The rise of Critical Theory

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The rise of Critical Theory

January 17, 2022 - Denison Forum

Dr. Jim Denison and Dr. Mark Turman discuss Karl Marx’s philosophy, how Christianity moves on the shoulders of regular, faithful Christians, Critical Theory and Critical Race Theory, how systemic racism still exists, and how Christians can begin to navigate the culture on the issue of justice. 

Show Notes

In this episode, Mark and Jim begin by giving a personal biography of their lives and testimonies. In this, Jim explores how several key people who were faithful with their gifts helped bring him to trust in Jesus as his savior. As Mark quotes from his previous pastor, “Christianity goes forward on the shoulders of plain vanilla Christians.”

Jim then discusses how the term theological middleman began to define his ministry calling, with a clear, strong conviction from the Lord. A large part of Denison Ministries’ niche is equipping believers to love God with all of their minds. 

We often encounter a resistance to intellectual thinking in Christianity. A common Christian sentiment in the ’60s and ’70s was: Don’t let college ruin you. Thankfully, in recent years, evangelicals have shown that we are not antagonistic to reason. John Lennox and Russell Moore are two prime examples. 

Then, Mark and Jim discuss the merits and flaws in Karl Marx’s philosophy. Many of Marx’s criticisms were accurate. Seeing the world through the lens of “class” is helpful, but only to a point, and it cannot provide a solid worldview. Later, certain philosophers in the Frankfurt School developed Critical Theory out of Marxism. This plays out in our era through Critical Race Theory, for example.

The philosophy behind Critical Theory is that if you are a part of a group that has benefited from oppression, you are also culpable to the oppression. The spread of this kind of thinking is evident, even in Texas public schools. Many, like Ibram Kendi, have now said that if we maintain the status quo, we are complicit in racism. Instead, we must be antiracist.

Mark and Jim then delve into why Critical Theory doesn’t take sin nature into account. If the oppressed become powerful, they will be just as likely to oppress others, which is exactly what happened in the Soviet Union.

All of that said, Jim then argues that systemic racism continues to exist in modern-day America and gives several, well-attested facts that point to that truth. As believers, our first questions should be of self-examination: “How am I prejudiced? How can I amend where I have hurt others?” This means personally engaging with people who aren’t like us and listening to their pains.

Sin makes the world a broken place. Jim brings up how, in the past, Christians have dealt with systemic injustice and how we can champion the gospel in this lost world. William Wilberforce, a Christian activist, helped upend the English slave trade. This call to action, to stand up for the oppressed and help bring true, biblical justice to the world, is part of the Christian’s call. 

P.S. Pre-order The Coming Tsunami today and you’ll be invited to an exclusive, virtual, live Q&A with Dr. Denison discussing whether Critical Race Theory is biblical. Visit TheComingTsunami.com to pre-order and follow the directions on that page to receive your invitation to this book launch event on January 25. 

Resources and further reading

About the hosts 

Dr. Jim Denison CVO and cofounder of Denison Forum and a cultural scholar. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy and Master’s in Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

Dr. Mark Turman is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church. 

Transcript

Transcribed by Otter.ai

 

Mark Turman  00:00

Welcome to the Denison Forum Podcast. We’re focusing on our upcoming book called The coming tsunami written by Dr. Jim Dennison, the founder and CEO, Chief vision Officer of Denison forum. How are you today? Jim?

 

Jim Denison  00:13

I am Well, Mark, how are you sir?

 

Mark Turman  00:15

Doing great. Looking forward to our conversation today. We hope that these are helpful to our listeners and will Yes, encourage them to dive deeper by getting a copy of the coming tsunami which you can get in pre order form right now at the coming tsunami calm. And we hope that you’ll take advantage of that the book will be coming out at the end of January. So we’re looking forward to that opportunity. Jim, as we get started this morning, wanted to give our listeners a little bit of background about maybe both of us so that they understand who we are. I’m a recent new hire here at Denison forum and have the auspicious title of executive director of Denison forum trying to guide our team and be useful to you and our ministry. I’m married to Judy for 35 years have two adult children and and the two most perfect grandchildren almost most perfect, almost Well, we can arm wrestle over that in a second. I’m a native Texan from East Texas and pastored churches in Texas for 35 years, including the last 25 at my church called Crosspoint Church in McKinney, Texas, just north of Dallas. Give us a little bit of the biographical background of Jim Denison.

 

Jim Denison  01:29

Well, thank you Mark, such an honor to be in this conversation with you. I grew up in Houston, Texas. My father had fought in the Second World War came back from that and never went to church again. And so I grew up in a loving home but no spiritual life and all the dad’s questions I was invited to church at the age of 15 by a bus ministry. I don’t know folk are familiar with those these days. But back in the day, back in 1973, you go out, knock on doors, find kids to ride the bus to church, which is how I was invited to church and eventually heard the gospel came to faith in Christ, but still had all my dad’s questions, all these intellectual and cultural issues, which is really driven by life, I think you could say from then until now. So I became a Christian at the age of 15. Did a religion major in college and then when Southwestern seminary did a master’s in a PhD taught philosophy of religion there, southwestern seminary, I think that’s where you and I first met back in the day as a student there as well. And then pastored churches in Texas and in Georgia, before starting the Denison forum in 2009, the point of which is to help people navigate the culture through a biblical lens, as it were to help people think biblically about cultural issues so they can use their influence to make a difference for Christ. And so from then till now, the idea of speaking truth to cultural issues is really been a passion for me. And it’s a privilege to get to do that in this context as well. I am married to Janet been married for 41 years, people tell me I kicked my coverage. And I have no defense whatsoever for that as

 

Mark Turman  02:50

most of us do. In fact, I

 

Jim Denison  02:51

will tell you, I was at a dinner last night, after which I got a text from somebody that was explaining how the his girlfriend that had been at the dinner as well was glad to meet me but thrilled to meet Janet, right. Were the exact words glad to meet me, but thrilled to meet Janet. And I get that a lot Mark, I know how this works. There’s, you know, when you over marry, this is how this works. So we have two sons, both of whom are married, each of whom have two of my grandchildren, four total, all of whom are perfect, all of whom have not experienced inherited Original Sin. I don’t know how that’s happened. It’s skipped all of them. And so, in that sense, I am blessed beyond words.

