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John Piper defends Critical Race Theory (Part 2)


In Part 1, I discussed how John Piper treats Critical Race Theory as an abstract academic philosophy that is not actively being taught in churches. Therefore, Piper argues it is slanderous to use Critical Race Theory in the pejorative against a teacher teaching this ideology. I argue that Piper's Part 1 was designed to combat discernment and to maintain that Critical Race Theorists are not false teachers but brethren that we simply disagree with.


With the abstract view of Critical Race Theory established, John Piper sheds more light on this in his part two.


In my understanding, critical race theory is worth talking about not only because it is causing divisions among Christians at points where I don’t think divisions need to exist

Piper begins by downplaying the issue of Critical Race Theory, stemming from his assumption in part one that CRT/I is not presently being taught in the church.


Even more specifically, I want to establish us in these convictions, over against the core philosophical convictions of critical race theory, because I believe with all my heart that these convictions, not those of critical race theory, will serve the cause of racial harmony, racial justice, and the flourishing of a joyful, respectful, Christ-exalting racial and ethnic diversity in the body of Christ. In other words, critical race theory is not a problem because it raises the challenge of racial justice, and racial harmony, and racial respect, and racial glory, but because it fails us as we try to take up these challenges in a hopeful, Christ-exalting way.

John Piper summarizes his critique of Critical Race Theory here. In essence, his criticism of Critical Race Theory is that it is not Christianity, in that it cannot bring salvation. This seems as though his reason for beginning his argument with Christian truisms and downplays the necessity of dividing over this issue.

If we stay at the generic level for a moment, critical race theory will not sound controversial because it will overlap with the legitimate goals and concerns of many Christians.

Piper claims that on paper Critical Race Theory does not sound controversial and then uses Purdue University's definition to define CRT.


CRT [critical race theory] scholars attempt to understand [1] how victims of systemic racism are affected by cultural conceptions of race and [2] how they are able to represent themselves to counter prejudice.

Note that this definition assumes that there is presently systemic racism and that race is a social construct.

Now, if we don’t read more into some of those words than we should, there are many Christians who would say, rightly, “Those are some of my big concerns!”

Piper continues to delve into a history lesson on Critical Theory, about how it analyzes group power dynamics etc.


Even though critical theory may have started with a concern about the relationships of privilege and oppression between classes, like rich and poor, white-collar and blue-collar, educated and less educated, professional and tradesmen, blue bloods and commoners, etc., the theory now has given rise to an array of focuses (theories, disciplines, studies) from queer theory to fat studies. The reason for this spawning of so many oppositional studies is that, as soon as you focus on groups and power dynamics, you see them everywhere: women–men, heterosexual–homosexual, fixed gender–transgender, old–young, Western–non-Western, American–Canadian, able-bodied–disabled, short–tall, slender–obese. On every one of these pairs, you can find books and studies more or less shaped by critical theory — a focus on the identity of the group and a challenge of the power or the privilege of one group over the other.

John Piper actually states the logical conclusion of Critical Theory's vast array of application. It invents oppressive categories, but he never states that the purpose is to expand the proletariat class. His observation stops midway through. Instead Piper pulls back his criticism of Critical Theory to say:

Now, it’s true that the focus on groups, while minimizing the individual, and the focus on power, while minimizing other relational dynamics (like love and humility and graciousness), can skew our understanding and yield unhelpful strategies. Nevertheless, those very focuses, misleading as they might be in some ways, can also reveal insights that may be strategically helpful in moving toward greater justice.

In other words, John Piper is saying Critical Theory can be a useful analytical tool. John Piper does however go on to elaborate his two greatest criticisms of CRT. John Piper uses two phrases of woke people as a launching pad to dive into their ideology. The first ties into sexual ethic as Critical Theory is applied to promote the homosexual and transvestite agenda. The second deals with the view of the inerrancy of Scripture. It's important to note that Piper's main criticisms for CRT are because of its manifestations.


Here is my answer, and my deepest problem with critical race theory. They arrive at this conclusion because at root they believe a person’s essential identity is self-chosen, self-constructed, not God-designed or God-given. Or another way to say it would be that, when it comes to our own identity, we are our own god. We do not acknowledge or submit to any divine truth or morality as above us, constraining or limiting our own self-definition, self-construction. So, if I choose to be a woman though God made me a man, I am right to do so. No God, no morality, no religion, no ideology can replace me as the self-determining, self-defining, self-deifying sovereign of my own identity.

