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March 12, 2021Culture

D.A. Horton: A Missiological Assessment of IV

The final installment examining CRT through a missiologist perspective.
D.A. Horton: A Missiological Assessment of IV
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In the final part of my series, I answer the five most frequently asked questions I receive about CRT. Before doing this, I want to unpack two nuances about my work. First, I view CRT as an available tool I, a Christian missiologist, can use when performing cultural exegesis.[1] My conscious is clear when saying I’m not compromising my assured salvation in Christ (John 1:12; 10:27-29; Rom 5:8; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 John 5:11-13) or Christian worldview when I engage CRT. CRT gives me opportunities to interact as a missionary in the field of education where Jesus has placed me (Psalm 25:4-5; 37:23-24; Acts 17:26-27). CRT gives me a platform to share gospel-infused solutions to its insightful questions, and calls me to address pressing social issues impacting the lives and communities I serve while developing resources Christian urbanites can use in their evangelism and discipleship work. I also acknowledge there have been times when CRT has called out ‘racism’ in society that’s been either ignored or practiced by Christians. To me, this is an opportunity to redeem our witness.

Second, in part-one I cite Habermas’ pivot of Critical Theory (CT) away from Marxism and his call for the inclusion of religious voices in civil discourse. I did this because, as a missiologist I see this as an invitation for Christian influencers in spheres such as the arts, economics, education, engineering, medicine, politics, the social sciences, et al to communicate God’s truth in ways the non-religious can understand and wrestle with. Accepting this invitation does not make me a Marxist. The work I produce is evidence I’m not a Marxist. More importantly, with God the Holy Spirit’s empowerment and supernatural work (Rom 8:9-13; John 3:3-8), the missiological efforts of my work can be a tool God uses to redirect eyes away from idols so they can be fixed on Christ![2]

Now I’ll share answers to the FAQ’s I’ve placed in two categories: blessings and burdens.

Blessings Acknowledged by CRT

Below are two questions I embrace as blessings since they allow me to provide clarity on how CRT can be engaged without compromising one’s faith in Christ and Christian worldview. These blessings are opportunities Christians can leverage for gospel proclamation and disciple making.

Q: Why is it necessary for all Christians to use CRT?

A: First, it is not necessary for all Christians to use CRT. Salvation is a gift given by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, confirmed in Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone (Eph 2:4-10). Embracing Christ as Savior is necessary to be part of His Church (1 Pet 2:5). Jesus was building His church (Matt 16:18; Acts 2; Eph 1:22-23) for nearly two millennia before CRT surfaced in the late 20th Century. Jesus’ work is not dependent on anything or anyone other than Him. In light of these truths, as a missiologist who is evangelistically active and discipleship driven, I choose to engage CRT because its relevant to my mission field in North America. CRT brings awareness to matters that impact the precious lives in my field. My work involves applying biblical truth to the complexities sin has produced by distorting the living conditions where I, live, move, and have my being alongside millions of others. At times, CRT gives language to the afflictions and sufferings of those whose cries are ignored. Their pain doesn’t disappear because others ignore it. My engagement with CRT allows me to privately and publicly address these sufferings in real time while sharing my hope in Christ. I realize not every Christian experienced the same up bringing I did, in fact we Christians in North America are the minority population of the global church![3] I also acknowledge other Christians in North America have different spiritual gifts and missional callings from Jesus. To them I say, be free to pursue God’s desire for you in your ministry endeavors (cf. Psalm 34:4; 37:4; 20:4) but please extend this freedom to myself and others who share a similar calling.

Q: What’s the best way Christians can address our racial tensions in the Church?

A: I believe Ethnic Conciliation is our best move.[4] In my book Intensional: Kingdom Ethnicity in a Divided World [5] I define Ethnic Conciliation, support it with Scripture, share practical ways we can do this work, and call Christians to leverage our privileges by obeying Jesus’ social and spiritual commands.[6] In addition, Christians in America must become more honest in communicating how the systemic sin of partiality enforced by those of European descent resulted in the redemptive birth of the Black Church.[7] Also we must improve how we respond to the present day consequences stemming from Christian passivity during Jim Crow. Southern Christians of European descent branded the Civil Rights Movement, which grew out of and was anchored by the Black Church [8], not just a “social crisis” but an attack on “certain unchanging truths taught in Holy Scripture and required of all true Christians” and said “those who contradicted such teachings were not merely social deviants, they were also biblical apostates.”[9] People are alive today who were taught this in the 1950’s! The consequences for this anti-biblical view calls for both individual and institutional issues to be dealt with and repented of [10] so we can move forward as salt and light (Matt 5:13-16). To accomplish this, en mass we Evangelicals must address and resolve our three weaknesses Francis Schaeffer identified in 1984 that remain present in 2021.[11]

Burdens Assigned by CRT

Below are questions I accept as burdens because they’re often asked after hearing Christian leaders say CRT must be accepted or rejected in total. I give answers revealing how this false binary doesn’t have to obeyed.