 

Mark Turman  03:28

And, you know, you use the word church bus as related to your coming to faith in the 70s. You and I know that a church bus could be a most generous term for vehicles that were used to go around neighborhoods and pick up kids and bring them to church back in those days.

 

Jim Denison  03:43

We had an old In fact, his name was Julian Unger. He’s now with the Lord but he was retired bus driver. So back in the early 70s, when these bus ministry things first started, I think in church and Indiana’s price point, started beginning. And so we had a new pastor at College Park Baptist Church in Houston and moved from Birmingham to Houston, August of 73. And he’d heard about this bus ministry idea and so he suggested it to the church. Well, Mr. Unger, this bus mechanic this bus driver couldn’t preach sermons, couldn’t teach Sunday school classes couldn’t sing in the car, but he could do bus so he with his own money, bought an old to your point decrepit broken down school bus right from the Houston Independent School District and he fixed it back up where it would run they painted College Park Baptist Church on the side of it. And he drove the school bus. A man named Tony McGrady who was an insurance executive and again couldn’t sing in the choir preach a sermon, but he could organize. So we organized southwest Houston into plots had him all divided up, had the streets figured out and organized a method by which the members would go out on Saturdays and knock on doors, trying to find people to ride Mr. hungers, bus to church, right on Sunday. It was a Saturday morning in August of 73 when Julian Unger and Tony McGrady knocked on our door told us they were inviting us to church my brother and I had no interest whatsoever in riding a bus to church but my dad happened to buy At that moment, that’s what the conversation was about. We told him, he thought we should have some religious exposure. So Dad promised that we’d be on the bus the next day. And so we were, Mom found an old clip on tie in the closet. She made us wear, carry the big family Bible with me like you have on your coffee table, right? You don’t stand out at all. When you’re 15 years old with a family bible on your arm and a clip on tie on Sunday school and rode the bus to church. The pastor is turned out kind of yelled when he preached. And I got home, put the Bible back, put the tie back, I’d been to church, check the box. One time was enough. One time was enough. But God in his infinite mercy array arranged it in such a way that my 10th grade Sunday School teacher was the pastor’s wife, sure in school, and she would not give up on me. She kept inviting me she got the youth group to invite me they would invite me to play tennis, which was really about passion or go bowling or going to movies. And so Mark and I started doing more social stuff with them. Came back to church came to Sunday school on September 9 1973. I asked Mr. Sewell after Sunday school, not how can I be saved? Not how can I be sanctified and justified and regenerated? I said, How can I have what you have? Right? I could just mark in them send something I’d never seen before. There was a joy. There was a purpose. That was a there was something that I just had never experienced. And asked Mr. Sewell, how I could have what they had. She and I sat down after Sunday school, we were meeting in a house down the street from the church. You know, when the church grows, they always kick the kids out, put it someplace else. And so we were at this house, actually a friend of mine, Mark Holmes, US House, it’s now a daycare center in Houston. We were meeting in the living room of this house on folding metal chairs. And so Mr. suelen, I sat down after Sunday school, and she led me to faith in Christ. My spiritual mother, as it were. Yeah. And all of that was because Julian Unger, retired bus driver was willing to use his expertise to make a difference, right?

 

Mark Turman  06:56

Yeah, just such a great illustration. My pastor used to say that Christianity really goes forward on the shoulders of plain vanila Christians, and it’s not the superstars or the celebrities that we sometimes have, even within the Christian community. It’s just people like that, using their time, their energy, their effort to just do what they can to be useful to Christ through the church that he’s put them in. And that made a difference has a lot to do with how you and I ended up in this room, I have a similar feeling. You know, when I was introduced before my church as a young Christian, that was what I said to my pastor, I was drawn to this by what I saw in my high school friend and in his family, and in this boss that I had at the grocery store I worked at at East Texas that I couldn’t explain it all. They were helping me to have a vocabulary of faith. That was very much in development at that point, but I knew what I sensed in them. And that that’s what really kind of will be landing spot for where we go in our conversation today. You and I recently well, before we get to that your your family, your sons actually work as part of the Denison Foreign Ministry, both Craig and Ryan and y’all are celebrating because of events in recent days. Tell us what’s going on with your son Ryan.

