The image above is of one of the most (in)famous and influential preachers in the Southern Baptist Convention today, Voddie Baucham. In the past few years, Baucham has emerged as an influential voice in the SBC against critical race theory, culminating in his 2021 book called Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism's Looming Catastrophe. It was a national bestseller for quite a while. Given that I had already begun to follow and appreciate what Baucham had already said on this issue, I was happy to buy the book for myself. I've read it multiple times and went through it with a small group last year.
Though the idea to write a review for the book on the blog had not occurred to me in 2021, I knew that it'd probably be prudent to write something on the book. While there's so much in Fault Lines to appreciate - its commitment to biblical orthodoxy, Baucham's knowledge of the background to critical theory (which I've written about on this blog), etc. - the sixth chapter has bugged me every time I've read it. I knew that I eventually wanted to write on this chapter in a way that expanded on Baucham's argument in it in a way that would finally bring me to a conclusion on whether or not I agreed with him.
In this post, I will attempt to answer the following question: does critical race theory undermine the sufficiency of Scripture? Since this question emerged for me as a result of reading Baucham's Fault Lines, I will develop my answer to it based primarily on an analysis and evaluation of the reasons for Baucham's claim that critical race theory undermines the sufficiency of Scripture.
But before a question can be answered, it must be properly understood. I have now written several posts on critical theory and critical race theory on this blog, which lay out what I think are the central claims of both systems of thought as well as some of the reasons I think that Christians ought to reject both systems. Here are some important posts on this blog to read for more information:
For critical theory (the theoretical foundation for critical race theory): see my series of posts, "Deconstructing Critical Theory"
If you want an in-depth understanding of critical theory and critical race theory, as well as where I stand on these issues, those posts should keep you busy for a while. If you don't want to read all of that (I don't blame you) or have already (thank you!), here are some summary definitions to get us started:
Critical Theory: the name given to a broad movement of philosophical, political and sociological thought that categorizes people in a society into either the "oppressor" or "oppressed" class based on social status and group identities and holds that the oppression of the former over the latter primarily involves the shaping of cultural institutions around socially-constructed norms, values and claims; often also referred to as cultural Marxism or critical social justice
Critical Race Theory (hereafter CRT): a particular subfield within critical theory whose goal is to study the historical and contemporary oppression of people of color (i.e., POCs) as a class under a system of white supremacy identified by its dominant socially-constructed norms, values, and claims; focuses primarily on the oppression of POCs in the United States
There is a lot lumped into these definitions, and this post will not be a suitable introduction to these issues for those who have had no exposure to them. The posts linked above are better for that. Rather, my hope is that, for those who have some understanding of these issues and the current debates happening in the SBC over CRT, this post will be helpful in your understanding of one of the most prominent arguments for the claim that Christians ought to reject CRT.
This post will be split into three parts, organized under certain questions:
What is Baucham's Claim in Fault Lines?
What is the Sufficiency of Scripture?
How Does the Sufficiency of Scripture Apply to CRT, If At All?
We'll start with an analysis of Baucham's claim regarding CRT and the sufficiency of Scripture, which he develops in chapter six of Fault Lines, entitled "A New Canon."
What is Baucham's Claim in Fault Lines?
The sixth chapter of Fault Lines begins with a discussion of a Christianity Today article titled, "The Anti-Racist Curriculum White Evangelicals Need," which was released on June 19, 2020, not long after George Floyd died. The article was representative of a claim that was increasingly made as Christians wrestled with the consequences surrounding George Floyd's tragic death. White Christians were being told that they needed to become educated on these issues, and "becoming educated" meant reading books like Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison and The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby. Though Baucham makes clear that he is not opposed to the idea that Christians should read widely, even reading authors who disagree with Christianity, he uses the article as the starting point for his argument that contained within this claim that white evangelicals need a curriculum for understanding racial issues is an implicit rejection of the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture.
