Ideas About Conclusions: Can You Accept Conclusions and Reject Their Source?

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Jesus, Matthew 7:24-29

In a world raging with–Critical Theory, the Social Justice Movement, injustice, racial tension, dismantling systems–Christians face an immense responsibility. We are to be holy and set apart unto God. We are to be light and salt. We are to make disciples. We are to represent God in this world. One of the ways we need to do this is to display responsible and discerning thinking habits. God has created us to be logical and discerning creatures. Creatures that bear His image and show the world what it means in some way to think well, as God would have us. We are to model good engagement with clear thinking and faithful communication.

Right now, Christians face a difficult task in this regard. Culture is demanding a response to certain evils. We are tasked with wading through the observations, conclusions, and solutions, proposed by our culture in regards to justice, race, police brutality, the consequences of racism in America, systemic racism and more. Much of this dialogue inside of Christianity and out has been dominated by vocabulary espoused by advocates of Critical Theory. If you have read or been recommended to read books like White Fragility or How to Be an Anti-Racist you have been introduced to Critical Theory and important elements of it’s worldview.

What is Critical Theory? (Briefly)

I am far from an expert but have been digging into what Critical Theory is and what it espouses. I am heavily reliant upon Neil Shenvi and his work with Pat Sawyer throughout this time of research and will rely on them here. I believe his nuanced, Biblical, timely work is invaluable to the Church right now. Please read him. For a more lengthy introduction Critical Theory please go here: https://shenviapologetics.com/intro-to-critical-theory/

Simply put, Critical Theory, is a worldview and ideology that sees the world through the lens of power. This power is broken up into two major groups: oppressor and the oppressed. You are part of one group or the other. Relevantly, if you are white in America you are part of the dominant oppressor group and thus participate in a racist society. Similarly, if you are a minority you are in the oppressed group and are victims of oppression by the system that you live in.

To understand popular buzz words that have trickled down from critical theorists into today’s discourse check out this tool: https://shenviapologetics.com/an-antiracism-glossary/

Is it All Wrong?

Now, you might say, “this doesn’t sound so bad.” Oppression has occurred in our past and power and oppressors exist all throughout world history. This article is not an intention to break down critical theory. There are many more qualified to do that. For a good work on how Critical Theory and Christianity are incompatible look here: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/incompatibility-critical-theory-christianity/ or here: https://shenviapologetics.com/social-justice-critical-theory-and-christianity-are-they-compatible-part-1-2/

The problem is not with the existence of injustice, oppression, sin, wickedness etc. We know, all too well, that the Bible teaches us that sin contaminates everything about this life. People are broken and sinful. People with and without power or significance in this world are born sinners and outside of Christ stand in opposition to God and unable be righteous (Romans 1, 3).

The problem is that some in conservative Christians circles are claiming you can use Critical Theory as a tool and reject what is not Biblical. They believe that we can use certain aspects of it and not others. It is beleived that Critical Theory will aid us in speaking out against injustice and doing Kingdom work. More dangerously, we have Christians that simply want to use the #blacklivesmatter and vocabulary like “dismantle the system”, “social justice”, “systemic racism/oppression” and yet distinguish themselves from the movement. This is the more dangerous one in my opinion and this idea is something I want to address in this article.

My contention is that you cannot accept conclusions without in some way accepting the worldview they are built on. I believe that Christians need to speak to the issues of injustice using the Christian worldview, Christian categories, Christian definitions, and Christian vocabulary. It is my contention that accepting conclusions or borrowing from other systems is not Biblically faithful.

The above contention is a significant statement that you may not agree with but please hang with me. A more positive way of stating it would be: Christians should only use Biblical conclusions, categories, vocabulary, and meaning when speaking out against injustice.

Accepting Conclusions is Accepting the Worldview

The Christian Worldview (how we view the world) is the best and only way for Christians to speak to the world around us. This is obvious in so many ways and is followed by Christians everywhere. We are Christians thus we speak in a Christian way.

