Critical Race Theory
2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV) We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
Colossians 2:8 (ESV) See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
Critical Race Theory has been in the news a great deal and has been a much talked about topic among Southern Baptist. I first heard of Critical Race Theory in 2019 when a resolution affirming Critical Race Theory as a viable analytical tool to be used subordinate to Scripture to gain a better understanding of culture was presented and approved at the Southern Baptist Convention that year. Since that meeting, no small amount of discussion has ensued about Critical Race Theory; to the point that a resolution was passed at the 2021 annual meeting stating that any theory or worldview that finds “the ultimate identity of human beings in ethnicity or in another other group dynamic” should be rejected. Furthermore, the 2021 resolution stated, “we reject any theory or worldview that sees the primary problem of humanity as anything other than sin against God and the ultimate solution other than redemption found only in Christ.” (The 2021 resolution is entitled “On the Sufficiency of Scripture for Race and Racial Reconciliation” and can be found on the Southern Baptist Convention website, sbc.net/resourcelibrary/resolutions/on-the-sufficiency-of-scripture-for-race-and-racial-reconciliation.)
If you are like me, reading these resolutions and trying to understand Critical Race Theory causes an extra-strength size headache. What is Critical Race Theory and why does it matter? Furthermore, how should we respond?
Finding a clear and concise definition of Critical Race Theory is difficult. The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs states:
CRT recognizes that racism is engrained into the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color.1
While this definition may not provide complete clarity, it does bring some things into better focus. This definition shows that CRT moves racism from the individual to societal structures. There is no disagreement that society and its structures are sinful; however, they are sinful because they are made by and perpetuated by sinful individuals. Critical Race Theory ignores individual responsibility for sin and focuses only on the societal component. As a result, a person is assumed to be racist because he or she is white. Such a view ignores personal responsibility and views any action taken against racism with suspicion because of the preconceived idea that one only speaks against racism when it benefits them.
Another disconcerting aspect of Critical Race Theory is it’s approach to truth. Özlen Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo write in their book Is Everyone Really Equal? that “an approach based critical theory calls into question the idea that objectivity is desirable or even possible. The term used to describe this way of thinking about knowledge is reflective of the values and interest of those who produce it.” 2 The danger is that objective, propositional truth is jettisoned in favor of personal experience and narrative. In other words, there is no truth outside of a person and their experience.
Finally, “Theory” as used in Critical Race Theory does not refer to an idea or set of ideas that attempt to explain reality. Rather, “Theory” is redefined to mean “ideas, modes of thought, ethics, and methods that define Critical Social Justice. That is, Theory is the heart of a worldview that defines Critical Social Justice.”3 A worldview is the way a person understands the world. A worldview seeks to answer how things came to be, what went wrong and how things can be fixed. The redefinition of “Theory” moves Critical Race Theory from an academic understanding of societal ills surrounding racism to a way of life and interpreting the world. As a result, Critical Race Theory conflicts with a Biblical Worldview which holds that God is the creator, the problem is sin, and the solution is redemption in Christ.
There is no way to explore all the nuances of Critical Race Theory in a brief article. As I previously wrote, Critical Race Theory is complicated. Before ending, it is important to state some actions we should take as followers of Jesus to end racism.
- We should affirm that there is one race: the human race. While there are different ethnicities and cultures, we are all made in the image of God and thus have value.
- Because we are made in the image of God racism is wrong and sinful.
- Since racism is a sin, it must be confessed and repented of. This deals with racism on an individual level. Individuals create societies and societies have laws. When laws perpetuate racism, those laws must be changed.
- The hope for reconciliation is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:13-16 reminds us of the power of the gospel to bring reconciliation. This passage is a good place to bring this article to an end.
Ephesians 2:13–16 (ESV)
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
1) Vodie T. Buchanan Jr., Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe (Salem Books, 2021), xv.
2) Bauchaum, xiv.