Critical Theory, Social Justice, and the Church

Hi friends,

I’ve watched this lecture twice in the last week and it’s helped me gain a clearer understanding of current events and the rhetoric surrounding them. Would love to hear your thoughts on it as well. I know it’s long but please watch the whole video before responding.

Moreover, I’ve also stumbled upon this article

Please note:
-this is not to deny that issues of race and injustice exist and need to be addressed
-this is not to dismiss or minimize anyone or any group’s personal pain
-this is not an attempt to overspiritualize a very real and physical problem

There are some great threads already discussing racial injustice and this isn’t meant to further that conversation. This post is mainly meant to discuss Critical Theory and it’s implications for the Church.

My heart hurts for our country right now and I’m currently sorting out how to love and respond in the most biblical way possible.

Questions:

  1. Understanding the backdrop of Critical Theory, as a worldview, how should Jesus followers respond when confronted with arguments rooted in it?
  2. Speaking broadly, in an ideal world, how should the Church as a whole respond?
  3. More realistically, what are some practical steps we can take corporately and personally to address both Critical Theory and the current conversations in American culture at the same time?

As I’ve been praying through this, God has been reminding me to just focus on my sphere and the loving the people I interact with on a daily basis. He’s been reminding me to answer the questioner behind the question. And He’s been reminding me to keep the redemptive work of Jesus through the gospel central.

Some scriptures I keep coming back to are:

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man. ~Proverbs‬ ‭3:3-4‬

‭ The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. ~1 Peter‬ ‭4:7-8‬ ‭

Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. ~Matthew‬ ‭10:16‬

Would love to hear your thoughts.

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I appreciate you posting this link. It has helped me to make some sense of what I am seeing in our country today. If nothing else it has given me a category to connect all the ‘dots’ of ‘social justice’ and how it is being understood and lived on the streets of America today.
The fundamental difference in the Christian worldview and the social justice worldview is theological. I want to use a definition for theology that I picked up in course that I recently took on African American church history and theology:

…Dr. John Frame’s definition of theology. He defines it as the application of God’s Word by persons in every area of life.

Ellis, C. F., Jr. (2017). CS251 History and Theology of the African American Church. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

For a lot of people today (pick aside) what we believe is not to be confused with how we live. For some reason, one has no bearing on the other. I can write one thing say another and do something else and as I have heard Ravi say, they rarely agree.
As a Christian, I can see the difference between how I should view social justice and how the social justice movement is portraying themselves. I think Shenvi’s graphic is self-explanatory.
image

There is much more that can be said on this (for me) complicated subject. I will stop here and wait for other thoughts.

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Thanks so much for your reply, @Jimmy_Sellers!

I agree the difference is theological. Thanks for that definition; I don’t think I’ve thought of that perspective before. It makes sense in that if we trust God is who He says He is (ie. take Him at His word), then our actions should reflect that. You bring up an interesting point.

Yet, our actions reveal exactly what we believe. I’m reminded of Matthew 12:33-35 when Jesus talks about our words being a revelation of our hearts and fruits of our lives (also interesting to cf this conversation with Matt. 7:15-20). We can say and write all we want but how we live shows where our values and priorities are.

From a Biblical worldview, we can operate from a transformed heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. In a worldview formed by Critical Theory, everything starts and ends with humans (whose hearts are “deceitful above all else” (Jer. 17:9) if we take God at His Word).

This also ties in to where we find our identity. If we find our identity based on what “group” we are in and the group we are in, depends on external attributes, then we will 1) come up short in that these human categorizations are pretty flimsy and 2) constantly evaluate + treat fellow human beings according to what group we assume they identify with.

In contrast, if we find our identity in who God says we are – created in His image with intrinsic worth and value, yet fallen, in need of a Savior, and able to be redeemed (made new) through Jesus – then we can 1) operate out of a confidence that cannot be swayed according to what “group” we are in and 2) view + treat others with the love, compassion, and dignity regardless of their “group.”

