Though I've dipped into the topic here and there, I can in no way claim to have a firm grasp on Critical Race Theory or Intersectionality. That said, I do believe that any philosophy that serves to divide the body of Christ along racial lines is antithetical to the gospel and that we do not need to turn to godless and worldly philosophies to make sense of the world around us and to know how to conduct ourselves in it. The Bible is enough.
However, I do believe we do well to be familiar with what is going on in our culture and the philosophical movements that are driving it and this is especially true when they are having an impact on the church. Theologian authors such as David Wells and Carl Trueman have been particularly adept at pulling back the curtain and showing us what lies behind many of the streams of thought that are affecting evangelicalism. Here as of late, I have come to really appreciate those that have helped me to understand these topics from the perspective of a black Christian.
Just to name a few:
Samuel Sey has a blog that contains much wisdom: Slow to Write | "let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger." | Samuel Sey
Darrel Harrison and Virgil Walker's "Just Thinking Podcast" is fantastic and they cover a whole host of issues but their take on race relations has been so informative and helpful to so many: Podcast - Just Thinking Ministries
This podcast from the guys at "Particularly Baptist" was of particular encouragement to me as a black member of a predominately white church told his pastors that what he needed most was for them simply to preach the Word: Episode 5: Discussing Racism as the Church — Particularly Baptist (squarespace.com)
There are many other black personalities that are beginning to gain an audience but one that needs no introduction in Reformed Baptist circles is Voddie Baucham. Baucham is an American pastor, writer, professor, conference speaker, and now the Dean of theology at the Christian University of Africa in Lusaka, Zambia. Known for his boldness and steadfastness in the Word, Baucham is someone that many Christians feel that they can trust. This is evidenced by the sales of his newest book "Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism's Looming Catastrophe."
At the time of my writing this, “Fault Lines” has proven to be such a popular title that outlets such as Amazon have sold out of their physical copies and can only offer it for Kindle. Actual content aside, the popularity of the book is what makes it a significant release. Its sales show that “Critical Race Theory” has become a central concern among conservative Christians. Just two years ago, that last sentence would have caused most believers to scratch their head in confusion.
But that was a two years ago and a lot has changed since then.
Until an event on June 1, 2019 at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting, very few people in the pews of the average SBC church had ever heard of “Critical Race Theory” or “Intersectionality.” But those terms were thrust into their collective consciences by a resolution that was presented by Stephen Feinstein, pastor of Sovereign Way Christian Church in Hesperia, California.
In SBC life a resolution is not binding upon any church or denominational entity but is merely a way for the SBC to express an opinion or concern and to, perhaps, suggest a course of action for churches to consider. Resolutions can be submitted for a vote by any messenger sent by a local SBC church. A Committee on Resolutions composed of 10 members is chosen by the President of the SBC. They review any submitted resolutions and are given the authority to combine resolutions, title or retitle them, reword them, and submit resolutions that they, themselves, compose.
Pastor Feinstein was concerned about movements he was seeing within the evangelical church such as students returning from conservative Bible colleges complaining about white privilege. After witnessing a divide on how to best respond to the issue at a popular pastor’s conference, he decided to draft a resolution to ensure that the SBC was clear on where it stood.
