Critical Theory Right Under Al Mohler's Nose at SBTS

In the wake of Resolution 9, which was passed at last year’s Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Albert Mohler made a very clear statement disavowing the origins and implications of critical race theory. He didn’t deny the value or truth of the resolution altogether, but he did state that he wished it would’ve said more for this reason:

Ideas, as we know, do have consequences…the main consequence of Critical Race Theory is Identity Politics. And Identity Politics can only rightly be described as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have to see Identity Politics…as nothing less that devastating to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

An excellent statement to be sure. I’m sure it was encouraging to many who expected an orthodox response to the issue. Unfortunately, since the passing of Resolution 9, Matthew Hall, provost at SBTS (the seminary over which Mohler presides), confessed to the sin of racism. He also affirmed that he will struggle with his sin of racism until the day he dies. Of course, this is an admission that could only come from a real racist or from someone who thinks critical race theory (CRT) is true; that there is some inherent, inescapable and often times elusive—yet ever present—racism within the hearts of white people. White people simply can’t get away from their racism, according to CRT and the implied notion of white privilege. And, as Mohler rightly noted, identity politics streams from CRT. It turns out, this wasn’t an isolated incident.

Southern Seminary is at it again—and this time, it’s not coming from Hall, it’s coming from other people.

Dr. Hershael York sat down to interview Trillia Newbell on pursuing diversity within the church. Now, let’s for a moment leave aside the obvious problem—a woman speaking to an almost entirely pastoral issue (she even ventures to advise pastors in the podcast)—and focus on the more central subject matter of the discussion. York asks:

Tell me, how can churches that have been historically and traditionally white, Anglo, be open to reaching different ethnicities, and, uhm, give us some advice.

To which Newbell responds:

Yeah, well, do we have a few days to have this podcast?… I think the first thing is: Repent. If you are struggling to reach your neighbor, Why? What is it that’s holding you back?… Which a lot of people just don’t realize that they’re struggling, maybe they’re struggling with the sin of partiality.

If you’re tempted to balk at my use of excerpts, please go listen to the whole podcast. I’ll link it again here. I’m not seeking to rip anything out of context.

We need to identify a few issues.

First, the premise of the podcast is a bad one. The church, in Scripture, is never commanded to pursue diversity. The church is bound to preach the Word indiscriminately and observe the ordinances (Lk. 22:19; Matt. 28:18-20). If God, through the ministry of the church, is pleased to bring together a diverse group of people, then praise be to Him—but that’s His prerogative. To make ethnic diversity a stated priority is to inevitably engage in identity politics and, consequently, the sin of partiality—two concepts precluded in Mohler’s statement above.

Second, York’s question assumes there’s something wrong with a church if it’s a majority white/Anglo congregation. Is it a sin for a church to consist of a majority white membership? If so, where do the Scriptures teach such a thing? Certainly the majority of the church in Jerusalem consisted of members of Jewish origin. Was the Jerusalem church in sin? What about the church in Ephesus? Would it not have consisted of a gentile majority? What makes that wrong? God has churches everywhere, and He’s calling people to Himself from everywhere. The inevitability here is that churches in monoethnic societies are going to be largely—you guessed it—monoethnic. Thus, this seems like a burden unique to the church in United States, where multi-ethnicity is the norm in many states and cities.

Third, Newbell’s instant response is extremely troubling and in lockstep with critical theory. According to Newbell, a majority Anglo church needs to “repent.” Again, for what? For being majority Anglo? Is it a sin for a church to be majority Anglo? If so, book, chapter, and verse please.

Moreover, why is it automatically an Anglo church’s fault if they’re struggling to “reach their neighbors”? Does Newbell even entertain the possibility that their neighbors might not want anything to do with them? Of course not! Part of their solution to this “majority Anglo problem,” of course, is an openness to a change in worship. York, later on in the podcast, mentions this as he provides commentary on Newbell’s above quoted answer.

He says:

You know it also means being open to other ways of worshiping.

What if conscience binds a congregation to a certain way of worshiping? Do we need to change our beliefs about what worship is and how we ought to worship God in order to draw a more diverse crowd? Are we to be seeker sensitive? It sure sounds as though York thinks so. The implication here is a doctrine of worship dependent upon culture rather than God’s Word.

Fourth, Newbell suggests majority-Anglo churches may suffer from the sin of partiality which supposedly explains their inability to reach their neighbors. But I think the burden of guilt falls on Newbell’s shoulders here. How partial would it be for me, as a pastor, to encourage our congregation to witness to people—to persuade people toward our church—based on their ethnic background or skin color? That’s textbook partiality. The irony here would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad and devastating from a biblical perspective. Newbell’s strategy is not how you cultivate a healthy church, it’s how you destroy one.

Again, those of you who are reading this need to be mindful that this podcast is hosted by SBTS faculty, is published on an SBTS extension website, and is, therefore, under the supervision and responsibility of Albert Mohler, president of SBTS.

As has been said before by others, either Mohler has no clue what’s going on at his seminary or, contrary to his above stated position on CRT and identity politics, he is not at all concerned with either, but is perfectly content to see them taught in his seminary. If the former is true, and Mohler truly has no idea what’s going on in his seminary, he should step down and hand over the torch to a more capable leader. If the latter is true, and Mohler is engaging in double-speak, it is my (and other’s prayer) that he would repent; that he would begin setting things aright at the institution over which he’s been given charge.

via Josh Sommer

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