 

Jim Denison  08:12

Well, okay, if you make me if you twist my arm, then I guess I guess I will do that. So our two sons are Ryan and Craig. Ryan is our oldest. Craig Our youngest is the author of verse 15. And as the CEO of the organization runs the day to day operations of the organization, when he took it over, we were about 800,000. In audience now. We’re past 6.6 million. Wow. And yeah, I just am in awe of he in the executive leadership team and the degree to which they’ve been able to use digital tools to grow the ministry and just so grateful to be able to who gets to do this with our son. Well, my oldest son Ryan writes for our ministry, he writes a daily article when I’m traveling and does website articles as well. He lives in Tyler, his wife has two dental practices there that she owns. And he has just completed his PhD. And we are just thrilled about this. He did a PhD in church history, defended as we’re recording this conversation, he defended his dissertation yesterday, he received an A on the dissertation from the most difficult professor that I have ever known. If she just doesn’t give these things and we’re just so grateful that

 

Mark Turman  09:13

you got it and if she hears this, we hope she takes that as a comment. It’s an absolute couple that she is

 

Jim Denison  09:17

a in fact, she’s the reason he’s in her program. He went to BHL specifically to study with her. I think she’s the foremost evangelical church historian in America. And she is just incredible and a wonderful gracious person, but very rigorous academician. And so for him to get that grade, and I just heard this morning from the President to BH Crayola reporting that Ryan did a superior is his word superior job defending his dissertation. So we’re just a little proud in our family today. Thanks for giving me a chance to say that that’s awesome.

 

Mark Turman  09:46

And we we are proud of Ryan, for those of us who get to work with him and know him and right relate to him. We’re thrilled that he’s made it to this finish line and, and as I shared with him yesterday, he’ll be smiling for at least a month or more, right You haven’t just recently completed yours. Yes. Having done that just a few months ago. Yeah, I still wake up smiling sometimes. So Well, let’s talk a little bit about the coming tsunami. That is the focus of this kind of as a precursor to that you and I recently had a conversation about your sense of calling and you use the term theological middleman. I bring it up because it really is a driving passion to what drove you to write this book and to create or to communicate this message that God has kind of solidified and clarified that comes through the coming tsunami. What do you mean by the calling of theological middleman?

 

Jim Denison  10:41

Well, thank you for that. So I grew up in Houston, as I mentioned, Temple oaks Baptist Church in northwest Houston invited me to be the youth minister 1977. Then in 1978, my home church invited me to come be their youth minister, and temple looks like guest was so glad to get rid of me or something. They had this one of these receptions that they do and they gave me a set of William Barkley’s New Testament commentaries. They’re called Saturday night specials, because so many pastors get sermons out of them on Saturday nights, they’re the best selling English language, New Testament commentary in history, I think. I think that’s still true, remarkable stuff. I don’t agree with everything in them, obviously, but really, really well done. So I’m walking out of the fellowship hall, Temple oaks Baptist Church, Houston, Texas on I wrote the date in the front of it on April 9 1978, everybody else had left I was the last person out, I happen to stand under the one streetlight in the center of the parking lot of this church, it’s not even there anymore. That Church no longer exists. as of a few years ago. I’m standing under the streetlight, and I happen to open the introduction to Barclays commentary on Matthew, in which he calls himself a theological middleman. And Mark, I will tell you, in that moment, its lights flashed and bells claimed, for me. It was an emote, I remember it as though it were yesterday, it was an emotional experience, a sense that that’s what God wanted me to be. Now, what he meant by that, and a little different than what I would mean, I think, but the idea is to have one foot in the academic and one foot in the practical, he wrote his commentary to, as he says, to translate the results of scholarship to the ordinary reader. That’s the language he uses. What I have felt called to do, from that point to this point, has been to translate academic resources, scholarship in a way that could be practical for those who were using their influence for the sake of the gospel. And so the coming tsunami to your point really is an attempt to do that, in the context of this cultural moment. So I get to spend my days just by God’s grace, and the way is blessed us in this ministry, I get to spend my days reading the culture, reading, academic literature, cultural literature, and then trying to translate that in a way that can be practical and helpful to those that are following Christ. It’s kind of a man of Isacord move, right? First Chronicles 1232 understood the times to know what Israel should do. And also,

 

Mark Turman  12:53

we talk regularly about the great commandment, Jesus was asked what’s most important, and he quoted the Old Testament, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and really feel like you’re Denison for them that through you and through others, that God has given us a not simply a niche, but a particular focus on what it means to love God with your whole mind, as a big part of the way we conduct ministry, and and that’s important, especially in these days, we’re going to talk some in a moment about truth and the importance of truth and how a lot of what’s going on in this moment, is an attack just simply on the concept of truth. And if, if we, if we lose that in our culture, as we seem to be doing in significant ways, chaos is going to ensue, and chaos is ensuing in significant ways. And so an understanding of scholarship and what it means to love God with all your mind, understand reason, and logic, is a big part of what our ministry is about big part of what this book and what this podcast is all about. Our intention is is that this podcast continues, obviously on beyond just simply the releasing of this book. And we’ll continue to have topics that grow out of the things that you’ve identified in this book, as a catalytic message. And so to that end, we’re eager to do that. And because it relates directly, as you said, on the practical side to what Jesus said when he said in the second commandment is like unto it, which is to love your neighbor as yourself. We talked in our previous podcast that in some ways, it’d be easier for us to just kind of go off into our holy huddles and into our corners, perhaps build religious communes where we could just carry out our Christianity in our understanding and not bother the rest of the world. But that to love your neighbor is at the heart of the gospel, and that we believe that living a Biblical Christ centered life is the way human beings thrive. And that’s what we’re eager to do to be witnesses to that not to be crusaders or heavy handed or to force faith, faith really cannot be forced and be authentic at the same time. But we do want to be witnesses to it, and to let God draw people to Himself through our testimony that’s at the heart of what our ministry and mission is all about.

