What Does Critical Race Theory Offer Southern Baptists?

Stephen Feinstein, the original author of what became Resolution 9: On Critical Race Theory And Intersectionality passed by the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Birmingham, AL, has posted a new resolution on the subject of Critical Race Theory to be submitted at his state convention’s next annual meeting.  You can read the new resolution on Feinstein’s blog.  Feinstein reports that he worked with Dr. Neil Shenvi and Dr. Pat Sawyer to ensure the proposed resolution is, “very precise, accurate, and most importantly, far stronger than Resolution 9 as passed.”

[NB: The controversy around Resolution 9 is important context for this post.  If you are unfamiliar with that controversy I think you can familiarize yourself pretty well by reading this piece from The Baptist Courier along with this one from Tom Ascol at the Founders Ministries Blog.]

I am largely unfamiliar with Feinstein beyond his connection to Resolution 9 and completely unfamiliar with Dr. Sawyer.  I have, however, followed Dr. Shenvi’s social media and largely appreciate the analysis of Critical Theory and Critical Race Theory he has offered.  I write that in order to make clear that the remainder of this post is offered in a fraternal spirit and in general support of what I take to be efforts to mitigate the impact of CT/CRT/CRTI on Southern Baptists.

In the explanatory notes leading to his proposed resolution Feinstein writes:

I fully understand that there will be those who will denounce this if it doesn’t directly say CRT is from the devil with no positive qualities. But that simply is not accurate. Thankfully, this proposed resolution accurately describes CT, CRT/I, while raising the proper level of concern Christians should have with them.

In the proposed resolution we find the following affirmations about CT/CRT/CRTI:

WHEREAS, critical theory and intersectionality rely on standpoint epistemology to argue that members of oppressed groups have special access to truth unavailable to members of oppressor groups, thus undermining the perspicuity of Scripture to all people; and

WHEREAS, critical race theory and intersectionality cannot be defined merely as analytical tools, yet do contain analytical tools that Christians can use in service to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5); and

WHEREAS, truth can be found embedded in false and unbiblical ideologies; and

WHEREAS, some insights from critical race theory can accurately explain how race has and continues to function in society; and

WHEREAS, intersectionality can show how different facets of identity intersect and interact to both inform and affect one’s experience; and

WHEREAS, Evangelical scholars who affirm the authority and sufficiency of Scripture have employed selective insights from critical race theory and intersectionality to understand multifaceted social dynamics; and

While I am loath to be lumped in with those who Feinstein says hold an inaccurate view of CT/CRT/CRTI I nonetheless continue to wonder why the ideology/worldview of CRT is needful for Christians.

It so happens that I had an extended interaction with Dr. Shenvi on Twitter as Resolution 9 was being debated in Birmingham.  While I honestly appreciate the work that Feinstein, Shenvi, and Sawyer have done to craft a better resolution I remain largely where I was on June 12th:

Again, I offer the question in honesty and forthrightness.  I assume a good answer to the question exists.  Having said that, whatever the alleged resources offered by CRT, I wonder why we must have them through CRT when the same resources can be found in better ideologies and/or through better tools?

Furthermore, considering all the deeply unbiblical freight that CRT carries, why do we feel the need to honor the comparatively few helps available in CRT?  Dr. Shenvi offered an answer to that question in June:

Dr. Shenvi believes that the “elements of truth” present within CRT prevent Christians from rejecting the ideology in toto.  However, this approach fails the test of consistency (or appears to, anyway, as I write):

  • Should evangelical Christians affirm a limited use of The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures since that text contains certain elements of truth?
  • Should Christians affirm certain elements of Gnosticism because the ideology offers a limited yet helpful critique of our materialist age?
  • Should we refuse to denounce Marcion’s truncated canon as devilish since it is impossible to say his list held no positive qualities?

I don’t offer those as gotcha questions and certainly not under the assumption that Feinstein, Shenvi, and Sawyer won’t have an answer.  Rather, I think those comparisons illustrate my continuing confusion as to why Southern Baptists (or, really, Christians) should feel a burden to say anything positive about Critical Race Theory.

Published by Jeff Wright

Jeff Wright lives in Middle Tennessee where he pastors Midway Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter at @wrightjeff and hear him on The Pop Culture Coram Deo Podcast.

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