Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been taught in universities for years, but its impact on public policy was limited until recently. The precepts of CRT have now flowed outside the universities, affecting K-12 schools, workplaces, federal and state government, military, media, and the arts. The cultural harvest of all those philosophical seeds is upon us. Critical race theorists see the brokenness in the world, but then draw solutions from a well that establishes itself as a gospel, a means of salvation, that is no gospel at all.[1]

CRT is not the only unbiblical worldview taught in universities, nor am I certain if it poses the greatest threat. Satan will exploit anything with the potential to replace the Gospel as our chief hope, including pluralism, political idolatry, Christian nationalism, and philosophies like CRT. Exposing these threats is also needed. This article will be limited to helping us understand the worldview of CRT, how it is compatible and incompatible with the Gospel, and how the Bible would lead us to respond so that we can take every thought captive to obey Christ and distinguish ourselves in love.[2]

What is Critical Race Theory?

CRT is drawn from the well of Critical Theory[3] and applied to racial inequality. Critical Theory views the world through a Marxist lens,[4] where everyone is seen either as ‘oppressed’ or an ‘oppressor’ depending on categories such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, formal education, economic class, mental health, and citizenship. Those in non-dominant demographic groups are seen as ‘oppressed’ by the power of the dominant group to impose their values and keep their control. Here are some fundamentals of CRT:

1. CRT believes that our individual identity is inseparable from our group identity. Everyone is born into an ‘oppressor’ or ‘oppressed’ group depending on demographic categories.

2. CRT believes that dominant racial groups oppress minorities by imposing their values for their own benefit. The basic assumptions in Western civilization are said to be designed by white men who use their power of numbers to sustain their supremacy. As such, white supremacy and racism aren’t limited to discriminatory acts and attitudes committed by individuals, but include systemic power over the laws, morals, and institutions of the land. Anyone who stands to gain from being in a dominant racial group is said to be blinded by self-interest, prejudice, and subconscious bias.

3. CRT believes that our fundamental moral duty is liberating the ‘oppressed.’ Society is said to need a revolution that breaks the oppressive systems built to benefit those with power. Although dominant racial groups in any culture won’t be free of racism according to this view, they can renounce their participation in the ‘oppression’ and ally with the ‘oppressed’ by practicing anti-racism. This can involve acknowledging how racism has shaped society, speaking out against injustice, supporting organizations that promote racial equality, and advocating for policies that promote fairness.

4. CRT believes that ‘lived experience’ is more reliable than ‘objective evidence.’ Oppressed groups, including racial minorities, are said to have more understanding because they aren’t blinded by a system built to favor them. In contrast, those in the racial majority are said to be so entrenched in privilege that they nor society should rely on their understanding or claims of objective evidence.

5. CRT believes that those who live in more than one oppressed group experience ‘intersectionality,’ making their oppression distinct. According to CRT, society’s ‘oppressor’ groups include white, cisgender[5], heterosexual, able-bodied males. This means that a black, gay, woman, all considered ‘oppressed’ identities, will experience three intersections of oppression making her voice more authoritative and equipped to lead society forward than someone with no oppression.

What is the biblical worldview?

Since CRT establishes itself as a competing worldview, let me remind us of the biblical worldview. The biblical worldview begins with God. He is the Almighty, eternal, sovereign Lord, and there is no other.[6] God is holy, gracious, and loving.[7] He is the Creator of all things and has complete authority over all things.[8] God is the standard of righteousness, justice, and truth.[9] Therefore all ideologies, ethics, and philosophies should be judged according to the standard of God’s Word found in the Bible.[10]

God created mankind in His image.[11] He created a world where we could live in relationship with Him and each other. Perfection was lost when the first Adam, acting as mankind’s representative, rebelled against God.[12] The consequences included pain, strife, and death.[13] In the bleakness of this moment, God promised a Rescuer who would crush the head of evil, redeem sinners, and reconcile us back to God.[14]

Mankind had a second major rebellion at the Tower of Babel where they joined together under their one language to assert their dominion over the earth apart from God.[15] As a result of their rebellion, God caused the single language to divide into many languages leading to the formation of ethnic groups.