This is what he submitted:
On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality
WHEREAS, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy and reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried; and
WHEREAS, critical race theory and intersectionality are founded upon unbiblical presuppositions descended from Marxist theories and categories, and therefore are inherently opposed to the Scriptures as the true center of Christian union; and
WHEREAS, both critical race theory and intersectionality as ideologies have infiltrated some Southern Baptist churches and institutions—institutions funded by the Cooperative Program; and
WHEREAS, critical race theory upholds postmodern relativistic understandings of truth; and
WHEREAS, critical race theory divides humanity into groups of oppressors and oppressed, and is used to encourage biblical, transcendental truth claims to be considered suspect when communicated from groups labeled as oppressors; and
WHEREAS, intersectionality defines human identity by race, social background, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and a host of other distinctions, and it does so at the expense of other identities; and
WHEREAS, intersectionality reduces human beings to distinguishable identities of unequal value and thus reduces human identity down to differences rather than commonality; and
WHEREAS, intersectionality encourages rage as its driving energy and conclusion; and
WHEREAS, intersectionality magnifies differences while deeming as more favorable the individuals who combine the highest number of oppressed identities; and
WHEREAS, both critical race theory and intersectionality breed division and deny humanity’s essential commonality; and
WHEREAS, the Scripture provides God’s narrative on such matters; and
WHEREAS, the book of Genesis grounds humanity in that which unites us, namely our common identity as the Imago Dei, which itself is the foundation of every biblical, ethical command to love one’s neighbor and to seek justice for all; and
WHEREAS, the Bible acknowledges differences—male and female, slave and free, Jew and Gentile—it does not begin with human differences, but instead begins with what unites humanity, namely the Imago Dei; and
WHEREAS, the sameness of humanity built upon the Imago Dei, justifies the value of all individuals in something that transcends race, gender, and other identity intersections; and
WHEREAS, the New Covenant further unites by creating anew humanity that will one day inhabit the new heavens and the new earth, and that the people of this new humanity, though descended from every nation, tribe, tongue, and people, are all one in Christ; and
WHEREAS, this new humanity is comprised of people from every ethnicity and race, of every socio-economic background and culture, and yet these people enter this new humanity through belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and
WHEREAS, Christian citizenship is not based on our differences but instead on our common salvation in Christ; and
WHEREAS, we find our true identity in Christ; and
WHEREAS, the Scriptures have categories and principles by which to deal with racism, sexism, injustice, abuse—principles found in prior Southern Baptist resolutions such as On The Anti-Gospel of Alt-Right White Supremacy, for example, that are not rooted in Marxist anti-gospel presuppositions; and
WHEREAS, the rhetoric of critical race theory and intersectionality found in some Southern Baptist institutions and leaders is causing unnecessary and unbiblical division among the body of Christ and is tarnishing the reputation of the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole, inviting charges of theological liberalism, egalitarianism, and Marxism; and
WHEREAS, the Southern Baptist Convention is committed to racial reconciliation built upon biblical presuppositions, and is committed to seeking biblical justice through biblical means; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, June 11-12, 2019, decry every philosophy or theology, including critical race theory and intersectionality, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, since they divide the people of Christ by defining fundamental identity as something other than our identity in Jesus Christ; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we deny any philosophy or theology that defines individuals primarily by non-transcendental social constructs rather than by the transcendental reality of all humans existing as the Imago Dei; and be it further
RESOLVED, That while we denounce critical race theory and intersectionality, we do not deny that ethnic, gender, cultural, and racial distinctions do in fact exist and are a gift from God that will give Him absolute glory when the entire gamut of human diversity worships Him in perfect unity founded upon our unity in Jesus Christ; and be it further
RESOLVED, That Southern Baptist Churches will seek to paint this eschatological picture in a proleptic manner in our churches in the present by focusing on our unity in Christ and our common humanity as the Imago Dei rather than dividing over the secondary matters than make us different; and be it further
RESOLVED, That Southern Baptists Churches and institutions will take a prophetic stand against all forms of biblically-defined injustice, but we will do so in a manner consistent with the biblical worldview rather than unbiblical worldviews; and be it further
RESOLVED, That Southern Baptist institutions need to make progress in rooting out the intentional promulgation of critical race theory and intersectionality in both our churches and institutions; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we earnestly pray, both for those who advocate ideologies meant to divide believers along intersectional lines and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the Gospel, repent of these anti-Gospel beliefs, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.
