Critical Theory & Social Justice
You shall do no injustice in court.
You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great,
but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.
– LEVITICUS 19:15
When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.
– II SAMUEL 23:3B,4
There’s no such thing as “social justice,” people. In fact, in the Bible justice never has an adjective. There’s justice and there’s injustice, but there’s not different kinds of justice.
– VODDIE BAUCHAM
Frankfurt School Critical Theory is generally understood as a body of social thought both emerging from and responding to Marxism… [these] critical theorists have…stressed the role of human agency in affecting revolutionary social change… Theory with practical intent seeks not only to understand the world but also to transform it.
– JOAN ALWAY
CRITICAL THEORY is rooted in Marxism, and SOCIAL JUSTICE, as social justice warrior Joan Alway admits above, is application of Critical Theory “affecting revolutionary social change.” That revolution may be labelled liberation, cultural transformation, or Christian Social Justice, but it begins with Progressives “deconstructing” traditional Western values and culture by redistributing wealth and power. Traditional Marxists tried and failed to accomplish redistribution by establishing class equality. Twenty-first century Progressives are attempting to accomplish it by establishing “identity” equality: sexual, gender, racial equality. These Progressive efforts are evident everywhere in American culture. Similar efforts are evident in the PCA and other conservative denominations. This page will help you better understand their agenda and methods.
Isaiah Berlin wrote that, “Everything is what it is: liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or culture, or human happiness or a quiet conscience.” This page traces the dismantling of traditional American liberty using Critical Theory applied as Social Justice. The intent of the dismantlers is to destabilize government and traditional institutions, including Christian institutions, to “liberate” mankind for the sake of “human flourishing.” This ultimately leads to the replacement of Western culture norms with redefined man-centered liberty. Follow along as we review their goals and their methods for achieving those goals. We begin with the Church’s retreat from this conflict.
J. Gresham Machen: And now the Church is shrinking from the conflict. Driven from the spiritual realm by the current of modern thought, she is consoling herself with things about which there is no dispute. If she favors better housing for the poor, she need fear no contradiction…But sin, and death, and salvation, and life, and God—about these things there is debate. You can avoid the debate if you choose. You need only drift with the current…The great questions may easily be avoided. Many preachers are avoiding them. And many preachers are preaching to the air. The Church is waiting for men of another type. Men to fight her battles and solve her problems.
By Todd Pruitt
If you care to read the architects of Critical Theory—Benjamin, Horkheimer, Fromm, Adorno, Marcuse, etc.— you will find that their project was animated in large part by a desire to undermine Christianity and its moral and philosophical norms. They believed these norms inhibited the sexual and intellectual evolution of mankind. You will also find that many of these scholars coming out of the 1930s Frankfurt School considered Satan an important symbol of mankind’s empowerment and independence.
How strange, then, that some in the PCA are urging us to employ Critical Race Theory (a species of Critical Theory) as an important lens through which we can better understand God, the Gospel, and humanity. They do so under the banner of common grace, which may be one of the most overused yet misunderstood doctrines in our theological toolbox.
By Denny Burk
I have yet to find anyone who can show me a helpful “insight” from CRT that I couldn’t have gotten from God’s revelation and sound reason without CRT. For example, intersectionality teaches rightly that it is possible for people to be discriminated against on the basis of more than one personal characteristic. That is an absolutely true “insight,” but I don’t need CRT to arrive at that insight. All I need is a biblical doctrine of sin.
And that is the issue that Todd brings out so well. Why send people to CRT sources to chew up meat and spit out bones when I can send them to other sources that are all meat and no bones? Why push for sources that will inevitably cause at least some saints to choke? As indeed some already are (whether they realize it or not).
By Todd Pruitt
It appears [the PCA has] a pretty intense food fight developing over Critical Race Theory (CRT). Lots of accusations are being thrown about. But that seems to be nearly unavoidable when disagreement arises over such an emotionally charged issue as race and how best to address the tensions that exist between us.
It is my belief that CRT is not only heightening these tensions, but guiding us away from the gospel and its radical solution to sin, justice, and reconciliation. You may disagree with me about that, but to simply dismiss such concerns with the pejorative “anti-intellectual fundamentalist,” seems rather anti-intellectual and fundamentalist.
