News: November 2019
“Ideas have consequences,” as Richard Weaver famously said. They also have homes. Those homes are called schools; whether elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, or colleges and universities. It is in those locations that ideas are propagated and promoted but sadly seldom genuinely or carefully discussed, much less debated. Indeed our schools are becoming ever more like the ones described in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 in which Winston Smith is taught and ultimately convinced that 2+2 = 5.
If you think that is a bit fanciful then take a moment to do some reading on what is happening in Seattle’s public schools. In a Wall Street Journal article titled, Social Justice Comes to Math Class the author observes, “Coverage of the Seattle school district’s push to inject lessons of privilege, oppression, or ethnic studies in K-12 math classes reads like the satirical writings of the Onion (if you’ve never read the Onion or its Christian version, the Babylon Bee find a copy). Classroom questions such as “what is my mathematical identity?” and “Who gets to say if an answer is right?” fill the curriculum.”
Everywhere we turn whether its toward the political discussions of the day conversations on the environment, the legalization of marijuana, how corporations are destroying our country, what is the real meaning of the first amendment, or the above mentioned social justice, what we find could easily be described as a form of intellectual and theological insanity.
When that insanity, that lack of theological clarity, that culturally flawed thinking takes place in a free marketplace of ideas it is one thing. When it invades the Church that is another thing entirely. Those of us who inhabit a more conservative space are accustomed to reading about the craziness in the more liberal mainstream Protestant churches. When sloppy thinking attacks our part of the world, however, we should sit up and take note.
Last year many of us were stunned to hear that Andy Stanley had authored a book in which he encouraged the Church to “uncouple” itself from the Old Testament. He apparently had decided to jettison all references to the OT in the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles including the following statement from the Apostle Paul.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17
When Thomas Jefferson decided to create a new New Testament he eliminated all references to the supernatural. In so doing he focused on what he saw as the true moral teachings of Jesus. He did so because he just felt uncomfortable with the idea of miracles like the virgin birth, the healing of people who were lame, blind, or full of leprosy, that walk on the water, and the resurrection of Christ. In reading Stanley’s explanation of his position I see much of the same kind of reasoning: I’m just uncomfortable with how the OT talks about God so let’s just focus on the gospel. A lot of people far more qualified than me responded to Stanley’s remarkably flawed thinking.
Recently we have another example of evangelicalism gone chasing after cultural shibboleths (I’ll let you look that one up). In this case it wasn’t just a pastor or two but the entire Southern Baptist Convention which in June voted to affirm that a world view concept, Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality, can and should be employed as a tool whereby we can measure our behavior in this multi-cultural world.
If you are not familiar with those concepts you are not alone. Most Christians are not, as indeed most of the “messengers” who voted to pass the resolution were not. Consider what Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, noted in response to the passing of this deeply flawed resolution.
“Ideas, as we know, do have consequences and one of the most lamentable consequences, but the main consequence of critical race theory and intersectionality, is identity politics, and identity politics can only rightly be described as anthitical to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have to see identity politics as disastrous for the culture and nothing less than devastating for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. (The Briefs, Friday, June 14, 2019)
While the above mentioned resolution claimed that the Scriptures must be our final rule of faith and practice it also noted that Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality can be a useful analytical tool in helping us to see how our culture functions. As Matthew Garnett noted, however, “That’s simply not true. Both critical race theory and interssectionality are a part of the continuing transformative Marxism that is now so dominant in higher education and increasingly in policy.”
If traditional Christianity is anything . . . it is utterly dependent on objective truth claims. The foundations of race theory and intersectionality are based on a deconstructed concept that people cannot really understand one another and thus must come up with their own interpretations of discrimination or disadvantage.”
He goes on to observe, “It [Christianity] cannot survive if truth becomes merely based on one’s lived experiences or relativism. For critical theorists, the notion of truth does not exist.” For them, “truth is whatever subverts.”
Permit me to pause for a moment because I am sure that I’ve lost some of you. I don’t say that as a criticism. I just know that very few people actually pay much attention to these kinds of discussions. We are, for the most part, far more engaged in trying to figure out how to live a life that best represents what we know of Christ. We get up everyday to engage in the vocation to which we have been called, to be the best possible spouse, parent, member of the Body, friend, citizen, and employer or employee as possible. We don’t tend to spend our time reading through journal articles on the latest philosophical fads.
But here are two realities. Ideas really do have consequences. Tens of millions died because of an idea called Fascism. Tens of millions more perished to satisfy the utterly flawed ideas found in the writings of Karl Marx. Hundreds of millions currently live in slavery to false ideas on the nature of God and man. And all of that is coming to a country near you. Just listen carefully to the ideas currently driving the debates among those seeking the Democratic party’s nomination for President.
Secondly, if the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention (which would include many highly educated pastors and laymen) don’t really understand (and I don’t believe they do) the meaning of the resolution on which they voted, then how in the world can we expect our kids to grasp the meaning of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality? Or how can we expect them to grasp how those theories impact our understanding of what is true, good, and beautiful? For the most part they can’t, especially given the fact that such ideas are so deeply embedded in every aspect of curriculum at every level.
Paul repeatedly warns us about the powerful influence of culture on how we view ourselves and the world in which we live. In his letter to the church at Corinth as one example, he reminds us that, “though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments (like Critical Race Theory and Interseconality) and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
It is long past time that the evangelical pastors and parents started asking themselves this question: “When are we going to wake up to the devastating consequences that come with systematically exposing our kids to such dangerously unbiblical error? When?
If you want to dig a bit deeper here are two articles to read: 1) The Incompatibility of Critical Theory and Christianity, The Gospel Coalition, Neil Shenvi/Pat Swayer, May 15, 2019, (also Joe Carter, March 29, 2017, 2) Yes, the Social Justice Movement is a Threat to Evangelicals, Founders Ministry, Tom Ascol.
Remember, we can’t respond to what we don’t understand. Our responsibility is to “bring every thought captive to Christ.”
In His grace,