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SERIES:

Why CRT is Poisonous

September 9, 2021
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Things are heating up and getting weird. These days, much of the truth that has undergirded our modern society has come under fire from the secular left. Talking about simple biblical truths will now make people look at you as though you’ve suddenly grown a second head. Do you think men are men and women are women? Now you’re a hateful bigot. Do you think treating people differently based on the color of their skin is racist? Now you are the racist. Confused? You’re not alone. 

Chasing Myths

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3–4 (ESV)

In case you’re unfamiliar with Critical Race Theory, (CRT), its proponents believe that racism is embedded in American society and that it has infected everyone, but primarily white people. CRT advocates believe that everything in society can be best understood through the lens of social power dynamics, specifically ones that are race-based. They also believe that as the historic majority, white people have built-in, unearned advantages that minorities don’t have and because of these advantages, they are blind to their own racism. (This is often referred to as “white privilege.”) 

"Do you think treating people differently based on the color of their skin is racist? Now you are the racist. Confused? You’re not alone."

CRT is also closely aligned with intersectionality which teaches that the more minority groups you belong to, the more oppressed you are. For example, a black lesbian in a wheelchair is automatically more oppressed than a black man by virtue of also being both a woman and disabled. People who promote CRT propose solutions like reparations, collective group repentance, and elevating minority voices while silencing white ones. They also call for America to be reformed at the most basic levels to combat the racism that they believe has permeated the institutions and structures that comprise our society. (You’ll likely hear this referred to as “systemic racism.”)

I’m painting with a broad brush to be sure, (Neil Shenvi provides a more thorough summary that relies nearly exclusively on direct quotes from primary CRT thinkers), but that gives you the basic gist.

As you may have already picked up, CRT stands in direct opposition to the worldview we are given by God in the Bible, and, as stated in the title of this post, it is poisonous. It’s not an overstatement to say that CRT supposes an entire worldview, complete with the redefining of doctrines like sin, repentance, absolution, and much much more. 

"CRT supposes an entire worldview, complete with the redefining of doctrines like sin, repentance, absolution, and much much more."

It would be one thing if Christians could afford to simply agree to disagree, and ignore the debate. And maybe 20 years ago we could have, but CRT is popping up everywhere these days. The implications of what started out as an idea mostly held by Marxist college professors can now be found everywhere from Netflix, (featuring content that “elevates black voices”), to the curriculum of your local school.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that as CRT has gained mainstream popularity, a number of popular evangelical pastors, (Platt, Chandler, Anyabwile, etc), have also voiced their support of CRT ideas, if not CRT itself. Institutions like The Gospel Coalition and Christianity Today are also weighing in regularly, often unhelpfully. Recently, a local church here in Kitsap County hosted a discussion on the unbiblical nature of CRT and was met with significant backlash from the community. This issue isn’t simply a theoretical danger. The boats have landed on our shores.

"This issue isn’t simply a theoretical danger. The boats have landed on our shores."

Unfortunately, CRT can be as confusing as it is pervasive. Many of CRT’s lies and partial-truths are presented as common sense, making it easy to get mixed up while talking about it. However, it is important for Christians to remain in the conversation, stay vigilant, and be ready to see and name the lies for just what they are. With that in mind, I hope this next part of the post will be helpful to you. 

Framing the Conversation

“...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)

Conversations about Critical Race Theory are happening all around you. From social media, school board meetings, corporate emails, to even pulpits, you can’t throw a rock these days without hitting a CRT advocate. When it comes up in conversation, and it will, we need to be ready to discuss CRT in a way that reflects a biblical worldview and using language that’s uniquely Christian. 

"...we need to be ready to discuss CRT in a way that reflects a biblical worldview and using language that’s uniquely Christian."

(In full transparency, this next section is largely a distillation of some of the key concepts that have been more thoroughly stated elsewhere by men like Voddie Baucham, Jared Longshore, Tom Ascol, and Doug Wilson. My goal is not to pass their words off as my own, but rather to summarize and bring them to bear on our current moment. I’m including a list of resources at the end of this article that I would commend to you for further study, some by the authors I just mentioned. I hope they are as helpful for you as they have been for me. I would also affirm the Dallas Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel if you would like further clarity on the subject.)