At the right time, God fulfilled His promise and sent His Son who acted as a second Adam.[16] Jesus Christ lived a life of perfect obedience, displaying in His life the perfection that was lost when we sinned.[17] He stood in our place by taking the penalty for sin on the cross and satisfying the wrath of God.[18] After three days in the grave, Jesus rose from the dead demonstrating His authority over sin and death. Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father having been given all authority over heaven and earth.[19]

Every person enters the world in their default position in Adam, in active rebellion against God.[20] But those who repent, believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and confess Him as Lord move from being in Adam to being in Christ.[21] Those who trust Christ are forgiven, filled with His Spirit, gathered in His church, and empowered to love people and to make disciples.[22] One day Jesus will return and gather His people in heaven. Among that worshipping community will be people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.[23] We will live in perfect harmony as we forever praise Jesus who is worthy.[24]

How does the biblical worldview account for racism?

Beneath the sin of racism lies the distorted belief that a person’s skin color is the most important factor determining their identity and worth. God created one race, the human race. When God created Adam, his skin color was irrelevant to his role of representing man so there is no reference to it. Although the color of our skin will influence our experience in this world, there is nothing fundamentally different between people with diverse colors of skin. Beneath the color of our skin, which is given by God for His pleasure, everyone shares such things as a heart, a mind, a soul, fears, hopes, a sin problem, and a need for a Savior.

Since every human being is created in God’s image, every human being is worthy of respect and love. No group of people is fit to rule others because of the color of their skin. What then does the Bible identify as the causes for the ugly and sinful discrimination of people based on their color of skin?

1. Racism is motivated by the sin of partiality.[25] To show deference towards a person or prejudice against a person because of the color of their skin is a sin that dishonors God and man.

2. Racism is motivated by the sin of hatred.[26] Hatred for someone based on their skin color, ethnicity, or heritage is a sinful assault against God who created them with those distinctions.

3. Racism is motivated by the sin of injustice.[27] As image bearers of God, all humans are due dignity. To withhold dignity because of factors such as skin color is unjust.

4. Racism is motivated by the sin of bearing false witness.[28] Racism includes many assumptions about people groups that are not true. Any prejudice against people predicated upon lies about them is evil.

Racism exists in every culture and generation because no temptation overtakes us that is not common to man.[29] Racism is a sin that springs from the “old nature” in our heart. This means that we are not immune from its awful effects, nor are we immune from being complicit as a source. If the Lord reveals any of these sins in us, we should be quick to repent and sincere in our sorrow for contributing to the chaos.

What ideas in CRT are compatible with the Gospel?

The Apostle Paul attempted to find some common ground with the Athenians who worshipped idols, not to affirm their practice, but to direct their attention to the saving work of Jesus.[30] That is my attempt in this section. Recognizing some commonalities will make us more sensitive and may help to open a door to point people to Jesus when discussing these ideas with others.

1. CRT sees that oppression is wrong. While a biblical understanding of ‘oppression’ is different than that of CRT, the Bible affirms that any abuse of power leading to oppression is evil.[31]

2. CRT sees that those in power can make laws or interpret the Bible to sustain their power. Power can be used for evil. Jesus exposed this when he spoke of rulers lording their authority over people.[32] It is also true that God’s Word can be manipulated to do harm. We saw this grievous sin in our nation when pastors gave theological legitimacy to race-based, chattel slavery in which a person is stolen and owned in spite of God’s condemnation of the practice.[33 Sadly, in 1807, a “Slave Bible” was even published in which portions that might inspire hope of liberation were removed.[34]

3. CRT is inclined to pay special attention to the powerless and vulnerable. Concern for the weak is repeatedly echoed by God.[35] Nobody modeled this concern like Jesus. As we follow Jesus, we too should be marked by having concern for the needs of the powerless and weak.

