Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe by Voddie Baucham. Salem Books. 271 pages. 2021
This book about Critical Social Justice (CSJ), by a respected pastor, is a book that I recommend all Christians read. Better yet, read and discuss it with others as I did. It’s the most important, and one of the best, books I’ve read so far this year.
Baucham begins by defining some of the important subjects of the book. He tells us that Critical Theory is not just an analytical tool, as some have suggested; it is a philosophy, a worldview. Critical Race Theory (CRT), is a subject that is in the news a lot lately, as we see parents at school board meetings, angry that their children are being taught CRT. CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. Intersectionality is about the multiple layers of oppression minorities suffer.
Baucham tells us that a fault line has been quietly forming underneath our feet for a long time around the area of social justice, and the Church must be awake and aware of what it means and where it comes from. Otherwise, we will fall victim to it—as many leading Christian voices – many (individuals and organizations) which he names in the book – already have. He chose the fault line metaphor because he believes it not only describes the catastrophe, but also the aftermath. He tells us that the current moment is akin to two people standing on either side of a major fault line just before it shifts. When the shift comes, the ground will open up, a divide that was once invisible will become visible, and the two will find themselves on opposite sides of it. That is what is happening in our day. He wrote the book to clearly identify the two sides of the fault line and to urge the reader to choose wisely. He would like to say that the book is meant to help us avoid the impending catastrophe, but it is not. He believes the catastrophe is unavoidable. The ground is already shaking. Relationships are being ruined, reputations are being tarnished, careers are being destroyed, and entire denominations are in danger of being derailed. He writes that if we are to survive this catastrophe however, we must understand it. We must understand what the fault lines are. We must also know where they lie.
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He writes that he believes that the current concept of social justice is incompatible with biblical Christianity, and that our problem is a lack of clarity and charity in our debate over the place, priority, practice, and definition of justice. He writes about two competing worldviews in this current cultural moment. One is the Critical Social Justice view—which assumes that the world is divided between the oppressors and the oppressed (white, heterosexual males are generally viewed as “the oppressor”). The other is what he refers to in the book as the biblical justice view.
After giving a background on where some of these ideas generated, the author tells his own story, that of a Black man raised by his mother, who shaped his thinking about who he was and what he was capable of. He writes that he grew up poor, without a father, and surrounded by drugs, gangs, violence, and disfunction in one of the toughest urban environments imaginable. Yet through all of that, he didn’t just survive; he thrived.
Subjects covered in the book include hegemony (what takes place when a dominant group imposes its ideology on the rest of society), Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, antiracism, the truth about some of the narratives the media has been telling us about police shooting unarmed Black people, Ethnic Gnosticism (the idea that people have special knowledge based solely on their ethnicity), the “Dallas Statement” and the Southern Baptist Convention Resolution 9 that was in response to it, abortion, single-issue voting and Black Lives Matter.
Of interest to me was an incident that happened in my hometown, and at the university I graduated from. Baucham writes:
“Kurt Beathard was the offensive coordinator for the Illinois State University football team. That is, until he found a BLM flyer on his office door and replaced it with a flyer of his own stating, “All Lives Matter to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Beathard was fired within weeks.”
Baucham writes that he believes there is racism and that there are racists. However, he rejects the idea that America is “characterized by racism,” or that racism is an unavoidable byproduct of our national DNA. He writes that he believes that America is one of the least racist countries in the world.
On the purpose of the book, Baucham writes:
“I want this book to be a clarion call. I want to unmask the ideology of Critical Theory, Critical Race Theory, and Intersectionality in hopes that those who have imbibed it can have the blinders removed from their eyes, and those who have bowed in the face of it can stand up, take courage, and “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).”
The book includes three appendices:
APPENDIX A The Dallas Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel
APPENDIX B Original Resolution on Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality
APPENDIX C SBC Resolution 9 on Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality
Below are some of the most important quotes from the book:
- The Gospel is not something that merely sits on top of our identity. When we come to Christ, our identity is transformed completely.
- Much has been said recently about seeking justice, and I could not agree more. However, we must be certain that we pursue justice on God’s terms.
- The cult of antiracism roots every aspect of its worldview in the assertion that everything begins with the creation of whiteness.
- According to the cult of antiracism, whiteness was established in order to create, perpetuate, and preserve white privilege.