 

Jim Denison  15:29

Absolutely true, I’d say in the evangelical world, that God is moving in that way. And I think there’s a need for that to be the case. You remember Mark Knowles book some years ago, the scandal of the evangelical mind, right. And essentially, the argument of the book is a scandal of the evangelical mind is that there isn’t one, you know that we’ve been anti intellectual. Now a lot of that has history to it, a lot of it, we could go back to the 20s in the scopes, monkey trials and the rise of fundamentalism, as we discussed in an earlier podcast. But there really has been in my lifetime anyway. In among some in the evangelical world, this sense that if you have faith, you won’t ask questions, you know, that if you just have enough faith, you won’t have doubts that, that you really don’t need to explore the culture, you just need to preach the gospel in the simplest sense of whatever that might mean. And we don’t need intellectual engagement with the culture that in fact, that can confuse us, it can mess us up. I was warned before going to seminary not to take philosophy because it might mess up my theology.

 

Mark Turman  16:22

You know, I, again, predicted perhaps it was more common, it’s not as much heard today. But in the 60s and 70s, there was this common idea of don’t don’t go to college and let it no like college ruin you. If, if you feel like you need to go or want to go, don’t let it ruin you don’t go to seminary and let it ruin your theology. Yeah,

 

Jim Denison  16:41

never some reasons for that. I mean, there really are, unfortunately, tragically, some of the academic world who think it is their job to deconstruct your faith, right, to get you to question your faith on a very deep level in a way that may not on any level be redemptive. So certainly, there have been some issues behind that. But there’s a narrative out there, that I’m seeing the Lord moving against now, I’m seeing a number of people he’s raising up as thought leaders to really demonstrate to the world that Evan Jellicle faith is not antagonistic to reason. You think about Tim Keller and his ministry, for instance, I’m grateful for Russell Moore, and what he’s doing in these John Lennox, who I heard, talk about a year exhibit a exhibit a yeah, we’re seeing across the board a number of people that God is raising up in ways to try to speak truth in a reasoned way, which we think is our call here as well.

 

Mark Turman  17:26

Right? Yeah. And so excited to do that. And that’s really an expression of what the the book The coming tsunami is all about. Just give everybody a little bit of a reminder, depending on how much time it’s been since they heard our previous podcast podcast, that you identify the actual compounding effect of four realities, that are creating seismic shifts and tidal waves within our culture, that we’re now for the first time in history as Americans and in the West, experiencing what it means to be in a post truth culture that is leading some to believe or to tout that Christians are intolerant. And we’re living in a post biblical morality, society, particularly expressed in sexuality where Christians are seen as irrelevant in their beliefs and in their witness to a certain way of living, particularly in sexual morality. We’re going to talk a little bit about critical theory and its offshoot critical race theory, that really is kind of arisen in a very significant way, I don’t know how many of us would have ever been able to, or ever came across the term critical theory or critical race theory, until even the last 24 months or so. And this kind of wraparound idea that you identify as the rise of secular religion. And so we want to dive into that a little bit. The book explores not simply critical race theory, but kind of backs the train up a little bit to the larger idea of critical theory, that, would you agree with me is somewhere in the at least in the popular understanding somewhere around 100 years old, as a social and economic theory rooted in Karl Marx and rooted in other places? unpack that a little bit for

 

Jim Denison  19:15

us? No, you’re right, you have to go back to the 20s and 30s, and what’s called the Frankfurt School in Germany, Max Horkheimer, and others that were part of this movement. So it’s a Marxist idea. And I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense, just a descriptive to descriptive sense. Yeah. I used to teach classes on Marxism back in seminary day, and one of the things we would talk about is the degree to which Karl Marx looked at the world through the prism of class.

 

Mark Turman  19:36

And let me let me just pause right here because when Americans perhaps hear the word or hear the name Karl Marx, we immediately think Russia, we immediately think Cold War, we immediately think communism, which is not necessarily wrong for us to go that way. But we’re actually back on a different track right.

 

Jim Denison  19:55

That’s right way before all that, yeah, you know, this is well, Lenin ism is starting in 1917. You start seem to see some outgrowth of that. But nothing like what you’d think of as the Cold War and the Berlin Wall and all of

 

Mark Turman  20:05

that we’re talking philosophy. That’s right, and precisely theory. Exactly. So

 

Jim Denison  20:09

with his book das kapa, Tal, for instance, he and Frederick Engels, which, by the way, was a very popular thesis back in the 30s. In Europe, as well, we look at it through the lens, as you say, of the Cold War. But prior to what we think of as the Cold War, this was a very popular way of understanding culture. And there’s truth in this. I’m not here to say that everything Marx wrote was wrong, that he got it completely wrong. You’re not

 

Mark Turman  20:30

saying it’s the truth? No, there is some truth. That’s exactly right, we need to understand consider in and evaluate

 

Jim Denison  20:38

exactly. So as he looked at the world through this prism of class, that is one way to see the world. It really is trim was especially true in his day. This is before there were labor laws, and there were child protection laws and that sort of thing. He’s in England at this point of time, he’s been exiled from Germany, and that I think, France as well. And now he’s writing in the British Library, where he’s doing a lot of his work here. This isn’t a date when the industrial revolution is in full force and children are being forced to work 14 and 16 hour days, and there was no protection for the underclass by the overclass

 

Mark Turman  21:07

unions will eventually emerge out of this because of of oppression in the industrial era,

 

Jim Denison  21:13

that those are yet to come, right. That’s not that those are in a nascent stage, but they’re certainly not what we think of in the sense of unionized labor and protections, and all of that. And so he’s coming forward to say, there is in history, he gets some of this from Hegel, there is this movement of history, in which there have always been these classes, there are those that rise to prosperity, typically by oppressing those that are less prosperous than themselves. And in his day, again, he’s describing economic reality as in many ways that existed. I’m not here to defend Karl Marx, but I’m here to try to give us a kind of historic sense for all this in the 20s and 30s. Out of this idea, that culture exists in classes that humans experience the world through classes, there comes this idea that if you’re in a prosperous class, somebody oppressed somebody to get there.

