At the time of this writing, a quick google search of the phrase “CRT and SBC” yields more than 600,000 results. A quick review of 10+ pages of attributions, web links, and articles reveals that the vast majority of the content attached to this phrase is only 18 months old. This brief phrase “CRT and SBC” has been the source of tremendous consternation, the likes of which neither side of the debate could have predicted less than three years ago.
By now, if you’re scratching your head—CRT is Critical Race Theory, and the SBC is the Southern Baptist Convention.
A Brief Timeline
Thirteen men concerned about the advance of the Social Justice movement within evangelicalism put forward The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel. The statement was designed to provide a clear biblical response against growing calls for evangelicals to embrace social justice. At the time of the publishing of the statement, the men behind it were accused of being overly concerned about something that isn’t real. Furthermore, many insinuated racist motives as the rationale for such a statement.
During the Southern Baptist Convention, Resolution 9 was adopted. This resolution made it clear that there indeed was a movement and it had reach the SBC’s front porch. This opened the door for Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality (CRT/I) to be used as analytical tools in matters of race. The ambiguous language of this resolution seemed innocuous to the vast majority of SBC messengers in attendance which allowed ease of passage for Resolution 9. Few understood the negative implication of CRT/I or how it would be used as an “analytical tool” in examining racism. Opposition to this resolution by those who understood the pernicious nature of CRT were ignored.
For the first time in 75 years, the 2020 Southern Baptist Convention was canceled due to the COVID pandemic. The additional time at home allowed many pastors, leaders, and messengers to learn about the impact of social justice, intersectionality, and critical race theory. The summer that followed this cancellation witnessed the impact of the social justice movement as the names Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd became the focus of the collective conscience of our nation.
November 30, 2020
The fury of CRT once again captured headlines, as the Council of Seminary Presidents of the six Southern Baptist Seminaries signed a statement reaffirming the Baptist Faith & Message and declaring CRT as “incompatible” with the BF&M. The signed statement reads:
“While we lament the painful legacy that racism and discrimination have left in our country and remain committed to fighting it in every form, we also declare that ideological frameworks, like Critical Race Theory, are incompatible with the BFM. The Gospel gives a better answer.”
In the days that followed, a flurry of responses to the seminary Presidents’ statement littered the blogosphere. Black pastors advocating the use of CRT (at least in part) expressed their outrage that such a statement would be made without consult. Some pastors determined that the decision to make such a statement was based solely on the racist protectionism inherent within the SBC.
Two Black Pastors, Charlie Dates and Ralph West, from large churches affiliated with the SBC, made it clear that they were leaving the SBC as a result of the rejection of CRT. Dates would express his disgust with the Seminary Presidents’ Statement by saying, “When did the theological architects of American slavery develop the moral character to tell the church how it should discuss and discern racism? When did those who have yet to hire multiple Black or brown faculty at their seminaries assume ethical authority on the subject of systemic injustice?”
These actions prompted the Executive Committee President, Ronnie Floyd to call a meeting with the National African American Fellowship of the SBC, the Council of Seminary Presidents of the SBC, and SBC President J.D. Greear.
January 6, 2021
Their meeting resulted in the following joint statement
“The National African American Fellowship and the Council of Seminary Presidents had an honest and open conversation, hearts to hearts, and we spoke candidly and respectfully about our perspectives and concerns related to CRT/Intersectionality. We expressed our love and care for each other, our common commitments to Christ, and also prayed for our nation in this incredibly difficult moment. We were able to discuss our shared commitments and discuss our various perspectives on all these issues.
All of us acknowledge that conversations of this nature should have happened ahead of time. The Council of Seminary Presidents regrets the pain and confusion that resulted from a lack of prior dialogue. Together, all of us are committed to condemn and fight racism in every form, personal and structural, in consistency with the 1995 SBC Resolution on Racial Reconciliation and the Baptist Faith and Message. We commit to work together to serve the cause of and to further the work of the Southern Baptist Convention. We will continue these conversations. We are committed to listen to one another, speak honestly and to honor our common commitment to the inerrant Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Since that meeting until now, there have been hundreds of tweets, dozens of blogs, and podcasts, and much more said about the benefits and pitfalls of CRT. With the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention being held in Nashville, Tennessee only 75 miles to the north of Pulaski, Tennessee (the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan), rest assured the issue of racism and CRT will be front and center during the upcoming convention.