It is necessary that Baucham's claim is that the rejection is implicit, since his interlocutors are, in most cases, members of the SBC who explicitly affirm the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. He points to two case studies - John Onwuchekwa (or John O.) and David Platt - to show that hidden within an appeal to the need for an antiracist curriculum is the rejection of the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. Since the case study concerning John O. is clearer, I'll focus on it.
In 2020, John O. joined Jemar Tisby on his podcast, Pass the Mic. (Baucham's chapter includes a discussion of this podcast episode on pages 118-121.) In that episode, John O. discusses how resources outside the Bible can help us properly understand the Bible. As Baucham points out, most evangelicals agree that resources outside the Bible help you understand the Bible (118). But John O. goes further, claiming that "unless you had science, the Bible would not make sense." Baucham responds to John O.'s claim by arguing that, with that statement, he has undermined the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. For Baucham, to claim that any resource outside Scripture is necessary for understanding Scripture is to implicitly reject the sufficiency of Scripture. Baucham writes (119):
"John O.'s point - shared by many, if not most of the authors on Christianity Today's reading list, and evinced by the list's very existence, is that you really don't get what the Bible is trying to say about social justice until you read social science and history."
In other words, if one hasn't read social science and history, one doesn't understand what the Bible has to say about social justice. For Baucham, the consequences of such an implicit rejection are clear, as he writes (119, emphasis is mine):
"My point here is not that John O. and I are on different sides of the social justice discussion; we certainly are. It is that he is outside the bounds of Scripture, theology, and Church history. The social sciences may be useful tools, but they are far from necessary."
Thus, according to Baucham, John O. has stepped outside the bounds of what any Christian ought to accept in his claim that a resource outside of Scripture is necessary for rightly understanding Scripture. The stakes are high in impugning the sufficiency of Scripture, as Baucham again writes (119):
"In no area does God require me to walk in a level of righteousness for which the Scriptures do not equip me - including any and all aspects of justice."
But this argument from Baucham, at this point, needs greater clarification. Baucham sees John O.'s error as serious enough to call his understanding of Scripture "heretical" and to characterize his understanding of social justice as an "eisegetical reading of Critical Social Justice into the text" (121). (Eisegesis - as opposed to exegesis - is the imposition of a meaning onto the text, usually by adopting some framework that is external to Scripture. Exegesis is the process of deriving meaning from the text.) If these claims are true, then this error is serious indeed.
Baucham attempts to clarify his position further in a section of the chapter titled, "The Sufficiency of Scripture in Matters of Race and Justice" (125-127). In this section, Baucham points to more than one evangelical author or pastor indicating that his understanding of race and social justice were transformed by the "new canon." For Baucham, the issue is not that their view was transformed; it is that their view was not transformed by Scripture. He writes (126, emphasis is original):
"...[T]he CRT crowd in evangelicalism are not men who have been challenged on their interpretation of Scripture - they are proclaiming that sources outside Scripture have brought them to a new, better, and more complete understanding of God's truth on race."
This is an important clarification, but it doesn't help entirely for reasons I'll discuss below. For now, why is it that relying on books other than Scripture for a more complete understanding of amounts to a rejection of the sufficiency of Scripture? Note that Baucham has already shown that some evangelicals believe that these resources are necessary for a proper understanding of these issues. What Baucham must add to this complaint is a further claim: that Scripture is sufficient for a proper understanding on race. For instance, he writes (126):
"...[T]here is not a book in the world that is better suited to address men on the issue of race than the Bible."
Also, he writes (127, emphasis is mine):
"It is the Bible - not sociology, psychology, or political science - that offers sufficient answers not only on race, but on every ethical issue man has faced, or will ever face."
Since, according to Baucham, race issues classify as ethical issues (and since, implicitly, Scripture is sufficient to address all ethical issues), then Scripture is sufficient to address race issues. To claim that anything other than Scripture is necessary for addressing race issues is to undermine the sufficiency of Scripture.
Does this argument hold up to scrutiny? Unfortunately, Baucham never clearly defines the sufficiency of Scripture in the chapter, beyond quoting some passages of Scripture and passages from historic confessions of faith. Though those quotes are helpful (and will be discussed), a more precise understanding of sufficiency is necessary before we can clearly see whether CRT undermines the sufficiency of Scripture. That is the next topic of discussion.
