I’m glad that Brad agreed to have this dialogue with me, but I’m disappointed that he again declined to answer the questions I’ve posed to him about contemporary critical theory since the start of this series. He also declined to say whether he agreed with statements like “all whites are racist” or “Christ is Our Black Mother” or “Tim Keller has no authority to teach on justice,” which -to me- are dramatic illustrations of the corrosive effects that contemporary critical theory will have on basic Christian beliefs. Such statements were made by authors and teachers who have spoken at evangelical conferences, have written for Christianity Today, have taught at national CRU conferences, and have been endorsed by prominent evangelicals. If Brad isn’t troubled by such statements or -at least- isn’t troubled enough to say whether he disagrees with them, what will it take to raise an alarm?
This is a serious question. I became interested in critical theory a few years ago when I noticed a theological drift in people I knew. There seemed to be a clear progression: first, they changed their views on gender roles, then sexuality, then gender identity, then the nature of Scripture, and then -sometimes- the atonement, the deity of Christ, and even the existence of God. I had a hard time understanding how these issues were related until I began reading works of contemporary critical theory; then these connections made sense. When you wholeheartedly embrace the ideas of contemporary critical theory, the dominoes begin to fall.
I understand that our culture and the church is increasingly dividing into warring tribes, each of which is terrified of conceding any ground to the “other team” or recognizing heterodoxy on “their team.” Yet people’s souls are at stake. We have to be willing to place truth over tribe for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As I said from the start, there is not one critical theory but many critical theories. The SEP, which Brad himself cited, makes the same distinction. Brad’s four-fold definition may capture Critical Theory as it was articulated by the Frankfurt School in the 1930s, but does not capture the many “critical theories” that emerged in the decades that followed, including critical pedagogy, critical race theory, and queer theory.
In Part 1, I sketched four ideas at the core of contemporary critical theory, as it is promoted by scholars like DiAngelo, Bonilla-Silva, McIntosh, and Crenshaw:
- Society is divided into dominant, oppressor groups and subordinate, oppressed groups along lines of race, class, gender, sexuality, gender identity, etc…
- Oppression is not defined only in terms of violence, but in terms of dominant groups imposing their values on subordinate groups.
- We should dismantle the norms and values of dominant groups. Racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and transphobia are all forms of oppression that must be dismantled.
- ‘Social location’ determines our access to truth.
As Brad recognized, these four ideas are meant to be a distillation of what is taught by contemporary critical theorists; they could just as well be condensed into a short paragraph or expanded into six ideas. Regardless, I provided primary source quotes and even two tables showing that these ideas are being clearly taught in popular texts and are -according to DiAngelo- rooted in critical theory. More importantly, I showed how these ideas would undermine basic Christian doctrines. Even if other traditions share some of these ideas, they would still be unbiblical, and hence a threat to Christianity. In the same way, showing that Wicca shares many ideas with ancient paganism doesn’t prove that Wicca isn’t a threat to Christianity.
For example, I documented how contemporary critical theorists believe that people of color, women, and LGBTQ individuals are all “oppressed” in contemporary U.S. society because the norms of dominant white, male, heterosexuals are imposed on them. Christians -correctly concerned with issues of justice- often adopt this view of oppression, not realizing that it will eventually require them to dismantle norms like male eldership, traditional marriage, the male/female gender binary, and the authority of Scripture. Christians who follow this trajectory aren’t aimlessly drifting towards theological liberalism, but are instead embracing the logical implications of critical theory.
I encourage readers to look back over our posts and consider the arguments we’ve made. I’ve noticed that only 10% of my readers actually click through to Brad’s page and I’m assuming the converse is true as well. Brothers and sisters, that needs to change. Read Brad’s articles. Read mine.
Most of all, don’t just cheer for your team. I’ve offered Brad the opportunity to join me on a podcast or YouTube channel to have this conversation in real-time. I extend that same offer to anyone reading this post. Don’t say “I am of Cephas” or “I am of Apollos” or “I’m a justice-minded Christian” or “I’m an anti-SJW.” Test everything against Scripture.
I’ll close with a handful of questions, those which I asked Brad during the series and also those which I would have asked if we’d gotten to discuss the four ideas I described.
1) Are these four ideas -as stated- compatible with Christianity or not?
2) Are people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, the disabled, children, and non-Christians all oppressed in 2019 America?
3) Should we work to dismantle all these types of “oppression”?
4) Should Christians oppose traditional marriage, since it imposes a dominant Christian understanding of marriage on non-Christians?
5) Should Christians oppose biblical sexual ethics, since it imposes a dominant cis-gendered heteronormative understanding on LGBTQ individuals?
6) Should Christians dismantle all systems which produce or perpetuate privilege?
7) Should Christians dismantle homeschooling and private schooling, since they produce and perpetuate privilege?
8) Should Christians dismantle private ownership, since it produces and perpetuates privilege?
9) Can we trust the early Christians creeds, since they were framed entirely by men?
10) Can we trust the Five Solas of the Reformation or the WCF or the LBC, since they were framed entirely by white European males?
I encourage readers to think through these questions carefully. The stakes are high.
Love in Christ,
See my initial post here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Bradly Mason, Part 1
And Brad’s first response here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Neil Shenvi, Part 2
See my second post here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Bradly Mason, Part 3
And Brad’s second response here:
Is Critical Theory a Thread to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Neil Shenvi, Part 4
See my third post here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Bradly Mason, Part 5
And Brad’s third response here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Neil Shenvi Part 6
See my fourth post here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Bradly Mason, Part 7
And Brad’s fourth response here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Neil Shenvi, Part 8
See my fifth post here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Bradly Mason, Part 9
And Brad’s final response here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Neil Shenvi, Part 10