CRT is Not Necessary
The historic origin of the Southern Baptist Convention is well known; formed by slave-owning Baptists from the south, May 8, 1845. The slave apologists that resulted from the decision to separate Southern Baptists from Northern Baptists were horrible. Furthermore, the treatment of image-bearers of God during this time was not a proud moment for American church history. No one currently associated with the SBC today would disagree. On the SBC website, a brief search of the word race will yield more than 25 resolutions, statements, and apologies on behalf of the convention regarding issues of historic racism. The earliest of these statements date all the way back to 1939. In addition to repentance, resolutions and apologies, the SBC at all levels continues to look for ways to reconcile with those with who have historically been marginalized.
The point here is not to minimize the painful history of the SBC or to tell anyone how they should feel about that history. I’m simply pointing to the fact that long before anyone appealed to CRT, the Holy Spirit was sufficiently capable of convicting the hearts of God’s people.
Most who advocate CRT recognize its problems. Still, however, they believe that CRT can have value in identifying systemic racism. I’d argue that identifying racism in all its forms has never been a challenge.
CRT Abandons Scriptural Sufficiency
Proponents of Resolution 9 admit that CRT is a man-made ideology. In fact, the resolution goes even further to say, “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.” While this is true, the statement falls short of explaining that CRT comes from a worldview that contradicts Scripture.
CRT establishes ethnicity (race) as the primary means of identification. CRT categorizes groups into oppressed and oppressor groups. CRT uses standpoint epistemology—post-modern relativism as the approach to knowledge and truth—as the standard for decision making. CRT adjudicates every inequity as evidence of systemic racism as it abandons personal responsibility in decision making and places full responsibility of any inequity upon the oppressor and systemic injustice. All of these ideas ignore God’s design as expressed throughout Scripture.
Scripture determines we are all image-bearers of God and one human race (Genesis 1:26-27). Scripture establishes all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Scriptural sufficiency maintains that one’s experience is always examined through the lens of Scripture (John 17:17). Scripture is clear that each of us will give an account for ourselves before God (Romans 14:12). If we truly believe Scripture to be sufficient, then nothing should be added for the purpose of being equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).
CRT Divides and Never Reconciles
The purpose of CRT is to divide. It views every interaction as a power dynamic between the oppressed and oppressor groups. CRT is never used to determine if something racist happened, because it assumes something racist happened whenever two people of different ethnicities are engaged in an interaction. CRT becomes the arbiter of the motivation of one’s heart. The basis of determining one’s guilt or innocence in any matter is simply to appeal to whether a person is a member of the majority culture or not.
If you’re critical of critical race theory, then you’re the racist. CRT can’t be questioned, examined, or analyzed. Do so and you’re the one with the problem. Volumes of books have been written to prove this point. White Fragility is the term that characterizes anyone questioning CRT. In the event that you aren’t white and find yourself critical of CRT, it’s because your mind has been colonized by the dominant culture. So, CRT can’t be wrong. This kind of self-attesting circular reasoning alone should be enough to reject it as a tool for use within the SBC.
A Final Thought
There is a memorable scene in the movie, the Matrix, where Neo (the hero), goes to visit the Oracle for the first time. He is there to learn if he is “The One”. During this visit, while standing in the living room, Neo awaits the Oracle. As he stands, Neo notices a young boy sitting on the floor playing with spoons. As Neo watches, the young boy seems to have a skill of bending the spoon without the use of force—with his mind. Noticing Neo, the boy hands him a spoon and says, “Do not try to bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth.” Neo asks, “What truth?” The boy responds, “There is no spoon.”
Advocates for Social Justice/CRT began by making the claim, “…there is no social justice movement within evangelicalism”. What they would like you to believe, while they bend Biblical Sufficiency adding CRT, is that there is no spoon. Don’t believe them. What’s been clear to most of us all along is that there is an evangelical social justice movement, and it’s alive and well within the Southern Baptist circles. I can only hope that the SBC begins to root out this false movement from its midst. These are three reasons the SBC should reject CRT.