 

Mark Turman  21:59

And we get even in slang terms today, we get this idea of the the other definition of the golden rule, not the biblical definition of the golden rule. But the idea of the golden rule, He who has the gold makes the rules makes the

 

Jim Denison  22:12

rules exactly the idea. And again, we’d have to say in a lot of the world, that is true, even today, in a lot of the world, those that have gotten to a place of enormous prosperity have typically been unfair to someone along the way has been the idea if not they somebody on their behalf. To illustrate that in the context of race, which we’ll get to in just a moment. I obviously, never own slave, I mean, slavery would be, we can have a long conversation about the horrors, the sinfulness of slavery could have a long conversation. But it is a fact that slave labor built the railroads on which I have traveled, right. I never enslaved anybody. But I have experienced the result of that. I’ve been in the White House any number of times over the years, it was important built by slave labor. The Marxist argument would be that if I am in a place of prosperity than my class, if not me, personally, as on some level victimize those that are less prosperous, and so critical theory comes forward to say, the best path forward is to find a way to liberate the underclass to find a way to elevate them. And if you have to do that at the expense of the overclass, then so be it if you have to lean in a direction that discriminates against those that have been the discriminators. Soviet, right, do that peacefully if you can, and violently if you must. That’s the idea behind Critical Theory back 20s 30s Frankfurt School.

 

Mark Turman  23:31

So and let’s take that, obviously is playing out in a big way relative to critical race theory right now. And we’re seeing that particularly in our schools and our school districts, we live in the Dallas area, we have a lot of really great schools and school districts. We saw one school district even this week, as we are recording this, their superintendent was essentially forced to step down over some of the things that some believed that she was doing in this space around addressing issues of, of inequity and things related to critical race theory. And the pressure became so significant upon her that she resigned this week, even though two years ago in the state of Texas, she was voted the best superintendent of schools in the entire state. And so we’re seeing stories like this, even stories of that approach to violence within school board meetings and those types of things. And so it’s become a very big issue. And one of the words that’s coming out here is the issue of being complicit that even though you are not personally an individual may not be in any reasonable way, racist or oppressive or bigoted, but because you’re a part of this group, that some have identified as being in power and therefore by definition, oppressive, that you are now complicit, and therefore, a reasonable target, if you might say it that way, simply for that reason.

 

Jim Denison  25:12

Now that’s right. And this is as we’re applying critical theory to race, it can be applied to gender, it can be applied to other challenges, a variety of ways that can be done. But in the context that usually being discussed today, as you’re saying, it’s a critical race to remove of critical theory. So what we’re looking here at other this Marxist model, is the idea that, let’s say African Americans, for example, are a minority in the culture who clearly had been oppressed through our history through slavery, and other means to Jim Crow laws, we get a long conversation about the degree to which black people in America have, as a class been oppressed by a white class as a class again, looking at this new Marxist construct. And so Abram kindI and others have come forward to say, the only way to make this right now is to first of all, admit what I just said. And then second, understand that if you persist in maintaining the status quo, you were complicit in continuing the injustice toward the underclass. So what you must do mark is not just be not a racist, you must be an anti racist. What you must do as a white American, is use your influence in your means to do everything you can to correct the injustices of society. And if you’re not doing that, you’re part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. Now, it’s being alleged that what I’ve just said, and that’s just one of five ways that critical race theory can be understood and applied today, that that is not being taught in the schools per se that’s being alleged right now. And that’s true, it’s hard to find a school district that is teaching a class called Critical Race Theory, right? Or that is expressly in those words, saying what I just said. But the idea that is motivating critical race theory as a philosophy is being taught in history classes and literature classes and cultural classes and sociology classes, is being taught in 1000s of high schools across the country, as a worldview move. And it is true, that we’re having, let’s say, Anglo elementary school children being stood in their classes, and asked to confess to the class that they are a part of an oppressive class well, and confessing their whiteness to the students. That’s again, one of the ways that critical race theory can be understood. And so while on one side, people are saying CRT is not being taught as a curriculum, the other side of saying yes, but its ideas are being taught in a very pervasive manner across the country. And that’s part of the conflict you’re seeing in school boards today.

 

Mark Turman  27:32

So let me see if I can identify what appears to be a conflict in this Marxist theory of critical theory and see if I’m on the right track, and then we can talk a little bit more about its applications that we’re seeing in some of the problems that we’re seeing with that. It seems a logical fallacy that if, if you were to buy into critical theory, and this idea that whatever class is empower got their insignia significant ways by oppression, and therefore those who have been and are being oppressed need to be elevated. Is it not also by definition, that once that, that oppressed class becomes the class in power, they then by definition, are now the oppressors.

