manmade philosophy to your faith is an indication of a divided heart? You love the Scriptures AND Critical Race Theory, but they are incompatible! God wants your whole heart. Your pure devotion. He doesn’t want you to have any lovers on the side. (James 4:4) Can you hear his plea?
“How long will my people be incapable of purity?” (Hosea 8:5, NIV)
Sincerely and faithfully in Jesus,
- Martin Luther King, Jr., “Love in Action,” 1963 sermon found in the book Strength to Love (Boston: Beacon Press, 2019), 37.
- Cecil Rhodes, The Last Will and Testament of Cecil Rhodes: With Elucidatory Notes to Which are Added Some Chapters Describing the Political and Religious Ideas of the Testator By Cecil Rhodes, comp. William Thomas Stead (London: “Review of Reviews” Office, 1902).