4. CRT believes racial injustice runs beyond individual acts and into cultural systems. God is clear that we bear the guilt of our own sin and not the guilt of our fathers.[36] That said, the Bible acknowledges such things as unjust social structures. For example, the Bible says that laziness leads to poverty.[37] We also find that “an unplowed field produces food for the poor, but injustice sweeps it away.”[38] In other words, both personal responsibility and injustice can contribute to poverty in a society. Some of the unjust societal structures that the Bible denounces would be judicial systems weighted in favor of the rich, business practices that manipulate market prices, and unfair labor practices.[39]

I don’t know how pervasive racially unjust social structures are today, but I believe they exist. They don’t always disfavor the same group, but they exist. Unjust systems aren’t always motivated by active hatred, but they exist. For example, the public schools are funded by local property taxes. Poorer communities have fewer resources, which affects the quality of schools in those areas. Since the poverty rate for racial minorities is almost twice that of the population at large,[40] the system disproportionately harms them. Sometimes these systems are remnants from previous practices such as redlining, where homes in certain neighborhoods were not sold to racial minorities.[41] Systems of injustice are often debated, but if we are following Jesus, [42] instead of dismissing the possibility of injustice in our day, we will lean towards helping people who are marginalized.

What parts of CRT are incompatible with the Gospel?

There are many areas of substantial conflict, so let’s examine some of great importance.

1. CRT functions as a worldview, defining our identity, problem, solution, purpose and destiny with answers that are not true. The story of the Bible runs from creation to redemption. It says that we are created in God’s image (identity), that we have sinned against God (fundamental problem),[43] that we are saved by trusting in Jesus who died for sin and rose again (solution),[44] that those who believe in Him are empowered to love God and others (purpose),[45] and that we will face judgment before God and spend eternity either in heaven with Him or in hell (destiny).[46] 

In contrast, the story of CRT runs from oppression to liberation. It says we are members of either a dominant or marginalized group (identity), that we have oppressed and are tainted by guilt because we are members of a dominant group or have been oppressed as a member of a minority group (fundamental problem), that we save ourselves by pursuing liberation (solution), that we need to dismantle all beliefs and institutions that oppress by divesting ourselves of power in order to liberate others or acquiring power to liberate ourselves (purpose), and that the world will culminate in a utopia after all oppressive systems are deconstructed (destiny).

2. CRT sees human relationships through the lens of power, which it regards as oppressive. This is inconsistent with Scripture. Sin, not power, is inherently exploitative. God uses His power to serve. The Bible tells us to submit to God’s authority and to use our authority for the good of others.[47]

3. CRT sees those born into the dominant ‘oppressor’ groups as being more guilty at birth. The Bible places every person into a default state of being ‘in Adam,’ that is, in active rebellion against God. No individual is born with more or less guilt than another.

4. CRT claims that members of oppressed groups have special access to truth because of their ‘lived experience’ with oppression. This is dangerous because it undermines Scripture as the final arbiter of truth, which is accessible to all people regardless of their group identity.[48] We cannot assume that our beliefs are right or wrong by virtue of our group. We must align our beliefs to God’s Word.

5. CRT would permit and even welcome judicial deference to the poor and oppressed. The Bible explicitly forbids mob-rule and special judicial deference to the rich or to the poor.[49]

6. CRT frames inequality of outcome as something inherently evil. This is the basis of socialism, which views a just society as one where everyone enjoys equal share. We will explore this more in a future article, but as we see in Jesus’ parable of the talents, where the owner of the estate (God) entrusts differing amounts to people based on ability and effort, the idea of equal outcomes is unbiblical.[50]

7. CRT produces an inconsistent moral standard between races. The Bible teaches God’s law applies equally to all people. The Bible doesn’t limit the sins of partiality, hatred, injustice, or bearing false witness to those in power or to those with a specific color of skin. If a thought or deed is sinful according to Scripture, then it is sinful for all people regardless of skin color.

8. CRT’s emphasis on group guilt is incorrect. The Bible says we will stand before God’s justice not as members of a group, but as individuals.[51] Clearly, not everyone in a demographic group sins like others in that group. God has determined and pronounced that we bear the guilt of our own sin and not the guilt of our fathers.[52] Love and mercy should lead us to see the historic abuses done by people of similar or dissimilar demographics and respond with grief and service, but we must understand that God holds each person accountable for their own actions and attitudes. 

9. CRT inaccurately sees our identity in light of demographics instead of our relationship with God. As human beings, our primary identity is as an image bearer of God. As Christians, our primary identity is who we are in Christ.[53] This is true no matter the color of our skin.

How should we respond to CRT?

1. No matter how much doubt Satan casts over God’s goodness and design, let’s resist his deception and put our trust in God. God is for us and His instructions and restrictions are for our good.