What is the Sufficiency of Scripture?
The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture has a long and storied history, as it was borne out of a recognition in the early church of the unique authority of the Scriptures in the life of the Christian. When Christians have considered what carries the greatest weight in determining how they ought to believe, act and live, Scripture has been their answer. Unfortunately, however, the doctrine has been difficult to define in a systematic way, and because of this, claims that one has undermined the sufficiency of Scripture can abound, especially as Christians consider how they are to interact with other fields of inquiry.
To begin, Scripture affirms its own authority and sufficiency. Consider, for instance, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NASB):
"All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work."
Notice how the Apostle Paul connects various doctrines of Scripture, showing their interdependence. Even though the book we now call "the Bible" is a collection of documents, it has a unity because God has chosen to inspire only these documents. The inspiration of Scripture claims that the authors who wrote the documents collected in the Scriptures were inspired by God, who led to write what they did, so that in a sense, the words of Scripture are human words and God's words. It is true, because of inspiration, to say both that the Bible has many authors (about 40) and that it has one author, God. Notice, too, that all Scripture is inspired by God. If we want to know, love, and serve God, all of Scripture must be taken into account. None of it can be ruled out.
Because the Scriptures are inspired, they have authority for Christians. That they are "beneficial" for all of these purposes emerges from the fact that God inspired them. Thus, there is no better source for Christians in their growth in their walk with God than Scripture. No other source has the authority, truthfulness, and trustworthiness of Scripture. But the implications of inspiration go further than this. Because Scripture is inspired by God, Christians can be made "fully capable, equipped for every good work." In other words, Scripture is sufficient for equipping the Christian to honor and love God with his or her actions.
Another important text for the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is 2 Peter 1:3-4 (NASB, emphasis is mine):
"...[God's] divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world on account of lust."
What an incredible truth, that we become "partakers of the divine nature" through Christ! Unlike 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Scripture is not explicitly mentioned here, but it is in view implicitly in light of the surrounding passage. Verse 1 of this passage addresses the epistle "to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours," and that faith is received through the testimony of the prophets (the Old Testament) and apostles (the New Testament). Thus, since we can only access that faith through Scripture, it follows that through Scripture, as we respond to the gospel in faith, we are granted "everything pertaining to life and godliness."
This passage is interesting because it brings up a term that will be important in our discussion of the sufficiency of Scripture, namely, Scripture's "domain." The passage does not say that the divine power has granted us everything whatsoever. It has not granted Christians the ability to do calculus, discover the structures of the universe, or philosophize well. Rather, what Scripture is able to do is limited by its domain. Scripture doesn't contain all truth, just the truth necessary for "everything pertaining to life and godliness."
That Scripture has a domain to which its sufficiency applies is an important part of understanding the doctrine of sufficiency. In a collection of essays titled, The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture, which was edited by Adam Greenway and David Dockery, Malcolm Yarnell III and Dockery have an essay called "The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture: An Introduction." In that essay, Yarnell and Dockery clarify what sufficiency means in light of the proper domain of Scripture (10):
"The sufficiency of Scripture is an extremely important, foundational, and necessary doctrine. We must, however, be careful not to misuse the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. First, we must remember that the Scriptures do not provide exhaustive teaching. For instance, Scripture does not speak to everything about creation. Second, the doctrine of Scriptural sufficiency does not suggest that creeds and confessions have no place in the life of the church. Of course, the doctrine of sufficiency reminds believers that credal statements must themselves derive from Scripture. Third, Scripture does not address some of the mundane matters of life, such as how to perform integral calculus. However, Scripture does adequately provide us the spiritual and moral principles by which we should conduct ourselves in the world."
So, Scripture cannot be expected to be sufficient for knowledge outside its proper domain. It may have something to say about topics outside its domain, but it is not sufficient for a complete understanding of those topics.