First, Christians must see that CRT doesn't agree with the Bible about racial sin.

Apart from the original sin of Adam, the Bible does not teach that a person can be guilty of another person’s sin. If you approve of or participate in sin, you can also be guilty of it, but it cannot be imputed to you. This means that you cannot be guilty of someone else’s sins simply by virtue of your skin color or ethnicity.

Though we ought to reject systemic racism as a theory, we should affirm that sin can be committed by and impact groups of people, not just individuals, and would argue that a biblical concept of racism is two-fold:

"...you cannot be guilty of someone else’s sins simply by virtue of your skin color or ethnicity."

I think it’s also helpful to note that the sin of racism does affect societal structures. Both ethnic enmity and ethnic vainglory can and do produce sinful outcomes that also require repentance. For instance, the United States couldn’t fully repent of slavery without abolishing the laws that made slavery legal and got rid of institutions like slave markets that were propped up by them. Systemic racism falls short as an explanation though because it would say that even after the original racist sin is repented of and removed, (including the laws and institutions that ensued), the enduring inequality of outcomes is now sinful too, requiring ongoing repentance. 

However, the Bible doesn’t speak about repentance or inequality this way. Where systemic racism would label this sort of inequality of outcomes as racist inequity, the Bible would say that God gives to whom he wills (Romans 9:14-18) and that it’s sinful to desire your neighbor’s belongings (Exodus 20:17). Where systemic racism would say that even repentance is insufficient when effects of the specific sin endure, the Bible says that sin can be entirely forgiven by the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7, Colossians 2:13, 1 John 2:12).

Second, Christians must recognize CRT as a false religion.  

The Critical Theory framework, (from which CRT is descended), is intrinsically bound to atheistic Marxism and reframes the historical conversation around a perpetual power struggle between oppressors and oppressed groups of people. And worse, in the context of CRT, a person’s oppressor/oppressed status is intrinsically tied to the color of their skin. (Which sounds an awful lot like judging a person based on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.) Marxism is a self-proclaimed godless ideology and its intellectual children are fundamentally at odds with Christianity.

"Marxism is a self-proclaimed godless ideology and its intellectual children are fundamentally at odds with Christianity."

The atheistic worldview of Marxism provides a theological vacuum that CRT is more than ready to fill.

CRT functions as a new religion with racism as the new original sin and the work of antiracism as the new law. It has a new gospel, (racial reconciliation), an order of priests who can confer absolution from sin, (oppressed minorities), a new scriptural canon that instructs how we might atone for our sins, (DiAngelo, Kendi, Brown, Crenshaw, Macintosh, etc), means of atonement, (reparations), new birth, (wokeness), martyrs, (Trayvon, George, Breonna, etc), and a new heaven where the original sin of racism is undone, (the utopia of a perfectly equitable society).² The only thing it actually lacks is the uniquely biblical concept of forgiveness. It is a new religion and it is incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.³

Third, Christians must recognize that CRT is incompatible with the Gospel.

While the ideology of CRT is damaging within the culture at large, within the Church it is even more so. It is directly at odds with Paul’s words to the Galatians that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) It is directly at odds with the doctrine of the unity of the Church as being one in Christ, and the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. And it is directly at odds with the doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture for rightly ordering all of life. To consistently hold to the tenets of CRT, one must let go of orthodox historic biblical Christianity.

Additionally, those waving the banner of CRT will often tell you that “truth” is relative to each person’s lived experience. However, in order to accept the need for multiple voices to inform us on what is “true,” we have to accept personal narrative as a valid source of truth, which Christians absolutely cannot. In a biblical worldview, such a pantheon of voices is not only unnecessary but is at odds with the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, or “Scripture Alone” as our only source of eternal and abiding revelation from God. Personal experiences can be helpful but ultimately they can never be authoritative if one believes that the heart of man is innately wicked and that it is the Bible, not the experiences of men, that contains the Words of Life.