I know the Holy Spirit will guide me in the moment to love the person in front of me but I’m trying to sort through how I might respond intellectually with gentleness to someone who holds this worldview (which seems to be based in circular reasoning). Perhaps the moral law/moral Law Giver observation might be a place to start?

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I said I was going to wait for comments but I just read this post and felt that it was very relevant to the topic and I believe that it brings in POV that is necessary.
Please note that all the quoted citations are from this blog by Carl Ellis.

I am unapologetically a follower of Christ. I am also, in God’s sovereignty, an African American man who has lived the majority of life in the 20th Century. I believe according to Acts 17:26 that this is the culture, time and place God has given me to do His Kingdom work, and thus I see it as a gift from Him imbued with purpose. That purpose has been to explore His work in the world from a particular non-dominant cultural point of view.

His thoughts on CRT (Critical Race Theory) as asocial religion.

Even today, we can see these “social religions” doing what they do historically – curve in on themselves with increasingly narrow performative ‘orthodoxies.’ They create ever smaller circles of those considered ‘authentic’ – adherents who represent the truest version of their secular piety. They belittle those who do not perform the corresponding rites properly, and damn those who reject the ideology altogether.

How he sees a glimmer of hope for the Church when we compare the Gospel of Christ to the bankrupt alternatives no matter their stripe.

Some who fled Evangelicalism for the principles of CRT and Intersectionality found the waters bitter and self-contradicting. I’m now observing a handful of Christians from all ethnicities who have become disaffected with CRT and Intersectionality. While these saints still admit that there are social problems that only the Gospel can heal, they now realize the ‘solutions’ that Critical Theory propose are bankrupt; they cannot bring life. They want biblical approaches to local and global social ills that employ the Gospel, its affirmation of life, and the transformation that it alone can accomplish. I find this greatly encouraging.

On our brokeness:

People are broken sinners. Broken people make broken families. Broken families make broken communities. Broken communities make broken societies. Broken societies make broken systems. And broken systems keep people in bondage – physical, social, and spiritual. This is the reality of our fallen world. Furthermore, this reality is exacerbated by malevolent spiritual forces that surreptitiously manipulate these social ills (Ephesians 6:12).

On the disciplines:

It is increasingly common to pass off mere sociology, psychology, historical analysis, and other disciplines as theology proper. I believe this is errant and dangerous. I take the approach that “theology is the application of God’s Word by persons in every area of life” (Dr. John Frame). I still believe that theology is the ‘Queen of the Sciences.’

The lines between theology, sociology, Critical Race Theory, Marxism, Intersectionality, etc., have been increasingly blurred in the last twenty years and become more common in Christian thinking than they were … the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

On hope for the future:

At the same time however, I am encouraged by the young people I see awakening to the historic and consistent ways of living their Christianity. The genuine Church in America is in a much different day than fifty years ago. In this day, our God who transforms, calls us to prioritize our Union in Christ and abandon all other loyalties that demand preeminence, be they external commitments to political allegiances, particular ethnicities or tribes, to group loyalties based on distorted perceptions of gender or sexuality, or what have you.

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I know we need to be prepared to give every man an answer but sometimes I assume the person understands his/her question. One thing I want to keep in mind as I talk to others about this concept is that the people you talk to who may, to some degree or another, embrace Social Justice may not understand it or have looked deeply into it and may be simply looking for a way to make wrong things better.
Several years ago, I remember Andy Bannister saying that when we talk to Muslims, they may not know much about the Koran and that we shouldn’t assume that they do and I thought that was good advice. This seems similar. As always, we need to listen to the questioner, right?

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Thang you so much for this @Jimmy_Sellers! Such wise and encouraging thoughts from Dr. Ellis.

Thanks for the reminder @Susan_Jarvis! I have also found myself assuming things about the questioner that might not always be accurate. It’s a good reminder to practice making sure we are communicating with the same definitions for terms lest we end up talking on different layers and completely miscommunicating.

May we be prepared intellectually but moreso be compelled by love and compassion.

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