That Scripture has a proper domain - such as whatever human beings need to know in order to know God, be saved, and obey, honor, and love Him - opens another set of issues that can be troubling. These issues have to do with relevance: the sense, if any, in which Scripture ought to inform subjects outside its proper domain; and the sense, if any, in which subjects outside Scripture's proper domain ought to inform it. The proper domain of Scripture could be used in order to isolate it from the fields of inquiry that are outside its proper domain. I've decided to illustrate this as a model that I call the "Disconnected Islands Model":
Disconnected Islands Model of the Sufficiency of Scripture
This model supposes that Scripture's domain (i.e., the Christian worldview) is so narrow that it doesn't touch the other "islands" of human action and inquiry. Perhaps it has some relevance to life experience, theology, and practical matters, but it doesn't touch other areas. As such, Scripture does little to actually inform what we ought to think or do in those areas outside its domain. This model says to Scripture, "Stay here, and don't leave."
The problems with this model are quite obvious. First, it implies that Scripture is entirely irrelevant, for instance, to the study of mathematics or of science, and we know that this is not true. In fact, thinkers as far back as Isaac Newton, the famed physicist and mathematician, recognized that his Christian faith informed his study in these areas.
Second, this model, it seems to me, affirms a far too restrictive understanding of what Scripture does. The model treats Scripture as if it gives us concrete, isolated propositions that we ought to believe but that don't overlap with the rest of God's truth. I'd argue, with others, that Scripture does much more than this. Scripture gives Christians the basis for a whole framework for a system of beliefs or worldview. As such, Scripture gives Christians the basis for formulating a coherent, cohesive understanding of the world in light of God's revealed truth. This is the basis for the second model, which I call the "Web Model":
Web Model of the Sufficiency of Scripture
It is an evangelical axiom that "all truth is God's truth." That is, since God is the basis for truth, then truth comes from Him, no matter where it is found. Thus, as lovers of God, we ought to praise Him wherever truth is discovered, no matter who discovers it. This model is intended to incorporate the fact that "all truth is God's truth" in order to show that Scripture, though it has its proper domain, informs the whole of human knowledge and experience.
This model is called the "Web Model" because it utilizes the image of a spider web in order to illustrate the place that Scripture has in formulating a comprehensive Christian understanding of the world. The red box labeled "The Christian Worldview" represents the proper domain of Scripture, that is, the forming of the central tenants of the Christian worldview for the believer. All Christian doctrine, theology, and practice is summed up in the red box, and Scripture is the foundation for all of these. Scripture is sufficient for the formulation of the central facets of the Christian worldview.
But the Christian worldview, in order to be a comprehensive and coherent worldview, needs to incorporate all of God's truth, not just what we find through divine special revelation. Reason, tradition and experience will lead us to elaborate on the content of Scripture in a way that forms our theological perspectives. The unique methods of the humanities, the sciences, history, etc. will be developed, and Christians will work as specialists in those fields to incorporate what they find in these fields into their understanding of the Christian worldview. But the key is that Scripture will continue to be authoritative in all areas of the Christian's worldview, not just in the area covered by the proper domain of Scripture.
How can we understand how it is that Scripture remains authoritative, even over areas and fields outside its proper domain? Also, does Scripture remain sufficient in any sense related to those areas outside its proper domain? Answering these questions will push into a yet more precise understanding of the doctrine, but for now, we can define the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture as such: the sufficiency of Scripture is the doctrine that the Word of God, which was inspired by God, is sufficient for all that mankind needs to know in order to know, love, honor, and serve God, including everything that mankind needs to know for salvation. This definition recognizes two important qualifiers to sufficiency. First, sufficiency should not be taken to mean that Scripture is sufficient in every area of inquiry in the same way. Scripture has its own proper domain over which it is sufficient in an absolute sense. Second, the sufficiency of Scripture shouldn't be taken to imply that Scripture tells us everything that could be known about the subjects that fall within its proper domain. In short, we are on a "need to know" basis with God, and He has chosen to tell us only what's necessary for us to know, love, honor, and serve God. Questions will remain, and Scripture doesn't answer all of these questions. Scripture will not answer every question we could have about God, and it shouldn't be used as if it does.