2. Let’s saturate our hearts with Scripture so that we can discern truth from error. The Bible must remain our ultimate standard by which all truth claims are judged.

3. Let’s remember that man’s fundamental problem is sin and the only solution is the Gospel of Jesus. The Gospel is the only cure for the world. Jesus made reconciliation with God and peace with man possible by living without sin, dying for our sin, and rising from the dead. Those who put their faith in Jesus are made new, forgiven, and empowered to love. While we should seek the good of the mistreated, we can’t forget that man’s greatest problem is guilt before God. We must continue to make the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection the center of our message.[54]

4. Let’s not allow our rejection of any inaccurate tenet in CRT to blind us to the ugliness of racism. Racism is sin that exists in every culture and in every generation because no temptation overtakes us that is not common to man. Rejecting the inaccurate tenets of CRT should not lead us to shield our eyes or our children from the ugliness of racism today or historically. Additionally, rejecting the inaccurate tenets of CRT should not keep us from pursuing love and justice for all mankind.

5. Let’s imagine the coming kingdom of heaven. The heaven that is coming will be wiped clean of all death, suffering, tears, sin, and shame.[55] There will be no racial, ethnic, or national strife. Believers in Jesus from every tribe, tongue, and nation will be gathered. God will say: “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”[56] These remarkable visions of heaven show that our distinct cultural markers, skin color, and nationalities mean something. They are so important that they will be carried over into heaven. Distinctions will be purified of all the sinful distortions, just as our bodies will be purified of all weakness.

6. Let’s labor as a church to be a witness of the beauty that will be seen in heaven. Heaven is coming, but because of the Holy Spirit we can see parts of its beauty right now in the church. This would include the loving appreciation of diversity.[57] When we demonstrate love across demographic lines, it gives a strong apologetic to the power of the Gospel. As was seen in the early church, ethnic and cultural tensions are sure to arise this side of heaven.[58] Christ tells us to respond to these tensions by humbling ourselves for sake of unity rather than segmenting the church into demographic groups.[59] The call to join the church is not a call to lay down our culture or nationality, but to bring it under the dominion of Christ and unite with different people across cultural lines to the glory of Christ.

7. Let’s recognize that behaviors that lead to racism distort the beauty of the gospel. One example of this is found when Paul found Peter refusing to eat with Gentile Christians. Instead of appealing to Peter’s lack of love, which would have been a valid point, Paul said that his actions “are not in line with the gospel.”[60] Partiality violates the gospel which equalizes us all as sinners and as recipients of grace. It is important to note that Paul never denounced Peter as being morally inferior. He simply reminded Peter that his discrimination was a failure to grasp the good news of God’s salvation they both received by grace. This humble approach protected Paul from pride and led Peter to change.

8. Let’s repent whenever God’s Word reveals sin in our lives. While we should never repent for being part of a demographic group that God assigned to us, we should be quick to confess our sins and repent when we violate God’s Word. Racism is an evil that is motivated by the sins of partiality, hatred, injustice, or bearing false witness. If God reveals these sins in us, we must quickly repent.

9. Let’s be charitable in our words. It is important to learn what people mean when they use phrases shared by different ideologies. In an increasingly fractured culture, we should be known for graciousness toward those with whom we disagree, particularly those who profess faith in Christ.[61]

10. Let’s examine our heart for Jesus’ love for the hurting. Insofar as any group is undermined because of their skin color, social class, gender, etc., we should be a voice to “maintain the right of the afflicted.”[62] While social theorists are inaccurate in how they explain and solve our broken world, many are earnest in their desire to bring relief. We too should desire to bring relief.

Until the nations are united around Christ as Lord, there will exist hostilities and divisions among people. The world will suggest different solutions to these problems, aiming to bring healing through ideologies and legislation. While CRT may sensitize us to pains of mistreated people and potentially even highlight our own failures, it rejects God’s designs for life. Ideas developed by the world are like houses built upon the sand that are unable to stand over time. They promise resolution and deliver more suffering.

The biblical worldview, on the other hand, is built upon the words of Christ and will stand forever. Christ teaches that there is one race, with one shared problem, and one solution. History is culminating to the day when all sin, racism, and divisions will cease. On that day, Christ’s beautifully diverse people will declare with one voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”[63]

The only book I recommend without qualification is the Bible, every word and page. However, I have found portions of these resources helpful in my attempt to understand CRT.

