Recently Anthony Bradley published an article at Mere Orthodoxy entitled “Critical Race Theory Isn’t a Threat for Presbyterians.” Bradley argues that the Presbyterian Church in American (PCA) doesn’t need a statement or counter-statement to Critical Race Theory (CRT) because in a “confessional denomination, such a statement, or counter-statements, would be unnecessary.” Instead, the PCA (and presumably all confessional Presbyterians) can rely on “the Bible, the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF), the Presbyterian tradition, and covenant theology.” Therefore they can “eat the meat and spit out the bones” of Critical Race Theory (CRT).
One wonders how people will know what meat to eat and what bones to spit out without a statement or counter-statement. Indeed, Bradley’s article itself is a sort of statement about CRT, or a counter-statement to the fact that “six Southern Baptist seminary presidents signed a statement declaring Critical Race Theory to be incompatible to the non-binding doctrinal standards of their denomination.” Bradley later says that when armed with the resources of Reformed Theology, Christians can “propose something even better to account for what we see in the world today on the intersection of America’s racial history with contemporary culture.” Again, one wonders how this proposal is made public without a “statement, or counter-statement.”
Bradley’s article does a commendable job concisely defining CRT. He points to the work of Antonio de la Garza and Kent Ono who explains that “Critical Race Theory (CRT) is an intellectual movement that seeks to understand how white supremacy as a legal, cultural, and political condition is reproduced and maintained, primarily in the US context.” But more than “seek to understand,” Bradley rightly points out the CRT seeks to “centralize the issue of race” in historical interpretation. He also rightly points out that CRT is, well, critical. That is, it scrutinizes how white supremacy is a normalized, assumed, and irrevocable part of America’s past and present.
Bradley then says, “One can (and should) learn what one can from it while rejecting what is wrong … it is not an account we must accept or reject wholesale.” In this, Bradley seeks a centrist view that neither embraces CRT as a complete doctrine, as do the progressives, nor rejects CRT in its entirety, as do the secular conservatives.
This is a common tact in evangelicalism today, namely, to try and find the good and redeemable things in all ideas, even un-Christian ones. The impulse isn’t all wrong. We certainly don’t want to live with a hyper-critical spirit. Sometimes there are redeemable qualities in bad ideas. I, for one, have learned a lot from the monastic tradition, even as I think the Desert Father’s retreat from the world badly missed the mark.
Bradley then interacts with CRT. He starts with the issue of racism in America: Does it exist in American history? Does it exist now? This, we should point out, is an acceptable place to start interacting with CRT, since so much of the theory is built on the premise that the United States is systemically racist even still. On the question of whether or not systemic racism exists now, Bradley says, “it depends.” We need to make a “case-by-case basis.” He admits that white supremacy doesn’t explain everything that is wrong with America. He admits that white supremacy doesn’t explain all statistical disparities between the races. But then he says, “CRT can be and is useful in some limited contexts for identifying where race may be a variable.” He later says, “CRT may have a certain limited usefulness in pointing out analytical blind spots in examining the role of race in American life.”
Bradley’s main thesis is that Christians should “eat the meat and spit out the bones” of CRT. In other words, Christians should find those things in CRT that have limited usefulness. But he never explains why. So I’ll ask it: Why must Christians do backbends to publicly identify that which is useful in CRT, a theory crafted by those who hate the God of the Bible? His article never specifically says what the meat of CRT is. He never says specifically what true things CRT provides.
Bradley says, “CRT simply wants to dismantle racism in an attempt to achieve cosmic salvation from their perception of the worst of all evils. For CRT, anti-racism will set us free.” Later, Bradley says, “Dismantling racism will not rid the world of the evils CRT seeks to purge … It might be helpful in identifying some aspects of some forms of evil.” In this Bradley assumes that CRT merely wants to dismantle racism. In reality, they have, as Carl Trueman says, created “a creedal language and liturgy.” Words like racism have new meanings. Trueman explains that CRT is filled “with orthodox words (‘white privilege,’ ‘systemic racism’) and prescribed actions (raising the fist, taking the knee). To deviate from the forms is to deviate from the faith. Certain words are heretical (‘non-racist,’ ‘all lives matter’). The slogan ‘silence is violence’ is a potent rhetorical weapon. To fail to participate in the liturgy is to reject the antiracism the liturgy purports to represent—something only a racist would do.”
It is not the case that “CRT simply wants to dismantle racism.” Rather, they seek to redefine racism. Consider some of the new vocabularies of CRT. First, the term “anti-racism.” This does not mean someone is against racism. Rather, this is when someone is committed to actively dismantling systems and institutions that produce whiteness. Second, the term “racism.” This doesn’t mean that you look down upon people of another race (hate) and look upon people of your race as superior (pride). Rather, this now means power plus prejudice. In CRT, only majority groups can be racist because racism is impossible apart from power. Third, the term “white fragility.” This is a term unique to CRT. It refers to a posture of defensiveness, anxiety, and anger exhibited by whites in response to discussions of race. Fourth, the term “White privilege.” This refers to a set of unearned advantages that whites experience relative to non-whites, by virtue of their skin color. It also implies that privilege of any kind is wrong. In Scripture, however, the existence of privilege is not sin. Someone may either righteously or wickedly use their privilege. Fifth, the term “whiteness.” This refers to a set of normative privileges granted to white-skinned individuals and groups which is “invisible” to those privileged by it. CRT views whiteness as a problem that needs to be overcome. So it’s the case that CRT is a system that doesn’t simply want to dismantle racism. They are seeking to redefine the entire conversation. It employs duplicitous language. Bradley seems to take it at face value that CRT wants to dismantle racism, not acknowledging that CRT activists have taken their erasers to the dictionary.