Feinstein made his philosophical foundations clear and what his intentions were in submitting the resolution. However, as noted above, the Resolutions Committee is empowered to edit any resolution that is presented to them. And edit it they did. This is what was actually presented to the gathered messengers at the convention meeting:
WHEREAS, Concerns have been raised by some evangelicals over the use of frameworks such as critical race theory and intersectionality; and
WHEREAS, Critical race theory is a set of analytical tools that explain how race has and continues to function in society, and intersectionality is the study of how different personal characteristics overlap and inform one’s experience; and
WHEREAS, Critical race theory and intersectionality have been appropriated by individuals with worldviews that are contrary to the Christian faith, resulting in ideologies and methods that contradict Scripture; and
WHEREAS, Evangelical scholars who affirm the authority and sufficiency of Scripture have employed selective insights from critical race theory and intersectionality to understand multifaceted social dynamics; and
WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith and Message states, “[A]ll Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried” (Article I); and
WHEREAS, General revelation accounts for truthful insights found in human ideas that do not explicitly emerge from Scripture and reflects what some may term “common grace”; and
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; and
WHEREAS, Scripture contains categories and principles by which to deal with racism, poverty, sexism, injustice, and abuse that are not rooted in secular ideologies; and
WHEREAS, Humanity is primarily identified in Scripture as image bearers of God, even as biblical authors address various audiences according to characteristics such as male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free; and
WHEREAS, The New Covenant further unites image bearers by creating a new humanity that will one day inhabit the new creation, and that the people of this new humanity, though descended from every nation, tribe, tongue, and people, are all one through the gospel of Jesus Christ (Ephesians2:16; Revelation 21:1–4, 9–14); and
WHEREAS, Christian citizenship is not based on our differences but instead on our common salvation in Christ—the source of our truest and ultimate identity; and
WHEREAS, The Southern Baptist Convention is committed to racial reconciliation built upon biblical presuppositions and is committed to seeking biblical justice through biblical means; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, June 11–12, 2019, affirm Scripture as the first, last, and sufficient authority with regard to how the Church seeks to redress social ills, and we reject any conduct, creeds, and religious opinions which contradict Scripture; and be it further
RESOLVED, That critical race theory and intersectionality should only be employed as analytical tools subordinate to Scripture—not as transcendent ideological frameworks; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the gospel of Jesus Christ alone grants the power to change people and society because “he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians1:6); and be it further
RESOLVED, That Southern Baptists will carefully analyze how the information gleaned from these tools are employed to address social dynamics; and be it further
RESOLVED, That Southern Baptist churches and institutions repudiate the misuse of insights gained from critical race theory, intersectionality, and any unbiblical ideologies that can emerge from their use when absolutized as a worldview; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we deny any philosophy or theology that fundamentally defines individuals using categories identified as sinful in Scripture rather than the transcendent reality shared by every image bearer and divinely affirmed distinctions; and be it further
RESOLVED, That while we denounce the misuse of critical race theory and intersectionality, we do not deny that ethnic, gender, and cultural distinctions exist and are a gift from God that will give Him absolute glory when all humanity gathers around His throne in worship because of the redemption accomplished by our resurrected Lord; and be it finally
RESOLVED, That Southern Baptist churches seek to exhibit this eschatological promise in our churches in the present by focusing on unity in Christ amid image bearers and rightly celebrate our differences as determined by God in the new creation.
During the debate that ensued, Pastor Tom Ascol offered a friendly amendment that stated that critical race theory and intersectionality are incompatible and indeed antithetical to Christianity. The amendment was rejected.
The resolution as re-written was put forward for a vote and it passed though it has been generally acknowledged that most messengers had never heard of Critical Race Theory or Intersectionality until the resolution was put forth. Pastor Tom Buck, First Baptist Church, Lindale, Texas, an opponent of the resolution, called on messengers to realize they “voted for something that we likely don’t understand. We need to understand the gravity of it.” It appears that the messengers who voted in favor of the resolution simply trusted that the Resolutions Committee would not present something before them that was not Scripturally sound and the racial tensions that everyone felt in society at large made them more prone to vote for anything that seemed like a step in the right direction of acknowledging racial injustice.