 

Jim Denison  28:19

That’s one of the fallacies of Marxism comes out of Hegel, Hegel and Hegel’s dialectic. Hegel had this idea that the world works with a thesis antithesis and synthesis. So to get in philosophy for 30 seconds, your thesis is the sky is blue, antithesis is the sky is cloudy. Synthesis is the sky is partly cloudy, hidden, according to Hegel. That’s how your brain works, right? That’s how your mind interprets the world, while Marx applies that idea to class struggles. And he goes through the history, at least Western history of humanity. And he’ll look at the feudal class, for instance, and the, the antithesis of that, that leads to capitalism. And now we’re seeing a reaction to that which would lead he says to a classless society. So in Marxist ideology, ultimately, you can get to a place where all classes are abolished, and where once we level the playing field, you won’t have the oppressed becoming the oppressor, there won’t be such a thing as an oppressor in this utopian future that Marx thinks is out there. That was the idea behind socialism and communism, the idea that we could abolish all classes into a utopian Marxist, that’s the Marxist idea here. Now, what Marx obviously tragically catastrophically ignores is the presence of sin in the human heart,

 

Mark Turman  29:37

that’s gonna say, where’s the where’s the biblical lens that comes into this

 

Jim Denison  29:41

doesn’t exist? No, we’re very antithetical to that in this conversation here. That’s part of the reason communism has to be atheistic, in its typical application, because once you bring in the biblical worldview, you see the lie in this, the idea that I can somehow as an oppressed person, be elevated to a place without oppressing others. is a tragic misunderstanding of the fact of sin in my own heart. And you’ve seen this outwork, in communist societies all over the world, I’ve been to Cuba 10 times, I can tell you the oppressed, that are now the oppressors are just as oppressive, as was the oppressed class, that there were seeking to overthrow the Battiste regime before the Castro regime and so forth. It is human nature, if we’re going to elevate the oppressed to a place of equality, that some are going to seek to be the oppressors themselves, and the pattern just persists. It just continues on. It’s also been alleged that this sort of a move is itself racist, by saying that the world functions through the lens of racism, and that all individuals who are let’s say, black or Latino are oppressed by definition, by virtue of their skin color, by virtue of their ethnicity is itself a racist statement. If I were to say to you that all white people are, are prosperous by virtue of their skin color or their ethnicity, or are on some level, the oppressor by virtue of that I would say that was a race. That’s a statement based entirely on race. That’s identifying someone solely through their race, which is the definition of racism. And so it’s been argued that Abram kindI and others, in their desire to be anti racist are actually perpetuating a form of racism. Now, again, they’re logical fallacies in the midst of all that they’re aware of what I’m saying right now, there’s a lot of controversy about that right now. But at the very least, the idea that we can get to a classless society has been tried. It’s been tried in Cuba, it’s been tried in North Korea. It’s been tried in communist China. And you can see the results. And from a

 

Mark Turman  31:35

biblical perspective, would it be fair to say that the Bible acknowledges that there are simply different classes because of the reality of sin and the brokenness of the world. The Bible acknowledges that, but at the same time, while acknowledging the reality of sin in the world, both on an individual as well as a larger basis, the Bible calls out for, for all of us to acknowledge the presence of sin in our own life and in our broken world. And to do all that we can to redeem the situations where individuals or groups are being oppressed. Absolutely

 

Jim Denison  32:14

true. And that’s where if we go too far down the road of criticizing critical race theory, we missed the places what we need to learn from it, right? Again,

 

Mark Turman  32:22

the idea that critical race theory is not the truth. It contains elements of truth that believers need to understand and grapple with

 

Jim Denison  32:30

absolutely true. In fact, one of the five applications critical race theory that I talk about quite often when I’m asked is the fact that critical race theory opens our eyes to the continuing tragic fact of systemic racism in America today, not just at 1619, when the first African enslaved people were brought to this continent, not just before Jim Crow laws, not just before the Civil War, but today, systemic racism exists in America. It’s a fact it’s a tragic fact. But it is a fact. And to deny that is really to deny reality, right? So some that are so reacting to some of perhaps the extremes of critical race theory, and seeing it as nothing but a deceptive sort of a move or an oppressive move are missing some of what CRT is demonstrating, and that is the fact of systemic racism in America today. A few examples I could cite very quickly, in my paper on our websites, what the Bible says about racism, we have some examples of this and links to that if people would like to actually trace down some of the research behind this. There was a survey recently, in which those with African sounding names African American sounding names had to send 50% more applications 50% More resumes than those with Anglo sounding names to get an interview request 50% more so documented fact that people with black skin are three times more likely to be stopped at traffic, intersections by police than white people and six times more likely to be targeted to be ticketed. Black people are twice as likely to be sentenced to death for killing white people, as white people for killing black people. Another stack of the factors regards our criminal justice system, black people serve 20% longer terms than white people for the same crimes. Black people are 38%, more like more likely to receive the capital, capital punishment than white people for the same crime. Just some examples, I could have a long conversation about a dear friend of mine who lives in my neighborhood in North Dallas, who when he goes in our local pharmacy has to make certain he’s not wearing a hoodie, or sunglasses, and he’s still likely to be followed, all through the aisles of the store. His daughter was in my neighborhood, recently knocking on doors to sell tickets to a theater production at her Christian School. She knocked on one door and the lady in the house called the police. And this is an African American. That’s right. 10 year old or 12 year old. That’s exactly right. Right, exactly right. And my friend who’s a worship leader who goes with me to Israel, one of my dearest friends in the world, had to get called from his work to come to the house to explain to the policeman what his daughter It was doing knocking on doors to sell tickets to a Christian theater production. And in my neighborhood,

 