Bradley says, “CRT is a reductionistic theory of human evil and suffering. It is precisely for this reason that CRT is not a threat to the PCA! It is woefully inadequate to explain the nature of reality and to offer non-coercive solutions. That is, CRT is not good enough.” It is certainly true that CRT is not good enough to explain reality. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a threat. CRT isn’t just a problem of misinterpreting reality. It is an attempt to redefine it. Consider an example. CRT explains the statistical disparities between blacks and whites by citing racism. In so doing, it fails to account for the disaster that happens when marriage is destroyed and children are raised in single-parent homes.
Economist Glen Loury has argued that marriage is supposed to be the first social context for a child’s life. As Christians, we would add that God’s purpose for marriage is that children are raised with two parents in the home. If the nuclear family is broken, then no subsequent level of society can fully correct it, no matter how pure the motivations are and how much government money is spent. On the issue of statistical disparities between whites and blacks, Christians need to be clear that if the family is broken, it doesn’t matter what government program is passed and how much money is spent. There is no substitute for the family. Glenn Loury makes the point that if you’re going to talk about racial inequality, you have to start by talking about the destruction of the black family. It’s not possible to remediate what’s lost if marriage and family and kinship and community are not intact. It is within the nuclear family structure that children learn to tame their impulses, improve cognitive skills, learn social skills and develop emotional self-control. In other words, it is through home-training that children learn to function in society. The Christian worldview understands that both white and black children born to single mothers have significant hurdles compared with those children born in a two-parent family. Yet CRT deems it racist and bigoted to say that racial inequalities will not be alleviated until there is a return to a culture in which children are born to married couples who stay married and invest their energies in those children.
Bradley says that Christian theology allows us to freely “acknowledge evil where it exists … We are free to protest and invest by unlocking the goodness of creation, blessing our neighbors, and fighting evil.” Christians would all agree to this. In fact, this is why it is essential to oppose CRT, root and branch, whenever we encounter it. It carries on its front a semblance of justice which is false. Good Christians who love justice are deceived.
Bradley wants to acknowledge the helpful parts of CRT and spit out the vices. The error with this strategy is that the vices Bradley wishes to eradicate from CRT are essential features of it. Consider the way CRT sorts people into groups. Each group is divided into Marx’s categories: bourgeoisie and proletariat. Yet critical theory goes beyond the economic groups of Marx, expanding this to include the powerful or oppressed; the advantaged or disadvantaged, and the privileged or discriminated against.
CRT studies these groups to find and challenge power structures, which shape the relationships between groups. Sorting people into groups creates divisions between the powerful and oppressed, an analytical technique innovated by Marx and applied in the courts of tyrants.
Thrasymachus, the Greek philosopher, wrongly defined justice as “the interest of the stronger.” Carl Trueman helpfully explains that “Critical theory, whatever form it takes, relies on the concept of false consciousness—the notion that the oppressors control society so completely that the oppressed believe their own interests are served by the status quo…. this allows every piece of evidence that might refute one’s theory to be transformed into further evidence of how deep and comprehensive the problem of oppression is.” CRT tries to make minorities the strongest by, as Bradley admits, centralizing “the issue of race.”
The problem is that this isn’t justice. Carl Trueman, again, says, “when that framework flattens our moral judgment and erases distinctions, makes ‘the system’ the culprit, and guards its assertions with a self-certifying account of what must be affirmed, the scene is set not for Christian reconciliation but for cultural intimidation, as all dissent is denounced as racist.” CRT is an analytical framework to analyze institutions and culture. Its purpose is to divide the world into white oppressors and non-white victims. The ultimate goal of the theory’s proponents is to remake society so that the victim class eventually displaces the oppressors and becomes the new ruling class. Within this framework, “white privilege” and its unearned benefits become responsible for economic and social disparities in minority communities.
CRT advances a narrative of blame that declares white America guilty for the plight of blacks. In CRT, there is no way out for whites when it comes to race. For example, Derrick Bell says racism has a permanence to it. Robin DiAngelo teaches people that, “The question is no longer did racism take place, but how did racism manifest in this situation?” All of the core critical race theory texts say that racism is the ordinary state of affairs in society. Critical race theory assumes that racism is permanent and affects every aspect of society, including political, economic, social, and religious institutions.
