SBC critical race theory resolution explained, debated
July 8th, 2019 / By: David Roach | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. Ongoing discussion of a Southern Baptist Convention resolution “on critical race theory and intersectionality” reflects a healthy desire among Southern Baptists to discern the line between engaging culture with the gospel and compromising with the culture, says Criswell College President Barry Creamer.
“Having the discussion” is “really important,” Creamer, a radio talk show host and cultural commentator, told the TEXAN. “It’s really important for people to learn how to hang on to” aspects of culture that “need to be conserved and are important and let go of the things that don’t matter.”
The discussion at issue stemmed from a resolution adopted June 12 by SBC messengers in Birmingham, Ala. Critical race theory and intersectionality (CRT/I), the resolution stated, should “be employed as analytical tools subordinate to Scripture” but not “absolutized as a worldview.”
Critical race theory, according to a blog published by the UCLA School of Public Affairs, claims “institutional racism” is “engrained in the fabric and system of American society” and “based on white privilege.” Intersectionality refers to examination of “race, sex, class, national origin, and sexual orientation” as intersecting factors contributing to “disempowerment” of certain individuals.
For example, an African-American lesbian likely would experience more disempowerment than a heterosexual black man, according to intersectionality, because she would have a larger intersection of disempowering traits.
Some Southern Baptists claim insights from CRT/I can be appropriated to understand the plight of victimized populations and to more effectively approach them with the gospel. Others say the theories’ origins—typically ascribed to postmodernism and to neo-Marxism—undermine their usefulness for believers.
That difference of opinion was manifested during a 13-minute floor debate at the SBC annual meeting. Discussion continued through ensuing media reports, blog posts and social media exchanges.
‘Protect the gospel’
The resolution defined critical race theory as “a set of analytical tools that explain how race has and continues to function in society.” Intersectionality is defined as “the study of how different personal characteristics overlap and inform one’s experience.” The resolution acknowledged that “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.”
“Southern Baptists,” the resolution stated, “will carefully analyze how the information gleaned from these tools [is] employed to address social dynamics.”
California pastor Stephen Feinstein submitted the resolution draft edited by the SBC Resolutions Committee to yield its statement on CRT/I. The submitted draft appeared to take a stronger stance against CRT/I than the final resolution, “decry[ing] ... critical race theory and intersectionality as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, since they divide the people of Christ by defining fundamental identity as something other than our identity in Jesus Christ,” according to a copy of the draft posted on Feinstein’s blog. The draft also claimed CRT/I ideas are “rooted in Marxist anti-gospel presuppositions.”
Although the resolution adopted by messengers differed from Feinstein’s draft, “the resolution, as it was passed, can still be used to hold people accountable who are pushing the worldview” behind CRT/I, Feinstein, pastor of Sovereign Way Christian Church in Hesperia, Calif., told the TEXAN.
Resolutions Committee Chairman Curtis Woods said via email: “The committee considered declining the resolution [submitted by Feinstein] but we appreciated the heart of Pastor Feinstein to protect the gospel from unbiblical assumptions and conclusions that are often associated with CRT/I as a worldview. We share that heart.
“In our revisions, we affirm [the] sufficiency of Scripture for addressing social ills and the gospel for creating true and lasting transformation in people’s lives,” said Woods, co-interim executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “We distinguished between a more narrow view of analysis and a more expansive worldview, so that we can condemn absolutizing CRT/I as worldview and yet not condemn all possible insights that may be gleaned. We spent several hours discussing the original resolution with the goal of honoring the messenger’s desire.”
Among messengers to speak against the resolution on the convention floor was Tom Buck, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lindale, Texas. CRT/I “originated with those who would hold unbiblical worldviews,” he said. Both theories are “incompatible with the biblical gospel.”
Florida pastor Tom Ascol, president of the Calvinistic group Founders Ministries, proposed adding three new sections to the resolution, including a description of CRT/I as “godless ideologies that are indebted to radical feminism and postmodernism and neo-Marxism.” His amendment was defeated after the Resolutions Committee spoke against it.
Following the SBC annual meeting, Ascol addressed the resolution again in his podcast “The Sword and the Trowel,” cohosted by Jared Longshore, associate pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla., where Ascol is pastor.
Longshore said it is “concerning” that the SBC “now has talked about critical race theory and intersectionality and not identified” the worldview from which they originated “as worldly ideology.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, offered a similar critique of the resolution in his podcast “The Briefing.” He also expressed appreciation for the Resolutions Committee’s affirmation of Scripture as the standard by which CRT/I must be judged.
“I did not want the resolution to say less than it said. I wanted it to say more than it said,” Mohler stated. “I wanted it to acknowledge more clearly the origins of critical race theory and intersectionality” in a worldview stream that includes Marxism as well as denials of “rationality and objective truth.”
“One of the most lamentable consequences” of CRT/I, Moher said, “is identity politics, and identity politics can only rightly be described as antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Resolutions Committee member Trevin Wax said in a series of tweets following the SBC annual meeting, “In no way was the Committee adopting or promoting CRT/I as a worldview. The resolution makes that clear. Everyone—and I emphasize this fact—on the Committee would agree that the origins of CRT/I come from worldviews opposed to the gospel. No disagreement there whatsoever.
“Still,” said Wax, director for Bibles and reference at LifeWay Christian Resources, “that does not mean that every observation issuing from CRT/I is wrong, sinful, or unhelpful for how Christians understand the world. Hence the language of ‘truthful insights’ the resolution employs. Discernment requires the careful sifting of what is good from what is bad.”
Wax speculated that “a friendly amendment that simply pointed out the origination, not just the appropriation of CRT/I, would likely have been accepted. The amendments proposed were lengthy and introduced more terms and phrases that would have needed explanation.”
Creamer applauded Southern Baptists for exhibiting through all the discussion of CRT/I a “shared commitment to reaching the world with the gospel.” Their disagreement centers on the secondary matter of “how to communicate the gospel” to American culture without capitulating to it.