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March 10, 2021Culture

D.A. Horton: A Missiological Assessment of Critical Race Theory II

The second installment of CRT through a missiologist's eyes.
D.A. Horton: A Missiological Assessment of Critical Race Theory II
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In part-one I laid out a brief history and basic heart (or themes) of CRT. In parts two and three I bring CRT’s themes to Scripture for an objective measurement of its claims.

A Biblical Assessment of CRT

“Race” is Man-Made that created Privilege for “Whiteness”

Claim: Race is man-made.

Biblical Response: God created every human in His image. Adam and Eve are humanity’s first parents (cf. Gen 1-2; Acts 17:26; Gen 3:20).[1] Genesis 3 records the fall of humanity into sin, which every descendant of Adam equally inherited (Rom 5:12-21).[2] Scripture does not label humans by the racial categories used today but instead by ethnicity, language, geographic proximity [3], and if they’re in a covenant relationship with God or not. Scripture says humanity is one race comprised by a gorgeous array of ethnicities God created from His genius for His glory (Acts 17:26).

This truth connects to the gospel. In the Garden of Eden, vertically God and humanity, and horizontally man and woman were conciled because of the absence of animosity, distrust, and hostility.[4] In the fall, every human from every ethnicity in Adam’s biological line were separated from God due to sin but can be reconciled (once again conciled) through the work of Jesus Christ alone (Eph 2:1-22; 2 Cor 5:17-21; Rev 7:9; 21:24-26). CRT’s claim ‘race is man-made’ holds up in light of Scripture and provides a clear pathway for global evangelism.

Claim: Whiteness is created and provides privileges for those who are “White”.

Biblical Response: First, Scripture is clear, God does not show partiality (cf. Deut 10:17; 2 Chron 19:7; Mal 2:1-9; Rom 2:1-11; 1 Pet 1:15-17) and His followers are commanded to imitate Him (Eph 5:1; James 2:1-13). Yet, the man-made racial systems established during the colonization of the Americas were combined with the sin of partiality in their building.[5] In light of this historic truth, Christians shouldn’t assume or proclaim every person of European descent committed the sin of partiality then and now. CRT does not define racism in biblical language (i.e., the sin of partiality), and this gap opens space for Christians to introduce the totality of the fall across the human race (Rom 5:12-21). This means every type of sin, including partiality, can be practiced equally by all humans regardless of ethnicity and not just those of European descent at institutional and individual levels.

Secondly, since Christians are being progressively sanctified by God the Holy Spirit (Rom 6-8; 2 Cor 3:18; Col 3:10), we’re not exempt from practicing partiality. God provides us with a pathway to recognize the sin of partiality, confess it, and be spiritual restored within the local church Jesus assigned them to.

  1. Daily Christians must present ourselves before God (Rom 12:1-2) and allow Him to search our hearts and surface hidden issues therein (Psalm 139:23-24).
  2. God reveals His assessment the Christians’ heart through God the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30), Scripture (Heb 4:12), leaders in our church (James 5:13-18), those we’re in discipleship relationships with (Matt 28:19-20), and the family in Christ who’ve been sinned against (Matt 18: 15-20).
  3. God the Holy Spirit can then shape the culture of church restoration according to Galatians 6:1-2, and naturally bear fruit of repentance through spiritual restored Christians described in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11.

Thirdly, if Christians keep our sins deceptively concealed, God’s word addresses how the Lord’s Supper provides us with opportunity to confess sin and seek reconciliation with our family in Christ we’ve sinned against or refrain from partaking. If a Christian purposefully partakes in the Lord’s Supper while hiding their known unconfessed sin, they open themselves up to God’s direct discipline (1 Cor 11:27-32; Heb 12:7-11). The Lord’s Supper is a visible witness of the gospel’s power, since it reveals the present ethnicity diversity of the “one new man” Jesus created in His redemptive work on the cross which tore down the wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles.[6]

Lastly, Christians can redefine privilege by exposing how it doesn’t have to be negative or sinful, as well as something only experienced by those of European descent. In America, people of every ethnicity who have more than one pair of shoes, regular access to clean water, education, electricity, and indoor plumbing enjoy privileges many around the world dream of. In the New Testament Christians of Jewish descent had privileges regarding access to Scripture, God’s plan of redemption, and representation in church leadership, that Gentiles did not have access to early in Church history (cf. Acts 6, 15; Gal 2:15; Eph 2:12). Christians of every ethnicity in America should identify what privileges we have and leverage them to embody the “one another’s” in the New Testament in our discipleship relationships, local church, and as a means of evangelism towards the lost.

Racism is Permanent

Claim: Racism is permeant because it controls the economic, political, and social spaces in America.

Biblical Response: In Ephesians 2:2 Paul says Christians once “walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the son of disobedience”. The prince is Satan (cf. 2 Cor 4:4; 1 John 5:19) who provides energy to the sons of disobedience [7] to set in place the guardrails for the “course of the world”.[8] Paul not only identifies societal systems are ungodly but also how Satan influences humans in positions of power to build and maintain them. Christians must remember, the battle brewing around systemic sinful structures have both physical (Eph 2:2-3) and spiritual (Eph 6:10-18) consequences and realities. A balanced response to societal systems of wickedness must be physical (e.g., confronting issues preventing human flourishing, sins codified in laws, advocating for legislation change, presenting gospel-infused solutions in the public square, and assess internal systems in churches and denominations where sin is practiced) and spiritual (e.g., reading and applying Scripture, prayer, fasting, silence and solitude, putting on the full armor of God, be dependent on God the Holy Spirit, etc).

