David French sides with David Platt in McLean Bible Church’s fight against Critical Race Theory, Woke Social Justice Theology by asserting America must repent and atone for ancestral sins.
David French summarizes the McLean Bible Church dissenters’ arguments as focused on consequences for individual racists and rejecting intergenerational sin.
French writes, “This argument echoes tenets of the secular right-wing consensus on race—that racism exists only when there is individual malign intent, that remedies for racism should be limited to imposing consequences on individual racists, and that there is no intergenerational obligation to remedy historic injustice (‘I’m not responsible for my ancestors’ sins’).”
This is, in general, a fair summary of what most conservative Christians think about this issue.
In other words, to be guilty of a sin one must possess the mens rea. As conservative Christians understand justice, intent matters.
Thus, to purge racism from society, the best course of action is to punish actual racists. In other words, one eliminates the social ill of racism by punishing the only thing a free state dedicated to liberty can punish—outward crimes.
And crimes, require intent.
David French’s weak argument for reparations
Now to the second point, is one responsible for their ancestors’ sins? (And let us not be deceived, declaring America guilty for the sins of past generations is really nothing more than justifying reparations.)
French asserts the affirmative. He reaches to Old Testament texts involving theocratic Israel as the basis of his argument. He presents II Samuel 21 (famine in Israel after Saul’s death) and II Kings 22 (Josiah weeping over sins of forefathers.) And French cites more examples too.
French writes, “Josiah was far from alone. Daniel confessed the sins of Israel’s fathers. In the book of Nehemiah, the Israelites confessed the ‘sins and iniquities’ of their fathers. In the book of Leviticus, God commanded the Israelites to ‘confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers.’”
French then builds the confession examples into something far more reaching—demand for atonement. (Hint: reparations by another name.)
He writes, “The reason for this obligation of repentance and atonement is obvious. The death of the offending party does not remove the consequences of their sin. Those who’ve been victimized still suffer loss, and if the loss isn’t ameliorated in their lifetimes, that loss can linger for generations.”
Now, as I mentioned, these texts involve theocratic Israel. We can take principles from these texts but are limited in application to a non-theocratic state. In a sense, these Old Testament texts teach us by analogy (to borrow from Kissinger’s description of history) and not by explicit dictum. It is much better to rely on explicit moral commands and the salvific teachings of the Old Testament.
And doing such brings us to a direct conflict between what French teaches and the explicit words of the Bible.
Namely, Ezekiel 18:19-20 ESV, “Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”
This is a pivotal Old Testament text. It explains the individual nature of guilt. It wrecks David French’s vision of intergenerational atonement.
Also, the context of his argument about Josiah is also specious. Josiah’s nation was not only set on the wrong course by the forefathers, worshiping idols, abandoning God, etc. but Josiah’s contemporaries in Israel were doing those things.
And we have other explicit Old Testament writings holding this view.
Jeremiah 31:29–30 ESV teaches, “In those days they shall no longer say: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.”
Deuteronomy 24:16 ESV is explicit, “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.”
Thus, the clear witness of Law and Prophets is against the very thing French attempts to teach by analogy from theocratic Israel.
So, the safest assumption is that French misreads his Old Testament examples. Thus, II Kings 22 should be read in light of II Kings 23, which details contemporary disorders in Israel that were continuations of the forefather’s sins Josiah lamented. These were not lingering consequences of past sin but explicit, current and open present sins.
Specifically, this is a good indicator of what was going on in Judah at the time Josiah reigned, “And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven” II Kings 23:5 KJV.
Thus, what we can see is Josiah is not modifying the clear biblical teaching about individual guilt for sin, but rather that Israel remained engaged in contemporary sin that was a continuation of past sin.
Not to strain the point, but French’s analogy of these Old Testament texts would only work if America were still actively promoting slavery or overt racism.
However, both are banned.
For which we have great cause to rejoice!
What we see here is that David French accepts key elements of Critical Race Theory just like David Platt.
French asserts that current inequalities are proof of current structural sin. However, that is a very difficult argument to make. As Thomas Sowell, explains, there are many different causes for inequalities.
French claims conservative Christians are not real conservatives
Moving from the biblical discussion, French asserts that the complaints against David Platt are not conservative complaints. Rather, these are “right wing.”
French wants to focus conservatism on “what works” in the real world. Thus, he wants “conservative” policies to attempt to address what he defines as the structural inequities in the American system that are the legacy of ancestral sin.
Now, what French wants us to do here is accept the key assumption of Critical Race Theory—that inequality, any inequality, is de facto proof of racism and requires remedies.
As Dr. Owen Strachan noted in his new book Christianity & Wokeness (review coming soon I promise), “The scarlet thread running through intersectional interests is that common forms of inequality represent injustice. Society must be rethought, rebuilt, and reconstructed.”
French wants conservatives to reject what is natural—hierarchy. Some people will be rich. Some people will be poor. Some are better football players. Some are better writers. Some are better looking.
Sometimes this is because of injustice—and we should work to remedy this by making society a launching pad of equal opportunity. This is what the law enables.
However, no conservative can ever embrace equality of outcome, which is the only way to eliminate inequalities that are inherent in the human condition.
French’s conservative view is not conservative at all.
Which is a shocking as a ‘Dog Bites Man’ headline.
Conclusion: Beware the Dialectical Process attacking Christianity.
What David French is doing here is not classic Critical Race Theory nor classic Christianity. It is a hybrid. We’ve warned about this by quoting Dr. Norman Geisler about the ability of Neo-Marxism to hybridizes with Christianity.
There is another warning raised by Michael O’Fallon and Dr. James Lindsay about the use of a Hegelian Dialectic to synthesize a new religion by fusing elements of both CRT and Christian theology.
You can see that fusion in what French promotes. He takes biblical concepts such as sin and fuses them with CRT-concepts of systemic racism/injustice.
Instead of biblical definitions of crimes, like the sin of racism, French accepts CRT-inspired definitions of sin that are based upon nothing else than inequalities—inequalities that may or may not have many other contributing factors.
Therefore, both conservatives and Christians must be on their guard. French is weakening the core doctrine of sin. He is radically redefining it in an unbiblical way.
Which is really the same complaint that the good conservative people of McLean Bible Church raised against David Platt. (And we will have more on that in the days to come…)
As a reminder, David French is going to speak at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS).