Resolution 9 – On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality, Some Suggestions

The 2019 SBC annual meeting met on June 11­–12. The messengers adopted several resolutions, one of which was a resolution on Critical Race Theory (CR) and Intersectionality (IN).[1] While I appreciate the Resolutions Committee seeking to speak to current issues from a biblical perspective, I think this resolution lacked due consideration.

Before I suggest some nuances for the adopted resolution that I believe should have been incorporated before even considering such a resolution, I must say that I think the resolution as a whole was misdirected. To wit, if the Resolutions Committee were going to offer a resolution on CR/IN, their time and effort would have been better spent in precisely defining and delineating the origin and nature of CR/IN and why it is unnecessary and harmful to the gospel.

The resolution, as it stands, seems to make a seriously flawed assumption that the messengers were sufficiently familiar with the origin, nature, and transcendent qualities of these concepts, philosophies, and their potential consequences. Popular familiarity with terms should never be equated with an adequate understanding of them, particularly when voting on a resolution with such significant and far-reaching implications.

While the adopted resolution seeks to emphasize the superiority of Scripture, it does so to stress the usability and positives of CR/IN so they may be adopted and employed alongside Scripture, albeit subserviently. The resolution as adopted leaves ample room for those who either believe in these as worldviews or, at least, believe these ideological theories should be adopted as significantly useful, or even essential, tools for understanding and addressing human identity issues. Those of us who participated in the Conservative Resurgence have witnessed moderates undermine Scripture with better-worded documents than this resolution.

Critical Race Theory is “the view that race, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is socially constructed and that race, as a socially constructed concept, functions as a means to maintain the interests of the white population that constructed it.”[2]

Intersectionality is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.”[3] Consequently, minorities can suffer from varying degrees of discrimination.

IN is significantly related to identity politics. For example, a woman could suffer discrimination, but a black woman suffers two compounding levels of discrimination. If the black woman is a lesbian, then she suffers on three levels. Thus, a person’s identity is wrapped up in the degree to which they are discriminated. The more layers of discrimination generally include how much authority we should grant their opinions. Of course, the white man suffers from no levels of discrimination. For a fuller understanding of CR/IN and other compatible theories see my article on Social Justice.

An example of the stronger and clearer wording that I think is missing from the resolution can be found in The Statement on Social Justice & The Gospel, of which I am a signer. The first affirmation and disaffirmation states:

WE AFFIRM that the Bible is God’s Word, breathed out by him. It is inerrant, infallible, and the final authority for determining what is true (what we must believe) and what is right (how we must live). All truth claims and ethical standards must be tested by God’s final Word, which is Scripture alone.

WE DENY that Christian belief, character, or conduct can be dictated by any other authority, and we deny that the postmodern ideologies derived from intersectionality, radical feminism, and critical race theory are consistent with biblical teaching. We further deny that competency to teach on any biblical issue comes from any qualification for spiritual people other than clear understanding and simple communication of what is revealed in Scripture.[4]

Below is the Resolution as adopted. I have inserted some suggestions that I think should have been incorporated before even considering the Resolution as worthy of debate. My suggestions strongly indicate that at least some of the authors of the Resolution granted more credibility to CR/IN than is necessary or even biblically prudent. My suggestions are in brackets and emboldened; my comments are not intended to reflect the grammatical changes necessary for proper wording but only the ideas. See also Tom Ascol’s article on Resolution 19.