Mark Turman  35:05

and part of what we’re trying to draw attention to is, is that Christians, American Christians, particularly white American Christians need to come to grips and start coming to terms with these realities, they do exist. And there are some very big reasons that that created these realities that predate us, right. And one of the things that this conversation and and ideas that may have some validity coming out of critical race theory that we need to grapple with is, but we need to understand that we are, we are now the recipients of a long history. And some of that history is fabulous. It’s great, our own American story, but some of there’s no, there’s no perfect story in the world for any person, family or country. And that includes our That’s right, we’re all fall. So let’s be honest about that, let’s be clear about that. But at the same time, we’re recently was working through a conversation that had had the idea around it as to, okay, now, we have two sides of this, or two tracks of this, which is the individual side, I need to be looking in the mirror. And this is a topic that we’re going to chase out further, we’re planning a kind of a celebratory webinar that we’re going to do together on the day that your book releases on January 25, we’re probably going to chase this idea and these five implications of critical race theory out further what’s biblical about them, what’s not biblical about some of them, and and further chase that out, we hope our audience will be a part of that. But this idea that that I was listening through and trying to learn from, we would all say, Look, I’m not responsible for my grandfather and my great grandfather’s sin. I’m I’m not guilty in the way that that individual that is, my ancestor would have been guilty of whatever sins he committed whatever bias or prejudice that he might have been guilty of. But I, I am very likely the recipient of some of the consequences and outgrowths of those decisions. Because as we talk about talk about it in the book, quoting our friend John Stonestreet, that ideas have consequences. And some of those consequences are long term and they become systemic. That’s what we what we have to acknowledge as sinners from a biblical standpoint is if you take sinful people, and hopefully all of us would agree that we are all sinful, as the Bible teaches. And they try to put together organizations they try to put together systems they try to put against together institutions. Broken people are going to create less than perfect organizations, institutions and processes. That really starts getting us down the road to this idea of systemic sinfulness systemic racism, systemic brokenness. But we need to think also about the two tracks of okay, I need to search my own heart that’s right, for for where the Bible is exposing prejudice or racism in me. But we also need to separate out that there is a responsibility for what’s broken in our processes, systems, organizations, institutions and culture that we didn’t necessarily create. But we have a responsibility to address. And that’s

 

Jim Denison  38:41

a biblical move on both levels of the five applications, those two I think, are the most biblical. The first is to do what I can do to fix the systemic issues in my culture, whether they cause them or not. And the second is to take ownership for the places where I am personally, still participating in such racism or such discrimination or such sinfulness in the culture. Now, a person listening to this conversation right now, if they’re white may likely, perhaps, be hearing this and saying, Well, that doesn’t apply to me. I don’t have that second issue, I may have this first issue we need to talk about over here I’ve inherited something I didn’t cause. But on the second level, I’m not a racist on any level that offered people say, I don’t have a racist bone in my body. Something I would encourage you to do is to first of all, ask the Lord that question, Lord, is there any racist attitude in me? Is there any discriminatory attitude in me? Is there any place in my life or heart where I feel superior to another person on the basis of race or ethnicity? Is that true in me? And then I would encourage you to take a courageous second step and that is to ask a friend of a different ethnicity the same question. This friend I mentioned before, whose daughter was, was stopped by this called the police because she was selling theater tickets is my partner in this conversation. I have empowered him to alert me when I write something or hear me say something that in his context, rings tilt, that in his context communicates something, whether I intended it to or not, I’m not responsible just for what I say I’m on some level responsible for how you hear what I say, right? To the degree that I have some control over that, or some knowledge of it. And so I would encourage everybody hearing this conversation, whatever your ethnicity, department was someone of a different ethnicity and ask them to help you to do an inventory at that point. Are there any discriminatory outcomes in your life that perhaps you’re unaware of some blind spots that might be inside that, and then take responsibility? Now we’re thinking about Zacchaeus, who after he encountered Jesus and Luke 19, as this corrupt tax collector, her horribly corrupted system of the day, the way the tax collecting system and Roman Empire worked, immediately stands up and takes responsibility for a sin and restores fourfold all that he has himself stolen, does reparations based on what he has personally done. That’s that individual category,

 

Mark Turman  40:58

whether without Jesus telling him to That’s right, you know, kind of a live wire hot button word for us the word reparations. But it’s something that just kind of spontaneously is inspired in him through his encounter with Jesus. And as he is now starting to think about, well, what is the proper response to what I’m hearing and learning about this person? Jesus and His grace? That’s right. And, and I think the outcome of repentance, right, and I think the, the reality of it is, when I look back at my time, as a Christian, and as a pastor, the church has always done this, even without this conversation, no doubt, is on the floor. This is in its best sense, when the church has looked around and said, Where are people hurting, where, whether they got there by their own poor decision making, or they got there through a confluence of all kinds of factors in their life, you and I like to use this phrase, but for the grace of God, there go I, when you see somebody, even less than a mile from our office, see somebody that’s pushing a grocery basket with basically what looks like all of their belongings and asking for resources at the stoplight. There’s a lot of different responses I or you could make to that person. But if we were to step into their shoes and learn their story, we might find out that they are much more of a victim than a perpetrator. But the reality of it is they’re probably both. They’ve made some of their own poor decisions, but they’ve also been victimized by other people and by other things by their systems. And in it’s one of its best expressions, when the church when Christian people look in their own communities, they look in their own lives, and they see people in these kinds of situations. And they move with the compassion of Jesus to say, how can we help this person and this situation that created it, how can we make it better, so that they can get out of the brokenness of their lives, and have hopefully get away from the persons or systems that might have perpetuated that or caused that. And we were doing that we’ve done that for 1000s of years. Without having the lens of Karl Marx are the conversations of critical theory or critical critical race theory. And we need to continue to do that, because that is the church being the church.