As an example: when talking about the atonement on the cross that Jesus accomplished–Christians would never start using vocabulary and ideas foreign to the Bible to talk about this. It is too important! When talking about who God is Christians would never start using vocabulary and ideas from outside the Bible to discuss it. It is too important! When talking about humanity we start from the Christian Worldview, as revealed in the Word of God, as our means of discussing human value, dignity, worth, and purpose. This is worldview at work. We work from a worldview and apply it to our beliefs about the world around us and our responsibility in it.

To me, it is just as true when we are speaking out about injusice, social issues, systemic issues, and the like. More than that, we cannot draw conclusions or take conclusions from unbiblical places and try to Christianize them. Christian, we cannot take the vocabulary and certain conclusions from Critical Theory and Christianize them. That is self-defeating. It is simply not possible. Let’s look at some concrete examples:

Conclusion: Justice demands that we must dismantle oppressive systems.

This sentence is filled with things that need to be understood or qualified. I would begin with some questions like: What is justice? What does it mean to dismantle? Who are we dismantling?

We may find out some helpful answers to keep the conversation going but most importantly we are working with idea that was born from somewhere. I say it that way because ideas and conclusions are born from worldview. They are not isolated things. They come from somewhere. I would never agree to the statement above nor would I discuss the issue of injustice and our role that way. Why? Not because there is no redeemable quality or a shadow of an idea I can get behind but because it brings with it all of the weight of the Critical Theory worldview.

In Critical Theory (CT) the only righteous cause is the cause of the oppressed over the oppressor. God does not demand that we dismantle anything in the way that CT would demand. We speak out against injustice and seek the cause of the oppressed in ways that the Bible demands. As a Christian we must work through civil engagement wisely. As a Christian we are called to be lights, salt, seek the good, and more. What does that mean biblically? How far do we go? What weapons do we use? What did Jesus do?

The problem with accepting the above conclusion is that you accept the worldview that bore it. Which brings in completely unbiblical definitions and statements about justice, knowledge etc. There is nothing that CT does not touch. As my father said, “It seeks to stand behind everything you believe and put it under the microscope.” Here is a good link to see some shocking statements from a couple of authors. One, Diangelo, who wrote White Fragility: https://shenviapologetics.com/quotes-from-sensoy-and-diangelos-is-everyone-really-equal/

Conclusion: It is not enough for you to not be a racist. You must be an anti-racist.

This is another loaded conclusion that is born from a worldview. Notice a confusing new use of terminology. Racism is redefined in Contemporary Critical Theory to mean institutional power + prejudice (https://shenviapologetics.com/an-antiracism-glossary-racism/). First, if you are part of the dominant group you are a racist solely because you are part of the power group. Second, it is not enough to seek to not be a racist individually, but you must actively seek to tear down racist structures and systems.

This is where things get murky. What does it mean to be an anti-racist? Answer: https://shenviapologetics.com/an-antiracism-glossary-antiracism/ What does that look like in my personal life? Who measures this success? What constitute racist structures? There is just too much to even begin touching on. So, why would you go anywhere near this type of language when the Bible and the Christian worldview gives us all of the best tools to speak to the world about the realities it faces?

See the problem? If we begin using vocabulary, ideas, and conclusions from somewhere else we start running into problems. My very wise father said recently, “Christianity is not very good at integrating.” He meant that Christianity is not designed to bring in other ideas from foreign places and incorporate them. In fact it is quite the opposite…

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Jesus, Matthew 7:24-29

I believe that the words we use matter and that they transmit ideas. These ideas are not isolated bits of truth that can be Christianized but are conclusions and solutions that carry with them the weight of a worldview. Christians–use Biblical language, biblical categories, biblical definitions so that we can best serve the world around us and show the love of God in Christ.

Read my next blog post on what I think Christians should do when they identify what seem to be good ideas or even biblical ideas in our culture and seek to use them as avenues of gospel hope and effective civil engagement.

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