Resolution 19, as adopted, On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality

WHEREAS, Concerns have been raised by some evangelicals over the use of frameworks such as critical race theory and intersectionality; and

WHEREAS, Critical race theory is a set of analytical tools [and philosophy] that [seeks to] explain how race has and continues to function in society, and intersectionality is the [replace “the” with “a”] study of how different personal characteristics overlap and [attempt to] inform one’s experience; and

–WHEREAS, Critical race theory and intersectionality [originated as contradictory to the Christian faith and] have been appropriated by individuals with worldviews that are contrary to the Christian faith, resulting in ideologies and methods that contradict Scripture; and

–WHEREAS, Evangelical scholars [insert “Some” before Evangelical—note the favoritism of the drafters in that they used “some evangelicals” have concerns about using CR/IN in the first Whereas but left it out in this Whereas that speaks of employment of these concepts by evangelicals—subtle] who affirm the authority and sufficiency of Scripture [which is the precise designation that many moderates, who deny inerrancy, used prior to and during the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC, and therefore, is inadequate for this kind of Resolution; it omits words like “inerrancy” or “verbal plenary inspiration”] have employed selective insights from critical race theory and intersectionality to understand multifaceted social dynamics; and

WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith and Message states, “All Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried” (Article I); and

WHEREAS, General revelation accounts for truthful insights found in human ideas that do not explicitly emerge from Scripture and reflects what some may term “common grace”; and

WHEREAS, Critical race theory and intersectionality alone are insufficient [replace “insufficient” with “incapable”] to diagnose and redress the root causes of the social ills that they [claim to] identify, which result from sin, yet these analytical [philosophical ideas and] tools can [replace “can” with “may”] aid in evaluating a variety of human experiences; and

WHEREAS, Scripture contains categories and principles by which to deal with racism, poverty, sexism, injustice, and abuse that are not rooted in secular ideologies; and

WHEREAS, Humanity is primarily identified in Scripture as image bearers of God, even as biblical authors address various audiences according to characteristics such as male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free; and

WHEREAS, The New Covenant further unites image bearers by creating a new humanity that will one day inhabit the new creation, and that the people of this new humanity, though descended from every nation, tribe, tongue, and people, are all one through the gospel of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:16Revelation 21:1–49–14); and

WHEREAS, Christian citizenship is not based on our differences but instead on our common salvation in Christ—the source of our truest and ultimate identity; and

WHEREAS, The Southern Baptist Convention is committed to racial reconciliation built upon biblical presuppositions and is committed to seeking biblical justice through biblical means; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, June 11–12, 2019, affirm Scripture as the first, last, and sufficient authority with regard to how the Church seeks to redress social ills, and we reject any conduct, creeds, and religious opinions which contradict Scripture [or marginalizes or distracts from the cure for people’s identity problems being found in Christ alone]; and be it further

RESOLVED, That critical race theory and intersectionality should only be employed as analytical tools [replace “tools” with “considerations”] subordinate to Scripture—not as transcendent ideological frameworks [as many secularists who use them believe]; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the gospel of Jesus Christ alone grants the power to change people and society because “he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6); and be it further

RESOLVED, That Southern Baptists will carefully analyze how the information gleaned from these tools are employed to address social dynamics; and be it further

RESOLVED, That Southern Baptist churches and institutions repudiate the misuse [the preceding wording of the Resolution is imprecise enough to guarantee disagreement as to what constitutes “misuse”] of insights gained from critical race theory, intersectionality, and any unbiblical ideologies that can emerge from their use when absolutized as a worldview [or even used as an indispensably important analytical tool]; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we deny any philosophy or theology that fundamentally defines individuals using categories identified as sinful in Scripture rather than the transcendent reality shared by every image bearer and divinely affirmed distinctions; and be it further

RESOLVED, That while we denounce the misuse of critical race theory and intersectionality, we do not deny that ethnic, gender, and cultural distinctions exist and are a gift from God that will give Him absolute glory when all humanity gathers around His throne in worship because of the redemption accomplished by our resurrected Lord; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That Southern Baptist churches seek to exhibit this eschatological promise in our churches in the present by focusing on unity in Christ amid image bearers and rightly celebrate our differences as determined by God in the new creation.

[1] http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/2308/resolution-9–on-critical-race-theory-and-intersectionality.
[2] https://www.britannica.com/topic/critical-race-theory accessed 6/18/19.
[3] https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/intersectionality accessed 6/18/19.
[4] https://statementonsocialjustice.com/