Much has been said regarding Resolution 9, Critical Race Theory, and Intersectionality (CRT/I) since Birmingham. Some are in agreement and some are in disagreement, but from my interactions with others actually aware of the debate, most are indifferent and confused. This is something I understand because I’m just as confused about all the nuances of CRT/I as the next guy. So upfront, the argument of this piece is not to air my opinions of CRT/I because I’m far from an expert on the matter (I’ll make my appeal in a moment). I’ve read as much of the dialogue regarding these issues as my brain can handle and although I could probably articulate the basics of CRT/I, a full-fledged understanding of it still somewhat eludes me.
However, from what I do understand, it seems to me that Resolution 9 clearly addresses most of the common critiques that I’ve heard levied against it. The resolution:
- denounces the worldviews that CRT/I have come from
- it denounces the worldviews that have since come out of improper uses and applications of CRT/I
- it subjects CRT/I to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture
- it states that the Gospel alone is sufficient to bring about the kind of New Covenant reconciliation we find in the New Testament, especially in regard to racial tensions
- it denounces the misuse of CRT/I
- it affirms the dignity of every single human being as being made in the image of God
- and it ends with a celebration of the diversity of ethnicity and gender that God has created
I recognize that a large problem some have is with the resolution endorsing the use of CRT/I as analytical tools with the fear that they won’t remain merely analytical tools and will instead begin to influence our worldviews over time. However, I don’t think that our seminaries have given any indication that this would be the case. Thankfully, we have serious scholars and academics who are grounded in the biblical worldview that lead and teach at our seminaries, and our seminary presidents and trustee boards have all proven themselves to be trustworthy in guarding the doctrinal integrity of our SBC institutions. You can call me naive, which I’m sure is an accusation that will come, but I have about as much confidence that our seminaries will drift into liberalism by analyzing CRT/I as I do that they will adopt the theories, worldviews, or ideologies of Friedrich Nietzsche, Michel Foucault, or David Hume merely by analyzing their ideas. In fact, it’s these men and women that I trust the most to dissect these ideas and subject them to the authority of the Bible. I wasn’t around for it, but my impression is that the lessons learned and ideas fought for in the Conservative Resurgence haven’t completely evaporated. They’re still alive and well.
Which leads me to my appeal: let the academics and professors and those who are qualified study these ideas. In fact, let them study any idea they want. That’s what the academy is for and if we don’t have people who can dissect these ideologies from a biblical worldview, we’d be more threatened by them than if we completely disregarded them. We must trust our trustees and professors to ensure that the proper measures are being taken to evaluate and understand the world and the ideas the world presents, critique them rightly and biblically, and train our seminary students and pastors to respond to them correctly. All truth is God’s truth, and, as stated in Resolution 9, God’s common grace of general revelation “accounts for truthful insights [to be] found in human ideas that do not explicitly emerge from Scripture.” Finding the truth in these ideas, however meager or insignificant these kernels of truth may be considered by some to be, should be encouraged by the Christian academy.
That said, I feel I should balance this appeal by saying I sympathize and agree with the critique that most of the people in the room at Birmingham probably did not have a robust working knowledge of CRT/I when the resolution was presented. The majority probably voted for something they didn’t know much about, if at all. I know I didn’t, which is why I abstained from voting on the resolution. I think it’s probably fair to say that most people didn’t so much vote to affirm resolution 9 as much as they voted to affirm their trust in the resolution committee. I understand this can be taken by some as a negative, that the resolution committee could possibly take advantage of the ignorance of the messengers on other issues for nefarious purposes, but, being as charitable as I can, I can’t help but feel that idea may be based on a conspiratorial distrust of leadership that’s unfounded in the current state of the SBC.
Examining extra-biblical ideas and “arguments”, “taking them captive”, and submitting them to the Lordship and “obedience of Christ” is part of the Christian’s calling (2 Corinthians 10:5). Esther Meek, in her foreword to Christopher Watkin’s critical analysis of the thought of Michel Foucault said this:
“Early Christians read the pagan philosophers and said (something like), ‘Hey this stuff is amazing!’ They also said, ‘Hey, the Christian religion actually helps the pagan philosophers better their philosophy.’ Christianity makes for a better Platonism, a better Aristotelianism. This isn’t meant as a contest, but as a dignity-conferring affirmation and consideration, and a generously hospitable collaboration.”
And then Watkin begins his introduction to Foucault with this:
“By one 2016 measure, Michel Foucault is the all-time most-cited author across every academic discipline from fine arts to hard science, with over a quarter more citations than his nearest rival and leaving in his wake figures like Freud, Marks, and Einstein. Whatever measure is used, it is beyond doubt that his influence in the arts, humanities, and beyond is equal to or greater than that of any other twentieth-century figure.”
Taking Foucault as an example and working off this data, it seems it would be unwise for us as Christians to ignore Foucault’s thoughts and underestimate his impact on culture. We should, instead, use his thoughts as, dare I say it, analytical tools through which we try to understand and respond to our current cultural moment. It only makes sense.
In fact, even atheists have done this with Christianity. They have realized the effect that Christianity has had on society and culture and have used the doctrines and teachings of Christianity as analytical tools to understand the world they find themselves in. Psychologist James Hillman writes in A Terrible Love of War:
“…we are all Christians, regardless of the faith you profess, the church you attend, or whether you declare yourself utterly atheistic. You may be Jew or Muslim, pay tribute to your god in Santeria fashion, join with other Wiccas, but wherever you are in the Western world you are psychologically Christian, indelibly marked with the sign of the cross in your mind and in the corpuscles of your habits. Christianism is all about us, in the words we speak, the curses we utter, the repressions we fortify, the numbing we seek, and the residues of religious murders in our history…
…We may not admit the grip of Christianity on our psyche, but what else is collective unconsciousness but the ingrained emotional patterns and unthought thoughts that fill us with the prejudices we prefer to conceive as choices? We are Christian through and through. St. Thomas sits in our distinctions, St. Francis governs our acts of goodness, and thousands of Protestant missionaries from every sect you can name join together to give us the innate assurance that we are superior to all others and can help them see the light.”
What Hillman understood was that the Christian worldview had such a profound effect on the world that the environment he grew up in was steeped in Christian ideas that were soaked up by his psyche and ingrained in him, whether he identified as Christian or not. Functionally and confessionally, he was not a Christian, but psychologically and ideologically, he understood that he was much more “Christian” than not. He did not study Christianity in hopes to be persuaded of it and adopt its worldview, but in order to understand himself and the world around him. Hillman, ironically, was acting very Christian in his analysis of the world.
I have no reason to believe that the motives of those who study CRT/I and use them as analytical tools are different than what Meek and Watkin present above. And similar to Hillman, I believe we can study CRT/I in an appropriate and beneficial way in order to understand the cultural climate we’ve found ourselves in and how it has formed and shaped us, especially the lived reality and plight of our minority brothers and sisters. Additionally, I do not believe the resolution committee was at all acting nefariously in their presentation of Resolution 9.
Right now, I’m convinced that Resolution 9 and CRT/I are not the threats that many want to make them out to be. I will continue to study these issues, I will continue to read the back-and-forth dialogues, I will continue to try and sympathize with those on all sides of the argument, but until I can fully understand exactly what this whole brouhaha is all about, I’m going to choose to trust—to trust our systems, to trust our leaders, and to give as much charity to the motives of our brothers and sisters as possible.
Kris Sinclair is the Pastor of Worship and Discipleship at First Baptist Church in New Lebanon, OH and is a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Hayley and they have two daughters, Lyla Rose and Clara Lane.