- CSJ proponents believe white people can only respond appropriately to an accusation of racism by acknowledging, admitting, repenting of, and working to undo the racism. Anything other than that is evidence of white fragility.
- You may think you know what racism is. However, you are almost certainly wrong—at least when it comes to the antiracist definition of racism.
- According to Critical Social Justice, without social science, the Bible doesn’t make sense.
- At the heart of the “woke” movement lies the idea that the sin of racism is no longer to be understood as an individual sin. Instead, the term now incorporates the idea of “institutional/structural racism” and its implications.
- Antiracism means more than simply being “against racism.” The new definition adds the dimension of activism.
- Antiracism is rooted in law instead of gospel.
- Ethnic Gnosticism is dangerous, at least in part because it is rooted in neo-Marxism and Critical Theory.
- The general theme of the current CSJ movement within evangelicalism is a covert attack on the sufficiency of Scripture.
- To the anti–Critical Social Justice camp, those on the side of CSJ are all Cultural Marxists. Conversely, to the social justice camp, those who oppose their cause are all racists.
- The environment within evangelicalism is so hostile that it has a chilling effect. In this environment, dissent is not only unwelcome, but condemned. Consequently, many godly, thoughtful, well-meaning, justice-loving brethren are being silenced. As a result, the fault lines continue to shift, and the catastrophe gets ever closer.
- I believe the abortion question belongs at the center of any discussion about race and justice.
- If white people need to “check their privilege,” then Christians will soon be asked to do the same. Make no mistake about it—we are under attack.
- As followers of Christ, we reject the idea that the sin of racism is entirely structural. We believe it is a problem of the human heart—and therefore, its only solution is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- John Piper’s Next Book. John Piper will be working on a book on the second coming during July and August. Piper writes “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. I think I would say that my goal for the book is that more people would come to love — love— the second coming of Christ. Because Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:8, “There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” What an amazing privilege to have time and resources to work on a book like this.”
- Good Leaders Can Change the World. Jordan Wootten interviews Rich Stearns about his new book Lead Like It Matters to God.
- Social Media, Identity and the Church. Tim Keller reviews Breaking the Social Media Prism: How to Make Our Platforms Less Polarizingby Chris Bail. He writes “This is not a religious book—it is a work of social science. But its findings can be significant for how Christians conduct themselves and consume social media. And, indeed, many of his final principles for “a way forward” align with Christian ethics.”
BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
The providence of God is his purposeful sovereignty by which he will be completely successful in the achievement of his ultimate goal for the universe. God’s providence carries his plans into action, guides all things toward his ultimate goal, and leads to the final consummation.
John Piper draws on a lifetime of theological reflection, biblical study, and practical ministry to lead readers on a stunning tour of the sightings of God’s providence—from Genesis to Revelation—to discover the all-encompassing reality of God’s purposeful sovereignty over all of creation and all of history.
Exploring the goal, nature, and extent of God’s purposes for the world, Piper offers an invitation to know the God who holds all things in his hands yet remains intimately involved in the lives of his people.
You can download the PDF of the book free from Desiring God.
Watch this six-minute video as John Piper talks about the book, and this interview with Dr. Joe Rigney of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
This week we look at Chapter 10: The Protection, Destruction and Restoration of Jerusalem. Here are a few takeaways from the chapter:
- For the biblical authors who tell the story, God was acting for the sake of his name from beginning to end in dealing with Jerusalem.
- God often responds to faith with deliverance and to faithlessness with judgment.
- Sometimes God lets his godly ones go through great affliction. He does not always deliver them from affliction, but often through affliction (Ps. 34:19).
- The point of Ezekiel’s prophesying over and over and over again, “You shall know that I am the Lord,” is that we should live in the conscious awareness that the supreme reality in the universe—in America, in China, in Brazil, in Nigeria, in Brussels, in our bedrooms, in our minds—is Yahweh, the God who absolutely is.
- It is cheap grace, not genuine grace, that thinks life in Christ is without remorse for past sin and for remaining corruption.
- Our joy in God’s mercy is intensified by the realization of how undeserving we were, and are.
- God’s God-centeredness—God’s commitment to magnify his name, his holiness, and his glory as the ultimate aim of his providence—is not a threat to our joy but the basis of it.