Returning to our questions above, I have found a journal article by the Reformed evangelical systematic theologian, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, very helpful. He is a first-rate Christian scholar whose article is worth reading! It is a 2021 article in the Journal of Psychology and Theology titled "The Sufficiency of Scripture: A Critical and Constructive Account." In this article, Vanhoozer does what I wanted to do for this post, but he's much more qualified than I am to address this topic. I'll address each of the questions I've posed by pointing to insights and distinctions in this article.
First, how can we understand how it is that Scripture remains authoritative, even over areas and fields outside its proper domain? The Web Model, which I take to be the better of our two models of the sufficiency of Scripture, implies that Scripture impacts our understanding in areas outside its proper domain. Scripture is authoritative over all domains of knowledge, but defining its authority over those domains is not easy.
First, Vanhoozer distinguishes between three kinds of domains that Scripture might address: its proper domain, mixed domains, and improper domains (232). The proper domain is clear enough, as we've already said that it includes all that is necessary for someone to know, love, honor, and serve God, including everything that mankind needs to know for salvation. Its improper domains, then, are those areas that Scripture doesn't directly address. The Bible doesn't directly address, for instance, how to do mathematics, so most of mathematics lies outside of Scripture's proper domain entirely. Mixed domains are those fields of inquiry about which Scripture has something definitive to say but for which Scripture is not the only source or resource. An example of this would be the field of psychology, to which one's anthropology, or view of human nature, directly applies. This distinction is helpful because the authority and sufficiency of Scripture doesn't apply to each of these three kinds of domains in the same way.
To understand why this is so, consider a second distinction that Vanhoozer makes between the material and formal sufficiency of Scripture (221). The material sufficiency of Scripture refers to its provision of everything that we need to know for whatever Scripture is intended to provide. Thus, the material sufficiency of Scripture is restricted to its proper domain. Other fields of inquiry may provide helpful resources for reading Scripture or understanding its message, but Scripture alone provides everything needed for knowing, loving, honoring, and serving God. The key for the material sufficiency of Scripture is its authority as God's inspired Word.
The formal sufficiency of Scripture refers to the way in which Scripture provides what's necessary for it to be rightly interpreted. This aspect of sufficiency emphasizes other aspects of Scripture, such as its perspicuity or clarity. In other words, though other resources might help us in formulating rightly the content of the Christian worldview, no other resource is necessary for the right interpretation of Scripture. As Vanhoozer points out, the debates between Roman Catholics and the reformers concerning Scripture had to do with their disagreement about the formal sufficiency of Scripture. Roman Catholics hold that the Church is necessary as an authority to determine the right interpretation of Scripture for Christians. Protestants generally disagree.
With this distinction in mind, we are equipped to answer the question posed above. Thankfully, Vanhoozer provides an insightful summary that is worth considering (231, emphasis is original):
"The Bible is materially insufficient for planning a lunar landing, dealing with diabetes, or even deciding on what day Easter falls. On the other hand, Scripture is formally sufficient for providing a transdisciplinary Christian hermeneutic because it provides a storied framework and social imaginary with which to interpret extrabiblical data biblically, including data from clinical psychology.
Though we can say that Scripture is materially and formally sufficient regarding its proper domain, it is materially insufficient and formally sufficient for its improper and mixed domains.
Particularly helpful, I think, is Vanhoozer's reference to a function of Scripture as providing a "transdisciplinary Christian hermeneutic." These are the lines running from the central box to all other fields of inquiry in the Web Model. What makes Scripture authoritative for the improper and mixed domains is that Scripture provides the basis for study within those other domains.
Some examples are clear. For instance, in the study of psychology, behaviorism is a theory about human and animal behavior that assumes that human beings are purely material entities. Thus, on behaviorism, there is nothing to human beings, such as a soul, that is non-physical. But, if Christian scholars like J.P. Moreland and John W. Cooper are right, then the Bible plausibly teaches that human beings have souls, or an immaterial aspect of themselves that survives physical death. So, as Christians interacting with psychology for the task of formulating a cohesive Christian worldview, we can reject behaviorism entirely on the basis that one of its core philosophical assumptions is unbiblical. In that way, Scripture operates as a hermeneutic for our engagement in psychology, showing us which theoretical options are acceptable for the Christian.