 

Jim Denison  43:27

That’s the move of the gospel. That’s how the gospel changes me. So I can change the world change, people change the world. So you go back to the first century, abortion as we think of it was a very, very dangerous move for women in the first century from a medical perspective. So more typically, unwanted babies were abandoned. We have letters written from soldiers in the Roman army back to their pregnant wife saying, if it’s a boy, keep it if it’s a girl, throw it out, right. And so the Christians in this first century context had no political capital by which to outlaw this, they had no means by which to stop this as a practice on some systemic legal level. So they went to the trash heaps and rescued the babies and raised them as their own. One of the arguments that has been made tragically against the Christian movement for all these years is that they didn’t outlaw slavery in the first century, couldn’t have outlawed slavery in the first century. Right. I’m reading a book on the Middle Ages right now that just kind of a running started by getting back into the Roman Empire. And while it’s impossible, according to the book to know the actual number of slaves in the Roman emperor, low estimates 20% a low estimate of an economy that’s absolutely dependent upon slavery, not the same kind of slavery. As we see, America wasn’t an ethnically based slavery, but nonetheless a horrific reality. There was no means for early Christians to outlaw slavery per se. So they would go to the slave markets and pay the slaves and set them free. They would do all they could to defeat what in critical theory would be called systemic prejudice, through their own personal activism, and through the movement of the gospel. They would liberate every way they could, they would do all that they could to endorse and embrace the fact that as Galatians three says neither Jew nor Greek slave nor free male nor female women in the first century were the possession of the Father before they came to the possession of their husband. So for Jesus first appearance, post the resurrection, to be to a woman to Mary Magdalene, for the first evangelist of Easter to be Mary Magdalene was an enormously disruptive move in the day for Jesus and John for it to befriend a Samaritan woman at the well who has had six husbands, enormously disruptive for Paul to go to the home of Lydia in Philippi, and start a church in her home and enormously disruptive. And so to your point, the Christian movement for 20 centuries, whether we called it a response to critical theory or not, has been about systemic justice, as well as individual justice, both of whom are expressions of the gospel.

 

Mark Turman  45:50

And, and really goes to where we’re going to move to in our next podcast, which is this redemptive, compassionate reality, that, that we know that we, as followers of Christ, cannot on this side of heaven be perfect. But we can be humble, we can be grateful we can be compassionate, and the best evidence for the gospel, and for the biblical Christ life way of life, is when people see it in our lives. And they’re never going to see it perfectly. But when they see us, not living out our faith, well, that hopefully they would challenge us, hopefully, we would challenge ourselves and move to a place of humility, confession, repentance, and change, and then influence every every way that we can in that direction. And that thing that drew you and I to faith, we couldn’t understand, we didn’t have a word or a vocabulary for explaining what we saw when you were on that bus many years ago. And when I saw that in my high school friend, and in others, we didn’t have a language for that we just knew that it was something different, and it was not yet in us. And we perceived, we sensed probably, I think, by the Spirit of God, compelling us that this was a different, better and right way to live. It’s like God shaped emptiness, that God shaped emptiness, and syncing that what we saw in these people, not imperfect form, but in significant, dramatic and compelling form drew us to the person of Christ, and to the transformation that he could bring. And

 

Jim Denison  47:29

that’s the hope of the Gospel, obviously. Well, the reason all of that is, you know, relates to the tsunami book into this growing oppression that we see coming against Christians is at a critical theory, there is the argument that because white evangelical Christians in America have been to majority class, they are by definition oppressors, right? They are by categorical definition, oppressive. And so not only are we outdated relative to truth, not only are we bigoted and discriminatory relative to sexual morality, now we’re an oppressive class, by definition. And that’s part of what leads to that fourth earthquake that we’ll talk about down the way and this idea of a replacement ideology. And so what you’re saying right now, Mark is even more critical today as a way of defeating that narrative. Right, as a way of saying to the culture, we’re not the oppressive overclass, that you’re accusing us of being, in fact, we are the means to the answer to the question we have historically been on the front lines of making that difference. If you’re going to have this conversation in the context of racial civil rights. For instance, it was ministers like Martin Luther King, Jr, who led the civil rights movement, white as well as black at the forefront of that. If you want to talk about Christians in the context of slavery, it was William Wilberforce and evangelical Christian who led the movement as we know to defeat slavery, if you want to talk together about as it were a liberation of women in the context of their right to vote and the right to be free participants in society. It was the church, and it was Christians who were at the forefront of the suffrage movement back in the 20s, and so forth. And so the church has always been at the forefront not of being the oppressive overclass. But a being that servant hearted washing the feet as Jesus washed our feet, beggars, helping beggars find pride, right? It’s vital that Christians recapture that ethos and communicate that through their actions and through their words in these days.

 

Mark Turman  49:12

Absolutely. And maybe that’s a good place for us to wrap up as a call to action to our listeners today, which is to do what you were talking about a moment ago, which is to spend some time alone with God and to ask the Spirit of God to search your heart and ask where is there sin in my life? Where Is there racism? Where is this idea of superiority? That maybe showing up in our life in any way? Because we’re all vulnerable to it? And then where are there opportunities for us to be a redemptive influence and and participant in making our world better not just simply for ourselves, but for everybody Bible says to look out not only for your own interest, but for the interest of others. Where can we start doing that? Where can we start doing that today? And that’s that’s our call to action. Jim, thank you for the conversation today. It’s been very helpful in in insightful,

 

Jim Denison  50:00

my privilege. So glad to do this with you today, my

 

Mark Turman  50:02

friend. We look forward to you joining us on future podcasts and remember you can find the book The coming tsunami at the coming tsunami calm and the book releases on January 25. We hope that you’ll preorder a copy and join us for our webinar that will come on that same day. Thank you

 

 

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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