"...it is the Bible, not the experiences of men, that contains the Words of Life."

None of this is to say that racism isn’t real, (it is), that instances of racist behavior haven’t happened, (they have), or that nothing needs to be done about it, (it does.) But as a Christian, I believe that the ultimate penalty for sin has already been paid by Christ on the cross and that the scriptures are sufficient for teaching, rebuking correcting, and training in righteousness, including everything we need to know about how to combat racism. (2 Timothy 3:16) We don’t need Ibram X. Kendi to teach us how to be an antiracist, or Robin DiAngelo to teach us how to recognize our white fragility/privilege, or even Jemar Tisby to teach us how to interrogate our systems for hidden racism. 

"The only answer to sin, both in myself and in the world, is Christ crucified to save sinners. That’s it."

The only answer to sin, both in myself and in the world, is Christ crucified to save sinners. That’s it. And good, old-fashioned preaching of sin, forgiveness, and repentance is the means God has given us for bringing that good news to bear on everything and everyone under the sun.

The hope of the Gospel is that in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, all sin, enmity, and strife is paid for by his precious blood. Those who are in Christ are reconciled both to God and to one another and any ideology that would divide Christ's people from each other or from God must be rejected and denied. We must cling fast to Christ and to one another, placing our hope in the only foundation that will endure.

Additional Resources

Footnotes

[1] Douglas Wilson, Black & Tan: A Collection of Essay and Excursions on Slavery, Culture War, and Scripture in America. (Canon Press, 2005)

[2] Voddie T. Baucham Jr., Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe. (Salem Books, 2021), 67

[3] Tom Ascol and Jared Longshore, Strong and Courageous: Following Jesus Amid the Rise of America’s New Religion. (Founders Press, 2020)

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Ryan leads Coram Deo's music and productions ministry and oversees all communications. He and his wife live in Bremerton with their five kids. He loves driving, podcasts, graphic design, and good whiskey.

Coram Deo Church is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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Things are heating up and getting weird. These days, much of the truth that has undergirded our modern society has come under fire from the secular left. Talking about simple biblical truths will now make people look at you as though you’ve suddenly grown a second head. Do you think men are men and women are women? Now you’re a hateful bigot. Do you think treating people differently based on the color of their skin is racist? Now you are the racist. Confused? You’re not alone. 

Chasing Myths

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3–4 (ESV)

In case you’re unfamiliar with Critical Race Theory, (CRT), its proponents believe that racism is embedded in American society and that it has infected everyone, but primarily white people. CRT advocates believe that everything in society can be best understood through the lens of social power dynamics, specifically ones that are race-based. They also believe that as the historic majority, white people have built-in, unearned advantages that minorities don’t have and because of these advantages, they are blind to their own racism. (This is often referred to as “white privilege.”) 

"Do you think treating people differently based on the color of their skin is racist? Now you are the racist. Confused? You’re not alone."

CRT is also closely aligned with intersectionality which teaches that the more minority groups you belong to, the more oppressed you are. For example, a black lesbian in a wheelchair is automatically more oppressed than a black man by virtue of also being both a woman and disabled. People who promote CRT propose solutions like reparations, collective group repentance, and elevating minority voices while silencing white ones. They also call for America to be reformed at the most basic levels to combat the racism that they believe has permeated the institutions and structures that comprise our society. (You’ll likely hear this referred to as “systemic racism.”)

I’m painting with a broad brush to be sure, (Neil Shenvi provides a more thorough summary that relies nearly exclusively on direct quotes from primary CRT thinkers), but that gives you the basic gist.

As you may have already picked up, CRT stands in direct opposition to the worldview we are given by God in the Bible, and, as stated in the title of this post, it is poisonous. It’s not an overstatement to say that CRT supposes an entire worldview, complete with the redefining of doctrines like sin, repentance, absolution, and much much more. 

"CRT supposes an entire worldview, complete with the redefining of doctrines like sin, repentance, absolution, and much much more."