Q: If you engage CRT, you’re really admitting the gospel is not enough right?

A: Absolutely not! I’ve been following Jesus since March 31, 1996 and have never strayed from preaching Christ alone saves (John 14:6; 17:3; Rom 1:16-17; 10:9-17; Col 1:28). To me, CRT is filled with gospel conversation starting points, however it’s not the finish line I point to. Let me explain. I begin gospel conversations in Genesis 1 instead of Genesis 3. I affirm every human is made in God’s Image (Gen 1-2) and identify the one time in history when Open Fellowship (or conciliation) between God and humanity (vertically) and man and woman (horizontally cf. Gen 2) were realized. Next, I unpack Genesis 3 demonstrating how Adam’s disobedience caused Sin and death to be introduced to our world and spread every to human equally (Rom 5:12-21). From here I explain why sin comes with a Penalty (Rom 6:23) and Price (Heb 9:22) and this leads to the grand Entrance of Jesus. I boldly share the nuances of His perfect life, mission, and holistic work of redemption (John 1:1-14; Matt 20:28; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26; Matt 28; Mark 16; Luke 21-24; John 20-21; Rev 19-22). From here I announce Jesus alone offers Life Everlasting to men and women from every ethnicity and social class globally. While all of this is being shared, when the other person is speaking, I’m listening but also praying for God the Holy Spirit to mobilize them to accept God’s plea bargain in Jesus, who endured God’s just sentence for the penalty and price of sin (John 1:12; 17:3; Rom 4-5; John 5:22-23; Rev 20:11-15). Those who embrace Jesus globally make up the multiethnic population in the City of God, which is the finish line I point to (Rev 21-22)![12] If themes of CRT surface during evangelistic exchanges (e.g., “Christianity is racist” or a “tool of oppression”) I’m not scared to affirm aspects of truth in such claims especially when history holds receipts. If I preach Jesus, who is the personification of truth, why would I in the same breath deny historic facts highlighting times the Church didn’t steward the gospel properly? I have no fear regarding CRT’s truth claims because the gospel of the kingdom is full of eternal truth and is more robust than CRT. Plus, global church history has receipts dating back to Genesis 1 in addition to a future that shows God’s election stands and Jesus makes all things new (Rev 13:8; 17:8; 21-22)! Since I truly believe the gospel, my heart bears an unceasing grieve to proclaim how God’s shalom intersects not just with theology but also the economic, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual needs of humans.

Q: Aren’t you denying the Sufficiency of Scripture by engaging CRT?

A: No. I affirm all Scripture (both Old/New Testaments) is God breathed (2 Tim 3:16-17) and the rule of standard used to correctly measure beliefs and behaviors. I affirm God is the sole source of Scripture’s content, in which we do well to submit all our life experiences to (2 Pet 1:16-21). I affirm the verbal plenary of Scripture meaning, every word of Scripture was spoken by God and is full eternal truth. I affirm Article I of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BF&M2000)[13] and Article 7 of the Belgic Confession [14]. Upholding the sufficiency of Scripture does not mean other documents written by humans or concepts they develop can’t be interacted with or studied, or that they’re devoid of truth. The sufficiency of Scripture identifies the Bible is enough regarding the global church’s doctrine, preaching, worship, in addition to our source of authority for how we engage interpersonal relationships at home, in our local church, greater community, and world. My engagement with CRT and other systems of human thought, especially regarding Urban Apologetics [15] (where I’ve been working for 24 years), are filtered through Scripture, similar to water and coffee grinds in a filter. Truthful content can be used for evangelism and insights for the multiethnic discipleships rhythms I live in (Matt 28:19-20). What doesn’t filter through Scripture is not consumed rather, refuted with gentleness and respect (1 Pet 3:15). To me, being cynical or a jerk towards image bearers is not a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-24) or an effective evangelistic or discipleship method so, I work hard to not allow my apologetic responses distract attention away from the beauty, power, and sufficiency of God’s Word.

Q: As a Southern Baptist, why do you engage CRT since its incompatible with the BF&M2000?

A: There is content regarding CRT (addressed in parts two and three) that is not in alignment with God’s word (as well as the BF&M2000). However, there are truthful claims CRT platforms that are useful for evangelism and discipleship in North America [16]. I try my best to apply balance with my academic freedom and responsibility [17] by leveraging many of the privileges I have to benefit others [18]. My work identifies the will of Christ in my life as well as society at-large. Since I oppose racism (the sin of partiality, rebuke White Supremacy [19], and refute ethnocentric cults [20]), speak out against unholy sexual practices, work with my family to share relief with orphans, widows, and other vulnerable populations, and advocate for the sanctity of life, my behavior patterns are in alignment with Article XV of the BF&M2000.[21] It is possible to engage CRT and walk in submission to Christ and Scripture. As a Southern Baptist pastor and professor, my life and doctrine are not at odds with the BF&M2000. I’m called to stay inside the SBC to help bring Christ exalting and God honoring change from within.[22]