This is not really a critique of Critical Theory or CRT. Perhaps this is a critique of postmodernism, but this is really a critique of materialism, the belief that this world is all that there is. If someone ascribes to an atheistic worldview other than Buddhism, Piper could very well be describing them. Mankind's rebellion against God was because we wanted to be God in Genesis 3. Piper's words here could be taken to describe any unsaved person, which ultimately makes it a useless critique of Critical Race Theory. He goes on to argue against CRT's support for transgenderism before returning to a larger critique of materialism.


When God is out of the picture, what’s left to determine right and wrong, and what our true identity is, is personal autonomy (self-definition, self-determination). And if you reject such personal autonomy as the final arbiter of right and wrong, then within the framework of God-evicting critical race theory, the only explanation left for your behavior is your own will to power. Therefore, if you reveal your rejection of human autonomy — self-determination, self-definition — in regard to homosexual behavior or attempts at sex change, you show yourself guilty of governing all your relationships by a will to power rather than a respect for autonomy. For those are the only two options in a “theory” where God and his word are not supreme.

There was a time when Marxism did not tolerate homosexuality, but Cultural Marxism is willing to upend biblical sexuality. The expediency of Critical Theory should not be the main focus of a critique of the ideology, just like materialism should not be the main critique of Classical Marxism. These are ideologies built on theft, murder, pride, envy, greed, and covetousness. Piper goes on to address the inerrancy debate.


The root issue is that the claim to have an infallible Bible undermines the fundamental assumption of critical race theory in its mainstream expression. That fundamental assumption is that human identity is self-constructed, not God-given. Any group, therefore, that claims to have access to an infallible word of God that dictates human identity and human right and wrong is a manifest threat to human autonomy. Within the framework of critical race theory, the claim of biblical authority can be understood only as a group trying to seize power — in this case, white power, since most of the confessions of faith in the history of the church that espouse biblical infallibility have been written by white men.

Again Piper's issue with Critical Race Theory is its mainstream expression, not the ideology in and of itself. While he is correct to state that Critical Race Theory denies 2 Timothy 3:16, this is not a criticism unique to CRT. This is, once again, true of the overwhelming majority of people who are unsaved, for it is possible for someone to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and to not be saved because acknowledging truth is not what saves people.


The view of a Christian belief being used to seize power is not unique to CRT at all. It's true of people suspicious of organized religion. It's true of people in places of mass cultural conflict where white missionaries are preaching the Word.


So, in conclusion and summary: critical race theory, in its generic definition as a quest for understanding the history of oppression in race relations, and the present attitudes and structures that continue that oppression, is a worthy quest.

Piper has gone into great detail criticizing the manifestation of CRT by actually critiquing materialism. He does not attack the root of CRT which he refers to as the generic definition. WE have all heard this argument before: "Communism is good on paper." or "Communism is good, in theory." But it's not. Communism is about forcefully stealing private property. John Piper is basically arguing that Critical Race Theory is good, in theory.


Typically, the beginning of an article will focus on a problem and the end will focus on a solution.


And critical race theory in its more essential definition, including its mainstream assumptions and conclusions, is a manifestation of the age-old enslavement of the fallen human heart to self-deification (“I will be my own god”), and self-definition (“I will define my own essential identity”), and self-determination (“I will decide my own truth and my own morality, without deference to any authority outside myself”). And therefore, to try to make progress in racial justice and racial respect and racial harmony by absorbing the assumptions and categories and conclusions and strategies of critical race theory is a dead-end street.


Out of context, the latter sentence here sounds like a scathing critique, though it is really a climax of Piper talking about a materialistic worldview. Piper may actually be trying to divorce the term CRT and its manifestations from the core teachings of the ideology because the assumptions and categories he is referring to are its denial of the authority of Scripture and its categories of sexual deviance. He still uses woke buzzwords like "racial justice" and "racial harmony" which are straight out of White Fragility, not the Bible.


Conclusion


John Piper goes to great lengths to argue that Critical Race Theory is a materialist ideology, but ultimately articulates that it can be a useful analytical tool. The "Critical Race Theory is good on paper" argument that Piper is using will ultimately manifest itself as a means to continue using this sinful ideology in the church divorced from its materialism and perhaps also its support for sexual sin. This ultimately provides cover for false teachers to merge Christianity to a heretical worldview, like they are already doing because they are not technically manifesting Critical Race Theory according to John Piper. Therefore John Piper's criticism of Critical Race Theory is inadequate at best as it does nothing to address it being taught in the church.

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