CRT’s response is focused on law and societal structures whereas Christ’s church is primarily focused on transformation internally first (discipleship), that leads to external mobilization (evangelism). Acts 2:42-47 shows how Christ framed His Church’s mission as having internal and external rhythms. Theologian Dr. John Hammett says the Church’s mission which is to “provide teaching, fellowship, worship, service and evangelism to people of all ages, sexes, and races.[9]” The five traits Hammett mentions are the practices of the early church. As we work for transformation internally and evangelization externally, we show distinction between Jesus’ church and every other group and organization. Jesus’ building of His church (Matt 16:18) ensures His Church is the only living organism on this side of eternity that remains in the eternal state! Who better to share gospel-infused solutions in the spaces of cultural influence then His followers!

Lastly, one could say wicked systems may be present in the world at-large and practiced by those who are not Jesus followers, but they’re not inside local churches. Paul addresses this in Ephesians 4:14 describing how, ‘human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes’ were present inside the church. His phrasing identifies methodized systems of deceit which Bengel connects to the “parent of error” Satan who according to Ephesians 6:11 who operates in schemes against the body of Christ.[10]

Although sinful systems will continue operation in the world at-large until Christ’s return and consummation of His Kingdom (Rev 19-22), it does not mean Jesus’ followers He’s called as missionaries in spaces of influence, should not work for equity outside the Church. In addition, regarding the internal rhythms of local churches, the work of spiritual maturity that’s gained through discipleship centered on following the commands of Scripture, is the preventive measure of not allowing systemic wickedness to take root from the inside or removing it from the root if it’s present. Christians can rest in Jesus’ work of building His church, and be free from the fear that every man-made system from CRT, to Ethnocentrism, to White Nationalism (or Supremacy) will not stop His work.

[1] This means every human regardless of ethnicity, traces our bloodlines back to one common set of parents, Adam and Eve. I explain this further, alongside my call for American Protestants to begin working on Ethnic Conciliation, as opposed to Racial Reconciliation in my book Intensional: Kingdom Ethnicity in a Divided World, (Colorado Springs, NavPress, 2019).

[2] Scripture reveals life begins at conception, from this point on, God forms every life in the womb (Psalm 139:13) and remains engaged through the duration of birth, life, and death. Although every human still bears God’s image because of sin, this image is marred.

[3] Dr. Jarvis Williams says, “…the category of race has a broader use in the Bible than in modern terminology. One important distinction is that the biblical category of race was not constructed with pseudoscience for the purpose of establishing a racial hierarchy. Racial categories were employed apart from any consideration of biological inferiority rooted in whiteness or blackness. In fact, Genesis 11:6 in the Septuagint identifies humanity as one genos (race/kind/class/group). The Greek term ethnos (nation, Gentile) overlaps with genos. Both terms function as racial categories in Removing the Stain of Racism From the Southern Baptist Convention: Diverse African American and White Perspectives, (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2017), 27.

[4] I am aware the word conciled is currently not in the dictionary; however, I am compelled to use it, for two reasons. First, conciled describes the state of humanity’s relationship with God pre-fall. Second, Ian Woodley kindly explains the beauty of using the word conciled to understand reconciled (“Are You Conciled?,” Nottingham Grace Communion, April 24, 2015, https://nottingham.gcichurches.org/2015/04/are-you-conciled/). I unpack this further in my book, Intensional: Kingdom Ethnicity in a Divided World, (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2019)

[5] For more historic insights please see; from Mark Charles both, “Regarding the Term ‘Merciless Indian Savages,’” https://wirelesshogan.blogspot.com/2018/07/regarding-term-merciless-indian-savages.html and “The Doctrine of Discovery: A Lecture by Mark Charles in Fresno CA,” YouTube, May 27, 2018, https://youtu.be/XRRDuInkgrI?t =48m16s; and Anibal Quijano, “Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America,” Nepantla: Views from the South 1, no. 3 (2000): 534-575.

[6] Jarvis Williams, One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology, (Nashville, B&H Academic, 2010), 119—122.

[7] The word υἱός translated as sons is in the masculine plural. The normal reading of this term refers not to spiritual beings rather, human beings (cf. Luke 3:38; Rom 8:14; Gal 3:36). Paul’s argument rests in the fact that Satan uses his influence over those humans, who are without spiritual life (Eph 2:1) and purposefully reject truth, to set up, and to maintain the structures of his wordly system.

[8] Foulkes writes, “by speaking of the devil's authority as 'in the air', Paul was not necessarily accepting the current notion of the air being the abode and realm of evil spirits. Basically, his thought was of an evil power with control in the world (see on vi. 12), but whose existence was not material but spiritual.” Francis Foulkes, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963), 69.

[9] John Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology, (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005), 222.

[10] Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 350.

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