I remember speaking to a good friend back in 2014 about what appeared to be a progressive movement that seemed to be gaining the attention of some Evangelical leaders. The movement, touted as “racial reconciliation” was spearheaded by Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). Playing on the emotional response to propaganda from mainstream news outlets, Moore platformed his movement as a response to what many people believed to be unjust, racially-motivated police shootings. At the time, much of the terminology used to describe the movement was unheard of.
The push to advance an evil, secular ideology in the American Evangelical Church has hit full throttle. The movement that began as something that was theologically compromised, yet seemingly benign as it was not widely supported, has now garnered the support of virtually every mainstream Evangelical leader across the denominational divide.
The secular movement, rooted in postmodern thought, is known as Critical Race Theory. Critical Race Theory (CRT) emerged as an offshoot of Critical Theory, a neo-Marxist philosophy that has its roots in the Frankfurt School and its methods are drawn from Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. CRT teaches that institutional racism exists within every structure of society and that these structures are intrinsically designed in such a manner as to protect and preserve “white supremacy” in our culture. Further, CRT does not rely on factual statistics or objective evidence to support the theory, rather it relies on anecdotal evidence and personal experience.
One of the most nefarious theological movements that is built on Critical Race Theory is known as Liberation Theology, particularly in America, Black Liberation Theology. James Cone was the leading proponent of Black Liberation Theology. He defined it as “a rational study of the being of God in the world in light of the existential situation of an oppressed community, relating the forces of liberation to the essence of the gospel, which is Jesus Christ.” [Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation, pp. 17-18] In this view, the study of God is not sourced in Scripture alone. It is sourced in the light of a very specific existential situation – the oppressed community. And this view relates the liberation of the oppressed within this existential situation to the essence of the gospel.
One troubling component of liberation theology is that it gives secondary meaning to Scripture. James Cone argued that the resurrection of Christ means the liberation of all people and related it to deliverance from oppression. The matter of man’s sinfulness and his need for a Savior to atone for sin is ignored by liberation theology. In modern evangelical “woke” advocates, it is minimized and eclipsed. Hope, in liberation theology is not based on the future second coming of Christ but instead rests in an over-realized eschatological view that relocates our hope to the here and now.
Liberation theology claims that theology is not based on the propositional truths of divine revelation in Scripture but is a field that is in constant flux as it responds to changes in the culture at the time. Another major concern with liberation theology is that it stands in direct violation of Romans 13 where Paul commands the churches to submit to the civil authorities. Liberation theology in all its various forms takes political views and allegiances to the Scripture and interprets Scripture through the lens of those allegiances.
Liberation theology does not approach the concepts of God, Christ, man, sin, and salvation from an orthodox, biblical viewpoint, but reinterprets them in a political context. Bottom line, liberation theology is heresy.
Recently, in an op-ed published at the New York Times, the author noted that Walter Strickland, the Associate Vice President for Diversity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) admitted that his theological views have been shaped by James Cone’s liberation theology stating “while Cone’s ideas are in play, I don’t mention him by name.” The author writes,
Radical thinkers have found their way into the citadels of white evangelicalism. Reading the black liberation theologian James Cone helped Mr. Strickland, the theology professor, see how white theologians often ignore the structural sources of earthly suffering. In 1969, the Rev. Dr. Cone admonished “new blacks, redeemed in Christ” to “say to whites that authentic love is not ‘help,’ not giving Christmas baskets but working for political, social and economic justice, which always means a redistribution of power.”
Strickland is no doubt a follower of Cone’s liberation theology. Just last week, Strickland, along with Matthew Mullins, Associate Dean of Academics at SEBTS, led a conference on interracial adoption where they asserted that one of the reasons white people adopt children of other races is because they have a “savior complex.” Strickland — along with most of the Evangelical liberation theology proponents — props up Martin Luther King as one of the greatest Christian heroes of modern history while denying King’s rank heresy, denial of the deity of Christ. Strickland was noted as saying that King “is very helpful for me as an example of how to harken back to the best of the Christian tradition while engaging a contemporary issue.”
In what appeared to be a response to the widespread outrage of Strickland’s admission of advancing Cone’s liberation theology, Danny Akin, president of SEBTS noted on Twitter,
Problem is, Strickland isn’t reading Jame’s Cone’s works in order to “know” or “defeat” his “enemy.” He is reading him to shape his own theology and is using it to advance this heretical theology in a prestigious Southern Baptist Seminary — on Danny Akin’s watch. At the time of this writing, Akin has not further commented publicly on Strickland’s situation. However, if Strickland is allowed to stay on staff at SEBTS and disciplinary action is not taken, we know that we can say one thing for sure, in the words of John Piper to Rob Bell,
Farewell Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary!