A very thought provoking article on how the Christian faith has gotten so bent. As a Methodist I believe this is happening now in the changes in the American portion of my church. This is part of the article, I recommend the entire thing if you have time.
I’d love to say that the biggest issue is that divinity schools are not taking the Bible seriously. Every divinity school and seminary like mine have professors who don’t believe the resurrection happened, who teach future pastors Intro to New Testament and Systematic Theology. Even if they do believe in the resurrection, they easily cast off any other part of the Scriptures they dislike by denying the authorship of the Holy Spirit and then proclaiming the human authors were hopelessly blinded by the bigotries of their era. Unfortunately, this isn’t news.
I won’t spend any time on the things that are becoming de rigueur at all institutes of higher education, such as professors asking which pronouns each student identifies with on the first day of a new class, or the shocking sexual hedonism displayed by some of the future pastors of America.
Rather, I’d like to take a stab at defining the latest iteration of a battle for the identity of Christianity that has been raging for centuries now and why this latest version has a better chance of succeeding where the earlier coups failed.
Progressive Christians have woven a version of Christianity that dramatically diverges from the historic, orthodox faith. It’s a three-part harmony:
First, they fully bought into the primacy of the autonomous individual. You are untethered from all social and biological relationships and constraints that you do not willfully choose. Anything you feel is good and should be celebrated by society. You are unbounded by any moral constraint except the consent of other autonomous individuals. Nothing new here for people familiar with your work.
Second is the overwhelming triumph of critical theory and its offshoots, such as critical race theory, critical gender theory, etc. A primer for those who have mercifully been spared thus far:
Critical theory (CT) “in the narrow sense designates several generations of German philosophers and social theorists in the Western European Marxist tradition known as the Frankfurt School. According to these theorists, a “critical” theory may be
distinguished from a “traditional” theory according to a specific practical purpose: a theory is critical to the extent that it seeks human “emancipation from slavery”, acts as a “liberating…influence” … (Horkheimer 1972, 246).” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
CT identifies the primary dichotomy in life as oppressor and oppressed. It has been applied to gender, to sexuality, to race, even to colonialism. It has given us the fields of Queer Theory, Postcolonialism, and Whiteness Studies, among others. These are not just fields of study at secular universities – they are the latest and greatest in the world of Christian theology.
You can see how nicely CT dovetails with autonomous individualism: you are morally excellent if you embrace all your identities and liberate yourself and others from the shackles of the oppressors (systemic white, capitalistic, patriarchal heteronormativity).
Technically, critical theory is a form of academic analysis. Practically, it functions as a rival religion to Christianity. Instead of life’s main problem/solution being sin/grace, it is now oppression/liberation. It creates a new system of sinners (oppressors) and saints (the “woke” or “allies”) and all the requisite devotional duties.
The third aspect is where the magic happens. Critical theory/individualism gets clothed in a Christian dress. It is social justice with a thin veneer of Jesus. The way it works is critical theory’s definition of love and justice gets read into biblical themes:
When Christians say God loves you, that now means God affirms and supports your feelings and identity, even when they contradict scriptural witness.
When Christians say love your neighbor, that now means affirming and supporting them regardless of biblical truth.
When Christians say God is just, that now means God is for dismantling oppressors (the systemic white, capitalistic, patriarchal heteronormative oppressors).
A miraculous transfiguration has occurred: Marxist (via CT) morality is now virtually unchallenged as the full realization of biblical love and justice. The new, CT morality isn’t merely good for progressive society – it’s godly.
Are there any practical effects of the “critical theory-ization” of Christian theology? You bet! From the mouths of professors and future pastors:
- The Constitution is inherently a patriarchal, white supremacist document that is unsalvageable; we must do away with it and start anew.
- Any support for biblical sexual morality is a nonstarter – supporting traditional biblical morality is oppressing Christians whose identities do not align with biblical morality.
- Business owners – even after paying workers their freely-agreed-upon contractual wages — do not have a right to their profits; rather, workers have the right to all profits.
- Multiple times I have heard evangelism – the Great Commission – referred to as “colonialism.”
- The ideas of the fallenness of humans and Original Sin are harmful to psychological health and we must do away with those doctrines.
- Since we are not inherently fallen, we can do away with the idea that Christ’s death and
resurrection were to atone for our sins. Such a doctrine is child abuse by a blood-thirsty God.
- Jesus willfully went to his death not to defeat death and redeem humanity, but to show
solidarity with the world’s oppressed.