Apologetics,  Culture

Brief Analysis of Critical Race Theory

Almost everyone has heard of Critical Race Theory now, if for no other reason than the fact that Trump made major headlines when he came out with an executive order banning Critical Race Theory in government. This created quite the stir since many people view Critical Race Theory as instrumental in fighting racism.

This mindset has shown up in the church as well. The Southern Baptist Convention, which is America’s largest Christian denomination, passed a Resolution in 2019, which stated that Critical Race Theory could be used as a helpful tool to combat racism. Although this is not the majority view of SBC churches (many prominent SBC leaders have publicly decried CRT), it is a prominent viewpoint which has been embraced by many Christians in many denominations.

Christians cannot escape the influence of Critical Race Theory, nor can they ignore the tremendous damage that this worldview produces. Many secularists have completely embraced the core principles of Critical Race Theory, and they are busy indoctrinating the public education system with this teaching.

critical race theory by Delgado and Stefancic

How do the core teachings of Critical Race Theory line up with Scripture? Let’s examine the essentials as laid out in Delgado and Stefancic’s book, Critical Race Theory. This provides us a standard for comparison, and gives us insight into the principles which are integral to this way of thinking.

1. Critical Race Theory teaches racism is ordinary, not aberrational

In the worldview of Critical Race Theory, racism is redefined and assumed to be present in every situation. In the infamous words of Robin DiAngelo, “The question is not ‘did racism take place?’ but rather ‘how did racism manifest in that situation?’”

Think about DiAngelo’s statement for a second. The assumption behind this worldview is that racism shows up everywhere, even without the intention of the racist individual. It is assumed that racism is conditioned into every white person as, simply because of the color of their skin. Interestingly, if one were to argue against the fact that they are racist, in this worldview they are simply proving the fact that they are indeed racist.

As Christians, we would do well to define racism biblically. In so doing, defining racism as a matter of prejudice and hatred, then we see that intentions do matter. Racism may be a common sin to our broken world, but it is not an ubiquitous sin as is assumed by Critical Race Theorists.

2. Critical Race Theory presupposes a system of white-over-color ascendancy, which serves important purposes, both psychic and material, for the dominant group

Derrick Bell (1930–2011) is viewed by many as the father of Critical Race Theory. He developed an “interest convergence” thesis (1970) which theorized that whites only allow rights to blacks when it was in the best interest of the whites to do so. In other words, all the “gains” of the civil rights movement were not actual gains, because the white population was only throwing a bone to the black community to benefit themselves in some way.

This pessimism of race relationships has continued in the Critical Race Theory of today. Phrases like White Privilege, White Supremacy, and White Fragility have all become used by activists to point out different aspects of a allegedly-racist society which exists to prop up and benefit whites. Thus, to be white is to benefit from racism inherently, and to be black or a minority is to suffer oppression.

In thinking this way, Critical Race Theory negates the value of the individual and equates one’s experience with the group identity that individual belongs to. This is antithetical to Scripture, which continually emphasizes individuality—both in reference to specific sins, but also in reference to repentance. We do not judge a son for the sin of their fathers (Deut 24:16).   

3. Critical Race Theory uses the ‘social construction’ thesis, which holds that race and races are products of social thought and relations

In other words, Critical Race Theory sees “race” as a socialized category, not biological or inherent. This is something that Christians would readily agree with, but I would be so bold as to say we do not need Critical Race Theory to tell us this since it is so obvious in Scripture.

Acts 17:26 has always been clear, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth…” This is why Christians tend to emphasize the fact that there is one human race, and therefore one Savior for the human race. There may be multiple ethnicities within humanity, but the sin problem is universal to the human race, and it requires a universal solution.

4. Critical Race Theory teaches there is a “unique voice of color” and “minority status … brings with it a presumed competence to speak about race and racism”

In my mind, this is one of the most dangerous aspects of Critical Race Theory. Although we can certainly agree that one’s experience usually does give insight, we must be adamant about the dangers of experience. Experience can promote bias, and can even be misinterpreted. Many who hold to Critical Race Theory will go so far as to say that white people need to “shut up,” or if a white person disagrees with a person of color that is deemed as racist behavior.

In the Church this kind of thinking has become prevalent when conferences and publishers mandate a certain amount of material must be from minorities. Again, this train of thinking is dangerous. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging a unique perspective. However, this line of thinking corresponds with the idea of intersectionality, which is a postmodern outworking of Critical Race Theory, that certain people have access to truth on the basis of their oppressed group identities.

For example, someone who is black, female, and LGBT has more access to oppressed group identities, and therefore has more authority to speak. And if a white male tried to argue against her, he would be decried as contributing to her oppression regardless of the content of that argument.

Not only does this viewpoint lead to the breakdown of all meaningful discourse, but from a biblical perspective it is the epitome of foolishness. Truth is objective, not subjective. Thus, experience is not the only way to know something. In fact, Scripture is very clear that knowledge of Scripture is directly related to wisdom (Psalm 119:98-100). Those who are well versed in Scripture are the most authoritative because they speak from God’s knowledge.

At the end of the day, Christians need to view Critical Race Theory as a dangerous poison. Even nonbelievers have observed the dangers inherent in Critical Race Theory. Because it utilizes Critical Theory, it is corrosive and unhelpful. It promotes a negative viewpoint based on presuppositions that are unproven, and any attempt to disprove those assertions are “evidence” to justify them. Further, Critical Race Theory is completely unnecessary. The sufficiency of Scripture is a core belief of historic Christianity. Ultimately Scripture is how Christians are equipped (2 Tim 3:16-17). Scripture speaks with clarity on the evils of racism, the need to use equal weights and measures, and to expunge hatred from one’s heart.

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He loves studying the Bible and helping others understand it. He also runs the Bible Sojourner podcast.

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