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Critical Race Theory and the Doctrines of Grace: How CRT Undermines Sanctification (Part 1)

by | Jan 6, 2021

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It goes without saying that it is serious business for a PCA Ruling Elder to say, as I frequently have done for a few months now, that if the PCA gets where she appears to be headed (what with Revoice and Critical Race Theory) I shall leave and return to Rome. It, no doubt, strikes one as unnecessarily provocative, even heretical. By way of denying the charges, let me be blunt about what is at stake: the doctrines of grace, as it is with all Reformed denominations. Taking solely CRT into account, at a certain point (I couldn’t possibly say when) Reformed denominations cannot long permit the teaching of CRT without losing the Reformed understanding of sanctification, assurance and, ultimately justification, leaving us with something similar to the Roman Catholic doctrine of penance, which would, in turn, constitute a denial of the first of Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses. In this article, I want to address the matter of sanctification and address the matter of assurance in a separate piece.

As David French explained at his blog, Critical Race Theory purports to look at the world through the “lens” of oppression, making it an anthropological doctrine. By virtue of not being derived from Scripture, this anthropological doctrine is unbiblical. As French explains, CRT can be a useful lens by means of which one can observe the extent to which oppression is a reality. But this is not the anthropological lens Scripture gives us for analyzing Man. It presents us with just the sort of dichotomous reasoning that has caused doctrinal error for millennia, as philosophers such as  Hermann Dooyeweerd have pointed out. Form-freedom; nature-grace; noumenal-phenomenal – these are the dichotomies of the past. CRT, adopting a Marxoid class theory of race, now gives us the oppressor-oppressed dichotomy; and when you look at the world through a lens such as oppression, then oppression is all you see, perhaps the only sin you will see. Let’s be honest, though; the lens is much more specific than that. Looking through the lens, we see only a single ethnic group as the oppressor of all other ethnic groups; and oppression, according to some, is this group’s original sin. This is CRT’s anthropology, even its hamartiology.

But the lens we get from Scripture is not dichotomous. The lens we get from scripture is creation-fall-redemption, according to which, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and “there are none righteous, none who seek after God,” no one whose mouth is not “an open grave”. This corrupt condition, this death inherited from Adam – original sin – afflicts every man, making every man a sinner before God. According to Reformed theology, no man, being “dead in trespasses and sins,” can put himself into a right relation with God by his own efforts: our very nature, the nature out of which our efforts proceed, is corrupt. Therefore, God takes the initiative in saving us, by declaring us righteous on the basis of our grasping hold of Christ by faith. It is by laying hold of Christ by faith that we are justified, solely by this faith that God accounts and accepts our persons as righteous. Through this lens we see two, and only two, groups of humans: covenant keepers and covenant breakers, the redeemed and the reprobate.

But salvation is not only justification. God begins to work in those He justifies, to make us subjectively what he has declared us to be objectively; that is, he begins to make us righteous. God initiates the work of sanctification, a work in which, as the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it, “the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened, in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” According to Reformed doctrinal standards, the Scriptures teach that the “whole body of sin” is destroyed, not completely, in this life, and not to the same extent in each redeemed human’s life. Nevertheless, it is God’s work and he is doing it within us. We have God’s promise to that effect.

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If critical race theorists are correct, however, there is one sin which shall not be destroyed in the least bit, in this life, or at least not to any meaningful extent. And there is only one ethnic group, each of whose members are guilty of this sin, simply by virtue of belonging to this ethnic group. This sin is, of course, racism and is second only to blasphemy of the Holy Spirit in its offensiveness to God; and the sole ethnic group guilty of it is some vaguely defined group known as white people. And each and every member of this ill-defined ethnic group is responsible for the sins of the whole because, as Tim Keller would have it, federal theology tells us so.

This argument about the sin of racism as a sin to which this special ethnic group will never sufficiently die, contradicts the doctrine of sanctification. The doctrine of sanctification knows of no sin, including racism, which is beyond the Spirit’s power to kill. And the scriptures give no warrant for one group of humans to single out some other group of humans as uniquely guilty of some sin or other. Certainly, they give us no grounds for denying an otherwise credible profession of faith, which is what many crits will do, in contradiction to the reformed understanding of sanctification.

I believe it stands to reason that in contradicting the Reformed understanding of sanctification, CRT also contradicts the reformed understanding of assurance, the topic of my next submission.

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