I confess that I do wonder where all of these calls to “eat the meat and spit out the bones” were during the debate over the Nashville Statement two years ago at the PCA General Assembly.
Critical Theory, Social Justice, and Christianity: Are They Compatible?
By Neil Shenvi
By Dr. Neil Shenvi & Dr. Pat Sawyer
“Our contention is that a careful, fair, sufficiently thorough, and nuanced understanding of contemporary critical theory is vital for all Christians, especially for Christians engaged in apologetics and evangelism. These ideas are increasingly influential in the media, on college campuses, and in the church. If we want to engage people with the message of the gospel, we need to understand the ideas and worldviews our culture is embracing and show where they are inadequate so that we can point people to the truth found in Jesus.”
By Voddie Baucham
By Darrell B. Harrison
Equity seeks first to discern what is objectively true and, subsequently, to render a ruling or verdict solely on that basis. Equality, on the other hand, prioritizes pursuing a desired or preferred outcome without regard to that which is objectively true.
Scripture teaches that the providence of God reigns over all outcomes and judgments that come to pass in this world (Proverbs 16:33). So even when the outcome of a disputed matter is not what you or I may have desired, as believers in an altogether holy, just, and righteous God, we remain steadfast in the hope that one day all wrongs will be made right—just as God, who cannot lie, has promised (Leviticus 19:18; Romans 12:19; Colossians 3:25; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9; 1 Timothy 5:24; Revelation 7:16-17).
A Short History of Black Lives Matter
BLM’s co-founder Patrisse Cullors: We actually do have an ideological frame. Myself, and Alesia in particular, are trained organizers. We are trained Marxists. We are super-versed on, sort of, ideological theories.
Noah Rothman: It is increasingly common to hear social justice activists equate discomfiting and objectionable speech with acts of violence, and not in a metaphorical sense. Those activists are just as liable to view reactionary activities—including public disturbances, property destruction, and even the physical harassment of their opponents—as alternative forms of expression. Since they conflate offensive speech and violence, a violent response to speech isn’t just reasonable; it’s necessary. It’s practically self-defense.
By Claira Janover
By Joshua Lawson:
For both Christian abolitionists and civil rights leaders, the words of the Bible and abiding faith in the Almighty were all they needed to achieve victory and justice for members of God’s family being denied their natural rights as endowed by their Creator. If slavery and government-sponsored Jim Crow legislation could be defeated by the irresistible love the gospel promotes, Christians should take heart that the power of the Word can work the same wonders again and unite a fractious nation.
By Joshua Lawson:
Whereas traditional garden-variety Marxism views history as a struggle between the wealthy and the working class “proletariat,” neo-Marxism cranks up the heat and redefines the fight to incorporate biological sex, race, ethnicity, and a whole gambit of various “identity” badges. The grand unifying principle for the Marxists behind the Black Lives Matter movement is that everything—and they mean everything—can be reduced to “oppressors” versus the “oppressed.” If you happen to be a member of one of the “oppressor” groups, then expect to see all sorts of punishments heading your way until the neo-Marxists are satisfied. Except they never are.
By Yascha Mounk:
One of the core tenets of liberal democracy is that people should not be punished for accusations against them that are unsubstantiated, for actions that are perfectly reasonable, or for offenses that were committed by others. No matter how worthy the cause they invoke, you should not trust anyone who seeks to abandon these fundamental principles.
By Alan Jacobs:
This is where social media come in. If everyone has a smartphone and access to social media accounts, then anything you do or say might be recorded and published. Anything those to whom you are related do or say may be recorded and published, to shame you before the entire world. From the perspective of those who lust for social control, this is an ideal situation, because if they make you sufficiently fearful of exposure then you will not only police yourself, you will police your friends and family. And if you can be exposed and punished not only for what you intentionally do and say, but for what you inadvertently do and say, and for what people you know do and say, then you will become obsessively vigilant in your policing.
By Allie Stuckie
You’ll see many references to justice in the Bible, but you’ll never see the word “social” precede it. Why? Is it simply because social justice is a new cause that post dates the Bible? Or is it because social justice, by its very nature, is directly at odds with justice as the Bible defines it?
Courtesy of Ligonier Ministries
By Rosaria Butterfield
Intersectionality creates a metanarrative (grand story) out of oppression. It maintains that the world is made up of power struggles, and that white male heterosexual patriarchy must be destroyed in order to liberate those who are oppressed by it. It understands the biblical complementarity of husbands and wives as perverted and “weaponized.”
