Racism and the Fire of “Critical Race Theory”
from THE CHURCH UNDER FIRE sermon series . . .
We’ve studied 5 of 6 attacks on Christ’s Church in our Church Under Fire Series. With each topic, we saw that worldly thinking slips into the Church and redefines the words and beliefs the Bible teaches. For example, regeneration is turned into pragmatism and grace is turned into inequality. These are mostly about the problem of racism. But here again, the definition of racism has been redefined. Let’s begin by defining what racism actually is, and then we’ll see how it has been redefined according to the social justice movement.
Racism: “The belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”
I’ve seen the ugly face of racism far too many times. I’ve seen it in others; but I too have been the one with the “superior” attitude based on ethnicity and cultural differences. According to this understanding, anyone can be a racist. So, first things first, let’s confess that we have racist specks in our own eyes too often. This will be made more evident in a moment when we define racism using the words that the Bible actually uses.
But the social justice movement has changed this definition, and the baby conceived is called Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. We will define these terms, but afterwards I will simply refer to both concepts as CRT.
Critical Race Theory: The belief that a system of op-pression, based on race, exists throughout a society due to the conscious, but most often subconscious, attitudes of superiority within the majority race of a society.
CRT is rooted in Marxist philosophy and is a branch of the larger philosophy of Critical Theory that claims all minority groups (such as feminists, homosexuals, transgenders, African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians) are oppressed by the majority race in a culture. The goal of these theories is to separate people into identity groups. Ironically, CRT claims to be the solution to “racism” by separating people into groups based on race—but isn’t that part of the sin of racism?
Intersectionality: The process of identifying the interconnections and interdependencies between social categories and systems that result in the oppression of minority groups by those in the majority.
In this belief system, everyone is given points for every category of oppression they experience. Like playing golf, the higher your “score,” the worse off you are. For example, white Christian men basically are automatically assigned a zero because they’re at the top of the leader board. White women have more points. White, lesbian women have even more points. But black men have lots more. And black, lesbian women have way more. And on goes the insanity.
Two of the strategies used in CRT are very common today:
1) Redistribution of wealth: This is just a contemporary version of taking from the rich to give to the poor. The Bible calls it stealing.
2) Affirmative action: This is blocking opportunities for one group of people in order to grant opportunities to another group of people. The Bible calls it favoritism and inequity.
What happened to the traditional definition of racism? It is being replaced with CRT. In reality, the sin of racism itself is a redefinition of what the Bible teaches. The idea of many races was a concept introduced by Darwinian evolution that teaches there are many “races” of humans—some inherently superior and others inherently inferior. But the Bible teaches there is only one race of people, and that is the human race. Every human comes from the same family of Adam and Eve.
What the world has defined as racism, God defines as self-righteous, hostility and partiality, or favoritism. In his letter, James commands Christians to “show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jas.2:1a). And Paul says to the Romans, “For God shows no partiality” (Rom.2:11). This doesn’t mean God makes no difference between people, but He judges all people according to His standard of justice. And it’s not just the poor and needy but ALL people that God judges impartially (Deut.10:17-18).
1 Peter 1:17—And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.
This brings us to our text today that clearly identifies the root sin underneath all racism and denies the claims of CRT as contrary to the unifying truth of the gospel.
Ephesians 2:11-22—Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumci-sion” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Paul begins with the phrase, “Therefore remember.” “Because of everything I’ve said about Christ and His gospel, here is what unity in Christ means for those who have been saved.”
1. Believer and unbeliever are the only categories of separation ordained by God (vv.11-12). Of course, this was not the case in the beginning; but since Adam and Eve sinned, humans have been divided into the categories of saved or unsaved. “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the ‘uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ” (vv.11-12a).
The word “Gentiles” can also be translated as nations or peoples. It refers to a people united by kinship, culture, or common traditions. In the New Testament, it usually refers to foreigners outside of God’s people or simply unbelievers. Paul calls unbelievers “Gentiles in the flesh,” meaning they had no physical circumcision, which is why he calls them the uncircumcision (v.11a).
Paul calls the Jews the “circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands” (v.11b), meaning physical circumcision was instituted by God as a sign that marked Israel as God’s people in distinction from the surrounding pagan nations (Gen.17:9-11). In the Old Testament, God’s people eventually went by the name Israelites and now, more frequently, the Jews. All those outside the covenant of salvation are simply called Gentiles. God had set Israel apart to be a light and blessing to all the nations (Gen.22:18).
In verse 12, Paul reminds the Gentiles in the Ephesian Church of the desperate situation of their past. They had been “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (v.12). Prior to Christ, Gentiles had no access to salvation unless they were willing to become physical Jews through circumcision as a sign of their inner faith in God. The result was utter hopelessness and helplessness.