(Notice that the theological liberal might argue for a different approach, claiming that behaviorism is well-established to such an extent that we ought to reconsider the Bible's teaching regarding human nature. Some liberals go far enough to suggest that behaviorism shows that Scripture has errors. For the evangelical, however, this is an unacceptable theological route to take, since it impugns our doctrines of Scripture.)
With this in mind, we can now move on to our second question for consideration.
Second, does Scripture remain sufficient in any sense related to those areas outside its proper domain? Notice that we've already answered this question with respect to its authority in domains other than Scripture's proper domain. Scripture may not be materially sufficient for its improper and mixed domains, but it remains formally sufficient nonetheless. It provides a "transdisciplinary Christian hermeneutic" by which we can interpret the data of other domains biblically in the project of formulating a cohesive, comprehensive Christian worldview. Thus, Scripture is sufficient, in some sense, for all truth, either as its primary and authoritative source (material) or its central hermeneutical standard (formal). Thus, when I, as a Christian philosopher, read a philosophical text, I ought always to have Scripture in mind. Whether or not I am reading Scripture in the moment, it is nonetheless my primary authority, for from it alone do I receive God's special revelation about Himself. My access to truth is surer than at any other time when I read Scripture. Thus, it is my stable foundation when access is not as sure in other domains.
There is more to say, and I could glean much more wisdom and insight from Vanhoozer's excellent article on this topic. But what we've said is sufficient (pun intended) for a conclusion as to how, if at all, the sufficiency of Scripture applies to CRT.
How Does the Sufficiency of Scripture Apply to CRT, If At All?
In order to answer this question, we must consider what CRT is. Though I have a short definition of CRT written at the beginning of this post, it isn't detailed enough to be helpful here. I've noted on this blog before that CRT and its related claims and terms are, for the most part, just an application of the major tenets of critical theory to race and racism. Those tenets are as follows, from my series of posts entitled "Deconstructing Critical Theory" (note that this list is based on an article from Neil Shenvi on critical theory):
Metaphysical: oppressed and oppressor
Postmodern: hegemonic power
Political: solidarity through oppression
Moral: freeing oppressed groups
Epistemological: lived experience
The junction: the guise of objectivity
Of particular interest to me is the Epistemological tenant to critical theory, which claims that lived experience is more important than objective evidence in understanding oppression. At issue here is, fundamentally, a claim about authority to determine what's true. For critical theorists, the lived experience of the oppressed minority is more important than objective evidence. This doesn't imply that critical theorists are never willing to use statistics or other objective measures, but they are read with an assumption that the lived experience of the oppressed is the proper interpretive framework for interpreting those objective measures.
Consider the authors cited in what Christianity Today called "The Anti-Racist Curriculum White Evangelicals Need, which Baucham cited in Fault Lines. Almost every single author or content creator cited in the article is a person of color. Now, do not misunderstand my point. There is obviously nothing wrong with reading an author who is a person of color. My point is that, where reading that author is connected with an assumption that the perspective of people of color is more authoritative for determining matters of justice or injustice, what we have is an implicit denial of the claim that Scripture is sufficient for determining those issues.
At this point, we have to be careful, however. An implicit denial of Scripture's sufficiency in a given domain is not necessarily a denial of the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. As we've already discussed, any standard evangelical understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture will include the qualifier that Scripture has a proper domain. Scripture is not materially sufficient for areas outside its proper domain.