Since then, there has been a huge backlash over what took place on June 1, 2019. Conservative voices have been sounding the alarm that Resolution 9 (as the resolution has come to be known) was an event whose significance cannot be overstated. It is marking the decline of biblical integrity within the SBC and the division that it is creating is setting the stage for a battle along the lines of the, so called, “Conservative Resurgence” that took place in the 1980’s. Brian Gunter, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Pollock, Louisiana is a representative voice of how the issue is being framed: “The problem with Critical Race Theory is that it states that people of various skin colors are not brothers and sisters in Christ but that some people have privilege over others — and by virtue of their skin color that they are somehow inherently racist. We do not believe this is biblical. This contradicts what Scripture states.” “The white man and the brown man and black man are brothers,” he said. “We are descended from Adam and Eve. We should not be divided by the color of our skin. This culture is trying to tear our churches apart and we need to stand against it.” (Source)
The stage was, therefore, set for Voddie Baucham’s book to be a runaway bestseller. Fear that their beloved denomination was following the path of other, once conservative-now liberal, denominations has created a new activist class within the SBC who are looking for material to justify their fears and to give them marching orders for how to attack the threat.
Baucham’s book markets itself as exactly what they are looking for: “A preacher, professor, and cultural apologist, explains the sinister worldview behind the social justice movement and Critical Race Theory—revealing how it already has infiltrated some seminaries, leading to internal denominational conflict, canceled careers, and lost livelihoods. Like a fault line, it threatens American culture in general—and the evangelical church in particular. Whether you’re a layperson who has woken up in a strange new world and wonders how to engage sensitively and effectively in the conversation on race or a pastor who is grappling with a polarized congregation, this book offers the clarity and understanding to either hold your ground or reclaim it.” (from Amazon)
I share many of the concerns that have been raised by my brothers and sisters and, knowing that Baucham is not one to shy away from being biblically straightforward no matter the cost, I was excited to get a copy of the book.
Well, I’ve read the book and found it to be a mixed bag.
First, I need to be honest. While I was reading it, I never got the sense that Baucham had a firm grip on the subject matter. In fact, I found myself thinking at times “This reads like a research paper that I wrote back in seminary.” What I meant by that was that I recall writing papers on subjects that I hadn’t had enough time to stew over and really learn the various perspectives that conflicting voices had on them and, so, I picked what seemed to me to be the most reasonable and would search for as many voices as would agree with my thesis. It didn’t matter if I knew who they were, what was their expertise, or how respected in their fields they were. What mattered was that they agreed with the contention of my paper.
This may have been just a hunch, but that hunch seemed on track when I saw Baucham quote Neil Shenvi. Don’t get me wrong, Shenvi seems to be a solid guy who has a good grasp of the issues. That said, he is not respected by the proponents of Critical Race Theory because his education is not in sociology or a related field but in theoretical chemistry. In fact, when a debate was set up by a Christian organization on Critical Race Theory and Shenvi was chosen to present the counter arguments, the debate had to be called off because there was such an outcry from the pro-CRT crowd insisting that his involvement was in insult to the other participant whose expertise. All that to say that Baucham’s using Shenvi as a source (and saying he had learned much on the topic from him)was a non-starter from the get-go for those who will look at this book critically and Baucham should have known that. For me, this little fact, undermined my confidence in the rest of his research. If he was willing to use Shenvi, whom else was he relying on to make his case whose names I don’t recognize? I just knew his critics were going to find plenty to complain about. I was right.
I’m no fan of Brad Mason, but he has been a consistent voice calling on those with an interest in CRT to go to the original sources. He writes a scathing response to the book which must be taken seriously. You can find it here. He, in turn, points to another review which points out many of the same faults in Baucham’s research.