“The Secular Creed,” by Rebecca McLaughlin

“Critical Race Theory and the Biblical Worldview,” by Life Point Church

“Faultlines,” by Voddie Baucham

“The Sin of Racism,” by Tim Keller

“The Lies That Serve Us: Christians and Critical Race Theory,” by Justin Giboney

[1] Galatians 1:6-7

[2] 2 Corinthians 10:5; John 13:35

[3] A more detailed look at Critical Theory can be found at www.pray.org/say.

[4] Marxism is a system of thought known for its portrayal of tensions that exist between economic classes that are collapsed into categories of ‘oppressor’ and ‘oppressed,’ with capitalism being one main cause of oppression.

[5] Cisgender is the opposite of transgender.

[6] Genesis 1:1; Deuteronomy 4:39; Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 45:5-6; Colossians 1:17; 1 Timothy 6:15

[7] Isaiah 6:3; Exodus 34:6; Psalm 136:1

[8] Psalm 50:1; Hebrews 1:2-3

[9] Psalm 11:7; Deuteronomy 32:4; Isaiah 45:19; John 14:6

[10] Deuteronomy 4:2; Psalm 19:7-10; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 1:24-25; 2 Peter 1:19-21

[11] Genesis 1:27

[12] Genesis 3:6

[13] Genesis 3:16-19

[14] Genesis 3:15

[15] Genesis 11:1-9

[16] Galatians 4:4-5; Romans 5:14-21

[17] Hebrews 4:15

[18] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[19] Hebrews 10:12-14

[20] Romans 5:12; Ecclesiastes 7:20

[21] Romans 10:9-10; Romans 5:15

[22] Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 3:19-20; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 5:1-2

[23] Revelation 5:9

[24] Revelation 5:12

[25] Deuteronomy 16:19; 2 Chronicles 19:7; Job 13:10; Proverbs 28:21; James 2:1, 8-9

[26] Leviticus 19:17-18; Ephesians 4:31; Titus 3:3; 1 John 2:9-11

[27] Proverbs 14:31; Isaiah 10:1-3; Micah 6:8; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5

[28] Exodus 20:16

[29] 1 Corinthians 10:13

[30] Acts 17:16-34

[31] Proverbs 14:31; Isaiah 10:1-3

[32] Matthew 20:25-26

[33] Deuteronomy 24:7; 1 Timothy 1:10

[34] https://www.museumofthebible.org/exhibits/slave-bible?

[35] Deuteronomy 10:18; Proverbs 31:8-9; Isaiah 1:17; Micah 6:8

[36] Ezekiel 18:2-4, 20; Deuteronomy 24:16; Jeremiah 31:29-30

[37] Proverbs 10:4-5; 12:11, 24, 27

[38] Proverbs 13:23

[39] Leviticus 19:13, 15; Proverbs 11:1

[40] www.census.gov/library/stories/2020/09/poverty-rates-for-blacks-and-hispanics-reached-historic-lows-in-2019.html

[41] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/redlining-what-is-history-mike-bloomberg-comments/

[42] Luke 4:18

[43] Romans 3:9-19

[44] Romans 3:21-26; 5:1; 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:1-9

[45] Matthew 22:36-40; 28:18-20; Ephesians 5:1-2

[46] Revelation 21:1

[47] James 4:7; Luke 22:26

[48] Psalm 119:160; 2 Timothy 3:16-17

[49] Exodus 23:2-3

[50] Matthew 25:14-30

[51] 2 Corinthians 5:10

[52] Ezekiel 18:2-4, 20; Deuteronomy 24:16; Jeremiah 31:29-30

[53] Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:10

[54] 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

[55] Isaiah 25:7-8; 65:17-25

[56] Isaiah 19:25

[57] Matthew 8:11; John 10:16; Acts 11:18; Galatians 3:27-29; Ephesians 2:13

[58] Acts 15:1-18

[59] Ephesians 3:21-4:6; Colossians 3:11-14

[60] Galatians 2:14-16

[61] Ephesians 4:15

[62] Psalm 82:3

[63] Revelation 7:10