I am going to do something a bit cumbersome and pedantic in this post. I have copied the entire text of the controversial Resolution 9 from 2019 which has been the source of so much argument. I am going to comment on it section by section and ask those who are so upset about it to identify exactly what their issue is with it. It should be fairly clear which parts are the text of the resolution and which parts are my comments.
Defining CRT and I is anything but easy. Here is my attempt.
Critical Race Theory – The UCLA School of Public Affairs in an article called “What is Critical Race Theory” says this.
CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color.
The Center on Public Integrity has an extensive article on the subject. Finding a simple definition is difficult.
As I understand it, at its simplest, CRT asserts that racism is not just individual, but structural and societal. One of the problems in this discussion is that the very title, CRT, becomes something of a Rorschach test – we all see what we want to see.
Intersectionality – is a bit easier to grasp. It is the idea that different aspects of social and political identity combine to create different levels of privilege and discrimination. Gender, race, caste/social standing, sexuality, religion, disability, and other physical traits can all be part of intersectionality.
It probably comes up in the SBC because both race and sexual abuse are issues in our midst.
I am an expert in neither of these and neither are those who made a huge issue about these. We are fighting about things that are hard to understand, that are largely defined subjectively, and can be a bit nebulous in our discussions.
Resolution 9 with Comments
The “Whereas” statements are meant to make statements of fact, not arguments or “resolutions.” If the resolution is well-written, the Whereas sections should state nearly undisputed facts. The facts here seem fairly straightforward. For the sake of reference in our discussion, I am adding numbers to each section which did not appear in the original. There are 13 Whereas statements and 8 Resolved statements.
(1) WHEREAS, Concerns have been raised by some evangelicals over the use of frameworks such as critical race theory and intersectionality; and
No debate here. Anyone?
(2) WHEREAS, Critical race theory is a set of analytical tools that explain how race has and continues to function in society, and intersectionality is the study of how different personal characteristics overlap and inform one’s experience; and
Perhaps a slightly more extensive definition might have helped here. These definitions are simple to a fault and have exacerbated the discussion. Of course, the criticism applies to resolutions in general. They are simple treatments of often complex subjects.
(3) WHEREAS, 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; and
Some might be surprised to see this here. This is the argument that many have made, and here it is in Res 9. I think the only issue might be with the wording “appropriated by.” The critics of CRT/I would reword that to something like “originated among” or something. We would all agree to the core idea – CRT/I is generally not practiced by Christians, but is it fundamentally anti-Christian or not?
(4) 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
This is indisputable, though controversial. People who affirm the BF&M and affirm inerrancy believe that it is possible to gain insights from CRT/I. The key here is “selective insights” as opposed to using them as the framework for truth.
Critics of CRT/I question whether it is appropriate for people to do so, but it is undeniable that faithful, orthodox, conservative scholars have drawn “selective insights” from CRT/I that they do not believe are in conflict with Scripture.
(5) WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith and Message states, “[A]ll Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried” (Article I); and
Need we argue this one? We accept what the BF&M says about God’s word and its authority.
(6) WHEREAS, General revelation accounts for truthful insights found in human ideas that do not explicitly emerge from Scripture and reflects what some may term “common grace”; and
This is accepted by most of us in other academic areas. We say, “All truth is God’s truth,” and gain insights where we do not agree completely with frameworks. The argument seems to be that CRT/I is so corrupt that there are no truthful insights to be gained from it.
(7) WHEREAS, Critical race theory and intersectionality alone are insufficient to diagnose and redress the root causes of the social ills that they identify, which result from sin, yet these analytical tools can aid in evaluating a variety of human experiences; and
CRT/I are analytical tools only, and not solutions. They cannot diagnose or discover truth and certainly cannot solve our social ills. On this we agree.
(8) WHEREAS, Scripture contains categories and principles by which to deal with racism, poverty, sexism, injustice, and abuse that are not rooted in secular ideologies; and
Scripture is our truth.
(10) WHEREAS, Humanity is primarily identified in Scripture as image bearers of God, even as biblical authors address various audiences according to characteristics such as male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free; and
Though we are one people, united as image-bearers in Christ, there are human differences. Race is real here in this world and denying that it exists is wishful thinking and harmful to the church.
(11) WHEREAS, The New Covenant further unites image bearers by creating a new humanity that will one day inhabit the new creation, and that the people of this new humanity, though descended from every nation, tribe, tongue, and people, are all one through the gospel of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:16; Revelation 21:1–4, 9–14); and
Does anyone want to dispute this?
(12) WHEREAS, Christian citizenship is not based on our differences but instead on our common salvation in Christ—the source of our truest and ultimate identity; and
Again, does not seem like we are this statement is in dipute.
(13) WHEREAS, The Southern Baptist Convention is committed to racial reconciliation built upon biblical presuppositions and is committed to seeking biblical justice through biblical means; now, therefore, be it
This statement is ideal. The SBC corporately has adopted resolutions and motions that commit us to racial reconciliation. There are some who are not on board with all of this, but since 1995 we have been on record against racism.