Baucham seems to anticipate some of the criticisms by frontloading the book with his personal story in the hopes that his own personal testimony might silence his fiercest opponents (ironically, a very CRT type thing to do). He writes, “Advocates of (a) victim mentality think that the only thing that can cause a man like me to focus on the centrality of family and personal responsibility is internalized racism, a lack of sensitivity, catering to white folk, being out of touch with blackness and/or the black experience, or all of the above. Well, those people don’t know me. They don’t know my story.” (pg. 20)
Those who are concerned about the rise of CRT and, especially those who are fans of Voddie Baucham will, indeed, appreciate his story (as I did) and be encouraged by some of the notes he makes regarding his treatment by white members of the SBC.
In particular, this note struck a chord with me:
“I was not aware of, nor had I ever met, a black pastor who was working for or even passionate about racial reconciliation. Not one had ever lamented the fact that their church was 99 percent black, or that the remaining 1 percent included exactly zero white members. I am not saying that was the entirety of the black church experience, or that those leaders were evil or ungodly- on that for the first time, I was coming face-to-face with brothers who, through tear-stained eyes, were begging God to diversify His church, and all of them were white. (pg. 34)
This took me back to my days at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (where Baucham received his PhD). I recall a class in which we had a guest speaker who was a black minister who worked for the SBC. He told us students that the SBC needed more black churches. My class was composed of about 30 white males and we all pushed back with an earnest and since reconviction and desire that there ought to be more diverse congregations, not those segregated by the color of our skin. He, in turn, told us that was a pipe dream and that blacks and whites, do to cultural differences, could never really hope to come together on Sunday mornings and that the SBC needed to work harder to multiply black congregations. I can still feel the frustration we all felt on that day.
To those who, like me, appreciate Baucham’s convictions and desires for a diverse body of Christ, those critical reviews of his book will strike us as wrongheaded and the words of those who have given up the fight for biblical integrity. But, as Carl Trueman notes in his latest book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Man, “Nothing is to be gained by refuting a straw man” and I’m afraid that is what this book will be seen as by his critics and so it may be of limited value when it comes to the actual fight in the trenches.
That is not to say that there is not helpful information contained in the book. His comparison of how blacks and whites are treated by police officers based upon real statistics is incredibly illuminating. The way that he sheds alight on how the media skews the news to promote racial tensions, while not particularly new, is helpful as well. I just wish I felt like his explanations of what CRT, Intersectionality, etc. were accurate and more exhaustive.
Thus, the main value of the book to me is not in the content but in what its sales demonstrate. It is incredibly encouraging to see how many people have taken it upon themselves to learn more on this subject and, perhaps, Baucham’s book will be the first step in the church waking up and setting things aright. Perhaps its popularity will put pressure on other prominent voices to speak up and, even, change their tune - or at least clarify where they stand. One of those voices that Baucham takes issue with is Tim Keller, prolific author and former pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Keller tweeted just yesterday:
“Our bond with others in Christ should be stronger than our relationship to other members of our own racial and national groups.” Tim Keller 4/26/2021 @ 2:09 PM
That sounds like something Baucham would have said.
And a number of other black evangelicals are speaking up as well. Virgil Walker of the “Just Thinking” podcast recently wrote:
“Ensuring a particular ethnic makeup within your church so that parishioners feel comfortable is evidence of the lack of understanding that the church isn't about you. Decisions based on ethnic symbolism within the Evangelical Church are further proof of Evangelicalism's lostness.”
The more voices that speak openly the better as we all need to be educated on this topic. I have not commented on the content because it is in reading the book and then the reviews that I’ve come to realize what a complex issue this is.
Again, my simple (simplistic?) analysis is that any philosophy that serves to divide the body of Christ along racial lines is antithetical to the gospel. Though I do not yet know much about CRT and Intersectionality, it seems abundantly clear that it does just that and is, therefore, a danger to the church. I’m grateful to know that even those who say they can be used as tools, are quick to say that they believe such a division is sinful as well. How they nuance their take to avoid sin while promoting identities based on race is something I’ve yet to be able to figure out. So Baucham’s book seems to be, at least for me, just the beginning of a learning journey.