It would be one thing if Christians could afford to simply agree to disagree, and ignore the debate. And maybe 20 years ago we could have, but CRT is popping up everywhere these days. The implications of what started out as an idea mostly held by Marxist college professors can now be found everywhere from Netflix, (featuring content that “elevates black voices”), to the curriculum of your local school.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that as CRT has gained mainstream popularity, a number of popular evangelical pastors, (Platt, Chandler, Anyabwile, etc), have also voiced their support of CRT ideas, if not CRT itself. Institutions like The Gospel Coalition and Christianity Today are also weighing in regularly, often unhelpfully. Recently, a local church here in Kitsap County hosted a discussion on the unbiblical nature of CRT and was met with significant backlash from the community. This issue isn’t simply a theoretical danger. The boats have landed on our shores.

"This issue isn’t simply a theoretical danger. The boats have landed on our shores."

Unfortunately, CRT can be as confusing as it is pervasive. Many of CRT’s lies and partial-truths are presented as common sense, making it easy to get mixed up while talking about it. However, it is important for Christians to remain in the conversation, stay vigilant, and be ready to see and name the lies for just what they are. With that in mind, I hope this next part of the post will be helpful to you. 

Framing the Conversation

“...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)

Conversations about Critical Race Theory are happening all around you. From social media, school board meetings, corporate emails, to even pulpits, you can’t throw a rock these days without hitting a CRT advocate. When it comes up in conversation, and it will, we need to be ready to discuss CRT in a way that reflects a biblical worldview and using language that’s uniquely Christian. 

"...we need to be ready to discuss CRT in a way that reflects a biblical worldview and using language that’s uniquely Christian."

(In full transparency, this next section is largely a distillation of some of the key concepts that have been more thoroughly stated elsewhere by men like Voddie Baucham, Jared Longshore, Tom Ascol, and Doug Wilson. My goal is not to pass their words off as my own, but rather to summarize and bring them to bear on our current moment. I’m including a list of resources at the end of this article that I would commend to you for further study, some by the authors I just mentioned. I hope they are as helpful for you as they have been for me. I would also affirm the Dallas Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel if you would like further clarity on the subject.)

First, Christians must see that CRT doesn't agree with the Bible about racial sin.

Apart from the original sin of Adam, the Bible does not teach that a person can be guilty of another person’s sin. If you approve of or participate in sin, you can also be guilty of it, but it cannot be imputed to you. This means that you cannot be guilty of someone else’s sins simply by virtue of your skin color or ethnicity.

Though we ought to reject systemic racism as a theory, we should affirm that sin can be committed by and impact groups of people, not just individuals, and would argue that a biblical concept of racism is two-fold:

  • Ethnic vainglory (e.g. believing that ones’ own ethnic group is better than x, y, or z ethnic group or x, y, or z ethnic group is inferior for some reason.)
  • Ethnic enmity (e.g. despising or hating an ethnic group.)¹
"...you cannot be guilty of someone else’s sins simply by virtue of your skin color or ethnicity."

I think it’s also helpful to note that the sin of racism does affect societal structures. Both ethnic enmity and ethnic vainglory can and do produce sinful outcomes that also require repentance. For instance, the United States couldn’t fully repent of slavery without abolishing the laws that made slavery legal and got rid of institutions like slave markets that were propped up by them. Systemic racism falls short as an explanation though because it would say that even after the original racist sin is repented of and removed, (including the laws and institutions that ensued), the enduring inequality of outcomes is now sinful too, requiring ongoing repentance. 

However, the Bible doesn’t speak about repentance or inequality this way. Where systemic racism would label this sort of inequality of outcomes as racist inequity, the Bible would say that God gives to whom he wills (Romans 9:14-18) and that it’s sinful to desire your neighbor’s belongings (Exodus 20:17). Where systemic racism would say that even repentance is insufficient when effects of the specific sin endure, the Bible says that sin can be entirely forgiven by the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7, Colossians 2:13, 1 John 2:12).

Second, Christians must recognize CRT as a false religion.  

