Did Al Mohler’s provost recant his promotion of Identity Politics?
Last week, while I was on vacation and hit with the flu (so unwilling to write and still suffering), a new article from the Provost of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) repudiated Critical Race Theory. Or, so it seems.
It certainly appears Al Mohler’s provost at Southern finally and publicly rejected Critical Race Theory and its attendant identity politics. Here’s a long and key quote:
“In recent months, the topics of critical race theory (CRT) and intersectionality have prompted no small measure of discussion in Baptist life. It would be virtually impossible to get into a complete review of CRT here. But let’s be very clear: Christian witness must reject CRT and the ideological foundations that shape it, along with the proposals it offers for change. In the big picture, it seems to me that CRT assumes a basic materialism, ignoring spiritual realities and, in particular, the truth that human beings are made in the image of God. It also seems to me to have a deficient teleology, one that sees history most basically as a contest between oppressors and the oppressed. Because of its deficiencies, CRT can never adequately diagnose the fundamental problems inherent in racism, nor can it adequately prescribe a true solution. Only the gospel of Christ can do that. Similarly, this is why liberation theologies are irreconcilable with the biblical gospel. While the biblical worldview certainly acknowledges injustice in a fallen world, the defining story of Scripture is redemptive, centered on the person and work of Christ, propelling history forward to the glory of God. This story is inseparable from the miracle of the new birth and the necessity of personal saving faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.”
This is very good.
He repudiates Critical Race Theory and Liberation theologies. It is clear right in the text.
We should applaud this.
However, Hall’s essay holds a few problematic assertions that appear to mirror some of his previous comments regarding the systemic prevalence of racism and white supremacy in America. In other words, he appears to continue saying many of the problematic things he already espoused about racism.
Hall writes, “There are those who believe it to be rare and isolated. I don’t doubt the sincerity of those assumptions, but I do believe they are incorrect. And the most fundamental reason for that is because racism is, at its very core, a spiritual sickness. It’s sin. And sin is never far from us.”
Well. This is one of those statements that is both true and absurd. Sin is always with us. He’s right. However, is this particular sin an issue today? Perhaps. However, other sins are certainly endemic to modern life—for example, the sacrifice of children on the altar of personal sexual autonomy.
Yes, I’m talking about abortion. Not to minimize the sins and problems of racism, but to compare. Abortion is approved by law in America. Racism is not.
People in both the secular and religious portions of American society hold racism to be a sin. It is outlawed by the secular and it is condemned by the religious.
Is racism a problem? Sure. Ok. But, it isn’t a popular sin. It’s a sin that is covered in shame.
Would that all sins were so condemned by both the spiritual and secular realms.
And if only all sins were so open to spiritual and secular punishment.
But, I better be careful here lest I’m labeled some kind of fanatic wanting to establish a theocracy.
But consider the problem in saying that our sin nature makes us all racist. Does that hold for adultery? Or robbery? Or murder? Only those guilty of those sins are rightly labeled murderers, thieves and adulterers. Why should racism be any different?
Racism exists in America
Hall is right that racism persists in America. There are anecdotal cases I can personally cite to buttress these claims. These examples come from inside major corporations and our churches. Good people of color are often passed over for promotion.
But is it systemic?
Again, the individual examples must be balanced by the overarching legal, political and social stands against racism. Even in a just system (or a system committed to justice) there will be individuals who suffer. That’s why we have a legal system and other remedies—to restrain evil.
Instead of specific cases of racism, Hall points to other generic problems like church segregation as an example of continued problems in America and Christianity.
Hall writes, “Would it be easier for churches in the United States to remain divided, even segregated, on the basis of race? You bet. But that is not the way of the cross. If the church is the instrument by which God chooses to display his glory and the miracle of grace and reconciliation in Christ, what does it say when Christians remain divided by race? This kind of vision — for a redeemed people who display God’s glorious grace in their life together — is less about a church program or strategy and more about a people transformed to prefer others to themselves.”
Hall and many other contemporary evangelicals have made multiethnic churches into a status symbol of sanctification.
In the abstract, one should hope a church will be multiethnic if the community it serves is multiethnic. However, people have worship preferences.
The church I attend has a contemporary worship service, a traditional worship service and a mixed contemporary and traditional worship service.
If people of mostly the same background prefer such radically different worship services, then what should we expect from people of vastly different economic and cultural backgrounds? Is it wrong to prefer different music styles or different preaching styles?
Enforced conformity that appeals to everyone stifles diversity and winds up appealing to no one.
Perhaps real diversity is having churches open to anyone, but still preserving our ethnic, cultural or generational preferences?
Hall’s call for unity: Is it possible?
Another good point in Hall’s essay is the recognition of the perilous time for Christians in America.
He writes, “We are living in rapidly changing times, marked by surging hostility to biblical Christianity. These times will require us, as followers of Christ and as Southern Baptists, to be unified in our common conviction and courage to stand together.”
But how can we have unity when brothers in Christ are calling each other racist?
Can there be unity in such division?
It is doubtful.
And this is why Dr. Tom Ascol’s column on Hall’s rejection of CRT is important. Ascol asks many important questions but these are fundamental to the future of the Southern Baptist Convention:
“Can Christians reject CRT and still helpfully employ it as an analytical tool?
“Can Christians reject CRT and support Resolution 9 adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2019?”
Then Ascol spells out why this is important—the treatment of dissenting members of First Baptist Church of Naples, Florida. Some members didn’t vote the way church leadership wanted and were excommunicated and charged with racism in public statements made by the church.
Unfortunately, this looks to be the future of the Southern Baptist Convention—where anyone not sufficiently Woke are rooted out and expelled. One doesn’t need to be an actual racist, but simply fall afoul of the elites. And SBC Elites are now willing to smear church members with the charge of racism without ever providing any actual evidence of racism.
How can there be unity when such worldly tactics have now entered the church?
This is the bitter fruit of identity politics. It creates division where there was none. It takes the focus off our unity in Christ and places it on real or perceived sins.
Racial healing will never take place in America or our churches as long as CRT is thought a helpful analytical tool for Christians. Hall’s essay is a good first step, but he and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary must do more.