(14) RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, June 11–12, 2019, affirm Scripture as the first, last, and sufficient authority with regard to how the Church seeks to redress social ills, and we reject any conduct, creeds, and religious opinions which contradict Scripture; and be it further
There are eight “resolved” statements that express the opinion and views of the gathered messengers of the 2019 convention. There seem to be two of these “resolved” statements that are deeply controversial and a couple of others that critics would quarrel with as to wording.
Resolved statement 1 seems without controversy. Scripture is authoritative and sufficient.
(15) RESOLVED, That critical race theory and intersectionality should only be employed as analytical tools subordinate to Scripture—not as transcendent ideological frameworks; and be it further
Resolved #2 is where the sparks begin to fly. Can CRT/I be employed as “analytical tools subordinate to Scripture?”
NOTE: Resolution 9 makes it clear that CRT/I is not to be a “trascendent idealogical framework” but only as an analytical tool under the Lordship of Christ in subordination to Scripture, based on common grace/general revelation principles.
Is this possible?
More importantly, should we not see this as a disagreement between faithful brothers and sisters instead of employing the extreme and apocalyptic language that has been used?
(16) RESOLVED, That the gospel of Jesus Christ alone grants the power to change people and society because “he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6); and be it further
(17) RESOLVED, That Southern Baptists will carefully analyze how the information gleaned from these tools are employed to address social dynamics; and be it further
If you believe what Resolved statement 2 says, this makes sense. If you reject statement 2, this is unnecessary.
(18) RESOLVED, That Southern Baptist churches and institutions repudiate the misuse of insights gained from critical race theory, intersectionality, and any unbiblical ideologies that can emerge from their use when absolutized as a worldview; and be it further
We would all agree with this statement, of course, but the critics of CRT/I would say that all use qualifies misuse. They would quarrel, it seems, with the distinction between the acceptable use and unacceptable use of CRT/I.
(19) RESOLVED, That we deny any philosophy or theology that fundamentally defines individuals using categories identified as sinful in Scripture rather than the transcendent reality shared by every image bearer and divinely affirmed distinctions; and be it further
Not sure how anyone would disagree with this.
(20) RESOLVED, That while we denounce the misuse of critical race theory and intersectionality, we do not deny that ethnic, gender, and cultural distinctions exist and are a gift from God that will give Him absolute glory when all humanity gathers around His throne in worship because of the redemption accomplished by our resurrected Lord; and be it finally
Statement 7 here uses a word that some would quarrel with, the focus of the debate. Resolution 9, statement 7 condemns the “misuse” of CRT/I while critics would seem to argue that any use is misuse. Some would disagree with the assertion that ethnic distinctions exist, asserting that the “only race is the human race.”
(21) RESOLVED, That Southern Baptist churches seek to exhibit this eschatological promise in our churches in the present by focusing on unity in Christ amid image bearers and rightly celebrate our differences as determined by God in the new creation.
Even critics would, I assume, agree with this – that the promise of all peoples worshiping together as one people in eternity is to be celebrated.
Summary: The issue is fairly straightforward, according to Resolution 9. All agree that as a “transcendent ideological framework” CRT/I is unbiblical and unacceptable. The only point of difference is whether we can gain insights from CRT/I that can be used in a biblical framework. Accusations of Marxism and liberalism are dishonest.
This is a disagreement among BF&M-affirming Baptists about the application of common grace/general revelation principles to CRT/I.
Comments and Questions
1. Though I attempted to define terms, this discussion will perhaps derail at that point! One person will say CRT/I is this and another will say it is that. The failure to establish a clear definition of terms is a real issue here. It helps if each of us realizes this and does not expect that OUR definition is the standard for everyone. As always, a little humility goes a long way.
2. The history of Resolution 9 must be remembered. A resolution was offered on CRT/I that was strongly worded – it would have pleased all the anti-CRT, anti-Resolution 9 folks. Perhaps the Resolution committee would have been wise to simply ignore it and move on as they do with many resolutions annually, but they created this as a compromise resolution. They joined the original in affirming the BF&M and setting Scripture as our source of truth, but they said that on the basis of General Revelation, there could be limited insights from CRT/I.
3. The issue is not between those who embrace CRT/I fully and those who reject it completely. It is dishonest to present it as such. Resolution 9 clearly says that CRT/I is not a biblical framework and that only Scripture gives us truth and life-solutions. The issue is between those who believe that SOME helpful insights can be gained from the unbiblical CRT/I system and those who say NO helpful insights can be gained. It is a debate about common grace and general revelation.
4. The suspicion among many is that the real issue is not CRT as an analytical tool, but the existence of systemic racism. Is racism ONLY an individual problem or is it in governments and justice systems and societies and other institutions? To many Black pastors and believers, the denial of systemic racism is essentially a denial of their experience and a cover-up of the racism they have experienced.
5. If you read what people say about Resolution 9 and then read Resolution 9, it can be enlightening.
Challenge – those of you who rail against Resolution 9, please be specific. What is your problem with it? Why is it impossible to gain SOME insights from CRT/I?