Unfortunately, just because the Jews have circumcision and many other good gifts from God, most Israelites of that day and today take pride in being physical Jews and assume they are saved, not realizing they aren’t really God’s people from the heart.
Romans 2:28-29—For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physi-cal. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
Romans 9:6—But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.
2. All believers are united in one faith by the blood of Christ (vv.13-19). “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (v.13). This is the language of reconciliation, propitiation, and substitutionary atonement. And it’s the language of the Jewish Temple sacrifices that were foreshadows of the coming sacrifice of Christ on the cross (Heb.10:1-4; 1 Jn.4:10). Jesus’ atonement is the once-for-all sacrifice that made full satisfaction for the sins of everyone that believes on Him (Rom.3:25).
The result of our vertical reconciliation with God is horizontal reconcili-ation with all other believers. “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (v.14). This is again a reference to the Jewish Temple. There was the court of the Gentiles at the front portion and beyond the wall only Jews were allowed to enter. This “wall of hostility” was “broken down” in Jesus’ “flesh”, meaning His cross accomplished it. But more than this, not even all Jews could go all the way into the Holy of Holies. But when Christ died, we’re told that “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Matt.27:51).
There is no more dividing line between Jew and Gentile, and there is no more dividing line between God and man if they put their faith in the resurrected Lord. God has made a way for Gentiles to be incorporated into His family without taking on the physical identifying marks of being an outward Jew. In this way, neither Jew nor Gentile in the Church has a ground for boasting.
Paul explains how Christ accomplished this peace at the cross: “by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (vv.15-16). The word “abolishing” means to cause something to be unproductive or to lose its effectiveness. It’s a different word than Jesus used when He said He did not “come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. . . but to fulfill them” (Matt.5:17). Paul’s different word for abolish picks up on Jesus’ use of fulfill—so Paul is saying Jesus came to put an end to the Law’s intended purpose.
God’s Law was never intended for us to establish our own righteousness but to show Israel their need for God’s righteousness to be received by faith alone (Rom.10:3-4).
Galatians 3:24-26—So then, the law was our guar-dian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial, civic, and moral laws. that were “expres-sed in ordinances” (v.15) The Old Testament laws are only binding on believers now in two ways: one, if they’ve been specifically restated in the New Testament as binding (for example, commandments against lying or stealing); or two, by applying the underlying principles of the unstated laws (for example, applying the principle of the purification laws for lepers and menstruating women to your need for purifying your heart prior to worshipping God.
God has joined Jew and Gentile believers together into one people of God. There are no categories that can keep us apart in this world or in the one to come—rich or poor, men or women, slave or master, Southerner or Yankee, because Christ killed the hostility (v.16b). But this doesn’t mean all distinctions have been removed. Many of our distinctions persist, but none of them make any group superior to any others.
When Jesus came, he “preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in on Spirit to the Father” (vv..17-18). If this weren’t good news enough, Paul tells us the other happy result. “So then you are no longer strangers or aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (v.19). This truth is what makes meeting other Christians or visiting a true, sister church feel so pleasant—we are part of the same heavenly family, the same Universal Church of Christ.
But sometimes we meet those who profess Christ or visit a church without this kindred feel to it. And how do we explain the countless disagreements we encounter among those who say they are Christians or claim to be a true church. I’m not talking about secondary doctrines or trivial, tertiary doctrines? I’m talking about issues like abortion, homosexuality, women pastors, and critical race theory dividing those who call themselves Christians.
Paul gives us the key to addressing these real con-cerns. Our new position as “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (v.19) is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (vv.20-21).
3. Jesus and His teachings is the cornerstone of the oneness of believers (vv.20-21). Grammatically, this should say “are the cornerstones,” but this is a theological statement in which Christ and His teachings are so unified as to be joined as one. Jesus is the cornerstone of the Church made up of Jews and Gentiles who believe on Him. And the apostles and prophets built their foundation of Christian teaching based on Christ the cornerstone. And what is this foundation of their teaching? It is the New Testament Scriptures working in conjunction with the Old Testament that builds Jesus’ new, Holy Temple made up of Jews and Gentiles—two groups made into one Church, with Jesus as the cornerstone.
Therefore, CRT is a new definition of racism that must be rejected because it is an affront to the good news that says Christ killed the hostility between all those who believe on Him. And the sin of racism itself must be repented of too for the same reason. Among the memb-ers of the Church, there is to be no hostility or enmity based on favoritism or partiality. We embrace diversity in God’s Church as He sees fit to grant it. But we never pursue it at the expense of sound teaching because sound teaching is the foundation on which Christ is building His Church.