Critical Race Theory and Christians

One topic that is of high interest and impacting the body of Christ are the ideas presented by Critical Race Theory (hereafter, “CRT”). The idea itself may be appealing to Christians because they are rightly persuaded that Christians should denounce racism should they encounter it, that is, to standup for the poor and the brokenhearted; in other words, to love their neighbor (Matthew 22:35-40). Therefore, it seems important that Christians and ministers of the gospel message be prepared to handle the topic with care, compassion, and in a Christ-like manner. It is certainly important that racism (that is, disparagement of another person based on the pigment of their skin, their ethnic group, or their minority status) should be far from the mind and actions of those who desire to follow in the footsteps of our Lord.

However, it is important that Christians know what someone is endorsing when they discuss a cultural topic, and they should seek to understand it prior to embracing it (even if denying some of its more well-known tenets). Nevertheless, even some of the largest American conservative Christian denominations have opted to approach CRT as if it can be a toolset for analyzing race. (see Resolution 9 SBC 2019 Annual Meeting).[1]

It is not surprising that many Christians have uncritically embraced the tenants of CRT without analyzing the grounds that it is built upon. The Apostle Paul had to exhort Christians in the church at Colossae to not be taken captive by deceptive philosophies dependent on human tradition and the spiritual powers present in the world (Colossians 2:8). Here we see that Paul is contrasting two things: ideas that originate from God and ideas that originate from man.

We need to teach the background of CRT. It has historic roots in continental philosophy and critical theories, but emerged in the 20th century from the writings of critical legal studies in the 1970s. These roots of CRT suggest that social problems such as racism are not individual problems but are a problem of social structures. This foundation is postmodern, in that it relates social problems to the stories that we tell and the struggle for power between classes of people. Therefore, it rejects the idea that racism is an individual problem but part of group power dynamics. Those who have the power and want to keep it (namely, those of European descent) are the oppressors and others belong to the group of the oppressed. These groups are established according to an arbitrary set of identity markers developed in the related theory of intersectionality.

The philosophy itself has holes in that it is built upon the postmodern rejection of objective truth (truth is created by the stories we tell with the goal to gain power over others); this philosophy self-defeats because if postmodernism is true, then CRT is itself a story that is being told to gain power over others and is subject to its own criticism.

The largest problem with such theories is that they have little to do with Scriptural understandings of sin. The Bible is very clear that all of mankind are sinful (Gen 8:21). Therefore, the problem is universal, however, sin itself is manifested by individuals (see Jesus’ sermon on the mount, Matthew 5). Thus, CRT fails because sin is both a universal and an individual problem, and it is a human problem that needs individual correction.

Christians need to reject CRT because its foundations are unbiblical and clearly work against God’s standards of objective truth. We cannot use a theory as an analytical tool if it is built on a house of sand. However, we need to be able to recognize that racial tensions exist and that many of our brothers, sisters, and neighbors have experienced real mistreatment based on the color of their skin. Our weapons against these are prayer, encouragement, preaching the gospel message, open fellowship, and standing firm on the truth of Scripture which requires us to love our neighbors.

Therefore, love is the ultimate ethic and that is what Christians must embrace. As Christians, we must be willing to stand against the racism that we encounter. It does not require the affirmation of vain critical theories but does require us to treat individuals as image-bearers of God. That is the message we need to affirm and teach, and the gospel must be preached because it is the only remedy to the universal problem of sin (see Paul’s response to the Colossians at 3:1-17). If we believe what Jesus has told us, then he is the way, the truth, and the life. The gospel is the answer to social problems; it always has been and always will be because man individually needs a new heart from God to have a change of heart (Eze 36:26).

Christ is Risen!


[1] “On Critical Race Theory And Intersectionality - SBC.Net,” https://www.sbc.net/, accessed March 21, 2021, https://www.sbc.net/resource-library/resolutions/on-critical-race-theory-and-intersectionality/.

Image Credit: Teach 4 the Heart Pinterest. See the great chart "Critical Race Theory v. the Gospel" at: https://teach4theheart.com/racial-unity-gospel-critical-race-theory/