Whereas God Used a Donkey

(7)WHEREAS, the legal theory known as Critical Race Theory and an accompanying sociological observation termed Intersectionality were considered by messengers to the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention to be “analytical tools,” the former explaining “how race has and continues to function in society,” while the latter “is the study of how different personal characteristics overlap and inform one’s experience,” neither of which contradicts Scripture; and

(8)WHEREAS, Scripture teaches us that laws and legal systems can be unjust and oppressive, used to harm different people in a society (Dan. 3:4, 20; 6:6-9; Amos 5:11; Matt. 27:26; Luke 23:24; James 2:6); and

The 2019 SBC Resolution on Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality, commonly called “Resolution 9,” clearly states that “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.” It goes on to say that Southern Baptists “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 “that critical race theory and intersectionality should only be employed as analytical tools subordinate to Scripture—not as transcendent ideological frameworks.” 

With those clear warnings and caveats provided, the resolution goes on to say that a biblical belief in common grace means that the Christian is able to gain insight into society and nature from many sources, as long as those observations are then judged by the Scriptures. Critical Race Theory, as it examines the American legal system and history, can offer particular observations and insights into how Race has been socially constructed and how racial injustice has and does work systemically. Each of those gained observations and insights must then be further examined by the Scriptures to judge if they have merit. 

In other words, Resolution 9 was saying that we shouldn’t just throw out every observation related to CRT just because CRT scholars are saying it. Perhaps they are stumbling into some form of truth? Maybe they are looking at things that we would see if we were paying attention to what has happened and how the past affects the present and future? As William Faulkner famously said in Requiem for a Nun, “the past is never dead. It isn’t even past.”

Or, as Deuteronomy 5:8-9 says regarding the sin of idolatry, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” The idolatry of racism which categorized and ranked people’s value based on skin color, even declaring that some aren’t fully human, served as a terrible form of racial idolatry, exalting one group as superior, and even closer to God, than another group — all on the basis of outward appearance. If God warns Israel that there is societal punishment for idolatry to the third and fourth generation, might it be that since our own nation has reified Race as a social construct again and again over our history, that there is indeed a lasting effect throughout generations? Doesn’t it make sense that even a generation after the Civil Rights Movement culminated in the 1960s that there would still be societal affects and ruts and valleys crated by centuries of systemic injustice and personal sin, even continuing to affect our legal system and how people define themselves and assign value to others? 

When did the effects of past racial sin and injustice disappear? How does the past still affect us today? These are questions that Critical Race Theory attempts to answer. One can disagree with foundational aspects of CRT and still listen to some of their assessment of what what we call the sin and anthropological heresy of racism has affected our world. Resolution 9 is saying that we can take that assessment and hold it up to the Scriptures and ask questions of it. Perhaps something is seen by CRT scholars about how the sin of racism has worked and left its mark on our world that our own evangelical scholars have failed to notice? Do we have the humility to admit that we do not yet know everything or see perfectly? 

Resolution 9 clearly stated again and again that CRT as a worldview or transcendent ideological framework is invalid. It also clearly said that any insights gained from CRT must be submitted to the Scriptures. The Resolutions Committee attempted to put any observations from CRT in their place subordinate to God’s Word without completely throwing out any possible valuable observations that a legal theory in the academy might provide to Christians who might not have the same level of expertise in understanding the law and history. 

Since injustice and oppression exists in our world and in our nation, and since some of that can be supported by law and societal custom, and since Christians are people who should care about justice, mercy, and humility (Micah 6:8), to shut our ears to any claim of injustice or oppression that comes from the field of Critical Race Studies just because it is being stated by CRT scholars seems to be obtuse. If all truth is God’s truth, then perhaps we can learn from others while always submitting truth claims to the Word of God. 

*Contributed by Alan Cross