What's needed to show that this implicit denial is a denial of the doctrine itself is an argument to the effect that the claims made about critical social justice or critical theory, regarding race especially, are within the proper domain of Scripture. If something outside of Scripture is needed in order to gain knowledge of truth that falls within Scripture's proper domain, then we have a denial of the material sufficiency of Scripture. Scripture, in that case, doesn't tell us everything we need to know in order to know, love, honor, and serve God. If something outside of Scripture is needed in order to properly interpret the content of Scripture, so as to properly understand what it says about issues in its proper domain, then we have a denial of the formal sufficiency of Scripture. Scripture, in that case, is not perspicuous or clear on issues within its proper domain.
Are race and racism, then, within the proper domain of Scripture? For this, I'm going to point to Resolution 9, the infamous resolution that was adopted by the SBC during its annual conference in 2019. I encourage you to read the resolution in full, and Southern Baptists hold widely varying opinions as to the merits of the resolution.
I, frankly, think that it's a confusing mess. Though not every part of the resolution is bad by any stretch of the imagination, some of its claims are unclear (or just false), and it is unclear how some of its claims are to be taken together. For instance, we read early in the resolution:
"WHEREAS, Critical race theory is a set of analytical tools that explain how race has and continues to function in society, and intersectionality is the study of how different personal characteristics overlap and inform one’s experience...
The description of CRT as a "set of analytical tools" is, frankly, patently inaccurate. Many people, including unbelievers like James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose (Cynical Theories), have shown that critical theory, from which CRT is derived, is a worldview. It includes basic claims about human nature, society, truth, and ethics that are unbiblical and based in a perspective outside Scripture. CRT's particular claims are as inseparable from its theoretical framework as the claim that Jesus died for our sins is inseparable from the Christian worldview.
After that unfortunate beginning, the resolution goes on to make this statement:
"WHEREAS, 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..."
Again, the wording of this statement is egregiously inaccurate. CRT was first formulated by unbelievers who opposed the Christian worldview! It has never not been contrary to the Christian faith. As I've argued extensively on this blog, every major tenet of critical theory emerges from a secular worldview that, at its foundation, rejects God and His Word.
Even with such a favorable assessment of CRT, the resolution still goes on to make this statement:
"WHEREAS, Critical race theory and intersectionality alone are insufficient to diagnose and redress the root causes of the social ills that they identify, which result from sin, yet these analytical tools can aid in evaluating a variety of human experiences..."
This is true, but it isn't quite the point. First, I'd make the stronger claim that CRT and Intersectionality (or CRT/I) are unable to correctly diagnose and redress the root causes of the social ills they identify and that they are not a useful aid in evaluating a variety of human experiences. As I've written before, CRT/I prescribes the wrong treatment because it makes a false diagnosis. To say that CRT/I is insufficient is an insufficient critique of this false worldview.
Nonetheless, second, that CRT/I is insufficient is crucially not the point. For any Bible-believing Christian, that much should be obvious. The point is whether it's necessary. If CRT/I is a necessary aid to understanding issues of race and racism, without which the Christian cannot be equipped to address these issues, then we have an implicit denial of the sufficiency of Scripture, whether or not those who argue for its necessity claim to affirm the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.
Whether CRT/I is deemed necessary becomes less clear when the resolution makes this statement:
"WHEREAS, Scripture contains categories and principles by which to deal with racism, poverty, sexism, injustice, and abuse that are not rooted in secular ideologies..."
This statement in Resolution 9 leaves us with quite the question mark. The resolution makes these two claims:
CRT/I is insufficient for addressing its proper domain (diagnosing and redressing certain social ills).
Scripture addresses the issues within the proper domain of CRT/I.
Simply put, then why do we need CRT/I? It can't even address the issues that comprise its own main focus, and Scripture addresses those issues. This is where defining the proper domain of Scripture is key. Is redressing "racism, poverty, sexism, injustice, and abuse" part of the proper domain of Scripture? Insofar as these are ethical issues that stem from God's righteous character and nature (i.e., justice is defined by God's nature), as well as the nature of His creation, then the answer seems obvious. We must know how to address these issues in order to know, love, honor, and serve God.