Blaming the abstract “system” with no hope of forgiveness is decidedly opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the good news of Christ, reconciliation happens through individual confession, repentance, and forgiveness. The parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35) teaches that the Gospel pattern of forgiveness should be carried out in our daily lives. The point of the parable is that if we claim to be forgiven by Jesus, yet still have an unforgiving spirit, then that proves that we have never tasted the forgiveness of Jesus in the first place. Reconciliation is impossible when repentant individuals are denied forgiveness and kept forever on the hamster wheel of guilt.
And so we return to our question: Why must Christians do backbends to publicly identify something useful in CRT, a theory crafted by those who hate the God of the Bible? And if it is the case, as Bradley says, that Christians armed with the resources of Reformed theology can propose something even better than CRT, why must we affirm something—anything—about CRT?
Rather than being “an excellent oil, which shall not break my hand” (Psalm 141:5), CRT is a hot oil that burns it. Racism exists. We don’t deny that. The point is that Christians don’t need CRT to point out that racism can infect social structures, economic systems, and legal codes. The fact that CRT is unneeded is proven by Bradley’s article. While he calls on Christians to “eat the meat and spit out the bones,” not once does he explicitly identify what meat CRT provides to the Christian worldview. So then why does he insist that Christians should “learn what one can from it”? Addison Meeke, wisely speaking about race relations, says “We do harm to the name of Christianity by trying to please people or be politically correct.”
Bradley tells us to eat the meat and spit out the bones. But first, we must ask if the buffet set before us is food or poison. Failing to differentiate the two is a disaster. Adhering to CRT is not the way to fight for justice. Bradley says, “It might be helpful in identifying some aspects of some forms of evil.” My question is: What specifically does it help identify that the Christian worldview can’t do on its own?
The closest agreement Bradley himself has with CRT is when he says, “There is racism in America and, at times, that racism can take on structural forms.” But he doesn’t tell us where exactly structural racism is found. His statement is a mere abstraction. In the end, Bradley leaves the door open that CRT may be slightly helpful, but he gives no specific examples of how CRT is helpful. Bradley says, “One can (and should) learn what one can from it while rejecting what is wrong.” But he gives no specific examples of what true things are learned from CRT that can’t also be learned without CRT. Bradley says we should approach CRT in a way “that discerns true insights.” What true insights does CRT provide? Bradley doesn’t expressly say. He does say this, “CRT can be and is useful in some limited contexts for identifying where race may be a variable.” But, again, why do Christians need CRT to identify race as a variable in injustice?
He says that “The social sciences are simply attempting to provide replacement narratives” for Christianity. In this statement, he seems to imply that CRT is a replacement narrative for Christianity. This is a savage blow to his claim that CRT is “not an account we must accept or reject wholesale.” If CRT is a replacement narrative for Christianity, don’t we have an obligation to reject it wholesale? Why do we need it?
The church needs leaders and members who are not deceived by the pretensions of justice which usher in the cruelty of divisions, resentment, and rioting. To use CRT in the church, or to adapt it to the Christian worldview, is to dilute the truth. I truly appreciate the critique Bradley makes of CRT, along with his belief in the rich resources of the Reformed Protestant tradition. But he proves too much. It is precisely because of the Christian critique of CRT and the depth of the Christian worldview that CRT is unneeded in the church.
 Carl Trueman says, “Critical race theory is extremely seductive. Who wants to be guilty of standing on the side of the oppressors rather than in solidarity with the victims of injustice? The theory is likewise hard to oppose, since it denies the legitimacy of arguments that call it into question. The he-who-is-not-with-us-is-against-us rhetoric ensures that even tentative reservations will sound, well, racist. How many of us want to identify ourselves as not “antiracist”? Who wants to appear to deny that black lives matter?”
 See the book by Peter Berger and Richard John Neuhaus, To Empower People: From State to Civil Society (Washington D.C.: AEI Press, 1996). Also see the Thomas Sowell book, Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality (New York: William Morrow, 1984) for an economist’s explanation for why more than just race explains statistical disparities.
 Consider, further, what Lawrence Mead ably points out in his recent paper “Poverty and Culture.” “Attempts to attribute long term poverty to social barriers, such as racial discrimination or lack of jobs, have failed. Some scholars now attribute poverty to culture in the sense that many poor become disillusioned and no longer seek to advance themselves. More plausible is cultural difference. The United States has an individualist culture, derived from Europe, where most people seek to achieve personal goals. Racial minorities, however, all come from non-Western cultures where most people seek to adjust to outside conditions rather than seeking change….These differences best explain why minorities—especially blacks and Hispanics—typically respond only weakly to chances to get ahead through education and work, and also why crime and other social problems run high in low-income areas….The black middle class has converted to an individualist style and thus advanced, but most blacks have not.”
 BLM co-founder is rather transparent about this goal in her book The Purpose of Power: How we Come Together When we Fall Apart (New York: One World, 2020).
Jason Cherry is an elder at Trinity Reformed Church, as well as a teacher and lecturer of literature, American history, and economics at Providence Classical School in Huntsville, Alabama. He graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary with an MA in Religion and is the author of the book The Culture of Conversionism and the History of the Altar Call, now available on Amazon.