I’m aware not every Christian will agree with me. I affirm their freedom in Christ and take no issue with them. I will stand before Christ not them, when my life and work for Christ is evaluated (Rom 14:10-12; 2 Cor 5:10). I refuse to force a binary by giving a false ultimatum for Christians to fully accept or reject of CRT, when the mission field I serve need balance, nuance, and truth. I close with two requests from you the reader. First, please join me in prayer, asking God to intersect my life with evangelistic prospects inside the academy so I can make Jesus known to them as I employ my missiological method. Secondly, let all of us in Christ, who have the privilege of public influence stop withholding charity in our engagement with each other when we have different approaches to CRT. We’re all in a process of progressive sanctification, so let practically resemble our positionally reality of Ethnic Conciliation in greater measures each day so our actions don’t distract the attention of others away from our Savior.

[1] Bruce Ashford defines culture as the products humans produce when they interact with each other and God’s creation (Bruce Riley Ashford, Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians (Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham, 2015), 13. Chris Morgan and Robert Peterson define exegesis as the “careful study of biblical passages and the foundation of all good theology. Includes attending to both the historical and the literary context of each passage” from A Concise Dictionary of Theological Terms (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2020), 58—59. So then, my use of Cultural Exegesis is meant as; the careful study of cultural products humans use in their daily life rhythms in order to discover their historic and contemporary meaning (if different) and the influence they have in society at-large.

[2] Bruce Ashford, Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 50-53.

[3] This is why my work includes platforming the work of men and women missiologists and theologians from the Majority World (Africa, Asia, and Latin America). My heart beats to support the global church.

[4] “Ethnic Conciliation vs Racial Reconciliation”, California Baptist University Chapel, October 1, 2019, https://vimeo.com/363913499

[5] D.A. Horton, Intensional: Kingdom Ethnicity in a Divided World, (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2019), https://www.navpress.com/p/intensional/9781631466915

[6]Intensional 137-183.

[7]Freedom’s Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers, by Richard S. Newman

[8] Allison Calhoun-Brown, “Upon This Rock: The Black Church, Nonviolence, and the Civil Rights Movement, Political Science and Politics, Vol. 33 No. 2 (Junee 2000), 168-174.

[9] Andrew Michael Manis, Southern Civil Religions in Conflict: Black and White Baptists and Civil Rights, 1954-1957, (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1987).

[10] See Anthony Bradley, “Finally Healing Wounds of Jim Crow: Maybe what we need is transitional justice”, Fathom Magazine, July 11, 2018, https://www.fathommag.com/stories/finally-healing-the-wounds-of-jim-crow and Mary Beth Swetnam Matthews, Doctrine and Race: African American Evangelicals and Fundamentalism Between the Wars, (Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press, 2017).

[11] Francis A. Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1984), 115-116.

[12] Notice the letters in bold form the acronym G.O.S.P.E.L.

[13] “The Scriptures”, https://bfm.sbc.net/bfm2000/#i-the-scriptures

[14] “The Sufficiency of Scripture”, https://www.crcna.org/sites/default/files/BelgicConfession.pdf

[15] Steve Lee, “Trends in Urban Apologetics”, Is Christianity True?, https://ischristianitytrue.wordpress.com/2017/02/01/trends-in-apologetics-urban-apologetics/

[16] Article XI “Evangelism and Missions” expresses how “it is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations.” In my work, this involves directly engaging ethnic and cultural nuances instead of dismissing and/or ignoring them. Article XI also says, “It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ.” My work both of engaging CRT as well in Urban Apologetics embodies the language of Article XI. See “Article XI “Evangelism and Missions”, https://bfm.sbc.net/bfm2000/#xi-evangelism-and-missions

[17] Article XII “Education”, https://bfm.sbc.net/bfm2000/#xii-education, I strive to keep my engagement with individual and ideologies that are in opposition to Scripture as charitable, compassionate, and truthful as possible. I work hard to not be guilty of libel or slander when dealing with those who are opposed to my position. I would recommend. Andreas J. Köstenberger’s, Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue helped shape my view of charitable, honest, and theologically faithful academic engagement.

[18] Article XIII “Stewardship”, https://bfm.sbc.net/bfm2000/#xiii-stewardship

[19]Intensional, 28-31.

[20] See Urban Islam: Assessing the Moorish Science Temple, Nation of Gods and Earths, and Nation of Islam, https://vimeo.com/472337761

[21] Article XV “The Christian and Social Order”, https://bfm.sbc.net/bfm2000/#xv-the-christian-and-the-social-order

[22] See “Why I Stay”, https://youtu.be/mMynyBVsTAM

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D.A. Horton: A Missiological Assessment of IV