To be clear, I am not claiming that Resolution 9 includes an implicit denial of the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. It lacks sufficient clarity even to do that. Rather, my claim is that, if the issues that comprise Scripture's proper domain include the issues addressed by CRT, then CRT is either insufficient for addressing those issues (as Resolution 9 affirms) or unnecessary for addressing those issues (lest we reject the sufficiency of Scripture), or both. If one claims that CRT/I is sufficient for addressing these issues, then that's equivalent to saying that we don't even need Scripture to rightly address issues of racism, poverty, etc. If one claims that CRT/I is necessary for addressing these issues, then one has implicitly rejected the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture, either in its content (material sufficiency) or in its function as interpretive guide to itself and all other domains of knowledge (formal sufficiency). If CRT/I is neither sufficient nor necessary, then why use it it at all?
Let me be clear: the major tenants of critical theory, the theoretical basis for CRT, are unbiblical anyway. They shouldn't be adopted for that reason alone. But I agree with Voddie Baucham that to tie CRT with the claim that it is necessary to learn from sources outside Scripture in order to gain understanding of issues within Scripture's proper domain is an implicit denial of the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. Evangelicals would do well to consider this as a reason to stay away from CRT in their understanding of race and racism.
In this post, I have sought to answer to the question as to whether CRT undermined the sufficiency of Scripture in three steps. First, I analyzed Voddie Baucham's argument concerning CRT and the sufficiency of Scripture. Second, I analyzed the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture with greater precision. Third, I addressed CRT's relationship to the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture with an evaluation of Resolution 9. I argued that the claim that CRT is necessary for addressing issues within Scripture's proper domain is an implicit denial of the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture, either materially or formally. As a bonus, I argued further that CRT is not useful for Christians to utilize, since it is both insufficient and unnecessary for addressing issues within its proper domain. It is also unbiblical, as I've argued elsewhere.
Why did I write this post? This wasn't an attempt to further bolster a conclusion with which I already agreed. Before writing this post, I actually wasn't sure whether I agreed with Baucham on this issue. Often, I write just as much for my own benefit as for the benefit of the reader. The process of researching and writing this post has helped me state with greater precision my positions regarding CRT in the midst of a very important debate among evangelicals. On top of this, the discovery of a further argument against CRT's usefulness for Christians was a happy accident, an unintended consequence of my inquiry into the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture.
I'm sure that Christians who read this post will come away with agreements and disagreements with my position. Some may even balk at the idea that I'm speaking positively about Voddie Baucham at all. What I humbly ask is that if you, upon reading what I have to say, disagree with me, consider these two questions. First, what reasons do you have for disagreeing with me? If I've misunderstood a position or made an invalid or unsound argument, then you have a very good reason to disagree with me. If you just don't like my position, then that's not a good reason for disagreeing with someone's position. Second, are you willing to discuss it with me with charity, honesty, and civility? All too often, discussions about critical theory and CRT become shouting matches. Christians have forgotten the ninth commandment, and the discussion often degenerates into ad hominem attacks. I welcome discussion and disagreement, where it is intended for my good and based on good reason. Please, if you have criticisms, share them with me. (Praise is welcome, too.)
That's it for this post! I have found researching and writing this post to be edifying as well as gratifying, as it's yielded so many insights for me about the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture, a doctrine that I've always cherished and that is part of our heritage as Christians. I hope that you will be edified by this post and that, perhaps, it can lead some Christians to thoughtfully reconsider their positions regarding these issues. If you'd like to reach out to me, feel free to email me or message me on Facebook. Otherwise, you can comment on this post. Also, please consider liking the post and sharing it with others. Thank you for reading!
Baucham Jr., Voddie T. Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism's Looming
Catastrophe. Washington, D.C.: Salem Books, 2021.
Vanhoozer, Kevin J. "The Sufficiency of Scripture: A Critical and Constructive Account."
Journal of Psychology and Theology 49, no. 3 (2021): 218-234.
Yarnell III, Malcolm B. and David S. Dockery. "The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture: An
Introduction." In The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture, edited by Adam W.
Greenway and David S. Dockery, 1-19. Fort Worth, TX: Seminary Hill Press, 2022.