I’ll close this reflection with a thread of tweets from a person who goes by the Twitter username “Graceisforyou.” Demonstrating the dangers inherent in the philosophy she shared her and her husband’s personal story:
I’ve wondered if it’s worth sharing “my story.” I’m a pretty private person so it feels weird to share. But I think it’s worth it bc we all need encouragement that ordinary ppl can do something about what’s happening to our country. So, why do I talk about Woke stuff?
The Woke Mob: my survival story
My husband and I co-founded a justice-oriented non-profit org 11 years ago. At the time, we knew nothing about Critical Social Justice or Critical Theory. Our motivation was to address disparities in mental healthcare.
We’d learned that lay people (ppl without clinical training) made up the majority of trauma care providers around the world working with vulnerable populations (refugees, human trafficking survivors, etc). We wanted to help equip those lay people with good resources.
We hired clinically trained mental health professionals to develop our curriculum, oversee MEL, and run the international training program. Everything went great for about 7 years. We got accolades from all the right people in academia and partnered with orgs in 50+ countries.
Then a few years ago we noticed a tone shift among our program staff. They became hyper-critical of *everything.* As Executive Director, my husband felt he was always on trial. Every word and action was scrutinized. We couldn’t figure out where this was coming from.
We noticed shared rhetoric among the staff. Terms we heard often:
“systems of power and oppression”
Didn’t understand the ideology behind it, started doing some reading.
Then the open letters started. The letters always went to everyone in the org (from the graphic designer to the governing board), they always asserted vaguely that the organization was “causing harm,” and they always ended with demands. We were alarmed and confused.
We began having all-org sessions trying to discern what was happening and what was needed. It was quickly apparent there were no specific actions or incidents that could be deemed harmful. The accusations were always vague and abstract, about “identities”, “systems,” etc.
What also became apparent quickly was they didn’t want to resolve any real harm. They wanted control of the organization. They stated explicitly my husband was incapable of running an org that addresses trauma (an org he founded!) bc he’s straight, white, male, and Christian.
That’s when I learned to fight. I’d been doing my homework for a while. Thanks to people like @NeilShenvi, @ConceptualJames,@wokal_distance, @WokeTemple, @D_B_Harrison and @realchrisrufo, I knew what we were facing. It was an attempted woke subversion of the organization.
I wrote organizational position papers on how Critical Social Justice compromised our work by being in direct conflict with a number of our organizational commitments, namely, being evidence-based, valuing the individual, cultural humility, and allowing for true diversity.
Maybe I shouldn’t be proud of it, but I also learned to use their woke rules against them. When a staff member said I couldn’t speak to a topic bc I’m straight, I told her it was wrong of her to assume about my sexuality just bc I’m married to a man. She immediately groveled.
After some months, when it was clear to them we wouldn’t budge, the ones making demands left “on moral grounds,” accusing us of every phobia and calling the org “white supremacist.” We’ve always partnered with ppl of every ethnicity, creed and identity, so this is laughable.
Having survived an attempted power grab and character assassination by a woke mob, I’ll say it’s painful to be mistreated by ppl you trusted. But if you care more about maintaining your integrity than what people think or say about you, you’ll emerge with your dignity intact.
Don’t apologize for vague accusations of “harm.” It’s nota fair fight. They don’t want dialogue. Expose their inconsistencies - show how their demands won’t achieve what they claim to care about (helping the poor, etc). It’ll require some reading and a lot of courage.
If you don’t fight this nonsense now, wherever it’s showing up in your community, there’ll be nothing good, true, or beautiful to defend soon. We will be ruled by lies and power while being told we’re progressing toward truth and justice.
Open war is upon us, there is no “safe” any more. Choose which kind of “unsafe” you want. Fighting lies is always preferable to being ruled by them. I believe they can be defeated. I believe the truth will prevail.