The Critical Theory framework, (from which CRT is descended), is intrinsically bound to atheistic Marxism and reframes the historical conversation around a perpetual power struggle between oppressors and oppressed groups of people. And worse, in the context of CRT, a person’s oppressor/oppressed status is intrinsically tied to the color of their skin. (Which sounds an awful lot like judging a person based on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.) Marxism is a self-proclaimed godless ideology and its intellectual children are fundamentally at odds with Christianity.

"Marxism is a self-proclaimed godless ideology and its intellectual children are fundamentally at odds with Christianity."

The atheistic worldview of Marxism provides a theological vacuum that CRT is more than ready to fill.

CRT functions as a new religion with racism as the new original sin and the work of antiracism as the new law. It has a new gospel, (racial reconciliation), an order of priests who can confer absolution from sin, (oppressed minorities), a new scriptural canon that instructs how we might atone for our sins, (DiAngelo, Kendi, Brown, Crenshaw, Macintosh, etc), means of atonement, (reparations), new birth, (wokeness), martyrs, (Trayvon, George, Breonna, etc), and a new heaven where the original sin of racism is undone, (the utopia of a perfectly equitable society).² The only thing it actually lacks is the uniquely biblical concept of forgiveness. It is a new religion and it is incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.³

Third, Christians must recognize that CRT is incompatible with the Gospel.

While the ideology of CRT is damaging within the culture at large, within the Church it is even more so. It is directly at odds with Paul’s words to the Galatians that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) It is directly at odds with the doctrine of the unity of the Church as being one in Christ, and the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. And it is directly at odds with the doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture for rightly ordering all of life. To consistently hold to the tenets of CRT, one must let go of orthodox historic biblical Christianity.

Additionally, those waving the banner of CRT will often tell you that “truth” is relative to each person’s lived experience. However, in order to accept the need for multiple voices to inform us on what is “true,” we have to accept personal narrative as a valid source of truth, which Christians absolutely cannot. In a biblical worldview, such a pantheon of voices is not only unnecessary but is at odds with the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, or “Scripture Alone” as our only source of eternal and abiding revelation from God. Personal experiences can be helpful but ultimately they can never be authoritative if one believes that the heart of man is innately wicked and that it is the Bible, not the experiences of men, that contains the Words of Life.

"...it is the Bible, not the experiences of men, that contains the Words of Life."

None of this is to say that racism isn’t real, (it is), that instances of racist behavior haven’t happened, (they have), or that nothing needs to be done about it, (it does.) But as a Christian, I believe that the ultimate penalty for sin has already been paid by Christ on the cross and that the scriptures are sufficient for teaching, rebuking correcting, and training in righteousness, including everything we need to know about how to combat racism. (2 Timothy 3:16) We don’t need Ibram X. Kendi to teach us how to be an antiracist, or Robin DiAngelo to teach us how to recognize our white fragility/privilege, or even Jemar Tisby to teach us how to interrogate our systems for hidden racism. 

"The only answer to sin, both in myself and in the world, is Christ crucified to save sinners. That’s it."

The only answer to sin, both in myself and in the world, is Christ crucified to save sinners. That’s it. And good, old-fashioned preaching of sin, forgiveness, and repentance is the means God has given us for bringing that good news to bear on everything and everyone under the sun.

The hope of the Gospel is that in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, all sin, enmity, and strife is paid for by his precious blood. Those who are in Christ are reconciled both to God and to one another and any ideology that would divide Christ's people from each other or from God must be rejected and denied. We must cling fast to Christ and to one another, placing our hope in the only foundation that will endure.

Additional Resources

Footnotes

[1] Douglas Wilson, Black & Tan: A Collection of Essay and Excursions on Slavery, Culture War, and Scripture in America. (Canon Press, 2005)

[2] Voddie T. Baucham Jr., Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe. (Salem Books, 2021), 67

[3] Tom Ascol and Jared Longshore, Strong and Courageous: Following Jesus Amid the Rise of America’s New Religion. (Founders Press, 2020)

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