Defining Social Justice
By Voddie Baucham
By the CPC Pastoral Staff:
The issue of the church’s mission in the world requires great nuance. The church is to take the gospel of Christ into the world without being worldly (John 17:14-16). There are believers who desire purity, but seek it at the expense of true mission, and there are believers who go out zealously into the world, but do so at the expense of purity.
Much has been written on these matters. We do not wish to offer a full-scale treatment here. Rather, our narrow focus will offer clarification on how two Old Testament texts should and should not be understood in the church’s mission in the world.
Critical Theory, Social Justice & Christian Worldview
Neil Shenvi: A worldview is a story that answers our basic questions about life and reality. Who are we? What is our fundamental problem as human beings? What is the solution to that problem? What is our principle moral duty? What is our purpose in life? A worldview is a metanarrative, a lens through which we view and interpret all other evidence and all other claims.
Neil Shenvi: With critical theory “there is no transcendent Creator who has a purpose and a design for our lives and our identities. We don’t primarily exist in relation to God, but in relation to other people and to other groups. Our identity is not defined primarily in terms of who we are as God’s creatures. Instead, we define ourselves in terms of race, class, sexuality, and gender identity. Oppression, not sin, is our fundamental problem. What is the solution? Activism. Changing structures. Raising awareness. We work to overthrow and dismantle hegemonic power. That is our primary moral duty. What is our purpose in life? To work for the liberation of all oppressed groups so that we can achieve a state of equality.
By Carl Trueman:
All previous metanarratives have, for good or ill, attempted to provide the world with stability, a set of categories by which cultures can operate. They may have offered different, even mutually exclusive, accounts of the world, but offering stability was still the intention. The [Critical Theory] metanarrative of the death of metanarratives does the antithesis of this: It serves only to destabilize everything. It is the quintessential ideology of the anti-culture, opposed to any and every form of transcendent authority.
Taught by Vince L. Bantu (no longer at CTS):
Course Objectives (bolding added)
- To relate to God more deeply in understanding the role of cultural identity as a celebrated part of being created in His image.
- To understand the relationship between theology and culture and the missiological importance of contextualization.
- Theology Is a human response to God.
- Theology is culturally mediated and filtered.
- To value indigenous leadership in Christian missions and to cultivate meaningful and strategic partnership across cultural and national borders.
- To acquire familiarity with the fullness of God’s world mission as it has played out across two-millenia of world Christian history.
- To discern the role of sociological categories of identity (race, ethnicity, culture, class, nationality) in the spiritual formation of our community and that of others.
- To lament the Western, white cultural captivity of the Church and to place ministerial priority on the socially and culturally marginalized.
- Residue of this social phenomenon.
- To identify cultural blind spots and to cultivate cross-cultural intelligence for the sake of intercultural friendship in the global Body of Christ.
- To explore best practices in missions in both intracultural and intercultural ministry through the witness of contemporary missiological models of contextualization and indigenous leadership development.
By Brad Green:
Christians should seek justice in our present situation, and speak to the various pressing issues of our day. Yet as we do so, we would be wise to heed Scripture and take our cues from thinkers other than Karl Marx. One such thinker is Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer (1801-1876), author of a book entitled Unbelief and Revolution. For van Prinsterer, there were two paths one might follow in seeking a more just social order: Revolution, or Reformation. The Christian option remains the latter, while unbelief leads consistently to the former. We should long for justice, but turning a blind eye to violence is foolish and tragic.
Is God Unjust?
by Sinclair Ferguson
By E. Calvin Beisner
“In his booklet, Social Justice: How Good Intentions Undermine Justice and Gospel, Dr. E. Calvin Beisner exposes the sad and unintended consequences of redistribution. He also goes to the heart of the issue: the meaning of justice itself and whether, in fact, justice requires the sort of equality Progressives claim…” – The Christian Worldview
By Noah Rothman
“An elegant and thoughtful dismantling of perhaps the most dangerous ideology at work today. Modern social justice thinking tears away at our most cherished ideals and institutions. Noah Rothman has done a tremendous service in cutting through the sloganeering and getting to the heart of the matter—the elevation of crude identity politics at the expense of decency, merit, and truth.” – Ben Shapiro